2015 RARE WHITE
“It’s going to rattle some cages.” Mike Bennie, winefront.com.au
“There’s an argument to say, in a hand-of-man influence way, that removing the skins you’ve kind of already fined your white wine, you’ve removed the guts…”, offers winemaker Michael Glover, “… The wine gods have given New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and not many have explored it. Not many have gone down this path. This is almost a political thing I am doing in NZ, right down to pricing, with costs the same as pinot noir, it should be respected the same way”. Amen. It’s going to rattle some cages. Great volume of wild, fascinating scent. Leads with pepper, cumin, green herbs, preserved citrus. Smoky and flinty elements wrapped through just juicy then firm chalky texture. It’s incredibly lengthy in flavour, coiled and relentless in its layers. Fascinating and delicious, is the take home. Highly varietal yet so much more. This would be a gourmand’s best friend – the reach would be epic with so many dishes. Exciting.” Mike Bennie, winefront.com.au
“A multi-layered wine that has waxy, dried meadow flowers on the nose with great fragrance. A little flint and spice come into play before this heads into stone-fruit territory and delivers plenty of citrus flavors and a complete, layered and smoothly rendered palate. Lots of glycerol and lots of flavor. A great wine. Drink now to 2020.” #25 Top 50 New Zealand Wines of 2016, James Suckling, Dec 16, Jamessuckling.com
Bibendum Wine Co: You say you want a revolution?
Firstly, we agree with Mike Bennie. This wine is bound to ‘rattle some cages’. But let’s face it, when it comes to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc there are plenty of cages in need of rattling. There’s a long version, and an even longer version of this story. For those interested, I recommend you read Michael Glover’s passionate account of his journey and thinking behind his white opus (link below). The short story is that here we are looking at the latest instalment of Glover’s maverick white, a wine expression that took root, many moons ago, during a stage with Bruno De Conciliis in Campania, and then continually honed during Glover’s Bannockburn years. It’s an organic 100% ‘carbonic’ Sauvignon Blanc called Mammoth ‘Rare White’, cropped from a dry grown vineyard in the Waimea Plains outside Nelson. Glover says, “I want the Rare White to be a serious white wine first… a New Zealand wine second and a Sauvignon Blanc third,” says Michael. We think he’s got the order pretty much spot on.
There’s a lot to report here but let’s say upfront that this is a unique, textural and complex wine of place that has the potential to redefine New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. In fact it has more in common with the wines of Didier Dagueneau than it does with the stereotype of NZ.
This maverick New Zealand white is drawn a single vineyard called Davey’s Lease that was planted in 2000 on the Waimea Plains. The soils are the brown ‘orthic’ river gravels that are common across New Zealand. The common belief is that these soils must be irrigated due to their free draining nature. “I have always questioned this and have believed that they could be dry grown but you would need to sacrifice yield in order to do this,” says Michael. “We [at Mahana] have proven this to be the case.” So, today, this dry grown parcel of Sauvignon, managed organically by the Mahana Vineyards team, yields around 1.5 kg/vine (around a quarter of those achieved per vine in most Marlborough Sauv Blanc vineyards). The fruit is picked by hand and whole bunches go into an 8 tonne concrete fermenter. Then, after two weeks of carbonic, the bunches are pressed and they finish their primary fermentation in a mix of Chassin coopered puncheons, Billon acacia hogsheads and Glover’s bespoke ‘Che Glovera’, cigar shaped barrels. These latter 200 litre vessels are elongated and increase the lees to wine ratio, which helps the winemaker in his quest to, ‘pursue texture and mouth-feel, which don’t necessarily come naturally to Sauvignon…’. The wine stays in these casks for a year without being touched before the lees are stirred back into suspension. Then the wines are blended into tank for a further 6 months on lees. So, in total the wines spent 18 months on lees. The wine is bottled, under stelvin, without being fined or filtered. Oh, and you’ll not find the words Sauvignon Blanc anywhere on the label, back or front. “The use of varietal nomenclature is similar to donning a straitjacket, like signing a contract agreeing to provide what the drinking customer knows and understands to be the ‘variety’”. So sayeth the Mammoth. The notes below capture the wine well. In our view it’s a wine that should not be served too cold (cellar temperature ideal) and that can also benefit from decanting. Above all, be prepared to be challenged!