New Zealand’s Wine Regions

New Zealand’s wine regions extend 1,600 km. from sub-tropical Northland down to Central Otago, where you will find the world’s most southerly vineyards. The vines benefit from the moderating effect of the maritime climate, long hours of sunshine and nights cooled by sea breezes.

If you like cool-climate wines, such as those from Canada, France, Germany or Austria and like Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah, then you should give New Zealand wines a try.

Sauvignon Blanc was the first wine to put New Zealand on the map, and it developed a following with millions of people around the world.

The world’s love affair with New Zealand wine grows as wine lovers continue to explore their diverse range of wine varieties and styles.

Most of New Zealand’s wine regions are situated on the eastern coastlines of the North and South Islands, in the rain shadow of the mountains, each with its own unique soils and climatic conditions. Within the eleven regions, sub-regional characteristics distinguish wines as being not just from a wine region, but from a sub-region and a place.

Marlborough

Marlborough provides a combination of a cool but sunny climate, a low amount of rainfall and free-draining, moderately fertile soil.  The result is unique wines.  Marlborough put New Zealand on the international wine stage during the 1980s with its exquisite Sauvignon Blanc.

This is the country’s largest wine region with in excess of 20,000 hectares of vines under the control of local wine producers.  This is about 2/3 of the national total.

Marlborough wineries offer a wide range of varieties, from exquisite Pinot Noir to intense Chardonnay, and vivacious aromatics. 

Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second largest wine region.  Wine has been produced there since 1851.

Hawke’s Bay has developed an international reputation for producing high quality Cabernet & Merlot blends, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and an impressive array of aromatic white wines.

The warm climate and long growing season also allow for the successful production of dessert wine styles.

Central Otago

Central Otago

Central Otago is home to some of the world’s best Pinot Noir and impressive white wines, including aromatics such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Muscat and Pinot Gris, as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

By the 1970s there was a significant commitment by winegrowing pioneers that endure today in names such as Chard Farm, Rippon, Black Ridge and Gibbston Valley.

Gisborne

This is a relatively remote area that grows a diverse range of wines, from full-flavoured and fruit-driven, to critically acclaimed classics.  Gisborne is home to a mix of large producers, boutique wineries, and entrepreneurial growers, who are continuously exploring new varieties and vineyard sites.

Chardonnay is the dominant variety and enjoys great success.  Delightfully bright Pinot Gris is the region’s second-largest wine variety, with emerging varieties being trialled with great success.

Canterbury & North Canterbury

The Canterbury wine region spans nearly 200 km. of the South Island’s eastern coastline, with the Alps to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east.  The region has an excellent reputation for elegant and expressive Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and aromatics, with other varieties achieving outstanding results.

Vineyards were first established on the Canterbury Plains in 1978, with plantings to the south-west of Christchurch and North Canterbury following close behind.

Wairarapa

Wairarapa (meaning glistening waters in Maori) is a boutique region having just 3% of New Zealand’s land under vine, and contributes to 1% of its total production.

A range of styles and varieties are grown, such as standout Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics, as well as stylish Chardonnay, Syrah and dessert wines.

The three main sub-regions in the area are Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton. These sub-regions share a similar climate and soil structures, but provide subtle differences in character.

Wairarapa’s modern wine history dates from the late 1970’s plantings of Martinborough, which included producers such as Dry River, Martinborough Vineyard, Ata Rangi and Margrain.

Nelson

This picturesque region is situated on the northern tip of the South Island. Nelson is a boutique wine region producing outstanding Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics, as well as an impressive mix of emerging varieties.

Growers in the 1970s developed the modern wine industry with iconic names such as Seifried and Neudorf still going strong.

Auckland

This large and very diverse region is home to some of New Zealand’s biggest wine companies, as well as numerous high-quality boutique vineyards, offering something for every palate.  It is one of New Zealand’s oldest wine regions, established in the early 1900’s.  

Waiheke Island is home to great Syrah, world-class Chardonnay, intense Cabernet blends and fine aromatics.  West Auckland is known for its internationally recognised Chardonnay and Merlot.  In North Auckland there are excellent Cabernet blends, Pinot Gris and Syrah, along with numerous emerging red varieties. 

Northland

Its northern location close to the sea gives the Northland region an almost subtropical climate, having high humidity, warm temperatures and lots of sunshine.

The first vines in New Zealand were planted in the Bay of Islands in 1819.  The in the late 1800s, the Croatians brought the European tradition of winemaking to the region.

Tropical Chardonnays, popular Pinot Gris and vibrant Viogniers are leading the white wine growth in Northland. Red wines produced include spicy Syrahs, stylish Cabernet and Merlot blends, peppery Pinotages and complex Chambourcin.

Waitaki Valley, North Otago

Flanked by the cool south Pacific Ocean to the east and the high peaks of the Southern Alps to the west, the Waitaki River is one of New Zealand’s largest wine regions.

The Waitaki Valley vineyards stretch along a 75 km. strip taking advantage of hot, dry summers, cold winters and long dry autumns.

Signature varieties from the area include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer.

Waikato & Bay of Plenty

The Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions south of Auckland have small pockets of vineyard plantings scattered amidst rolling farmland.  Wine styles are focused mainly on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc.

In Closing

Although New Zealand produces less than 1% of the world’s wine, it offers an impressive range of high-quality varieties and styles. Whatever your preferences, there’s sure to be a wine to suit your palate.

Sláinte mhaith

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