In 2009, one of the most acclaimed winemakers in New Zealand decided it was time to venture out on his own and walk away from 25 years of being head winemaker for Cloudy Bay, the winery responsible for cementing NZ’s place as one of the premier (if not, thee premier) Sauvignon Blanc producer in the world. The man; Kevin Judd, his label; Greywacke.
We were lucky enough to be invited to the 10 years of Greywacke celebration, tasting previous vintages (including a 10 year old Sauvignon Blanc) and the newly released wines for the year.
Kevin Judd was born near Southampton in the UK. His parents were “10 pound poms” and took up the offer to immigrate to Australia with the assistance of the commonwealth. The Judds settled near Adelaide, the home of Australian wine when Kevin was just 9 years old.
Moving to the heart of the Australian wine industry encouraged Kevin to study at Roseworthy college, where he was fascinated by the intricacies of the chemical and agricultural elements involved in winemaking. In the interview below he mentioned that at first it was hard to find his feet at Roseworthy because he didn’t come from a prominent wine family and he didn’t have a vintage under his belt before studying. Despite the initial challenge, Kevin graduated and got his first hands on experience working at Chateau Reynella (in Mclaren Vale) followed by a move to Marlborough to take up a position at Selaks.
A meeting of fate with David Hohnen in 1984 quickly lead to Kevin being the first employee (consulting on the new winery build in Marlborough) & head winemaker of Cloudy Bay. Kevin Judd’s reputation as the winemaker behind Cloudy Bay, one of the most iconic wines produced in New Zealand (and even the world) was firmly established over his 25 year tenyer.
In 1992 the first barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc from Cloudy Bay was made from a single vineyard site that had particularly stony soil. The name of this vineyard was the “Greywacke vineyard” because of the Greywacke stones prevalent in the vineyard. 4 years later the wine would be relabeled as Te Koko and is still one of the most iconic New Zealand wines available in the UK. You can find it here.
In 2009 Kevin turned 50. It was a “now or never” moment. He decided the answer has to be “now”, it was time to venture out on his own. The goal was to make a style of wine he liked making with full control over the end product (ironically that is not always the case with the wild yeasts he is such a fan of!).
The first Greywacke vintage in 2009 included 7 wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Wild Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris & a sweet wine). 10 years on, there are still only 7 wines available in the range and that is how they want to keep it (well for now… there are hints of the possibility of exploring Syrah if the climate continues to be favourable).
The Greywacke fruit is sourced in the southern valleys of central Marlborough from a range of growers but the biggest supplier of fruit is Ivan Sutherland, who owns Dog Point and worked with Kevin Judd as the head viticulturist at Cloudy Bay. The trust and shared vision between Judd & Sutherland shared over decades of working with one and other has helped ensure that even when working in the same winery and their grapes coming from similar plots of land, there are no conflicts of interest.
The different styles of wines produced is particularly evident with the Greywacke Wild Sauvignon and Ivan Sutherland’s Dog Point barrel fermented Sauvignon Section 94. We have created a special price for a side by side tasting of the two wines here.
A lot of winemakers talk about the terroir and how the terroir affects their wines. Traditionally terroir is viewed as the relationship between the soils and the climate that is unique to a region. Some even go a step further and include the people, traditions and culture in their particular wine region as a key influence of the regions terroir. Kevin Judd has another interpretation. The microflora, the naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria of a region has just as an important role to play as the traditional variables when it comes to shaping the wines and the uniqueness of a region.
The wild yeast used in every wine Kevin Judd makes (even a small amount in the regular Sauvignon Blanc) gives the wines a unique personality, added texture and a savoury element. The style is all about layered ripe fruit flavours and taking a step back from the green & herbaceous traditional Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Ultimately this wine style goes against a lot of the theory about wine making, “It is super hands off, not something they taught me at Roseworthy College” it is all about letting the grapes do their thing. Although he does admit, sometimes the wines just don’t taste ‘wild’ and to counter this Kevin has multiple batches on the go. He then makes a final blend of the barrels to get the characteristics he is after for that particular vintage.
Wild Sauvignon ferments can take up to 11 months with a few lees stirrings and ⅔ of the wine undergos malolactic fermentation to improve weight and the savoury mouthfeel of the wine. The result is a wine that ages gracefully (as you’ll see below).
Every winemaker we have the pleasure of hosting in our NZ wine shop in Brixton, we ask a few questions to get an insight on their perceptions of NZ wine trends and their experiences. Below is the casual chat we had with Kevin after the 10 years of Greywacke tasting held in London in January 2019.
The variety that deserves a lot more recognition is New Zealand Chardonnay… It truely is a grape that excels in NZ and it is soo frustrating that it is not recognised by a lot of consumers.
I really admire the Chardonnay being produced in Western Australia from producers like Vasse Felix and the skin contact Pinot Noirs made by By Farr in Victoria are exceptional. But if they were to kick me out of New Zealand, I am going straight to Tasmania… I think there is so so much potential there. Particularly in the Cold River Valley. Not only for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling wine, but I believe aromatics from Tasmania have an exciting future.
To put it bluntly, it is still France.
To me the biggest learning curve was studying at Roseworthy College, starting Greywacke was rather straightforward considering I had been at the helm of Cloudy Bay for 25 years - There weren’t a lot of spanners that could be thrown at me that I hadn’t already come across. But for Roseworthy, I didn’t come from a wine family & I didn’t even have a vintage under my belt when I decided to study winemaking. It did feel a little overwhelming and I felt extremely disadvantaged by not having previous experience in wine and everyone else seemed to have a few years head start on me. It was easy to think of giving up in that first year studying but ultimately the attraction of winemaking, working outdoors with a fine line between art and science meant I pushed through.
The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc will put the question of if Sauvignon Blanc can stand the test of time to bed. After 10 years, the acidity has mellowed and the flavours have opened up with tree-ripened nectarines. The palate had great concentration with a soft textural finish. This 10 year old New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was a true delight.
The new release 2018 vintage has an abundance of aromatic ripe Nectarines, Rock Melon and asian spices. A softer more layered style than the classic green & herbaceous Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs prevalent in the market. The fruit was harvested in cooler nights and lightly pressed and underwent a cold slow fermentation to allow the full flavour potential to develop. A small portion (about 10%) was allowed to undergo an indigenous yeast ferment, which was later blended for added texture.
A deep golden colour, sweet perfumed nose and drinking excellently. This was our pick of wine for the tasting. The palate is expressive and intricate with complimentary summer fruit jam, dried tarragon, almonds and a grapefruit twist. The wines malolactic fermentation adds weight and savouriness. The finish is persistent and crisp.
The Wild Sauvignon fruit has been sourced from the same sites as the Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc (and very similar sites to Dog Point’s Section 94 Barrel Fermented Sav). The key difference is in the winemaking, not the site (although Kevin did admit that he looks for slightly riper fruit for the Wild Sav). Kevin Judd explained that there are so many variables involved with indigenous yeast barrel fermentations that the different winemaking styles make significantly different wines. Unless you have worked with a winemaker for a vintage it is almost impossible to replicate their wine.
The 2016 Wild Sauvignon was aged in lightly toasted barrels that Kevin loves for the savory element they add to his wines. This wine is all about lemon zest, honeysuckle, vanilla beans, apricots and shortbread with a slight hint of dry wood smoke.
The 2016 is expected to age as gracefully as the 2010, It is drinking superbly but a little bottle age will bring the patient consumer plenty of joy.
2012 was one of the toughest years in Marlborough. It was a long cold winter that never really warmed up during the summer. The early ripening thinned skinned Pinot Noir was one of the varieties that was not overly affected by the less than ideal conditions. The reason is the Pinot Noir is sourced from hillside sites and the thin skinned variety is one of the first to ripen. With that in mind, Greywacke 2012 Pinot Noir is most certainly a cool climate Pinot Noir.
The colour is a very pale red, the nose is an intricate fusion of bright red berries and a delicate smokey edge. The wine is vibrant, highly perfumed with vine ripened black berries, cloves and an earthy element of dried oregano. The 2012 has aged well and is an excellent example of a cool climate Pinot Noir.
Aromatic, spicy and plenty of ripe dark fruit. The 2015 vintage was warmer with a long dry January and February (technically drought conditions) Water restrictions were applied in the region that resulted in smaller berries and reduced Marlborough’s yield significantly. The smaller berries improved the concentration of flavours of the wines of 2015.
Greywacke 2015 Pinot Noir has a lovely deep colour and oozes dark berries with Black Cherries, Boysenberries, a wee dollop of artisan plum jam integrated with a savory gaminess and asian spices. The fine tannin structure indicates that this wine will age comfortably but it is drinking wonderfully now.
If you would like the New Zealand Cellar to source any back vintages of Greywacke wine please send us an email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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