Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

Month: September 2017 (page 1 of 8)

Wine of the week… Top Sardinian drop under $40

2014 Montessu Isole dei Nuraghi $40 to $45

It may not sound like objective wine writing, but here goes: I love this wine.

It’s a total head turner, a delicious drink and it says far more about Italy’s earthy charms than it does about Cabernet’s usually astringent ones. And that’s why I like it so much because its earthy, spicy notes and nicely integrated background of fruit makes it far more complex, to me, than so many of the fruit bombs that dominate  red wine production right now. 

This top drop combines the heady charms of Cabernets Franc, Sauvignon and Syrah with the hedonistic ones of the big black Carignano grape. Meet Montessu – also known as Baby Sass’ – which is a quirky Sardinian red wine from a collaboration that includes the makers of the famous and unconventional Tuscan red, Sassicaia.

Montessu speaks more about Italy than it does of its makers’ unconventional blend of beautiful big red grapes. It’s a winning wine from an unlikely corner of the Earth, which is all about savouriness, earthy flavours and clean, complex aromas of spice, a note of pepper and dark, ripe fruit flavours. It’s dry, full bodied, dark in style and long on flavour. A lovely drink now – in a large glass since it begs to be decanted – and a wine that will come into its own in 4 to 5 years, possibly longer.

The stats…

Montessu is made from Carignano (60%), Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot; all 10%.

It’s made on the Isola dei Nuraghi (Sardinia) and qualifies as an IGT wine because it falls outside of any conventional Italian wine DOCGs on the island. Like Sassicaia, Montessu is made from non Italian wine grapes, using highly regarded French grapes instead. Montessu is made via a joint venture between the Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Group, Sardinian winery Cantina di Santadi, Santadi’s President Antonello Pilloni and the Tuscan consulting oenologist Giacomo Tachis, who first thought that Sardinia and Carignano might be a match made you know where when he visited the island in the 1980s. 

In 2002, Agripunica was formed to bring together Tuscany and Sardinia and to make a red wine that celebrated both places. The first wine was called Barrua and Montessu is the second label – it’s a pretty stellar red for a so-called second wine. The grapes are fermented between 25 and 30°C with regular pump overs to facilitate the solubilisation, malolactic fermentation to provide roundness to the wine and then 12 months of maturation in used French oak barrels.


Colours for cancer… wine fundraiser from Greywacke

Colours of Marlborough is a series by photographer-winemaker Kevin Judd, who took 31 images on canvas and paper, the cost of which was covered by the Marlborough Cancer Society, which has raised over $25,000 over the past two years from selling these prints.

Wellingtonians can buy a selection of the prints tonight at a dinner at Noble Rot in Cuba Street, Wellington, where Kevin is hosting a dinner and tasting.

Find out more about the Colours of Marlborough images. here:

And onto the wine… the Wild child… Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 

Kevin Judd is a quietly spoken man of foresight. He trademarked the name Greywacke in 1993 when he was still working at Cloudy Bay Wines.  He later trademarked the name Wild Sauvignon, which is the flagship wine for his Greywacke brand – “It’s our interpretation of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc out of left field and it’s a style of wine that I personally think is pretty tasty and I like it myself,” says Kevin, who was in Wellington today to taste through his Wild Sauvignons right back to the start.

The first vintage was 2009 and the current wine is 2015. All of them were pale to medium lemon in colour, sealed with screw caps and built to last. It seems Kevin learnt a thing or three about Sauvignon Blanc when working at Cloudy Bay (he was the first winemaker there and remained at the iconic winery for 25 years, prior to establishing his own brand).

The Greywacke Wild Sauvignon is made from a blend of grapes grown on different vineyards around Marlborough, initially it was 100% Wairau Valley but for the past four years, Kevin has also bought grapes from the Awatere Valley to include in the wine.

How it’s made

The first year it was made was in 2009 and the winemaking has remained consistent to a formula, which Kevin tweaks in response to the years, in terms of the level of and how long it takes to get through malolactic fermentation.

All of the wines are 100% barrel fermented, 100% wild yeast fermented and  about two thirds of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity. They then spend about 11 months in barrel and remain in tank for another six months where they go through battonage (the French name for stirring the lees – the decomposing yeast cells, which release flavour as they break down in the wine). The oak is mostly old with a maximum of 10% new oak, which adds a slightly detectable note of aroma and flavour, but allows the wine to soften.

The history of wild Sauvignon…

It was James Healy – fellow winemaker at Cloudy Bay – who steered Kevin in the wild yeast fermentation direction when he started in 1991 at Cloudy Bay. “He started pestering me to make some wild yeast fermented Chardonnay and he eventually got under my skin and I agreed to do about eight barrels which I thought it was going to be a write-off, so we put the juice in the barrels and the whole winery stunk of sulphides and I can still remember thinking ‘This is just a waste of time’ but about nine months later we were looking at these barrels and thinking ‘This is quite good’,” says Kevin today.


The wines

2015 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough, 14% ABV    4.5 stars

Clean, clear, fresh and pale lemon in colour, intensely citrus on the nose and palate with vibrant lemon zest flavours with a full body and long, succulent, juicy finish. This is an outstanding wine which definitely shines a new light on Sauvignon Blanc.

2014 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough 13.5% ABV    4 stars

Clean, pale in colour with a little development in flavour compared to the 2015, which is incredibly vibrant by contrast. The flavours here remain relatively youthful with a hallmark citrus driven, zesty flavour stamp.

2013 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough, 14% ABV    4 stars

A warmer vintage has provided riper tropical notes in this wine, which retains intense freshness and high acidity, which is beautifully balanced. The zesty lemon flavours are all present and counter and the finish is long.

2012 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough 13.5% ABV – 3.5 stars

This is from a cooler vintage; 2012, and its marked green herb and asparagus flavours are not necessarily the direction that Kevin wants to take the wine in, but it is what it is – a product of a cool vintage. It’s also full bodied, citrusy and long on flavour. This makes it a nostalgic wine for me, thanks to the cool weather conditions that year, the green flavours, the full body; it all reminds me, fondly, of a Marlborough fumé blanc from the 1990s.

2011 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough 14% ABV    4 stars

Pale in colour, intense in flavour, with acidity driving the zesty flavours, balancing the creamy notes and full body, adding length of flavour. This is rich, broad, beautiful and lingering. A delicious wine that drinks very well now – would be great with anything salty – and is equally gorgeous on its own. I can see a long life ahead for this wine.

2010 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough 14% ABV    4.5 stars

A classic. This is one of Kevin’s favourite vintages and this is an outrageously good Sauvignon Blanc – it’s full bodied, dry, high in acidity so it tastes succulent, juicy, mouthwateringly delicious with a complex combo of flavours ranging from citrusy to tropical. Its finish is long, it drinks beautifully now and has more time to age up its sleeve.

2009 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough 13% ABV     3.5 stars

Tropical fruit flavours, full body, high acidity and gorgeous crisp long finish; a very good wine for now but this one has more time up its sleeve too – like them all.


“We do celebrate some vintage variation, as long as there’s a family thread.”

There certainly is a family thread showing through in these wines, which drink beautifully, have more time up their

Taste history… Ata Rangi with Helen Masters on 19 October

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ata Rangi winery in Martinborough because it was one of the first and was pioneered by a man who knows how to follow his heart. Clive Paton. He’s at least as dedicated to environmental work these days as he is to wine because he has something of a penchant for replanting native trees all over the country in his role as advisor, fount of wisdom and passionate lover of nature for Project Crimson, but that’s another story.

Back when he founded Ata Rangi Wines, Clive was a single dad and a shear farmer with a love of red wine in a country awash with Lion Brown. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good beer, if you’re that way inclined, but Clive wasn’t. He lived in the Southern Wairarapa and had heard of a few fledgling wineries in Martinborough, so, one Saturday, he decided to go and take a look for himself, his young daughter Ness was along for the ride. He looked at a piece of land and instantly decided to buy it and grow vines to make wine. If you know Clive – or met him for the first time – you probably wouldn’t call him rash. He is quietly spoken and seems to be extremely considered, but that instant decision to follow his heart into wine was one that was not only spur of the moment, but changed his life for the better. His young daughter is now married with children of her own, which she shares with her husband who is another great winemaker – John Kavanagh of Te Kairanga Wines.  And Clive also has a long term partner in life and in wine in the fellow winemaker Phyll Pattie (who rarely talks of her days in winemaking since she manages marketing and pretty everything else at Ata Rangi).

The winemaker today is Helen Masters, who will present a stellar line up of the Ata Rangi wines at a tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington on Thursday 19 October from 6pm to 8pm.

The cost is $50 per person and bookings are essential.

Book by calling Regional Wines, phone 04 385 6952 or hook onto the website here to book at Regional Wines…

The line-up on the night

2017 Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris

2011 Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris

2016 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay

2012 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay

2016 Ata Rangi Crimson

Ata Rangi Crimson (vintage TBC)

2014 Ata Rangi  McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir

2013 Ata Rangi  McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir

2015 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

2008 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

2014 Ata Rangi Célèbre

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