Wine lover’s par­adise

If you’re a lover of NZ sav­i­gnon blanc, then Nel­son and Marl­bor­ough is where you should head, writes An­drew Stafford

Go Travel New Zealand - - Nelson & Marlborough -

Ifirst got to New Zealand about three years ago and one of the few things I knew about the country in ad­vance, other than the beau­ti­ful scenery and the sheep, is that it is where you can find some of the best sauvi­gnon blanc in the world. Specif­i­cally, in Marl­bor­ough and Nel­son - New Zealand’s sun­ni­est spots, where most spare blocks of land are cov­ered by trim, neat lines of grape vines stretch­ing into the dis­tance.

When I first reached the re­gion, I fell in love with all of it and de­cided that I had to find a way to live there.

As luck would have it, I found a job for the grape har­vest work­ing for the Del­e­gat Es­tate, cre­ator of the world fa­mous Oys­ter Bay brand, as part of the team cre­at­ing that year’s wine. Spend­ing three months work­ing night shifts mak­ing sauvi­gnon blanc in one of the re­gion’s largest winer­ies is cer­tainly one way to learn a bit about the wine, and an even bet­ter way to sam­ple some of it.

Meet­ing some of the fan­tas­tic and knowl­edge­able wine­mak­ers there taught me a lot about the re­gion’s most fa­mous ex­port and I re­ally don’t think that there is a bet­ter way of spend­ing a sunny New Zealand af­ter­noon than at the top of the South Is­land en­joy­ing a crisp glass of ‘Sav’, as the Ki­wis call it.

Sa­muel Marsden, an Angli­can mis­sion­ary, made the first recorded plant­ing of grapevines at the Bay of Islands in 1819. While the first grapes in Marl­bor­ough were ac­tu­ally a mus­cat in 1873, that ven­ture even­tu­ally failed and the first grapes planted in the re­gion as we know it were in 1973. Lo­cals orig­i­nally scoffed at the idea of grapes be­ing planted in Marl­bor­ough, but those orig­i­nal pioneers were de­ter­mined that the dry, sunny weather and va­ri­ety of soil types were per­fect for grow­ing grapes. Turns out that they were spot on. Fast for­ward to 2017 and Marl­bor­ough grows 68 per cent of New Zealand’s grapes and it is home to more than 100 winer­ies - not a bad turn­around!

In the words of NZ Wine: “Pun­gently aromatic, New Zealand sauvi­gnon blanc as­sails the senses with red cap­sicum (bell pep­per) and goose­berry char­ac­ters through lush pas­sion­fruit and trop­i­cal fruit over­tones, other notes in­clude fresh cut grass, to­mato stalks, grape­fruit or limes.” As an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed wine, you would be let­ting your­self down if you vis­ited New Zealand with­out en­joy­ing a glass or two

The na­tion’s favourite wine is best matched up with seafood, shell­fish and sal­ads, mak­ing it the per­fect sum­mer wine, per­haps after a day fish­ing in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds or hiking the Abel Tas­man track.

Per­haps the best way to ex­pe­ri­ence sauvi­gnon blanc in the re­gion, along with the equally mag­nif­i­cent pinot noir, chardon­nay and pinot gris va­ri­eties is to head on a tast­ing tour of the area; whether you are in Nel­son or Marl­bor­ough there are am­ple op­tions.

Head to the lo­cal iSite or to www.go­trav­el­newzealand.com to check out a few of the lo­cal op­er­a­tors and get an idea of a route, whether you fancy cy­cling your way round (the Taste Trail in Nel­son is per­fect for that), self driv­ing (don’t for­get to ask for a spit­toon in the win­ery and never drink and drive) or go­ing with a guided driver.

The cel­lar hosts are al­ways in­ter­est­ing and knowl­edge­able, so don’t hes­i­tate to ask them all about the wine you are try­ing - they are there be­cause they love it and will al­ways be able to throw some facts your way. Most of all, en­joy the wine and maybe even send a crate home and serve it up at a din­ner party - your guests will not be disappointed.

Sa­muel Marsden, when plant­ing those first ever vines 200 years ago, ob­served that “New Zealand prom­ises to be very favourable to the vine”.

He seems to have hit the nail on the head!

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