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Wine wonderland of New Zealand
Day-tripping to Auckland’s beautiful wine sub-regions
It is said that New Zealand wineries produce the world’s best sauvignon blanc. And the moment we sipped our first crisp and grapefruity sauvignon blanc from the region, we knew we were tasting something incredibly special. The wine captivated us so much that despite going on to drink prosecco in Piedmont, malbec in Mendoza, and cava in Costa Brava, we continue to enjoy New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc at our dinner table most often.
Sauvignon blanc isn't the only great New Zealand wine; the country produces an incredible array of world-renowned vino. With 11 major wine regions, more than 700 wineries, and nearly 90,000 acres in vines as of 2013, New Zealand is a global hotspot for wine tourism. With so much to discover, knowing where to start can be intimidating. To make it easier, we’re focusing on three easy-to-visit sub-regions that surround the country’s largest city, Auckland.
A quick ferry ride from Auckland’s waterfront, just past the volcanic island preserve of Rangitoto, sits dreamy, bucolic Waihike Island. With green, rolling hills and aquamarine bays, the island is best known for its red wines. Despite being so close to the city, the island’s climate is slightly warmer and even sunnier than Auckland's, which makes it a perfect location for growing award-winning Bordeaux varietals. And the winegrowers in the area have the trophies to prove it. Some of the best wines in the area include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and more. A number of the wineries blend these varietals together to create round, fruit-forward masterpieces.
Viewfinder Tip: For a meal near Auckland, check out Villa Maria’s exquisite Auckland Vineyard Café.
Globally celebrated chardonnays and cabernets are worth traveling long distances to sample. The good news is that once you are in Auckland, you're just 30 minutes away from wine districts such as the Henderson and Kumeu valleys.
The volcanoes that gave birth to the area’s famous black-sand beaches also made possible the district’s prized wines (it's all about the soil). But the area’s winemakers, including many Croatian immigrants, deserve the credit for growing vines that produce rich, elegant merlots and cabernets, as well as delicately aromatic chardonnays. For instance, the ripe, thoughtfully concentrated estate chardonnay from Kumeu River Wines owes its lovely hazelnut and peach aromas not just to the area's clay soils and ideal climate, but also to the loving hand of its producers.
Locals have known about the wonder of the idyllic countryside community of Matakana for years, but the secret is definitely out. Visitors to Auckland now are making the quick trip north to experience the area’s balmy climate and enjoy the spicy syrahs that local wineries produce. One especially lauded option is produced by Contour Estate, a boutique winery that coaxes a luscious, chocolatey syrah with hints of smoke, black pepper, and bacon (yes, bacon) from the vines.
While the wine is the loudest sirens’ call, locals and tourists also are drawn to Matakana’s central village for farm-fresh cuisine and products made by artisans.
Visiting New Zealand’s gorgeous and diverse wine regions is a must-do for anyone who appreciates wine; it is an excellent way to get to know the country and the craftspeople who produce these luscious libations. Like we did, you just might fall in love with a wine you can enjoy at home—a constant reminder of your trip to New Zealand.
What are your favorite wine regions around the world?
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