From NZ$19.99, £18.60, 340 yuan
Every year I taste a dozen of the best wines grown in the particularly gravelly subdistrict of Hawke's Bay in New Zealand cleverly dubbed the Gimblett Gravels that have been selected by my fellow MW Andrew Caillard (who was, like me, an attendee at this week's Pinot NZ event in unbelievably windy and often wet Wellington).
The Gimblett Gravels wines made in 2013 and 2014 were particularly successful and I recently reported on the 2014s that were very impressive – particularly the Syrahs (see my tasting notes on the 2014 Gimblett Gravels dozen). The recommended retail prices are always supplied along with the bottles and I was struck by the value offered by the least expensive wine, Vidal Reserve Syrah 2014 Gimblett Gravels. It can be found for a relative song in New Zealand – even if it costs rather more by the time it reaches export markets (and much, much more in China for some reason).
Vidal is one of four brands now controlled by the large independent wine company Villa Maria, one of New Zealand’s biggest, the other wine labels being Esk Valley, Villa Maria and, since 2012 when they acquired this superior estate, Te Awa. (The Te Awa Syrah 2014 Hawke's Bay is also a very attractive wine – rather fleshier than the Vidal – but more expensive and less easy to find.) The group has several sites in Gimblett Gravels – indeed 40% of all grapes grown on the Gimblett Gravels goes into wines produced by the Villa Maria group – but each brand has its own vineyard blocks. The sites vary in how much silt loam is above the gravel, with the siltier vineyards giving more perfume and the gravelly ones resulting in the more tannic wines.
The Vidal winemaker is Hugh Crichton (pictured above right) and he believes that 2014 was an ‘outstanding’ vintage for his Syrah – more so than the highly regarded 2013. He is apparently so fully wedded to the fortunes of Vidal that he goes off selling to export markets himself. Overseeing the entire Villa Maria group’s North Island range from a winemaking point of view is Nick Picone, who took over from Alastair Maling MW (now working for the Foley group in New Zealand) in 2015.
There has already been a thread about this Vidal Reserve Syrah on our members’ forum because Julia tasted it in London on 1 November last year and found it much tougher than I did in London a week or two ago and a bit tighter than I found when I tasted it in New Zealand on Monday this week. I certainly don’t think there is any hurry to drink this – and if served during the first half of my suggested drinking dates of 2016 to 2023 – it should definitely be served with food.
This Vidal wine was grown on the Omahu Gravels vineyard shown above where the vines – clones MS, Pask and Waldron – are 16 to 18 years old. In 2014 the grapes were picked at 23 Brix, earlier than usual, on 4 and 5 April. Natural acid levels were quite high enough so no acidification was needed. Total maceration time was almost five weeks and then the young wine was kept, unsulphured as is the current fashion, in barriques (20% new, the rest up to six years old) for a total of 15 months with just one racking and a light egg-white fining.
I much enjoyed its sweet, vibrant, leathery nose with some balsam and lots of savour and interest. The tannins seemed carefully worked and subordinate to the appetising New World Syrah fruit that, while satisfyingly ripe, is not at all confected or forced. The wine is just 13.5% alcohol and is an admirably serious wine (not to be confused with the more ambitious, expensive and long-term barrel selection known as Vidal Legacy Syrah 2014).
According to wine-searcher.com, the wine is so far available in New Zealand (unsurprisingly), China and the UK, where Just in Cases is offering six bottles for £87 (so £14.50 each) and NZ Cellar, a newish London specialist in Brixton that deserves support, will be selling it by the single bottle for £18.60. It is also imported into Australia, Singapore and Ireland although this vintage may not have filtered through on to the shelf, so see also my tasting note on the slightly sweeter Vidal Reserve Syrah 2013 Gimblett Gravels.