Bob’s Best Buys: Two ripper reds from Gimblett Gravels

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – $39.95

The twenty-first century has introduced us to many tragedies. Climate change threatens to make hot water bottles a thing of the past, a shortage of fossil fuels will soon require us to plug our cars into wall sockets and Cabernet Sauvignon is on the endangered species list.

Cabernet Sauvignon was this country’s most planted red grape variety a decade ago while Pinot Noir was just a gleam in the eye of a few crazy winemakers. Last year the tonnes of Pinot Noir grapes harvested were sixteen times greater than that of Cabernet Sauvignon. Sixteen times!

I blame a lust for instant gratification on the part of wine drinkers. No one wants to wait any more. Pinot Noir can, as the French say, be “picked, pressed and pissed before Easter”. You need a little patience to appreciate the finer qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon.

You don’t have to be a wine expert to know that Mills Reef’s flagship Cabernet Sauvignon is a great wine. This dense, powerful red wine oozes class. As good as it is now it will deliver so much more if you can keep your hands off it and store it in a cool, dark place for ten years. – view on

Trinity Hill “The Gimblett” 2006 – $29

When iconic winemaker and winery owner, John Hancock, said, “our 2006 The Gimblett is drinking well now” my ears pricked up. Hancock is a master of the understatement. You can take the boy out of rural Australia but you can’t take the laconic rural Australian attitude out of the boy.

The Gimblett is a blend of the five traditional Bordeaux grape varieties; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec (in descending order of influence). All are grown in the Gimblett Gravels district of Hawke’s Bay, an 800 hectare area of deep gravel soils which is to red wine what Kobe is to beef.

Hawke’s Bay enjoyed two excellent red wine vintages in 2006 and 2007. Most Hawke’s Bay winemakers say that 2007 was the better year. Hancock says he made better wines in 2006.

When I tasted Trinity Hill’s 2006 The Gimblett I couldn’t argue with Hancock’s claim. Actually I never argue with Hancock who is in the habit of offering a counter-argument by punching his opponent on the shoulder.

My tasting notes read: “This is a wine of substance. It’s chock-full of deliciously ripe berry and plum flavours with a sensitive seasoning of oak. It’s an accessible wine with a relatively soft structure of ripe tannins. Impressively complex red that’s great now … or later.” Top value. – view on

First published in KiaOra Magazine – Oct 2009.

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