During a recent visit to Hawke’s Bay, I had the opportunity to put two of the regions iconic red blends together in a head-to-head clash of these two special wines – both born in the Esk Valley ‘Terraces’ vineyard in Bay View. It made for a delicious nights drinking.
Tasted side by side, in two separate glasses (our finest Riedel stemware), but first in was The Hillside. A deep, dark ruby colour, a little lightening at the rim; with a wealth of moss, crushed fennel seed, ripe blackcurrant and a flush of warm lavender and musk-rose aromas. A graphite, stony minerality sits astride a succulent cassis, balsam, redcurrant jelly and black olive core. Fresh leather, a dusting of cedar and a frisson of lively acidity lend a poise and tension to the mid palate. Refined, with mellow tannins – some savoury notes of game, mocha and smoky incense.
The Terraces is a far younger wine, giving away six years age to its older sibling, but the difference in depth and complexity wasn’t obvious – what the Hillside had in development, the Terraces showed more in focus and concentration. Again, a dark, near-black claret colour. A complex bouquet of boysenberry, damson, vanilla and woody herbs with a lift of pink peppercorn. Decadent layers of flavours – Morello cherry, blackcurrant leaf, cassis, ginger marmalade and dates threaded with a warm, amber cocoon of toasty oak. Deep but delicate – gentle extraction, moderate acidity, lithe sinewy tannins. Integrated and with fine line and balance. Both sweet and savoury elements – like bark, roast beets and liquorice return in the everlasting finish.
Both wines had superb ‘unfolding’ qualities. They seem to grow in the glass. Dense and powerful, these are our New Zealand ‘Grand Cru’ reds. Syrah is perhaps destined to be the Queen of Hawke’s Bay reds in time; but for now we can still hail The Terraces vineyard as king of the (current) crop.