Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Merlot that kicks ass

Of all the hackneyed expressions and well worn cliches, the term 'kicks ass' is hardly inventive  but here is a wine that really does put light bodied reds in perspective. I am suitably surprised by the power of this red, which features in a long line up being tasted and written about today.


It was the gateway soft, light and easy to enjoy smooth red wine back when Cabernet could not seem to fully ripen in New Zealand. And while Cabernet may still struggle on occasion to ripen, it does a lot better these days now that winemakers in this country's Cab' strongholds have had the time to explore warmer, better drained vineyard sites and put more time into coaxing the best from this late ripening grape. All of which comes to fruition in this beautiful blend from Elephant Hill's new releases, which will officially hit the glasses, wine lists and shop shelves in the second week of October.

Here is the first of many great new reds from 2020; a stellar year in a region that needs some good news.

Wine of the week


2020 Stone Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc RRP $65

This impressive deep ruby hued, intensely smooth, plummy tasting red is one of the best Merlots that I have ever tasted and is made with grapes 100% from Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing District. Although, truth be told, this wine is not 100% Merlot, which constitutes 53% of the blend, along with deep blackberry scented aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon with 24% of the blend and the lifted fragrance of 23% Cabernet Franc. All grapes were hand picked and wild yeast fermented with the wine aged for two years in barrels, which sounds like a long time, especially for nearly a quarter of the oak (23%) to be new wood, but this robust, full bodied expression of great grapes from great sites in Hawke’s Bay is superbly well balanced. And drinking well now, it clearly also has a long life ahead.