Wednesday Wines – Episode 193 – Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection 2021

It is a pleasure to taste the twelve Gimblett Gravels wines each year. It is safe to say that having been privileged to indulge in this initiative many times over the years; this is the finest selection to date. This not only means that 2021 is a superb vintage but also that the various contenders in this important wine region have been relentlessly fine-tuning their skills. I say this because, more often than not, I pick out three or four wines from the dozen that rock my boat, and yet, in this vintage, I am happy to highlight no fewer than six wines.

2021 Craggy Range, Sophia, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

77% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc; 17 months in French oak (33% new); 14% alcohol

This is a glorious Merlot-driven wine and one of my favourites in the entire Southern Hemisphere. In 2021, it managed to pack beautifully teasing spice and earth notes into the sleek red-fruit-drenched chassis, and the Cabernet Franc portion ensures a rhapsodic perfume. Craggy has long made a success of the Merlot variety where so many others across the planet fail, and I don’t doubt that this vintage is one of the very finest they have produced.  18.5+/20 (Drink 2025 – 2035)

2021 Elephant Hill, Hieronymus, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc; 22 months in French oak (50% new); 14.5% alcohol

I am usually impressed with the Elephant Hill wines at first tasting, but drinking a few glasses can be challenging because these are peculiarly intense wines. In 2021, the energies are tempered, elegant and measured, and it is clear that balance is an intrinsic quality of this wine from the get-go. Expressive, layered and detailed, this is my favourite EH wine ever. While it is structured and commanding, rare delicacy and sensitivity here will endear it to many.  18.5+/20 (Drink now – 2038)

2021 Craggy Range, Le Sol, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

100% Syrah; 17 months in French and Austrian oak (32% new); 13% alcohol

I have long been a fan of Le Sol, and I will it to win through every year! I need not have worried in 2021 because this is one of the finest releases to date.  A Nebbiolo-like texture to this sublime Syrah brings beauty and tension to the palate and draws you in masterfully, whereupon you discover intricate detail and amazingly beautifully textured fruit. Wild berries, earth, tobacco, chypre and woodsmoke build to a stunning crescendo and remain aloft for the longest time.  19/20 (Drink now – 2033)

2021 Smith & Sheth, CRU Omahu Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

97% Syrah, 3% Tannat; 22 months in French oak (40% new); 13.8% alcohol

The 2021 is a real progression of a style, and I imagine the 3% Tannat is doing something mysterious beneath the surface of this wine, although I cannot tell you what! In any case, this is a sensational, rich, heady and powerful wine with swaggering charm and bravado. It is the most ‘international’ and layered of the bunch, and it ought to attract interest from all corners, given it telegraphs the Gravels directly to the drinker via a veritable tsunami of Syrah (and a dribble of Tannat)!  18.5+/20 (Drink 2025 – 2035)

2021 Stonecroft, Reserve Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

100% Syrah, 18 months in French oak (33% new); 13.5% alcohol

It is like getting in a time machine and rewinding the clock two decades. I love the iodine and garrigue notes in this medium-weight, evocative wine. This nostalgic Syrah crackles with pagan electricity and seems brighter and bolder than ever. If you are after a wine with a rigid backbone decked with every hue of red fruit and cracked pepper imaginable, this is it.  18.5+/20 (Drink 2025 – 2032)

2021 Trinity Hill, Homage, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

100% Syrah; 21 months in French oak (54% new); 14% alcohol

Homage is always a wine that takes one’s breath away, but this 2021 is on a different level. A fourth dimension of grandeur has been transplanted into this wine’s core because it occupies a lot of bandwidth when you taste it. The world is immediately silenced when you lower your proboscis to the glass, and when you taste it, the heavenly hosts chime in. This is an excellent effort from Trinity Hill and continues an unbroken run of excellence.  19+/20 (Drink 2025 – 2038)