By Jacob Aldridge

Today’s Itinerary

Not long ago, a list of the world’s best wine tours would have been very Euro-centric – and western Europe at that, with France and Italy featuring heavily while fantastic wines like Hungarian Bikavér continue to be ignored.

Slowly, so-called ‘New World Wines’ began to emerge, forced somewhat by marketing money out of California’s Napa Valley. South American wines, in particular Chilean reds such as the Carménère (an old Bordeaux varietal now extinct in Europe), had a rush of popularity. And the, begrudgingly the old world was forced to acknowledge the quality produced by the antipodean wineries of Australia and New Zealand.

Wine, drunk the best possible way - with friends

Enjoying Marlborough Wine while cruising the Marlborough Sound. Photo by Peter Burge, CC License

Having experienced – and enjoyed – wine tours of Australia’s Hunter Valley we must now admit just how much we love the Marlborough Wine Region in New Zealand. And today, we have a Marlborough wine tour so we can all find out why the wines, in particular the whites and specifically the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, are as good as any that the world has to offer.

Given the choice of wine tours, we have elected to embark on the ‘Marlborough Icons Tour‘ which combines wine tasting with the other local icons – a cruise of the Marlborough Sound and a feed of Greenshell Mussels.

Just after 10am, our guide and mini-coach collect us from our Blenheim accommodation. Our first destination is Johanneshof Cellars, where the local conditions are combined with German wine heritage. The Gewurztraminer (an aromatic, slightly sweet, white wine) is the agreed winner here – a lesser known wine grape, it’s guaranteed to be a conversation starter when you take one to your next dinner party.

No wine tour of New Zealand is complete without our next stop, Cloudy Bay, where the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is the main attraction – though the Pelorus brut (“Champagne” is now a protected geographical indicator, so we can’t use it here) is well-received by those who prefer a glass of bubbly.

As befits a jam-packed wine tour, our final tasting stop is The Vines Village, where we sample a range of boutique wines in one place, as well as some of the local produce and clothing from the region.

The spectacular Marlborough Sound

The spectacular Marlborough Sound. Photo by AceNZ, CC License

If the wine’s gone to your head (and if it hasn’t, have another glass!), you’ll enjoy our relaxing afternoon cruising the Marlborough Sound by boat. Our group naturally divides into those who want to hear the history of the Pelorus and Kenepuru Sounds, and those who simply want to sit on deck and watch them pass by. A stopover at the Greenshell Mussel farm provides more than just afternoon sustenance – there’s recognition of the region’s pioneers, and an opportunity to sample the green and gold delicacies of this native New Zealand shellfish.

Come 5pm, our Marlborough wine tour drops us off at Picton, on the edge of the South Island. We have a 7pm ferry booked to take us across the Cook Strait to Wellington.

Beached at Picton

The small beach at Picton, New Zealand. Photo by Sid Mosdell, CC License.

Which gives us plenty of time to partake in this suggestion, from NZ local and expert traveller Megan Singleton (on Twitter as @bloggeratlarge). We’re down to the beach front in Picton for some fish and chips – and the combination of good grub and a nice view means not a single one of us makes a comment about how New Zealanders pronounce this authentic meal.

Cook Strait View

View from the Picton-Wellington Ferry. Photo by Chris Murphy, CC License

Want to go? Need to know!

  • You can catch the train from Christchurch to Picton, and then (via the ferry) all the way on to Auckland.
  • Exactly which wineries are featured on specific tours will vary. The full day Marlborough wine tour will give you tastings at more locations.
  • Global travel tip: Most tours start and end in the same location, but it’s always worth asking your guide if they can be flexible. We saved the time and expense of getting from Blenheim to Picton by choosing the tour we did.
  • Create your own Marlborough wine tour New Zealand – there’s a great map and more info here
  • There are 2 ferry services to choose from – Bluebridge and the Interislander will take you from Picton to Wellington (or Wellington to Picton). Timetables are a more important factor in your choice than any price or amenity differences.

What’s your favourite New Zealand Wine? Have we been unfair in promoting the Marlborough region so heavily? Please share your experience in the comments below.