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Featured Reviews




Gimblett Gravels 2016 Annual Vintage Selection

19 November,2018
At the end of May earlier this year, the 2016 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection (AVS) was announced. This is a collection of a dozen wines as chosen from a blind tasting of samples submitted by members of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association by Australian wine authority Andrew Caillard MW. Andrew has performed this selection process since the 2008 vintage wines, and the exercise gives great independent credence to the nature and quality of the wines from the 800 ha delineated area near Hastings in Hawke’s Bay deemed to be unique and capable of producing world class Bordeaux-varietal reds and Syrahs.

2016 follows on from the excellent to outstanding 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages in Hawke’s Bay. The growing season for the 2016 vintage featured a wet and very cool start, with fears of another late vintage. However dry weather in October and November resulted in moderate crop set. Unusually high temperatures began in January and continued through to March and harvest, the final period marked by warm nights and humidity. Catching up in heat summation, the GDD for 2016 was 1430, near to the Long Term Average of 1500.

In my tastings to date of Hawke’s Bay wines, the Bordeaux-varietal reds retain a coolness and freshness that is the result of the cool start of the growing season. Although the latter part of the season gave unprecedented heat for the fruit to reach full ripeness, I feel that the cooler start has meant that the wines have retained the lack of heat and higher acidity. The wines are more elegant than the previous three vintages, with greater vibrancy and fragrance, but have a cool edge. I believe the Syrah wines also show this, but to a lesser degree, this ameliorated by the still-enjoyable and acceptable style that cooler-spectrum Syrah has. Interestingly, Andrew Caillard has selected 8 blended reds and 4 Syrahs for the 2016 AVS, indicating a greater preference for the former category.

The members of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association are: Babich, Beach House, Blank Canvas, Church Road, Coopers Creek, Craggy Range, Crossroads, Crown Range Cellar, Decibel Wines, Element Wines, Elephant Hill, Esk Valley Estate, Ka Tahi, Mils Reef, Mission Estate, Newton Forrest, New Zealand Wine Society, Pask Winery, Sacred Hill, Saint Clair, Squawking Magpie, Stonecroft, Te Awa, Trinity Hill, Unison, Vidal Estate, Villa Maria and William Murdoch as producers. Grower members are: M. Cairns & A. Wright Partnership, Riverstone Vineyards and Terra Vitae Vineyards. www.gimblettgravels.com

 
Tasting the 2016 Annual Vintage Selection
A limited number of the Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage sets are sent out to critics and writers around the world as a snapshot of some of the best wines from the Gimblett Gravels for that vintage, as selected by an independent palate. I’ve been lucky to receive the 2013s (click here to see my reviews), the 2014s (click here to see) and the 2015s (click here to view my notes). I’m privileged to have received the 2016s. My reviews of the wines follow. They are in alphabetical order with the Blended Reds first, followed by the Syrahs. I have generally provided the basic detail of varietal proportion and oaking detail, rather than more specific detail that I usually obtain. Interestingly, I have only tried the Craggy Range ‘Sophia’, Vidal ‘Legacy’ Blended red and Syrah before. 5 of the 12 wines were sealed by screwcap (Craggy Range, Esk Valley, saint Clair and the two Vidal wines) the rest had cork closures.


Some Conclusions  
Although having tasted only three of the twelve wines previously, I found that their ratings were influenced by sequential effects and the opportunity of seeing the wines in amongst a group of their peers.  This certainly happened with the 2015 Annual Vintage Selection I reviewed last year.  This is a common effect that is brought to the attention of wine judges at most wine shows. 

The 2016 vintage appears to favour the Blended Reds, with 8 of the 12 being this category.  The Blended reds appeared to have a consistency of quality across the board, despite their varying varietal proportions.  In general the wines with significant amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon displayed the blackcurrant notes, as they should, and in some wines a hint of herb and leaf.  Maybe this can be attributed to the cooler start to the growing season, that even the heat burst at the end could not make up for in flavour ripeness.  

The Syrahs in general were more accessible and not as ripe as wines from the three earlier vintages.  Having noted that, they showed variation in style, and were balanced and very enjoyable. 

Interestingly, the wines, both the Blended Reds and the Syrahs showed less of the distinctive mineral character often seen in the Gimblett Gravels reds which I like to describe as ‘Iron-earth’.  This flavour usually appears in warmer and ripe vintages for me.  
 
The 2016s are not as rich, powerful, expressive or structured as the wines from 2013, 2014 and 2015, but having stated that, they are still very creditable, high quality wines that will mature earlier, offering accessibility sooner than the other mentioned vintages. 

 I agree very much with the numbers of Blended Reds and Syrahs representing the relative strength of each category, as selected by Andrew Caillard.  He’s done it again!

FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW



Babich ‘Irongate’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot/Franc 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

18.5+/20

Dark, deep, black-red colour with ruby-purple hues, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is firmly concentrated with powerful, bold and up-front aromas of ripe blackcurrants and cassis with a little blackcurrant leaf, unfolding dark plum notes and pencilly oak. This has excellent Cabernet Sauvignon expression, with clarity, but also density. Medium-bodied, the palate has sweetly rich and plush fruit flavours of ripe blackcurrants and blackberries with softly sweet plum notes, unfolding some dark herbs and a little iron-earth. The tannins are very fine-grained and powdery, and the acidity is softly integrated. The wine carries smoothly to a sweet, lingering and integrated finish of fruit, herbs and earth. This is a sweetly rich and plush, up-front Cabernet Sauvignon blend with ripe blackcurrant, plum and herb notes on a fine-textured, smooth and integrated palate. This will develop over the next 7-10 years. A blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc, fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 13-14 months in 40% new oak barriques. 18.5+/20 Nov 2018 RRP $39.95

Babich ‘The Patriarch’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19+/20

Full, even, black-hued purple-ruby colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is softly full and harmoniously integrated with layers of ripe black plum fruit along with ripe blackcurrants, cassis and spices, with sweet, lifted oak. This is finely interwoven and shows lovely aromatic finesse. Medium-full bodied, the palate is fulsome with rich and expansive, mouthfilling flavours of ripe black plums with spicy blackberries and hints of blackcurrants. The fruit forms a deep and sweetly rich, concentrated core, with fine-grained, powdery tannin extraction. The mouthfeel is soft and smooth, with the acidity emerging to enliven the palate, carrying to a very long, lingering finish. This is a fulsome, mouthfilling, rich Merlot-based wine with sweet plum and spicy berry fruit, on a very fine-structured palate with a concentrated core and fresh finish. This will develop over the next 9-10+ years. A blend of 40% Merlot, 33% Malbec and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 16 months in 45% new French oak. 19.0+/20 Nov 2018 RRP $89.95

Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19/20

Full, dark, deep, black-hued purple-red colour, near impenetrable, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is somewhat restrained initially, with tightly bound aromas of dark-red and black plum fruit with hints of blackcurrant leaf and cassis, with lifted oak notes. This has lovely detail and the aromatics form an elegant core unfolding pencilly oak. Medium-full bodied, the palate is elegantly proportioned with vibrantly sweet dark-red and black plum fruit along with subtle notes of blackcurrants and cassis. The fruit has piquancy and is enhanced by fresh, lacy acidity. The wine flows along a fine-textured and structured line leading to an elegant, poised finish. This is an elegantly presented Merlot-based wine with vibrant and piquant fruit flavours of dark plums and blackcurrants on a fine-textured palate with fresh mouthfeel. The wine will develop over the next 10-12+ years. A blend of 58% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented to 13.3% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 45% new French oak. 19.0/20 Nov 2018 RRP $140.00

Full, even, impenetrable black-hued red colour with purple hues on the edge, youthful in appearance. The nose is fine in proportion with a tight and stylish core of ripe blackberry and black plum fruit aromas, along with blackcurrants and subtle cassis and dark herb notes. This is beautifully soft and refined in expression, and the componentry is harmoniously interwoven. With aeration, fragrant, spicy and cedary oak notes emerge. Full-bodied, the palate has rich, vibrant and lively, mouthfilling flavours of sweet and spicy black plums and blackberry fruit along with notes of blackcurrants, cassis, redcurrants and a layering of dark herbs. The rich and sweet fruit forms a well-concentrated, but rounded core, and the fruit is supported by very fine-grained tannin structure, with light acid vibrancy. As the wine flows, spices, nuts and cedary oak emerge to add to the richness and dimension, and lead to a long, concentrated finish. This is a rich and vibrant, mouthfilling Merlot-based wine with plum and currant flavours on a fulsome palate revealing complexing spice, nutty and oak elements. Match with roasted lamb, beef and venison over the next 10-15 years. Hand-picked fruit, a blend of 58% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented to 13.3% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 45% new French oak barriques. 19.0+/20 Sep 2018 RRP $140.00

Mission ‘Jewelstone’ ‘Antoine’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19-/20

Very dark, deep, purple-hued ruby-red colour with black tints, lighter on edge. The nose is elegantly proportioned with deep and densely packed aromas of ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with notes of cassis and savoury dark herbs, along with pencilly and cedary oak elements. This has style but with density. Medium-full bodied, the palate is full and packed with dense flavours of ripe blackberry fruit with black plums along with blackcurrants and cassis providing an array of fruit flavours. The palate heart is dense and the mouthfeel soft, but with considerable fine-grained tannin extraction. The wine carries to a concentrated, rounded finish of blackcurrants and pencilly oak. This is a densely-packed Cabernet Sauvignon based blend with ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with considerable structure and soft acidity lending roundness. This will develop over the next 8-10+ years. A blend of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc and 26% Merlot, fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. 19.0-/20 Nov 2018 RRP $50.00

Sacred Hill ‘Helmsman’ Hawke’s Bay 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19+/20

Very full, dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is elegant in presentation with intense aromas of ripe blackcurrant fruit along with blackberries, sweet black plums, dark herbs and fragrant exotic oak. This has intensely expressed componentry and needs time to come together. The intensity of the blackcurranty Cabernet Sauvignon grows with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate is elegant in presentation and firmly concentrated and intensely deep and packed with flavours of ripe blackcurrant fruit with notes of blackberries, plums and dark herbs with sweet, cedary, exotic oak. The fruit is supported by plenty of fine-grained tannin extraction lending body, presence and mouthfeel, and the wine carries with integrated acidity to a fine, firm and sustained finish. This is an elegantly proportioned, but intensely concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon based blend with ripe black fruits and exotic oak, and plenty of extraction. This will develop over the next 12-15 years. A blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and Cabernet Franc each, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 17 months in 50% new French oak. 19.0+/20 Nov 2018 RRP $84.99

Saint Clair ‘Premium’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

18.5+/20

Full, dark, impenetrable black-red colour at the heart, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is softly full and sweetly ripe with plush aromas of blackberry fruit with black plums and hints of boysenberries, along with a layer of sweet and spicy, cedary oak. This is up-front and bold in expression, and very plump. Medium-full bodied, the palate has sweetly ripe and luscious, opulent up-front flavours of blackberries and boysenberries and some jammy elements. The flavours are mouthfilling and form a gently harmonious core with supple tannin extraction lending accessibility. The fruit sweetness is the feature and the flavours carry with soft acidity to easy, rounded, flavoursome finish. This is a plush, up-front sweetly luscious, mouthfilling Cabernet Sauvignon- based red with ripe blackberry, plum and boysenberry flavours on a supple, accessible palate. Drink over the next 6 years. A blend of 66.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 13.3% Malbec, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 33% new French oak. 18.5+/20 Nov 2018 RRP $26.50

Stonecroft Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Cabernet Sauvignon from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19/20

Dark, deep, black-hued purple-red colour, near impenetrable at the heart, a little lighter edged. The nose is tightly packed with intense and penetrating aromas of blackcurrants with cassis liqueur, along with nuances of mint and dark herbs and blackcurrant leaf. This has clarity, purity finesse and concentration. Medium-full bodied, the palate has fulsome and well-packed, deep and dense flavours of ripe blackcurrants and cassis along with subtle notes of sweet herbs. The fruit forms a robust core with plenty of tannin extraction and grip, with grainy structure. The acidity is balanced, lending tension and the wine flows with good vitality to a solid, full finish. This is a fulsome, deep and densely flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon with ripe blackcurrant and cassis flavours on a robust palate with plenty of grip and energy. This will develop over the nest 12-15 years. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 20 months in 35% new French oak. 19.0/20 Nov 2018 RRP $45.00

Vidal ‘Legacy’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19+/20

Dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is softly full and voluminous with beautifully accessible and even aromas of ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with sweet black plums, unfolding a little dark herb with spicy and nutty oak. This is refined and harmoniously detailed, and an expression of finesse, the aromatics building in depth with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate is refined with sweetly ripe, plush and juicy flavours of ripe blackcurrants and blackberries with black plum notes, unfolding a little dark herb and lifted, spicy oak. The mouthfeel is smooth with very fine-grained tannins balancing the fruit richness, with background acidity lending energy. The wine carries seamlessly to a long, detailed finish. This is a beautifully refined and detailed Cabernet/Merlot blend with ripe fruits, sweet oak and finesse of structure. It will develop over the next 9-10+years. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot from the ‘Omahu Gravels’ and ‘Te Awa’ sites, the fruit fermented to 13.5% alc., and aged 20 months in 60% new French oak barriques. 250 dozen made. 19.0+/20 Nov 2018 RRP $69.99

Dark, deep, near impenetrable black-hued ruby-red colour with youthful purple tints. The nose is beautifully proportioned with concentrated and intensely penetrating aromas of ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with some cassis liqueur, and fragrant dark-red and black plum fruit interwoven with subtle notes of redcurrants and herbs. This has finesse, intensity and beauty. Medium-full bodied, the palate is well-proportioned with deep and intense flavours of ripe blackberry, blackcurrant, and black plum fruit unfolding subtly complexing pencilly oak and iron-earth elements. The fruit forms a deep and tightly bound, dense core with very fine-grained, powdery tannin extraction providing plenty of structure. Soft, lacy acidity lends energy. The wine has excellent drive and carries to an elegant, sustained finish. This is a wonderfully proportioned Cabernet/Merlot with deep and intense flavours of ripe blackberries, blackcurrant and plums with fine oak and iron-earth detail on a fine-grained palate with plenty of extract. Match with roast lamb, beef and venison over the next 8-10+ years. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot from the ‘Omahu Gravels’ and ‘Te Awa’ sites, the fruit fermented to 13.5% alc., and aged 20 months in 60% new French oak barriques. 250 dozen made. 19.5-/20 Jul 2018 RRP $64.99

Craggy Range ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19.5/20

Very dark, deep, black-hued purple-ruby colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is very rich and sweetly ripe with deeply concentrated and packed aromas of blackberries and black plums with subtle dark raspberry notes, and a full and voluminous layering of exotic spices melded with black pepper, liquorice and violet florals. Medium-bodied, the palate has vibrant and plush, sweetly ripe, near opulent flavours of ripe blackberry fruit along with dark raspberries and black plums, along with black pepper, spices and violet florals. The fruit is supported by very fine-grained powdery tannin extraction and structure, providing excellent linearity. The acidity is integrated and the wine carries to a long, lingering finish. This is a vibrantly rich, plush and near-opulent, ripe Syrah with blackberry, plum and raspberry fruit along with black pepper, spices and florals on a considerably structured, very fine-grained palate. This will age 10+ years. 100% Syrah, fermented to 13.2% alc., the wine aged 16 months in 20% new French oak. 19.5/20 Nov 2018 RRP $35.95

Esk Valley ‘Winemakers Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19-/20

Full, even, purple-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is a little restrained, with softly concentrated, integrated and layered aromas of ripe blackberry fruit along with savoury plums entwined with soft, nutty oak complexities, unfolding a little game and iron-earth interest. This is presently locked-up, but will clearly reveal savoury complexities with some time. Medium-full bodied, the palate is softly sweet and fulsome, with lusciously rich, ripe blackberry fruit with dark plums and subtle spice and nutty oak elements, unfolding black pepper. The flavours are harmoniously balanced and interwoven, and the fruit is supported by plenty of fine-grained tannin structure, along with a thread of soft acidity lending energy. The wine carries seamlessly to a smooth and detailed finish. This is a fine structured Syrah with interwoven flavours of blackberry fruit with plums and savoury nutty complexities, iron-earth notes and spices, on a beautifully balanced palate. It will emerge from its shyness, and develop over the next 7-9+ years. 100% Syrah, fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 17 months in 30% new French oak. 19.0-/20 Nov 2018 RRP $59.99

Sacred Hill ‘Deerstalkers’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19/20

Even ruby-red colour with slight purple hues and some depth, lighter on the rim. This has an elegantly presented nose with fine and tightly bound, penetrating aromas of ripe blackberry fruit infused with exotic Middle Eastern spices, unfolding violet florals, and integrated black pepper, dark herb and iron-earth elements. This is harmonious and beautifully integrated. Medium-bodied, the palate is elegant in presentation with a rich and sweetly luscious core of ripe blackberry fruit melded with a layer of exotic spices, unfolding violet floral and black pepper notes with iron-earth complexities. The fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin structure and the acidity lends vitality. The wine flows seamlessly to a long and sustained, nuanced finish. This is an elegantly concentrated, sweetly luscious Syrah with black fruits and an array of exotic spices on a seamless flowing, fine-structured line. This will develop over the next 8-10 years. 100% Syrah, fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 16 months in 25% new French oak. 19.0/20 Nov 2018 RRP $59.99

Vidal ‘Legacy’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19.5-/20

Dark, deep, ruby-red colour with purple-black hues at the heart, a little paler on the rim. The nose is elegantly presented with well-proportioned and concentrated aromas of ripe blackberry fruit with dark raspberries, plums and black pepper at the core. A complex nutty oak, iron-earth Oriental spice amalgam unfolds and provides detail. Medium-bodied, the palate is rich, luscious and sweetly ripe with a core of blackberry fruit with black plum hints and dark raspberries, along with violet florals and spice notes. A little black pepper and iron-earth emerge to add detail. This is vibrant and lively and has fine-grained powdery tannin extraction and structure, with fine acid balance. The flavours are opulent but moderated by the extraction and the wine carries seamlessly to a long and sustained finish. This is a beautifully rich, luscious and sweet-fruited, balanced and finely proportioned Syrah with ripe blackberry, plum, spice and mineral flavours on a seamless, fine-grained palate. This will develop over the next 8-10 years. Waldron and MS clone fruit, 50% each from the ‘Omahu Gravels’ and ‘Twyford Gravels’ sites, vines 18 y.o., hand-picked and fully destemmed and fermented with a small portion of whole berries to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 20 months in 43% new French oak barriques. 350 dozen made. 19.5-/20 Nov 2018 RRP $79.99

Dark, deep, near impenetrable black-hued purple-red colour, a little lighter edged. The nose full and broad with harmoniously concentrated and layered aromas showing ripe blackberries and black plums along with dark raspberries, liquorice and fragrant Asian spices, unfolding a little black pepper and iron-earth notes. The aromatics grow in depth and density with aeration, and is quite complete. Medium-full bodied, the palate has richly sweet, plush and juicy, vibrant and poised flavours of ripe blackberries and plums with notes of dark raspberries and liquorice, forming a tight and deeply packed core. Layers of exotic Asian spices, dark herbs, violet florals, pepper and iron-earth emerge. The fruit is supported by considerable fine-grained, powdery tannin extraction and structure with integrated acidity adding to the richness. The flavours carry to a very long, sustained, vibrant finish. This is a beautifully rich and lusciously vibrant Syrah with ripe and complex flavours of black fruits, spices, florals and earth on a well-structrured, fine-grained palate. Match with roasted game meat dishes over the next 7-10+ years. Waldron and MS clone fruit, 50% each from the ‘Omahu Gravels’ and ‘Twyford Gravels’ sites, vines 18 y.o., hand-picked and fully destemmed and fermented with a small portion of whole berries to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 20 months in 43% new French oak barriques. 350 dozen made. 19.5/20 Jul 2018 RRP $74.99

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