Renowned all around the world, Central Otago is home to some of the best vineyards in New Zealand. As there is over 200 in the Central Otago region alone, we’ve decided to compile a list of the best wineries in Queenstown. It’s unlikely you will make it to all 200, so this should make choosing a little easier.
The Central Otago region has a climate that results in hot summers and extremely cold winters. This climate, combined with varying altitudes and mineral-rich soil creates the perfect location for growing some of the best grapes in the world.
One grape varietal, in particular, is more coveted and sought after than the others in this region. That is the Central Otago Pinot Noir. Make your way through the list of wineries below and you will quickly understand why this is the case, but don’t forget to try all the other varietals this region has on offer.
Despite having some of the best Pinot Noir in the world, the region is also home to some amazing white wines such as Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, and other red wine varietals.
Possibly the best part about the vineyards in Queenstown is the stunning backdrop on offer from every single vineyard. Expect views of Lake Wanaka, Shotover River and towering mountains wherever you choose to go.
Chard Farm Winery
Gibbston Valley, 205 Chard Road
You turn off the main road in Gibbston Valley onto a dusty, gravel road that winds up and through the hills. You follow this road past acres of vines until you come across two red buildings. You will instantly recognise these buildings as they look as though they were picked up from a small wine-producing town in rural Italy and placed on a mountain in Queenstown.
Architecturally, Chard Farm is our favourite vineyard in Queenstown. During winter, the buildings stand out on a white backdrop as snow falls on the mountains behind them.
Fortunately, braving the gravel road was well worth it. The wines here are phenomenal and the service we received from the staff was extremely knowledgeable.
Cost: Free (donation to charity or purchase is recommended)
Wanaka, 246 Wanaka – Mount Aspiring Road
We haven’t been to every winery (not even close, by the way), but it would be safe to say that Rippon has the best view of any vineyard in the world.
The tasting room here is beautiful with a large window looking out over their vines. Behind this is a phenomenal backdrop of Lake Wanaka.
In case you didn’t know, Rippon Vineyard is located in Wanaka. It’s the only Wanaka-based vineyard that made this list, and it is well worth visiting if you’re in the area.
Rippon is renowned for its significant historical impact on winemaking in Queenstown and had a large role in the global popularity of Pinot Noirs from this region.
On that note, make sure to try some of their Pinot Noirs when you’re here. They are outstanding and have won a number of awards over the past few decades.
We also love how Rippon practices biodynamic farming, which esults in a more natural and delicious wine whilst having significant positive effects on the environment.
Cost: Free (donation to charity or purchase is recommended)
Gibbston Valley, 2127 Gibbston Highway
Peregrine Winery has amassed a host of awards and trophies over the past two decades.
Their tasting room is within a stunning complex designed to look like a falcon’s wing, with a backdrop of snow capped mountains for 8 months of the year.
One of our favourite parts of Peregrine is their focus on sustainability, taking an organic approach to growing their grapes. They also sponsor an organisation dedicated to preserving New Zealand’s endangered birds of prey.
The modern design and spectacular wine make this one of the best vineyards in Central Otago, and one worth ticking off if you’re in the region.
Make sure you check out the barrel room and explore the buildings to see how the wine is stored.
Cost: Free (if you enjoy the wine, you are welcome to purchase a bottle or 6)
Lake Hayes, 10 Lake Hayes Road
Amisfield had our favourite wines on this list. We loved how they tended to be more fruit-forward wines than other vineyards in the area.
The space itself is nice, so take a moment to walk out back and explore the vineyard a little. Amisfield Winery also has an amazing restaurant and bar so consider timing your visit around lunchtime or dinner.
Choose ‘Trust the Chef’ and you will get a 5-course degustation with matching wines – you’ll definitely be impressed.
This winery doesn’t offer the best views, but it is definitely one of the best vineyards in Central Otago thanks to the consistently high quality of their wines.
We highly recommend trying their older Pinot Noirs which offer a bit more complexity than the more lively, younger ones. They also do great white wines, especially if you’re on a budget, grab a Riesling to enjoy later on by Lake Wakatipu.
Cost: $10 (free if you purchase a bottle of wine, which we’re sure you will!)
Bannockburn, 265 Arrowtown – Lake Hayes Road
Akarua is one of New Zealand’s most well-known vineyards, and amongst the best in Queenstown. They are renowned for their impressive Pinot Noirs, as well as Pinot Gris and Riesling varieties which are also grown here.
Located in the Bannockburn sub-region of Central Otago, Akarua’s vineyard is the largest privately owned estate in Central Otago.
The soils here are sandy, making them well draining and low in nutrients. Through close monitoring and intensive management of their vines and nutrients, Akarua aims to grow grapes that are very typical of their varieties.
It would pay to time your visit here around lunch, as the restaurant here is on point and goes great with their wines.
Mt Difficulty Winery
Bannockburn, 73 Felton Road
Mt Difficulty Winery offers some of the best wines in the Queenstown region, whilst looking out over the valley – with stunning views of their vines in front of a mountainous backdrop.
You’ll find amazing food at The Winery, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy a Pinot Noir with a meal. On a fine day, it’s hard to beat lunch at Mt Difficulty on their outdoor terrace with one of their award-winning wines in your hand.
In winter, we’ve heard it’s equally satisfying sitting indoors with fireplaces keeping you toasty whilst you look out over the valley.
The building is nice with a contemporary design. The cellar door tasting experience here is great with excellent, awarding winning wines and knowledgeable staff.
Wet Jacket Wines
Bannockburn, 306 Felton Road
Wet Jacket Wines was one of our favourite wine tasting experiences in Queenstown. It’s nice to step away from the spectacular architecture of the vineyards mentioned above. Wet Jacket Wines hold their wine tasting in typical kiwi style – inside a real, operational woolshed.
You won’t find patronizing attitudes here, only knowledgeable wine experts keen to make your experience comfortable and enjoyable. Our entire time here was fairly sobering (ironically), and sitting on the beanbags in the sunshine was pleasant.
Despite the unique atmosphere, the wines here are first class. We are sure you will enjoy their wines and find something you’ll want to take away with you.
If, for some reason, you aren’t satisfied with the wine, then take some cheese home or grab a taco.
Cost: $5 (or free if you purchase a bottle)
Queenstown Vineyard Sub-Regions
The Gibbston Valley is possibly the most well-known wine sub-region near Queenstown. It is a very short drive and almost every winery here offers cellar door wine tastings and opportunities to take a few bottles home.
Thanks to tourism here, you will even find restaurants and cafes at a lot of the Gibbston Valley wineries. This is a great excuse to while away a few hours.
Aside from its popularity, the Gibbston Valley is still home to some of the best wines in the region. This is thanks to its unique topography with mountainous hills and deep valleys.
Cromwell, Bendigo & Bannockburn
These sub-regions account for over 65% of vines in the Central Otago region and produce some of the best grapes. The climate here is much milder and very dry thanks to it’s flat, undulating terraces at high altitudes. The soil is dusty with good drainage.
Here you will find wineries such as Mount Difficulty (which made our list), as well as Felton Road and Carrick – all of which have cellar doors for wine tasting.
Wanaka is the smallest sub-region in Central Otago with very few vines. Despite this, Wanaka is punching well above its weight thanks to Rippon Vineyard and Mount Maude.
Rippon has collected a vast array of awards for their wines over the past few decades and have contributed greatly to the growth of the region’s popularity worldwide.
Aside from the great wines, this is the only region where you can enjoy a glass of wine whilst looking out at the stunning Lake Wanaka.
The Alexandra Basin experiences the regions hottest summer temperatures, despite being the most southerly of all the sub-regions. This results in vast fluctuations in temperature throughout the year, which obviously impacts the wines significantly.
How to Visit Queenstown Wineries
Driving is the most convenient way to reach the best wineries around Queenstown and the rest of the Central Otago region.
But do not drink and drive.
In New Zealand, drinking and driving is illegal – and rightly so.
When we visit Queenstown, we like to include one wine tasting session every day or two. This allows us to explore a wide range of vineyards, without becoming intoxicated or paying for an expensive wine tour.
One wine tasting should be equivalent to about 1-2 glasses of wine, which for most people will be comfortably under the safe and legal limit for driving.
Another option is to go with a group of friends and agree on a sober driver. This works particularly well when one person doesn’t drink or is okay with it, we’ve done this on a few occasions. Make sure to return the favour and buy the sober driver something to eat later.
Finally, wineries offer a spit bucket so, by all means, you can taste your wine and spit out. You’ll be able to visit a few wineries and still be safe to drive. This has the added bonus of looking like a massive wine snob (uhh, I mean connoisseur).
A lot of places and hotels offer bike rentals which you could use to cycle through the Gibbston Valley and reach a number of different wineries.
One thing most other articles fail to mention is just how difficult this will be. The Gibbston Valley is literally a valley with tall mountains and vines planted at a range of altitudes.
We’re reasonably fit, but reaching some of the best wineries in Queenstown by bike (like Chard Farms!) would be incredibly exhausting.
That said if you’re up for the challenge we think you should go for it! Anything that gets people off the roads when they’re drinking is a plus for us, and there is an amazing walking and cycling trail between all of the Gibbston Valley vineyards.
Give it a shot, but don’t cycle off a cliff and be careful on the roads. There are a lot of tourists, and with all the vineyards around, possibly intoxicated ones at that.
And don’t cycle to Rippon Vineyard from Queenstown.
Booking a wine tour in Queenstown is by far the best way to visit the vineyards. You will be picked up from your accommodation and chauffeured to a range of vineyards.
This is perfect if you want to try the best wineries in Queenstown in a short period of time. Half and full day tours are available.
On top of driving you, most tours will collect your wine purchases for you and bring them back with you to your accommodation at the end. Something you can’t really do when you cycle.
The only real con to this option is the cost. These tours tend to be pricey, and a lot of them probably take you to the wineries that offer them a financial benefit as well.
But go ahead and treat yourself.