Riverby Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand, are pretty much unknown in the UK, yet this is not the case in NZ and Australia. They did win a Trophy and a couple of Golds at the DWWA a year ago but back home they manage to garner accolade after accolade, especially at the prestigious Air New Zealand Awards. They also share a location right next to the iconic Cloudy Bay Winery. All in all we should be taking a lot more interest in Riverby.
This was probably the largest tasting of this producer’s output assembled in the UK, and included twelve wines, several of which are not actually available here, but which were kindly sent over for us to try. It might be a little dull if I were to drone on about all of them, though I can’t bring myself to mention fewer than eight. All wines mentioned are made with estate-grown fruit using John Forrest’s winery next door.
Riverby make a fresh and dry Sauvignon Blanc which seems to eschew the sugar found in anything remotely commercial from Marlborough. The 2013 is slightly broader than some previous versions, and the nose is expressive. Retailing at under £14 it reminds me of one or two well known £20 versions.
It was a toss-up as to whether people preferred this or the very good dry Riverby Riesling 2012. This blends citrus zest with a hint of oiliness, and is bone dry. A refreshing summer food wine, yet I think with the potential to age further beautifully.
The Eliza Riesling was also the 2012, the first vintage for this cuvee. Golds and a Trophy at NZ’s top three wine shows, 96 points from Bob Campbell, 92 from Wine Advocate, one of the stars of the evening. 63 grams r/s with some of the Noble Riesling blended in so a hint of botrytis. Beautifully balanced, poised between acidity and sweetness like a confident high wire artist.
Unusually for a Marlborough winery, Riverby’s top selling wine is their Chardonnay. Twelve months in oak but only 30% new, the 2011 (Riverby claim it’s their best yet) is magnificently restrained. The oak is there – the creaminess is apparent from the start – becomes buttery (melted butter on the nose) with a hint of hazelnut, but you never lose the fruit. And if there is a Riverby trait it has to be freshness. All their wines have this signature. I really do love this restrained style of Chardonnay, a long way from the “one glass is enough” wines of the past.
My biggest regret is that the Gruner Veltliner, the 2013 being the first vintage, is not commercially available here yet. Only 140 cases made, one case in the UK I believe. I have a penchant for Austrian Gruner, and have tried a few Californians. I can see why some wine judges might mark this down. It’s just a great food wine that doesn’t dominate the palate. Just 6g/l residual sugar and a nice touch of white pepper on the finish. I believe the 2014 is being bottled as I type. Hope to see a few bottles in the UK and making their way into my wine rack.
We tried a couple of Pinot Noir, the 2010 and 2013. 2010 was a very good Marlborough PN vintage and this has aged well. A four year old with a bit of development yet still showing crunchy fruit is quite a bargain for £19.50. The 2013 in contrast is a little angular right now, but it’s bigger, with the potential to better even the 2010 if tucked away for a year or two. This was its first UK outing, but it should prove a hit.
We ended a very wet night on the South Coast with pure nectar, Riverby Noble Riesling 2011. If the Chardonnay is the best seller, this is the star wine. A Trophy at the DWWA in a long line of Riverby Trophy Winners in NZ, Riverby appear to be the country’s best producer of sweet wines. This 2011 is impressive and it has to be tasted. 220 grams of sugar, botrytis and bags of acidity to balance, it’s essence of honey and lemon to begin with until a paragraph of further complexities follow. But if you just need a one word TN…WOW! It is said that the 2013 is even better. We shall see.
Let’s hope that Riverby’s reputation grows. They deserve it. Everything is between £14 to £21, making it one of the best value ranges of quality New Zealand wine in the UK. Available from Butler’s Wine Cellar, Brighton, and imported through Black Dog Wine Agency.