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Mills Reef 2013 ‘Arthur Edmund’ Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Merlot and Syrah

28 November,2018
At the start of August this year, Mills Reef announced the launch of two new super icon wines, named ‘Arthur Edmund’ which sat above the flagship ‘Elspeth’ wines. The wines came from Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay fruit, but what was particularly startling was the Recommended Retail Price of $350.00 per bottle. My initial reaction was shock at the very high pricing, such that I phoned Mills Reed general manager Nick Aleksich straight away to describe my reaction. Knowing how Mills Reef approach the marketplace, I should have realised that the decision for the pricing was well-considered by the management and team.

The pricing was decided on a number of factors, primarily that the quality of the ‘Elspeth’ Bordeaux-Varietal and Syrah wines was the equal if not better than of any similarly styled wines from around the world, including Bordeaux and the Rhone, as gauged by results of many blind tastings around the world conducted by some of the most highly renowned tasters on the planet. Comparing the prices of the ‘Elspeth’ wines with some of the more famous names, the Mills Reef wines were 10 or even 20 times less the price, making then incredibly undervalued and bargains. The Mills Reef team realised that they were not appreciating the worth of their wines in terms of being on a global market.

A number of New Zealand wines were already more expensive than the $350.00 they were pricing the ‘Arthur Edmund’ wines at; Stonyridge ‘Larose’ 2015 at $450.00, the Destiny Bay ‘Magna Praemia’ 2014 at $499.00 (both as on Wine Searcher), and the Babich ‘100 Year’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 was $399.00 (now unavailable). The Church Road’ ‘TOM’ wines are now $200.00, and the Craggy Range ‘Prestige Collection’ Sophia’ 2016 is $140.00 a bottle, as is Trinity Hill’s ‘Homage’ Syrah. The Villa Maria ’Ngakirikiri’ icon Cabernet Sauvignon is $150.00 There is a slow creep towards higher pricing for the super-premium Bordeaux-Variety and Syrah wines. Most producers of these wines are aware of the knife-edge balance between these wines being very expensive or luxury commodities. Few would wish to see their top wines become like the special editions of Penfolds ‘Grange’ which are generally unattainable by the vast majority of wine enthusiasts.
The Mills Reef ‘Arthur Edmund’ Wines
These first releases of the ‘Arthur Edmund’ wines have been nearly a decade in the making, with the viticultural team identifying the best rows and plots of fruit from their estate Gimblett Gravels vineyards. It was with the 2013 vintage, recognised now as one of the finest to date, described as a ‘vintage of a lifetime’ in the Gimblett Gravels and Hawke’s Bay that the fruit from the growing season met the criteria for the desired wines. The fruit to make these wines was stringently selected from the best vineyard rows, from vines on the best soils, from the oldest vines with exceptionally low yields of just 3-4 bunches per vine.

In the winery, parcels were kept separate, the grapes for the Cabernet/Merlot undergoing crushing under its natural weight with the cap hand-plunged twice daily, and the Syrah alcohol soaked for optimal tannin structure, before they were barrelled in the finest oak, 100% new 300L hogheads for 20 months maturation. Only one racking occurred throughout the maturation period, and natural gravity was employed for settling and clarification. A rigorous barrel selection was made for the final blends, the wines bottled with light egg-white fining and no filtration. The wines are named as a tribute to Paddy and Tim Preston’s father and grandfather respectively, who was married to Elspeth. I review the wines here. www.millsreef.co.nz


Mills Reef ‘Arthur Edmond’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot 2013

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Full, deep, impenetrable black-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is well-proportioned with deep and densely packed, concentrated and layered aromas of ripe blackberry fruit harmoniously melded with blackcurrant and black plums along with subtle notes of cassis, black herbs and integrated lead-pencil oak elements. This has superb intensity with aromatic finesse, unfolding essence of black fruits along with notes of iron-earth. Medium-full bodied, the palate is sweetly rich, but stylishly restrained in its decadence, with a concentrated core of densely packed flavours of ripe blackberries, blackcurrants with blackcurrants and cassis all harmoniously interwoven, unfolding subtle dark herb detail, iron-earth and pencilly oak. The fruit depth is remarkable with beautiful refinement, and is underlined by very fine-grained powdery tannin extraction providing textural finesse. The acidity is seamlessly integrated, and the wine shows power, linearity and drive, flowing to a tight and firm, sustained finish of black fruits, cassis and iron-earth. This is an immensely concentrated and packed, but beautifully refined Cabernet/Merlot with ripe black fruits, cassis and iron-earth with pencilly oak , with great richness and class. Serve with finest cuts of lab, beef and venison over the next 15-20 years. A blend of 50% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, handpicked from the ‘Mere Road’ vineyard, destemmed and transferred to open-top fermenters, and fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 16 days on skins post ferment and aged 20 months in 100% new French oak 300 L hogsheads. 1,118 bottles made. 20.0/20 Nov 2018 RRP $350.00

Mills Reef ‘Arthur Edmond’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Full, very deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is finely presented with intense, penetrating and concentrated aromas of ripe blackberry fruit along with layers of black plums, nuances of boysenberries and dark raspberries, unfolding aromatic and sweet oak, liquorice, and Asian spice elements. The nose unfolds waves of detail that blossom with aeration. This has fragrance and beauty. Medium-full bodied, the palate has richly sweet, vibrant, lusciously ripe fruit flavours of blackberries, black plums, dark raspberries and boysenberries. The fruit is exotic and decadent with real opulence, but balanced by considerable, ripe, flowery tannin extraction. The fruit has brilliant vitality and energy with fine acidity lending vibrancy. The flavours unfold floral detail and sweet cedary oaky lift, along with iron-earth complexing nuances, and the wine carries to an intense and concentrated, densely packed finish with great length. This is a beautifully vibrant and luscious, opulently ripe Syrah with blackberry fruit along with black plums, boysenberries and dark raspberries on a palate with refined extraction, great depth and freshness, spices and floral lift. Match with Lamb and venison dishes over the next 15-18+ years. 100% Syrah, 50% from the ‘Mere Road’ vineyard and 50% from the ‘Trust’ vineyard, hand-picked and destemmed, the ‘Mere Road’ fruit going into ‘Integrale’ barrels and the ‘Trust’ fruit going to open top fermenters, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 14-20 days on skins post ferment, the wine aged 20 months in 100% new oak 300 L hogheads, the ‘Mere Road’ parcel in American and the ‘Trust’ parcel in French. 989 bottles made. 19.5+/20 Nov 2018 RRP $350.00

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