Monday, 20 October 2014

Quality over Quantity: Marlborough's Greywacke Wines

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand... Yeah, we get it. It's our no faffing go-to because we know what we're getting; dry, crisp, citrusy, good acidity, and most of all, generally under a tenner. So how do you feel about spending more like £15 - £20 on a bottle? Or what about creeping up to £30 for a NZ Chardonnay?

Well, a couple of weeks ago I attended a Greywacke tasting - hosted by Greywacke winemaker Richard Ellis at my local indie wine store, Tivoli Wines - to see what all the fuss is about.

Greywacke (pron: grey-wacky) is the Marlborough label of Kevin Judd; the name is a nod to the high prevalence of grey rounded river stones found everywhere in New Zealand, even in the soils of the vineyards.

There are just three people that work full time for Greywacke; Kevin, his wife Kimberley, and Richard; a considerably small operation for such a familiar brand. The reason for this minimal number is that they don't produce their wines from their own vineyards - they simply don't own any! Instead, they source fruit from mature vineyards elsewhere in NZ, calling favours from friends in the industry, and harvesting grapes outside of the peak picking times. The wines are then made by Kevin at Dog Point Winery.

This meticulously planned operation inevitably results in the production of far fewer bottles in comparison to most of the Kiwi wines on the market. Extra attention has to be given to quality control too, and these are factors in why you're paying a higher price. That said, you only have to taste a drop to know that it's worth every penny. Greywacke wines encompass an opulence; they offer something with much more delicacy and complexity.

Their portfolio is primarily Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, but there are also limited releases of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurtzraminer. I should also mention that Kevin's a keen photographer, and that his beautiful vineyard images provide the unmistakable identity of the range.

I won't go into detail about all the wines we tried, I just wanted to focus on the Savs... And a teeny bit on the Chardonnay. Maybe I might convince you to splurge a little?

Anyway, we were lucky enough to be the 2nd people in the UK to try the brand new 2014 Sauvignon Blanc! (£16.99 from The Wine Company) Having just landed off the boat, and bottled just 5-6 weeks ago, it was very early days, and even Richard said that wines are unsettled and often in a "dull phase" at this point. Nonetheless, as a testament to the quality, it was still drinking well; classic fresh fruit, crisp and zingy. There's no punch-you-in-the-face grassy character to it, rather a more aromatic and tropical style. Juicy stone fruits, such as nectarines and peaches, with subtle blossom undertones, and a good acidity; it would work wonderfully as an aperitif, or partnered with avocado dishes and ceviche.

Greywacke also produce another Sauvignon Blanc; Wild Sauvignon 2012 (available from The Drink Shop at £20.95). Fermented in old French oak barrels using wild yeast, this is a much different style - a game changer if you will. It’s a fuller textural wine; dry, but with a luscious creamy buttery taste (something that’s generally more synonymous with Chardonnay). There are fleshy peach flavours which develop a savoury herbaceous fennel complexity, and a lingering flinty finish. Richard’s suggestion was to pair it with firm fish and light pork/poultry pasta dishes. 

Last, but certainly not least, the Chardonnay 2011 (priced at £26.50 from Wine Direct). Ok, we're hitting the £30 mark now (depending on where you get it from), and I know that most of us would wince at spending that amount on a bottle to drink on a non-special occasion, but I think that this is worth it. 

It’s a rich style, smooth but still retaining its characteristic Mendoza concentration of flavour and acidity. You pick up grapefruit initially, which slowly unravels to sweeter citrus; clementines and even marmalade. There’s smoky, nutty, bacon-y aromas too - thanks to the 20% of wine aged in new French Oak barrels - but it’s in no way overpowering. With a long, mouth-filling finish, Greywacke’s Chardonnay is a bright wine full of interesting dimensions, making it very adaptable for various food matches... Or just thoroughly enjoying on its own.

Have I persuaded you yet? Sure, you might want to spend that amount on a couple of wines from the shop, or maybe a spirit that'll last you a bit longer – we all like to get more for our money - but how about you splash out this month and give Greywacke a go; it's no plonk!

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