Discovering Marlborough’s Best Wines

What do you do when it is pouring down with rain? Pour yourself 22 glasses of wine…

Marlborough is the most famous wine region in New Zealand, thanks to the hours and hours of sunshine the area receives. Although we haven’t got quite that example on this rainy day, a wine tour of Marlborough means we’ll be inside all day tasting the region’s best wines… “Wine” not?!

After a tummy-pleaser of freshly baked scones this morning courtesy of the Tombstone Backpackers, we are picked up at the hostel by Sounds Connection who are going to take us around some Marlborough wineries, vineyards and cellar doors.

Touring out of Picton

We are joined in our shuttle bus by six wine enthusiasts, four from the USA and two Kiwis, that John, our guide, picks up from town.

Now we are driving out of Picton, (for the first time on this trip in the South Island), going past wetlands until we reach the vineyard country. John gives commentary on everything we pass, from the English Willows left to die to make way for the regenerating native bush to the small and gnarly-looking Picton airport.

Laura reads a book about wine dogs by the fire Laura reads a book about wine dogs by the fire
Pouring the good stuff Pouring the good stuff
Feeling dead fancy. (Or was it dead drunk?) Feeling dead fancy. (Or was it dead drunk?)
What a rocking piece of rock! What a rocking piece of rock!

Winery #1: Hunter’s

First on our map of cellar doors is Hunter’s. The huge wooden sign to the winery looks pretty fancy, even on this gloomy day. To get to the cellar door, we have to navigate through a sheltered walkway covered in wooden arches. Various signs point to walkways and an art gallery, which is pretty intriguing but we know those places aren’t where the wine is!

A wrack of five wine bottles awaits us on a table and the cellar door staff member welcomes us. She goes through the growing process and flavours experienced from each wine, including a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and more. What’s also very important to the wine company is its history, starting with Hunter’s establishment in 1979 and growing in popularity thanks to Jane Hunter who has been a driving force in making Marlborough one the top grape growing regions in the world!

After all the wines are tried, and we are feeling mildly tipsy, we get to treat ourselves to some sweet dessert wine before moving onto winery #2!!

Cheers to Marlborough!

Winery #2: Cloudy Bay… much like our memories

It’s not long before we hit Cloudy Bay, a no-nonsense winery who specialise in the wine that Marlborough is most famous for, Sauvignon Blanc. With complimentary bar crackers and sofas by the fire place, we are certainly getting a dose of coziness to go with our four tastings of wine, (and quite generous tastings too).

Winery #3: Framingham… Rocking!

By this time, all eight of us are a bit tipsy and are having a giggle. The Kiwi couple who have done this winery tour before in summer have been raving about Framingham for the entire trip and we are about to find out why…

The paving stones leading to a central water fountain in the winery’s garden have quotes from rock artists: John Lennon, The Verve, Elbow… An unusual theme for a winery, but we’re just rolling with it like the Rolling Stones right here.

Send the drunk people to the dungeons!

The small but comfortable cellar door is decorated with guitars, a fire place, and of course, heaps of wine! There’s quite a selection of Montepulciano, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling… Although all the wineries we have been to so far have tingled our palettes, we have to say we think Framingham are onto a winner with their wine.

The basement of Framingham is what we can only describe is a half rock fan’s bedroom and half a dungeon. Cases and cases of wine sit in a corridor behind locked barred doors, while the rest of the room is decorated with rock memorabilia and vintage wine-making kits.

We may or may not be 20 minutes behind schedule because we are spending way too much time in the dungeons and generally being drunk winos right now. That means we have very little time for the tasting at Giesen before it closes for the day!

The clouds are lifting to reveal this! The clouds are lifting to reveal this!
Watching the chocolatiers do their thing Watching the chocolatiers do their thing
Mmmm, macadamia butter toffee crunch Mmmm, macadamia butter toffee crunch

Winery #4: Giesen… Squeeze in our last tastings!

Again, we get a generous tasting of different Sauvignon Blanc styles. The cellar door really seems to catch Kiwiana by being decorated with classic Kiwi items, from rugby ball decorations to skateboards branded with its logo. The staff are very accommodating even when we ask to have a second try of a few wines, despite them closing in just a few minutes!

Chocolate factory #1: Makana Confestions… Wait, what sort of tour are we on, again?

Out of the cellar door and back in the shuttle; we might be done with wines but we are not done with the tour! John has oraganised for us to have a chocolate tasting at Makana Confections! This news is like a ray of sunshine… Literally, the clouds start to lift, revealing the mountains in the distance! We ask John to stop and take some photos. It’s a classic New Zealand moment, looking across vineyards filled with grazing sheep, all the way to a mountainous landscape.

All good boozy days end with chocolate, and, man, does Makana Confectionaries have some good chocolate! It’s macadamia nuts galore with the complimentary tastings. We try a macadamia butter toffee crunch and a macadamia brittle, all the while watching the chocolates being handmade through large windows separating the shop from the chocolate kitchen.

The shocking statistics

Four wineries, 22 tastings of wine each, and one chocolate factory, and we think we can call that a day well spent. The only thing left to do is for John to drop us back off at the Tombstone Backpackers and for us to write this blog post… while drunk. Fantastic.

Tomorrow, we are hitting the Queen Charlotte Sound Track by bike! We’ve seen some of this amazing Sound from the water in the mail boat cruise, but now it’s time to see how the land experience compares. Join us then!

Laura and Robin

A cheeky wine in the cellar
A cheeky wine in the cellar Spherical Image - RICOH THETA


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See you tomorrow!

  1. Hi,

    What tour company did you use and how much did it cost if you don’t mind me asking.


    Comment avatar Hazel Knight
    20/11/2017 at 10:50 am
    1. Hey Hazel 🙂 We used Sounds Connection, you can find the prices here ->
      Also you might as well want to see the video of this tour that we made here ->

      Comment avatar Robin
      20/11/2017 at 10:52 am
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