The Wine and Olive Oil of Martinborough

20 Jan 2011

“I would like to see more of New Zealand” I said.  So off we went in our car for a mini road trip of sorts to the Wairarapa region.  Only an hour or so away from Wellington our first stop was Martinborough, a town famous for it’s vineyards and wineries.  The climate and soils of Martinborough are well suited to producing excellent Pinot Noir.  And where great Pinot Noir is made, I learnt great olive oil is sure to follow.

Martinbourgh Grapes

Martinbourgh Grapes

As it turned out most wineries were shut on the weekday we visited prior to Christmas and the town was fairly sleepy.  Alana Estate was the first on our list to visit and was fortunately was open that day, but we were a good 30 minutes ahead of their opening time of 11am.  So we headed further north to visit a couple of other towns in the Wairarapa (Greytown and Masterton) for a bit.  By the time we returned, it was 3pm and Alana Estate appeared to be closed.

After a bit of snooping around we noticed the door to the deserted restaurant area was open and there lay a portable cot and a few children roving around.  My Dad called “Hello?!” and out emerged the Chef who said “Sorry our lunch service has finished and the rest of the staff have left for the day, but I could give you a bit of a tour if you like?”.  Ah fellow New Zealanders… you never cease to pleasantly surprise me with your friendliness when I come home!

Barrels of Riesling (left) and Pinot Noir (right)

Barrels of Riesling (left) and Pinot Noir (right). Cot in foreground.

We were led about the winery by the chef with his kids at his ankles as he showed us around the different rooms and equipment used for wine making at Alana Estate.

"The Laboratory"

"The Laboratory"

Crowded House poster

Oooh... looks like a good gig!

Our kind host then offered us a very generous wine tasting.  All were amazing though we definitely felt one outshone them all, their 2010 Riesling.  Sadly he couldn’t find a bottle for us to purchase so I suspect we were a few days early of it’s official release.  But I can assure you it was fab!  If you can find it, get it!

Our friendly host pours us a tasting

Our friendly host pours us a tasting

I also quite enjoyed their Rapture Pinot Noir.  Named after the Blondie song, the artist herself recently performed it at a concert at Alana Estate just days before our visit.  So a bottle of this was purchased, along with the lovely L’Apertif dessert wine which my parents purchased.

The Wine List

The Wine List

Interestingly enough I learnt that all the New Zealand wine sold under Fortnum & Mason’s own label were produced by Alana Estate.

Fortnum and Mason New Zealand Wine brought to you by Alana Estate

Fortnum and Mason New Zealand Wine, brought to you by Alana Estate

When we mentioned our desire to see an olive grove he recommended his favourite, Molive Gold and even went to the trouble of calling them to see if they were open.  They were not but told us we were completely welcome to come over anyway.  Ah New Zealanders…

Molive Olive Grove

Molive Gold Olive Grove

It turned out that the Molive Gold proprietor’s home was right on the grove and he welcomed us into his lounge and gave us a little talk about his olive oil.  Some interesting titbits I learnt were that:

  1. Due to the quality of soil and climate, it’s actually quite difficult to make bad olive oil in Martinborough
  2. New Zealand currently only produces extra virgin oils as it isn’t worth making any further pressings

We then had a tasting and I was very surprised to find it was completely different to any olive oil I’d tried before.  So much of the true olive taste was preserved, it felt one step away from actually eating an olive.  It was nothing at all like supermarket extra virgin olive oils, which he explained were most likely rancid anyway.  I could see why Molive Gold had won as many awards as it had.

Molive Gold

Molive Gold

So that was our Martinborough trip.  We didn’t get to visit every vineyard or olive grove but we certainly got a good taste of it.  And I was touched by the friendliness of each location despite the fact we were pretty much barging in on everyone when they weren’t open.

Alana Estate Limited
Puruatanga Road
PO Box 162
New Zealand

101 Cromarty Drive
RD4 Martinborough 5784

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