Cognac is still something of a mystery to most people. Yes it is brandy, distilled wine, and like Port and Champagne it is also a region, specifically in the Western part of France located north of Bordeaux, and a three-hour train ride south from Paris. Brandy is made in many places across the globe, but anything labeled Cognac must be made in Cognac. As the old saying goes, all Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac.
As seen in our previous article, South Africa has a rich and varied winemaking history. This diversity and richness also shows in the wines, as examples from Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland, Elgin and Constantia confirm. These are the result of committed, dynamic, quality-conscious winemakers and owners who all share the will to make unique wines, with a sense of place expressing the best South Africa has to offer.
Argentina has a long wine making history, longer than many other producing countries in the New World. In the course of this long history, technology, people, the political, economic and social environment have played a major role in shaping what is now the current state of the Argentine wine industry. When favorable conditions are fulfilled, the mindset within the industry evolves, new markets are opened and international recognition arrives.
I have quite elegant visual as well as flavorful memories of my recent visit to the Hawke’s Bay wine region of New Zealand. The vineyards stretch for miles along the seacoast, and the red Bordeaux-style wines are pleasingly well-made, as are the bold Syrah wines – though this is half a world away from France. The major municipality in Hawke’s Bay is Napier, a beautiful town built in the Art Deco style of architecture; it is a one-hour flight (or 5-1/2 hour drive) south of Auckland.
Though I have heard about Central Otago’s famous Pinot Noir wines for years – and sampled some of them – I was completely unprepared for the magical experience of seeing the Central Otago wine region for the first time. We had driven up from Queenstown through a desert-like landscape with steep, rocky mountains on both sides of the highway, surrounded by drab scenery in tans and greys. Then suddenly we went through a mountain pass and a dreamlike green and fertile valley opened up before us, with miles and miles of lush fields, pastures and vineyards surrounding a very large, elongated lake. It was beautiful.