9 Excellent New Zealand Wines That Aren’t Sauvignon Blanc
The country has so much more to offer than the grape it's famous for.
New Zealand may be synonymous with fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc—and often remarkably affordable Pinot Noir—but it has so much more to offer. Earlier this year I traveled extensively through the gorgeous country, and came away beyond impressed with the stunning range and depth of the wine culture there.
From the Bay of Islands in the North Island, where the boat ride to The Landing looks like something out of a Disney film, to the almost alpine landscapes of Central Otago in the South Island, New Zealand is a country of magnificently diverse terroir, a proud wine history, and a winemaking culture that’s as passionate and forward-thinking as any around the world.
It’s a recipe for remarkable wines, and the reds, whites, rosés, and bubblies of New Zealand seem to only be getting better. Here are nine non-Sauvignon Blanc bottlings from all over the country, listed alphabetically, that represent both where the industry is right now and where it’s heading. From readily available wines to ones that require a bit of hunting, they each have a delicious story to tell about the excitement and sense of electricity coursing through the nation’s wine.
2015 Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir Central Otago ($75)
A blend of fruit from the Northburn and Calvert vineyards, this age-worthy Pinot Noir has all the stuffing to keep on evolving for years to come. Even now, however, it’s delicious, with savory notes finding a fantastic foil in brambly berries and spice.
2017 Decibel Malbec Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay ($25)
From Philadelphia-born winemaker Daniel Brennan, this rolls from the glass with a deep well of blackberries, black raspberries, cracked peppercorns, and hints of plum cake and spice cake. The concentrated palate reminds me of a Northern Rhône Syrah crossed with Cahors. Blackberries and mulberries are complicated with allspice, star anise, tobacco, mineral, and peppercorn.
2017 Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir Bannockburn, Central Otago ($85)
Toasty aromas of Chinese five-spice powder, game meat, and slate precede concentrated, plummy fruit flavors and a finish that rolls on and on.
2016 Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay Kumeu ($59)
Apple and floral notes mark this luminous white—you can almost taste the sunlight on the vines—and mouthwatering minerality makes this a uniquely food-friendly Chardonnay.
2019 Loveblock Pinot Gris Marlborough ($23)
Laser-cut and lemon-like acidity slices through flavors of summertime melon, Asian pear, and yellow apple, all of it anchored by a deep sense of almost granite-like mineral.
2017 Mt. Edward Riesling Central Otago ($17)
Electric with slate notes and lifted with orange blossom, apricots, and nectarines. This leaves no doubt that Central Otago has the potential to be a world-class region for Riesling. If this is any indication, it already is.
2016 Trinity Hill Homage Syrah Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay ($113)
A lifted note of floral peppercorns is immediately apparent, but then a wave of blueberry conserve sweeps in, lending it all a sense of gorgeous generosity. A profound Syrah.
NV No. 1 Family Estate Cuvée Methode Traditionelle Marlborough ($34)
A fantastic sparkling wine that sings of hard apricots, oysters shells, preserved lemon, and tarragon. Super food-friendly, but just as good on its own.
2016 Seifried Würzer Nelson ($15)
Würzer is an unusual, gulpable cross of Müller-Thurgau and Gewürztraminer, and this one is grown in the gorgeous northern part of the South Island. It practically levitates above the glass with effusive notes of sweet spice and flowers.