Te Whare Ra is the oldest small winery in Marlborough (est 1979) with the oldest vines in the region.
Husband and wife Jason & Anna Flowerday – both winemakers – bought the 14 ha property in 2003. Jason grew up in Marlborough and Anna in McLaren Vale – South Australia.
We caught up with Anna, winemaker and proprietor and asked her amongst a whole lot of other things what Te Whare Ra stands for. Her answer: “Authentic wines made from cowshit not bullshit!”
I love people with a strong vision and plenty of humour so let’s find our more about her and the wines she and her husband are producing in New Zealand’s flagship wine region.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
What I love about my job is that no day is ever the same! We have a very small team here so I wear a lot of different hats and I get to do all the glamorous jobs and all the very not glamorous ones – like picking up cow poo for our biodynamic preps.
Number of years in the wine industry
I think it is 22.
Why did you decide to work in the wine industry?
I grew up with family vineyards and have had family involvement in McLaren Vale since the 1850s. I was doing a science degree at Adelaide university and studying microbiology and biochemistry while working part time in restaurants.
The manager we had was amazing and knew a lot about wine and his love of it was infectious. He did a huge amount of staff training and involved us all a lot with the wines they served. I couldn’t really ever see myself working in a lab full time and so about half way through my science degree I swapped into the Oenology degree and the rest is history!
What would you do if you wouldn’t work in the wine industry?
Mmmh – I really wanted to be a vet for a long time and then a forensic scientist.
What’s so special about New Zealand wines?
Wow – that is a hard one. So many things really. I think what I love about New Zealand wine is the diversity of varieties and regions.
If you think about New Zealand wine as a whole then name your favourite wine style there is a pretty good chance that there is someone in New Zealand that makes one you are going to love. If I had to sum it up succinctly I would say – purity, complexity and finesse.
We have also especially enjoyed being part of the organic and biodynamic community since we moved back here – full of an amazing, inspiring bunch of growers and makers of some of the most interesting wines in New Zealand.
What the story behind your wines?
Te Whare Ra is the oldest small winery in Marlborough – est 1979 and we also have the oldest vines in the region. Jason and I both grew up with family vineyards and had done our time working as winemakers for other people and were ready to do our own thing. We thought Te Whare Ra was a unique proposition with it’s old vines and the range of varieties planted and our vision was to restore it to one of New Zealand’s iconic wineries.
So ours is a wine company run by winemakers and we do things a little differently. The vineyard and winery are both certified organic with BIOGRO NZ and we also farm using biodynamic practices as well. Our wines actually are hand-made and we produce: Sauvignon Blanc, Two different Rieslings, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, a white field blend called Toru as well as awesome Pinot Noir and Syrah. We love showing people the depth and breadth of what Marlborough can do and we don’t have a big marketing budget so we try and let the quality of our wines do the talking for us.
If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
I really love this game and have developed it into my own version in cellar door where I have famous people that match up with the characteristics of each of our wines!
I think I would like to be Syrah – works well in both Australia and here in New Zealand – great depth, quite complex, generous and supple but still elegant.
Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
Ooh … too hard to choose just one. I have always joked with my husband that my last supper would have to last for about 3 days and be about 12 courses long to cover all my favourites. Hopefully I get enough notice to make that happen. Here are a couple of my all time favourite matches:
- Whitebait & dry Riesling
- Duck anything and Pinot Noir
- Gewurztraminer and Munster cheese
Hidden gems and favourite spots in your region. Why should we visit?
I think the Marlborough sounds are one of the best kept things about Marlborough. As a family we love doing all the different walks and trails all around Marlborough, fishing and boating out in the sounds, swimming in the river, walking in the Wither Hills.
I also think Marlborough has great produce to back up the great wines so if you like eating and drinking it is an awesome place to visit – and officially the sunniest place in New Zealand in 2015.
Things you still want to do – what’s on your bucket list?
There are a couple of wine regions that I have only visited briefly that I would love to go back and spend more time in – Alsace and Burgundy in France.
Also a couple of areas of the world that I have drunk lots of wines from but never been to – the Mosel & Rheingau in Germany and Barolo in Italy.
Last book read
Dawn French – According to Yes.
Advice on buying wine
Life it too short not to try new wines – try and find a great local wines store nearby with staff who can help you out with some interesting recommendations that might take you outside your comfort zone but will open you up to new things that might become one of your favourites.
Join a wine club if they have one. Lots of great wine education classes run all over New Zealand.
For me the thing I really love about wine is that there isn’t really a right or wrong and there is so much to explore that I will never know everything and can keep learning about it and enjoying it until I am in my dotage.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Marie Curie – one of my heroes and the only person in the world to win two Nobel Prizes in two different fields of science
Thank you so much Anna!