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Wine Travel in a Bottle: New Zealand

Wine Travel in a Bottle: New Zealand

kuranui vineyards

A 14-hour journey will land you in this picturesque country filled with exotic nature, hospitality, food, and wine like you have never experienced. Travel to New Zealand though a bottle of wine or book your next vacation to “Middle earth”.  

New Zealand’s two elongated islands, geography and link with maritime climate makes this region one of the best for producing world class wines. New Zealand is divided into two parts. The North Island, which is slightly warmer (closer to the equator), and the South Island, which is a bit cooler and home to the more famed wine growing appellations.  Most of the vineyards are found on the eastern coast of the islands, in the rain shadow of the mountains, each with its own unique soil and climatic condition. Due to this unique combination of long sunshine hours, cool nights, and sea breeze (no vineyard is more than 80 miles from the ocean). As a result, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir has done well in this climate.

Almost all the wine regions are located in free draining alluvial valleys (Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough, Nelson, Wairau, Awatere, Waiheke Island). This alluvial deposit I the soil is important as it is mostly composed of the local sandstone called greywacke, which comes from the mountains of New Zealand.

It is interesting to note that New Zealand’s viticulture history is relatively new as it dates to the colonial era. British resident James Busby (known for establishing Hunter Valley in Australia) had started to produce wine in 1836 for locally stationed British soldiers. In 1851, French Marist missionaries started vineyard to make communion wine near what is now known as Hawke’s Bay.  William Henry Beetham and his French wife Marie Zelie Hermance Frere were the first to plant Pinot Noir and Syrah in 1888.

After a century plus of experience and a government backed agricultural overhaul to increase wine production and exports, some of the most exported wines are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah and Cabernet/Merlot blends are also making way.  Small artisanal and creative winemakers are now producing Albarino, Viognier, Gruner Veltliner and Chenin Blanc. There are 11 official wine regions with legal recognition in the form of geographical indications (GIs) more prominent regions are Marlborough, Central Otago, Hawkes’ Bay and Wairarapa.

Since the entire country resides in the Southern Hemisphere, their harvest occurs between February and April.  This also means one can experience their wines during the same year as the harvest. Travel to New Zealand is ideal for those of us that live in the Northern Hemisphere. A visit in December means celebrating the holidays at the beach in bathing suits with the Kiwis.   If you time it right, one can visit during spring in the Northern Hemisphere and experience the fall harvest in New Zealand.

According to Rebecca Gibb MW’s book The Wines of New Zealand, she recommends at least 10 days to for a road trip to soak up the different wine regions and island hoping. Active travelers can hop on various bike trails starting in thru Hawkes Bay. You can also rent a car and drive along the coast from Napier to Wellington and visit the Remutaka Ranges in between your winery stops. Note that it is worth to take a day to visit Wellington, as this is New Zealand’s capital, rich with history.

Across from Wellington is the passage through Cook Straight which is a 3 hour ride through one of the most scenic ferry trips in the world.  Once docked at Picton, more marine, forest, island and winery attractions await.  From Picton, a short drive to Blenheim takes you across the Wairau Plains and into Marlborough.

Most of the wines from Bottle Shop are from Marlborough (South Island).  Just at the northeast tip of the island, it is the largest wine region in New Zealand.  The Sauvignon Blanc produced here are unique in style and flavors. It has the exotic aromas from the island and ripe, mouthwatering acidity.  Our Kuranui Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc comes from the lush green pastures near the town of Katikati. Katikati, known for its 60 pieces of murals around the town that pays homage to the early Maori and pioneer residents.  As you drive to the wineries you will also notice their Haiku Pathway, the largest collection of Haiku’s outside of Japan.

Marlborough is rated one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, you can experience the local culture, beaches, and abundance of seafood options.  New Zealand Greenshell Mussels is a must for seafood lovers. Stay among the vines as many wineries have a wide range of lodging options including quaint cottages tucked in the vines to luxury homes with sea views or even tent camping.  

During your visit you will find plenty of nature options such as hiking trails, winery bike trails and water sports. The entire wine industry is dedicated to the United Nations Sustainable Development goals.  The goal is to be carbon neutral and zero waste to landfill by 2050.  Do not think twice to take the next flight to New Zealand once we are all able to travel.  Check out NZwine.com for more travel resources.

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