Touring Marlborough Vineyards: South Island, New Zealand

Take a walk down the wine aisle at almost any liquor store, and I guarantee you that you will be spoilt for choice with wines from Marlborough, most notably the Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs.

But perhaps the best thing about visiting the region of Marlborough itself is the small-scale, boutique wineries, which will delight you with unique varietals found only in the region.

My parents came to visit me in New Zealand (escaping the cold winters of Saskatchewan, Canada) and since my Mom and I are avid wine consumers, I knew I had to take her and my Dad to Marlborough.

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Onboard the Interislander ferry
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Driving views in Marlborough

Getting there

Since we were already in Wellington, we took the Interislander ferry to Picton (Bluebridge ferry is an alternative), then drove a rental car to Nelson for two nights’ accommodation. We stayed in Nelson simply because of its proximity to Abel Tasman National Park, which was on our itinerary for later in the week. Alternative to the ferry, you could fly direct from Wellington to Blenheim or Nelson, both of which offer wine tours to Marlborough.

Accommodation

Travelling as a group of three can be tricky, as most standard hotels only have one queen bed. I ended up booking through AirBNB and we stayed at a studio cottage (210 Saint Vincent Street) in Nelson, which was beautifully furnished, comfortable for three guests, and also had an outdoor jacuzzi tub with stunning views of the surrounding hills. If you’re lucky enough to stay in Nelson when this cottage is available, I highly recommend booking in a couple of nights.

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Our evening oasis at the AirBNB

The Vineyard Tour

I’ve been on wine tours in New Zealand, Canada and Chile, and this wine tour was hands-down the best experience I’ve ever had. Each winery we visited was personally selected by our guide, CJ, and had a unique history and vibe. We were welcomed at each location by friendly hosts whose passion for wine was evident and who enjoyed sharing their knowledge.

Here are my favourites from the tour:

Spy Valley

Modern and beautifully minimalistic, the tasting room looks out to lush grape vines and the distant hills. Our host was accommodating and provided us with a private table on the patio for the tasting so that we could enjoy the sunshine. She also described the wines using simple words that us non-experts could understand, which was very refreshing considering the otherwise posh atmosphere. After the tasting, we picked fresh Pinot Noir grapes straight from the vine and had a quick photo session in the vineyard.

Wine choice: Spy Valley Pinot Noir Rose (crisp and not too sweet, defying my expectations of typical Rose)

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Framingham Wines

I loved this winery, especially the basement cellar, which not only holds the vineyard’s most coveted wine, but constantly-changing local artwork on display, and a band room for concerts at the back of the cellar.

Wine choice: Framingham Dry Riesling (unique, smoky aftertaste)

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Giesen Wines

They really do have the “Best Platters in Marlborough”. We first tasted a large variety of wines, then took to the patio for a feast inclusive of green mussels from Havelock. Our host for the wine tasting was personable, memorable, and very much a realist – describing one wine as smelling of “asparagus”. He was right!

Wine choice: Brother’s Gewürztraminer (incredibly refreshing after a long day of perusing vineyards; the perfect companion to our platter).

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We visited four other vineyards that were just as unique and special in their own right, with stunning tasting rooms and heart-warming stories of the vineyards’ histories.

But I won’t give away all of the surprises – you’ll just have to plan your own vacation to the Marlborough Wine Region and experience it for yourself! With dozens of vineyards to choose from in the region, you could plan out your own special tour – or, as I did, let the experts plan for you. We were fortunate enough to be the only guests that day, but I have no doubt that even with a full tour (maximum is 9) we would’ve felt just as special.

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Family photo after a zillion glasses of wine. 🙂

And after a day of beautiful wine, cheese, and a stop at Makana Chocolates, we returned to our lovely AirBNB and – you guessed it – drank more wine in the jacuzzi under the stars. Marlborough really feels a world away and is a perfect addition to your New Zealand travels.

Have you visited the Marlborough region before? I’d love to know which vineyards were your favourite! Let me know in the comments below 🙂