By Angus Sanders
Wine is grown along the length of both of New Zealand's islands which have become a respected player on the world’s wine stage, starting with its famed sauvignon blanc, and more recently the pinot noirs, followed closely by syrah.
Let’s take a tour of the wine regions to give you a better understanding.
Pinot noir from Otago, South Island
With haunting beauty (think Lord of the Rings), this young region produces world-renowned pinot noir. Pinot is arguably the king of grapes, providing us with some of the most expensive wines in the world. Much is made of the fact that Otago sits on the same latitude as Burgundy, meaning climate and temperature - perhaps the most important factor when growing this grape - is very similar. Otago is the only other major wine region that can claim this.
Whilst nowhere near similar in price, the Otago wines have structure, power and finesse one wants to see from Burgundy. There are many very good examples, including wines from actor Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks, but my personal favourites here are Felton Road, Peregrine (named after the local falcons) and Amisfield, which has a popular restaurant overlooking Lake Hayes.
Pinot noir from Waipara, South Island
North of Christchurch is a little-known region called Waipara. Here the pinot noir has an elegant fruitiness and structure, and the flinty, bone-dry Riesling is some of the best in New Zealand. Leading wineries for both are Pegasus Bay, Muddy Water and Mountford Estate.
Sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, South Island
Around 20 years ago, sauvignon blanc was only really known by its French producers - Sancerre and white Bordeaux. But to many these days the wine is synonymous with New Zealand, and more specifically Marlborough wines. Cloudy Bay is one of the leaders and its sauvignon is grassy, fresh and crisp. Try having a fresh oyster with this wine - it's the perfect food match. Other outstanding wineries include Grovemill and Seresin.
Pinot noir from Martinborough, North Island
Just an hour’s drive from Wellington you’ll find the best Martinborough pinot noir wines, packed full of fruit and power. It was here New Zealand first discovered it could make great pinot, thanks to Ata Rangi. It has since been joined by a plethora of other great wineries including Te Kairanga and Escarpment.
Syrah from Hawkes Bay, North Island
Hawkes Bay is big farming land, with a few large towns and small cities, the most famous being Napier. Just up the road is Clearview which is home to amazing views across Cape Kidnapper’s spit and some the best cabernet sauvignon, merlot and power-packed chardonnay.
In recent years, syrah - which produces Shiraz - has become more popular. The area between the towns of Havelock North and Hastings has very specific stony soils. Keep an eye out for Craggy Range, Stonecroft and Trinity Hills when looking into Hawkes Bay wine.