Winemaker Kevin Judd registered the name Greywacke in 1993 with the intention of one day using it on a wine label of his own. In 2009, that long held dream came true. Judd moved from Australia to New Zealand in 1983 and served a stint at Selaks, before becoming the founding winemaker at Cloudy Bay wines – a partnership that would elevate New Zealand wines to the world stage. In 2009 his desire to do his own thing won out and he decided to start Greywacke. He was met with immediate success.
“The year we started Greywacke was very successful and rewarding,” said Judd. “To be able to set up a company under such difficult global financial conditions and create such rewarding relationships with our international distributors made 2009 a truly satisfying and successful year.”
The name ‘Greywacke’ was a nod to the prevalence of rounded greywacke stones found in the soils of Kevin and wife Kimberley’s first Marlborough vineyard in Raupara. Although he is now considered to be a pioneer of the New Zealand winemaking industry, Judd didn’t particularly start out as a fan of wine itself.
“As a young man interested in chemistry and art I was fascinated with the combination of diverse elements in the wine making process,” he said. While Judd was not a wine drinker himself, he was drawn to the creative processes involved and chose to pursue a degree in winemaking at Roseworthy Agricultural College in Australia. He still retained his love for art and has developed his career as a photographer alongside his winemaking pursuits. He has produced two books, The Colour of Wine and The Landscape of New Zealand Wine, and contributed to the first edition of New Zealand Wine Dogs. His photos of the vineyard are often as striking as the wines themselves.
Greywacke generally aims for riper fruit from lower-yielding vineyards, something which Judd believes sets them apart from other winemakers in the region. “We also use a large amount of wild fermentation which we believe enhances the floral, savoury and spice characters in our wine,” he explains. Their Pinor noir is sourced exclusively from hillside vineyards in the Southern Valleys – the difference in their wines coming from the variation in soil. “The soil is heavier (wind-blown loess clay over gravels) and coupled with the north-facing exposure and vine age (15-20 years old), the wines display rich, dark-fruit with fragrance, spice and silky tannins reflective of the site.”
The Greywacke label is based primarily on Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir, with the Sauvignon blanc being produced in two distinct styles. These three primary wines are complemented by limited releases of Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Greywacke’s business focus is mainly on the restaurant trade and fine wine retail industry. “We strive to make the best Marlborough wines possible,” said Judd, “and in both the on-trade and in fine wine retail you have a greater concentration of passionate, knowledgeable individuals who recognise what we’re trying to achieve and can more easily convey this to the end consumer.”
Greywacke now exports to over 30 different counties, and has experienced steady growth since the foundation of the wine label in 2009. “For a small team this keeps us incredibly busy,” said Judd. “We’re just about at the point where we’ll have to ease back on finding new markets.”
Although winemaking can be the most difficult of professions – Judd recalls the 1995 season, when they battled rain and boytris and ended up having to reject half the crop – he enjoys the diversity it offers, how no one season is the same as another, and the fact that you follow the wine through the whole cycle.
“You create a product from something that you farm, package it and send it to the market,” he says. “Then you sit down with the people who are buying your wines, to drink and talk with them about the wine that you have created. It’s a truly unique and satisfying process.”