If you are in desperate need of a holiday, chances are your taste buds are too. Just as New Zealand is famed for it’s body, vibrancy, and purity, so is its wine. The industry contributes more than $1.5 billion to the national economy each year. Dotted throughout the South Island are hundreds of wineries, each with their own story to tell, and each region with their own unique terrain. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to get you started before you take to the road. And a little tip… it’s not all sauvignon blanc!
The Nelson wine region is made up of the sub-regions of Moutere Hills, Waimea Plains and the Tasman Bay coastline where you can find almost 30 wineries. With its 200 year-long history, vintners of the region have enjoyed widespread recognition and created award-winning produce. It’s a compact region with less than an hour’s drive from top to bottom. You could experience the region in a day, but we think it deserves at least a few. The region enjoys high sunshine hours and a cool coastal climate which makes for rich flavours in the most elegant of drops. Add to that the stunning backdrop of Tasman Bay and you have a natural synergy which any wine-lover will cherish.
Total area: 11 square kilometres
What’s grown here? Sauvignon Blanc (55%), Pinot Noir (16%), Pinot Gris (11%), Chardonnay (10%), Other varieties (8%)
Neudorf – Drive through hop gardens, apple orchards and berry farms to find yourself at Neudorf’s cellar door just outside the creative village of Upper Moutere. The team claims to run on a great deal of hard work, good luck, and a lot of fun. And it’s paid off, with The Real Review naming their 2019 Chardonnay New Zealand’s best. Visit the cellar door for a taste – they’ll happily arrange postage for the case you’ll no doubt want to ship home.
Gravity – In their own words “innovative winemaking meets minimal intervention” at Gravity Winery. The name says it all, Gravity is just one of two state of art gravity fed wineries in Australasia. A winery and tasting tour will take you through the four levels of tanks and barrels until you arrive at the cellar door where you can pair a nice drop with a tasting platter, savoury or sweet.
Renting a car for your South Island holiday is a great way to explore the island and visit the wineries at your own pace. It goes without saying that we are all about responsible drinking and never hitting the road if you are under the influence. There are a range of day tours available that allow you to enjoy the region’s wines with an experienced local as your driver and guide. But to add some spice to the notes of your day, we recommend renting a vintage scooter or classic car.
It makes sense that when we think about New Zealand wine, the first thing that comes to mind is a Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Not only is it by far the biggest wine region of New Zealand, but 80% of the wine in this region is exactly that… sauvignon blanc. Marlborough is one of New Zealand’s most sunny and dry regions. The soil is fertile, leading to flavours so vivid you can almost see the flowers and fruits that come through with each sip.
Total area: 278 square kilometres
What’s grown here? Savignon Blanc (80%), Pinot Noir (10%), Pinot Gris (4%), Chardonnay (4%), Other varieties (2%)
Hanz Herzog – Hans Herzog is an organic single estate vineyard and winery, where 100% of its wines are grown, produced and bottled on site. The family has a wine growing history that dates all the way back to the 16th century. Hans himself oversees the production of not just the famous sauvignon blanc of the region, but 28 different grape varieties. A visit to the cellar door is a must, where you will find older vintages only available on site, and have the opportunity to take a wine lover’s flight or an exclusive estate tour.
Wither Hills – The team at Wither Hills bring with them three decades of experience, and a commitment to painstaking labour over every drop and vintage. The wine blending experience gives you an introduction to wine making and viticulture and even gets you hands on, with the opportunity to blend your very own pinot noir.
There’s no doubt that good wine should be celebrated. The Marlborough Wine and Food Festival, held on the second Saturday in February, does exactly that. This is a great day out where you can sample produce from all the top winemakers in the region in one place, with top Kiwi artists providing the entertainment, and food producers from across the country in attendance too.
Compared to the Marlborough, this region may not be huge, but it certainly packs some punch. Spanning 200 kilometres along the east coast of the South Island, North Canterbury is home to over 90 vineyards, most of them independently owned. A strong presence of limestone in the region married with warm days and cool nights results in a strong reputation for premium pinot noir and chardonnay. What’s more, clay over limestone soils are very similar to those of Burgundy in France.
Total area: 14 square kilometres
What’s grown here? Pinot Noir (16%), Sauvignon Blanc (29%), Pinot Gris (15%), Riesling (14%), Chardonnay (7%), Other varieties (4%)
Black Estate – Organic and spray free, the team at Black Estate believes that respect and care for land allows their vines to grow in natural balance. A designated winemaker tour will take you behind the scenes of why caring for the land is so central to producing quality wines. Lunch here is a must, but if you’re looking to put some frizz in your frizzante, we recommend booking a truffle hunt where you will search for perigord truffles under the limestone escarpments of Waipara Gorge, which will later be used in your four-course lunch with matching aged wines.
Terrace Edge – Named Riedel Organic Winery of the Year at the 2021 New Zealand Organic Wine awards, Terrace Edge is also a family owned olive grove situated on the south bank of the Waipara River. Originally a sheep farm, the conversion began in 1999 with the planting of 2000 olive trees. And when it comes to grapes, they have carefully matched the variation in soil on the property with their ideal grape varieties. While heavy-bodied wines are not what the region is best known for, Terrace Edge is perhaps most favoured for its syrah, with its velvety tannins, spice, and great finesse.
The cellar doors of North Canterbury are within easy reach of Christchurch Airport, so you could be sitting down down in a quaint cellar door, tasting local produce just minutes after your arrival. The Waipara Valley Vineyard Trail connects various cellar doors and was developed by the Hurunui Trails Trust to encourage visitors to cycle through the valley. You might even be lucky enough to spot a truffle along the way.
It’s hard to believe you haven’t arrived in Tuscany when you’re in the Central Otago wine region. It’s a landscape of extremes as one of the world’s southernmost wine regions and New Zealand’s highest. Just like Tuscany, you’ll find snow-capped mountains, deep valleys and glistening rivers. It’s also the only region in New Zealand with a continental climate of hot days, low rainfall, and cool nights. The landscape is as varied as the flavours that burst through each drop of wine from the region, with pinot noir the flourishing favourite.
Total area: 19 square kilometres
What’s grown here? Pinot Noir (81%), Pinot Gris (9%), Chardonnay (4%), Riesling (3%), Sauvignon Blanc (2%), Other varieties (1%)
Carrick – The setting alone is enough to make a visit to Carrick worthwhile. Picture yourself, kicking back on a sunlit deck, looking out over Bannockburn Inlet, Carrick Range is your backdrop, the vineyards are quietly working with Mother Nature off to the side, and you can just see the underground cellar below you through glass panels in the floor. Cancel all your other plans – once you sit down, you won’t want to move for the rest of the day, particularly if you are enjoying a tasting flight of wines from the estate’s organic range.
Cloudy Bay – Fit for any occasion, adaptable to any season. When you think of a wintry lakeside setting, with a glass of wine by a burning fireplace, think of Cloudy Bay. When you think of a relaxing summer afternoon, with breathtaking outdoor spaces, think of Cloudy Bay. These are best imagined paired with a tailor-made tasting experience with a Cloudy Bay Ambassador.
Home to New Zealand’s largest wine Cave, Gibbston Valley is just 30 minutes from Queenstown. On your tour of the winery, you’ll wander through the vineyards and then head underground to see where the magic really happens, the wine cave. With an ultra-cool ambience, it’s here you’ll learn all about the perfect wine and cheese pairings. The onsite accommodation is a pure delight. You’re going to want a couple of days to spend in one of the 24 villas, taking your time to soak up the sun on your north-facing terrace, reading a book by the fireplace in the main lodge, and being pampered in the day spa.
What the Waitaki Valley lacks in size and age, being just 20 years old, it makes up for in potential. This is already evident in the elegant pinot noir wines which have claimed award-winning status. Nestled inland, mountain terrains overlook rivers that twist and intertwine amongst themselves, as cool-climate varieties thrive all around.
Total area: 0.6 square kilometres
What’s grown here? Pinot Noir (49%), Pinot Gris (24%), Riesling (10%), Chardonnay (9%), Other varieties (8%)
Ostler – While the wineries in Waitaki Valley may be new, the land has been primed for thousands, if not millions, of years. And that’s no exception for Ostler. International recognition and accolades were not long in wait since the first planting of vines in 2002. And the team is ready and waiting at the cellar door to introduce you to their range from pinot noir through to their pinot gris, riesling, rosé and gewürztraminer.