Want to ensure that every time you buy a really good bottle of New Zealand wine you can be assured of absolute quality?

There are three simple rules.

Producer, producer, producer.

We are very fortunate that across the board most of our local wines are well made and value for money, regardless of price. Some are exceedingly well made but lack consistency and, in some difficult vintages, can be disappointing.

Then there are those who year in, year out, defy the sometimes cruel and difficult weather patterns that create challenging vintages and manage to produce exquisite, harmonious wines regardless.

Hans Herzog is one of these people.

The Swiss winemaker has been casting his magic from his small, picturesque Marlborough vineyard since 1998.

Always in the "one to watch" category, with vine age, he has excellent understand-ing of his environment and a silky minimum intervention winemaking approach.

Now Herzog can take his rightful place as one of an elite group of New Zealand's premier producers. Are the wines that good? Yes. Are they all that good? Yes. How does he do it?

He won't say, the self-effacing, quiet man is not one to make a big, showy fuss. But I suspect that Swiss precision and obsession with excellence has a lot to do with it.

I suspect he personally looks at every harvested grape to ensure it is good enough to make wine from.

His winery and barrel room are immaculate, everything has a sense of place, nothing is left to chance and you get the feeling that from the vine to the bottle, near enough is not good enough.

This same attention to detail and pleasing aesthetics is reflected also in the superb Herzog Winery Restaurant, which is undoubtedly one of the finest dining experiences in the country.

The latest release of Hans Herzog wines includes a virgin vintage dry riesling, arneis and a tribute to his wife, Cuvee Therese Rose - Methode Traditionelle Brut 2008. Of special mention in the line-up is a 2008 sauvignon blanc, "barrel-fermented sur lie", designed to appeal to those who feel they're over sauvignon.

And Herzog loves corks: "I'll change to screwcaps when Chateau Latour does."

RECOMMENDED
2008 Hans Family Estate Viognier, $45
If anyone has made a better viognier than this, I haven't stumbled across it. Candy and spice and all things nice. Bold, big and refreshing. Great with seafood and white meat.

2007 Hans Herzog Montepulciano, $64
This Italian variety is rare in New Zealand but this is a monster. Huge, sweet, ripe fruit flavours with a swish of truffle, liquorice and savoury overtones. This one should age beautifully.