Taste Your Way Around New Zealand’s Wineries
Making great wine is a passion for many New Zealanders. With nine winemaking regions, there is no doubt that you will find yourself passing by vineyards on your travels. Perhaps you will even be working in a vineyard or winery, as viticulture is a top backpacker job in New Zealand.
Of course, the Kiwi culture values work and especially play, so make sure you take the time to relax and taste some of the wines that have put New Zealand on the map in various international wine awards. One thing is for sure, you’ll be very “grapeful” for the opportunity to taste these wines…
As the largest winemaking region, Marlborough holds 60% of New Zealand’s vineyards. With more than 140 wineries, it’s not exactly hard to find a winery tour around here. The region is known for making fantastic Sauvignon Blanc so this will be a big aspect of your wine tour. Tour operators usually pick up from Blenheim and Picton.
2. Central Otago
Visit Central Otago to experience some rare features of winemaking. Tour around Queenstown, Gibbston Valley, Bannockburn and Cromwell to discover how cool-climate wine is made in the world’s most southern wine-making region. Take the Gibbston River Ride bike trail to cycle from winery to winery. Otherwise, there are many wine tour operators based in Queenstown to make sure you don’t miss a glass of Pinot Noir!
3. Hawke’s Bay
If you’re staying in Hastings, Napier and Havelock North, take the time to visit the scenic locations of the Hawke’s Bay wineries along the river valleys and hillsides. There are 72 wineries in the region producing the most Cabernet Merlot and Syrah wine grapes in New Zealand.
Small wineries in the very north of New Zealand take advantage of the almost Mediterranean climate to produce tropical Chardonnays, Pinot Gris and Viogniers. The only “wine tour” in Northland is a helicopter wine tour, but, let’s be honest, not many backpackers can afford to casually fly from winery to winery! Your best bet is a self-drive tour.
Wine tour operator in Northland: Salt Air.
5. Waipara, Canterbury
About 40-minutes drive from Christchurch is the relatively new but ever-growing wine region of Waipara. Known for its Riesling and Pinot Noir, you can learn how wine is made in the climate of hot and dry summers, and frosty winters. There are 31 wineries, 12 with cellar doors, and four with winery restaurants.
Wine tour operators in Canterbury: Canterbury Wines, Leisure Tours and Waipara Wine Tours.
Located on the East Cape of the North Island, Gisborne’s sunny climate and fertile plains contribute towards excellent Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Malbec. Taste from a variety of Gisborne wines in The Gisborne Wine Centre located in the harbour or go straight to the source with a tour operator.
Wine tours operators in Gisborne: Gisborne Wine Tours, Tairawhiti Tours, and The Gisborne Cycle Tour Company.
From the rural settings just outside Auckland City to the beautiful Waiheke Island, there are many wineries and vineyards to choose from in the Auckland region. Auckland has become popular for winemakers of Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. If you are on Waiheke Island, just pick up a map, rent a scooter or bike, and go on a winery crawl. Otherwise, Kumeu in West Auckland is also a popular place for winos.
Despite Nelson being the fourth largest producing wine region in New Zealand, geographically, it is one of the smaller regions. You can visit most of the wineries in a single day. Nelson produces a bit of everything from the Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris to the Montepulciano, Syrah and Pinot Noir. Pick up a brochure for the Great Taste Trail to find wineries by bike or check out 23 Nelson Wineries on the Nelson Wine Trail.
Wine tours operators in Nelson: Bay Tours Nelson, Nelson Tours & Travel, Wine, Art & Wilderness Tours, and VeloVino Tours.
9. Waikato – Bay of Plenty
This winemaking region combines two provinces south of Auckland. ProducingChardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, Waikato – Bay of Plenty has small vineyard plantations that are steadily growing. There is not much choice in wine tours in this region, so a self-drive tour of the wineries in between visiting beautiful beaches or going black water rafting is your best option.
Wine tour operator in Waikato – Bay of Plenty: Tauranga Tasting Tours.