Wine & Other Stories

Wairarapa Wine Region: Interview with Rebekah Glover and Jannine Rickards

Written by Veronica Lavenia

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Cover Image ©Wairarapa Wine Region-Craggy Range The Muna Road Vineyard- Wairarapa Wine Region

The Wairarapa Wine Region makes up just one percent of New Zealand’s wine and is the smallest wine producing region in Aotearoa. Small size but great quality. The area is home to over sixty boutique wineries featuring some of the most acclaimed winemakers and growers in the world. Most of the wineries are family owned.

Let’s find out more from the words of Rebekah Glover (Marketing Manager) and Jannine Rickards (Huntress wines and Chair of the Wairarapa Wine Region Committee).


What are the peculiarities of the territory and its wines?

The wine scene here is filled with small producers who are largely owner operators that do everything from pruning to sales, however we do have some producers owned by international owners so have growing diversity and a lot of investment into the region in recent years.

Largely the Wairarapa wine scene is known for the colonial village of Martinborough, where many of the first vines in the late 70’s early 1980’s were planted. It offers incredible diversity and vineyards stretch up the valley to north of Masterton and south of town to some interesting sites which have higher percentages of clay to the soil profile. Brutal southerlies and relentless spring winds keep everyone who lives here on their toes but strengthen the grape skins for richer characteristics to shine in our wines.

Our flagship grape is Pinot Noir, as 54% of our production is Pinot Noir. Martinborough is home to the oldest Pinot Noir vines in New Zealand, planted in the late 70’s. Majority of our producers have organic vineyards to truly care for the vines and promote a sustainable environment for the future of their land and fruit to come.


What services/activities do you use to promote your wine region now and/or in the near future?

The Wairarapa is home to the food and wine festivals of Toast Martinborough and Harvest Festival, promoting the local wine and food producers of the region. We are making a real push with marketing our region from 2023 with annual events to promote the history of the region, create tasting experiences that showcase the unique characteristics of the region’s wines and to get to know more about the producers and characters behind the wine brands.

Can you briefly describe the areas of cultural and wine tourism interest of the Wine Region?

As we are just a short drive over the Rimutaka Hill from the capital city, Martinborough and the Wairarapa have an influx of visitors, from Wellington locals to international visitors, on the weekends year-round. With small scale vineyards, the cellar doors are within walking or cycling distance to one another. Many of these wineries are small family owned producers, where your wines are poured from the winemaker themselves with a plentiful amount of knowledge and stories to share.

The Wairarapa wilderness has a great deal to offer. Its Taurara Ranges are the North Islands largest managed conservation park, with its beautiful bush walks, swimming spots and bush huts to stay in for overnight hiking. The rugged East Coast of the lower North Island creates a number of Wairarapa tourist activities, from the picturesque lighthouses of Cape Palliser and Castlepoint, surfing at Riversdale or Ngawi or scenic walks through Patuna Chasm or Putangirua Pinnacles. The Wairarapa has a rich history of early Maori occupation. Archaeologists believe Maori settled here in the 1300s, the name translating from Te Reo Maori to Glistening waters.

From the coast to quaint towns of the region we are known for our seafood (kaimoana), cheeses and olive oil produce also. Each town offers bustling cafés, restaurants and bars, creating a thriving food scene for tourism and our locals to enjoy.

How many wineries are there in your Region and what type of wines are produced?

The Wairarapa is home to over 60 boutique wineries and make up just 1% of New Zealand’s wine production. A range of styles and varieties are on offer with the flagship variety Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Aromatics as well as stylish Chardonnay, Syrah and dessert wines.

Why are the wines of the Wairarapa region so special?

The unique climate and diversity of terroir across the region means the wines and wine styles are a reflection of this.  The crops are generally very small due to frosts, southerly storms at flowering or stress from late spring winds from the north west direction.  With smaller crops you get an intensity of character, the long growing season also provides wine with lots of structure which gives longevity for aging.  Especially from vineyard’s that have been planted for 40 years now, wines from these have depth, concentration and complexity.

About the author

Veronica Lavenia

Writer, book author and magazine contributor, some of her works have appeared in the most popular International magazines.
Digital Content Manager and Communication Manager at "The Wolf Post", since the birth of the platform.

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