New Zealand’s grape-growing and winemaking history is a fairly recent one. Indeed, it wasn’t until the 1960s and into the 1970s that New Zealand was put on the winemaking map. And this is when the Rose family of Wairau River took their first steps into the world of wine. Recognizing the potential of the then untapped region of the Wairau Valley, Phil and Chris rose planted their first vines in 1978. They started their career selling grapes to other winemakers, but in 1991 created the Wairau River label and began crafting their own wines. Today the family owns estate vineyards containing some of the oldest vines in Marlborough, which result in a bodied, often textural wine experience — even with their whites.
About the Wine: The Wairau River 2015 Pinot Gris is made from 100% Pinot Gris grapes — the winery notes from some of the oldest vines in Marlborough. After harvest, the grapes were gently pressed and fermented in stainless steel tanks with a small parcel separated to be fermented and aged in seasoned French oak.
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Wairau River 2015 Pinot Gris and breathe in soft tropical fruits just above the bottle neck: guava, melon, mango, lychee. This Pinot Gris is a pale beige on the pour, settling into the glass with a comforting creamy Champagne hue. Initial aromas are similar to those from the bottle, but also more floral with the addition of soft white petals and pollen. Swirl and release some pomme fruits — namely, poached apple — as well as warm honey notes.
The Wairau River 2015 Pinot Gris has a soft, soothing texture at the fore-front, a good dose of minerality, and a salinity that keeps it absolutely refreshing. Dominant flavors are of nectarine, apricot, apple, pollen, and nectar. The wine finishes with a bit of a zing — no, it’s not spicy, but there’s that sensation all around the mouth as if you’d just bit into a bit of pepper. This sensation dried out the palate just slightly, giving way to an almost textural finish and one that invites another sip.
Food Pairing: I paired the Wairau River 2015 Pinot Gris with an eggplant parmesan and a warm tomato and mozzarella salad seasoned with fresh basil and a balsamic reduction. This wine was a great contrast to the “meatiness” of the eggplant and the overall hearty flavors of this Italian-inspired meal. The herbs and spices — including the balsamic — highlighted the floral elements as well as that hidden bit of texture in the wine. To me, this was a perfect pairing, and I can’t wait to do it again.
More Info: I received the Wairau River 2015 Pinot Gris as a sample in conjunction with the monthly #WineChat on Twitter. (Cheers Christina!) Retail: $20. For more information about Wairau River, their wines, and to purchase wines directly. Please visit the Wairau River Wines website.
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