Havelock, Blenhiem and marlborough vineyards
Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Mon 11 Apr 2016 10:02
Dear Family and Friends,
I should have mentioned we managed to catch up with our sailing friends Anne and Jonathan in Nelson, before they sailed for Auckland and beyond. Great to see them again, their help and companionship wonderful, not sure when the next time will be as we need to buy a boat again!
No visit to Havelock on Marlborough sound should be complete without a meal in the Mussel Pot, which was excellent. Their mussel platter is everything you could wish to do with the huge green lipped mussels, mussel chowder, garlic, cheese gratin, Thai sweet chilli, smoked, marinated and just steamed, all brilliant, huge succulent and very filling.
We took a coach tour to Renwick and Blenheim, in the heart of the Marlborough wine growing region. Our tour concentrated on the smaller producers, and a generous selection of wines to try from the light sparkling sauvignon blancs to traditional champagne style with Pinot Noir grapes. There were some award winning Sauvignon blanc especially from Peter Yealand’s estate where their single block Sauvignon won best world wide Sauvignon trophy and another award winning Pinot Noir, again the area really suits these grapes and style of wine. Personally I find the pinot noirs a little lighter in character than from other parts of the world, but their distinctive character with hints of smokiness from some barrel aging, and the potential to lay down the wine for 10-15 years, is well worth the time and money to seek out.
The timing of our trip, down to south island whilst cooler and increasingly autumnal, at least ensured we arrived at grape harvest time. This was really interesting to see. Most of the vineyards are planted on the flat plains and gently rolling hills to the east of the Southern Alps. The state highway runs the length of the island, travelling through the wine regions of Marlborough, Awatere valley, Waipara and the areas around Christchurch. The hectares of vines under cultivation is vast, mindblowingly vast! The rows are planted north to south in alignment to make the most of the sunshine, and sufficiently far apart to allow the sun to reach the grapes. The best quality wines are grown on the 2 branch system where just 2 fruiting branches are trained on the wires, just the right amount of foliage is left on the vine to support the grape harvest and the rest is pruned away. This is the case for all Pinot Noir and is the most labour intensive part of the process, much of the rest is mechanized. Some of the lesser quality wine is produced on the 4 branch system, producing around 12-15 tonnes of grapes whilst the least, Pinot noir is around 4 tonnes per hectare. The red grapes and wines are more labour intensive and require much greater care to produce, so now i understand why they are so much more expensive. The south island doesn’t really produce the more robust wines like Cabernet Sauvignon from the north island, although we did come across some merlot and tempranillo. The iced sauvignon dessert wine is to die for and the homegrown port very acceptable.
The afternoon passed very agreeably followed by a long zzzzzzz.
Having cried off some walking due to the indifferent weather, and covered the excellent Peter Jackson collaboration at the Omata aviation museum we decided to do more vineyards! Peter Yealand’s may be a name you are familiar with from the wine shelves and they have a excellent tasting, film show and self guided vineyard tour, all backed by the founder’s philosophy of act boldly, tread lightly of eco friendly production. And he really does mean it, the grass is mown by the Baby Doll sheep, an endangered English variety and pigmy pigs, both too short to reach the vines. He even has a Yak although I am not certain where he fits into the great plan. His business is enormously successful, award winning, and huge, you can’t argue with that!
All our best,
Lynne, Alan and Josh