Fans of the grape will already be aware that New Zealand bottles some fantastic wine. What it lacks in quantity – it produces less than 1% of the world’s total wine production – it more than makes up for in quality. But where’s best to head if you’re planning your own wine tour? Here are our picks for the best New Zealand wine regions to visit on your NZ holiday.
Best New Zealand Wine Regions
Marlborough’s warm summers and dry autumns have given it the Maori name “Kei puta te Wairau” or “the place with the hole in the cloud”. This, coupled with its fertile soils, enables several varieties of grapes to thrive, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir. The former was a big hit with critics, especially the 1985 vintage Cloudy Bay, cementing this area’s reputation as a force to be reckoned with and putting the New Zealand wine industry on the international map. It’s no surprise that around two thirds of the national production comes from this region, with over 20000 hectares of vines planted making Marlborough one of the best New Zealand wine regions.
Coming in at number two on the list of the best New Zealand wine regions is Hawke’s Bay, with a 10% share of the market. Vines have been growing there since 1851 when a group of French missionaries settled near the Ngaruroro River between Hastings and Napier and planted vines there to take advantage of the gravelly river terraces. In those days, the vines were used in both sacramental and table wine, with the first wine sold commercially in 1870. Now, the area has an established reputation for wine-producing and focuses on Chardonnay and Bordeaux-blend reds.
If Chardonnay’s your tipple of choice, then you could do worse than to head for New Zealand’s third most important grape growing area. Gisborne’s ideally suited to viticulture in terms of climate – after all, how better to maximise your chances of sun than to base yourself in the first part of the nation to see the sunrise? As with Hawke’s Bay, the wine industry has had a foothold in this area since the 1850s but really took off around half a century ago. As well as Chardonnay, this area is a great place to taste Pinot Gris.
Located on the southern tip of North Island a stone’s throw from the capital, this attractive colonial village is surrounded by family-run vineyards. Part of the Wairarapa wine-producing area together with Gladstone and Masterton, it specialises in Pinot Noir, Sav Blanc and Syrah. The area came relatively late to the party, with commercial production not really kicking into gear until the 1970s, but despite claiming only a 1% market share, it produces some of the country’s most sought after wines, pleasing the fussiest of wine drinkers.
Our final pick for inclusion in best New Zealand wine regions is Central Otago, an area renowned for its Pinot Noir and taking full advantage of its tourism potential. The most southerly of New Zealand’s major wine producing regions, it experiences hot summers perfect for ripening grapes. The mountainous terrain which characterises the region leads to distinct variations between valleys, meaning each sub-region has its own unique microclimate, aspect, altitude and soil, broadening the choice of wines on offer.