New Zealand Wines

From North to South, the Best Reds and Whites


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New Zealand Wines I was very fortunate to have been able to take part in a two-day seminar this summer that focused on the wines of New Zealand. I think we’re all familiar with the force with which New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc blew into the marketplace about 10 years back, but what we may not be familiar with is the staggering breadth of wines that New Zealand is producing!

For a slinky little country, it may be surprising to find world-class Pinot sharing the stage with Cabernet and Merlot, not to mention Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The good fortune of New Zealand is that its 1,000 miles stretches from north to south over two islands, while its slender build means that almost no part of the country is more than 100 miles or so from the moderating effects of the Pacific Ocean or Tasman Sea. So, what does that mean for the wines of New Zealand?

Well, put simply it means that New Zealand is blessed with a more diverse range of vineyard sites than virtually any other country, allowing it to produce an uncommonly broad range of great wines!

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  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,989

    Greg, good to pull the focus away from the mass sauvignon blanc overkill attack from N.Z. Definitely the better wines from down there are other varietals.

    'The Best' may be a little overhyped. I assume you mean the best you tasted at that tasting. Pyramid Valley is the best I've tasted from N.Z., though it's hard to get ahold of, with very low production volumes.

    Finally, and not to flog a dead horse, I don't get the slide show prioritization for everything. It's really a pain to navigate through. Much slower, and offputting. Though the addition of all tasting notes into one supplementary article is a good thing. Still, why the monomania?

    Nov 04, 2010 at 3:35 PM

  • Snooth User: pdabmo
    167472 4

    dmcker: Agree on the Pyramid but could easily include another Kumeu.... top drawer!

    Nov 04, 2010 at 3:42 PM

  • Then there's my favorite: Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc. It is a great wine and it costs less than $10. Can't go wrong with that!

    Nov 04, 2010 at 4:58 PM

  • Snooth User: Perk08
    626876 16

    Living in New Zealand is like living in Paradise surrounded with all these great vineyards. The wines mentioned are good ones, but some of the best are missing - the more boutique wines. My personal favourite is Stonecroft ( which changed ownership recently. Their Ruhanui and Zinfandel are a must try which I highly recommend.

    Nov 04, 2010 at 5:58 PM

  • Snooth User: aslade
    Hand of Snooth
    232954 75

    Great post Greg - nice to see reviews on such a diverse collection of NZ wines. I'm familiar with a number of these wines (namely Nautilus and Palliser), but I'll endeavor to seek out and try some of the others. Thanks!

    Nov 04, 2010 at 6:27 PM

  • Snooth User: homestar
    512161 83

    I recall with your article a few weeks ago about 'precious' wine tasting terms. Actually, I'm entertained by the over-the-top analogies. But "mosquitoy?" am trying to recall a time I sniffed or tasted one. :)

    Nov 04, 2010 at 8:00 PM

  • Snooth User: Bobby Boy
    219559 29

    Some of the best NZ Pinots I have tasted are from wineries on "Felton Road".
    Apart from Felton Road Blocks 3 and 5, there is Mt Difficulty Pipeclay Terrace and Ollsen's Slapjack Creek. These are the best Pinot efforts from each of these Wineries and are all next to each other in Felton Road, Bannockburn, Otago.
    Ollsen's also had a great and inexpensive Gewurztraminer when I visited the cellar door in March 2006.
    Also some great Cab Merlot blends from Hawkes Bay and Syrah from Craggy Range near Rotorua.
    By the way I am an Aussie not a Kiwi.
    These Pinots nearly as good as Bass Phillip Reserve (and Premium) and Bindi Block 5 (and Bindi Original Vineyard) from Oz!!

    Nov 04, 2010 at 9:13 PM

  • Snooth User: Real Wine
    631226 2

    Try staying away from the big brands and taste some of the ture boutique producers NZ has to offer.

    Look out for TerraVin of Marlborough, Ostler from the Waitaki Valley(North Otago, the only place producing drinkable pinot gris in NZ), Destiny Bay from Waiheke Island, Herons Flight from Matakana.

    It's from these smaller producers where you'll find "real wines" rather than just good brands!

    Nov 04, 2010 at 11:34 PM

  • Snooth User: Bobby Boy
    219559 29

    Not sure how "boutique" you want to go, Real Wine.
    If you have ever been to Ollsen's, they could hardly be described as "big".
    In 2006 my wife and I were the only ones in their small tasting room.

    All the wines described in my post tasted pretty real to me. In the case of Felton Road, I have been buying for over 10 years and they have been very consistent.

    Many of the brands you mention would be difficult to source in North America.

    Nov 04, 2010 at 11:58 PM

  • Snooth User: Real Wine
    631226 2

    Bobby Boy, I was refering to wines tasted in this article. Granted that the wines i mentioned maybe difficult to get hold of but if you can source them, you won't be disappointed.

    The fact is, that here in NZ, the Central Otago region is almost a brand in itself now and the price vs quality coming out of there has dropped off in the last few years.
    Felton Road, while always consistent, for me, does not live up to the hype or the price tag.

    I'm not sure which vintage is available in the US now but, if you see any 2006 pinot from a decent producer i suggest you get your hands on as much as you can. Not only was it a cracking vintage it will have some nostalgia attached to it!

    Nov 05, 2010 at 12:50 AM

  • Snooth User: kose
    600428 10

    Jackson estate - Sauvignon blanc - 2007 ....? ;)

    Nov 05, 2010 at 5:50 AM

  • Snooth User: kose
    600428 10

    Jackson estate - Sauvignon blanc - 2007 ....? ;)

    Nov 05, 2010 at 5:51 AM

  • Snooth User: Gaelchef
    Hand of Snooth
    286292 35

    I agree with Homestar, where are we going with the descriptions? A "cheesy, lightly mosquito-y" nose is bad enough but the "skunky edge" bit hits a new level in rubbish. Who hangs around for skunk smell? Get real.

    Nov 05, 2010 at 9:59 AM

  • Surprised you missed Gewurztraminers, eg from Promised Land and Ollsson's, also the wonderful buttery chardonnays of the Nelson region. The Gewurzs are real competition to Alsace and hard to tell apart when blind.

    But maybe they dont sell these in California. Still, good to see you including a Merlot and a Syrah. We have been consistently impressed by these in Kiwi hands, consistency ,and smoothness of the tannins, being strengths of Nz.

    On Pinot Noir, Paritua was star of a Davys tasting here in Greenwich, London, in June this year

    Not sure as havent seen for years, but Te Mata Estate used to make a really complex chardonnay. Your advice on Kumeu River that it needs bottle time is very perceptive, I drank one way too early once . add three years to the vintage year before opening and it will show more.

    Nov 05, 2010 at 10:10 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Never smelled a skunk?

    Just a point of fact. Skunk's produce distinct odors rich with sulfur-containing compounds like as methyl and butyl thiols, which are traditionally called mercaptans.

    Mercaptans are a common fault in winemaking.

    That's about as real as it gets.

    It should have read mesquitey, it had that aromatic woodsmoke smell to it, or for the Polynesians out there, Kiawe-y.

    Nov 05, 2010 at 10:27 AM

  • Snooth User: Gaelchef
    Hand of Snooth
    286292 35

    Why not try "asparagus pee", a similar odour, but human.

    Nov 05, 2010 at 10:56 AM

  • Snooth User: MSG3003
    71735 15

    Nice smattering of NZ wines. Might have been good to profile the wine growing regions (Marlborough, Central Otago, Napier, etc) to educate us on where quality wines emanate so when we see the meager pickings of NZ wines (other than mass produced Sauvignon Blancs) we can assess the likelihood of buying something worthwhile.

    Nov 05, 2010 at 11:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Johner
    Hand of Snooth
    91816 22

    @Real Wine
    I didn't realise that 2006 is supposed to be an outstanding vintage... Maybe that is why an importer keeps asking for our 2006 vintage...

    Now as many comments concern small boutique wineries... it is often very hard for them to establish a market abroad without spending a great amout of money.

    NZ Marketing is doing a great job informing us when a winewriter visits the region, so that we can bring our wines for tasting to designated location, where the wine writer can go through all wines without actually having to travel to every single winery.

    To give this service also to interested wine-tourists we have adapted this idea into a wine information centre and cellar door sale... in Greytown / Wairarapa

    Nov 06, 2010 at 3:48 AM

  • Snooth User: homestar
    512161 83

    ahh.. I can indeed recall smelling a skunk and other skunky beverages. and mesquite wood. I think the problem is the "y" ending: I'd go with mosquitoesque for the insect aroma, and "waftings of mesquite" for the wood, because mesquitesque doesn't really work.

    Nov 09, 2010 at 7:06 AM

  • Snooth User: tonystro
    554776 26

    I'm a big fan of New Zealand's Sauvignon Blancs. I honestly haven't had a single bottling that I didn't like. But I'm baffled by your article's failure to mention the impressive Pinot Noirs produced there. In my opinion these are among the best to be found anywhere on the planet outside of Burgundy.

    Feb 01, 2011 at 9:54 PM

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