Wonderful Wairarapa Wine..what's the story?

How does this tiny region produce so many top wines? Wairarapa only accounts for 3% of New Zealand’s winegrowing area but it packs a hell of a punch

Some of this comes down to a winning combination of climate and soil. The summers are hot, autumn is long and dry, and winters are cold – textbook conditions for producing cool climate grapes.

Grapevines can be picky about soil, and the ancient river terraces that run from north of Masterton to south of Martinborough provide the deep free-draining gravel in which they grow best.

And of course, much of the credit has to go to the winemakers themselves – top blokes and gals. Almost all of the vineyards here are small and family-run.

The vines are nurtured in the vineyards, the grapes are handpicked and the wine is made with the aim of producing quality rather than quantity.

Back in 1979 a DSIR report found the area surrounding Martinborough similar in climate and soil conditions to Burgundy.

Being kiwis that was enough proof for a pioneer winemakers, mainly scientists, to get planting – paddocks became vineyards.

Their success caused a sensation in the 1980s when Martinborough Pinot Noir, a notoriously fickle grape, was ranked among the world’s finest.

Wairarapa still produces great Pinot Noir, but it’s only part of the story. Other award winning wines produced here include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris.

There are now over 50 vineyards in the Wairarapa: around Martinborough wine village, Gladstone and to the north of Masterton.

Whether you’re travelling SH2 north or south Wairarapa is at the heart of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail.

There are daily bus tours ( a fab one from Tranzit is featured above), including ones that use the train from Wellington to get you here....then a coach and guide.

Or hire a bike: the vineyards around Martinborough are almost all within flat, easy walking distance of the village square.

One of the best things about visiting a vineyard has to be sitting down at a vineyard cafe and watching the grapes ripen while sipping a past year’s vintage. Tough job someone has to do it!

For further information about Wairarapa vineyards, events and and to book accommodation online , see www.wairarapanz.com.  

Get a Wairarapa Wine Trail map with the cellar door info from the gals at the Martinborough i-SITE.

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