Thanks to the team at Trinity Hill for bringing me to Hawke's Bay for the 2012 FAWC event on November 2nd 2012
At the beginning of the day a small group of wine writers (including myself) were offered to taste and comment on barrel samples of 2012 Arneis, Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah.
A sneak preview of a new and exciting Chardonnay - read on......
Arneis: From 5 year old (and older) barrels, wild ferment, high solids, 100% MLF, 11 months on lees.
Chalk, sweet lemon and floral, dry with a lemon pith and grape fruit flavors, green pears, blossom leaf and petal, just crisp with a medium+ fruit core, a lovely aperitif style, medium+ length.
Viognier: 100% MLF, old oak and only 1 barrel, high solids.
Varietal signature is both strong and elegant with apricot laced stone fruit suggestions; medium+ (ish) body, full -ish and lush, texture plays a big role on the palate as does the lees contact, distinctive lemon cordial lift on the finish. A style that TH should definitely explore - it is delicious!
Chardonnay - from Gimblett Gravels fruits and aged in Puncheons, 100% MLF, Wild ferment, in barrel for 11 months (so far).
Elegant with an apple, floral, leesy soil bouquet. Some sulphide complexity showing. On the palate - citrus then stone fruit flavors, leesy and sulphide notes, tight, youthful, finishes with a citrus flick, medium+ body.
A wine to look out for when released - looking very smart indeed.
Merlot: Grapes were first to be picked in the Hawke's Bay in the 2012 season.
Noticably fruit driven with plum and black fruit core suggestions, sweet tobacco, gravel like under tones. Tannins are fine and have a distinctive flavor, dry yet finishes with the flavors of plum, blackberry and chocolate.
Overall a lovely example, but needs a lot time in the TH cellar and bottle before its power is unleashed to the on-premise.
Blend - Cab Sav, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Tannat and Malbec (a 2000 case blend).
The Cabernet family aromatics are very dominant standing head and shoulders above the other varieties aromatics. On the palate a wine packed full of black fruits; some big tannins and medium+ acidity. The core shows this wine's potential - the tannins have a mealy, woody - chalky texture (which I like a lot). Plum notes and black fruits, the long finish is already a testament to how good this wine is going to be. VVG - a master blender example.
Great to learn Tannat can be ripened and used in blending of sound Hawke's Bay red wine.
Syrah - From Gimblett Gravels fruit.
Distinctive pepper and black fruits, raspberry concentrate and toasty. The palate reflects the nose and is quite concentrated, spicy and toasty with a solid fruit core. There is also an elegant line that is to look out for i this wine upon release. Some white pepper notes continue with a medium++ length, fine tannins are a key structural feature. VVG.
We were shown another Chardonnay to comment on - a very specific expression. This was to essentially demonstrate where the winery was hoping to 'take' this style moving forward in the wine making programme.
The high solids ferment, in part, and careful attention to use of oak has produced a wine that is very different and very exciting! Perhaps a Chablisien style, but very distinctive as well.
I am excited by this new expression, but can also see the necessary education of Sommeliers and other on-premise staff about this emerging style. Customers will in turn require an introduction to this as well.
Syrah 2010. Not yet released and from bottle. This is a specific hillside fruit blend.
Complex with mushroom, leather and a core of toasty fruit; concentrated, complex and a touch of youthful elegance, black velvet, meaty notes. On the palate - fine brooding tannins, concentrated, complex, attention seeking texture and length. Sweet and toasty with moderate+ oak spices and flavors. A long finish - in short a delicious wine and a must buy.