Yvonne Lorkin wine column for week beginning Sat 7th Oct 2017

IN HOMAGE TO HOMAGE
“2017 was an exceptional summer and the 150ml of rain we had in February was soaked up by super-dry soils.  Sure we had intermittent showers after that, but I tell you what, we’ve ended up with exceptional samples of syrah, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo” says Chief Winemaker Warren Gibson at a recent tasting.  A bunch of wine-types had gathered to go through a selection of vintages of ‘Homage’, one of the most famous syrah’s in New Zealand, and indeed one of the most famous red wines in this part of the world.  We were tasting 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and the new release 2015, but the question on everyone’s lips was whether there’d be an Homage made from 2017, one of the most ‘challenging’ vintages the country had seen in a long time.
“Homage is a wine that I can see every season in” says Trinity Hill’s founding winemaker John Hancock crypically.  “But ‘easy’ vintages don’t necessarily translate to ‘great’ vintages either.” And a vintage has to be exceptional for any fruit to qualify for Homage status according to the Trinity team, with a ‘seasonal ranking’ of at least 8 out of 10.  The wine wasn’t even made in 2003, 2005, 2008 or 2011 or 2012, which meant wine collectors around the world with even the most mild form of OCD were most displeased. Homage itself is a tribute to Gerard Jaboulet from the famous Rhone winemaking family, who strongly influenced John Hancock’s approach to making syrah.  Gerard gifted Trinity Hill three clones of syrah and a clone of viognier from his own Jaboulet vinyards in Hermitage before sadly passing away too young (55) in 1997.  Those clones were propagated and planted in 2001 and together with Trinity’s original ‘Stonecroft’ plantings, they were used to make the first Homage from 2002.  “That first vintage we didn’t have much gear” shrugs Hancock, “so we ended up plunging the Homage with a squeegee”.  Even though Homage has its own distinct style, it’s been evolving constantly.  “We’ve moved away from adding viognier and loads of new oak” explains assistant winemaker Damian Fischer, “and now it’s become its own Hawke’s Bay style.  The introduction of whole bunches into the ferment since 2013 and 5400lt oak oval fermenters since 2014 have also meant big changes for us – but they play out beautifully in the finished wine”.
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Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2015 $130 (5 stars)
100% Gimblett Gravels fruit has been used to craft an incredibly floral wine that absolutely erupts with violets, red rose, lavender, dark berry and a whiff of toasted, roasted oak.  The mouthfeel is elegant, ethereal even, with finely-tuned acidity, fruit saturation and finished with deliciously dusty, sweet smoke notes.  It’s a joy to drink.
www.trinityhill.com

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Syrah 2015 $37.90 (4 stars)
A couple of years ago, the Marlborough-based, Ibbotsen family managed to secure a prime piece of grape-estate in the middle of Hawke’s Bay’s Gimblett Gravels district and they have rocked it ever since.  Their winemaking team have fully got their talents around the big, gutsy, northern reds and that’s a great thing.  This syrah is fresh and peppery, boosted with violets, boysenberry and  earthy, savoury, olive tapenade textures.
www.saintclair.co.nz

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Three lesser-known sips to kick-start your week in style…

The Family Company ‘Cosmos’ Methode Traditionelle $25 (3.5 stars)
“All life begins with a bang” says winemaker John Thorpe of his fun, Gisborne-grown sparkler.  Cosmos is made from 100% Chardonnay aged for just over two years in bottle before being released, it’s scented with lemon, breadcrust and yellow plum, and also boasts tangy citrus pith, nutty notes and creamy complexity on the finish.
www.gisbornegourmet.com

Bellbird Spring Home Block White 2015 $32 (4.5 stars)
Guy Porter has blended together an eyebrow-raising combo of riesling, muscat, gewürztraminer and pinot gris from his family vineyard on Georges Road, Waipara to create a wine redolent of yellow roses and grandma’s overnight bag – perfumed and sweet on the nose.  In the mouth it has juicy white peach and persimmon notes, refreshing creamy and complex.  It’s amazing with spicy chicken fajitas accompanied by a huge helping of salsa and guacamole.
www.bellbirdspring.co.nz

Hawkes Ridge Hawke’s Bay Pinot Noir 2013 $30 (4 stars)
One thing the RD9 district does supremely well, is grow great pinot noir. It’s where a large chunk of pinot is grown for some of New Zealand’s most famed sparkling wine bases. Julie and Douglas Haines have created a HUGE pinot noir here, with more meat on its bones  than is typical, but it’s a honkingly spicy, earthy sip that I’m hoping you’ll love as much as I do. Maturing nicely indeed.
www.hawkesridge.co.nz

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