I'm the odd man when it comes to New Zealand wines. The country is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc, and rightly so. I disagree with those who say that New Zealand is the best spot in the world for Sauvignon Blanc, however, preferring the wines of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume from the Loire Valley of France. By comparison, NZ Sauvignons are a bit heavy on the green pepper elements and a bit lacking in finesse.
New Zealand Chardonnay is another matter. For my tastes, the cool climate brings out subtle fruit and floral elements in Chardonnay that I find unique and quite appealing. This Monkey Bay Chardonnay is a good example. It offers very attractive low-key scents of white peaches, pears, honey and spring flowers. Flavors are a bit crisper and tighter than you might expect from the nose. Peaches, pears and honey are there but also a grapefruit acidity that keeps it fresh and lively. Good Chardonnay fruit character with very little oak influence. It's not as good as the Oyster Bay Chardonnay, one of my favorites at the moment. But then it only costs about half as much: $8.99 right now at Harding's Markets with a mail-in rebate for $2 to $3 a bottle. The Monkey Bay Sauvignon ($9.99) is worth the extra dollar because it's from a defined and well regarded appellation, Marlborough. I'll try the Sauvignon soon.