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Lydia in New ZealandWhen Lydia Harrison, Manager of our Battersea store, achieved the highest mark in the UK for her WSET Diploma, she was rewarded with a three-week trip to New Zealand. Here she recalls her journey through a country with a real love of winemaking…

New Zealand is a spectacular country. Throughout my trip I felt privileged to experience not just the splendid scenery, but also the wine trade and the intense passion of the people who work in it. My appreciation of the quality wines they produce is greater than ever as a result of this incredible trip. I began at Craggy Range, set against a stunning mountain backdrop in Hawkes Bay. This is a winery boasting vineyards in top sites around both islands, from the famous Gimblett Gravels and Te Awanga in Hawkes Bay, right down to Bannockburn in Central Otago. Grapes this good needn’t be mixed, so Craggy Range only produces single-vineyard wines expressing their unique sense of place and viticultural history.

Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Craggy Range, Martinborough
£12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Elderflower, gooseberry and lime show through on the fresh, aromatic nose and continue onto a rounded palate that gains extra richness from the 10% of the wine that is barrel fermented – yet still retains a lingering, crisp acidity.

New Zealand vineyardNext I travelled far south to Queenstown (with a spot of whale-watching in Kaikoura and sightseeing in Christchurch along the way). I spent a glorious few days on the lake, sampling the delights of the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. I visited numerous vineyards and wineries, learned all about the area’s sub-regions and varying wine styles, and tasted some fantastic wine and cuisine.

New Zealand grapesVisiting the pioneering Quartz Reef was a real highlight. Winemaker Rudi Bauer travelled the Bendigo region by bike to locate the best sites on windy slopes, where he planted vines which remain biodynamically managed to this day, and which produce an array of quality grapes.

Quartz Reef Pinot Noir 2008, Central Otago
£17.99 or £14.39 when you buy 2 bottles
Limited Availability!
This vibrant ruby Pinot has a beautifully perfumed bouquet of dark cherries, plums and hints of dried herbs and gravel. The velvety palate has a lovely minerality to accompany the pure fruit.

I also tried the 2005 vintage, which showcased the wine’s ageing capabilities. Its mineral yet perfumed nose was followed by a savoury, smoky palate with more dried fruit. It’s definitely worth cellaring a couple of bottles – if you have the patience. Better yet, the rich supply of wines at the festival didn’t stop at Pinot Noir. Central Otago also produces crisp Chardonnay, racy Riesling and velvety Pinot Gris.

Mount Difficulty Pinot Gris 2010, Central Otago
£17.49 or £13.99 when you buy 2 bottles
The aromatic, floral nose shows honeysuckle, delicate pear and apricots. There’s good minerality on the palate, coupled with a lovely viscosity that gives a smooth, round mouthfeel.

Saint Clair wineryLeaving Central Otago, I circled back up the west coast of the South Island, surviving chopper rides over the Franz Josef Glacier on my way to the home of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough. Under bright, intense sun, surrounded by arid mountains and among row after row of vines, I made my way to the Saint Clair winery.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough
£15.99 or £12.79 when you buy 2 bottles
Pioneer Block wines are selected for their quality, which means they’re more intense and complex than the Estate wines. This delightful, high-class Sauvignon has vibrant gooseberry, guava, passion fruit and lime on the nose, with a delicate herbaceous hint. The fruit-filled palate has mango, elderflower and a lingering touch of grass.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block Pinot Noir 2009, Marlborough
£17.99 or £14.39 when you buy 2 bottles
Young, vibrant nose of fresh dark cherries, with a touch of dried herbs and smoke. There’s an abundance of ripe, lively red fruit, strawberries and plums on the full, creamy palate, balanced by a refreshing acidity and savoury spice on the finish.

Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough
£22.00 or £17.60 when you buy 2 bottles
Made from only the best Blocks, painstakingly selected from 114 different Sauvignon tanks, this is intensely fruity on the nose, with aromas of elderflower, green pepper and passion fruit. The multi-dimensional palate shows citrus, gooseberry, guava and more passion fruit, underpinned by a lingering minerality. Beautifully balanced and deservingly New Zealand’s single most awarded wine.

New Zealand vineyardMore top NZ picks

Main Divide Riesling 2009, Pegasus Bay, Waipara
£12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Pale gold in colour, this South Island Riesling has a pungent nose of pineapple, peach, kerosene and spice. The palate is lively, with mango, lime and honey perfectly balanced by a racy acidity.

Te Mata Chardonnay, Woodthorpe Vineyard 2009, Hawkes Bay
£14.99 or £11.99 when you buy 2 bottles Limited Availability
A great Hawkes Bay Chardonnay with a complex nose of roasted nuts, butter, vanilla, pineapple, mango and citrus followed by a beautifully balanced palate. Nectarine, peach and citrus fruit flavours meet well-integrated oak and uplifting acidity. Perfect with roast chicken.

Martinborough Vineyard ‘Te Tera’ Pinot Noir 2009, Martinborough
£15.99 or £12.79 when you buy 2 bottles
The elegant bouquet has fresh red and black cherries with hints of toast and oak. Supple and round on the palate, with plum, raspberry and redcurrant fruit mingling with sweet spice and a lingering acidity.

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