Wellington Wine Country and Hawke's Bay
There is only one place to start your adventure: Martinborough.
This wine village put New Zealand Pinot Noir on the map after the region’s winemaking pioneers were lured by conditions similar to those found in the world’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay capital, Burgundy.
Martinborough is the vinous sweet spot of Wellington Wine Country. A scenic one-hour drive from the city of Wellington, it is the city's weekend playground and source of fine wine. It is where you can enjoy complete vineyards experiences and eat, drink and stay amongst the vines.
Enjoy a three-hour countryside drive from Martinborough to Central Hawke's Bay, the region's Pinot Noir capital. While Hawke's Bay is best known for robust blended reds and Syrah, it proudly produces Pinot Noir.
The region gets full marks for it's stunning and sophisticated restaurants, vineyard accommodation and great cellar door experiences.
North Canterbury, Nelson and Marlborough
At first glance, these three South Island regions don’t appear to have too much in common. What they do share is a passion for producing outstanding Pinot Noir.
Waipara, an hour's drive north of Christchurch, is the beating heart of North Canterbury, as 10 out of 12 bottles of the region's wine started life in Waipara.
It's a three-and-a-half journey by car from Waipara to Blenheim, most of it up the rugged east coast. Break the journey at Kaikoura to admire the seals and enjoy a meal of freshly caught crayfish.
Marlborough is the largest producer of Pinot Noir. Their wine trail offers an Aladdin's cave of goodies for Pinot pursuers. Eighteen wineries offer meals, as simple as vineyard platters, or as sophisticated as fine-dining restaurants.
The next stop is Nelson, which is famous for its artists and artisans. You can choose to taste delicate, aromatic Pinot Noir from the stony soils of the Waimea Plains or go for something richer and more robust from the gravel-threaded clay soils of the Moutere Hills.
Central Otago & Waitaki Valley
Practically every vineyard in Central Otago and the Waitaki Valley has a jaw-droppingly spectacular view. In fact, the only thing that rivals the view is the wine - this is top Pinot Noir country.
From Queenstown, head east on the Gibbston Highway to Lake Hayes to taste a range of first-class Pinot Noir labels. Returning to the Gibbston Highway, continue your journey for a few minutes until you reach the Crown Range Highway, a shortcut to Wanaka, on your left. Turn left for access to ski fields, stunning alpine and lake views and, when you reach Wanaka, some of the world's most scenic Pinot vineyards.
Continue straight ahead for the Cromwell/Lowburn/Pisa area, which is Pinot Noir Central. Bannockburn is Central Otago's Pinot Noir focal point thanks to the award-winning efforts of a handful of wineries. From Cromwell, continue east on Gibbston Highway to Alexandra, where you can taste their elegant and age-worthy Pinot, dine or meet the winemaker and enjoy a winery tour.
It's a two-hour drive to Waitaki Valley to visit the country's newest wine region, which has already shown hints of greatness with Pinot Noir. It's a mix of continental and coastal climate with limestone-rich soils and great vineyard views of Waitaki River and rugged hills.