Tasting Reviews

The 2014 Hawke’s Bay Vintage Wine Collection

Most wine regions in the world like to garner independent views of highly respected palates on the quality of the wines. The outsiders’ point of view can be crucial as they are not subject to the biases and politics that invariably appear within a region’s wine community. The best outsiders are usually very experienced and familiar with the wines of the region as well as other and different winegrowing districts, so that fair and useful comparative judgements be made. Many winegrowing districts and sub-regions call in the services of independent critics for guidance on how their wines are looking, what appears to be very successful, and what may be deficient.

For a judgement of the 2014 vintage in Hawke’s Bay, the Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers asked Bob Campbell MW to pick his top wines from wines submitted by producer members for this purpose. Bob Campbell MW is one of the most respected palates in this country, and I consider him to be a mentor and friend. So I know that the wines he has chosen should be of very high quality. As I have judged with him many times, I suspect I would agree with his choices. Wineries were invited to submit one wine for each of three categories for Bob to judge. There were no constraints, such as price or availability. Tasting and judging the 53 wines submitted, in March earlier this year, Bob chose a dozen wines, 4 each of Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot & Cabernet Blended Red, these being considered Hawke’s Bay’s "hero varieties”.

As most wine lovers will be aware, 2014 was the second outstanding growing season in a row. In fact the year provided more heat than the much vaunted 2013 season, resulting in an earlier harvest. Whereas 2013 was extremely dry, 2014 experienced some rain events, deemed at very good, if not ideal times. When the damaging rain did come at the end of the growing season, the majority of the fruit was already harvested.

Here, I review the 2014 Hawke’s Bay Vintage Collection, as selected by Bob Campbell MW. The wines are in category – Chardonnay, Syrah and Blended Reds, and the wines are in alphabetical order. www.hawkesbaywine.co.nz

Bilancia Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014 
Bright straw-yellow colour with light golden-green hues, pale on the rim. The nose is full and elegantly intense and concentrated with aromas of white stonefruits and white florals harmoniously melded with refined minerally gunflint reductive notes. The nose unfolds a little nutty and toasty oak detail. This exudes elegance and layered contemporary style. Medium-bodied, the palate has finely concentrated, succulent flavours of white stonefruits, white florals and subtle notes of citrus fruits along with nutty oak and balanced gunflinty, mineral notes. This has a refined core. The mouthfeel is bright with lacy acidity and the wine has good energy and drive, flowing along a fine-textured line, leading to an elegant, lingering, mouthwatering finish of stonefruits and nuts. This is a very elegant and finely concentrated Chardonnay with stonefruit, gunfliny, mineral and nutty flavours on a bright, refreshing palate. Match with seafood and poultry over the next 4-5+ years. Fruit from the ‘La Collina’ vineyard and Bridge Pa Triangle, hand-picked, WBP, and indigenous yeast fermented 75% in puncheons and 25% in barriques with high solids to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 15 months in 25% new oak with 100% MLF. 19.0-/20 Jul 2017 RRP $34.00

Church Road ‘Grand Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014 
Full, even, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, a little paler on the rim. The nose is very powerful and up-front with intense and bold aromas of white and yellow stonefruits, with citrus fruit breadth entwined with strong gunflint and mineral reduction notes, unfolding tropical fruits, creamy barrel-ferment and lemon-curd MLF. This is bold and complex in expression. Full-bodied, the palate is fulsome and succulent with sweet and luscious mouthfilling flavours of ripe white and yellow stonefruits entwined with citrus fruit, and intense flavours of gunflint, struck match, minerals, creamy barrel-ferment and nutty, toasty oak. This has great presence and body with underlying power and drive, and the palate is enlivened by fresh acidity. The wine carries along a rich, rounded, but grainy-textured line, leading to a full, open finish of stonefruit, gunflint and nutty, toasty oak. This is a fulsome and powerful Chardonnay with great presence of stonefruit and citrus fruit, gunflint notes and nutty oak, with plenty of mouthfeel and freshness. 71% clone 15 and 29% clone 95 fruit, 80% from Tuki Tuki and 20% from Haumoana, hand-picked and indigenous yeast barrel-fermented with high solids to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 11 months in33% new French ok with batonnage and MLF. 19.0+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $45.00

Te Awa ‘Single Estate’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014 
Bright, light straw-yellow colour with slight green-gold hues, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is very elegant and refined with a focus on white stonefruit and white floral aromas harmoniously melded with subtle notes of gunflint reduction and leesy elements, the oaking very subtle. This is mouth-wateringly fresh with notes of wet-stone minerals, and grows in intensity in the glass. Medium-bodied, the palate possesses fine and elegantly concentrated, intensely bound flavours of white stonefruits, white florals and citrus fruits, underlined by subtle gunflint complexities, with nutty and mineral notes. The mouthfeel is fresh, bright and lively with crisp acidity, and the wine flows along a fine, phenolic-threaded line, leading to a long, refined, nuanced finish of stonefruits, flint and minerals. This is an elegant Chardonnay with refined white stonefruit, floral and citrus fruit along with subtly complexing mineral and nutty notes on a fresh, fine-textured palate. Serve with seafood and poultry over the next 4-5 years. Clones Mendoza, 95 and 15 from estate vineyards, fully barrel-fermented mostly by indigenous yeasts to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months on lees in 25% new French hogshead barrels, with partial MLF. 18.5/20 Jul 2017 RRP $25.00

Vidal ‘Legacy’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014
Bright straw-yellow colour with pale golden-green hues. The nose is very intense and concentrated with penetrating aromas of opulently ripe white and yellow stonefruits, with subtle citrus fruit elements, melded with layers of nutty oak, creamy barrel-ferment notes, leesy suggestions and gunflinty mineral reduction. The nose unfolds smoky detail. This has very intense and vibrant aromatics. Medium-full bodied, the palate is vibrant and lively with rich, luscious and refreshing flavours of white and yellow stonefruits, citrus fruit and white florals, balanced by considerable depth of gunflinty mineral reduction . creamy barrel-ferment and nutty oak, lees detail. Unfolding toasty and smoky oak. The mouthfeel shows great vitality and energy, with fresh, brisk acidity which matches the fruit flavours and richness. The wine carries along a very fine-textured line to a long, rich finish of fruit, minerals, nuts and smoke. This is a superbly rich, luscious and vibrant Chardonnay with layers of complexity melding stonefruits, nuts oak and gunflint. Match with rich seafood, poultry and pork dishes over the next 5+ years. Clone 15 fruit from the ‘Kokako’, ‘Lyons’ and ‘Keltern’ vineyards, hand-picked, WBP, and indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 40% new barriques and tank with partial MLF. 19.5/20 Jul 2017 RRP $60.00

Church Road ‘Grand Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014 
Full, dark, deep, saturated black-red colour with youthful purple hues. The nose is full and softly voluminous with deeply concentrated and packed aromas of ripe blackberry fruit with black plums, hints of dark raspberries, black-red florals, and hints of spice and sweet oak. Nuances of boysenberries and ink re suggested, and the aromatics form a nose of great density. Full-bodied, the palate is rich and succulent with opulently ripe fruit flavours of black plums and black berries, with hints of boysenberries and ink, but unfolding floral fragrances and lifted oak. The fruit richness is framed by fine-grained tannin structure with fresh acidity lending a degree of freshness, poise and vitality. The palate exudes opulence, and carries to a rich, succulent, very long finish. This is a succulently rich, ripe, black-fruited Syrah with plum, berry and inky flavours on a seriously constructed, but balanced palate. Serve with slow-cooked game meat and casseroles over the next 8-10 years. MS clone fruit from the ‘Redstone’ vineyard, Bridge Pa Triangle, hand-picked and fermented to 14.5% alc., the wine spending 30 days on skins post ferment and aged 17 months in 87% French and 13% Hungarian oak barriques, with 33% new. 19.0+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $45.00

Craggy Range ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014 
Full, very dark, deep, impenetrable black-hued purple-red colour. The nose is very refined and elegantly proportioned but gently and softly voluminous with fragrant aromas showing blackberry and dark raspberry fruit with black plums, violet florals, unveiling a dark herbal lift. This is aromatic and exudes finesse, growing in penetration with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate is deliciously juicy and sweet with plush, vibrant and intensely concentrated flavours of ripe blackberry, black plum and dark raspberry fruit. The fruit is lifted by violet florals and unfolds notes of liquorice and spices, and is enlivened by fresh, lacy acidity. The palate is guided by very fine-grained tannins providing structure, sinewy grip and linearity, and the wine carries to a long, fragrant finish of black fruits, spices and florals. This is a juicy and succulent, refined Syrah with plush, vibrant and aromatic fruit with a fresh mouthfeel and fine tannin extraction. Match with lamb and beef, and with Middle Eastern fare over the next 7-9+ years. Hand-picked fruit from the ‘Gimblett Gravels’ vineyard, fermented with 10% whole bunches to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 16 months in 26% new French oak barriques. 19.0/20 Jul 2017 RRP $36.00

Sacred Hill ‘Deerstalkers’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014 
Full, even, near impenetrable, very dark black-hued red with purple hues on the rim. The nose is very powerful with intensely deep and penetrating aromas that bloom in volume showing ripe blackberry fruit with dark raspberries and plums with a complex amalgam of dark herbs and savoury whole cluster stalk and violet perfumes. This unfolds layers of opulence. Medium-full bodied, the palate is opulent and succulent with great vitality, showing a full array of flavours from ripe blackberry and black plum fruit to savoury herb and stalk notes, aromatic florals, spices and iron-earth. The fruit is beautifully integrated with the serious structure, the mouthfeel showing great presence and vibrancy. The flavours are mouthfilling and carry to a rich fulsome, blossoming finish. This is a multi-faceted and layered Syrah with an array of flavour detail on a powerfully structured palate. Match with slow-cooked game meat dishes over the next 10-12+ years. 100% Syrah from the ‘Deerstalkers’ vineyard, Gimblett Gravels, fermented with 30% whole bunches in open top vats to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 1,077 dozen made. 19.5+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $60.00

Vidal ‘Legacy’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014 
Full, very dark, deep, impenetrable black-red colour with youthful purple hues. The nose is very powerfully packed and concentrated with deep and dense aromas of very ripe blackberry and black plum fruit, with layers of raspberries and violet florals, along with lifted exotic, spicy oak. The aromatics are rich and vibrant. Medium-full bodied, the palate is succulently sweet and bursting with vibrancy, with blackberry and black plum fruit, along with notes of liquorice, exotic florals and spicy oak. The palate possesses a degree of elegance and proportion, with great drive and linearity, with considerable fine-grained, powdery tannin extraction with integrated acidity lending energy. The palate carries with vitality and liveliness unfolding spicy and nutty oak, leading to a very long and sustained finish. This is a rich, vibrant and concentrated Syrah with a well-proportioned palate of ripe black fruits, spices, florals and exotic oak, with considerable power, structure and linearity. 100% Syrah, 67% from the ‘Omahu Gravels’ and 33% from the ‘Twyford Gravels’ vineyards, fully destemmed and fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 32 days on skins and aged 18 months in 38% new French oak barriques. 500 cases made. 19.5/20 Jul 2017 RRP $80.00

Cabernet and Merlot Blends
Church Road ‘McDonald Series’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2014 
Very dark, black-red colour, near impenetrable, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is very full and softly voluminous with densely packed aromas of ripe black plums with blackberries, hints of liquorice, and fragrant black florals. Soft, sweet nutty oak and spice emerge along with earthy and mineral detail. The nose is one of density. Full-bodied, the palate has richly sweet and densely packed flavours of opulently ripe black plums, blackberries, with liquorice and earthy notes, along with spices and nutty oak. The mouthfeel is rich and succulent, the fruit well-balanced by fine-grained, powdery tannins providing good extract and structure. The acidity is integrated and the wine carries seamlessly to a plush, black plum and berried finish with spice and earth notes. This is a rich, succulently fruity, densely packed Merlot with black plums and berry fruit, long with earth, spices and oak on a fine-grained palate. Match with slow-cooked lamb dishes over the next 8-9+ years. 96% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 75% from the ‘Gimblett’ vineyard and 25% from the ‘Redstone’ vineyard, Bridge Pa Triangle, the fruit fermented to 14.5% alc., the wine spending 3-5 weeks on skins and aged 20 months in oak, 36% new French and 3% new Hungarian. 19.0-/20 Jul 2017 RRP $27.00

Craggy Range ‘Te Kahu’ ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec/Cabernet Franc 2014
Very dark, black-hued ruby-red with slight purple hues, a little lighter on the edge. This has an elegantly presented nose with penetrating and fragrant aromas of ripe black plums melded harmoniously with blackcurrants and blackberries, with fragrant cassis and lifted oak. This has purity and very good intensity. Medium-full bodied, the wine has a bright and vibrant, elegantly proportioned palate with intense and concentrated flavours of blackcurrants and blackberries with black plum and cassis notes. The mouthfeel possesses a lovely vitality with fresh acidity, and the fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin structure. The wine has excellent linearity and carries to a long, lingering finish of blackberries, blackcurrants and herbal notes. This is a vibrant Merlot-based blend black plum and berry flavours along with cassis and herbs on a lively, fresh palate with fine-grained tannin structure. Match with roasted lamb and beef over the next 7-9+ years. A blend of 68% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc fermented to 13.2% alc., the wine aged 17 months in 28% new French oak barriques. 18.5+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $30.00

Te Awa ‘Single Estate’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Very dark, deep, black-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is full and well-concentrated with vibrant aromas of black and dark-red plums along with blackcurrants and cassis liqueur entwined with subtle spicy oak and notes of iron-earth minerals. The aromatics are soft, integrated and harmoniously interwoven. Medium-full bodied, the palate is harmoniously presented with integrated and well-balanced flavours of ripe black plums and blackcurrants with cassis. The palate is fulsome with sweet fruit and there is good, fresh, underlying energy from subtle acid briskness. The mouthfeel is soft and underlined by rounded, grainy tannin extraction. Some iron-earth mineral and spice elements emerge as the wine leads to a soft, flavoursome, lingering finish. This is a full, well-balanced and harmoniously flavoured Merlot/Cabernet blend with flavours of ripe black plums, herbs and cassis, on a soft, grainy palate with freshness. Match with roast game neat dishes over the next 5-9+ years. A blend of 54% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Cabernet Franc from the estate vineyard, hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged a total of 20 months in 35% new French oak. 18.5+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $30.00

Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2014 
Vey dark, near impenetrable black-hued purple-red colour, with a slightly lighter edge, very youthful in appearance. This has a very fresh, vibrant, well-concentrated and intense nose with deep aromas of ripe blackcurrant and cassis liqueur, along with blackberry fruit and black plums, revealing dark herb nuances. This showcases precision. Medium-full bodied, the palate is well-concentrated with very intense and deep flavours of ripe blackcurrants, blackberries and cassis, with black plums and dark herbs. The palate is well-proportioned with fresh acidity enhancing the vitality and fruit richness. The fruit is supported by considerable fine-grained tannin extraction and structure, and the wine carries with drive and linearity to a very long, elegant, lingering, vibrant finish of blackcurrants, plums, cassis and herbs. This is a beautifully vibrant and intensely concentrated Cabernet/Merlot blend with blackcurrant, blackberry, plum and herb flavours with considerable structure and excellent freshness. Serve with herb-marinated lamb and beef dishes and semi-hard cheeses over the next 10 years. A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, 90% from ‘Twyford’/’’Vidal’ and 10% ‘Omahu’ vineyards, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 40% new French oak. 19.5-/20 Jul 2017 RRP $50.00

Some Conclusions
2014 appears to be a very successful and high quality vintage as based on these wines tasted. This conclusion is based on the quality of all three styles, which grow at different rates through the season, thus indicating much of the growing time was favourable, if not excellent. I do acknowledge that there will be many wines not up to the standard of these wines too, whether grown for commercial reasons or not.

I generally agree with practically all of Bob Campbell MW’s selection of these wines as being placed as among the best wines of the Hawke’s Bay region. Bob and I may taste different wines, though he generally tastes more than I review. I do not know how Bob scored the wines relative to each other, but at this level of quality, much of the judgements are subjective and based on style preferences.

I have tasted only four of these twelve wines as ‘Feature Reviews’ previously, and I have gone through the exercise of comparing my score in ‘Feature Reviews’, and in the comparative process for this article. I note there are differences in the scores in some cases (and pretty much identical scores in other wines). These can be attributed to many factors, but importantly the comparative tasting process employed here, as well as the order of the wines. The other significant factor would be the effects of some bottle development.

I found all four Chardonnays to be modern in style, with no characteristics that could be described as ‘traditional’ or ‘old-fashioned’. Yet there was diversity, with the wines ranging in weight and degree of winemaker inputs, including that of the reductive gunflint sulphides. It is fair to say that all four wines do work with this factor to some degree.

The Syrah wines were very consistent with their very ripe blackberry fruit and black plum aromas and flavours. The ripeness levels were very well-judged with few signs of over-ripeness, blue fruits or raisining. And house or winemaker signatures came through as well, the richness and density of the Church Road, the fragrant elegance of the Craggy Range, the multi-layered complexity of the Sacred Hill, and the richness and exotic oaking of the Vidal.

With the Cabernet and Merlot Blends, I particularly enjoyed the energy, vitality and acid freshness that Cabernet Sauvignon, when expressed, offered. These were varied in style, showing either the blackcurrant Cabernet fruit or the black plum Merlot fruit being dominant. Again house and winemaking signature was apparent.


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