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Te Whare Ra 2013 Whites

By July 18, 2013No Comments
Since Jason and Anna Flowerday took over the Te Whare Ra (TWR) vineyard and winery in Renwick, Marlborough in 2003, they have come to represent the modern face of the young winemakers in the region. They’ve taken ownership of some of the oldest vines, and show due respect for them, realising their irreplaceable resource. In tune with the modern world of environmental concern and sustainability, they have taken the vineyard and winery to BioGro organic status, being certified last year. The Flowerdays have also revitalised the winery, extending it and updating the plant. And they are strong marketers, having added social media to the traditional methods.

34 year old vines at Te Whare Ra

What’s more important is that they are personally involved in every aspect of the winegrowing, making and selling process. It’s more than a lifestyle or livelihood, it’s their lives. Jason and Anna live on the property, the vineyard part of their garden and outlook, and the winery is one of the buildings that are part of home. Their prime focus and attention is in the vineyard, as that’s where it all starts, so tending the wines, canopy management, pruning is all hands-on work for them. They’re keen to look after this work especially, rather than hire a vineyard crew in to take over, as the vineyard and its yield determines what sort of a living they can experience the following year. Then it’s the winemaking, the 11 ha of vineyard, plus a little fruit from outside providing just over 100 tonnes of grapes annually. That is a manageable amount that the two of them can oversee every detail.

Marketing and Selling
It is said that growing the grapes and making the wine is only half the job. The other half is marketing and selling it. In this field too, Jason and Anna are fully involved right to the end consumer. When I called in to visit, both Jason and Anna were in a conversation with their label designer discussing the finer points of the next stage of their labelling. As with most aspects of the business, it too is a ‘work in progress’. The new look is only a slight departure from the previous, with the addition of a neck badge carrying the vintage, which has been planned for since 2008. But it all counts and is another step towards their perfect label. We ended up in a serious dialogue about how much personal contact they should have with the ‘gatekeepers’ of the industry – the key buyers, sommeliers and shopkeepers, as well as the drinking public. Here, they deem it essential to take a very active part in this, even though they have a more than excellent relationship with their distributors, both local and international. Anna takes a greater role in this area, and is away from home and family regularly, visiting the markets, primarily to keep in contact, rather than pushing sales. She’s also the very active one on Twitter and Facebook. In a way, they’re not leaving anything to chance!

It’s this total commitment that is truly impressive about the Flowerdays, and it is wonderful to see the new younger wave of winegrowers and winemakers adopt this approach. I can only see Te Whare Ra go from strength to strength.

Anna and Jason Flowerday – TWR
with bottles sporting mock-up new labels

The TWR Wine Style
Jason and Anna Flowerday have taken the TWR wines to another level from the early days. The vintages under the Hogans and the Smiths demonstrated the quality of the growing district, the site, and the detailed viticulture and winemaking. The Flowerdays’ previous experience in the wine industry, and Anna’s involvement in wine judging, have given them the perspectives to refine the wines to ensure they stand firmly among the styles that are being recognised world-wide as ‘fine’. The wines are tighter and more focussed, with beautiful fruit purity and expression, and have subtle complexities and textures that endow them with balance, finesse and elegance, these being attributes that will enable them to age well. They, like their makers, are modern and stylish, but very serious.

Tasting the TWR White Wines
Sue and I were taken through a range of tank and barrel samples of 2013 vintage white wines by Anna and Jason. I suspect we were to taste some Pinot Noirs as well, but there was so much to discuss, that our time ran out when we got to the Chardonnay barrels! Here are my impressions of the wines tasted.

Starting things off was the Sauvignon Blanc 2013, a blend of 79% Awatere fruit and 21% from the ‘Home’ block, with 6% fermented in large oak. This is tightly concentrated and very fine-textured, yet has real depth. Flavours of citrus fruits and florals with ripe acidity the feature. No searing bite at all, and a delight. Next, the ‘D’ Dry Riesling 2013 with 4 g/L rs, fruit from the old block. Very attractive lime and lemon zest aromas and flavours, zesty finesse and pristine acidity. This is sensational. Followed by the ‘M’ Medium Riesling 2013, around 32 g/l rs, different clones to the ‘D’ and planted in 2004/2005. A little shyer on nose, but attractively luscious and subtly rich with gentle flavours of florals, mandarins and a touch of honey. Then onto the Pinot Gris 2013, dry at 4.5 g/L rs, classical white stonefruits and minerals, tightly bound with linearity and fine textural qualities, ostensibly from the 30% barrel ferment. This saw no MLF to preserve the tension, and it has. The last of the aromatics was the Gewurztraminer 2013, 14.0% alc. and 30 g/L rs, possessing subtle layers of ethereal musk and exotic florals. On palate remarkably refined with focus and drive and beautiful cut. Then hints of ginger and spice. The old vines have given this a great presence without any coarseness.

Jason drawing a 2013 Chardonnay sample
from one of four 600 L barrels

Jason Flowerday asserts that his “winemaker influence is in the vineyard”, and that is where quality originates, but he doesn’t deny that there are other influences. While both Jason and Anna are “Riesling fanatics” Chardonnay is a particular focus for Jason, and the impact of oak is considerable, as it takes the wine to another place. He has found favour with large format barrels to soften the influence, and has housed his 2013 Chardonnay in four 600 L barrels, of which two are new. The 30+ y.o. Mendoza clone fruit seems at home in them. That’s all there is of it, only 260 cases for the world. Taking us through the four barrels, the first was tight, citrussy and mineral, quite dry in texture and taste, marked by oak spice. A new barrel. The second, also new wood, softer, smoky and toasty, mealy and nutty, with a fine, zesty citrus fruit underlay. Onto the second-fill barrels, the first of which was soft and chalky with sweet stonefruit flavours and luscious acidity. The final barrel, also second fill, delicate and restrained, but with a lovely creaminess. I resisted the urge to ask if I could blend a sample of all four, as that’s what the finished wine will approximate. With MLF to be completed in three of them, there’s some settling to happen, but it I could see the complexity that would be in the finished wine.

Likewise with Jason and Anna, all the components for great Marlborough wine are clear to see, and it’s all coming together wonderfully. www.twrwines.co.nz

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