Top Wine Places in New Zealand
By: Emil Hunefalk
New Zealand is an amazing country with great variety of scenery and activities for everyone. The country has combined genuine passion and commitment to become a wine making superpower since starting to take wine seriously in the 1970’s - although New Zealand started production already in 1836 with oenologist James Busby and found a distinct “kiwi” wine identity in the 1960’s.
If you plan on going in 2011 but are undecided on exactly when, consider going during September or October to enjoy the Real New Zealand Festival, which takes place across the country - including festivities at many vineyards and wineries.
This blog post follows other GotSaga posts by WineTravelr about the greatest wine regions to visit across the planet and then about France, Spain, South America. These can be explored in more detail on the WineTravelr blog, which also gives more in depth tips on other regions and places for wine across the globe.
As mentioned in my post about places for wine across the planet, Marlborough is one of the greatest wine regions in the world to visit. Marlborough does have enough interesting places to visit at any time of the year. If you enjoy winery visits and want great variety for everyone, try out Allan Scott Family Winemakers, Forrest Estate and Cloudy Bay. Be prepared to find some gems hidden from the rest of the world, since the “kiwis” keep the best wines from being exported - and some say it’s the “second wine country of the world” after tasting the lovely local wines, counting only France as better at producing amazing drops.
Photo By Helen M Evans
After writing the post about top wine places in the world, someone told me their opinion was that Auckland is the greatest wine place to visit in New Zealand. My reason for putting Marlborough slightly ahead was the variety of wine types - but as a place to visit it’s easy to understand that some prefer Auckland. In the Auckland wine region you primarily find Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines. If you’re looking for a good winery visit, I recommend going to Villa Maria estate, where the founder recently received the World Class Award - and the place really has excellent food and wine on offer.
3. Central Otago
Some say that Central Otago is the most scenic wine region of New Zealand, and that if you only have time to visit one region then this south island region should be it. The region is the only one in New Zealand with a continental climate, and is also the southernmost wine region on the planet. In the middle of Central Otago you find Queenstown - once voted the friendliest city in the world.
Photo By Steffi K.
There are a few nice wine trails to follow through Central Otago. I would recommend starting from Queenstown, and simply follow the wine trail through the Gibston sub-region until Cromwell. If you have more than a day for the trip, continue into Lowburn and Bannockburn for even more great visits along the road, before returning to Queenstown. Back in town, I suggest a glass of wine at the upmarket New York style wine bar Bardeaux.
4. Hawke’s Bay
There are more than 140 vineyards and 70 wineries in Hawke’s Bay, and in the weekend farmers markets you can buy wine directly from the growers. Vineyards are located in beautiful river valleys, on terraces with amazing views and on hillsides which almost as made for hiking and great adventures.. If you happen to be there during the Real New Zealand Festival, you might run into me at the Hawke’s Bay Wine Tasting Adventure, where I’m looking forward to a chat with local wine people.
Photo By mORph
Looking out north over the Tasman Bay, the Nelson wine region is the much more wet and rainy neighbour of Marlborough, having less protection from the mountains. The region is great for producing Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, but the real champions are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which compete with the best of the country.
If you’re travelling to Nelson and like adventure travel as a complement to the wine trail, a visit to the popular Abel Tasman National Park would probably be perfect for you, or perhaps Kahurangi National Park for almost equally great hiking, but fewer tourists getting in your way.
If you’re looking for a wine region where you can walk to most places, Wairararapa might be of interest - with 35 km from north to south you could probably walk through it in a day. Despite size, the region produces some really excellent wines, and being situated furthest south on the northern New Zealand island this is yet another place with amazing scenery and lovely views.
The tiny Northland wine region is the region where New Zealand wine making all began when Reverend Samuel Marsden planted his grapevines back in 1819, and later Croatian gumdiggers brought European wine traditions to the island. As a result, many of the most famous wineries have their roots in this northern region.
Photo by mars-hill
The Northland region is full of wonderful beaches and beautiful coves, accompanied by great wine and food. I would suggest going to the wineries around Matakana for some wines showing promise for a grand future. Although the Northland wine region is spread out and not yet very famous, it’s still worth a trip to the far north of New Zealand to sample nice wines and meet with friendly locals.
9. Waikato & Bay of Plenty
Waikato is an excellent horticultural region, while Bay of Plenty is amazing for tourism - their proximity to eachother makes the combined region a great destination for wine lovers and adventure travellers alike. Bay of Plenty sits beautifully as a paradise for the visitor, while Waikato produces amazing Chardonnay and other wines to enjoy on the beach after surfing, fishing or taking the jet skis. The amount of wine coming from the region is quite low, with only 3% of NZ totals, but instead you find much more variety in things to do for anyone interested in combining their wine travels with other interests.
10. Canterbury & Waipara
With over 40 vineyards creating world beating wines, Canterbury wine production has roots in the 1970’s. The Waipara Valley region actually has a unique terroir for each vineyard - even when situated next to eachother one set of grapes can be the cause of a very different end result compared to just across the road or on the other side of a hill.
Photo By missbossy
The most popular grape in Waipara Valley is Chardonnay, just like in most regions across the country, while Riesling and Pinot Noir also feature in prominent roles in Canterbury. Unlike Marlborough, the Waipara village is a quiet place, but with their high quality grapes they are likely to see a surge in wine tourism sooner rather than later.
About the blogger:
Emil Hunefalk is a wine lover and constant Traveller , founder of WineTravelr.com, a wine site for wine afficionados. Check it out for excellent tips and wine destinations in the world.
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