Canterbury Wine Tours
Canterbury is a large wine region, stretching from the east coast of the South Island to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Its centerpiece is the city of Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island.
Canterbury enjoys a hot, dry climate during the summer months, but the weather often turns cool and frosty in winter.
With its first vineyard planted in 1977, Canterbury is a relatively new winegrowing region. However despite its short history, the area has gained a reputation in New Zealand and the rest of the world as a quality wine region.
Canterbury is renowned for its dry and sweet rieslings and subdued pinot noirs. However the area’s chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, gewurztraminers, and pinot gris should not be overlooked.
Canterbury’s wineries are scattered throughout the region. However, most of them are easily accessible from the main town of Christchurch.
The most popular wine areas in the region are Banks Peninsula in the easy, Burnham in the south, and Waipara in the north. The wines produced by the following vineyards won’t disappoint tourists.
Georges Road, Waipara
The winery’s dog, Jem, welcomes visitors to Fiddler’s Green. She escorts guests to the cellar door, where they can try Rieslings, sauvignon blancs, pinot noirs, and chardonnays. The winery is committed to expansion, and hopes to add a pinot gris and gewurztraminer to their tasting range. Fiddler’s Green is open from 11 am to 5 pm on weekends from October to May, and by appointment at other times.
424 Omihi Road, Waipara
Don’t let the name fool you. Muddy Water is named after the English translation of its Maori location, Waipara. Its wines, which include pinot noirs, pinotages, syrahs, rieslings, and chardonnays, taste a lot better. Visits to the winery are by appointment only, but it’s worth the effort.
Stockgrove Road, RD2, Amberley
Pegasus Bay aims to give guests a complete sensory experience. Its cellar door is open every day, allowing visitors to sample its sauvignons, semillons, pinot noirs, merlot cabernets, and chardonnays. The winery’s restaurant serves daily lunches which are perfectly matched to the local wines. Bookings are recommended for tourists intending to stay for lunch.
Johnson Road, RD5, West Melton
Melton Estate is a boutique winery, which prides itself on producing a small number of high quality wines. It specializes in chardonnays, rieslings, and pinot noirs. Guests can enjoy Melton Estate’s range, which includes chardonnays, Rieslings, pinot noirs, and sauvignon blancs, while overlooking the stunning vineyards. The cellar door and cafe are open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout summer.
172 Gould Road, Opihi
The Opihi Vineyard has a small but award-winning range of wines, which includes pinot gris, rieslings, chardonnays, and pinot noirs. Visitors are encouraged to taste these varieties at the cellar door, which is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from September to May. Guests with time to spare can look forward to tasty meals made from fresh local produce at the Opihi Cafe.
The large city of Christchurch is the perfect base for a visit to the Canterbury wine region. Christchurch is readily accessible, with direct flights available from many countries including Australia, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Fiji, and the United States. Air New Zealand and Freedom Air also offer domestic flights connecting Christchurch with Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Dunedin, and Wanaka.
Christchurch Airport is 12 kilometers, or 7.5 miles, from the city centre. The journey is an easy 15 to 20 minutes drive by car. The route is well signposted, so tourists should have no trouble navigating. Offices for the hire car companies Europcar, Avis, and Budget are located in the airport for the convenience of travelers.
For tourists preferring to let someone else handle the driving, taxi and coach services are available. Red Bus operates a city direct Airport Flyer service, and a Harewood to Cashmere bus which travels through the suburbs. Both buses cost NZ$7 per person. Tourists can expect to pay between $30 and $50 to travel from Christchurch Airport to the city center by taxi.
Travelers with their own vehicle can easily make their way around the vineyards, although it’s important the driver remembers not to drink too much. Tourists who don’t want to be mindful of this may like to consider a coach tour. Several companies, including Canterbury Wine Tours and Discovery Travel Day Tours, will pick travelers up from their accommodation and return them at the tour’s end. Tourists after a little more luxury can travel in style with Canterbury Limousine Tours.
Christchurch is a large city, with a range of different accommodation to suit all tourists. Hostels like Around the World Backpackers and City Oasis may not offer a lot of luxury but they are affordable, leaving travelers more cash to spend on wine.
For something a little more upmarket, the rooms at Bealey’s Hotel and Hotel So are worth a look. They offer comfort for travelers, but they won’t break the bank.
Yet sometimes travelers just want to spoil themselves. Tourists looking for luxury won’t be disappointed with the five-star facilities at Peppers Clearwater Resort or Matua Gardens Retreat.
Canterbury Wine Events
Every February – The Food and Wine Festival of Canterbury is held every year in Hagley Park. It brings together the region’s high profile vineyards, a diverse selection of local restaurants and cafes, and talented local musicians.
Every March – The Waipara Wine and Food Celebration rings in the Waipara wine harvest. The event has been held for more than a decade in the grounds of the Glenmark Church. It features more than 15 local wineries and a selection of food stalls. Music and children’s entertainment are provided, making it a fun day for the whole family. Prebooked tickets cost NZ$20, or NZ$25 at the gate. Entry includes a tasting glass and lucky door raffle ticket.
The first Saturday in October – Kaikoura Seafest is a celebration of the abundance of the ocean and what that represents for the region’s people. It is a sensory extravaganza featuring fine wine, gourmet cuisine, and live entertainment. It is held at the Takahanga Domain, located in the center of Kaikoura.