Wairarapa Wine Region

Wairarapa (meaning glistening waters in Maori) is a compact yet diverse region, with numerous boutique producers offering a range of varieties and producing wine of exceptional quality.

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. 

The three main subregions share broadly similar climate and soils yet also offer subtle differences in character for the discerning palate to explore.

With a fascinating early settler history, vines were first planted in 1883 but fell victim to the temperance movement in 1905. Wairarapa’s modern wine history dates from the late 1970s and the region boasts some of New Zealand’s most iconic and sought after producers.

A short, scenic drive from Wellington, the picturesque region offers a range of wine tourism activities, unique accommodation, and superb dining options.

Wairarapa subregions

Regional Maps 2020, Wairarapa

Masterton

Masterton is the largest town in Wairarapa, and was the first area grapes were planted in the region, over a century ago. The valley is shadowed by the Tararua ranges, and early morning frosts are common, contrasted by incredible hot summer days. This diurnal range produces complex and flavourful wines, with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir the dominant varieties.

Gladstone

Just south of the district’s largest town, Masterton, the sub-region of Gladstone is blessed with free-draining river terraces and a cooler climate with plenty of sunshine. 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.

Martinborough

This picturesque colonial village is surrounded by small vineyards, tended by family-owned producers. With a climate and soil profile similar to that of Burgundy, it’s no wonder that Martinborough has excited the wine world. Acclaimed Pinot Noir, vivid Sauvignon Blanc, and elegant aromatics and Syrah are all produced in this most southerly Wairarapa sub-region, which boasts free-draining soils and a cool, dry climate.

Winestyles and planting information

Wine Region Plantings 2020, Wairarapa

Pinot Noir

The region’s flagship red; richly flavoured and warm with a savoury undercurrent whilst retaining perfumed varietal character, Wairarapa Pinots offer texture and depth.

Sauvignon Blanc

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 Gris

Pinot Gris is successful with the long growing season also allowing for late harvest and botrytised styles.

Syrah 

Emerging and showing great promise. Elegant, perfumed with a backbone of spice, Syrah looks to replacing the climatically trickier Cabernet and Merlot blends.

Aromatics

Riesling and Gewürztraminer are successful with the long growing season, also allowing for late harvest and botrytised styles. Stylish Viognier also impresses.

Visiting Wairarapa

Wairarapa is accessible from the capital city of Wellington, just over an hour’s drive (or train ride) through scenic country.  Getting here is easy enough for a day trip, but visitors will quickly learn there is much more to experience than can be done in one day.  Between Martinborough, Gladstone, and Masterton, the cellar doors are very accessible, and some are even walking distance from one another.  Many of the wineries are small producers and the chance of having a conversation with the winemaker is something that draws visitors.  For a truly unique experience, stay at one of several vineyard accommodation options, and hear the stories of the people, the wine, and the region.  The region is famous for its premium Pinot Noir, but one of the real treats is discovering something lesser known and very special. 

Find Wairarapa wine near you

Learn more about Wairarapa wine

New Zealand Wine Textbook
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