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Greystone Waipara 2014 Wines – A Re-Look

By October 15, 2015No Comments
The Greystone vineyard was established by the Thomas brothers Peter and Bruce in the Waipara Valley with the purpose of producing world-class wine. There are approx. 40 ha planted over 13 blocks on limestone and clay loam sites, mainly on hillsides. In the short space of 10 years the Greystone team has forged a reputation for making some of the best wines in the region. Owner Peter Thomas, a Kiwi, resides in Nantucket U.S.A. and Melbourne Australia, and overseas his operation, leaving the running to Nick Gill, general manager and viticulturist, Dom Maxwell, winemaker, and Nik Mavromatis, general manager in charge of sales and marketing. The philosophy shared by these key people is openness and experimentation, and following their passion and ideas, which may be quite innovative, that will improve interest in the wines.

I believe the style of the wines has evolved as the vines have grown in maturity and come into balance with the soils and sites, and as the vineyard and winemaking teams grow in experience. The initial releases showed beautifully pure and expressive varietal character. Over the years, the wines have become more textural and sophisticated with layers of subtle complexities being built in, and the wines clearly show a sense of place. Nick and Dom are clearly endeavouring to capture the terroir of the Greystone vineyard. This is most obvious with Pinot Noir, with techniques such as in-situ indigenous yeast vineyard fermentation. Dom is certainly incorporating his experiences in Burgundy in allowing the wines show their own style with natural and more savoury, herbal componentry. There is just as much thought going into the making of all the wines. www.greystonewines.co.nz

Dom Maxwell – Greystone

The Challenging 2014 Waipara Valley Vintage
The 2014 vintage wines required much consideration in how to deal with the challenging conditions. A much cooler and wetter year than 2013, Nick and Dom’s approach was to preserve as much of the quality as possible with the resultant wines being stylistically different to those of a warmer, drier year. I’ve seen a number of Waipara Valley wines from this tough year, and most are lighter, less ripe than ideal, and deficient in healthy personality and substance. The best wines, from experienced growers and producers started out as smaller-scale expressions, but I’ve seen them put on richness, weight and grow in interest over the past few months.

It was an opportunity to see this with a range of 2014 wines that Dom Maxwell showed to me during a visit to Wellington. Some of the wines I’ve already reviewed, others were new. Here, I offer my impressions. As these impressions are not reviews, the comments have not been added to my website database.

Pale straw colour. This is elegant and tightly bound, showing beautifully clean and clear yellow stonefruit aromas. The palate is dry, again elegant and tightly bound. The proportions are classic with excellent acidity and linearity. There’s less richness than the usual style, but there’s real finesse of texture, focus and length. The concession for the vintage was less richness and sweetness, but the cleanliness and freshness are exemplary. The trade-off was a good call. This is a wine reflective of the year, and a successful one. (18.0-/20)

Greystone Waipara Valley Gewurztraminer 2014
Bright, light golden colour. This has a tight, intense and concentrated nose with an array of aromas from savoury florals and rose-petals to root ginger. Off-dry to taste (8 g/L RS), this has good power from the alcohol, noticeable but not intrusive or unbalanced, and a strong, positive, concentrated core of spicy and gingery fruit. The textures are smooth and the phenolic handling excellent. As with the variety, acidity seems lowish, but there’s sufficient for drive and liveliness. There are layers of detail from the indigenous yeast and use of puncheons. This is an excellent, powerful and definitive Gewurztraminer in its own right. (18.5+/20)

Sauvignon Blanc is the variety that seems to show better with time, for this difficult vintage. Pale straw yellow with lemon hues. A little austere and dry on the nose, but green stonefruits, spices nuts and oak building depth and intensity. On palate this has richness, juiciness and liveliness. Lovely balance, freshness and good elegant concentration. The depth and concentration grows in the glass. The classical array of green stonefruits, spices and nutty notes. All wild yeast, 90% barrel-fermented in old oak, using the Bordeaux clones. (18.0/20)

Light golden yellow colour. This is quite elegant on nose with stonefruits and flint with subtle nutty, oxidative elements. Complexing layers and detail, but freshness prevails. Lovely oak nuances. On palate, the white stonefruits, citrus fruits, flint, oak and nutty flavours are enlivened by vibrant acidity. This is tight, but smooth in texture. The palate has structure and good size and proportion. But it is the acidity hat carries the wine at the end of the day. Dom attributes this to the limestone soils. (18.0+/20)

Greystone Waipara Valley Rosé 2014
Clone 5 Pinot Noir from clay soils, all wild yeast fermented in seasoned oak. 10 barrels made, 5 aged 1-5 months underwater, sealed tight so no gas escaping, and plenty of lees contact and extract. Not sulphured, 15 months total in oak, the last 2014 wine bottled. This is an example of the freedom to experiment and follow interesting developments. Peach pink with ‘eye of the partridge’. The nose is firm with red berry fruits, and is spicy, earthy and yeasty, showing considerable lees influence, and unfolding savoury, funky, nutty, smoky notes and a little oxidative complexity. Dry to taste, medium-full bodied, the savoury red fruits entwined with nutty, leesy, oxidative funk. This is racy, crisp and steely in texture and mouthfeel. Fine-textures, but with a firm line. The phenolics are positive but stand out. But the mouthfeel is lively and mouthwatering. Interesting and complex, funky, nutty, savoury and slightly oxidative. This would stand on the more conventional side compared to extreme skin contact and orange wine, so to me accessible and seen positively. 13.5% alc. and dry. (Difficult to rate, by say 18.0/20)

Some in-situ vineyard fermentation employed. Very dark, purple-hued ruby-red colour. This is vibrantly bright and fruity with spicy dark red berry fruits lifted by beautiful violet florals. There are subtle earth, dried herb and whole cluster notes, hardly detectable, but adding intrigue and inviting one in. This has approx. 10% whole clusters. Tightly bound and intense, the structure will ensure longevity. The vitality and sweetness of the fruit has a wonderful aromatic lift. The complexing detail is just that. Fine-grained tannins, fresh acidity, typically 2014, and a long sweet fruited line. (18.5+/20)

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