Winemaker Kevin Judd brings his newest wine venture - Greywacke - to Singapore. Of the 7 wines he makes, only one is a familiar Marlborough style Sauvignon Blanc but another Sav Blanc is "wild"...no kidding.
Timing is everything in life.
Winemaker Kevin Judd left Australia to go to New Zealand thinking it was a temporary move; he was going there to try his hand at making white wines in a cool climate. After three vintages with Selaks he contemplated returning home when a second winery job came along…this one was a start-up winery.
With nothing to lose, he accepted the job and started from scratch building a new vineyard and winery. Little did he know that the job he took would make him the chief winemaker at New Zealand’s most famous winery – Cloudy Bay.
Kevin puts it down to luck. “I was just in the right place at the right time” he says.
25 years and 25 vintages later, Kevin and his wife Kimberly left Cloudy Bay in 2009 to start their own thing.
“In 2009 most thought that starting a new winery was nuts - it was just after the wine glut and during the financial crisis,” Kevin said. But investing in the downturn had its advantages. “The timing gave me an opportunity to source good vineyards.”
As it turned out he left Cloudy Bay along with another senior winemaker - James Healy. Healy and another Cloudy Bay colleague, viticulturalist Ivan Sutherland, had set up Dog Point Vineyard in Marlborough. With Sutherland’s help Kevin was able to source some fantastic fruit for his new project – now it was just a question of making the wine.
Kevin had a chat with his old mates and they agreed to let him use the Dog Point winery to make his wines. As Kevin says, “now we sort of joke that this is the Cloudy Bay Retirement home.” In reality it’s more like a reunited rock band – so much seasoned talent hanging around ready to jam together!
The wine business seems glamorous when enjoying a delicious, well-made wine at a wine dinner, but from the production end it is hard physical work. Kevin obviously knew what he was getting into, but he’s constantly reminded how going it alone is a lot different than working for a large winery with loads of cellar hands like Cloudy Bay.
“Our policy from the start was to get on the gum boots and do it ourselves,” he said. “I have no cellar hand.” Yet while the set up at Dog Point is completely separate, it is still somewhat collaborative. And from the sounds of it the positive collaborative environment makes the work a little lighter.
What’s with the “Greywacke” Name?
The world is accustomed to having New Zealand wines named after bays or odd sounding Maori-named locations and objects. The name “Greywacke” doesn’t comply with the usual naming conventions but stands out as a quirky, geological name with Anglicized ring to it. The sound appealed to Kevin but the meaning was even more interesting.
“In 1993 I read that the there was a rock called “greywacke” that's a hard sedimentary rock found around New Zealand,” Kevin explained. “In the first vineyard we owned there was a lot of this greywacke river stone in the soil."
Though the Judds ended up selling that first vineyard they decided to keep the name. “In 1993 (17 year’s prior to starting this venture) I had actually registered the name,” Kevin said. “Now is the opportunity to do the wines.”
Kevin makes 7 Greywacke wines: the Marlborough Sav Blanc, Wild Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer.
The classic Marlborough style Sauvignon Blanc is fat and fruity on the nose offering the full spectrum of ripe Sav Blanc aromatics from passion fruit and ruby red grapefruit – not at all pungent and green.
Kevin achieves these aromatics by waiting to harvest fruit until April at the end of a long growing season. “This gives the fruit a big chance to develop the right sort of flavours,” says Kevin.
That’s the key. “I like the fruit to be golden to be sort of rich and ripe. I like my Sav Blanc with texture and rich mouth-feel." It helps that the average age of the vines is 12 years so the fruit comes from mature vineyards. The richness also comes from the fact that 10% is fermented in old barrels with wild yeast.
The Marlborough Pinot Noir is distinctive (read different) in that it has a more savoury character than most Marlborough pinots. The stylistic difference is no doubt a result of fruit quality and winemaking choices.
Greywacke Pinot Noir is made from Dijon clone fruit sourced primarily from mature Yarrum hillside vineyards. All the grapes are hand-picked and sorted to remove any fruit that's not perfect. The wine is then fermented in an open-top fermenter with 20% of the grapes left in whole clusters using 100% wild yeast. This technique adds a floral note to the wine that’s in line with the style Kevin wants. “I’m aiming to make a delicately framed wine,” he says.
Extreme Non-Intervention Winemaking
The Marlborough Sav Blanc and Pinot Noir are the workhorses of the Greywacke portfolio and account for 70 % of the total production. These are the wines that pay the bills, so to speak.
But it’s the “wild” bunch in the portfolio that delivers a unique “Greywacke” experience. Both the wild Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are wines that develop their own character. Kevin sort of forces them to do so since he purposely leaves the wines to “raise” themselves in the barrel, elever as the French say. He doesn’t intervene – like a father confident enough in his children to let them discover their own destiny.
To sum up his "wild" ferment winemaking is simple. Kevin presses the juice into barrel then essentially walks away. While it’s not entirely that simple, he is definitely practicing extreme non-intervention winemaking.
“For the Wild Sauvignon 2009 I put some of the juice in old barrels and let nature take its course. I rely 100% on wild yeast - don't add anything – and leave it 12 months in barrel,” he says. “The wine doesn't ferment quickly so I just leave it. Naturally the fermentation slows down and during the cool part of the winter the wines cool down and the ferment stops. But it restarts in the spring.”
This results in a creamy, very rich style of Sav Blanc – really creamy in fact. It is incredibly classy and has fantastic length, very elegant.
“The oak barrels are 90% old barrels,” Kevin explains. “The oak is just a "seasoning element" not a key part of the flavour profile.” More flavour impact comes from the malolactic influence. “Currently for the Wild Sav Blanc it's 2/3 malolactic fermented in the 2009 and 3/4 in the 2010,” explains Kevin. The 2010 Wild Sauvignon Blanc was just released on Feb 1 and is definitely a tighter style. It could be laid down for 10 years easily. Overall it has a more herbal, mineral and green flavour profile but like the ’09 it evolves in the glass as you sit.
The Chardonnay 2010 also veers towards the ripe fruit style and is made in a similar way as the Wild Sav Blanc. It is barrel fermented using 100% wild yeast and malolactic fermentation in a mixture of old barrels and 25% new oak barrels. The result is a lightly oaked wine with a lifted lemony character on the palate - that is - lifted once you get past a succulent fruit entry that’s ripe and lush. Don't think this is an "oaky" style of Chardonnay. The oak is really finely integrated and lends a faint vanilla backdrop to the finish.
Greywacke has just entered the Singapore market with Crystal Wines so all these wines are waiting to be discovered at Crystal’s retail shop at Valley Point Shopping Center. Go get “wild” with Greywacke and try them!
Visit the Greywacke website for wine details and also to take in the beautiful photography done by Kevin Judd as well. His talents are not just winemaking!
Contributed by Sarah Mayo, TLN Editor