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Featured Publication
October 15th 2000

The Fine Wines of New Zealand
by Keith Stewart

Cover of Fine Wines
published 1996
by Godwit
ISBN 0-908877-60-9

Keith Stewart is a long time wine writer and critic, with a regular 'Drinks' column in the New Zealand Listener magazine and an occasional radio slot on both National Radio and the popular Sunday morning Newstalk ZB program with Ruud Kleinpaste.

His book, the Fine Wines of New Zealand, has been around for quite some time however it is still available in retail today. Hence I regard it as an essential addition to the library of any wine lover who is at all serious about the some of the finest New Zealand wines and their heritage. In fact, Keith Stewart's own words in the opening sentence of the introduction sum it up ingeniously with "This book seeks to provide a view of the first years of the Fine Wine industry in New Zealand".

The wines and wineries Stewart has selected for the book are those that had established a firm reputation within New Zealand and abroad at the time of writing. And all but a few of the selections are still regarded at or near the pinnacle of New Zealand winemaking in 2000, although they have been joined by a raft of others who have arrived on the scene since the book was written.

Some labels, however, no longer exist today, such as Robard & Butler Amberley Riesling and Grove Mill Lansdowne Chardonnay. But for those who purchase their wine through auction, these labels could become available, which is another reason why this book is such a valuable resource,

The text is organised into grape variety with Chardonnay and its 27 selected wines leading the tasting. Then follows Chenin Blanc (2), Gewurztraminer (3), Pinot Gris (1), Riesling (12), Sauvignon Blanc (15), Sparking Wines (4), Botrytis Sweet Wines (4), Cabernet Principal Blends (17), Pinot Noir (5) and Syrah (1).

Each variety has is introduced with a history of the vine in New Zealand, then follows a vertical tasting of each one of the wines selected. Notes on each wine include grape composition, alcohol content, oak usage (if any), source of grapes, harvest dates, winemaker's name and drinking window, plus other information if known.

Following the comprehensive tasting section, a chapter entitled 'The Winemakers' profiles many of the winemakers whose wines appeared on the preceding pages.

I cannot find a date on the book but I believe it to be published around 1995/1996 based on the most recent wines reviewed which were the 1994 sauvignon blancs. The Flying Pig website ( lists a hardback copy, dated 30/10/1996, at a sale price of $68.81, however the stiff paper back copy is far more reasonable and available in the many book stores with a comprehensive wine section.

I've seen the book in second hand bookshops too so you may be fortunate to pick up a well cared for copy there.

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