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Gourmet experiences in New Zealand’s boutique wine town

Gone are the days when holidays were for just kicking back. Yes, we all love to wind down on a beach for a day or two with a good novel, but recent trends such as volunteer-tourism and educational-tourism have grown in popularity, showing that hands-on experiences are now a vacation must. And It’s not only millennials who are wanting to get their hands and mind busy learning new skills. All ages are keen to get in on the action and learn something new on holiday. On a recent holiday to New Zealand, I made a swing by Martinbough, the country’s beloved boutique wine town, for a handful of rather immersive experiences. Not only did I leave afterwards in love with the quaint town, but already planning what I wanted to do on my next visit. Life Enriched Holidays are a local company who offer guests a variety of ed-tourism options, I was lucky enough to have four tasters. Wine tastings Possibly the best thing about Martinborough is that the town’s 20-plus wineries are almost all within walking or cycling distance of the town centre. A unique feature indeed, particularly for those like me who wish to enjoy their tastings without having to worry about driving. It was only in the 1980’s that is was discovered that the area’s microclimate and terroir were perfect for producing fine cool-climate wines, and in the past three decades a number of boutique wineries have now emerged. My top two winery visits were Devotus for their unreserved and devoted love for Pinot Noir, and Palliser for their exceptional Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. My visits were part of the Walk Your Wine Talk tour and so not only did I taste, but also learn more about what I was drinking, how to drink it, and how it was made. A Michelin food experience Martinborough is home to one of New Zealand’s Michelin-awarded chefs – the talented Adam Newell and you can enjoy his personal tutelage to bumper up your kitchen skills. Sadly, my time was too short to enrol in one of the cooking classes, but I was able to appreciate his craftsmanship at his Union Square Bistro at the Martinborough Hotel. Stargazing Time to put away the fear of the dark and embrace one of the world’s dark-sky areas. I soon discovered that Astro-tourism is growing in popularity, with travellers heading to dark-sky areas in order to take advantage of these Astro-hotspots. You’ll be expertly guided through the southern-hemisphere night skies and beyond, with the unique inclusion of Maori astronomy, Polynesian navigation and their deep cultural links. Gin tasting When you’re ready to take a short break from all the wine tasting, why not try some gin. Two local producers are ensuring that visitors can enjoy their favourite G&T, infused with local botanicals. Lighthouse Gin is smooth and fresh with magnificent herbal & citrus notes, and Reid + Reid’s Native Gin contains three native plants: Kawakawa, Manuka and Horopito. Where to stay Look no further than the Martinborough Hotel. As New Zealand’s longest-running hotel, she’s a grand old dame, but still homely and authentic. From her central location in the town square in the town square, everything is accessible by foot or bicycle. Be prepared to step back in time as you’re charmed by this Victorian building -a recent refurbishment means the rooms offer comfort and class while you’re resting in between explorations.

Jared Ruttenberg

Jared Ruttenberg is a freelance travel journalist who enjoys connecting people and experiences through word, image and social media. Read more at www.jaredincpt.com

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  1. I totally agree with this. I don’t find a holiday fulfilling unless I’ve learned something, and as much as I love history and museums it doesn’t have to be just that sort of thing, it can be about food or culture or anything that helps you broaden your horizons, learn and grow. I can see why your gourmet experiences have been so enriching (Life Enriched Holidays is such an appropriate name for that company!) Gin tasting and star gazing would be on my list as I must admit I’m sadly not much of a wine fan, so it’s good to know there are plenty of options to suit different tastes and interests.

    1. Exactly Elaine! Learning is a much wider process that perhaps traditionally imagined – and when it involves the food and wine aspect of culture i’m hooked!

  2. Definitely planning to take in New Zealand on a big, big Southern Hemisphere trip within the next 2 years. After reading this Martinborough will certainly be on my list of places to visit. I’ll probably linger for a day or two making the most of the wines on offer.

    1. Wonderful Jen! My New Zealand visits always include Martinborough – it’s really quite something!

  3. There’s been a global explosion in gin and you can buy gins from all over the world. I doubt that it makes any distance to the flavour of a gin if it has travelled thousands of miles. But wherever I go I like to stick to the local flavours. I’d try Reid + Reid’s Native Gin first.

    1. Good choice – and rather unique! I love how a drink can so wodnerfully tell the story of a location!

  4. Like the toast to the Pinot Noir sign. It’s a sort of Valentines card to wine, a declaration of love for Pinot Noir. I’m rather partial to a drop of Pinot Noir myself. I’ll drink a toast to that.

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