New Zealand Wine Regions Guide

Your go to guide for New Zealand wine regions

The popularity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has meant that we often don’t talk about the incredible variety of wines being made there. However, just looking at a map tells you something about the potential for a range of different grapes, styles and quality levels. The number of different soils and micro-climates makes New Zealand a true winemakers playground!

Image Credit: New Zealand Wine Growers

Auckland

Island: North

Sub-regions: Waiheke Island, West Auckland, Kumeu, Matakana

Main Grapes: Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Gris

Auckland is home to some powerful and bold red wines but the real star is in the Chardonnay. The Chardonnay from Kumeu is now recognised on the world stage as some of the finest in the world. You can also find some very exciting Syrah being made in Waiheke but these are generally in small quantities.

Gisborne

Island: North

Sub-Regions: Ormond, Patutahi, Manutuke

Main Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Gewurztraminer

Gisborne is one of the warmest areas in New Zealand, often recording the highest summer temperatures. The wines here often reflect the warmer climate and have a more tropical character than other parts of New Zealand.

Hawke’s Bay

Island: North

Sub-Regions: Esk Valley, Te Awanga, Havelock Hills, Gimblett Gravels

Main Grapes: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon

Second in size to , but second to none in quality. Hawke’s Bay produces some of the finest Bordeaux blends and Chardonnay in all of New Zealand. The Bordeaux blends are often Merlot dominant and offer plush mouthfeel but with an edge of old world structure and minerality. The Chardonnay from Hawke’s Bay is opulent but refreshed with steely acidity.

Wairarapa

Island: North

Sub-Regions: Masterton, Gladstone, Martinborough

Main Grapes: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris

Wairarapa is home to a collection of boutique wineries, producing high quality wines from the varying soils and aspects available. Martinborough is the most famous of the sub-regions, the Pinot Noir from here are rich and perfumed. Sauvignon Blanc from Wairarapa offers a more restrained and softer style than the traditional Marlborough wines.

Nelson

Island: South

Sub-Regions: Moutere Hills, Waimea Plains

Main Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay

The northern tip of the South Island, Nelson is a little more isolated than some of the better known regions of New Zealand. But this little region punches way above it’s weight in the quality tables, the boutique wineries of Nelson are some of the most iconic. Great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Nelson are often highly perfumed and display great fruit purity. The Sauvignon Blancs from Nelson are elegant with zippy tropical fruit and great minerality.

Marlborough

Island: South

Sub-Regions: Southern Valleys, Wairau Valley, Awatere Valley

Main Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay

Marlborough has become the world’s leading producer of Sauvignon Blanc; the cool climate and plenty of sunshine makes for perfect Sauvignon growing conditions. The resulting wines are bursting with energy with strong gooseberry and grassy notes. Marlborough also produces excellent and exuberant Pinot Noir with a real focus on the fruity aromas. Don’t sleep on the aromatic varieties or Chardonnay from Marlborough, these fly under the radar and can be exceptional.

North Canterbury

Island: South

Sub-Regions: Waipara Valley, Canterbury Plains

Main Grapes: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay

Sitting between New Zealand’s Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean, provides North Canterbury with the cool climate is requires to produce concentrated wines with great fruit expression. Whilst North Canterbury is largely planted by small, high quality producers, it is actually a relatively large region (200km long). The limestone and clay soils here provide the perfect conditions for great Pinot Noir.

Central Otago

Island: South

Sub-Regions: Gibbston, Bannockburn, Cromwell, Lowburn, Pisa, Bendigo, Wanaka, Alexandra

Main Grapes: Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer

One of the most severe backdrops you will find in any wine producing regions, Central Otago is all about extremes. Central Otago is surprisingly cold for a new world wine region, snow is not unusual in the winter. The Pinot Noir here is structured with lively acidity and often long-lived. Otago is an clear comparison for Burgundy, the Chardonnay is also exquisite from this cool, mountainous region.