Wairarapa

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

Escarpment Vineyards

A boutique region, Wairapara has just 3% of New Zealand’s land under vine, and contributes to 1% of its total production.

A range of styles and varieties are on offer, such as standout Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics, as well as stylish Chardonnay, Syrah and dessert wines.

The three main sub-regions in the area are Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton. These sub-regions share a similar climate and soil structures, yet offer subtle differences in character for the discerning palate to explore.

Wairarapa’s modern wine history dates from the late 1970s plantings of Martinborough, which included producers such as: Dry River, Martinborough Vineyard, Ata Rangi and Chifney (now Margrain).

A short, scenic drive from Wellington, the picturesque region is around 30 kilometers from the sea, and offers a range of wine tourism activities, unique accommodation, and superb dining options.

Wairarapa subregions

A. 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.

B. 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.

Climate & soil

Wairarapa regional climate

Climate

With a semi-maritime climate, the Wairarapa is sheltered by the westerly Tararua Ranges, and exposed to blustery, devigorating winds. The region experiences cool spring and autumn seasons, and very hot summer days with cool nights. This wonderful climate enables a long growing season and the development of intense varietal character and complexity. Ideal winter/spring rainfall patterns, and long, dry autumns create excellent conditions for late harvest and botrytised wines.

Soil

Wairarapa soils are predominantly silt loam over free-draining gravels, some of which can be up to 15m deep due to rivers criss-crossing the region. With clay loam and limestone featuring in certain vineyards, 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 offer highly sought after planting territory.

Winestyles, planting & production information

Wairarapa regional major plantings & styles

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.

Aromatics

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.

Syrah 

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

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