The Soils and Landscapes of North Canterbury Wines

March 13, 2014 0 Comments

Of all the wine regions of New Zealand, North Canterbury shows the greatest contrast in the array of soils on which grapes are grown. This reflects the geology and the processes that have shaped the landscape and contributed to soil formation. Because grape-growing in North Canterbury is concentrated on a small group of very distinct soils, it represents a unique laboratory to explore ideas which underpin the concept of terroir, the notion that the personality of a wine can be uniquely influenced by site and especially soil characteristics. Internationally, these wines are prized and thought of as being of high quality.

The Centre for Viticulture and Oenology in association with the Departments of Soils & Physical Sciences and Wine, Food & Molecular Bioscience at Lincoln University is currently involved in studies of the landscapes, soils, grapes and wines of North Canterbury as part of on-going research to increase the value of New Zealand branded wines. As part of this work and in association with the local winegrowing industry, we developed a field tour to illustrate and explain important aspects of the regional geology, landscapes and soils associated with the wines of the North Canterbury region. The field tour was designed for all those involved in the wine industry: viticulturists, wine-makers, marketers and cellar door staff.

The event took place on Friday, 28 February and provided an overview of the landscapes and the geographical distribution the soils of the region. The sites visited were:

  1. Pahau soil at Camshorn
  2. Glasnevin soil at the gravel pit on Purchas Road
  3. Omihi soils at Greystone
  4. Waikari soil at Spye

About 40 viticulturists, wine-makers and cellar door staff attended the event which at one point was threatened by the deluge that engulfed Christchurch to the south. However the weather held and at the end of the day participants were able to retire to the tasting room at Black Estate and sample wines from each of the soils, kindly provided by the local wineries.

A short guide was produced to accompany the tour. If you would like a copy of this or any other information about this topic, please contact Dr Roland Harrison, Director, Centre for Viticulture & Oenology by email at

Financial assistance from the Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust and Hill Laboratories is gratefully acknowledged. We are also grateful to Camshorn, Greystone and Black Estate for their enthusiastic participation in this event and for allowing us access to prepare soil pits.

The Soils and Landscapes of North Canterbury Wines

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