Map of 4 wine regions in New Zealand

Top 5 wines to try on a visit to New Zealand:

    1. The Doctor’s Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 – Forrest Estate Wines, Renwick, Marlborough.
    2. Peregrine Pinot Noir, 2014 – Peregrine Wines, Central Otago.
    3. Stonyridge Larose, 2015 – Stonyridge Vineyards, Waiheke Island.
    4. Mahi Rosé, 2016 – Mahi Wines, Marlborough.
    5. 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.

Recommended Winery

Peregrine Wines, Central Otago.

Related Trips 

Pristine New Zealand – 13 days, Auckland to Queenstown.
Beautiful South – 10 days, Queenstown to Queenstown.
Elegant South – 10 days, Blenheim to Queenstown.

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.

Recommended Winery

Forrest Estate Wines, Renwick.

Related Trips

Elegant South – 10 days, Blenheim 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.

Recommended Winery

Stonyridge Vineyards, Waiheke Island.

Related Trips

Timeless North – 10 days, Auckland to Auckland.
Pristine New Zealand – 13 days, Auckland to Queenstown.

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.

Recommended Winery

Mission Estate, Hawkes Bay.

Related Trips

Timeless North – 10 days, Auckland to Auckland.

Joe Sutheran
20:52 30 Oct 17
I had a great time in New Zealand with my parents, travelling with New Zealand Walking Tours. I know my parents were so happy they found this company, the activity level was spot on for them, and accommodations, food etc was never less than outstanding. I didn't have much to do with the company pre-trip, but I know my parents were extremely impressed with the communications, and preparation advice from the team behind the scenes. What I can say is that when it came to the trip itself, the guides were just a joy to be around, extremely enthusiastic, interested in their guests, and very knowledgeable. Being a bit younger than much of the group, I was a little apprehensive that I might not enjoy it, but I don't know what I was worried about! Spending time getting to know the others on the trip, as well as the guides, was a delight - but what meant the most to me was spending time with my parents without the burden of the 'real world' on any of us, just enjoying the moment and each other's company. Thank you New Zealand Walking Tours for showing us the best of your stunningly beautiful country, and giving all three of us happy memories we'll never forget.read more
Roxanne Theriault
05:27 02 Nov 17
Amazing company, everything is top notch and they take care of you from start to finish! Always friendly, helpful, personable and professional - what kiwi hospitality is so famous for! You won't regret going on a walking tour with these folks and you'll definitely be planning your next trip, once you're back home! Highly recommend!read more
Paul McDonald
21:13 30 Oct 17
I wanted to find a guiding company based in in New Zealand, with local guides. When I found out that New Zealand Walking Tours is part of the Active Adventures family, I was super confident to go ahead and arrange my trip. Exploring the Abel Tasman National Park by day and Awaroa Lodge by night was a massive highlight! I'll be back for sure.read more
Will Appelman
21:07 30 Oct 17
My wife and I are avid hikers, and New Zealand Walking Tours gave us the chance to explore a wide variety of New Zealand’s hiking trails – including amazing sections of the 9 Great Walks, and be rewarded with accommodations that are a step ahead of the competition, delicious locally sourced food and a tipple of New Zealand's finest local wine! But on our free day in Queenstown we met loads of local ‘Kiwis’ who hadn’t even heard of some of the trails we hiked along the way – it actually made us feel like the locals! In the same time it would have taken us to hike the Milford Track from start to finish (like we planned) we hiked an amazing section of the famous track, while also taking a boat cruise on Milford Sound and getting flown by helicopter from Milford Sound to the most incredible and isolated luxury lodge in the Hollyford. We then jet boated out across a lake before a beautiful walk back to civilisation on the Hollyford Track. Before our trip, Fiona worked out exactly the perfect trip to suit what we were looking for, and Lynette was an amazing help getting us ready to depart - making sure we packed everything we need, and not so much of what we didn't need. Highly recommended!read more
Miriam Houliston
05:19 02 Nov 17
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Couple drinking wine in a bay window seat

Enjoying a local wine (or beer!) at Martins Bay Lodge, Fiordland

Lady holding wine glass at a winery Cellar Door

Sampling the best wines of the Marlborough Region at Forrest Estate Winery.

Glass walled room of wine barrels

Peregrine Winery’s Cellar Door, Central Otago

A bottle of Doctor's Sauvignon Blanc wine from Forrest Estate Winery, Marlborough

Forrest Estate’s ‘The Doctor’s’ Sauvignon Blanc is one we’d recommend.

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