In yesterday’s post, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class,  I mentioned how New Zealand winemakers were experimenting with exciting new ways to make the country’s standard bearer sauvignon blanc.

One of the highlights of the evening was the inaugural vintage of the Giesen August Sauvignon Blanc 2009. This handmade wine had a richness and complexity of aromas and flavours that set it apart from the other wines we tasted on the evening. It reminded many of us of the exciting new style of sauvignon blanc exemplified by the sublime Cloudy Bay Te Koko and the acclaimed Dog Point Section 94 .

A look at the Giesen website shows that much thought, experimentation and care went into the making of this limited production wine. A product of the three Giesen brothers (Theo, Alex and Marcel) and their winemaking team, the idea behind this new wine was to “push the boundaries for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.”

Like the Cloudy Bay Te Koko and the Dog Point Section 94, the winemakers used wild yeast and barrel fermentation. The grapes were hand-harvested from low yielding vines grown in seven different areas of the Giesen’s Wairau Valley vineyards. Here the soil ranges from shallow and stony to deep sandy loams – each imparting their own distinct aromas and flavours to the wine.

Three days prior to harvesting each block, a bucket of grapes was picked and crushed to make a wild yeast starter. It was left in the warmth of the pump shed to get the temperature up, and after a couple of days of fermentation more grapes were added. When the vineyard was harvested these yeast starters, indigenous to the different blocks of the vineyard, were brought into the winery, drained off and added to the juice from their respective blocks.

After whole bunch pressing without de-stemming or crushing, the juice was transferred by gravity to some new but mainly used French oak for barrel fermentation. The winemakers decided not to allow a malolactic fermentation so sulphur was added to the barrels about two weeks after the end of ferment. The wine rested on yeast lees for five months until blending in early October 2009.

The result is a beautifully balanced wine exhibiting complex aromas and flavours of citrus, roasted nuts and spices with just a slight hint of oak that offsets but doesn’t diminish the wine’s vibrant acidity. The texture of the wine is not as creamy as the Cloudy Bay Te Koko, which undergoes a spontaneous malolactic fermentation and spends twice as long on oak.

Definitely an intriguing and welcomed addition to the evolving story of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

The 2009 vintage has sold out, but NZ Wine Online is taking pre-orders for delivery of 2010 in late March.