Last week, I popped into Te Whare Ra to taste the new releases. This is one of the most interesting producers in Marlborough. When the vineyard was originally planted by Joyce and Allen Hogan in 1979, it was pretty early days for the region, and this was the first boutique, small, privately winery to be established. Interestingly, the vines that the Hogans planted were grafted, which was new for the region: the large vineyards of Montana, Corbans and Penfolds were at the time all on their own roots. What this means now is that phylloxera took out all the earlier vineyards (first plantings in the region were in 1973) so Te Whare Ra’s surviving original vines – Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer – are now the oldest vines in Marlborough.
Jason and Anna Flowerday purchased the vineyard in 2003, and while they’ve kept some of the existing vineyard, they’ve also planted Sauvignon Blanc (there was none here) and Pinot Noir.
Farming here is organic (they are biodynamically certified), and the wines that are made from the 11 hectares of estate vineyard are labelled SV5182, which is their organic certification number (from Biogro). Te Whare Ra were fully certified in 2012, and put it on label with the 2013 Pinot and 2014 whites.
They also have a few other vineyard sources, including (as of the 2016 vintage) some fruit from the famous Clayvin vineyard. I tried the freshly bottled 2016 Pinot and a barrel sample of the 2017: they are superb.
Te Whare Ra are now being represented in the UK by Les Caves de Pyrene.
Te Whare Ra Rosé 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Pinot Noir. Deep pink colour. Textural and interesting with cherries, strawberries and some herbs. Nice weight in the mouth. 89/100
Te Whare Ra Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
When they bought there was no Sauvignon planted here. A blend of Awatere and Wairau. Concentrated, fresh and subtly herbal with some sweet pear and citrus fruit, as well as a bit of fig richness in the background. Lovely texture and depth, with the green nicely integrated. Has substance. 91/100
Te Whare Ra SV5182 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Home block, certified organic. Cropped at Pinot levels (7 tons ha), 80% fermented in large (600 litre) oak. Very textural with pure citrus fruit, some white peach, and lovely complexity. Fresh and delicate yet it has some richness and depth. Real finesse to this wine. 93/100
Te Whare RaSV 5182 Riesling ‘D’ 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Planted in 1979, so these are oldest vines in Marlborough. ‘At that stage hardly anyone planted on rootstock,’ says Anna Flowerday, ‘but here they did, and this has been our benefit.’ Lovely, linear, dry wine where the acid is really nicely integrated. It’s bone dry but there’s some fresh, with pure citrus fruit and a hint of honey. Lovely, intricate finish. 93/100
Te Whare Ra SV5182 Riesling ‘M’ 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
Planted in 2004. pH 2.85, TA 9 g/l, sugar 27 g/litre, 9.5% alcohol. Lovely fresh style with bright lemony acidity and some delicious rounded mandarin characters. Juicy with just a hint of sweetness. Very stylish. 92/100
Te Whare Ra SV5182 Pinot Gris 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
A third is fermented in large format. This is fresh and precise but with good concentration, showing a hint of cherry and bright citrus, as well as some crisp pear fruit. Nice balance with a hint of phenolic bite. Finishes dry. 90/100
Te Whare Ra SV5182 Toru 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
First made 12 years ago. Biggest selling white wine after the Sauvignon. Aromatic, fruity and textured. Cofermented Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Lovely pear, table grape and lychee fruit buttressed with some citrus character. Very pretty but also has a serious side. Multidimensional and quite delicious. 91/100
Te Whare Ra SV5182 Gewurztraminer 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
The old vines, 1979 planting, 3 tons/hectare. 12 h skin contact. Serious nose of ginger, lychee and green tea. The palate is broad, textural and spicy, with low acidity and nicely integrated phenolic structure. Very satisfying. 93/100
Te Whare Ra SV5182 Chardonnay 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
1979 plantings, Mendoza clone. Highly aromatic with toast and nuts, as well as some bready notes. Nice texture to the boldly flavoured palate. Moved to large format because barriques were drying out the wines. 25% new wood, 600 litres. Thick staves. Lovely integration here with some fruit sweetness, but also a lovely smooth mouthfeel. Rich but very balanced, with fresh citrus on the finish. 93/100
Te Whare Ra Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Half home block, half from a vineyard on hillsides in the Omaka Valley. This has lovely freshness to the sweet cherry and plum fruit. Good structure with nice fine-grained tannins under the supple, slightly savoury, silky red fruit character. This has finesse and balance, and it’s really impressive. 94/100
Te Whare Ra SV5182 Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is a selection of barrels from this site: what expresses the site best. Just 100 cases or so, released later. Blend of all eight clones. Berry sorted so it can be left on skins for longer. This is really beautiful. It’s perfumed and really pure with very fine red cherry fruit, but also definite structure and seriousness in the mouth. The fruit is silky and fine with subtle sappy notes. Tension and balance here with purity and precision. 95/100
Te Whare Ra SV5182 Pinot Noir 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
First bottling of this. Lovely focus to this wine. It has generous red cherry and raspberry fruits with hints of undergrowth and spice. There’s some warmth to the mid palate, and nice texture. Structured yet with some silkiness, it is quite a serious effort with a savoury side. Nice grainy, grippy finish. 94/100
Te Whare Ra SV5096 Clayvin Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Bottled in February. Dark, muscular and brooding but also with real beauty. Black cherries, plums and spice, with good structure and focus. Lots of ripe black fruit but also good structure and intensity, and good acidity. Still very youthful with density to it, but lots of potential. Thrilling wine with massive potential. 96/100
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