Wine tasting is one of the most satisfactory touristic activities in the world. It is an enriching experience not only for the taste but also for the intellect. Because grapes can be grown in specific conditions, there are only a few places outside Europe producing quality wines. In the southern hemisphere, New Zealand is one of the very few big players.
The climate in New Zealand resembles the Mediterranean with warm-dry summers and mild-rainy winters. The weather, combined with the fertility of the volcanic soil, creates an excellent environment for mass wine production. The wine production in and around Auckland alone is enough to provide for millions of tourists, as there are more than 100 vineyards.
If you have limited time before venturing into the mountains, it can be daunting to decide where to go to Auckland for wine tasting. In this article, we will describe the wine regions around Auckland, and mention the most outstanding wineries in the area.
The wine regions in Auckland consist of three main areas, Kumeu being the oldest. The first wine production started in the 1940s with the arrival of Croatian farmers. Thanks to the warm ocean climate that is especially ideal for Merlot and Chardonnay, the local community established many award-winning wineries.
Kumeu River Wines
When it comes to Chardonnay, Kumeu River Winery is second to none. It owes its commercial success to the Brajkovich Family, who established the wine farm in 1944. Examining the area with their knowledge of agriculture, they purchased 30 hectares of land rich in clay soil and sandstone. It is a perfect absorbent for water, which is necessary for it to reach deep down into the tips of the vine roots. That’s why the vineyard never requires excessive water supply. Finally, the harvesting of grapes by hand allows a thorough selection of mature and ripe grapes and the elimination of unready ones.
Considering all the facts above, it is no surprise that the Chardonnay of Kumeu River Wines is quite competitive in the global market. The winery also welcomes visitors for tasting or buying various kinds of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and so on. They have a selection of wines for every budget.
Soljans Wine Estate
Established in 1937, Soljans Wine Estate is the third oldest in New Zealand and a successful family business. The founders were the Soljan family who sailed to New Zealand from a small island in Croatia called Stari Grad. Although they started their adventure by helping the cultivation process of other families, they ended up buying land in 1937.
What makes the wines of Soljans stand out is the motto of combining new technology and traditional methods. The method behind the signature wines of Soljans is the use of French Oak Barrique and totara barrels for aging the wine. Pinotage and Chardonnay aside, their signature wine is perhaps the sparkling kind that became a commercial success throughout the world by the name Soljans Estate Fusion Sparkling Muscat.
Soljans Wine Estate offers extensive wine-tasting opportunities as well as a restaurant. It has a spacious playground for children, so you don’t have to leave your kids at home.
Despite being younger than the previously-mentioned wineries, Cooper’s Creek has established a reputation in forty years. The owners Andrew and Cynthia Hendry had substantial experience in the wine industry and pate making before opening Cooper’s Creek, so their success was no coincidence. Starting with only four hectares of land 30 km north of Auckland’s CBD, the winery quickly expanded, and collaborations with other winemakers contributed to the great diversity.
Today, Coopers Creek operates at five different regions around New Zealand – from Marlborough to Hawkes Bay. Yet, the original site with the exquisite collection of Chardonnay and Merlot is still the most famous one. Try to visit at the weekend if you can, and you can get to watch live jazz music.
Waiheke, the second largest and the most favorite island in the Hairaku Gulf, has the perfect condition for wine production. There are only 27 boutique vineyards, but the quality is much more important than quantity on this idyllic location. Waiheke is about 30 minutes’ ferry ride from Auckland Pier.
Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant
This lovely boutique vineyard is the fruit of a love story between Robyn and Nicholas Jones. They weren’t even 30 years old when they first purchased the land in 1992. Then, they made a sharp shift from their 9-5 office jobs to a life everybody dreams of achieving at some point. From a complete lack of experience and knowledge, they carried on to the present day, where Mudbrick has earned gold-medal for its quality of wines.
Today, Mudbrick is a lot more than just a winery. The whole package includes a fine-dining restaurant, a guest house, and touristic activities like wine cellar tours. The variety is quite promising at two vineyards, from Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The secret behind the unique taste is that Mudbrick relies not only on its planted grapes but also sources grapes from other parts of New Zealand to create signature blends of different types of grapes.
Many travel magazines in the UK name Stonybridge as one of the best wineries in the world. If the owner of a winery has gained experience working in the industry all around the world, you can never go wrong with the wines of that place. Stephen White is a world nomad who sailed around the words and lived in many countries as an ex-pat. During his time in California, France, and Italy, he worked at wineries and learned all the tricks through professional training. In the end, he came back to New Zealand and established Stonybridge in 1985. Within the first ten years, the winery quickly rose to fame by producing eccentric products like Larose and the first Bordeaux five blend outside Europe.
Today, Stonybridge’s Larose is considered the best red wine in the Southern Hemisphere. To realize the success of the winery, all you have to do is to look at the visitors’ list. You will see a long list of influential figures from Queen Elizabeth II to the Russian Presidents and Prime Ministers of the UK.
The scenery of Waiheke and the wine-making traditions of Italy, what more could you possibly want? Crisci Family set foot in New Zealand in the 90s and gained fame in no time, first with their pizzerias and the Poderi Crisci Winery. Starting with a single vineyard comprising Merlot, they are now one of the top-rated places on Waiheke Island.
It is not only the quality of wines but also the medieval Romanesque architecture that will take you back in time. The hand-harvested grapes are processed and kept in French oak barriques for aging. The result is a wine-tasting experience identical to a day in Tuscany. Besides wine tasting, the restaurant offers a wide selection of Italian dishes and desserts. You would regret it if you left without trying their tiramisu!
Matakana is a hilly wine-region one hour north of Auckland’s CBD. The clay here is quite rich in iron, making it suitable for wine production. Also, the winery technologies and water resources contribute to the rapid increase in production.
Ascension Wine Estate
Here is another love child from an entrepreneur couple. It all started with Alex and Susan going on their first date 11 years ago. As descendants of European countries, they both dream of incorporating the European winery culture into the pristine landscape of Matakana. Today, Ascension Wine Estate is the go-to place for functions, weddings, and festivals.
The winery cultivates several varieties, such as Mercat, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Viognier. The place is also well-known for its Rose and sparkling wine. Besides conventional wine-tasting tours, Ascension is one of the few wineries in Auckland that offer wine-making workshops.
Brick Bay has a picturesque background that combines indigenous forests with a local artisan community making clay-brick sculptures. Brick Bay Winery was established in 1986 near the famous Sculpture trail comprising over fifty sculptures.
Brick Bay’s signature wines include Pinot Gris, Bordeaux-red blends, and Rose, but they always bring an element of surprise to their menus every season. From wine tasting to cellar tours and fine dining, Brick Bay offers the whole package and turns winemaking into a form of art.
Auckland’s wineries will set quite high for your future wine-tasting trips. To arrive in Auckland safe and sound, you can fly with Cathay Pacific. You can easily book flights from Hong Kong to Auckland, Europe, and the US.