Kevin Judd visited Wined Up Here, Norbiton’s independent wine shop established in 2007. Owner Charlotte Dean arranged a tasting of the seven wines in his range. Here we discuss what makes one of his Sauvignons ‘Wild’
Mr New Zealand has been in town. Kevin Judd, winemaker at Greywacke and the man responsible for much of what we think of as the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc style was in the UK to thank the people who support him by stocking and buying his wines. There is nothing wacky about his intense sunlight filled Marlborough wines, although the ‘wild’ Sauvignon is a touch different. It’s named to flag to drinkers that it may not be the classic pungent nettles and gooseberry wine they usually expect from New Zealand, which he labels Sauvignon Blanc.
The rounder, creamier style is a result of differences in winemaking, as the viticulture is the same for both sauvignon blancs, although he does choose the slightly riper berries for the ‘Wild Sauvignon. Partly it is due to fermentation using 100% indigenous yeasts from the harvest while the Sauvignon is made using only 15% wild yeasts. Partly it is due to the influence of oak. The juice is handled the same way; it goes into the stainless steel tanks and gets settled. Instead of racking the juice into another tank and adding yeast, the tank is racked into barrels. They are left in the cellar for a few weeks and after a time it starts to ferment under its own steam.
As Kevin puts it, “there is a microbiological zoo going on inside the barrel”. Different types of yeasts start to grow; they are not from the winery necessarily, but from the terroir. Yeasts are from the grapes rather than the barrel (although the barrels are cleaned he admits that there may be some crossover). As alcohol levels increase, lots of the wild yeasts are killed off. The yeasts that take over to do the main alcoholic fermentation during the latter part of the process are different from the wild yeasts at the start.
The wild yeast fermentation is less predictable. Sometimes the Wild Sauvignon ends up tasting similar to the inoculated Sauvignon Blanc. Sometimes the fermentation is really stinky. So it is more risky than inoculating but he believes it results in wines with more character, more personality and individuality which are not just about the fruit. Key to bringing the character is the quiet ‘zoo’ time in the cellar. He says ‘beautiful clean fruity wine is great; there is a lot out there and it was the wine I made 30 years ago.’ Today he is more interested in complexity, personality and diversity in wines. Each year is similar but different. The wines are more like cousins than siblings so you’ll never get the same style each year as the vintage is in the style controlling it too. You can control the Sauvignon in the wild wine to some extent, but he reminds us to that in a cold year like 2012, there is an obvious difference in the wine (with less ripe pears and more asparagus).
Compared to the classic Sauvignon Blanc of zingy nettle notes, the Wild is dried herbs, with some floral character, mingling with some fruit and honey. The oak rounds it out, gives it a spicy kick, lifting the finish and also means it will age. Sales in UK of Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc have levelled out, whereas sales of Wild are still growing. People are discovering it and finding something different.
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