Wine Talk

Snooth User: timbw

Gimblett Gravles, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand vs. Bordeaux Grand Cru

Posted by timbw, Apr 23, 2009.

I was lucky enough to attend this tasting in London earlier on in the year. It was amazing to see the NZ wines at tens of £'s stand up to (or beat) the best of Bordeaux at hundreds of £'s, and even more amazing to see the likes of Jancis Robinson and Oz Clark stumped to pick which was Kiwi and which was French! Worth having a try if you can get your hands on some - let me know what you think! Tim.

More info on the Gimblett Gravels here.....

Some great wines here...

The link to the article below here....

New Zealand red wine: icons of the future? - By Jonathan Ray

The sound of jaws crashing to the floor echoes around Pall Mall. High up in the Penthouse Suite of New Zealand House, London SW1, 30 or so UK Masters of Wine, sommeliers, wine buyers and journalists have joined Rod Easthope, the young winemaker of Craggy Range in New Zealand, at a special blind tasting. The result is astonishing to say the least.

Craggy Range is based in the Gimblett Gravels, a sub-region of Hawke's Bay in New Zealand's North Island. This 800-hectare appellation is centred on the gravel of the old Ngaruroro River and local winemakers believe the soil and climate to be so exceptional that their terroir is up there with the best to be found in Bordeaux.

The most successful wines are either straight syrahs or blends made from the classic Bordeaux varieties of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, merlot and petit verdot. Easthope is so convinced of their quality that he has brought six 2005 and 2006 blends with him to be tasted against six 2005 clarets.

"We're confident that we're making good wine," he says. "But we're young and curious and need to know where we stand. What better way of benchmarking our wines than a taste-off?"

The dozen wines are poured and we set to with our browsing and sluicing. Some of Britain's finest tasters are here, including Jancis Robinson, Michael Schuster and Oz Clarke, along with buyers from the likes of Waitrose, the Wine Society and Berry Bros & Rudd. We're all in the dark as to the wines' identities and have been asked to rank them in order of quality and - if we dare - mark which we think are French and which we think are Kiwi.

I was in Hawke's Bay only weeks ago and reckon that I'll be able to differentiate between the two countries. As it turns out, I don't do badly, getting nine out of 12 correct, thanks in part to a couple of inspired guesses. I am struck, though, by how alike the wines are and wouldn't dare try to identify specific wineries.

I am relieved to see the rest of the room is similarly uncertain. Even the incomparable but ever-modest Jancis Robinson is stumped.

"It isn't obvious to me at all which is which," she says. "I have tried to guess and have no doubt made a fool of myself. There is only one I didn't like, but I can't work out whether it's an over-extracted Saint Emilion or an unbalanced Gimblett Gravels."

We hand in our sheets. Our marks are added together and a collective top six revealed. The first three spots (and fifth) go to Bordeaux and we nod our heads knowingly. Our fourth and sixth favourites though are from New Zealand; a pretty good showing, we all agree. Well done. Ripples of applause all round.

"It's a curious thing," says Easthope. "The better we make our syrahs, the less like the Rhône they taste, whereas the better we make our Bordeaux blends, the more like Bordeaux they taste."

Then the bombshell. The wines' identities are revealed and we gasp when we discover who was playing for the Bordeaux team. The three medal positions go to: 2005 Château Lafite-Rothschild (£975 a bottle), 2005 Château Mouton-Rothschild (£675) and 2005 Château Angélus (£295). Just off the podium, in fourth, is 2006 Sacred Hill "Helmsman" at - wait for it - a staggeringly modest £17.95 a bottle. We sit open-mouthed. 2005 Château Haut-Brion (£700) is fifth and 2006 Newton Forrest "Cornerstone" - at just £15 a bottle for heaven's sake - is sixth.

"You've opened my eyes," declares Robinson, speaking for us all. "I think this is the closest to Bordeaux you can get."

"I knew exciting things were happening in Hawke's Bay, but had no idea how exciting," murmurs Alun Griffiths of Berrys. "I need to get some on our list fast."

Even though 2006 Craggy Range "The Quarry" isn't in our joint top six (although it is in mine), Easthope is thrilled and can't stop beaming.

"We wouldn't have had this result five years ago," he says. "Our winemaking is still all over the place as we experiment with young vines, clones, blends and even coopers and this result is brilliant. I'm heartened, though, by the generous comments in the room. And look, we were competing against the very best of Bordeaux, not just similarly priced Bordeaux."

Bordeaux, as we all know, is seriously overpriced, but this result has driven it home. Why spend almost a grand a bottle when you could spend barely £18 for something just as good? It can't be for rarity value: 25,000 cases of 2005 Château Lafite were produced compared to 130 of 2006 Sacred Hill "Helmsman".

Apart from Cloudy Bay, New Zealand is short of icon wines and these, surely, are icons of the future. But will they age as well as their French counterparts? Stash some away for a few years and see. If you can find any.


Reply by timbw, Apr 23, 2009.

apologies for sp. in title!! should read Gimblett Gravels

Reply by dmcker, Apr 23, 2009.

Just how and why did Lafite 2005 get to be that ridiculous price, anyway? ;-(

And any plans for the Kiwis to take on California, with their less-than-Bordeaux-Grand-Crus-but-still-ridiculously-inflated super-cab prices?

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Apr 23, 2009.

Great post. Thanks for sharing. I've been a growing fan of New Zealand wines, and hope they become more available in the states. Usually selections are slimmer than from some other regions so I bet I'm missing out a little.

Reply by timbw, Apr 23, 2009.

That would be an interesting tasting
Bordeaux vs. Gimblet Gravels vs. Napa

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