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The wines of Stonecroft, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Alan and Glen Limmer, RD 5, Mere Road, Hastings, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand 
Phone/Fax: +64 6 879-9610 
E-Mail: wine@stonecroft.co.nz Website:

Alan and Glennice Limmerís Stonecroft is a boutique producer in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand. Although the first vineyard was planted as recently as 1982, this is ancient history in New Zealand terms, and Stonecroft was one of the pioneers in the area known now as the Gimblett Gravels. They have two vineyards, Mere Road Vineyard and Tokarahi Vineyard. Both are on stony, free draining soil.

Alan has a PhD in chemistry, and in 1980 moved to the area to manage a chemical analysis facility. Catching the wine bug, he decided to join the few pioneers in the region in their winegrowing enterprise. He used his scientific knowledge to help select the best site possible, and the first 10 acre vineyard was purchased in 1982. His foresight has been confirmed: the Gimblett Gravels are now one of the most highly prized patches of vineyard area in New Zealand. A winery was constructed in 1987, but it wasnít until 1990 that Alan gave up the day job.

I first came across Alan in the context of the cork/screwcap debate. As a PhD chemist, Alan is better qualified than many to comment on the issue of closures and post-bottling wine chemistry. He has been a vocal opponent to many of the screwcap lobby, pointing out that one of the problems of tin-lined screwcaps, which provide a super-tight seal, is what happens to the sulphur chemistry in a low redox environment. The development of sulphur-like odours (or Ďreductioní as it is commonly known) is a problem that has been noted consistently in closure trials involving these tin-lined screwcaps (all the caps used in Australia and New Zealand are of this sort). Fining with copper isnít the magic solution it has been claimed to be. Alanís views havenít been popular. He used to use natural cork to seal his wines; now heís using Oeno Bouchageís Diam closure (what used to be the Altec, treated with supercritical carbon dioxide to remove any taint compounds).

Aside from the closure issues, the wines are very impressive. Thereís a bit of restraint to the Syrah that I like a good deal. The Chardonnay is rich and complex. [Rather embarrassingly Iíve given all these wines the same score. They were, however, tasted on separate occasions, and I had no way of knowing this till I came to write up my notes; itís simply unethical to change scores at this stage.]

Stonecroft Syrah 2002 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Dark coloured. Quite a tight, intense dark fruits nose with some freshness and spicy, tarry notes in the background. Thereís a hint of minerality, too. The palate has wonderful acidity providing a savoury, tarry minerality to the dark fruits. A pretty serious effort with the bright dark fruits emphasized by the acidity. A really good food wine, and possibly one for the future. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£14.99 Oddbins)

Stonecroft Syrah 2003 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
2003 was a short vintage, with half the usual crop. Really appealing perfumed nose: predominantly red fruits with a subtle herby edge and distinctive pepperiness. Hints of tar. The Palate is savoury and fresh with lovely spiciness and structure. Quite old world and expressive in style. Fine, fresh and almost Burgundian! Very good/excellent 92/100  

Stonecroft Chardonnay 2004 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This is a fantastic wine if you like the style: a big, powerful Chardonnay. Very intense, full direct nose of rich, spicy tropical fruits with some well-integrated oak. Both mesh well. The palate is concentrated and intense with powerful melon and tropical fruit, combined with a rich, spicy streak. Powerful and complex with fantastic concentration and class. Very good/excellent 92/100 

wines tasted June 2005

see also: tasting notes of New Zealand wines

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