When people mention wine they immediately think of France, Italy, Germany or Spain. However New Zealand rightly deserves its growing reputation for fine cool climate wines, especially crisp sauvignon blanc and mellow pinot noir. Today wine touring has become an increasing tourism attraction throughout much of the country.
The Mecca of Kiwi wines (80 percent of the nation’s production) is undoubtedly the Marlborough region with over fifty wineries dotting the open areas around Blenheim and neighbouring towns. While sauvignon blanc vines dominate the region, riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay and pinot noir (among others) also contribute to the varieties produced in the region.
Wither Hills offer a tour of their fine winery. Initially with a glass of their austere dry sauvignon blanc in hand, our group wander one of their eleven vineyards, this one surprisingly within walking distance of the coast. Sipping wine surrounded by vineyards with a backdrop of rolling hills is one of life’s most relaxing experiences.
A table sits at the other end of a string of vines with a variety of other Wither Hills wines including identical wines from different years. The contrast that a year can make in taste, colour and style is notable – where most drink products look for consistency over the years, wineries seem to look for individual personalities and unique characteristics, the weather and other aspects having such a dramatic effect on flavour, colour, smell and volume in each crop year.
The white wines exhibit strong fruity aromas, some quickly identifiable, some too subtle for my amateur nose, as one of the knowledgeable winemakers guides us through the tasting. Wither Hills believes that exceptional wines are ‘created in the vineyard’ and are constantly enhancing their technique to seek further improvements. While some vineyards are already organic, the entire portfolio will be in the next couple of years.
As in many wine districts, fine wine is accompanied by fine food. Wither Hills restaurant cater our group for dinner including a succulent lamb ribs with crusted herbs. A superb end to experiencing one of New Zealand’s finest products –Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
I travelled as a guest of Qantas Airways on The Great Crusade, a promotion highlighting the best of New Zealand while following the endeavours of the Qantas Wallabies to win the Rugby World Cup. The journey can be followed via Twitter hashtag #greatcrusade.