Gimblett Gravels 2016 Annual Vintage Selection

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!


  • Babich ‘Irongate’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot/Franc 2016
  • Babich ‘The Patriarch’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016
  • Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016
  • Mission ‘Jewelstone’ ‘Antoine’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016
  • Sacred Hill ‘Helmsman’ Hawke’s Bay 2016
  • Saint Clair ‘Premium’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec 2016
  • Stonecroft Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
  • Vidal ‘Legacy’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2016
  • Craggy Range ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016
  • Esk Valley ‘Winemakers Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016
  • Sacred Hill ‘Deerstalkers’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016
  • Vidal ‘Legacy’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016

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