New Zealand Syrah masterclass, with four imposters

cabernet sauvignon new zealand syrah

New Zealand Syrah masterclass, with four imposters

new zealand syrah
Peter Cowley (Te Mata), Warren Gibson (Bilancia and Trinity Hill) and Steve Smith

These are my notes from the first tasting At the Hawke’s Bay Symposium on Classic Reds, held at Trinity Hill, Hawke’s Bay, 4 February 2017. This flight looked at New Zealand Syrah tasted blind, with four imposters from other cool Syrah regions to give some context. The wines were tasted blind and these are my notes as written, completely blind. It’s interesting to see which wines did well. The lowest score I reserved for an expensive Chapoutier Hermitage that just wan’t very good. The two top wines were from Hawke’s Bay.


Fromm La Strada Syrah 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Highly aromatic peppery nose. Very bright with lots of fresh raspberries. Juicy, bright and supple. Light bodied and crunchy. Peppery edge. A light, supple style. 89/100

Elephant Hill Airavata 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Spicy, tarry edge to the black fruits nose with some pepper. Woody and spicy on the palate. The oak is a bit too strong but there is a core of sweet fruit and a nice peppery edge. 88/100

Wairau River Reserve Syrah 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely weight here with generous but fresh peppery black fruits. Has a lovely grippy, peppery core to it. There’s a balance and some harmony to this dense wine. Some olive. 93/100

Copain Hawks Butte Syrah 2012 Anderson Valley, California
Fresh nose with some pepper and iodine notes. Floral cherry fruits too. Fresh, quite supple, slightly sappy and with some detail. There’s warm spiciness on the finish. Nice weight, finishes tannic. 91/100


Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Ripe, warm and generous with lush spicy fruit and a bit of cedary oak. Fresh, lush, peppery palate with nice generosity. This has a nice ripe personality but it’s elegant, too, and a bit bloody. 92/100

Church Road McDonald Series Syrah 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This is bold and powerful with a core of sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. It’s a big, lush wine with some spicy tannins. Has plushness and generosity, but it’s not overdone. Rich with a tannic finish. 93/100

M Chapoutier Les Granits St Joseph 2013 Northern Rhône, France
Tarry and spicy on the nose with some roast coffee character. The palate is savoury and grippy with an edgy personality. Olive, iodine and spices. Distinctive and quite challenging, but with character. 92/100

John Forrest Collection Syrah 2013 Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Spice, tar and olive nose. Fresh, vivid and peppery on the palate with ripe black fruits and some woody, spicy notes. Maybe too much oak here. 89/100

Chloe Somerset (Cable Bay), Matt Stafford (Craggy Range)
Chloe Somerset (Cable Bay), Matt Stafford (Craggy Range)

Bilancia La Collina 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Beautifully floral meat, olive and bacon nose with sweet black fruits. Lovely lush, ripe black fruits with warm, meaty, spicy framing. This has great balance and appeal. Lush and delicious. 94/100

Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Lively black cherry and plum nose with a slight olive lift. Fresh, taut, balanced palate with sweet but tightly wound in black cherry fruit and nice peppery detail. This wine has substance and balance. 94/100

M Chapoutier Ermitage Les Greffieux 2013 Northern Rhône, France
Tarry roast coffee nose. Fresh, vivid, reductive palate with grippy black fruits. Angular and reduced at the moment. 87/100

Craggy Range Le Sol Gimblett Gravels Vineyard 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Open, fresh cherry and berry fruits with a juicy citrus peel character, as well as a hint of pepper. Nice open fruit here. Supple, balanced and a bit savoury. 91/100


Man O’ War Dreadnought 2014 Waiheke Island, New Zealand
This has a distinctly medicinal edge to the sweet peppery black fruits. It’s a real outlier: the mint and medicine frame the fruit. Juicy and focused with a nice core of fruit. Unusual. 90/100

Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2013 Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Open, ripe and supple with sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Some peppery notes here with a hint of raspberry freshness on the finish. Really ripe and generous, and quite attractive. 90/100

Shaw and Smith Shiraz 2014 Adelaide Hills, Australia
Open and berryish with a hint of olive and pepper and ripe, slightly jammy fruit. Open and easy with nice fruit sweetness. 88/100

Villa Maria Reserve Syrah Gimblett Gravels 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Generous, ripe and seductive with a nice harmony to the lush blackberry and black cherry fruit. Nice depth of fruit here. Quite stylishly done with a smooth core of fruit and a bit of peppery framing. 93/100

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