In New Zealand (for a very long time)

new zealand

In New Zealand (for a very long time)

The Awatere Valley, Marlborough
The Awatere Valley, Marlborough

For the last week I have been in New Zealand. It’s my fourth trip here this year, and it will also be my longest ever: I’m staying here until the beginning of February.

Yes, that means I will have my first ever warm Christmas! I’ve never spent Christmas outside the UK before. In the miserable grey of a British winter, Christmas is quite a thing. Here it feels much less of a thing, because it’s summer. It’s going to take me a while to get my head around this.

Blenheim viewed from the Wither Hills
Blenheim viewed from the Wither Hills

I’m staying mostly in Blenheim, the main town in the Marlborough wine region, which is New Zealand’s largest by far. I’ll be spending most of my time here, and already I’ve done a few very interesting visits, with more booked in. I’m also trying to give myself some room to do some writing work of the sort that my hectic travel schedule has made very difficult. I’ve also completed my accounts!

Beach life: Governor's Bay in the Sounds
Beach life: Governor’s Bay in the Sounds

These two months and a bit will be the longest I have been in any one place for more than two years, and I’m looking forward to it. A dose of normal. The pace here is definitely a little slower than I’ve been used to in London (and on my travels), and that’s a good thing. The town is also on a very human scale, and is incredibly liveable. There are the Wither Hills (great for walking); there are beaches 20 minutes’ drive away; there’s the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds.

With Mark Krasnow and Takaki Okada (Folium) discussing dry growing  vines and irrigation
With Mark Krasnow and Takaki Okada (Folium) discussing dry growing vines and irrigation

So far, I’m really loving being here. I hope that spending an extended period in one wine region will really help me to begin to understand it properly. But rather than do the obvious thing and book in gazillions of visits and try to taste all the wines, I’m hanging back a bit, seeing what happens. People who’ve picked up that I’m here on social media have begun approaching me, and yesterday I had some samples arrive. I’m trying to listen, rather than rushing to forge an understanding that is as much about me as it is the place. I think wine writers often impose their own perspectives on the places they visit, if they aren’t careful.

Marlborough's oldest surviving vines: Gewurtztraminer (here), Riesling and Chardonnay planted in 1979 at Te Whare Ra
Marlborough’s oldest surviving vines: Gewurtztraminer (here), Riesling and Chardonnay planted in 1979 at Te Whare Ra


And in between exploring Marlborough, I’ve got a bunch of writing projects to be getting on with. Even though 68 days in one place seems like a long time, if the first week is anything to go by, this will disappear like a flash.

4 Comments on In New Zealand (for a very long time)Tagged ,
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

4 thoughts on “In New Zealand (for a very long time)

  1. Great country and people. Once you get used to a warm Christmas you never want a cold one .!,
    My last one was in 1964 🙂


  2. We hope you have a wonderful stay in this beautiful part of the world Jamie! Thanks so much for coming to see us this week and to taste through some of our wines with Sam. Arohanui, and enjoy Marlborough! Cheers, Mikela from te Pa.

  3. The most sensible (if impractical) approach to visiting a wine region, ever, but for the stated reasons. There’s just something about New Zealand and it’s people that make all the regions very special to me. And those were visits made as a total tourist back through 2005-2008 and we were treated amazingly well whether it was a tasting shed in Central or a last minute flight of Pinot in Martinborough (and again in Waipara..). I had 3 incredible years and, every time I think I have a favourite region, I can think of several special experiences from the others why I can’t play favourites.

    Stay long enough and it an occupational hazard. I have no doubt you will too.
    Cheers and best,

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