It may be a small country in the South Pacific, but New Zealand enjoys international acclaim for its fine wine. Dating from colonial times, New Zealand produces a diverse array of wine styles due to the range of climates that the grapes are grown in. The most popular and successful wines in New Zealand are arguably Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and it would be a shame to not sample some of these fine drops when visiting Kiwi land. So whether you’re purely on a wine pilgrimage or want to include some wine tasting into your New Zealand adventure, here’s a guide to some of New Zealand’s main wine regions.
New Zealand’s largest city also boasts a large and diverse wine region. Some of the country’s oldest and most established wineries can be found in the Auckland area – vines were first planted in Northland in 1819, four hours north of the city. The region is best known for Bordeaux style wines, including Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays, which can be sampled at the 100 or so wineries scattered across Northland, Keri Keri, Warkworth and Matakana to the north of the city and Waiheke Island and Kumeu, closer to the city.
On the most easterly point of the north island, Gisborne is beautiful, charming and steeped in Maori culture. It’s also New Zealand’s 4th largest grape growing region, concentrating on Chardonnay and other white varietals including Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Gisborne is very sunny – in fact, it’s the first wine region in the world to see the sun every day! The vineyards and wineries are close to Gisborne city. Just to the west is the Bay of Plenty, best known for its rugged landscape and beautiful surf beaches – it’s a popular holiday destination for many New Zealanders. Flights to New Zealand operate out of all international airports.
On the east coast of North Island is Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand’s most popular food and wine destination. The temperate climate and beautiful rural landscape is home to some of New Zealand’s best wineries – lots of sunshine and different soil types make it an ideal viticultural region. While Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape, the long ripening season provides perfect conditions for red varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. You’ll need at least a day to sufficiently eat and drink your way through this area!
Wairarapa is a great weekend destination from New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. With quaint little towns and a spectacular mountain backdrop, wine is just one attraction of the area. Wairarapa is best known for its boutique wineries and eateries – particularly in the town of Martinborough. While the volume of wine production in Wairarapa is low, the area is internationally recognised as producing some of the best quality Pinot Noir wines.
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine producing region, and is arguably home to the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. Its location on the north eastern corner of NZ’s south island is recognised as one of the world’s best places to grow Sauvignon grapes. It also makes very good Chardonnay and Riesling and is fast developing a reputation for high quality Pinot Noir. The city of Blenheim is the hub of the area, and most of the region’s wineries can be reached from here. There are, however, many wineries to visit so you’ll want to give yourself a good couple of days to do it justice. Blenheim is also just a 20 minute drive from the spectacular Marlborough Sounds.
A haven for artisans, food and wine lovers, Nelson is a charming wine region just two hours south of Marlborough. The town has a certain alternative feel, and boasts not only boutique and picturesque wineries but beautiful golden beaches set against snow capped mountains. Nelson vineyards concentrate on grape varieties suited to cooler conditions, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir accounting for most of the grapes grown.
Vast and sweeping plains join the Southern Alps of New Zealand to the east coast of the South Island in Canterbury, a relatively new wine region. Despite being in its infancy, the area is fast becoming recognised for its Riesling and Pinot Noir wines. The city of Christchurch is the heart of this region, from which most of the wineries can be reached.
Last, but definitely not least is Central Otago, a region often referred to as the most picturesque wine producing area in the country. Wine tasting is just one of the activities to enjoy in this region, with the ski fields and a plethora of adventure activities attracting visitors from all over the world. Queenstown is the main city, and the many wineries in the area are recognised for their quality Pinot Noirs. Give yourself at least a few days to experience all that this area has to offer.
Fine wine is one of New Zealand’s main attractions, so make sure you include a trip to its world class wineries when you next visit. If you’re a wine connoisseur, you need to sample the Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Rieslings and Pinot Noirs that have helped make New Zealand an internationally acclaimed wine destination.
Written by Guest Author: Samantha Deavin
Photo Credits: #1 Boston Public Library, #2 Flickr:westius, #3 &4 Flickr:Philip #5 Flickr: iambents