- Discovering the Joys of New Zealand Wine

Wairarapa Wine Region and Martinborough

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Wairarapa is the region and Martinborough is the most important town for wine-lovers. Confusion can arise with either name due to similarity with a South Island counterpart. Wairarapa versus Waipara; Martinborough versus Marlborough. In some sources, you may see it referred to as the Wellington area although it is about an hour's drive northeast of the city and on the other side of the impressive Manawatu Gorge.

Whatever you call it, the one word that is not used in connection with Martinborough wine is "accidental." In 1979, Dr. Derek Milne of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research issued a report identifying Martinborough as potentially prime wine country due to its similarity to Burgundy in climate and soil conditions. Demonstrating full confidence in his report, he became a founder of Martinborough Vineyards, now one of the renowned producers of Pinot Noir in the new world. Following his lead, there are now more than a handful of labels combining to put Wairarapa in the upper tier of quality New Zealand wine.

Wairarapa is sheep-country and a quarter-century ago, Martinborough was a small town ten miles off the beaten track of the main Wellington to Hawke's Bay Road. It still is somewhat of a small town but one that is getting used to traffic that comes down the road looking for its wines. The picturesque Martinborough Hotel is the place to go for fine dining or cross the street for a flight of Pinot Noir at the wine bar in the gourmet store. The white varietals, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer are also top-rank.

Here is the list of wineries: