NZ wine tour

Take a tour to the top of New Zealand wine.

At the very civilised time of 10am, Queenstown Winery Tours will collect you from your accommodation in their Mercedes Sprinter Van. 25 minutes out into the bare alpine slopes and green valleys of central Otago, tours cross the Kawarau gorge before arriving at the first of five wineries on the tour.

Today, the Gibbston Winery is the first point of call. Along with Chard Farm, Gibbston is one of the oldest cellar doors in New Zealand. Beneath the rocky peaks of high altitude, Gibbston is also home to New Zealand’s largest wine cave. The wine cave is an artificial tunnel, blasted out of the hillside to house Gibbston’s many wine barrels at a comfortable and consistent temperature.

Queenstown Winery Tours are nearly as old as the wineries themselves. Running now for 25 years, QWT was recently awarded a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ by TripAdvisor, and the title of ‘Best Winery Tour of 2017,’ by the Australasian edition of the international, ‘Luxury Travel Guide.’

QWT’s Andrew Bisset, credits some of their recent success to a “conscious upgrade” of their fleet. “The Mercedes Sprinter sort of started it all. We wanted to attract higher-end groups and Mercedes is a brand people recognise. Plus, the Sprinter can hold up to 19 passengers.” Bisset cites the Sprinter’s power and its overall ‘look and feel’ as two of its main assets.

On wine tasting, Andrew’s main tip for the uninitiated is, “Just enjoy it. Wine tasting is very personal. There are going to be people who love some wines, and people who hate some wines. Have fun, it’s a social thing. Not just for connoisseurs. Wine tasting should be for everyone.”

The area is famous for its Pinot Noir, as the grapes are particularly well-suited to the high climates of the Otago region. Bisset says that despite New Zealand’s young wine industry and relatively small output by global standards, “We punch well above our weight.”

Frenchman John Faraud planted vines in the 1860’s, but it took another 100 years for the region to come into its own in terms of commercially viable wineries. Today, there are new vineyards popping up everywhere, and Queenstown Winery Tours continue to offer a range of options for people of every vintage, and every palate.  

Along with the wine tasting, Queenstown Winery Tours include paired, local-cheese plates and winery lunches to provide a rounded experience, ensuring that no one from the largely international crowd loses their head. Still, eating breakfast beforehand is recommended.