Wellington wine tours: Sample world class wines

According to the story, the success of New Zealand’s Wellington wine region is the consequence of a far-sighted customs officer who confiscated a first cutting at Auckland Airport in the 1970s.

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The official, and budding winemaker, Malcolm Abel, was told that the Pinot Noir vine was from the world’s most famous vineyard, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in Burgundy, France – the spiritual home of fine wine. Instead of destroying the cutting, Abel sent it to quarantine before buying it back and beginning the first of his plantings. Shortly after, Abel received a call from a Wellington farmer turned winemaker Clive Patton who volunteered to work a vintage.

Using cuttings from the French original, Patton eventually established his own winery, the Ata Rangi in 1982 in the sub-region of Martinborough – based the district of Wairarapa, which is known as Wellington Wine Country because of its closeness to the country’s capital on the North Island.The wines from this area may only account for around 1.3% of New Zealand’s entire production, but many of those produced from a collection of largely family-owned boutique estates are serial awards winners and regarded as some of the finest in the southern hemisphere.

Pinot Noir still 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.

Wellington wine tours from the city to the surrounding Wairarapa region, which includes areas around the three towns of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton, have become increasingly popular way to explore the country.Wairarapa is one of the regions that can be visited as part of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail – along with Hawkes Bay and Marlbourough – while a winery tour from Wellington also offers visitors the opportunity to escape the city for a day of sampling premium wines surrounding by the country’s outstanding natural beauty.

Pinot Noir still 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.

All of Wairarapa’s three sub-regions that can be visited as part of Wellington wine tours are linked by the the Ruamahanga River, which flows towards Lake Wairarapa – where the area’s name is derived from the Maori translation, meaning ‘Glistening Waters’. Each share broadly similar climates and soil types, although there are subtle differences in the expressions of the wines they produce, especially from Pinot Noir. Most of the recognisable brand names, including Schubert Wines, Martinborough Vineyard and Ata Rangi, have vineyards in Martinborough – which is home to around 20 high-class wineries.

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Although most wineries are open to accommodate Wellington wine tours 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. As for the capital city itself, Wellington is a cosmopolitan metropolis with a lively character that was recently voted at the world’s most liveable city by a Deutche Bank survey. As well as being a starting point for Wellington wine tours, the city is also renowned for its exquisite cuisine and penchant for craft beers and legendary coffee.There are magnificent panoramic views of the city from Mount Victoria, while 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.

If you are interested in Wellington wine tours, contact our local expert for more information and inspirational ideas before planning a bespoke trip that can be tailor made to your exact specifications.

 

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