Liquid geography

by Michael Cooper / 17 January, 2013
Have wine, will travel (cheaply).
An Italian vineyard
An Italian vineyard, photo Neville Marriner

One of the fastest yet cheapest forms of travel is to open a bottle of wine from a distant land. An enticingly scented, racy riesling can transport you to the precipitous slopes of the Rhine; a rich, savoury chianti to the cypress, olive and vine-draped hills of Tuscany.

Warren Moran, emeritus professor of geography at the University of Auckland, views wine as a magical form of liquid geography. A grapevine, once planted and “tied to place”, yields grapes that often are fermented into wine and sold at the same site. But “much wine also travels to distant places, carrying its place of origin with it in its taste and on its label. To know the wine of a place often means knowing something of the place itself.”

About 30% of the wine we drink flows from overseas – the equivalent of about 36 million bottles a year. Australia supplies 80% of our imported wine, mostly red.

Shaw & Smith Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2012
It was once described in the Penguin Good Australia Wine Guide as “the one to show those cocky Kiwis who think we can’t make good sauvignon blanc in Oz”. This latest vintage is typically classy, with melon, grapefruit and lime flavours, showing excellent vibrancy and depth. $28 (4/5)

Terres de Galets Côtes du Rhône 2011
Looking for a good, affordable French red? Blended from traditional Rhône Valley grapes – grenache, syrah, cinsault, mourvedre – this is a mouthfilling wine with plenty of ripe, plummy, spicy flavour, very smooth and satisfying. $14.99 (Fine Wine Delivery Company) (3.5/5)

Citadella Red 2011
This Maltese red is a blend of syrah with an indigenous variety, gellewza. Full-coloured, it is medium-bodied, with good depth of fresh, plummy, spicy, slightly raisiny flavours, smooth and fractionally sweet. $19.95 (from La Cantina, Auckland) (3/5)

Concha y Toro Frontera Merlot 2011
This honest Chilean red is fragrant, plummy and spicy, in a fruity, flavoursome, slightly earthy style with lots of drink-young appeal. $11.95 (New World supermarkets) (3/5)


VNO Barossa Valley Shiraz 2010
From Constellation NZ – owner of Nobilo, Selaks and Kim Crawford – this boldly coloured Aussie red is generous, with plummy, peppery flavours, smooth, ripe and strong. An excellent barbecue red. Target price: $15. (3.5/5)
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