Canterbury / Waipara
Canterbury consists of two major wine areas; the plains around the city of Christchurch, where grapes were first planted in the late 1970s, and the more recently developed valley area of Waipara, an hour's drive north of Christchurch.
The Waipara Valley is situated only 40 minutes drive north of Christchurch International Airport and Christchurch city, the capital of the South Island. It is the fastest growing wine region in New Zealand, with around 80 vineyards in the Waipara valley covering more than 1,200 hectares of plantings.
Christchurch in Canterbury
- Amberley in Waipara
- Akaroa in Canterbury
In the southern area the soils are mainly alluvial silt loams over gravel subsoils while in Waipara they are chalky loams that are often rich in limestone. Long, dry summers, abundant sunshine and relatively cool growing conditions are a feature in both areas although Waipara, which is sheltered from the coast by a low range of hills, can be significantly warmer.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most widely planted grape varieties, together making up nearly 60% of the region's vineyard. Riesling is the third most popular variety with Sauvignon Blanc in fourth place. Canterbury is New Zealand's fourth largest wine region.
The Waipara Valley is snuggled in the lee of the Teviotdale hills that provide protection from cool easterly winds but leave it open to warming north west winds. The valley has three general sites - valley floor, hill slopes or river terraces. The soil types include gravelly deposits on flats and terraces in the central and west of the valley, limestone derived clays on hillsides and valley floor to the eastern side and gravelly loams over alluvial subsoil in the southern part of the region. The north facing moderately sloping terrain provides an ideal sun trap for fruiting vines.
This terroir gives each vineyard unique characters that contribute to a range of wine styles. It takes a visit to each winery to fully appreciate Waipara. The “terroir” combined with the long, hot autumn period helps produce unique richer, spicier Pinot Noirs and Rieslings – regional specialties. Other varieties of note include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Recent expansion into the inland sub-region of Waitaki Valley on the North Otago boundary shows real promise; its loess and limestone/ greywacke/schist soils, warm summers and long dry autumns give varietal intensity, complex fruit and a distinct mineral character to the predominantly Pinot Noir and aromatic plantings.
*photo credit Lake Forsyth Vineyard