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Te Whare Ra – Totally Dedicated in the House of the Sun

By July 12, 2011No Comments

With many years making wine, Jason and Anna Flowerday can see the bigger industry picture. They have seen from experience that to succeed, they must do what they know best, and that is to make quality wine. The GFC has put the pressure on wine producers to think short-term and ‘dumb down’, but the Flowerdays’ intent is in the other direction, to make even better wine, and raise their standards and quality. That’s what the plan was when they took over the pioneering Marlborough boutique winery Te Whare Ra (the House of the Sun), in 2003, and the plan remains in place today.

Acquiring the business meant taking ownership of some of the oldest vines in the region, the vines being grafted and thus immune to phylloxera. They knew this was the basis for outstanding quality, which their dedicated purpose could realise. The TWR wines show a concentration, richness or texture that can be attributed to vine age, the original Gewurztraminer and Riesling plants now over 30 years old. TWR’s wines come from their Renwick 14 ha site, of which 10 ha are planted to vine. Of this, 6 ha comprises the material established in 1979. The estate fruit is supplemented by Sauvignon Blanc from the Awatere Valley, as the Renwick site never had this variety in the mix.

Jason and Anna took us through a tasting of most of the range currently available, as well as a sneak preview of the 2011 Rieslings. The yet-to-be bottled ‘D’ Riesling 2011 is beautifully tangy with its acidity and dryness, while the sweeter ‘M’ Riesling 2011 displayed engaging jasmine florals. The ‘M’ Riesling 2010 showed where the new vintage wine will head, the current wine lush and fine in the German Moselle mould. The Pinot Gris 2010 possessed excellent fruit definition and weight, with a surprisingly dry, fine-textured finish. The style and quality of this wine would (or should) be a model for many other producers of this variety. What can one say about the Gewurztraminer 2010. A classic for New Zealand, with so much depth and concentration, and exhilarating exotic perfumes, yet the wine is in no way blowsy or lacking a sense of stylishness.

While the aromatic wines are the stars for TWR, the others in the range are just as good. I loved their take on combining the elegant citrus fruit expression of Chardonnay with considerable oaking, without the latter component taking centre stage. The length of finish of the Chardonnay 2010 is startling. The new Pinot Noir 2010 is seriously pretty, so much that it is a serious wine. Vibrant red florals and deep red berry flavours with the most supple, and fine textured palate, the oak in perfect support.

Anna, her family based in the McLaren Vale, and Jason working there, developed a love of Shiraz, and planted the variety in their Renwick vineyard in 2004. Dedicated viticulture and Pinot Noir influenced handling has produced a wine that really is a continuation of Pinot Noir into the darker, deeper, spicier spectrum, very much as Burgundy just connects and continues into the Rhone Valley. The Syrah 2009 is the Flowerdays’ extrovert Pinot Noir and shows little trace of the negative cool-climate characters that can dog New Zealand expressions. It joins a growing group of successful South Island examples of the Syrah variety.

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