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Riverby Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand

by Tom Cannavan, 05/10

Riverby Estate in Marlborough derives its name from the Opawa River, the diversion of which stopped the town of Blenheim from flooding, and created the farm that is now Riverby estate. The river was also rich in rainbow trout, which has become the emblem of the Riverby.

The first plantings on the estate were in 1989, with Chardonnay, followed by Sauvignon Blanc in 1990. In the years since, these early plantings have been supplemented by Riesling, Semillon, Syrah, Pinot Noir and most recently, Pinot Gris.

Riverby Estate is an accredited member of the sustainable winegrowing scheme (SWNZ), meaning all vineyard practices aim for environmental, social and economic sustainability. The wines are not in the UK at present, but can be found in New Zealand's restaurants and wine shops, and in Australia and the USA.

white wines

Riverby Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Juicy passionfruit aromas dominate, with little hints of more exotic, more ripe lychee and mango. There's a little grassy undercut, but this is driven more by fruit. On the palate this feels to be just about bone dry, with flavours of lemon pith and underripe pear, and a real juiciness. There's a slightly watery mid-palate quality, but then it is trading that dryness against ripeness and sugar, and it is a well-balanced, intelligent example of the style. 88/100.

Riverby Estate Dry Riesling 2007
Terrifically clear and pure on the nose, this citrus-scented Riesling also has little nuances of white flowers and wax, and some salty, mineral notes. On the palate it is clean as a whistle, with the sweetness of ripe fruit giving some easy-drinking appeal, but it is all swept up in a decisive acidity as shimmering, intense but delicate flavours linger on the palate. 89/100

Riverby Estate Sali's Block Riesling 2008
This is an off-dry and lovely Riesling, with a nose of beeswax and honey with a lime blossom elegance. The palate has a touch of residual sugar sweetness that makes this quite rich and mouth-filling, but the zestiness of the lime fruit and orangey, grapefruity acidity is retained, giving a long finish balancing that sweetness nicely. 90/100.

Riverby Estate Pinot Gris 2008
Pinot Gris is very much on-trend amongst Marlborough's winemakers, and this example, weighing in with only 12.5% alcohol, has a suggestion of tangy fruit on the nose with orchard fruits and a touch of straw-like character. On the palate this is off-dry, with a nicely medium weight and quite mouth-filling fruit. The citrus acidity is well-balanced, in a very fresh, appetising style of Pinot Gris, that nicely balances sweetness and savouriness. 89/100.

Riverby Estate Chardonnay 2007
From 19-year-old vines, this wine was fermented in barrel and aged in French oak for 11 months, though only 35 % of the barrels were new. A depth of brazil nut and coffeeish toast marks the nose powerfully, with ripe orchard fruits beneath and a hint of exotic spice. On the palate the fruit is packed and ripe, with lots of lemony juiciness and the toast and opulence of the oak broadening the finish. The ripe, sweet fruit core pushes through in a stylish, well-balanced Chardonnay. 91/100.

Riverby Estate Noble Riesling 2008
A very late harvest wine with 10% alcohol and, I presume from the 'Noble' designation, some Botrytis. It has a golden colour and glycerine and honey on the nose, with fat, nectarine and lemon peel fruitiness. Little nuances of cold tea and nuttiness add further interest. In the mouth this is unctuous and rich, the lemon and honey flowing across the tongue, with nice warmth and that almondy character coming through, and fine balancing acidity. 91/100.

red wines

Riverby Estate Pinot Noir 2007
Fine, medium red colour with a warming tinge. The nose has good, typical, vegetal Pinot aromas with some beetroot and gently mushroomy notes, cherry and a hint of briar and polished old wood. On the palate a sweet fruitiness comes through, in a wine that stays driven by its vinous, savoury quality with a lightness of touch, though perhaps just lacking a bit of mid-palate weight and mouth-feel. 87/100

Riverby Estate Pinot Noir 2008
Much brighter carmine red colour, and the nose seems to have brighter, more zippy fruit too, along with an edge of minerality. Little charcoal and briar notes, even a touch of something floral. On the palate a lovely fruit quality: cherry and delicate raspberry notes, the fruit in this vintage balancing the fine tannins and good acidity much more equally. Refined. 89/100