Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is renowned as being the country’s centre of commerce, entertainment, arts and tourism. Visitors arrive here in their droves to appreciate the vibrant, multicultural city with attractions such as the Sky Tower and Harbour Bridge.
More recently, Auckland’s attraction as a wine travel destination has also been tempting tourists. The region may not carry the same prestige as Marlborough or Hawkes Bay, but Auckland wine tours are ideal as part of a city escape, if only for the day. The city, located in the uppermost part of the North Island, is home to the country’s largest airport and caters for both international and domestic arrivals from the neighbouring South Island – while it is possible to organise shuttle bus collections from the airport that can take you directly to many of the region’s wineries within an hour’s drive.
The area’s first vineyards were planted in Auckland in 1819, making them some of the oldest vines in the country, and there are now around 100 wineries largely spread across four main sub-regions. Since the Auckland wine region is relatively small, many of the wineries are boutique estates producing commendable wines that may not necessarily be well known outside of New Zealand – these include revered Chardonnay whites and red wine made from Bordeaux-style blends using Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes.
Waiheke Island ranked the fifth best destination in the world to visit by the Lonely Planet in 2016, while also being voted the fourth best island in the world by Conde Nast, it’s not difficult to understand the lure. There are around 20 high-class wineries on the island, which is also renowned for its beautiful beaches, bohemian way life and a flourishing art scene that can be explored in the many galleries, and even an art sculpture trail among the vineyards.
Among the many impressive wineries within touching distance of the city is the Villa Maria estate – New Zealand’s most frequently awarded wine producer, which has a vineyard in the Ihumatao area, as well as others in Gisborne, Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. The Auckland site of Villa Maria was the first New Zealand winery to be awarded BioGro status in early 2009 and is also where the bottling of varietals including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux varieties, Pinot Noir and Riesling occurs.
Auckland wine tours travelling to Villa Maria will give visitors the opportunity to explore the vineyard accompanied by a professional guide before sampling several premium quality wines – which can be paired with gourmet cuisine from the winery’s on-site restaurant. Most of the best wine tours Auckland has to offer, however, venture to Waiheke Island – a hilly isle north of the city that can be reached by a 35-minute ferry ride and is renowned as the most influential wine growing sub-region in the area.
And, with Waiheke Island ranked the fifth best destination in the world to visit by the Lonely Planet in 2016, while also being voted the fourth best island in the world by Conde Nast, it’s not difficult to understand the lure. There are around 20 high-class wineries on the island, which is also renowned for its beautiful beaches, bohemian way life and a flourishing art scene that can be explored in the many galleries, and even an art sculpture trail among the vineyards.
Elsewhere, Auckland wine trail tours can be divided between the west coast – Kumeu, Huapai and Waimauku – and the east coast’s Matakana. West Auckland wine tours tend to visit Kumeu, the oldest wine region near the city – approximately 16 miles north-east of the central business district – which boasts boutique vineyards and fruit orchards amid a picturesque countryside setting.
To the east, Matakana is a small region that produces some of the country’s most expensive bottles and has an abundance of sandy beaches, making it a popular destination for international tourists and well-heeled locals alike.
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