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Featured Reviews

Esk Valley ‘The Hillside’ 2010

14 October,2016
The Esk Valley ‘The Terraces’ is one of New Zealand’s iconic wines, an approximate equal blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from fruit from 1 ha of vines planted in 1989 on the terraced hillside overlooking the winery in the Bay View district of Hawke’s Bay. The wine has been released just 12 times since the inaugural 1991 vintage. It is lovingly made by Gordon Russell at the historic Esk Valley winery in 85 y.o. concrete fermenters, the varieties co-fermented as a field blend, and the wine, aged in 100% new French oak barriques is powerful, rich and individual, reflecting the blend, the vineyard site and soils.

For some time, Gordon has realised that the quality of the wine of the parcels that do not make it into the final blend, or are declassified from vintages not quite up to ‘The Terraces’ standard are also of exceptional quality and character. The potential ‘Terraces’ wine was usually blended away into other company labels, but he decided to create a second wine to ‘The Terraces’ that exhibit very similar characteristics to the top wine, but be more approachable. The inaugural release of ‘The Hillside’ comes from the 2010 vintage, given five years cellaring at the winery, and will be released later this month. I review ‘The Hillside’ 2010 here.


Esk Valley ‘The Hillside’ Hawke’s Bay Malbec/Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2010

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Dark ruby-red colour with good depth, a little lighter on the edge. The bouquet is full robust and a little rustic with powerful, up-front black fruit aromas, with savoury blackberry and blackcurrant, earth and dark herbs. A little undergrowth indicates some bottle development. On palate, this is fulsome with robust flavours of savoury black fruits, dried herbs and some game, showing secondary development. The fruit is sweet and lush, and encased by grainy, mouthfilling tannin structure and fresh acidity. This opens to show dried herbs, game and earthy elements. The structure and concentration of flavours will allow it to age. Will it ever become more refined? This is the first of the second label releases of ‘The Terraces’. A blend of 58% Malbec, 26% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Franc from ‘The Terraces’ vineyard overlooking the Esk Valley winery at Bay View, hand-picked and co-fermented in a concrete fermenter to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 16 months in 100% French oak barriques. 18.0+/20 Sep 2017 RRP $69.99

Full, dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour with youthful purple hues, a little lighter on the rim. This has a full, deeply concentrated bouquet of blackberry and black plum fruit layered by complexing black earth, funky game, dark and dried herb, currant and leather aromas. This is solid and robust with a near rustic boldness. Medium-full bodied, deep and intensely concentrated flavours of blackberries, plums currants and piquant herbs are complexed by savoury game and earthy notes and secondary leather elements. The mouthfeel is fulsome with fine-grained extraction building to provide considerable structure and grip. Fresh, underlying acidity lends liveliness and adds vitality to the fruit flavours. Dark herbs, earth and mineral flavours are carried to a long, solidly packed, textured finish encasing a core of sweet and rich fruit. This is a deeply concentrated, powerful and robust, near rustic, black-fruited Malbec blend with complex secondary and funky flavours of earth, herbs and leather, on a fully structured, lively palate. Match with slow cooked game meats over the next 8-10 years. A blend of 58% Malbec, 26% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Franc from ‘The Terraces’ vineyard overlooking the Esk Valley winery at Bay View, hand-picked and co-fermented in a concrete fermenter to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 16 months in 100% French oak barriques. 18.5/20 Oct 2016 RRP $69.99
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