Keri Keri: The citrus capital of New Zealand

Kerikeri is often dubbed the Citrus Capital of New Zealand. Drive around the outskirts of the town and it’s obvious that lemons, tangelos oranges, mandarins, and limes, ripened by a subtropical sun, grow in abundance. I think it was Dale Carnegie who first coined the saying: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, in the north, a couple is squeezing sweet returns from the sourest citrus, not from lemonade but from limoncello. In 2007, Andrea Loggia and his wife Marzia immigrated to New Zealand from Milan. For five generations, his family, who originally came from Sicily, had been making the liqueur that anybody who has been to Italy will be well acquainted with. So, it was not surprising the couple chose their home in a lemon-laden part of New Zealand. It was also not unexpected that two years later, they set up a business making the nectar in their new home. “We found that no one in New Zealand was making the product in the way it should be made,” Andrea says. “For a start, other producers were using vodka when it should be made with pure alcohol.” In five generations, there are undoubtedly many tricks of the trade Andrea uses to make his limoncello one of the best in the world—a claim that is no exaggeration. Since 2009, Sovrano liqueurs have consistently won gold and silver medals in world beverage competitions held in Chicago, San Francisco, London, and Florida. It’s also favoured by the King of Tonga. “We pick spray-free lemons where possible and choose them for the flavour of the zest,” Andrea says. “Perfect ingredients make a big difference. And in the factory, the seven tonnes of lemons we use in a year are peeled by hand.” Despite the fact we do not have a liqueur-drinking culture, Sovrano Limoncello is slipping easily down thousands of Kiwi throats (including mine). The company produces 60,000 bottles a year, and half of those are sold in New Zealand. The rest are exported to China, USA, and Europe. And just to make it difficult for you to choose, the range has expanded. Added to Limoncello and Limoncello Cream are Orangecello, Orangecello Cream, and on Valentine’s Day this year, Sovrano Rose Liqueur will hit the markets. Limoncello is now a part of the Kerikeri experience. You will also find it at local weekend markets and liquor outlets around the country. In the last issue of MCD, I introduced Ludbrook House where Christine and Sam Ludbrook (the fourth generation to own their land) make a vast array of preserves and sauces from local fruit. Surrounded by citrus groves and a large fig and citrus orchard of their own, it stands to reason that a large number of these will be made from oranges, lemons, and limes. The choice is mouth-watering. Top of my picks is Preserved Lemons. It’s also hard to go past Glace Orange Slices, Pickled Limes, Orange Pickle, Lime chutney, and Orange, Lime and Chilli, and Lime syrups. All the products are available from a gazebo stall on the Ludbrook property at Ohaeawai, the local market, and boutique outlets around the country.
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