Today, we will mostly be drinking wine! We’ve joined the ‘Bubbly Grape’ wine tasting tour where a minibus is taking us around lots of vineyards in the Marlborough region. The tour was really good fun. There was only 6 of us so it was rather intimate instead of being part of a large anonymous group. In all we visited 6 cellar doors, starting with the Brancott estate, which kicked off the Marlborough wine boom way back in 1973. You’ll have also seen their wines marketed under their original name of Montana. Without doubt, their cellar door has the best location we visited as it sits on a ridge overlooking the vineyards, giving views for miles. Here’s a couple of pictures.
The Brancott staff were very knowledgeable and we were also treated to a short video which explained about the various regions that make up the Marlborough area. I have to say, they’re not my favourite wines, but we did get to try a variety, from Sauvignons to Pinot Noirs. They’re certainly worth a visit.
Our second stop was at Villa Maria who produce wines both Dawn and I love. When we booked for the tour we’d been asked if their were specific vineyards we wanted to visit and this was one of our choices. Villa Maria produce a wide variety of wines that they don’t sell on the UK market which is a real shame as they’ve got some stunners. They’ve also won a heap of awards for them. Here’s their cellar door.
Once again, the staff were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. We tried a wide selection of wines, including an excellent rose and dessert wine. These might not be to everyone’s tastes, but trying new ones is half the fun of these events. Several of us were so impressed that we ended up buying different bottles. Villa Maria were unusual in that many of their wines are branded specific to the vineyard the grapes come from, whilst many others use a blend. Here’s a list of the wines on offer and the awards won – as well as prices.
The next place we visited was also on our list: Cloudy Bay. When we arrived we could see that it was rather different from the others. It was very upmarket – if not a little swanky. The wines were very good but they do charge a premium price for them. It was only when we were leaving that we found out why. Cloudy Bay is owned by Louis Vuitton!
The third cellar door we visited couldn’t have been more different. It was a locally owned family winemaker called Allan Scott who produces some very good wines. Here we are at their cellar door.
We also broke for lunch here as they have a lovely outdoor restaurant that serves some excellent fish dishes. I chose these gorgeous clams.
After lunch we moved on to another locally owned and family run vineyard: Forrest (who also market their wine under ‘The Doctors’ label – as the couple who set up the vineyard were both doctors)! Here’s what we tried and the range of prices, complete with tasting notes.
Next (and last) on the list was Giesen, a vineyard run by three German bothers. The German influence on the wines was quite noticeable, many of us fond them too sweet, but they were certainly worth trying just as a contrast. They also had something unique – which several of us really enjoyed: “Pomme de Gris” – a mixture of white wine and cider! It really worked as a long, refreshing drink…
All in all it was a great day out. You get to try a real variety of wines from brands you may never of heard of before. You learn a lot about Marlborough (and Hawke’s Bay) wines and eat some lovely food. There’s even a stop at a chocolate producers at the end of the trip! Needless to say, we couldn’t resist buying something to quaff over the next few days…
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