Yoshiaki & Kyoko Sato
Sato Wines

A lot of thought goes into the winemaking at Sato, and Yoshiaki and Kyoko Sato are constantly expanding their repertoire of low-impact alternative varieties.

Yoshiaki and Kyoko Sato are the husband and wife team behind the small but beautifully formed Sato Wines. They moved to New Zealand with the intention of making wine after a previous life in Tokyo and London working at banks. Both studied viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University before securing jobs at Felton Road in 2007. In 2009, Yoshi started work for Duncan Forsyth at Mount Edward, where the first four vintages of Sato wine were made. He left Mount Edward in 2013 to focus on Sato, which had moved production to Rockburn Winery. Kyoko continued working as a viticulturist for Felton Road, before joining Yoshi full-time at their newly completed winery in 2019.

With New Zealand as home, Yoshi and Kyoko expanded their experience working at spectacular addresses – including Matassa, Huber, Bizot, Pierre Frick, Christian Binner and Pacalet – all the while moving further into biodynamics and learning traditional natural winemaking. La Ferme de Sato – the vineyard they eventually planted in 2016 – sits above the Pisa Terraces vineyard they had worked with for more than 10 years. It’s a steep site, climbing from 295m to 345m. Those familiar with this part of the Cromwell Basin know there is often a layer of mist (almost as thick as a cloud) that sits on the valley floor in the mornings. Sato’s 3.2ha of vines enjoy a position above that fog line, facing east on a peninsula overlooking the sea of clouds. Here, pinot noir, chardonnay, chenin blanc, gamay and cabernet franc have been close-planted and the site is certified organic.

They are constantly exploring low-impact and regenerative techniques to encourage stability and diversity in the soil, which in turn delivers fruit with great balance and complexity. They believe that this balance requires earlier picking to retain acidity and to keep alcohol levels lower.

The Sato style is a result of highly sensitive winemaking. The wines are uniquely Central Otago but carefully balanced to show complexity through purity and length rather than power or size. Their winemaking adopts techniques from the natural wine world; no adjustments or additives are used during the process. New oak is also minimised. One of the key things they adamantly reject is faulty winemaking as they see this as obscuring the purity and wasting the potential of the fruit.

This ideal is evident in each bottle. Sato wines are honestly authentic with a clear perspective. In a world where it is rare to find finely made wine with something unique to say, Yoshi and Kyoko deliver intellectual stimulation and sensorial pleasure in equal measure.


Text by Stephen Wong MW
Photography courtesy of courtesy of Sato Wines.

FACTS

REGION  |  Cromwell Basin, Central Otago

YEARS IN INDUSTRY  |  15

STANDOUT WINES  |  Pinot Noir L’insolite