Marlborough Wine Tour
If you are heading to the Marlborough region in New Zealand, you are definitely going to want to try some of its world famous wine. Commercial grapes were first planted in Marlborough in 1973, making this a New World wine region and since then the area has flourished. 85% of the grapes grown in Marlborough are Sauvignon Blanc but there are other fantastic wines being produced here. There are 141 wineries in the region and 32 cellar doors that you can visit so it is a no brainer to go on a Marlborough Wine Tour!
We booked a full day tour with Marlborough Wine Tours who have been operating since 1999. The cost was $149 / £75 which included pick up / drop off and all of the cellar door fees.
At 9:45am we were picked up by lovely co-owner and tour guide Dean and joined by 3 other couples on the tour (8 people total). Marlborough Wine Tours change the wineries they visit daily and our tour was really well planned to avoid some of the large tour groups and cruise ships in the region. We visited some large wineries, smaller wineries and an exclusive by appointment only winery on our tour. Whilst we had hosts at each cellar door, Dean was very knowledgeable and taught us a lot about the wines being produced in the region.
Our first stop was at Wither Hills, one of the largest wineries in the region. They are currently attempting to grow 30 different grape varieties – as you can imagine, some are performing better than others!
We were asked what wines we liked before the tasting so that the tasting could be tailored to each individual’s preferences (e.g. white, red, rose), which was fantastic. Our host, Alex, explained each wine and we sampled around 4 – 5 different wines (all before 11am!).
Highlights included the Sauvignon Blanc, which unusually for a Sauvignon was made from grapes from a single vineyard and grown in gravel which makes it very dry. We also loved the Frivoli Gewurztraminer, a wine made by mistake (!) which was so light and refreshing.
Our next stop was at the smaller Jackson Estate cellar door. Leonie, our eccentric and fun host, was entertaining and made the tasting fun. Jackson Estate’s vines are older (in the region of 30 years old) and, as a result, their Sauvignon Blancs are developing more complex notes and are more citrusy.
A key fact we learnt is that a good Sauvignon is all about the grapes but a good Chardonnay is all about the winemaker! The highlight was their Pinot Noir Homestead, which was dangerously easy to drink for a red wine!
Our next stop was at Allan Scott who was employed by one of the first commercial winemakers in Marlborough and ventured out to create his own winery in 1990. It is a family owned and operated business with son Josh also creating a brewery and some very unique wines!
We sampled a rose Method Traditionnelle and a Scott’s Base Pinot Noir which is stocked at Scott’s Base on Antarctica! The final wine we tried was one of Josh’s creations – a ginger wine which was a winner with our whole tour group! It was very gingery but so different to anything we have had before. It also came with a list of cocktails that can be made with the wine – ideal!
We sat in the beautiful courtyard at Allan Scott’s Twelve Trees Vineyard Restaurant for our lunch. This is not included in the tour price and dishes are between approx $20-36. We loved the Braised Spring Lamb with Harissa Roasted Carrots, Griddled Potatoes, Fennel, Radishes, Yoghurt and Mint.
After lunch we drove to FROMM, an organic vineyard with a focus on quality over quantity. All the wine is hand produced, no machinery is involved and they are one of only a couple of Syrah producers in the Marlborough region. They focus on red wine but their whites are also very good.
We tried two red and two whites on the tasting. Their reds shone with the Syrah being a highlight with peppery notes. The Riesling Spatlese was also interesting – a very sweet wine with a much thicker consistency than usual!
Our penultimate stop was at Spy Valley, with the tag line, “Secrets Worth Sharing”. The name comes from the valley which was a satellite listening location. They have even managed to have Spy written in morse code on the side of the building!
Each of the wine bottles has morse code on them. Most of them read “for wine lovers”, however, the Gewurtztraminer says “spicy”! Very unique. The Pinot Noir Rose and the Pinot Gris were our favourites at this winery, which had a fantastic cellar door set out the back in the sun in the valley.
Our final stop was at the exclusive Misty Cove where tastings are by appointment only. This small and fairly new winery spent much of its early existence selling wines exclusively to the Netherlands. It was one of our favourite cellars on our Marlborough wine tour.
The cellar door is very modern with a slick interior and a small swimming pool outside! Our host, Katie, was great fun, getting to know the tour group and teaching us a lot about the winery.
The wines were consistently brilliant here. We bought a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy on our campervan travels but we also really enjoyed the Gruner Veltliner and their limited release Waihopai. Each year their winemaker gets a limited number of bottles to make whatever he likes. This makes for some very unique and interesting wines and this one was a real success!
Marlborough Wine Tours put together a fantastic tour and everyone really enjoyed themselves (we were pretty tipsy by the end!). The tour featured a great selection of wineries and we learnt a lot about the wines from Dean and our hosts. We would absolutely recommend this wonderful tour!
East London Girl: Marlborough Wine Tour
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