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Grape Expectations: Following the Wine Trails of Christchurch

New Zealand is fast becoming one of the world’s leading producers of wine. And while fine wines come from all regions of New Zealand, the industry first began in Christchurch and the Canterbury region, making it the ideal place to base an exploratory tour of local wines.




Because so many visitors have begun flocking to Christchurch to visit wine country, the region has developed several wine trails to help them explore. These trails, which expand in all directions from Christchurch, as well as the Waipara Valley to the north of the city and Selwyn to the south, give visitors the chance to visit some of the best wineries, vineyards and restaurants.

While it’s possible to explore these trails on your own and many Christchurch hotels offer specials that include guided tours; you can also book a guided, motor coach tour of the region if you plan to do any extensive tasting during your visit.

It’s difficult to go wrong when you’re trying to decide which trail to explore, but the best choice for you depends largely on what type of wine you enjoy the most. Each region has its own specialty, so consider this guide before you reserve your tour.

Waipara Valley

Just about an hour north of Christchurch, the Waipara Valley is New Zealand’s fastest-growing wine region and noted for its Pinot Noir and Rieslings. The Valley also has small vineyards of other types, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and some Syrah. Of the more than 80 vineyards in the region, perhaps the best-known and top-rated, is Pegasus Bay. Visit this winery to sample some of the best Pinot Noir in the country. Other wineries to visit include Greystone, Mountford Estate and Mudhouse –all of which specialize in Pinot Noir. Fiddlers Green is another top winery, notable for its Riesling.

Selwyn

To the south of Christchurch is Selwyn, the birthplace of the New Zealand wine industry, where the first pinot noir grapes were planted almost 40 years ago. However, this region is where you can find more than just Pinot Noir; it’s particularly notable for its Riesling and other aromatic wine production. Sandihurst, Melton Estate and Bentwood Wines, which is the smallest commercial vineyard in New Zealand, are all worth a visit, as are the artisan food shops and gourmet cafes that dot the area.

South Canterbury

Near Christchurch, the South Canterbury region is best-known for being a food production centre. The area, with its patchwork of fields, rolling hills, lakes and mountain vistas, is worth visiting for the scenery alone – but is also home to several fine wineries. The best wineries in this area are boutique wineries, producing specialized wines in small quantities. Try the Opihi Winery and Café or Point Bush Estates Vineyard and Winery. At Point Bush, you can even reserve the guest house in the vineyards for a truly exclusive and immersive experience.

North Canterbury

While many people focus on the Waipara, area north of Christchurch when they think of wines, there are several other areas that also offer exceptional wine and dining options. In Hanmer Springs, for example, you’ll find Marble Point Winery, one of the highest altitude vineyards in all of New Zealand. This boutique winery produces award-winning Pinot Noir wine, as well as Riesling and Chardonnay.

In addition to the small wineries, a trip to north Canterbury should also include stops in the towns of Oxford and Rangiora, which feature multiple fine restaurants, shops and cafes. In Rangiora, for example, the Rangiora Bakery is perhaps the most famous bakery in New Zealand; the bakery recently expanded to include Artisan, a full-service café that’s proven to be quite popular with locals and visitors alike.

The areas surrounding Christchurch are some of the leading producers of New Zealand wine and thousands of visitors from all over the world flock to it every year to experience the gastronomic pleasures of the region. You’ll need several days to explore all that the Christchurch and Canterbury regions have to offer, but the time spent is well worth it. From the spectacular scenery to the chance to discover a new favorite libation, a getaway to this region is not to be missed.

Thanks to Leigh Allen for this artilce.  Leigh writes about food and wine for several publications worldwide. She has explored wine regions all over the world, but calls those in her home country of New Zealand her favorite. She hopes to eventually open her own boutique winery and restaurant.

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