When Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as the main location to shoot The Lord of the Rings he didn’t do so because it was his home. He chose New Zealand because it is reminiscent of a medieval European landscape.
Yet its landscape is not only being used for movies. As you might know, New Zealand, much like Europe, hosts a great number of vineyards. Its special combination of soil, climate and water make for great wine country. The moderating effect of the maritime climate with long sunshine hours and cool nights allow for flavor development while retaining fresh acidity. The differences in soil and climate from the sub-tropical Northland to the world’s most southernly grape growing region Central Otago gives every wine a unique character.
New Zealand’s first vines were planted in the Bay of Islands in Northland by a missionary. Many of New Zealand’s contemporary wineries trace their lineage back to Northland. Popular styles are Chardonnays, Pinot Gris and Viogniers. Red wines feature Shiraz, Cabernet/Merlot blends, Pinotages and Chambourcin.
Auckland is one of New Zealand’s larger and more important regions. It’s home to some of New Zealand’s biggest wine companies as well as tiny boutique vineyards and both produce some of its finest wines. It’s a diverse region with different terroirs, home to intense reds, chardonnays and an award-winning Gewürtztraminer, crafted next to Auckland’s International Airport.
The Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions are located south of Auckland. The region hosts small vineyards residing in rolling farmland. Production is mainly focused on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
High sunshine, verdant landscapes and a laid-back lifestyle make Gisborne a fascinating destination for the wine traveler. The region is the country’s third largest producer and is known for hosting a number of large wineries like Penfolds and Corban Wines. Today small-scale, quality producers are experimenting with new varieties and sites. Chardonnay is grape number one with Pinot Gris being a close second. With the region undergoing a renaissance, new land is being explored and a wide range of reds and whites are being established.
Millton is one of the region’s wineries that is making a name for itself. They use biodynamic techniques, which require a great understanding of the land and environment. Obviously this hard work results in splendid wines.
Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second largest wine region and has been an abundant source of fine wine since 1851. Its benign climate and high sunshine have established the region as ideal for viniculture. It’s best known for its Bourdeaux blend and Chardonnay but also boasts aromatic whites and impressive Shiraz.
Wairarapa is Maori for glistening waters. It’s a diverse region with boutique producers offering high-quality wines. A range of styles and varieties are on offer with standout Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc as well as Chardonnay, Syrah and dessert wines.
New Zealand’s flagship wine region is called Marlborough. It put the country on the international wine stage together with the Sauvignon Blanc. Yet the region offers more than that. Seventy seven percent of New Zealand’s wines come from Marlborough. Its cool but extremely sunny climate allows for the production of a wide range of varieties and styles.
The small but sunny region of Nelson has a tiny yet high-quality industry. It mainly produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics.
Bordering the Southern Alps, the regions of Canterbury and the Waipara Valley boast boutique producers crafting Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay and much more. It’s home to two of the country’s best vineyards, Black Estate and Pyramid Valley Vineyards. Similar to Millton, both producers craft their wines by hand and as naturally as possible resulting in characterful and delicious wines.
Last but not least is Central Otago. The region is home to a spectacular landscape and a sophisticated tourist culture as well as some of the world’s best Pinot Noir and impressive, vivid white wines.
Below is a list of our favorite New Zealand’s top wineries and wines.
Top 10 wineries
- Pyramid Valley, Canterbury
- Millton, Gisborne
- Black Estate, Waipara
- Stonecroft, Hawke’s Bay
- Woollaston at Mahana, Nelson
- Mount Edward, Central Otago
- Cambridge Road, Martinborough
- Framingham, Marlborough
- Carrick, Central Otago
- Huia, Marlborough
If you’ve tried any of these wines, let us know what you think. Cheers![Article by Alexander Eeckhout]