A trip to New Zealand would not be complete without visiting one of the country’s beautiful wine regions and tasting the local tipple. World-class wines are being produced across the country year in and year out. There are a variety of wine-tasting tours available that provide transport to and from the vineyards meaning that drink-driving is not a worry. Alternatively, you can nominate a sober driver or cycle around some of the smaller regions. Include a wine tasting experience in your trip’s itinerary and pick up a few bottles of your favourite red or white to take home for a gustatory souvenir.
Just an hour and a half drive from Wellington, Martinborough is a popular weekend getaway for residents of the capital. The small village of Martinborough in the Wairarapa region is the launching point for over 30 vineyards and the area is compact and flat enough to easily cycle around. One of New Zealand’s largest (and notoriously rowdy) wine and food festivals, Toast Martinborough, is held here every November.
Top tipple to taste at Martinborough: Pinot Noir.
Easily New Zealand’s most recognisable wine region, Marlborough made its mark on the world in the 1970’s when winemakers began growing outstanding Sauvignon Blanc grapes. With its dry, sunny climate and perfect diurnal temperatures, Marlborough provided the optimum conditions to become a world-class wine producing area. It now produces 77% of all wine made in New Zealand. The Marlborough Food and Wine Festival in February is a great way to sample New Zealand’s finest degustation experiences and is held at one of the region’s oldest vineyards, Brancott Estate.
Top tipple to taste at Marlborough: Sauvignon Blanc.
Probably the most stunning wine region in New Zealand, Central Otago is a short drive from vibrant Queenstown and provides an excellent day trip option. The southernmost winemaking region in the world, it’s most famous for producing fruity Pinot Noir – a notoriously difficult grape to grow. Central Otago is split into sub-regions such as Gibbston and Bannockburn, each with their own characteristics and differences in soil or climate.
Top tipple to taste at Central Otago: Pinot Noir or Riesling.
If you’re looking for the ultimate wine and food destination in New Zealand, you’ve found it at Hawke’s Bay. With a temperate climate year-round, beautiful rural scenery and a sunny coastline, the region is home to many of the country’s finest vineyards. Art-deco inspired Hastings and Napier are the two largest towns in the area and provide a good base to explore the vineyards from.
Top tipple to taste at Hawke’s Bay: Chardonnay.
A short ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is a not-so-hidden gem in terms of both scenery and wine. Wine production here is on a small and boutique scale, meaning some vintages are amongst the most sought-after in New Zealand. Waiheke Island is predominantly known for its high quality red varietals that account for over half of all plantings. Currently on the Lonely Planet’s list of the world’s best regions in 2016, now’s the time to visit Waiheke Island’s vineyards.
Top tipple to taste at Waiheke Island: Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine regions of New Zealand are varied in terms of the grapes produced and the local geography, but they all have one thing in common - they are outstandingly beautiful and make for an incredible (not to mention delicious) day out.
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