In 2005 Margie and Ross Legh planted their three hundred-tree grove amidst the verdant hills of the Whangaripo Valley. They hand-harvest and coddle young, green olives to an Alfa Laval mill and filter by natural decantation, separating the micro and macroscopic olive particles from the oil. Filtration extends the shelf life and mitigates the onset of muddy sediment, a common organoleptic defect found in unfiltered oils.
The Nocellara stems from Sicily, the Frantoio hails from Central Italy…but the rare J5 has its own lore. In the late 1950’s, the department of agriculture conducted a study whether it would be viable to grow table olives in New Zealand. They imported Italian varieties and nurserymen around the country were asked to collect samples of trees that had been in their area for over a century. On the North Island, a nurseryman named Milton Johnson collected and propagated a number of specimens, which he named after himself – J1, J2, J3, J4, and J5.
J5 proved the most vigorous, though tends toward biennial bearing. It thrives in the Northern part of New Zealand, which has warmer temperatures and higher humidity. In the winter the mother tree is reputedly growing in a swampy area so it’s tolerant of “wet feet.” In this capacity, it doesn’t contract fungal diseases that attack imported varieties. It has unique herbal characteristics and if harvest later elegant floral notes.
Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is New Zealand’s most prized wine, and has helped catapult the country from an aspiring neophyte to proven trendsetter. The wines are lush, juicy, and herbaceous – hitting on the flavor profile of those who prefer richer wines. They also express mineral and acidic notes, characteristics preferred by the traditional connoisseurs. Look for producers Lobster Reef, Astrolabe, and Cable Bay.
Central Otago has emerged as the most reputable source for New Zealand Pinot Noir. The region, considered by many as the world’s most southerly growing region, is conveniently nestled in the shadow of the Southern Alps. The average annual precipitation is a measly 15 inches (38 cm) per year. These ultra dry conditions cause the roots of the vines to dig deep into the ground for water, strengthening the vine itself and producing more mature and quality grapes. Heightened levels of UV rays offset the cooler temperatures of southern New Zealand, stimulating vine growth and energizing plant development. The intense exposure to the sun can be detrimental to the grapes, however, and many vineyard managers use the leaves as a protective canopy for the grapes, positioning the leaves and shoots to shield the grapes from the scorching afternoon rays. Try wines from producers Felton Road, Rippon, and Burn Cottage for medium bodied wines with intense fruit character and balanced tannins.