Posted on July 9th, 2011
The Gatecrasher Sauvignon Blanc is unlike any Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, let alone any Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever tasted.
If blind-tasted, I would have placed it somewhere between Chassagne & Puligny Montrachet, i.e. richier creamier styles than your benchmark Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. While the grapes are grown further north (around 400km), up on the North Island’s Hawke’s Bay, that only accounts for part of the difference.
In the vineyard
The place itself, quite a bit different from Marlborough and what that means for the plant. Warmer, different soils (and all the other “terroir” stuff I’ll spare you from right here).
Add to that, the viticulture and the careful hands-on management of the vine, from pruning to careful handpicking and grape selection.
In the winery
Fermentation happens spontaneously – this means natural yeasts rather than innoculation. Many wineries use this technique and it means ceding control to Mother Nature in many respects. You’re not sure when fermentation will start, nor when it will end. You’re also not 100% sure what flavour it could add to the final wine.
Next, fermentation occurred in oak barrel rather than stainless steel (the norm for zesty fruity whites of New Zealand).
This next piece sounds gross to the uninitiated, but the fermented wine is then allowed to rest on the dead yeast cells, the lees (the cheating* cheese-eating surrender monkeys call this “sur lie”).
Through fermentation (conversion of sugars to alcohol), the rising alcohol kills the yeast cells and they fall to the bottom of the tank. The wine is stirred (bâtonnage) and this ultimately gives the wine a great creamy texture.
What the wine actually tastes like
First off, nothing like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I was expecting a richer style but within “typical” Sauvignon Blanc parameters i.e. somewhere within the spectrum of cut grass, nettle, capsicum, gooseberry, passion fruit.
What I got was a lot different. Wet slate, unripe mango, mint, flint, minerals, cream. These elements of the overall tasting experience don’t do it justice.
What I will say is that this wine may be made from Sauvignon Blanc. This wine may be made in New Zealand. But it’s both different and better than the sum of its parts. It is a great white wine. And, if I can future-gaze for a moment, I can predict that this will become one of the great white wines of the world, if the owners and all involved continue to make it (and I dearly hope they do).
From Easthope’s understated website, their “hunch” outlines their ambition,
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.
I really enjoyed this wine for a number of reasons. The first, an most important, is taste. Secondly, though, it made me reassess what New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can be, and what you can get out of the Sauvignon Blanc grape, if you really try hard.
Not much, by the looks of it. There were only 1,500 bottles produced. As luck would have it, The Celtic Whiskey store has some in for €33, on offer at €29.99.
Calling an alcohol helpline won’t really be necessary when you and your friends are just occasional drinkers.