Scattered between Queenstown and Wanaka, there’s more wineries than we can count on both hands and feet. So we asked local experts Nadine Cross of Peregrine Wines in Queenstown and Jo Mills of Rippon Vineyard in Wanaka for their tips on how to experience the very best in the region. So grab a ticket for the long way round the hill and take some tips from the pros.
Where should wine lovers go in Queenstown or Wanaka if they’re looking for a casual wine tasting experience?
Nadine: Make an adventure out of it and bike to Gibbston Valley – great wine tasting and you can also check out their new Deli and Cheesery. Then you can head down the valley to Peregrine!
Jo: We're in NZ, there's not too much in the way of frills here! That's the joy of Queenstown, Wanaka and everything in between: there is no pretension, it is casual, no expectation of sniff, swirl & spit. Come and meet us, hear our stories, taste the wines and come away feeling like you know a little bit more - not just about what's in your glass - but how it got there.
Okay, what if they’re looking for something a little more fancy? A location where they can get a little dressed up?
Nadine: Head to the Maude Wines Tasting Room in Wanaka, and make sure you try their Reserve range of wines (you can go casual too!)
Jo: That's when you hit the bars! Again, we're in NZ: if you rock up in a frock or in your stubbies and a singlet, we'll be happy to see you and we always love a bit of glam! Visit a winery, buy a few of your favourite bottles, get your glad rags on and then sit atop your favourite peak or on your favourite beach and carry on the party!
Is there a winery off the beaten track that everyone should visit at least once?
Nadine: Yes, Domaine Rewa – lovely people, great wines, and amazing pots!
Jo: If I told you, I'd have to kill you... That said, Mt Edward on Coalpit Road is a fantastic spot and the team there are always good for a yarn. Rippon is off the main road (though it's the beaten track to Mt Roy). Maude is off the main road and has a glorious outlook. Do one, roll to the other - they both merit at least a single visit.
What do you pay the most attention to when you’re tasting wine?
Nadine: The aromatics, they tell you a lot about a wine. Also, the friends you are drinking it with, wines taste much better when you are sharing them!
Jo: It's story. I don't want to be told what to taste - it's so subjective anyway. I want to know where it's from and how it came to being. How does it feel? How does it make me feel? Where is its home?
Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chardonnay or a good old Gewurztraminer what’s your preference?
Nadine: I love making and drinking Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Jo: That's like trying to choose a single musician or a single movie! Seriously, wine is about context and about mood. What do you feel like that night? What are you eating? Who are you with? What's the music? How's the weather? Some of the best wine experiences of my life haven't been the "serious" ones, they've been those nights when it's late, you have Neil Young on the record player, it's a beautiful night, you're already a couple of bottles down with a group of friends and you pull out something tasty and drink it under duvets, looking up at the sky. It's a thing. Do it. If the wine is good, the music is good and the company is excellent, you're not going to worry about the variety on the bottle!
Lastly, which bottle from your winery would you recommend taking home?
Nadine: Peregrine 2017 Pinot Noir, it’s a beautiful wine!
Jo: As above. But, as a secret weapon, I'd probably say our Osteiner. Only 2 hectares of it are known to be planted in the world and we are the only ones whom we know to be bottling it as a single variety wine. It's rare, it's yummy and it's only found in Wanaka.