The Wairu Valley, another sub-region of New Zealand’s Marlborough wine country, is one the MacDonald family knows well, as their own little island of te Pa sits along the Wiaru Bar — where the Wairau River meets the sea. It’s a place the family has inhabited, land the family has cultivated, for the past 800 years.
Here, the land closest to the water is predominantly gravely riverbed soils, and the climate benefits from quite a bit of rainfall. Inland vineyards tend to be drier, and still cooler, and the soil quite stony, resulting in early-ripening grapes in some sites. The sub-region is known to produce fruit-forward wines. Of course that all depends on the vineyard and the vintner. te Pa Oke Sauvignon Blanc certainly takes a different approach.
About the Wine: The te Pa Oke 2015 Sauvignon Blanc is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes harvested from New Zealand’s Marlborough wine region — specifically the lower Wairau Valley. This is a single-vineyard bottling from the Wairau Valley MacDonald Family Home Vineyard. Just like all of te Pa’s produce, the fruit for this wine was hand-harvested. The grapes were left whole cluster during the press and immediately transferred to combination new and old French oak barrels to ferment, sur lie, to encourage all natural yeast fermentation.
The wine was left for several months over the course of their winter (our summer) time with just a gentle battonage once every four weeks (so really, only 4 or 5 instances of “disturbance”). Come October, the barrels for the final blend were selected, blended, and placed back in barrel for an additional 2 months.
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle and take a whiff. What do you smell? Me — I suppose it’s tropical fruits, but like tropical fruits that have been sitting in a cardboard box under the heat of the sun. And there’s a bit of a schtank on it that reminds me of dirty mushrooms. Don’t get me wrong — I was utterly excited by these scents.
On the pour, the te Pa Oke Sauvignon Blanc is a faint champagne color, settling into something just a shade richer in the glass — like a soft, sandy dust. The initial aromas are of the stink of the ocean: sea-salty sand, funky tropical fruits (dried pineapple, passionfruit, guava) and an herbaceous lemon-meets-grass scent looms over it all. Swirl and the wine reveals a bit more earthiness in the form of dried out branches.
On the palate, the first impression is that this Sauvignon Blanc is all about the passionfruit — in essence only, as the wine is far from sticky sweet. And even on the initial sip, there’s an undeniable savoriness — though subtle — that rides consistently in the background. To me, it’s that slight umami of a fish sauce. Secondary flavors are reminiscent of nut skins, slightly burnt popcorn, and something just a bit spice-full, like ginger.
Let the wine linger and you’ll find there’s a textural component that clings to the tongue. And though there is a solid dose of acidity (I’d say medium to high), there’s a definite dryness to the finish that encases the tastebuds.
The aftertaste is beautiful and sums up the complexity of this unique New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: it’s a potpourri of dried white flowers with just a hint of smokiness — like floral ash.
Food Pairing: I enjoyed the te Pa Oke Sauvignon Blanc 2015 with a vegetarian pizza (mushroom, broccoli, olives, mozzarella cheese). I loved how the chewy, somewhat oily texture of the cheese played up the dry textural component in the wine, while the Sauvignon Blanc’s fruit-filled aromatics cut through that same thickness in the pizza.
I will make a note here to keep this wine chilled (recommendation: 50 degrees Fahrenheit or standard refrigerator temperature). Keeping the te Pa Oke Sauvignon Blanc chilled to this extent will ensure that those fruit aromatics remain fresh but subtle, and that you’ll be able to taste the savory notes and appreciate the texture.
More Info: I received the te Pa 2015 Oke Sauvignon Blanc as a sample for review. (Cheers Mikela!) For more information about te Pa Wines, including the local retail price, please visit the te Pa Wines website.
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