Wines of New Zealand

Wine is my absolute favorite of all the alcoholic beverages. I have many fond memories from our first few years of marriage sitting outside on our balcony, drinking wine, snacking on cheese and crackers, and marveling at how adult we were.

I am not at all an expert – as you will see if you choose to continue reading. My assessments below are a reflection of my own personal preference. For the record, I like Riesling, Pinot Noir, some full body reds like Syrah, and apparently Sauvignon Blanc. I’m not a fan of Chardonnay, Merlot, or Malbec.

We visited three distinct wine regions of New Zealand on this trip. Our favorite was definitely Marlborough but we found a few gems in Waiheke as well.


Central Otago

Central Otago is the land where Pinot Noir is king. It is the southernmost wine region in the world which can come with major difficulties, but wineries persist and often yield unique results. We truly were just breezing through Cenral Otago, so we didn’t have a lot of time to stop and enjoy many cellar doors.


  • What we tried: Pinot Noir, Pino Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling
  • What we bought: Pinot Noir
  • Overall thoughts: We had a really nice time here. We were the only ones in the small shop and it was a lovely start to our New Zealand winery exploration. Worth a stop if you’re in the neighborhood.

Mt. Difficulty

  • What we tried: Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay
  • What we bought: None
  • Overall thoughts: This winery is on top of a hill which gives a beautiful view of the surrounding area. The wine was good, but didn’t totally blow me away like some of the others. We did see this brand in quite a few restaurants throughout New Zealand as well.

The Winery, Queenstown

  • What we tried: Literally everything
  • What we bought: Seifried ‘Sweet Agnes’ Riesling
  • Overall thoughts: This is a wine aggregate shop in Queenstown with over 80 varieties to taste and purchase. It’s magical. They have these dispensers where you can choose if you want a tasting, half, or full glass of wine. I was in love.



Marlborough is the largest wine-producing region in New Zealand. It put New Zealand wine on the international stage with it’s signature Sauvignon Blanc. The region is also known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and it was here that I learned that sometimes my taste buds play tricks on me.

Hans Herzog

  • What we tried: Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Montepulciano, Merlot Cabernet
  • What we bought: Pinot Gris, Merlot Cabernet ‘Spirit of Marlborough’
  • Overall thoughts: I’m not usually a Pinot Gris fan, but when they told me ‘this is a Pinot Gris for people who don’t like Pinot Gris” I understood why my taste buds were seemingly deceiving me. Sean is also the one who likes big, bold reds so he enjoyed the Merlot Cabernet quite a bit.


  • What we tried: The Brothers Sauvignon Blanc, The August 1888 Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, The Brothers Riesling, The Brothers Pinot Noir, The Brothers Merlot, Pomme de Gris
  • What we bought: The August 1888 Sauvignon Blanc
  • Overall thoughts: These guys have an absolutely huge tasting menu to choose from. They are also the ones who taught me about Sauvignon Blanc which Sean surprisingly also enjoys. Maybe we finally found a wine we can agree on.

Nautilus Estate

  • What we tried: Cuvee Brut, Pinot Gris, Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Southern Valleys Pinot Noir, Four Barriques Pinot Noir
  • What we bought: Chardonnay
  • Overall thoughts: Now it’s probably surprising to see Chardonnay as the top choice for this one when I mentioned above I don’t really like Chardonnay. It seemed to be a theme here that New Zealand Chardonnay is different than other Chardonnays I’ve previously encountered. Chardonnay is usually described as “buttery” and that’s exactly what I don’t like about it. These New Zealand Chardonnays don’t have that “buttery” quality and I appreciate it.


  • What we tried: Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Riesling, Classic Reisling, Select Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir
  • What we bought: Select Riesling
  • Overall thoughts: Being the Riesling girl I am, this was my favorite winery of the trip. Their Select Riesling is my new all time favorite. It tastes just like lemon meringue pie. The other Rieslings were tasty, and the Pinot Noir was also a winner in our book.

Cloudy Bay

  • What we tried: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pelorus
  • What we bought: None at the time
  • Overall thoughts: Cloudy Bay is one of the brands from New Zealand that is widely available worldwide. I know I’ve seen it in the States, and we actually ordered a bottle Sauvignon Blanc through the Embassy. Truthfully, we stopped here mostly to eat. They have an amazing lunch menu featuring oysters that completely blew my mind. It’s also very pretty and breezy. Perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Spy Valley

  • What we tried: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir Rose, Pinot Noir
  • What we bought: None at the time
  • Overall thoughts: This is another one that is widely available in the States. Our pick was the Sauvignon Blanc. Sean also liked the Pinot Noir. We will definitely be on the lookout for these when we return home.


Waiheke Island/Auckland

This is red wine country. Here you will find New Zealand’s Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Syrah vineyards. At this point in the trip we had ditched the car and I’m glad we did since red wine is Sean’s favorite and this way he didn’t have to worry about driving.


  • What we tried: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec
  • What we bought: None
  • Overall thoughts: This one was probably the most annoying tasting experience. We had to pay per pour, and the staff didn’t seem to care about us at all. I’m perfectly happy to pay for a tasting, it was just quite expensive for a cellar door.

Te Motu

  • What we tried: Te Motu, Kokoro, Tipua, Cabernet Merlot, Syrah
  • What we bought: None
  • Overall thoughts: This was probably one of the more unique wineries. We really enjoyed the tasting and will probably order from them in the future. We ate a lovely cheese plate from here which was the perfect amount of food to go with a wine tasting. Definitely worth a visit.


  • What we tried: Estate Merlot Malbec, Montepulciano, Obsidian Reserve, Viognier, Riesling
  • What we bought: Montepulciano 2013
  • Overall thoughts: We had to hike to this one but boy was it worth it. Best red wines we tried on this entire trip. This tiny winery has had international acclaim, and is pretty famous for their Montepulciano. A definite must see.

Wild on Waiheke

  • What we tried: No wine here. Sean had a beer and I tried a mixed drink. We came here for the food.
  • What we bought: None
  • Overall thoughts: This place is a fun take on wine tastings and beer gardens. There’s a bunch of activities for the kids to keep them entertained while the adults drink. We had pizza and a seafood sampler platter that was a special for the day. Great for a lunch stop.

Cable Bay

  • What we tried: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
  • What we bought: None
  • Overall thoughts: The view here is absolutely spectacular. That’s the only positive from our experience. We got there at 4:30 p.m. and their cellar door should have been open for another half hour but we were told they were closed. Since we had to wait for a bus we decided to each get a glass, but we were annoyed so we probably didn’t enjoy the wine as much as we should have.

Travel Notes:

  • For more information on New Zealand wine in general, visit
  • New Zealand has this great service called NZ Wine Export where you can send them a list of what you want and they will take care of collecting it from the different vineyards and ship it all in one case. Perfect for people like us who hop around to several different wineries in one trip.

One thought on “Wines of New Zealand

  1. What a wonderful travel log you have done. We certainly enjoy your descriptions and the winery tour sounds like fun. Thanks for taking me to a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

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