When we last left our intrepid heroes (an intro I’m sure I’ve used previously, but everything new is old eventually), they were about to embark upon a Marlborough wine tasting. They weren’t speaking in third person then, so I don’t know when this bizarre editorial decree came down the pipeline. In any case, it’s not the most personal of tenses, so fuck it, we’ll do it live.
We were picked up by familiar friendly faces in a rental car. After a little Tetris action in the boot, we got on the road to Blenheim (but in truth I was just hankering for a bakery really badly. The glorious $3.50 filled roll and slice in Matamata set my expectations so high it was hard to get over them (so far, nothing compares 2 U, Matamata bakery). We checked into our camp ground which was in fact not ready for this jelly. We met our wine tour guide Morris who was ready for this jelly. He’d arrived early, so we left foot the tour and waited until post intoxication to check in at the camp ground. It also turned out that despite not booking a private tour, it was just the four of us. Bonus!
I told Morris of my hunger pangs and with glee he directed us towards his favourite local catering company/bakery. Clearly we had different standards of quality. I prayed to Dionysus that his standards for vino were higher than mine. I was ill content with my shitty pie and ham/cheese scone, but I didn’t want to hurt Morris’ feelings. He seemed a kind and sincere old soul and even I would feel like a dick for shitting on his favourite bakery.
Our first stop was at Wither Hills. As we drove, Morris told us of the tractor based pruning technique. The vines were planted wide enough apart for a tractor to drive through. It would have blade attachments on either side, ensuring that all vines had the same width, but also had blades on top to keep the height equal. After passing innumerable identical fields, it was clear that the Marlborough wine industry did not fuck around. Wither Hills was picturesque. The front lawn was dotted with bean bags and surrounded by rustic looking tables. A woman with large sunglasses held a glass of red wine behind her phone. She was also doing duckface even though the phone was pointed in the opposite direction. Strange. The wines were great, with flavours I didn’t expect from each variety. I had certain preconceived notions about what a savignon blanc would be, for instance, that didn’t hold true to higher quality wines. There were specific wines for us to taste, but we quickly learned that it was easy to go off menu based on personal preferences. We did. Oh, did we ever.
We visited another three wineries, all with different varieties to sample and vastly different atmospheres/staff. The unanimous favourite was the second stop on our tour- Spy Valley. They were a bit more remote and the woman behind the counter was both generous and personable. Out of all the vineyards we visited it really felt like she listened to our tastes and offered fitting samples accordingly. My girlfriend and I bought a bottle of the Envoy Riesling, which was very sweet off the top, with a pleasantly sour tail. Detectable the whole way. Morris told us that vineyards were big on functional recycling. He said some of them put large stones underneath their vines in order to soak up sunlight and slowly release heat throughout the evening. He said Spy Valley did a similar thing with broken wine bottles, using the reflective surface to shine on the vines from underneath, increasing the amount of sunlight they received. Smart.
The other two vineyards, Framingham and Hunters were very different yet again. Framingham had a bunch of music lyrics stenciled into the stones of their beautiful courtyard, but the woman who took our tasting was a little stuck up and stuff. She visibly paled as my girlfriend and I mentioned our love of sweet Rieslings. If she had spare arsenic I’m sure she would’ve poisoned our glasses. We didn’t find anything too amazing, but she really pushed the hard sell on our friends, who lived in Australia. They bought a bottle, but kind of regretted it. Hunter’s was set in a gorgeous backdrop of local flora and art. We got to sit in the courtyard under shade as we drank away the afternoon. She gave me the stink eye for trialling some olive oil pre-tasting and ruining my palate, but she couldn’t stay mad at us and soon joked around. A wonderful departure from the previous host. We didn’t grab any more bottles, but they definitely had some top notch bubbles, light and refreshing. We all stumbled back to the car, bellies and heads alike all giddy.