An Overview of the 2017 New Zealand Wine Festival Coming up in Busan

by Anthony Velasquez
Busan Haps Magazine

After the pink confetti of cherry blossoms has been cleared and the lotus lanterns for another Buddha’s birthday celebration have been packed away, those here in Busan who love great wine, great food, and enjoy a spirited Kiwi party, know this can only mean one thing: it’s time for the 2017 New Zealand Wine Festival at the Park Hyatt Busan.

This year’s event will be held on Saturday June 3rd, from 6:30 – 10:30pm. The oenophile and foodie fête, which is quickly becoming a tradition as it’s now in its fifth year running here in the Bu and its ninth edition in Seoul, gives wine lovers even more to celebrate this year.

"When you add the the climate and unique soil of this landscape, it is evident why Kiwi wine is so prized for its special terroir. It is an inimitable sense of place and time that can be imbibed in each glass."

For starters, since 2013, New Zealand has been on quite a run of very good to superb vintages. After a difficult year where yields decreased by 20 – 25% in 2015 but still resulted in pleasantly concentrated flavors, the 2016 vintage rebounded with a 34% increase in grape yields. Farmers and winemakers benefitted from an excellent summer and a cool early autumn which allowed the grapes to fully ripen and express their true identity.

In Marlborough, an appellation that lies on the northeast corner of the South Island and covers two-thirds of New Zealand’s total vineyard area, this year brought larger than average sized grapes. This means consumers can expect more passionfruit and tropical notes lifted by gooseberries and refreshing citrus in the nation’s flagship wine of sauvignon blanc.

On the other hand, way down in the world’s most southerly wine region of Central Otago, the smaller berries pack a real punch and have winemakers excited with their pinot noir. In contrast to the more affable, crowd-pleasing wines of Marlborough, those in Central Otago bring more Burgundian complexity than their more extroverted cousins up north, especially in regards to the pinot noir. Savory dark cherry flavors with underlying minerality framed by a taut structure is why the wine cognoscenti around the world are on the hunt for them.

Up in Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island which is second in Kiwi wine production but the first region planted under vine back in 1851 by Marist missionaries, this appellation is highly regarded for its chardonnay with its riper, fleshier whites rounded by some oak and mineral notes, its plummy, black pepper and spice inflected syrah, and its classic

Bordeaux varietals such as merlot and cabernet sauvignon. And in the southeastern corner of the North Island in the appellation of Martinborough, wine producers experienced the best weather for the growing season in New Zealand all year long, so expect Martinborough’s main varietals of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir to be in demand from this vintage.

In addition to higher yields with high quality fruit up from the previous year, here in Korea wine drinkers are reveling in the benefits from the recent Korea – New Zealand free trade agreement. Reduced tariffs on imported Kiwi wine means more affordable premium wine. Over the last decade, the wine market in Korea has been dominated by the luxurious appeal of French wines and the more budget-conscience priced wines from Chile.

"Returnees will notice that this year the New Zealand Wine Festival at the Park Hyatt will be offering many more family-owned, boutique wines along with the stalwarts from the various regions."

That has New Zealand uniquely positioned in this market. Kiwi wines offer a very high quality to price ratio. Across the board, consumers can taste superb wine without the sticker-shock pricing.

Also, now with freer trade comes more choices. Interested in some wonderful bubbles? Try some lovely méthode champenoise wine: sparkling sauvignon blanc or bubbly chardonnay from NZ at a third to a quarter the price of a bottle of Champagne.

There’s also more aromatic wines like riesling, pinot gris, and gewurztraminer finding new homes in Korea with increasing popularity. And with the weather warming up, some chilled Kiwi wine is especially ideal for a picnic of 회 (hoe, raw fish) by the beach or some seaside 조개구이 (jogae-gui, grilled shellfish) or just relaxing with some mates at home.

Winemakers around the world live by a simple mantra: great wine is made in the vineyard. Therefore, when you consider the diverse geography from the subtropical zone and sandy beaches in the north to the snow-capped peaks, verdant valleys, pristine rivers, fjords, and glaciers in the south, it’s no wonder that Aotearoa (Maori name for New Zealand meaning “land of the long white cloud”) is what makes this country so captivating.

"New Zealand has been on quite a run of very good to superb vintages. After a difficult year where yields decreased by 20 – 25% in 2015 but still resulted in pleasantly concentrated flavors, the 2016 vintage rebounded with a 34% increase in grape yields. Farmers and winemakers benefitted from an excellent summer and a cool early autumn which allowed the grapes to fully ripen and express their true identity."

When you add the the climate and unique soil of this landscape, it is evident why Kiwi wine is so prized for its special terroir. It is an inimitable sense of place and time that can be imbibed in each glass. If one hasn’t experienced such world-class wine from there before, this is an exciting opportunity to taste the fruits of the labor from the Southern Hemisphere here at this event with 25 wineries pouring about 75 different tastes to explore.

Returnees will notice that this year the New Zealand Wine Festival at the Park Hyatt will be offering many more family-owned, boutique wines along with the stalwarts from the various regions. So this is a chance to try fantastic wines that will only be offered here until one finds them down in the vineyards of NZ. And in typical Kiwi and Busan style, this year’s theme will focus more on the lifestyle both enjoy, premium wine and scrumptious food in a luxurious setting with a more relaxed, friendly backyard barbecue vibe. Whether wine curious or a wine expert, all are going to experience something different for everyone to savor.

I’ll be back next week with Preview of the 2017 New Zealand Wine Festival here on Haps and what wines to look for.

Salud!

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