Trinity Hill planted their first Syrah in the Gimblett Gravels in 1995, using cuttings from Stonecroft, a clone known as Mass Selection. The first vintage was 1997. The current releases also include some vines grown from cuttings that came from Jaboulet in the Northern Rhône. The first version of prestige cuvéeHomage was made in 2002, and it has subsequently been made in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
I asked winemaker Damian Fischer what he considered to be the strengths of Hawke’s Bay. ‘For me Chardonnay and Syrah are the two highlights,’ he replied. ‘It can do a lot of things very well, but I don’t see that as an advantage – we need to focus on things we do very well and shout that from the rooftop.’
He elaborated: ‘Chardonnay we get ripe flavours but also acidity. The Syrahs are beautifully aromatic, they are medium bodied, but they also have this vibrant acidity that adds to their drinkability. Syrah from here is so unique. The better we make it, the more unique it seems to become.’
These two Syrahs were just beautiful. One, age 12, and the other the current release. This, the 2016, is perhaps the finest New Zealand red I’ve tasted. It’s a remarkable wine.
Trinity Hill Homage 2006 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
The third Homage, from quite a cool year. Cork sealed. There were a couple of significant rain events during harvest. The yields from this year were very low. Destemmed berries, not crushed, inoculated and coinoculated for malolactic to reduce brett risk, pumped over two or three times a day. 100% new oak, sulphured quite early. As a young wine this was concentrated, spicy and powerful, and it still shows signs of this. Focused, fresh and vivid with lovely savoury notes of roast meat, leather and charcoal, as well as black cherry and blackcurrant. Savoury and taut with lovely freshness and depth. Keen acidity with some grip under the fruit. This is developing beautifully. 95/100
Trinity Hill Homage 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
13% alcohol, pH 3.73. Cork sealed. 30% whole bunch. Normally, they use a 6.5 ton open fermenter with whole bunches, and the remaining lots are destemmed. The whole bunch is foot stomped, more bunches are added, it is foot stomped again, and viognier skins are added, and then it is inoculated. Pumped over once a day. Beautifully aromatic with perfumed black cherry fruit and a hint of pepper. The palate is sleek and refined, compact and very pure with lovely black cherry and raspberry fruit, and some graphite/charcoal undertones. Great concentration but nicely poised with purity and elegance, and incredible prettiness. It’s tannic but the tannins are so refined and well integrated. Ethereal and quite profound. 97/100
Damian explained why he thinks 2016 is so special. ‘Whole bunch fermentation transforms Gimblett Gravels tannins: rather than being gritty and grainy, it tends to change the texture and density of them. It makes the wine more compact and denser in the mouth without adding weight. Some of the great wines of the world have balance but they have that third dimension of texture in the mouth. This is where we want to take Homage, into that realm. The 2016 is one of the prettiest Homages to date. It is almost Pinot like. It has real restraint, finesse and breed about it which is really quite special.’
After this we went through barrels tasting the 2018 Syrahs. It wasn’t the easiest ever vintage in Hawke’s Bay, but the wines are looking really strong, from the more commercial level through to the lots presumably destined for Homage.
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