Downes Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2021
Like many in the trade, we’re huge Riesling lovers and the thing we really love in great Riesling (the length, focus, precision and drive on the palate) is the very element we miss in most Sauv Blancs. We find the typical aromatic and flavor spectrum of the typical Kiwi SB to be very abrupt and we find many of those wines lean in the mid palate. Consequently, we often find the back palate acid structures to be unnecessarily aggressive. So when Stuart and James Downes told us they were making SB that a Riesling drinker would appreciate, they had our attention. Sauv Blanc in Elgin can often be a bit green and vegetal. Most attempts to build the mid palate of these wines result in an overly pungent version of that aromatic component. By using a tiny amount of barrel fermented and aged SB, they’re able to create a wine with great length and raciness, drawing out these wonderful mineral notes, but with plenty of power and richness in the mid palate. Production is around 2500 cases.
When thinking back on the 2021 harvest, James Downes sees the harvest period divided into 2 parts- mid February and late March, with an unusual heavy rainfall dividing the two parts. We kicked off the harvest with our stunning Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The remainder of the Sauvignon Blanc crop was picked after the unusual heavy rainfall event in early March, resulting in some of our Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes being picked the latest ever in the history of the farm! This was not a bad thing at all… in fact, it worked in our favour. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes picked before the rain provided fresh acidity and nervous energy whereas the grapes picked after the rains provided riper, fuller flavours and mouthfeel, bringing an exciting new dimension to our Sauvignon Blanc 2021, which we would not have achieved, if the grapes were all picked at the same time in February.
The grapes are chilled to 37 degrees F. The bunches are sorted on a conveyor, destemmed and crushed. All transfers of grape must and juice in these early stages are attained using gravity. Selected parcels of the grapes undergo a period of skin contact, at 46 degrees F to impart favorable skin flavors. After a gentle pressing, the juice left to settle for a period of 72 hours at 35 degrees F. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks continues at 54 degrees F, until the wine is dry. The 6% Sauvignon Blanc is fermented on natural yeasts and matured for 3 months in 100% new French oak and bâtonnage (lees stirring) practiced fortnightly. The SB 316 & 317 clones are originally sourced from Bordeaux in France. All these clones are able to handle barrel fermentation or maturation in barrel. They lend themselves to more classic complex wines with great length. The goal is to create depth and mid-palate texture, as well as length.