100 Most Iconic Wine Estates:
New Zealand & South Africa

Felton Road Central Otago
Every estate in this book is a master of their craft, but Felton Road owner Nigel Greening and winemaker Blair Walter redefine the meaning of meticulous work; analysing and scrutinising every last detail. These two self-deprecating chaps are ultra-perfectionists with wizard skills, extensive global wine knowledge and stellar palates. In just over a decade, they have made Felton Road the most famous producer in New Zealand and, along with fellow iconic alumnus Ata Rangi, they were awarded the inaugural Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa or ‘Grand Cru of New Zealand’ in 2010.
The property was established in 1991 by Steward Elms (referenced by the Elm tree on the label) and the first wines were released in 1997. Elms determined that the north-facing slopes at the end of Felton Road, in the Bannockburn ward of Central Otago, were the warmest and most suited to growing and making world-class wines in the region. He could have not been more accurate.
Nigel Greening, an ex-creative guru from England, bought the business in 2000 and he has expanded on this theme. The vineyards were converted to organic farming from 2001 onwards, and since 2010, they have full biodynamic accreditation. The tending of vines is done entirely by hand with cover crops planted between the rows to assist in controlling vine vigour, to improve soil health and to encourage biodiversity. This is a core belief of Felton Road’s and as the vines mature the wines are becoming some of the most captivating on the planet.
There are three distinct vineyard sites from which Felton Road draws fruit – The Elms, Cornish Point, and Calvert. Cornish Point is an old gold mining settlement where the first large find was made in the Central Otago gold rush. It was named after the Cornish miners who worked there, and after being abandoned in the late 19th century, it was planted to apricots. Felton Road developed this this site and planted it with vines in 2000. With 18 different clone and rootstock combinations, separated into 25 district blocks, this is a Pinot Noir fanatics’ playground. Calvert vineyard is 1 km east of The Elms vineyard and winery. Planted in three phases between 1999 and 2003 with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling; fruit is taken from this vineyard by Craggy Range (q.v.) and also Mike Weersing at Pyramid Valley. It is one of the first vineyards in New Zealand that works to a Burgundian model; dividing up the land between different winemakers.
Felton Road has made its name as a Pinot Noir specialist, but must mention the sublime white wines made here, too. There are three Rieslings, from the driest to sweetest – Dry Riesling, Riesling and block Riesling. All are sensational and you can pick the appropriate out of the wine rack to suit your mood or cooking. I have always favoured the middle cuvee, simply called Riesling; regularly giving it a half point more (out of 20) in my notes. If I had to choose just one this would be the wine, but I don’t so nor should you. These are wines full of life and character and they all have a terrific, sleek chassis and magnificent length.
The Chardonnays, too, are phenomenal, starting with Bannockburn Chardonnay, which is a very attractive, minimally oaked wine (only 10% new oak). Block 2 Chardonnay, from The Elms vineyard, is a slightly richer wine, designed to age for longer, but it again, is not all bruised by excessive oaking. The respect for the raw materials, and desire to protect the integrity and source of the fruit is to be applauded at Felton Road. The wines themselves sing and they couldn’t be from anywhere else, which is the primary aim of ultra-high quality, boutique wine estates. Five Pinot Noirs complete the picture and there is not a finer, nor more fascinating range of wines outside of Burgundy. Bannockburn Pinot is the most forward-drinking wine and it is the largest production, too.
This is the wine responsible for Felton Road gaining the top five-star listing in my Great New Zealand Pinot Noir classification. This wine is the embodiment of balance and harmony and from this stunning starting point the other four wines fan out; focusing on their exact vineyard sites and peculiarities. Cornish Pont comes from its namesake vineyard, as does Calvert, while Block 3 and Block 5 are specific ‘lieu-dits’ in The Elms vineyard, on the Felton Road property. I will not describe the intricate differences in these wines in this book, preferring to point you to my website and articles on specific vintages and tasting notes. However, you must know that Blair and Nigel strain every sinew, and do everything possible not to lose any molecules of complexity and originality in these five wines. They are the direct vinous expression of the vineyards that they tend everyday of their lives, and they all taste absolutely awesome. Nothing can be more rewarding than making wines like this. Perhaps that is why they are such content, generous, gregarious and engaging people.
Pegasus Bay Waipara
Pegasus Bay winery is situated in the Waipara Valley in the South Island. To the east, it is separated from the ocean by a range of hills which protects them from the freezing Pacific winds. To the west you will find the Southern Alps and this is where the warm winds rise. This precise site gives Pegasus Bay Winery its warm days and cool nights – the time honoured recipe for fine, ripe, elegant wine.
The Donaldson family members are all involved in their business and their skills are extremely complementary. Ivan Donaldson pioneered grape growing and wine making in the region in the 70’s. He is an associate professor and consultant neurologist by training, but this love of wine inspired him to start the Pegasus Bay operation. Day-to-day, he overseas the meticulous viticulture on the estate: leading a large band of highly skilled workers. His wife Christine, runs the grounds which are immaculate. She is an opera nut and you wi`ll see this reflected in the names of the top wines. Wine tourism is extremely important here and the Donaldson’s take great pride in their menus and their wines. Their eldest son, Mat studied oenology and viticulture at Roseworthy College in Australia and Lynette did the same at Lincoln Unviresity in New Zealand. Edward, another son, runs the marketing while his wife Belinda, supervises the fabulous restaurant. Youngest son, Paul, works as General Manager for the company – so you can see that they have all bases covered.
Waipara has become one of the most important wine regions in New Zealand. The minerality, the intricate layers of fruit and sheer class in the Pegasus Bay wines is staggering. What’s more, they manage to make Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and also sweet wines to extraordinarily high levels.
At special cuvee level, Virtuoso Chardonnay and Prima Donna Pinot Noir are sublime. It is the minerality underpinning the controlled, multifaceted fruit which proves to be so attractive. They have density of flavour but also levity and gentleness; they are intricately built but silky smooth. Aria is the name for their late-picked Riesling, Maestro is the top Merlot / Cabernet, Finale is a botrytised Semillon and Encore is the same style but a Riesling.
This family has pioneered winemaking in Waipara and we cannot commend them enough for this brave move. Pegasus is a symbol of wisdom, poetry and inspiration – all traits and more found in Pegasus wines
Cloudy Bay Marlborough
In the mid 80’s it was Cloudy Bay who put Sauvignon Blanc into our collective vocabulary and catapulted the wine region onto the world stage. None of the Loire classics like Sancerre or Pouilly Fume mentioned the grape variety Sauvignon Blanc on their labels. It therefore appeared Cloudy Bay and a handful of other small producers ‘owned’ this intellectual property. Thirty years later there are hundreds of Marlborough producers all making Sauvignon Blanc & Cloudy Bay’s pioneering status has largely been forgotten by today’s legions of Sauvignon fans.
The brainchild of David Hohnen, owner of Cape Mentelle in Margaret River, Western Australia, this whacky scheme came about when he tasted a Marlborough ‘Savy’ and was bowled over by its flavours. He felt compelled to make a wine from this relatively untested region. He employed Kevin Judd as the man in the ground in Marlborough and they used the best fruit they could find.
The romantic label and evocative name combined with knockout, piercing citrus and elderflower fruit and a mesmerising aroma, all hypnotised the fanatical Cloudy Bay followers. A complete portfolio of wines joined the Sauvignon in due course. A stunningChardonnay was, and still is one of the finest in the country. A daring oaked Sauvignon Blanc, called Te Koko (the Maori name for Cloudy Bay), started a world wide craze.
Many winemakers had been using oak as a sutble flavour enhancer and mid-palate builder, but Te Koko took this to a new level, emulating the unhinged wines of Didier Dagueneau, in the Loire, to great effect. Pelorus, the excellent sparkler that’s always been a market leader in New Zealand another wonderul addition.
Cloudy Bay was bought by LVMH and it is run by the drinks division arm Moet Hennessy. Hohnen and Judd still make wine in their respective countries

Ata Rangi Martinborough

Meaning ‘Dawn Sky’ in Maori, Ata Rangi has proven itself to be one a the stellar Pinot Noir producers in New Zealand, planted with legendary gumboot clone of Pinot Noir planted by Clive Paton, co-owner with his sister Alison. The story that an illegal cutting was taken from Domaine de la Romanee Conti’s vineyards and smuggled into New Zealand. It was impounded at customs and a bright member of the staff, Malcolm Abel, recognising the importance, sent it to be ‘looked after’ at the state0-owned viticulture station. Abel planted his own vineyard with cuttings from this material and Clive worked a vintage him him in 1982. Sadly, Abel died unexpectedly, but he had allowed Clive to use the plant material. Augmented by a wide selection of other Pinot Noir clones , the wines made here are nothing short of sublime. Martinborough is a small wine region accounting for only 1% of New Zealand’s production, but it makes an enormous noise on the international stage.
Sixty-five kilometres north east of Wellington, it takes one & a half hours to drive there from the city over the Rimutaka ranges. The climate is Burgundian and the rain shadow cast by the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges make it a relatively dry haven for grape growing. The Martinborough Terrace is the prime turf here – only one kilometre wide and five long it is where the majority of the top estates are found. At its heart is Arta Rangi and the flagship Pinot is considered by many critics and wine connoisseurs to be New Zealand’s finest.
In addition to this sensational wine, a sensual, spicy Merlot/Cabernet/Syrah blend called Celebre is made. Lismore Pinot Gris is one of the country’s finest with line and length, billowing fruit, while Craighall Chardonnay is a challenging, starkly mineral wine with lime plth, strident oak and a bracing finish.
One noteworthy addendum to this wonderfully Pinot-drenched entry is the Paton’s family commitment to conservation. Clive’s obsessive desire to repopulate his regions tree plundered terrain is to be admired. He has focused his efforts on protecting and re-establishing New Zealand’s iconic red flowering Rata – a mighty tree once prolific in New Zealand.
Craggy Range Hawke’s Bay
When entrepreneur Terry Peabody put down his roots, his family didn’t expect them to be literally. Running companies all around the world, this Brisbane based magnate, with the ‘Midas touch’ decided wine would be a great legacy for his children’s to inherit. A fortuitous meeting with Steve Smith MW (new Zealand’s first specialist viticulturist Master of Wine) convincing him New Zealand was the location for his dream and that a world class, multi-regional, single vineyard specialist wine company was the way forward. Having previously worked for a large New Zealand wine company, Steve had knowledge of hundreds of plots of land accross the country. He and Terry hatched a plan to create one of the most exciting new brands in the world.
Based in Hawke’s Bay, Giants Winery – the home of Craggy Range – is at the base of the spectacular scarp of Te Mata Peak. These inspirational surroundings have made this winery and its superb cellar door, restaurant and cottages a favourite destination for serious wine lovers. Drawing on fruit form Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough, Central Otago and |Marlborough this company takes a masterful approach to its craft.
Only single vineyard wines are allowed and styles include Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and what they call Gimblett Gravels blends, which include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Since Steve’s Craggy Range journey started, he and his team have been on or near the top of all of his chosen vinous disciplines. The family Collection wines are sensational, starting with two contrasting Sauvignon Blanc – Avery Vineyard from Marlborough and Te Muna Road Vineyard, both of which are gripping. A delicate but beautiful Riesling, also from Te Muna Road Vineyard, is a joy. A rare, brooding Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay is partnered with a racy, mineral soaked Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay, which is tempered by the sea breeze at Te Awanga. The two Pinot Noirs are completely different, with the Calvert Vineyard version, from arguably the most famous Pinot Vineyard in the country, from Central Otago – sensual and all-encompassing. Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot, from Martinborough is upright and blessed with pristine cherry notes. The Gimblett Gravels region, of which 100HA (out of 850HA) is owned by Craggy Range is home to some mighty reds. Te Kahu is usually a Merlot-dominant blend featuring varying amounts of Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon and Malbec depending on the vintage. The Merlot is not 100% but prefers to employ both Cabernets and sometimes Malbec to layer complexity. Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Syrah uses a splash of Viognier to heighten the aromatics in true Northern Rhone style. Aroha is the top Pinot Noir from the Te Muna Vineyard and it is one of the most vital and beautiful of the modern Pinots from New Zealand. With briary blueberry notes and a fair degree of whole bunch fermentation, this is a wine that sets out to rival not just the local competition but everything around the world, too.
Sophia is another Gimblett Gravels red blend, this time a Merlot-dominant wine with increasing Cabernet content. A gradual drop in alcohol levels levels and new oak content make it more refined than in years gone by. Finally Le Sol is the top Syrah in the country and staggeringly well made. Craggy Range will surely maintain its trajectory of excellence and with a portfolio of wines covering virtually every style, you are sure to fall under its charms if you haven’t already done so.

The Sadie Family Wines Swartland

Eben Sadie looks like a rock star, but he is nothing of the sort. He is, in fact, something much more elemental and exciting – a wine creator / philosopher / surfer. In additional to this he is South Africa’s most beguiling talented man of wine, as he literally does everything involved in creating his wine from the vineyard to the sales, so the term winemaker doesn’t really do him justice. Sadie started his career working for Charles Back’s Spice Route brand but left to pursue his own rather outlandish dreams in 1999. He makes his wines because he loves them himself; he knows they’re good and that thy will always find a home – more often than not within the first few days of release, such is his cult status. His wines qualify for truly gastronomic enlightenment.
Based in Malmesbury, in the Swartland region, Sadie makes wines from old parcels of fruit and his brilliant releases need to be tasted to be believed. Favouring blends rather than single varietals, he understands that Swartland is suited to complex aromatic whites and reds and so draws on parallels between his own region, the Rhone Valley and the Mediterranean.
His most important red wine, Columella, is named after Lucius Moderatus Columella the author of De Re Rustica, a 12 volume masterpiece expounding the virtues of agricultural practices in the Roman empire. Columella is a Shiraz/Mourvedre/ Grenache blend with staggerig earth, fybos (indigenous scrub and heath land vegetation) and games notes. This is not a blockbuster as such; preferringto pack the palette with intrigue rather than brawn and it is an experience worth hunting down. The other star in his two-wine constellation is Palladius, named after another Roman agriculture author. Palladius is a white blend that follows a Rhone model but that utilises as many as eight varieties. Chenin blanc is often involved not least because it is South Africa’s most exciting white grape. Eben has tracked down ancient vineyards from which he draws his fruit, some of which were abandoned and overgrown. Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Viognier and Chardonnay also bring their own special nuances to the finished wines.
Two Sequillo wines, a red and a white, are made by Sadie in a joint venture with Cornel Spies. Meaning ‘an arid, dry place of purity’ Sequillo wines are often seen as second wines to Columella and Palladius. They are in fact distinctly different even though they are made using a broadly similar philosophy. The white blend uses Palomino, Clairette, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Grenache Blanc, Semillon Gris and Viognier while the red sticks to a more familiar palette of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. These are both immensely satisfying and superb value wines.

Rustenberg Stellenbosch

Rustenberg is one of the most beautiful wine farms in the Cape. Sitting at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain, close to South Africa’s wine nerve centre of Stellenbosch, this is a crucial destination for avid wine fans and an important working farm too. Showcasing the symmetry and grandeur of Cape Dutch architecture, this imposing property oozes class. Established in 1682, and produces 3,000 cases of wine annually by 1781, it became a fast growing, renowned winery well over a century ago. Wine has been bottled at the cellar since 1892, which is staggering considering that estate bottling in Burgundy didn’t occur for another 30 years. It was in this year that John X Merriman rescued the estate after a period of recession and decline. Imortalised on a wine label today, John X also went on to become Prime Minister of the Cape. Peter Barlow bought the estate in 194; his son Simon took over in 1987 perpetuating Rustenberg’s ongoing success. Recent times have seen the charismatic winemaker Adi Badenhorst lead and launch the wines into the modern wine-makers’ consciousness before the talented Randolph Christians, Adi’s second-in-command took over the top job.
Since then the wines have taken on a cool, calm and suave air. Remarkedly the Rustenberg wine portfolio displays grounded restraint deep at the core of every wine. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc, with tense, focused lime juice fruit and flashes of exotic flavours; an unwooded Chardonnay which shares more similarities with a fine Chablis than most South African versions of this variety and, two spectacular oaked Chardonnays lead the way. The estate version is widely available, eminently affordable and one of the most reliably delicious in the Cape- treated to smart French oak and made from the same recipe as all top white Burgundies, it is a star wine. The top Chardonnay cuvees is called Five Soldiers, and has a much more structured style with weight, depth of fruit and complexity. This is one of the Cape’s finest white wines. Not content with classic white varieties made in the time-honoured fashion , ther is a racy Roussanne as well as a challenging white blend made from Viognier, Semillon and Roussanne, called Schoongezicht.
The reds at Rustenberg tend not to be too extracted or oaky and in this respect they are modelled on a European chassis and appeal to a wide range of connoisseurs. The Syrah is dark purple, lusty and yet not too ripe or port-like. RM Nicholson is a complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Light in tannin despite heavyweight ingredients, the skill Randolph show here is in the art of blending and layering the fruit flavours. It is a sensual experience and one which harks back to a previous age when a ’Dry Red’ estate wine was made following an old fashioned shove-it-all-in-together recipe. John X Merriman is the most famous red cuvee here and it is a classic ‘Bordeaux blend’ utilising all the five classic varieties. Climbing up the ladder, you come to the wine named after Peter Barlow himself. Made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is the icon wine at Rustenberg; a beautifully lush and densely packed blackcurrent creation with a 20 year lifespan, perfect for wine collectors.
The portfolio also extends to a cunning Straw Wine made from Chenin Blanc; a luscious sweet, exotic treat. All of the wines made here reflect the distinguished, historic Rustenberg estate. If you haven’t been to South Africa, then this winery is a decent reason to get on the plane.

Boekenhoutskoof Franschhoek

Marc Kent’s winemaking at Boekenhoutskloof is exemplary. If you cannot pronounce the name you will definitely recognise the seven chairs on the label. Marc makes everything from entry level Porcupine Ridge supermarket wines, via a brilliant Wolftrap red, rose and white trio, to everyone’s favorite The Chocolate Block, a complex red blend and finally to South Africa’s finest wine (his Syrah) and its stable mates. He never fails to thrill the palate. His passion and manic obsession with trying anything to improve his stellar creations year after year is to be greatly respected. A superbly leesy, limey and dry Semillon kick off the Boekenhoutskloof range.
Your passport to:

The very best wine, whisky and fine wine dining experiences.

Please let us know what products interests you, so we can make sure we send exclusive offers to you.