Imagine if you were a pinot noir producer in Central Otago and someone with a bit of clout was invited by winemakers in one of the sub-regions – say Bannockburn – to rate their wines so they could promote them, and this particular piece of real estate, at the expense of the region's other bits.
You would, to put is as politely as I can, probably be a bit upset.
Just as I imagine many Hawke's Bay winegrowers are when each year they are faced with a selection of wines from one particular sub-region - the Gimblett Gravels - being marketed at the expense of the region as a whole.
Call me old fashioned, but I have always been a firm believer in the philosophy espoused by Richard Riddiford, of Palliser Estate, in Martinborough, one of the smartest marketers in the business. His credo is promoting New Zealand first, region second then label, sub-region whatever next.
Producers with plantings on the Gimblett Gravels obviously see it differently and have for a number of years marketed red wines chosen by Australian Master of Wine Andrew Caillard in his annual Gravels vintage selection in a way that could suggest they are the pick of the of the Hawke's Bay crop.
Some are, or might be. But not all. Just for starters, you can't have a selection of Hawke's Bay reds that excludes wines such as Te Mata Estate's Bordeaux-style Coleraine, or its Bullnose Syrah, neither of which are off the Gravels.
But - and here's the rub - I am now of the view that the ancient riverbed west of Hastings that is now the Gimblett Gravels is so significantly different from the other areas which surround it and constitute New Zealand's second biggest wine region, that the annual vintage selection is valid.
Not only valid, but of huge interest to red wine afficionados, both here and overseas, who now recognise the Gimblett Gravels as one of the most exciting sub- regions in the New World, particularly for the Bordeaux-style blends, and the syrahs that it produces.
Andrew Caillard, an expert in fine and ultra-fine wines, a noted winewriter and a principal of Langton's, Australia's leading wine auction house, became involved through his expertise in these wine styles.
This year he was looking for wines from the 2011 vintage that "reflected expectations" and were made in a "pleasing style". Each winery was allowed to enter three wines. Only two were eligible for the final selection and this year they had to score 93 points to make the cut.
Only two were chosen from the same winery (both from Sacred Hill), one (the merlot) scoring top points, with 96 and the cabernet merlot 95. The merlot blends generally were notable for their depth of fruit and balance, the syrahs their vinosity and freshness and the cabernets fragrant, violet, aromas. All showed strong regional definition.
This is how they finished:
Blended reds (merlot or cabernet sauvignon dominant):
Babich The Patriarch, $60; Craggy Range Te Kahu, $27; Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet, $60; Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Merlot, $45; Newton Forrest Stony Corner, $60; Sacred Hill Brokenstone, $80; Sacred Hill Helmsman,$85; Trinity Hill The Gimblett, $34.
Squawking Magpie Stoned Crow, $40; Vidal Legacy Series, about $70; Villa Maria Reserve, about $60; William Murdoch, about $35.
The judge's assessment of the Sacred Hill high flier:
Sacred Hill Special Selection Brokenstone Merlot: Deep crimson. Intense dark berry, dark chocolate aromas with espresso, herb notes. Voluminous and beautifully balanced wine with sweet dark berry, dark chocolate, mocha flavours, underlying roasted chestnut nuances and rich chocolaty textures. Finishes long and flavourful with cedar notes.
Sounds good to me.
- © Fairfax NZ News