Raising grapes this far south is hard work, but one sip of the local pinot noir will tell you the effort is totally worthwhile.

Gibbston, also known as the 'Valley of the Vines', is one of the most scenic wine growing areas you'll ever encounter. Vineyards are sandwiched, sometimes precariously, between rugged schist mountains and the rocky Kawarau River gorge.

This high altitude area is subject to cold winters, hot dry summers and a huge night-to-day temperature range. These challenging conditions have led to consistently superb wines, worldwide recognition and an avalanche of international awards. More than 70% of the grapes grown here are pinot noir; other varieties including chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc.

Some popular Gibbston wineries:

As well as wine, the Gibbston is known for delicious cheese. Washed rind and sheep's milk cheeses can be added to your picnic basket, which might soon also acquire a few excellent bottles of pinot noir.

At the western end of Gibbston is the Kawarau Bridge, where you can watch bungy jumpers leap into space above the turbulent river from the viewing deck or you can take the leap yourself. 

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