‘Audacious’ Kiwis take on best of Bordeaux

  • Tuesday 24 February 2009

Two wines from the tiny Gimblett Gravels area of Hawkes Bay in New Zealand have out-performed Bordeaux wines ten times as expensive.

Last week at New Zealand House in London, the New Zealand growers challenged the palates of the UK’s leading tasters, pitting their wines against top 2005 clarets.

While the Bordeaux wines gained the most votes overall, two sub-£25 Gimblett Gravels entries made it into the top half, out-performing Château Cos d’Estournel and Vieux Château Certan - wines that retail for ten times the price of the New Zealand wines.

The judges, who included Jancis Robinson MW, Oz Clarke, Michael Schuster and Neal Martin, were asked to select their top six from 12 anonymously presented wines, of which half came from Gimblett Gravels and half from Bordeaux.

Commenting on the similarities in the style of the wines, Robinson said, ‘It was not obvious which was which.’

The exercise, organised by the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers' Association, was called ‘audacious’ by host and Craggy Range winemaker, Rod Easthope.

A similar tasting was held in New Zealand in October, led by Australian critic James Halliday and American critic Elin McCoy (and covered extensively by James Lawther in the March issue of Decanter magazine).

The panel’s selection included four Gimblett Gravels wines in the top six, including the most highly rated wine, Blake Family Vineyards ‘Redd Gravels’. This last was not tasted at the recent London event.

‘It was these results that encouraged us to hold the tasting again in London,’ Easthope said, ‘The message we want to give is that these wines offer classed growth quality at cru Bourgeois prices.’

The top six wines were:

Château Lafite-Rothschild 2005, Pauillac

Château Mouton-Rothschild 2005, Pauillac

Château Angélus 2005, St-Emilion

Sacred Hill Helmsman 2006, Gimblett Gravels

Château Haut-Brion 2005, Pessac-Léognan

Newton Forrest Cornerstone 2006, Gimblett Gravels

Other wines tasted:

Craggy Range The Quarry 2006

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2006

Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2006

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