What better way is there to experience a country than to sample its food and drink? As a self-confessed foodie, I always seek out information about the best dishes and drinks in each country I visit. So arriving in the South Island of New Zealand, I was on high alert for white wine and seafood!
The Marlborough region is famous around the world for its white wine, and Cloudy Bay is not only one of the most successful brands found in Europe, but also one of my favourites — so I had promised myself I would knock at their cellar door and leave a little squiffy.
Of course, there are logistical issues with getting around the wineries and not being a fan of organised tours and buses, I opted for the infinitely healthier and greener option of cycling around the vineyards –- wondering what my average speed was going to be after six wineries!
Bicycles could be hired from the lovely Watson’s Way guesthouse in Renwick; so off I set to Cloudy Bay along the extremely flat roads. Cloudy Bay had ten wines to sample and even provided a tasting sheet to fill in with your thoughts. The team were really friendly and knowledgeable and I was full of questions in this first winery -– something which wore off as the day went on!
Not feeling too wobbly, I headed off to the next location, Bouldevines, and sampled their six wines –- deciding at this point that Chardonnay was not for me and telling this to the lady in a rather louder-than-normal voice. It seems that tasting ten glasses of wine in small amounts starts to add up to full glasses of wine.
Onwards to a sparkling-wine specialist, a winery which I had been tipped had delicious cheeseboards. I was disappointed to discover they had sold out. With nothing to nibble on, I was starting to get hungry, so after one more winery it was back to the local pub in Renwick for a glass of the Bouldevines Sauvignon Blanc that I had favoured, and some steak and chips. I paid no heed to the red wine with meat rule –- which I suspect may be outdated now.
The bikes have panniers on them which carry up to four bottles of wine, but you can always come back on four wheels the next day to pick up your purchases. In addition, most of the wineries will ship your plonk for you. You could be forgiven for worrying about pressure sales at the cellar door of the wineries, but during the course of the afternoon I never felt that and in fact the tasting experience at every place I visited was free. Most of them also had some sort of eatery nearby so you could order up treats to savour with the wine.
There are many places in New Zealand to sample wine, but you would be hard-pressed to find such a friendly selection of wineries and eateries in such a lovely spot.