Discover New Zealand’s secret wine region: Waitaki

New Zealand’s newest wine region is also one of its best-kept secrets.

Discover New Zealand’s secret wine region: Waitaki

New Zealand may be celebrating 200 years of winemaking on 25 September, but it’s one of its newest wine regions that’s making waves with oenophiles.

While Central Otago has long been known as New Zealand’s premier pinot noir wine growing region, a three-hour drive north will land you in Waitaki – the nation’s newest wine region that’s already beginning to make a name for itself as a fine wine destination helped by the favourable soil and natural aspect.

Image: Valli Wines

“The Waitaki Valley is one of New Zealand’s smallest wine regions, producing world-class pinot noir, aromatic whites and a handful of truly special chardonnays,” says Jen Parr, winemaker at Valli Vineyards whose Waitaki vineyard produces incredible pinot noir.

Jen came to New Zealand from the US to work with a man who is widely considered one of the godfathers of pinot noir in New Zealand – Valli’s owner Grant Taylor.

Image: Valli Wines

Cutting through the valley is the Waitaki River or Te Waitaki o Aoraki, referencing the tears of local Maori ancestor Aoraki/Mt Cook, who watches over from afar. The silts from the river and the unique make-up of the soil sets the region apart from anywhere else in New Zealand. Add to this, the challenging weather and you have a formula for small quantities at harvest but an exceptional quality result.

Image: Tourism Waitaki

Not far from Valli’s Waitaki vineyard is Karen and Murray Turner’s vineyard and cellar door, River-T Estate, where visitors can try many of the wines being made in Waitaki Valley and enjoy a platter while overlooking the vineyard.

“I love giving the visitors an experience,” says Karen. “They are free to walk through our vineyard, sample local produce and River-T’s cellar door not only stocks River-T wine but also nearly all the other producers. We have the largest selection of Waitaki Valley wine in the world for sale.”

River-T, like most of the wineries in Waitaki, is the last to harvest each year in New Zealand, around the end of April and sometimes well into May. Because the grapes are allowed to stay on the vine longer, the flavour develops more than its Central Otago cousin. The result is higher acidity levels, which provide freshness and balance alongside minerality and earthy notes with delicate fruit flavours. In layman’s terms – complex and delicious.

Image: supplied

Don’t miss: Pasquale Wine’s cellar door, where visitors are welcome to try their wines while enjoying some great food. Ostler Wine’s tasting room, The Vintner’s Drop, can be found in the small town of Kurow in the heart of the Waitaki Valley.

Waitaki Wine Tours
The best way to get around the Waitaki Valley and visit some of the wineries is with Oamaru local Sue Mansworth, who runs Waitaki Wine Tours. Sue warmly welcomes her guests and takes them on an intimate tour of the Waitaki wine region. Departing from Oamaru, the tour will take a maximum of six guests to some of the region’s best wineries. The boutique vineyards are a fantastic opportunity to get up close with the people behind the labels and share their passion and stories.

“I love showcasing and sharing our region’s scenery, history and wine with international visitors as it’s unique and stunning,” Sue says. “It’s my pleasure to provide a memorable day out during their stay in the Waitaki district.”

Travel Tips
Waitaki Valley is just over three hours’ drive from Queenstown or two hours from Dunedin. The small town of Oamaru is a great place to base yourself for your visit. Renowned for its Victorian architecture, two penguin colonies and steampunk culture, Oamaru is a quirky spot with an interesting history. Don’t forget to visit the Oamaru Blue Penguins, Steampunk HQ and Whitestone City.

Edited from information supplied by Tourism New Zealand.

Have you been to Waitaki? Which is your favourite New Zealand wine region?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    bobm
    5th Oct 2019
    6:37pm
    Great secret about the wine
    THE OTHER GREAT SECRET IS WHEN THE TOURIST GETS TO THE AUCKLAND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT."DON'T EXPECT THE TAXIS TO TAKE YOU TO A HOTEL WITHIN 6 KMS FROM THE AIRPORT". FORGET IT THEY WILL REFUSE YOUR REQUEST.
    My daughter arrived at Auckland after a 17 hr trip from Rome, at 4am, went to the taxi to go to her hotel. 3 drivers refused to take her. A female stranded at the Auckland Airport at 5 am. She was able to get a bus that went past the hotel.
    Sent an email to the Minister of Tourism of NZ 04.07.2019. So far no reply. The computer generated reply advised the letter could go to another department, may not be answered, which in turn was he was not interested in a problem for tourists at the International airport.
    I WOULD SUGGEST IGNORE ANY TAXI DRIVER AND GO FOR AN ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORT SUCH AS UBER OR THE LIKE. THE TAXI DRIVERS MUST MAKE TOO MUCH MONEY SO DON'T NEED AN AUSTRALIAN TOURISTS
    The Minister can't be too concerned to the tourism portfolio and what would be expected from his job.
    With just about 230,000 people getting this "your life choices" every issue. I will leave it to all of the subscribers of this publication to decide if you really want to go to NZ and use the Auckland Airport as a stop over before finding the wine as shown.
    Vote with your feet.


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