Explore New Zealand's North Island Wine Regions
New Zealand's North Island offers the perfect mix of culture, rich history, and singular natural beauty. When it comes to wine, they easily live up to the island's fantastic reputation as a must-visit destination worthy of everyone's bucket list. So let's take a deeper look at the North Island's wine regions, from the legendary New World classics from Hawke's Bay to the dazzling wines coming out of Gisborne, Wairarapa, and Auckland.
Auckland may not produce a large amount of wine, but what the region lacks in volume it more than makes up for in quality. Warm and humid and a patchwork of soils including volcanic, clay, sandstone, and silt offer winemakers all they need to make outstanding wines. Red varieties slightly outnumber white wine varieties in terms of plantings, with Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, and Syrah leading the way, but Auckland's producers also create gorgeous Chardonnays and Pinot Gris.
Just off the coast lies Waiheke Island, an Auckland subregion whose climate is slightly warmer and drier than the mainland Auckland region. The influence of the sea tempers the sunny days with cooling breezes, allowing grapes to ripen beautifully and develop rich flavour while retaining the acidity necessary to achieve well-balanced wines.
Hawke's Bay has it all. With a warm climate which is softened by cooling fogs, the growing season here is long – ideal for building up flavour in grapes. Several rivers run through the region, lending their influence to the local terroir, particularly in the form of soil deposits. The most famous is the Gimblett Gravels subregion, whose stony soils are reminiscent of Bordeaux's Left Bank and produce wines of similar nuance and intensity. As New Zealand's second largest wine region, there are plenty of terroirs and microclimates to be found in Hawke's Bay. This diversity has given rise to the wide variety of grapes and styles of wine produced across Hawke's Bay's magnificent landscape.
Winemakers in Hawke's Bay regularly produce award-winning Syrah, Bordeaux style blends (featuring the classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc) as well as monovarietal wines from the same grapes, Pinot Noir, and vivid Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris, in addition to several others. You won't ever grow bored with these wines.
Distinguished by ample sunshine, Gisborne lies on the North Island's east coast. It is home to the first vines to see the light of the new day. Chardonnay is Gisborne's star wine grape. Winemakers produce delightfully ripe, expressive styles which will please every Chardonnay lover. Also found in Gisborne are terrific Pinot Gris (the second most planted grape in the region after Chardonnay), Sauvignon Blanc, and a smattering of aromatic grapes like Gewurztraminer and the odd Merlot. You'll find excellent traditional method sparkling wines in Gisborne, so be sure to keep this region in mind next time you're in the mood for a little festive bubbly.
At the southernmost tip of the North Island lies Wairarapa. It's a small region which benefits from its proximity to the Tararua Range. The mountains create a rainshadow effect, blocking storms coming off the sea. Martinborough is the subregion to take note of here, with its many artisan family-owned vineyards. Cool climate loving varieties excel here, so if you love quality Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or Riesling, Martinborough wines are definitely for you.
With so much to offer, both with its incredible beauty and marvellous wines, you'll be doing yourself a favour by taking a better look into the North Island's wine regions. Preferably with a glass of wine in hand.