Great wine is always a matter of the perfect terroir, that blend of altitude, climate, and soil producing the essential fruit for excellent wine. Oceania offers the world just such an ideal mix of elements amid the best of New Zealand wine regions, combining outstanding grapes with some of the world’s finest vintners to please the palate of any wine lover.
Still, in this gourmand age, wineries are about more than the mere purchase and enjoyment of their signature adult concoction. To welcome the world’s wine enthusiasts, New Zealand winery venues fermenting and bottling the magic have become attractions in themselves throughout the country’s wine regions.
New Zealand is studded with winery options bottling multiple varietals with a complete selection of attractions and amenities. Here you’ll find a selection of the most popular stops when you’re planning your essential New Zealand wine journey.
The history of the grape tells us the breakthrough distributors of New Zealand sauvignon blanc more than four decades ago were the multiple wineries of the Marlborough District on the northeastern portion of the South Island.
New Zealand is the acknowledged global capital for sauvignon blanc as the natural terroir creates a national treasure, fresh, crisp, richly fruit-forward, dry and free of the barrel’s echoes. The combined effect of expert vintners and organic elements established the New Zealand product as the best—producing the most sought-after bottles internationally.
According to the coalition of New Zealand Winegrowers, more than five million glasses of New Zealand sauvignon blanc go down the world’s hatches every single day.
The Marlborough Region is still the largest exporter today, and you can begin your tour of New Zealand wineries amid the more than 140 located throughout the district. While known for its whites, this New Zealand wine region also produces a good pinot noir.
Among New Zealand winemakers, the stretch in the Marlborough District from Rapaura to Renwick is known as The Golden Mile. Through the warm weather seasons, the road becomes a hotbed for wine-loving cyclists as the four-mile ride covers multiple wineries, art galleries, drinking establishments and some of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. Both traditional and electric bikes are available.
Riders who really commit to cruising the Golden Mile can win a mystery prize by visiting at least five stops along the trail. Venues will stamp the traveler’s Golden Mile passport as he or she rides through the countryside. By collecting at least five stamps, the wine lover on the move takes home the prize.
Among the Marlborough wineries that New Zealand is known for, Cloudy Bay is an iconic name. The famous New Zealand venue has two winery attractions; one in Marlborough and another in Central Otago amid the southern stretch of the South Island.
Between that location and the long-standing winery in the Marlborough District, Cloudy Bay makes world-famous New Zealand sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, chardonnay, pelorus, Te Koko (a varietal of sauvignon blanc unique to Cloudy Bay and Te Wahi (a variation of Cloudy Bay’s pinot noir).
Cloudy Bay offers multiple tasting experiences, with some options available for custom booking. The property also includes Jack’s Raw Bar, an outside wine lounge opening in summer months, serving Cloudy Bay vintages and a selection of locally sourced dishes.
Look out for fresh Marlborough oysters, fried risotto balls, or arancini, local cheeses and homemade ice cream.
Also near Marlborough is the Saint Clair Family Estate. Creators of 15 excellent, if occasionally pricier wines, the Estate began bottling in 1994, though owners Neal and Judy Ibbotson have been in the wine industry since 1978.
In addition to selling all Saint Clair varietals, the winery includes the Vineyard Kitchen Restaurant. Serving complete, varied and locally-sourced menus throughout the day, the Vineyard Kitchen offers visitors a chance to sit among the vines during their meal.
While most wine venues boast plenty of natural beauty, many wineries can lean into the realm of stuffiness and pretentiousness. It’s all part of the show. Over at Framingham’s winery, the owners take a much less formal and potentially more entertaining take on wine—perhaps welcoming a younger crowd less invested in the formal tasting experience.
While other wineries are happy with a café, a tasting room and a restaurant, this hipper spot offers the Framingham Underground—a creative space open to the work of visiting musicians, artists and winemakers.
The venue is home to the annual Framingham Harvest Concert, a live music event offering international workers and locals a chance to celebrate the harvest while partying at the winery. Every year some 450 people come to see bands from across New Zealand take the stage.
Further south from the Marlborough District, Central Otago wineries still produce that famous New Zealand sauvignon blanc—but the region is even better known for producing pinot noir.
This heavier red wine doesn’t have the same natural connection to New Zealand wineries as the country’s sauvignon blanc, but the terroir of Central Otago produces the right fruit to make excellent pinot.
Central Otago pinot noir is hearty and rich with a fuller, earthier fruit finish. The finish is reminiscent of plum, blackberry and kiwi with finishing notes of spice and dark chocolate.
While the Marlborough District is often credited with putting New Zealand wineries on the global map, the country’s first Gold Medal for winemaking went to Romeo Bragato in 1895 for his Central Otago Burgundy in 1881.
Naturally, with such a strong winemaking culture and impressive mountainous surroundings offering some of the best hikes in New Zealand, the Central Otago region is a tourism hotbed for wine lovers and the uninitiated.
Located in the Bannockburn stretch of Central Otago, Carrick Winery is a longtime New Zealand fixture. Alison and Tony Cleland, the owners behind the facility, make it clear they value the environment in which they grow their wine and consider themselves custodians of the countryside, growing grapes organically since 2008.
In addition to the wine shop selling all of Carrick’s stocked varietals, the location offers a Wine Club (sending new bottles to test four times a year) and a restaurant with ingredients sourced locally.
Also in the Central Otago region and owned and operated by actor Sam Neill, Two Paddocks Winery is one of the highest regarded institutions in the local wine community and is the winner of the Wine Enthusiast Magazine “Best of 2021” and “Editor’s Choice” awards for its Fusilier Bannockburn.
As long as its popular vintages remain in stock, visitors to Two Paddocks can pick up in-demand bottles at the winery shop. Neill’s establishment also offers The Private Paddock Wine Club, offering access to the winery’s Redbank Farm, the Vineyard and its Clubhouse.
As New Zealand’s second-largest wine region, wineries in Hawke’s Bay have operated since the mid-1880s when missionaries began planting vines. Today, Hawke’s Bay wineries produce a complete range of reds and whites.
According to the New Zealand Winegrowers, wineries within this large New Zealand territory produce a range of delicious wines highlighted by blended red wines, chardonnay and syrah.
Hawke’s Bay breaks up into subregions, including Bay View, known for its chardonnay and pinot noir; Hillsides, dedicated to blended reds; the Alluvial Plains; the River Valleys (offering premium chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and pinot noir) and Central Hawke’s Bay. This is a cooler area that produces sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and pinot noir.
The Te Awanga estate breaks its regional wine offerings into sub-brands, but the end result is a tasty collection of sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, rosé and merlot.
The winery is especially proud of its Cellar Door experience. Tucked into an elevated site in the nearby foothills, the Cellar Door offers impressive ocean views. Visitors can taste their way through a thorough collection of Te Awanga vintages at any point through the day, alongside a seasonal food menu that updates throughout the year.
The Te Awanga owners and staff open the Cellar Door to local visual artists and monthly Sunday Sessions concerts with regional musicians.
Alternatively, visit the Mission Estate winery. Established in 1851 by French mercenaries, Mission Estate claims the title of New Zealand’s oldest winery. The location crafts a range of classic red and white varietals with a focus on locally-sourced production and purity.
All Mission Estate facilities have maintained membership as founding members of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand and remain certified with the internationally recognized environmental management system ISO 14001.
While Mission Estate also has a winery up in the Marlborough District, the Hawke’s Bay location on the North Island includes daily tours; a world-class, chef-managed restaurant with views of nearby Napier City; a Cellar Door tasting experience hosted in the restored Grande Maison seminary building; and The Farmhouse, a modern and elegant three-bedroom house built within the vineyards of Mission Estate Winery.
If you want to do a self-tour by bike, several stops along the circular, 20-mile Hawke’s Bay Wine Trail offer bike loans for the day. A smooth and manageable road connects nine winery cellar door offerings throughout Hawke’s Bay—providing fine wines and cuisine as a reward for modest athletic effort.
Unlike the Marlborough Wine District cycling tour, the Hawke’s Bay version includes some non-traditional wine attractions—including the bike-friendly confines of the Hastings Golf Club with its own restaurant, bar, and all-important rest stops.
Auckland Wine Region
Built near New Zealand’s biggest city, this large and diverse region claims some of New Zealand’s biggest wine companies operating alongside many high-quality boutique vineyards.
Feeding off a big seaside metropolitan area, Auckland ranks as one of the oldest wine regions in New Zealand, with an expansive, geographically diverse area broken into three subregions— the island of Waiheke, West Auckland and the coastal stretch of Matakana.
Auckland’s wineries produce strong and aggressive red wines, good red blends, keen syrah, world-class chardonnay and fine aromatics closer to the city limits.
Beyond Waiheke Island, the main wine-producing sub-districts are West Auckland (known for cabernet blends, syrah, chardonnay, montepulciano, petit verdot, viognier, pinot gris and merlot) and Matakana (bottling pinot gris, syrah and cabernet).
Just outside the city, the Babich family still owns the venue that carries its name, Babich Wines, and has been making wine in New Zealand since 1916. Babich makes no fewer than 13 wines in 10 separate collections across its red, white and rosé varietals.
Many of the wineries included here stress their commitment to environmental standards. Babich takes the thinking one step forward and offers collections of both organic and vegan wines. The latter are from vines untouched by animal-based fertilizers or sprays, with all grapes 100% sustainably certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.
The Auckland Basic estate includes a Cellar Door wine tasting and dining experience five days per week. Visitors can enjoy eight different wines here.
Tucked in the Auckland area’s Henderson Valley, Fino Valley Winery & Vineyard bottles a wide range of red and white wines with the occasional alternative fruit concoction via blueberries and other ingredients. A family-owned winery, Fino Valley offers more than a 100 years of vintner experience for sale in its on-property wine shop.
The current venue was founded in 1966 by Croatian immigrants Ivan and Milka Tvrdeich. The family transformed a dairy farm formerly on the land into the winery, and their original home still stands as a landmark in the middle of the Fino Valley vineyard.
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