While the Quantum Physicist – Philosopher might say “There is no spoon” it didn’t help me stir my tea that morning when I couldn’t find one in the drawer. The morning in question being day 5 of ‘Round New Zealand with a fridge in a campervan’.
The fridge being important to keep the white wines cool in the heat, or so we thought. However, the weather had turned atrocious the day after we arrived. Cyclone Debbie (Daily Telegraph Link) had rocked up to wave at us. A dreadful drive between Taupo and Napier, gusting winds in a high sided campervan which made it more of a kite than a vehicle certainly added an exciting, and I use the word quite wrongly, element to the journey! Now, Debbie had bid us farewell and we had made it unscathed to the South Island. Just outside Blenheim. Marlborough. Wine country!
My hands are up, I’m a red man by and large when pushed on the subject. So, what am I doing in the wineries of Marlborough? The answer to that is manifold; my partner Tam is very much a white drinker – exclusively so. Marlborough was a natural choice for her but Marlborough is now also gaining a reputation for great Syrah and Pinot Noir. Also, I don’t like to limit myself and miss out! I’ve had some fabulous Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays and I’m always looking for the next great wine around the corner.
The tour was booked with Highlight Wine Tours; our guide, Colleen, picked us up from our campsite in Spring Creek. Our first stop was Saint Clare Family Estates. Colleen had asked us a few questions about our tastes but she wanted to see our reactions to the various wines so she could tailor our tour very specifically to us. She also asked if we’d had breakfast. Boy, she wasn’t joking either!
The great thing about a wine tasting is the sense of discovery: the different styles and the different wines that come from the same winery can be astounding. Visiting Saint Clair winery and tasting some of the Pioneer Block range showed the difference. The range, where the fruit is taken from the same block of vines, is a good example. The blocks are chosen for their location and furthermore, each block is tested each year to ensure top quality. Passing these tests they are allowed to be included in the Pioneer Block range. Each block produces a very different and most noteworthy wine. For a single region, Marlborough produces some very different tasting wines from the same grapes.
We visited several Marlborough Wineries during our tour: Spy Valley, Saint Clair Family Estate, Fromm, Framingham and Wairau River Wines among others. All were a delight and could equally be included in this review but I decided to choose based on my own preferences for the wines we tasted.
Fromm Winery La Strada Syrah 2014
Growing organic grapes sustainably is the guiding principle at Fromm. We tried a number of wines there but for my personal taste, the Syrah was the standout for me. The Marlborough location is right on the limit of Syrah’s growing region due to the cool climate. It is an organic Syrah which has a great white peppery taste with cassis and herbs. It is a light wine at only 12% but classic dark colouration, good nose with subtle flavours and salty on the lips. That evening, it was a wonderful accompaniment to some organic porterhouse steak we had bought locally. Wherever we go we always try to enjoy food from the surrounding area and, although we might be deluding ourselves; we think the wine goes better with local produce.
Top find! Tam also managed to pick up a wine crate lid from Fromm Winery! We were looking to get one from the Marlborough Wineries. Exciting for us as we are currently fitting out our split screen campervan with wine crate lids of vineyards we have visited or wines we have drunk.
Framingham Dry Riesling 2006
Entry to Framingham winery is through a most wonderful large courtyard type garden. Perfume from the flowers filled the air so therefore we took plenty of time to stop and smell the roses. It’s a great introduction to the wines produced here. The Framingham Dry Riesling 2006 has plenty of nose with apple, lime and lemonade fruit. Dry and crisp, this would be great with seafood. Good acidity with mineral hints. I’m still too scarred from Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch from the 80’s to have seriously considered sweet wines. Framingham however, finally buried those ghosts for me.
All the Marlborough Wineries we visited had something to please every palette. Going with a good tour guide, they will tailor the wines and wineries to your taste. Colleen, our guide, used the notes she’d made on our likes and dislikes for a truly personal tour tailored to our tastes.
Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2016
I had to mention a Sauvignon Blanc in a visit Marlborough, didn’t I? We didn’t visit Wither Hills winery but picked this up at a store and what a good choice it turned out to be! I found it to be a crisp wine, good nose, with hints of melon and tropical fruit. Also, it was extremely good value classic Marlborough wine.
Do it! You can only learn so much from reading about wine in books and online but you really have to get out there and try it! It would be like the Catholic church handing out advice on contraception and birth control.
Wait, they actually do that?
Having a good guide that knows their stuff is as essential as having an open mind. Whether it’s a Marlborough Wineries tour or anywhere else, leave those preconceived ideas behind and you’ll be in for a great time of learning, fun and adventure.
Using Highlight Wine Tours, a local company, for transportation and expert local knowledge on our Marlborough wineries tour, made a huge difference. Their website can be found at the bottom of the page, and I am happy to recommend them for their excellent service.
Accommodation – campervan at Spring Creek Holiday Park
Tour – Highlight Wine Tours
- Book in Advance
- Some tours will pick you up from your accommodation.
- Pace yourself! You’ll be drinking a lot of wine!
- Water is provided, make sure you drink lots.
- Spittoons are available but spitting out wine is, for me, an alien concept.
Check out our other New Zealand highlights.