You can’t go wrong when it comes to New Zealand wine: your tasting experience will depend entirely on which grape varietals you like best and which parts of the country you’re eager to explore. We’ll make your choices that much simpler by showcasing some of the nation’s best producers and their prized pickings.
Marlborough, at the top of the South Island, is New Zealand’s largest wine producing region. It is a place with an enviable selection of Sauvignon Blanc wines that have gained recognition all over the world. Other varietals the area is known for include Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Most of its wineries can be reached from the city of Blenheim, located just 20 minutes from the stunning Marlborough Sounds.
As New Zealand’s leading food and wine tour destination, the Hawke’s Bay beckons its visitors to relish some of the North Island’s most beautiful rural landscapes as they enter some of the country’s best wineries. This region is the second largest in the country, as well as one of the oldest. Chardonnay is the most planted grape in its lush vineyards — but because the Hawke’s Bay is lucky enough to have a long ripening season, red varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah are known to flourish here too.
New Zealand’s largest city is home to some 100 different vineyards and wineries scattered around its fertile soils. The Auckland region features some of the country’s oldest vineyards and is best renowned for its selection of Bordeaux style drops, including a rich selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Many of its top wine tasting destinations are located north and west of Auckland City.
A ferry ride from Auckland City will lead you to another prized wine tasting destination: Waiheke Island. Moderate climatic conditions allow Waiheke Island to cultivate a wide range of red and white grapes. The first vines were planted on the island in the 1980s, and the local viticulture was originally centred around high-quality reds (particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) before producers expanded their operations to include varietals like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Viognier.
Known for its stunning landscapes and luscious red wines, Central Otago is a must-visit for those who are exploring Queenstown and its surrounds. As the world’s southernmost wine producer, the region gets full bragging rights for being the only place in New Zealand that truly enjoys ‘continental’ climatic conditions. Central Otago is most famous for its Pinot Noir, though Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling also feature quite prominently in many of its vineyards.
As the easternmost point of the North Island, Gisborne receives a lot of sunlight. Not only that, but this wine region is also the first in the world to welcome the new day’s sun. White grapes are the main specialty here: Gisborne’s vineyards and wineries are notable for their Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Reaching these local producers is as easy as taking a short drive from the city.
A close proximity to Wellington makes the Wairarapa the ideal day trip destination for wine enthusiasts. The area’s best boutique wineries are based in the town of Martinborough and have earned international prestige for their Pinot Noir. Martinborough’s vineyards are also known for hosting the Toast Food, Wine and Music Festival on the third Sunday of every November. The Wairarapa is climatically quite similar to Marlborough, getting low rainfall periods and lots of sunshine.
With a varied selection of wineries located within easy reach of Christchurch, the Canterbury region has earned itself a solid reputation for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Its burgeoning Waipara sub-region, just north of Christchurch, has also been gaining traction over the years for its Riesling. The wider Canterbury wine region is relatively young in New Zealand terms, having had its first vineyard planted in 1977, but it is also the fourth largest in the country.