Auckland is a large and diverse region and also one of the country's oldest, established in the late 1800 by Dalmatian (Croatian), Lebanese and English immigrants with winemaking knowledge.
Home to some of New Zealand’s early pioneering and now largest wineries, yet with many successful boutique wineries, Auckland boasts a wine community that’s not afraid to experiment. Despite being a thriving metropolis of 1.5 million people, Auckland is surrounded by vineyards and cellar doors no matter which direction you drive. Wine tourism continues to prosper because after all, how many cities can boast an exotic ‘wine island’ on their doorstep?
An hour's drive north of Auckland you’ll find Matakana. Matakana is a thriving rural community. A popular farmers’ market, restaurants, cafes, wineries and pristine beaches make it a popular weekend getaway from the city. Despite its small size, there were 19 wineries in the region at last count. Having produced its first wines in the 1980s, Matakana is known for Chardonnay and reds based on Syrah and the Bordeaux varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Italian varieties, particularly Sangiovese and Dolcetto, have also enjoyed success.
The West Auckland wine industry began when Dalmatian immigrants (from Croatia) made their way south from Northland in the late 1800s, bringing with them their European wine knowledge. For a while, West Auckland was the centre of the NZ wine industry with well-known wineries such as Selaks, Nobilo, Babich, Kumeu River, Lincoln, Westbrook, Delegat’s and others established by the Dalmatians. Early wines were rough-and-ready fortifieds, reflecting the rough-and-ready life of early colonials. Today’s wines are refined, elegant. All of Auckland’s wineries enjoy a maritime climate, with high rainfall and humidity through the growing season. West Auckland wineries also benefit from the shelter of the Waitakere ranges.
Half an hour south of Auckland City, you’ll find Clevedon, Auckland’s newest premium wine district. Here there are small pockets of vines planted over rolling hills, established by enthusiasts convinced of the potential of the region’s soil and climate. Most wineries produce small volumes, but you will find diversity. Not far away in Mangere you’ll find Villa Maria, one of New Zealand’s most iconic wineries. While the facility processes fruit from all over the country, wine experts were forced to take notice of the local terroir when the Ihumatao Gewürztraminer, which was made from fruit around the winery, picked up a top Cuisine Magazine award.
Waiheke is an island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, just 40 minutes by ferry from the city. The island is a mix of wineries, holiday accommodation, outdoor activities and dozens of beautiful bays dotted with yachts. In the 1950s, the Gradiska family produced some rough, fiery fortified wines on the island. But Waiheke’s real wine story starts with Kim and Jeanette Goldwater, who planted their first vines in 1977. Other enthusiasts followed, including Stephen White who founded Stoneridge. With an area of just 92 square kilometres and a coastline of 133.5 kilometres, Waiheke’s proximity to the sea has the most bearing on climate. Sea breezes moderate warm temperatures in mid-summer. The sea also moderates falling temperatures at night. Importantly, moderate temperatures extend further into the early autumn ripening period of March and April, allowing later varieties to fully ripen over a longer period. The island rock is almost entirely of Jurassic age, covered with thin layers of soil. The multifaceted hills and varying sun, wind and rain creates microclimates, which influences the choice of variety grown.