(2018) This is another winning wine from Matt and Sophie Parker-Thomson. Large French oak barrels, new and used, where employed to vinify this wine, but it wears any hint of oak very lightly indeed, focusing instead on vibrant, essential-oil fruitiness and crispness. Orange, lemon rind and pepper dominate the nose, and yes, a subtle sheen of creamy oak, but the palate is bright and ram-jam packed with flavour, the lime and mandarin orange clarity of the acidity in the finish is just lovely. On offer at £14.95 at time of review, it really is a top-notch expression of Grüner.
(2018) In Côte-Rôtie, one of the most famous appellations of the Rhône Valley, it is very common for winemaker to blend just a touch of the fragrant white wine grape, Viognier, with Syrah, and Matt Thomson has performed the same trick here with Grüner-Veltliner, to add a little aromatic lift. The result is another firm, really rather European-style from Blank Canvas, pepper, liquorice and black cherry aromatics with a touch of cedarwood too. On the palate this has plenty of grip and edge – it’s a brisk, fairly lean and muscular style, the fruit is very good in a dry, savoury, pepper-edged style that cries out for some winter venison, roasts or slow-braised beef dishes. On offer at time of review at £21.95.
(2018) There's something just a bit too confected about this 12% alcohol pink from Hawke's Bay. Varieties are unidentified, but the blend of slightly sweet fruit and slightly green acidity isn't entirely successful, though well-chilled it is probably an acceptable quaffer.
(2018) Sourced from the prime Gimblett Gravels terroir, this deep purple-black wine has a certain inkiness to the aromas, dry, spicy, a touch of graphite to black fruits. In the mouth the oak is a little more prominent, a touch of charriness of quality French oak, a firm strip of liquorice tannin and acidity, quite linear and structured, finishing with some of the black cassis fruit and spice coming through. Just a touch lean perhaps.
(2018) This Syrah from the always impressive Craggy Range spent 17 months in French oak barrels, 26% of which were new. Deep crimson and glossy, there's a refined fragrance, violet, delicate kirsch and a sprinkle of white pepper, just a sheen of balsamic oak there too. In the mouth the substance of the wine comes through powerfully, with a dark sinewy and savoury fruit, a real liquorice and endive grip to the tannins and acidity, and a long, fruity but meaty and umami finish. Note: price and stockist at time of writing is for the 2013 vintage.
(2018) Sixteen months in French and Hungarian oak for this Syrah, a big-scaled wine with 14.5% alcohol declared on the label and plenty of meat and substance. Having said that, aromatics are good, not only deep plum fruit and some taut, graphite-like character, but a hint of lifted cherry and florals too. In the mouth it is smooth and silky, the weight of fruit, creamy tannins and integrated cherry-pit acidity balancing nicely.
(2018) Named after Tom McDonald, credited with being instrumental in the development of Hawkes Bay wine region, this was fermented in a combination of large oak tanks and concrete, and spent 21 months in oak. It is deeply-coloured and glossy, with damson, black berries and a sheen of creamy, vanilla-touched oak. In the mouth the oak is a little resinous for me, which along with the 14.5% alcohol just swamps the fruit a little, the tart plum skins of the acidity and rasp tannins also playing against the fruit. The sweetness of the fruit does peek through, but finishing on spice rather than fruit.
(2018) There's also 4% Cabernet Franc joining the 54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Sauvignon in this premium wine from Te Awa, fermented with native yeasts then aged for 18 months in French oak. Ripe, dense fruit dominates here. Yes, there's a glossy slick of creamy oak, but it is blackcurrant and black plum, and a touch of balsamic that drives the aromas. On the palate an umami savouriness is nicely done, the foundation for ripe but tangy and tart-edged black fruits, the acidity giving an edge along with a roughening grip of tannin from the fruit and barrel. Quite long, that savoury, meaty character is appealing.
(2018) A Bordeaux blend from the Gimblett Gravels,Te Kahu 2014 is 68% Merlot. Very fine graphite and delicate cigar-box nose, discreet but intense and pure black fruits, a very classic but obviously ripe style that's very inviting. In the mouth it really is a lovely wine: balanced but plush, there's plenty of sweet cassis fruit, but that savoury, umami sense of meatiness and the swirl of smokiness is elegant and classy. Please note, stockist and price is for the 2013 vintage at time of review.
(2018) What a silky and beautiful wine from winemaker Hugh Crichton, who tells me he makes this vineyard and barrel selection top Syrah "like a Pinot Noir." Eighteen months in French oak just gives a dense, plum and cocoa depth to the beautifully pert and aromatic black cherry fruit, but there is a little sprinkle of white pepper adding some lift. On the palate the silkiness continues, as does the fat, ripe, black cherry oozing juiciness and cherry skin acid tartness, the oak adding a fine base of balsamic richness into the long finish.