How to explore New Zealand's best wine regions
Pair world-class wines with breathtaking scenes for an oenophile odyssey around New Zealand’s North and South Islands wineries.
- June 2018
Classic New Zealand wine trail
If you’re serious about your wine, then set aside at least a week to savour the delights of NZ via the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail. Taking in four wine regions along a 380-kilometre route, this self-guided tour steers you through Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, Wellington and Marlborough – just be sure to take it in turns to be the designated driver!
Red rules in hawke's bay
For wine lovers, Hawke’s Bay opens in new window should be at the top of your New Zealand hit list. Blessed with a maritime climate akin to Bordeaux, Hawke’s Bay is home to more than 70 wineries, where syrah (shiraz), merlot and cabernet sauvignon are the stars. Experience ultra-premium reds at Craggy Range, also home to fine-dining restaurant Terrôir and boutique accommodation. Nearby, soak up the sense of history at Te Mata, New Zealand’s oldest winery, built in 1896. This coastal region is criss-crossed with cycling paths, so hire a bike and hit the road. Other family-friendly pursuits include the Hawke’s Bay Farmyard Zoo, mini golf and the Splash Planet water park.
Natural beauty near Wellington
An hour northeast of capital Wellington, the Wairarapa wine region encompasses the three sub-regions of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton. Here, pinot noir is the name of the game, with fine examples available to try at Ata Rangi and Palliser Estate. Take in the natural beauty of Wairarapa via air, land and water with helicopter tours, quad bike adventures and canoe paddles down the Ruamahanga River, or take the Rapaki Walk, an easy two-hour loop through farmlands and vineyards.
New Zealand's chardonnay capital
On the North Island’s eastern edge, the coastal town of Gisborne is famed for its surf beaches and chardonnay. Call into Poverty Bay Wine’s cute cellar door, housed in 120-year-old stables, or enjoy a relaxed afternoon over pizza and wine in the garden at Wrights Vineyard opens in new window. Gisborne is also rich with Maori culture. Visit a local Maori village for dance performances, arts and crafts, and traditional hangi meals.
Wine On the Waterfront
Boasting some of the nation’s oldest vineyards, Auckland’s sub-tropical climate produces rich Bordeaux-style reds and full-bodied chardonnays. Visit picturesque Waiheke Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland, for powerful red blends, lush syrah (shiraz), and stunning coastal scenes. Back on the mainland, head to Villa Maria opens in new window for winery tours, tutored tastings, and lunch in the contemporary café. Take advantage of Auckland’s idyllic weather by exploring the harbour city’s shops, restaurants and golf courses.
Return to middle earth
One of New Zealand’s up-and-coming wine regions, the Central North encompasses the vineyards of Waikato, Manawatu-Wanganui and Taranaki. Spend your days sipping chardonnay at family-run cellar doors, or soaking up the café scene of Hamilton. Or, indulge your passion for JRR Tolkien by paying a visit to Hobbiton opens in new window, the bucolic village of The Lord of the Rings fame. The region’s breathtaking waterfalls, bushwalks and underground adventures make it a hit with all ages.
The home of premium pinot noir
While the South Island hub of Queenstown is known as the adventure sports capital of the globe, the surrounding regions have a more refined reputation. Central Otago produces some of the world’s finest pinot noir, overcoming challenging climate and conditions to create lush, full-bodied wines. Book ahead to sample ethereal pinot noir at Felton Road in Bannockburn. Nearby, enjoy a relaxed tasting and laidback lunch at Mt Difficulty. At Amisfield near Queenstown, enjoy a guided tasting in the stone cellar door, followed by lunch in the acclaimed bistro. Once you’ve had your fill of top-shelf pinot, discover the region’s pulse-racing pursuits, such as jet boating, heli-skiing, bungy jumping. Prefer to see the sights at a more leisurely pace? Take a half-day cycling opens in new window trip along the Gibbston River Trail.
Wining, hiking and cycling in Marlborough
One of New Zealand’s best-known – and most consumed – wines is Marlborough sauvignon blanc. With its intense tropical aromas and flavours, this zesty white has been a summer favourite for decades. At the northeastern tip of the South Island, Marlborough can be reached via ferry from capital Wellington, or base yourself in the town of Blenheim. Big-name wineries to visit include Cloudy Bay, Brancott Estate, Giesen, and Oyster Bay. While you’re in this stunning region, go fishing, camping or kayaking in Marlborough Sounds where you might spy dolphins, seals and penguins; hike or cycle the Queen Charlotte Track; or stroll through Blenheim’s award-winning gardens.
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Aromatic whites and rich pinot noirs
Fanning out from Christchurch, the wineries of Canterbury are known for producing floral, aromatic rieslings and fine pinot noirs. The Waipara Valley, north of Christchurch, produces fragrant, textural whites such as pinot gris and gewürztraminer, and rich pinot noirs. Share a regional platter and a bottle of riesling at Pegasus Bay opens in new window, sip pinot in the charming stone cellar door at Waipara Hills, or enjoy a long lunch at Melton Estate. While you’re in the neighbourhood, visit the seaside village of Akaroa, a postcard-perfect town with cute cafés, cosy B&Bs and a renowned cooking school.
Fine wines and fresh air
A 90-minute drive northwest of Blenheim, at the north of the South Island, the sun-kissed Nelson region is home to 25 boutique producers crafting chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. Visit Mahana Estate, a light-filled cellar door and restaurant pouring exceptional sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot noir. The quaint Te Mania cottage offers Te Mania’s aromatic whites and pinots, while Seifried Estate offers lively sauvignon blanc, full-bodied chardonnay and fruity pinot noir – the kids will love the onsite playground. Beyond the Nelson wine trail, a host of outdoor activities await. Hike through the Abel Tasman National Park or the glaciers of Nelson Lakes National Park, sail on Tasman Bay, or get your culture fix at local galleries and craft stores, including the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars museum.