On International Chardonnay Day I drank a bunch of top NZ Syrahs

Syrah 2013 tasting

2013 Hawkes Bay Syrahs: Worth Cellaring?

When I am an old man, and my perky grandchild asks me, what was it like when you were a kid, Grandpa? I’d reply, for starters, you could pick up a bottle of great NZ red wine for under $100…

So therefore, I’m getting in on the ground floor while the going is good, and am assembling a solid collection of Kiwi wines for the Pool Room. The 2013 vintage in Hawkes Bay is regarded as a once in a lifetime vintage by some local winemakers. Particularly reds. And HB Syrahs have been getting better and better, some being the best reds this country has ever presented.

So Geoff Kelly assembled a selection of top Hawkes Bay Syrah wines for us to taste at Regional Wines, and get a sense of the vintage, and its quality, and find those wines best coveted for the cellar.

Geoff summarises the 2013 vintage, “A remarkably good long summer, and not unduly hot. El Nino early, La Nina late. Triangle 1435 GDD, Gimblett Gravel 1410 GDD.  Rain indication good [ ] Riflemans, The Terraces, Tom all made” (only-made-in-a-good-year wines). Geoff particularly called out those wines which showed the 30g/l dry extract that he says matches European cropping rates and enhances cellar-worthy wines…

Syrah 2013 tasting2

As per other RW tastings, we assess 30ml pours, tasting blind, and then discuss and compare as a group, and nominate our favourites. I was pleased to bring my good mate R along for the flight.

My thoughts / others thoughts:

Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose 2013 – The ‘sighter’ of the flight. This threw me. I couldn’t pick it, despite having tried it twice this season. Deep pink carmine. Fragrant, bright florals. Fresh and bright, light red plums, somewhat angular, but you have to account for a measure of palate shock when assessing the first wine.  Brambly spice. High florals. Hint of cassis. Fresh and lively. Delightful on palate. Subtle oak.

Church Road Syrah Grand Reserve 2013 – Darker carmine. Deeper flavour to match, rich, angular, dense, smooth fruit. Lot on bouquet – oak, vanilla. Cocoa flavours. Good balance.

Black Barn Vineyards Syrah 2013 – Deep carmine. Rhone-like. Slight stalky-ness, unripe? Thinner fruit than previous wines, somewhat empty.  10 x jug pour decanting failed to resurrect this wine. Highly organic, fruit tending red, tree bark character. Not good. The least regarded wine of the flight.

Mills Reef Winery Syrah Elspeth 2013 – Deep carmine. Warm vanilla notes, ripe. Balanced and ripe too in the mouth, joyful florality on palate, dark plums, gorgeous.  Beautiful and complete. A seamless combo of florals and fruit. Very good – my third favourite wine of the tasting… 4+

Esk Valley Syrah Winemakers Reserve 2013 – Deep carmine. Biscuit nose, some florals. Beautiful fruit flavours, even and bountiful.  Dry tobacco. Oaky. Granular tannins4

Vidal Estate Syrah Legacy 2013 – Deep carmine. Light bouquet. Somewhat angular fruit. Bracing, fresh and mouthwatering.  Berries and cassis. Subtle oaking. Citrus zest. Sweet. R’s favourite wine.  My least favoured wine, personally.

Crossroads Syrah Elms Vineyard Winemakers Collection 2013 – Deep carmine. Jammy, aniseed and burnt match characters on bouquet. Complex flavours – dark fruit and black pepper. Great mouthfeel. Slight bitterness on finish. Aromatic berries and cassis. Elegant style. Very good… 4

Mission Estate Syrah Huchet 2013 – Deep carmine. Fruity apple notes and citrus. Quite distinctive. Wonderful flavours, involving and powerful. A great individual expression of Syrah.  Grapefruit and orange zest characters, fresh, textural and sinuous. My second fav. This sells for $125 a bottle. Looks good value for it… 5

Sacred Hill Syrah Deerstalkers 2013 – Deep carmine. Leggy. Coolly floral. Tannic, drying, bracing and fresh.  A balanced synthesis of fruit and oak. Slightly roasted. Hints of spice and tobacco.

Matua Syrah Matheson Single Vineyard 2013 – Deep carmine. Leggy and wonderfully floral. Amazingly rich and lengthy. Pots of fruit weight and goodness. I loved this wine. Intensely perfumed with violets. Reminds of hermitage Beautiful components makes up this wine. Austere and concentrated. Very primary still. Wow, would love to try this in 5 years. My favourite wine of the evening. And all sold out! Arrgh!   5

Elephant Hill Syrah Airarata 2013 – Deep carmine. Floral. Impactful fruit density in a velvet glove. Powerful, tannic, rich. Beautiful. Sensational dry extract. So rich, so concentrated. A wine of huge potential. Released in 2016. 4+

Villa Maria Syrah Reserve 2013 – Deep carmine. Slightly jammy. Merlot-like in fruit expression on the nose. Dense and gutsy. Not a shy retiring Syrah, this. Perfect ripeness. Good cassis notes. Infantile at this stage.  Give this a few years to grow. 4+

What a treat that was. Thanks to GK and RW for putting this tasting on. Cheers!

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