Canterbury / Waipara Valley

Where the Southern Alps tumble down to meet New Zealand’s most extensive lowlands, boutique producers craft outstanding Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay and much more.

Image courtesy of Lake Forsyth Vineyard

  • Spanning nearly 200km of the South Island’s eastern coastline, with the magnificent Southern Alps to the west and sweeping Pacific Ocean to the east, vineyards are situated from Waimate in the south to Cheviot in the north. The area also includes the micro-climate of Banks Peninsula and Waipara Valley; Canterbury wine offers a diverse range of styles and producers plus many attractive cellar doors.
  • Production was first established on the Canterbury Plains near Belfast in 1978 with vineyards to the south-west of Christchurch and Waipara Valley soon following. Waipara Valley is now heavily planted with its wines regularly achieving critical acclaim for their sub-regional expression.
  • Exploration of new sub-regions both inland from Waipara Valley towards Weka Pass, and southward at Waitaki on the North Otago border forecasts increasing depth, further cementing the region’s overall reputation for elegant, expressive Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and aromatics in particular, though numerous other varieties are planted with good results.
  • The cool, dry climate with good sunshine and long growing season promote full varietal expression; wines are renowned for their intense flavours, richness and complex fruit.
1448 11 2.6%

SOURCE: New Zealand Winegrower's Vineyard Register Report & Annual Report

Planting data

Plantings and Styles (2014)

(Producing hectares)

Pinot Noir 416ha

Ranging from perfumed and pretty to dark and brooding, the long growing season gives wines of finesse and depth, with supple structure and good complexity.

Chardonnay 83ha

Widely planted across the region and made in a range of styles; wines have good structure and body, finely poised acidity and rich citrussy fruit.

Sauvignon Blanc 386ha

Aromatic with crisp, fresh acidity and a mineral core, wines show clear, juicy fruit and lovely texture with good weight.

Aromatics 502ha

Riesling - 300ha, Pinot Gris - 202ha

Abundant, bright fruit. Encompassing dry to dessert styles, Riesling’s already long, illustrious history is continuously improved upon. Pinot Gris has made an impressive debut.

3 2 1

1 Waipara Valley

An exciting, fast-growing sub-region around an hour’s drive north of Christchurch, producing vivid, eloquent Rieslings going from strength to strength. Soils are gravels and clays. As sites and meso-climates are explored, evermore distinctive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay emerge. Though the drying nor’wester can challenge, the surrounding hills offer protection and a slightly warmer climate than the rest of Canterbury.

2 Canterbury Plains

A large area with vines planted from Banks Peninsula on the outskirts of Christchurch, west to Rolleston and West Melton then sweeping northward towards Waipara Valley, this predominantly flat (or very gently contoured) land has free-draining, shallow greywacke-based gravel soils and a slightly cooler climate than the more protected Waipara Valley. Riesling and Pinot Noir are highlights, with the longer growing season giving graceful, expressive wines.

3 Waitaki Valley

Recent expansion into the inland sub-region of Waitaki Valley on the North Otago boundary shows real promise; its loess and limestone/ greywacke/schist soils, warm summers and long dry autumns give varietal intensity, complex fruit and a distinct mineral character to the predominantly Pinot Noir and aromatic plantings.

Map key Subregion Vineyard

Find Canterbury / Waipara Valley wine near you

Canterbury’s stunning Waipara Valley region is one of the unsung heroes of the wine industry.

Bob Campbell MW, 2004, Air NZ Inflight Magazine


The protective Southern Alps ensure low rainfall, abundant sunshine and often very warm summers, helped by the famed hot, dry nor’wester winds, though cooling sea breezes and the occasional cold southerly fronts temper this. Drought risk is mitigated by irrigation. Canterbury’s long dry autumns coupled to good diurnal variance help provide phenolic ripeness, complexity and a variety of styles.



SOURCE: MetService climate summary 1971-2000


As expected across large and diverse terrains, soil types vary: Waipara Valley benefits from gravel deposits from its eponymous river plus limestone-derived clays on the hillsides which suit Pinot Noir. The vast, flat Canterbury Plains surrounding Christchurch comprise mainly of shallow free-draining stony soils with varying alluvial deposits courtesy of the many braided river systems crossing the plains.