We had the great opportunity to visit the Nelson wine region on a recent trip to New Zealand.
First of all, it is important to know there are 10 wine regions in New Zealand. Yes, there are wineries in almost all corners of the country!
The Nelson wine region is located on the north tip of the South Island and enjoys a very sunny, maritime climate.
It comes as no surprise that, due to great weather conditions combined with passionate winemaking, Nelson is producing highly distinctive, premium quality wines.
And I really love the fact that many winemakers are adventuresome enough to explore different grape varieties too, considering that Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Noir account for over 80% of the region’s grapes.
Here are the Top 4 wineries we enjoyed in Nelson:
Not only does Milcrest Estate produce superb wines, but they own a beautiful and luxurious B&B right in the middle of their vineyard!
This is by far the best spot to stay and set as your base when visiting the Nelson wine region.
The owner, Terry Milton, is very friendly and knowledgeable about the grape varieties, which wineries are worth a visit, as well as the region in general.
And this is also one of the reasons I recommend making Milcrest Estate your first stop; you’ll gain a lot of valuable information from Terry.
Milcrest Estate’s new Chardonnay is phenomenal, flowery on the nose, with hints of vanilla and oak. But their fine aromatic Pinot Gris is a true masterpiece.
Milcrest Estate website: www.milcrestestate.co.nz
Golden Hills Estates
On our visit to Golden Hills Estates we got a chance to meet the owner, Jeff Marr, who told us about his wines and beautiful property on the Waimea Plains.
Marr’s passion in wine making is very obvious and his vast knowledge on the terroir of Nelson has allowed him to be somewhat adventuresome in trying different grape varieties to make wine.
Not only does Golden Hills Estates produce great Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris, but two wonderful wines we got to try as well were the 2008 Merlot and the 2009 Dolcetto.
Golden Hills Estates website: www.goldenhillsestates.co.nz
Started over 30 years ago, Neudorf is one of the oldest vineyards in Nelson.
It is also, perhaps, the most internationally known Nelson winery. Their wines have earned not only Neudorf, but the entire Nelson region, worldwide recognition.
Today, Neudorf exports their wines to 16 different countries and many grace the menus at some of the finest restaurants around the world.
If you visit Neudorf, I would strongly suggest you try their Moutere collection. Their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are top-de-tops.
Neudorf Vineyards website: www.neudorf.co.nz
What I loved about this unique award-winning winery, besides their great wines, is their emphasis on utilizing sustainable methods in winemaking.
In fact, their multi-level winery (built on a hillside) is gravity-fed, which allows the wine to evolve from grape to bottle in a process driven by gravity.
The owners of Woollaston Estates also share their passion and love of art. There is a modern sculpture with a shape of an “X” at the front of the winery (I guess “X” marks the spot), and there is also a modern art gallery right next to the Cellar Door.
My favorite here is their 2006 Pinot Noir.
Woollaston Estates website: www.woollaston.co.nz
Other Activities in Nelson
Nelson has many art galleries including the works of traditional and contemporary Maori craftspeople, as well as other international artists.
If you have time, visit Höglund Art Glass, a very colorful and elegant hand blown art glass gallery.
If you love hiking or sea-kayaking on clear ocean waters, you should visit Abel Tasman National Park.
And last but not least, prepare for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 because Nelson is one of the host cities! And if this doesn’t sound exciting enough, you should know that countries like USA, Russia, and Italy will be playing in Nelson.
It is argued that the best red wines in France come from Bordeaux. But where can you find the best white wines in France?
Although there are plenty of regions that produce great white wines, most French wine connoisseurs will point the way to Alsace.
Located in the eastern part of France, Alsace has produced white wines since the end of the first millennium. Talk about experience!
The only interruption of wine making in Alsace happened because of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618 which devastated the region.
But the Wine Gods would not leave Alsace in such misery!
Fortunately for wine lovers, local winemakers revived the production of high quality wines at the end of World War I using exclusively Alsatian grapes. The results have been amazing!
Today you can find wines from Alsace all over the world. The tall and slim Alsatian flute bottle makes it easy to identify wines from this region in shops.
Now, before I explain each of the seven grape varieties, you should know that Alsatian wines are consumed young since they don’t require a lot of fermentation time in barrels to reveal their splendid character. Typically, the aging process goes from six months to five years.
Without further ado, here are descriptions of the seven grape varieties along with food pairing suggestions.
Sylvaner – This is a very refreshing, light bodied wine with a sweet delicate touch. It is great to enjoy with seafood and cold cuts.
Pinot Blanc – This is an all-purpose wine with a very smooth taste. This is one of the most representative wines in Alsace and you can’t go wrong pairing it with fish and other traditional seafood plates.
Riesling – This is the most celebrated of all the white wines in Alsace. It’s dry but refined and delicately fruity with an elegant bouquet. The excellence of this wine is unbeatable when pairing it with most seafood dishes and, of course, with choucroute, the traditional Alsatian dish.
Muscat D’ Alsace – Don’t think this is your typical sweet Muscat! This one is dry, but very aromatic and delightfully grapey. Its goes perfect with appetizers, vegetarian dishes, asparagus, and pastas.
Pinot Gris – This is a rich, full bodied wine with a lingering finish. It exhibits aromas that are slightly woody as well as smoky. If you are having foie gras or poultry dishes, look no further, this is the perfect wine.
Pinot Noir – In Alsace, the Pinot Noir grape not only produces an outstanding red wine, but also a fruity rosé with hints of cherries. It pairs great with game, red meat & barbecues, as well as with strong goat cheeses or gruyere.
Gewurztraminer – You can call this an all-terrain wine. Its character is full- bodied with exotic fruity aromas. Contrary to other Gewurztraminers, the Alsatian counterpart tends to be a bit on the dry side. It is a very flexible wine when it comes to pairings and goes well with appetizers, exotic international dishes, strong cheeses and desserts.
Alsace also produces a high quality sparkling wine similar to champagne. The Cremant D’ Alsace is a terrific option to celebrate those special moments in life. You can find it white and rosé. Try them both!