Take a tour of Canterbury’s incredible Waipara Valley with tasting, matching and must-see tips from one of the country’s top winemakers
Waipara Valley in North Canterbury has the largest concentration of vines in the Canterbury region, according to New Zealand Wines: The Land, The Vines, The People by Warren Moran (Auckland University Press). A sheltered location that experiences high temperatures during the day and cool evenings, it has the perfect warm grape-growing conditions. In fact Simon Fell, winemaker at Thornbury Wines, describes this area as the “sleeping beauty” of the New Zealand wine industry. “Waipara Valley produces stunning aromatic wines such as pinot gris and riesling,” says Fell (pictured below).
WHAT TO SEE
Vineyards, olive and lavender farms, forests, breathtaking coastline, rivers, cycleways, incredible cafes and hot springs, Waipara Valley has a heck of a lot to offer. A 45-minute drive north of Christchurch, the region stretches northwards to Kaikoura on the East Coast and all the way past Hamner Springs in the west. Simon Fell spends his life travelling around the country, inspecting Thornbury’s vineyards throughout the year. His top tip for this region? “Waipara Valley offers amazing farm-to-table food experiences and great opportunities to explore the region via bicycle or walking tracks,” he says. In fact, check out Thornbury’s video below, in which Fell visits local artisan cheese producer Little Farm Goat Dairy, maker of incredible chevre, feta and goat’s brie to name a few.
WHAT TO DRINK
Known for producing some of New Zealand’s best aromatic wines, you’ll definitely want to check out these varietals when you’re in the area (and once you get back home naturally). Thornbury Waipara Pinot Gris 2018 is a vintage that perfectly displays the bright and fragrant purity of aromatic wines from this region. “The palate is rich and mouth-filling as a result of a long, warm growing season,” says Fell. A vibrant pinot gris, you'll taste and smell luscious floral, pear and citrus notes with a tempering hit of spice. Available at Liquorland stores nationwide, RRP$14.99 750ml.
WHAT TO EAT
Aromatic wines like these make a great match for South East Asian foods, light cheeses and fish. For Thornbury’s Waipara Pinot Gris, Fell says, “I really enjoy matching it with pork belly and summer greens, goats cheeses, or a flavoursome white fish like pan-fried snapper.”