I first reported on the wines of Riverby Estate back in 2010, and have updated that a couple of times, including from a most enjoyable visit to their Marlborough vineyards early in 2020.
Occupying a prime position on Marlborough’s Jacksons Road next door to Cloudy Bay, Riverby is a family business run by Kevin Courtney, the farm in the same hands for over 100 years. The vineyards are worked sustainably, with carefully controlled yields and some blocks harvested by hand. There’s Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of course, but Riesling is a major focus plus a whole panoply of varieties showing the estate’s love of experimentation and willingness to march to a less restricted Marlborough beat: Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Semillon and Syrah are in the line-up.
UK importer of Riverby is the Black Dog Wine Agency who also sell the portfolio to retail customers via their online shop. Kevin Courtney has arranged for wine-pages visitors to receive a discount on the prices quoted below if they order direct from Black Dog – just mention wine-pages.com.
Black Dog sent me six wines from the current UK range to try for myself. This includes wines from both 2019 and 2020. Both are shaping up as outstanding vintages for New Zealand, Marlborough in particular enjoying small crops of outstanding quality. That was set against the global pandemic of course, which was unfortunate for the country’s wine producers, but even more reason for us to celebrate some terrific wines.
(2022) From dozens of Marlborough wines tasted from the 2020 harvest there is no doubt it's a top vintage, rightly being touted as such. This lovely Sauvignon is much more about ripe and juicy peach and nectarine than anything more aggressively herbaceous, with just a background hint of elderflower and gooseberry. In the mouth that ample juiciness of fruit continues, but the thrust of pink grapefruit and Seville orange sharpens the whole picture up into a dry, and long, finish. Mouth-watering and excellent.
(2022) Most of the 70% Sauvignon Blanc component was fermented in steel, with small proportion of the Sauvignon and all of the Semillon fermented and matured in new French oak for eight months. In bottle now for almost eight years, this is cracking stuff, still herbal, grassy, vibrant and vivacious, there's a sense of exotic and opulent passion fruit, but the palate streaks with limey, textured creaminess. Plenty of zesty acidity slices through the finish in a lovely wine, akin to a white Bordeaux, but with the expressive dial turned up to 11 - and no hurry to drink either.
(2022) Always a delightfully well-balanced Chardonnay, this has only 12 5% alcohol. It is fermented in French oak (25% new), spending an additional 12 months in oak with regular lees stirring. Mealy and gently honeyed on the nose, there's a touch of hazelnut and biscuit, and a ripe fruitiness beneath. There's a very nicely judged flinty quality too, that is also evident on the palate, giving extra freshness. Along with lemony acidity that gives decisive bite to the sweet, fleshy peach fruit. What a lovely wine once again.
(2022) Part of the Riverby range, but not carrying the Riverby Estate label because it is not made from estate-grown fruit. Its a tremendously decadent wine, heady with winter jasmine, lychee and Turkish delight aromas, then full, oily and rich on the palate. The flavours have that exotic profile, nectarine, mango, a bittersweet kumquat or blood orange, then a resounding blast of acidity that brings this to a dry, mouth-coating finish.
(2021) Left to hang on the vine late into the autumn when Botytis developed on the bunches, this is a dessert wine in the style of one of Germany's Trockenbeerenausle wines, sold in half bottles and lusciously sweet with around 200g/l of residual sugar. A burnished gold in colour, it opens laden with honey and barley sugar, but beneath there is a zest of Seville orange mamalade, the glycerine and lemon richness surging onto the palate. The unctuous richness of texture and fabulously exotic ripe mango and papaya needs to be balanced, and the wine does it beautifully, crystalline lemon zestiness pushing through. Fabulous. Watch the video
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(2021) What a truly lovely wine this is, perfumed and beautifully elegant, yet with real substance. It opens with such gorgeous aromatics, cranberry and cherry red fruits, but a pot-pourri spice melting into rose-hip and hints of briar. I tasted this wine from barrel and thought it showed huge perfume and promise back in January 2020, but now it is fully realised, the palate so perfectly poised between juicy and elegant fruit and hints of smokiness and forest floor, sweet tannins and finely-etched acidity balancing everything perfectly. Aged for a year in French oak, 30% new, this is a tour-de-force from Riverby.