Nikki in New Zealand – a trip to Wairau River

Trip to Wairau Riverย 

Nice trip to the Wairau River cellar. They are only round the corner from Forrest Wines and supply Laithwaite’s with a couple of major brands. There’s a proper story to tell here, but even when that’s already been written down, it’s always worth seeing everything yourself, firsthand.

WR ave 2

The avenue of trees that leads up to the Wairau River cellar

They are certainly bigger than Forrest, 450,000 cases, but still very much, even fiercely, 100% family owned and run. Founders Phil and Chris Rose were farmers, then fruit growers, who finally turned to growing grapes instead … one of the first in the area. They raised five children while they were starting the new business and today all five, voluntarily, have gone into the business, as have their partners … except one, who is in banking, so that’s useful too. And there are 12 grandchildren so far, who could do the same.

Wairau River vyds

Wairau River vineyards bathed in sunshine

The original winery was built in 2002 and has been extended considerably as they have expanded. Even then Phil and Chris had the foresight to plan for the future and, in the early days of 2002, invested in a bottling line, to ensure everything remained in-house. And it’s stayed very much that way today.

Anyway, won’t get too boring and techy, but it was very interesting. The young red wine maker, Nick, was really excited about what he was doing, the experiments they were up to, the new equipment … he was overflowing with information. It was great. They are doing three ‘natural’ wines, which is a real departure for them, but what’s in demand in Sydney apparently. The wines are called The Funk, The Soul and The Hipster! Lunch was extremely tasty at their fancy bistro place there. How very nice.

WR basket press

This basket press was a whole lot fancier and more automated than the one we used in the Barossa

There is a strong connection with this winery and Hunter’s down the road. As the Rose children grew up, they often spent time with Jane Hunter, while Mum and Dad were busy working and the two families often shared wine experiences, too.

The picture above shows the fancy modern basket press that Wairau River has. The winemaker, Nick, showed us the ‘cake’ of skins and pips that is the end result and was telling me how they stuck rocket fireworks in one of the first cakes from it โ€“ bit of a spectacle. Don’t think Dan at RedHeads will get any ideas โ€“ we could never get the cake off in one piece!


About Laithwaites Wine

Started in 1969, Laithwaite's Wine is still owned and run by Tony and Barbara Laithwaite and their family. We take around 40,000 wines each year to find just 800 that are good enough for our customers and are suitable for every occasion from everyday wines for dinner to celebration sparkling.

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