If you’re interested in wines from different regions around the world, then you’ve probably heard of wines from Australia. However, many wine aficionados haven’t tried the high-quality wines coming out of New Zealand. Offering a unique climate and great terrain, New Zealand is producing award-winning wines that rival not only Australian wines, but also wines from Old World regions.
The country is divided into the North Island and the South Island, both of which produce so much wine that they deserve individual attention. Following is a list of four of the best wine regions on South Island, New Zealand.
The country’s most well-known wine region, Marlborough is situated at the eastern tip of the South Island. Featuring approximately 20,000 hectares of vineyards, the region produces more than two-thirds of all of New Zealand’s wine. The region stands out for its high-quality Sauvignon Blancs, due to the low rainfall and long sunny days.
While it’s known for Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough also produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Riesling. Visitors can enjoy going from vineyard to another, with 30 cellars within a short drive. One of the top vineyards in the region is Cloudy Bay, which produces not only Sauvignon Blanc, but also Pinot Noir, and a Te Koko that is the product of a wild fermentation process and aging in old French oak barrels.
Another noteworthy stop in Marlborough is Fromm Winery, which is known for its single-vineyard wines. Visitors can sample a variety of food pairings, including Chardonnay with fresh oysters and Syrah with lamb, which is known throughout the world for its tenderness.
Located along the South Island’s east coast, Canterbury benefits from a long growing season due to its sunny, dry climate. The vineyards in the Canterbury Plains thrive on the shelter provided by the Southern Alps and produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Pinot Gris.
Wineries that visitors may want to try in Canterbury include Greystone, which produces award-winning wines despite having to carefully protect against frost in the winter. Be sure to try Greystone’s full-bodied Rosé and its 2016 Pinot Gris, which Decanter Magazine recognized as one of its Most Exciting Wines of 2017.
One area that has gained popularity within Canterbury is Waipara Valley, which is located north of Christchurch. In 1981, the first vines were planted in the area in Waipara Valley, which now has 1,250 hectares of vineyards and 31 wineries. A visit to Waipara Valley wouldn’t be complete without stopping by Black Estate Winery, which earned recognition as the top winery restaurant in the country at the annual Cuisine Good Food Awards in Auckland in 2017.
Located in the southern region of South Island, Central Otago is one of the southernmost wine regions on the planet. The region is known not only for its wine, especially Pinot Noir, but also for its natural beauty, which includes clear lakes and snow-capped mountains. Given its location, Central Otago experiences extreme changes in temperature, with hot summers and frigid, snowy winters.
One of the main wineries is Rippon Vineyard, which is located on the shore of Lake Wanaka and is one of the most popular vineyards among photographers. In addition to producing high-quality Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, the winery hosts the Rippon Open Air Festival, one of best music festivals in New Zealand.
Another top winery in Central Otago is Gibbston Valley Winery, which produces award-winning Pinot Noir and offers guests the opportunity to view the largest wine cave in New Zealand. The winery also attracts guests looking for both wine and outdoor activities, as it features a bike center where visitors can rent bikes and enjoy some of the best trails in Queensland.
Despite being one of the smallest wine regions in New Zealand, Nelson features a varied topography with plains and rolling hills. While Nelson is not far from Marlborough, it offers a more intimate wine and food experience, with small mom-and-pop restaurants featuring fresh seafood and great wine. Although the most popular wines here are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, the vineyards also produce Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling.
One of the most recommended vineyards in Nelson is Neudorf Vineyards, which consistently produces high-quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and maintains an intimate, family setting. Guests can enjoy Neudorf wines with a plate of meat and cheese in the vineyard’s garden.
These wine regions and vineyards are just a sample of what New Zealand’s South Island has to offer. If you visit, remember to look for subregions and smaller vineyards, which may surprise you with unique tasting experiences and wines that rival those of the most well-known vineyards on the island.