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Dry River Autumn Release 2013

By March 15, 2013No Comments
This release marked the first presentation totally by the new crew for me, general manager Ant Mackenzie, winemaker Wilco Lam and viticulturist Robert Wills. In essence, there’s very little difference from earlier new releases tastings with Neil McCallum, Poppy and Shayne Hammond, who have moved to new ventures. Their legacy is in the continuance of the styles and quality of the wines that are produced. I had a good discussion of the 2012 vintage conditions with Robert, who picked up the tail end of the growing season and how they had influenced the expression of the new release white wines, and also a little on the impending 2013 harvest. Though the Dry River vineyards he now tends are much smaller than those in the Strathbogie Ranges in Victoria, Australia, he is relishing the ability to walk among the vines and apply greater viticultural effort into the plants. There’s more work, but the results are more rewarding.

It was very pleasing to see the interaction between the team members and how they respected each other’s areas of expertise. I’ve known both Ant Mackenzie and Wilco Lam for a number of years and enjoy their ideals for making the best possible wine as well as their sense of humour, and it will be interesting how they, and Robert will add their own touches to the wines that Dry River make, very much as Poppy Hammond did during her tenure there. I suspect there will be very little difference, especially at first, as why change what’s not wrong? But over the long-term, as they strive for improvement, they’ll incorporate new methods and findings, and add from their own experiences. Subtle changes are inevitable, as they would occur no matter who is at the helm. www.dryriver.co.nz

The Dry River Crew – Ant Mackenzie, Robert Wills and Wilco Lam

Tasting the Autumn Releases
The Dry River tastings are always an excellent opportunity of looking at the wines, as they can run out very quickly. I’ll be able to review them properly soon, but this preview gave me some good initial impressions.

Starting with the Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011, the wine tasted here confirmed my thoughts when I tasted it at the end of December last year (click here to see my notes). It is indeed a superb wine, well-worthy of its 5-star rating I gave it then. Very dark ruby-red, the nose is intensely and densely packed with excellent aromatics featuring primary dark red berry fruits with dark herb interest. Sweet fruit flavours of dark berries, especially dark raspberries mark the palate, and the wine is an extremely approachable one. This is a succulently fruited and supple wine that has fine structure backing it up to keep well, in the typical modern Dry River style.

Ant expressed his opinion that the Pinot Gris showed a tightening up over previous releases and that it might be more reticent than usual. I don’t think he needed to be concerned. The Dry River Martinborough Pinot Gris 2012 is an outstanding release in classic Dry River fashion. Youthfully straw-green, the fruit shows a lovely purity with near-exotic spiced pear and floral aromas, almost Gewurztraminer-like, the aromas showing real density. Off-dry, the unctuous and oily textures show the degree of concentration that only top-flight examples show. The fruit is rich and luscious, and the mouthfeel is smooth and slippery. Opulence, aromatic density, perfume and detail – it’s all there. If it is tighter than usual, then it’s going to mature into something glorious. The wine carries 13.5% alc. and 15 g/L rs, which in numbers, supports Ant’s impression.

If anything, I felt the Dry River ‘Lovat Vineyard’ Martinborough Gewurztraminer 2012 to be a little more subdued and tighter than normal. I’m sure it’s a function of the extended ripening of the vintage Yet the figures are up there showing the ripeness gained in the vineyard with 14.5% alc. and 25 g/L rs. Brilliant in colour with a straw-green hue, fine and penetrating rose-petal florals show with real finesse. It’s off-dry, very fine-grained and certainly bound with concentration. The linear drive of the wine for its elegance is the hallmark of this wine. I think alcoholic power works well with Gewurztraminer, and here it is a positive, as there is lovely acidity present for the required cut. This should develop well.

Even more taut and youthful was the Dry River ‘’Craighall Vineyard’ Martinborough Late Harvest Riesling 2012. Only 10.5% alc., it carries 65 g/L rs, with a TA of around 10 g/L and a pH of 2.9, so this fits right in the ageworthy Kabinett model of Germany, maybe Nahe or Rheingau, rather than Mosel. Youthful again with pale colours and even green hues, this has excellent Riesling varietal purity with limes and hints of herbs, quite sherbetty on nose. Wilco tells me the fruit had approximately 15% botrytis infection, yet the Riesling aromas win through. I suspect the degree of botrytis character in the wine depends considerably on how far the mould has taken hold and how intact the skins are. Medium in sweetness, linear and finely driven lime fruit flows through the palate, driven by the acidity. The tightness is accentuated by the acidity and the low pH is evident. This will age well and no doubt with real interest.

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