Monday, April 16, 2012

Marlborough Wines

Prior to moving to KL I had never tasted wine from New Zealand.  While we were living in Europe I was quite comfortable taking advantage of the cheap and abundantly supplied French reds and I never felt the need to branch out from my comfort zone unless it was to buy a southern hemisphere Malbec or pony up the cash for a Zinfandel imported from California.  In the summer I'd drink a few whites but usually it was a Provençal rosé.  It could be that I wasn't purposefully limiting my options as I can't recall ever even seeing a wine from New Zealand for sale in either Geneva or Prague.  But it could also be that I wasn't really looking for them.  

Here it's far too hot year round to drink reds, which some bars and restaurants try to get around by chilling them.  You might think I'm joking, but I'm not.  I learned the hard way not to even attempt ordering a red unless I want to wait twenty minutes to a half hour for my glass of wine to come up to a consumable temperature.  I started drinking whites almost exclusively.  Malaysia imposes a pretty hefty tariff on alcohol, and anything from Europe is insanely expensive.  I just can't justify paying 100 Ringgit (25 Euros) at the store for a bottle I know for a fact only costs 6 Euros in grocery stores in France.  Which is why I branched out and begin trying the wines that are less expensive and plentiful.  In KL, that's wine from Australia and New Zealand.  Being that I had no frame of reference as to what particular bottles from AU and NZ should cost, I could drink in peace without suffering from sticker shock.

When I noticed that Air Asia X's tickets from KL to Christchurch were so inexpensive (the route has since been canceled--boo) the first thing that popped into my mind was going up to Marlborough and traipsing through vineyards.  There are certain wine growing regions that are not really well suited to wine tourism.  A lot of French wineries, for example, are not set up to handle visitors; and those wineries that do open their doors aren't necessarily in close proximity to another winery that does as well.  In Switzerland you can go visit several vineyards, but only on one specific weekend of the year when they all get together and host caves ouvertes, like the one in Mont-sur-Rolle.  Unlike France and Switzerland, Marlborough is very well set up for making a holiday of visiting vineyards.  There are a ton of wineries very close to one another and the vast majority of them have an open cellar for most of the week, meaning that you don't need to book and pay for a tour company to take you around.  I've been to more than my fair share of wine tastings on four continents.  Marlborough has been the best experience yet.

I am now in love with whites from the Marlborough region.  It's not just the Sauvignon Blancs that the region is known for either.  There are some pretty amazing dry Rieslings and oaked Chardonnays as well.  Even if you can't visit the area, pick up one of its offerings the next time you're staring at a long row of wine bottles and are at a complete loss about what to take home.


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