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Blenheim Kaikoura

30th December 2011

A Day Sampling the Delights of the Marlborough Wineries and Avoiding the Rain

Flooded Tent
    It rained cats and dogs all night. In the early hours I could hear people stirring, but I decided not to peek out to see the rain sodden world until I was desperate for the loo. When I did arise, I was the only camper for quite a radius. Did I smell or something, or had they simply had enough.
    The Opawa River behind me hadn't swollen enough to teem over its banks, fortunately, but the ground was completely sodden, and campers down the track were sweeping water out of their tent.
    I killed time feeding the ducks before I was picked up by Helen, an elderly lady, for my wine tour. Helen was born in Inverness, grew up in Shropshire, and had spent the last 25 years in New Zealand. She and Wendy had formed the wine tour business that the two now operated. Indeed, I learned later that she had her own small vineyard that she tended and sold the grapes to one of the prominent suppliers. She commented about the weather, saying how bad it was last night with 60mm falling.
    We picked up Mike and Chris, almost married, and Stewart and Andy, a brother and sister, from a hotel in Blenheim, and were soon heading out to the first winery. Here we were to meet our six other tourers who had opted for the "lunch at a winery" option before the tour. Mike, who was from Melbourne, incessantly chatted with whatever came into his head just tripping off his tongue. He had us all in stitches at times with some of the trivia he came out with. He had worked in sales for five months and completely loved it.
My Home Still High and Dry by the Opawa River, Everybody Else Gone
    Our first winery was Allan Scott, where we were treated to half a dozen different samples of their offerings. They went down rather well, thought I started to wonder if I should have had lunch before proceeding on this venture.
    Once we had acquired merry grins on our faces, we were whisked to the Cloudy Bay winery. Cloudy Bay is the large bay that the Wairau River flows into. Helen informed us that of the 140 or so wineries, Cloudy Bay is probably the most successful, is fairly well managed and marketed. It never enters into competitions, probably because it would be hard to live down if it just won a silver medal. Perhaps this was a shrewd marketing ploy. I was now starting to get a feel for these wines, and the wines fermented in oak seemed far superior, creamier, chunkier (if those are recognised words in the business) than their counterparts fermented in stainless steel. Eight Cloudy Bay wines can be found in Britain, the sweet ones which were not to my taste cannot. I was now drinking glasses of water and nibbling crackers too to keep myself vertical.
Cloudy Bay Vineyard
    From Cloudy Bay we headed to TerraVin winery. Mike Eaton had worked in local vineyards since 1981, starting as a vineyard labourer. The experience gained was expanded while working in France. There he learned about the types of wines that could be produced on clay soil on hillsides, and decided to bring back the knowledge to New Zealand, where he created the first hillside vineyards on top of a hill in the Omaka Valley. His experiment was very successful. Now others have followed his example. On the cellar door was Nicki. As she did the rounds asking where we all came from, she had heard of Ipswich, but one of our tour members came from Stratford-upon-Avon, which is where she came from. They immediately went into discussions about what schools they went to and where they had lived etc. Seven years ago, Nicki had planned to tour around New Zealand with her friend. The friend broke her leg before the trip, so Nicki came out by herself, passed through Marlborough country all the way down to Dunedin, which she didn't like. She travelled back up the west coast, a place she enjoyed but there were no wineries there, so she came back across to Marlborough and had been here ever since, working for Mike and Jo Eaton. The wines here were good, very good. It wasn't a big vineyard, so the wines wouldn't be stocked high on supermarket shelves. In Britain, you would find the Sauvignon Blanc in Gordon Ramsey restaurants, the Tate Modern and Tate Britain.
Framingham Cellar Plus Awards
Chocolate Factory
    On our way to our final winery, I mentioned to Helen what I had learned from the Blenheim chap I had met at Whanganui, about the cutbacks in production of certain wines. She advised that unlike Europe, where many vineyards are happy just to supply the demands of the local populous, the population here is so low that a different business model has to be applied. There are not enough vats etc. for the production of the better quality wines, so they are trimming back production, and trimming the actual vines so as to produce better grapes. The cheaper plonk is still mass produced though.
The Wine Tour Team
    The final winery on our tour was Framingham, named after a Norfolk, England village. We had a chance to go down to the cellar itself here. All the bottles at this winery have twist tops instead of corks. Helen mentioned that by doing this, there is less chance of leakage. Corked bottles should be stored on their sides to prevent the corks drying out and shrinking. Once they shrink, leakage can occur. She asked the relevant question, "How many corked bottles in supermarkets are stored on their side, or cases of wine transported horizontally?" On the cellar door here, a lady from Sussex was our host. She had a dry sense of humour, and was living in New Zealand because her French husband decided that was where he wanted to be. She loved the country, but still had a desire to return to her country of birth once a year. She joked how family would come to visit, then friends of family, until it seemed like she was running a guest house. Sadly, the wineries were now closing, and this was our last port of call. I wouldn't say we were all merry and rolling about the floor, but we had all clearly enjoyed our tour.
    We headed off to the airport to drop a pair of couples off for their flight. Marlborough International Airport, international because flights went as far as the North Island, shared facilities with a Royal New Zealand Air Force base. After the hail fellow, well met and waves goodbye, at Mike's request, the tour took a detour for the rest of us to a small chocolate factory, where we were treated to a free chocolate each, and could watch some chocolates being made behind glass screens. And that was it.
    Another couple was dropped off at a supermarket, and the original pair of couples were returned back to their hotel and I was delivered back to the campsite. It had been a splendid day, and an excellent way of avoiding the rain.

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Blenheim Kaikoura

Uploaded from Top 10 campsite, Kaikoura on 1st January at 11:15

Last updated 31.12.2011