Founder of te Pa Haysley MacDonald’s ancestors were part of the earliest migrations to Aotearoa-New Zealand, which historical data and carbon dating place to around 800 years ago. They crashed through the waves and landed, and then settled on the Wairau Bar area of Marlborough at the top of the South Island, and his people have lived in this area ever since then.
The family farmed the productive lands in the area in the 1900s, from traditional uses, into cattle, dairy and then potato farming in the 1990s. At one point the MacDonald family was one of the largest growers and producers of potato chips in the South Island. They planted vines in 2003, initially growing for other Marlborough wineries, before launching te Pa to critical acclaim in 2011. Since then, they’ve expanded the te Pa range, and added a few other heritage brands including Koha and Pa Road Wines, and more recently the Montford Estate range. That unique history and centuries old Maori heritage is what makes te Pa different from other wine producers, and this unique, powerful story connects with wine lovers across New Zealand, and around the world.
SupermarketNews chatted to winemaker Sam Bennett to find out more about this incredible winery and its award-winning top drops.
What characteristics of your wine are influenced by the physical landscape of your winery?
“The physical landscape and diurnal range we enjoy here in Marlborough produces Chardonnay that is intense, fruit-driven, with nice acidity and distinctively crisp characteristics.
2019 was a great growing season and resulted in concentrated fruit.
The Central Wairau Valley area, where this wine comes from, has silt loam over alluvial gravels, which is great for Chardonnay because there’s a bit more grunt in the soil. We used Mendoza fruit, from mature vines, which again added to good fruit concentration and nice acids. Marlborough also has a strong diurnal range, with our cool nights and long sunshine-soaked days, which is a major contributor to that intense fruit style.”
What is one of the most rewarding things about winemaking?
“Drinking a nice cold beer at the end of the day! I think the most rewarding element of winemaking is that every season, every vintage is different, so it’s never boring.”
“This ripe and attractive Chardonnay has bright aromatics of stone fruit, florals and spiced nuts. It has a generous palate with some mealy complexity and textural characteristics.
Notes of nectarine, grapefruit and cashews are supported by gentle vanilla oak. Hints of citrus, balanced acidity, and a fine phenolic profile keeps this Chardonnay refreshing on the palate. Some spicy oak and a hint of flint adds further intrigue as the wine builds in the glass.”
What was important in making this award-winning wine?
“All of them! For this wine, we did hand picking and whole bunch press which gives you lots of options in the winery.
Chardonnay is a winemaker’s wine, so this is a really involved style as far as winemaking decisions and input. Probably more so than most other wine varietals, Chardonnay is the sum of all of the individual decisions.
Another big decision was being brave with the wine style: it’s got high solid ferments so is pretty rich – a lot of things could go wrong, but with risk comes rewards, and the wines result in much more texture and complexity.”
“This Chardonnay would be perfect with a lightly battered courgette flower with some salt. Scallops wrapped in prosciutto is another worthy food match.”
How long can you shelf your winning bottle of wine for?
“You could comfortably age this 2019 Chardonnay for five years.”
Who would your wine appeal to?
“This Chardonnay will be instantly appealing to fans of the more modern, precise style of Chardonnay. It’s got great fruit-expression, nice texture, and good acid. There’s some new oak there, but it’s lightly seasoned oak and well-integrated so it doesn’t dominate the wine.”
How would you describe this wine to someone who's never had this grape varietal/blend before?
“It’s a textural, balanced, complex, integrated delicious drop, with classic Marlborough Chardonnay aromatics of stone fruit and spiced nuts. When you take a sip, the stone fruit flavours carry through, with some nice vanilla hints from wine’s time in French oak barrels while aging. Fresh and balanced acids keep it refreshing, and the oak and spice reappear on the finish.”
If you could do a wine bottle swap with any winery in NZ or the world, which winery and wine would it be with?
“I’m going to buck the trend here and say Albertine Organic gin, which is made up in Hawke’s Bay. Perfect for my gin and tonics this summer.”
Founders: Haysley MacDonald
Current Owner: Haysley MacDonald
Winemaker: Sam Bennett
Location: Marlborough, New Zealand.