Gimblett Gravels dozen a delightful bunch

My annual peek at the Gimblett Gravels dozen is always something that I thoroughly look forward to.

As the Gimblett Gravels grower body itself states, "it gives writers perspective as to where GG wines stand in a given year", while also "charting the progression of the wines from our unique terroir".

Member wineries are invited to submit wines: these are blind tasted by an independent critic, who since the initiative’s inception with the 2008 vintage has been Australian Master of Wine Andrew Caillard.

The recommended retail prices of the wines has spanned $20-$150, and there is occasionally an absolute bolter in the mix as there is this year.

The 2019 vintage is the start of an exceptional trio of vintages in "the bay" and this is certainly reflected in the wines.

The depth of fruit means that most of this group can already be broached with enthusiasm, yet those with the foresight to tuck some away will be richly rewarded.


2019 Smith & Sheth Cru Heretaunga Syrah

Price RRP $39.99
Rating Excellent to outstanding

Subtle, youthful nose with notes of chocolate, caramel, toast, spices, fruit in support, a funky nuance later. Nice tension with bright acidity, the backbone quietly evident, an ethereal quality, managing power and depth without overt weight. Freshness, savoury touches growing as the fruit swells. Delightfully long finish. Drinkability yet potential too.

2019 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah

Price RRP $150
Rating outstanding

A sense of power to this, brooding, savoury, darker fruits, spices, marmite/umami and growing florality. Powerful intense fruit, paired with charcuterie, minerality and perhaps a hint of olive, all with great structure underpinning it. Clearly built for the long haul, yet for all its power there’s freshness and vibrancy too. Chewy, salivatory, delicious.

2019 Squawking Magpie Stoned Crow Syrah 
Price RRP  $49.95
Rating Excellent to Outstanding
Quite bold, fruit-driven nose with caramel and growing perfume, adding dustiness and cedar later. Fascinating coolness to this, coolmint and mixed fruits, a peppery character in the wings with grainy tannins adding to the texture. Powerful and somewhat tightly coiled for now offering more and more glimpses of its future as air time allows this to open up.
2019 Squawking Magpie The Nest (Merlot dominant blend) 
Price RRP $49.99
Rating Excellent 
Freshly sawn timber, oyster shell, growing perfume. The fruit takes centre stage on the palate, suppleness to this with polished wood and spices. There’s a youthful quality here, the fruit depth matched by ripe tannins yet I don’t feel that it’s playing all its cards for now. There’s lots of appeal and drinkability already, but I suspect that time will offer more.

2019 Esk Valley Hawke’s Bay Merlot Cabernet Malbec

Price RRP $19.99
Rating Excellent

Crushed leaf, tea leaf, river stones, licorice, the fruit neatly in support. Juicy and crunchy, sweetly fruited with red fruits, mixed berries and spices, neatly balanced by some fine, ripe tannins. Nice energy and vibrancy here, already in a lovely place to enjoy now, yet the structure suggests this will kick on too, Post reveal, great bang for your buck and a lot to enjoy.

2019 Elephant Hill Hieronymus (Cabernet sauvignon dominant blend)

Price RRP $125
Rating Excellent to outstanding

Dark and deep, powerful oak scents and toasted coconut meld with earth, licorice, umami, dark fruits. The nose draws you in. A suppleness to the palate contrasts with real crispness to the acidity, lending a sweet ‘n’ sour nuance, backed by milk chocolate, toast, pencil shavings and fruit. The elements are here, yet this feels young, with a lot more to offer.

2019 Mission Estate Jewelstone Antoine (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend)

Price RRP $49.99
Rating Excellent to Outstanding

Ripe, liqueur fruits, herbs, lead pencil/cedar, dusty gravel. Nicely judged fruit ripeness allows an attractive dryness, never oversweet, with powerfully expressed tannins showing intent for the future. As this builds in the glass savoury qualities and a funky nuance appear, while the tannins really grow. Intrigue and interest, time will be a friend.

2019 Esk Valley Great Dirt River Gravel Merlot Malbec Cabernet

Price RRP $69.99
Rating Excellent to outstanding

Dark fruits, blackcurrant, an intriguing saline edge, attractive fragrance. Density & richness mixing red and darker fruits with plum and tea leaf/black tea, cedary oak showing with aeration. You could overlook this one as it’s not a show-off, creeping up on you showing elegance and integration. Evolves beautifully in the glass as it takes on air. Potential too.

2019 C.J Pask Declaration Merlot

Price RRP $49.99
Rating Excellent to outstanding

Spice and pepper, ripe fruits, cigar box, a wisp of balsamic —  an attractive subtlety here. In a line-up of powerful wines, this retains a sense of delicacy. Not at all underpowered, but finesse and elegance with balance and integration. Deceptive flavour intensity, a touch of leafy freshness adding to the fruit as the tannins also grow. Complexity, a wine to ponder.

2019 Trinity Hill The Gimblett (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend)

Price RRP $39.99
Rating Outstanding

Immediately fragrant nose, blackcurrant leaf, mint, plum, blackcurrant, blackberry, dust. The core of fruit is paired with pencil shavings, pencil lead and
"Bordeaux leaf" on a delightfully textural palate. While there is tannic structure to match the powerful fruit, it never strays into heaviness, a sense of brightness too. Drinkability yet great potential.

2019 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah

Price RRP $39.95
Rating Outstanding

Dark and brooding, earthy, meaty, savoury on a framework of darker fruits, blood later. Powerful entry, flooding the palate with ripe, yet attractively dry fruits with savoury notes and stony minerality. Lovely depth of fruit and flavour that already offers drinkability, but the structure is also there for the longer haul. Blind, I could pick this as European. Value here.

2019 Mission Estate Jewelstone Syrah

Price RRP $49.99
Rating Excellent

Beguiling nose of white pepper, spices, red currant, red fruits, dust and leather. The palate adds, chocolate plum, and a stony/gravel nuance with freshening acidity. Fleshy, rounded, integrated, showing hints of development and already very approachable. Initially seems quite forward, but as the fruit swells, this comes across as rather more serious.


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