The real Roses of the Wairau

Here’s one of Marlborough’s oldest wineries, Wairau River, back in my limelight, no longer a little ripple, now making waves. What’s the story then with the winery and vineyard established in 1978 by Phil and Chris Rose, true pioneers of the region and one of the very few pioneering wine companies still firmly in family hands?

Is it because all their five children are working in the family business? Possibly.

Is it because third-born Hamish is in charge of viticulture and fourth-born Sam has taken over the winemaking reins? Most probably.

Or is it the new marketing manager who decided I should receive some samples. Tasting wine at home with food is the best way to appreciate wine. Thanks Dave!

Last year I was besotted with the Wairau River’s hauntingly aromatic Albarino from the 2015 vintage. Tasted in October it was just in time for my November Urban and Country column. Wairau River Marlborough Albarino 2015 ($25) had all those lovely fermentation grape esters with lemon balm, apple zest and hints of musk and while it seemed quite savoury with an edgy malic freshness on first tasting it hatched out of its chrysalis phase bring to life a touch of butterscotch, baked apple and a zesty zing of spice. An amazing match to asparagus back in the spring.

Wairau River Viognier 2015Now it is the headilicious Viognier that’s making me quiver.

Wairau River Reserve Marlborough Viognier 2015 ($30) is light gold with a glimmery citrine glow. The bouquet is soft and heady — classically apricot – pure apricot – with a layer of flower nectar and the scent of freshly picked Golden Queen peach adding to the aromatic allure. Is there oak in here ‘cos I get a hint of vanilla and a bready nuance too. What do the notes say? Ah stainless steel fermented with 10 per cent matured in seasoned French oak.

It’s smooth flowing in the palate where bright fruit is honed in by an earthy spicy character – not earthy earthy however – let’s call it a spicy savouriness. I do get an intense apricot stone character too — sucking on an apricot stone. It’s apricot. It’s peach. It ebbs and flows. It’s exciting wine with body and soul.

I like viognier with salmon – usually – but not the way I cooked mine with Asian flavours of ginger and lime. So I cooked up a simple favourite – chicken and apricots – a much better match.

I love the Wairau River Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2015 ($30) too. Ah, the sweet smell of Chardonnay – like freshly baked buns – like pineapple cake – what about Chelsea buns with pineapple citrus icing – yes – together with savoury mealy nuances and a sweet smoky allure. In the mouth it’s initially zesty with a youthful vibrancy becoming full-bodied and creamy with a mouthfilling yeasty savoury complexity and a masterfully long finish where a fantastic combo of juicy tropical fruit and peach lingers tantalisingly. This was just fabulous with the food I cooked the night I opened it – a hot pot of chicken, bacon, potato and leek.

Yes, the Roses have come a long long way since those contract grape growing muller thurgau days.

There’s a video on YouTube from the Thirsty Work TV program worth watching ’cos they tell the story better than anyone else can and you can swoon over the food and the wines they are imbibing on. But there are some great new releases since that program was made. Check out from they’ve got on offer at www.wairauriverwines.com. Sadly it seems they are out of Albarino until the 2016 vintage comes along.


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