New Zealand’s Marlborough Region is home to the world’s finest Sauvignon Blanc, and with dozens of vineyards and cellar doors within a few kilometres of each other, vinophiles face a tricky proposition: how to guzzle the maximum amount of wine while also avoiding the hassle of an automobile?
My husband and I solved this predicament by renting bikes for the day near our hotel in Blenheim. The bustling village is 10km (about 30 minutes by bike) from the main concentration of vineyards, and the route is pleasantly flat and scenic. We encountered plenty of New Zealand’s ubiquitous sheep pastures and fresh fruit stands, but very little traffic.
Starting out on Jacksons Road, we visited local legend Alan Scott for some sparkling Pinot Noir, sampled five different Sauvignon Blancs at world-famous Cloudy Bay, and diversified our palates with a beer sampler, bread and dips at the Moa Microbrewery.
Each time we left a winery and hopped on our bikes, the breeze and burst of cardio refreshed us for the next stop. I found my head was much clearer than on previous wine tours where I’d dozed in the van or even felt a little carsick.
By day’s end we’d visited eight different wineries, and thanks to our enormous pannier bags we’d somehow amassed 12 bottles between us. The only downside to the endeavour was choosing which wines to drink straight away and which to bring back in our duty-free allotment.
If you go: Check out Destination Marlborough for information on vineyards, accommodation and other activities in the region. Autumn features colourful foliage and crisp temperatures that are perfect for cycling, and winter offers ample sunshine with average daily temperatures of 10-15 degrees Celsius.
How to get there: Blenheim Airport is served by flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The Interislander Ferry crosses from Wellington to nearby Picton two to five times per day, depending on the time of year.
Where to stay: Blenheim has a wide array of motel-style accommodation and convenient amenities like restaurants, banks and a supermarket, but we found it a little short on charm. There are a number of guest houses and lodges out in the vineyards, or opt for the waterfront scenery of the Marlborough Sounds (about an hour away). Travelzoo has recently run deals with the Portage Resort Hotel and Raetihi Lodge.
Bike hire: We rented from Spokesman AvantiPlus, and for $37 (NZ$50) each we got a great map, new Trek road bikes, helmets, locks and pannier bags to use for the full day. Some hotels and guest houses provide bikes free of charge. Wineries have ample bike racks and the main roads have wide bike lanes.