Where New Zealand’s Southern Alps plunge towards the lowlands of the South Island’s eastern coastline lies the wine region of Canterbury – a divine strip of natural beauty secluded between an ocean on one side and snow peaked mountains on the other.
The glacial mountain ranges not only provide a stunning backdrop for Canterbury wine tours, they also shield the region from harsh weather systems, irrigate the vineyards with meltwater, and cool Pacific breezes to create an encouraging maritime climate. Consequently, the region has been gathering international recognition for the quality of its elegant and expressive wines, which include some of the country’s finest Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varietals.
With the South Island’s largest city Christchurch on its doorstop, Canterbury prides itself as being one of the most easily accessible regions in New Zealand – luring visitors from all over the world to revel in the area’s outstanding beauty, adrenaline fuelled activities and welcoming Kiwi hospitality. Canterbury wine tours are becoming an increasingly popular way to explore the region, which is home to over 75 wineries covering more than 1,200 hectares of vineyards and can be divided into three distinct sub-regions.
Closest to Christchurch, is the Waipara Valley – one of the fastest growing wine growing regions in the country that has become renowned for its Riesling and Pinot Noir in particular, which are grown on sheltered, hilly vineyards in this stunning valley. Another draw for visitors is that Waipara boasts the highest summer temperatures and lowest annual rainfall of all New Zealand’s wine growing regions. You can meander through vineyards or take scenic walks, which include passing an outdoor art gallery and a historic steam train that crosses the Weka Path, while bathed in glorious sunshine.
To the south of Christchurch are the Canterbury Plains, a predominantly flat and gently contoured landscape where the first commercial vineyards were established in 1978 and have since born highly acclaimed Pinot Noir and Riesling. Finally, the southern inland district of Waitaki Valley is one of New Zealand’s newest wine growing sub-regions with several boutique wineries that can be visited as part of Canterbury wine tours.
The best winery tours Canterbury has to offer typically include visiting several vineyards accompanied by a professional guide before the opportunity to sample various premium vintages, which are often accompanied by food pairings of local cuisine. However, sipping some of the southern hemisphere’s finest wines is not the only pastime to be enjoyed in Canterbury.
Following a spate of earthquakes between 2010-2011, Christchurch has emerged as a vibrant and ever-evolving city that was listed as one of the top 10 cities to visit by Lonely Planet in 2013, and ranked second in the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2014. Nearby Selwyn is the epitome of J.R.R Tolkien’s ‘Middle Earth’ – New Zealand was used to provide the scenic backdrops for the blockbusting Lord of the Rings films – with the Arthur’s Pass National Park providing a paradise for nature lovers, hikers, rock climbers and even skiers.
The Banks Peninsula was once an extremely active volcanic island that is now a pair of harbours, which includes Lyttelton and Akaroa – a paradise for artists with a French colonial history that has left a legacy of gourmet food. Among other attractions are soaking in thermal pools at Hanmer Springs, watching whales off the coast of Kaikoura, gazing at stars Mackenzie or white water rafting the Rangiata River in South Canterbury.
If you are interested in exploring Canterbury wine tours, contact our local travel expert for more information and inspirational ideas before planning an exclusive bespoke visit.