Know your chards from your pinots? Like to pair and match wine with food? This guide to the best wineries and vineyards of New Zealand is for you.
The first wine tour I took was on Waiheke Island. It was 2009 and I had no idea the door I was about to unlock. Waiheke Island, located 18 kms east of Auckland, New Zealand’s capital, is a bit of an anomaly. Blessed with warm, sunny weather and fertile volcanic soil, Waiheke is home to 25 vineyards on 92 sq kms. This means, the island is densely packed with amazing food and wine.
While living in New Zealand, I worked for Glengarry, the largest distributor of wine in the North Island, and got to taste wine from around the world. Additionally, I have been to cellar doors and tasting rooms at approximately 50 vineyards across New Zealand.
This is a short list of vineyards and wineries that hold the spot for best vineyard or winery in New Zealand, in my opinion. The top pick I would rank among the top in the world.
The next time you’re in New Zealand, these are the 8 vineyards and wineries you must visit.
8. TERRA SANCTA, Bannockburn
A fairly new vineyard that has made waves with their wines and eye-catching label, they have merino sheep who do the work of grazing and trimming their vines for them. Their winemaker also dabbles in beer making and it’s great as well!
7. No. 1 FAMILY ESTATE, Marlborough
Daniel Le Brun, upon being forced out of his namesake company, came up with an even more dashing sparkling that is both superb and beautifully packaged. It honestly drinks better than his namesake bubbles. He is also such a great character, openly joking about himself and very knowledgeable about wine.
6. SERESIN, Marlborough
An organic vineyard that also sells their own olive oils, wonderful soaps, and other beautiful gifts. When we went, there were wild turkeys gobbling around all over the vineyard. Seresin’s Sauvignon Blanc is one of the few Savs from NZ that I would happily drink.
5. THE WOOING TREE, Central Otago
The wooing tree is a tree of legend where locals would go to “woo” their lovers. Their Tickled Pink wine, which is (true to the name) a sticky rosé, will have you tickled with delight over the sweet and delicious rhubarb and raspberry flavors.
THE BEST VINEYARDS OF NEW ZEALAND
For these special places, I listed the reason why you should visit and the wine that you MUST not miss.
4. QUARTZ REEF VINEYARD, Central Otago
This biodynamic vineyard still turns all their Methode Traditionnelle sparkling wine bottles by hand. Rudi, the head wine maker, and his wife are two of the most gracious hosts any visitor could ask for. Their “no frills” tasting room (literally a metal shed) and Rudi’s willingness to take us out to the vineyard in middle of a barreling day sealed the deal for making this one of the most memorable wineries I’ve been to.
Must drink: Methode Traditionnelle Rosé, NV / NZ$35*
I don’t normally recommend sparkling rosés, because I think it’s a whole lot of hype for a morning hangover. But, this Pinot Noir glass of bubbles is perfect – a little strawberry, rounded, and balanced acidity.
3. RANSOM WINES, Matakana
I’ve been to this vineyard multiple times, which says a lot considering it’s a hard right turn back out of the place. However, their simple and flavorful wines keep drawing me back.
I was gutted to find out their chardonnay vines were ripped out due to disease, but their rosé is crisp and their Bordeaux blends will have even the most unwilling of red wine drinkers buying a bottle. They also contribute your “tasting fee” towards benefiting the native birds of New Zealand.
Must drink: Albariño, 2015 / NZ$27*
Fruit-forward, crisp, and balanced. I can finish an entire bottle myself, but luckily, it’s easily shared with friends on a warm summer day.
2. MIRO VINEYARD, Waiheke Island
I am kicking myself for not having found this vineyard earlier. Both a Spanish-styled tapas restaurant and a winery, Casita Miro is a moderately sized glass house surrounded by a beautifully manicured garden. The house and surrounding are fully decked out in mosaics and sculptures made by the owner. Both visually stunning, colorful, and wonderfully warm, their wine flights now include a small food pairing to bring out the flavor of their brilliant wines.
Must drink: Madame Rouge, NV / NZ$48*
A fortified red Merlot wine that they serve as a digestive as well as in the form of a cocktail, “The Long Madame Rouge,” made with soda, lemon, and mint from the garden. Pair with their Madame Rouge walnuts. They do not disappoint.
1. RIPPON, Wanaka
When it comes to wine, Rippon is the crème de la crème – a stunning backdrop, family-run, one hundred percent biodynamic, and absolutely outstanding wines. The land has been in the family for three generations since 1912. The first vines were laid out in 1975.
In growing their grapes, Rolfe Mills and his family have grown each vine from the ground up (no grafting). They let mother earth take care of all the watering too. In return, they are stewards of one of the most beautiful pieces of land in the world. At their tasting room, literally built out of materials sourced from the same piece of earth, they serve small bites, which you can enjoy on the outdoor patio.
Must drink: Osteiner, 2013 / NZ$25*
Fabulous, fruity and a whole lot of bang for your buck. This perfect crisp, summer white will have you dreaming about it for years. Osteiner is a German grape varietal, part Riesling and part Silvaner. Rippon is one of four commercial producers of Osteiner in the world.
***Prices are subject to change. This was quoted from visits in November 2015. For most up-to-date pricing, check the company website or contact the winery directly.