Wine is the liquid symphony of nature. It’s the artform that you can fricking-well taste and a pourable poetry that gets you ever so nicely loaded (and everybody loves being just a little bit loaded right?). We just love wine, and as you already know we sure love travel and so it follows that we really, really dig wine tourism.

And when you combine el vino with the breathtaking landscapes, cultural richness, and warm-hearted locals of New Zealand (my new favourite country), well then you’ve got the recipe or the perfect blend for an unforgettable experience on your hands (and on your tongue). 

During my recent road trip of a lifetime around New Zealand, I had the privilege of sipping exquisite wines straight from the barrel in some of New Zealand’s premier vineyards. Take it from me, it was one of the highlights of my trip and I can testify first hand that a New Zealand winery tour is where the art of winemaking blends effortlessly with the spirit of Kiwi hospitality.

In this post I will share my insider picks for finding the best vineyard tour in New Zealand.

Great Scenic Destination in New Zealand

What Is a Vineyard Tour?

Let’s start with the very basics and address the question of what is a vineyard tour. Well, a vineyard tour (or winery tours) is a journey into the heart of a winemaking region and visit some of the area’s vineyards (basically farms where grapes are grown and turned into wine). Enterprising vineyard owners long ago realised that wine enthusiasts are interested in the wine making process and would pay good money for the chance to peep behind the scenes.

A vineyard tour is an opportunity to explore the winery’s environment, learn about the grape cultivation, harvesting methods and the entire production process. Experienced vine makers will allow visitors to tour the grows, touch the barrels and will answer any questions they might have about the divine art of wine making.

Wine drinking couple toasting at vineyard

Finally, all visits conclude with a wine tasting session where visitors are also positively encouraged to sample some of the best wines on offer usually served up with a few delicious nibbles.

Do note that no two vineyard tours are quite alike and the experience can range from a simple winery visit to elaborate luxury experiences. Some even include accommodation, allowing you to extend your wine experience into the night or even live on the vineyard for a while. A vineyard tour is an essential element of wine tourism and an experience every wine lover should embark on when in NZ.

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    Wine Regions of New Zealand

    Map of Zealand

    New Zealand is a country blessed with rugged coastlines, vibrant cultural centres, and a buzzing backpacker scene. Its climate, topography and geology also mean that the country is perfect for grape growing and is now home to some of the world’s best wine regions.

    Because both islands produce top-notch wine, you will be able to find a world class winery to tour no matter where exactly in New Zealand you are staying. Of course, hardcore wine devotees will have their own prefered New Zealand wine region which they wish to visit (for me, it’s Marlborough as I seem to have inherited my Mother’s love for a Sauvignon Blanc).

    Let’s explore some of these regions and the exquisite wines that they produce.

    North Island Wine Regions

    Known for its vibrant cities and breathtaking coastlines, the more populous North Island also boasts some of the best wine regions such as Hawke’s Bay and Waiheke Island. These regions are known for their full-bodied reds and aromatic whites. Here is an insider tip, note that some of the North Island vineyard offers good volunteering gigs and even some of New Zealand’s best seasonal jobs.

    Hawkes Bay

    Hawkes Bay wine region

    Hawke’s Bay, situated on the east coast of the North Island and is the oldest wine region in New Zealand as well as the second largest.

    The Hawkes Bay region is blessed with a diverse range of soil types and a warm, dry climate. This climate, along with  extended sunshine hours in summer (which falls in the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter remember!), makes Hawke’s Bay one of the hottest regions in New Zealand and  excellent for viticulture.

    Hawke’s Bay is especially known for its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay. The Gimblett Gravels area, a sub-region of Hawke’s Bay, is particularly acclaimed for the high calibre of its red wine production, thanks to the gravelly soils left behind by the old Ngaruroro River.F

    Auckland and Waiheke

    Waiheke Island Auckland region

    Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and Waiheke Island is a beautiful island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand a mere 40 minute ferry ride away. Both are fantastic destinations for wine enthusiasts.

    Auckland’s wine region is unique as it’s nestled among the urban environment. The city boasts several quality vineyards that produce award-winning wines, with a particular focus on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. The region’s volcanic soil lends these wines a distinctive taste and quality. Auckland is also home to some of New Zealand’s oldest established vineyards, many of which are still family-owned and operated.

    As for Waiheke, the island’s Mediterranean-like climate is ideal for growing grapes, especially Bordeaux-style red blends and Syrah. At this time, Waiheke has around 30 boutique wineries and most of them offer wine tastings and a few even offer accommodation options amongst boasting stunning views of the ocean and vine-covered valleys.

    Offering a blend of urban chic and island charm, this tour boasts some of the best wineries in Auckland and on Waiheke Island, producing a stunning array of red and white wines.

    South Island Wine Regions

    South Island, with its vast mountains and beautiful fjords is where visitors go to hilke and to get away from it all. It also offers wine lovers an array of impressive vineyards. The Marlborough and Waipara wine regions are famous for their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, respectively.

    Marlborough

    Marlborough region South Island New Zealand

    Located at the northeastern end of the South Island, Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest, and perhaps best known wine region. Marlborough is renowned globally for its vibrant and flavorful Sauvignon Blanc wines which appear in most supermarkets and restaurants in Western Europe these days.

    Marlborough boasts a varied landscape of wide flat valleys, rugged mountains, and a beautiful coastline with sheltered waterways. The region enjoys a temperate climate, with high sunshine hours and a low annual rainfall. This provides a long, dry growing season and allows a diverse range of grape varieties to grow (though the area is predominantly known for its Sauvignon Blanc).

    The Marlborough Vineyard Tour stands as a shining jewel in the crown of New Zealand’s wine tourism. Offering a tantalising array of Sauvignon Blanc, this tour is a wine lover’s dream come true.

    Waipara

    Vineyards in Waipara New Zealand

    Waipara is a small yet significant wine region situated on the South Island. Waipara is situated north of Christchurch in the Canterbury area and is well renowned for its unique terroir that lends itself beautifully to the production of high-quality wines.

    Waipara has a cool, dry climate, and its geography offers decent protection from the cool ocean winds. This comboresults in a long, slow ripening period that allows Waipara grapes to develop rich, intense flavours.

    Though Waipara is a relatively young wine region compared to Marlborough or Hawke’s Bay, it is fast gaining recognition for its exceptional Pinot Noir and Riesling (a personal favourite and a seriously underrated wine). The area also produces notable quantities of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and some quaffable Sauvignon Blancs.

    Martinborough

    New Zealand Scenery Martinborough

    Not quite a region, Martinborough is in fact a small wine village located just a short drive from Wellington in the South Wairarapa on the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island. The region is home to a few of New Zealand’s national parks too. The town itself is seriously charming and picturesque, making it a popular destination in its own right and just perfect for a spot of New Zealand wine tourism.

    Known for its world-class, full bodies and noseful Pinot Noir, Martinboroogh has a cool, dry climate and is notably characterised by its low rainfall. The terroir of Martinborough is also pretty unique, with a combination of alluvial gravel terraces and climatic conditions which create excellent conditions for viticulture.

    As well as its acclaimed Pinot Noir, Martinborough also produces some impressive Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a cracking Syrah.

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    The Best New Zealand Winery Tours

    There are over 700 wineries and 700 grape growers across New Zealand. While only a minority of these offer vineyard tours, there are still hundreds of different New Zealand winery visits to choose from. With so many different options on offer picking the best New Zealand wine tour can prove seriously and severely overwhelming and for that reason, we have made this insider run down to help you out.

    Without further ado, here are the top winery tours in New Zealand that you must experience.

    Marlborough Wine Tour

    Marlborough Wine Tour
    • Blenheim
    • 6 hours
    • $100 per person

    On this tour, you get the dance to embark upon a captivating journey through Marlborough’s history tasting some world- renowned wines, along the way. Starting with a 10:00 AM pickup from any Blenheim hotel, this Marlborough vineyard tour offers the change to take in the diverse wine scene, from internationally acclaimed brands to boutique family-run wineries in the Wairau Valley.

    After exploring the vineyards, guests get to indulge in a delicious Marlborough lunch at a picturesque vineyard restaurant, where you can choose from a range of regional specialties while discussing the wine offerings with the cellar hosts. Post-lunch, the tasting continues at other cellar doors and culminates in a visit to a local Chocolate Factory. This comprehensive, immersive tour concludes with a comfortable return to your hotel in Blenheim or ship in Picton.

    Wine Tour in Hawke’s Bay

    Wine Tour in Hawkes Bay
    • Napier City or Havelock North
    • 6 hours
    • $70 per person

    This Hawkes Bay cycling wine tour starts with convenient pick-up from a Napier City or Havelock North accommodation en route to Ahuriri, Napier, where the day’s cycling expedition commences. A shuttle then whisks guests off to Black Barn winery, the beginning point of the day’s wine tasting journey allowing for an early dive into the world of exquisite wines.

    Next guests jump back on the bikes to pedal the short 3-kilometre stretch to Craggy vineyard – r before embarking on a scenic 16-kilometre ride along the limestone cycle trail paralleling the Tuki Tuki River. The day concludes with a comfortable transfer back to Ahuriri.

    Waipara Wine Tour

    Waipara Wine Tour
    • Christchurch
    • 5.5 hours
    • $80 per person

    This Waipara wine tour offers the chance to hit up three boutique wineries in and around North Canterbury on a half-day wine-tasting tour with optional lunch. Departing from Christchurch guests will taste a quality selection of wines in the up-and-coming Waipara wine region, including stops at Pegasus Bay, Waipara Hills, Torlesse Wines and Waipara Springs. 

    Knowledgeable guides will talk guests through Waipara’s unique terroir while sipping a range of superior reds and whites. This 5.5-hour wine trails tour takes in a total of four boutique vineyards in the Waipara wine region. It also offers hotel pickup and drop-off from centrally located Christchurch hotels.

    Martinborough Wine Tour

    Martinborough Wine Tour
    • Martinborough
    • 5.5 hours
    • $100 per person

    This is a 5-hour guided tour of the enchanting Martinborough wine region. Beginning with a spectacular drive over the majestic Remutaka Ranges the day completes with a stop at the Remutaka Summit for breath-taking views.

    The tour includes visits to three of Martinborough’s premier wineries, where guests can savor their cellar door experiences and sample some world-class wines, with specific wineries available upon request. The tour provides transportation but  please note that vehicles may be shared with other guests, and exclusivity is not guaranteed.

    Auckland and Waiheke Island Wine Tour

    Auckland and Waiheke Island Wine Tour
    • Aukland
    • 6 hours
    • $100

    Kick off your adventure with a scenic 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland’s Downtown Ferry Terminal to Waiheke Island, soaking up views of historical Devonport and Rangitoto Island en route. Upon arrival, meet your guide and set off to explore four of the island’s premium wineries, indulging in wine tastings and an extended lunch break at one of them.

    Throughout the tour, marvel at Waiheke’s stunning beaches and picturesque rolling vineyards, enhanced by your guide’s informative commentary. Conclude your tour with the option to return to Auckland via an afternoon ferry, or choose to extend your stay in the charming village, from where a leisurely 15-minute stroll will bring you back to the ferry.

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    Final Thoughts on New Zealand Wine Tours

    A New Zealand wine tour is more than just a tasting experience; it’s a journey through beautiful landscapes, rich culture, and, of course, world-class wines. The vineyards of New Zealand are ready to welcome you.

    So, get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey across New Zealand’s wine country , where every sip will remind you of the remarkable journey from the vine to your glass. From the sun-drenched vineyards of Marlborough to the idyllic wineries of Waiheke Island, an array of sensory delights await you in this corner of the world.


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