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It always makes me feel compromised when given high priced wines to write about. It’s a tough job and someone’s got to do it and all that jazz, but, seriously, it’s not easy recommending wines that cost upwards of $40, let alone $100 when I know that most people’s budget for a bottle of good wine usually stretches to about $30, very occasionally a little more – such as at Christmas time. And yet, as you may now be dreading, I am about to recommend a wine that costs $120 as an extremely good representation of quality, scarcity and value. It’s even worth digging deep for, in the view of yours truly, if budget permits. Even more surprising, it’s a style I never thought I’d recommend because New Zealand’s cool climate has meant that winemakers in this country have had their work cut out for them if they wanted master Cabernet Sauvignon well, especially when it’s a 100% wine, without Merlot to mask its late ripening green flavours in cool climates. My least favourite New Zealand wines in the early days of this country’s wine industry were, you guessed it, Cabernet Sauvignon, so imagine my surprise when tasting the new Prison Block Cabernet Sauvignon from Trinity Hill, served blind in a line up of big, beefy reds at this year’s Hawke’s Bay Wine Awards.
There’s good reason Cabernet Sauvignon has shrunk dramatically in New Zealand from 517 hectares nationwide in 2009 to almost half that number today; 249 hectares, mostly in Hawke’s Bay. But what we now lack in quantity when it comes to Cabernet, our winemakers are making up for in quality, as this wine of the week shows.
Wine of the week
2018 Trinity Hill Prison Block Cabernet Sauvignon $120
Prison Block Cabernet Sauvignon is made with grapes grown on the banks of the Ngaruroro River on a site once destined to be a correctional facility (aka prison). This vineyard is one of the stoniest parts of the Gimblett Gravels and is nearby to Trinity Hill winery, where winemakers Warren Gibson and Damian Fischer made this wine. It’s rare to see 100% Cabernet Sauvignons in New Zealand, particularly of this high quality. Deep ruby, dry, intensely flavoursome and with great aging potential. This wine lives up to its Champion Single Vineyard Trophy, which it won at the 2019 A&P Bayleys Hawke’s Bay Wine Awards.