Gabrielle Simmers first release from her Hawkes Bay vineyard raised some eyebrows when she poured it at the Bunch tasting today. It is one of the most distinctively packaged wines that I’ve encountered, bottled in clear glass and sealed with a crown cap, and just the name ‘&CO’ on the front label.
The wine itself is a Sauvignon Blanc from the 2009 vintage. She’s working with an 8.8 hectare vineyard, which she owns, of which 8.1 hectares is Sauvignon Blanc and the remainder Pinot Gris. It’s a distinctive site, and has been farmed organically since it was planted in 1989, with just a couple of years of conventional farming before it came into her ownership.
The soils are calcareous, it is quite a windy site, and the vines are spur-pruned, which results in low yields, at least by Sauvignon standards. The result is very small bunches with apricot-coloured speckling, making the grapes look more like Pinot Gris than Sauvignon. The grapes are hand-picked and 3-4 hours of skin contact is followed by fermentation and maturation in stainless steel.
Gabrielle is strongly influenced by a stage she did with Heymann-Loewenstein in Germany. The natural approach taken there caused her to question a lot of what she’d learned, and now she wants to go for a more natural style. She does use some irrigation, but would like to build up to dry farming, although the prospect is quite scary. Currently she only turns the drip irrigation on when she really has to.
The debut Sauvignon Blanc is not your in-yer-face Marlborough style. It is quite unique, made in a food friendly style. Packaging aside, to an extent Gabrielle has played it safe with this first vintage, and it will be interesting to see how the style evolves in the future.
&CO Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Taut, citrus and quite mineral with honeysuckle and lime notes, as well as gentle herbiness. There’s some structure on the palate: this is nicely dense with herb and citrus notes. Powerful flavours. A food-friendly style. 89/100 (UK availability: Lea & Sandeman)