This year’s tasting was held in Prefab Hall in Jessie Street, as it was last year. There were around 60 people present (I didn’t count), and Hugh was assisted by the local Villa Maria group representatives.
2017 was a challenging year in many regions of the country. Most of the Hawke’s Bay Chardonnays have been lighter and more elegant than that from a better year. The fruit was not quite that of the ‘Legacy’ standard, but very high still, thus the introduction of the ‘Soler’ tier, below that of ‘Legacy, but above the ‘Reserves’. Hugh said the Chardonnay will probably be joined soon by a Syrah/Viognier and a Cabernet/Merlot. My note:
Bright, pale straw-yellow colour. The nose is softly full, quite gentle and integrated with vibrant aromas of white stonefruits, nutty notes, hints of white florals and a wonderfully melded layering of complexing gunflint and minerals. Medium-full bodied, this has a luscious and succulent entry of stonefruit and nutty flavours. The fruit is up-front, forming a very fine palate structure, with fresh acidity and an elegantly fine-textured line. The complex gunflint and mineral underlay unfolds as the wine flows. This is drinking well now, and will keep 3+ years. Fruit from the ‘Kokako’ vineyard, Ohiti Valley, vines planted in 2008, fully barrel-fermented, partially by indigenous yeasts to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 40% new oak with batonnage, and approx. 15-20% undergoing MLF. 400 dozen made. 18.5/20 Aug 2018 RRP $34.99
The 2016 growing season started worryingly cool, but high temperatures and heat in February and March brought ripeness to the desired level. My personal take on the 2016s from what I have tasted is that the cool start has lent many wines an elegant, fruitier, more aromatic, maybe forward style. Some producers have managed this very well with balanced and delicious wines. In others the wine retain a cooler streak, with less ripeness, maybe a touch of herbaceousness and elevated acidity – never quite attaining full ripeness. I find that the Vidal ‘Legacy’ 2016s are in the former camp. Interestingly, Hugh felt there was considerable potential in the 2016s which would require time to show. Hugh pointed out that the yield for these wines was around 25 hl/ha.
Very dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, very youthful. This is beautifully perfumed with aromas of ripe blackberries and dark raspberries, entwined with black pepper, fragrant violet florals that build with finesse, depth and intensity. This is beautifully poised and ripened, with Asian spices, plums and liquorice. Medium-full bodied, this is deep and densely packed, with very refined and concentrated flavours of blackberries, dark raspberries, plums, black pepper, violet florals and spices. There are plenty of very fine-grained tannins and subtle acidity all contributing to a complete wine. Lovely liquorice elements unfold on the finish. Great length. This has 8-10+ years ahead of it. Waldron and MS clone fruit, 50% each from the ‘Omahu Gravels’ and ‘Twyford Gravels’ sites, vines 18 y.o., hand-picked and fully destemmed and fermented with a small portion of whole berries to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 20 months in 43% new French oak barriques. 350 dozen made. 19.5/20 Aug 2018 RRP $74.99
Black-red, near impenetrable, full with youthful purple hues. The aromatics are elegant, but concentrated, with beautiful clarity of blackcurrant and cassis Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. This is ripe and poised with freshness. Soft black plum notes and fresh and dark herbs unfold, lending an array of aromatics. This is gently filling and smells ‘succulent’. On palate this is rich, refined, tightly bound, sweetly luscious, juicy and plush, and vibrant, never losing the feel of elegance. Blackcurrants and plums are interwoven with subtle spice and savoury notes, iron-earth, and pencilly oak. This has a real core with depth and concentration, but the brightness, freshness and vitality carry the wine. The varietal character of the Cabernet Sauvignon is text-book. 8-10+ years. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot from the ‘Omahu Gravels’ and ‘Te Awa’ sites, the fruit fermented to 13.5% alc., and aged 20 months in 60% new French oak barriques. 250 dozen made. 19.5-/20 Jul 2018 RRP $64.99
This vintage was Hugh’s bonus for attendees. In some ways the growing season was similar to 2016 in the cool start and strong heat at the finish. But in 2010 the Cabernet Sauvignon did not prosper as the Merlot, hence for the second vintage of a ‘Legacy’ Cabernet/Merlot, it has the highest proportion (49%) of Merlot. All the other years have higher percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon. As a result, the wine is in a different style, with more fulsome and up-front flavours. The fruit has retained its ‘blackness’ and is now developing interesting and complexing secondary characters.
Very dark deep, black-red colour. near impenetrable, great density. The bouquet possesses wonderful concentration and depth with an array of black fruit aromas of blackcurrant and black plums interwoven with savoury dark herbs, earth and iron-earth and mineral layers. This is distinctly secondary and complex, but retains fruit to burn. The nose is fulsome and has presence. The palate is full-bodied and mouthfilling with plenty of weight and presence, showing blackberries, blackcurrant and plums, with savoury secondary layers developing. Dried herbs and earth with Gimblett Gravels iron-earth unfold. The fruit is very rich and matched by considerable tannin structure and grip. This still has sweetness and fresh underlying acidity. This has developed with great interest and will go another 8-10+ years. Fruit from the ‘Anthony Vidal’ vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels, a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 49% Merlot, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 20 months in 60% new French oak barriques. 350 cases made. 19.5/20 Aug 2018 RRP $64.99
Sue and I visited Hugh at the end of April, during the last vestiges of the 2018 vintage at the new ‘super winery’ complex built to house the Villa Maria, Vidal, Esk Valley and Te Awa operations (click here to see my report). Hugh announced that this winery, cellar door and restaurant will be called ‘The Gravels’. It is an overarching name designed to become a destination when visiting Hawke’s Bay. The name succinctly captures the basis of much of Villa Maria, and its associated companies ties to the district. All of the wineries will retain their name and individual identities.