Featured Winery - Te Whare Ra (TWR)
I've been stocking TWR Pinot Noir for a couple of years and it has become a firm favourite of many Pinot Noir aficionados with customer reviews like this "OMG! Superb, beautifully subtle" and 96 points from Decanter magazine, not forgetting its 92 Parker Points. And only a few months ago I managed to find some of their rare TWR Marlborough Syrah which is Northern Rhône in style and delicious. So when someone asked me to source some of TWR's white wines, I did not hesitate to investigate.
As luck would have it Anna Flowerday of TWR was in London just after that request and so I was able to catch up with her and try all TWR's wines without having to go to Marlborough, New Zealand (much as I would have liked to!). Here's me with the lovely Anna on the right. All (good) winemakers tend to talk enthusiastically about their wines but I was struck by Anna's clear passion when she talked in detail about the vineyards and the whole wine-making process for the TWR wines.
New Wines With Attitude
It was no surprise that the TWR white wines are of the same high quality and as delicious as the reds and so I have added four of them to the portfolio:
TWR Pinot Gris - a very subtle and silky Pinot Gris
TWR Toru - a blend of three white grapes & a wine that Anna and husband Jason made "because we like drinking it"
TWR Riesling D - D means dry in case you are wondering
TWR Sauvignon Blanc - "a New Zealand Sauvignon for people who think they don't like New Zealand Sauvignon"
But more of the wines later. Firstly more about Anna and TWR...
TWR - small, family-owned with minimal intervention & organic wines
Te Whare Ra pronounced Tea Far-ee Ra, is Maori for 'House in the Sun' and it is said to be " the oldest small winery in Marlborough". It has been owned by Anna and her husband Jason since 2003 and it is based in the Renwick sub-region of Marlborough. Anna is from Australia and Jason is a local from Marlborough; after experience in the Australian wine industry they selected Te Whare Ra as the ideal place to produce their own organic wines. It obviously worked as they were named New Zealand 'Winery of the Year' in 2014 by New Zealand wine guru, Raymond Chan who wrote
"I’ve come across very few winegrowers and winemakers who give so much thought to every aspect of the vineyard, winery, winemaking, how their wines show in stylistic and quality terms, and how the wines are presented in the marketplace, as Jason and Anna. This reflects their passion, enthusiasm, extremely high standards, hard work and attention to detail in creating and crafting wines that reflect their vineyard and region, and their guiding the wines sensitively so that they are expressed with great finesse."
The TWR vineyard & winery is quite small, 11 hectares (c. 27 acres) and has some of the oldest vines in Marlborough planted there, seven varieties in total. It is certified organic with both organic and biodynamic practices being used throughout the vineyards. For the TWR Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Pinot Noir TWR grapes were supplemented by grapes from other Marlborough vineyards which if not yet organically certified, use the same practices as TWR.
Note that the single vineyard wines come in the tall, long-necked Alsace-style bottles with the "Single Vineyard 5182" on the label, 5182 being the vineyard number designated by BioGro New Zealand. Environmental sustainability is at the heart of the TWR approach showing respect for and with the environment produces the best wines in the Flowerday's view. Biodiversity is considered crucial to keep the vineyards healthy, for example buckwheat is planted between the vines to help keep pests away from the vines and grapes. All TWR grapes are hand-picked and hand-sorted.
Yields are kept low and the wines are made with minimal intervention as the aim is to make wines that best express their origins. Don't think this means they don't pay much attention to the wines; on the contrary there is great attention to detail, whether it's the specially-selected Rhône yeasts used for some of the Syrah, the use of different coopers for the barrels to have the right type of oak influence for the red wines or the berry selection to ensure the best grapes for all the wines. By the way, TWR prefer not to fine their wines where possible; this means that their white wines and their Pinot Noir are all suitable for vegans and vegetarians (only the Syrah has had animal-based products used in the fining process). Read more about vegan wines in my blog.
The TWR wine style
It is not the TWR intention to follow the Marlborough crowd producing commercial-style wines. TWR wines are more about finesse and elegance with subtle richness, complexity and texture coming from their old vines and from lees contact rather than easy-to-drink wines that are full of ripe, tropical fruit flavours. These are wines consistently of great quality and balance.
So back to the specific wines.
The TWR wines
TWR Toru - a blend of three white grapes, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris that grow together in a single vineyard - Toru means three in Maori. This is a wine that Anna and husband Jason made "because we like drinking it". I really thought I was going to dislike it as the main grape, Gewürztraminer, can be over-powering but quite the opposite, I love it. It is light and very drinkable either on its own or with spicy food. At TWR three o'clock on Friday afternoon is now designated 'Toru time'.
TWR Pinot Gris - If you are not a fan of Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, this wine could well change your mind about the maligned grape & its wines. It is an Alsace style single vineyard Pinot Gris - more stone fruits, pear and minerality than tropical fruits, really elegant, silky and subtle.
TWR Riesling 'D' - From the oldest Riesling vines in Marlborough and from an exceptional vintage this is a really great dry Riesling, elegant and refined like the best Alsace Rieslings. If you think you don't like Riesling try this wine! It is very refined - lime, pear, white flowers and subtle minerality. D for dry and for delicious.
TWR Sauvignon Blanc - Anna described this to me as "a New Zealand Sauvignon for people who think they don't like New Zealand Sauvignon" and I can see why. As with all the TWR wines, the Sauvignon Blanc is concentrated but refined, fresh and subtle with gooseberry, elderflower and herbs.
TWR Pinot Noir - more Burgundian in style than most other New Zealand Pinot Noir this is a seriously refined wine with a silky smooth texture. A customer described it as "OMG! Superb, beautifully subtle" and it was awarded 96 points by Decanter magazine.
TWR Syrah - It's quite rare to find Syrah from Marlborough New Zealand but TWR has a very suitable vineyard and with its usual care & attention produces this Syrah more in the Northern Rhône Syrah style than the brash Australian Shiraz style. Savoury, pepper and dark berry aromas & flavours with soft tannins.
You can try all these wines in the TWR mixed cases - or select choice of TWR wines in a mixed case of your own.
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