Issue: 12 / Sunday 11 February, 2018
A little weekly catch-up: As we set out in our opening Weekend Reading of the year – Our primary focus being sourcing exceptional parcels of wine and working with new producers on an exclusive basis, this has kept us incredibly busy. Of course, it takes time to find the right producers and communications before exclusivities are confirmed can take many months. This week we received the samples from, who Stu believes is the most talented winemaker in the Margaret River, Julian Langworthy. Julian is the winemaker at one of Margaret River’s hottest properties, Deep Woods, who we have been working with for two years. Julian’s achievement at Deep Woods is compelling with 15 trophies, in excess of 50 gold medals in his first four vintages and culminating in the 2016 Jimmy Watson trophy, the highest honour for any Aussie producer.
Julian and his wife, Alana are producing their own wine under their own label, which is a serious new venture producing single-vineyard wines from exceptional sites in Margaret River. They are smart, ambitious and acutely sensitive to the best fruit sources in the region – including their pride and joy, the newly acquired Sheoak Vineyard with its beautifully mature Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Stu believes their label will be one of the most sort-after producers hence our mad dash to gain their UK exclusivity, which we have completed. We sampled their 2017 Nebbiolo Rosé on Thursday and we can confidently declare this is comfortably the best Rosé we have ever sampled. We are allowing the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to settle for a few days before diving in early next week. We will be taking stock of all three wines however, patience is required as these will not be arriving until July. We will communicate beforehand as we expect these wines to sell-out on allocation. The full unveiling will be coming soon.
Julian’s work at Deep Woods continues and our latest shipment will be leaving Freemantle later this month. 6-8 weeks at sea and then we can all enjoy the glory of Deep Woods new vintages including their very impressive 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, which has won seven gold medals (a clean sweep of all Aussie competitions) and received 97 points from Halliday.
We are also communicating directly with Yarra Yering with the hope to bring their 99 Point 2015 Dry Red No:1 to the UK shores for the very first time. Our purchase list is substantial and YYs willingness to work with The Vinorium is infectious however, they have a staggered release programme, whereby cellar door has the latest vintage, domestic sales the second most recent, and so on. For export they like to mature their wines for at least 5 years before release, which of course we have challenged as we are after a raft of 2015s. Stu has also seen a little stash of their 2013 Blanc de Noir which we are keen to get our hands on. We will keep you updated.
We are also working on a collaborative winemaking project with four of the Barossa giants - Kaesler Wines, Seppeltsfield Winery, Torbreck Vintners and Two Hands Wines. Each producer offers one tonne of their finest Shiraz grapes each year to create a unique cuvée named Concordis. 2017 is Kaesler’s turn to blend and make the cuvée, which will be released on an En-Primeur basis and only available ‘en-magnum’.
Stu is also off on a buying trip to the Napa Valley and Sonoma during May – He is looking to work with several ‘top’ producers on an exclusive basis, which will add considerable depth to our ever growing USA portfolio. A full report will be released following his trip...
Finally, to a project we have been working on for a wee-while, the stunning wines from Dry River. Our relationship is closer to home than many may think as a producer we hold to dear to our hearts, Don & Valerie of Devotus is Dry Rivers direct neighbour. Magda has spent time communicating with their chief winemaker Wilco Lam to produce the perfect introduction to their stunning wines, winemaking philosophies and relationship with Don & Valerie. Our aim is to work with Dry River annually however, we have collated a wonderful collection of mature vintages which is the perfect showcase.
A word of warning regarding their 2013 Pinot Noir – It has received 99 points from New Zealand’s No: 1 critic, Bob Campbell MW who describes it as being “Ripe, dense and fairly deep-coloured Pinot Noir with dark-fleshed plum, dark cherry, violet and liquorice flavours plus a hint of rhubarb on the aroma. Clearly a very complex wine that won’t reveal its full potential for a few years yet. I particularly like the wine’s silken texture and almost chewy body. It must surely rate as one of Dry River’s best ever Pinot Noir vintages”. We expect this one to sell-out very quickly...
A Q&A with chief winemaker
Wilco Lam of Dry River
Dry River is known for being the pioneering winery of Martinborough and New Zealand as a whole. Being a boutique, low-crop winery, not everyone has the opportunity to taste or own your wines… What sets Dry River apart from other wines produced in New Zealand?
Fundamentally I believe there are two ways that sets Dry River apart:
Market: From establishment, Neil, our founder and previous owner, had a very clear objective of producing a certain style of wine that would not cater to regular commercial industry channels. To be honest, in the early 80’s these had not yet been properly established in New Zealand, so perhaps a bit of foresight from Neil. However, his model was always to grow a specific/unique style of wine, which would suit only a select segment of the market: private clients, fine wine retail and on-premise. Initially with only a few producers in the market, this was not very difficult to achieve. With more producers entering, the pressure to do so grew. Others saw these opportunities for growth, but for Neil this would mean relinquishing a certain control and diluting his objective, and wine style. He was very focussed on producing wines suitable for cellaring, and by achieving this his way. We therefore have always had, and maintain, a very large following through private clients and relative low amounts of domestic distribution and export.
Wine Growing: In the vineyard this meant a very specific rootstock and clonal material were chosen. Since we are avid believers in dry farming, we require a vigorous and drought tolerant rootstock. These were only sparingly available, which automatically resulted in small amounts of plantings that could be established. All other rootstocks in NZ, and still to this day, are non-vigorous, drought intolerant rootstocks which require irrigation. We believe this negatively impacts wine typicity and expression of terroir. The clonal and rootstock material we use, still to this day since we mass select from our own vineyard for any replanting, are now not widely used anymore. The industry has opted for more familiar and widely used clonal and rootstock material. Another vineyard technique we use is utilising the high UV-B radiation in NZ to ripen our wine. We expose our fruit from a very early stage (at fruit set) to direct sunlight through leaf removal. This helps to thicken the skins and increase phenolic compounds. This inherently also has an impact on fruit aromatic composition. In short, we farm for a high “bank account” of skin phenolics, which are helpful to protect the wine against oxidative effects.
What is the main ethos of Dry River and how has it develop over the years?
Attention to detail and no compromise. Dry River produces approximately 2500
cases annually, of which Pinot Noir is the most important with 900 cases. This is a small production of 11,5 ha of vineyards. In order to produce consistently every year at a certain level, and to remain economically viable, a second tier label is not an option. Hence we have meticulous vineyard management, with highly trained and skilled staff, who are involved in every process of the wine production here. This makes them complicit in the quality control and will therefore take responsibility for this too. I would like to believe that the company working ethos has grown into “making the extra step”.
There are many references from Dr Neil McCallum calling Dry River ‘cold’ rather than ‘cool’ climate wines. Can you elaborate, as ‘cold’ could be perceived as detrimental?
Haha, yes, Neil was always keen to make a point. Personally I would agree with you on the ‘cool’ climate we grow wine in. However, for Neil, extremes are possibilities to set oneself apart. This can then be utilised to quantify certain techniques, like the high fruit exposure, utilising UV-B light to ripen wine, etc. “Cold” could further exemplify the challenge wine producers overcome in order to produce their wines. Sorry, I hope I don’t make it sound too negative. I think now that NZ is slowly becoming an established wine producing country with a heightened profile and challenging wines, we can safely refer to cool climate. Even that these days can be disputed.
Your wines are famous for their ability to age. We hold Dry River Syrah and Pinot Noir dating back to the 2005 vintage and Riesling dating back to 2009. In your view, how are they developing and what is your view on them reaching their drinking apogee?
I think the biggest challenge when producing wines with cellaring potential is obviously that all components require to be present proportionally. For us this means fruit, tannins/phenolics and acidity. Alcohol and sugar are certainly not to be ignored, but less fundamental. We also believe that fruit tannins should be transparent, like a see-through mirror, but that a degree of embellishment via either oak or whole bunch component are beneficial for certain wines. I think that over time Dry River is refining and evolving this viewpoint, since we now start to see the effect of vintage variation on cellared wines. This mostly is impacted by timing of picking and extraction levels in the winery, which we now adjust accordingly. We still like to believe that drinkability of our wines is achieved after five to seven years, sometimes longer, and that peak pleasure is achieved after 10-15 years. Time will tell if our evolution can fulfil this desire.
The elephant in the room that without a doubt impacts this will be discussed next.
Are you considered an outcast in New Zealand for using natural cork? Why is this your preference over screw cap?
We are an outcast in NZ with natural cork. We think this is a beautiful closure. Riddled with tradition it deserves a lot of respect. A stelvin closure can neither provide this romance nor compete with the low carbon footprint. I consider Dry River a conservative producer, we don’t follow trends easily, and therefore we will not easily change over to a different closure. However, natural cork has its fallacies, I am very aware of that. Especially in NZ, where traditionally quality cork supply is poor. The industry has itself to blame for that, they wanted to have a cheap closure, and not many were diligent on the quality of the product. However, even with strict quality control procedures and higher end corks, we have experienced bad closures. Given all this, I am from a different generation, and would be very open to use Stelvin closures. I would feel a lot better about our wines knowing the wine has a very low chance of failure. However, the evolution of the wine is a different game… too easy with a perfect seal. And most of all, I would have to change the shape of the bottle. In the end, it’s all about the looks!
You are neighbours with our exclusivity, Devotus Wines. Tell us about your relationship with Don & Valerie? We also understand that Dry River assisted Devotus with their 2017 vintage? What do you aim to add to the mix?
When Don and Valerie came back to NZ to move into their vineyard next door, a new approach to vineyard management came with them: farming. For long, including myself, viticulture as just that: growing grapes. However, besides engineering, Don has an extensive farming background through his family. They are very proud farmers, and appreciate working the soil very traditionally and judiciously. I thought this was so beautiful. Don’s passion for farming, farming wine, invigorated us to make the hard needed changes in our management.
For long it was my ambition to produce organically/biodynamically, and Don gave very clear insights how to achieve this by farming. Other than that, we both have young families, both two boys, and share many other similar interests. My role is little, I walk the vineyard with Don and provide my viewpoint and sometimes some guidance. By the time the wine hits the winery, the most important work is done. I think Don is happy for us to shepherd his wine in a safe and well cared for environment where he is welcome to be part of it and learn. We have been more involved since the 2017-18 growing season, and will have their wine in our winery for the first time. Don is in the far stages of completing his own winery. I understand it is his long term vision to have control over the maturation stage too, but that he feels uncomfortable with it at this stage. Hence our involvement at the moment.
How do you see New Zealand and Martinborough specifically developing over the coming years? Are they heading in the right direction?
I hope so, the mentality is there, as long as large (corporate) investment will not swallow up the industry. I have concerns about the industry turning Pinot Noir into the next commodity wine after Sauvignon Blanc. Obviously SB has been a high impact wine, which is recognisable and affordable. This is not quite the case with Pinot Noir however, it cannot be in regards to price point. I think NZ needs to be very careful about managing their image; clean and green. The sustainability programme is very important, and will need to be elaborated on. It is still a long way off reaching maturity of the market, but if enough producers stick to their guns, then yes, we’ll get there.
If we gave you $100 (New Zealand dollars) to spend – Would you opt for a Pinot Noir from Burgundy or from New Zealand?
Since I am in NZ and have a high exposure to NZ Pinot Noir, I opt for Burgundy. If I was somewhere else with higher accessibility to Burgundy Pinot Noir, I would opt for NZ Pinot Noir.
Dry River Pinot Noir
2007, 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013
Dry River Lovat Syrah
2005, 2008, 2009 & 2011
Dry River Chardonnay
Dry River Craighall Riesling
2009, 2010 & 2011
View all of our Dry River Wines
Hottest Sales of the Week
Bordeaux proved popular last week with all our 2010 Château Montlabert selling out and 300 bottles of the stunning 2005 Pauillac, Château Pedesclaux finding its way back to a négociants cellar in Bordeaux. It’s more akin to swapping the custodianship as Stu purchased the Pedesclaux from the same négociant back in 2006!
Australia continues to prove ever popular with both our domestic and international customers – These are the biggest sellers of the week:
• Branson Coach House Rare Block Shiraz 2005 – 1242 bottles
• Oliver’s Taranga 2002 - 180 bottles
• Two Hands Zippy’s Block 2007 – 36 Double Magnums
• Two Hands Bella’s Garden 2007 – 32 Double Magnums
• Torbreck Descendant 2004 – 180 bottles
• Torbreck Descendant 2005 – 180 bottles
• Torbreck Descendant 2006 – 180 bottles
• Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards Shiraz 2004 – 600 bottles
• Torbreck Les Amis 2005 – 120 bottles
• Torbreck The Factor 2006 – 246 bottles
• Two Hands Zippy’s Block 2006 100 Magnums
• Two Hand’s Zippy’s Block 2007 – 54 Magnums
• Kay Brothers Amery Hillside Shiraz 2006 – 216 bottles
• Kay Brothers Block 6 shiraz 2006 – 378 bottles
• Robertson of Clare 2005 – 300 bottles
The Pennant Chardonnay 2012
98+ Points Stuart McCloskey - Robert’s 2010 was one of my standout wines of 2017 however, the 2012’s incisiveness and energy gives it the edge for me, which is quite a thrill. The wine needs decanting and opens beautifully in the glass with a stunningly complex nose. Perhaps the maritime climate of Margaret River has captured the very essence of marine life with oyster shell clearly evident on the nose. There is an incredible purity and laser-like focus without losing sense of presence or weight. I would argue the wines greatest component is its intellect and sense of balance which I rarely come across outside of (great) Burgundy. This is a magnificent and a benchmark to all producers in the great Margaret River. Drinking now to 2022.
97 Points - James Halliday - Gleaming straw-green; a high quality chardonnay that is ageing with grace, still fresh as a daisy with years to go before reaching its zenith. The bouquet is decidedly complex, the palate with grapefruit zest and precise acidity drawing out its length and aftertaste.
Our Hentley Farm En Primeur offer
comes to a close 9am Monday 19 February