The town of Martinborough lies in the centre of New Zealand’s Wairarapa wine region, which is a popular destination for wine enthusiasts travelling to the country’s North Island partly because of its closeness to the capital Wellington.
Over the last 30 years, Martinborough has been transformed from a sleepy colonial town into one of the country’s most critically acclaimed viticulture regions – with its wines regularly collecting awards on the international stage.Martinborough is a relatively small region, which concentrates on quality above quantity from a collection of around 20 boutique wineries that are renowned for producing distinctive hand-crafted wines with old world style and new world flair.
The growing success of Martinborough can be traced back to a 1979 soil report that discovered the area’s terroir shared many similar qualities to that of Burgundy in France, arguably the most influential wine region in the world.The cool climate temperatures and mineral-laden soils of vineyards planted high on alluvial terraces gave rise to Martinborough’s signature Pinot Noir in the early 1990s, which has been closely pursued by distinctive Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Syrah over the years.
Despite only contributing 1% towards New Zealand’s entire production, the quality of its wines and stylish estates – which include recognisable names such as Schubert Wines, Murdoch James and Palliser Estate – have made Martinborough wine tours increasingly popular.The region has embraced wine tourism with a recent explosion of small artisan wineries accompanied by hotels, world class restaurants and amenities – all of which can be reached within a scenic one-and-a-half-hour drive from Wellington in the south of the North Island.
Martinborough is one of three main sub-regions contained within Wairarapa that are linked by the Ruamahanga River, which flows towards Lake Wairarapa – where the area’s name is derived from the Maori translation, meaning ‘Glistening Waters’.The sub-regions around the nearby towns of Gladstone and Masterton share similar gravel soils and geology and a broadly similar climate to Martinborough, although there are discernable differences in the taste profile of wines between the three.
All of Wairarapa’s sub-regions can be explored as part of Martinborough wine tours, which typically involve visiting vineyards accompanied by a professional guide before the opportunity of sampling several premium vintages – often paired with gourmet food using local cuisine.Many of the vineyards also feature delectable on-site restaurants where visitors can enjoy fine dining before continuing through the rolling hills scattered with quaint villages, fields of sheep and olive groves towards the next winery.Although most wineries are open all year-round, some are closed for a few weeks in July and August. For sun seekers, the best time to visit Martinborough is from November through to March.During November, the region’s wines are celebrated as part of the Toast Martinborough Wine Festival, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors with the lure of premium wine tastings, exquisite food and music to create a wonderful atmosphere.
At Wine Paths, our local expert can organise exclusive Martinborough wine tours, which can include elaborate tastings, luxury stays, fine dining experiences and some unique activities. All of our private tours can be tailor made to meet your exact specifications, ensuring every detail is taken care of so that you can relax and enjoy the matter at hand – sampling world class wines surrounded by New Zealand’s trademark natural beauty.
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