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Featured Reviews

Babich ‘Winemakers’ Reserve’ Releases and 2016 ‘Irongate’ Chardonnay

05 April,2018

The Babich ‘Winemakers’ Reserve’ wines are the playground for the Adam Hazeldine and his team of winemakers to trial new and different techniques to the more conventionally made wines in the other ranges. Previous ‘Winemaker’s Reserve’ wines have shown more subtle characters from somewhat restrained winemaking, but I’ve detected an increase in the complexities and greater style divergence of late. This is not to say the wines are far more ‘funky’, as the Babich winemaking creed is to respect the fruit and also the consumer, so these wines are handled with care. Here, I review the ‘Winemakers’ Reserve’ 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 Pinot Noir, 2017 Syrah and 2015 Merlot.

The ‘Irongate’ label was introduced over 30 years ago, the Chardonnay first made in 1985 and the Cabernet/Merlot blend in 1987. These were among the very the first of the single vineyard Gimblett Gravels wines, and they have been made continuously since. The wines are specialist bottlings for Babich, and many regard them as the ‘flagships’, and indeed they have the breeding at track record. Both the white and red perform exceptionally well, though for me, the Chardonnay has a special place. Here, I review the latest 2016 ‘Irongate’ Chardonnay. It is a youthfully taut and elegant wine.


Babich ‘Winemakers’ Reserve’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand – Marlborough


Brilliant straw-yellow colour with pale green-gold hues, lighter on the edge. The nose is very fresh and taut with finely concentrated aromas of gooseberries, cut-grass, nettles, and notes of fresh herbs and minerals. The aromatics have good intensity and penetration. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate is very tight and steely with bound flavours of gooseberries, nettles and cut-grass, entwined with herbs and capsicums, and minerally detail. The mouthfeel is somewhat austere, with fine, drying phenolic textures forming a driven line, and brisk, racy acidity lending plenty of tension and cut. The flavours form a very taut core that leads to a lingering, steely finish. This is a very tightly bound, austere, dry-textured, brisk Sauvignon Blanc with gooseberry, cut-grass and nettle flavours. Serve as an aperitif and with shellfish over the next 2+ years. Fruit from the Waihopai and Awatere Valleys, 61% ‘Echelon’, 28% ‘Cowslip’ and 11% ‘Wakefield Downs’ sites, fully indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 8 months in 25% new oak, including 225 L, 300 L cigars and 500 L and 600 L puncheons, the wine undergoing batonnage. 16.5+/20 Apr 2018 RRP $34.95

Babich ‘Winemakers’ Reserve’ ‘Cowslip Valley Vineyard’ Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Marlborough


Ruby-red colour with some depth and slight purple hues, lighter edged. The nose is soft and harmoniously presented with a heart of dark-red cherry and berry fruit along with subtle complexing nuances of dark herbs, suggestion of minerally reduction, dark-red and violet florals and nuances of liquorice. Medium-full bodied, the palate has a rich and well-proportioned, concentrated core of dark-red cherry and berry fruit along with a layering of dark herbs and liquorice, with dark-red florals and reductive nuances emerging to add interest. The fruit richness is up-front and supported by light, fine-grained tannin extraction and grip, with balanced acidity lending good energy. The wine carries to a plush, fruit-nuanced finish. This is a rich and sweet-fruited Pinot Noir with a juicy core of dark-red cherry fruit with liquorice and herb notes on a fine-textured palate. Match with poultry and pork over the next 4+ years. Fruit from the ‘Cowslip’ vineyard, Waihopai, clones 667, 777, 114, Abel and 13, destemmed and fermented, partially by indigenous yeasts to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 30% new French oak barrels. 18.0/20 Apr 2018 RRP $44.95

Babich ‘Winemakers’ Reserve’ Bridge Pa Triangle Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2017

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Dark, even ruby-red colour with youthful purple hues and some depth, lighter on the rim. The nose is firm and intense with well-concentrated aromas of blackberry and dark raspberry fruit melded with a layer of white pepper, unfolding an amalgam of fragrant violet florals and Asian spices. Medium-bodied, the palate is taut and elegant in proportion, somewhat slender in presentation, with a fine core of blackberry and dark raspberry fruit interwoven with a layer of white pepper and dark-red and violet florals. The fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin extraction and the palate is enlivened by crisp acidity lending plenty of energy and tension. The wine flows along a slippery line, leading to a lingering finish of fruits and white pepper. This is a taut and slender Syrah with some intensity of blackberry and raspberry fruit melded with white pepper and florals on a fine, slippery palate. Match with Middle Eastern fare over the next 3+ years. Clone 470 fruit from the ‘St Johns’ vineyard, Bridge Pa, destemmed and fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 8 months in 25% new French oak. 16.5+/20 Apr 2018 RRP $34.95

Babich ‘Winemakers’ Reserve’ ‘Gimblett Road Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2015

Merlot from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Dark, deep, ruby-red colour with youthful purple hues, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is softly full and voluminous with aromas of spicy, dark-red plums melded with a layer of spicy and cedary oak, unfolding subtle notes of black earth and minerals. This is very smooth and harmoniously presented. Medium-full bodied, the palate has rich flavours of ripe blackberries and black plums, interwoven with a layer of spices and cedar, and some earthy detail. The fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin extraction and structure, along with a fine thread of acidity. This has good richness and mouthfilling presence, and the flavours carry to a sustained finish of spiced plums and cedary oak. This is a smooth and harmonious Merlot with flavours of spiced plums and oak cedar with good structure and body. Match with casseroles and slow-cooked game meat over the next 5-6 years. A blend of 88% Merlot and 12% Malbec, from the ‘Gimblett Road’ vineyard, fermented to 13.48% alc., the wine aged 15 months in 25% new French oak. 18.0/20 Apr 2018 RRP $34.95

Babich ‘Irongate’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Bright, very pale straw colour with slight green hues, lighter edged. The nose is elegant in proportion and tightly bound with fine and intense aromas of white and yellow stonefruits, along with citrus fruit, melded with delicate mealy complexities, subtle creamy barrel-ferment elements, nutty oak and minerals. This possesses finesse. Medium-full bodied, the palate is fine-featured and taut with intense flavours of white stonefruits interwoven with subtle creamy barrel-ferment elements, mealy nuances, and nutty, smoky oak. The mouthfeel is fresh and lively, enhanced by lacy acidity, and the wine flows along a very fine-textured line, leading to a sustained, nuanced finish. This is a taut and elegant, intensely flavoured Chardonnay with stonefruit, mealy and nutty flavours on a fresh palate of finesse. Serve with grilled and roasted seafood and poultry over the next 4-5 years. Hand-picked Mendoza clone fruit from the ‘Irongate’ vineyard, two-thirds WBP and fully indigenous yeast fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 10 months on lees in 20% new French oak barriques, with minimal MLF. 18.5+/20 Apr 2018 RRP $39.95

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