The Martinborough wine region is located in the southern point of the North Island of New Zealand. Martinborough though a small wine district in size, it makes up for this in quality and style of wines crafted. The wines clearly reflect their unique blend of topography, ancient geology, climate and human endeavours. Distinctively boutique; the wines from Martinborough achieve international acclaim for intensity of flavour - old world style with new world flair - creating superb hand-crafted wines.
Early settler’s planted vines in 1883 - falling victim to the temperance movement in 1905. Martinborough’s modern wine history dates from the late 1970’s with plantings by producers Dry River, Martinborough Vineyard, Ata Rangi and Chifney which is now Margrain Vineyard.
In 1979 a government soil report identified Martinborough as sharing remarkably similar conditions to Burgundy - an almost identical mix of free-draining river gravels, temperatures and rainfall - and prompted an exciting vision of cool-climate wines from Martinborough.
In only 3 decades Pinot Noir has become Martinborough’s flagship wine: its elegance and style made Martinborough’s international reputation since the early 1990’s. Yet there is so much more to the region, the mineral-laden soils and climate nurturing a remarkable range of quality varietals.
Distinctive Sauvignon Blanc with tropical fruit flavours overlaid with minerality, elegant full-flavoured Chardonnay, appealingly aromatic Riesling and Pinot Gris all adding depth and complexity to the Martinborough story. Due to vine age and terroir - it is clear to those in the know that structure, complexity, texture, fruit ripeness and balance set Martinborough wines apart.
The Martinborough wine region is actually one of three fine wine sub-regions of the Wairarapa; linked by the power of the Ruamahanga River which flows from the Tararua mountains to Palliser Bay. Meeting Lake Wairarapa, which inspired the region’s Maori name, meaning Glistening Waters. A semi-maritime climate sheltered by the westerly Tararua Ranges, and exposed to strong, devigorating southerly winds. Martinborough experiences cool springs and autumns plus hot summers with cool nights: this combination of pronounced diurnal differences and a long growing season results in intense varietal character and complexity.
The three sub-regions Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton; share similar soils and geology based on river gravels some of which can be up to 15m deep, cast over thousands of years, and a broadly similar climate. Yet there are discernable differences in the flavour profiles and taste nuances between the three.
Clay loam and limestone feature in certain vineyards and site selection looks to pair varietals with these soil profiles. North to south, Masterton’s gravel river beds offer local limestone, Gladstone’s more variable silt loam has clay pockets whilst the shallower river terraces of Martinborough are highly sought after.
With typical far-sighted initiative, Martinborough wineries like Nga Waka were among the forefront of sustainable vineyard management, including a world-first achievement of formal international ISO standards and Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand accreditation.
As of 2013 Wairarapa had 972 hectares of vines planted in the region: Pinot Noir 465ha, Sauvignon Blanc 316ha, Pinot Gris 55ha, Riesling 25ha, other vineyards producing Syrah, Gewürztraminer and also Rosé style wines. In 2013 the Wairarapa area had 64 registered wineries (out of a national total of 698) and in the same year, accounted for 1.3% of the New Zealand wine production in tonnes.
Wairarapa has 3% of New Zealand’s vine area, yet Martinborough boasts some of NZ’s most iconic and sought-after wine producers. Situated just 1.5hours drive north-east of Wellington city, New Zealand’s capital - a scenic drive, just a mere 30km’s from the Pacific ocean, Martinborough offers a range of wine tourism pursuits with plenty of unique accommodation and dining options - to match the unique and varied quality wines of Martinborough.