Spy Valley Wines: Welcome to the Valley!

Most People Don’t Know About Spy Valley Wines..

Visitors can find Spy Valley Wines located in the Waihope Valley in Marlborough New Zealand. The Waihope Valley is a dry and relatively infertile valley to the southern edge of the Wairau Valley.

The Wairau Valley is the the main valley of the Marlborough wine region at the top of the South Island New Zealand.

The other main valley of the Marlborough Wine Region is the Awatere Valley about 30 kilometres south of the Wairau Valley.

Spy Valley vineyards are found mainly in the Waihope valley which is also where the winery and cellar door are located.

Spy Valley wines, classed as a medium size producer among the over 100 wine producers in Marlborough, and is one of our favourites on a Blenheim wine tour.

Not being one of the larger producers of Marlborough New Zealand Wine, it can be hard to find their wines outside of New Zealand, making it one of our hidden gems. Using wine sites like www.winesearcher.com can make the search easy.

Where Does Their Name Come From?

Spy valley wines is named after the government communication centre a few kilometres further up the Waihope valley.

The communication centre, known by the Marlborough New Zealand locals as the spy base, monitors communications in and out of New Zealand.

When Bryan and Jan Johnson set up Spy Valley they needed a name for the new venture. After careful consideration they decided on Spy Valley Wines.

The marketing department has plenty of creative fun with the name and implications.

All of the Spy Valley bottles have morse code on the bottle neck and the label. The winery uses the phonetic alphabet on their merchandise.

A view of the Waihopai valley during a winter wine tour

Views From Spy Valley:

Spy Valley Wines sits in the Waihope Valley, and gives extensive views of the Wairau valley. The views here are breathtaking, there’s no other way to put it.

The winery took this picture in Autumn after the harvest of the grapes. Autumn colours feature in the foreground, the winery in the middle ground and the outline of the Richmond ranges in the background.

An aerial view of the winery with the Richmond Ranges on the north of the Wairau Valley. This area of the valley is at risk from frost in the spring: hence there are many frost fans visible in the Spy Valley vineyards in this image.

A beautiful view of the Spy Valley Vineyards in summer. This view takes in the views to the south rather than the north as per the other images. This view is looking up the Waihope valley and with the Wither Hills in the background.

Spy Valley wines in Autumn
Spy Valley wines in Autumn

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc:

You may expect this section to talk about just one bottle of wine, however, Spy Valley Wines have a number of different Sauvignon Blanc wines in their portfolio. In this section we will explore 4 different Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Estate Sauvignon Blanc:

The winery harvested the Spy Valley Wines estate Sauvignon Blanc 2019 vintage in the cool of the early morning. They press each batch of fruit separately and ferment the majority in stainless steel tanks.

They ferment the balance in oak barrels to add a layer of complexity and texture. The growing conditions for the 2019 vintage was very dry and warm after a cool flowering, hence, smaller yields than normal and excellent fruit concentration.

The Spy Valley site says the wine exhibits ‘enticing aromas of grapefruit, feijoa, bell pepper and a hint of orange zest’. The fruit in this wine will be at its most vibrant for 2 years, however, the wine should age well until 2024.

Spy-Valley-wines-sauvignon blanc

Easy Tiger Sauvignon Blanc:

In general the wine industry made early versions of lower alcohol wines with full alcohol and they removed the alcohol using reverse osmosis.If you are looking for a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wine with lower alcohol, then The Spy Valley Wines Easy Tiger is for you.

Unfortunately this generally resulted in less flavour and a less fulfilling wine.

Grapes for the Easy Tiger Sauvignon Blanc are picked early, therefore, containing less natural sugar.  Fermentation times are adjusted, sustainable techniques used to make this very satisfying Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Easy Tiger Sauvignon Blanc,  Marlborough New Zealand wine
Easy Tiger Sauvignon Blanc,  Marlborough New Zealand wine

Envoy Sauvignon Blanc:

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is normally harvested by machine, however, all the fruit for this wine was hand picked.

Only the best fruit is selected for the Envoy Sauvignon Blanc, therefore it needs the fine touch of hand-picking. The fruit all comes from just one vineyard, the Johnson Vineyard Estate River Block.

This vineyard is stony and free draining with Bordeaux based clones. The fruit for this wine was slowly fermented in French Oak barrels and left for no less than 11 months. The resulting wine, according to Spy Valley Wines, has a creamy front palate leading to a fine, sustained finish with savoury, citrus and tropical layers. The 2015 vintage should be drinking at its best from 2020-2025. You can download the information sheet on the Spy Valley website here.


Spy Valley Wines Iced Sauvignon Blanc:

A very interesting twist on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Most dessert wines in Marlborough New Zealand are made from Riesling or Gewurztraminer grapes, which makes Sauvignon Blanc extra uncommon.

The 2015 vintage, hand picked after noble rot infection (botrytis).  This results in grapes looking like mouldy raisins.

The winery picked the grapes and gently pressed them. They then fermented them in french oak barrels and a small tank for 9 months.

The result, according to Spy Valley, “a sweet dessert style, the palate is decadent and sweet without cloying heaviness. Hard to resist”.


Spy Valley Cellar Door:

The cellar door is attached to winery with stunning views over the Wairau and Waihope valleys.

The cellar door is your  opportunity to taste a number of Spy Valley Wines.

The tasting are poured in the cellar door or you can sit outside on the patio. Lovely on a typically sunny Marlborough day!

There are different tasting options available offering the opportunity to taste a number of wines from their estate collection.

The estate collection consists of a number of varieties including: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir Rose and Pinot Noir and Syrah.

The wide variety of wines is one of our favourite parts of the Spy Valley Wine Tour.

These wines are great for just sitting out and enjoying a glass or two without food, however, are great with food.

The Envoy single vineyard collection are more complex wines and fit perfectly with food. This being said they are still available to taste at the cellar door.

The Envoy range consists of the following varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and 2 different Single vineyard Pinot Noirs.

Tasting at their cellar door
Tasting outside the cellar door during a wine tour

Are Expensive Wines Worth It?

A very interesting question and also very subjective when we look and what studies have had to say on this question.

The more I research this question  for many people who drink wine they find it extremely difficult to tell the difference.

There have been many studies doing blind tasting of a reasonable wine costing $15-$25 NZD and then comparing it to a very similar relatively expensive wine costing $40-$60.

In most cases most average wine drinkers find it very hard to tell the difference in terms of quality. What they can judge is which wine they prefer and there is nothing wrong with that.  Other studies have compared peoples view of expensive wine versus cheaper wines not blind tasted.

Those studies found that expectation leads to preferring the more expensive wines purely and simply because they cost more. It does seem that it is harder to really understand the difference with white wines as they are served chilled, thus dulling some of the flavours.

Conversely is seems easier to tell the difference with Red wines as they are served at warmer temperatures than white wines.

But here’s my two cents:

The most important part of drinking wine is to know what you like versus what you don’t like. I am a very firm believer you should drink wine you like, especially if its cheap but you can pretend its expensive.

A few more pictures of Spy Valley Wines


Spy Valley Wines Pinot Noir Rose. Visit the cellar door on a Blenheim wine tour, have a glass of wine and take in the stunning view!


Typical Marlborough New Zealand Vineyard with the vines planted in GPS located perfectly straight lines. Usually wineries and growers plant these in a North South axis


All vineyards have to be certified sustainable in New Zealand. Native plants add the diversity in the region, so wineries and growers plant these around vineyards.


To find out more detail visit the Spy Valley wines official site .

If you’d love to have a tour around Spy Valley, we offer fantastic group wine tours or, if you want something extra special, ask about our luxury private wine tours.

Look forward to seeing you on a Blenheim Wine Tour!

-Chris & Lyndie

Spy Valley Wine Tours

Na Clachan Wine Tours

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