Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Forgotten Wine Region of New Zealand – And Why It Might Be the Best One of Them All (Plus, What It’s Like to Stay in a PurePod!)

Kelly Bertrand takes a trip to North Canterbury… and can’t believe what she finds!

We all know that New Zealand’s wine scene is absolutely world class, and as an, er, enthusiast of trying all the different regions out, I’d like to think I’m somewhat of an expert.

That’s expert in rocking up at a cellar door, not wine – just to be clear.

But even myself and my equally-experienced friend Whitney were shocked to our grape-soaked core at North Canterbury, the little wine region that could.

Formally known as the Waipara wine region, the area has had something of a rebranding of late and the 90+ mostly independently-owned vineyards (please forgive this wildly overused Kiwi-isim) punch well above their weight.

So off we toddled to check it out for ourselves, and after a 45-minute drive north from Christchurch to a vineyard that offers not only an impressive selection of wine, but a hidden gem of an accommodation experience that soared past all expectations.

Greystone Wines is one of those wineries you never want to leave. Sitting in the comfy courtyard as we wait for our wine tasting, we’re thinking of all the parties you’d want to throw on the deck and all the excuses you could come up with for all the toasts.

But it’s the wine we’re here for, and Lord, what wine it is.

You can’t beat a North Canterbury Wine Tasting on a good day

They’re known for their Pinot Noir, with the vineyard’s plentiful supply of limestone-infused soil producing a drop that’s worth savouring, like, as they say, hearing your favourite song on a record player – deeper, richer, more soulful.

And while Central Otago boasts a much bigger marketing budget – and let’s be honest, no one can knock a good Central Otago red – what Greystone and their North Canterbury mates are producing could rival my favourite Southern drop any day.

We’re treated to a comprehensive tasting that goes through everything Greystone and their lauded winemaker Dom Maxwell craft – think Chardonnay, Resiling, the wildly-underrated Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc – as well as an incredible four-course long lunch (the menu changes every week depending on what’s in season).

But once you’ve finished being wined and dined, it’s just a few minutes’ drive up the hill (find a sober driver obviously) to your accommodation for the night, the Waipara PurePod – pro tip: grab a bottle or two from the cellar door for the night!

It’s essentially a glass box nestled on a hill with views up the Waipara Valley and the Southern Alps – a completely private slice of Kiwi paradise (well, you’d hope it was private thanks to the aforementioned glass!).

It’s both an incredibly luxurious experience, yet one that is completely stripped back to basics at the same time. There’s no power points, apart from a USB port to charge your phone, so the idea is to truly get back to nature and get away from the modern annoyances of day to day life.

Instead, you’ve got a telescope, the stars, some books, a Bluetooth speaker, a gorgeous hamper from the winery below featuring a starter, main and dessert (and a Weber to cook on) and that’s about it. And how glorious it is.

Yes we decided to do this after a few wines, why do you ask?

It’s a true feeling of privacy, and almost one of smugness as you marvel at your own secret little shred of Kiwiana.

How you wake up in a PurePod

With a glass of Greystone’s finest in hand and having located the deckchairs from the storage box on the side of the Pod, it’s an evening of chilling out, chats and catching up (and only stuffing up one steak on the barbie which was better than we thought we could do).

While it’s hard to top a PurePod experience (especially for a romantic getaway, lovers – while I don’t currently posses a partner this would be one of the first places I’d drag them too) – don’t miss a stop in Hanmer Springs during your North Canterbury escape.

The famed Hot Pools are of course worth a visit, although if you’re wanting a serene experience, my advice is to book a private pool, because this complex gets busy.

Hanmner – HAN-mer, they hate it when you say Ham (again, trust me) – Springs is one of those towns that should be the setting of a television show. Picture perfect and quaint with just the right amount going on, it’s a gorgeous spot to base yourself for a few nights as you soak up everything the region has to offer. Stay at the Hanmner Springs Hotel – the former Heritage – that’ll have you right in the middle of town and close to everything you could need.

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