A Guide to Wine Tasting and Wineries of NEW ZEALAND.

 

Yes, I have no shame in admitting that other than their breath-taking landscape, mouth watering food, crazy sports for that adrenaline rush and friendly people, the highlight of our 12 days long trip touring Southland NZ was the flavourful kiwi wines and delicious cheese platters. They got me “happily” loving the place and experiencing it in an entirely different light. Then again, that may or may not have been because of the side-effects that comes with consuming too much of such delicious grape beverage. How can a wine enthusiast like myself even resist sampling at the many wineries there and then again buy a bottle or two for the night? All when in one of the best sauvignon blanc and pinot noir producing county’s in the world. Still finding it hard to believe then find our New Zealand Travel Itinerary HERE and you will be convinced.

At Gibbston Valley Winery: delicious 2012 Pinot Noir paired with a beautiful plate of cheese, bread and cold cuts.

Firstly, how do I claim to be a wine enthusiast and why should you take my word for these wineries?

  1. I am young and love wine (convincing myself that turning 30 is still very far and will probably pass off as a nightmare).
  2. I have a “good” enough metabolism(though, after 25 it’s been a little wonky) and can sample a lot of wine in 10 days.
  3. I am brilliant at passing off as a wine guru (it all started from that one wine workshop I attended in the UK, I manage to pass off as an expert with smooth application of the 5 S that seem like a prerequisite at any free wine sampling: See, Swirl, Snif, Sip, Savour)
  4. I have an experienced pallet for wine tasting (after living off 2 euro wine bottles in France, drinking wine out of cartons in Scotland, throwing up after Chinese rice wine to learning to enjoy quality wines while living in Luxembourg, I have come a long way and have a husband who has bestowed some of his polished wisdom upon little ol’ me).In all I am glad to let you know that I have figured out a way to experience wine to it’s fullest and there are a lot of unique flavours of wine and years of my life to explore.
Wine barrel carrying truck at Rippon Valley

Now, this post is about New Zealand and Wine (not about me and my weird ways of tackling this addiction) and I will get right into it. Famous for their wines having intense and distinctive flavours makes going on a wine tasting crawl when in New Zealand absolutely legit. The amazing thing about wine sampling in NZ is that Pinot Noir produced from vineyards at different regions (not too far from one another) have their own signature flavour build up and unique level of acidity all while maintaining a balance on the palate. All this because of the longer ripening period due to the low temperatures making the grapes growing on this soil develop flavour while retaining its acidity. The wine in the end other than weather conditions and location also highly depends on the way the farmer develops its wine after; from the time it is left to ferment in the barrels, to the process of mixing parts of the plants other than just the fruits, to the the stage at which the fruits are harvested and we owe the flavours a lot to the year of harvest. A wine that was produced in 2013 tasted a lot richer and smoother than the same one from the same soil produced in 2012  was lighter and drier.

Loved the way they served the samples at Lazy Dog

SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WINE TASTING IN NZ

  • With only 12 good days to do it all we hit up the wineries around the places where we put our base down at; Marlborough, Queenstown and Wanaka.
  • Wineries in Southland NZ are a very fulfilling combination of great wine and spectacular view.
  • Some of them even have restaurants serving up cheese platters to delicious world class cuisine. Do not miss the cafe food at Mt. Difficulty and
  • There are vineyards where sampling is free of charge or are very reasonably . And, there are the ones which a surprisingly very steep (15 dollars per person!). 
  • If you are going to a free sampling then make sure to put down some form of donation (even as little as 5 dollars per person) or buy a bottle from there for later. This is of course not necessary it’s just considered a kind gesture for their services of serving wine samples, to explaining the process and flavours to taking you on a tour of the estate. Again, make sure you absolutely liked the wine, that’s the whole point of tasting or move on to the next one.
  • Don’t take up wine tasting experience for the heck of free booze. It’s not at all like it sounds, they only serve what is needed for one good sip, that’s all.
  • The type of wine is produced according to many factors that I have mentioned above, so, your preferred wine may not be the best one to try at that time or may not be available. For example, the time we were around, Pinot Noir grapes were being fermented in abundance (Lucky Me!)

 

MUST VISIT WINERIES OF SOUTHLAND NEW ZEALAND 

 

HANS HERZOG 

In season at Vineyards of Hans.

Marlborough: A swiss family owned winery and michelin starred restaurant that specialises in producing organic vine and wine. We loved the grounds and the tasting room. Not to mention the delicious merlot cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. Their non interventional wine making technique only make these wines superior to the others around and are 5 rated. A guided tour of the winery is a must here.

GIBBSTON VALLEY

Gibbston Valley Cellar door.

Queenstown: Specialising in all the three varieties Pino Noir, Reisling and Gewurztramier but their glass of 2012 Pinot Noir took the crown. It was the best we have had during our entire wine sampling expedition. Even on our last day with the intent of the wine the night before we leave for a long road trip we bought a beautiful bottle to celebrate. The winery has one of the most cosiest wine tasting at the cellar door and a restaurant and cafe with a menu focused on local fresh produce. Do not miss the amazing cheese and cold cuts platter options here to pair with the grape beverages.

RIPPON VALLEY

Stunning views from the Rippon Valley cellar door

Wanaka: By far a cellar door with the most spectacular view in the region. Breath taking views over Lake Wanaka and the architecture of the winery in itself is worth a visit. The Nice lady recited the fascinating story about the owners wine cultivation roots which came from learning the trade in France, the beautiful vineyard and their wine. All of this we enjoyed over looking the turquoise lake and endless green vines.

MT. DIFFICULTY

Wine tasting situation at Mt. Difficulty

Bannockburn: For a mere $1 or $2 a tasting for the wines was a great experience at Mt. Difficulty with the enthusiastic cellar door ladies. To stop for lunch at the terraced restaurant within the winery was a brilliant decision and a unique way to enjoy some world class cuisine of meat and cheese, paired with the perfect wine on recommendations of the chef, all overlooking a stunning landscape of dramatic rugged rocks and the young vineyards.

CERES

Ceres’s 2013 pinot noir produce was awarded the best in the world.

Cromwell: Another site that has been certified organic. Your best finds at this beautiful winery with a quaint little cellar door are their award winning 2013 Pinot Noir and the humble yet delicious Riesling and not to mention a little treat of an art gallery of art pieces by one of the owner’s herself. We really enjoyed all the white wine here. Their Riesling left us craving for more and we made our way out with a couple of bottles.

LAZY DOG

Lovely back yard of The Lazy Dog

Queensberry: This rustic cellar door and restaurant sitting in the middle of a stunning landscape surrounded by mountains and a beautifully manicured back yard, visiting this winery is a treat in itself. As the name suggests you can expect to see the owner’s two adorable dogs living it up at their own sweet pace. Though the tasting itself felt rather steep; 15 dollars for 5 different wines. We did not fancy any particular wine from the samples and even for a tasting we felt there were anything in the glasses for a little second opinion. Other than that, the restaurant is known to serve some really delicious food and the friendly owners are always willing to answer your every question.

PEREGRINE

Rosè tasting at Peregrine

Queenstown: The unique modern architecture of the winery perfectly fits into its surrounds of rugged landscape. Their cellar door is located beneath the building and  their barrel hall can be viewed from their floor to ceiling windows making it’s an exclusive location to sample and gain more wine insight. The winery has established a reputation for their delicious Rosè that they had bottles of displayed at the entrance, even though those barrels contained Pinot Noir that season.


Brilliant Salmon preparation at Mt. Difficulty restaurant.

 

Disclaimer:

Over our stay we tried a number of wineries other than the ones mentioned above and I have only listed the ones that were our favourite out of those.

These are some of the wineries we really liked and would recommend for they qualify in our books for these main reasons: their location, service, wines and in some cases the food.

There are dozens of other wineries that we have not been to and are worthy of mention, so get exploring and enjoy discovering them on your own.

Lake Wanaka and surrounds at Rippon Valley

Have you been to the wineries of New Zealand? 

If so, tell us about your favourite one and also about your favourite wine or winery from around the world in the comments below.


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