The island nation of New Zealand, with its varying climate, rich soil and versatile topography, has all the ingredients needed to produce some fantastic, world-class wines. The predominant varieties produced in Aotearoa are Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, although there are wineries producing basically every other common varietal. Wine is made practically all over the country, with Otago producing some phenomenal Pinot Noir, the Marlborough region churning out some award-winning Sauvignon Blanc and some corking Pinot Gris, coming out of Gisborne. In fact, there are so many great wines coming out of this tiny country that it’s proved very difficult to select our top ten. Here they are though, and the only way to see if we might be right is to try them yourself.
Martinborough, 65km (about 40 mi) from Wellington, is home to the Escarpment Vineyard. These boys and girls aim to grow and make the wine of tomorrow. By that, they mean they want to take their wines to a new and exciting place. Their main focus is on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The Pinot Noir in particular is stunning — namely the 2014, which has received rave reviews. Get a bottle of Escarpment’s finest if you want to try something complex and a bit different.
Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay are the main orders of the day at Felton Road. Their multiple vineyards are based in central Otago. This is very much Pinot Noir country, and the Pinot coming out of Felton Road is fantastic. The Block 3 2015 vintage has been lauded by many critics, and you only need to have a swig to realise why.
From the East Coast of the North Island, in beautiful and temperate Hawke’s Bay, Te Mata Estate plies its trade. They’ve been making wine here since 1896 which, in a country as young as New Zealand, is practically forever. Currently, the company produces 11 wines from its vineyards — all of which are still located in the immediate area. The great thing about this company is that it is still family-owned and operated, something that is rare these days. The 2014 Shiraz (Syrah to any Australians reading) is exceptional, as is the Cabernet Sauvignon of the same year.
When you think Kumeu River, think Chardonnay. Special mention must be made of the 2014 Hunting Hill Chardonnay and the 2014 Kumeu Mate’s Vineyard Chardonnay; both are delectable. These wines are punchy, concentrated and rich — the sort of thing that will really get the saliva glands cranking into overdrive. The Hunting Hill is perhaps cleaner and a bit fresher, but either way you slice it, these are tasty drops.
Ata Rangi means ‘new beginning’ in Maori, and this little winery seems to start every new vintage with the same eager desire to make it the best. It’s not surprising then that most critics, compiling their list of favourite New Zealand Pinot Noir options, have Ata Rangi wine somewhere in the top five. Yes, these guys do produce whites, but it’s their reds — and specifically and consistently their Pinot Noir — that are the heavy hitters. They’re generally complex wines, their individual flavours blending like a symphony when they come together on the palate.
You’re probably sick and tired of hearing about all these fantastic Pinot Noir wines, but unfortunately, we have to tell you that Bell Hill might very well top the list when it comes to this varietal. It’s the same old news about how New Zealand’s climate and soil are the perfect mediums for this type of wine. Let us paint you a picture of their finest example then: the 2013 Waikari Pinot Noir. There’s powerful, rich dark berry fruits on the palate, minerals and spice, which gives this wine a lot of complexity. The resulting vino is one that you won’t want to share, and at almost $200NZD a bottle, it’s likely you will keep it to yourself.
Firstly, if you were going to own or run a winery, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful spot than Rippon has. They’re Wanaka’s oldest winery and have been run by the same family for five generations. This means, obviously, that they have their technique down pat when it comes to producing excellent wines. If you want to try a real cracker of a wine that isn’t a Pinot Noir, pop the cork on a bottle of their 2012 Gewurztraminer. It’s the perfect companion to a good bit of New Zealand-caught shellfish and will get you fizzing!
Another prevalent red wine maker, Craggy Range is on our list for the excellence of its wine, but also the way that they have utilised New Zealands’s exceptional climate, with its rich history in farming the land and the pioneering spirit of the people. Try their Shiraz and Pinot Noir if you’re after a lovely red. If you’re a white wine drinker, their Sauvignon Blanc is dry and zesty with vibrant aromas of nectarine, green apple, honeysuckle and a hint of nettle. The perfect drop for a Kiwi summer day.
A little splash of Hollywood makes its way into Central Otago with Two Paddocks, owned by Jurassic Park-legend Sam Neill. The Kiwi actor has always been a big wine fan — especially of red — and an advocate of making wine in a conscientious and eco-friendly manner. A couple of Two Paddocks 2014 Pinot Noir wines — The Fusilier and the Last Chance — are worth getting ahold of… by the box. If spicy dark black currant, along with violet and lifted herb aromatics sound like something you’d enjoy, then you won’t be disappointed.
Trinity Hill Homage is a benchmark when it comes to Shiraz. It is quite literally the best of the best and produced only in the years when the grapes do the wine justice. That’s the sort of mentality that makes Trinity Hill one of the great wine producers in New Zealand. Trinity Hill tries to ensure that the quality of the grapes in their vineyards is of the utmost quality, so that the winemakers have as little to do as possible to ensure a great product.