Review: Boutique Marlborough wine tour from Blenheim is a bucket list tick
Marlborough is New Zealand's premiere wine-producing region and a must-visit for wine lovers. But with 150+ wineries dotted around Blenheim and Renwick, choosing which ones to visit can be a daunting task — even for an aficionado. Leave it in the hands of the local experts at Na Clachan Wine Tours and sit back, relax and enjoy.
This half-day wine tour is a fabulous and very personal introduction to the renowned Marlborough wine region of New Zealand’s South Island. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery of the Wairau Valley and commentary from your expert local guide, as you visit up to four wineries for included tastings. Duration: 4 hours (approx.)
It may come as something of a surprise to learn that the wine industry in the renowned Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island only began in 1973.
Today it produces more than three-quarters of all New Zealand wine. Nestled between the coastline and picturesque mountains in the South Island’s north-east corner, the vineyards here benefit from hot sunny days and much cooler than average nights. This maritime climate, along with complex soils, creates the perfect environment for growing exceptional grapes. World renowned for its sauvignon blanc, the region also produces outstanding pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, and sparkling wine, and usually brings home several international awards each year.
It’s a given that any wine enthusiast will have a Marlborough wine experience on their bucket list. I was able to tick this off recently on a fantastic half-day Marlborough wine tour from Blenheim with Chris at Na Clachan Wine Tours. Chris is an extremely experienced small-group wine tour operator who tailors his tours to best suit his clients’ interests. If a personal experience is what you’re after, I couldn’t recommend this tour highly enough.
Chris picks me up around midday from my accommodation and we head straight to Saint Clair Family Estate for an optional lunch and the first wine tastings of the day. I’m glad I’ve opted for lunch because it’s undeniably delicious. The dish is titled ‘Inspired from the Garden’ and it’s a vegie delight. My knowledge of Marlborough wines is fairly limited at this point and I’m expecting to spend the afternoon trying a lot of sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs. However, I’m pleasantly surprised at Saint Clair to have the opportunity to taste quite a wide range of varietals, including a malbec (a favourite red of mine).
Moving on, our next stop is Rock Ferry Wines — a boutique organic winery. The production of organic wine has rapidly expanded in New Zealand in recent years, with more than 10% of all wineries now holding organic certification. For me, the tasting highlight here is the concrete egg fermented pinot blanc. I’m not sure what to expect as the wine is poured, but it has just as much character as our wonderful host Rudy from the Netherlands.
Our next stop is Villa Maria Estate, New Zealand’s most awarded winery, which started back in the early 1960s with one acre of vines in Mangere south of Auckland. It has Dalmatian roots and a familiar story; many winemakers have landed on New Zealand soil from the coastal regions of Croatia. Now with vineyards all over New Zealand, the Villa Maria range is extensive, but what impresses me most during this tasting are the Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay full-bodied reds.
Our final stop is Clos Henri — another organic vineyard — and Chris has saved possibly the best for last. The story behind this winery is a fascinating one, which began in the Loire Valley in France. I’m familiar with the Loire Valley, having done a wine tour there a few years ago. Our French host Adele shares the interesting story of how the wine making family behind Clos Henri made their way to New Zealand. What’s also interesting is the fact that there are only two grape varieties grown here — sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. The vineyard is situated on a fault line with clay on one side and stone on the other. The same grapes, growing just metres apart, produce very different wines. I find the whole concept brilliant!
The cellar door is housed in a beautiful rimu (wooden) church, which replicates one near the family’s original vineyards back in France. When it comes to tasting the wines, they are set up to allow guests to compare one soil type against the other. It’s such a delightful experience.
After a very enjoyable afternoon of wine tasting, Chris drops me back at my accommodation in Blenheim by 5pm. If you’re looking for an exceptional Marlborough wine experience, this one is bucket-list worthy.
Hailing from Aotearoa New Zealand, Karllie Clifton is an avid midlife traveller and blogger who loves an adventure. At the end of 2015, Karllie left her teaching profession, sold her home and became a nomad for the next few years. It sparked a real passion for budget solo travel, which she now loves to inspire others to do. In the last few years alone, Karllie has visited over twenty countries and ticked off more than 50 cities across three continents. She loves the great outdoors — especially hiking and anything to do with the ocean.