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Touring New Zealand Wine Country

New Zealand Vineyards

A History of New Zealand Wine

New Zealand’s first wine grapes were planted in the 19th century by European immigrants. New Zealand’s first wine industry centered around producing strong, fortified wines for the locals. But in the 20th century, the industry shifted and began focusing on producing dry, unfortified wines to export around the world.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s New Zealand’s wine began to gain popularity in the international wine world. This popularity was mostly focused on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which even today is still the country’s most well-known wine.

While Sauvignon Blanc is still the most famous New Zealand wine today, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay are also produced here in abundance and are quickly gaining popularity. The majority of New Zealand’s wine is grown on the North Island and the on the eastern coast of the Southern Island. Both island’s are known for their cool climate and long growing season.

Despite a rather short history of wine and grape production, New Zealand has managed to become a major player in the global wine industry. New Zealand wines are now exported around the world, and enjoyed by wine lovers everywhere.

Wines of the North Island of New Zealand

The North Island of New Zealand is home to several wine regions producing high-quality wines. These regions focus on a few key grape varieties including:

  • Pinot Noir: The Martinborough and Hawke’s Bay regions on the North Island are known for their Pinot Noir, which is often described as having red fruit flavors and a silky texture.
  • Chardonnay: The Gisborne region on the North Island is the best known region for Chardonnay. It typically produces Chardonnays with fruity and floral notes and a creamy texture.
  • Riesling: The Wairarapa region on the North Island is known for its Riesling, which is often described as having a floral and citrus character with a crisp, refreshing finish.
  • Syrah: The Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne regions on the North Island are known for their Syrah, which is often described as having flavors of dark fruit and spice with a full-bodied texture.

Wines of the South Island of New Zealand

The South Island also possesses a multitude of high quality wine regions. Their most famous wines include:

  • Sauvignon Blanc: Marlborough is the one of the most famous Sauvignon Blanc regions in the world. The wines are known for bright, citrusy flavors, with a unique grassy, herbal note.
  • Pinot Noir: The South Island is also home to several regions that are known for producing high-quality Pinot Noir wines. Pinot Noir from here has distinct delicate fruity notes, and are often aged in oak barrels to add complexity and depth.
  • Riesling: The South Island is home to several regions that produce high-quality Riesling wines, which are known for their crisp, mineral flavors and aromas.

Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer are also grown with success in the South Island, although on a much smaller scale than the three most popular grapes listed above.

The History of Wine Tourism in New Zealand

Wine tourism has not been a large part of the New Zealand economy until relatively recently. But as New Zealand wine started to gain worldwide fame and popularity, the wine industry began to grow, which meant more wineries and vineyards, which in turn brought more wine tourists. The wineries quickly realized the monetary value of these wine tourists and began offering wine tastings, tours, and experiences at their facilities. And just like that the New Zealand wine tourism industry began to skyrocket.

One of the reasons wine tourism has become so popular in New Zealand is due to the myriad of activities available for tourists both related and unrelated to wine. Popular non-wine activities include touring local farms and farmer’s markets, exploring the country’s beautiful natural surroundings, visiting local restaurants and shops, and adventure activities such as hiking and boating.

What is Unique About Wine Vacations in New Zealand?

There are many things that make wine vacations to New Zealand unique and memorable. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Stunning natural beauty: New Zealand is home to a wide range of beautiful and unique landscapes like glaciers, volcanoes, mountains, and beaches. And many of the country’s best wine regions are located in incredibly beautiful areas, making New Zealand an ideal destination for wine lovers who enjoy nature.
  • The variety of wine regions: New Zealand is home to many different wine regions that produce unique wines. It’s possible to discover many different styles of wine traveling through the country, which keeps each wine region fresh and interesting.
  • The focus on sustainability: Many of the wineries and vineyards in New Zealand are committed to sustainable practices, and many are certified as organic or biodynamic. This focus on sustainability is reflected in the quality and flavor of the wines produced in the country.
  • The friendly and welcoming local culture: New Zealanders are known for their friendly and welcoming nature, which is reflected in the wine industry.

What is the Wine History of Waiheke Island?

Waiheke Island is a small island located in the Hauraki Gulf, near Auckland, New Zealand. It is known for its beautiful beaches, breathtaking landscapes, and great wines.

The history of wine production on Waiheke Island dates back to the 1970’s when the first wine grapes were planted on the island. In the decades that followed, the wine industry on Waiheke Island grew and developed, and the island’s wines gained international recognition for their quality.

Today, Waiheke Island is home to many wineries and vineyards. The most commonly planted grape varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Like much of New Zealand there is a focus on sustainable winemaking and farming, and many of the wineries use organic and biodynamic practices.

Wine tourism is an important part of the economy on Waiheke Island, and it is possible to arrange for tastings and tours at most of the wineries. In addition to wine tasting, tourists can enjoy the beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, and even participate in adventure sports like kayaking or snorkeling.

Do Tourists Need to Tip in New Zealand?

Tipping is not a common practice in New Zealand, and it is not expected in most service industries, including the restaurants. Although if you feel you have received exceptional service, a 5% to 10% tip is appreciated.

Want to read more? Try these books!

New Zealand Wines 2021- Michael Cooper's Buyer's Guide (Michael Cooper's Buyer's Guide to New Ze) The wines of New Zealand (Classic Wine Library)

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