A mecca for wine enthusiasts, New Zealand has quickly climbed the ladder as one of the best wine-producing regions in the world.
You don't have to look much further than rural Central Otago for some of the best varietals around.
Surrounded by dry mountains reminiscent of a rather lunar landscape and intersected by iconic (sometimes controversial) man-made lakes and deep gorges glowing neon blue, this sparsely populated corner of New Zealand is home to some elegant Pinot Noirs and plenty of delicious eateries beckoning you to empty your wallet and sit back and stay a while.
As someone who has called Central Otago home for the past six years, I can safely say that the best time to visit is mid to late-April when the autumn colours are popping.
The southern-most wine-growing region in New Zealand, here the cool and dry climate, combined with glacially derived soils means the aromatic wines are top notch, along with some fabulous whites as well.
Perhaps my favourite wine label is both world-renowned and somewhat exclusive.
Two Paddocks is hidden away amongst the wild schist landscapes and produces some of my favourite single vineyard Pinots – and Rieslings. Sigh, it's so hard to pick a favourite!
So far-off the beaten tourist trail around the famous wineries of Central Otago, Two Paddocks is a veritable paradise for wine enthusiasts who love world-class wine in a stunning location, surrounded by quirky farm animals and remarkable art guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, without the crowds.
Wine snobs aside, this is a place for those who love delightful surprises, unpredictable occasions and creative wines you can sip and smile, who love the land and who have a true passion for wine culture and love idyllic country life, complete with chickens.
And the ringleader behind Two Paddocks – the glue holding this bold and beautiful corner of New Zealand together – is none other than the proprietor himself, actor Sam Neill.
Open only to wine club members, if you join up to the Private Paddock Club, you're welcomed out to the beautiful organic farm and vineyard at Red Bank for tastings, tours, picnics, playing with the animals and partaking (not taking) of Neills art collection.
A lot less bourgeois than it sounds, wine club members also have access to museum stock, as well as new limited offerings of wine released each autumn, like The Last Chance Alexandra 2017, The First Paddock Gibbston 2017 and The Fusilier Bannockburn 2017, which are made in small batches and notoriously difficult to get your mitts on.
Neill's passion for looking after the land (and good wine of course) is evident throughout the entire operation at Two Paddocks.
Nowadays, the the original paddock at Gibbston Valley – planted in 1993 – has expanded to include three other small organic vineyards around the Alexandra and Bannockburn areas of Central Otago, which often prove difficult to find, even with instructions.
It's also home to a veritable menagerie of farm animals, all lovingly named, overfed and overly friendly and my favourite time of year to visit is in the autumn. I love when the vintage begins and the leaves start to change around Central, turning the arid landscape into fields of gold as far as the eye can see.
Sale of Liquor License Ref: OF129
Licence No. 67/OFF/30/2022
Expires 24th August 2025