The Gimblett Gravels by Howard Hilton

I asked my Australian friend Howard Hilton if he would like to write a guest post for Elitistreview, he has written this rather good overview of a New Zealand Wine region you may not know much about. I am just about to acquire some of the wines he mentions – Howard is a fan and so are many Antipodean wine pundits. Anyway, take it away, Howard!

Davy has taken the risk of asking me to write some words about a special area of New Zealand: the Gimblett Gravels. His style is inimitable, palate superb and confidence in his judgment unshakeable, so how to begin?

The Gimblett Gravels is a discrete area in Hawke’s Bay covering 800ha of gravelly soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1860s. My main experience has been with the wines of Craggy Range and to a lesser degree Vidal Estate. There are quite a few makers, and all are worthy of searching out.

Gimblett Gravels soil in Hawkes Bay

Gimblett Gravels soil in Hawkes Bay

I started looking at them originally to try and find an antipodean equivalent to the Northern Rhône Shiraz of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage. The Australian Shiraz wines are a very varied lot, but overall are not quite the same. This is without disrespecting Penfolds famous Grange, or the wonderful Hunter Wines of Tyrrells or McWilliams, which are worth drinking for what they offer themselves.

The last three vintages released the 2014, 2015 and 2016 are all pretty good. Out here they cost about £22 a bottle. Craggy Range produce a lot of different wines but the one I have drunk mainly is the Gimblett Gravels Syrah and it is a top drop. After a few years in the bottle it is very approachable and shows good colour and a complex nose of fruit and mineral elements, tannins are good and it is a proper wine. They make a top of the class Syrah called Le Sol a bit more expensive but perhaps not all that much better.

I have tried their Sophia Merlot (normally 80%+ of this), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon-blend which is said to be great, but it is for me too big. At my age I have not the patience or the time to wait for it!

Vidal is another producer well worth looking for. The Vidal Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot 2016 is very approachable now and a great mouthful of wine – probably better in a few years and one I might live to see fully mature.

New Zealand offers great variety and finesse in many of its wines and all in a country of great beauty, decent climate and small enough to be comfortable. It could be the answer to all our dreams for drinking, fishing and a decent lifestyle. Worth a drink, worth a visit.

Thank you Howard! I shall report on the Gimblett Gravels wines I am getting as I pop my way through them. You can read more about the area on the trade association page of Gimblett Gravels.