For such a small country, New Zealand has made a big name for itself. It's the playground for the adventurous, lovers of year-round sporting activities, has endless incredible scenery and has made a name for itself in the wine producing stakes.
Most of New Zealand's wine comes from the Marlborough region at the top of the country's south island, and Dermott went there to visit Brancott Estate, the largest and one of the best. The winery is extremely proud to be the official wine sponsor of the Rugby World Cup 2011.
Chief winemaker Patrick Materman gives credit to the environment for the quality of wine grapes grown in the Marlborough region. The combination of soil and cool climate which means a long and gradual ripening period is perfect for aromatic wines, particularly sauvignon blanc.
Credit, too, goes to Frank Yukich, the son of a Yugoslav immigrant, who made the bold decision to plant the first grapes at Brancott in 1973. His foresight paved the way for the now booming industry and put New Zealand on the world wine map.
This year 43,000 tonnes of fruit went into making their biggest seller, sauvignon blanc, followed by pinot noir and pinot gris. The 643,226 vines spread across three vineyards are pruned between June and the end of April. Fifteen weeks of backbreaking work!
A heritage centre paying tribute to Brancott's long and distinguished history has just opened at the Brancott Road site. The visitors' centre at Riverlands has a retail store, tasting rooms, a wine education facility, restaurant and small theatre.
Sherrington Grange cheese
If you are keen to immerse yourself in the local food an wine culture, try a cheese-making class with Lisa Harper.
Lisa comes from a long line of cheese-making Harper women. They have turned fresh milk into cheese at their tiny dairy farm from recipes over two centuries old. Sherrington cheeses look, smell and taste the way they were meant to. She is very proud to have won the South Island Rural Women New Zealand Enterprising Rural Woman Award for 2011.
When she's not at home creating everything from parmesan to camembert and blue cheese to ricotta, Lisa gives classes at various wineries.
Cheeses are made from local products the milk, salt and olive oils don't have to travel far. No synthetic flavourings, colourings or preserves are added. It's all about cheese in its most pure, natural form.
Dermott joined her at Riverlands for a lesson in whipping up a fresh ricotta, the quickest and easiest cheese to make. With just milk, vinegar, heat and a gentle hand, Dermott said his ricotta tasted better than any he had had before.
Just a short cycle away, Vintners Retreat is the perfect place to rest your head. Fourteen luxurious one, two and three bedroom options have spacious living areas, self-contained kitchens, barbecues, spa bath, laundry, garage, heated pool, tennis courts and more!
The Stables at Vintners Retreat accommodate up to four guests in a two storey villa. The upstairs master bedroom has an ensuite spa.
Manor at Vintners Retreat is a two storey villa accommodation up to four. Two bedrooms upstairs have a spacious bathroom with spa and balcony area with outdoor setting.
Views are astounding with unending rows of vineyards and country lanes are perfect for gentle cycling.
Marlborough Sound at the north of New Zealand's south island.
Brancott Estate cellar door is open daily from 10am to 4.30pm. The restaurant is open from 10.30am to 3pm every day and most public holidays. Dishes range between $12 and $24.
Lisa Harper's two hour cheese-making classes start at $56.
Vintners Retreat two bedroom villas cost $262. Bicycle hire is $28 a day. Helmet, safety vest and carry bags are included.
Air New Zealand has one-way flights to Blenheim via Auckland from:
Sydney and Melbourne $291
Prices correct at September 3, 2011.
For more information
Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
State Highway 1
Ph: +64 9 336 8300
Ph: +64 03 574 2655
55 Rapaura Road
Ph: +64 3 572 7420
The living land experience
Discover the home of Brancott Estate wines, creators of the original Marlborough sauvignon blanc. On the tour you will learn the history of the vineyard and its place within the now world-famous Marlborough wine region. Enjoy an educational audiovisual presentation describing the journey from the vine to the bottle, followed by the opportunity to view the rare and endangered native New Zealand falcon, while learning about the partnership between the Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust and Brancott Estate. The tour concludes with a tutored wine tasting of the sustainable Brancott Estate Living Land range and an overview of their environmental initiatives.
Tours run year-round from 11am and cost $54.
Visa: Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter New Zealand.
Electricity: 230V/50Hz using the same plugs as in Australia.
Time zone: GMT +1.
Currency: The New Zealand dollar.
Telephone code: +64.
It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended for areas you will be visiting. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.