Wine Tasting in Marlborough

The Marlborough region on the South Island of New Zealand is a major hotspot for wine. In fact, 80% of New Zealand’s total wine production is in the Marlborough area. So, of course we had to go tasting! We (last minute) booked a four to five hour “medium tour” with Marlborough Wine Tours, stopping at a total of five wineries and even a chocolate factory for the finishing touch.

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Our tour bus was along with four other couples, all off a NZ cruise ship visiting the area for just the day. I would say the median age for our bus as well as the majority of wine-tasters was around 65 years old… so we felt slightly out of place. That, and neither of us have ever gone wine tasting so in the beginning we weren’t sure of “wine-tasting protocol” (Are we drinking too fast? Too slow? Am I supposed to smell it first? What if I don’t like this one and then they ask me, ‘do you like that one’? Are you supposed to feel drunk or is that frowned upon???)… But we had an awesome tour guide Andy, and we quickly felt comfortable and had a really great (and educational!) time. We even got to go grape tasting, too.

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Andy had asked us: “There are only two types of wine you need to know about. What are they?”

I guessed “red and white.” Wrong.

Answer: “The kind you like and the kind you don’t like. People often take wine too seriously, but you’re just here to taste around and see what you like and don’t like.”

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Wineries we visited: Spy Valley, Nautilus, Giesen, Omaka Springs and Wither Hills. Also, Makana Chocolate Factory.

The region is known for it’s white wine, specifically Sauvignon Blanc, but we also tried Pinot Gris, Gewüerztraminer, Chardonnay, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Brut, sparkling Rosé, a couple dessert wines, and even a few reds: Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah.

I really enjoyed the Pinot Gris (same grape variety as Pinot Grigio) and the Syrah. I’m also always a fan of bubbles, so I loved the Brut and sparkling Rosé. Shaun loved the Riesling and the dessert wines (sugar tooth!) along with the Pinot Noir. I really disliked the Gewüerztraminer – even our tour guide and the tasting room attendants had warned us it’s a “unique” wine, usually favorable with Asian and spicy foods… weird combo, weird wine. Everything else was wonderful!

We’ll definitely keep an eye out for Marlborough wines when we’re back in the States.

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