Gimblett Gravels 2014 Annual Vintage Selection

The first grapes were planted in the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawke’s Bay in 1981. It did not take long for winegrowers that the land, deemed a wasteland for all seemingly practical purposes was an excellent site for growing grapes, especially the red Bordeaux varieties, and nowadays, it is regarded by many as the premier district for Bordeaux red styles and style. In the best growing seasons, the wines are magnificently ripe and structured, and have the potential to age extremely well.

The Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association was formed in 2001 to collective promote the wines of the district and protect its identity, by delineating an 800 ha area based on 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, Crown Range Cellar, Element, Esk Valley, Ka Tahi, Mills Reef, Mission, Newton Forrest, Pask, Sacred Hill, Saint Clair, Squawking Magpie, Stonecroft, Te Awa, Trinity Hill, Unison, Vidal, Villa Maria and William Murdoch as producers. Grower members are: M. Cairns & A. Wright Partnership, Riverstone Vineyards and Terra Vitae Vineyards. www.gimblettgravels.com

The 2014 Annual Vintage Selection
One of the best known promotional exercises devised by the Association 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. The ‘Annual Vintage Selection’ has been made from the 2008 vintage, and the 2014 Selection, the seventh, was announced in June earlier this year.

The 2014 selection follows last year’s selection of 2013 wines, the vintage regarded as one of the greatest for Hawke’s Bay in living memory. However the 2014 vintage is mow seen in a similar light, and while the style of the wines is more accessible and showing riper fruit in general, the quality of the wines is regarded as comparable, if not better by some winegrowers and critics. For the record, 2014 had 1544 Degree Days, with 2013 measured at 1473, the Long Term Average being 1515. The Rainfall in 2014 was 545 mm, whereas 2013 had 228 mm, the Long Term Average being 477 mm. The Hawke’s Bay vignerons say that rainfall at "just the right times” alleviated any stress from the warm and dry growing conditions, with the significant rainfall occurring in the 10 days after 5 April when most of the fruit was already picked. The Syrah wines look particularly strong and this is reflected in the ‘Annual Vintage Selection’ which feature 7 wines of the dozen.

Tasting the Wines
Following are my reviews of the 2014 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection. The wines are ordered alphabetically for the Syrah, but with the Bordeaux varietals, they range from highest Merlot descending with lowest Cabernet Sauvignon ascending. I have already tasted a number of these wines as ‘Feature Reviews’. It is interesting to taste those already tasted before – in this context of comparison. As with any tasting, the juxtaposition of wines highlights certain traits and often downplays others which seem more obvious in other situations. As in judging, sequential effects operate. These factors will explain why my notes may vary from previous tasting notes or future ones. The quality of the wines is extremely high, with the Syrahs showing a surprising diversity of style. I found the Bordeaux-varietal wines exceptionally consistent and tight in quality, and with a closer style connection despite the varied proportion of varieties.


  • Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014
  • Esk Valley ‘Winemakers Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014
  • Sacred Hill ‘Deerstalkers’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014
  • Squawking Magpie ‘Stoned Crow’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014
  • Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014
  • Vidal ‘Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014
  • William Murdoch Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014
  • Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2014
  • Mission ‘Jewelstone’ ‘Antoine’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2014
  • Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2014
  • Trinity Hill ‘The Gimblett’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2014
  • Squawking Magpie ‘SQM’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernets/Merlot 2014

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