Monday, November 21, 2011

Vineyards in Picton

Anyone who enjoys fine wines knows that most countries keep the best vintages for themselves whilst exporting those they don’t need, but it’s not always the case for the New Zealanders. So maybe you can buy some of the countries best wines in your own hometown, but what’s better than enjoying a tour and tasting where the grapes were pressed; and that’s just what you can do on a motorhome rental or campervan hire holiday in Picton.

Picton finds itself at the gateway to the Marlborough wine region, famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay grapes. The region represents over 50% of the total vineyards in New Zealand, and with its dry and sunny climate, it doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, there will always be wonderful wines to taste.

Some brands of Montana Wines
Photo by Limegreen, Wikimedia Commons
There are over 100 wineries covering around 23,000 hectares of vines which spread across the rolling landscape, and just like most of the wine producing countries of the world, many of the cellars open their doors to visitors interested in tasting, as well as offering restaurants and shops of course.

If you decide to go it alone, make sure you pick up a copy of the ‘Top of the South Wine Guide’ and ‘Marlborough Winemakers Map’, from the visitor centre. There are also other publications such as the ‘Classic New Zealand Wine Trail’ which should help with directions and information about each winery and what you can expect to see there.

The oldest and the largest winery in the area is the Brancott Estate. They were responsible for planting the very first vines in the region, and since the early days there have been other additions as well.

As well as tasting, the estate has a restaurant serving locally produced food to accompany their wines; there is an audiovisual presentation on their famous Sauvignon Blanc wine, and something which other wineries don’t have, the Native New Zealand Falcon Experience. The one-hour tour visits the land where the grapes are grown, and which is also home to the rare and endangered New Zealand Falcon. After the tour you can toast the beautiful bird with a tutored wine tasting.

One of the good wines that the New Zealanders don’t keep for themselves is Cloudy Bay. In fact, they export 75% of this Sauvignon Blanc.

Cloudy Bay - The bay which has given the winery its name
Photo by Phillip Capper, Flickr Creative Commons
Gone are the days of dark and gloomy cellars, at Cloudy Bay the cellar has floor to ceiling windows with views over the working barrel cellar, the vineyards, and the countryside beyond. Many guests enjoy relaxing with a glass of wine on the terrace during the summer, and inside by the log fire in the winter, but its only the location that's different, the delicious wines are always the same.

Cloudy Bay offers its guests a special tasting menu, where for a small refundable fee, you get to taste three wines from the huge selection of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Te Koko, Pelorus, Riesling, and if your lucky, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.

These are just two of Marlborough’s finest vineyards, but there are lots more to consider, and whether you choose to go it alone or plan to take an escorted tour when you can eave your motorhome rental or campervan hire in on the site, you’ll bound to enjoy a day out in the open air.

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