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Having studied viticulture from a leisure angle for many years, I've come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, only two excellent New Zealand wines - red and white.
Twenty or so years ago a 'good drop' in NZ was a field goal in rugby. These days it refers to the many fine wines grown in New Zealand - the chardonnays, sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs.
There are over 200 wineries producing around 2000 different wines throughout the country. In lay terms that means if you visited 4 wineries a day you'd need a two-month holiday. But hey, what a holiday!
The 3 main grape-growing areas are Gisborne and Hawke's Bay on the North Island and Marlborough at the top of the South Island. There are bus tours, you can hire a bike, but the most popular way is to get around is to drive. While casual visitors are welcomed, an organised vineyard tour (includes tastings) will give a greater insight. If you're taking a self-drive vacation, we can recommend wineries to visit along the way or, if you're really serious about food and wine, we can tailor-make an itinerary to suit.
And with good wine comes good food. There are many exceptional restaurants in the wine-growing areas as well as quality accommodation.
A bottle of good wine costs around NZ$10 with superior vintages costing NZ$20 - 30.
The oldest established wine-growing region and winner of many awards. Warm temperature and low humidity makes the area ideal for cabernet sauvignon and reisling.
A bit off the beaten track but rewarding both in wineries and scenery. Many varieties including chardonnay, muscat and gewurtztraminer.
There are around 20 wineries just half an hour's drive from Auckland with delightful restaurants and gardens for picnics and BBQs. If you're in the mood for a serious tasting, take the ferry (35min) from Auckland to Waiheke Island where they make some terrific reds.
This area is popular with Wellington locals (about an hour's drive from the city) and while only around ten years old, the vineyards here have won world-wide recognition for pinot noirs, cabernet sauvignons and sauvignon blancs.
For accommodation in the North Island wine areas, click here.
Twenty five years
ago, the only things that grew in the Marlborough area of New Zealand
were crops, sheep and children - now it's one of the world's great
wine producing areas with famous labels such as Cloudy Bay.
The boutique wineries nestled throughout the sunny, sheltered valleys produce consistently good pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling and many have very pleasant cafes attached. The things you'll see alongside the vineyards are hop kilns - a reminder of the German settlers who planted hops there last century.
This is a rapidly growing wine region with now over 20 wineries along the Canterbury Trail. Many are just on the outskirts of Christchurch and successful varieties include chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir.
This is also a newcomer and the southernmost grape-growing area in the world. The continental climate makes the wines distinctive and the spectacular scenery and warm hospitality in the Queenstown / Wanaka areas is legendary. Pinot noir and chardonnay dominate.
For accommodation in the South Island wine areas, click here.
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