A Look at the New Zealand Wine Regions

New Zealand is a country that has a widely diverse climate and terrain. As such the ten primary New Zealand wine regions are also widely diverse. From north to south the regions are:

  • Northland
  • Auckland
  • Walkato/Bay of Plenty
  • Gisborne
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Nelson
  • Wairarapa
  • Malborough
  • Canterbury/Waipara Valley
  • Central Otago

Northland Region

Wine grape vines were first planted in the Northland region in 1819, although wine production in this region nearly died out until quite recently. Northland is the New Zealand’s smallest wine region. It has the warmest climate conditions and is popular for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.

Auckland Region

The Auckland region’s vineyards are mostly on the flat land on the east coast or they are planted in the shelter of the western ranges. Waiheke Island in Auckland Harbor are known for top quality red wines and the east coast which is about one hour by car north of the city of Auckland is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and other red and white wines.

Waikato & Bay of Plenty Region

South of Auckland are the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. While relatively small, they represent a steadily expanding region of vineyards growing mostly Chardonnay grapes as well as both Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The vineyards are scattered amongst the acres of rolling farmland.

Gisbourne Region

The Gisborne region is home to the eastern most vineyards in the world with grape vines that are the first to see the sun break the horizon each day. About half Gisborne’s vineyards grow Chardonnay grapes and is appropriately nicknamed the Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand.

Hawkes Bay

With more than 80 vineyards, New Zealand’s second largest wine growing region is Hawkes Bay. The wide range of soil and the widely varied topography make it an ideal place to grow a wide variety of wine grapes. Chardonnay is again the most popular wine grape variety grown here but because of the long days and plentiful sunlight, grapes that ripen later also do well here and contribute to Hawkes Bay’s century-long wine heritage.

Nelson Region

The eight largest of New Zealand’s wine regions, Nelson is also known for artists and artisans as well as its wines. Nelson is on the country’s South Island on the western side. The winemakers here are known for varieties that excel in cooler growing conditions, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir.

Wairarapa Region

Wairarapa is on the lower east side of New Zealand’s North Island. The wine district is centered in Martinborough, a town that is the oldest and best known wine center in the region. Pinot Noir grapes dominate although Sauvignon Blanc grapes do exceptionally well making a tremendous contribution to New Zealand’s reputation for quality wines.

Marlborough Region

While a relatively young wine region, Marlborough has become New Zealand’s best known and largest wine growing region. With nearly 150 vineyards, this region’s wines are known worldwide. The area enjoys a long growing season which plays a large role in the fruity flavors for which this region’s wines are known.

Canterbury/Waipara Valley Region

The fourth largest, this New Zealand wine region has two major areas—the plains around the city of Christchurch and the valley area that’s about one hour north and is known as Waipara. The region’s long and dry summers boast a lot of sun and cool weather make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir among the most popular grape varieties.

Central Otago

Finally, Central Otago is both the world’s most southerly wine region as well as New Zealand’s highest. This wine region is relatively new but it is growing aggressively and is now the country’s seventh largest. Central Otago wines are known for their intensity, vibrancy and purity, which are a perfect match for the region’s pure mountain air.

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