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Welcome to the Wines of Martinborough

Martinborough is the wine capital of the Wairarapa wine region. Other Wairarapa towns include Featherston, Greytown, Gladstone and Masterton. The Wairarapa is a one hour trip from Wellington city by car, bus or train.

The region is characterised by rolling hill country, plenty of sheep, wild coastlines, gentle river valleys and lots of grape vines. The population is small and concentrated on a few tiny rural settlements. The towns of Martinborough and Greytown are the prettiest.

While small in terms of total wine production, Martinborough's boutique wineries have established enviable reputations for the quality of their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris wines.

Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to make well. The grapes must be extremely ripe when picked, and with very high sugar levels. It is best when produced in cool climate regions.

Martinborough's close proximity to Wellington makes it a popular weekend destination. While there are no large hotels or motels, there is plenty of comfortable farmstay and bed and breakfast accomodation. Vineyards, such as Margrain, offer good quality accomodation including small conference facilities. There are also a small number of exclusive retreats and boutique hotels, such as the Martinborough Hotel, and an ever increasing number of excellent restaurants.

The region hosts regular wine related events. The best of these include:

Regional Vintage Guide

The table below indicates the quality of wine vinatges in the Martinborough Region for each of the past ten years. Please note that the information is indicative only and that the quality of grapes grown may vary from one vineyard to another.





Martinborough
Information




Greytown
Information




Wellington
Information




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1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
Good
Very
good
Average
Good
Very
good
Very
good
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
Good

Recommended Wineries

Ata Rangi ("new beginning" or "dawning sky") was a barren 5-hectare paddock when Clive Paton bought it in 1980. He was one of a handful of winemaking pioneers in Martinborough, who were attracted to the area by two key features -- the localised, free-draining shingle terrace some 20 metres deep, and the lowest rainfall records of anywhere in the North Island. Ata Rangi's wines are always superb and easier to obtain than those of Dry River. Whilst best known for their award winning Pinot Noir, I have no hesitation in recommending their smooth and buttery Chardonnay and their Celebre, a mouth filling blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon - complex, fruity and flavorsome. The winery's 1999 Pinot Noir was recently awarded the trophy for best Pinot Noir at the London 2001 International Wine and Spirit Competion. Ata Rangi has previously won this trophy on two occasions, with its 1993 and 1994 vintage Pinot Noir wines. Ata Rangi Wines rerpresent excellent value for money, and are exported to Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States of America, Singapore and Brazil.

Ata Rangi
Wines
Dry River Wines are a personal favorite. The wine maker is Dr Neil McCallum. Top varieties include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. These wines are so popular that they sell-out almost as soon as they are released. The Spring 2000 release of Pinot Noir and other wines has just occurred. You can contact Dry River Wines by either writing to Dry River Wines, P O Box 72, Martinborough, New Zealand or by sending a fax to Dry River Wines, +64-6-306 9275.

Dry River
Winery
Margrain Vineyard was planted in 1992 and produced its first vintage in 1995. The winery's capacity was recently increased with the purchase of the more mature Chifney vineyard - located across the road from the original four hectare site. Wine maker Strat Canning is quickly deevloping a reputation for the quality of his wines. Recent successes include Champion Riesling in the 1999 Air New Zealand Wine Awards, a gold medal for the 1998 Pinot Noir in the Liquorland Top 100, and another gold for the 1998 unfiltered Pinot Noir in the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. The winery also makes a very good Pinot Gris. Owners Daryl and Graham Margrain always give visitors a big welcome and take pride in showing off their accomodation and conference facilities.

Margrain
Vineyard
Martinborough Vineyard established the Wairarapa's reputation for the production of high quality Pinot Noir wine. The winery won the trophy for champion Pinot Noir at the 1988, 1989 and 1990 Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Wine maker Larry McKenna describes the wineries style as "not overblown or with super-tannins, but elegant, richly fruity and very complex". The Vineyard's best Pinot Noir is labeled "Reserve". I also enjoy their Chardonnay and Riesling, especially their Botrytised Riesling.

Martinborough
Vineyard
Palliser Estate is one of the largest producers of wine in the Region, and also one of the best. Wines are affordable, and graded according to quality. Cheaper wines are labeled under the Pencarrow brand name. The best Palliser wines are Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. I also recommend their Pinot Noir. The wineries 1999 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, its 1999 Noble Riesling and its 1996 Methode Champenoise all struck gold in the 1999 Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

Palliser
Estate
Voss Estate was established in 1988 with the aim of producing hand-crafted premium wines. The two partners, Gary Voss and Annette Atkins, work on every stage of the operation, from managing the vineyard to making and selling the wines. The winery specialises in Pinot Noir and is also liked for its Riesling and Chardonnay wines. Voss Estate welcomes vistors and is open for tastings unless sold out.

Voss Estate

Walnut Ridge is new to the Martinborough block. However, Bill Brink has quickly established a big name for the quality of his wines. His Pinot Noir is big and firm with wonderful cherry flavors and spice. I also recommend his Sauvignon Blanc.

Walnut Ridge
Winery



Michael Mills, WinesofNZ.com, 2000, Wellington, New Zealand. No part of this website may be reproduced in any form, electronic or printed, without the permission of Michael Mills and WinesofNZ.com. To contact WinesofNZ.com e-mail us.