|2019 Sauvignon Blanc||13.5% alcohol||$26.00|
|2018 SV5182 Pinot Gris||13.0% alcohol||$28.00|
|2018 SV5182 Gewurztraminer||14.0% alcohol||$35.00|
|2018 Chardonnay||13.5% alcohol||$40.00|
|2015 SV5182 Pinot Noir||13.5% alcohol||$75.00|
|2016 SV5095 Clayvin Pinot Noir||13.5% alcohol||$75.00|
“The Wines and Vineyards of New Zealand”, published 1993, highlights only 10 wineries in Marlborough of which Te Whare Ra is one. The original owner, Allen Hogan, was (apparently) a fan of “meaty, full flavoured wines” but tasting through the range, it is clear the present day owners, Jason and Anna Flowerday, have taken a different approach.
The Flowerdays are strong advocates for organic and biodynamic farming and have worked to convert their vineyards to full organic certification. The subtle ‘SV5182’ on their estate wines references the vineyard designation number awarded by BioGro NZ. With so much emphasis on respecting the land and the vines, it seems only fitting to employ a sensitive hand in the winery. Having tasted all six wines, though there is concentration and intensity of fruit, there is also a real lightness of touch throughout.
The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc is a blend of Awatere and Wairau fruit, the Awatere component coming off two long-term contract blocks and the Wairau part from the TWR home block. Pungent aromas, with plenty of passionfruit and red capsicum but also a lovely cool lift of fresh basil and cut grass. If you look hard you can see the hint of barrel ferment but this creates a savoury textural element rather than making itself too obvious. Bone dry, crunchy with a lovely citrus edge.
The 2019 Pinot Gris tastes like it was made by someone who loves riesling so instead of the baked/poached fruit often found in broader examples, this has lots of fresh fruit with crisp pear, red apple and just ripe peach. A subtle, restrained wine.
No such restraint with the 2018 Gewurztraminer which is beautifully aromatic with musk, gingerbread and faded rose petal; floral and delicate. TWR have the oldest gewürztraminer vines in Marlborough and this shows in the depth and intensity of flavour and though the alcohol is nudging 14.0% there was no heat in the wine at all. There is a little residual sweetness but it’s well-judged and the finish is dry and savoury. Often you hear people say, “I could only manage one glass of gewürztraminer”. Clearly they have been drinking the wrong ones as it would be nigh on impossible to only have one glass of this, it is so tempting.
Here at IWM we’ve debated the state of modern NZ Chardonnay at length. But whichever path a winemaker has chosen to take, we are of the opinion that a wine has to be, above all, enjoyable to drink. There is little point in crafting impressive, powerful wines that whilst carefully made, easily tire the palate. So at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the TWR house style of elegance carries on to the 2018 SV Chardonnay. There is a very slight whiff of nutmeg and spice courtesy of barrel ferment but it remains just a subtle note. There is some white nectarine, a little grapefruit and red apple and a silken, creamy texture. By no means a bold wine but one that provides much enjoyment.
Marlborough pinot noir perhaps doesn’t come in for the praise it often deserves. To be fair the region does make quite a bit of fairly pedestrian pinot which possibly dilutes the pool but when Marlborough gets it right, there is much to be excited about. The 2015 SV Pinot Noir is very aromatic showing plenty of savoury mature development in the form of forest floor and leaf tobacco whilst still carrying a strong thread of snappy juicy redcurrant and plum fruit. There is no influence of stems, just pure fruit with the soft tannins providing a touch of backbone. Drinking beautifully now.
By contrast the 2016 SV Clayvin Pinot Noir is a bigger framed, more darkly fruited wine. The vines were planted in 1991 and as they approach their 30th birthday are delivering fruit of density and weight with damson, raspberry and even some black cherry too. Oak is deftly handled so the wine retains the pure, bright Marlborough lift. A compelling wine that shows a strong sense of place.