Wine has been produced in New Zealand since the arrival of the first European settlers, but in recent years the industry has rapidly evolved and expanded.
The nation’s oldest winemaker, Mission Estate, has been producing wines in Hawke’s Bay since 1851, and today New Zealand is internationally lauded for producing wines of note. A wide range of landscapes (or terroir) makes for unparalleled variety, from Central Otago’s Pinot Noirs to Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blancs and Hawke’s Bay’s Merlots.
If your clients are exploring New Zealand’s vineyards independently, then sampling wines at the cellar door is a great way to spend the day – though they will need a nominated non-drinking driver. Self-guided and guided wine tours by bicycle also enjoy huge popularity. Martinborough is a great place to try this fun approach to wine tasting, as numerous vineyards are situated within easy reach of the town square so participants don’t have to cycle too far. For the ultimate experience of wine growing in New Zealand, plan an itinerary that follows the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail www.classicwinetrail.co.nz from sun-drenched vineyards in Hawke’s Bay right down to the famous Sauvignon Blanc wine-growing region of Marlborough in the northern South Island.
New Zealand Wine Regions
In order to get the best out of New Zealand’s ten significant wine growing regions, suggest your clients join a wine tour or book a personal wine guide.
1. Northland The country’s warmest ripening conditions make Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay the varieties of choice.
2. Auckland Superb Chardonnays, particularly from Waiheke Island, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also popular. Matakana, north of Auckland, produces Merlot, Syrah (Shiraz), Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
3. Bay of Plenty A small but growing wine-producing region with an emphasis on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
4. Gisborne The Chardonnay capital of New Zealand consistently produces delicious examples of this popular wine.
5. Hawke’s Bay This is New Zealand’s oldest wine-making region. Local Chardonnays are stunning, as are the reds. Look for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Pinot Noir.
6. Wairarapa This small but significant wine-growing area produces premium examples of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris.
7. Marlborough Many consider this the Sauvignon Blanc capital of the world. The region also produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling, and is developing a reputation for Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines.
8. Nelson Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir are best suited to this region’s cooler growing conditions.
9. Canterbury The crisp climate makes for good examples of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
10. Central Otago Home to some of the southernmost vineyards in the world, here the emphasis is on Pinot Noir, with some Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling also produced.
New Zealand has several distinct wine-growing regions. Currently, the largest are Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne (Eastland), but Central Otago is rapidly growing as a producer of Pinot Noir wines.
There may be a charge for sampling wines at the cellar door, but it is usually refunded if a purchase is made.
Harvest season runs from February to April, depending on the district’s climate.
Note that wineries may have reduced hours during winter.
New Zealand Winegrowers is the national organisation for New Zealand’s wine industry.
Classic New Zealand Wine Trail
A must-do for wine lovers, this self-guided trail introduces visitors to New Zealand’s biggest wine-growing regions, from Hawke’s Bay via Wairarapa to Marlborough in the South Island.
Breweries & Distilleries
New Zealand not only produces world-class wines, but also brews excellent beers, ranging from boutique brews to major brands. Some breweries are open for tours: try the Tui HQ and Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka (east of Palmerston North) and Dunedin’s Speight’s Brewery. Founders Brewery in Nelson, Australasia’s first certified organic brewery, is another highlight. Another option is to visit one of New Zealand’s boutique distilleries, producing fruit brandies, liqueurs, schnapps or rum. The Prenzel Distilling Company, for example, has tasting rooms all over the country.