Best Wine Vinyards to Visit in New Zealand
New Zealand has over 500 wine producers, spread across 10 wine-growing regions that literally span the entire length and width of the country, just take a look at the map below. While most people associate New Zealand wines with sauvignon blanc, that isn’t the only varietal on the island.
You'll find lots of pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling, merlot, traditional sparkling wines, and even cabernet sauvignon. The bulk of New Zealand’s winemakers are smaller outfits, self-owned and operated. Having said that, there are some true standouts of all sizes. Here are a few of New Zealand’s top wine producers.
A Guide to Visiting New Zealand's Famous Wine Regions
New Zealand is internationally-acclaimed for its wine and successfully exports its labels all over the world. The country has been expanding its international wine profile as local vintners have become increasingly aware of New Zealand’s unique combination of soil and climate. No vineyard is further than 120km from the ocean and the country is host to long sunshine hours and cool sea breezes at night. The long ripening period brought on by these cool temperatures creates the perfect balance of flavour and fresh acidity, as well as a distinctly New Zealand taste that other varietals around the world just can’t match.
With a definite love for good food and drink, the New Zealand people are the perfect hosts to introduce you to a wide variety of fantastic flavours. Even though the country is small, its unique geography provides it with a surprisingly varied array of wine styles, and vineyards (plus spectacular scenery) virtually stretch the entire length of the nation. There are a number of very distinct major winegrowing regions throughout New Zealand, with the majority being located on the East coast of the country, lying in the shadow of its mountains.
The largest and most well-regarded wine region in New Zealand is Marlborough. Set on the top of the South Island, this region produces almost half of the country’s yearly crop and is known for its sauvignon blancs, rieslings and pinot noirs. The Hawke’s Bay region, on the east side of the North Island, is the second largest in New Zealand and one of the country’s ultimate food and wine destinations. Hawke’s Bay produces both red and white wines and is celebrated for its chardonnays, cabernet sauvignons, syrahs and merlots.
If you want to stay around the largest city, Auckland, then you can also still imbibe in plenty of fantastic wines. The Auckland area is home to some of the country’s oldest vineyards and has at least 100 wineries. This area is best-known for its rich red cabernet sauvignons and complex chardonnays. Also, just a half hour water taxi ride from downtown Auckland lies Waiheke Island, home to some of the region’s best new wineries that specialise in cabernet wines.
The fourth-largest wine region in New Zealand is Gisborne, located on the east coast of the North Island and actually the very first wine area in the world to see each new day’s sun. Gisborne vineyards specialise in buttery chardonnays but the area also produces some fine chenin blanc, gewürztraminer and riesling offerings. With so many different varieties of wine to choose from, the ultimate wine connoisseur should devote quite a bit of time to sample them all. Indeed, if you’re a wine enthusiast who is keen to sample some of New Zealand’s many wine varietals on your next holiday, one of the most flexible (and safest) options to travel around the wine regions is via a campervan.
Rather than hiring a traditional car for your NZ road trip with the added stress and cost of needing to find accommodation each night, you can instead hire a campervan. In addition, after a hard days wine sampling, having a campervan to retire in is an easy way to ensure you never drink and drive to get to your hotel, plus there is plenty of room to store all those cases of your favourite drop.
Mission Vineyards & Hawke's Bay
One of the oldest, if not the oldest, wineries in New Zealand is Mission Vineyards, established in the Hawke’s Bay area in 1865 (thought the winery claims they have been winemaking since 1851). Now, Hawke’s Bay is one of the largest winemaking areas in the country. Mission makes a variety of wines, but are well known for their outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Other vineyards worthy of your attention in Hawke’s Bay include Te Mata Estate, with its award-winning cabernet-merlot blend, as well as Craggy Range Winery, often cited as one of the most picturesque wine making spots in the country.
Marlborough is New Zealand’s most famous wine-making region, where most wine tours and travellers descend to for succulent pinot noirs, Rieslings, and the acclaimed sauvignon blancs. When visiting the area, you’ll want to check out Hunter’s Wines, which features some wonderfully impressive wines, as well as an expansive garden to wander after you’ve had your tasting.
Another noteworthy Marlborough is Yealands Estate. They were the first carbon neutral winemaking facility in the world, and they are also one of the largest private family-owned wineries in New Zealand. The winemaker exports his classic Marlborough varietals to Australia, the UK, and Holland, but you’ll find some lovely reserve label wines only available on site.
Ata Rangi & Heighfield Estate
When it comes to looking for a winery that feels quintessentially New Zealand, there are lots of choices – here are two, one on each island. Ata Rangi sits in Martinborough, a small town at the very northern tip of the North Island. “Ata Rangi” means “dawning sky” or “new beginning” in Maori, and indeed this vineyard was one of the first in this region and has quickly become one of the best pinot noirs in the country.
On the north tip of the south island, you’ll find Highfield Estate, where you’ll find a refreshing sauvignon blanc that pairs well with hike up the Tuscan-inspired tower at the estate. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy the views as the estate sits atop the Brookby Ridge; come and stay awhile and enjoy a lovely lunch or afternoon snack at the on-site restaurant (reservations recommended in summer).
Last but certainly not least is one of my favourite wine towns in New Zealand, Nelson. It’s a small arts community and a stay over point for many hikers exploring the trails in the region. Neudorf Vineyard might be a small winery, but it has a big reputation, and a great place to pick up olives, oat crackers, and cheeses in their small deli, alongside a bottle of their top pinot noir or chardonnay.