One of the great pleasures of visiting New Zealand is sampling its world-class wines. From Auckland in the north to Central Otago in the south, the country has no less than 10 wine regions set amongst some of its most beautiful landscapes.
Thanks to a temperate maritime climate that allows a wide range of wine varieties to flourish, the offerings include world-famous Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, silky pinot noirs from Central Otago, elegant Chardonnays and gewürztraminers from Gisborne and Wairarapa, fine cabernet blends and syrahs from Hawke's Bay, and more.
New Zealand's compact size and well-developed travel infrastructure also make wine touring easy: it's possible to explore several wine regions even in a short stay. Each region also offers a good range of accommodation, well-established communities of artisan producers and excellent restaurants and cellar doors.
Visit Us, a new wine tourism resource just added to the Wine New Zealand website, lets visitors make the most of their stay by providing fully searchable and constantly updated information before and during their trip. Fully mobile-friendly for visitors on the move, Visit Us showcases over 450 wine experiences, including an initial listing of 213 cellar doors, 99 dining options, 57 accommodation options, and 39 tours and other experiences.
Visit Us is arranged in four user-friendly sections. 'Sip' is devoted to listings of cellar doors throughout the country, with links to company websites.'Dine' focuses on winery restaurants and cafes, 'Stay' on vineyard accommodation and 'Play' covers wine and food tours, trails and experiences.
Within each region, tourism experiences can be found via Google map-based searching and by filtering of experience types. Key information includes map coordinates, phone numbers, email and website addresses as well as venue descriptions, videos and images. More authoritative information about each region's climates, soils and specialities is also just a click away and the wider nzwine.com site offers interesting backgrounds on innovation, sustainability, organic winemaking plus all the statistics you'll need.
Taste the difference
The Sip section of the site offers handy information about cellar doors, including details of opening hours and admission charges (many are free). One-click links take you straight to the facts about each cellar door and if you're unfamiliar with a wine you're sampling, another click on a winestyles panel offers regional information, food matching, serving and cellaring advice and even where you can buy the wine back at home.
Finding fine food
It's no secret that some of the best restaurants in New Zealand are located at the country's many wineries, offering anything from a five-course wine-paired meal to a light tasting platter of local artisan meats and cheeses. Many of the menus at winery restaurants are developed to pair with the wines made at hand and one of the pleasures of touring is appreciating the unique character and climate of the regions as they are displayed in their wines and cuisines.
Amongst the initial line-up of winery restaurants in Dine section is New Zealand's most-awarded winery, Villa Maria Estate, whose flagship vineyard, café and cellar door is just five minutes from Auckland International Airport. If a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc experience is on your touring bucket list, the elegant Brancott Estate Cellar Door and Restaurant near Blenheim overlooks the site of the first sauvignon blanc plantings in the wine world-famous region. For a taste of Central Otago and its renowned pinot noirs, a Trust The Chef four-course lunch or five-course dinner at Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door near Queenstown is a local highlight.
Places to relax and unwind
Nothing completes a New Zealand wine holiday quite like staying at a vineyard and the country's wineries have a wide range of offerings from quaint cottages tucked amongst the vines to private luxury homes with sweeping sea views. Unique features found in vineyard accommodation can also include swimming pools, private art collections, pétanque and tennis courts, cosy fireplaces, spas, verandas and more.
Among the options are several that deliver the great New Zealand experience of being alone in extraordinarily beautiful places. The PurePod accommodation high above award-winning Greystone Vineyard in the Waipara Valley wine region, for instance, allows guests to immerse themselves in a private slice of landscape.
Reached by unpaved road and walking track (mobility options are available), the glass-walled (and ceilinged) PurePod offers 360-degree views of the Waipara Valley and the Southern Alps.
Complete with all amenities and supplies of delicious local food, the PurePod even comes complete with a telescope for viewing the stars. (You might also like to pick up an award-winning bottle or two from the Greystone Wines Cellar Door on your way up to the PurePod).
An abundance of experiences
In typical New Zealand fashion, there is an abundance of experiences to pair with wine touring, from tutored tastings with winemakers to hands-on winemaking classes to arriving by gondola at Volcanic Hills Winery's mountainside tasting room in Rotorua.
Throughout the country, wine's traditional links with the good things in life are also celebrated with a year-round line-up of cultural events and experiences including sculpture trails, classical, jazz and rock music concerts, marathon events, harvest and seasonal festivals and food and wine trails. Wherever you're touring in New Zealand there's always bound to be something on and with Visit Us, it's now simply a matter of point and click.
The Visit Us section of the nzwine.com website can be found here.