Rapaura Springs puts Sauvignon’s best foot forward  

Rapaura Springs is a winery owned by Ian and Rosemary Wiffin, Margaret and Brendan Neylon and John Neylon. The Neylon family have been instrumental pioneers in Marlborough’s green lip mussel industry and also now own substantial vineyard land in Rapaura and Dillons Point in Marlborough. They describe their vineyard land as prime and their top wines support this assertion with consistently high quality, dry styles and  medium to full bodied styles.
This week I tasted their four new Sauvignon Blanc releases, all from 2021, and a sweet Riesling from 2018.
The Sauvignon Blancs are outstanding representations of Marlborough’s most planted grape.

If you have yet to be seduced by Sauvignon, try these succulent sensational whites, which put the grape’s best foot forward from the world’s leading Sauvignon Blanc region.

  • Rapaura Springs is a member of Appellation Marlborough Wines, which means 100% of its wines are made entirely with grapes grown in the Marlborough region.

2021 Rapaura Springs Rohe Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27.90
Dry, full bodied, smooth and refreshing, this Sauvignon Blanc has a creamy mouthfeel enhanced by savoury lees flavours of oatmeal, almonds and fresh grainy sourdough. It is fully dry with 3.6 grams residual sugar and expresses notes of tropical fruit which are kept in delicious succulent balance by the refreshing crisp flavoursome bite of a Granny Smith apple and lime zest. This is an exceptional take on Sauvignon Blanc, made from grapes grown at the confluence of the Wairau and Opawa rivers in Marlborough.

2021 Rapaura Springs Bull Paddock Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27.90
This is the most impressive 2021 Sauvignon Blanc to touch the sides of my glass so far this year. It’s early days but this wine continues to live up to its XXX-factor of sensational concentration of flavour which is balanced by a fresh, full body and great dry taste.
The Bull Paddock Vineyard is in the Dillons Point sub region of Marlborough’s Lower Wairau Valley and, as its name suggests, was once used for raising bulls prior to being converted to a vineyard. Soils here are stony and provide vines with extremely favourable ripening conditions to  produce grapes with power and density; flavours of lush tropical fruit, rich fresh lemon zest and cream all leap out of each sip of this pure, long and deliciously rewarding Sauvignon. One of Marlborough’s best whites, every year.

2021 Rapaura Springs Rohe Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27.90
Here is a stunner from Marlborough, a dry medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc that puts this famous grape’s best foot forward with weight and textural qualities as much as it does with fruit appeal. This is a Sauvignon Blanc with great mouthfeel and deliciously fragrant perfumed aromas of intense freshly picked herbs, such as oregano and sage. I love the dry taste and long, rewarding flavoursome style.

2021 Rapaura Springs Rohe Blind River Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27.90
Blind River is the driest, coolest and most wind swept of all wine regions in Marlborough and this provides a freshness and ironic softness in this wine, which is a lively, smooth, crisp youthful expression of Sauvignon Blanc.
Flavours of fresh lemon thyme and Granny Smith apples combine with notes of passionfruit and guava, all combining in a medium bodied, dry Sauvignon. This is a very good wine from New Zealand’s biggest wine region.

2018 Rapaura Springs Gravel Lane Vineyard Botrytised Riesling RRP $34.90
This is a full on, full bodied, deliciously ripe Riesling made with grapes grown in Marlborough’s Omaka Valley. The late harvest flavours of the grapes shine in this wine which tastes of orange blossom, ripe tangelos and lime zest with juicy acidity adding succulence to every flavoursome sip. It lingers thanks to the bright acidity which balances the sweetness. The alcohol is 10.5% ABV and only 1998 bottles were produced. 

Friday wine with Malcolm Rees-Francis

It’s nine days into nationwide lockdown in New Zealand and  Central Otago winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis is living in alternate states of thankfulness and disbelief, in between being interviewed for this chat about life, the state of the world and wine.

“The sin is being boring,” he told me, of what makes a wine unappealing, adding that he would rather have a bad wine than a boring one because there is no hook for your interest and your brain or for your tastebuds.

Here, Malcolm talks about the upsides of lockdown with his almond trees in blossom, time to garden and harvest over for the year. And the downsides; the anti lockdown brigade and the situation in countries far worse off than New Zealand.

Wine of the week

2020 Rockburn Pinot Noir $45

Lush fruit flavours and a ripe black cherry core run through this full bodied Central Otago Pinot Noir made from 15% grapes grown in Gibbston Valley and 85% in Parkburn – a warmer area in this cool region. This wine is dense in texture with exotic spicy notes of freshly grated nutmeg and a nuance of cinnamon quills adding depth and complexity. It drinks well now and is a keeper thanks to its body and depth.

Friday wine with Malcolm Rees-Francis

The following is my version of the Proust questionnaire which originated in 1886 as The New Yorker explains here.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement is getting the job as Rockburn’s winemaker. There are about three dozen winemakers in Central Otago so it’s a pretty select little bunch in the world of wine. It is a very privileged position and I’m very lucky and very thankful to be doing this thing in this place.

What is your current state of mind?

It circles around levels of relief and being happy to live in New Zealand, one of the most Covid-free places in the world. Then it swings around to levels of frustration that there are so many people railing against what we’re trying to do to keep people safe. There are so many people who are liars raging against trying to keep people safe and it makes me angry. I’m fully vaccinated as of two weeks ago. I spent seven days in Auckland to line things up for Rockburn at this year’s Pinot Palooza. Everyone was wearing masks on public transport which was great but I scanned everywhere I went and was disappointed the lack of scanning that I saw surprised me.

What is your favourite part of winemaking?

I like the whole thing. I really like making wine. It can be just doing a job that I have designed and set up and executed; there are very few things more satisfying than that. The other day I was fining a Pinot Gris with bentonite with the radio up loud. It’s not exciting but knowing you’ve done it to the best of your ability is what makes it satisfying. At the end of the day winemaking is a lot of factory work. Cleaning a tank can be extremely satisfying. A job well done.

Do you have a most treasured wine?

I’ve made some great wines over the years and there have been some amazing vintages that have been my great privilege to make. It’s up to other people’s appreciation about how treasured or not they may be.

I bought some vintage port for my boy’s birth year so they are relatively treasured. You can spend a lot of money on wine if you really want to. Those wines are not necessarily better.

Over the years I’ve gotten into Vouvray and the first I tried from Marc Bredif was 1986 – there’s a wine that shows you don’t need to spend a lot of money to find a treasure.

Where is your favourite wine region?

The one I’m in. One great truism is that wine regions have a knack of being drop dead gorgeously beautiful, so it has to be said that Central is pretty spectacular. Living in Cromwell can be a bit of a drag sometimes but it’s a lovely quiet place to bring up kids, the view is always outside the window and the neighbours are not too close.

When and where are you at your happiest?

When I’m in lost in the task of winemaking.

What do you most dislike in wine?

I have two . The first is lack of balance. The greatest wines I’ve ever tried literally leave you lost for words because they have such perfect harmony and complexity that you can’t pick them apart.

It’s usually too much alcohol that makes a wine unbalanced so that’s a problem for me. And secondly, I most dislike a wine that is boring. A wine with nothing to say, no sense of place and that you can perceive just how polished and androgynous it is.

I would rather have a bad wine than a boring wine because at least with a bad wine there’s something interesting about it. We could have a whole conversation about that as opposed to ‘I don’t even remember what I drank… no hooks in those wines and they don’t grab your brain or your passion.”

The best wines are the ones that you can say the least about.

What is your greatest fear?


What is your greatest extravagance?

My bosses would say the amount of money we spend on oak.

What is your greatest regret?

Not going to see Chris Cornell (American singer/songwriter) when he was playing in Christchurch. My biggest regret.

What talent would you most like to have?

Perfect recall.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I look around the world and think of people in Afghanistan as one of many. I don’t have a frame of reference to even imagine the depths of misery that some people are going through in other places.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?

My wife says I can be very cruel.

What do you most value in your friends?


Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

That changes.

What is your favourite meal?

I’m a big fan of food so to have a favourite meal is very difficult. I’m heavily into Szechuan cuisine at the moment. I’ve got the cookbook and all the interesting spices like black cardamom and it’s delicious, but pasta would have to be my first love. So many different types and so much you can do with such simplicity such as linguine with olive oil, parmesan and garlic – heaven. Then there’s ramen noodles.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?

I would come back as a cat. That defines my personality quite well.

Riesling around the world – tasting 23 September (and wine of the week)

After a week of pointless travelling up and down the North Island, it’s easy to lose heart, especially with full lockdown back in place so I’m grateful for the reminder to be grateful and today’s gratitude comes for the sunshine and my favourite white grape variety. Riesling is near to my heart and the theme of a tasting that I am lucky enough to host on Thursday 23 September at 6pm at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington.

It’s also the reason for today’s work (‘work’) into researching this great white. So naturally I have turned to the big bible of wine grapes called, appropriately enough, Wine Grapes, written by Master of Wine Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding with grape geneticist Jose Vouillamoz as the third author.

More on Riesling for those who attend the tasting and watch this space.

Wine of the week

2019 Pegasus Bay Estate Riesling RRP $31.99

Riesling is one of the ancient grapes of Germany even if it’s earliest written mention comes from a region that is now part of France, Alsace. The first known mention of Riesling in writing was in Kintzheim, Alsace, in 1348. The region was part of Germany at the time and it is the driest wine region in France. Its weather is uncannily similar to those found in North Canterbury, which is, in my view, the greatest Riesling region in New Zealand.

North Canterbury’s Waipara Valley is home to the grapes that go into Pegasus Bay Estate Riesling, where the vines grow on well drained stony ground on north facing terraces. The vines are over 30 years old and the wine tastes of multi layered flavours in a full, rich body with notes of mandarin and lime concentrate overlaid by flavours that taste like grapefruit juice adding edgy layers of delicious succulence to this incredibly tasty white.

The 2019 is the best of the past three years, in my view, with great balance of everything (12% alcohol and 28 grams residual sugar – not that you’d know it). As always, it has great aging ability of 10 to 15 years. The screwcap seal helps keep this wine fresh and in its best condition. The great Riesling grape also has an almost unparalleled ability to age. Buy more than one bottle, keep some and taste for yourself in a decade’s time.

Great Rieslings can be made in other regions in this country but nowhere has the track record of intensity and longevity that North Canterbury’s winemakers have forged for their Rieslings, to date. Watch this space.


Book for the tasting here

The line up from dry to sweet appears below…

All wines will be available for purchase on the night at discounted prices from their recommended retail price featured here.

2017 Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Saering
RRP $64.99

2014 Jim Barry Florita Riesling RRP $69.99

2019 Mt Edward Central Otago Riesling RRP $24.99   

2018 Donnhoff Trocken Kreuznacher RRP $57.99   

2013 John Forrest Collection Dry Riesling RRP $31.99

2019 Schloss Lieser Wehlener Sonnenuhr GG RRP $93.99  

2017 Pegasus Bay Riesling RRP $31.99

2017 Pearson Estate Mon Cheval Riesling RRP $30.99  

2018 J J Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese RRP $85.99   

2010 Riesling Challenge Waipara Mat Donaldson
This wine is a sample from my personal wine cellar and not available to buy.