Wairarapa wine region is located in the southeast of the North Island of New Zealand. This wine region was named after Lake Wairarapa which takes its name from the Maori word for glistening waters. Wairarapa can be described as a compact and diverse wine region. It is home to many boutique wineries, producing wine of the highest and most exceptional quality. Only 1% of New Zealand’s wines are produced in Wairarapa, meaning that the focus of the region is on quality instead of quantity. So, if you are looking for exclusive wines from New Zealand, Wairarapa is definitely a place to visit.
Wairarapa wine region has the perfect location for winemaking thanks to the shelter provided by the surrounding mountains. Wairarapa is known for excellent wines produced in one of New Zealand’s most beautiful corner.
Wine-Producing Areas of Wairarapa
Wairarapa is a boutique wine region, with only 3% of its land under wine. The history of wine making in Wairarapa is relatively modern and dates back to the 1970s. Today, Wairarapa is divided into the three sub-regions of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton. Across these regions, some of New Zealand’s most premium Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay and dessert wines are produced.
The proximity of Wairarapa to New Zealand’s capital Auckland makes it a popular weekend wine tourism destination. The small size of the wine making area means that it is easy for visitors to casually stroll between the various cellar doors for a long and leisurely afternoon of wine tasting and food and wine pairings. The climate – which is similar to that of Burgundy – is also ideal for wine tourism. There are currently around 30 wineries in Wairarapa that offer not only high-quality wines but also excellent accommodation and dining experiences.
Red Varieties: Syrah, Pinot Noir
White Varieties: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
When visiting Wairarapa, make sure to attend the annual Toast Martinborough music and food festival, highlighting the best of the local Wairarapa wine culture. This event attracts wine lovers from across the world and allows guests to experience the best of Wairarapa wines in one location for a celebration of food and wine.
Wines of Wairarapa
Unlike other regions, Wairarapa wine region does not have any wine appellations. Instead, the wines express characteristics based on the sub-regions they are produced in.
Masterton is the largest sub-region of Wairarapa. This is there the first grapes of Wairarapa were planted during the 1970s. The vines of Masterton are perfectly protected by the Tararua Mountain Range but are still exposed to early morning frost and long, host summer days. Masterton vines produce grapes that are used to make complex wines that are packed with flavour. The most popular wines produced in Masterton are Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
In Gladstone, the cooler climate and high level of sunshine is perfect for the production of Pinot Noir and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc.
The final subregion of Martinborough produces internationally acclaimed Pinot Noir, vivid Sauvignon Blanc and aromatic Syrah.
The Urlar Winery is a BioGro Certified Organic Premium Winery located in the Gladstone subregion of Wairarapa. The winemakers at the Urlar Winery are dedicated to honoring the land and the vines which grow on them. Their winemaking practices result in the production of wine that is unique and of the highest quality. The signature wine of the Urlar Winery is the Sauvignon Blanc which is full of expression with a balanced weight and texture.
Matahiwi Estate, family-owned winery in Wairarapa wine region, produces exceptional wines by following sustainable practices with the great care of the land.
Grapes of Matahiwi Estate are predominantly grown in the Wairarapa with small volumes of Chardonnay and Syrah sourced from selected vineyard sites in Hawke’s Bay. The prime categories of wine produced in the winery include red, white, rose, and sparkling wines.
Palliser Estate is one of the premier wine brands of New Zealand located an hour’s drive towards the north of Wellington. The estate strives to push their boundaries to produce great unique wines that have enabled them to be enjoyed and known globally.
The team at Palliser winery is small but every individual in the team is highly dedicated and give undivided attention to every visitor of the estate.
Perhaps the best part of visiting Cape Palliser in Wairarapa is the scenic road that leads to this destination. Cape Palliser is located on the edge of Palliser Bay which has a rich Maori history and plenty of interesting heritage sites. The main attraction at Cape Palliser is the red and white lighthouse which was erected in 1897. Climbing the lighthouse is a strenuous journey up 250 steep steps. Once at the top there are the most spectacular views over the bay and the rugged coast. At Cape Palliser one can also visit North Island’s largest colony of fur seals.
Masterton – The Main Center of the Wairarapa Region
Masterton is the largest town in the Wairarapa Region and is considered the urban centre of the region. The center of Masterton is home to the incredible Queen Elizabeth Park which is the location of one of the best children’s playgrounds in New Zealand. Along with the playground the park is filled with activities including paddle boats, bike hiring, a miniature train route, a skate park, a swing bridge and a mini golf course. Across the road from the Queen Elizabeth Park, is the Wairarapa Museum of Art and History which is the perfect place to learn about local culture and history.
What to do in Masterton:
Another attraction in the town is Masterton are the Wool Shed which takes visitors through New Zealand’s history of sheep farming. It is also here that in March every year the world’s premier wool handling and sheep shearing championship is held.
For those interested in aviation and history, Masterton is home to the world’s largest collection of original WW1 aircraft at the Hood Aerodrome.
Masterton is the perfect location to explore the natural and physical attractions of the Wairarapa region and is the perfect base for all of the best that the region has to offer
Greytown – Wairarapa’s Victorian Country Village
Greytown is considered by locals of New Zealand to be one of the North Island’s prettiest towns. This town is home to beautiful Victorian buildings, rural landscapes and tree lined streets and avenues. The natural landscape is characterized by rolling olive groves and sprawling farmlands. Despite its historical feel, Greytown is the modern shopping and food capital of Wairarapa and is filled with designer boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Many of these are housed in restored, colonial historical buildings. The perfect blend of old and new make Greytown a unique and special place to visit. Some of the most popular activities in Greytown include cycling along the many cycle routes, chocolate tasting at Schoc Chocolate Studio, tree exploring, olive tasting and picnicking along the river side.
Hidden Gem – The Beautiful Tararua Forest Park
The Tararua Forest Park is situated within the Tararua Mountain Range which provides the perfect location for a range of exciting activities in one of the world’s most beautiful locations. This Forest Park covers an area of 116 535 hectares and the main entrance can be found at Mount Holdsworth near Masterton. The Tararua Forest Park has various walking and hiking routes including the Gentle Annie Loop Track which is a popular and easy day route; the Totara Flats which has excellent swimming spots; Mount Holdsworth which traverses through the beech forests; and the Mire Flats which provide easy routes for families with children. For the more adventurous visitors, overnight stays are available in mountain huts across the mountain range.
Rugged Beauty and Wide-Open Spaces
Discover Natural Places og Wairarapa
Lake Ferry – The Glistening Waters of Lake Ferry
Lake Ferry is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Wairarapa Region. This lake is located between Lake Onoke and Palliser Bay and is one of the earliest settlement sites in Maori history. Lake Ferry is easily accessible and is only a half an hour’s drive from Martinborough. The lake hosts a number of activities including fishing, hiking through the Putangirua Pinnacles rock formations and surfing. For those looking for accommodation at the lake there is the Lake Ferry Holiday Park and the Lake Ferry hotel. Swimming in Lake Ferry is not recommended but there are many wonderful swimming spots in the surrounding areas.
The Putangirua Pinnacles
The Breathtaking Filming Location of the Lord of the Rings
The Putangirua Pinnacles are some of the most incredible rock formations that can be found in the world. A trip to these pinnacles is the perfect day trip for those that enjoy walking, hiking and exploring new places. This incredible attraction is located only an hour south of Martinborough. When arriving at the Pinnacles, there is a short walk from the car park to a viewing platform. The path then meanders down into the valley and then up the riverbed where the best views of the rock formations can be seen. The total walk through the Pinnacles takes approximately 2 hours and it is recommended that visitors take food and water along with them.
The Putangirua Pinnacles are commonly recognized as they are part of the location for the filming of the Lord of the Rings movies.
Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre
The Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre is a wildlife sanctuary that is unfenced to house the native wildlife of the Wairarapa Region. The sanctuary covers an area of 942 hectares and is home to the very rare wild kokako and kaka species. Inside the sanctuary’s aviaries are a range of birds set for release across New Zealand. At the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre visitors are invited to learn about the conservation work being done at the sanctuary. After learning about the conservation efforts, be sure to enjoy a meal at the Kaka Café overlooking Mount Bruce. The Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre is open 364 days a year. All proceeds made at the gate are given back the conservation projects of the center.
The Home of New Zealand Artisan Cuisine
What to Eat in Wairarapa
The Wairarapa region is best known for its small number of award-winning food producers who welcome visitors to sample their delights. Wairarapa is the perfect location to enjoy the best of New Zealand cuisine in one of the country’s most beautiful locations.
Wairarapa Olive Oil
Award-Winning and Internationally Acclaimed Olive Oil
The best olive oil in New Zealand and abroad is said to come from the Wairarapa region. The natural landscape and setting of the Wairarapa region make is perfect for the growth of olives. Those visiting the region are often mesmerized by the rolling olive groves across the region. The olive oils from Wairarapa are consistently commended for their excellent flavor and quality. They are made using predominately Barnea, Leccino, Frantoio and South Australian Verdale olives which when combined, produce the perfect blend. Wairarapa are also used in most local dishes for additional extra flavour.
Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese – Ewe’s Milk Cheese of Wairarapa
Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese was established by Miles and Janet King in 1998 out of their love for high quality artisan cheese. Kingsmeade Artisan Cheeses are made with ewe’s milk from only East Friesian sheep. These sheep are fed only on Lucerne, Plantain, Chicory and Clover which makes their milk rich and flavourful. Today, Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese produces a range of 14 different ewes milk cheeses that are all unique and hand crafted. These cheeses range from hard aged varieties to cheeses that are deliciously soft.
Schoc Chocolates – Handmade Gourmet Chocolate from Wairarapa
Schoc Chocolates are gourmet handmade chocolates that were first made in Wairarapa in 2002. These chocolates were discovered in a small Victorian cottage in Greytown and are today the most popular treat in the Wairarapa region. The makers of the chocolate believe that their wonderful flavour is a result of a blend of joy, understanding and quality. The chocolate beans used to make Schoc Chocolates are sustainably sources from various locations including Tanzania, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana and Madagascar. The flavouring of the chocolate is all organic and flavourants are sourced using only local ingredients. Visitors to Greytown should not miss the chance to pop into the Schoc Chocolates store and explore their range of chocolate delights.