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Follow Your Nose

What are the top 10 food destinations? Elizabeth Meryment travels the world and makes some surprising discoveries.

The following is an excerpt from the article.

#6: Central Otago, New Zealand
“It grieves me in a sense to say it, but I have to give it to the bloody Kiwis,” says Australian wine doyen James Halliday when asked to nominate one destination as the world’s best for wine (and food) lovers. “It has to be Central Otago. It’s picture perfect, it’s incredibly safe, the wines are excellent and the food has come a long way.”

High praise indeed from a man who owns a house in Burgundy, France. But it is true that this pocket of New Zealand has it all. Nestled spectacularly between the South Island adventure towns of Queenstown and Wanaka, Central Otago is blessed with soaring, snow-capped mountains, glaciers, pristine vineyards and fields of flowers. There’s very little development. And the wines, with pinot noir leading the way, are world-class. “They are very, very good, especially by New World standards,” says Halliday.

The region’s climate of cool, dry autumns, hot summers and cold winters is ideal for growing pinot noir grapes. Located 45 degrees south of the equator, Central Otago’s micro-climate is similar to Burgundy’s, which is roughly the same latitude north. There’s a wonderful wine trail that takes in the scenic spots of Gibbston Valley, Cromwell Basin, Bannockburn, Bendigo, Lake Wanaka and Alexandra-Clyde, and the area boasts possibly the world’s most beautiful winery, the Rippon Vineyard, on the shores of spectacular Lake Wanaka.

Try the modern European cuisine of the Amisfield Winery Bistro and perhaps catch sight of megastar Sam Neill, who owns the nearby Two Paddocks label (his pinots are said to be fantastic).

And when stopping off at any of the 30-odd local cellar doors, don’t restrict purchases to pinot noir; the vignerons here also do a great line in whites: sauvignon blanc, riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot gris and chardonnay are especially good.

Dream dish: Spring lamb and Two Paddocks pinot noir.

Dream hotel: Eichardt’s Private Hotel, a tiny property opulently restored to its Victorian grandeur, with stunning lake and mountain views. Marine Parade, Queenstown. (+ 64) 3441 0450; www.eichardtshotel.co.nz 

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