Visit To Wine Country Because You Need Great Beer To Make Great Wine

I needed a break from beer. When I landed in New Zealand,

I’d drunk in over 80 bars and 80 breweries in 28 different cities in the last eight weeks (beer my blog research is tough). I headed to two locations in search of wine: Waiheke Island and Marlborough.

Waiheke Island

I was ready for wine and a few days on Waiheke Island. Waiheke, an island of around 25 wineries, is a pleasant ferry ride from Auckland. Although the island seems to be just vineyards ringed by beaches, there are also three breweries. And guess what? I didn’t get a break from the beer…

Visit To Wine Country Because You Need Great Beer To Make Great Wine Photo Gallery

The most impressive of the breweries is comparable with the mighty taprooms of Margaret River, Western Australia (see post 167). Alibi Brewing is on the Tantalus Wine Estate (70-72 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island), a bright and breezy place that’s surrounded by grapes and has a fancy restaurant overlooking the vineyards. What I love is how the shiny, stainless brewhouse is right in the middle, set down a floor from the main bar, and surrounded by glass like a goldfish bowl. The Brewer’s Lounge downstairs is a dark-wood-and-leather-armchair kind of place and a nice juxtaposition to the light-filled dining room upstairs. As with the wines (which I can confirm are also very drinkable), you can get a tasting flight and try several Alibi beers, where you can expect a peachy Pale Ale brewed with all NZ ingredients, a good Pilsner, and a mix of other interesting brews, including some that use grapes and other fruits. The beers are all as bright and clean as the location in which you drink them.

Wild on Waiheke (82 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island) is situated next to Tantalus, but the two vineyard venues are total opposites. Where Tantalus is fine dining, Wild on Waiheke is fun dining and outdoor activities. They’ve brewed beer there since 1998 and you’ll find six beers on tap, plus a cider and a ginger beer. Baroona Pale Ale, their Motueka-hopped, Kolschstyle ale, is a light brew with a tropical-fruit hoppiness and just a hint of wine-like fruitiness. The food served is pub grub and backyard barbecue.

Boogie Van Brewing (29B Tahi Road, Ostend, Waiheke Island) is a funky little place producing fine beers for their taproom and is open Friday to Sunday (from 12-5pm). Expect plenty of fruit-forward hoppy beers. Almost everywhere closes by 5pm, including the wineries, so this is an ideal place to grab a growler to take home for the evening.


On the South Island is New Zealand’s best-known grape-growing area, Marlborough, famous for its intensely fruity Sauvignon Blancs—the wine equivalent of a big IPA. Base yourself in Renwick, hire a bike, and cycle around for a few days, as you can easily get to over a dozen vineyards, all of which have cellar-door sales and tastings. In the middle of them all is Moa Brewing Co. (258 Jacksons Road, Blenheim, Marlborough), which was founded in 2003 by Josh Scott, son of Allan Scott whose well-known winery is across the street from the brewery.

I liked Moa for being so different to the super-smart wineries, for being laid back, with beanbags and bar stools and snacks and pints, instead of standing-up sips of tiny pours of fine wines. You can get a tasting tray, if you wish, or pick a full glass or bottle. You’ll drink surrounded by grapes with mountains in the background—it’s a beautiful part of the world. Moa make a few beers with wine-links: Pilsner Methode is made with Champagne yeast and zesty Motueka hops, which combine to give intriguing and expected spicy-fruity qualities. There’s also Sour Grapes, a beer fermented with their house microflora and with Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which are added during fermentation where they keep the contact while the beer ages in wine barrels. It’s tangy and tart, funky and fruity, peachy and grape-like, with complex tannins. It’s very good and a fascinating mix of the beers they brew with the wines that are made all around them.

Everywhere in Marlborough is shut by 5pm (although Moa might stay open later, making it the ideal final stop), so drop your bikes off and head to Cork & Keg (33 Inkerman Street, Renwick 7204)—they will rent you the bikes for $30NZ a day—for some decent pub food and a good range of wines and beers, including some taps from nearby Renaissance Brewing.

If you’re on Waiheke Island or in Marlborough, then you’ll be there to drink wine; you wouldn’t go there just for beer. You could, but you wouldn’t. Chances are that if you like traveling for good beer, then you also want to try local wines and these places are brilliant for that, as you can get to numerous wineries very easily. To be able to have a few beers is a great way to end a day of wine-tasting, in places where beer and wine happily co-exist.

Stunning vineyards and olive trees growing on the rolling hills of Waiheke Island.

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