This is the most southerly wine region in the North Island, and only about an 1 hour drive from the city of Wellington, so wine tourism flourishes here. Martinborough is one of the three sub-regions that make up Wellington Wine Country, and arguably the most important and renowned.
The region has a mild coastal climate, and gets warm enough for Syrah in the summer, but it also faces those same strong winds that blow in from across the Cook Strait to lash the Windy City (Wellington). This can lead to lower crop levels, and smaller grapes with thicker skins, which concentrates flavours and increases body and tannin. This is especially notable with the Pinot Noirs, which tend to have more fine-grained tannins than anywhere else in NZ.
Although the region produces some excellent Syrah, its most notable wine is Pinot Noir.
Martinborough made a name for itself with Pinot Noir in the late 1970s/1980s, a decade or so before Central Otago came onto the scene. In a sense, Martinborough paved the way for Central Otago’s success, by making it known that high quality wines could be made in New Zealand, especially Pinot Noir.