Marlborough Wine Region

A combination of a cool yet high sunshine climate, low rainfall and free-draining, moderately fertile soil produces uniquely vivid wines.

Marlborough put New Zealand on the international wine stage with its exquisite Sauvignon Blanc in the 1980s.

Over 20,000ha of vines (around 2/3 of the national total) are under the care of local wine producers, making it the country's largest wine region.

Marlborough wineries offer a huge range of varieties, from exquisite Pinot Noir to intense Chardonnay, and vivacious aromatics.  

The diverse soils and meso-climates are revealing exciting new sub-regions, and it is within these unique sub-regions that Marlborough’s future lies.

Hailed as one of New Zealand’s most sunny and dry regions, Maori referred to the Wairau Valley as ‘Kei puta te Wairau’ – ‘The place with the hole in the cloud’.

Marlborough subregions

Regional Maps 2020, Marlborough

A. Southern Valleys

Wrapping around the surrounding hills the Omaka, Fairhall, Brancott, Ben Morvan and Waihopai Valleys make up this important sub-region. Soils and meso-climates vary, but tend to be heavier and contain more clay than Wairau. It also becomes cooler and drier further south into the valleys. A broad range of varieties are grown according to the merit of each site, with particularly good Pinot Noir and aromatics being produced by the area.

B. Wairau Valley

Old, gravely riverbed soils, and diverse aspects and rainfall create numerous meso-climates within this sub-region. Broadly, it covers a range of cooler, drier inland sites; barren stony, early-ripening sites; and sea-breeze moderated coastal sites. Across the sub-region wines reflect the strengths of individual vineyards and vignerons, but all have the hallmark fruit intensity and body.

C. Awatere Valley

The Awatere Valley is the most geographically distinct sub-region, lying south of the Wairau Valley and stretching inland from the sea, and climbing towards the inland Kaikoura ranges. Cooler, drier, windier and often with a degree of elevation, sites with typically lower yields produce bright, aromatic Pinot Noir and dramatic, distinctive Sauvignons, both of which are attracting increasing international acclaim.

Regional winestyles and plantings

Wine Region Plantings 2020, Marlborough

Sauvignon Blanc

Pungently aromatic, vividly pure fruit, herbaceous and exotically tropical, plus mineral depths, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is an international brand in its own right.

Pinot Noir 

Going from strength to strength as committed growers refine both clones and sites. Displays dark cherry and plums with a red-fruited spicy background, mid-weight, fine tannins. 

Aromatics

Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer reflect the region’s purity and vivacity. Styles range from dry to sweet, taut to lush, including late harvest and botrytised wines.

Chardonnay

From all the bells and whistles to unoaked styles, Marlborough produces well-structured Chardonnay with excellent intensity and complexity. Stonefruit and citrus abound. 

Other

Grüner Veltliner shows promise, Viognier and Syrah have their champions too; everything from Arneis to Tempranillo is being explored as Marlborough continues to push its boundaries. Production of high-quality méthode traditionelle wines is small but critically renowned. Bright citrus fruit with fine body and acidity; excellent value for the first-rate quality. 

Visiting Marlborough

Marlborough is a wine-lovers dream destination, as visitors can be sipping at the cellar doors within minutes of touching down at the Blenheim airport.  Alternatively, many visitors opt to enter the region via Picton aboard the incredibly scenic Cook Strait ferry, then enjoying the stunning 30-minute drive or new heritage steam train ride.

Marlborough is not only about world famous Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s largest winegrowing region, it’s also about fresh seafood sought by the world’s finest chefs, and diverse landscapes, from valleys of vines to sheltered waterways. Visitors join a wine tour, hire a bike, or even set out on foot in some areas, choosing from more than 30 cellar doors, tasting award winning wines along the way, almost all within a ten-minute drive from each other. For more information on visiting Marlborough, see www.marlboroughnz.com.

Find Marlborough wine near you

Learn more about Marlborough wine

New Zealand Wine Textbook
Back to top