When Reverend Samuel Marsden was first planting grapes in New Zealand in 1819 to make sacramental wine, he would have no idea of the immense fame that the country would get in the field of wine making. It was Sauvignon Blanc that drew attention of the wine lovers towards New Zealand and put the country on the world’s wine map. Today, the wine industry of New Zealand has not only established itself as a major contributor to economy of the nation but also helped the nation achieve international acclaim by producing some of the best wines in the world. There is heavy demand for New Zealand wines globally, especially in Australia, United States, Asia and European markets. Pleasant, maritime climate and unmatched enthusiasm of the wine makers are some of the reasons for rising reputation of New Zealand in world’s leading wine markets.
Best wines of New Zealand are mainly produced in eight wine regions which extend from latitudes 36°S in the north to 45°S in the south. All these regions differ from one another in terms of climate, soil quality, varieties of grapes grown, and the wines produced. Following are the major wine regions of New Zealand known for their exclusive wineries and the wines that rank alongside some of the best in the world.
Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand, is also the place where country’s viticulture started. Famous for Bordeaux style wines, this large, diverse wine region has over 100 wineries and vineyards. Wine production in Auckland mainly centers around Henderson Valley, Kumeu and Huapai, all boasting an array of world famous and boutique wineries. Vineyards have now also spread beyond, in the areas of Matakana, Waiheke Island and Clevedon. Popular varieties grown include Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Matakana is now also being noted for producing tasteful wines, including Pinot Gris, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. A number of wineries in Kumeu offer free tasting, most noted being Coopers Creeks, Kumeu River, Nobilo and Matua Valley. You can find many tour operators offering specialist small group wine tours in West Auckland region.
Waikato and Bay of Plenty
Located south of Auckland, this small yet expanding wine region has a moderately warm climate which helps it produce some finest-quality grapes. The vineyards here are scattered amidst rolling farmland. This wine region focuses mainly on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc varieties.
Central Otago Region
Dubbed as “world’s most southerly wine-producing region,” Central Otago is probably the most amazing vineyard setting of the country. Surrounded by picturesque mountains, Central Otago boasts of deep river gorges and lovely lakes. The distinctive climate of Central Otago, along with productive soils rich in mica and schist, creates perfect conditions for growing Pinot Noir.
It was French miner Jean Desire Feraud who first recognized the slopes near Kawarau River as potential vineyards in 1864. In 1976, Rippon Vineyard was planted outside Wanaka. Later Kawarau Gorge was recognized as an ideal site for cultivation of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Pinot Noir grapes.
Wanaka, Queenstown and the Clutha Valley are the main areas of Central Otago District where grapes are grown commercially. You can find here over twenty wineries open to visitors for tasting. Some of the best vineyards are located near the 45th Parallel. A small number of wineries are located on the southern slopes above Kawarau Gorge. The appealing Chard Farm Winery, located on the road off SH6 offers free tasting of current vintage. Gibbston Valley Winery offers a Wine Cave Tour which also includes a tasting session of Riesling and Pinot Noir. Peregrine Winery offers free tasting of excellent “Sav” Blanc and Pinot Gris. Waitiri Creek and Mount Edward are among other reputed wineries of this region. Van Asch is another famous brand with an historical connection to Central Otago. Owned by Henry van Asch, one of the founders of AJ Hackett Bungy, Van Asch is known for producing some best quality wines including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Syrah Rose, and Riesling.
This easternmost city of New Zealand is an easy-going relaxing place, offering visitors ample opportunities to view sharks in their natural habitats. Long hours of sunlight and warm summer nights have helped Gisborne become the Chardonnay capital of the country. Gisborne produces substantial quantities of Riesling, Muller-Thurgav, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer grapes that are artistically converted into cheerful wines.
Matawhero Winery, located at Riverpoint Road and known for its Gewürztraminer, is the longest established winery of Gisborne. Montana at Lytton Road offers tours of factory-style operations to groups on appointment. Solo visitors can also try free tasting here. Milton Vineyard, a fully certified organic winery is known for applying bio-dynamics principles for wine production. The Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and late-harvest dessert wines are among the delightful wines produced at Milton. Shalimar estate Winery, noted for its quality reds, is another big name in the Gisborne region.
Hawke’s Bay is another ideal region in the country for viticulture. First vines were planted here in 1851 by French Marist missionaries. The Hawke’s Bay’s wine country encircles the cities of Napier and Hastings. The Hawke’s Bay wine trail takes you to the journey of over thirty wineries, noted for producing famous Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Blessed with cool, temperate climate, Canterbury boasts of being fourth largest wine region of the country. Two main wine areas of Canterbury are: the Waipara Valley area and the plains around Christchurch. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Riesling are the most popular varieties grown in Canterbury. Many of the wineries in this region offer visitors picturesque settings, along with opportunities to enjoy some of the best wines as well as the gourmet food.
The city of Nelson is known for its breweries, wineries and galleries. The climate and soil of this region makes it ideal for wine and beer production. Charm of this area tempts most of the visitors to hang around and taste a glass of wine or beer. Greenhough Winery on Patrons Road offers visitors to try fine vintages. The Glovers’s Vineyard is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Some other famous wineries of this area include Nuerdorf Winery, the Seifried Estate Winery, Moutere Hills Vineyard, and Karhurangi Vineyard.
No trip to Marlborough is complete without a visit to wineries that are mostly located in Blenheim area. While most wineries are dotted around Renwick town, while some can be found on SH1 between Blenheim and Picton. Noted for its fine Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, this area gets enough sunshine throughout the year for producing perfect quality grapes. Most wineries offer free tasting, and also feature beautiful gardens and restaurants to let you unwind yourself, enjoy some excellent food, along with a glass of some delicious wine.