Wairarapa (Maori for ‘glistening waters’ is a compact yet diverse region of boutique producers offering high-quality examples of a wide range of varieties, supported by a vibrant, wine-focused community.
- The three main sub-regions (Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton) share broadly similar climate and soils yet also offer subtle differences in character for the discerning palate to explore.
- A range of styles and varieties are on offer with standout Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics as well as stylish Chardonnay, Syrah and dessert wines.
- With a fascinating early settler history, vines were first planted in 1883 though fell victim to the temperance movement in 1905 (a 1903 vintage Masterton wine tasted 82 years later was pronounced “alive and well...”). Wairarapa’s modern wine history dates from the late 1970s plantings of Martinborough producers Dry River, Martinborough Vineyard, Ata Rangi and Chifney (now Margrain).
- Wairapara has just 3% of New Zealand’s land under vine, and 1% of its total production yet boasts some of NZ’s most iconic and sought-after producers.
- A fairly short and definitely scenic drive from Wellington, and a mere 30-odd km from the sea both south and east, Wairarapa offers a range of wine tourism pursuits and pleasures with plenty of unique accommodation and dining options.
SOURCE: New Zealand Winegrower's Vineyard Register Report & Annual Report
Plantings and Styles (2013)
Pinot Gris - 62ha, Gewürtzraminer - 3ha, Riesling - 32ha
Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer are all successful with the long growing season also allowing for late harvest and botrytised styles. Stylish Viognier also impresses.
Emerging and showing great promise. Elegant, perfumed with a backbone of spice, Syrah looks to replacing the climatically trickier Cabernet and Merlot blends.
Sauvignon Blanc 318ha
The region’s best kept secret. Intense and vivid with excellent perfume and poised, mineral textural palates. Good mix of herbaceous and tropical characters.
Pinot Noir 500ha
The region’s flagship red; richly flavoured and warm with a savoury undercurrent whilst retaining perfumed varietal character, Wairarapa Pinots offer texture and depth.
Just south of the district’s largest town, Masterton, blessed with free-draining river terraces and a cooler climate with plenty of sunshine, Gladstone is a fast-growing sub-region with room to expand. Some clay amongst the stony silt loams suits the predominant Pinot Noir very well, alongside lively Sauvignon Blanc and impressive aromatics. The harvest festival each March showcases Gladstone’s bounty.
A picturesque colonial village focussed on wine, surrounded by vineyards tended by small, frequently family-owned producers and with a climate and soil profile similar to Burgundy, it’s no wonder Martinborough has excited the wine world. Acclaimed Pinot Noir, vivid Sauvignon Blanc, poised aromatics and elegant Syrah are all produced. The most southerly sub-region, with free-draining soils and a cool, dry climate.
Map key Subregion Vineyard
Find Wairarapa wine near you
A semi-maritime climate sheltered by the westerly Tararua Ranges, and exposed to blustery, devigorating winds, Wairarapa experiences cool springs and autumns plus hot summers with cool nights: this wonderful combination of pronounced diurnal differences and a long growing season confers intense varietal character and complexity. Ideal winter/spring rainfall patterns and long, dry autumns create perfect conditions for late harvest and botrytised wines.
SOURCE: MetService Climate Summary 1971-2000
Predominantly silt loam over free-draining gravels, some of which can be up to 15m deep courtesy of the rivers criss-crossing the region. Clay loam and limestone feature in certain vineyards and vignerons work hard to match their varieties with soil profiles. North to south, Masterton’s gravel river beds offer local limestone, gladstone’s more variable silt loam has clay pockets whilst the shallower river terraces of Martinborough and nearby Te Muna are highly sought after.