Marlborough and Bubbly Grape Wine Tours

After leaving Richard and Wendy’s house in Napier the race was on to catch the ferry from Wellington down to the north of the south island. In the end there was no race; Nushy flew like an enraptured dragon across the North Island’s empty roads, devouring kilometre after kilometre as we ventured inexorably onwards. The countryside was stunning in parts and relentlessly same same in parts but eventually we made it safe and sound.

The ferry itself was beautiful entering through the Marlborough Sound on a blue skyed and clear day was something else entirely.  The pictures struggle to do it justice but it was a real eye-opener to the delights of the South Island.

We landed and drove down to Renwick near Blenheim in the heart of the wine growing region stopping off at a little winery called Cloudy Bay to take a quick snap or two with thoughts of its sauvignon blanc accompanying us to our accommodation as we prepared ourselves for the Bubbly Grape Wine Tour the next day.

Starting at midday we were picked up in a minibus and met our fellow tasters for the day, perhaps not quite as rambunctious or friendly as the ones we had in Napa but everyone was very pleasant. We started the day off at Fromm Winery which set the standard very high.

Jen made some very detailed notes with accompanying smiley and sad faces but they are in the car so never mind. The Pinot Gris was delicious, Sauvignon blanc much like all Marlborough SBs and the Pinot Noir was delicious. They were one of the only wineries to make a Syrah and this slipped down very nicely indeed. Apparently in Marlborough they just don’t get enough sun to ripen the fruit enough for Syrahs/Shirazs but Fromm’s tasted very good to us.

Jen's barrel

Next was Cloudy Bay which holds a special place in my heart as it was my mum’s favourite Sauvignon Blanc and always reminds me of celebrations and more importantly of mum. The gardens were beautiful, the tasting room tastefully decorated but unfortunately the Sauvignon Blanc was less than inspiring. We left feeling a little hollow but very glad to have come. The SB we tasted was the new 2013 so buy the 2012 whilst you can!

Tasting in the garden

From here the taste of the wines became harder to grasp as our senses were dimmed due to the ebullient pouring of the sommeliers. We went to Bouldevines and then Spy Valley before returning back to ours to tuck into Fish and Chips. It was a nice little trip but a few more vineyards wouldn’t have hurt.

Spy Valley with Cloudy Bay's hills behind us

We decided we hadn’t seen enough so the next day we decided to check out a few more including Lawson’s Dry Hills which had a superb Pinot Noir and a very un-Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. A bottle of each was purchased.

Next we headed to Wither Hills for lunch and we also discovered a light and zingy little number called a Frivoli – 1 bottle please.

After lunch we ditched Nushy and jumped on some bikes to explore a few wineries near to where we were staying. First up was Gibson Bridge which specialises in Pinot Gris and produced some lovely stuff but nothing that quite suited us except the dessert wine which was absolutely delicious.

Next up was Framingham where we may have overstayed our welcome by trying pretty much every bottle they produce. We eventually decided on a Pinot Noir and a Gewurztraminer that Jen absolutely loved thanks to its flavours of lychee and Turkish delight.

Our final vineyard after a wasted trip to Bladen (it was closed) was Forrest. Here we spent a long time tasting some pretty incredible wines. The Sauvignon Blanc was good but the Pinot Noir and and Pinot Gris were head and shoulders above the others we had tasted. I don’t know whether everyone would agree but we absolutely loved them and bought plenty of bottles to keep us lubricated on our trip around New Zealand

The slow wobbly cycle back to our hostel with my panniers well stocked with wine was considerably slower than on the way out but we made it back safe even if Jen did try falling off her bike whilst posing for photos. We ate a delicious pie from the local butcher which filled us up nicely and was worthy of the acclaim in which it is held by the locals.

Marlborough is a beautiful area with the mountains providing a stunning backdrop to the vineyards. It was a pretty emotional trip and we sorted out what we are doing for Christmas as well. Neil and Paula have kindly invited us to stay with them so we have squeezed the budget a bit and are flying out to Auckland to celebrate with them and Grandma Betty who is flying over from the UK in her 90th year!

Thanks Marlborough!