Ever since a certain hobbit was captured on the big screen, tourism inNew Zealand
has been steadily on the rise. So, too, has the world’s consumption of its wines, where 98% of the vineyards are certified sustainable. It makes sense, then, to discover that the country’s eno- and eco-tourism offerings are also numerous. Many of New Zealand’s most extolled wineries are farmed not just sustainably, but organically and/or biodynamically as well. And many other local businesses and purveyors take an equally holistic, eco-conscious approach. Just don’t expect them to shout about it. Like the Kiwis themselves, winery visits are often humble, usually entailing a stroll through the vineyards with the winemaker. Because of this, New Zealand still offers visitors an authenticity that’s rare and refreshing in modern global travel. Here’s your green guide to three of the country’s best wine destinations.
Under an hour from Queenstown, Central Otago is home to some of the world’s bestPinot Noirs
as well as a dramatic landscape of snow-capped mountains, arid hills and river gorges. Once you’ve gotten a bungee jump or two out of the way (after all, this is the home of the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, the world’s first permanent commercial bungee-jumping site), make an appointment to visitFelton Road
, one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed and eco-friendly wineries. It boasts lightweight bottles and more than 15 years in biodynamic farming. A 10-minute drive north isQuartz Reef Wines
. Rudi Bauer, the founder and chief winemaker, believes the complexity and longevity of his world-class Pinot Noirs andChampagne
method sparklers has much to do with his biodynamic farming methods. Later, sneak a peak at the hulking Highland cows that graze besideBurn Cottage Vineyard’s
beautiful, biodynamically farmed vineyards, open by appointment only. Forty minutes north of Burn Cottage, at the edge of Lake Wanaka, you’ll findRippon Winery
, which has been farmed by the Mills family for five generations and operated as a winery for the last three of them. It was one of the first wine estates in the South Island to implement biodynamic farming techniques, and it’s blessed with some of the most spectacular views in the wine world. Thankfully, the family shares its stunning property and soulful wines with the world. The winery offers special events throughout the year and is open to visitors (call ahead to confirm availability). Time it right, and you can snag a seat at a pop-up dinner at The Rippon Hall or catch an outdoor concert.
Where to Stay
When it comes to eco-accommodations, you’re spoiled for choice. Base yourself in Queenstown atSherwood Queenstown
, nestle down for the night atOasis Yurt Lodge
or unleash your inner yogi at the stunning wellness retreatAro Hā
More to Explore
Bike theOtago Central Rail Trail
, take in Laka Wanaka’s gorgeous landscape or plant a tree on one of its islands alongside a local guide withEco Wanaka Adventures
. If you feel especially daring, soar through the treetops with Queenstown zipline companyZiptrek Ecotours
There’s a sleepy charm about this windswept winegrowing region in the lowlands of the Southern Alps, just 35 miles north of Christchurch. But don’t let its relatively subdued character fool you—North Canterbury is one of New Zealand’s most exciting wine regions. And it’s infused with a small but growing number of eco-minded winemakers that craft wonderful cool climate wines. Take a tour of the organically farmedGreystone Wines
and learn about the fascinating experiments that ferment in its vineyard. Just down the road,Black Estate Wines
is not to miss. It makes top-notch wines from organically or biodynamically farmed grapes as naturally as possible, like aChenin Blanc
. It also boasts an award-winning restaurant and events like “Waipara Valley Truffle Day Out,” forage walks, yoga and ceramics classes. Although there are only two wineries in the Waikari subregion, located 15 miles west of Black Estate, their wines are among the country’s best. Just keep in mind that visits to both wineries are by appointment only. Tucked into limestone hills beneath the Alps,Bell Hill Vineyard’
s premium organic and biodynamic wines giveBurgundy
a run for its money. Nearby, in a sweeping natural amphitheater,Pyramid Valley Vineyards
has been farmed meticulously and biodynamically by American expats Mike and Claudia Weersing. The winery recently changed hands and will expand, but the hope is that its wines will remain as complex and ethereal as ever.
Where to Stay
Stargaze over the Waipara Valley in a glass eco-cabin atGreystone Purepod
, or stay at theBlack Estate Winery B&B
that overlooks the vineyards. In Christchurch,
is essentially a high-class commune. It offers private and shared kitchens and dining areas, an edible garden and plenty of up-cycled, sustainably focused goodness.
More to Explore
Hike or bike one of theHurunui Trails
, which includes theWaipara Valley Vineyard Trail
, or soak in a thermal pool at the family-friendlyHanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa
, 50 miles from the wineries. End the day with a meal atPegasus Bay Winery and Restaurant
, one of the country’s top dining spots. Savor a 30-year-old houseRiesling
alongside homegrown and local fare on furniture made from recycled native evergreens.
may be New Zealand’s most famous wine region, but with that fame comes a reputation for big brands and intensive farming. Nevertheless, a focus on gentler winemaking techniques and organic/biodynamic farming is on the rise, particularly among small-scale producers.Te Whare Ra Vineyard & Winery
owners Anna and Jason Flowerday possess some of the oldest vines in Marlborough, farmed organically and biodynamically for the last 15 years. Visitors are often greeted by the Flowerdays themselves, along with one of their two sets of twin daughters or many friendly pups. For a taste ofterroir
, head to the French-ownedClos Henri Vineyard
. From the hopelessly romantic chapel that presides over the biodynamically farmed vines to its Loire-born chief winemaker and general manager, Damien Yvon, you might think you landed in NorthwestFrance
. The winery is known for events likeNuits Romantiques
, an outdoor French film screening, and aBastille Day
celebration. Clos Henri also happens to make some of the most ageworthy, site-reflective wines in the region. A stone’s throw from both wineries is the Swiss-ownedFromm Winery
. Winemaker Hatsch Kalberer crafts top-notch Pinot Noir, as well as plenty of other offerings from organically farmed grapes.Framingham Wines
are other organic or biodynamic wineries worth a visit, but call ahead to confirm availability.
Where to Stay
Spend the night inAndahlane Cottage
, a mud-brick retreat nestled in organic vineyards. At the excellent organic winery and restaurant,Hans Herzog Estate,
have breakfast brought to your vineyard cottage—it may be delivered by the winemaker himself.Driftwood Retreat & Eco-Tours
offers guided regional treks and accommodations that include a treehouse and a cottage near native wetlands.
More to Explore
Walk or bike theWither Hills Farm Park
or head 20 miles or so north to explore theMarlborough Sounds
. Swim with dolphins, watch a whale migration or spot rare seabirds withE-Ko Tours