Blind River offers wine lovers small quantities of evocative, handmade wines that carry an authentic expression of Marlborough’s Awatere Valley.
With such a small vineyard, Blind River Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir can never be of significant volume. The team therefore focus on two things; nurturing the vines to produce grapes with an authentic expression of the both the varietal and the vineyard and then translating this into the finished wine.
With so many wines in the market place, it is important to differentiate. Blind River grows only Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, the two varietals with characteristics that pair perfectly with the vineyard’s attributes. The resulting wines capture the all-important varietal and vineyard expression through a particular style of winemaking which embraces a minimalist approach.
The wines are very much ‘handmade’. From hand-picked grapes, throughout the winemaking process and even to the packaging, much of the process is done by hand giving the team a very tactile approach.
|Blind River makes three wines. The Sauvignon Blanc captures the essence of Marlborough in a more intense way, as only the Awatere region can do. In addition, approximately 10% of the juice is fermented in old French oak barrels before being blended back into the stainless steel portion. This takes the edge off the acidity and gives the wine more texture, weight and complexity – an added layer of interest while not compromising the vibrancy of the fruit. This also ensures the wine is more food-friendly.
There have been many enthusiastic reviews about this wine, including this from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, ‘A real humdinger that’s as drippingly juicy as a ripe peach with the insistence of passion fruit and an unusual depth.’
Blind River Pinot Noir is an impressive wine with a significant following. It is renowned for its concentrated cherry and plum flavours, its texture, persistence and rich mouth-feel. Various hands-on winemaking techniques are used to achieve this including cold maceration, hand-plunging and undergoing maturation in French oak, a third of it new, for ten months before a further six months in bottle prior to release. One of the colourful reviews received about this wine was from the UK’s Independent, ‘A beautifully crafted kiwi Pinot Noir rich in scented clove, spice and loganberry on the nose, with a beguiling, sweet palate whose liquid mulberry fruitiness is satin-silk in texture’
Tekau was launched for the tenth anniversary of Blind River. Made from a specially selected parcel of Sauvignon Blanc, the wine is produced in very limited quantities using a number of special winemaking techniques including extended fermentation with wild yeasts in old French barriques. The wine is aged on lees for ten months and then a further seven months in bottle.
Aromas include zesty lemon and lime combined with ripe apricot, brioche and hazelnut notes while the weighty palate offers a creamy, rich undertone and backbone of Awatere minerality. This wine is refined, elegant and powerful and represents an alternative personality to the usual style of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but without compromising its identity.
An important part of selecting wine is feeling good about sharing it. As well as the wine tasting delicious, the bottle needs to look attractive so that you are proud to have it on your table, be it at home or in a restaurant.
The Blind River ‘look’ is designed to be understated and smart. Wine is of the land, something that is highly respected at Blind River, so the idea of a bright and colourful design seemed to clash with this important philosophy. A more natural look was developed encompassing a reference to the Awatere River and introducing the Blind River eel on a style of paper that leant itself to the handmade approach of the brand.
The Blind River eel was designed in a ‘koru’, a popular motif in Maori art based on the shape of an unfurling fern frond and symbolises creation. Its circular shape conveys the idea of perpetual movement and its inward coil suggests a return to the point of origin – the way in which life both changes and stays the same. This is a concept that is borne out through a vineyard which faces different challenges with each vintage underpinned by the continual cycle of the four seasons.
2003 was the debut vintage of Blind River Sauvignon Blanc with a total production of just 1,500 cases. Today, while still small, the brand has grown to become one of the most sought-after, ultra-premium wines of Marlborough.
Read what’s being said about Blind River here.
Rebecca (Bec) Wiffen is the winemaking force behind Blind River. With strong Marlborough roots – her family has owned property in the area since 1907 – Bec was first introduced to wine when her grandmother planted grapes on the family property in the 1980’s.Since then Bec has gone on to work for several New Zealand wineries including Coopers Creek and Lawson’s Dry Hills as well as gain valuable experience overseas with stints in the Napa Valley (USA) and Alsace and Languedoc (France).
Although Bec says her approach to winemaking is "to keep it simple and let the fruit do the talking", this actually takes some work to achieve.
She creates layers of flavours, complexity and texture in our wines through harvesting the vineyard blocks at different times, small batch fermentation in the winery and the judicious use of oak.
Happiest when she is super busy, Bec thrives on the adrenaline rush of vintage – “The picking decisions, the fruit flavours, the organisation that goes with it all. Even the early morning starts.” Bec can usually be found two steps ahead of everyone else (in every sense) and raring to go!