Depending on where one lives – such as anywhere in the United States – the Nelson winegrowing region of New Zealand can take a long time to reach.
But the journey definitely is worth the effort.
Nelson lies on the northern end of New Zealand’s south island. The wineries are on the plains, southwest of the town, and on up into the hills of Upper Moutere. The terrain faces north onto Tasman Bay and, of all the major wine regions from Gisborne on south, it is the one that does not lie predominantly east of the mountains.
Nelson gets significantly more rainfall than the neighboring Marlborough region, which is quite dry. Despite the rain, the northern exposure gives it long hours of daylight and the second highest number of total sunshine hours in the country.
An attractive town with many gardens, Nelson overlooks Tasman Bay. Typical for New Zealand, the properties and gardens are well-tended. Nelson also is the gateway to the popular Abel Tasman National Park and the Kahurangi National Park. Both are excellent for hiking and nature walks.
The region is likely to remain small due to the lack of spacious growing areas and its distance from transportation centers. The two dozen wineries are typically small but with picturesque settings.
This is not Cabernet Sauvignon country, but the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can compete with the best in the country, and sublime renditions of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc also are crafted by some of the vintners.
In fact, the Sauvignon Blancs are among the region’s most elegant wines. Whereas New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has a reputation for being racy and herbal, the bottlings from Nelson are lighter in body and possess refreshing citrus flavors, kissed by a hint of minerality.