(2023) Hawke’s Bay is the source for this Albariño, Galicia's star white grape now finding popularity worldwide. It's realy fresh, and undoubtedly more aromatic than most Spanish examples, extra pot pourri and sweet but delicate mango and peach lusciousness to the nose. In the mouth a touch of tutti frutti character in this very young wine, which should settle down a bit, as the orangy and lemon tang of acidity and lick of salt balance the fruitiness nicely.
(2023) From Craggy Range's Martinborough vineyard on Te Muna Road, this is fermented with ambient yeasts and spends 11 months in French oak. It has a medium-deep garnet colour with light on the rim, and really quite a sumptuous red-fruited nose, where vanilla, spices and florals, a little rosemary and sandalwood, melt into raspberry and darker plum. In the mouth the tannins are very fine, very sandy, but have real grip, and there is real concentration of fruit packed into a framework that is currently allowing only glimpses of sweet cherry, briar and exotic spice. Good acidity too, in a wine that is confident, serious and structured and should cellar well for 10 years.
(2023) This top-end Syrah comes from the gravel soils of the Gimblett Gravels viticultural area. It is made with 65% whole bunches, in a mix of open-top French oak cuves and stainless steel, fermented with indigenous yeast and aged 17 months in French oak barriques, 38% new. There's immediately huge concentration evident, a deep-set black fruit, ebony and chestnut depth, sizzling bacon fat and yet a hint of sweet spices and floral lift. On the palate the oak is a touch resinous at the moment, but there's so much packed into this smooth, dense wine, the creamy acidity and fine tannin structure also promising longevity. Arguably better in a few years I suspect and will cellar for 10 years easily.
(2023) Dominating this Bordeaux blend is 60% Merlot, with 26% Cabernet Franc and 14% Cabernet Sauvginon, all from Gimblett Gravels. It is fermented in oak tanks and then spends 18 months in French barrels, 40% of which are new. Saturated dark purple, the nose is refined, elegant and powerful all at the same time with graphite and a swirl of cedar, a hint of softening vanilla and intense black fruit, It has a very tightly-wound character. On the palate there is great concentration here, liquorice and plum as well as more vibrant cassis, the silky, fine tannins and juicy bittersweet acidity giving lovely balance and, once again, potential longevity to cellar for a decade plus.
(2023) This wine spends eight months on the fine lees in stainless steel, plus one more year in bottle before release as Arnaldo Rivera believes only then does it begin to show complexity. Pale green in colour, it is quite sparky and aromatic immediately, with confit lemon, a little peach and some yellow plum all highlighted with a touch of herbal character. The palate is equally punchy and the most striking immediate aspect is its saltiness: there's a real saline slickness and flavour running beneath the fruit of the mid-palate, some crunchy apple now, and running into that saline, mouthwatering finish. Price and stockist quoted are for a previous vintage at time of review.
(2023) At 11 years old this is just outstanding. It has aged like a fine white Bordeaux in many ways, with gentle almond and honey, also chamomile and lime peel, a suggestion of mineral salts. On the palate sweet, ripe and with a light waxy texture, glittering acidity and the richness balanced by a little river stone firmness, great length and a touch of salinity. Outstanding as I say.
(2022) From vineyards on gravel over sandstone that are now more than 30 years old. 40% was fermented as whole bunches. 15 months in French oak barriques followed (40% new). A little more translusence, but again we are in the meaty, game and charcuterie spectrum, but there's also something quite fragrant, a little floral lift to the fruit. The palate is deliciously pitched: creamy and smooth in terms of tannin, polished oak and red and more plush black fruit depth, but with such spice and juiciness, a salty mineral character, and a great, sparky character through the finish. Beautifully lively and both intensly fruity and spicy.
(2021) A single vineyard wine from Chardonnay planted on gravel, and one of the warmer sites in Waipara. It is mostly whole-bunch pressed, fermented with wild yeasts, and just a small percentage sees new oak. Some of it was also foot-trodden. Lovely buttery nose, crushed almond perhaps, but a sense of richness and poise, the stone fruit aromas creamy and full. In the mouth a great saline background to this sets a savoury tone from front to back, but there is limpid texture and those ripe fruits and a hazelnut richness draped across the framework.
(2021) From a vineyard in Lowburn, originally the Lowburn Ferry estate which Smith & Sheth have also purchased. Vineyards planted over the past 20 years, this is 10% whole bunch pressed, fermented in a combination of oak and stainless steel and matured in barrel for 10 months (around 25% new oak). Not a densely-coloured wine, but with a darker hue aromatically than the North Canterbury Pinot, plum and chocolate, but very elegantly done again, red liquorice and a touch of vanilla suggest fruit sweetness. More red fruit-driven on the palate, and again a keen axis of souring acid and tannin to give it an edge, the sweet mid-palate fruit becomes quite grippy and earthy in the finish.
(2021) A wine I have been lucky enough to enjoy regularly since first tasting it 'en primeur' in 2003, this was from a half bottle and was absolutely glorious. The nose of this has always fascinated, not only heaving with a depth of marmalade, honey and toast, but the exoticism of saffron and candied fruits, and a wonderful suggestion of truffle and dry, Botrytis-rich curry-leaf. In the mouth it is so concentrated, so vital, the intensity of the dried apricot and Seville orange, mouth-filling sweetness, beeswax weight and richness, then the clarity of confit lemon, mineral salts and again, that truffle character adding soulful depth. Quite majestic. Price quoted is for a half bottle.