Sydney based Master of Wine Andrew Caillard has independently selected all 10 vintages of the Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection (2008 to 2017)… He said 2017 was a difficult growing season but “plenty of wines transcended the vintage because of attention to detail in the vineyard and the winery.”

 

Winter is here and so is the tenth box of the best full bodied reds from the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association (GGWA). And here I am surrounded by last year’s top 12, which I have yet to write about.

The top 12 collection is selected every year from a blind tasting undertaken by wine critic Andrew Caillard, a Master of Wine, based in Sydney, who is employed to taste Gimblett Gravels top reds in a quest to find the best 12 of the bunch. It’s no mean feat. Blind tasting is a full on exercise at the best of times, let alone where big tannic reds are concerned, such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and their blending companions (Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot, to name the usual suspects). And it’s no secret that 2017 was a tricky growing season in New Zealand, but that’s never stopped a determined winemaker from reducing their crops to make  better, more concentrated wines from tough years. I’m seeing this pattern emerge strongly in the 2017 Central Otago Pinot Noirs, which I think are some of the best yet – despite being from a cool, challenging year in terms of weather. Attention to detail in the vineyard can go a long way to making great wines in tricky vintages, as Caillard says in his report of the 2017 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection top 12: ““Plenty of wines transcended the vintage because of attention to detail in the vineyard and the winery.”

Here, without further ado, are my top three wines of the week and the top 12 lists from the past two years.

Bargain buy

2017 Jacob’s Creek Barossa Signature Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99

This is a new wine from an old winery, Jacob’s Creek, in the Barossa Valley. It’s made with grapes harvested from the cool summer of 2016, which means grapes hung on the vines for longer, developing ripe flavours – essential for Cabernet, which needs a long ripening season to develop its signature black fruit flavours. The grapes were fermented on skins for 15 days then matured for 12 months in a combo of French and American oak barrels. It contains 14.2% ABV, is dry, full bodied and delivers on its promise of next level flavours, fortunately without an eye watering price tag to match. There is also a Jacob’s Creek Barossa Signature Shiraz in the range, also $19.99. Both are great everyday drops with impressive flavours and smoothness.

4 stars

 

Treat of the week

2016 Saint Clair Gimblett Gravels Premium Cabernet Merlot Malbec $35

Saint Clair may be better known for its Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs than its big bodied Hawke’s Bay reds, but here’s a wine that bucks the trend and it comes from the warm summer of 2016. This means the flavours are ripe, rich and developed from the hot days with cool night allowing Cabernet and Malbec the time to develop fully ripe flavours.

There’s an underlying elegance to this big dark red, which is approachably drinkable right now thanks to its

Reaching for the stars

2016 Vidal Legacy Gimblett Gravels Syrah $79.99

Deep purple is a colour usually found only in the ripest, darkest, mostly deeply tannic of grapes, such as Syrah when it is harvested in small quantities – as in this full bodied, youthful red, which is dry, intensely spicy and has at least a decade’s worth of aging up its tasty sleeve. Its high price tag is slightly detracting but the quality does stack up, especially when tasted alongside international counterparts from France and Australia.

4 stars

 

The 2017 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection

Blended reds (Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon dominant)

2017 Craggy Range Te Kahu

2017 Mission Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2017 Sacred Hill Special Selection Helmsman Cabernet Sauvignon

2017 Smith & Sheth CRU Cantera Cabernet Sauvignon

2017 Squawking Magpie SQM Cabernets Merlot

2017 Trinity Hill The Gimblett

 

Syrah

2017 Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah

2017 Elephant Hill Stone Syrah

2017 Smith & Sheth CRU Heretaunga Syrah

2017 Squawking Magpie Gravels Syrah

2017 Trinity Hill Homage

2017 Vidal Estate Soler Syrah

 

The 2016 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection

Blended reds

2016 Babich Irongate Cabernet Merlot Franc

2016 Babich The Patriarch

2016 Craggy Range Sophia

2016 Mission Estate Jewelstone Antoine

2016 Sacred Hill Special Selection Helmsman

2016 Saint Clair Gimblett Gravels Premium Cabernet Merlot Malbec

2016 Stonecroft Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon

2016 Vidal Legacy Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

Syrah

2016 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Syrah

2016 Esk Valley Winemakers’ Reserve Gimblett Gravels Syrah

2016 Sacred Hill Special Selection Deerstalkers’ Syrah

2016 Vidal Legacy Gimblett Gravels Syrah