Two similar tastings at competing wine stores were set up in Wellington recently, both in anticipation of the annual Hot Red Hawkes Bay. One is looking to celebrate the 2013 vintage. The other is more specifically looking at the cellaring opportunities presented by the 2013 vintage.
I opted for the cellaring tasting because it offered a more focused intention behind the wine’s assessment. Another motivation was that when good friends of mine welcomed their first child into the world during the 2013 vintage period I was told (by more than one wine professional) to look further afield for a birthyear wine investment as Kiwi wines aren’t designed to last the expected two decades before the wine would be enjoyed. I didn’t believe it then and I was keen to be proven right now.
We were provided with copious notes on the wines and the vintage by our host, Geoff Kelly. These extensively detailed all things data, including whether the MLF occurred in the tank or barrel, the number of days the wine underwent cuvaison, the crop rate, the planting density of the vines, whether the yeasts used were cultured or wild and the amount of dry extract.
The dry extract, we were told, is the key ingredient that separates the flash in the pan beautiful young things from their more serious, age-worthy counterparts. Dry extract is an extremely technical term, it makes up the solid part of the wine, the powdery stuff that would be left over after you removed the water and alcohol from a wine. How it all ties together is that the more dry extract, the heavier, thicker or bigger the wine. Throughout the reference notes provided, the scene-setting introduction and the subsequent group discussion we were continuously brought back to the central theme: are these wines worth cellaring?
That the tasting was so focused proved problematic because although several of these wines were made specifically with ageing in mind, others were either attempting to be cheery and approachable now, while making a promising bid for a meaningfully long life – or they were beautiful young things that will give great joy now but will falter with less than a decade under their belts.
That not all the wines were fit for purpose, shall we say, is just how things go sometimes. A few of the winemakers were nervous about having their wines showcased in a setting they didn’t control, understandably. And so the wines made available may not have been their top tier, in some cases not even their second tier, and so by design some of the wines provided were meant to highlight the superb vintage, but not necessarily any ageing potential.
With the Hot Red Hawkes Bay tasting happening in Wellington in a few short weeks (get your tickets via Eventfinder if you haven’t already) I get a chance to see these wines again and with luck, to see some of the wines that have excelled in previous years but were missing from this line-up.
Things to look out for
Part two of the Hawkes Bay 2013 Worth Cellaring tasting is happening this Thursday with the focus shifted onto the regions Syrah. My notes will shortly follow. And Geoff Kelly will write up his own notes on both tastings and publish them on geoffkellywinereviews.com. Once there I’ll update this post as I’m sure they’ll be well worth the read.
The scene setters
2013 Pask Declaration
13.7% abv; Release date: late 2015; RRP $50
Juicy, fresh and fruity. The fragrant red fruit character couldn’t be any more clearly plummy. This was a well-selected wine to showcase the Merlot element in the tasting. The nose is bright, showing not only the fruit character but also the sweetness of vanilla and the spice of cloves from the apparent oak. The palate has a softer, rounder fruit character, an earthy element, good palate weight. A thoroughly enjoyable wine, let down only slightly because the acidity is higher than I would like to see it. That the wine isn’t set to be released for several more months means this will want to be looked at again.
2013 Mills Reef Elspeth
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
13.5% abv; Release date: now; RRP $49
A more studious approach needs to be taken with this wine. The body of the wine is lean but there is a great deal of fruit present. On the palate the big tannins were chalky and drying, the fruit was being strong armed by more dirty, earthy and spicy elements. And yet this wine was selected to be a scene setter for its benchmark cassis character. The blackcurrant that wove its way through the length of the wine really pulls the whole package together and suggests to me a rather elegant maturity. Everything about this wine points to potential.
The rest of the wines
2013 Babich The Patriarch
49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 27% Malbec
14% abv; Release date: November 2015; RRP $70
A big, bold structural powerhouse. This wine has a lot going on. Heaps of big, dark fruit and more than a dash of savoury spice and huge, ripe tannins. Full bodied with a floral quality to the wine showing roses at their peak of ripeness and a green herbaceousness. Well balanced, tannins coming more from fruit than excessive oak. The wine wraps up with a long, juicy finish.
2013 Church Road McDonald Series Merlot
13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 87% Merlot
14.5% abv; Release date: now; RRP $27
The nose isn’t overly apparent. The fruit that’s there is sweet and candied; the florals are deepest, darkest violets. For the price point this wine has a surprising amount of fruit richness and a really silky texture. The balance of the wine is challenged by the heat coming off the high alcohol. Rich and velvety with lots of oak, the wine is big on concentration of burly fruit flavours and there’s a nice weight to it.
2013 Sileni Merlot EV
15% abv; Release date: now; RRP $60
When discussing this wine it was disclosed that when it was being decanted hours before, it was oaky to the point of being phenolic. The prescribed angular presence hadn’t entirely left the wine, but by the time of tasting the wine had smoothed out (considerably, I’m made to understand). As seen at the tasting the oak is still very apparent, but it shows more as a youthful indiscretion rather than something to be stamped on any permanent record. The nose is slightly muted, but the palate shows a great deal of fruit and there is a deep concentration of flavour to the wine that extends beyond the fruit and oak characters to provide a peppery spiciness. A lanky teenager after a growth-spurt who has yet to grown into their gangly limbs. Too early to lay down any judgements on this wine.
2013 Ngatarawa Alwyn
19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 77% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc
13.5% abv; Release date: late 2016; RRP $75
Juicy, fresh and vibrant, the nose shows red cherry and plum fruit that has pushed itself to the brink of ripeness without going too far. On the palate the red plums are pushing even more towards prunes. There’s a thread of greenness here as well, a New Zealand trademark. The oak stands out for not having had enough time to integrate. The wine really has that soft, supple thing going for it. A velvety palate, sweet, ripe tannins, completely dry with a healthy finish.
2013 Mission Estate Jewelstone Antoine
58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot
14% abv; Release date: now; RRP $50
A wine with a lot to say, especially on the nose. A bit of everything: fruit that is heading towards the black fruit spectrum, there’s a leafy greenness, a whack of green capsicum, and an exotic array of orange blossoms and citrus oil. The palate is a clear repeat of the nose, but in more subdued tones. The palate also presents more in the way of sweet spice and something soapy. There’s a good amount of fruit and with time the chatter of the wine will become a cohesive, well thought out argument. Structurally the wine is dry with big tannins, refreshing acidity and all the fruit lends a nice weightiness to the wine.
2013 Te Mata Coleraine
56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc
13.5% abv; Release date: now; RRP $90
The oak is the most apparent aromatic character. Underneath this there is a delicate floral component, deep, dark blossoms. The palate gives way to more fruit, red plums and currants. The florals carry through from the nose, they’re redder, more youthful, providing an attractive allure to the wine on the front palate. The back palate shows a spiciness from the oak. Completely dry, the total acid on the wine is high, as are the tannins – the fruit expression doesn’t keep up.
2013 Trinity Hill The Gimblett
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
13.5% abv; Release date: now; RRP $35
The wine is fresh and vibrant showing plenty of red cherries and strawberries, black cassis and clean vanilla and toast oak characters. The nose is really appealing. The palate shows more subtlety in terms of fruit flavours, the fruit comes off more as a fatness. In the mouth the wine is more defined by its silky texture. Overall the wine is pleasantly plump. This is a wine that will age well, but manages to be enjoyable when young. Look forward to seeing how it evolves.
2013 Sacred Hill Helmsman
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc
14% abv; Release date: August 2015; RRP $74
An elegant wine that really shines when looking at the palate weight. Velvety smooth, the texture of the wine is really quite something. In terms of flavour profile, the wine showed a range from dark chocolate-dipped raspberries to wet stones, a slight leafiness and even something a bit nutty. Rather big, grippy tannins provide a powerful backbone to the wine but it’s well balanced by the fruit weight and overall presents a promising picture.
2013 Villa Maria Reserve
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot
13.5% abv; Release date: now; RRP $50
Plummy, jammy red fruits with soft red rose florals on the nose. The fruit becomes darker on the palate, these dark cherries, plums and currants lend a ripe, plush character to the wine. There’s a lot of tannin to the wine with obvious oak. The structural and fruit elements are not yet married up but the wine is showing definite promise.
2013 Sacred Hill Brokenstone
2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 86% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 5% Syrah, 6% Malbec
13.5% abv; Release date: August 2015; RRP $45
A great floral bouquet makes up the nose of the wine, loaded with deep, dark blossoms and the more exotic violets. In the mouth you’re presented with a large expressive structural arrangement, big, drying tannins, moderate acidity, warming alcohol, with softer red cherry and plum flavours. All-in-all rather romantic