Robust reds

by Michael Cooper / 24 January, 2013
Six of the best from Gimblett Gravels for under $50 each.
Craggy Range Winery
Craggy Range Winery, photo Warren Buckland/Hawke's Bay Today

On the fringe of Hastings, vines flourish in the Gimblett Gravels, long viewed as the poorest, least-productive land in Hawke’s Bay. Where town planners once approved cool-stores, warehouses and a drag strip, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah are yielding robust, rich reds that are revving up a strong international reputation.

Every year, the local winemakers release a promotional case of 12 reds, chosen to reflect the vintage now on the market. Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers reported “a challenging, cool summer” in 2010; January was the wettest for a century. But as February wore on, the rain eased and temperatures climbed. After a warm, dry March and notably sunny, dry April, Trinity Hill predicted its 2010 reds would be “sensational”.

You should be able to buy any of the six wines reviewed here for less than $50. The top dozen also includes Babich The Patriarch 2010 ($60); Craggy Range Sophia 2010 ($73); Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($60); Newton Forrest Estate Cornerstone 2010 ($60); Sacred Hill Helmsman Cabernet/Merlot 2010 ($85); and Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2010 ($120).

Babich Irongate Cabernet/Merlot 2010
From the Irongate Vineyard in Gimblett Rd, this is a notably refined, complex red, fragrant and full-coloured, with concentrated, youthful blackcurrant, dried-herb, plum and spice flavours. $35 (5/5)

Sacred Hill Brokenstone 2010
Merlot-based, this blended red is dark and powerful, with rich plum and spice flavours, hints of licorice and dark chocolate, and obvious cellaring potential. $49.99 (5/5)

Villa Maria Reserve Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2010
This plush, rich, vibrantly fruity red is still purple-flushed, with substantial body and highly concentrated blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, firm and lingering. $49.99 (5/5)

Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2010
Deeply coloured, with a floral, spicy bouquet, this is a very elegant and finely textured red, with strong blackcurrant, plum and black-pepper flavours, gentle tannins and a long, savoury finish. $45 (4.5/5)

Mission Estate Jewelstone Merlot/ Cabernet Franc 2010
Already drinking well, this is a full-bodied, smooth red with blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, showing excellent depth and a leathery, nutty complexity. $39 (4.5/5)


Crossroads Winemakers Collection Syrah 2010
This youthful, refined red has real power through the palate. Fragrant, dark and smooth, with concentrated plum, tar and black-pepper aromas and flavours, it offers fine value. $39.99 (5/5)
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