This week-long tour has been compiled especially for you wine lovers, and who doesn’t love wine? Wine from New Zealand is unique due to the oceanic climate which provides cool breezes at night and yet there are hours of strong sunshine which provides vines with a long and slow period of ripening leading to fresh and zingy flavours. You really need to go and check some out for yourselves.
A week is not very long to fully explore the spectacular South Island, but it is definitely enough time to get some good wine drinking experience under your belt and to really hone those taste buds. If you didn’t know your Chardonnay from you Pinot Gris before, this week of wine will certainly leave you in no doubt!
Let’s say that you have been in New Zealand for a while now and you have seen the best that the North Island has to offer, perhaps with one of our North Island itineraries. The next logical step is to take a 3.5 hour hop over to the South Island, across the Cook Strait and through the stunning Marlborough Sounds on the iconic Interislander ferry.
Day 1: Blenheim, the Marlborough wine region
If you leave Wellington at 0900, you will arrive in Picton in time to grab your car rental and set off for a late lunch with, you’ve guessed it, afternoon wine! The Marlborough region is world-famous and has over 23,000 hectares of vineyards, the majority of which are dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc.
Wineries are abundant in this region and the sunny days and refreshing nights mean that the grapes are incredibly aromatic and flavorful. There are over 100 wineries in the Marlborough region, and 30 in this picturesque corner of New Zealand spanning 30 kilometers. The land is flat, which means a self-guided bike tour is a great way to peddle yourself from one to the other, hampered down only by your coolers of wine.
Day 2: Waipara bound
You are going to be keen to get up super early this morning and hit the road! Only joking, you might well be feeling a little lackluster this morning following your vine-based adventures yesterday. That’s fine, there is an easy 4 hour drive down the east coast towards Waipara wine region where the fresh ocean breeze will sort out that head and you can enjoy a delicious lobster lunch, this is not called the crayfish coast for nothing!
Kaikoura is famous for the marine life that dwell here. Keep an eye out for whales and seals as you drive through, and you might consider stopping off for a Whale Watch tour. I know that after having lunch your thoughts will be turning back to the grape, so don’t miss this opportunity to visit the site of the most scenic winery in New Zealand. There is now a stunning restaurant and cellar bar on the site of the Old Kaikoura Winery where the view alone is worth your time to drive up the hill.
A couple of hours later and you will arrive in Waipara a region renowned for producing Pinot Noirs and Rieslings of an incredibly rich and spicy nature, due to the long and hot autumns that occur here.
Day 3: Waipara
This is an enjoyably lazy day flitting between some of the 75 vineyards of Waipara. There are over 1200 hectares of vines grown here and even though they are famous for the Pinot Noirs, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to compare a few of the Sauvignon Blancs to see if they are just as good as in Marlborough. Here’s a tip, they are, try them and see! A great place to do so is the word famous Pegasus Bay winery. It is set in beautiful gardens and really is a charming place to spend the afternoon.
I understand that drinking some of the best wines in the world can be exhausting, so why not spend the afternoon in Hanmer, enjoying the hot springs and other thermal delights? An hour’s drive from Waipara and well worth it to immerse yourself in the natural goodness of a relaxing hot pool.
Day 4: Christchurch
Onwards to the capital of the South Island, Christchurch. This stunning city is the heart of the Canterbury wine region. As wine regions go, this is a youngster. It dates back to just 1977 but it is making a name for itself with Rieslings and Pinot Noirs. The vineyards in this region are rather spread out so you may find yourself spending the afternoon driving and yet only visiting two or three. This area is fast becoming recognized internationally as having some of the best Rieslings in the world so why not find out exactly why this is the case at the Straight 8 Estate winery? They produce excellent Rosé and Rieslings.
Day 5: Drive, drive, drive
There is no way around it, there is plenty to see and do on the way but if you head from Christchurch to Queenstown, it is an 8-hour drive. There is of course Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo to break up your journey. You really could spend a week or more travelling between these two points, but we are in a hurry because we need wine baby!
Of course, if you have time on your hand, we would suggest stopping and spending a night to break up the journey in Tekapo, Mt Cook or even the super cozy Lake Ohau Lodge.
Day 6: Queenstown and the Central Otago Wine Region
You’ve arrived in the most scenic wine region of New Zealand. Take some time to appreciate the incredible landscapes and breathe in that air. This is the most southerly wine producing region in the world and you are lucky enough to be here and bestow your appreciation upon it with a toast of some of the best Pinot Noir known to man. Grasshopper Rock prides itself on being one of the most southerly wineries and has just a single vine, Pinot Noir. If you don’t fancy a Pinot Noir, then try the Chardonnay at Gibbston Valley which is the second most dominant vine here. At this winery you can see the wine making in process and there is also a great restaurant here.
This area is ideal for honing your skills as a connoisseur as this zone concentrates on producing quality wines and not bulk varieties. If you are looking for something different then try the Gewürztraminer, an unusual and very fragrant variety of wine.
There is a plethora of activities to entertain yourself with here, just be sure to bungy jump before the visit to the wineries and not after!
Day 7: Rippon
If you can manage to tear yourself away from Queenstown, this is a real gem. Just an hour’s drive away and you will find yourself on the shores of Lake Wanaka in Rippon. With some of the oldest vines in New Zealand and grown with biodynamic farming, the Rippon Winery is very unusual in that it pioneered the wine in this region and it will not disappoint. Apparently, this is the most photographed vineyard in the world, come and see why for yourself.
And so concludes our week of wine. You can now call yourself a sommelier and impress all and sundry with your new-found wine expertise.