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New Zealand’s Undiscovered Wine Country
      --Travels With Charlie

By Charles Olken

The occasionally funny wine blog (I say “occasionally” because sometimes—about four times a year—its author get serious), The Hosemaster of Wine, commented the other day on wine writers who take paid-for trips and wax poetically about their discoveries. I am about to wax, sometimes poetically and sometimes not, about my recent travels to New Zealand and Australia.

Mrs. Olken and I paid for this trip, and it was worth it. We went at our own pace and we went where we wanted, with a little advice from our friends who has trod those boards before us. Needless to say, the old saying, “Travel is broadening”, is very often true even when someone else pays you to listen to a week of advertising about their tipple, but it is even more true when you choose and you get to visit one on one at wineries instead of with a pack of eager journalists all looking for “the scoop”.

Over the next several weeks, one post per week, I will offer my own pithy comments and an interesting observation or two. So, let’s start with the obvious because even today, after several decades of being told otherwise, most of us tend to think of New Zealand for its Sauvignon Blanc and not much else.

There is a reason for that, of course. Sauvignon Blanc is far and away the most widely planted grape in New Zealand accounting for well over half of that country’s production and, if I may say so, even it if pains my new Kiwi friends, most of New Zealand’s reputation for vinous goodness in this country. It is not that New Zealand does not produce plenty of other varietal wines, but so far, none has nearly the cachet as its Sauvignon Blanc.

I am not going to try to disprove that notion or even to suggest that it or we are missing the point even though there are other stories and stories with stories, which I hope will prove interesting, because I find them so, and will happily tell them to you. At the end of each article, I will also engage in a little travel advice for those who would ever visit New Zealand on their own, simply because we had some interesting adventures that are worthy of recommendation to my friends.

Here is the first snippet. We started off in Auckland, New Zealand’s only city of substantial size, and while we spent the first few days getting our time bearings and spending the weekend in museums and city walks, we did manage to spend a couple of days exploring wine country near Auckland. We went to the top Chardonnay producer, Kumeu River, and we took a trip to an offshore island and discovered a paradise with good wines and amazing beauty.

Do come back next week for the next installment. There is wine to be discovered.

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