Despite its relatively small size, Martinborough has risen in stature to become one of New Zealand’s most influential wine regions – and part of the country’s Classic Wine Trail, which also travels through Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Wellington.
Lying in the heart of the North Island’s Wairarapa wine region, Martinborough has become a popular destination for wine tours not least because of its close proximity to the capital, which can be reached in less than an hour-and-a-half scenic drive.The rural town has fully embraced wine tourism with around 20 high class vineyards, most within walking distance from the charming village square, that can be traced as part of the Martinborough wine trail map.
Once a sleepy colonial settlement, Martinborough was transformed into a critically acclaimed wine region after a soil report in 1979 unearthed similarities in the terroir with that of Burgundy in France – which is generally regarded as the spiritual home of fine wine.Over the last 30 years, Martinborough has rapidly risen through the ranks to become one of New Zealand’s most sought-after wine producers – despite only contributing 1% to the country’s entire production.
The vineyards planted on high terraces of mineral laden soils are renowned for the distinctive quality of their cool climate wines, with Pinot Noir reigning supreme as the most widely planted grape variety – followed by Chardonnay and to a lesser extent Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Syrah.Quality is favoured far above quantity, with most vineyards being small boutique estates specialising in hand crafted artisan wines that typically combine old world styles with new world flair. Many of the award-winning wineries on the Martinborough wine trail map also feature their own on-site restaurants where wines can be paired with delectable local cuisine – although these are generally only open in the summer.
The best time to visit Martinborough is between November and March – most wineries will stay open throughout the year, but these months are graced with the finest weather, which makes wandering the surrounding hills scattered with quaint villages and olive groves more pleasurable.And, each November, the town plays host to 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.
Two other towns – Masterton and Gladstone – make up the rest of the Wairarapa wine region, all within reaching distance of each other.Masterton is the largest town in the region and where the first vines were planted by early European settlers and most of the wineries here are still small family-owned operations. Gladstone, meanwhile, is primarily used for farming, although its potential is being explored by a new breed of premium wine makers.When not traipsing between vineyards on the Martinborough wine trail map, the area has several other exciting attractions such as: the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Park, where endangered species like the white Kiwi are conserved; the Kahikatea Gardens in Greytown, which is crammed with beautiful flora; and the Cape Pallister lighthouse, named ninth in the Lonely Planet’s flashiest lighthouse list.
At Wine Paths, our local expert can plot a course through the Martinborough wine trail map with exclusive tours that can include elaborate tastings, luxury stays, fine dining experiences and some unique activities.All of our private tours can be tailor made to meet your exact specifications, ensuring every detail is taken care of so that you can relax and enjoy the matter at hand – sampling world class wines surrounded by New Zealand’s trademark natural beauty.
Visit our New Zealand destination page for more information and inspirational ideas before planning a bespoke tour.