Area of North Island new ZealandNorth Island area New Zealand
Take a ferry to Waiheke Island or drive to a wine region north of the city.
New Zealand's best vineyards on North Island
NOORTH ISLAND, N.Z. - If you are travelling to the North Island of New Zealand with the aim of reaching most vineyards in a hurry, you are in the right place. Over 75 percent of the country's wines are made in the Marlborough area of the South Island.
North Island is home to six winegrowing areas that produce as diverse a vintage as anything else grown further down the southern coast. Richard Robson has experienced changes in taste in the Matakana Estate area, less than an hour's driving time north of Auckland, during the ten years he was a winegrower at Matakana Estate.
It is the biggest of the 18 vineyards in the area. Though he still makes a Burgundy styled white wine, he says consumers now favour simple to drink white wine over strongly calibrated chardonnays. You need to make an appointement to sample Robson wine, but the small Brick Bay Estate is open all year round.
Though it only makes three to five bottles of wine a year, it is still a good idea to stop by the glasshouse and the sculpture path - an open-air museum with more than 50 large works of work. Near Ransom Wine you will try offers you cannot buy at home - the small, family-run vineyard does not ship to Canada.
However, a Compleat PiG in my case, a so-called "orange wine" made from cask-fermented Pinot Gris bunches, somehow found its way home. Wink and you will miss it, but the Auckland Wines Area is even nearer New Zealand's foremost town. The Kumeu River Wines, only half an hour's car ride from Auckland, was established in 1944 by Mick and Kate Brajkovich and is now run by their grandsons - winegrower Michael, his Sr. Marijana and sr. Milan and Paul.
His Chardonnays have received a number of honours and awesome praises from other New Zealand winegrowers. Brajkovich says that he was experimenting with different types of grapes on the estate before working on it. "He says that the vine is particularly suitable for the Kumeu region's weather and soils.
As most of the half-doughed estates in the area, established by Croats who came to New Zealand in the 1930' s and 1940', it initially concentrated on enriched wine in portrait and semi-sparkling style, which was proving to be very much in favour in a then mainly beer-drinking area. However, since the 1960' New Zealand winegrowers have been attracted to varieties such as Chamonnay, Pinoot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Mlbec.
Soljans Estate and West Brook, also established by Croats, produce everything from tingly rosés to yellow-brown harbours. Visiting this wine-growing area while you can - Auckland's sky-high property rates are pushing many inhabitants to look outside the town, and rustic areas near the town are aimed for urbanization.
Further southwards lies the Hawke's Bay area with a share of about 10 percent of New Zealand vines, making it the North Island's biggest wine-growing area. Hawke's Bay's gentle hilly countryside and superb cycle tracks are perfect for two-wheel exploration. During a dinner and wineries trip with Jenny Ryan from Takaro Trails we made box stopovers at the small Black Barn Winecellar and the Chalk and Cheese Cafe where Joanie Williams makes some of the most famous artisanal herbs.
"Nowhere else in the whole wide wine-growing region do I know where the vines are so near the sea," says managing director Andreas Weiss, who took over the vineyard established by his fathers in 2003. Michael Banck's wine cellar offers a view of the vineyard and offers wine from Syrah and Merck to Syrah and Gris.
Is it better to be in the middle of the vineyard or is it just an alibi to see New Zealand's winelands? And I was flying Air New Zealand. From Vancouver the carrier operates flights directly to Auckland (with flights to Toronto via the Air Canada carrier) and from Auckland to Napier.
New Zealand's simplest and most secure way to visit the winelands is with a leader (New Zealand has stringent legislation against drink and driving). WinePro's John McFarlane takes you on a guided walk through the Auckland and Matakana winegrowing area. The Matakana Company organizes dining and wineries in the Matakana area. We will meet you at your Mt. in Auckland.
Hawke's Bay is home to Takaro Trails, offering a variety of self-managed, self-managed, self-paced, self-catering wine itineraries. The Citylife Auckland provides roomy suite accommodation near the town centre. Accompanying Tourism New Zealand, Joanne Blain has not reviewed or approved this film.