New Zealand Wine Tours – Touring the Wine Regions of New Zealand

New Zealand Wine Tours – Touring the Wine Regions of New Zealand

limestone coast cellar

New Zealand produces some of the world’s finest wines, and international tastes are beginning to take notice. New Zealand sauvignon blancs have earned critical acclaim, but that’s not all. New Zealand also creates stunning chardonnays, pinot noirs, rieslings, shirazes, and merlots.

Ten main wine growing regions are scattered throughout New Zealand’s North and South Islands. Each area has its own distinct terrain and climate which helps the region’s vintners produce wines with unique local characteristics.

pruned vineyard

New Zealand’s smallest winegrowing region is Northland. The area’s vineyards sit on flat lands and gentle slopes in Kaitaia, the Bay of Islands, and Whangarei. Despite its size, Northland has a variety of soil types, ranging from sandy clay soils to free-draining volcanic earth.  Northland’s warm climate is ideal for cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and chardonnay. You can sample the region’s signature drops at Longview Estate, Cottle Hill Winery, and Marsden Estate.

Traveling south is Auckland, one of New Zealand’s largest cities and home to many fine wines. The winemaking districts of Henderson, Huapai, and Kumeu lie to the northwest of the city centre. It’s a region of great variety, producing cabernet sauvignons, merlots, chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, semillons, and more. Auckland is known for warm weather and expansive plains. It is one of New Zealand’s smallest wine regions, yet it is home to some of the country’s largest wineries including Cooper’s Creek Winery, Stonyridge Vineyards, and Villa Maria Estate.

closeup of grapes

To the south east we find the coastal areas of Waikato and Bay of Plenty. This small wine region is expanding rapidly with vintners enjoying the area’s rolling farmlands and moderately warm maritime climate. Mills Reef Winery, Morton Estate, and De Redcliffe Winery focus on the region’s specialties of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and sauvignon blanc.

Gisborne is home to the world’s most easterly vineyards. The area’s coastal vineyards enjoy long warm days, but are sheltered from the sunshine by mountains to the west. Gisborne is New Zealand’s chardonnay capital, with the grape making up around half of the area’s crop. Amor Bendall, The Milton Vineyard, and TW Wines create excellent examples of Gisborne’s signature white varietal.

Further down the east coast is the large wine region of Hawke’s Bay. This area produces a diverse range of wines thanks to its varied topography and different soil types. Like the nearby Gisborne region, Hawke’s Bay is famous for chardonnay. Its long sunny days are also perfect for slow-ripening red grapes including cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and shiraz. Enjoy stunning views at Craggy Range Vineyards, a complete gourmet experience at Sileni Estate, and wines from New Zealand’s oldest vineyard Mission Estate Winery.

The final wine region on New Zealand’s North Island is Wairarapa, which lies an hour north of Wellington. The area’s climate is comparable to the Marlborough region, so it’s not surprising to hear Wairarapa also produces excellent pinot noirs and sauvignon blancs. This small region produces some of New Zealand’s finest, and most expensive, wines. You can find these prized varieties at Margrain Vineyard, Palliser Estate, and Gladstone Vineyard.

extensive more established vines

Just across the ocean from Wairarapa lies New Zealand’s largest and more famous wine region, Marlborough. Wine lovers the world over are enchanted with the bold fruity flavors of the region’s sauvignon blanc. Perhaps unfairly, this star performer has overshadowed Marlborough’s excellent chardonnays, pinot noirs, rieslings, and traditional sparkling wines. You can sample them all at Saint Clair Estate, Montana Wines, and the eco-friendly Grove Mill.

Nelson also lies at the northern tip of the South Island. Vineyards are scattered throughout the sweeping Waimea Plains and nestled in the valleys of the district’s hills. Cool climate varieties like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, and pinot noir comprise more than 80% of Nelson’s grapes. Tourists are drawn to the beautiful scenery surrounding vineyards including Seifried Estate, Neudorf Vineyards, and Kahurangi Estate.

The plains surrounding Christchurch and the valleys of Waipara make up one of New Zealand’s first wine regions, Canterbury. Historic vineyards including French Farm Winery, Opihi Vineyard, and Pegasus Bay Winery are still operating in the area today. Near Christchurch, alluvial silt loams sit over gravelly subsoils, while further north the soils are chalky and rich in limestone. The Canterbury region enjoys cool, dry conditions, which are perfect for the area’s chardonnay and pinot noir crops.

Last but not least is the Central Otago region, the world’s southernmost winemaking area. It experiences greater temperature extremes on a daily and seasonal basis than anywhere else in the country, which may explain the bold personalities of its wines. Central Otago vineyards such as Black Ride Vineyards, Rockburn Wines, and Chard Farm are known for premium pinot noirs and chardonnays.

New Zealand may be a small country, but there’s plenty for wine lovers to enjoy on the North and South Islands. Kiwis love their wines, and they’re ready to share them with the rest of the world.

new zealand vineyard

New Zealand’s wine regions are quickly becoming a  popular destination for wine enthusiasts taking []wine vacations.  There are ten major []New  Zealand wine regions on the two islands and they produce a variety of wines  with unique local characteristics.  Jim Hunter,  a freelance writer for World Wide Wine Tours, has tips for those researching []New  Zealand wine tours and offers insightful information regarding the wines and  regions of this beautiful country.

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