Wellington wine country has become synonymous with premium wines, although not from the capital of New Zealand itself but from the surrounding area of Wairarapa – which can be reached within a 90-minute drive from the city centre.
Wairarapa is a relatively small wine growing region, but its influence on the country’s enotourism is great enough for the district to be included as part of the ‘Classic New Zealand Wine Trail’ that also encompasses more renowned regions such as Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. The wines from this area may only account for 1.3% of New Zealand’s entire production, but several styles from largely small, boutique estates have received regular international accolades – while some critics claim they are the finest in the southern hemisphere.
Pinot Noir reigns supreme here, closely pursued by New Zealand’s ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc – the wine that brought the country to the world’s attention in the 1980s – as well as Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Syrah over the years. Wineries near Wellington are congregated around three main towns in Wairarapa – Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton – that are connected by the Ruamahanga River and share a similar climate and terroir, yet offer subtle differences in expressions for the discerning palate to explore.
It was here that the Wairarapa wine revolution first started and the picturesque, colonial village is surrounded by vineyards within walking distance that are tended to by family-owned producers. The climate and soil is similar to that of Burgundy, France’s spiritual home of wine, giving rise to excellent Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and elegant aromatics.
Wineries near Wellington: Martinborough
Despite being only 65 kilometres from the capital, the sleepy town of Martinborough feels a world away from the bustling city – with a relaxed atmosphere and abundance of local wineries and boutique eateries that would best be described as a haven for indulgence. It was here that the Wairarapa wine revolution first started and the picturesque, colonial village is surrounded by vineyards within walking distance that are tended to by family-owned producers. The climate and soil is similar to that of Burgundy, France’s spiritual home of wine, giving rise to excellent Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and elegant aromatics.
The most southerly Wairarapa sub-region is also a paradise for food enthusiasts with olives, artisan cheeses, saffron and honey among the fresh local produce that stocks the grocers’ shelves.
Wineries near Wellington: Masterton
Further north, Masterton is the largest sub-region within Wairarapa and the first to plant Pinot Noir vines dating back to 1883. There is only a small collection of wineries here, although the focus is on quality, hand crafted wines that are well structured and sophisticated.
Wineries near Wellington: Gladstone
To the south, Gladstone is blessed with free-draining river terraces, plentiful sunshine and a moderately cool climate that favours Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and some impressive aromatics that are showcased at the annual harvest festival each March. Wineries near Wellington also stage some of New Zealand’s most prestigious wine festivals, including Toast Martinborough. Held every November, the one-day festival is set among some of the most revered wineries in the town and features premium vintages from the region accompanied by gourmet pairings of local cuisine, live music and entertainment. The Wairarapa Wines Harvest Festival is a smaller boutique event held in March at the beginning of the harvest season, where local winemakers and chefs unite to prepare delicious food and wine matches in a picturesque riverside setting. Although most wineries near Wellington are open to accommodate visitors all year-round, some are closed for a few weeks in July and August. For sun seekers, the best time to visit the region is from November through to March.
If you are interested in visiting wineries near Wellington, contact Wine Paths’ local expert for more information and inspirational ideas before planning an exclusive bespoke trip.
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