Featured Reviews




Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah Releases

06 March,2018

Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ is the wine brand of Steve Smith MW and Brian Sheth who together have formed Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates. This is the return of Steve Smith, who is best known for his establishing of Craggy Range with the Peabody family and his role as chief viticulturist for the Villa Maria Estates group before that. Steve has teamed up with Brian Sheth, one of the founders of Vista Equity Partners, a global technology investment firm. Among other business and interests, Brian is also the chairman of Global Wildlife Conservation. Importantly he has a love of New Zealand and its wine, meeting Steve Smith in 2012, to eventually go into partnership with him.

Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine originally aimed to have wine from great parcels from exceptional vineyards, but has grown to purchase unique and individual winegrowing operations, starting with Pyramid Valley in North Canterbury and Lowburn Ferry in Central Otago. The company also has a 5 ha vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke’s Bay with Chardonnay and Syrah, awaiting its first yield. Michael Henley, formerly of Craggy Range and Trinity Hill is the CEO, and the company works closely with several viticulturalists. Smith and Sheth will launch their first wines under the Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ label in April this year. The wines are made from the highest quality fruit selected from special sites. Steve personally makes the wines at friends’ winery facilities. Here, I review the initial release wines, a 2017 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, three Hawke’s Bay Chardonnays, two from 2016 and one a 2015, and a 2014 Hawke’s Bay Syrah. Interestingly, the labels incorporate DNA genome sequences embossed on them, representing the genetic vine and vineyard basis. www.smithandsheth.com

FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW



Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ Wairau Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand – Marlborough

18+/20

Bright, very pale straw colour, near colourless on the rim. The nose is very elegant in proportion with good depth and intensity of pungent passionfruit aromas along with snow peas, nettles and fresh herbs, unfolding subtle mineral elements and white florals. This is taut and slender in expression, but possesses penetration. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has vibrantly refreshing and tightly bound fruit, showing sweet and pungent passionfruit, nettle and fresh herb notes, unveiling white floral and mineral nuances. The fruit is intense and deep with richness that is enlivened by crisp, thirst-quenching acidity. The wine flows along a very fine phenolic-textured line, leading to a lingering finish. This is a vibrant, mouthwatering, intensely penetrating Sauvignon Blanc with sweet and pungent passionfruit, herb and nettle flavours on a fine-textured palate. Match with Pacific Rim fare over the next 2 years. Fruit from vines around Renwick, averaging 25 y.o., cool-fermented to 12.8% alc., the wine aged 8 months on lees. 1.700 cases made. 18.0+/20 Mar 2018 RRP $27.00

Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ Heretaunga Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

18.5+/20

Bright, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is firmly concentrated and penetrating with up-front aromas of white stonefruits and citrus fruit entwined with bold aromas of gunflint sulphide reductive complexities along with nutty oak and mineral elements. The aromatics fill the nose unfolding toasty oak. Full-bodied, the palate has bright and vibrant flavours of white stonefruits and citrus fruit forming a taut core. The fruit intermingles with refined gunflint reduction and nutty oak complexities. The mouthfeel is smooth-flowing and slippery, and energised by fresh, lacy acidity. The palate has an elegantly proportioned line with drive and tension that carries to a long, crisp finish. Full and concentrated on the nose, this is a taut but vibrant and fine-flowing Chardonnay with stonefruit, gunflint and nutty flavours on a crisp palate. Serve with seafood and poultry over the next 5 years. Hand-picked fruit from the Bridge Pa Triangle, vines 15-20 y.o., pressed with stems and fully barrel-fermented with cloudy juice, partially by indigenous yeasts to 13.3% alc., the wine aged 11 months on lees in 40% new French oak barriques, the wine undergoing MLF. 192 dozen made. 18.5+/20 Mar 2018 RRP $40.00

Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ ‘Howell Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

19/20

Brilliant lemon-yellow colour with slight golden hues, pale edged. The nose is elegantly proportioned with taut aromas of white stonefruits and subtle citrus fruit notes along with flint and mineral detail entwined with delicate white florals, some nutty oak and smoke nuances. The aromatics are fresh and bright with a mineral and saline edge. Medium-full bodied, the palate has intense and deep flavours of white stonefruits melded with firm gunflint and minerally reductive complexities along with nutty and toasty oak. The fruit richness is enhanced by some rounded barrel-ferment textures, but cut by crisp acidity. The gunflint notes unfold to reveal matchstick notes and toasty oak, and the flavours carry to a very long and sustained finish. This is a deep and concentrated Chardonnay with stonefruit and complexing gunflint flavours with some barrel-ferment richness, nutty and toasty detail and a fresh mouthfeel. Match with grilled and roasted poultry and pork dishes over the next 5-6 years. Hand-picked fruit from the ‘Howell’ vineyard, Bridge Pa Triangle, vines 15-20 y.o., pressed with stems and fully indigenous yeast barrel-fermented with cloudy juice to 13.36% alc., the wine aged 11 months in 67% new French oak barriques, the wine undergoing MLF. 83 dozen made. 19.0/20 Mar 2018 RRP $65.00

Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ Mangatahi Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2015

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

18.5-/20

Right straw-yellow colour with lemon hues, paler on the rim. The nose is well-proportioned with pungent and funky aromas of savoury matchstick sulphide reduction interwoven with white stonefruit and nutty notes forming a firm and concentrated heart. The sulphides prevail, but unveil complexing mealy elements with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate has mouthfilling flavours of white stonefruits integrated with edgy, funky and pungent gunflint, matchstick and minerally reduction, along with toasty oak. The flavours are broad and show depth and presence, revealing barrel-ferment richness and soft textures to balance the firm reduction. The flavours carry to a fulsome, open finish of stonefruits, flint and toasty oak. This is a mouthfilling Chardonnay with edgy and funky, pungent reductive flavours alongside stonefruits, nuts and toast on a weighty palate. Match with roasted and grilled white meat dishes over the next 5 years. Hand-picked fruit from Mangatahi, WBP and fully indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 13.22% alc., the wine aged 11 months in 35% new French oak barrriques, undergoing batonnage and 100% MLF. 91.5 dozen made. 18.5-/20 Mar 2018 RRP $65.00

Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ Omahu Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

18.5/20

Full, dark, deep, near saturated black-hued purple-red colour, very youthful in appearance. The nose is very full and voluminous with well-packed aromas of very ripe blackberry fruit along with boysenberries and mulberry notes, black plums and iron-earth. The aromatics are harmoniously integrated with warm, savoury earth, game and nutty oak notes, unfolding nuances of ink and tar, then black florals. Medium-full bodied, the palate has well-concentrated flavours of very ripe blackberry, mulberry and plum fruit with boysenberry hints. A complexing layer of black pepper, liquorice and spices add detail, with piquant florals providing lifted elements. The mouthfeel features a firm heart with fine-grained tannins lending powdery textures and grip. A firm acid edge carries the wine to a taut, lingering finish. This is a firm and tightly bound, concentrated Syrah with very ripe fruit flavours of blackberries, boysenberries, plums and iron-earth, with fine and firm structure. Match with slow-cooked game meat and semi-hard cheeses over the next 8-10 years. Fruit from the Gimblett Gravels, vines 15 y.o., predominantly destemmed and indigenous yeast fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barriques. 77.5 dozen made. 18.5/20 Mar 2018 RRP $65.00

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