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Friday 5 February 2016

The magic of Marlborough

It is just a 12-minute hop, skip and jump from Wellington across Cook Strait on Air New Zealand before you find yourself in the attractive town of Blenheim, capital of the Marlborough wine region.

You can, of course, also take a four-journey described as one of most beautiful ferry rides in the world on the Interislander from the New Zealand capital, but you would miss out on flying over some of most intensively planted vineyards anywhere on the globe. 

Marlborough is the world capital of sauvignon blanc, and this week hosted Sauvignon Blanc 2016, attended by close to 400 delegates from around the world. 

Just 30 years ago no-one had heard of Marlborough sauvignon blanc. This week it was announced that New Zealand's wine exports now total $1.54 billion a year, 80% of that sum made up of Marlborough savvy. 

"It was Marlborough sauvignon blanc that first introduced New Zealand wine to the world," says Philip Gregan, the long-time chief executive of New Zealand Winegrowers. "It is the platform on which our reputation is built."

Today, Marlborough draws wine-loving tourists from around the globe to cellar doors like Cloudy Bay, Seresin Estate, Brancott Estate and Spy Valley, or more rustic experiences like Te Whare Ra and Clos Henri. 

This week I am staying at the rather nifty four-star Marlborough Scenic Hotel, situated on pretty Seymour Square in the centre of town. 

Think comfortable, well-equipped rooms, friendly staff and a rathet good restaurant in Mondrians, where I enjoyed an excellent mushroom risotto, a fish dish made from local gurnard and, of course, a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc.

There are 54 rooms here, all with some satellite TV channels, free high-speed wifi, minibar, desk, clock radio with IPad dock, safe and tea and coffee facilities. 

Unless you are able to spring for the unashamed lodge luxury of the Small Luxury Hotels property Lake Timara Lodge, outside town and surrounded by gorgeous gardens, it is an excellent accommodation choice. 

Blenheim dining choices range from the delightful Art Deco d'Urville Hotel to newcomer Armour in the vines, while Mango serves seriously hot Indian and Malaysian cuisine. To sample an excellent range of Kiwi wines, head for Scotch Wine Bar, which is about to open a bottle shop.

Scenic Hotel Marlborough, cnr Alfred and Henry streets, Blenheim 7240, New Zealand. +64 3 520 6187. 

Air New Zealand flies from all Australian capital cities to New Zealand. For more information and to book please visit

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