Wine Regions of New Zealand
Top 5 wines to try on a visit to New Zealand:
- The Doctor’s Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 – Forrest Estate Wines, Renwick, Marlborough.
- Peregrine Pinot Noir, 2014 – Peregrine Wines, Central Otago.
- Stonyridge Larose, 2015 – Stonyridge Vineyards, Waiheke Island.
- Mahi Rosé, 2016 – Mahi Wines, Marlborough.
- Mission Estate VS Chardonnay, 2016 – Mission Estate, Napier, Hawkes Bay.
We love talking wine! New Zealand has around ten distinct wine regions, and here we’re discussing the four regions our trips visit.
Central Otago Region – Pinot Noir
Central Otago is the world’s southernmost wine region. The Pinot Noirs of Central Otago are characterised by their fragrant fruit, and smooth texture; the region only produces around 2% of New Zealand’s wine, which makes it a somewhat boutique offering amongst the world’s wine regions. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the Central Otago region is the focus on sub-regional wines, and their subtle differences. We’d recommend comparing a Pinot Noir from the Gibbston Valley area (near Queenstown) with one from Alexandra, around 90km (56 miles) to the southeast, where the annual rainfall is cut by two thirds, and the sunshine hours remain very similar. Three of our four trips visit the South Island, and all of them include a day to spend however you like in the Queenstown area. If wine is your thing, then why not take this opportunity to tour some of the local wineries, and do your own comparison of the sub-regional subtleties. Harvest for Central Otago grapes is later than other more humid regions, generally starting mid to late April. However the different sub-regions can harvest several weeks apart. It’s important to remember that wine making takes time, and so whilst harvest is an exciting time of year for winemakers, wine tasting is a year-round activity! We’d recommend travelling in February or March.
Peregrine Wines, Central Otago.
Marlborough Region – Sauvignon Blanc
The Marlborough region is known as one of the best Sauvignon Blanc producing regions in the world. Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine producing region, and around 65% of its vines are Sauvignon Blanc. Recognised by its aroma, exotic and tropical flavours, and deep mineral content, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s most popular exported wine.
The climate in the Marlborough region lends itself to sharp, intense fruity flavours; the average annual sunshine is around 2,500 hours, and with relatively low rainfall figures winegrowers can regulate their vines with irrigation. The area is also protected from harsh wind and rain by surrounding mountains. The free-draining soils of Marlborough contain sand, silt, and clay, in varying degrees throughout the sub-regions, allowing grapes other than Sauvignon Blanc to flourish there – Pinot Noir is becoming a popular Marlborough product.
Every year in February the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival takes over the region – there’s wine tasting, delicious local fare, and wine tutorials. If you’re a wine lover, we’d recommend travelling in February to make the most of the Marlborough region.
Forrest Estate Wines, Renwick.
Elegant South – 11 days, Nelson to Queenstown.
Waiheke Island Region – Bordeaux-style Blends
Waiheke Island is known as the ‘Island of Wine’ and its Bordeaux-style blends are its most recognisable variety of wine. Waiheke is a small island – 92km² (36 sq miles) in the Hauraki Gulf, and only 21.5km (13.3 miles) from the ferry terminal in Auckland itself.
The maritime climate (a climate dictated by oceans) means cool summers and cool but not freezing winters – conditions perfect for Bordeaux wine grapes. The intensity and purity of the fruit characterises the wines of Waiheke Island. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is one of those often included in many Bordeaux-style blends, and the grape doesn’t ripen until late in the season, which can be a problem in poor seasons – but in a typical season winemakers are rewarded with deep flavours and high yields.
A visit to Waiheke Island is an emersion in New Zealand’s wine culture. The Island of Wine is covered with award winning vineyards, producing outstanding wines and offering excellent fare to go alongside. Waiheke also has beautiful beaches, so why not grab a bottle of local wine and go enjoy it whilst listening to the waves breaking? We’d recommend visiting Waiheke Island in summer, for stunning views of Auckland Harbour, as well as vineyards full of activity as harvest approaches.
Stonyridge Vineyards, Waiheke Island.
Hawkes Bay Region – Aromatic Reds and Complex Chardonnays
Hawkes Bay is New Zealand’s second largest wine region, and has been producing great wines since 1851. The region is most noted for its Cabernet & Merlot blends, Syrah, and more recently complex Chardonnays and fragrant white wines.
The climate in the Hawkes Bay Region, which is located around the city of Napier on the North Island’s East Coast, is warm, and whilst cooler, wet weather is not uncommon, the protection of the region by hills further inland, as well as the free draining soils, allows the region to be fairly robust in variable weather conditions. The growing season in Hawkes Bay is longer than most other wine regions of New Zealand.
The Bordeaux-style blends of Hawkes Bay differ from those of Waiheke Island as Merlot is increasingly the primary grape involved here; a Merlot focused blend gives a richer, deeper wine with almost plummy flavours. Hawke’s Bay is also gaining a reputation for its Chardonnays. The region’s flagship white is known for full-bodied flavour, and is fast becoming a favourite amongst New Zealand’s exported wines.
The cities of Napier and Hastings, in the Hawkes Bay region, were rebuilt following an earthquake in 1931, in the prevailing style of the time – art deco. They’re both fascinating cities, we’d recommend a visit to Hawkes Bay in late February or early March, to make the most of both the bustling cities, and the harvesting time for the grapes.
Mission Estate, Hawkes Bay.
Enjoying a local wine (or beer!) at Martins Bay Lodge, Fiordland
Sampling the best wines of the Marlborough Region at Forrest Estate Winery.
Peregrine Winery’s Cellar Door, Central Otago
Forrest Estate’s ‘The Doctor’s’ Sauvignon Blanc is one we’d recommend.