NZ Wine Regions

New Zealand Wine Regions

This is a brief synopsis of New Zealand’s wine regions, climate, and production.

Since the first vines were planted in 1973 Marlborough (at the northern tip of South Island) has grown to become New Zealand’s largest and best known wine region.Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough’s most widely planted grape, has flourished here to international acclaim, responding superbly to the cool nights, coastal breezes and long growing season. However, New Zealand offers the winemaker great variety in climate, soil and terrain – the warmer North Island produces fantastically juicy Bordeaux varietals, and ever adaptable Chardonnay grows vigorously throughout. Cool climate New Zealand Pinot Noirs are a real rival to Burgundy.


Today, the Marlborough wine region represents 62% of total vineyard area in the country. The king varietal here is Sauvignon Blanc, closely followed by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The strong contrast between hot sunny days and cool nights help vintners extend the ripening period of their vines like nowhere else, resulting in unique expressions of their grapes. For example, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough offer unique aromas and flavors, which earns them much praise from wine lovers around the world.

The majority of Marlborough’s extensive vineyard plantings are around Renwick, Blenheim, and the Wairau valley. Further south in the Awatere valley are plantings near Seddon. These are for the most part on old terraces of the Wairau and Awatere rivers.

This is the region that put New Zealand on the wine making map. The region is concentrated around the twon of Blenheim, on the North Eastern tip of the South Island. This is where a majority of New Zealand Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris are grown. The best produers from this region are Cloudy Bay, Dog Point, Fromm, and Astrolabe.

Martinborough and Waiarapa:

John Martin is regarded as the town’s founder and set out the first streets in the pattern of the Union Flag in the 19th century. Many of the town’s streets are named after foreign cities visited by Martin. Before Martinborough was established the southern part of the region was known as Waihenga, a point that seems to be lost at times in the history of the district. A feature is the colonial architecture, one example of which is the historic Peppers Martinborough Hotel, built in 1882.

Martinborough has a large number of vineyards producing wines, notably Pinot noir. Martinborough has a warm micro-climate, with hills to the east and west. Almost all the vineyards are in thin ribbons around the northern and eastern sides of the town, and on the Dry River to the south. All follow dry riverbeds, which provide appropriate soils for viticulture.

The home of New Zealand Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir from here are more traditional burgundy style wines unlike the pure fruit driven style wines from Central Otago. Generally they are earthy and funky wines that display the terroir beautifully. The best examples of wine from here are produced by wineries such as Ata RangiAlana Estate, Dry River, and Craggy Range.

Hawke’s Bay:

Hawke’s Bay’s long, hot summers and cool winters offer the best weather for growing grapes. The climate is dry and temperate

This region is one of the most exciting in New Zealand. The temperature variation is suitable to a lot of grape varieties, thus allowing wineries to produce a wide range of wine styles and varietals. The best examples of Hawke’s Bay wine are from Craggy RangeHatton Estate, and Te Mata.

Central Otago:

Recently the cool climate varieties Riesling and Pinot Noir have been recognised as being especially suitable, and as the vines age Central Otago wines can be expected to improve even further, as the plantings are new and increasing rapidly. Central Otago is the world’s southernmost commercial wine production region.

The landscape of Central Otago is simply quite beautiful and the wines are in complete juxtaposition to their surroundings. The Southern Alps dominate the region and the wines that are made here are generally Pinot Noir. The Pinot From here tends to be more fruit driven and velvety. The best examples are from Prophets RockRippon, Misha’s Vineyard, and Mount Edward.


The most exciting up and coming wine regions in New Zealand at the present moment.

The Waipara region has a reputation as premium area for the production of Pinot noir, Reisling and Chardonnay. Waipara has the highest summer temperatures and the lowest rainfall of any of the New Zealand wine regions.

Probably the fastest grape growing region in New Zealand. The wines from here are also Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling. The wines are a cross between Central Otago and Martinborough in style and offer very good value. The best examples of Waipara wines are from Black EstateGreystone, and Pegasus Bay.