The wine industry in New Zealand has achieved remarkable success and a great international reputation in a relatively short time. Missionaries planted our first vines as early as 1819, but only in the last two decades have we seen this country develop into one of the most consistent fine wine producers in the world. New Zealand has 13,000 hectares planted in vines, and over 480 wine producing companies. Our Chardonnay and red wines such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends are now receiving growing international recognition, with our Sauvignon Blanc now being considered by many European wine critics to be the best in the world.
The long growing season and cool maritime climate here makes conditions ideal for grape growing, producing some highly distinctive, premium quality wines. New Zealand’s main wine growing regions fall between the 35th and 45th parallels of latitude, which is comparable with the wine growing areas of Europe. Vineyards are often clustered together in one area, which means the traveller can enjoy a variety of cellar door sales and tastings.
Touring New Zealand wine regions is a marvellous way to explore the country, meet the Kiwis and experience our way of life. Tasting wines at the vineyard where they have been handcrafted is a unique experience. Most wineries are located near towns and cities and are easy to get to for tastings. Many have restaurants and/or attractive gardens for picnics and barbecues. Wine tours are available, but casual visitors are generally always welcome to taste and make purchases. All of the regions offer the visitor stunning scenery, recreational activities and fine Pacific Rim cuisine to complement their wines. You’ll also find that the vineyards have lots of rustic charm, and great hospitality. Cheers!
Most Popular Wine Regions
Auckland – Waiheke Island: In the Hauraki Gulf to the east of Auckland is Waiheke Island – only a 40 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. Home to some of the smaller wineries in New Zealand, these boutique vineyards produce some famous red wines. Waiheke’s picturesque beaches, upmarket restaurants, accommodation and wines make it a must on the itinerary for a relaxed stopover.
Auckland – Central: Home to some of the oldest vineyards in New Zealand, Kumeu, Henderson and Huapai are in north-west Auckland. With pockets of vineyards in and around central Auckland. The newest wine district is Clevedon, south of the city which has small areas of vines within the rolling farmland.
Auckland – Matakana: On the east coast 40 minutes north of Auckland, you’ll find one of the newest and rapidly expanding wine regions in New Zealand. Matakana and surrounding areas have a multitude of things to see and do. With the stunning beaches, cafe’s and well stocked roadside stalls, Matakana makes for a pleasurable visit.
Hawkes Bay: The country’s second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay with its moderate climate of high sunshine-low rainfall is ideal for grape growing and has built a reputation as the foremost wine growing district in the country for wine of exceptional quality. Chardonnay is the largest grape variety with Merlot, cabernet and sauvignon still contributing substantially to rising stars Syrah, Pinot Gris and Malbec.
Wellington – Wairarapa: The capital of New Zealand since 1865, Wellington is the sixth largest wine region. This includes the lower end of the North Island and the west coast vineyards northward through the Rimutaka Hill road to Wairarapa, including the well-known wine district of Martinbourough. Moderately hot summer days and cool autumn nights, free draining gravelly fertile soil are yielding remarkable wines from this well recognized wine area.
Nelson: The eighth largest wine region, located on the upper western area of the South Island is residence to many artists and numerous established wineries. The fertile, silty, stony soil of Waimea plains and clay based soil of Upper Moutere Hills yield four principal grape varieties, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
Marlborough: The climate warm and sunny, the scenery spectacular and varied. The dry cool evening climate, high sunshine hours and free draining alluvial soil have lead this region to producing stunning wines. The intense and vibrant Sauvignon Blanc is Marlborough’s flagship wine.
Canterbury: Canterbury falls into two main grape growing areas – Christchurch the largest South Island city merges inland to the North Canterbury plains and limestone hills, while Waipara is situated approximately 40 minutes north of Christchurch. In both districts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most extensively used grape. Famous for the long, hot summers and the lengthy cool ripening period, this fourth largest wine region is producing impressive wines.
Central Otago: Central Otago is the highest and Southern most wine region in New Zealand. It is the seventh largest and also the newest region for grape growing. Pinot Noir is the most widely used grape variety in the area. Central Otagos hot summer days and cool crisp nights flavour the grapes, which produce distinct flavours and intensity. Within Central Otago there are four individual wine districts. The largest, Cromwell/Bannockburn/Lowburn Bendigo is approximately 40 mins drive from Queenstown. There is Gibbston Valley, a quick 20min drive from Queenstown, Alexandra, approx one hour from Queenstown and lastly Wanaka, which is around one hour from Queenstown.
If you’re interested in experiencing more of new Zealand\’s wine growing regions and wineries please contact us for more information – or take a look at our 14 night Food & Wine Lovers package where you’ll travel throughout New Zealand tasting wine and sampling regional delicacies, all whilst staying in the finest luxury accommodation available!