Here's how to enjoy wine like a VIP

For the ultimate wine-drinking experience go straight to the source

Timara Lodge, in the heart of Marlborough wine country.
Timara Lodge, in the heart of Marlborough wine country.

Wine is arguably now an everyday luxury. But for those seeking something grander than simply grabbing a bottle from the supermarket to sip in front of Shortland Street, there are a host of wine treats to be had, from delicious wine-matched degustations and VIP tastings to decadent vinous getaways.

For a fine dining thrill, book a table at one of a growing number of local restaurants boasting seriously good wine lists. For example, at Auckland's The Grove, you can savour top imported wines from the likes of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Champagne Salon, alongside local legends like Stonyridge Larose or Felton Road Block 3 pinot noir from a magnum. The Grove also offers an eight-course tasting menu, each paired with appropriate wines.

Or make a reservation at Waiheke Island's Mudbrick Restaurant for million-dollar views and a delicious degustation menu matched with wonderful Waiheke wines. Sate yourself on the likes of alpine merino lamb rump with carrot, cumin, buckwheat, yoghurt and absinthe, washed down with Mudbrick Reserve merlot cabernet sauvignon.

There are also some high-end tastings on offer at Glengarry Victoria Park in Auckland. Sample the sweet, sybaritic splendour of sauternes, in a tasting of "liquid gold" that encompasses the likes of Doisy-Daene L'Extravagant and the queen of dessert wines, Chateau d'Yquem. Glengarry is also hosting a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to sample eight of the world's greatest wines: all five of Bordeaux's legendary First Growths from some of the most hyped and expensive vintages in history, as well as Saint-Emilion's top names and a Chateau d'Yquem to finish.

If you're thirsting for an extravagant getaway, a number of luxury lodges and hotels in the country's wine regions offer tailored packages for the wine-loving bon viveur.

In Queenstown the exclusive Eichardt's Private Hotel, overlooking Lake Wakatipu, offers special wine-lovers' accommodation packages. This includes a wine tasting in the hotel's guest parlour with its in-house sommelier, Neil Taylor, who'll also take you on a guided half-day tour of the Central Otago region, with visits to wineries that are usually closed to the public, such as Mount Edward, the maker of the hotel's own house pinot noir.

In the heart of Marlborough wine country, the stately Timara Lodge, set in park-like grounds, also caters to wine-lovers looking for a special experience. Part of a group that also owns Spy Valley winery, it can take guests there on a behind-the-scenes tour, often accompanied by a winemaker and culminating in a tasting of Spy Valley's wines and olive oil.

In Hawkes Bay you're spoilt for choice. At Breckenridge Lodge, chef, proprietor and self-confessed oenophile Malcolm Redmond is happy to share his extensive cellar with guests. He can cater for five-course dinners matched with aged Hawkes Bay wines and can secure a winemaker to come over to dine with any interested guests.

Wine is a major focus at the deluxe five-star lodge The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. Here guests can drink from or even dine in its purpose-built cellar with a sommelier on hand to guide them through its impressive array of wines from New Zealand and beyond. These include museum stock of iconic Martinborough label Dry River, which shares the same owners as the lodge.

It also runs regular food and wine events, such as the forthcoming Bastille Celebration, featuring French chef Nic Poelaert from Brooks of Melbourne and wines from Louis Roederer Champagne and Joseph Drouhin.

If the call of wine from further afield takes your fancy, secure your passage on an Arblaster & Clarke wine tour. This respected UK-based operator can whisk you away for a top flight weekend in Champagne; a wine cruise from Venice to Greece; or a trip around Tuscany's classic vineyards, all accompanied by plenty of fine wine, of course.

So charge your glass and your credit card and indulge in some of the finest wine experiences available to wine-lovers today.

VIP Picks

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2004 - $249

Finesse and complexity are to the fore in Veuve Clicquot's prestige cuvee, La Grande Dame. In its impressive top champagne, pure apricot and apple are underpinned by elegant toasty and yeasty notes and a bright line of crisp lemon and mineral. (From Glengarry and fine wine retail outlets.)

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 - $85-$120

There's a great density to the latest release of this iconic and exclusive local pinot noir. Its rich dark berry and sour cherry fruit is lifted by notes of exotic spice and florals, and a fine line of acid. Most of Dry River's wines are sold via its mailing list, with only limited stocks available on the general market. (From Caro's and Scenic Cellars.)

Craggy Range Le Sol 2011 - $99.95

This impressive flagship syrah from Craggy's Range's increasingly refined "Prestige Collection" is highly aromatic with notes of green and black peppercorns, rose and violet threading its silken and poised palate of fresh black fruits. Top stuff. (From Glengarry, Caro's and Fine Wine Delivery Company.)

Vinoptima Reserve Ormond Gewurztraminer 2008 - $100

Since Nick Nobilo established his gewurztraminer-only venture, Vinoptima, just over a decade ago, it's swiftly become one of the country's handful of luxury labels. The latest release is another first rate example, with an intense creamy textured palate and edge of orange zest that layers fragrant notes of rose petal, potpourri, lychee, cloves and ginger. (From Glengarry and Advintage.)

Church Road Tom Chardonnay 2010 - $100

Church Road's flagship white is an opulent chardonnay that balances power with elegance through its rich, mouth-filling notes of white peach and nut, reined in by an attractive line of fresh grapefruit and mineral. (From the Church Road cellar door and selected fine wine retailers.)

- NZ Herald

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