Food and wine is an essential ingredient in a New Zealand experience – whether that’s fine dining or casual outdoor meals, tasting at the cellar door, mingling with local producers at farmers markets, or an authentic Maori hangi (underground steam-cooked feast) experience. Innovative New Zealand chefs combine ingredients freshly harvested from garden, land and sea while Pacific influences, organics and indigenous foods make it unique. And, taste is paramount.
New Zealand was a latecomer to making wines but has more than made up for it. Today, New Zealand wines receive international acclaim and New Zealand winemakers work all around the world. Known as ‘cool climate’ wines, the long growing season produces subtleties and nuances in the flavors. The most notable example of a cool-climate wine is the unique style of Marlborough sauvignon blanc which has numerous international awards. Other varieties receiving international recognition are chardonnay and, increasingly, red wine varieties such as pinot noir and the Bordeaux (cabernet sauvignon/merlot) blends.
There are vineyards and wineries throughout all of New Zealand, from the top of Northland to the depths of Central Otago in the South. Most welcome visitors for tastings. The North Island’s Hawkes Bay is wine country. This is a place where the partnership of good wine and gourmet food are celebrated. Many wineries have their own restaurant where they serve their own wines with local delicacies.
Classic New Zealand Wine Trail
The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail is a signposted 380km (240 mile) self-drive touring route starting in Napier in Hawke’s Bay and heading south through Wellington. The trail finishes in beautiful Marlborough at the north of the South Island. Travel through five of New Zealand’s most interesting and scenic regions, including three major wine growing areas that account for more than 70% of the country’s wine production. While the main focus of the journey is wine and food, the route also serves up all kinds of cultural and adventure experiences.
On this touring route you’ll have the opportunity to taste and shop at more than 120 cellar doors, as well as a multitude of vineyard restaurants and cafés. Hawke’s Bay is the land of robust cabernet sauvignon and merlot; in Wairarapa, pinot noir gets star billing; Marlborough is blockbuster sauvignon blanc country.
Another appealing aspect of this journey is the chance to visit a variety of provincial towns and cities. Hastings and Napier have some of the finest Art Deco and Spanish Mission architecture in the world, courtesy of a major rebuild following a catastrophic earthquake in 1931. You'll also find an Art Deco masterpiece in the middle of Tararua’s lush countryside - the Tui brewery’s brick brewing tower isn’t in use today, but it marks the spot for brewery tours and a beer or two.
Wine, food and music are three of the happiest words in the world, as any gourmand would agree. Around the Wairarapa region there are charming historic townships to discover - Greytown, Featherston, Carterton and Martinborough. In the South Island you can explore the port town of Picton, where life revolves around the sea. Marlborough’s main centre is Blenheim, a friendly town that looks after the local wine industry with great restaurants and interesting places to stay (you can even stay in a convent). Recently, a new museum opened in Blenheim - it houses the world’s largest private collection of WWI aircraft.
The most urban element of the trail is Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. You can browse the exhibits at Te Papa, the national museum; catch a cable car to the botanic gardens and observatory; stroll around Oriental Parade to Mount Victoria; and see the extraordinary Beehive, the centre of political power in New Zealand.