Marlborough wine region is located in the north of the South Island of New Zealand. It’s well known for its winemaking industry, and for the Marlborough Sounds, an extensive network of coastal waterways, peninsulas, and islands. Early settlers in Marlborough planted vines as early as the 1870s. Today, Marlborough wineries offer a huge range of varieties, from exquisite Pinot Noir to intense Chardonnay. Marlborough region is also popular with its fresh seafood sought by the world’s finest chefs, and diverse landscapes. The Marlborough Sounds are the main natural attraction of the region and so many beautiful spots and small towns wait for you to discover.
The Marlborough wine region is the largest wine region of New Zealand, with its 23,000 ha of vines and 305,467 tones of grapes produced. Marlborough accounts for the 70% of the entire New Zealand wine production.
Marlborough is also known for having a fermentation method for sparkling wines named after it. The ‘Méthode Marlborough’, established by some local winemakers in 2013, consists of starting the second fermentation process in a bottle, followed by a complex disgorging process, which normally takes place after 18 months. The final product of this process is complex, balanced, fresh, and fruity sparkling wine.
A Fertile Land with an Amazing Climate
The Marlborough wine region is characterized by moderate temperatures with plenty of hours of sunshine that give grapes an intense, strong, and acid expression. Moreover, the location of the Marlborough wine region, between mountains and the eastern coast, provides protection from strong winds and abundant rainfalls as well as guarantees the strong variation between day and night temperatures. The climate conditions of the Marlborough wine region are the reason why grapes from this part of New Zealand are more peculiar.
The favorable climate is just one of the key features that make Marlborough a perfect wine-growing region. Possibly, the most important is the soil; in the Marlborough wine region, it is of glacial origin, and free draining. The presence of several rivers makes the soil rich with sandy loam and filled with stony gravels; it also diversifies the soil in every sub-region.
Marlborough Sub-Regions – The Souls of Marlborough
The Marlborough wine region was officially established as a geographical indication only in 2018. It was then divided into three sub-regions: Southern Valleys, Wairau Valley, and Awatere Valley.
The Southern Valleys produce the finest Pinot Noir and present a mainly clay soil. The diverse climates of the various valleys make it possible for the grapes to be very aromatic.
The Wairau Valley is characterised by gravely and old riverbed soils and, due to the cooler and drier climate of the inland areas, the aging of the grapes comes pretty early. Wines from the Wairau Valley are strong and vigorous, with fruity aromas.
The Awatere Valley has very diverse geographical characteristics, as it stretches from the sea to the Kaikoura mountain range. Pinot Noir from the Awatere Valley is very aromatic due to the lower yields produced by the grapes but the most distinctive variety that grows here is Sauvignon Blanc.
Red Varieties: Pinot Noir, Syrah
White Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling
What are the Marlborough Wines Like?
Pinot Noir from the Marlborough wine region is generally lighter, and fruiter compared to those from the Otago wine region. The region’s Pinot Noir is very rich in flavor, and that is what makes it the best Pinot Noir in New Zealand.
Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough wine region is internationally known for its vivid characteristics. It is a dry and acid wine with herbaceous aromas and taste of tropical fruit. The Sauvignon Blanc production counts for the 76% of the entire wine production of the Marlborough region.
Riesling and Pinot Gris grapes are harvested late and present a vivacious character. The style of these wines varies from dry to sweet, depending on the sub-region they are produced in. Chardonnays from the Marlborough wine region are intense with a complex character; the dominant aroma is citrus and tropical fruits.
Sparkling wines from the Marlborough wine region are high in acidity and bubbles, thanks to the double fermentation of the ‘Méthode Marlborough’. A strong citrus aroma characterizes these wines.
The N.1 Family Estate winery, located in the Wairau Valley, is specialized in sparkling wines. More precisely, the winemakers are committed to the use of the “Méthode Marlborough”. Since 2009, the winery has a certificate of sustainability and the owners are very careful towards environmental issues. The main grapes grown include all traditional Champagne grape varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Their wines age wonderfully supple and possess a fresh and crisp taste.
Founded in 2002 with only 2 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc vines, the Vicarage Lane winery produces high-quality wine using sustainable and environmentally-friendly methods. Today, vineyards at the Vicarage Lane winery are used to grow Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. Before beginning the winemaking process, a sample of grapes is taken and analyzed, in order to see if the harvesting was conducted in a good way and to control the levels of sugar and acid.
Picton is a seaside destination that was originally a Maori settlement. However, in 1850 it was sold to the colonists and in 1859, the port town of Picton was named capital of the Marlborough region.
From Picton, you can board the Coastal Pacific train that connects the town to Blenheim, Kaikoura and Christchurch. The train ride is worth a journey because of the spectacular views of the New Zealand coast. The Coastal Pacific was in fact named as one of the Best Train Journeys You’ve Never Head of.
Picton is the perfect destination for a day trip or for a longer holiday. It offers visitors a lot of activities such as kayaking, hiking or boat trips. Its waterfront is also among the most colourful of the world, and it is a perfect spot for gorgeous Instagram pics!
Havelock – Town of the Greenshell Mussel
The seaside town of Havelock self-proclaimed itself the “Greenshell Mussel capital of the world”. This mussel is the real speciality of the area and foodies cannot miss the opportunity to taste this unique seafood.
Havelock lays on the intersection of two rivers, the Pelorus and Kaituna. The Pelorus River offers spectacular views and the best way to discover all the experiences available around the river area is to visit the Pelorus Bridge Campsite. Many hiking trails start from here. The Pelorus River was also used as a film location for the trilogy The Hobbit.
For visitors who love cycling, don’t miss the opportunity to bike on the 42-km long pathway that connects Havelock to Picton. While cycling the Link Pathway, you’ll get amazing views of the breath-taking Marlborough Sounds.
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre – A Journey Through History
The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is 5km outside of the city of Blenheim. The museum consists in one of the largest private collections of memorabilia and aircrafts from World War I and World War II.
The Centre was born during the 1990s, when a group of aviation enthusiasts brought two Nanchang CJ-6 from China. The association gained more support throughout the years and after a decade of collaboration with local sponsors, it managed to create the Marlborough Aviation Cluster that successively turned into the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre.
On odd years, the Warbirds over Wanaka air show is held at the Omaka airfield right next to the Centre.
Natural Places to Discover
Nydia Track – Discover an Impressive Nature
The Nydia Track takes hikers, and mountain bikers, into an untouched, lavish environment. The entire trail is 27km long and it normally takes 2 days to complete. You can stay overnight at the beautiful Nydia Lodge, on the Nydia Bay and recover for a second day of hiking.
The Nydia Track begins at Kaiuma Bay, near Havelock and finishes at Tennyson Inlet. The trail is more suitable for experts, due to the length, but it can be done by anyone who loves walking in nature.
Marlborough Sounds – Be Amazed
Located on to the north of the South Island, the Marlborough Sounds are made up of four different islands: Queen Charlotte, Kenpuru, Pelorus, and Mahau.
From both towns of Picton and Havelock, you can board a cruise that goes all around the Sounds and discover all the most incredible spots thanks to an expert guide. If you feel more adventurous, you can hire a kayak to immerse yourself in this capturing and astonishing nature.
To even more appreciate and soak the energy of the natural environment, take a hike or a bike ride on the Queen Charlotte Track. This path is 70-kms long and it passes through some of the most stunning spots of the Marlborough Sounds.
Tui Nature Reserve – Authentic Nature
The Tui Nature Reserve is located in the Marlborough Sounds and it consists of a lush and rich forest. 38 hectares of the Reserve are protected by Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and is kept untouched for future generations.
The Tui Nature Reserve is protected and conserved by the Tui Nature Reserve Trust and its voluntaries. The Trust also received funds from other associations and sponsors.
The Reserve is home to many animal species, especially birds such as the Weka, a New Zealander non-flying bird. The Reserve borders on a side with the sea and you can also relax on one of the golden beaches inside the park.
Food to try in the Marlborough Wine Region
Green-lip Mussels – Marlborough’s very Own
Green-lip mussels are a true speciality from New Zealand and more precisely from the Marlborough region. Around the region, these autochthonous mussels are cooked and served in different styles: grilled, steamed, with pasta, in burgers.
One of the top recipes are green-lip mussels steamed with wine from the Marlborough wine region and seasoned with garlic.
Salmon – Fresh from the Sounds
The Marlborough region is known for its farming of King Salmons. Farms are located in enclosed bays all around the Marlborough Sounds.
King Salmon from New Zealand is fresh, rich in flavor, perfect to be eaten cooked or raw. The high-quality of Marlborough’s King Salmon has put this region on many foodies’ maps.
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Soil: Sandy loam, stony gravels, and clay
Climate: Mild climate, many hours of sunshine, no abundant rainfalls