The Best Places to Go Wine Tasting in New Zealand

Central Otago, home to Rippon Vineyard and Lake Wanaka, is one of New Zealand's top wine regions
Central Otago, home to Rippon Vineyard and Lake Wanaka, is one of New Zealand's top wine regions | © David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Thalita Alves
5 October 2020

You can’t go wrong when it comes to New Zealand wine: from Auckland to Canterbury, the country is home to a number of fantastic wine regions. Your tasting experience will depend on which grape varietals you like best and which parts of the country you’re eager to explore, so to help you choose, we showcase some of New Zealand’s best producers and their prized pickings.

Marlborough

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© Maxine House / Alamy Stock Photo
Marlborough, at the top of the South Island, is New Zealand’s largest wine-producing region. Its enviable selection of sauvignon blanc wines has 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, just 20 minutes from the stunning Marlborough Sounds. Once you’ve spent a day tasting wine and touring wineries, spend the evening sipping more wine on a private deck or terrace at one of Marlborough’s charming Airbnbs.

Hawke's Bay

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new zealand Hawkes bay new zealand bunches of grapes on vines in rows in a vineyard in Hawkes bay Napier New zealand North island NZ
© eye35 / Alamy Stock Photo
As New Zealand’s leading food and wine tour destination, the Hawke’s Bay beckons you to relish some of the North Island’s most beautiful rural landscapes as you 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. And if all the wine tasting makes you a little sleepy, don’t worry – there are some cosy Airbnbs in the area.

Auckland

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Ascension Wine Estate, Matakana, North Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
© David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo
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 most 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. Once you’ve sampled the wine, be sure to check out the many other things to do and places to stay in the area.

Waiheke Island

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Rows of vines at Cable Bay Vineyards and Restaurant, Nick Johnstone Drive, Oneroa, Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf, Auckland, New Zealand
© Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo
A ferry ride from Auckland 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 on 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. If you fancy relaxing with a bottle of wine (or two) and watching the sun set, stay the night at one of the island’s Airbnbs, ranging from stylish flats to romantic cottages.

Central Otago

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Vineyard in Gibbston Valley, New Zealand. Central Otago is the southernmost wine region in the world and mostly famous for its Pinot Noirs and white w
© Rolf_52 / Alamy Stock Photo
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, although chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling feature quite prominently in many of its vineyards. The region also has a range of Airbnbs to stay in if all that wine tasting makes you a little tipsy.

Gisborne

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Vineyard near Gisborne New Zealand
© David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo

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, where a range of comfy Airbnbs are available to rent.

Wairarapa

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Springrock Vineyard Te Kairanga near Martinborough Wairarapa North Island New Zealand
© David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo

The close proximity to Wellington makes 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. Wairarapa is climatically quite similar to Marlborough, getting low periods of rainfall and lots of sunshine so take the time to soak it up with a stay at one of Wairarapa’s Airbnb properties.

Canterbury

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The Crater Rim Winery vineyards, Waipara, North Canterbury, Canterbury Region, New Zealand
© Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo

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, with plenty of Airbnb rentals on offer too.

These recommendations were updated on October 5, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.