Featured Reviews

Dry River Martinborough 2017 Chardonnay, ‘The Twelve Spies’, 2015 Syrah and 2018 Botrytis Gewurztraminer

07 December,2018

It has been very comforting to know that the icon Dry River winery in Martinborough has been making advances since Wilco Lam took over the stewardship. It is from the 2013 vintage that Wilco has overseen the complete production from vine to bottle. Since that time, Wilco and the Martinborough vignoble has experience considerable vintage variations, challenging the growing and making of wine in the more difficult years, but yielding magnificent wines in the benevolent seasons. In my tastings of the wines, mainly at the mail order releases over the past year, I have been very impressed with the detail, care and thought that Wilco has taken into in making the wines and indeed adding to their sophistication and quality.

Here, I review four new releases: the 2017 Chardonnay which incorporates a little more solids and lees work to build up the textures; and a new 2017 ‘The Twelve Spies’ red blend of Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Syrah with a touch of Viognier. This wine includes new drought-tolerant Pinot Noir propagated material taken from estate cuttings, investigating the role of Tempranillo in blending and the use of the strongly expressed Syrah variety. The name comes from the original Dry River image used by founder Neil McCallum referring to ‘The Twelve Spies of Canaan’, "a biblical story of perseverance and conquest against the odds”. Also there are two wines from the ‘Lovat’ vineyard, the 2015 Syrah, from an excellent vintage, and a 2018 Botrytis Bunch Selection Gewurztraminer with fully botrytised fruit, the previous releases of this style in 2011, 2009 and 2004. www.dryriver.co.nz


Dry River Martinborough Chardonnay 2017

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Bright, pale golden-yellow colour with some depth, lighter on the rim. The nose is very elegant in expression and very refined with tightly bound, subtly layered aromas of white stonefruits, notes of creamy barrel-ferment and nutty lees and oak. This is very finely detailed, unfolding some complexing mineral suggestions and a hint of toast. The aromatics intensify considerably with aeration. Medium-bodied, the palate has an elegantly concentrated core of white stonefruits harmoniously entwined complex nutty lees and oak notes, and hints of creamy barrel-ferment. The fruit depth grows in intensity and is underlined by very fine phenolic textures with fresh, lacy acidity. The fruit richness and detail grows as the wine carries to a very long, textured, dry finish. This is a very elegant, complex detailed Chardonnay that grows in intensity of white stonefruits, nutty lees and oak on a refined, textured palate with length. Serve with seafood, poultry and pork over the next 4+ years. Mendoza clone fruit from the ‘Dry River’ and ‘Craighall’ vineyards, vines 30 y.o. on average, fully barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts to 13.0% alc., with full solids, the wine aged 11 months in 15% new oak with some batonnage, avoiding MLF, then given a further 3 months in tank on light lees. 18.5+/20 Dec 2018 RRP $65.00

Dry River ‘The Twelve Spies’ Martinborough 2017

Blended Red from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Even, dark ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is fragrant with well-concentrated and softly harmonious, integrated aromas of dark-red and black cherry fruit melded with dark herbs, a little earthy detail and subtle notes of spice, revealing nuances of violet florals. Medium-bodied, the palate is fresh and gently vibrant with flavours of dark-red cherry and berry fruit, layered with notes of raspberries and hints of plum, with dark herbs and subtle, savoury earthy elements. The fruit unfolds a delicate red floral lift, adding to the palate vitality. The fruit forms an elegantly concentrated heart, supported by fine, grainy tannin structure and grip, with balanced lacy acidity. The wine carries to an elegant finish. This is a gently vibrant Pinot Noir-based blend with detailed dark red and black cherried fruit along with raspberry, herb and earthy interest on a fine-grained, tight finish. Match with wild duck and pork, beef and lamb over the next 4-5 years. A blend of 50% Pinot Noir, new propagated material, with some fruit from ‘Craighall’, 25% Tempranillo and 25% co-fermented Syrah and Viognier, the latter approx. 2%, indigenous yeast fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 12 months in oak, 20% new for Pinot Noir and Syrah, all seasoned for the Tempranillo. 18.0-/20 Dec 2018 RRP $65.00

Dry River ‘Lovat’ Martinborough Syrah 2015

Syrah from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Very deep, dark ruby-red colour with black hues at the heart, a little lighter on the edge. The bouquet is elegantly presented, but well-packed with deep and dense aromas of ripe, black-berried fruits entwined with savoury dark plums and a layer of dark herbs melded with complexing earthy elements. Medium-bodied, the palate is densely packed with a fulsome, but rounded heart of ripe black-berried fruit and savoury black plums interwoven with subtle notes of dark herbs and earth. The palate has strong presence and weight and is underlined by very fine-grained powdery tannin extraction. The acidity is soft, adding to the roundness and density. The palate unfolds spice and violet florals as it carries to an elegant, dry finish. This is a densely-packed, black berry-fruited and savoury plum flavoured Syrah with herb and earthy complexities on a very fine-grained palate with plenty of structure, revealing spice and florals on the finish. Serve with casseroles and slow-cooked game meats, or semi-hard cheeses over the next 7-9+ years. MS clone fruit from the ‘Lovat’ vineyard, fully destemmed and fermented to 12.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 20% new oak hogsheads, then a further 6 months in seasoned barrels. 18.5/20 Dec 2018 RRP $75.00

Dry River ‘Lovat’ Martinborough Gewurztraminer Botrytis Bunch Selection 2018

Sweet Wine from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Full, deep, golden-yellow colour with some orange tints and depth, and a little lighter on the edge. The nose is full, soft and voluminous with gently layered aromas of opulently ripe tropical fruit harmoniously melded with ripe stonefruits, Turkish Delight along with rose-petals, honey and nectar with musky botrytis. The decadence of the aromatics and stylishness are the feature. Very sweet to taste and light-medium bodied, the palate possesses an elegant core of opulent and succulent exotic tropical fruits, honey and nectar, melded with Turkish Delight, rose-petals and musky botrytis. The flavours flow smoothly and seamlessly with some underlying power and drive, with soft acidity leading to an elegant, gently exotic-nuanced finish. This is a beautifully elegant, but decadent, botrytised sweet Gewurztraminer with tropical fruit, Turkish Delight, honey and musk on a seamlessly smooth palate with a lingering finish. the next 5 years. 100% fully botrytised fruit from the ‘Lovat’ vineyard, indigenous yeast fermented in stainless-steel to 11.0% alc. and 160 g/L RS. 19.5-/20 Dec 2018 RRP $70.00

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