The Canterbury / Waipara Valley wine regions are located where the Southern Alps meet New Zealand’s most extensive lowlands, spanning nearly 200km of the South Island’s eastern coastline. The magnificent Southern Alps to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, vineyards are situated from Waimate in the south to Cheviot in the regions north.
The grape growing region includes several micro-climates with the Waipara Valley / Canterbury wine growing region offering a diverse range of styles and wine producers plus many inviting cellar doors. Wine production was first established on the Canterbury Plains near the small town of Belfast in 1978 with vineyards to the south-west of Christchurch and the Waipara Valley area soon following.
Waipara Valley is now intensely planted with the regions wines regularly achieving critical acclaim and success for their sub-regional varietal expressions.
The combined wine growing region with vine age and winemaking experience has seen their wines increasing in depth, developing the region’s reputation for elegant, expressive Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and in particular aromatic wines, with numerous vibrant varietals planted with exciting results.
The cool, dry climate with good sunshine hours and a long growing season provides ideal growing conditions for full varietal expression; with their wines renowned for their intense flavours, richness, complexity and elegance.
The Canterbury Plains covers a large area with vines planted from Banks Peninsula on the outskirts of Christchurch, west to Rolleston and West Melton then sweeping northward towards Waipara Valley; this predominantly flat, gently contoured landscape has free-draining, shallow greywacke-based gravel soils and a slightly cooler climate than the more protected Waipara Valley. Riesling and Pinot Noir are of note, with the longer growing season giving graceful, expressive wines.
The more renowned Waipara Valley wine area - is an exciting, fast-growing sub-region just a short drive north of the city of Christchurch, crafting bright, eloquent Rieslings going from strength to strength. The valley has three sub-zones, including the valley floor, hill slopes and river terraces. The soils are gravels and clays. As sites and meso-climates are further explored, evermore distinctive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay begin to shine. Though the drying nor’wester can challenge, the surrounding hills offer protection and a slightly warmer climate than the rest of Canterbury.
As of 2013 the combined Canterbury / Waipara Valley wine regions were the 5th largest wine producing region in the country, with 1454 hectares of vines planted: Sauvignon Blanc 346ha, Pinot Noir 334ha, Chardonnay 84ha and Aromatics with 453ha = (Riesling - 280ha, Pinot Gris - 173ha). Other vibrant varietals include Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Along with the production of quality Méthode Traditionnelle wines is small but critically acclaimed. In 2013 the Canterbury / Waipara Valley wine area had 70 registered wineries (out of a national total of 698) and only a small hand-full of independent grape growers, with the combined region accounting for 2.4% of the New Zealand’s wine production in tonnes.
According to the latest New Zealand Vintage Survey from NZ Wine published in early June 2014, Waipara Valley’s grape harvest weighed in at 10,127 tonnes, up 32% from the 2013 harvest and higher than the national average of 29% increase. It is the first time the region has exceeded 10,000 tonnes of grapes harvested - just confirming the regions continued investment in new vines / varietals and its growing reputation for crafting international recognised and appreciated quality wine varietals.