The exam period may seem endless, with late nights slogging away, countless open tabs, and let’s not even start with the fortnightly existential crises. Of course, all that studying is for a great cause, but never forget that you’ve got to live a little too, darling.
For when your social life is no longer on hold, or a well-needed breather during exams, it is important to treat yourself. Once exams are over, cue the celebrations and BYO season. But if you find yourself feeling stuck standing in front of the wine section, before blindly buying the cheapest wine possible and hoping for the best—never fear. As an exam period and student BYO veteran, I have got you covered with the perfect wine guide.
If you spend just a few dollars more than you usually would, the wine will be substantially better. You will enjoy drinking it more, and you will most likely pass yourself off as someone who knows a thing or two about wine. Try to aim for the $15-$20 price range. All the wines suggested below are produced in NZ and can be found at most supermarkets (please note that vintages and prices may vary).
BYO pairing: Fried food (think karaage chicken)
Under $17: Lindauer Special Reserve Range (Blanc de Blancs will have the least sugar, Cuvée Riche is a bit sweeter). Do not get confused with the cheaper $12 Lindauer range; there is a massive difference in quality!
Under $30: No.1 Assemblé Family Estate Cuveé Méthode Marlborough. Do you want to feel like you’re drinking champagne without paying more than $60 a bottle? Méthode Marlborough is a new initiative of making sparkling the same way champagne is made, but bonus points for supporting local NZ wine!
BYO pairing: Asian cuisine
Not a fan of sparkling wine? A quick tip: if you are buying a BYO wine to share, or for someone else, choose a Pinot Gris. It is the least polarising, crowd-pleasing wine that I guarantee no one will passionately dislike.
Under $15: Waipara Hills Pinot Gris (less sweet option) and Church Road Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris (sweeter option—proceed with caution with this one as it is higher alcohol at 14.5%).
BYO pairing: Italian cuisine
Under $13: Stoneleigh Pinot noir, Marlborough. This wine is nice for its price point—I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and lovely fresh fruit flavours of raspberry and blackberry.
Under $17: Church Road Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine won a gold medal at the 2020 New World Wine Awards and is a really good substitute for a fancy French red wine. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon together are often referred to as a “Bordeaux blend” (pronounced bore-dough, a great pull phrase to use when someone asks what you are drinking). This wine is richer with a fuller body.
I believe wine is something to be enjoyed with food amongst friends and family, so have fun exploring some new options! No one likes a wine snob, but upping your wine game is an excellent skill to have—and you only get better by being open-minded and tasting more (oh no, sounds terrible!). In general, however, you celebrate the end of exams; make sure you do so, as you deserve it!
Find out more from Ali on Instagram and TikTok @thewinedoctor_nz
Ali Lowrey is a PhD candidate at the School of Chemical Sciences, specialising in wine science.