When we mention New Zealand, you might think of the impressive nature, Lord of the Rings movies, and Maori culture, but the country is also increasingly famous for its wine. There are about 700 wineries across the country. Cool summers and mild winters in the southern hemisphere ensure a long growing season and slow maturation. The harvest season is between February and April, and varies slightly depending on the grape variety and exact climatic conditions.
Are you ready to explore New Zealand’s lively wine industry?
New Zealand is a relative newcomer in the international wine world and is quite distinct from countries like France with a centuries-old history of winemaking. However, in less than thirty years, New Zealand has built a solid reputation for itself, built on quality and flavour. The country has dozens of wine regions scattered throughout the North Island and South Island. Here we’ve picked eight of the best and most beautiful wine regions for you. Take your time and plan a wine tasting trip through these amazing sites.
Located on the North Island, Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region. Due to the many hours of sunshine, mild climate and different soil types, French missionaries placed the first vineyard here in 1851, which grew into Mission Estate Winery. Additionally, Hawke’s Bay is the third largest wine region with 72 wineries, with mainly red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah dominating. Therefore, it is not surprising that this wine region is the largest producer of red wine in New Zealand.
Driving doesn’t mix with wine tasting, but fortunately, this area has a large network of bike paths. This makes it easy for you to bike to award winning farmers. Stop in Napier along the way. This city is famous for its beautiful Art Deco architecture and delicious food.
When it comes to New Zealand wine, it quickly turns into Sauvignon Blanc. However, after France’s Burgundy, the central Otago wine region is one of the best Pinot Noir regions in the world. Located on the South Island, Central Otago is the southernmost wine region in the world and the highest in New Zealand.
The continental climate and soil of this region makes it very suitable for Pinot Noir grapes. With its beautiful mountains, rivers, and deep valleys, Central Otago is also the country’s most exciting wine region. While enjoying a glass of wine, you can view the mountaintops at Remarkables.
Gisborne is the capital of Chardonnay, New Zealand. This wine region is located on the North Island and has the most oriental vineyards in the world. The grapes here are the first in the world to see the sun in the morning.
Gisborne also plays an important role in New Zealand’s history. It was here that James Cook set foot ashore in 1769. The bay on which Gisborne lies was called the Bay of Poverty because, in his view, it had little to offer. Cook was completely wrong on this thought. Due to the mild climate, long hours of sunshine and fertile soil, this region is very suitable for viticulture and fruit growing. It’s not just the wine that makes this area so interesting. The Gisborne area also has a rich Maori culture, which makes the area well worth a visit.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, it probably came from the Marlborough area. Marlborough is New Zealand’s most famous wine region. The region is located in the far north of the South Island and produces at least 70% of all New Zealand wines. Grape cultivation began here in 1973 and the combination of warm, sunny days and cool nights makes the area an ideal environment for Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
A true wine lover will indulge himself in February. Then the annual Marlborough Wine Festival is held where you can sample all kinds of wines from the region. Were you not there during this period? Don’t worry, there are other opportunities to sample delicious wines from this region. For the ultimate wine experience, there’s nothing better than staying overnight on a vineyard or taking part in a wine tour that takes you through the beautiful Marlborough countryside. Tip: Our personal favorite is The Ned, a Sauvignon Blanc from this area.
Waikato and Bay of Plenty
Waikato is not only the location of the original Shire, the home of the Hobbit from The Lord of the Rings. It’s also known for its golden sand beaches, local wine, and fresh seafood, due to its stunning coastal location on the North Island. When James Cook discovered a bay in 1769 full of farms and villages, he noted in his diary that he had found a “plentiful bay”. Today, the Bay of Plenty still lives up to its name and is rich in local produce.
Here you can tour or travel independently among small pockets of vineyards nestled in rolling farmland. The main varieties here are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and, to a lesser extent, Sauvignon Blanc. The wines of this region are known for their full, round flavours, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy tasting them.
Canterbury has two main wine regions: the Waipara Valley and the plains around Christchurch. Waipara in particular is a rapidly growing wine region with 79 wineries to choose from. The long, dry summers, many rivers, long hours of sunshine and cool nights in this region ensure that Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir grapes can thrive here.
They know very well in the Waipara Valley that good wine and good food go well together. If you’re in the area in March, you can enjoy award-winning wines and excellent local food at the Waipara Valley Wine & Food Festival. This is a great opportunity to experience all that the region has to offer.
This unique and friendly area, located on the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island, is not far from the capital, Wellington. Word Wairarapa is a Maori term meaning “sparkling water,” which clearly tells you what you can look forward to. The gorgeous coastline and range of vineyards to visit explain why this area is so attractive to visit.
Wairarapa has a constant climate and soil composition is ideal for many vineyards, so the Pinot Noir, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc grapes thrive here. High-quality dessert wine is also produced in this region. Take the time to visit the picturesque colonial town of Martinborough, with over 30 family-owned wineries within walking distance of the town centre.
Nelson is a picturesque wine-growing region not far from Marlborough towards the north of the South Island. The region is characterized by sloping hills and a mild climate that is ideal for growing the main types of grapes for New World wines. Not only do Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir all grow well here, but also aromatic varieties like Pinot Gris and Riesling.
For wine lovers, the uncrowded area of Nelson offers an opportunity for a more intimate type of wine tourism experience compared to some regions with large-scale wine production. You can tour the countryside by bike, visit the vineyards and talk to the owners. Wine producers will be happy to show you their vineyards and let you taste the wine. There are also vineyard cafes to visit and nautical-themed restaurants serving delicious fresh seafood with a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
Andrew Morton is the founder of A Journey DownUnder. Journey Down creates customized, on-demand flights to Australia and New Zealand.
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