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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Monday, July 21, 2014

Marlborough Wine Region - a winter snapshot

In 1976, our first commercial Sauvignon Blanc vineyards were planted by Montana (now known as Brancott) – and the rest is history.  Marlborough is NZ’s star wine region, with over 75% of the country’s grape harvest and around 23,200 hectares in vines. High sunshine hours and cool night temperatures, combined with old stony alluvial soils produce not only our internationally successful zingy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but also very good Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and traditional method sparkling wines.  
Today if you fly in to Marlborough to land at Blenheim airport you will see a patchwork of vineyards extending right up to the runway and further across the broad alluvial Wairau Plains.
During the School Hols, we flew down to Blenheim to catch up with family, but of course – somehow (gosh – how did that happen?) managed to visit a few wineries.

Rock Ferry Wines
80 Hammerichs Road
Open 7 days a week 10.00 am – 4.30 pm
A small family winery, Rock Ferry is operated by Tom Hutchison and his wife and co-owner Fiona Harvey. Tom is a former Wellingtonian who followed his love of wine to explore Europe’s wine regions and ended up studying viticulture in the USA. On his return he started his own vineyards in Marlborough, and in 2005 they launched the Rock Ferry label. All vineyards are certified organic. And they have a diverse range of grape varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Nebbiolo.
Notable Wines Pinot Blanc $29, Chardonnay $35, Pinot Noir $45
Food – Café. Small, friendly and cosy, the café has a relaxed feel, with a good range of organic and largely gluten-free local produce on the menu. Reasonably priced and generous servings at about $25

Cloudy Bay Vineyards
Jacksons Road
Open 7 Days 10.00 am – 4.00 p.m.
Probably our most famous Sauvignon Blanc label in the key markets of US, UK, Australia and Japan, and largely responsible for the worldwide awareness of Marlborough as a New Zealand wine region - now part of the international wine portfolio of Luis Vuitton Moët Hennessy. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, they also produce a super-premium $49 sparkler – Pelorus.  Friendly staff and wide list of wines on offer to sample.  The building is suitably handsome in unpainted concrete, with a welcoming Cellar door which has wide polished wooden counters.
Notable wines – As above, Pelorus Traditional Method both vintage and non-vintage.  Also Chardonnay $40, Gewürztraminer $30, standard label Sauvignon Blanc $30, and Te Koko (oak aged) Sauvignon Blanc $58, Pinot Noir $45.
Food – Jacks’ Raw Bar Open summer December 1st to end of April. Freshly shucked oysters, sashimi and other raw delights such as venison Carpaccio, salmon sashimi and gazpacho.

Giesen Wines 
26 Rapaura Rd
Ph: 03 572 8500  Web:  www.
Open 7 Days 10.00 am – 4.30 pm
The three Giesen brothers from Germany – Alex, Theo and Marcel came all the way to New Zealand and initially planted grapes in Canterbury in 1981, establishing a company that would become a major exporter and significant player in NZ’s wine scene. Yet … it all could have gone differently. But for Australia’s heat and snakes, the Giesen brothers could well have settled there. (After suffering in 40 degree temperatures and an incident involving a snake in a swimming pool, they decided that NZ was the better option).
Notable Wines – Marlborough Riesling $19, ‘August’ Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc $40, Pinot Noir $22,
Food – selection of platters available at the Cellar Door, with a cosy eating area adjacent.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates the Very Best Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland, if not the entire Planet