Wines: Waiheke Island

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Wines: Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island is a wine-producing region just 18 kilometers (11 miles) east of central Auckland, in the north of New Zealand's North Island. Waiheke is home to some of the Auckland region's most famous vineyards.

Waiheke is particularly known for elegant Bordeaux Blend wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The best of these rival similalrly priced examples from Bordeaux and Tuscany. Syrah and Chardonnay are also important grape varieties planted here.

Waiheke Island measures 20 kilometers (12 miles) from east to west and 10km (six miles) from north to south at its widest point. With its smaller island neighbors, Rangitoto, Motutapu and Ponui, it serves as a gateway - and gives shelter - to Auckland's Waitemata Harbor.

The first Vitis vinifera vines were planted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. An increase in ferry traffic from Auckland city in the 1990s led to a corresponding jump in production to supply the subsequent increase in tourism. Initially known for its population of hippies and artists, the island has become a particular target for the well-heeled.

There are around 25 wine estates or independent vineyards on Waiheke. Due to the restricted area, wine production is done on a truly boutique scale and several wineries offer wines from other regions – notably Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. Some have their own vineyards on the mainland; others buy in fruit, must, or even finished wines made under contract.