NEW ZEALAND: NZ's brandy elbows between its Cognac cousins

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New Zealand's only brandy is now on store shelves competing with the great European cognacs.Johanneshof winemakers Warwick Foley and Edeltraud Everling have just completed a batch of the country's only commercially made brandy. The pair have a winery near Blenheim in Marlborough - a region more famous for its Sauvignon Blancs.But Foley says they wanted to try something adventurous so hired local miners to blast an underground cellar and have been working on the brandy since 1994.This year's Edelbrand grape brandy will be sold, in limited quantities, in Kiwi liquor stores and the couple hope it will become a regular feature. "It compares quite fairly with the cognacs," Foleytold"Ours is also the first purpose built underground cellar in the country. You go to Europe and walk into the cellars and it just blows you away. Just the way they do it - it makes a big difference and in New Zealand things are not so professional. Sometimes I think that if potatoes were $10 a kilo, they would all grow potatoes. Many growers just don't have a passion for wine or a sense of adventure."NZ has had the occasional brandy but Foley says this is usually the result of wine that has gone bad and the makers have sought to salvage something. But the country's first purpose-made brandy isunlikely to be conquering European pallets as the production run is limited and expensive - very much a labour of love, says Foley.About 900 bottles of Edelbrand have already been produced at 38% volume. But it takes 3,000 litres or quality wine to make 225 litres of brandy - and grapes are not cheap in New Zealand. Taxes are also crippling and Foley says that the low profitability stifles innovation.Johanneshof also grows Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling and Chardonnay grapes.

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