Whenever someone says they don’t like New Zealand wines, it feels as though they are dishing out a short but sharp stab to my heart. I’m not patriotic about many things, but I am precious about our wines. Of all the inherently ‘kiwi’ things that New Zealand produces, (All Blacks, proper Marmite, golden kiwifruit, pineapple lumps, to name a few…) the wine is the one I know and love the best! In a recent friendly debate with my new wine snob colleague, I did admit through gritted teeth that he was right, New Zealand wines aren’t the best in the world, but they do have a unique quality to them. And if he did insist on getting all personal, we are further up the wine ranks than the English!
A certain someone and I have our favourite wines from all over the world, but it always makes us smile when we spot a New Zealand bottle on a wine list somewhere. If we’re ever undecided or slightly flummoxed by a gargantuan wine list, then we will opt for a drop from the motherland as that’s always a safe bet. I thought I was fairly well-versed in my Sauvignons to Pinot Noirs of New Zealand wines until someone asked me about Waiheke Island and I realised that in all my wine-drinking days at home, I had never ever ventured across to the island. On our last trip home to New Zealand, I finally righted that wrong!
With my sister and brother in tow, we boarded the ferry from downtown Auckland one midweek morning and took the forty minute journey across to Waiheke Island. The plan for the day was simple: a quick visit to the beach, a little bit of walking, and a lot of wine tasting! Once we arrived, we jumped on the first bus and made our way to the first stop…
Wild On Waiheke
This unique site is not only home to Wild Estates winery but also Waiheke Island Brewery so sampling both the wine and beer is a must here! I would recommend ordering the tasting trays as you get to try all six of their wines and all seven of their beers; it means you can try before you commit to purchasing whole bottles or if like us, you’re planning on touring round a few wineries, it will help you pace yourself.
We particularly enjoyed their flagship wine, Wildling, which is well-rounded blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, and I was definitely a fan of the Onetangi Dark Ale, a smooth chocolatey porter. Had we more time, we would have happily spent most of the day at Wild On Waiheke. I really liked the laid back atmosphere, and it also hosts a range of activities suitable for the whole family. There are plenty of tables and deck chairs laid out on the lawn for guests to relax in between games of giant chess or petanque, or even rounds of archery or clay pigeon shooting.
Bidding goodbye to Wild On Waiheke, we wandered next door to Te Motu, one of the oldest wineries on the island who produce two estate ranges – Te Motu and Dunleavy. In contrast to our previous tasting, the five wines we sampled here were mostly reds as they specialise in rich Bordeaux-style wines. Having done a wine tour in Bordeaux and drank some exceptional wines, I was pleased to see that our homegrown efforts stacked up just as well. The tasting experience here was quite informative which I liked; the history and blend of each wine was carefully explained, alongside some tasting notes and food pairing suggestions. Definitely a must-visit for those looking for a taste of Bordeaux, down-under.
From Te Motu, we took the signposted path across some lush vineyards to Casita Miro. This option was far more scenic than taking the bus, but it was not quite the short cut we anticipated, especially in the searing New Zealand sunshine! By the time we arrived, we were absolutely ravenous which was probably a good thing as Casita Miro is as well-known for its food as it is for its wine. As you might have guessed from their name, they serve Spanish-style tapas so in true Spanish style, we ordered a couple of wines, sangrias and tapas to share amongst us. We were a fan of their vibrant dishes, especially the seafood paella, but nothing can compare to eating the real deal in Spain. That said, when you combine it with the striking decor, animated atmosphere and glorious views, you might just be transported to Spain for the afternoon!
So Make A Move…
We only managed to visit three of Waiheke Island’s twenty-something wineries which means we barely scratched the surface of what is on offer. But from what we did see, do, and drink, I am definitely keen for a repeat visit. It’s the perfect day trip from downtown Auckland, but hopefully next time we can stretch it out to an overnight stay and also spend some time on the beach!
- Take the Fullers Ferry from Downtown Auckland – a return ticket costs NZ$36 and the ferries run every 30 minutes in both directions.
- Getting around the island by bus – a day ticket costs NZ$10, the bus will get you round to all the wineries, and it runs fairly regularly. If the bus doesn’t appeal, you could rent bikes or even book a private tour.
- Don’t get there too early – most of the wineries will open from 11am or 11.30am so don’t think that the early bird catches the worm or the wine, in this case.
- Wild On Waiheke, 82 Onetangi Rd, Waiheke Island – open Thursday to Monday.
- Te Motu, 76 Onetangi Road, Onetangi, Waiheke Island – open everyday for tastings.
- Casita Miro, 3 Brown Rd, Onetangi, Waiheke Island – open everyday for lunch.
Have you been to Waiheke Island, what was your favourite winery?
Where does your favourite wine come from?
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