With 90% of the country’s sauvignon blanc plantings, Marlborough is New Zealand’s (some say the world’s) sauvignon blanc capital.
With robust aromas and crisp flavours of gooseberry and capsicum, sauvignon blanc has been a glittering success for New Zealand. And Marlborough plays a starring role in this success. The region has been producing wines since early pioneers recognised something special in the land and planted the first vineyards more than 140 years ago.
Scores of vineyards rub shoulders along the Wairau and Awatere Valleys in Marlborough. In fact local Maori named the Wairau Valley “Kei puta te Wairau” or the place with the hole in the cloud. The vibrancy of flavour and aroma that distinguishes Marlborough's grapes is the result of a unique combination of soils, crisp nights and sun-kissed days across the region's vine-filled valleys, producing wines of unmatched intensity and aroma. Of Marlborough’s nearly 23,000ha of vine plantings (about 2/3 of the national total), nearly 18,000ha is sauvignon blanc, although it produces a wide variety of wine styles. Acclaim is mounting for its fragrant mouth-filling reds, which are richly flavoured and supple. Pinot noir is Marlborough’s second VIP grape. Other Marlborough wine specialties include fresh, vibrantly fruity chardonnays and crisp rieslings.
In Marlborough, neat rows of thriving vines can be seen as far as the eye can see reminding you that you’re truly in wine country. There are plenty of guided tour options. Marlborough is also on the 380km Classic New Zealand Wine Trail that spans four wine regions and more than 100 cellar doors. If you’re on this trail, you’ll arrive in Marlborough after a picturesque ferry crossing on the Cook Strait.
Marlborough’s vast flat areas are also ideal for a gentle gourmet cycle tour. From the small township of Renwick, there are 30 great wineries within a 24 kilometre circuit. Bike hire is easy to arrange.
Lunch menus at cafes and popular winery restaurants such as Allan Scott Wines, Brancott Estate Heritage Centre, Hans Herzog and Wither Hills feature its famed seafood, including smoked salmon, blue cod and – of course – green-lipped mussels. Talented chefs, from New Zealand and around the world, are drawn to Marlborough’s high quality ingredients and outdoor lifestyle.
The farmers’ markets are another great place to taste the region’s fresh bounty and artisan products. And if you visit the region February, make sure you attend the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival, one of the country’s longest running festivals and a true gourmet haven.