Wine Atlas of New Zealand, Michael Cooper

Published by Sally on May 4, 2009

Title of book:                       Wine Atlas of New Zealand, second edition
Author:                               Michael Cooper
Publisher:                            Hodder Moa / Hachette Livre NZ Ltd
Publication date:               2008
ISBN                                   978-1-86971-091-0
Pages:                                408
Price:                                 £30

Michael Cooper

Michael Cooper

Since the previous edition in 2002, the New Zealand wine industry continues to change at a rapid rate: there’s another 200-odd wineries; the area under vine has doubled in that short time, and exports of Kiwi wine have nearly quadrupled. Michael Cooper’s wine atlas does a really good job of updating this review of the industry, with another 100 and more pages of information and maps.

Though the modern NZ wine industry really only started in the early 1970s, Cooper gives us a brief outline of the industry’s 19th century beginnings and niche currency in the modern world (with NZ producing less than 1% of the world’s wine).  A tour through the main grape varieties, including how pinot noir has risen to adulation, is helpfully referenced to the leading producers and wines, and a new phase of evolution is hinted at with a listing of other grapes found in NZ, from 2 hectares of northern Italy’s aromatic red dolcetto and one hectare of carmenere, made famous by Chilean producers, but actually a permitted variety in Bordeaux for the production of claret.

We progress through a north-to-south, region by region analysis. Each main region is introduced with a 3-D effect map alongside climatic and geographical data for the more analytical reader (like me), followed by sub-regions with profiles of the main producers.

I’m probably nit-picking, though as it is an atlas, perhaps not … but it’s a shame there’s no scale or contours on the bigger maps, or names of one or two of the non-vinous geographical features such as Tasman Bay and Rabbit Island off Nelson, or the mountains. Or, indeed, the names of some of the more famous vinous bits such as Hawke’s Bay Gimblett Gravels district, though its core is easy enough to spot by the cluster of top producers.

The intermittent profiles on Kiwi icons such as Steve Smith, Michelle Richardson and Hermann Seifried are welcome focus points for the people who’ve worked long and hard for the NZ wine industry. And occasional quotes offer glimpses of quirky characters, such as Tim Turvey’s ‘red wines that will blow your socks off’, whose personality you wonder must surely come through in their wines.  

For any kiwi-ophile this will be an integral part of the reference library. But if the rate of change continues, Cooper may be well advised to update again before another 6 years have elapsed.

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