Greywacke is variety of sandstone that makes up a large percentage of the basement rock of New Zealand. In 1993, Kevin Judd, then winemaker of Cloudy Bay in Marlborough, registered it as a brand name thinking that he might one day want to use it on a wine label of his own.
The first vines in Marlborough – a small block of Muscat, were planted in 1873 by the Scottish farmer David Herd but the first commercial plantings took another hundred years to appear. They were established by Montana, planting mainly Sauvignon Blanc which thrived in the Marlborough terroir and propelled New Zealand in to the world wine scene. In 1985, David Hohnen of Cape Mentelle in Margaret River launched Cloudy Bay with Kevin Judd as winemaker and the following year, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (from Hunter’s) was awarded the top 3 trophies at London International Wine Show. The French started making ‘Cuvée New Zealand’ Sauvignon Blanc and some added Methoxypyrazine to their bland wines make them as appealing as the pyridine rich wines of Marlborough.
Kevin Judd left Cloudy Bay after 25 vintages and launched Greywacke in 2009. He has no vineyards or winery of his own but buys quality fruit from selected growers and makes wine at Dog Point winery.
I tasted the Greywacke range with Kevin Judd’s son Kohen at the “Flavours of New Zealand” tasting in London in mid January. Last week I re-tasted the wines with members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society.
First, we mingled and chatted and sipped Cloudy Bay Pelorus Rosé NV, a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay made by the ‘Traditional Method.’ It was a less than impressive first taste.
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and Greywacke ‘Wild’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014 were in the first flight of wines. Fruit for the Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, mostly machine harvested at night and fermented in stainless steel tanks with 50% indigenous yeast, come from Wairau, Awatere & Southern Valleys. It is crisp, fruity and pleasing. (16). The ‘Wild’ Sauvignon Blanc underwent spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation for 6 months in old French oak barriques with lees stirring and spent further five more months on lees before bottling. Two thirds underwent malolactic fermentation. It is fragrant, complex, long, immensely satisfying and the best oak aged Sauvignon Blanc I have tasted. (18). One taster observed: “Kevin Judd has moved into new and interesting territory with his Wild Sauvignon.”
Greywacke Riesling 2015 comes from 17 year-old vines on two-cane VSP trellising. Grapes are hand harvested and whole bunch pressed. 50% is fermented in stainless steel tanks with cultured yeasts and the rest in old French oak barriques with indigenous yeasts. Fermentation is stopped to give a wine with 20g/l residual sugar. It is aged on lees in old barrels for further five months before bottling to give a wine with a pronounced and attractive Riesling nose and fine texture and mouthfeel from whole brunch fermentation. (15). Greywacke Pinot Gris 2015 (Selection Ovaille, Mission & Entav 52 clones) has 8g/l residual sugar and is a well structured wine that would be great with Foie Gras (15.5).
Greywacke Chardonnay 2014 is a lovely wine. Clone 95 has produced fruit with apple and lemon overtones and Menoza Clone, flavour and acidity. Grapes were hand harvested, whole bunch pressed and underwent spontaneous fermentation including full malolactic in French oak (20% new) with lees stirring for 18 months (17).
Fruit for Greywacke Pinot Noir 2014 was hand harvested, chilled and hand sorted. Partial whole bunch natural fermentation was in open-top fermenters. The wine was aged in French oak barriques (45% new) for 15 months and fined with egg white before bottling. It is a lovely fragrant wine, packed with red fruit and has soft tannins (17).
The tasting was followed by a two-course supper (Salmon steak, herb mash, lemon and caper butter, Lemon torte, Marlborough Pinot Noir). Greywacke handouts for distribution at the tasting came from Liberty Wines – Greywacke UK agents.