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.
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!
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.
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.
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.