Great Rides for wine lovers

Published 2022-03-01

Fine wine and a bicycle – a match made in heaven, especially when enjoyed in beautiful surroundings with two flutes of bubbles already in your belly.

We jest, of course. Here at the Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails we would never advocate wobbling and weaving around the vines. We do, however, wholeheartedly encourage responsible exploration of this country’s world-class wine regions on six easy and super-tasty Great Rides.

Wineries Ride   (Hawke’s Bay Trails)

New Zealand’s oldest and second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay, is home to more than 70 wineries with around half sporting cellar doors. So let’s face it, you’re not going to get around all of them unless you’re driving a Lamborghini and toting a big spittoon. Fortunately, the Hawke’s Bay Trails are here to help.

Looping around the Gimblett Gravels, Ngatarawa Triangle and Bridge Pa, the 36km Wineries Ride takes in ten or so tasting rooms where you can sample the Bay’s signature varietals – Chardonnay, Bordeaux-style reds and Syrah. Some also have cellar door restaurants, with alfresco dining de rigueur. And with gorgeous seasonal colours, free-draining terrain and great weather, the Hawke’s Bay Trails are wonderful for wine-touring at any time of year

Cycling beside the vines on the Hawke's Bay Trails

Gibbston River Wine Trail   (Queenstown Trail)

Central Otago’s claim to fame is that it’s the world’s southernmost wine region and New Zealand’s highest. It also boasts boutique producers of world-beating Pinot Noir, complex Chardonnay, and award-winning aromatics like Riesling and Pinot Gris. One of its six sub-regions is Gibbston – the ‘Valley of the Vines’ – that can be explored on the Gibbston River Wine Trail.

This easy 9km trail starts at AJ Hackett Bungy’s original jump site at historic Kawarau Bridge. What better way to earn a glass of bubbles than by taking the big bounce? From there the trail meanders between numerous iconic wineries such as Peregrine and Gibbston Valley, the latter perennially popular for its cellar door restaurant and wine-cave tours (and a bike hire depot, too). The Gibbston Tavern is also a highlight with its rustic vibe and beer garden, while Kinross has a delectable selection of wines from some of the region's top producers.

World-class Pinot Noir awaits on the Queenstown Trail (Gibbston Valley Winery)

Waitaki Valley   (Alps 2 Ocean)

The Waitaki’s Valley’s limestone soils and cool maritime climate produce wines that can be tricky, unpredictable, but seriously sublime. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer are the predominant varietals.

It’s a pretty weeny wine region, with just 10 or so small winegrowers around the Kurow area. Ostler and River-T Estate have tasting rooms on the Kurow to Duntroon stretch of the A2O, but we also recommend you look out for Waitaki wines in restaurants and cafes all along the trail so you can enjoy a taste of this notable terroir.

Wine tasting at Ostler Wines in Kurow (Sarah Bennett)

Waimea Plains   (Tasman’s Great Taste Trail)

Spread over the rolling hills and plains lining Tasman Bay, the Nelson wine region produces an enviable range including premium Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and aromatics. There are almost 20 tasting rooms, a few with cellar door dining, scattered amidst other enticing attractions such as gift shops, galleries, garden cafes and breweries. They don’t call it the Great Taste Trail for nothing.

Taking in the Waimea Plains’ pretty scenery, the easy 2–3 hour return ride between Stoke and Brightwater offers a lovely blend of sightseeing and tasting tour, with half a dozen wineries a short detour from the trail. In Brightwater, be sure to check out the memorial to Ernest Rutherford, the New Zealander who split the atom. He was born around here, so maybe there’s something in the water that makes you brainy? Perhaps try a couple of glasses of chardy and report back.

Wonderful Waimea wineries are a feature of the Tasman's Great Taste Trail (Dean McKenzie)

Alexandra Basin   (Otago Central Rail Trail)

The Alexandra Basin is one of Central Otago’s six sub-regions and yet another fine producer of Pinot Noir. Some of its 10 or so vineyards line up around the around the Clyde to Alexandra leg of the Otago Central Rail Trail, with Dunstan Road, Judge Rock, Legacy, Immigrant's Vineyard and Three Miners wineries great options for a cellar door tasting. Check out the Pedal for Pinot Facebook page, which details a self-guided cycle tour between Clyde and Alexandra. 

Thanks to local cafe and pub owners along the Rail Trail, there are plenty more chances to try wines from the local and wider sub-regions. What’s more, they’re often matched with signature Central Otago fare such as lamb, game, cheese, stone fruit and delicious wild thyme. (If you’re looking to burn off a few pounds on your cycling holiday, the Rail Trail might not be for you…)

There are winery pit-stops aplenty close to Central Otago's Great Rides (Central Otago NZ)

The Wairarapa   (Remutaka Cycle Trail)

While not technically on the Remutaka Cycle Trail, the Wairarapa’s vineyards are just a cork’s pop away, so it would be a shame not to stop and smell the rosé (and their awesome Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and bubbles).

The best way to hop on a wine tour is to get picked-up from Cross Creek, on the Wairarapa side of the wonderful Remutaka Rail Trail. A host of local biking and wine tour operators can ferry you over to Martinborough – the heart of the wine region and hugely popular for wine-touring on two wheels – or further afield to the other sub-regions of Gladstone or Masterton.

A side-trip into Wairarapa wine country from the Remutaka Cycle Trail is on the cards! (Wellington NZ)