As my alarm blared out the stabbing pains began immediately. Who on earth was firing tiny swords into my eyes and temples? Why did my mouth feel rougher than a badger’s arse? What on earth was my phone waking me up so early for?
Then it all came flooding back. Deciding to go for an evening drink before we had dinner. Getting to the bar and deciding what to order, my flatmate Jenny suggesting we just get a bottle. Booking a cycling wine tour for the next day with a 10am bus from town. Why does New Zealand have so much delicious wine. WHY?
It’s a testament to my usually very lax willpower that I dragged myself from the warm confines of my bed and into the shower. After 10 minutes of swallowing down nausea and dousing myself in freezing water I had started to feel mildly better. A very strong black coffee also proved to be of immeasurable help. I wondered how on earth my friend Sarah was managing to look so chipper, especially given her hangover was mixed in with jetlag and a night on the sofa. Witchcraft was the only possible answer.
But it’s amazing what a sunny day and promise of hair of the dog in the form of delicious wine can do. Hopping on the Gibbston Winery shuttle bus we pressed our faces at the window, watching as the perfect scenery rolled past. New Zealand scenery really is very soothing for a hangover. The drive out only took around 25 minutes and it was very easy to collect our bikes.
Unlike the other cycling tour I’d taken in Marlborough, the Gibbston valley trails don’t run along roads but proper tracks along the river. This meant that I wouldn’t have to screech in terror each time a car overtook, but it did mean tackling a few steep and gravelly hills.
Our first stop was the Peregrine cellar door. We were very happy to learn we could wander through the barrels in their cellar, kept at a cool 14 degrees year round, after cycling in the midday sun. After cooling down (and making new friends) we decided our stomachs could handle their first tasting. Having sampled far too much of the Pinot Gris the previous night we stuck to Riesling and Pinot Noir, both of which were delicious. We especially loved the very specific food pairing suggestions. Not just salad, but a green salad with charred asparagus and goats cheese. The Pinot Noir I purchased should apparently be served with duck fat roasted potatoes. So there you go.
Our next stop was the Mount Edward cellar door. Upon arriving to find the place empty we were informed that you actually need to pre book your tastings. Clearly our despair at being told this was enough to sway the lovely woman working there who let us in on the understanding that she’d have to keep running around. Fine by us!
This turned out to be our favourite stop of the 3. We sat outside surrounded by lavendar and vines, with a very fluffy cat to stroke and delicious wine to sample. In the end we spent well over an hour in the sunshine, chatting and tasting and petting the cat. The lovely lady who’d let us in joined us and we had a very informative and interesting discussion about wine and Otago. With the inside boasting huge armchairs and a fireplace I can definitely see a day in winter where I go with some friends for the afternoon!
As we’d spent far too long enjoying our two previous stops we only had time for a tasting and lunch at Gibbston before our 4pm cave tour. After a couple of quite long cycles we were definitely ready to relax, and very much felt like we’d earned our cheese boards when we handed the biked back over.
Sadly this was our least favourite spot of the day. We ordered a cheese plate with 3 cheese and matching wines, which were delivered without and sort of information. It was up to us to work out what we might be eating, and which wine we should be having with which cheese. If you’re going then I highly recommend buying wine at the cellar door and taking it to the cheesery next door – their platters and staff are far better!
After filling up on cheese and hurriedly necking the last bit of wine when we realised the time it was time for our cave tour. Gibbston has an unusual history, including the creation of a large wine cave in which to store the barrels. It self regulates at 14 degrees all year round and is the perfect place for the wine to mature. It also houses the Gibbston wine library – a bottle of every vintage they’re put out. My kind of library I must say!
We also got to have another tasting (which we hadn’t realised – we were getting a little tipsy by this point!) and it was amazing to taste the wine amongst all the barrels. If you book a bike tour with Gibbston then I highly recommend adding the cave tour on. It was a great way to finish the day!
So it was that despite starting the day almost throwing up, I finished it happy and with a belly full of wine. I’m never drinking that much again – I swear.
We booked our cycling tour through Bookme. Usually return transfers from Queenstown, bike hire and the cave tour cost $90 – we got it for $45. Bargain!
There are other tours you can do, but some involve the 21km cycle from Arrowtown to the Gibbston valley. If you’re a sporty sort this might be a great option. Should drinking lots of wine be your priority then try to start in the valley.
Have you ever taken a tour feeling less than great? Do you think I’m an eejit who is nearly 30 and needs to remember she isn’t a university student anymore?