This feature is part of the continuing series on my travels to the wine regions of New Zealand and Australia. This month is focused on Marlborough, New Zealand’s most well-known region and home to the now famous sauvignon blanc that so many Americans love.
Traveling the wine regions of New Zealand is an incredible experience filled with amazing views and thrilling sites all along the way. I strongly advise taking the Cook Strait ferry from Wellington to Picton. The 3 Ω-hour ride is a scenic daydream offering incredible photo opportunities.
Marlborough is at the very tip of New Zealand’s southern island. The region’s largest city is Blenheim, which serves as the tourist center for wine travelers. The city is small, and it was bursting at the seems with wine tourists with most hotels having no vacancy and many winery tasting rooms filled with vino lovers from around the world.
I enjoyed some wonderful winery visits during my four days in Marlborough, including Kim Crawford, Giesen, Cloudy Bay and several others. The time I spent with the people from Brancott Estate and Stoneleigh really stood out for both the education and hospitality.
My day began with something I’ve never done on a wine trip: a helicopter tour of the region. I joined winemaker Jamie Marfell and heritage director Gwenola Hanaut for a breathtaking aerial tour of the region. Both were able to educate me along the way as I more fully understood how the ocean, mountains and rivers influence the region’s viticulture by taking it all in from above.
We landed between vineyards and began an amazing tasting of 15 wines. Marfell served as a fantastic host with his passion and historical knowledge shining through as we talked and tasted. He is the winemaker for the Stoneleigh Vineyards. Both Stoneleigh and Brancott Estate are part of the Pernod Ricard wine portfolio.
“My first job out of university (1990) was in Marlborough, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s really been incredible to see the region evolve over the last 25+ years. It seems we are really hitting our stride as a wine region.”
Part of that success has come from substantial investment from the larger wine and spirit companies such as the aforementioned Pernod Ricard, Constellation Brands (Kim Crawford) and Cloudy Bay (Moet Hennessey). You can see the signs of growth and development all around the region in the tasting rooms and vineyards.
I was able to see the investments at ground level as I joined Amy Frost, Pernod Ricard’s Project Manager for Wine Innovation New Zealand. We traveled to several vineyards, and it was an exciting and busy time as harvest has just begun.
Frost was proud to show off a fleet of brand-new harvesters that were being used for the first time that day. The new machines utilize the most modern technology and allow the grapes to be harvested quickly, but with almost none of the damage that many older harvesters cause.
This was a major investment for Pernod Ricard, with each harvester costing around $700,000, and they were excited with the early results. “This is a major new initiative for us and it’s a great example of our continual investment in our equipment, people and facilities to make the best wine we can”, said Frost.
Here’s a look at two featured wines from the Marlborough region:
2016 Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc
A fantastic choice for patio or poolside celebrations as we move into summer. A delightful mix of citrus, floral, pear and tropical fruits. Intense, full fruit flavors highlighted by lush pink grapefruit.
2015 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir
Enticingly aromatic with notes of strawberries and dark cherries. The palate is rich with lush fruit and hints of French Oak providing subtle spice. A great choice for those seeking lighter reds for the summer months.
Marlborough wines have a lot to offer Valley wine lovers as we enter the summer months. Pick some up today and begin your own investigation.