2011 Gimblett Gravels: Classically Constructed
Tuesday 3 December
Classic is an apt descriptor for the 2011 reds from Gimblett Gravels in 2011. Voluptuous they are not.
For the fourth year running, the Hawke’s Bay subregion of Gimblett Gravels has selected 12 wines “as a unique snapshot of a particular vintage” and it’s time to taste what it’s got to offer.
The 2010/ 2011 vintage started well enough: it was a lovely and warm summer until February when it all went pear-shaped, cooling down with rain through March and April to the harvest and beyond.
As a result, notes the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association, “The sugar levels in the fruit were lower than normal due to the wetter autumn but there are no signs of unripeness in the resultant wines.”
Indeed there’s no greenness in the wines but exuberant New World fruit ripeness is not a feature in this vintage. Expect restrained wines with a rather classical Old World structure in the Bordeaux blends.
Those blends with a large chunk of earlier-ripening Merlot are particularly successful, providing plenty of charming fruit on the mid-palate with the cooler growing season packing a punchy line of acidity on the finish.
Tony Bish, winemaker at Sacred Hill and current chair of the Association said: “Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit skinny so Merlot and Cabernet Franc have put some flesh on the bones. “
All the Bordeaux blends have abundant tannins and firm acidity. I’d question the concentration of fruit on a couple of examples but overall the wines show that even in a cooler vintage, the best producers can make the right picking and sorting decisions and blend judiciously.
I’ll publish all the tasting notes on my shiny new website, which I was hoping would be up several weeks ago but IT being IT has put paid to my best laid plans… In the meantime, here are my top picks to give you a flavour of what’s to come:
2011 Sacred Hill The Helmsman, Gimblett Gravels
50% cab sauv, 25% cab franc, 25% merlot. Very attractive and alluring wine. Perfumed: pure black cherry fruit, plus spice and florals. It’s certainly no blockbuster with medium body but this wine shows its class in the density of fruit, which carries the new oak well. Its pedigree is backed up by mouthcoating, structured tannins, fine line and long length. 18.5 or 93/100
2011 Newton Forrest, Stony Corner, Gimblett Gravels
50% cab sauv, 30% malbec, 20% merlot. Richly aromatic, redolent of fruitcake, spice and black cherry fruit. One of the riper styles from the vintage, managing 14% alcohol and a high level of ripe fruit concentration on the mid palate. Abundant structured tannins and firm acidity, with long length. At $30, this is either an incredible bargain or I am a cheap date. You decide! 18/20 or 90/100
2011 Squawking Magpie, Stoned Crow Syrah, Gimblett Gravels
Richly aromatic and complex nose, redolent of black and red cherry fruit, violets, and smoky bacon. Medium-bodied style, certainly not the weightiest Syrah from Squawking Magpie, but this is a reflection of the cooler growing conditions. Abundant tannins, fresh acidity and long length. Very attractive. 17.5+ or 89/100
2011 Sacred Hill Brokenstone, Gimblett Gravels
82% merlot, 8% cab sauv, 7% syrah, 3% malbec. ThIs wine is a charmer: soft on the mid palate with lovely richness. There’s lifted floral characters and spicy notes on the nose combined with vanilla-like oak in the mouth. On the finish, this alluring wine then packs a punch with firm acidity driving this to a linear finish. Well balanced with the high level of fruit concentration handling the 14% alcohol and 50% new oak well. 17.5+/20 or 88/100