John Saker: Wine leads the way, pure and simple
I get the feeling that the land – attitudes towards it, how we interact with it – will be a significant election issue later this year.
It's about time. We live in the post-100% Pure New Zealand era. As dirty dairying set about rendering rivers filthy and other practices (eg, the harvesting of pines in places like the Marlborough Sounds) desecrated natural environments, that claim was exposed for the lie it was. It became an embarrassment.
Kiwis have had a basinful of the antics we've seen from too many in the agricultural sector. They haven't just fouled the nest, look at the "desired" end results of their handiwork. Mountains of milk powder and second-rate radiata logs are hardly products to make us proud.
This is the perfect time for the wine industry to step into the spotlight to be held up as the shining example it is.
Wine gets it that its relationship with place is too important to ignore, that you can't bully land into giving you what you want. If you do, you'll pay for it in all kinds of ways.
Unlike many players in the sector who do what they can get away with until they can't, the wine industry – of its own volition – more than a decade ago established its sustainability programme.
This governs everything from the agri-chemicals that are permitted, to the efficient use of water. It began with the bar set quite low, which was important for widespread take-up. Since then it has evolved and continues to do so. Importantly, industry participation in the programme stands not far off 100 per cent. Concurrently, New Zealand wine is also host to a strong organics movement, which has the goal of the industry being 20 per cent certified organic by 2020.
This is adult behaviour, and it's effective. It's a key reason behind the soaring upward trend in New Zealand wine exports. In the US market, any effort to spread the word about our sustainability programme results in increased sales.
It's not only about doing the right thing by the planet. People buy a bottle of New Zealand wine for a taste that's distinctively of this place. Sustainable and organic practices help meet that expectation, because they enhance taste uniqueness.
This is not solely a wine thing. A few years ago, organic dairy products became more readily available. Through taste alone, the superiority of the organic products became obvious to us all. At my local dairy, it's the organic milk and butter that sells out first. So there's hope.
Momo Pinot Noir 2015 $24
Organically-grown, this is a fantastic buy. It's joyous, a little wild, packed with intense red and dark fruit notes, and alive with energy and tension. A wine where truthfulness trumps polish.
Hunter's Kaho Roa Sauvignon Blanc 2016 $25
This is a very smart barrel-fermented sauvignon. Lovely nectarine, yellow flower and flinty flavours build and move elegantly across the palate. A wine that lights up the mouth and is made for the table.