Canterbury consists of two major wine areas; the plains around the city of Christchurch, where grapes were first planted in the late 1970s, and the more recently developed valley area of Waipara, an hour's drive north of Christchurch.
In the southern area the soils are mainly alluvial silt loams over gravel subsoils while in Waipara they are chalky loams that are often rich in limestone. Long, dry summers, abundant sunshine and relatively cool growing conditions are a feature in both areas although Waipara, which is sheltered from the coast by a low range of hills, can be significantly warmer.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most widely planted grape varieties, together making up nearly 60% of the region's vineyard. Riesling is the third most popular variety with Sauvignon Blanc in fourth place. Canterbury is New Zealand's fourth largest wine region.