Explore the lush Waikato land and the broad sweep of country inland from the Bay of Plenty, where a dozen wineries produce around 3% of New Zealand’s wine.
The main vineyard groupings are on the plains south of Thames and around the Tauranga Harbour. Despite the low production there is a wide diversity of styles and all these wineries have their own distinctive characteristics. The wine traveller will find the region fascinating because of the eclectic mix of standard wine producers, boutique growers, and prestigious labels. The most common varieties are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. You can also find outstanding examples of Methode Champenoise, Botrytised Riesling and Merlot/Cabernet. Both regions have a moderately warm climate and soils tend to be heavy loam overlays with clay subsoils. The grape yields tend to be lower than in neighbouring Gisborne.
On the map the logistics of gathering these wineries into a wine trail may seem daunting, but they are all close to major highways. The Waikato group can be combined with visits to the historic gold mining towns of Thames and Karangahake, and the picturesque English-style country town of Cambridge. The Bay of Plenty group can easily be incorporated in a visit to the prosperous city of Tauranga and it’s premier sun, sand and surf mecca of Mt Maunganui.
The wineries in these regions encourage visitors and offer well-appointed facilities. Some are situated in beautiful landscaped grounds with purpose-built complexes in very stylish architectural designs. Several have large restaurants suitable for social functions.
The geographical spread of the Waikato – Bay of Plenty region should not be a disincentive to explore. Sometimes tracking down remote vineyards can produce the most satisfying wine sampling experiences.
A vibrant viticultural life exists south of Auckland’s Bombay Hills. Meet some of the notable winemakers in this region and they will delight you with their offerings.