Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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Top watering holes from Good magazine

This story was first published in Good magazine, November 2022

Where is your favourite place to drink wine?

If you’re anything like me, it probably doesn’t involve lugging a heavy bottle of wine to the top of a hill, especially given that the main reason for walking involves exercise, not drinking, right?

Well, yes, and no. A bouncy three day four wheel drive trip around a game park in South Africa changed all that, for me. We weren’t walking up hills but the long days in the open air, surrounded by wildlife, added a powerful visceral layer to the pleasures of the great outdoors, especially at sunset with the silent but commanding presence of giraffes and kudu (deer). And to be handed a glass of Pinotage with the sky blazing reds, pinks and purples at sunset, was an experience that felt far more pleasurable than any glass of wine in any bar anywhere else on Earth. Ever since then, my bush walks have often included a great wine to savour after the hard slog of walking for hours. With that thought in mind, here are five great outdoor wine experiences. If a bottle seems too heavy, it’s easy to decant into a water bottle, thermos (for whites you want to enjoy in a more chilled fashion) or air tight keep cup. These experiences are not similar to drinking in a bar but rather an opportunity to savour, to sip, to enjoy the great world around us with a little liquid from Mother Nature; grapes fermented into wine. It’s not about the volume of consumption but about turning up the volume of pleasure on the place we’re in. 

Five of the best outdoor wine experiences

Champagne on picnic

André Clouet Grande Reserve Champagne RRP $62.99
Chill the best bubbly you can afford, wrap it in a tea towel with an icepack, stash your favourite glasses, beautiful brie or Parmagiano-Reggiano and enjoy. Great bubbles taste better lightly cooled rather than chilled to within an inch of its life and wines like the gorgeous André Clouet Grand Reserve reveal their deliciously toasty aromas and depth of creaminess when not too cold.
Available from specialist wine stores or Dhall & Nash, www.dnfinewine.co.nz

Chardonnay on the top of a hill

2021 Ataahua Chardonnay RRP $30.99
Walking up a big hill calls for a big wine and since Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white, here’s a great example from North Canterbury; a wine with ripe citrus fruit flavours, a creamy mouth feel and memorable flavours.
Available from specialist wine stores or www.ataahuawine.co.nz

Riesling on the beach

2021 Giesen Estate Riesling RRP $21.99
This tasty little number over delivers anywhere in the sunshine. Light in body, intense in taste and usually lower than usual in alcohol; a winning combination for summer drinking.Limes, lemons, fresh apples and a tangy finish make this the ultimate fish ‘n chips wine on the beach. And it’s the easy to see why it’s the most awarded wine in the annual New World Wine Awards.
Widely available

South African red in a game park

2019 Kanonkop Pinotage Kadette RRP $30.99
If you’re going bush, take a bottle of Pinotage from South Africa, which is home to this quirky red. This wine has red fruit flavours, savoury earthy notes and a charred taste on the finish. 
Available from specialist wine stores or Planet Wines, www.planetwine.co.nz

Pinot Noir on the Routeburn Track

2020 Big Sky Te Muna Pinot Noir RRP $39.99
Here’s an ideal Pinot Noir for drinking on the top of a majestic South Island mountain range. This gamey, savoury and delicious red comes from Martinborough’s Te Muna Valley; an edgy environment with a cool climate that makes great Pinot Noirs.
Available from specialist wine stores or bigskywines.co.nz