Beverage Reviews

Two Rivers, Marlborough, NZ: Wine Review

Introduced By

I love wine. (Duh, who doesn’t, right?!) But before you read any further, you should know that I’m no wine expert. I know what I like: a drop of well-made Chardonnay hits the spot every time; and what I don’t like: orange wine – does anyone actually like the stuff?! I’m always open to try something new or different from the norm, however orange wine is now the exception. I’ve tried enough to know that there are a gazillion wines I want to drink before having to endure yet another mediocre glass of the stuff. Just because it’s ‘trendy’ doesn’t make it fabulous! (Of course, if you have a favourite that you think will change my mind, then please share!) Rightio, off my soapbox, this story is not about orange wine ...

Vineyards in New Zealand's sauvignon blanc wine capital, Marlborough

Jump down to the At a Glance summary section (we won’t be too offended!)

I consider myself to have a good palate and a good schnoz, so I figure why not share my finds with you? I write about New Zealand food and drink after all, therefore it would be a bit weird not to write about wine. Particularly given how much of the stuff gets produced in NZ – and how much I adore it!

So, while you won’t get much technical wine-speak from me, I will bring in a wine expert friend to help me out with the proper ‘wine chat’! First up of the experts is fellow Kiwi, Jo Walker. Like many of us disenchanted with corporate life, Jo recently decided to give up her Accountancy career to pursue her obsession with wine. WineWalker (get it?) focuses on small, family-owned wineries in regions that aren’t as well known in the UK, representing exceptional quality for amazing value.

Introducing: Two Rivers, Marlborough, New Zealand 

Founder and winemaker, Dave Clouston, recently completed a whirlwind trip of Europe. We were lucky enough to meet him at a tasting hosted by the fabulous New Zealand Cellar here in London. 

As most Kiwis do, he went on his OE (that’s Overseas Experience for you non-Kiwis), spending seven years working – and drinking – his way around some of the wine capitals of the world, including three years getting ‘lost’ in Corsica (could there be a better place to get lost?!) It was there that he developed a passion for rosé wine. I see how that happened as I, too, fell for the charms of French rosé while living in France.

Vineyards are not far away from the beach in Bonifacio, Corsica, France
No, this isn’t NZ! It’s Corsica, which is where Dave Clouston got ‘lost’ for three years learning the art of French winemaking
[Photo Credit: C Street]

Eventually Dave made his way back to New Zealand, settling back in his childhood home of Marlborough. Two Rivers was established in 2004 with the mission ‘to harness Marlborough’s intense fruit flavours, while producing elegant wines with purity and a sense of balance’.   

Notable Two River Wines

Isle of Beauty Rosé 2017 
Two Rivers Isle of Beauty Rose from Marlborough, New Zealand

Named as a tribute to the island of Corsica, this wine showcases Dave’s love of southern French wines. So dedicated is he to the French style that he spent a month in Provence last year honing his winemaking skills. This has resulted in a focused wine that has more of a savoury profile, which suits me just fine (I’m not a fan of sweeter wines). There’s a lick of saltiness at the end and its’ soft salmon colour is on point! I loved it so much that I purchased a few bottles for our upcoming trip to NZ. I’m already picturing sitting on the deck with a glass in hand after a day of sand and surf. Bliss! (Now wondering if a case is going to be enough… )

Jo’s verdictSavoury, salty rosé with notes of mandarin, pepper and an herbaceous finish. Would go down very nicely on a hot Summer’s day!

Our suggested food pairing: This wine screams loud and clear that it’s the perfect complement to Mediterranean flavours. So, do as the Niçoise do (that’s the people from Nice rather than the salad) and make up a quick batch of socca (chickpea pancakes). The nutty, salty hit from these pancakes will bring out the natural sweetness of the wine.

Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Thanks to Dave’s winemaking talents, he has successfully converted me back to Sauvignon Blanc! 

Two Rivers Altitude Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand

I used to like Sauv Blanc a lot, which was a good thing as every man and his dog turned to this varietal, particularly here in the UK. But then something happened. My taste buds started rejecting it. For a while I couldn’t even stomach the smell, let alone the taste. I guess I’d overdone it, which was rather annoying as it was – and still is – the wine of choice on restaurant and pub menus, at events (even posh ones), and in friend’s fridges. I currently lead a one-woman crusade on ‘anything but Sauvignon Blanc please’ (quite the opposite of everyone else’s plea for ‘anything but Chardonnay’ – oh they so don’t know what they are missing out on, but that’s for another story!)

This was the standout wine of the evening

Back to Two Rivers Altitude Sauvignon Blanc. This is subtler in approach than your usual savvie. There are no gooseberries (hurrah!), which is an intentional decision from Dave. There’s a lot of minerality, which I love, with a nose of lemon balm and tea tree oil. Interestingly, they use a mix of vessels in the winemaking process; concrete eggs, oak barrels and amphorae (clay pots from Italy), each of which bring a different characteristic to the wine. Concrete = clean, pure, salty minerality. Oak = a lovely toasty flavour (just a hint, mind you). Clay = ummm, not sure, but it works! Throw in wild yeast fermentation and it all adds up to a very drinkable, lovely wine.

Jo’s verdict: This was the standout wine of the evening for me. I loved the texture and creaminess that resulted from the time in oak and on the lees. There was none of the typical in-your-face gooseberry and vegetal characters that are usually found in a Malborough Sauvignon Blanc. The ageing in concrete eggs and amphora added a further level of complexity and interest. Delicious!

Our suggested food pairing: There’s so much going on in this glass that we suggest enjoying it on its own to get the full impact. For the second glass, then it’s a no-brainer to keep it simple with grilled white fish (a rather boring option I know, but it almost always works so why fix something that ain’t broke?) Jazz it up by roughly chopping a mix of your favourite soft herbs – basil, parsley, chives, marjoram, oregano, whatever you have to hand – zest of a lemon, a few grinds of the pepper mill and drown in very good olive oil. Mix and drizzle over the top of the fish.

One to watch: Two Rivers “Brookby Hill” Syrah

Marlborough is not typically known for its Syrah, so this is a bit of an experiment for the Two Rivers team. 2016 was their first vintage and the one that we tasted. It was a small volume production, so small that they actually crushed the grapes with their feet! If their other wines are anything to go by, together with their dedication to creating elegant wines, this one shows much promise.

Jo’s verdict: This was a good first attempt at producing Syrah, especially from four-year-old vines! It has all the hallmarks of a cool climate Syrah – predominantly savoury characters, with pepper and restrained black fruit. Definitely has potential – watch this space!

At a Glance

  • A couple more facts to mull over while trying a glass of Two Rivers: Two Rivers is named after the two rivers that feed Marlborough’s renowned Wairau and Awatere Valleys. Marlborough, which is near the top of the South Island, is one of New Zealand’s leading wine regions. A whopping 77% of the country’s wine is produced here, with Sauvignon Blanc being the most popular varietal followed closely by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
  • Other Two River wines to try: ‘Juliet’ Riesling 2017 (the 2018 just won a gold medal at the NZ Wine of the Year Awards), ‘Brookby Hill’ Pinot Gris 2016, ‘Tributary’ Pinot Noir 2016 – all of these were excellent wines. Unfortunately we did not get to taste the ‘Clos des Pierres’ Chardonnay, which Dave says is outstanding (with the 2017 vintage also just winning a gold medal, we believe him. It’s at the top of the list to try when back in NZ at Christmas!)
  • Where in the world can I buy a bottle of Two Rivers? Dear reader, you will be pleased to know that a bottle of Two Rivers wine is closer to you than you think! At least for those who live in: Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Canada (British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario), the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Malta, Czech Republic, Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives.

N.B. the initial wine consumed for the purposes of this review was provided free of charge at a public tasting. However, we were so impressed with the wines tasted that we purchased bottles on the night. No compensation (monetary or in-kind) was solicited or offered. In fact, they don’t even know that they’re getting this glowing review! We love Two Rivers, so the decision to write about it was our own and all views and opinions are our own.

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