jamie goode's wine blog

Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Zealand, day 6: Syrah Symposium

A bit of a change. After visiting beautiful vineyards, I've been stuck in a room all day.

But productively. It has been the Syrah Symposium here in Hawkes Bay. A mixture of science, tasting and opinion. A tight schedule, running from 8 am until 6 pm, with four excellent tasting sessions blended in with the talks.

The first, led by the excellent Rod Easthope (Craggy Range) looked at New Zealand Syrah. The second, led by Dan Buckle of Mount Langhi Ghiran focused on cool-climate Australian Shiraz. The third, presented by Jason Yapp, featured six brilliantly chosen wines from the Northern Rhone. Finally, Tim Atkin chose ten Shiraz/Syrah wines from around the world (deliberately excluding France and Australia).

After the symposium, many of us went to Steve Smith's pad for a BBQ, with imperials of Le Sol 2005 and Block 14 2004, both of which were suberb, with my preference being the latter. Nice to be able to chat to Brian Croser and Brian Walsh, as well as the Craggy guys.

The details of the Syrah symposium will have to wait for another time. I'm exhausted and we have an early start in the morning.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Great value Shiraz, part 8

I'm still in my pursuit of great value Shiraz/Syrah. Here's a good-un from today's Sainsbury's press tasting.

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007 New Zealand
13% alcohol. From the Gimblett Gravels, this is a really impressive Syrah at a good price. It has a fresh, spicy nose with notes of white pepper, cloves, meat and blackcurrant fruit. The palate is fresh and pure with focused black fruits backed up by some spicy, savoury notes. Berryish and pure, and a lovely cool-climate expression of Syrah. 90/100 (8.99 Sainsbury's)

(will be available from 25/10/09)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Great value Shiraz, part 6

Here's another great value Shiraz. Not as cheap as the previous recommendations I've made in this mini-series, but well worth the asking price. I really like this wine. As with many Gimblett Gravel reds, it has wonderful freshness allied to ripeness. I'm almost always in the mood to drink wines like this.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah 2007 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
I love this wine, which shows beautiful focus. Fresh, sweet, pure dark cherry and blackberry fruit on the nose with a white pepper edge. The palate is juicy and bright with cherry and berry fruit, as well as some savoury peppery structure. Good acidity too. Sweet and rich in part, but savoury, juicy and fresh. Brilliant. 92/100 (Wine Rack 14.99 but 9.99 if you buy three)

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

A New Zealand Syrah

I really, really like Syrah from New Zealand. Most of the good stuff comes from a special patch of ground, the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay, a warm microclimate with special soils.

Tonight I'm tasting one such wine. It was the favourite of mine from the line-up of Southbank Estate wines that I tried at the recent New Zealand tasting. It's not the best Kiwi Syrah, by any measure, but it's very attractive, and relatively easily available in the UK.

Southbank Estate Syrah 2005 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This is a light, medium-bodied red with fresh cherry and red berry fruit, as well as some hints of white pepper and a bit of gravelly grip on the palate. It's a bright, quite savoury red, with more in common with red Burgundy than Australian Shiraz. It flirts with greenness, but there's enough ripeness here for it to work really well. At just 12.5% alcohol, this is a bright, vibrant, food-friendly Syrah that will age well, and which is dangerously drinkable. 89/100 (13 Majestic, Blackrock Wines, Penistone Court Wines)

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Two stunning kiwis, and a note on the power of terroir

To my mind, New Zealand is the new world country that is coming closest to making high-end wines with some of the complexity and interest of the best from the old world. [Maybe this is a bit unfair on California.] I'm hesitant to say this lest it be misinterpreted; I don't want people to think I'm an old fogey who thinks that Bordeaux and Burgundy have a monopoly on fine wine. But if you're honest, and you've tasted serious high-end wines from around the world, then you'll doubtless share my view that the new world can't yet compete at the very top end.
Anyway, New Zealand continues to make strides, and here are two wines that I reckon are pretty serious. The first is the latest release of Clos St Henri, the 2006 of which I tried a couple of weeks ago in Tate Britain. The second is a delicious Merlot (don't say that often...) from the Gimblett Gravels, a fantastic terroir in New Zealand's Hawkes Bay region. I'd say this wine shows as much Gimblett character as it does Merlot character; I reckon a Gimblett Syrah is closer to this wine than a Merlot from somewhere else, if you see what I mean.
Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Amazing stuff, this Sauvignon made by Henri Bourgeois of Sancerre. It's beautifully textured with good balance between the sweet, ripe pear and peach notes and the green grassy herby, gooseberry character. Real intensity and complexity here, with lovely focus and just the right amount of greenness to confer savoury freshness. I love the packaging, too - this is one of the few (5%?) of New Zealand wines that is still cork sealed. 93/100 (UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene)
Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This tastes so much of the Gimblett Gravels - it reminds me of the Syrahs that I've had from here, even though it's a Merlot? Is that terroir? I still think Syrah is the best variety for this patch of ground, but there's no doubting that this is a lovely Merlot. Deep coloured, it has a lovely fresh, bright peppery, gravelly edge to the well defined blackberry and raspberry fruit. The palate has lovely definition with lovely freshness, concentration and ripeness. There's some nice tannic structure. Pretty serious, especially for a Merlot. 93/100 (15.99 Waitrose, http://www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk/)

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Gimblett Gravels rock

I worry that sometimes I repeat myself on this blog. One of the themes I might have talked a bit too much about is New Zealand reds, but they're consistently good. I'm especially taken by the reds from the Gimblett Gravels, a unique 'terroir' in the Hawkes Bay region. Detractors say that viticulture in the gravels is essentially hydroponics, but this is the one place in NZ that seems to be able to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon reliably. Tonight's wine is a stylish, fresh, intense Bordeaux-style blend with lovely expressive character from one of the most reliable wineries out there.

Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2005 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Fresh blackcurrant and plum fruit dominates here, with a savoury, gravelly, spicy tannic structure providing a nice foil. It shows high acidity, and there's an almost floral perfumed character to nose. I don't think you'd mistake this for Bordeaux (and I don't think this was the intention of the winemaker), but there's a freshness and precision to this wine that is often missing in new world reds. Quite primary now; I reckon this will develop well over the next decade, although I'm slightly concerned that the high acidity might stick out a bit if the fruit recedes. 91/100 (15.99 Hailsham Cellars, D Byrne, Peake Wine, nzhouseofwine.co.uk)

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NZ (6) Gisborne and Hawkes Bay

Wellington Airport has free wifi access. How cool is that? I've been unable to blog for the last few days because I haven't had any internet access, but aside from that, I've hardly had a spare moment. So while I've got time (approximately 20 minutes until the next flight) and internet access, I'll try to give a brief update.

Leaving Marlborough on a gloriously sunny morning, I got on a tiny, tiny plane for a quick hop across to Wellington (the smaller the plane, the more fun flying is, I reckon) over the Cook Strait. I then flew to Napier, where I picked my hire car up, before heading off to Gisborne to see James Millton.

James had warned me that the 200 km journey was a tricky one, with winding roads, tight bends and lots of ups and downs. The 2.5 hour drive required a lot of concentration, but it was worth it, because the short time I spent at Millton was one of the best vineyard visits I've ever made. James runs his 28 hectares biodynamically, but this shouldn't be allowed to overshadow the fact that the wines he makes are quite brilliant, with a distinctive old world elegance and character.

We tasted, visited some vineyards, dug up some cows' horns, and I even got up at 0545 to see BD501 being mixed and sprayed. James and Annie were very hospitable, and I even had a chance to hit some golf balls and dip my toes in the Pacific (although not at the same time). James is pictured above with his special preparation stirring device.

Then it was back along the perilous highway 2 to Napier, the heart of the Hawkes Bay wine region. I arrived at the Craggy Range winery on the Gimblett Gravels (they also have a Cellar Door overlooked by the Te Mata Peak, where I was staying for a couple of nights in the vineyard cottage, which is a beautiful place to stay).

I tasted through the astonishingly good range of 06 reds, soon to be released Pinots, mind-blowing Syrahs and delightfully poised Rieslings. Craggy is on fire. That evening I crashed dinner with the board of Pinot Noir 2010, who were meeting at Craggy that day. Yesterday began with breakfast with Steve Smith, followed by a full day of appointments: Esk Valley, Sacred Hill, CJ Pask, Stonecroft and Trinity Hill. After the last appointment we had a beer and a glass of wine, before Warren Gibson invited me over to his beautiful rural home for dinner. The drive home proved a bit of a hit or miss affair (a combination of an inaccurate map, a tricky journey, darkness, and the fact that Hawkes Bay is a really easy region to get lost in), but I made it intact.

Today I'm off to Waipara, before heading off home from Christchurch tomorrow. This potted summary is a woefully inadequate, on the fly account, for which I apologise: as usual, the report in full will appear on the main site.

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