The wines of Te Pā, Marlborough, New Zealand

An aerial view showing the Wairau Bar, home to Te Pã

The MacDonald family were Maori farmers in the Wairau Bar area. Haysley MacDonald began planting grapes here in 2003, and were a major grower selling to large companies. But since 2011 they have been making their own wines, and production has grown as they’ve got more of their vineyard back from contracts.

The Wairau bar is close to the sea in the lower Wairau, and here the soils are fertile. It’s potato country, and ideally suited to making aromatic, high-thiol styles of Sauvignon Blanc, which is what most of the vineyard is planted to.

In addition to the Wairau Bar, which accounts for some 80% of production, they also have a new vineyard on the Alabama Road just out of town, near Lawsons Dry Hills, and a further vineyard in the Awatere (Redwood Hills, near Calrossie, just past the pass as you enter the Awatere). There’s also Thomas Road (a new vineyard) which is also lower Wairau.

Liam McElhinney and Haysley MacDonald

Te Pā operates on a reasonable scale: they now process 5000 tons per year, using three wineries: Pernod Ricard, Wither Hills and Mahi. But plans are to build their own winery. Winemaking is in the hands of Liam McElhinney, who as a childhood friend of Haysley’s and who has been here since the debut vintage in 2011. The wines are consistently good: I particularly liked the 2015 Pinot Noir, and the Oke shows quite a bit of potential.

Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
Made at Mahi from the blocks that ripened early: the seaside block and Alabama, with a bit of Awatere. 10% barrel ferment. Highly aromatic and intense with tropical fruit, a touch of fig and some green pepper. Very lively and enticing. Concentrated and zippy on the palate with powerful citrus fruit and a grapefruit pith twist on the finish. High acidity. Really impressive with a big aromatic punch, and lovely considering the vintage. 90/100

Te Pā Oke 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Barrel-fermented Sauvignon, hand picked, whole bunch pressed, full soilds, wild yeast. From the home block. Powerful with nuts, spice and a touch of honey alongside textured citrus and pear fruit. Lovely harmony here, with the toasty, spicy oak meshing with the ripe fruit characters to produce a rich but balanced wine. 89/100

Te Pā Oke 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
This has a nice tight citrus core with subtle herbal hints, and very well integrated oak (moved to 300 litre cigar-shaped barrels away from barriques this vintage). It has good concentration and focus, with nice acidity. Notes of fennel and herb complement the citrus and pear fruit. 91/100

Te Pā Pinot Gris 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
From Redwood Hills vineyard in the Awatere. Full colour (1 h or so in machine picker bin). Lovely aromatic nose with some tangerine and white peach and grape. The palate has lots of flavour: it’s dry with nice grape and pear fruit, as well as a bit of spice and some acidity. Really captures the varietal character well. 90/100

Te Pā Pinot Gris 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
There was more hand picked fruit here, a bit of barrel fermentation and a bit of wild yeast. Delicate aromatics with lemons and tangerines as well as some smokiness and some grape. Lovely taut, fresh palate with some complexity. Dry with good acidity and notes of pear, grape and citrus. Nice weight, too. 91/100

Te Pā Chardonnay 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
This was from a contracted vineyard in the Brancott Valley. Hand picked, pressed to barrel with full solids, kept on lees until Christmas before it starts doing too much malo and then it’s sulphured and kept on lees. Compact and fresh with a delicious mealy richness. Has a bit of spiciness and texture with some nutty notes and a bright lemony finish. Really harmonious and focused. 91/100

Te Pā Rosé 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Pinot Noir from Omaka, hand picked, whole bunch pressed to tank. Pink with hints of orange. Nice texture here: there’s some sweet red cherry fruit with a bit of citrus and some pithy notes. There’s a bit of spicy warmth on the finish. 87/100

Te Pā Rosé 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
Pinot Noir from Omaka. 50% barrel fermented in old oak, the other half stainless fermented, then all blended to barrel. This has a nice sappy edge to the cherry fruit, with some herbal hints. Nice depth on the palate with a bright, juicy edge. Quite complex. 90/100

Te Pā Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Made at Mahi, mixture of Omaka and Ben Morven fruit. 20% whole bunch. Sweet, supple and harmonious with attractive red cherry and plum fruit. There’s a nice smoothness to the texture on the palate, with some silkiness, but there’s also some spiciness and hints of earth and decaying leaves. Has nice grip and an appealing savoury twist. 93/100

Te Pā Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
From Redwood Hills in the Awatere. 150 g/l sugar and high pH (3.8) and low TA (9 g/l). 10% alcohol. Slightly mouldy, herby edge to the nose. It’s sweet and a bit syrupy with apricot and honey notes. Finishes with lemon and herb notes. 83/100

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