North Canterbury

Where the Southern Alps tumble down to meet extensive lowlands, boutique producers craft outstanding Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and fine aromatic wines.

vines at greystone vineyard to the mountains
Greystone Vineyards
The North Canterbury wine region spans nearly 200km of the South Island’s eastern coastline, with the magnificent Alps to the west and the sweeping Pacific Ocean to the east.
The region has an excellent reputation for elegant and expressive Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and aromatics, with other varieties achieving outstanding results.
The cool, dry climate with high sunshine and a long growing season promotes full varietal expression.
Vineyards were first established on the Canterbury Plains in 1978, with plantings to the south-west of Christchurch and North Canterbury following close behind.
Today vines are planted from Waimate in the south to Cheviot in the north and include the micro-climates of Banks Peninsula and Waipara Valley. The latter has drawn critical acclaim for its sub-regional expression.

The exploration into new subregions forecasts exciting depth and diversity for the area's future wine offerings.

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


Visit North Canterbury

North Canterbury forms an essential New Zealand wine destination for those looking to discover some real hidden gems. The cellar doors of North Canterbury are all within easy reach of the Christchurch Airport, ensuring you’re sipping wine shortly after touch down.  Many are located north of Christchurch in the Waipara Valley, a boutique wine growing region that recently developed a new cycle trail connecting several of the area’s cellar doors. Others are sprinkled throughout the Canterbury Plains, where you can expect to taste some premium New Zealand wines.  The dining scene is also top notch, and some of the most highly accoladed restaurants are located at wineries of this region.  For more information on visiting North Canterbury, see

North Canterbury subregions

A. Waipara Valley, North Canterbury

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. 

B. Canterbury Plains, North Canterbury

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.

Winestyles, planting & production information

Donut chart showing the hectares of different varieties planted in Canterbury
Canterbury & Waipara region major plantings & styles


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.

Pinot Noir 

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.

Sauvignon Blanc

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


Widely planted across the region and made in a range of styles; wines have good structure and body, finely poised acidity and rich citrus fruit.
Infographic showing total wine production in Canterbury
Canterbury & Waipara production statistics

Climate & soil

Average annual sun and rain for Canterbury in 2018.
Canterbury & Waipara regional climate


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. North Canterbury’s long dry autumns coupled to good diurnal variance help provide phenolic ripeness, complexity and a variety of styles.


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.

Find North Canterbury wine near you

Back to top