What makes New Zealand wine so good? From world famous Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris varieties, this small but influential country in the South Pacific has got what it takes. Could it be the climate… Or could it be the rich alluvial soil that covers much of this island nation?
New Zealand has a farming tradition dating back to the first settlers, the Maori, around 800 years ago, a very short recorded history. The Maori cleared land to plant gardens of kumera and yams amongst other crops and when European settlers arrived more land was cleared and large-scale farming began. Along with the sheep and cattle farms, grapes were introduced with the first vineyard finding its feet in the Hawkes Bay region in 1851.
There are nine major wine producing regions in New Zealand with five located on the North Island, the most famous region being Hawkes Bay. While in Auckland, take some time to visit Waiheke Island. Just a short ferry ride across the harbour you can explore around twenty vineyards with tastings, restaurants, vineyard cafes and spectacular views of the city on offer.
The remaining four wine regions are located on the South Island with Marlborough the most renown. It is here that some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blancs are produced. British talk show host Graham Norton was so taken with the quality of the wine that he purchased a stake in one of the wineries (Invivo Wines) apparently drinking it exclusively on his show and lending a hand with its production.
With all of this amazing wine it is no surprise that there are some fantastic eateries to be found on both islands. Auckland has an array of cutting edge restaurants and Wellington has more places to dine per capita than New York City. Queenstown, home to the Central Otago wine region, is brimming with hip cafes and smart relaxed dining.
There is something special about New Zealand. You only truly realise it when you visit. With its friendly people, great natural attractions, immersive culture and brilliant food and wine, you will not want to return home.
Travel through the striking Central Otago wineries and indulge in unique flavours in the Marlborough wine region on our 15 Day 'New Zealand Experience' Guided Holiday.
Peter Rasmussen, AAT Kings