Where two next?

Antipodean travelogue through the eyes of two - one textile and one building lover. It'll be hard to differentiate the two!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Wine Country

Marlborough is one of the many great wine producing regions in NZ and to be honest probably one of the most respected. Picton, is in the Marlborough region and we decided that when in Rome so to speak that a wine tour was essential.

On our second day on the south island we therefore headed to the heart of the Marlborough wine region which is dominated by two towns, Renwick and Blenheim (the H we were to learn, quite quickly, is silent). We decided to stay in the latter as it was recommended to us.

We decided to stay in The Grape Vine Hostel which boasted a nice back garden/ deck over looking the river. Now if Cleanliness is next to Godliness then the proprietors of this establishment are going straight to hell. If there ever was an incentive to go out and see Blenheim it was this hostel. We stayed there two nights/ three days where I managed to become well acquainted with a dead fly on the bathroom floor. I decided that if I was ever testing a place for cleanliness in the future I will put loads of plastic flies around and see how long it takes them to be removed.

Anyway to be fair to the hostel the owners were away, even though it is high season!, and a boat did happen to pass by when we were on the deck. Unfortunately the river and boat fail to make up for the downsides of this particular hostel and it gets definite thumbs down from us. Here's a pic of the boat in any event.

As part of the incentive to get out and see Blenheim we organised a wine tour with the same crowd that gave us the guide for The Queen Charlotte Track. Again we were the only ones on the tour and had a guide/ chauffeur for the day. As there was only the two of us we could dictate where we wanted to go and when the guide suggested we start with a local market and end in a local chocolate factory we knew we were onto a winner.

Now I do not know a lot about wines but since coming to NZ I have learned a bit more generally and lot more about NZ wine. In no small part this is down to Sharon's great Christmas present of the Buyer's Guide to NZ Wines 2007.
From what I can gather France is renowned for it's wines but appartently not necessarily for it's white wines. In step, the mecca of white wine, NZ! With its cooler and shorter summers NZ is perfect for producing white wine and Pinot Noir whereas the hotter climate of France is better for the deep red flavours.
Armed with this information, and although I have a preference for red wine, we bought five bottles of white and one red. To be honest there is not a whole lot of reds on offer unless you go to Fromm Winery which specialises in reds in this region. If you come accross a white wine from the Marlborough region in Ireland you can be pretty confident that you have a nice bottle of wine within your grasp. My advice is go for it, especially if is from Lawson's Dry Hills, Wither Hills, Highfield Estate the list goes on and on.....if you want to be really safe just pick the Sauvignon Blanc they just do not produce a bad Sav! Here's a picture of our purchases and the wine guide.
If you are looking for something different, and we were, then try Spy Valley Wines, there are the only fully NZ owned winery in the region and it is still family run. It is called Spy Valley because the American's have a spy base up the road. Spy Valley asked them if they would mind if they used the name "Spy Valley", but of course being spies, they were hardly likely to write back something like the following: "Given the nature of what we do, in this highly confidential and top secret establishment, we find the proposed name highly appropriate. We'll have a crate of your finest bubbly." It's hard to believe but the bubbly is actually called Echelon!
If you are looking for something organic look no further than Seresin Estates, while walking around it was explained that they only cut the grass between every second set of vines to maintain the bio-diversity! They also use paper to help keep the weeds down around the vines. We bought a Marawa which means distinctive, and it is a Sav which has been stored in Oak Barrels to give it an unusual depth. It is owned by the famous Cinematographer, Michael Seresin. He was the director of Angela’s Ashes among other things. Here's a few pic from the Seresin Estate.

As part of the tour you have a gourmet meal in one of the many vineyards. We ate in the Highfield Estate, I had Elk for the first time in me life and a glass of their Pinot. I was pretty tipsy by that stage, the notion of spitting out the wine goes against the motto of many an Irish person’s background. “Waste not want not” I was really skeptical about the food but it was excellent and good value for the quality. Sharon’s lamb was excellent also. Here's a pic from their viewing tower.

As mentioned above we finished with a local chocolate factory called Makana Confections. You get free samples when you go inside and there is a viewing area where you can see them make the chocolates. Here’s a pic from the viewing area.

Anyway, in my opinion if you see a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir from Marlborough NZ, buy it as I reckon you'll enjoy every mouthful. By the way I am writing this sipping a Pinot from Spy Valley, it's a hard life!


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