It seems fashionable to play with Sauvignon Blanc, and the results have often divided critics. Manipulating a grape like Chardonnay is a no-brainer; straightforwardly made wines of this variety can be boring (with notable exceptions, of course). Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, is a variety with intense character right from the starting line, some might say too much. So the choice of winemaking inputs may be less obvious here.
Mitchell Harris has chosen two techniques — wild yeast fermentation and barrel maturation — in the making of this wine. Of these, the oak is most immediately apparent on the nose, with a distinct smokey note sitting alongside gentle fruit aromas that remind me of red papaya. The smoky note brings in hints of bacon fat, but I’m not sure if that’s just me dragging in inappropriate associations; no matter, it’s a distinctive aroma profile, though I’d prefer the oak influence to be more tightly woven into the whole. The fact that it’s not speaks of fruit character that tends towards reticence.
The palate is marked by the same sharp smokey note that floats over the entire line. Underneath, a slippery, cool wine that slides along the tongue with a rather beguiling texture. I’ve learned to expect a degree of acidic bite from Sauvignon Blanc wines, and this has a decent spine of acid to be sure, but it’s the wine’s satiny voluptuousness that stands out for me most. As with the nose, fruit flavour could be more forward; as it is, there’s a slightly hollow impression to the profile, as if it needs to step forward a bit. Yet it manages decent impact and drive down the line, and the more time I spend with the wine the more I am appreciating its subtle complexities. The caramel finish is especially enjoyable.
An odd wine in some ways, and one I suspect will challenge peoples’ idea of the varietal. Nonetheless, I am enjoying its distinctiveness and hand-made vibe. Great value for the style.