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Five Lesser-Known Wine Regions to Visit in New Zealand

Not mentioned: Central Otago, Marlborough or Hawke's Bay.
By Stephen Heard
September 02, 2020

Five Lesser-Known Wine Regions to Visit in New Zealand

Not mentioned: Central Otago, Marlborough or Hawke's Bay.
By Stephen Heard
September 02, 2020

You already know that drops by way of Central Otago, Marlborough and Hawke's Bay deliver the goods, but when was the last time you sought something to drink from somewhere outside the big three New Zealand wine regions. Believe it or not, Gisborne is actually the country's third largest plonk-producing region — perhaps that's because Kiwis have a profound love for the cheap and cheerful east coast native, Lindauer. Elsewhere, the winterless north is home to some of the country's first grape plantations, North Canterbury sets the scene for 90 vineyards and over 20 cellar doors, and a cluster of pioneering vineyards sit less than 30 minutes from Auckland's CBD.


Milton Vineyard.


You've likely sampled the goods of premier east coast wine region Hawke's Bay, but how about vino from 200 kilometres up the road the Gisborne? Like its east coast neighbour, the high and hot sunshine hours and fertile soil make Gizzy the ideal location for growing and making world-class wine. It's the country's third largest wine-producing region and is best known for bottling aromatic chardonnay, gewurztraminer, viognier, pinot gris and malbec. Big name bubbly label Lindauer was born here, but a visit to the region might also see you swirling drops from Milton, the country's first organic and biodynamic wine estate. Award-winning producer Matawhero Wines can also be found up the road, as well as the Bordeaux-style blends of Poverty Bay, and the single-vineyard wines of the family-owned Bushmere Estate. Wine (and RTD) lovers can even party between the vines at the largest music festival in the country, Rhythm and Vines.


Matakana Estate.


Wine lovers visiting New Zealand's biggest city are truly spoilt for choice. A cluster of award-winning and family-owned vineyards sit less than an hour's drive from the CBD. Dotted among the hillsides and bays of northern Auckland, Matakana has a warm climate that produces elegant reds — there are 28 varieties planted in the region, which makes it one of the most diverse wine growing areas in New Zealand. Here you'll find French-inspired creations and an elaborate 'if you build it, they will come' sculpture park. Heron's Flight is the only vineyard in New Zealand to specialise solely in Italian grapes, including sangiovese and dolcetto. Matakana Estate has been around since the boutique wine region first sprung to light more than 30 years ago, and Runner Duck Estate is a vineyard specialising in small quantities of French-inspired syrah, Bordeaux blends, pinot gris and rosé.


Marsden Estate.


The winterless north is where the country's first grapes were planted over 200 years ago. The wine region spans nearly 300 kilometres from Karikari in the north to Mangawhai in the south, with its subtropical climate creating full-bodied and rich wines. It's here you'll discover tropical chardonnays, vibrant viogniers, merlot blends and peppery pinotages. If you have an afternoon to wile away, Marsden Estate is found a short trip from Kerikeri airport. At the winery you can enjoy an educational wine tasting before settling on your preferred varietal. Afterwards, take a stroll around the subtropical vineyard gardens with another glass of vino. Once off the car ferry en route to Russell, make a short detour for Paroa Bay Winery, a family-owned property set against the rolling hills and overlooking its namesake watery cove. The boutique vineyard has a big focus on sustainability, using techniques of dry-grown vines across chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, syrah, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and merlot. Go for a tasting flight and stay for the Mediterranean and European-inspired menu at the onsite restaurant.




Not only a destination for necking bourbon and Coke, West Auckland is also host to a range of first-rate wine producers — some of which have been pumping out the goods for more than 100 years. A short drive ​from the CBD in and around Kumeu Valley is where the historic grape-growing region lies and where most of the vineyards were founded by families of Dalmatian (Croatian) origin. In just one day you can hop between cellar door tastings, private wine tours and full pairing degustations. Best known for chardonnay and pinot noir, the region is also ushering in a new era of wine production with aromatic grapes like the Spanish albarino. Pioneering winemakers Babich Wines​ ​have been operating out of Henderson Valley since 1916, ​Coopers Creek​ is a family-owned winery in Huapai with a reputation for producing classic regional wines, and The Hunting Lodge​ is an 80-acre estate featuring a lawn bar and cuisine from celebrated chef Des Harris. Elsewhere, you can't beat the output of boutique Waikoukou Valley producer Westbrook, the chardonnay of the Brajkovich family's Kumeu River, and the personal wine tours of Soljans Estate.


Black Estate.


Just outside of the South Island's largest city is a destination renowned for its wine and food.
The North Canterbury wine region is home to some 90 vineyards and over 20 cellar doors where you can sample interesting and expressive wines. Drops range from chardonnay and riesling to the lesser-known varietals like albarino and saint laurent — the 'wild cousin' of pinot noir. Waipara family-run vineyard Black Estate is famous for its organic and biodynamic wines, and its restaurant is often considered one of the best winery offerings in New Zealand. Elsewhere, Terrace Edge is an award-winning organic vineyard and olive grove on the Waipara River, pioneering winery Pegasus Bay offers drinkable riesling and pinot noir, and Greystone Wines dishes up a menu of organic and foraged produce. Also worth noting is Theo Coles' The Hermit Ram label which produces unfiltered and unfined natural wine out of Omihi.

Top image: Black Estate.

Published on September 02, 2020 by Stephen Heard

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