New Zealand Red Rhone Varietal over £10
Elephant Hill Syrah 2009, Hawke's Bay
The Old World meets the New at Elephant Hill, Hawke's Bay. The winery is owned by a German couple, who fell in love with this coastal site and planted the vineyard in 2003.
The traditionalist view is young vines don't produce great wines but that's not true here, says the company's managing director Gunter Thies, who was director of the Rheingau Winegrowers Association for six years before moving to New Zealand. “In Germany, three year old vines don't make very good wine but here they develop much faster than in Europe. Growing grapes is a completely different story here,” he says.
Elephant Hill is within spitting distance of the ocean. Cool sea breezes blow onto the vineyard and keep temperatures cooler than inland, on the famed Gimblett Gravels. Its Syrah gets the hallmark peppery Syrah notes but also a noticeable meaty character.
Winemaker Steve Skinner who has worked vintages in Hawke's Bay as well as France, Canada and California, said, “half of our Syrah vines are the Chave clone from Hermitage, and that's what gives a very meaty aroma, the rest of the vines are mass selected.”
The Decanter trophy winning wine, the 2009 Elephant Hill Syrah, spent 10 months in French oak, and is the entry level wine within the producer's Syrah range. “There are two other Syrahs from 09, the Reserve Syrah and Airavata. They were bottled in March and will be released in September.”
The winemaking philosophy is keeping it simple. “My job is to preserve the quality of the fruit. In challenging years like 2011 you do have to interfere but in 2009 it was a great harvest.”