New Zealand's North Island

Amazing Pinot Noir from the nation's northern stretch


In part two of our series on New Zealand's next great grapes, we'll be exploring the North Island's unique terroir and tasting the region's top Pinots.

From the stunning ancient forests of Northland to the warm, rolling hills of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand's North Island is a diverse stretch of land that's home to the country's oldest winery, as well as first-rate producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and, of course, Sauvignon Blanc.

Moving (roughly) from north to south, one passes through the following wine regions on the North Island of New Zealand.

The North Island

Northland – Home of New Zealand’s fist vineyard, planted in 1819, as well as the country’s first wines, which were produced by James Busby (the man responsible for bringing vines to Australia). Mostly planted to Bordeaux varieties with some Chardonnay.

Auckland – Predominantly Bordeaux varieties.

Waiheke Island – Laying just off the coast north of Auckland, Waiheke Island benefits from the moderating effects of the ocean, producing richer wines, and fuller reds than most mainland regions in New Zealand.

Waikato/ Bay of Plenty – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Gisborne – Chardonnay and the aromatic white varieties find some of the best expressions here.

Hawke’s Bay – Home to New Zealand’s oldest winery, the Mission Estate, which was established in 1851. This is also home to the Gimblett Gravels region, a small (just under 2000 acres) part of Hawke’s Bay distinguished by the deep gravel beds that were laid down by the Ngaruroro River. These lands were long thought worthless until it was discovered, quite recently, that they’re ideal for the cultivation of grapes.  In particular, the climate and poor soils have proven perfect for Bordeaux varieties, though it is also producing promising Syrah.

Martinborough – The Southern point of the North Island is home to many Sauvignon Blanc producers as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir from Martinborough has certainly proven to be world class and has paved the way for many other producers and varieties.

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Mentioned in this article


  • A New Classification (Matthew Jukes) of New Zealand's Pinot Noirs is out.


    Apr 01, 2010 at 12:11 PM

  • Why have you illustrated this article on North Island wines with a picture of Highfield winery in Marlborough - in South Island?!

    Wayne de Nicolo

    Apr 01, 2010 at 4:28 PM

  • Snooth User: KIWIwines
    352690 32

    Please don't forget the Rimu Grove Pinot Noir wines!

    Apr 01, 2010 at 4:55 PM

  • Did anyone else have an opportunity to enjoy the NZ Winegrowers Assoc New Release tastings in LA or SF in the last month? I attended both. Great oppy to sample the major regions as well as a few lesser known. Marlborough and Central Otago were well represented. Unfortunately, the north island, and specifically, Martinborough, had fewer brands present despite the exquisite pinot noir and other varietals it produces. Of course I might be biased because I am co-owner of Alana Estate (borders Dry River) though reside in Los Angeles. For those who are fans, we recently committed to allocated some of our recent releases to the US. If interested in staying in the loop, check out locally through Facebook or Twitter at Flexer Wine Group, or at Cheers!

    Apr 01, 2010 at 6:26 PM

  • How does one find out about such events in LA, flexerwines?

    Apr 01, 2010 at 8:17 PM

  • Palliser Estate do some amasing Riesling as well. I like the Borthwick Vineyards wines from the Wairarapa, again amazing Riesling and Pinot Noir, and the Trinity Hills Temperanillo and Syrah.

    Apr 02, 2010 at 6:17 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Funny you mention Riesling, no so much for the Riesling itself but rather for the emerging cool climate reputation of New Zealand. Several syrahs recently tasted exhibited the balance and cut of some old world producers, and the Rieslings look to compete with many of the worlds better versions.

    Apr 03, 2010 at 11:45 AM

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