You'll find wine made all over New Zealand – sometimes in the most unlikely of places! From north to south here are the major wine regions. All offer opportunities for the traveller to explore and taste some wonderful wines.
One of the best ways to discover the wines of each area is on a winery and vineyard tour.Read More: Best New Zealand Winery and Vineyard Tours
The New Zealand wine industry largely owes its beginnings to Dalmatian immigrants who settled in West Auckland in the early part of the 20th Century. Many of the wineries they established are still in production. In addition, two new and trendy wine areas have emerged around Auckland - Matakana to the north and Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
Read more about: The Auckland Wine Region
As the first city in the world to see the new day, Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island makes some world-renowned wines. The white varietals, chardonnay and gewurztraminer, are particularly exciting with their full, luscious flavors.
Read more about: The Gisborne Wine Region
To the south of Gisborne and also on the east coast, Hawkes Bay is New Zealand's second largest wine region. The red wines – made from such varieties as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah – are the best known. However there are also some very memorable chardonnays.
Hawkes Bay is also one of the oldest wine regions in the country, with winemaking dating back to the 19th Century.
Wairarapa is a small region that has one main claim to fame: it makes some of the finest pinot noirs in the country. Most of the vineyards are centred around the small town of Martinborough. Being only one hour's drive north of Wellington, this is a great place to spend a day sampling local wines and the cuisine of the many excellent restaurants and cafes.
By far the largest wine region in the country, Marlborough has been largely responsible for putting New Zealand wine on the international wine map. The sauvignon blanc produced here is regarded by many as the best in the world, with its distinctively 'grassy' yet fruity flavors. Chardonnay and riesling are also impressive. New Zealand's best sparkling wines, made predominantly from chardonnay and pinot noir, are also generally from Marlborough.
Read more about: The Marlborough Wine Region
Nelson is just a two-hour drive from Marlborough and is by contrast one of the smallest wine regions in the country. There are just a handful of wineries but the long sunshine hours produce flavorsome wines that are highly rated. Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir are the major varieties grown.
Situated just to the north of Christchurch, Waipara is one of the newest wine-producing areas. The hot dry summers of the Canterbury plains are proving very suitable for helping to make fine wines. Riesling and pinot noir both do particularly well here and it's an area winemakers and consumers are watching with interest.
In addition to some of the finest scenery in the country, Queenstown has another attraction – it makes amongst the country's best wines, particularly from pinot noir. Some of the vineyards here are in truly stunning locations, so if you go to Queenstown make sure a day touring the vineyards is in your travel plans.