Marlborough is New Zealand’s premier wine region and a magnet for tourists visiting the many cellar doors on wine trail expeditions. In just over 30 years, more than 60 wine companies have established vines in the South Island area which is the driest in the country. Yes, it gets very cold and this year it snowed. But in summer it’s wall-to-wall sunshine. Although as you can see, sometimes the weather is very moody.
The area’s wine production is 78 per cent famous sauvignon blanc, 9 per cent pinot noir, 6 per cent chardonnay, 3 per cent pinot gris, 2 per cent riesling and 2 per cent made up of other varieties. Most sauvignon blanc is cold fermented in stainless steel tanks (pictured above), but master winemakers also use other techniques such as ageing small amounts in mostly older oak, combining fruit from vineyards which have different soil characteristics.
Ben Glover has been winemaker at Marlbough’s Wither Hills since 1998, and he’s a witty urbane host to his many guests, armed with jokes and a cheeky grin. He’s travelled to the best wine regions in the world – France, Italy, California and Australia, learning as much as he could about the business he loves. If you’re a newbie to wine tasting, Ben’s tuition is a good place to start.
With a group of giggly girlfriends (who got more giggly as the lunch progressed, we forgot to spit) on a winter’s day we lined up to taste some Wither Hills wines and appreciate the flavours of tomato leaf, no kidding, capsicum and floral notes. And then we sat down to a three-course lunch in front of a roaring fire with Ben and tasted some more!
Wither Hills is one of the largest vineyards, with 350 hectares in the Wairau Valley. It has a large grassed area for picnics and an excellent restaurant. More info on wine prices and opening hours for the cellar door: www.witherhills.co.nz
Taste for Travel has a wine and food book showcasing the best of Marlborough to give away to readers. Marlborough On The Menu, by Jan Bilton and Belinda Jackson, has divine recipes such as butterscotch tiramisu, fresh mussels in hoisin and honey sauce and venison with star anise. Each recipe is partnered with a regional wine. The book includes details on the wine trails in Marlborough, histories of the wine growers and useful maps.
All you have to do is post a thoughtful comment at the bottom of this post on what type of wine you like to go with your favourite dishes. I’ll pick the lucky winner at the end of the month. Good luck!