We're really delighted to be importing wines from the great Hans Herzog and thought this could be a perfect opportunity to dig a little deeper into the people behind the winery, their aims and the wines they produce from what are being dubbed the 'Grand Cru' vineyards of New Zealand.
The natural wine movement is still without official definition, self governed by those who produce and drink it, so there's some differences of opinion about what makes a wine natural. For some it seems the need to have a funky label (and aroma) is top of the list. For us though it all starts with the farming.
Hans and his team are all about the joining of tradition and innovation, but above all else, holistic, organic farming techniques, following of the astrological calendar and really taking care of the soil and microbiology in his vineyard. His estate sits at around 11.5 hectares, where he has 28 different grape varietals planted including Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Montepulciano, Saperavi and Zweigelt to name a few. He manages the whole crop by hand and he himself is forever in the vineyards tending his vines. Coming from a 500 year lineage of winemakers, Hans has been brought up to know a thing or two. Backed up with his masters degree in Oenology, he was always set to produce some fantastic wines.
His estate on the bank of the Wairau river is one of the sunniest and driest in New Zealand. When paired with Hans' low yields, this means that even late ripening grapes can become fully ripe on this site. His vineyard is a true expression of terroir - how so many different varieties grown on one vineyard can share so much and yet each be unique is simply fantastic.
In the winery he uses a number of techniques, including skin contact before fermentation for a slow extraction of colour and tannin. For the same reasons, he ferments his wines slowly at cooler temperatures and only ever with wild yeast. He presses his grapes gently and uses a number of vessels to age his wines, including French oak barrels and amphora. All in all these wines are very much natural, terroir driven, artisan wines from one of New Zealand's most unique vineyard sites.
This really isn't your typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This is more reminiscent of a white Bordeaux, with a much richer, creamier texture. It's aged for 15 months in old French oak barrels with the lees. During this process the lees (remnants of yeast from the fermentation process) add that texture and buttery flavour, alongside the white peach and grapefruit.
This would be a great white to pair with a meatier fish dish. It's fair to say I'm obsessed with Great British Menu and this year's fish course winner was a fillet of brill cooked on the bone with sea vegetables. Winning chef Spencer, head chef at London's The Ritz pointed out that Brill is often overlooked for other fish like Turbot, so why not try cooking some brill with this awesome Sauv blanc?
Hans uses all sorts of varieties from all around the world, but his Montepulciano is something really special.
As I mentioned earlier, Hans treats his fruit and wine with a lot of care. The grapes here are destemmed and undergo a long cold soak before fermentation begins naturally and the wine is the pressed off gently from the skins into oak barrels. 20% of these are new which give the balance between oak influence and simply letting the wine marry together and find its natural harmony. It also allows the wine to go through malolactic fermentation which adds depth and richness.
Blackberries and blackcurrants jump straight out of the glass here with a real concentration of fruit, backed up by a smooth milk chocolate character and plush tannins. This will keep going in the cellar if you wanted to lay it down for a while. If like me you can't wait then just decant it for an hour or so before serving and try this with food. Definitely something hearty. I've been eyeing up some salt baked celeriac recipes with hazelnuts and truffle which I think would work great here.