New top 12 from Gimblett Gravels

Today’s Wine Talk interview will be published on Monday morning

Wine of the week

2019 Esk Valley Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec RRP $19.99

This wine is one of the top 12 from the just released 2019 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection and it is the lowest price in the line up, which makes it extraordinarily good value for money, given that many of the others cost triple this and some cost six times more.
A little Malbec goes a long way towards adding depth in both colour and flavour to this delicious wine from Esk Valley’s Gordon Russell, who was the first winemaker in New Zealand to have made high quality Malbec. It’s hard to believe it can be this good at this price.

The new top 12 from Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District

Warmer, wetter, hotter and drier may seem like contradictory descriptions of one vintage but that’s how Mother Nature rolled in the lead up to the 2019 vintage in the Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District.

The region’s marketing body has just released its annual Top 12 Annual Vintage Selection of reds from 2019 and if there’s one word that sums them up, it is approachability.

There are 800 hectares of grapes planted in the Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District, 90% of them in red grapes with Merlot in lead position and likely to remain there for the foreseeable. Syrah has displaced Cabernet Sauvignon while Cabernet Franc and Malbec lag way behind as important ingredients for depth of colour, aroma and flavour.

Gimblett Gravels is the most important region in New Zealand for blended red wines and Syrahs. Not only in terms of volume but in terms of sheer consistency in quality. There have been more good to excellent vintages in the past decade in this region and in the wider Hawke’s Bay region than at any other time in this country’s modern wine history but the 2019 vintage is the best yet for the 2019 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection. Warm dry weather late in the season ensured high quality across the board after unseasonable rain earlier on with the second wettest September on record in the region. Late spring brought further rainfall and warmer temperatures than usual along with a significant reduction in yields which were 15 to 20% down on average because of the unsettled weather during flowering. If this all sounds like major challenges for winemakers to contend with, well, it is, but the results are superlative wines to drink now and to cellar for years to come.

The Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District makes up nearly a quarter of Hawke’s Bay’s entire growing area and is the wider region’s largest respected growing sub region, despite many exceptional reds from other parts of the Bay. While there are many other good to very good wines made from the Gravels, this year’s top 12 wines cement (if you’ll excuse the pun) the Gravels District’s street cred.

Two highlights

2019 Squawking Magpie The Nest Gimblett Gravels RRP $49.99

Talk about a fruit explosion thanks to Merlot’s 58% of this deeply fruit forward wine, underpinned with the excellent structure and smoothness of the two Cabernets; Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 25% while Cabernet Franc makes up 17%. The wine spent 18 months in French oak, 30% new and comes out with an alcohol of 13.9% which makes for a rich but balanced flavourful drop from winemaker Jenny Dobson, who shows her hand at understanding the great classic French reds that this wine is modelled on. It has great length and appealing drinkability.

2019 Smith & Sheth Cru Heretaunga Syrah RRP $40

Elegant peppery appeal with rich warm notes of nutmeg and exotic spice supported by fresh black plum and red berry notes. This wine can age but will also reward decanting and serving in large glasses now, preferably with rich meaty flavours such as mushroom risotto with creamy depth and savouriness to match the wine.

The Gimblett Gravels 2019 Annual Vintage Selection

Blended reds

2019 Elephant Hill Hieronymus RRP $125
2019 Esk Valley Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot RRP $19.99
2019 Esk Valley Great Dirt River Gravels Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $70
2019 Mission Estate Jewelstone Antoine RRP $50
2019 Pask Declaration Merlot RRP $50
2019 Squawking Magpie The Nest RRP $49.95
2019 Trinity Hill The Gimblett RRP $40


2019 Craggy Range Le Sol RRP $150
2019 Craggy Range Syrah Gimblett Gravels RRP $39.95
2019 Mission Estate Jewelstone Syrah RRP $50
2019 Smith & Sheth Cru Heretaunga Syrah RRP $40
2019 Squawking Magpie Stoned Crow Syrah RRP $49.95

  • All wines are available now except Elephant Hill Hieronymus, which will be released in May 2022.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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