Canterbury

Canterbury is a large province on the central east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Vineyards can be found across the whole province, but particularly on the plains directly west of the city of Christchurch and in the slightly more sheltered area of Waipara. This cool climate area is particularly suited to the production of elegant, balanced wines made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.

Canterbury is flanked by the more famous regions of Marlborough in the north and Central Otago in the south-west. The Southern Alps run along the western border of Canterbury, shielding the area's vineyards from rough weather systems from the Tasman Sea, and the Pacific Ocean in the east gives the province a maritime climate. Christchurch, New Zealand's third-largest centre, sits on the Canterbury coast next to Banks Peninsula and provides a steady stream of wine tourists to the area.

Canterbury's latitude of 43°S puts it at a similar distance from the Equator as Tuscany in the northern hemisphere, although the influence of the Pacific Ocean makes for a very different terroir. Intense sunlight at this latitude helps grapes reach phenolic ripeness, while cool ocean influences across the region make for colder nights, extending the growing season and helping the grapes to retain acidity. North-westerly foehn winds that originate on the eastern slopes of the Southern Alps provide a warming presence in the vineyards, helping ripening along. These winds also keep the vines dry during the growing season, which reduces the risk of mildew and rot developing.

The alluvial soils that are found across Canterbury vary in suitability for viticulture. Alluvial gravel and silty loam in the south of the region are free-draining and allow vines to grow deep root systems in search of water. Plentiful rainfall in the winter months means that irrigation is used sparingly in these soils, giving vignerons some control over yield and vigour in the vines. Around Waipara, there is a higher level of limestone in the chalky soils, which is said to impart a certain minerality into the wines produced there.

While there have been vineyards planted in the region since the mid-1800s, commercial viticulture began in Canterbury only in the 1970s. Any mention of Canterbury as a wine region would be incomplete without acknowledging the contribution of Lincoln University in the research of vine varieties particularly suitable for the local growing conditions.
Read more ▼