Anna and Jason Flowerday are hitting their straps. As winemakers they’re experienced, having both worked for some of the bigger wine corporations in Australia and elsewhere, and since, 2003, they’ve been making wine in one of the world’s most famous wine regions… Marlborough.
Known only, well… mostly, for Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough is New Zealand wine’s powerhouse. It producers 73% of the entire country’s wine, with the limey, mint and full on flavours of the Savvy grape variety accounting for nearly 18,000 ha of this beautiful, cool climate region.
But, Anna and Jason have other ideas. As far as Marlborough whites are concerned, they reckon Chardonnay is the next big thing.
“I think Chardonnay is the only white variety, other than Riesling, that can show regionality extremely well,” says Jason Flowerday. “And, from a Marlborough point of view, it is without a doubt the unsung hero of quality… It’s able to retain all of its flavours with such elegance through its unique acid structure.”
Plantings of Chardonnay pales in comparison to the superstar status of Sav Blanc, and it’s usually to places like Nelson, or further north in Gisborne, where wine lovers minds wander at the thought of decent New Zealand Chardy. But, check your thoughts, dear reader, and tug your mind back to the scene that’s been set. Indeed, Marlborough makes excellent Chardonnay.
“Marlborough Chardonnay is no longer one dimensional,” says Jason. “Winegrowers here are pulling it back, picking it earlier to retain that natural acidity, not belting it with loads of new oak, and it still shows layer upon layer of flavour.”
“I just think that Chardonnay from here has such a lovely and pure fruit profile,” adds Anna, “and there’s a real degree of finesse and fleshiness that, I think, speaks volumes about this place’s potential for growing great and elegant Chardonnay.”
Place is a big thing in wine nowadays, and so it should be. Wine is, after all, an agricultural product that is subject to the very same whims, fancies, and follies of Mother Nature, as with any other farmed product. Achieving a unique sense of place, or provenance in wine is no easy feat, but it would seem as though all the world’s wine marketing departments have finally cottoned on to that elusive notion of terroir and, like they do with most things, have ‘churned’ it, like the proverbial stomach, from an esoteric flight of French fancy, into another measurable, meaningless bean for bean counters to count.
Not so with Jason and Anna. You see they have what Jason likes to call, “skin in the game,” meaning that they do everything. From farming the vineyard, growing the grapes, meeting with the bank, harvesting the grapes, then making them into wine, and then, finally, hopefully, selling the bottles to a market place that needs another wine on its shelf like Marlborough needs more Sauvignon Blanc. And, they’re certified organic as well. Their BioGro certification number appears on the label of all of their new release 2014 wines.
“5182 is our BioGro certification number,” explains Anna, “which is the number associated with our vineyard. We see it as the postcode for our place in Renwick.”
Putting ‘5182’ on their wine labels is like having certified provenance. This number can’t be replicated, with regards to certified organic winegrowing, anywhere else in Marlborough, or New Zealand. It’s wholly and solely unique to Te Whare Ra, and to Anna and Jason.
“You’d be surprised how many questions we’ve had about our organic certification since putting that number on our labels,” says Jason. “It’s opened up people’s perception for what it means to be organic. Most people don’t even know you need to be certified to say you’re organic.”
A certified sense of place and a passion for Chardonnay is helping Anna and Jason to differentiate their wines, and themselves, from the sea of ‘me-too wine’ still flowing from the Marlborough, and, at least, some of the single vineyard spin that’s starting to spill surreptitiously into our wine glasses, both in Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. Passion is a prerequisite in this game, whereas purity and provenance is a distinction.
– 2014, Chardonnay, Te Whare Ra (TWR), Marlborough, Certified Organic.
Anna and Jason Flowerday take winegrowing very seriously. After all, it is their livelihood that depends on it. That’s why all their wines have a certain laser-guided precision about them, which is not to say that they lack soul, but rather, drinking a TWR white wine is like listening to a high fidelity live performance of Daft Punk, circa 2007. 2014 was an outstanding year for the Flowerday’s, and it shows in this vitally brilliant single estate wine. Imagine, sun-lit butter melting on hot river stones while cool glacial waters that smell like white linen flowers, citrus, crunchy nectarine and other stone fruits rush over them at pace, cleansing and cooling the stones, and leaving behind fine mineral traces of residual adrenaline and joy… well, that would be an understatement.
(Tasting note originally published in Guardian Australia, May 28th 2015)
D// – The Wine Idealist
Links and Further Reading
- The House in The Sun – Te Whare Ra (The Wine Idealist)
- Six New Zealand Chardonnay’s (Guardian Australia)
- Chardonnay grape (Wikipedia)
- Chardonnay, Jancis Robinson (YouTube) <— Seriously, watch this. It’s great.
- Keep The Wine Idealist Sustainable