Wineries and Wine Routes in New Zealand
Visitors planning a trip to New Zealand may be conjuring up images of hot springs, imposing rock faces and impossibly clear glacial lakes, but this country isn’t just about outdoor pursuits and geographical marvels. New Zealand also has a vibrant culinary scene and an impressive reputation as a leading global wine producer. For those that enjoy a hearty red or a crisp white wine, a holiday in New Zealand offers amazing opportunities to explore wine routes, visit wineries, and of course, sample the produce. Here are some of the best wineries on the islands, and some itinerary ideas for those keen to learn more about New Zealand wines.
One of the best ways to discover the wild beauty of New Zealand at the same time as treating the taste buds, is to follow a wine trail. There are various options available and it is possible to travel around both the North and South Islands. For those keen to enjoy the local nectar and admire New Zealand’s most famous attractions at the same time, here are some fantastic sample itineraries.
The Grand Tour: Hawke’s Bay to Marlborough
Taking in both islands, this is a spectacular route, which features three of New Zealand’s most significant and well-known wine producing regions. The trip begins in Hawke’s Bay on the North Island. The verdant vineyards of Hawke’s Bay are easily accessible from the towns of Napier and Hastings. The area is home to around 70 wineries and it is officially the oldest wine region in the country. Hawke’s Bay is currently the second largest wine-producing area in New Zealand and it is famed for its full-bodied red wines. In 2016, Hawke’s Bay wineries produced 88 percent of the country’s Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Fans of rich, decadent red wine will relish the opportunity to tour the cellars, learn more about the processes involved in wine making and enjoy some samples served alongside a delicious lunch. The next stop on the route is Martinborough, a town renowned for its boutique vineyards and outstanding Pinot noir wines. Nestled at the heart of the Wairarapa wine region, there are approximately 20 wineries scattered around the town. Martinborough is the most high profile of Wairarapa’s wine-producing towns, but visitors can also enjoy winery tours in Gladstone and Masterton. The final destination on this trip is the famous wine region of Marlborough. Located in the north of the South Island, Marlborough has an excellent reputation for producing the best New Zealand Sauvignon blanc. The region produces approximately 77% of the country’s wine, and Marlborough’s Sauvignon blanc is respected all around the world. Marlborough benefits from a dry, warm climate and it is known by the Maoris as ‘the place with the hole in the cloud.’ Marlborough is easily accessible from Blenheim Airport, but it’s also possible to hire a car or join an organised tour from Christchurch. There is an abundance of wineries in the area and most are located within a stone’s throw of each other, which makes it easy to create your own wine trail.
Marlborough to Central Otago
As New Zealand’s prime wine producing region, it’s well worth taking time to explore Marlborough in more detail. For visitors who don’t have to time to travel the length and breadth of the North and South islands, designing a wine trail that takes in Marlborough and Central Otago provides an excellent alternative. There are myriad wineries on offer in Marlborough, and it’s very easy to hop from one to the next, sampling different types of wine, enjoying locally produced foods and taking part in tours and tasting classes. Travelling from the north to the south of Marlborough and moving in an anti-clockwise direction, visitors can explore wineries including Nautilus Estate, Omaka Springs Estate, Auntsfield Estate, Lawson’s Dry Hills Winery, Clark Estate, Rock Ferry Wines and Hunter’s Wines. Many wineries have eateries or delicatessens attached. Enjoying a long lunch with a glass of wine and a view of the vineyards is a delightful way to spend the day. From Marlborough, head south to Central Otago. Best known for its Pinot noir wines, the area boasts an array of wineries, most of which are dotted around the towns of Cromwell, Bannockburn and Gibbston. The area is also famed for producing Reisling and Chardonnay.
The Best Wineries in New Zealand
For those who don’t have time to follow a trail or explore several regions, taking a trip to an individual winery is a brilliant idea. There are around 500 wineries in New Zealand, so narrowing down the options isn’t always easy. For inspiration, here are some wineries that come highly recommended:
Brancott Estate is one of New Zealand’s most famous wineries as it created the first New Zealand Sauvignon blanc back in the 1970’s. By the 1980’s, the region had attracted plaudits from wine lovers all over the world, and the owners of the vineyard took their prized wine to compete on a global stage, winning the esteemed Marquis de Goulaine trophy at the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition. Tasting sessions here offer an insight into the fascinating history of the development of the Kiwi wine industry and the chance to experience New Zealand’s most famous winery in a stunning setting. There is also a restaurant on site for those keen to enjoy lunch with a view.
Cloudy Bay is one of the original Marlborough wineries. Dating back to 1985, this sprawling estate is renowned for its Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and Pinot noir wines. In addition to vineyard tours, the winery also offers an authentic cellar door sampling experience and a chic bar, which specialises in raw food.
Officially the oldest winery in New Zealand, Mission Estate dates back to 1851 when it was established by a group of French missionaries. In 1897, the winery relocated due to damage sustained during an earthquake and in 2007, it underwent a vast expansion programme, which doubled its capacity. The highlight of any tour is a trip to the historic cellar, which has been lovingly restored. The restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner, also has an excellent reputation.
Te Mata Estate
Another shining example of New Zealand’s historic wineries, Te Mata Estate was founded in 1896. A family-owned operation, this is a winery with a global reputation for both its red and white wines. The estate’s wines are exported to over 40 countries. Private tasting tours are highly recommended, and they must be booked in advance. The vineyards overlook the rolling Havelock Hills, making this an idyllic setting to sit back and raise a glass to happy holidays.
Tucked away in the world’s most southerly wine-producing region, Central Otago, Rippon Vineyard is an innovative, forward-thinking operation, which adopts a holistic approach to wine production. This unique winery uses biodynamic technology to produce high-quality wines without the need for chemicals or pesticides. Set on the shores of one of New Zealand’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Wanaka, this winery is known for its Pinot noir. Tasting classes and sessions are informal and casual here, so there’s no need to book in advance or dress up for the occasion.
Pegasus Bay has established itself as a leading provider of both wine and modern, organic cuisine. Opened in the 1970s by the Donaldson family, this Canterbury winery is famed for showcasing flair in the kitchen, as well as producing award-winning chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot noir wines.
Tips For Visiting Wineries and Following Wine Trails
Visitors planning to enjoy winery tours and tasting sessions as part of their New Zealand travel plans are advised to draw up a rough itinerary in advance. Although many wineries in the main wine-producing regions offer the chance to take classes, tour the vineyards and enjoy lunch or dinner without a reservation, it is sometimes necessary to book in advance. Wine tasting is a popular activity, especially in areas such as Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, and it may be advisable to call ahead to avoid disappointment. Some wineries offer informal sessions, while others adopt a more structured approach. Some offer food, while others are focused purely on the wine. It’s worth doing some research beforehand and reading travel tips to get ideas before arriving at a winery. Following a wine trail is a great idea for those who have time to explore and for visitors eager to combine winery tours with other activities. Tourists staying near Marlborough, for example, may wish to follow a day of wine tasting with a cruise on Marlborough Sounds. When taking a trail, it’s a good idea to plan a route, unless the area is very small and it’s possible to complete the entire tour on foot. Those keen to travel from the North to the South Island to discover regions such as Wairarapa, Marlborough and Central Otago can cross the Cook Strait by boat or plane. New Zealand is home to over 500 wineries, and is a wonderful destination to learn about the processes involved in making and selling wine whilst enjoying alfresco tasting with a view. There are organised tours available, but it’s also possible to draw up your own itinerary and explore at your own pace.