Top Ten New Zealand Wine Regions

December 18, 2011 | Author: | Posted in Travel for Foodies

Choosing New Zealand’s top ten wine regions is not exactly hard work. In fact, as an exercise in Top Ten selection, it is smoother than a 2009 Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Merlot. For all intents and purposes, New Zealand only has ten major wine regions, but they produce world class wines. Let’s start from the top – geographically speaking, of course.


New Zealand Wine Regions

New Zealand Wine Regions

New Zealand’s largest city is home to New Zealand’s largest winemakers, but for a more personal experience, visit the boutique producers in South Auckland, particularly around Drury, Clevedon and Papakura. An increasing number of Italian style wines are being made in this area.

Waiheke Island 

It may be an island in Auckland Harbour, and just 30 minutes by ferry to the city, but thanks to its different climate, Waiheke stands alone as a wine region. The reds being made on Waiheke Island are coming into their own, with the warm, dry climate ensuring the grapes are fully ripe when picked, something not always achieved in the cooler climes of Auckland.

Waikato – Bay of Plenty 

Just south of Auckland and not as prolific, but the variety makes up for a lack of size. A particularly lush region, better known for dairy farming and horticulture, but the wineries are easily accessible and visitor-friendly.


Like your Chardonnay? Winemakers in Gisborne, just north of Hawke’s Bay, say they make the best Chardonnay in the country. It is very good, and so is their Gewürztraminer; the white varietals are definitely the standouts in Gisborne. Stay overnight if you can and wake up in the first city in the world to see the sun each day – another Gisborne claim to fame.

Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay might be New Zealand’s second largest wine region, behind Marlborough, but it is definitely number one in producing world-class Bordeaux style reds – many of them made from the super ripe grapes grown on the Gimblett Gravels. Hawke’s Bay is also gaining renown for elegant Syrah, and the Chardonnay is not bad either. With more than 70 wineries in the region, book an escorted wine tour and let your guide lead you to the very best.


Cool climate wines excel in this region, 90 minutes north of Wellington. The most notable is Pinot Noir, with Martinborough and Central Otago in a perennial fight for bragging rights when it comes to producing the best in New Zealand. The village of Martinborough is a lovely place; the once sleepy farming town is now a lively destination for wine lovers and foodies alike.


One of the sunniest places in New Zealand, Nelson uses those sunshine hours to good effect in producing a wide variety of appealing white wines, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.  Meanwhile the emergence of Pinot Noir will keep red drinkers happy. With golden beaches, picture-postcard scenery and a thriving arts scene, Nelson is a great place to visit anyway, with the quality wines an added bonus.


New Zealand’s largest wine producing region makes a wide variety of wines but is known the world over for one varietal only. Sauvignon Blanc. However, during a visit to Marlborough, you’ll also have the opportunity to taste award winning Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, and Gruner Veltliner, the white varietal which could make Marlborough world-famous all over again. This is the favourite destination for those taking up New Zealand car hireor campervan hire  option– a week spent touring the local wineries is a week well spent!


Just north of Christchurch, and boasting several chateaux that could be right out of the Napa Valley,  Waipara is growing in popularity with wine lovers thanks to near-perfect growing conditions. Pinot Noir and Riesling are the standouts but nearly every wine taste is catered for.

Central Otago

Cool winters and hot summers combine to make Central Otago a prime wine region, particularly for fans of bold, fruit-driven Pinot Noir. Some of the world’s best Pinot Noir is made in Central Otago, and the views from some cellar doors are world class too. After a day’s wine tasting, the evening delights of beautiful Queenstown await.

After visiting each of these regions, you’ll have tasted the variety and quality that the New Zealand wine industry is renowned for.  And if you stumble across an 11th region, keep it to yourself. A Top Eleven list doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.


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