When Marlborough’s Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc hit the international wine shelves in the late 1980s its zingy fruitiness got jaded tongues wagging. All of a sudden New Zealand was on the world wine map, with the pin stuck firmly in the north of the South Island. Half a dozen regions now boast significant wine trails, but all roads lead back to Marlborough, still the country’s largest grape growing area, protected by the sheltering hills of the Richmond Range, and blessed with more than 2400 hours of sunshine a year.

Cellar doors around the region are gradually becoming more sophisticated, with their own restaurants and specialist food stores, but the emphasis is still mainly on the wine itself. And tasting it. To squeeze the very best from the area start by visiting Montana Brancott, the biggest and most established operation hereabouts. Take their winery tour to get a feel for how wine is made nowadays, then stick around for a brief lesson on wine appreciation. Even those familiar with the techniques will learn something of the qualities Marlborough winemakers are trying to achieve.

Next visit Cloudy Bay. Of course you’ll want to try the famous Sav, still drinking well today and available for tasting. Somehow it always seems that little bit fresher and fruitier when sampled at source out of a decent tasting glass. Come lunchtime, head for Highfield Estate with its distinctive Tuscan-style tower and dine in the sun overlooking the vines. A plate of pan-seared monkfish is just the thing to wash down with their zesty Sauvignon Blanc.

Visit www.marlboroughtours.co.nz or www.winetoursbybike.co.nz for more information.

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