Stoneleigh Wild Valley (wild ferments in big volume…) – High quality, high volume

Wild wines under $25

Posted 31 August 2015

This column was first published in Living magazine in The Herald on Sunday, Auckland, New Zealand, 30 August 2015.


What does a wild fermented wine taste like? And would you want to know, let alone drink it?

The question was asked (and answered) at an organic garden on the back streets of Grey Lynn, earlier this month. Like the garden, the new Stoneleigh Wild Valley wines contain fewer chemical additions than usual. This is good news for us drinkers but the words need clarification.

The word wild means something; the word valley, not so much. To be fair, the grapes in these wines were grown in a valley; Kaituna Valley in Marlborough. The word wild is the interesting bit. Three new Stoneleigh Wild Valley wines were made unconventionally. Instead of throwing packs of commercially purchased yeast in tanks to kick start the fermentation of grapes into wine, winemaker Jamie Marfell put the grapes in tanks and waited. It is a waiting game. Put something sweet (ripe grapes) in a warm place (stainless steel wine tanks) and wait for the yeasts in the air to sniff out the sugar in the grapes and do the wild thing. The result is a wine that tends to taste more savoury and less fruity. This is partly because the warmer temperature of the ferment (dialed up to encourage wild yeasts to participate) deaccentuates fruity flavours. But the new 2015 Stoneleigh Wild Valley Sauvignon Blanc is full of fruity bells and whistles as well as being more full bodied than many savvies. The chardonnay has yet to be released and the pinot noir is a light bodied red with smoky flavours. They cost $18.99 apiece.

Marfell describes this project as crazy due to its risky nature – what if the ferment didn’t work? – but after 20 years of winemaking, he was keen to give it a go. We can be too. These wines are winners.

Top drop under $20

2015 Stoneleigh Wild Valley Sauvignon Blanc $18.99
Top new Stoneleigh sauvignon; full bodied with interesting notes of smokiness, celery, fennel and tropical fruit. Tasty.