&Co - a distinctive Sauvignon from Hawkes Bay

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)

12 comments to &Co – a distinctive Sauvignon from Hawkes Bay

  • Sounds fascinating. Makes me sorry that I couldn’t make it to this tasting.

  • Andrew Halliwell

    Gutsy move, going for a crown cap. No doubt Jamie would know a thing or two about the pros/cons and O2 transmission etc. Personally I like it, about the only other wine I’ve seen with the same top would be Turkey Flat Sparkling Shiraz – which is covered by a paper ribbon and looks damn cool.


  • keith Prothero

    What bizarre labels though

  • william beavington

    Very cool – I want to buy it just for the packaging – this confirms that I am truly a label drinker – as Jamie has often accused me of being. HOWEVER – I’m serious – I want to try it – so Jamie – where can we buy this?

  • william beavington

    OK – got it – Wine Searcher goes it again.

  • keith Prothero

    William—-I am beginning to wonder whether you are as odd as your brother-in-law :)-

  • MichaelB

    Sounds and looks interesting but certainly is gutsy/strange to use crown cap on 75cl still wine. Not everyone finishes a bottle in one sitting and therefore it seems a bit inconvenient. I assume her winemaking isn’t Frank Cornelissen style ‘natural’ and that the wine would oxidise significantly if left overnight? Provide your own cork style stopper? Thanks.

  • Alex Lake

    I often leave bottles of (non-ancient) white overnight in the fridge with no closure and don’t have a problem.

    Presumably the “front label” is technically a “back label”?

  • Doug

    Crown cap is not uncommon. A few examples in Alsace, most notably Pierre Frick. Lots in Veneto and Emilia Romagna too – and not just sparkling wines. The “designer” label is too much for me, but chacun etc etc.

    Michael – Frank Cornelissen’s wines do the reverse of expected. The longer they’re open the fresher they become (up to a point). I’ve triple decanted them and left them for up to three days in a decanter (and that’s just the whites) until the reduction blows off and they display all their intrinsic fruit and minerality.

  • I’ve had the chance to try this wine and it is definitely a NZ Sauv Blanc that I can get behind. Far from the standard style that has become boring. Gabrielle is lovely as well.

  • Gabrielle was charming – so nice to see someone doing something a bit different. And she’s got a thoughtful approach.

  • Off the wall

    Here’s some more lekker and wonderful packaging, but from South Africa and it’ll be exhibited in Berlin, later this month – http://www.boerandbrit.com/bobs-your-uncle-press/

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