Fuller-bodied red adds warmth to cooler spring nights

Winter may be slowly heading for the rearview mirror, but there can still be the occasional sting in the tail from Mother Nature.

While there may be an urge to gravitate to springtime whites, there will always be a place for fuller-bodied reds, particularly on those cooler nights.

Today’s collection of Hawke’s Bay reds include a couple of Merlot based wines with a crop of Syrahs, mostly from the super 2019 vintage with a cheeky wee ’18 thrown in for good measure.

What a cracking line-up, where scoring them almost felt like splitting hairs.

2019 Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Merlot
Price RRP $39.99
Rating Excellent

Ripe, fleshy nose, dusty stones,
pencil shavings, plum &
red fruits, a hint of
cedary oak. Ripe, rich,
yet still medium-bodied
in style. Plum and
fruitcake lead, with a
tangy brightness to the
acidity, while the ripe,
grainy tannins lend an
attractive dryness.
Polished, already open
for business with its
lovely, long carry of
flavours and potential


2019 Craggy Range Te Kahu (Merlot, Cabernet, Franc, Malbec, P.V)
Price RRP $29.95
Rating Excellent to Outstanding

Initially tight but opens to
plum, cassis, a wisp of
herbs, growing perfume
and oak scents, smoke
and bran biscuit later.
Again, tightly wound at
first but this positively
swells with aeration as
the fruit comes to the
fore, backed by savoury
elements and a powerful
tannic core. Serious
intent here and there’s
an awful lot to like. Likely
even better with a year
or two.


2019 Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Syrah
Price RRP $49.99
Rating Excellent

Bold, perfumed nose with red fruits,
spices and green olive,
black pepper later. The
palate offers mixed
fruits, loganberry and
spices and while there’s
evident fruit sweetness,
this closes dry.
Medium-bodied, the
fruit sweetness grows,
adding hints of black
tea and pepper on the
finish, while the building
chewy, grainy tannins
show serious structure
to take this forward.


2019 Craggy Range Single Vineyard Gimblett Gravels Syrah
Price RRP $39.95
Rating Excellent to Outstanding

Savoury qualities to this,
matched by sweet,
almost liqueur fruits,
cloves and baking
spices, blueberry later.
Lush in the mouth, the
powerful fruit matched
by drying tannins that
grow more chewy on the
finish. Dark, brooding
qualities, a hint of blood
and stony minerality,
opening up to show a
delightful seamlessness.
Serious stuff, engaging
and full of interest.


2020 Helio Hawke’s Bay Syrah
Price RRP $45
Rating  Excellent

Fascinating nose, pencil shavings, a
tangy quality, green
olive, growing perfume.
Sweetly fruited, a
camphor like note flits
past before notes of
woodsmoke, spice and
berry compote kick in,
while there’s a youthful
edginess here. Develops
a silkiness before the
deceptive underlying
tannins kick in, adding a
herbal note to the close.
Intriguing, it made me
stop and think.


2018 Trinity Hill Homage (Syrah)
Price RRP $150
Rating Rating  Outstanding

Gorgeous nose to luxuriate in, savoury
qualities, black
pepper, black tea,
darker fruits, a wisp of
herb. Continues to
engage on the palate,
the excellent depth of
fruit playing off black
tea and black olive
with powerful tannic
structure in support. A
cool undercurrent to
this keeps it fresh.
Superb balance, it’s all
about elegance and
finesse. Already


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