8 Flavorful Wines From New Zealand

Food & Drink

New Zealand, a country known for its breathtaking landscapes and innovative cuisine, has also carved quite a niche for itself in the world of fine wines.

Celebrated for their vibrant flavors, distinctive characteristics, and exceptional quality. Let’s delve into the world of New Zealand wines, their rich history, and what makes them stand out. Plus, we’ll explore nine standout wines that you should definitely try.

What is a NZ Wine?

NZ (or ‘en-zed’, if we’re talking colloquially) wines are produced in a number of styles from a wide range of grape varieties, though Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are among the most popular. These wines are best known for their purity, intense fruit flavors and vibrant acidity, thanks to the country’s unique terroir and maritime climate.

What is the history of NZ Wine?

The history of New Zealand wine dates back to the early 19th century when the first vines were planted by British missionaries. With that said, it actually wasn’t until the late 20th century that the country gained international recognition as a winemaking hotspot (thanks, in large part, to the explosive popularity of its Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough). Today, New Zealand’s wine industry is dynamic and continues to grow, producing some of the world’s most celebrated vintages.

What are the characteristics of NZ Wines?

New Zealand wines are often characterized by their aromatic intensity, crisp acidity and expressive fruit flavors. The country’s diverse climates and soil types allow for a wide range of styles, though, from the zesty Sauvy Bs of Marlborough to the elegant Pinot Noirs of Central Otago. Sustainability and innovation are also key features, with many wineries committed to organic and biodynamic practices.

8 Delicious NZ Wines

1. Cloudy Bay Te Wahi 2019

  • Pairing: Perfect with roast duck or mushroom risotto.
  • Who would enjoy this wine: Connoisseurs of elegant and structured red wines.

Ideal for cozy winter evenings or special occasions. Cloudy Bay Te Wahi 2019 is deeply concentrated on the nose and palate, with notes of hedgerow berry fruits, florals, fine tannins and subtle spice. Te Wāhi means ‘the place’ in te reo Māori – and for Cloudy Bay, this reflects the importance of terroir in this particular vintage.

2. Sea Change Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

  • Pairing: Complements seafood, particularly oysters and grilled fish.
  • Who would enjoy this wine: Lovers of fresh, zesty, and aromatic white wines.

Situated in the northeast of New Zealand’s south island, Marlborough is world renowned for its iconic Sauvignon Blancs, and Sea Change’s is a beautiful example; tonnes of fresh green fruit, rich passionfruit, grapefruit, and a slightly herbaceous, mineral tilt. Each bottle sold supports the brand’s charity partners, who are working to protect our oceans and marine life, too.

3. Jackson Estate Gum Emperor Pinot Noir 2013

  • Pairing: Pairs beautifully with lamb dishes and soft cheeses.
  • Who would enjoy this wine: Enthusiasts of full-bodied yet nuanced Pinot Noirs.

Named for the Gum Emperor moth Opodiphthera eucalypti (which makes its home on the edge of Jackson Estate’s vineyards), this single-vineyard beauty is one of the very best Pinot Noirs available at its price. A true expression of the vineyard’s clay soils, it’s heavily aromatic (with big hits of violet, blackcurrants and spice) with lots of earthy, black fruit on the palate. You want a velvet-y wine? Jackson Estate Gum Emperor Pinot Noir has you covered.

4. Millton Crazy by Nature Cosmo Red 2018

  • Pairing: Versatile with grilled meats, pizza, and hearty stews.
  • Who would enjoy this wine: Adventurous drinkers seeking biodynamic and natural wine experiences.

Holding the distinction of being certified as the first organic and biodynamic estate from New Zealand, Millton Vineyards and Winery have made quite the impression on the wine world over the last 40 years, and Cosmo Red – a blend of Malbec grown at Te Arai, Syrah grown at Opou, and Viognier grown at Riverpoint – is one of my personal favorites. Matured in oak, it boasts lots of black fruit and leather balanced by mint, chocolate and Asian spice. I’d call it unique, they call it ‘Crazy by Nature’.

5. Sleeping Giant Chardonnay 2022/2023

  • Pairing: Complements creamy dishes, poultry, and shellfish.
  • Who would enjoy this wine: Aficionados of buttery Chardonnays.

Sileni’s ‘The Sleeping Giant’ Chardonnay is a delightfully affordable example of all that’s made Hawke’s Bay one of New Zealand’s premium wine-producing regions (its the oldest and second-largest, in fact, where lots of sun to assist in Chardonnay’s essential ripening process). Partly aged in French oak barriques, it’s incredibly smooth, subtly creamy, yet well balanced with lots of citrus and stone fruit on the palate.

6. Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2019/20

  • Pairing: Perfect with red meats, aged cheeses, and dark chocolate.
  • Who would enjoy this wine: Red wine lovers who appreciate structured and robust blends.

Ideal alongside a rich dish or two, Villa Maria’s Reserve 2019/2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot boasts layers of red and black plum, lifted with hints of cassis, coffee, and dried herbs. It’s concentrated yet complex, therefore as suitable for a special dinner as it is a spot in your cellar. The sustainable wine producer’s single-vineyard ’Seaspray’ Sauvignon Blanc deserves an honorable mention, too, as a fresh and vibrant bottle, perfect for summer sipping (the 2021/2022 vintage, in particular).

7. Esk Valley Artisanal Albariño 2022

  • Pairing: Pairs wonderfully with tapas, seafood paella, and ceviche.
  • Who would enjoy this wine: Those who enjoy exploring unique and lesser-known varietals.

As one of the last vintages looked after by winemaker Gordon Russell, the Esk Valley Artisanal Albariño 2022 is as noteworthy as it is delicious. The New Plymouth native brought out the very best Albariño has to offer, with lots of lime, peach and tropical fruit on the palate. Enhanced by ageing on yeast lees, it is fuller than you might expect and flush with mouthwatering acidity. An all-season dream.

8. Mountain View Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2022

  • Pairing: Great with goat cheese, fresh salads, and picnic items.
  • Who would enjoy this wine: Fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc looking to lower the ABV.

A perfect all-day, height-of-summer bottle, Mountain View’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc comes in at just 9.5% ABV, making it a a great alternative for those looking to enjoy the grape’s iconic taste with a little less guilt. There is plenty of passionfruit and fresh herbal notes on the palate and, despite it having a bit less body than the other Sauvignons on this list, it’s lower ABV has very little effect on the grape’s expectations.

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