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New Zealand comes up with a budget pinot noir

It’s called “The Jibe,” but what does sailing have to do with wine?

A good friend, who prefers rum to wine, would appreciate a new set of wines from New Zealand called The Jibe. That’s because my friend is a spirited sailor, and a wine called The Jibe will probably tap into his sailing instincts as much or more than any interest he has in matters of the grape.

For those who need a quick sailing lesson, to jibe means to shift a sail from one side of a boat to the other to change direction (it also means “to be in agreement,” of course). To reinforce the theme, the attractive labels on The Jibe bottles are in the shape of a sail.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is as much about appealing to a lifestyle as it is about wine. Keep a few bottles of The Jibe down below for after the race. Not a sailor? Bring a bottle of The Jibe out to the patio or deck to watch the sunset and imagine being on the water. People will undoubtedly be drawn to the image, much as they are to all those animal labels, which, marketing studies show, really do influence people’s wine buying decisions. (Yellowtail anyone?)

But beyond the marketing concept of The Jibe, there’s the wine. And it’s good. There’s a sauvignon blanc that can compete with any number of New Zealand sauvignons at this price ($15 suggested), but for me the 2004 pinot noir, also $15, was the more interesting of the two. Ruby red, it is also light in style, fresh and bright with notes of cherry and raspberry and touches of vanilla and spice. Nine months of aging in oak leaves a subtle imprint.

This is not a wine for deep thought or aging or sophisticated food pairings. Rather, it’s about untwisting the screw cap and pouring a glass with just about anything, as I did with a quick lunch of grilled burgers, sweet Italian sausage and German potato salad (as we looked out at the water on a bright but chilly spring day). This fruity wine with its ample acidity held up well to the bold tastes, including the spices in the sausage and even the vinegar in the potato salad. The next day we finished the bottle with a spicy, Latin-style roasted takeout chicken.

The Jibe wines are made by the Nobilo Wine Group, whose label is a fixture among New Zealand wines in this country. The fruit is sourced mainly from coastal, cool-climate vineyards in the Awatare Valley in the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s south island. The wines are produced specifically for the U.S. market for the Cellar Door portfolio of Pacific Wine Partners, a division of Constellation Wines, the world’s largest wine business. Can’t you hear them talking about their wine “products?”

In any event, with The Jibe, the big company has a nice little pinot noir on its hands at a time when finding decent pinot for under $15 is no easy sail through the wine world.

Edward Deitch's wine column appears Wednesdays. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at EdwardDeitch