And the people responsible for growing the grapes and crafting the wine are as dedicated and passionate as those anywhere on earth, guided by three key principles.
Kaitiakitanga, the Māori concept that we are all guardians of the planet, of the people it nourishes, and of the places we call home.
Manaakitanga, the Māori requirement that we show kindness, generosity, and hospitality to everyone we encounter.
Ingenuity, a determination to always push forward, blazing our own path while respecting the past.
They may seem simple enough, but taken together, these three principles have raised the reds, whites, and sparklers of New Zealand to the upper echelons of the world of wine.
And they’ve allowed Kiwis to do so in a way that has not only sustained the pristine lands in which they’re grown, but set the stage for future generations to do the same. Each harvest, each vintage, is a testament to the vision and dedication of the people who have made it possible, and a nod of respect to the land that provided it.
In New Zealand, sustainable grape-growing and winemaking isn’t just a guiding philosophy; it’s a way of life that you can taste every time you unscrew the cap from a bottle (around 90 percent of New Zealand wine comes in screw-cap bottles—an almost 20-year-old initiative that guarantees quality). Like the nation’s landscape, stretching 1,000 miles from north to south and encompassing mountains, valleys, prairies, and seemingly every environment in between, and like the generous seas surrounding it, the wines of New Zealand shimmer with the energy and passion of this place, and of the country’s dedication to sharing it in every bottle we produce.
All great wines bring people together. But only the wines of New Zealand evoke this magnificent land. Boarding a plane and winging above the oceans for thousands of miles may not be possible right now, but opening up a bottle of New Zealand wine is. And with all that it expresses, the land and the sea and the people that it channels, that’s a perfect way to visit, even from the comfort of home. Here are the wines that will help you get there.
Pinot Noir, more than any other grape variety, is picky about where it’s grown; only the most perfectly wine-friendly regions produce Pinots that fully achieve their true potential, and only the most dedicated growers and producers can coax them to their peak. In New Zealand, Pinots are fortunate enough to have many regions where the great grape excels, and in the hands of visionary producers. From the Burgundian soils and climate of Martinborough, which often produce Pinots of fantastic intensity, to the cool-climate hillsides of Gibbston in Central Otago that result in wines of detail and purity, the Pinot Noirs of New Zealand embody the full range of the variety’s capabilities.Click to Flip
Grown in New Zealand’s southernmost wine region, the four estate vineyards of Two Paddocks are all certified organic. This Pinot Noir, their flagship, bursts from the glass with sweet spice and brambly berries, the subtle herbal notes lending it an additional freshness through the long, lingering finish. Alongside grilled New Zealand Ōra King salmon or lamb, it’s transporting.
Sauvignon Blanc has become New Zealand’s calling card around the world. It makes perfect sense: Whether you’re looking for a vibrant, mouthwatering wine perfect for pairing with a light lunch or for sipping as an aperitif, or you need the kind of white that will pair with heartier fare like seared snapper or sauteed scallops, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is perfect. It’s been planted in Marlborough since the 1970s, and has earned a cult following around the world. Other regions excel with Sauvignon Blanc, too: From the often oak-kissed bottlings of Hawke’s Bay to the mineral intensity of Nelson, the range and expressiveness of New Zealand’s calling-card grape variety are unrivaled anywhere in the world.Click to Flip
This single-vineyard bottling is grown—protected from the elements—on the north bank of the Awatere River (a sub-region of Marlborough), which allows the 12-to-17-year-old vines to fully express the tapestry of soils in which they’re grown. The result is a Sauvignon Blanc of passion fruit freshness, lifted with snow peas and pulsed through with the kind of minerality that only the best vineyards impart.
New Zealand’s range of cool, sunny regions allow its bubblies to boast energetic, expressive fruit and mouthwatering acidity. Top producers are as adept as their French counterparts in employing the traditional techniques that mark each bottle with the kind of fresh-baked biscuit aromas and nutty flavors that connoisseurs clamor for. And not only are New Zealand sparkling wines made from some of the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the world, but the nation has also pioneered the production of Sauvignon Blanc sparklers, which showcase an entirely different side to its calling-card variety in the most delicious, celebratory way.Click to Flip
Made from a classic blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Allan Scott Cecilia Brut Méthode Traditionnelle channels the best of Champagne through the unique lens of Marlborough, where the grapes have been grown. Following primary and secondary fermentation, the wine rests for 18 months on the lees, which lends it aromas of warm biscuits cut with the mouthwatering brightness of fresh-picked lemons.
The health of the land has always been a guiding principle in New Zealand. From the earliest days of the Māori, respect for nature has been tied to the well-being of the people who work the land and sea. Today, the New Zealand wine industry has not only embraced that concept, but run with it; 96 percent of New Zealand’s vineyards are certified sustainable and 10 percent of wineries are certified organic, with more and more achieving those benchmarks each year. Organic wines, free of artificial pesticides and herbicides, are among the most honest and expressive you can savor. And because no chemical inputs have come between the vineyards where the grapes grew and the liquid in your glass, every sip of organic wine speaks of its land of origin in the most pure, focused manner.Click to Flip
Tucked into North Canterbury, in the dramatic landscape of the South Island, Pyramid Valley relies on the biodynamic concept of considering the entirety of wine production—the land, the ecosystem that thrives on it, the natural rhythms of the weather and the moon—as one integrated system. Their wines are fermented with indigenous yeast, almost always unfiltered, and fined using only natural components. The result is a lineup of wines as pure as New Zealand air.
The Māori first arrived in Aotearoa around 800 years ago. Since then, Māori culture and respect for the land and sea have shaped much of the life of New Zealand. Today, Māori-owned estates are an integral part of the wine community here, and carry on that tradition with a deep respect for the guardianship of the planet (kaitiakitanga) and a focus on generosity and hospitality (manaakitanga). From Nelson and Marlborough to the Waipara Valley, Gisborne, and all points in between, Māori-owned wineries are among the most important in all of New Zealand.Click to Flip
Proudly located in Nelson and Marlborough, New Zealand’s—and the world’s—capital of Sauvignon Blanc, Kono not only produces wines of deep character and profundity, but does so in a way that embodies their deeply held guiding principles: That the land and the sea are inextricably united with the people who nourish it and, in turn, are nourished by it. Kono’s wines, from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir and more, are as honest and as delicious as you’ll find.
No one disputes the fact that New Zealand produces some of the freshest, most exceptionally delicious Sauvignon Blanc on the planet. But what often goes unrecognized is how its most visionary winemakers have created a process that allows them to craft world-class wines with vastly reduced alcohol… and sometimes without any alcohol at all. Of course, that wouldn’t matter if they had to sacrifice flavor, but that hasn’t happened; through a combination of ingenuity and persistence, New Zealand is now a worldwide pioneer in the production of low- and no-alcohol wines that boast all of the incredible complexity and exuberance that its fans have come to expect.Click to Flip
The Giesen 0% Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc starts off like all of Giesen’s bottlings: As a great wine in its own right. Only after their winemaking team is satisfied that it represents the best of the region do they carefully remove the alcohol, preserving all of the character of the wine itself. The result is a bottle with less than 0.5 percent alcohol, which means you can enjoy it with abandon.