Wellington wine route: Explore world renowned vineyards

As well as being the capital city of one of the world’s most magically beautiful countries, Wellington has garnered an international reputation as a producer of premium wines from New Zealand.

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Wellington itself is not a wine producing city, but lies at the centre of several regions – including Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and Marlborough – stretched over both islands that form what has become known as the ‘Classic New Zealand Wine Trail’.The Wellington wine route section of this trail focuses on the many critically acclaimed wineries in the surrounding Wairarapa region, which can be reached within a 90-minute drive from the city and includes the towns of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton that are connected by the Ruamahanga River. Wines from this region may only account for 1.3% of New Zealand’s entire production, but its collection of mostly small boutique estates are serial award-winners for an assortment of eclectic styles.

‘It’s a collective voice that we are trying to speak with. We are stronger as a group than when we are divided. People don’t know we exist here,’ Katherine Jacobs, owner of the Big Sky Winery, told Drinks Business.

‘We need Wellington to own us as their wine region,’ added Christine Kernohan, of Gladstone Vineyard.

Pinot Noir reigns supreme here, closely pursued by New Zealand’s ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc – the wine that brought the country to the world’s wine critics’ attention in the 1980s – as well as Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Syrah over the years. Martinborough is undoubtedly the most prominent of the three sub-regions that the Wellington wine route courses through, but some confusion over the relation between the surrounding areas has recently led to the formation of ‘Wellington Wine Country’. Wairarapa wine makers have united to collectively brand themselves under one name – in a similar way that Central Otago was recently rebranded as a single designation. The wine makers are hoping that bringing attention to their proximity to Wellington will raise awareness and recognition of their wines.

‘It’s a collective voice that we are trying to speak with. We are stronger as a group than when we are divided. People don’t know we exist here,’ Katherine Jacobs, owner of the Big Sky Winery, told Drinks Business.

‘We need Wellington to own us as their wine region,’ added Christine Kernohan, of Gladstone Vineyard.

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Wellington City

 

The volumes of wines produced from wineries on the Wellington wine route is typically small, especially in terms of international exports. But, rebranding is expected to bring the region more recognition as a boutique producer of hand crafted premium wines to rival any of those elsewhere in New Zealand. Aside from sampling some of the southern hemisphere’s finest wines, Wellington is a lively, energetic city that is also renowned for its exquisite cuisine and a penchant for craft beers and legendary coffee. It was recently named the coolest little capital by Lonely Planet, as well as the world’s most liveable city by a Deutche Bank survey. The streets can be easily wandered on foot (or the historical Wellington Cable Car) where visitors can discover the tranquil settings of Oriental Bay, cruise down colourful Cuba Street or experience galleries and New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa.

Although most wineries on the Wellington wine route are open to visitors all year round, some are closed for a few weeks during the winter months of July and August – meaning the best time to visit the region is between November through to March. In 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.

If you are interested in exploring the Wellington wine route, contact Wine Paths’ local expert for more information and inspirational ideas before planning a bespoke visit.

 

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