We may produce less than one per cent of the world’s wine, but New Zealand punches well above our weight. We have a lot to celebrate from our wine sector, with new producers, styles and expressions as well as lots of the old favourites. So be adventurous this month and try something new.
New Zealand marked 200 years of viticulture in 2019. Missionary Samuel Marsden started it all in Northland, planting New Zealand’s first grapevines in 1819. Today, Northland remains a small yet important region with a handful of wineries continuing the story.
Located near the coast in Tutukaka, Waiparore produce a bespoke range of wines including rosé, pinot gris and chardonnay. The Waiparore strohwein is a fascinating dessert-style, sweet red made from partially dried syrah grapes and has a powerful bouquet, plus curvaceous and seductive aromas of red berries, brown sugar and black spices.
It is very creamy, sweet and delicious on the palate, with flavours of plums and raspberries, blackcurrant and raisin.
Auckland’s wine region encompasses Matakana in the north to Clevedon in the south and across the water to Waiheke Island. You can discover some fantastic wines there, from bordeaux-style red blends and pinot gris at Brick Bay Wines to world-class Kumeu River chardonnay and full-bodied red blends from Puriri Hills.
Out near Auckland Airport in Mangere you’ll find an exceptional chardonnay made by Dave Roper at Villa Maria. This 2019 expression is complex and intriguing. It has aromas of sweet grapefruit and wild red apple. Layers of new wood spice are contrasted by sweetness of fruit and suggestion of stony clay soils, gun- smoke and wild flower flavours. It has a burgundy-like mouthfeel, a core of fruit and pristine acidity.
Gisborne’s own wine story began in the 1800s with early settlers producing wine for their own consumption. Gisborne is home to the Millton family, where James and Annie continue to pioneer biodynamic viticulture practices and unquestionably set a benchmark in this important farming philosophy.
Steve Voysey is proprietor and winemaker at Spade Oak wines, growing high-quality viognier and albariño. His Prospect Chardonnay 2019 has an intriguing bouquet with aromas of spices and flowers then yellow stone fruits, tree fruits and layers of citrus. Weighty, rich in texture, quite creamy with contrasting acidity and tension. Offering excellent value, this is a must-try wine.
Hawke’s Bay’s wine story has been well documented, with many books recording its history, personalities and importance to the New Zealand wine sector. It is truly a beautiful place to visit, featuring warm summers, mild winters and a stunning landscape.
There are more than a few high-quality producers in the region such as Esk Valley, Paritua, Trinity Hill, Craggy Range, Bilancia and Radburnd Cellars. Soon to be released are the 2019s from Te Mata Estate: all are fantastic.
The Coleraine in particular is a complex and very sophisticated wine with a calm yet mysterious package of aromas. It has elegance and finesse with flavours of dark berries and ripe red stone fruits, some sweet tobacco, dark olive and barrel spices. It is very harmonious already, but lots of youth and palate tension with big, ripe tannins and acidity to match. A must for your cellar, but be quick!
Part of the greater Wellington province and the southernmost wine region of the North Island is the Wairarapa. The wine subregions to visit on your next trip should include Gladstone, Masterton and Martinborough.
Every producer in the region seems to have a fascinating story underpinning their brand, and some marvellous wines to try. They make very fine chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir and syrah.
No story of the region is complete without mentioning Ata Rangi, Palliser Estate, Dry River, Escarpment, Martinborough Vineyard, Luna Estate and Schubert. Try the Alexia ‘Fleeting Glimpse’ Pinot Noir 2019 with flavours of dried cherry and raspberry, plums and sweet vanilla spice, mild toasty wood and a core of soil minerality. Lots of texture and flavour.
Nelson is a small region, but a significant contributor to New Zealand’s quality wine story. You may have read in MiNDFOOD’s March 2020 issue about the 45 years Seifried wines have been making excellent still and sparkling, as well as awarding-winning ‘Sweet Agnes’ Riesling.
Neudorf wines consistently impress with their complexity, precision and true expression of site. Their chardonnay and pinots noir are investment wines; fans of more aromatic styles should also try their single vineyard ‘Rosie’s Block’ Moutere Dry Riesling 2020.
It has a pure, varietal, distinctive and youthful bouquet with aromas of wild flowers and fresh white peach, lime flower and mandarin, apple and honeysuckle. Beautiful on the palate with a silky cream texture and a core of fruit flavours. Fantastic length and finish – the perfect aperitif style.
Marlborough is home to our most significant plantings of sauvignon blanc and it’s not difficult to find examples of high quality and diverse expressions. It has also become one of the important NZ regions for pinot noir and chardonnay, producing some exacting and beautiful still and sparkling wines.
The Méthode Marlborough group and its growing membership of key sparkling wine producers is an important player in the wine fabric of the region. No. 1 Family Estate with their family roots in Champagne are leaders in a growing list of bottle-fermented sparkling wine producers.
Their soon-to-be-released Cuvée Adele 2014 has a beautiful bouquet with delicate scents of white strawberry and citrus fruits, white flowers and a core of finely tuned leesy autolysis. It’s complex and beguiling: dry, tense, youthful on the palate with flavours of grapefruit and white peach, lemon peel and red apple.
The autolysis offers flavours of butter brioche and salty water cracker. High acidity, complex and long. A fantastic example.
Canterbury wine producers and in particular those in the Waipara subregion have soils and growing conditions well suited to pinot noir, semillon, chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc.
Greystone, Bell Hill, Ataahua, Pyramid Valley and Bellbird Spring, among many, produce complex and interesting wines, with more than a few using the principles of biodynamic and organic farming.
The Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2018 has a distinctive bouquet of fresh peach and lemon, a sweet hay and floral layer then honeysuckle and a whisper of marmalade. It is harmonious on the palate with a soft cream texture, contrasting acidity and dynamic citrus and stone fruit flavours.
Waitaki Valley in North Otago has only a handful of producers. The countryside hides some special vineyard sites: the landscape is challenging, dramatic and beautiful.
Pinot noir, riesling and pinot gris are the star varieties, with Valli, Q Wine, Forrest and Ostler among the best with each producing cellar-worthy examples.
The Ostler Audrey’s Pinot Gris 2019 has a fabulous bouquet with complexity, minerality, personality and style. Flavours of fresh Asian pears and apple, quince and white pepper spice. The core is mineral first then fruit with a chalk and stony soil complexity. A fine, lengthy finish.
Central Otago is one of New Zealand’s most dramatic and exciting wine locales. Its continental climate, schist rock, quartz and weathered clays soils along with dramatic geography are challenges to grape growing and winemaking, but it delivers some fascinating and delicious wines.
With many producers of fine pinots noir, riesling, sparkling wines and chardonnay, there is much to explore. Maude, Misha’s Vineyard, Stewart Town, Quartz Reef, Prophet’s Rock, Peregrine, Burn Cottage, Lamont, Mondillo, and Mount Edward are all leader producers.
Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks wines have a strong following, especially the pinots noir. His Picnic Red Bank Riesling 2019 is a delicious aperitif style with flavours of mandarin, lemon and lime flower, quince, apple and citrus that all have something to say on the palate. It has a crisp, fresh and just dry finish.