• Pairing our wines with food

    Whilst there are said to be rules for pairing food and wine, all that really matters is if you like it. However, if you’re not sure where to start – here are a few suggestions that work well.

    Estate Sauvignon Blanc

    Goats’ Cheese, herb, feta and light, fresh cheeses. Vietnamese, Thai green curries, tomato-based dishes, seafood with fresh herbs and citrus, oysters, smoked salmon, fresh fennel, capsicums, asparagus, chilli, peas, dill, parsley, coriander, basil.

    Estate Chardonnay

    White rind cheeses such as Brie, Camembert. Young Gouda, Haloumi, Havarti. Creamy curries, smoked salmon, oysters, scallops, richer fish dishes, crayfish, light chicken dishes, turkey, pork. Creamy pasta, nutmeg, saffron, paprika.

    Estate Riesling

    Brilliant aperitif, but also good with soft, white cheeses, feta, fresh seafood with lemon or lime flavours, poached or fish smoked fish, salads, green vegetable dishes, fresh summer herbs.

    Estate Pinot Gris

    Washed rind, soft, white and mild blue cheeses, pates, terrines, creamy pasta, Chinese dishes, coconut-based curries, chicken and pork, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, cumin, clove, Moroccan flavours.

    Estate Gewurztraminer

    Soft, ripe cheeses, pates, Thai foods, red curries, Chinese food, ginger, cardamom, coriander, sweet brown spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.

    PINK Pinot

    Firm, nutty cheese such as Gruyere, young Gouda. Seared or poached salmon, cured meats, platters, stews and casseroles, chick peas, lentils, ham, turkey, pork, chicken, juniper, fragrant Asian spices.

    Estate Pinot Noir

    Nutty cheeses such as Gruyere, aged Dutch cheeses, cured meats, pates, light beef or lamb curries, seared or poached salmon, seared tuna, hot ham, pork, turkey, beef casseroles, sausages, pizza, lentils, pasta, thyme, rosemary.

    Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

    Fresh cheeses, herbed or lemon flavours, seafood such as oysters, clams, white fish, seafood pasta in tomato sauce, poached fish with herbs, herbed chicken,  green vegetables, dill, parsley, chervil, basil, thyme, fennel, tarragon, lemongrass, chilli,

    Reserve Chardonnay

    Ripe, white rind cheeses, especially stronger French types. Scallops, salmon, butter/creamy sauces, poached white fish, crayfish, mussels in garlic, white wine and cream, coconut-based curries such as Masamon and Madras. Roast chicken or pork, roasted root vegetables, saffron, nutmeg.

    Reserve Pinot Noir

    Hard, full-flavoured cheeses, seared salmon or tuna prepared with stronger flavours, Mexican dishes, hearty pizzas, lamb, beef, venison, duck, wild pork, dishes with spices such as cumin, garam masala, rosemary, thyme, oregano, paprika.

    Check out our recipes 

  • Five Must-Know Acronyms for Wine Lovers

    ABV  This is ‘alcohol by volume’ and is determined by the fermentation process. This is when yeast convert the natural grape sugars into alcohol. The amount of alcohol is dependent on the amount of sugar in the grapes, which in turn is determined by how ripe the grapes are. Riper grapes have more sugar!

    AOC  Appellation d’Origine Contrôllée is a set of standards that French wine must meet, to be granted AOC status. There are about 350 AOCs in France and these make up just over 50% of all wine produced. The standards cover which grapes can be grown in which geographical areas as well as yield, planting densities, production methods and minimum levels of alcohol.

    DOC/DOCG  This stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (e Garantita) which is the set of standards for Italian wines, similar to the French AOC system.

    AMW  Appellation Marlborough Wine is the assurance mark of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It is a promise of origin, integrity, authenticity and sustainability that the wine-buying public of the world can see and trust. To qualify for the certification, wines must adhere to strict criteria including the grapes being 100% from Marlborough, grown by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand-certified vineyards from managed yields and be bottled in New Zealand.

    RS  RS stands for ‘residual sugar’ and is the amount of natural grape sugars left in the wine after fermentation and it is measured in grams per litre. If a wine is fermented to dryness, then there will be very little RS, usually less than 5g/l. A winemaker can also choose to stop the fermentation to make a sweeter wine – this would usually result in lower alcohol. Whilst New Zealand winemakers are not bound by rules for RS, European wines abide by the following:


    Amount of RS Labelling term
    Up to 4g/l Dry/Sec
    4g/l – 12g/l Medium dry/demi-sec
    12g/l – 45g/l Medium (Medium sweet)
    More than 45g/l Sweet/Doux

    For sparkling wines, the labelling terms are regulated as follows:

    Up to 3g/l Brut Nature
    Up to 6g/l Extra Brut
    Up to 1 g/l Brut
    12g/l–17g/l Extra Dry Extra Sec
    17g/l –32g/l Dry Sec
    32g/l –50g/l Demi-sec
    More than 50g/l Sweet/Doux


  • Five minutes with Donna




    Donna is a ray of sunshine in the office. Always a smile and a quip – her favourite one being ’You can’t rush progress!’ Supportive of everything and everyone, she is a great team player. When not working she loves family life with her husband and two sons.



    Lying on the beach or skiing down a mountain?  Gawd me on ski’s, dangerous for both my health and those on the mountain, as for lying on a beach, everyone would need rose coloured glasses for sure
    Cake or biscuits? You know I love sweet stuff, I’m a shocker.
    Beef or lamb? I can do justice to either, brought up on a farm I’m good with both.
    Rock or pop? I love music in general, country rock is always a fave.
    Football or rugby? Don’t tell my boys but I grew up playing rugby.
    Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc? Being versatile anything goes, although I do love our Reserve Chardonnay.
    Comedy or thriller? A good thriller as long as there is the mute button on the TV remote nearby, I’m a screamer otherwise.
    Jason Stratham or Daniel Craig? Do you need to even ask, Jason Stratham for sure.
    TV1 or TV3? I’m a TV1 fan.
    Late nights or early mornings? Pretty much both!
    Retro or contemporary? I’m not really sure, I think I’m more contemporary, but do like a little retro.

  • What goes into a bottle of wine?

    What goes into a bottle of wine? The numbers may surprise you!

    Have you ever thought about what goes into every bottle of wine you buy?

    Probably not, so we thought we’d crunch a few numbers for you. We all know that wine is made from grapes, but did you know it takes 600 – 800 individual grapes to make a single bottle? A typical Sauvignon Blanc vine in Marlborough is pruned to four fruiting canes and produces about 60 bunches of grapes (although Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc is only grown on two or three canes which produce about 45 bunches). A Pinot Noir vine on the other hand, is usually pruned differently and produces fewer bunches, which partially explains why a good Pinot Noir is more expensive.

    Marlborough is responsible for 77% of New Zealand’s wine production, with 20,000 hectares planted in Sauvignon Blanc. In a typical Marlborough vineyard, 2,200 Sauvignon Blanc vines are planted per hectare and the yield can be up to 25 tonnes of grapes, although this is quite high and mainly applies to bulk producers. The majority of wineries producing top quality Sauvignon Blanc under their estate name would average closer to 12-15 tonnes per hectare, or less. In the Loire Valley, home to Sancerre, that other great Sauvignon Blanc region, has a minimum planting density of 6,100 vines per hectare. However, these are much more closely planted, are not irrigated and have much lower yields. One tonne of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc produces about 740 litres of juice resulting in about 80 cases (12 x 750ml).

    Vineyards in Marlborough can sell for $300,000 plus per hectare. Yet a study commissioned by Wine Marlborough in 2019 revealed that land was fast running out, and that by 2025 there may be no additional land left for planting vineyards (some say we’ve hit that already).

    Grapes are just the beginning; many wines are fermented or matured in 224 litre, French oak barrels, which cost $1,450 – $1,500 each. With about 300 bottles in each barrel, that’s $5 per bottle – just for the oak! Most barrels are used for several seasons reducing that cost, however top reds and Chardonnays usually have a portion of new oak.

    And there’s more! Excise tax alone is $2.21 a bottle and then there’s the bottle, label and cap adding up to about another $1.20. Oh and GST…

    So if you’re buying a cheap bottle of wine, say $10-$12, you’re paying a much higher percentage for the packaging and tax, plus there’s the retailer margin, so not much left for the wine itself. Conclusion? Spending just a few dollars extra can give you a lot more quality in your glass.

    So next time you open a wine, raise a glass to the viticulturists, vineyard workers, winemakers, cellarhands, service providers, warehouse workers, truck drivers, marketers, salespeople, distributors and retailers, all of whose efforts are squeezed into the bottle! Cheers!

    Winery team (left to right): Nigel, Paddy, Mark, Margot, Angel, Luke, Bec, Marcus, Ocean, Matt


  • Five minutes with Marcus

    Marcus Wright




    Marcus is our Chief Winemaker. Usually in, on or under the water when not in the winery, he coaches underwater hockey and loves to fish and dive.




    Tea or coffee? Silly question
    Cereal or toast? Toast
    Fish or meat? Seafood of all kinds. Preferably harvested myself
    Veg or fruit? Both
    Burgundy or Bordeaux? Both, but if I had to choose it’s got to be Burgundy, both white and red
    Read or listen? OMG Both!
    Vinyl or CD? Vinyl
    Spontaneous or planned? Meticulously planned or very last minute depending.
    Late nights or early mornings? Pretty much both!
    Run or bike? I’m my happiest in the water so UWH/swimming/freediving

  • Five minutes with Bec

    Rebecca Wiffen




    Bec is our Assistant Winemaker and when she isn’t in the winery, she’s running around after her two young children or looking after things on her farm. She’s a busy lady with a passion for watching sport and organising the local Wine Options competition!



    Tea or coffee? Coffee in the morning, tea any time after 3pm – I like my sleep!
    Cats or dogs? Cats and dogs, I have two of each. My cats are both mixtures and my dogs are a Kelpie (with a, hopefully, mended snapped achilles) and a Beardy sheep dog – old and retired!
    Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc? Chardonnay!!!
    Shorts or pants? Shorts! Pants are for July, I say!
    Cake or muffins? Cake, the more chocolate the better
    Vegemite or Marmite? Vegemite (but I prefer boysenberry or raspberry jam!)
    Beef or lamb? Both, yum, home killed straight off the farm
    Gin or vodka? GIN!
    TV or Netflix? Happy to watch either but I do like a good series on Netflix. I seem to have lost the patience to wait for anything to be on TV!
    Book or a magazine? Magazine… The trashier the better!

  • Our response to responsible drinking

    Right now in New Zealand, we’re enjoying the perfect storm. The quality of NZ wine continues to improve, craft beers are on the rise, as are boutique spirits, so the industry is constantly in the media announcing the newest, latest and greatest alcoholic drinks. We’ve also emerged from a year of lockdowns in which many of us indulged more than usual and with increased availability through retail outlets and restaurants, and spending on luxuries to make up for not going overseas, are we at risk of enjoying too much of a good thing?

    At Lawson’s Dry Hills, as much as we’d love you to enjoy more of our handiwork, we’re staunch advocates of responsible drinking. The idea of drinking less but better quality, is one that we totally support, not least because we feel that it’s all about the experience. Enjoying something special using some really nice glasses can make for a far more memorable moment than chugging cheap stuff just for the sake of it. We’ve started using #enjoyinmoderation, in our social media as we believe responsible drinking is the right response, although it could be said ‘responsible’ is subjective.

    So, what exactly are the stipulated levels of responsible drinking today?

    The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends no more than two standard drinks a day for women and three for men (that’s not sexist, it’s based on body mass index (BMI) differences and women tend to have less body mass than men). Those limits are debated around the world, with some countries suggesting up to 20 drinks a week are okay, however ten drinks a week is a widely regarded limit for most western countries. The Ministry also recommends having at least two alcohol-free days a week and to totally avoid alcohol when pregnant.

    A standard drink is 10ml of alcohol, but what exactly does that mean? If you look at the back label of a 750ml bottle of wine with around 13% alcohol, that means approximately 7.5 standard drinks. A 375 ml stubby of beer is around 1.5 standard drinks, while a 1-litre bottle of spirits contains around 37 standard drinks.

    And there is endless debate on even these ‘safe’ limits. A study released in 2018, in the highly respected medical journal ‘The Lancet’, showed the safe limit to be much lower. A survey across 19 countries showed less than 100 grams of alcohol, or ten standard drinks per week, to be the recommended safe limit.

    Then there’s the European view on responsible drinking given how much the French and Italians love their wine. The French diet has often been labeled ‘The French Paradox’ – being high in saturated fats, yet they usually enjoy a glass (or two) of wine, often red, with dinner. Numerous studies have shown that drinking a moderate amount of red wine is good for your health due to the antioxidants and ‘polyphenols’ which can help lower the risk of heart disease, especially from a diet high in saturated fats.

    Which brings us to another fundamental of responsible drinking – food and water. It’s a good idea to enjoy that glass of wine with food, not on an empty stomach. Alcohol is hard on the body and enjoying food at the same time not only lessens the likelihood of feeling drunk, but also helps the body to process the alcohol. And as alcohol dehydrates you, drinking plenty of water is also recommended. Bars and other places that serve alcohol are required by law to offer ready access to free water. And as we mentioned above, if you feel you would like to drink less, choose quality over quantity, and if you’re concerned about your waistline – it’s worth considering that one serve of alcohol is 150 calories (as a rough guide, that’s about 10% of the recommended daily calories for women, and about 8% for men).

    When it comes to driving or working, of course, no alcohol is the smart choice. Even a single glass of wine can impair your judgment, which is why alcohol should be avoided whenever you are going to be driving, heading to work, or undertaking anything that requires you to be on top of your game.

    So please, enjoy our wines and if you drink responsibly, perhaps even mindfully, you will enjoy the experience even more.

  • Five Things You should Know About Sauvignon Blanc

    • The world loves Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand – its big, powerful expression with passionfruit, citrus and fresh herb aromas and flavours make it unmissable!
    • France has two areas famous for Sauvignon Blanc – the Loire Valley with flinty, dry Sancerre and Pouilly Fume as well as some lesser known wines from Touraine, and Bordeaux in the south-west. Here it makes crisp, dry wines and yet it is also a component of Sauternes and Barsac – the great sweet wines (also made with Semillon and Muscadelle).
    • Sauvignon Blanc is great with seafood, but be careful not to overwhelm the gentle flavours of a fish dish with a big, fruity wine. Instead look for a more subtle style. The bigger, more fruit-driven styles are great with more flavoursome cuisine such as Thai green curry. Sauvignon Blanc is also great with sushi and goat’s cheese (among other things!)
    • Sauvignon Blanc has a number of styles – from fresh, dry and steely to highly aromatic and juicy. It is sometimes made using oak barrels too which give a richness and complexity to the wines.
    • Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon.


  • Why We Love Wine

    We do. Love wine, I mean. And this is why.

    • We can use a really nice glass to drink it from. Doesn’t have to be expensive – just nice. Preferably quite thin, with or without a stem, tapered toward the top and no chunky rim. And large (only fill to 1/3).
    • We can enjoy it with some yummy food. Might be just a platter of antipasti, a chunk of good cheese or a full-blown degustation dinner – regardless, wine and food were made for each other.
    • We can talk about it if we want to. If you really like it – you might want to say so – if you really don’t you might want to say so too, but perhaps not if you weren’t the one who brought/chose it.
    • We can buy into the whole experience of enjoying wine. If we want to. Pour a glass a third full, swirl it round, stick our noses in and take a good sniff or two, then a sip/mouthful and savour it for a moment, letting it reach all parts of your mouth. Even suck in a bit of air like the professionals, if you feel like it and if you’re not wearing white.
    • We can experience the wine changing in the glass, or from one glass to the next (steady). As white wine warms up, having come from the depths of the chiller or ice-bucket, it reveals more aromas and more flavours. Red wine tends to soften as it gently absorbs more air once released from the bottle.
  • Five minutes with Sion

    Sion Barnsley



    Sion is our General Manager and he’s also a shareholder. His name is a Welsh form of the given name John, pronounced in English identically to the Irish name Seán.

    When not in his office, Sion likes to be at his bach in the Sounds, or even better, out on his boat (or somebody else’s!)



    Summer or winter? Summer
    Mornings or evenings? Mornings
    Rice or pasta? Rice
    Sparkling or still? Still
    Fiction or non-fiction? Non-ficton
    Cook or clean up? Cook
    Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling? Sauvignon Blanc
    Cheese or dessert? Dessert
    Beanie or cap? Cap
    Soccer or rugby? Soccer

  • The evolution of wine writing

    Can you drink everything you read?

    The move to online media has seen an evolution – some would say a decimation – of quality writing. As print circulations fall and the internet is populated by opinion and exaggeration, we’re becoming ever more skeptical about what we read and wine is not immune from the changes.

    For today’s writers, the internet seemingly offers free reign for anyone to express their opinions unhindered by editors, lawyers or publisher’s reputations. So when it comes to wine reviews, who can you trust? The fact is, advertising funds publishing, whatever the media, and advertising spend is moving from print and television to online. Without that income stream, many credentialed writers have been laid off from leading publications, while others have risen from the shadows as the weband  social media offer them a platform.

    Yet wine writing and reviews are more important than ever in the online era. We’re not popping down to our favourite wine store for a chat and a recommendation as much and choosing wine has become more challenging as we’re faced by even more wines from more vineyards. And let’s not forget that wine can be intimidating, with many feeling they need to be knowledgeable when sharing a bottle with friends. So writing must help us make informed purchases and empower us to keep exploring beyond our comfort zones.

    One local source of wine writing knowledge is the Wine Writers of New Zealand (WWNZ) , an organization with  members comprising writers, reviewers and  bloggers. Its mission is, “to encourage excellence and integrity in wine writing.” WWNZ writers sign a Declaration of Independence, which guarantees no outside influences or conflicts of interest influence their opinions or reviews.

    As you browse the list of talents in their ranks, most write for highly respected publications – or have created entities of their own. Cameron Douglas MS writes for ‘The Shout’, Michael Cooper has written too many books to mention (okay, 37 and counting), while Joelle Thomson and Jane Skilton MW have their own ‘Independent Wine Monthly’. It should also be noted that Jane Skilton is the leading provider of WSET courses – the UK’s Wine & Spirit Education Trust internationally recognised wine qualifications.

    Beyond directories like NZWW, who can we trust? Some may have a qualification or degree to underline their credibility. A ‘Master of Wine’ (MW) is our industry’s benchmark, yet there are precious few in the whole country let alone the wine writing community.

    Then there’s the question of objectivity. Many reviewers rely on wine sales to fund their newsletters -and with that funding comes bias. Writers are regularly offered dinners, accommodation and air fares to visit wineries, often to deepen their understanding of the brand, however as they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, Integrity does prevail, as Jancis Robinson wrote about in her article ‘The Ethics of Wine Writing’ stating that she has no commercial links with wine companies or any producers.

    Blogger Jamie Goode wrote about the ill health of wine writing, saying “The big problem is the continued flight of advertising money away from professionally generated content.”In his ‘wineanorak.com’ blog he explains”The content that attracts advertisers online isn’t professionally produced, it’s user-generated tweets and Facebook posts. The traditional wine writer … making money by actually writing alone, is now very rare.”  Noted writer and broadcaster Oz Clarke observed “…in Britain most of the broadsheet newspapers are saying we don’t need a wine column anymore.” Or are they actually saying, we can’t afford one anymore?

    In this digital age, communication has undergone a seismic shift. Text messages are riddled with emojis and anacronyms, Facebook posts are defined by short sentences with hyperlinks to longer articles, tweets must be 140 words or less and internet text is often peppered with key words to attract search engines. How would an assessment like, “This wine offers a complex array of aromatics ranging from dark, berry fruits through to savoury forest floor characters” perform in a Google search? (Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir, incidentally).

    And everywhere we look, there’s this obsession with numbers. “The best 25 chardonnays under $25.” “The top 3 things a winemaker once told me.” Wine evaluation has fallen victim to scores and statisticsever since Robert Parker’s 100-point scoring system rewrote the rules.

    When consumers are primarily choosing a bottle of wine for their Saturday night, wouldn’t they rather read “…lots of juicy citrus fruit character, a zingy acidity and great concentration. Some old oak barrel fermentation has contributed to the texture.” (our Reserve Sauvignon Blanc) rather than a simple 94/100?

    Looking ahead, what can we expect? As wine sales continue to move from specialist stores to supermarkets, and therefore wine advice at retail becomes harder to find, we need reviewers more than ever, especially those who are knowledgeable, credible and gifted by a turn of phrase and an analytical palate. There are many good reviewers are out there. Keep reading.

  • Anniversary Day in the city of sails and sauvignon

    As our gaze turns to the harbour during a sunny summer in Auckland, one standout fixture is the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta and Lawson’s Dry Hills is proud to be a sponsor of this historic event. The regatta dates back to 1840 and sees some of the country’s finest classic yachts, launches, skiffs, sailing dinghies, canoes, dragon boats and tugboats take to the water as the city of sails opens its heart and provides the perfect backdrop to these magnificent craft.

    At a time when America’s Cup racing propels Auckland’s iconic harbour onto the world stage, yachting will be top of mind for not only New Zealanders but billions of fans around the world. In a country which boasts more boats per capita than anywhere else, boating is part of our DNA, and the Anniversary Day Regatta is a celebration our passion for the water.

    The event sees over a century of classic vessels competing, from timber sailing yachts like the 1897 classic ‘Thelma’ and the 1895 cutter ‘Ida’, while multiple winner ‘Ariki’ will be pushing hard to defend her winning heritage dating back to 1905. There will be restored work boats brought back to life, classic motor launches owned by business magnates and even one owned by an actor who once played James Bond. Then dotted around the city’s bays and shorelines, tomorrow’s generation of sailors will be competing in skiffs and sailing dinghies. Over 600 participating boats on one, memorable day.

    Lawson’s Dry Hills will be right alongside the spectacle aboard the HMNZS Manawanui, one of the newest additions to the Royal New Zealand Navy’s fleet. Every year a navy ship is selected as the guard ship for the regatta providing provide a lofty vantage point for VIPs, naval hierarchy and other dignitaries to view the action on the water. To complement the experience, Lawson’s Dry Hills will be served on board. Guests will be able to enjoy four gold medal-winning wines – 2020 PINK Pinot, 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir as summer breezes whisk centuries of sailing history across Auckland Harbour and beyond to the Hauraki Gulf.

    Of course, this isn’t the only way Lawson’s Dry Hills supports yachting. For some time now, Lawson’s Dry Hills has been a proud sponsor of Yachting New Zealand – the organisation established to ‘help New Zealanders access, enjoy and succeed on the water, for life.’ As well as supporting the national body, Lawson’s Dry Hills offers YNZ members 20% off and free delivery across the range of award-winning wines.

    The passion and dedication of the yachting community aligns perfectly with the values of Lawson’s Dry Hills and the close-knit team who work together to crafting their range of wines. And there’s no better way to celebrate a great day on the water than with a glass of great wine! Be sure to experience the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta on February 1st, from whatever vantage point you can, and choose your favourite Lawson’s Dry Hills wine to add to the occasion.

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