I never thought I’d hear one of the leading sommeliers in this city sing the praises of boxed wine, but that’s exactly what happened when I heard Bernard Sun, the James Beard Award–winning sommelier of the Jean-Georges restaurant group, speak at ICE. The wine connoisseur stopped by to educate a full classroom on the ins and outs of New Zealand wines.
In keeping with Sun’s philosophy that the best thing about wine is the story behind it, he was sure to educate the class on New Zealand itself. This kiwi crash-course included a breakdown of the very wide variety of wine regions within the country. The country runs nearly 1,000 miles north-to-south, so it provides many different climates. Another distinction of New Zealand wines is that regardless of the region, there is an emphasis on the purity of the land and the agriculture. In fact, there is a push to certify all New Zealand wines as organic by 2012.
Though they’ve been making wine in New Zealand since the late 1880s, New Zealand wines really started making a name for themselves in the 1990s, when many critics deemed the Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region to be, arguably, the best in the world. Sun recounted tales of working in New York at the time, and how a citywide obsession with the wine varietal, most notably from the “Cloudy Bay” vineyard, erupted. According to Sun, the other grape of particular note to come out of New Zealand is the Pinot Noir. These grapes are grown mostly in the Central Otago region, the southern-most wine region in the world, so it provides the right amount of chill for these grapes to thrive. New Zealand wines didn’t appear in the international market until the mid 20th-century, but according to Sun and most other fine sommeliers, they’re more than making up for lost time!
And the reason why boxed wine is so ideal is that the bag is air-tight and keeps the wine from oxidizing. It’s the same reason he pitched the idea of wine kegs for busy restaurants like ABC Kitchen. Maybe one day…