Gimblett Gravels 2013 Annual Vintage Selection

Since the first grapes were planted in the Hawke’s Bay area known now as the Gimblett Gravels in 1981, it was reckoned that there was something special about the soils, topography and microclimate that resulted in distinctive wines of quality. Over 30 years later the terroir of the Gimblett Gravels is recognised positively; the growing area deemed particularly favourable for the Bordeaux red varieties and Syrah, capable of making dark-fruited, well-structured, ageworthy wines with a sense of place. I see the wines in that light too, and find they often have an ‘iron-earth’ mineral character.

In 2001, winegrowers and producers with land in the area formed the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association to collectively promote the wines of the district and to protect its individuality. The Gimblett Gravels is uniquely and strictly defined in New Zealand as an 800 ha area by the gravelly soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro river which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1860s. The area defined is independent of GI specifications, and the Association has the name ‘Gimblett Gravels’ registered as a trademark. Members of the Association must own land in the area and wines produced bearing the ‘Gimblett Gravels’ designation must be 95% from the area. The Association has a logo which most members include on the labelling of their wines.

The current members of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association are: Babich, Beach House, Coopers Creek, Craggy Range, Crossroads, Elephant Hill, Esk Valley, Mills Reef, Mission, William Murdoch, Newton Forrest, Pask, Sacred Hill, Saint Clair, Squawking Magpie, Stonecroft, Te Awa, Trinity Hill, Unison, Vidal and Villa Maria as producers. Grower members are: Element Vineyard, M. Cairns & A. Wright Partnership, Riverstone Vineyards and Terra Vitae Vineyards. www.gimblettgravels.com

The 2013 Annual Vintage Selection
The members and the Association have been very active in promoting and protecting the area and the wines. One of the exercises is the ‘Annual Vintage Selection’ where a dozen wines are chosen independently by Andrew Caillard MW of Sydney, from wines submitted for blind tasting, to represent the best of the district for that given year. The ‘Selection’ wines are sent to media and critics world-wide for their appraisal. Tastings of the wines are also conducted to reach a greater audience. The ‘Annual Vintage Selection’ has been made from the 2008 vintage, and the 2013 Selection, the sixth, was announced in May earlier this year. A list of all of the ‘Selections’ can be seen by clicking here

The ‘Selection’ is a fascinating group of wines, as it is made by a person with an authoritative and international palate. The wines provide a snapshot of the vintage in terms of overall quality and style. I find the mix and ratio of Bordeaux varietal-based wines to Syrah especially interesting, and the ‘Selection’ varies each year as to which type make up more of the dozen, thus indicating the more successful category. The 2013 ‘Selection’ is one of great interest, as the vintage is being touted as one of the greatest experienced in Hawke’s Bay. In this vintage, the ‘Selection’ comprises 7 Bordeaux varietal based wines and 5 Syrah.

Following a dismally cool and wet 2012, the 2013 growing conditions were hot and dry, with the 70 day run from 20 January to 4 April remarkably favourable. It is noted that fruit maturity was achieved at lower Brix, and most wines will be under 14.0% alcohol. For the record, the Degree Days for 2013 measured 1473, the Long Term Average being 1513. The 2013 Rainfall was 228 mm, compared to the Long Term Average of 471 mm. The wines across all varieties show outstanding aromatics and fine tannins.

I was privileged in receiving the 2013 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection. I’ve tasted a number of these wines for Raymond Chan Wine Reviews already, but I haven’t tasted them as a set or line-up. My reviews of the wines follow. They are ordered in descending proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon, to increasing Cabernet Franc and Merlot content for the blended reds, followed by the Syrahs, all 100% that variety, which are ordered alphabetically. Interestingly for me, the house style or winemaker signature behind the wines took precedence over the varietal expression when defining the character of each wine. And any overall ‘Gimblett Gravels’ personality or traits were not blatantly manifest. Maybe, this would emerge with bottle age? Also coming through was the accentuation of certain personality and style traits of the wines I had tasted previously as a result of the context and comparison with this set of wines, this providing a slightly different perspective to them.


  • Mills Reef ‘Elspeth’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
  • Vidal ‘Legacy’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2013
  • Newton Forrest ‘Cornerstone’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec 2013
  • Squawking Magpie ‘SQM’ Gimblett Gravels Cabernets/Merlot 2013
  • Trinity Hill ‘The Gimblett’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2013
  • Beach House Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc 2013
  • Villa Maria ‘Single Vineyard – Braided Gravels’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2013
  • Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013
  • Esk Valley ‘Winemakers Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013
  • Mission ‘Jewelstone’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013
  • Te Awa ‘Single Estate’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013
  • Vidal ‘Legacy’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013

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