The wines of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

These tasting notes accompany our four-part in-depth feature on New Zealand. Please see Regional report: A major report from New Zealand.


Crossroads Gewurztraminer Destination Series 2005
Lovely powerful aromatics. Plenty of rich lychee fruit and a grapefruity note. Palate is off-dry, with a sumptuous, juicy richness of tropical fruit. Real opulence, with tangerine acidity coming through. Lovely style. 89

Southbank Estate Riesling 2004
Quite delicate, with a waxy quality like waxed lime and lime leaves, Fantastic acidity shooting through – bags of limey fruit and a powerful streak of lime to counteract quite rich, just off dry flavours of white peach and pear. 89

Matariki Reserve SB 2004 Gimblett Gravels
Some toast and buttery, buttered crumpet aromas with pineapply, ripe fruit beneath. On the palate a huge blast of limey acidity: plenty of verve and cutting grapefruit pith qualities here that really power through the mid-palate. 90

Trinity Hill Viognier 2005 Gimblett Gravels
Lovely haunting ripe pear fragrance to this wine, classic buttery pear and peach notes. On the palate this is rich and mouth filling, with very sweet pear fruit dominating. There’s a kick of acidity and mouth filling alcohol, giving this quite a big, perhaps slightly overwhelming finish. 90

Church Road Cuvée series Viognier 2004
Less exotic and slightly less characteristic nose, with some mealy notes and an orange and pear fruit emerging. The palate has decent fruit, but the acidity is a little unintegrated and the grapefruity, pithy quality doesn’t quite match the fruit. 87

Crossroads Chardonnay Destination Series 2004
Buttery, quite clean Chardonnay, with buttery, slightly tropical fruit. On the palate a nice weight and medium bodied texture, with fresh lemon and lime acidity and quiet clean, punchy citrus fruit rounded out with a bit of tropical sweetness and a touch of mealy and smoky barrique richness. 89

Esk Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2004
Slightly more opulent, buttery, vanillin and whisky-barrel notes, but not at all overdone with a good weight of fruit too. On the palate this has a lovely rounded, juicy richness, with quite fat, sweet fruit, but a fine cut of acidity. There’s a touch of something mineral and plenty of citrus, before the supporting toasty oak in the finish. Lovely. 91

Gunn Estate Chardonnay Skeetfield 2004
Nutty, with hazelnut and gently toasty aromas over white fruit. The palate has a lovely richness and ripeness of fruit, with waxy-edged passionfruit notes and plenty of citrus. The fruit and grapefruity acidity really pull through into a long finish. 89

Te Mata Woodthorpe Chardonnay 2004
Really quite clean, with elegant pear and apple notes, though rather subdued. The fruit comes through very clearly on the palate, with a ripeness of melon and fleshy pear and peach, and then a lemon zest acidity joins. This has good sense of purity and elegance, and quite a long, well-balanced finish. 89

Vidal Reserve Chardonnay 2004
Sealed screwcap. The nose has orchard fruits and only very moderate oak, with mostly quite oatmeally and apple fruit aromas. The palate has lovely sweetness and roundness of fruit. It is clean and harmonious, with plenty of ripe, rich, fleshy fruit and a good sense of nectarine and fleshy peach juiciness. Lovely lime acidity too in a very mouthfilling, juicy wine. 90

Morton Estate Chardonnay 2002
Quite rounded and buttery, with smooth, fruity aromas. On the palate there’s a touch of herbal quality that is very interesting in this wine, with an underlay of fine oak that is buttery and vanillin, and a clean sweep of orchard fruits. Acidity is very good, with plenty of verve and cut to the toasty oak and Seville orange qualities of the finish. 89

Vidal Reserve Chardonnay 2002
Similar nose in many ways, that is buttery and smooth, with ripe fruit aromas and a buttery lick of oak. On the palate this has fine, opulent, nectarine and ripe, juicy peach flavours. The fruit is very unctuous and full. On the palate there is plenty of weight and texture, and an orange and grapefruit acidity is subtle, but very key, giving lovely balance and freshness in the finish. 90


Trinity Hill Pinot Noir High Country 2003
Lovely big creamy, soft, quite voluptuous Pinot nose. Plenty of tobacco and spice, a little hint of old roses and cherry fruit. On the palate this has good fruit: there’s plenty of acidity too, with a fresh, quiet mineral sweep through the finish (possibly a touch too much), but the smoky, tobacco oak and a touch of earthy comes through. 88

Vidal Stopbank Pinot Noir 2004
Good nose, with a touch of earthiness and some wild, mushroomy notes, but solid fruit and chocolaty, creamy oak. On the palate slightly herbal, and a touch less fruity than I’d like, with good acidity and a little richness, but not totally harmonious. 87

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2004
Very deep colour. Cherry, shoe polish, and bright, forward aromatics with no real oak influence. Little floral notes. On the palate it has a solid fruit character, with plenty of juicy, chewy fruit. Bright, almost carbonic style, then a richness of oak starts to come through, adding a tobacco and smoky richness. A powerful and interesting wine. 89

Crab Farm Reserve Merlot 2004
Very pure, haunting, cherry and red plum fragrance, with a touch of Sandalwood. Creamy, ripe, plush red fruits on the palate. Good structure here, with nice tannins and a grippy, fleshy mid-palate. Good acidity too. 91

Vidal Merlot 2004
More intense, slightly tinned tomato aromas here, very ripe and a touch volatile perhaps. This is fairly high-toned and lacks a little flesh. Not the best bottle perhaps. Plenty of acidity and crispness, but just a touch astringent. 86

Trinity Hill Gimblett Road Merlot 2002
Slightly dusty, but nicely savoury character with Sandalwood and smoky oak over red fruits. A little touch of peppercorn. Quite a savoury style on the palate. A touch lean perhaps? I also find a slightly high-toned, almost plasticene hint of volatility. 86

Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2002
There’s a core of very intense, ripe black cherry here, with a fragrant spice and pepperyness, and a touch of chocolate. On the palate this has quite broad, juicy fruit, with a clean, linear mid-palate in which fine tannins and a nice cherry acidity pushes through. Savoury and fine. 90

Red Rock Gravel Pit Red Merlot/Malbec 2004
Nice dark, dramatically rich black fruits on the nose. There’s a nice richness and sweetness here, with hints of black olive, but mostly spicy, meaty black fruit. On the palate a good black fruit quality. Plenty of damson and bittersweet black plum and cherry, and a fine smoky rounding out with oak. Well-balanced. 92

Gunn Estate Merlot Cabernet 2004
Quite reserved but focused black and red berry fruit, with a little hint of earthiness and spice. On the palate the tannins are quite dominant, with plenty of bite and grip. Lots of concentration here. The tannins and the grippy, plumskin fruit are mouthfilling and very muscular. Promising for the future too. 90

Esk Valley merlot Cabernet Malbec 2004
Smoky, cedary, very Bordeaux nose with plenty of pencil shaving and a hint of capsicum, with good black fruit. The palate here has lovely finesse. Excellent balance, with supple, crisp tannins and good acidity. The fruit is quite pure and clean, and there’s just a spicy grip in the finish. 90

Sacred Hill Helmsman Cabernet Merlot 2002
This has a cassis and Blackcurrant nose that is very appealing and commercial, with a background of creamy oak. On the palate it has a lovely juicy quality; the tannins are ripe and savoury, the fruit is dense and concentrated, and the finish has a certain elegance with ripe tannins and balanced acidity. A certain chocolaty quality emerges. 91

Trinity Hill Cabernet Merlot 2002
There’s a dusty, nicely ripe and focused black fruitiness about this. On the palate it has elegance, with a medium-bodied quality and a smooth, lightness to the fruit. There is poise and elegance her, with very “correct fruit” and good balance, in an intelligent, savoury food wine. 89

Villa Maria Cabernet Reserve Merlot 2002
More obvious spice and charry, slightly coffee bean espresso oak here over a minty, ripe black fruit. Very international style, but no harm in that with fine fruit and a chocolaty depth. On the palate it is intense and tangy, with an edge of cassis and blackcurrant skin to the fruit and plenty of tang and bite. The balance is good, with smooth, polished tannins and good acids. Commercial but lovely. 90

Vidal Merlot Cabernet 2002
Very focused, bright, well-toned cassis and blackcurrant, with minty and chocolaty tones and a very appealing nose. Hints of toast and vanilla. Solid, savoury, with lots of plush, ripe black fruit that has sweetness and richness, with cassis and blackcurrant juiciness to spare. Good tannins framing this and fresh acidity, but quite a mouth-filling, big style. 90.

Gunn Estate “Woolshed” Merlot Cabernet Malbec 2002
Dark, very dramatic and meaty nose, with spice and pepper and a dark core of vanilla-licked plum and black cherry fruit. Quite minty and ripe, with plenty of depth. The palate has good fruit and it is not quite so jammy as I’d suspected, with a savoury finish. Very nice, with plenty of juicy, freshening acidity. 89

Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2002
Big, dark very polished nose, with masses of deep, plummy fruit and a touch of leathery, dusty richness. On the palate that creamy texture and ripe, sweet, mouthfilling fruit continues, with a fine structure of polished tannins and cherry skin acidity. Savoury and balanced, a little creaminess comes through in a nicely judged wine. 92

Matariki Quintology 2002
4 Bordeaux grapes 5% Syrah. Big, dramatically cedary and pencil-shaving laden nose, with masses of toast and peppery spice, over blackcurrant fruit. On the palate this is quite charcoally and edgy, with plenty of grip and earthy notes, and a very solid black fruit character. Very tight at present, but serious stuff, with massively concentrated fruit and a welterweight of quality oak. Should be excellent. 94

Vidal reserve Merlot Cabernet 2000
Lovely high-toned and juicy cherry and blackcurrant fruit. A touch of Eucalyptus and mint, and a very plush appeal. The palate has lovely sweetness and plushness; a very commercial, slightly jammy style, but beautiful fruit quality and silky, smooth tannins and balanced acidity give real polish and refinement. 91

Trinity Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Gimblett Road
Spice and touches of cedar and incense here, with a very pure blackcurrant fruit quality. There’s a touch of dustiness, and plenty of juicy, fresh fruit. Good quality and restrained. 90

Vidal reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Blackcurrant on the nose and a touch of earthy spice. Good fruit, with a richness and a seam of black plum darkness. Good acidity here, and plenty of grip and length. 90

Vidal “Joseph Soler” Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
There’s a touch of earthy, animal meatiness about this, with more dank and leafy, undergrowth notes than the upfront fruit of many wines here. Very solid on the palate, with good, sweet edged black fruits, but that note of dankness and earthy, savoury fruit and acidity persists.

Gunn Estate Silistria Syrah 2004
Real schisty, peppery, edgy syrah with nice quality. A touch more herbal. The palate has good fruit: a fine, dusty blue-black quality, with elegant tannins and acidity, perhaps a touch green and dusty, but adds to complexity. Nice medium body and food-friendly appeal. 88

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2004
More depth and opulence here. There’s a still a touch of charcoally edge. But a sweeter, more full fruitiness too. IN the mouth it has a cool, long, quite polished but ripe and sweet black fruit – blackberry and black cherry, with some aromatic tones. Nice balance here, and a lovely sweetness marrying with grippy chocolate tannins and acidity. 92

Vidal Syrah 2004
Quite reserved, with solid black fruit and a touch of spice. Nicely ripe and hinting at very sweet, clove and a plum with a touch of tobacco. On the palate good fruit again, that is sweet and dark, with a nice stripe of bittersweet chocolate and plumskin grip and edge. Good fruit here, with tight tannins and good balance. 92

Matariki Syrah 2002
Big, ripe, cedar and slightly gamy, bloody qualities to dense, solid black fruit. Pepper and spice come through. On the palate slightly brighter and fruitier than I’d have guessed, but has really good quality. Ripe, sweet, cherry and polished berry fruits, with crisp edge of acidity and tight, savoury tannins adding structure along with the cedary oak qualities. 92

Vidal Soler Syrah 2002
There’s a nice schisty. Gamy quality on the nose here, with ripe, quite juicy black fruit, but plenty of character with hints of clove and spice and black cherry juiciness. On the palate it has lovely depth and a sweet bramble and black cherry fruit core. Very lovely fruit here, with real plush depth behind it, a coffee and charry oak and a tight cherry edge of acidity. 94


Ngatarawa Stables Late Harvest 2004
Quite luscious, with notes of gentle toast and plenty of honey and lush, sweet apricot fruit. On the palate there’s a fine orangy, tangerine and bright fruit quality. Lovely citrussy acidity (tangerine again) and a medium-bodied elegance. 89

Sileni Late Harvest Semillon 2004
Lots of honey and hints of fig and quince. Delicate tealeaf notes too. Slightly richer and lovely sweetness, with a tropical apricot and nectarine juiciness, and that orangy acidity and zesty bite coming through. Perhaps a little more definition, and fine balance and piercing length. 90

Sileni Pourriture Noble 2004
Semillon again, with a thick, homey and lemon nose and a touch of sweet custard. Rich, full palate of dried apricot and honey, decent acidity and touches of nut kernel and sweet vanilla. Perhaps needs a touch more acidity. 90

Virtu Noble Semillon 2000
Sweet vanillin oak overlaid on fig and quince, dried apricot and gentle honey. Very thick and viscose palate, with perhaps just a little touch of cork, but the power and weight of this comes through, with unctuous, thick fruit and honey and a great core of piercing citrus acidity. 91

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