Photo: courtesy of New Zealand Wine Inc. Shown in image: Craggy Range.


When you think of New Zealand, you may think of kiwi fruit, Middle Earth, and, if we want to bring it back to wine, Sauvignon Blanc.

Now, many of you reading this know that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are also big players in New Zealand.  Taken one step further, the more studious of you may even call Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sparkling Wine, and Bordeaux Blends a New Zealand wine mainstay. While true, I am sure I am not alone in saying that many of these wines are not heavily represented in wine stores or on wine lists in Canada.  So, going into the ‘Bringing New Zealand to You’ trade tasting, I was not expecting the incredible wine spread. Looking back at it now, I can say it was a refreshing surprise!

Browsing the rows of wines, I found multiple expressions of New Zealand Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Malbec, and incredible white field blends. These were the wines available to taste in addition to what we know the region shines in; Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Bordeaux Blends.

Wines and Producers of Note

Sparkling Wine

Bubbles are enough to make anyone stop and take notice, and, cherry on top, there is nothing better than noting when the bubbles are beyond delightful.

Both the No1 Estate Family Cuvee and the Johanneshof Cellars Emmi, 2009, were of fine standing. Both are done in the traditional method and from Marlborough.

No1 Estate Family Cuvee is a blanc de blanc, aged on lees for two years. You are greeted with a rich sparkling wine with fine mousse and incredible notes of lemon zest, apple, and brioche in the glass.

4.5 apples out of 5


Johanneshof Cellars Emmi, 2009, is a cuvee of 75% Pinot Noir & 25% Chardonnay and is full of complexity and length.  Close your eyes, and you may just think you are in Champagne. The wine was aged for nine years in bottle before being hand-riddled and disgorged. This is truly an elegant sparkling wine and an outstanding example of what New Zealand offers in this area.  For any and all sparkling wine lovers, this is a must try!

5 apples out of 5


Non-Central Otago Pinot Noir

When you see New Zealand Pinot Noir on a list or anywhere for that matter, you likely assume you are in for some Central Otago deliciousness, but this New Zealand trade tasting did a fine job of ensuring you think twice about location when someone hands you a  nondescript ‘New Zealand, Pinot Noir’.

There were 26  Pinot Noirs on display that were not from Central Otago. The trade tasting showcased Pinot Noir from the North and South Islands, and many of them were notable expressions of this grape.

The Hans Family Pinot Noir, 2016, from Wairau Valley, is an intriguing expression of Pinot Noir that is worth mentioning.  Ripe red fruit intermingled with savoury notes and well-integrated oak makes this a Pinot Noir for varied palates. Grapes here were handpicked, put through extended cold soak for extraction, and aged in 40% new French oak for 20 months. The fact that there was no filtration or fining on this wine adds to the texture and balance of the oak treatment, making this a genuinely fascinating expression of Pinot Noir.

5 apples out of 5


On the other spectrum, but equally fun and a fine way to showcase the styles of Pinot Noir found across the region, was the Nautilus Vineyards Opawa Pinot Noir, 2018, also from Wairau Valley. An easy drinking, medium bodied Pinot Noir that will take you away to a patio when looking for a wine to pair with conversation.


The Unexpected Shout Outs

No review of the ‘Bringing New Zealand to You’ trade tasting could be deemed complete without giving a shout out to the grapes you encountered that you never thought you would at a New Zealand trade tasting.

First up, Seifried Nelson Grüner Veltliner. 2021. When you learn that Austria is Hermann Seifried’s homeland, the leap to planting Grüner Veltliner in the Nelson region of New Zealand seems like a ‘well of course’ coupled with a shoulder shrug type of decision. But not exactly.  While New Zealand has a cooler climate, it is warmer than Austria on average, the soil composition differs, and there has not been a steady run of Grüner Veltliner in the region.  Each and every one of the aforementioned is reason enough to give anyone pause, but there was something that pushed the iconic Seifried to march forward and plant Grüner. Today, we’re thankful he did. There is no mistaking that this wine is different than the Grüner Veltliner you find in Austria, but there are still many tell-tale signs of the beloved grape here. Yes, the fruits hold a slightly more tropical profile, but the wine still gives you the citrus and white pepper you expect and other nuances. This is a truly interesting perspective on Grüner Veltliner, and an easy crowd pleaser.


Next, The Hunting Lodge Albariño, 2019.  Yes, you read that right, Albariño in New Zealand.   This is a semi-dry expression of Albariño with relatively healthy complexity on the palate. Bright acidity and interesting vegetal notes leave you thinking that the region may be on to something here.


While talking about Spanish grapes, let’s throw in Tempranillo because we also encountered that at the New Zealand trade tasting.  The Rock Ferry Wines, Trig Hill Tempranillo, 2019, got a double take. Blackberry focused with fig, and a slightly oxidative nature left you with much to unpack.



Personal Bias

One of the real treats of the tasting was to be handed an open door to pour yourself Central Otago Pinot Noir. I know Central Otago Pinot Noir is not new for us, but having the chance to taste 15 of them at once is a real treat.

I would be remiss not to mention that the New Zealand tasting made sure we also explored the other wines of Central Otago by providing Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and that Tempranillo we mentioned above.

The ‘Bringing New Zealand to You’ trade tasting wonderfully painted New Zealand as a land with a lot to offer an oenophile looking to explore something new, but it will, forever, also remind me of Middle Earth.


(All ratings are out of a possible five apples)