Vidal Hawkes Bay Syrah ’06 of New Zealand
Last week was a busy week – 4 tastings and a London bloggers get-together – Whew! My liver tried to send out a little white flag at about the halfway point but she managed to make it through the week. This week isn’t as hectic, only 1 tasting, 2- tops!
Australia and New Zealand. Two Antipodean wine producers with vastly different profiles. One, a powerhouse of a producer, churning out millions of bottles a year. The other a well known sauvignon blanc producer but gaining a reputation for its boutique wineries and wines that have not been historically produced in that country.
Monday night was a tasting of Vidal wines of Hawkes Bay, NZ where I had the opportunity to speak with Hugh Crichton, the winemaker of the Vidal Winery of Hawkes Bay, NZ. Tuesday night was the turn of Wayne Stebhens, winemaker of Katnook Estates in Coonawarra, southeast Australia to take me on a tasting tour of his wines. Both men were passionate and dedicated proponents of their wines but as my grandma used to say, the proof is in the pudding.
Vidal is one of those boutique wineries with production limited to the low thousands, located in Hawkes Bay. They started out as a small family owned winery back in 1905 by Spanish immigrants and were one of the early pioneers of winemaking in NZ. Although they were bought out by Villa Maria some years ago, they strive to produce handcrafted wines which reflect both the terroir and Hugh’s skills as a winemaker.
Hugh tries to retain as much of the purity of fruit as possible in his wines, not diluting it with too much oak or overextraction while at the same time pricing it reasonably. We tried a range of his wines but the one that stood out from the pack for me was the Syrah Hawkes Bay 2006. Syrah is not widely grown in NZ but Hugh is trying to show just how good it can be and with this one, he has clearly succeeded.
A deep garnet with powerfully intense aromas leaping out of the glass. A peppery, musky, heady mix of spices and cedar with an aromatic floral note rounding it out. This is one wine that sticks with you. I took a sip and was immediately impressed by the spiciness of the wine. All-spice, cinnamon and cedar were at first apparent. Around the middle palate the fruit flavours suddenly came to the fore, a blend of blackfruits – blackberry, blackcurrant and plums. As it wound it’s way down, I found myself savouring the cedary mocha finish to it. The tannins were well integrated creating an elegant, well balanced yet lively, very food friendly wine, not too heavy or alcoholic. A winning example of NZ syrah.
Next it’s Australia’s turn to show us what they can do with Syrah or Shiraz as they call it.
Hawkes Bay Syrah £15 rrp