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Winefulness is a New Zealand wine blog that focuses on ones awareness of the present moment and acknowledges and accepts all the sensations that wine can bring. 

Dry River - Terroir to Table


A New Zealand wine lover's wine blog.


Dry River - Terroir to Table

Elissa Jordan

“Life is too short to drink the house red.”

The above is a wee quote overheard at a recent Dry River Terroir to Table tasting at the Martinborough Wine Centre.

Sharing my table were a married couple, a mate of theirs and my mate Jules. The married couple were discussing the pros (gorgeous wine) and cons (a hit to the wallet) of buying some Dry River to have on hand for this festive season or for the festive seasons to come. I believe the husband won the discussion as quoted.

Amanda and husband Simon from the Martinborough Wine Centre, hosted Dry River winemaker Wilco Lam for a ‘Terrior to Table’ tasting last Saturday, where punters were invited to taste a collection of Dry River wine vintages, which ran all the way back to the nineties. We even got served some delicious Tapas from the kitchen.

Dry River first planted vines in the late seventies with their first vintage in 1984. They don’t enter their wines into competitions as a snapshot of the new vintage is not what they’re trying for when making their wines, rather they want a beautiful wine that can be pulled from the cellar 10 to 15 years in the future.

Martinborough Wine Centre gets a small allocation of Dry River wines each year, but the vast majority of sales for Dry River are through their mailing list. To join the mailing list today you would first be put on a waiting list for a year or two and once you do start receiving their release notifications, you only get to stay active in their database if you buy every two years.

My takeaway: when you can taste these wines, do.

Sauvignon Blanc

1997 – this was served as a mystery wine, a brownish-orange colour with a funky nose, we were asked to hazard a guess. It turned out to be a Sauv, which is no longer produced at Dry River.

This wine was overly ripened white peach and high acidity. There was a touch of liquorice spice and some white florals. This was a nice wine to linger over as the more time it had in the glass the fuller, riper fruit expression you got out of it.

2006 – this was the final vintage for Dry River Sauvs. A different style to the 1997 with much more tart green apples and grassy characters, the two wines were tied by their high, crisp acidity. For a six year old wine, this was still surprisingly fresh and youthful. With time and exposure to oxygen canned asparagus and green capsicum started to become more apparent.


1998 – a nicely textured wine, even a bit oily with good acidity. The oldest of the flight was a blend of honeycomb, lime cordial, baked apples, rock melon and spice. Wilco talked about how at Dry River they pick based on phenolic ripeness, rather than fruit ripeness to help the wine age gracefully. In this case it really worked.

2003 – a steely and austere wine with acetate and herbal notes backed by a higher acidity. Although I wasn’t a fan others were intrigued by this rather interesting wine. Wilco took this opportunity to talk about the peaks and troughs wines go through in the cellar. Pulling a wine from the cellar could reveal a closed or off-putting wine in a trough, a few months later it could be riding a peak and be entirely different.

2008 – dominated by citrus notes, limes and lemons, the 08 had a really tart acidity like biting into a granny smith apple. Rounded off with a long, clean finish.

2012 – this one started out a bit tightly knit, but after exercising some patience and you were rewarded with perfumed notes of white florals and fresh jasmine. Those who found the 2003 exciting were turned off by the 2012. Those who, like me, found the 2003 a bit too much, were welcomed into the sweet embrace and youthful nature of the 2012.

Pinot Noir

1997 – the Pinot Noirs weren’t selected based on the best examples, but rather chosen based on availability in a sparse cellar. That being said, this was the stand-out of the night for me. This was the best feeling wine of the bunch, just a sniff and the knots in my shoulders started to loosen. Burnt cherries, rhubarb and the sharpness of raspberries made for a very pleasant bouquet. On the palate were gorgeous herbal notes of oregano.

2003 – a steely wine with a spicy expression, carrying cardamom, liquorice, basil and oregano. This is a wine that whose interesting complexity grows on you, as your teased with hints of darker black and purple fruits.

2008 – a curious Pinot Noir with a sharp acidity it expresses varietal characteristics that are more common in a Syrah than a Pinot Noir. Violets and rhubarb, blackberry and pepper were all notes as part of this one tasting sessions.

2011 – not yet release commercially, the wine was bottled a month ago, making this a sneak peak at a fresh, inviting and fruity wine. Well structured and balances, there was a really nice feel to the wine. Vibrant notes of roses, violets and cherry, this will be an exciting wine to see again throughout the years to come.

Botrytised Riesling

1995 – a really lovely wine with a nice hit of botrytis honey and dried apricots. In the mouth it was nuttier, lots of almonds coming through and a touch of quince. After 17 years, this wine was barely showing any age, it was still a beautifully balanced wine.

1997 – much deeper in colour and a bit sharp, the 1997 was showing an acetone character along with it’s honey and apricot botrytis notes. There was some discussion about whether this was a wine fault or whether this was a result of the vintages. Because Wilco wasn’t a part of this vintage he had limited commentary as to the cause.