Marlborough is more than just a pretty place. Renowned for the stunning scenery of the Sounds, and as the wine-growing region that made New Zealand sauvignon blanc word-famous, Marlborough is gaining a reputation as a tasty destination for the gourmand.
A succulent range of seafood is harvested from the deep, clean waters of the sounds. The arable soils and sunny days are perfect for grapes of course, but also for new crops such as nuts, saffron and olives. Here’s our pick of mouth-watering moments in Marlborough:
Marlborough Farmers’ Market
This is the perfect place to buy the best and freshest produce that Marlborough has to offer. Talk to the growers and artisans, they may give you a taste of such delicacies as handmade cheese, fresh seafood, pinenuts, almonds, olive oil, wild game meats and the region’s seasonal fruit and vegetables. Shop up for your gourmet picnic or cooking extravaganza back at the bach. Marlborough Farmers’ Market is open every Sunday 9.00a.m. - 12.00p.m. at A&P Park, Alabama Road, Blenheim, Sunday, 9am-noon)
Marlborough Food and Wine Festival
Mark your diaries - Saturday 13th February 2016 is your next chance to savour New Zealand’s original and most successful wine festival, complete with wine tutorials, Fashion in the Vines, gourmet food and musical entertainment. It’s held at the lovely Brancott Estate. Sip, slurp and nibble in the sun, with views of vines and mountains. 8000 bon vivants descend from around NZ and the world, so best to book accommodation early.
Marlborough is NZ’s largest wine producing area and put NZ sauvignon blanc on the map. This is one of New Zealand’s sunniest and driest areas, with cool nights and fast-draining soils contributing to the quality of the wines. Take a wine trail map and tootle round the cellar doors of famous vineyards such as Cloudy Bay, the Brancott Estate Heritage Centre with its great views, modern architecture and food, Spy Valley with free espresso for the sober driver and a kids’ corner, Seresin for organic and biodynamically produced wines and olive oil, or Highfield with its Tuscan tower. Many of the wineries have excellent restaurants on site, with lovingly prepared food and wine matches. With around 110 vineyards, and sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, aromatics, pinot noir and bubbly to try, you might want to join one of the many wine tours on offer, or rent a bike.
Mmmm is for mussels. Green-lipped mussels are not only succulent and delicious, they’re full of Omega 3 and the like, and reputedly good for healthy joints, skin, brain and heart. The deep, clean, cold waters of the sounds are perfect for aquaculture, and there are mussel farms galore. You can take a Mussel Cruise and experience the beauty of the sounds, learn about mussel farming and try steamed mussels with a glass of sauvignon blanc. Havelock is self-proclaimed Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World, and the starting point for various cruises and the Mail Boat run. Whether you like them steamed, marinated, fried or in chowder, mussels with a glass of Marlborough wine and views of the sounds are unmissable.
Tio Point Oysters are a delicacy of the region that rival Bluff Oysters for scrumptiousness. These flat, cold water oysters are the same species as bluffies in fact, but are cunningly farmed by Bruce Hearn in two bays near Tio Point, rather than being dredged in the wild, as Bluff oysters are. “Tio” is the Maori name for oyster, and the deep, cold waters round Tio Point suit this plump, firm oyster perfectly. Chefs such as Simon Gault rave about these oysters. They have a flavour that is sweet and salty, and they are sold live in the shell . You can order online and have them couriered to you, live. Shucking the oyster yourself is not only rather satisfying but means you have the freshest possible oyster, with its delicious juices, sitting au naturel in its shell – beautiful. These go superbly with Cloudy Bay bubbly, or Marlborough sauvignon blanc they say. (Note: Tio Point are closed at the time of updating this article, but hope to resume harvesting around November or December 2015.)
Premium Game is a Blenheim based supplier of fine NZ game meat. “Mountain bred, naturally wild” is their catch-cry. 95% of their produce comes from the Marlborough region, hunted in the high country, especially round the Waihopai and Awatere valleys. Along with wild pork, venison, rabbit and goat, you can buy less common fare such as thar, wallaby and hare. That’ll surprise the kiddies when they ask what’s for dinner. Wild game is not drenched or sprayed, and by working with a small base of hunters the company ensures the game is from areas guaranteed poison free. Mondays are a bit busy –when we talked to them they had 70 deer, 50 goats and 150 rabbits to deal with. While they mainly supply fine restaurants around the country you can also buy their wares from the Marlborough Farmers’ Market or from their factory at Bristol Street, Riverlands Estate, Blenheim.
Sunny Marlborough has a similar climate to parts of the Mediterranean, and the European Stone Pine Tree just loves it. Lee Paterson has been growing the trees in Marlborough since 1998 and waited patiently til 2010 for the cones to yield enough delicious kernels to be marketable. The Pinoli orchards have seed stock from Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia, and the satiny, ivory coloured kernels are ideal for meals inspired by the cuisines of those countries. They are an ancient and nutritious food. The Roman soldiers took them along 2000 years ago when they marched off to conquer Britain. Rich in protein and containing beneficial fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants, they are a healthy as well as a toothsome treat. Their unique texture and taste are superb when the nuts are toasted, in pesto, as a crust for fish, in salads and baking. You can buy Pinoli Pinenuts from the Farmers’ Market or BV Gourmet in Blenheim, Sabato in Auckland, Mercato in Christchurch, or through the Pinoli website, where you will also find tempting recipes.
Our final suggestions: if you can’t make it to the Farmers’ Market on your epicurean trip through Marlborough and you want fresh fruit and vegetables you can try Benge and Co, and Guytons for fresh seafood – the two share a shop at 20 Grove Road, Blenheim. Summer sees cherries, apricots and other lovely stone-fruit on the shelves. BV Gourmet at 2a Park Terrace in Blenheim is a delicatessen & cafe, with a wide range of freshly prepared deli and cafe fare. Recently awarded Marlborough’s Best Cafe, BV Gourmet also stock gourmet and artisan products. They can vacuum pack your fresh purchases if you wish – handy for a trip to the bach.
We wish you a most delicious sojourn in sunny Marlborough – with the best of wine, fine food, natural beauty and good friends to enjoy it with. Cheers.
Where to stay
marlboroughfarmersmarket.co.nz - Marlborough Farmers’ Market
www.marlboroughwinefestival.co.nz - Marlborough Wine Festival
www.wine-marlborough.co.nz - Marlborough Wine Trail map and wine information
www.lovemarlborough.co.nz - Marlborough Tourism site
www.tiopoint.co.nz - Tio Point Oysters
www.pinoli.co.nz - Pinoli Pinenuts
www.gamemeats.co.nz - Premium Game Meats