Sizzling Auckland

Immediate impressions of our first, very full day in this burgeoning city?

Pretty warm weather, even warmer welcomes, dazzling sunshine, serious traffic and fabulous wine…


This photo, immediately recognisable to maturer readers, is on the wall in Kumeu River winery a few kilometres north of the city, above the strap line ‘pop in for a drink, we won’t hold you up’. The Brajkovich family were every bit as good-looking as Bonnie and Clyde and much, much more hospitable!

Melba, Michael, Marijana, Milan and Paul continue the work of the late Maté to produce exquisite and distinctive wines – and beautifully barbecued beef! Michael’s reflections on wine-making in this very special place (informed by his profound knowledge of the vagaries of yeasts and winemakers) were spell-binding.

Read about their world-beating Chardonnay at

 We were driven south accross the city to the Auckland headquarters of New Zealand’s best known wine company – Villa Maria – to meet Nick Piccone, its newly promoted chief wine maker, to listen to a presentation on sustainability by Fabian Yukich and to taste some of their range of wines. Twenty wines, in fact…. all in a very short space of time.

It was long enough though for us to appreciate how much has been achieved in one man’s lifetime – George Fistonich – who started with an acre of land and a passion for wine-making in 1961 and now presides over one of the greatest success stories of the wine industry.

At the end of a fascinating day we joined the Fistonichs for dinner on the waterfront by Viaduct Harbour. George brought along a few more of his wines for us to taste – including a 2002 Hawkes Bay cabernet merlot under screw cap – one of the first to benefit from that brave and successful departure from cork for which New Zealand is known. Needless to say, the wine was terrific!

It was also wonderful to meet Gail, whose warmth and friendliness confirmed the evening as very special indeed. Thank you !


Sir George and Lady Gail Fistonich

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