The release of Homage is a big deal in New Zealand each year, this time round even more so. It’s the first time Homage has been sealed with a screwcap and I personally feel the wine tastes significantly fresher for it, even at this early stage in its life.
For those who don’t know, Homage is Trinity Hill’s top red and is 100% Syrah, made from grapes grown on the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke’s Bay. It was inspired when its founder, winemaker John Hancock, visited Gerard Jaboulet in Tain l’Hermitage in the northern Rhone Valley, France and met Gerard Jaboulet and his father Louis, who produced the great wine, Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle – one of the great reds of the first half of the 20th Century. It’s still one of the northern Rhone’s great reds but is not always considered the absolute pinnacle these days, despite its illustrious history and its evocative name – after a small stone chapel supposedly built as a retreat for a 13th century knight who loved the hill of Hermitage above the Rhône.
Back in New Zealand, Hancock was so inspired that he returned to the Rhone to work the 1996 harvest at Jaboulet, an experience which cemented his own passion for northern Rhone Syrah styles. This was further cemented when Gerard Jaboulet sent him three clones of Syrah and one of Viognier as a gift from the Hermitage appellation. Gerard passed away in 1997 at the age of 55 but Hancock had those vine cuttings quarantined and propagated so that he was able to plant them in 2002, alongside Trinity Hill Winery’s first Syrah vines, which were planted in 1995 with cuttings from the neighbouring Stonecroft vineyard.
Long story short, the first small production Syrah was produced at Trinity Hill in 1997 and the first vintage of Homage in 2002. Its style has evolved gently over the years and production of Syrah at Trinity has also since grown so that the winery produces three different Syrahs, of which Homage is king.
The new Homage
2018 Trinity Hill Homage $150
The winemakers today are Warren Gibson and Damien Fischer, who say the average vine age is 13.5 years with the oldest vines being 23 years of age. All grapes are hand harvested and 20% are whole bunch fermented with indigenous yeasts. One batch was fermented with 100% whole bunches and Viognier skins. There was no cold soak and total time on skins was 28 days on average with maceration time varying from 16 to 35 days. The clones in the wine include 55% Mass Selection, 18% Baileys, 16% Clone 174, 6% Clone 470 and 5% includes 0.4% of Syrah Clone 642 and 4.6% Viognier.The latest Homage from the 2018 vintage is deep purple in colour with a youthful rim and savoury aromas of cloves and cedar, firm but smooth tannins supporting the full body and adding great structure to this juicy, ripe and flavoursome wine which tastes of dark rich fruit; dark plums, black peach and ripe blackberries all add a sense of delicious, deep dark juicy flavours right now and also suggest a long life ahead.
Is this the best Homage yet from Trinity Hill?
I think so, hands down. Love its ripe style and clean fresh vivacious personality which says: drink me now but if you can hold out, cellar me for a decade or more.