Red hot Hawke's Bay has become a highly anticipated event on our calendar.
Just a quick flight across Cook Strait and you're among all the best red wine producers from Hawke's Bay - wonderful, especially when conditions are often bitingly cold, giving a glass of red wine extra allure.
Peter represented us at this year's event. He flew in gale-force southerlies and sleet to do his bit for the column!
This year's event was held in early June at Chaffers Dock, adjacent to Waitangi Park and was well attended by about 150 people from the media and trade.
We had decided that this trip should focus on seeking out producers that we either hadn't heard of, or wines that we hadn't yet tried and Peter discovered some interesting ones, including Alluviale and Dada.
Alluviale wines are made from grapes sourced from Mangatahi, west of Hastings and the famous Gimblett Gravels. The company produces just 2500 cases of wine each vintage.
Alluviale Blanc 2010 ($24)
A blend of 96 per cent sauvignon blanc and 4 per cent semillon, this wine has a ripe tropical and gooseberry aroma. Creamy peach and stone-fruit flavours liven up the mid-palate and the finish is slightly sweet and fruity.
Alluviale Gimblett Gravels 2010 ($33)
A blend of 85 per cent merlot and 15 per cent cabernet franc. The aroma is a satisfying blend of eucalypt and old barrels, jam and leather. The palate delivers intense plum, blackberry and chocolate flavours. Drying tannins with lively acids provide good structure. Grainy mouth feel, full bodied, a big chunky style.
Wine under the Dada label is made by the same winemakers that produce Alluviale. The wines are simply called Dada 1 (white) and Dada 2 (red).
Dada 1 2008 ($50)
75 per cent sauvignon blanc, 10 per cent viognier, 10 per cent semillon and 5 per cent gewurztraminer.
This wine undergoes a wild yeast ferment, spends 10 months in old oak, 10 months on gross lees, undergoes minimal fining and filtration and is then aged eight months before bottling.
Stonefruit and peach on the nose with creamy citrus flavours and some skin phenolics providing balance. The slight astringency is balanced by some cognac-like flavour towards the finish. Spicy, plenty of length and very interesting.
Dada 2 2009 ($70)
Predominantly merlot with some syrah and cabernet franc.
Dada 2 is made without sulphur and winemaker David Ramonteu says this means excessive care has to be taken over fruit quality. All berries are put over a selection table to cull any spoilage and sometimes this leads to lower-than-expected fruit volume, hence a small production. Despite this care, problems do ensue and the wine is dumped - no sulphur means no control.
Plum and black cherry on the aroma with warming, concentrated plum and chocolate flavours washing across the palate. Weighty mouth-feel with firm, drying tannins delivering balance. A lick of strawberry on the finish; this wine is young and powerful - a delight.
Wine must run through David's veins, his family owns Domaine Cauhape in Jurancon, near the Spanish border. David became a consultant with French wine company Oenodov and travels the world, which is how he found his way here.
Peter had time to discuss one of our pet subjects - the cork versus the screw cap closure, with Tim Turvey of Clearwater Estate. “I discussed his use of cork in the top wines his company produces. Clearwater uses the Diam cork and hasn't had a failure yet.
“He wouldn't think of sealing top wines under any other closure. Screw caps are used in the more commercial styles, all except a chardonnay which in his words ‘needs fattening up' which you can't achieve with screw caps.
“He also pointed out that screw caps cost 20 cents each versus 70 cents for a cork and I wonder if this is driving the use of screw caps in some of the top tier wines that might still be better served under a high-quality cork closure.”
Tim told Peter that the extra margin that comes with his top brands helps defray the extra cost and considering that the famous Basket Press retails for $160 and the Clearview Endeavour Chardonnay comes in at $250, it's not surprising.
“Interestingly, this wine has minimal intervention, seems the less intervention, the higher the price in some cases,” Peter muses.
The show wasn't as well attended as in previous years, which seems a shame.
Peter also commented that many of the red wines lacked definition, resulting in a sense of uniformity. This was especially apparent with syrah.
“Normally I could smell the pepper spice notes as I walked in the door, but this time I struggled to find it. Even Trinity Hill, produced by the famous John Hancock, normally the king of spicy wines, seemed a little lacking.
“I discovered that the weather hasn't been playing ball but perhaps some viticultural decisions made a broad difference too.”
- The Marlborough Express