North Canterbury Wine Region

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

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 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.

Exploration of new subregions inland from North Canterbury towards Weka Pass, 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 excellent results.

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

BOB CAMPBELL MW, 2004, AIR NZ INFLIGHT MAGAZINE

North Canterbury wine subregions

Regional Maps 2020, North Canterbury

As expected across large and diverse terrains, soil types vary: North Canterbury 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.

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. Riesling and Pinot Noir are highlights, with the longer growing season giving graceful, expressive wines.

Winestyles and planting information

Wine Region Plantings 2020, North Canterbury

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.

Riesling

Abundant, bright fruit. Encompassing dry to dessert styles, Riesling’s already long, illustrious history is continuously improved upon.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris has made an impressive debut, with bold aromatic expressions of pear, stonefruit and spice.

Chardonnay

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.

Visiting 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 www.christchurchnz.com.

Find North Canterbury wine near you

Learn more about North Canterbury wine

New Zealand Wine Textbook
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