On the southeast peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island is an unassuming region of mountains, rolling green hills and fertile plains. It’s the Wairarapa region, and it’s home to over 25 different wineries, mostly family owned, and all producing some world-class wines.
the wairarapa geology
The Wairarapa basin is made up of the same rock that makes up the Wellington region. It also sits along several fault lines. Like wine regions across much of the world, the seismic activity here has shaped the soils that grow these grapes.
wairarapa wines and what to do
From crisp Sauvignon Blancs and effervescent Bruts to soft Pinot Noirs, the Wairarapa region has a selection of wines for the discerning visitor to choose from. Many vineyards are centred close to Martinborough, a charming village just over an hour from Wellington. Its close location to the city allows for travelers and locals alike to get out of town for a day or weekend of wine tasting.
Most travelers will be interested in a bicycle tour of the wineries near Martinborough. Green Jersey Cycle Hires is located right next to the i-Site and steps away from the bus stop. With a large selection of bikes to rent, and complimentary maps of the wineries, they are well-suited for day trippers to the town. There are also wineries in Gladstone and Masterton, both within driving distance.
A day of wine tasting begins with your cycle hire. Bright green bicycles with jaunty baskets line the sidewalk. Grab a helmet and hit the road. Only a short distance away is Palliser Vineyards, one of the few in town that does a sparkling wine. Sip your wine while looking out over the vines – literally across the garden – and then take the shortcut through the vineyard to the next road.
Here, along Princess Street, are a few more. But don’t get greedy: there are another ten to fifteen wineries along Huangarua/Puruatanga Road! After a few wineries, it’s time to stop for lunch. There are only a few wineries that have cafes alongside, or you could select a cheese platter to go along with your tasting. Recommendations for lunch include Margrain Vineyards, Tirohana Estates, or Poppies Vineyard. Another option is to head back to town – a very short bike ride – and grab a light lunch at one of the cafes that dot Kitchener Street. Local favourites include Cafe Medici and Pukemanu Tavern.
For travelers interested in a more guided wine tour, there are several companies that offer these. Do your research beforehand, as many tours will pick you up from the train station in Featherston and begin your tour there. Anyone traveling through in November should book early for Toast Martinborough, a day-long wine festival in town.
Travelers not keen on wine might be interested in some of the other options in Martinborough. For starters, there are three olive groves, all producing quality, extra-virgin olive oil. For a relaxing, romantic getaway weekend, pair a day of wine tasting with a spa day or golf outing. Martinborough is perfectly situated for travelers who need a weekend break from grueling adventure travel or a long road trip. Stop there before leaving for the southbound ferry out of Wellington!
how to get here
The Masterton-Wellington train runs several times a day during the week and once on weekends. At Featherston, a bus connects to Martinborough.
Photo by AARON_400D