Gatecrasher 2008 Harvest
Is Sauvignon Blanc capable of "Greatness"?
New Zealand is synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc the world over. Most conventional New Zealand winemakers can produce these stereo-typical and mass-adored Sauvignon Blancs at high cropping levels with mechanised viticulture and rarely, if at all, does the viticulturist or winemaker need to put too many footprints in the vineyard.
In the cellar, selected yeasts and temperature control ensure that primary characters dominate and invariably these wines are finished with gross intervention via acid adjustment and structure-stripping fining agents.
Sure, these wines have played an important role in putting New Zealand wine on the map, and they will continue to. However, fine wine lovers do not fill their cellars with these typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. We believe this has more to do with commercial wine production than it does with any inherent shortcomings of Sauvignon Blanc itself. Taste France's finest examples such as Chateau Haut Brion Blanc (as a component) and Didier Dagueneau - producers that treat Sauvignon Blanc as a noble cultivar.
We wanted to know what would happen if a carefully selected Sauvignon Blanc vineyard was afforded the attention to detail normally reserved for icon red vineyards.
We also wanted to know what would happen if this fruit was hand picked, whole bunch pressed, fermented and matured with indigenous yeast in used French barriques, with little intervention.
The result is the inaugural release of The Gatecrasher Sauvignon Blanc. It proves that Sauvignon Blanc, if managed meticulously, has a greater role to play in the ultra-premium wine arena from the New World.
The Gatecrasher Sauvignon Blanc is produced from a vineyard situated in the Dartmoor Valley of Hawkes Bay. The adjacent Tutaekuri River deposited limestone and mudstone silt during periodic flooding and gradually moved the polished "greywacke" sandstone from the mountains to the valley floor over many thousands of years.
Climatically, it is cooler than the other main viticulture districts of Hawkes Bay, but warmer than Marlborough. For those unfamiliar with New Zealand regional climates, this would translate as cooler than Bordeaux but warmer than the Loire.
Sauvignon Blanc's full potential is rarely realised due to the "ranch" style mentality of many vineyard owners. Therefore, we used techniques ordinarily reserved for top Pinot Noir vineyards; low bud numbers, shoot thinned to one shoot per bud, shoots individually clipped vertically, lateral shoots are removed around the fruit zone to achieve a "dappled" light effect, bunches are thinned so that one bunch is not allowed to touch another resulting in very low yields.
In the Cellar
Hand picking and immediate whole bunch pressing secures freshness and vitality of character.
The un-clarified juice was then run into old French barriques and fermentation allowed to occur spontaneously. This process took some months and every barrel completed fermentation at its own pace.
The resultant wine has been matured on the spent yeast lees and maintained at ambient cellar temperatures. Autolysis (breakdown of the yeast cells) is encouraged by the spring temperature increase, low sulphur regime and periodic batonnage (lees stirring). This releases enzymes and proteins that naturally stabilise the wine and eliminate the need for extraneous fining agents.
Minimal filtration and a screw cap closure ensure that the unique characters of this wine are retained and the often detrimental effects of cork are avoided.
From Ireland comes a AN IMPRESSIVE WRITEUP on this 2008 Gatecrasher.