By bike: Viniculture in action
By bike: Viniculture in action

New Zealand's food and drink make it a Land of Plenty: From craft beer to wild boar

A wine tour ensures you won't miss the pick of local wineries, while Waiheke Island provides a microcosm of New Zealand cuisine

Chris Mugan
Wednesday 02 March 2016 12:32
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Zingy "sauv blanc", rich flat-white coffee – even New Zealand's citrusy hops now flavour British craft beers. Kiwis have been making much more impact on our tastes than simply supplying lamb and butter. It's a country that has quietly developed a vibrant gourmet culture based on celebration of an enviable array of produce. Farmers' markets heave with free-range meat, fresh seafood and abundant fruit and veg, all proving the Land of Plenty moniker is no cliché. Pride in local ingredients means menus change as you travel, so to taste New Zealand you really need to get around.

Hop to it

The sun-kissed fields surrounding the South Island harbour town of Nelson are home to New Zealand's hop growers, so head here to sample the nation's fast-growing craft-beer scene. Nelson celebrates its brewing scene with bands and food at the annual MarchFest (marchfest.com; 19 March; NZ$40/£19, accompanied under-18s free), but if you can't make the event, there are plenty of local breweries to explore year-round.

On the Nelson Beer Trail (craftbrewingcapital.co.nz), the Mussel Inn (00 64 3 525 9241; musselinn.co.nz) is a lively pub and microbrewery, with such quirky concoctions as Captain Cooker Manuka Beer, based on Captain James Cook's pioneering NZ ale. Sprig and Fern (00 64 3 544 8675; sprigandfern.co.nz), meanwhile, has won awards for its crisp Harvest Pilsner and Wai-iti Lager.

Waiheke Island

Shell out

A 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is a bohemian idyll that provides a microcosm of New Zealand cuisine. As well as fine wines, fresh seafood is a must. The Cape Cod-inspired Oyster Inn (00 64 9 372 2222; theoysterinn.co.nz) is the toast of the resort of Oneroa for its gourmet fish and chips and eponymous bivalves.

Pop into Te Matuku Bay Oysters (00 64 9 372 8600; tematukubayoysters.co.nz) for a selection straight from the farm, along with the pick of other local produce such as olive oil, aioli and hummus. Last October, Te Matuku hosted Waiheke's inaugural Oyster Festival – watch out for 2016's follow-up.

Raise a glass

The best way to understand a country's winemaking is to view its viniculture in action, and New Zealand's growers are among the most welcoming – even at Hawke's Bay, the nation's oldest grape-growing region, with venerable fields of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and savoury syrah. A wine tour ensures you won't miss the pick of local wineries.

Bay Tours (00 64 6 845 2736; baytours.co.nz; from NZ$85/£40) offers excursions, with a choice of half-day and full-day outings with experienced guides who know their terroir. To follow your own path, On Yer Bike (00 64 6 650 4627; onyerbikehb.co.nz; NZ$50/£24) rents out cycles, provides maps and will even collect your purchases.

Capital connection

New Zealand's compact capital is packed with exceptional restaurants, cafés and producers, with many leading names willing to share their secrets. Set back from Wellington's favourite surfing beach in the suburb of Lyall Bay, Crave Cooking School (cravecookingschool.co.nz; lessons from NZ$55/£26) hosts classes led by specialist guest chefs. With Asian influences so key to Kiwi cuisine, an evening could be spent learning how to re-create bold Vietnamese flavours with tutor Amber Sturtz or master the mysteries of ravioli with Italian chef Roberto Giorgioni.

Meat feast

If you were to judge by Instagram, you might believe the South Island adventure resort of Queenstown to be all about the revered takeaway joint Fergburger (00 64 3 441 1232; fergburger.com), where adrenalin junkies queue for up to half an hour to sample its delectable patties. For a classier carnivorous experience, head to Saffron (00 64 3 442 0131; saffronrestaurant.co.nz) in nearby Arrowtown, where chef-patron Peter Gawron rings seasonal changes with this cooler region's hero foodstuffs, among them wild boar and duck.

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