Paris might have its Rosé, but Marlborough has its Sauvignon Blanc – the crisp, dry calling card of New Zealand’s finest wine region. Located on the northern tip of the Southern Island, Marlborough is like a melting pot of all that’s good in life: rolling hills, lush greenery, crystalline waters, patchwork vineyards, life-affirming food and of course, the aforementioned fermented grapes. I was lucky enough to visit last year, when travel and fun and frivolity were still very much on the cards. Even though it’s just a skip across the Tasman, New Zealand is world away, far more fulfilling than any local weekender.
As you might be award, a Trans-Tasman bubble is on the very near horizon (official dates to comes) and for those who are in a position to travel, I cannot recommend the viticultural heaven that is Marlborough enough. So here, see my 72-hour travel guide. Marlborough is only a quick two hour flight from Sydney, making short but sweet trips amid the weirdness that is 2020 all the more realistic. Drinks, food, rolling hills…. you can almost taste the crisp white wine from here.
This list will certainly melt into the below because eating and drinking are two activities best done in tandem in Marlborough, but heed our suggestions regardless.
Vines Village: Located in Blenheim, Vines village is perfect for just about anything with a cellar door, gin distillery, cafe and boutique stores on site. But our advice is to stop in for breakfast and a quick browse to fill up before a day of wine tasting. Alternatively if you’ve got the time, make a second stop for a gin (produced on-site) on the lawn in the sun one afternoon. Bliss.
Mussel Tour: Mussels are the steak frites of Marlborough – so fresh and light and delicate you’ll never find a decent comparison elsewhere. Book a spot aboard Greenshell Mussel Cruises, a boat that will take you through the idyllic Marlborough Sounds (water so clear, it’s as if it were glass). Because seafood and Sauvignon Blanc are best served with a side of natural splendour.
Brancott Estate: Situated at the top of a hill with panoramic views out over the vineyards, Brancott Estate restaurant is the perfect marriage of food, wine and atmosphere. Its seasonal menu heroes local produce and is designed to compliment the extensive selection of exclusive onsite drops. My time there was too short but oh so sweet (my last stop before the flight back to Wellington) but I certainly plan to return for a long, languid lunch basking in the warmth of the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Wine connoisseurs will find themselves in their absolute element in Marlborough, given its status as one of the most revered grape-growing regions around the world. Be sure to set aside time to test (and sip) all the area has to offer – and leave space in your bag to bring a few home.
The Wine Station: A train carriage converted into a bar/cellar door is just as much fun as it sounds. While away the afternoon with a platter and a mix of the regions finest – all served via state of the art preservation pourers (and at the recommended temperature).
Forrest Wines: Brigid and John Forrest were long-time doctors and medical researchers before they decided viticulture was the appropriate path. Enter Forrest Wines: an expansive vineyard situated beside a leafy cellar door, sleepy pond and sun-drenched lawn. While the Sav is superb, try the Chenin Blanc for something different.
Wairau River: Keeping it the family seems key for the Roses. Chris and Phil established their vineyard in 1978, and now all five children work in the business in some capacity, from winemaking to running the incredible cellar door. It’s the perfect spot to either drop in and try a few wines, or spend a few hours enjoying lunch – there’s everything from Marlborough mussel chowder to double-baked blue cheese souffle.
Cloudy Bay: The jewel in the Marlborough crown, LVMH-owned Cloudy Bay is an institution as far as wine-making is concerned. The cellar door looks out upon row after row of grapevines – the perfect spot to enjoy a chilled glass of its iconic Sauvignon Blanc. Be sure to take a spell at the 2018-opened Cloudy Bay Shack too – reclining by an open fire, vino in hand, rolling hills as far as the eye can see… heaven is a place on Earth.
To properly explore Marlborough, set up camp in nearby Blenheim, a quaint, charming town teeming with local retail haunts (try Thomas’s for authentic department store shopping) and tiny cafes. CHATEAU MARLBOROUGH has all the creature comforts of home in the perfect location. Time permitting, make an overnight trip to Bay of Many Coves Resort in the nearby Marlborough Sounds. A celebrity-favourite, its beauty is actually breathtaking. See our review here.
Head to marlboroughnz.com/ for information on how to make your visit a perfect one.