Dry River : new releases

2018 Chardonnay 13.0% alcohol $65.99
2018 Craighall Selection Riesling 11.5% alcohol $49.99
2016 Tempranillo 13.0% alcohol $59.99
2016 Lovat Syrah 13.0% alcohol $79.99

Long regarded as one of NZ’s icon wineries, under the direction of Chief winemaker Wilco Lam, Dry River’s wines seem to have taken on a more animated character. Although these are not wines that walk on the wild side, and are definitely made to be cellared, there seems to be more spirit in each bottle, the wines no longer buffed and polished within an inch of their lives.

With so many winemakers embracing the reductive style of chardonnay it is a nice change to taste a wine that shies well away from gunflint and struck match. Perhaps Dry River’s customers prefer their chardonnay in a more traditional style. Though having said that maybe the 2018 Chardonnay could be just a little edgier? Whilst still poised and elegant, the fruit sits more firmly in the riper spectrum with yellow-skin apple and white nectarine to the fore, rather than the leaner citrus one favoured by many. There is a whiff of oak lingering in the background but that’s where it stays. Almost approachable now.

For a winery that prides itself on its fastidious approach to everything it does (winemaking, website, release notes, cellaring guidelines etc.) it is a bit of a mystery why the same approach is not taken to labelling.  One could argue that with all Dry River wines on allocation and predominantly sold to long-standing mailing list subscribers, there is no need to explain the obvious i.e.the sweetness level of a particular wine. But for newcomers or those less familiar with the label, only the small word “Selection” gives a clue the 2018 Craighall Selection Riesling is a late harvest wine. Maybe the deep lemon colour on a 2018 wine should have alerted us? The aromas are wonderful; decadent heady notes of jasmine, melon, acacia honey and sweet mandarin are pure and precise. On the palate the wine has a rich texture with layers of candied peach and apricot fruit harnessed by a mouth-watering line of acidity. This is super delicious wine.

The 2016 Tempranillo is quite shy at first but opens up with dark plum, morello cherry notes and there is a definite whiff of oak there too. On the palate it has a crunchy red-fruited character with plenty of cranberry and raspberry. Not all red fruits though, as there is black cherry and plum peeking in. This is a bold, structured interpretation of tempranillo that probably needs a couple of years to settle down.

The 2016 Lovat Syrah is the most compelling wine in the line-up. It has a saturated intense colour and powerful, heady aromas of pepper, bramble and doris plum, with a little black pepper and some dried rose petal and lavender too. So the palate comes as something of a surprise; rather than powerful and structured, it has a silken smooth texture, retains a good degree of florality and has concentration without brawn. There is persistence and length but the wine never veers towards becoming all muscled and dense. This tastes like syrah made by someone who loves pinot noir and is all the better for it.

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