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White wine at maui winery haven

Finding the Perfect Wine for your Meal


You don’t need to be a critic to know that wine and cheese is a marriage made in heaven. Still just like marriages, not all wine and food partnerships are equally good. Here are a few suggestions to help you find your own wine and cheese Nirvana.

Oysters Couple Salad

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The best food pairings for New Zealand wines



While chardonnay’s popularity first really took off back in the 90’s, this classic variety still rates a place in any thinking persons fridge.

New Zealand chardonnay styles reflect our varied and unique terrain. These range from light, refreshing, fruit-driven unwooded styles to heavily oaked finishes that ooze complexity and elegance. Most chardonnays come with a crisp acid finish and achieve honeyed aromas and deeper colour as they age.

Best with
  • Spicy Asian or Indian dishes (especially good with unwooded chardonnays)
  • Steamed, baked or grilled white fish dishes like snapper, rockling, whiting etc
  • Scallops, oysters, calamari
  • Grilled chicken, chicken pasta, turkey, pheasant 
Found in
  • Nelson
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Canterbury
  • Central Otago
  • Northland


Riesling revels in the dry autumns and cool nights of the South Island, which produce slow ripening, elegant and complex characteristics.

New Zealand riesling is all about intense flowery aromas and the balancing game between sweetness and acidity. Styles range from sweeter styles closer to the German original to very dry and crisp. While the sunny climate of Nelson produces stone fruit and spice, Marlborough is known for its lime characters and the cooler areas of Waipara Valley and Central Otago for citrus and apple.

Best with
  • Creamy or more neutral pasta dishes 
  • Steamed, grilled and baked white fish
  • Fish cakes, calamari, crab, oysters
  • Thai and Chinese food
  • Trout
Found in
  • Nelson
  • Marlborough
  • Waitara
  • Central Otago

Sauvignon Blanc

Way back in 1985 Cloudy Bay’s David Hohnen proved the capability of the Marlborough area to produce intense and unique, sauvignon blanc wines. With his first vintage, he created an international sensation by pushing aside the more restrained and traditional offerings of Burgundy.

Fast-forward and “the New Zealand style” is a huge force all over the world and for good reason. This brings together vibrant lime and citrus aromas, a powerful refreshing fruit driven punch and a rewarding acid finish and relates instantly to our appetite for light, Asian and fusion food choices.

Best with
  • Chicken dishes
  • Nicoise salad
  • Caesar salad
  • Seafood
  • Tempura
  • Chicken
  • Soft cheeses (acidity works well against the strong flavours of these)
Found in
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson
  • Canterbury


While New Zealand is not seen as a big shiraz area internationally, it never the less produces complex, aromatic and elegant wines which have won international acclaim. Only last year, for example, winemaker Rod McDonald’s Quarter Acre Syrah 2015 won Best International Syrah at the International Wine Challenge in London.

Best with
  • Beef and lamb in all forms 
  • Rare eye fillet of beef
  • Casseroles
  • Osseo Bucco
  • Tomato based pasta sauces
  • Coq au Vin
Found in
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Waitaki/Central Otago
  • Northland
  • Waiheke Island

Pinot Noir

The high altitude and slow ripening of Central Otago and the heavier clay soils of the Southern Valleys of Marlborough are just two examples of the many microclimates that produce fascinatingly different versions of this enigmatic grape variety.

What ever their terroir, wine critics agree that all New Zealand pinots share fruit-driven intensity, structure and elegance. This lightness and soft spoken complexity allow pinots to combine wonderfully with European meat dishes, but also with the subtlety of Japanese or to act as a foil for the spices of Thai and Indian food.

Best with
  • Beef and lamb dishes (where you don’t want the power and heaviness of a shiraz or the richness of a cabernet sauvignon)
  • Beef Carpaccio and Japanese food (less overpowering than shiraz)
  • Chinese, Thai and Indian food (unlike shiraz, Pinot is great at taming spice)
Found in
  • Nelson
  • Central Otago
  • Canterbury,
  • Waiarapa (boutique)
  • Bay of Plenty

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Merlot blends

Whoever first came up with the idea of a grape descended from cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc surely deserves a place in the Parthenon of history’s heroes. Ditto the dynamo that first thought of combining the structure and elegance of cabernet sauvignon with the fresh fruit palette of merlot. Love you; love your work, we say.

While cabernet sauvignon is the slightly gutsier of these two, both are known for opulent black currant, dark plum and blackberry aromas and palette. With this underlying strength, both these varieties are made in particular for red meat where their character blends magnificently with the meat juices.

For the same reason, both can go head to head with strongly flavoured cheeses and add to that exchange of flavours without being drowned out by the cheeses strength.

Best with
  • Lamb loin chops, rack of baby lamb
  • Moroccan lamb tagine (where a shiraz might be too much)
  • Rare rib eye steak
  • Squab, duck breast
  • Pan-fried scallops
  • Strong cheese
Found in
  • Auckland
  • Hawkes Bay

maui Winery Havens

Has this discussion around food and wine pairing got you inspired to visit some wineries on your next escape? Why not look at some of our maui Winery Havens - where you can stay the night in your motorhome and enjoy a gourmet food and wine hamper as part of the deal.

North Island
  • Mercury Bay Estate (Waikato)
  • Linden Estate (Hawkes Bay)
  • Coney Wines (Wairarapa)
South Island
  • Gibson Bridge (Marlborough)
  • Carrick Wines (Central Otago)