Yes.....New Zealand is a wine producing country and our first region to try is in the Marlborough area in the North West corner of the South Island. There are more than fifty wineries dotted around Blenheim and Renwick, with lots of vineyards lining the roads as you drive around. Marlborough is famous for its floral Sauvignon Blancs, but it is now producing excellent Gewürztraminer, Rieslings and Pinot Gris. These grape varieties grow well in the cool temperate climate of the area.
Most of the wineries are along one road and there are many tours on offer to take you to the cellar doors. There is even one called 'Wine Tours by Bike', I am not sure what the drink cycling laws in NZ are but as I don't want to spoil my chances of extending my visa I thought I had better not be caught drunk in charge of my bike. The other consideration was that I look like I am drunk anyway when trying to pedal around and I don't think I would have lasted the 3 mile trip.
I had tried some NZ wines whilst we were in Lyttelton and had enjoyed these very much, and one that needs passing over very quickly, bought I might add after of Jeff's suggestions.(cheap is good)
The first winery we visited was Saint Clair, a family owned winery founded in 1978. We sampled all that was on offer. The white wines that we tasted were really nice, the reds, the merlot and pinot noir, had a delicate flavour and left a nice after taste. It was strange to have a lighter red after being used to some of the big reds in Australia. NZ is now beginning to make some really good reds and they are starting to win prizes.
We bought three white wines here and one red. The 2006 Pinot Gris had some delicate aromas with some light fruity after taste, a wine recommended with pasta, fish or chicken but just as nice on its own. The Saint Clair Pioneer Block Sauvignon Blanc 2007, the grapes were grown in the Cloudy Bay area which is on the coastal side of Blenheim. This gives them a longer growing time which all adds to the flavour. This wine had a really intense flavour of citrus fruits and partner's asparagus and fish well. The final white is the Saint Claire Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, one of their top wines and a Gold Medal winner at the London Wine Show. The grapes are grown on silt soil in the lower Wairau Valley (we would drive through this valley later in the day) and this gives them the added zing to make this lovely wine. Jeff was not as keen on the reds as I was so we just bought one bottle of the Saint Clair Vicar's Choice 2006 Pinot Noir, their cheapest range. It had a nice black current fruit taste and left a pleasant after taste.
The winery also has a café attached, as most seem to do, so we stayed for a coffee. The food menu looked very appetising but it was only 10.30am so not time for lunch.....shame. Saint Claire sells wines in the U.K. through Majestic Wine outlets
Our next stop was at the Nautilus Estate where we arrived just in time to try their Nautilus N.V. Brut. This wine is made using the same method as champagne, but they cannot call it that as it is made outside the Champagne region of France. All I can say was I was smitten and bought a bottle as my Christmas present to me. Sara, who was serving us, wrapped it all up in tissue paper with a bow around the neck, my present to open.
We tried a number of their wines and then had to make the difficult decision as to which ones to buy, we could have bought one of each. In the end we chose two whites and two reds. The Nautilus Chardonnay 2005 is made from hand picked grapes and fermented in barrels but does not have the heavy oaked flavour that we seem to get in the U.K. The Nautilus Pinot Gris 2006 was also made from hand picked grapes and had a lovely delicate flavour. We bought two Pinot Noir's, but of different styles, in the first bottle the wine was a mixture of old and new wines, before fermenting in French Oak barrels thus giving it a lovely intense flavour and taste. The other was a blend of six clones of grapes from five vineyards and had a rich fruity taste.
Now for the good news and the bad, none of the above wines are available in the U.K., but the Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough and the Nautilus Pinot Gris Marlborough are, and can be bought at Majestic wines. They are both really nice wines and I shall be looking out for them when we get home.
I would not like you to think we spent all our time tasting wine, we did stop off at the Makana chocolate factory to do some tasting and at an outlet selling preserves, jams, sauces and marinades. So with our home now suitably stocked with goodies we are off to see the rest of NZ.