Ultimate Guide to the Wairarapa Wine Region

Famous Wines of the Wairarapa Region

Martinborough and the Wairarapa region represent only 3 percent of the wine produced in New Zealand by growing area. However, its boutique wineries have taken more than their share of awards and recognition, le­ading to the characterization that the region "punches way above its weight in terms of success [source: Wines From Martinborough]." The region has developed a reputation for consistent quality.

Pinot Noir is by far the region's leading varietal, commanding more than half of available vineyard space. Others cultivars include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling, with smaller quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Gewürztraminer [source: Wines From Martinborough].

Among the leading brands from Wairarapa are:

  • Ata Rangi of Martinborough - Ata Rangi is the winner of a rare five-star rating from the famous wine reviewer Robert Parker [source: Wines From Martinborough]. As one of the first Martinborough vintners, Ata Rangi's Pinot Noir is among the nation's most sophisticated, and its Chardonnay has also won national acclaim.
  • Palliser Estate -- The largest wine outfit in Martinborough, Palliser's Chardonnay was declared "Reserve Wine of Show" at the 2008 Bragato Wine Awards, and its Pinot Gris took home a coveted "Pure Gold" medal at the 2008 Air New Zealand Wine Awards [source: Wines From Martinborough]. It has also won multiple awards for its Sauvignon Blanc [source: Cooper].
  • Murdoch James Estate -- Roger Fraser and his wife Jill joined the wine community when they saw a "for sale" sign on a Martinborough lot one day in the mid-1980s. Now Roger and his son Carl Fraser run a major operation, producing 10,000 cases a year [source: Wines From Martinborough]. They also have a restaurant in their Blue Rock Vineyard, and organize regional vineyard tours [source: Murdoch James].
  • Burnt Spur -- Located a few miles south of Martinborough, Burnt Spur's soils, which are slightly heavier than those within the immediate Martinborough area, seem conducive to growing especially fine grapes. This winemaker has racked up awards for its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris [source: Burnt Spur].

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