Wine-pilgrims rejoice: New Zealand’s wines are remarkable, from fruity sauvignon blanc to berry-perfumed pinot noir. Beer fans can hug themselves with joy, too: the country’s hip hop beer scene is booming…
Given their stellar reputation, it’s hard to believe that New Zealand sauvignon blancs have only been on the market since the Eighties; pinot noirs took another decade to show up, but are another hit. A long growing season and a cool maritime climate give New Zealand’s grapes their distinct character, best savoured in the dry sunny, eastern regions of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Gisbourne – though Auckland, Martinborough, Nelson, Waipara and Central Otago also produce premium wines.
Sauvignon blanc accounts for two thirds of the country’s wine (try a bottle from Marlborough matched with local green-lipped mussels) and is the fruitiest of the country’s grape varieties. Pinot noir and chardonnay are also widely grown, the latter’s characteristics varying with terroir (try a glass in Gisborne); Auckland scores points for its syrah. If you want to sample Māori wine, Tohu Wines is wholly Māori-owned. To get the best sense of the country’s grapes and their glorious flavour profiles, embark on the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail from Hawke’s Bay to Marlborough. We’ve also selected some must-try wines – and craft beers – below. Bottoms up…
What to drink and where…
Kumeu, Auckland Try Solijan’s Estate Winery, at the entrance to Kumeu Wine Country. This family-run winery dates back to 1937 and boasts an acclaimed cellar door and cafe. The winery specialises in sparkling wine: don’t miss the trophy-nabbing Soljans Estate Fusion Sparkling Muscat.
Matakana, Auckland Tick off wine and art at Brick Bay Wines, which showcases an ever-changing exhibition of around 45 contemporary sculptures, made by leading New Zealand artists. Lead wines include a refreshing rosé and a delicate pinot gris; you’ll find the scenic winery near Snells Beach, in Warkworth.
Waiheke Island For a boozy lunch with jaw-drop views, don’t miss Mudbrick, a family-run winery and restaurant that’s recently added accommodation to its winsome mix. Mudbrick’s chardonnay and viognier have received plenty of praise; red-wine fans will be wooed by the gutsy cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and tempranillo. In the same area, Cable Bay is worth visiting: the winery has been adding to its trophy cabinet since its first chardonnay debuted in 2002.
Hawke’s Bay Fertile plains and a sunny climate on the eastern coast gave Hawke’s Bay’s wineries a good start in life; access to some of the country’s best winemakers hasn’t hurt, either. Start with Craggy Range, at the foot of the mighty Te Mata Peak. The wines are as magnificent as the views, thanks to founders Terry Peabody and viticulturist Steve Smith MW, who boldly pursued a single vineyard philosophy, selecting the best sites in New Zealand and planting vines suited to the terroir. Try fruity riesling, citrusy sauvignon blanc and berry-ripe pinot noirs. Other wineries for your hot list include Elephant Hill, Mission Estate and Black Barn.
Marlborough Forrest Estate is owned and run by a scientific husband-and-wife team, who abandoned careers in molecular biology and chemistry to set up a labour-of-love vineyard, featuring a happy marriage of art and science. Try the wonderful Forrest riesling; if you’re a bike fiend, put the Forrest Graperide in your diary.
Wellington Dry River’s first wines – chardonnay, gewurztraminer and pinot gris – were bottled in 1984; since then, the winery has earned a reputation for producing some of the country’s best wines. The region’s terroir is perfectly suited to growing cool-climate varieties such as pinot noir and riesling, though pinot noir, syrah and other varieties also thrive.
Central Otago Actor Sam Neill isn’t just a pretty face – he’s also an acclaimed winemaker, having opened Two Paddocks in 1993. The winery has a single-minded goal – to make the world’s best pinot noir each year. (There’s only one way to judge how they’re doing.) It’s also worth paying a trip to Prophet’s Rock, which has estate vineyards at Bendigo and Rocky Point, producing pinot noir, riesling and pinot gris. The brand’s resident winemaker, Paul Pujol, spent six years abroad learning about fine wine, before bringing his knowledge home to New Zealand. On a warm day, try the refreshing pinot noir rosé.
Singapore Coffee Festival 2016
Hip hops: Kiwi craft beers
Rather nurse a hoppy IPA than a honeyed chardonnay? Here are five of New Zealand’s best craft brews – if you like American-style brews and big hoppy flavours, you’ll be in beery heaven.
Dunedin-based Emerson’s has been brewing since 1992. This pilsner uses Nelson-grown Riwaka hops, which have tropical notes and a grassy malt.
8 Wired iStout
8 Wire is Kiwi duct tape: the name hints at making the most of what you have, a philosophy that this stout certainly subscribes to, with punchy hops and chocolate-and-coffee notes.
8 Wired claims to be the only producer of an IPA made exclusively with New Zealand hops – expect mango, pineapple and orange aromas.
Garage Project Venusian Pale Ale
They’re hopping mad at Garage Project: their headquarters are set in a reconfigured garage; their brews are made in half-keg and 10-gallon increments. This pale ale is brewed with lemongrass, coriander, kaffir lime and grapefruit.
Liberty Brewing Co Sauvignon Bomb
Based in Auckland, Liberty Brewing is one of New Zealand’s best-loved craft breweries. The Sauvignon Bomb showcases the the Nelson Sauvin hop: expect flavours of pine, lemon and grapefruit.