Home
Page
Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
independent
analytical
non-commercial
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
KEVIN JUDD:  SAUVIGNON BLANC VISIONARY …



Geoff Kelly  MSc (Hons)



Background:  The New Zealand wine industry owes Kevin Judd more than it has so far acknowledged.  While he did not ‘invent’ Marlborough sauvignon – that honour goes to 1980 Montana Sauvignon Blanc – nonetheless he perfected it.  He first learnt the basics of beverage-style New Zealand sauvignon at Selaks from 1983 on.  His big break came in 1985 when he was selected by David Hohnen of Cape Mentelle vineyard,  West Australia,  to head up Hohnen’s new vineyard in Marlborough.  The name would be Cloudy Bay.  There Kevin quickly defined and consistently produced a superior style for (in truth) beverage-quality Marlborough sauvignon blanc.  Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc soon became New Zealand's most famous wine,  both a leader and a standard setter.   It went on to become almost the international standard for beverage sauvignon blanc.

Kevin was at Cloudy Bay for 25 vintages.  While there he ‘played’ with sauvignon blanc in every imaginable way,  never resting on his achievements.  He was soon aided and abetted by his old friend James Healy,  who he recruited from Corbans winery,  Henderson.  They experimented with both barrel fermentations,  noting what Peter Cowley (at Te Mata) and John Hancock (then at Morton Estate) had already achieved with Hawkes Bay sauvignon,  and even (following a lead from Michael Brajkovich) the MLF fermentation in sauvignon,  something conventionally frowned on.  In this way Cloudy Bay's alternative sauvignon,  a full-bodied barrel-fermented and MLF-fermented sauvignon called Te Koko was developed.  It was too different to take the world by storm,  but keen tasters noted that it went superbly with  food.

All this experience was of immeasurable value when Kevin finally decided to set up his own winery,  Greywacke (named for the commonest rock-type in the main ranges of New Zealand),  in 2009.  Here he has put into practice his second style-defining vision,  to create a ‘serious’ sauvignon blanc that was not merely beverage quality,  a wine that would not be dismissed after 18 months,  but would cellar and improve in cellar.  Such a wine would break down the weird conventional wisdom of so many shallow-thinking New Zealand wine people,  that sauvignon doesn't keep.  Anybody who has paid any attention at all to the famous dry white wines of Bordeaux and Graves knows full well that sauvignon blanc can cellar wonderfully,  but as so often,  the conventional wisdom in New Zealand wine circles has little regard for facts.  Kevin named this visionary wine Greywacke Wild Sauvignon,  to reflect the fact that it was not made in tanker loads in stainless steel tanks with factory-cultured yeast.  Instead it was made from intensively managed fruit cropped at a carefully controlled rate,  and picked at a critical point in ripeness.  It was then raised in carefully selected barrels with all-wild yeast ferments and some MLF fermentation,  like top-quality chardonnay.

The Tasting:  I set out with a keen sense of anticipation and even impending revelation,  to share in this tasting of all vintages so far released of Greywacke Wild Sauvignon.  It was presented at Regional Wines,  Wellington,  and led by Richard Ellis,  Kevin’s co-winemaker.  The wines were simply sensational.  It is a sad commentary on the conservatism and lack of spirit of inquiry in the average New Zealand wine drinker,  that this tasting was not fully subscribed.  At this point it is also fair to note that Kevin had one notable pioneer to reflect on,  and learn from,  in the field of serious barrel-fermented New Zealand sauvignons:  Te Mata Estate Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc,  initiated in Hawkes Bay by Peter Cowley in 1984,  and developed consistently ever since.  Tony Bish also in Hawkes Bay later sought to match Cape Crest with his Sauvage,  but lost heart (or chardonnay triumphed,  maybe).

Conclusions:  As any tasting of older vintages of Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc has demonstrated for years,  seriously made New Zealand sauvignon blanc cellars perfectly well.  But the magic of Marlborough,  coupled with Kevin Judd’s deft hand,  means that in certain years,  when the picking point is just right,  these Greywacke Wild Sauvignon wines achieve a level of bouquet complexity and palate harmony and excellence which is unmatched in New Zealand.  Even the oldest at eight years is only now mature to a degree.  As a set they look to be wines to cellar for up to 15 years,  a little more if you like really mature wines.  I urge you to cellar some,  and try them from time to time with appropriate paler foods,  especially those complexed with fines herbes,  sweet basil,  and the like,  plus naturally enough seafoods.  They will provide a glorious match.

Photo credit:  Tim Atkin,  MW,  with thanks.





THE WINES REVIEWED:

2014  Greywacke Chardonnay
2014  Greywacke Pinot Noir
2016  Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc
2015  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon
2014  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon
  2013  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon
2012  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon
2011  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon
2010  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon
2009  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon


2013  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon   19 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  fruit from both Southern Valleys and Wairau Plains,  mix of hand-pick and machine,  at roughly 9 – 10 t/ha = 3.6 – 4 t/ac;  no SO2 at press,  no skin contact,  only the lightest pressings used,  all juice cold-settled then into barrels,  93% older oak (up to 9 years),  7% new (light toast);  long wild-yeast fermentations quite warm initially,  usually extending to 11 – 12 months,  occasionally longer,  MLF typically 66% but ranging from 50 – 75% of barrels;  the wine then assembled in s/s with full lees and held 6 or so months;  RS 3 – 3.5 g/L,  sterile-filtered to bottle;  Wild has now grown to 25% of all Greywacke sauvignon;  www.greywacke.com ]
Colour is rich lemon,  still a wash of green,  just below midway in depth.  Bouquet is wonderfully evocative,  clearly ripe sauvignon with elderflower and freesia florals,  plus a hint of red capsicum,  on white nectarine fruit.  The complexing of barrel-ferment is beautifully done,  the wine not at all reductive and only faintly mineral,  the oak fragrant,  sweet and subtle,  the MLF invisible (as it needs to be in quality sauvignon).  Palate is vibrant,  no other word for it,  wonderfully ripe fruit flavours centred on pale stonefruits,  with just a little zing from subliminal red capsicum and sweet basil.  Oak is superbly subtle here,  and the MLF still near-invisible,  just a suggestion of glycerol-like texture melding with residual sugar so subtle you barely notice it,  due to good acid balance.  This is sensational sauvignon blanc defining anew what New Zealand sauvignon could be,  mainly because it has palate weight reflecting a cropping rate most New Zealand sauvignon producers would not consider.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  maybe longer.  GK 05/17

2011  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon   19  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  fruit from both Southern Valleys and Wairau Plains,  mix of hand-pick and machine,  at roughly 9 – 10 t/ha = 3.6 – 4 t/ac;  no SO2 at press,  no skin contact,  only the lightest pressings used,  all juice cold-settled then into barrels,  93% older oak (up to 9 years),  7% new (light toast);  long wild-yeast fermentations quite warm initially,  usually extending to 11 – 12 months,  occasionally longer,  MLF typically 66% but ranging from 50 – 75% of barrels;  the wine then assembled in s/s with full lees and held 6 or so months;  RS 3 – 3.5 g/L,  sterile-filtered to bottle;  Wild has now grown to 25% of all Greywacke sauvignon;  www.greywacke.com ]
Rich lemon,  not yet even a wash of straw,  just above midway in depth.  Bouquet on this 2011 is nearly as beautiful as the 2013,  the oak fractionally more noticeable,  varietal definition not as precise,  so on bouquet the wine could be confused with chardonnay.  Palate immediately brings the trace red capsicum zest and basil to the fore,  the oak again slightly greater,  wonderful palate length,  and the MLF as subtle as the 2013.  It is the subtlety of MLF that differentiates this wine from Te Koko.  It needs to be invisible.  Greywacke block MLF in a significant percentage of the barrels.  This wine would be divine with food.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe longer.  GK 05/17

2015  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon   19  ()
Wairau Valley mostly,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ screwcap;  fruit from both Southern Valleys and Wairau Plains,  a little Awatere the last year or two,  mix of hand-pick and machine,  at roughly 9 – 10 t/ha = 3.6 – 4 t/ac;  no SO2 at press,  no skin contact,  only the lightest pressings used,  all juice cold-settled then into barrels,  93% older oak (up to 9 years),  7% new (light toast);  long wild-yeast fermentations quite warm initially,  usually extending to 11 – 12 months,  occasionally longer,  MLF typically 66% but ranging from 50 – 75% of barrels;  the wine then assembled in s/s with full lees and held 6 or so months;  RS 3 – 3.5 g/L,  total dry extract 21.2 g/ L;  sterile-filtered to bottle;  Wild has now grown to 25% of all Greywacke sauvignon;  www.greywacke.com ]
Lemongreen,  the second palest,  but it does not look weak.  This wine is about to be released.  It is still a little gawky,  the oak noticeable,  no floral harmony evolved yet awhile.  There is a fresh edge,  but picking up a glass idly,  again you could easily think it chardonnay,  on bouquet.  Palate immediately changes that,  beautifully rich stone fruit,  a sweet basil edge,  MLF a little more noticeable at this early stage,  perhaps because all the fruit gives the impression of being a little riper this year.  Aftertaste does not confirm the thought of oak on bouquet,  so expect this wine to harmonise wonderfully with another 12 – 18 months in bottle.  Cellar 8 – 12 years.  GK 05/17

2009  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  fruit from both Southern Valleys and Wairau Plains,  mix of hand-pick and machine,  at roughly 9 – 10 t/ha = 3.6 – 4 t/ac;  no SO2 at press,  no skin contact,  only the lightest pressings used,  all juice cold-settled then into barrels,  93% older oak (up to 9 years),  7% new (light toast);  long wild-yeast fermentations quite warm initially,  usually extending to 11 – 12 months,  occasionally longer,  MLF typically 66% but ranging from 50 – 75% of barrels;  the wine then assembled in s/s with full lees and held 6 or so months;  RS 5.5 g/L,  sterile-filtered to bottle;  Wild has now grown to 25% of all Greywacke sauvignon;  www.greywacke.com ]
Lemonstraw,  the deepest wine,  still fresh and vigorous for its age.  This is the first of the line,  marking the debut of Greywacke Wild Sauvignon.  Bouquet is more like the 2011,  a clean ripe sweet sauvignon component with clear freesia florals melding with sweet basil and red capsicum,  just wonderful.  It smells rich.  Flavour is softer,  richer and bigger than the 2013 and 2011 wines,  but otherwise very similar,  with a rich tactile later palate.  The richness almost suggests glycerol,  which completely obscures the fact that this is the sweetest of the wines,  nearer six than three grams per litre.  This wine is on its plateau of maturity,  but there is no hurry at all.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  maybe longer.  GK 05/17

2016  Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc   18 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  fruit mostly Fairhall zone of Wairau Plains,  mostly machine-picked,  at roughly 9 – 10 t/ha = 3.6 – 4 t/ac;  no SO2 at press,  no skin contact,  only the lightest pressings used,  all juice cold-settled then to s/s;  cultured ’champagne’ yeast fermentations,  no MLF,  then assembled in s/s with some lees for some months;  RS 3.5 – 4 g/L,  total dry extract 20.3 g/L;  sterile-filtered to bottle;  www.greywacke.com ]
Greeny lemon,  the palest wine.  Initially opened,  there is a hint of reduction which quickly dissipates with air,  so we can call it mineral,  on ripe gooseberry (English) sauvignon blanc,  smelling quite rich.  Palate brings up red capsicum,  sweet basil,  and a palate weight more in accord with market-leading stainless sauvignons such as Astrolabe,  rather than the usual run of Marlborough wines.  Palate length is good,  the flavours now beautifully pure,  no interference from the mineral note on bouquet.  This should cellar beautifully,  for  those who like mature sauvignon flavours,  but in conventional terms it is at a peak now.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 05/17

2010  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  fruit from both Southern Valleys and Wairau Plains,  mix of hand-pick and machine,  at roughly 9 – 10 t/ha = 3.6 – 4 t/ac;  no SO2 at press,  no skin contact,  only the lightest pressings used,  all juice cold-settled then into barrels,  93% older oak (up to 9 years),  7% new (light toast);  long wild-yeast fermentations quite warm initially,  usually extending to 11 – 12 months,  occasionally longer,  MLF typically 66% but ranging from 50 – 75% of barrels;  the wine then assembled in s/s with full lees and held 6 or so months;  RS 3 – 3.5 g/L,  sterile-filtered to bottle;  Wild has now grown to 25% of all Greywacke sauvignon;  www.greywacke.com ]
Rich lemon with a wash of straw,  above midway in depth.  Bouquet here is less subtle,  just a hint of sauvignon maturity with an edge of rankness,  quite large-scale.  Palate suggests a cooler year,  the flavours clearly yellow capsicum,  oak in balance,  a thought of full maturity with a hint of quince,  but a long rich flavour.  Flavours suggest the fruit was not quite at perfect ripeness for longevity in bottle,  the varietal flavours being a bit under-ripe and strong.  Fully mature,  no hurry.  GK 05/17

2014  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon   17 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  fruit from both Southern Valleys and Wairau Plains,  mix of hand-pick and machine,  at roughly 9 – 10 t/ha = 3.6 – 4 t/ac;  no SO2 at press,  no skin contact,  only the lightest pressings used,  all juice cold-settled then into barrels,  93% older oak (up to 9 years),  7% new (light toast);  long wild-yeast fermentations quite warm initially,  usually extending to 11 – 12 months,  occasionally longer,  MLF typically 66% but ranging from 50 – 75% of barrels;  the wine then assembled in s/s with full lees and held 6 or so months;  RS 3 – 3.5 g/L,  sterile-filtered to bottle;  Wild has now grown to 25% of all Greywacke sauvignon;  www.greywacke.com ]
Rich lemon with a wash of straw,  the second deepest wine,  so a little out of line.  This one too has just a thought of reduction,  freshly presented,  but otherwise shows considerable integration achieved in the one year,  relative to the 2015.  Nett impression is more of chardonnay than sauvignon blanc,  on bouquet,  slightly lifted stonefruit and some oak / barrel fermentation.  As with the others,  as soon as you taste it,  it is unequivocally sauvignon,  oak integrating reasonably well,  but here you suspect the degree of reduction is interfering marginally with the softness and roundness of the palate,  making it harder.  I much prefer the 2015 approach.  The hardness makes the oak unsubtle on the finish.  But it needs to be said,  the more apparent ‘grip’ in this wine could make it good with stronger foods.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 05/17

2012  Greywacke Wild Sauvignon   17  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  fruit from both Southern Valleys and Wairau Plains,  mix of hand-pick and machine,  at roughly 9 – 10 t/ha = 3.6 – 4 t/ac;  no SO2 at press,  no skin contact,  only the lightest pressings used,  all juice cold-settled then into barrels,  93% older oak (up to 9 years),  7% new (light toast);  long wild-yeast fermentations quite warm initially,  usually extending to 11 – 12 months,  occasionally longer,  MLF typically 66% but ranging from 50 – 75% of barrels;  the wine then assembled in s/s with full lees and held 6 or so months;  RS 3 – 3.5 g/L,  sterile-filtered to bottle;  Wild has now grown to 25% of all Greywacke sauvignon;  www.greywacke.com ]
Lemongreen,  below midway in depth.  One sniff,  and this is more ordinary New Zealand sauvignon blanc,  clearly a cool year,  green capsicum rather than red,  snow peas,  sweet basil ‘herbes’ again,  but also a hint of canned peas and canned asparagus.  Palate is as rich as the others,  but has the complex methoxypyrazine aromatics of less ripe capsicums displayed to a tee,  completely dominating the oak and MLF components.  TA is a little high,  too.  Richard confirmed my own observations (from the literature) that when they present this wine to consumer tastings in the UK,  or even to more populist magazines like Decanter,  the Brits prefer this sauvignon style to the more ripe and harmonious wines.  Sadly,  this British quirk allows too many producers to continue exporting over-cropped,  thin and under-ripe but reasonably flavourful wines propped up by frankly commercial residual sugar.  Such wines are a world apart from Greywacke Sauvignon,  except when Nature dictates otherwise as in 2012.  The canned green notes will increase,  if cellared,  so best regarded as fully mature now.  2002 was indeed the coolest year in recent times,  in Marlborough.  GK 05/17

2014  Greywacke Chardonnay   17 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $41   [ screwcap;  clone mendoza mainly and Cl 95;  half the juice cold-settled,  the other half to barrel with solids;  extended wild-yeast fermentations with occasional stirring,  complete MLF;  approx. 18 months in barrels from a Burgundy cooper,  20% new;  RS 1.5 g/L,  total dry extract 20.2g/L;  www.greywacke.com ]
Rich lemon,  absolutely the middle wine for depth among the eight sauvignons.  Bouquet shows à la contemporary mode reduction to a degree bordering on objectionable,  but not completely obscuring lovely waxy golden queen peach mendoza fruit,  plus quite a lot of oak.  So at this stage the bouquet is youthful,  unknit,  and hopelessly immature.  Palate has similar richness to the Wild Sauvignon,  but new oak to excess I think,  the nett flavour impression being toasty but youthful and awkward chardonnay.  I will enjoy this wine much more once it has been cellared 8 – 10 years,  and then displays some softness and harmony.  At the moment the mineral reduction and oak interaction makes the wine hard and awkward on the later palate and aftertaste,  even with food.  Cellar 8 – 20 years:  it has the fruit to score higher further down the track.  GK 05/17

2014  Greywacke Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Southern Valleys,  Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $47   [ screwcap;  hillside plantings in the Southern Valleys;  detailed hand-picking at c. 5 – 6 t/ha (= 2 – 2.4 t/ac) followed by intensive sorting-table bunch by bunch;  80% destemmed to whole berries,  20% whole bunches;  wild yeast ferments with total cuvaison c. 21 days;  16 months in French oak 30 – 40% new;  egg-white fining if needed;  RS dry,  total dry extract 26.3 g/L;  www.greywacke.com ]
Quite dark ruby for a pinot noir,  some velvet.  Bouquet is youthful and awkward,  a lot of smoky nutmeggy oak to excess,  on black cherry and omega plum fruit.  On palate there is good rich black cherry fruit showing a depth thus far rare in Marlborough pinots.  Each year lately the Greywacke Pinot Noir seems a little richer,  as if the cropping rate is quietly being dialled back.  There is just a bit much winemaker artefact to allow the full expression of pinot noir varietal florality and beauty,  though.  Fruit of this quality with markedly less new oak would produce a better result,  I think.  Aftertaste is long,  but ends on smoky oak,  not fruit.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  to harmonise.  This wine is richer than the chardonnay,  and thus has the fruit to score appreciably higher,  with time.  GK 05/17