More than sauvignon blanc: experience the diversity of New Zealand wine

By Halliday Wine Companion for NZ Wine

19 Feb, 2019

Our friends across the ditch have so much to offer when it comes to wine, with the regions across this stunning country turning out a range of styles. Experience New Zealand’s vinous variety by tracking down the nine wines ahead, or by heading to one of three exciting events.

There’s so much more to New Zealand’s wine scene than those familiar styles of sauvignon blanc, and it will all be on show at this year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Here’s a peek at some highlight wines being shown at the ‘Made in New Zealand Trans-Tasman Takeover’ in March.


The crisp climate of New Zealand makes a compatible environment for riesling, thriving in a range of regions around the country – from the cooler vineyards of Central Otago and Canterbury to the abundant sunshine of Nelson. Diversity stems from the distinctive sites where New Zealand riesling grows, as well as the individual ways wineries are working with the variety. Whether you prefer zippy and citrusy or off-dry, European-inspired styles, New Zealand covers the spectrum.

Wines to try

Greystone Sea Star Riesling

2016 Greystone Sea Star Riesling, Canterbury

A complex nose with floral and herbal notes leads into a mouthwatering, textured, lemon-citrus palate with a hint of sweet white stone fruit. Plenty of character. 

Mount Edward Central Otago Riesling

2017 Mount Edward Morrison Vineyard Riesling, Central Otago

Floral and citrus scents pave the way for a textural palate with lemon sherbet, lime juice and grapefruit flavours, all tied together by bright acidity and a bit of minerality. Striking.

Palliser Estate Riesling

2018 Palliser Estate Riesling, Wairarapa

White blossoms, lime fruit and a whiff of botrytis, with more herbal notes unfolding in the glass. The medium-bodied palate is moreish and juicy, featuring lime cordial, honeysuckle and musk.

These wines will be at the ‘Riesling and Raw Bar’ on Saturday, March 9. Arrive between 1pm and 5pm, and sit down to a selection of rieslings from around New Zealand, along with snacks by the team at Kirk’s Wine. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


As with riesling and other aromatics, pinot noir is a natural fit for many New Zealand wine regions. The hard-to-grow grape has taken particularly well to the mineral-rich soils and mixed climates of Wairarapa and Central Otago. Depending on your tastes, you can find everything from pretty and fruit-forward to spicy and savoury styles. With chardonnay being another grape that excels here, it’s unsurprising that winemakers are also using pinot noir to create elegant sparkling wines.

Wines to try

Akarua Central Otago Brut

NV Akarua Brut, Central Otago

A 54/46% blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. A zesty and fresh style, the palate features lemony citrus coupled with a touch of brioche sweetness and a long acid line. A lot to like.

Pinot Rouge

2018 Pinot Rouge, Central Otago

A super-pretty nose of raspberries and red cherries, this is a bright, juicy, highly drinkable wine. You could easily drink a bottle ‘by accident’.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

2016 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Wairarapa

The beautifully perfumed bouquet precedes the mouth-filling and well-balanced palate, which finishes long with a little warm spice – all the character and complexity of good pinot.

The above is just a tiny sample of what’s on pour at the French Saloon ‘Heart, Land and Sea’ dinner on Saturday, March 9, and lunch on Sunday, March 10. Aromatic white blends, classy chardonnays and museum-release reds will also feature alongside an NZ-inspired menu by acclaimed Melbourne chef Ian Curley at these two delectable events, hosted by Master of Wine Stephen Wong.


In the slightly warmer areas of New Zealand, floral, dark-fruited and spice-flecked syrah shines. Hawke’s Bay is the most prominent region for the variety, but it’s also taking to Northland and even Marlborough as temperatures rise. The star of New Zealand syrah is capturing the attention of critics far and wide, and if you love luscious reds, it’s well worth a try.

Wines to try

Te Whare Ra Syrah

2016 Te Whare Ra SV5182 Syrah, Marlborough

Floral, blackberry and pepper notes on the nose. A more medium-bodied style, with black and purple fruits on the palate that are nicely rounded out with some spice.

Craggy Range Syrah

2016 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah, Hawke’s Bay

An intoxicating bouquet of boysenberry, violet and black pepper. The fruit, acid and tannins are all seamlessly balanced on the palate, and the finish is long. 

Vidal Legacy Syrah

2014 Vidal Legacy Syrah, Hawke’s Bay

Aromatics of anise, plum, herbs and spices. Ripe black and purple fruits combine with well-integrated oak that contributes savouriness and complexity.

Get acquainted with NZ’s coolest style of big red at the ‘Shiraz (Syrah!) and Lamb Snacks’ session, happening on March 10 from 1pm to 5pm (like your good old-fashioned Sunday lunch, but better).

Find out more about the Trans-Tasman Takeover of the French Saloon upstairs and Kirk’s Wine Bar downstairs from March 9 to 11.

This article was produced by Halliday Wine Companion in partnership with NZ Wine.