During my epic bike ride through New Zealand I saw some very cool places. Rotorua, the home of the Maori, Cook Strait between North and South Island and it was on the South Island I found something I completely forgot about. Not being a huge wine drinker at the time, I didn’t make the connection that when I saw vineyards as far as the eye could see, and was in Marlborough county, I was actually in the famous Marlborough Wine Country. When it clicked I started to see the buildings, not just as houses but as the shops and actual breweries.
The Wairau Plaina are known as “The Place with the Hole in the Clouds” by the indigenous Maori. This is because the Richmond ranges protect the land and keeps it dry and sunny.
It was quite late in the day when I realised where I was so I pitched up the tent in a field just off the road on the grounds of what seemed to be a disused gatehouse. The next day I wandered over to one of the buildings. It turned out to just be someones house. So embarrassed I rode on for a few hours until it hit midday. Still in the thick of vineyard laden hills and I tried another building. The thing was these buildings weren’t on the road side, or even sign posted so it wasn’t obvious whether I was trespassing and not reading up on New Zealand trespass laws it was a rather late in the day thing to start thinking about it as I was in their car park.
It was however a car park. A gorgeous blonde labrador ran up to me and started running around me and my bike. I got off and fussed it before starting to lock the bike, realising it was probably unnecessary and the owners might take offence. So I went in the building, the lab in tow.
There were a bunch of people sat at a bar, each with several glasses of wine in front of them, along side soda water and little bowls. All at once, they spat into the little bowls and all at once I wondered what I had stumbled upon. A lady came over to speak to me and explained the art of wine tasting and we talked for almost an hour about my trip and the wine country. Then she gave me a free and private wine tasting session along with a tour of the vineyard and the even into where the young wine is taste-tested before it’s fermented, when the wine is non-alcoholic and sweet as the sugars haven’t turned into ethanol yet. The “buildings” are actually called “Cellar Doors” and it is quite literally a “door” into the wine cellar of the vineyard. It’s also the word used in the Donnie Darko movie and described as the most perfect word to say.
At the time I didn’t blog, there was no twitter, there was nothing other than an adventurer and a very kind person, passionate about their craft wanting to share it with me. It was a lovely experience. That visit taught me a lot about wine and she went through the whole process with me. Then she called some neighbour vineyards and told them to expect me. She even went so far as to call a friend with a campsite and asked them to reserve me a space on the grounds for the night.
Going to these vineyards, I found a new appreciation for wine and learned about wines I had never even heard of. It was here I found a love for Pinot Noir and until recently have struggled finding any in the UK. The interesting thing about the Lawson’s Pinot Noir was that it was served cold, which is amazing.
Having not managed to return to New Zealand to use my more mature palette on the wines, I try to drink what we have on offer in the UK every now and then. Here is a list of Marlborough Wines I thoroughly recommend, some of which I have visited and tasted from the barrel. If you ever get a chance to spent some time in this part of the world it is both beautiful and educational. Check out Wine-marlborough.co.nz the official site of the region for more info and to plan a Wine Trail if you are there.
The post is not affiliated with any of these brands or merchants. Lawson’s Dry Hills also just happened to be the vineyard I stumbled into.
Obviously nothing can compare to trying the wine where it is made but these are a good start to get to know the tastes of Marlborough. The area is famous for it’s Sauvingnon Blanc but it yields some other wonderful grapes. If you are in the area or are a wine fan, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Marlborough.