I wanted today to take you on a journey to the Marlborough region of New Zealand and elicit a taste of the feelings I have for this area.

My love for New Zealand started way back in 2008 when I took a year off work and went travelling to the far side of the world. For two months, my wife, her sister and I toured the country in a caravan from one end to the other. I wrote about it with such a passion that Air New Zealand purchased my entire article collection, together with my wife’s photos, which is what you see here, to put into their iPhone app, which I am proud to say went on to win a Webby.

It is an incredibly beautiful and wild country, particularly the coasts of the northern edge of the South Island, which is where we are visiting today – and has become somewhat the ultimate destination of many a wine pilgrimage.

And that is what it was for me before I arrived—my two goals for my visit

1. See the Pelennor fields, and
2. visit Cloudy Bay winery.

Seemingly minor goals for what turned out to be a life-affirming two months. But in early 2000’s England, New Zeland’s wines, and Cloudy Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc, in particular, had won plaudits from the highest British sources. They were soon purchased by french brand LVMH, and the marketing image of luxury begat high prices. Consequently, bottles were hard to come by and expensive.

Of course, the first supermarket I visited in Aukland, had shelves of the stuff.

With the investment, the New Zealand growers did not rest on their laurels and produced another classic in the form of a youthful and straight-forward Pinot Noir. An apt description of the spirit of the southern island with all its bungee jumping and skydiving.

The area where this wine is grown is stunning in its landscape. We drove in as the sun set and found accommodation for two nights. Navigating to the wineries themselves is easy as you can hire bikes and lazily ride along the road – you see it here – to try wines from a dozen cellar doors.

I almost missed my chance to visit Cloudy Bay as; unfortunately, my wife was ill, and I wouldn’t leave her on the day we had planned in our super tight schedule. The next day as we drove away towards the Abel Tasman national park, I slept in the van shielding my disappointment. Only to find, as a reward for the night spent caring, that we were pulling into Cloudy Bay afterall for a special treat of a tasting.

Established in the gravelly and clay-based soils of this cool countryside, Cloudy Bay takes its grapes from the nearby (Why RUA) Wairau Valley to be aged in French Oak barrels for 11 months.

The weather here can lead to treacherous sea breezes, which gives rise to both the dangers of the freezing waters in the sounds – and the sediment that lends Cloudy Bay its name. Of importance then is to check the weather report of the years’ harvest, as any particular year can be ruined by cold, something which the growers go to impressive lengths to prevent.

Of such value is the stock, that I recall seeing helicopters hovering low of over a winery to prevent frost from taking the harvest.

Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir variety is the result of such drive and determination fused with the luxury of space to commune with nature. The grapes are handpicked, de-stemmed and plunged before being stored in barrels.

Thankfully, for the more corkscrew challenged amongst us, it is bottled with a screwtop, which only requires the application of twisting to remove.

Served at a neatly warm 14 degrees, the Pinot is dark on the nose with smells of cherry and bramble fruits, with maybe a hint of the strawberry.

Quite silky in the mouth, with layered floras, some spice – gentile – fruits again and a juicy acidity.

Such wines can be laid for ten years – and will improve accordingly.

All in all, a very satisfying glass that lends itself to a special occasion.

For food pairing, those in the know speak of New Zeland’s excellent softer cheeses – think the kiwi equivalent of French brie – or perhaps the scallops caught off the coast.

But my love is steak, and the best steak in the world is the incredible chuleta chop from the Basque region of northern Spain. Astonishingly, this beef is raised for 18 years (rather than the normal 3) and reaches a simply enormous size.

The Pinot went down exceptionally well with a 1kg sharing steak, served with the traditional charred basque-style peppers.