New Zealand: Food and Wine
New Zealand's cuisine is often described as Pacific Rim, a distinctive fusion of cooking traditions that draws inspiration from Europe, Asia and Polynesia. Using fresh meats, seafood, organic and indigenous foods, vegetables and fruit in a creative manner, New Zealand cuisine has a reputation of being fresh, vibrant and unique - much like its award-winning white wines.
The style of eating in New Zealand often reflects the laid-back Kiwi psyche where much dining takes place outdoors, just right for enjoying the clean air and those stunning views.
With a reputation for wines of intense flavour, such as the white sauvignon blanc and chardonnay and red cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, New Zealand's leading wine regions are often just a short drive away - perfect for an memorable food and wine tour.
For dishes that have a distinct New Zealand style, try the lamb, pork and cervena (farmed venison), salmon, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters, paua (abalone), mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (types of New Zealand shellfish).
Also try kumara (sweet potato), kiwifruit, tamarillo and pavlova, a large round cake with a meringue base topped with cream and fruit - the national dessert.
New Zealand chefs are creative with local products, competition between restaurants for new dishes typically produce a delicious range of food combinations with new recipes popping up weekly. A typical menu could feature dishes such as:
Cured tuna and Pacific oyster salad Terrine of cherry tomatoes, basil and goat cheese with a yoghurt dressing Simu scampi with crispy noodles Crab claws and paw paw with a spicy plum sauce
- Rack of lamb with mille-feuille of spring vegetables
- Tournedos of beef fillet and sauted kidneys with glazed Asian pears Prime beef, grilled with hot chilli oil and served with ginger-scented broth
- Horopito roasted cervena (south island venison), served with a
- Marlborough cherry sauce and a spiced nashi pear and walnut salsa
- Whole crayfish served grilled or steamed with tomato, basil and champagne sauce
- Free-range organic chicken with lavender
New Zealand grown French-type cheeses such as: bleu de Bresse, brie, camembert and montagne bleu.
New Zealand's sunny and temperate maritime climate is ideal for winemaking. Leading wine regions include West Auckland, Gisborne, Martinborough and Hawke's Bay in the North Island and Marlborough, Central Otago and Canterbury in the South Island. Many New Zealand vineyards run restaurants in attractive settings. Tours and tasting are often available and wine trail maps make it easy to find your way around.
Matching New Zealand wines with local food
Choose a world-class sauvignon blanc or chardonnay from one of the country's 376 wineries and you have the perfect complement to a great meal. Try the 2007 Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, with flavours of ripe peach, passionfruit and mango and a characteristically crisp finish. Or try a silky merlot-based red from Bay View winery in Hawkes Bay.
Cabernet Sauvignon - Cabernet sauvignon or cabernet sauvignon/merlot blends tend to have strong flavours and a firm tannic structure. They are excellent with lamb or duck.
Merlot - Merlot has less intense flavours and a softer structure. It suits a broader range of food types including leaner meats and more savoury dishes, especially stews and casseroles.
Pinot noir - With its rich flavours and soft tannins New Zealand's pinot noir suits lean meats, such as veal, venison or turkey.
Sauvignon blanc - The golden rule with sauvignon blanc is "fresh is best". The vibrant flavours of sauvignon blanc enhance the freshness of seafood and white fish especially when served with citrus or garlic-based sauces. Also great with crunchy summer salads, capsicums, tomatoes and vinegar-based dressings.
Chardonnay - Fresh and youthful chardonnay is a great match with most seafood dishes, particularly scallops, crab, lobster, crayfish, white-fleshed fish and salmon. New Zealand's chardonnay has a rich, complex and mellow texture, which suits savoury dishes and creamy sauces.
Aromatics (riesling, gewürztraminer and pinot gris) - The delicate flavours and crisp acidity levels of dry aromatic wines are best enjoyed with light to moderately-flavoured salads, seafood and chicken dishes, but also with spicy Asian dishes. They also suit vegetarian dishes, crab, crayfish and foods that have a slightly sweet influence and may be served with desserts, particularly fresh fruit, or with soft blue cheese.
Sparkling wine - New Zealand sparkling wines suit a wide range of light or moderately flavoured dishes such as seafoods and all but very sweet or strong flavoured dishes.
Tips are not expected; service charges and taxes are not added to hotel or restaurant bills.
Best time to go
Any time. New Zealand has a maritime climate: generally warm in the summer from December to March and never truly cold, even in winter from May to September, which is usually wet. Average summer temperature in Auckland is 20C with a high of 23C.
Discover New Zealand's wine and food festivals; you can explore the art of degustation (wine and food matching) in an attractive al fresco environment. Festivals are held regularly in all the main wine-growing regions, usually in late summer or autumn.
Did you know?
The wine cave at Gibbston Valley Wines near Queenstown is carved from solid schist. With constant humidity and a temperature of around 14C, the cave provides a perfect haven for the maturation of pinot noir and chardonnay wines. It's also a unique venue for lessons in wine appreciation.