Last April, when we travelling in the South Island, we drove the Wairau Valley (State Highway 63) westwards from Marlborough to Nelson. I kept myself occupied trying to discover the farthest west vineyard in the Wairau Valley. Just a few years ago, the extent of westward plantings abruptly stopped at Wairau Valley township, but in 2010 the vineyards were continuing their inland march.
After leaving Wairau Valley township, it seemed no sooner had I written down a vineyard name, thinking it was the last one, after a kilometre or so another vineyard would appear. My piece of paper was becoming an illegible mess. Had I realised that a few days later we would be travelling back from Nelson, via the Wairau Valley, it would have been so much easier.
Travelling east again, it was just two kilometres east of the River Wye, a tributary of the Wairau, that we approached the most inland Wairau Valley vineyard. This belonged to Matakana Estate and was on the northern side of the road, between the road and the Wairau River. But shortly, vines flanked each side of the road. The south side vines belonged to McKean Estates and were gently sloping upward to the hills, and at times more steeply sloping vineyards on the lower flanks of the hills could be seen.
We saw several McKean Estate vineyards – a name I had not heard of before the trip. Rewa the most inland, Te Puke, and River Terrace. Here in, what they are now calling the Wairau Alpine Valley, frost machines are mandatory.
So I was surprised how good the wines were when they crossed my lips recently – firstly at the New Zealand International Wine Show where the Tiki Single Vineyard Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 won gold on its debut, and again in a blind tasting of sauvignon Blanc just last week at home when both Tiki wines kind of stole the show.
Tiki Single Vineyard Alpine Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (grey label, $25, 13.5% alcohol, Screwcap)
Smoky and flinty with capsicum and tropical fruit aromas, this is bright and tangy with softness to the texture but lots of oomph and power as the juicy flavours explode on the palate. Rich and long with citrus, pineapple and herbs, and just a suggestion of the controversial BO. A delicious wine with a concentrated finish. Easy to be my Wine of the Week.
Tiki Alpine Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (white label, $20, 13% alcohol. Screwcap.)
This is so bright and tangy - it's a different wine in the lineup. Punchy aromatics and delicious juicy flavours with plenty of tangelo and summer herbs with gooseberry and tropical fruit and a lovely rose petal muskiness to the finish.
I'd like to tell you more about Tiki but all I know is that the owners, the McKeans, live at the seaside in Christchurch. A viticulturist lives at one of the vineyards but I do not have a clue who the winemaker* is, or where the wines are made. Can anyone help me out?
* I've sinced learnt that Evan Ward (ex Morton Estate) is the winemaker and the wines were made at the Yealands winery near Seddon.
Check out the website, www.tikiwine.com for online sales, where else to buy, and more.
© Sue Courtney
7 Nov 2010