Marlborough - the home of exquisite wine

Ask any wine drinker where their favourite drops come from, Marlborough is bound to enter the conversation. Wine lovers from around the world travel here, so there's no excuse for those of us who call New Zealand home.

1050x92001 The Dror design changes from simple to complex depending on where it is viewed 3

So if you enjoy world-class wine, great food and breathtaking scenery, this stunning region is the perfect weekend getaway. We asked wine experts for their top five winery picks in the region, so once you drive off the Interislander ferry at Picton terminal, you can get straight to the good stuff.  So what are you waiting for?

The top five wineries in Marlborough, New Zealand 

Brancott Estate - Marlborough, NZ

Couple tasting wines inside the Brancott Estate Cellar Door
Wine Tasting at Brancott Estate

As creators of Malborough’s first ever Sauvignon Blanc in 1979, Brancott Estate is one of the region’s longest standing vineyards. Internationally awarded numerous times, the quality of their wine has never been in question. But what really makes Brancott Estate worth a day trip is the views from its Cellar Door and Restaurant. Situated high above the vines, the restaurant boasts majestic views of the vineyard and the Marlborough landscape. Plus, it offers a number of different perspectives on Under/standing – a sensational eight-metre high installation by New York-based designer, Dror Benshetrit.

Composed of cutting-edge geometry, Under/standing is an intricate, volumetric fusion of art and science - a direct reflection of Brancott Estate’s artful winemaking process and commitment to innovation. Inspired by a visit to Brancott Estate in 2014, Dror’s sculpture comprises of 52 individual components and offers multiple perspectives based on your vantage point. Viewed from distance, it appears as though it has risen from the ground much like the grapevines, whereas up close, you can get lost in its beautiful complexity.

Saint Clair - Marlborough, NZ

View of Saint Clair Winery Marlborough
Saint Clair Vineyard

Owned by Neal and Judy Ibbotson, the Saint Clair mission is to create world-class wines that exceed their customers' every expectation. Neal and his team combine extensive viticultural expertise with Marlborough’s mix of climate and soils to produce truly sensational wine. Since 1994 when wines from their first vintage all won medals, the name Saint Clair has been synonymous with quality. And their award-winning record continues today. Top International accolades include New World Producer of the Year at the Sommelier Wine Awards UK 2017 and 2012, four-time Vienna International Wine Challenge New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year and a listing in the Top 10 Chardonnays of the Year 2016.

Along with their exceptional wine, their sensational Vineyard Kitchen also makes Saint Clair well worth a visit. Situated within a unique vineyard setting, the views extend past the vines towards the ever changing and dramatic Richmond Range. And if you’re lucky (or organised) enough to score a table in the sunny courtyard, you’ll even get to dine among the vines.

Highfield - Marlborough, NZ

Highfield Wine
Enjoy the outdoor area at Highfields

Established in 1991, Highfield has grown steadily since then and now boasts a production capacity of up to 600 tonnes. They attribute the fruity aromatic flavours and fine minerality of their wines to the Wairau River, which meanders alongside their largest vineyard, feeding life into the vines. This braided river is, of course, part of the stunning Wairua Valley, which can be seen from the Tuscan-inspired winery tower at Highfields. Here you get to marvel at 360 views of the region, while tasting some of the winery’s finest drops and delicious treats from the TerraVin restaurant. It’s a day trip you don’t want to miss.

Wairau River Wines 

Wairau River Wines
Wairau River Cellar door

As some of the very first people to recognise the Marlborough region’s potential for winemaking back in 1978, Wairau River founders, Phil and Chris Rose, started out by supplying grapes for other producers. Fast forward to today and their own Wairau River label is well established – and it’s the epitome of a family business. 100% family owned, the entire operation is run by members of the Rose family, from the grower, to the winemaker to the chefs. 

While you’re at the Cellar Door tasting their wines, it’s well worth popping next door to the Wairau River Restaurant, especially if you’re a fan of blue cheese. Their blue cheese souffle is one of the highlights of the menu and has won plaudits from all corners of the globe.

Giesen Wines 

Food plater on table
Food platter at Giesen Wines

Winner of the ‘World’s best Pinot Noir’ at the International Wine and Spirits competition in 2016, Giesen has gone from strength to strength since their first vineyard was planted back in 1981. But it’s not just their wines they’re famous for. The Giesen Cellar Door is renowned for their incredible platters, with generous servings of the finest fresh Marlborough produce. Nibbling away at these, while sipping on some of Giesen’s finest wines, all out on their sun-drenched courtyard is what life’s all about. Fine hospitality is a passion for the three Giesen brothers – so you can expect to be treated like royalty. 

Head along to Marlborough, New Zealand 

Those are five of the top picks, but honestly, when it comes to wineries in Marlborough, they’re just a drop in the ocean. The region is home to approximately 24,365 hectares of wine producing vineyards, responsible for over 77% of New Zealand’s wine. So be sure to do your research and head along to whichever ones tickle your fancy. For a comprehensive list of vineyards and wineries down in Marlborough, head to wine-marlborough.co.nz/wineries or marlboroughnz.com

Ride the golden mile 

Cycle Tour
Cycling the Brancott Estate

Can’t decide which wineries to visit? Then don’t. Head to nine different cellar doors over one weekend on the Golden Mile cycle trail. The 6km route runs through Rapaura and Renwick and shows off Marlborough’s stunning scenery, while passing Wairua River wines, Giesen wines and a handful of others along the way.

You’ll get to sample some of region’s finest Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, Chardonnays, Cuvees and Rieslings, plus five of the wineries have delicious menus to match. And if you’re making a weekend of it, the trail has no shortage of Marlborough accommodation options either. If you book in advance, you can find accommodation at one or two of the wineries themselves, such as the Hans Herzog. But most of the accommodation options lie along the trail, with Vintner’s HotelVintner’s RetreatVines Village Bungalow and the Olde Mill House especially popular among riders. Better yet, most of these places offer bike hire themselves, which makes things super easy. Although if find yourself staying somewhere that doesn’t, a quick trip to Bike Hire Marlborough will see you on the trail in no time.

For more on riding the Golden Mile cycle trail, head to ridethegoldenmile.com

Jump on a Marlborough wine tour

We get that cycling isn’t for everyone. Especially if you’re planning on sampling a number of the wines on offer. That could end badly. So if you like the sound of four wheels better than two, look no further than Marlborough Wine Tours. Whether you want to pop out for a few hours or make a full day of it, MWT offer personalised tours, tailored to meet the specific needs of you and your group. They start with a morning trip out to the stunning Marlborough Sounds, before embarking on a journey of indulgence in the afternoon – lunch, wine tasting, craft beer, delectable platters – you name it.

What’s more, the combination of safe, comfortable vans and friendly, knowledgeable guides have seen Marlborough Wine Tours receive Certificates of Excellence from TripAdvisor for the last two years. And that means the people who go on the tours, love them.

For more info head to marlboroughwinetours.co.nz

The Interislander - The best way to get to Marlborough 

Wine on Interislander
Enjoy a wine in the Interislander plus lounge

Of course, if you’re living in the North Island, getting to Marlborough means crossing the Cook Strait. And while flying might be the first thing that comes to mind, why not mix it up and give the Interislander Ferry a go? The three-and-a-bit-hour ferry ride is widely considered one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world, with multiple viewing decks to soak it all in from. And that’s not all - every one of our ferries is packed with activities, from onboard cinemas, to relaxation lounges, to a number of bars and restaurants. Plus, it means you can start your Marlborough experience before you even hit the shores of the South Island, with some of the region’s finest drops available on board.

Once you hit Picton, wine country is just a 20-minute drive south. If you’ve got your own car, head towards London Quay, go straight over Nelson Square and then journey south for a little over 20kms. Or if you need transport down there, Marlborough Sound Shuttles are the company to call.

Helpful Marlborough links 

So start planning your journey to the home of exquisite wine with Interislander,   check for sailing times and fares today. 

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