Marlborough food & wine guide
Marlborough is New Zealand's largest grape-growing and wine-making region. The picturesque, hill-framed plains are home to around 150 wineries, which produce wines that are distinctive, aromatic and consistently fabulous. Alongside this wonderful wine culture is a passion for outstanding food that has put Marlborough firmly on the global 'foodie travel' map.
The wineries around Blenheim and Renwick are perfectly spaced for cycling, although touring with a local operator is also a great way to get around. Plan your day to include four or five wineries, so that you experience the broadest range of Marlborough wine styles. There are 30+ cellar doors in the Marlborough region; here are a few of the best:
Cloudy Bay, Jacksons Road
A Cloudy Bay wine tour is a highlight of any Marlborough cellar door adventure and the environment is almost as enticing as the wine. The vast courtyard extends out to a glorious landscape that invites you to commune with nature while you sip your way through a tasting.
Wairau River Winery (Lunch), Rapaura Road
Open all year, this is one of the best-known restaurants in the province. The family owned and operated cellar door, winery and restaurant takes pride in serving high-quality food with a focus on utilizing the best seasonal produce.
Fromm Winery, 15 Godfrey Road
Fromm wines are carefully crafted and fabulously finessed. At their cellar door you can look forward to tasting intense pinot noir, sophisticated chardonnay and complex sauvignon blanc. Fromm wines are famously interesting, so expect to be surprised.
Framingham Wines, 19 Conders Bend Road
Accredited as 100% sustainable, Framingham Wines specialise in small batches of hand-crafted wines. A real stand-out here is dry riesling, which is deliciously complex. The ultimate time to visit is the Framingham Harvest Concert, a magical harvest party that happens in mid-March.
Wither Hills, New Renwick Road
There's an emphasis on single vineyard whites at Wither Hills, however pinot noir has become a major strength for the winery in recent times. If you're serious about wine, this cellar door is a must-do in a magnificent setting.
Nautilus Estate, Rapaura Road
Nautilus produces a smashing Marlborough Cuvee Brut made with pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. They're also known for award-winning sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and rosé wines. In addition to tastings, Nautilus offers a behind-the-scenes tour if you want to see how it's all done.
Bladen Wines, 83 Conders Bend Road
For more than three decades, the Macdonald family have been sharing stories and wonderful wines from their Bladen Wines cellar door. Their approach to wine is about generosity, laughter and overcoming challenges with ingenuity, so you can look forward to a very enjoyable tasting adventure.
No. 1 Family Estate, 169 Rapaura Road
No. 1 is the home of brilliant New Zealand sparkling wine that's up there with the best in the world. Behind the brand is the Le Brun family, who are the equivalent of winemaking royalty in our country. Their elegant ivy-cloaked cellar door is open for tastings seven days a week.
Forrest Estate Winery
Located just outside of Renwick, in Marlborough, the Forrest family has been crafting wines since the late 1980's. With their Marlborough winery and tasting room nestled amongst the vineyard, it is an ideal, relaxing location to sample the many wines they have on offer.
Marlborough Food and Wine Festival
To discover the maximum number of Marlborough's wine producers in the shortest possible time, get yourself to the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival. Featuring more than 50 wine producers, 25+ food businesses and a stage full of live entertainment, this one-day event happens in early February. The date and venue are advertised on the festival's website.
Best restaurants in Marlborough
It goes without saying that wherever you find great wine, you also find superb food. While the majority of Marlborough's best eateries are located within wineries, there are some sensational stand-alone restaurants in the region.
Arbour restaurant, Blenheim
With two hats from Cuisine and multiple awards from other respected sources, the degustation restaurant Arbour creates artwork on a plate. The food looks almost too good to eat, so you'll be forgiven for snapping pictures before you tuck in. Every dish showcases premium ingredients from the Marlborough region.
Franks Oyster Bar & Eatery
Located in the centre of Blenheim, Franks is more than just oysters. It's a place to enjoy a wide range of sharable plates (including oysters), while you soak up the vibrant and relaxing atmosphere. There's a special focus on local ingredients, so every mouthful is pure Marlborough.
The Fancy Cow
One of Marlborough's newest dining experiences, The Fancy Cow dishes up an Italian-styled menu alongside Ant Moore wines and DNA Brewery craft beers. Open for lunch and dinner in Rapaura, this restaurant gets great reviews from both locals and visitors.
Seamus' Irish Bar, Picton
Located on Picton's picturesque waterfront, Seamus' Irish Bar is a highly-recommended place for a hearty helping of excellent pub grub. And it's not just about food and drink here; Seamus' is also a live music venue. You can count on a great night out.
Mills Bay Mussels, Havelock
Farmed in clear fiord-like sounds, Marlborough green-lipped mussels are nearly as famous as Marlborough sauvignon blanc. At Mills Bay Mussels in Havelock, you can feast on a magnificent tasting platter of mussels cooked three ways - garlic butter, beer-battered and crumbed.
Gramado's Restaurant & Bar, Blenheim
This Brazilian restaurant gets great reviews from locals and visitors. The food is hearty and tasty, with a distinct South American flavour profile. Seafood and meat get equal attention on the menu, but you'll also find vegetarian options.
The Vines Village Café & Deli, Rapaura
For a casual breakfast, lunch or snack platter, you can't go past the café at the Vines Village. There's a deli counter too, for stocking up your picnic basket. If you want to explore the nearby cellar doors, check out the village's bike hike shop.
Several of the wineries that offer cellar door tastings also have an on-site restaurant for out-of-this-world alfresco eating. When you're roaming the cellar doors on a bike or with a local guide, make sure you arrive at these establishments hungry:
- Wairau River Restaurant, a fabulous place for lunch in a beautiful setting
- Alan Scott Bistro, the much-loved indoor-outdoor restaurant at Allan Scott Wines
- St Clair Vineyard Kitchen, for sublime dining amidst the vines or by the fire in winter
- Wither Hills, for a seasonal lunch menu of delicious small plates
- Jack's Raw Bar at Cloudy Bay, for tantalising share plates of premium local produce and seafood
- The Wine Kitchen, for an exquisite paddock-to-plate vineyard dining experience created by a classically-trained chef
A two-week celebration that happens in October, Feast Marlborough lets you experience the best of local food and wine in a party kind of way. Comprised of numerous big and small events across the region, Feast is a way to explore Marlborough while you focus on the serious business of having fun. A special highlight is Bayley's Friday Night Feast – a celebration of street food in Blenheim.
New Zealand Cheese Festival
This four-day fromage-filled festival in October embraces every aspect of cheese, from fine dining degustation and culinary workshops to a celebratory picnic at the beautiful Clos Henri vineyard. If you have a soft spot for cheese, this event will introduce you to the best artisan cheese makers in New Zealand.
Blenheim Farmers' Market
Held every Sunday morning at the A & P Showgrounds, the Marlborough Farmers' Market is a great place to shop for picnic and self-catering essentials. The stalls sell cheese, nuts, sauces and relishes, jams and jellies, fruit, vegetables, bread, cake, pastries, fish and meat. You'll also find great coffee and a choice of ready-to-eat brunch dishes.
Best fish and chips in Blenheim
Within Marlborough's flavour-intense wine and gourmet food scene, there will be moments when you want something straightforward and humble - like fish and chips. Using locally-caught fish, Blenheim's best chipperies do a roaring trade. For take-out, head for Main Street Fish & Chips or the Codfather. For a sit-down meal in relaxed surroundings, you can't go wrong with Dodson Street Beer Garden, Speights Ale House or the Goodhome Gastropub.