THE COME­BACK KID

Cuisine - - NZ RIESLING -

The New Zealand ries­ling story is one of early ar­rival, dis­ap­pear­ance and then come­back. Ries­ling was here in 1895 when Ital­ian con­sul­tant Romeo Bra­gato trav­elled the coun­try, pro­duc­ing his in­sight­ful re­port on the coun­try’s vitic­u­lu­tu­ral po­ten­tial. Bra­gato noted that ries­ling pro­duces “a very su­pe­rior” wine and was do­ing “sat­is­fac­to­rily… in Kaipara and Waikato”.

Ries­ling was one of sev­eral grape va­ri­eties that suc­cumbed to ex­tinc­tion when the en­tire in­dus­try went into de­cline around the time of the Great War. Winer­ies were be­ing smother-tack­led by the phyl­lox­era scourge, the tem­per­ance move­ment and a na­tional in­dif­fer­ence to a drink that wasn’t beer.

Ries­ling’s ab­sence en­dured un­til 1962 when new Ger­man cut­tings made land­fall, but it was to be a slow re­turn. By 1975, there were only 8.5 hectares of ries­ling in New Zealand. Thanks to a 1980s growth spurt, the area planted now ex­tends to 787 hectares, 95 per cent of which are in the South Is­land.

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