• The Listener
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Why Marlborough, the jewel of NZ's wine industry, is your next destination

Dramatic scenery, fascinating Māori legends, colonial history, and world-class wines: few regions in New Zealand offer visitors such a diverse range of options as beautiful Marlborough, on the tip of the South Island.

The jewel of New Zealand’s wine industry, Marlborough is renowned for its distinctive style of sauvignon blanc and is considered one of the finest winemaking locations in the world. Vines were first planted in the rich alluvial soils of the Wairau Valley in 1973, and today this hot, dry region is home to hundreds of wineries, many offering tastings at their cellar doors.

There’s a wide range of options to explore the wine district, from hiring a bike, taking a luxury wine tour or seeing it from above in a helicopter – and if you book using your American Express Airpoints Platinum Card, you’ll earn Airpoints Dollars™ as you travel.

Marlborough is also renowned for its food culture and many winery restaurants offer gourmet cuisine – think locally farmed oysters, scallops, salmon, clams and green-lipped mussels – in beautiful dining rooms set among the vines, so it’s essential to plan your day around a leisurely lunch to get a true taste of this bountiful region.

Marlborough’s pioneer commercial winemaker was Montana Wines, now the industry kingmaker Brancott Estate. Its stunning, architect-designed winery houses the cellar door and restaurant overlooking the site of the first sauvignon blanc plantings in Marlborough, and is a must on your tour of local vineyards. Take a vineyard cycle tour, a helicopter flight or book in for a fascinating ‘falcon encounter’ with New Zealand’s endangered native falcon, the kārearea.

Cloudy Bay.

Cloudy Bay Vineyards produce the best-known Marlborough wines internationally, which are exported to some 30 countries around the world. The winery is well worth a visit: nab a table in the outdoor wine lounge overlooking the beautiful gardens, order a glass of award-winning sauvignon blanc – of course – and some wild-harvested Cloudy Bay clams from Jack’s Raw Bar, and you’re set for the afternoon. For a private wining and dining experience in intimate surroundings, Cloudy Bay offers The Shack, a stunning luxury guesthouse with glorious views. 

St Clair Family Estate owners Neal and Judy Ibbotson established their winery in 1994, named for the original owner of their property, Blenheim pioneer James Sinclair. Visit the excellent Vineyard Kitchen for lunch, and order a shared plate of Marlborough Sounds’ finest, including home-cured smoked salmon and green-lipped mussels, to pair with a glass of their award-winning wine. 

The philosophy at the Twelve Trees Restaurant at Allan Scott Family Winemakers – two generations of Scotts work in the business – is “fresh and local” with a seasonal menu offering produce from local suppliers. Though sauvignon blanc is their speciality, the winery is also known for its highly acclaimed Generations Chardonnay, which pairs beautifully with their signature seafood chowder featuring local salmon and green-lipped mussels.

The small, hands-on team at Lawson’s Dry Hills began making excellent wines 25 years ago, and have long enjoyed an international reputation for excellence. There’s a pretty, walled courtyard where visitors can enjoy a glass of award-winning wine – they’re known for their aromatics as well as sauvignon blanc – and a platter of local goats’ cheeses, salmon and wild-game salamis within sight of the majestic hills that feature on the winery label. 

Left, The Marlborough Lodge; Right, The Bay of Many Coves resort.

A bed for the night

Just a short water-taxi ride from Picton Harbour through the tranquil Marlborough Sounds is the Bay of Many Coves, an 11-suite resort hotel set in bush-clad hills overlooking the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound. You can choose to do absolutely nothing but relax and enjoy the native birdsong, emerging at night to dine in the acclaimed Foredeck restaurant, or explore your surroundings on foot or on SUPs and kayaks. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites are pleasantly rustic, with well-equipped kitchens and entertainment systems. 

Conveniently located in the heart of the wine district and nestled within 16 acres of secluded park lands, the historic Marlborough Lodge is just a 10-minute drive from Blenheim town centre. It was built in 1901 for the Sisters of Mercy, and has been lovingly restored and reconfigured to offer 10 luxury suites, many retaining the stained-glass windows and vaulted ceilings. The hotel dining room, Harvest, showcases the best of the region’s gourmet produce and is open to the public.

Experience Marlborough sooner with an American Express Airpoints Platinum CardIt’s the fastest Airpoints Dollar™ earning platinum credit card. Earn 1 Airpoints Dollar for every $59 spent. 

Plus, earn 300 bonus Airpoints Dollars™ with the American Express Airpoints Platinum Card. Apply by 14 October 2019 and spend $1,500 in the first 3 months. New Card Members only.

Learn more. 

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