New Zealand's vineyards: Sips and scenery to savour

New Zealand has burst onto the world wine scene in recent years. And, along with making a pretty fine drop, our vineyards are amongst the most picturesque on the planet. Liberally sprinkled from one end of the country to the other, New Zealand's wine regions have blossomed with vines, wines and vintages. Discover subtle flavours amid rural charm, beach backdrops and mountain magic from 'winterless' Northland to the rocky gorges of Central Otago.

Waiheke Island wines

It's just 35 minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland to serene Waiheke Island, yet the two are worlds apart. Spend a day touring and tasting the island's verdant vineyards. There are more than 20, though you'll probably lose count after a glass or six of Larose, a herby, spicy cabernet with smooth blackberry layers.

Sipped against Auckland's stunning city skyline at dusk, Larose is red velvet in a bottle. You might need another glass to get over the shock when you discover it's also New Zealand's most expensive wine.

Heaven in Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay, one of New Zealand?s biggest, oldest and - dare we say - best wine regions, turns out classic reds and sassy sauvignon blancs. Sip a fruity merlot or world-beating syrah in the magnificent art deco surroundings of Napier.

Dress to impress if you want to match the colonial elegance of Mission Estate. Established by French missionaries, it's one of the country's oldest vineyards. Wine and food-matched menus are served in the grand, 130-year old seminary-turned-restaurant. Try pairing hot smoked salmon with cool chardonnay before a stroll through the vines.

Wairarapa wines

Try saying 'Wairarapa' after a few pinots. This region's vineyards cluster around country towns over the rolling Rimutaka Ranges. Small producers and quirky labels provide a charming boutique experience, just a short drive from Wellington.

Walk or bike Martinborough's wine village trail. You can take generous swigs of aromatic Rieslings, chardonnays with zing and pinots with panache and still find your way home. Mark the Toast Martinborough Festival on your November calendar for fine food and wines, party bands and serious fun.

Marlborough whites

Raise a glistening glass of sauvignon blanc in sun-drenched Marlborough. Crystal clear and as crisp as Granny Smith apple, you can picnic or party with it and join the international connoisseurs who salute our most popular white wine.

Trivia fact: each year New Zealand produces enough wine to fill around eight Olympic swimming pools and Marlborough's 100 vineyards are responsible for half of it! You'll never taste them all but you can do your best at the region's massive February wine festival.

Waipara Valley

New Zealand's newest wine region has been making a splash with its pinot noir and dry Riesling. Enjoy yours on a Waipara wine tour just 50km north of Christchurch. Sip among the hay at a straw-bale winery and match tender Canterbury lamb with a dusky pinot in Pegasus Bay's alfresco café.

Laze on the shady veranda of Glenmark's historic vicarage, overlooking regimental rows of succulent grapes. Or head to Greystone's April 'fun day in the vineyard' where you can pick, tread and taste.

Central Otago

Ruby in the glass, berry in the mouth and light enough for lunch? You must be sipping Central Otago's near-perfect pinot noir. Nearly 70 vineyards, perched in rocky gorges and river flats, thrive in the warm climate. To add to their appeal, they're just down the road from adventure playground Queenstown.

Fly, boat, bike, hike, ski and bungy, then slow the pace with a wine trail adventure through the rustic ambience of old gold towns. For true romance, sip and savour deep in the mountain in Gibbston Valley's wine cave.