So we all love a New Zealand “Sav Blanc”, and we see plenty of them lined up in bottle shops around Australia. Almost 90% of this comes from the well known Marlborough region. But there is a lot more to the NZ food and wine landscape than this white wine variety, and many would argue that whilst this is the most popular, it’s certainly not the best.
The art of discovering great food and wine is a growing travel trend. And of all the places to take a gourmet discovery trip, NZ is perhaps surprisingly a very good place to start. Both the north and south islands have a number of regions that will have any gastro-traveller salivating, and they aren’t Queenstown or Auckland. So let’s get off the beaten path and take a gourmet look around the food and wine regions of New Zealand.
Have you heard of the Hawkes Bay region? If not, don’t feel silly, many haven’t and this is possibly it’s best asset. Hawkes Bay produces some the best wines in NZ. Located on the north east coast of the north island, it’s a hidden gem. Enjoying relatively sunny conditions, this seaside region has over 30 cellar doors and some of the oldest vines in all of New Zealand. In fact Mission Estate, established in 1851 by French missionaries, is regarded as the birthplace of NZ wine. The region is centred around Napier, which was destroyed by earthquake in 1931 and subsequently rebuilt, and retains a real life Art Deco museum feel. Restaurants abound and include Bistronomy, or seaside Milk And Honey at the Crown Hotel, or go more modern casual waterfront dining at Shed 2 & Caution, and we haven’t left Napier yet!
Winery cellar doors in Hawkes Bay offer everything from platters, to fine dining. The list of recommended venues can be exhausting, but someone has to do it! Some of our favourites include dinner at stunning Craggy Range Restaurant with Head Chef Casey McDonald who has worked in Michelin-star restaurants worldwide, and lunch at Church Road Winery, where Regional Winemaker and Jenny Parton, Head Chef have used their expertise and passion to wine match the menu, providing a complete wine and food experience (try their pre lunch cellar door tour and learn how the wines are made and how to ideally match with food).
Heading south, in fact leaping all the way to the south island into the town of Nelson, we arrive with the rich smell of fruit and food in the air. The Nelson region is oft referred to as the food bowl of New Zealand, so you can be sure of great produce. Apples, pears, melons, cucumbers and capsicums are harvested in large quantities….and of course grapes! The wines here aren’t as well known, but are absolutely worth discovering. Mineral in texture, carrying their own terroir and story, and matched with the quality local produce the region offers plenty of gourmet treats. Wines from Neudorf Vineyards have found their way onto the wine lists of several great European restaurants, whilst Seifried Estate exports wine to over 28 countries. Coupled with Nelson’s famous seafood – particularly oysters, scallops and mussels – it’s no wonder there are a number of award winning restaurants in the region. Try the relative new comer Cod & Lobster (our personal fav), or the now famous Hopgood & Co, with Head Chef Aaron Ballantyne having won the prestigious top prize at the 2018 Silver Ferm Farm restaurant awards.
And yes both Hawkes Bay and the Nelson region produce superb Sauvignon Blanc! Ready for a little gourmet exploration?