One of our newest, rapidly expanding wine growing areas is in a quiet North Canterbury town, an hour’s drive north of Christchurch.
More than a dozen vineyards are clustered around the township close by the Waipara River. The valley has long, dry summers, ample sunshine and benefits from the shelter of a range of coastal hills. The soil types are ideal for grape production having chalky loams rich in limestone on the hillsides, and alluvial gravels on the flats. Diversity of soil types and wines is a feature of the area. This relatively small winegrowing area produces around 100,000 cases of quality wine in an average year in a surprising range of styles. The dominant wines are Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Merlot. The Pinot Noir is showing huge potential and expanded production is planned, with less reliance on grapes shipped from Marlborough.
The small group of Waipara wineries is very committed and uses careful quality control from the vine to the bottle. Each March they join forces for the ‘Waipara Wine and Food Celebration’ held in the grounds of an historic church. Throughout the year the hospitality is first class with most wineries open to the public for tastings and cellar door sales. Several offer the ever popular vineyard lunches and dinners. Waipara also produces high quality olive oil and nuts, which complement a vineyard meal.
Waipara is the southern gateway to a popular touring route called the Alpine Pacific triangle. The route links this area with Hanmer Springs, the South Island’s principal thermal resort, and Kaikoura, the whale-watching tourist mecca on the coast. Check out the Weka Pass Railway, a local stream train that takes excursions into the fascinating limestone hills above the town.
Taste the robust, richly flavoured wines of Waipara, and you will be able to imagine the great potential of this region.