Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Que Syrah Syrah

Marlborough winery Saint Clair is best known for its many faceted takes on Sauvignon Blanc, which have not always been easy to navigate, even if they have been all deliciously different, sometimes by a mere fraction. It has been an interesting and tasty journey for wine drinkers and also for the winemakers at this large family owned winery. 

The sheer number of different wines, similar looking labels and all from the same vintage all managed to confound those of us to whom single vineyard was a new concept back... well, not that long ago when it comes to New Zealand wine. But how else is it possible to find out which little (or large) slice of a vineyard does something well, not so well or outstandingly well, if not to make lots of small batches or parcels, as winemakers like to call them. It's not so much a question but an observation of how far many New Zealand wine lovers have come in the past two decades because now most wine drinkers in this country are only too happy to be led to a wine with a fraction of a difference from their favourite one. All of which is a long way to get into the more recent diversity that Saint Clair Family Estate winemaking team now gets into. This takes the shape of Pinot Blanc (one of the many clones of Pinot Noir) and Syrah.

This week is the first time I have tasted Saint Clair's Gimblett Gravels Syrah and it's an impressive full bodied red made entirely from grapes grown on Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing District. The free draining gravels and the 2021 vintage have made for a pretty tasty marriage in this youthfully dark fruited Syrah. This is my wine of the week, not so much as a bottle to go out and crack open in a rush but rather to age, if the will is there. It does drink well now and that's because it tastes of dark fruit flavours rather than maturation in oak. Lush, plush and taut at the same time. This is a tasty red.

Wine of the week 

2021 Saint Clair Gimblett Gravels Reserve Syrah RRP $46

Lush fruit flavours shine in this bold and powerful Syrah from Hawke's Bay's Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing District. Oak was kept at a relatively modest 29 per cent new with the remainder of the wine all being aged in older French oak. Both components spent nine months maturing in barrel prior to being blended and bottled, and the result is a tight young red that will age well for at least five years but more likely about a decade. 

Hawke's Bay may not be the first region to spring to mind when the words Saint Clair come up in conversation but this Hawke's Bay Syrah is every bit as impressive as the bold white wines for which this producer is known. And if the planet continues to warm up, who knows what might be possible in Saint Clair's home region, Marlborough.