A couple of weekends ago the Exclusive Bremertons (that's my wine options team) got together for an exclusive blind tasting of some of New Zealand's most expensive reds. It was because one of my team mates had three wines from Puriri Hills in Clevedon, an up-and-coming cult winery that some of you may not have heard about yet - but check out their website and you'll see the accolades are there. Evidently Bob Campbell MW has now picked one of the wines as his top New Zealand 'Bordeaux-styled' reds (check out Gourmet Traveller Wine) and Michael Cooper gave the Reserve 2004 a five star rating in his 2007 Buyers Guide. The three wines clocked in at just over $220 (cellar door prices). The wines were Puriri Hills 'The Pope' 2005 a cool $110 per bottle and the Puriri Hills Reserve 2004 and Puriri Hills Reserve 2005, a mere $55 each.
I said I'd like to put a couple of wines up against them as I had just received two vintages of a $70 per bottle wine called Tahi One from Hatton Estate in Hawkes Bay. They were the 2004 and 2005 vintages and the 2004 took out the Trophy for Cabernet-dominant reds at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards last year, so it's definitely got pedigree.
And lastly, just to round out the numbers and to see how a relative cheapie would perform amongst the big buck seekers, I sneaked in the $39.95 Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Franc 2005 from Hawkes Bay.
The wines were tasted blind and on the day I scored the Puriri Hills Reserve 2004 (a blend of 46% Carmenere, 36%, Merlot, 11%, Cab Franc and 7% Malbec) as my top wine, however this wine was third overall because the others didn't rate it as highly as I did.
Puriri Hills 'The Pope' 2005 (47% Merlot, 33% Carmenere, 10% Cab Franc and 10% Malbec) was overall top wine getting one first place vote and three second place votes. But the biggest surprise was that the Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Franc 2005 (100% Cabernet Franc) was second best overall wine after accumulating two first place votes, a third place vote (me) and a fourth.
My two Hatton Estate wines took out 5th and 6th place, unanimously placed in the last two positions by all the tasters.
So you may be wondering why the Hatton Estate Tahi 2005 is my Wine of the Week. Well, that's because I took these wines home and enjoyed a glass of each over the next few nights. In fact the last few drops of the 2004 were consumed only last night, 13 days after the wine had been opened and the tannic structure, which had changed rather dramatically, now glided across the palate like a silken caress.
At the initial tasting, it was the backwardness of the Hatton Estate wines that had them lagging at the rear of the field. The unwieldy cloak of tannins, particularly in the Tahi 2005, made them seem awkward in the company.
But another day later, when the wines had had some aeration, the results could have been quite different. Could, I stress, because Bill, who took the Puriri Hills wines home and served them in Bordeaux glasses with his dinner on the Monday night, said in an email that my favourite, the 2004 Reserve was best the pick with food. But he added, " …. although drinking the Pope as I write is totally doing in my head. In terms of potential, have I have tasted better from this land? Maybe not." In fact he echoes Craig Thomson (www.kiwiwinefanclub.co.nz) on the greatness of the Puriri Hills wines, although Craig mentions that when he tasted them, they had been heavily decanted.
Yes, decanting is the key to these powerful, full-bodied, youthful reds. Or taking a little wine of out the bottle and recorking it for 24 hours with the extra airspace, really makes a difference - an absolutely huge difference.
So I tasted the Tahi wines again, and I tasted them with food and I could see exactly why the 2004 had won the trophy at the Air New Zealand wine awards. Although I rate both wines of five star quality, it was the 2005 that won my heart.
Hatton Estate Tahi One 2005, a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Cabernet Franc is a massively coloured, shiny, purple-tinged black. On the nose at first it seems a little closed but blackberries emerge - concentrated ripe blackberries and brambles over creamy oak, mocha and chocolate biscuits. In the palate it's earthy and dense, young and infantile with rough edged velvety tannins, sweet oak, a purity of red and blackcurrant fruit and rose petals on the finish. It has some lovely complexities in its big, rich, chocolatey, grainy, grunty cloak with a voluptuousness emerging with time. This is a wine of excellent potential. Hatton Estate says this wine is good for 20 years. I can totally believe that.
This small volume wine (2100 bottles / 190 cases and 40 magnums) has 13.5% alcohol and is sealed with a technical cork. It was released on August 1st.
Hatton Estate Tahi One 2004 a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc, is also deep and lustrous in colour. Concentrated berry fruit and sappy French oak on the nose and sweet oak in the palate makes this a big, rich, juicy style on delivery with a liquoricey berry concentration, a dark, savoury, cedary undercurrent, fine grippy tannins and a long succulent finish with a velvety voluptuousness. The dry, grippy, beefy tannins are still immense and with its underlying acidity, this wine is still really too young to broach without decanting. Also 13.5% alcohol, with a technical cork closure, 3,300 bottles (275 cases) and 120 magnums were produced.
The grapes for these wines are grown in the heart of the Gimblett Gravels subregion, with the vineyard address actually in Gimblett Road. Find out more from www.hattonestate.co.nz.
I matched the two Tahi wines to simply prepared food - aged fillet of beef steaks, cooked rare to medium rare and served with a bacon, mushroom and garlic topping. To make the topping, melt about a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, add a clove of garlic - crushed or chopped and a couple of rashers of streaky bacon chopped into small pieces. Cook for about a minute or two then add about 100 grams of mushrooms, broken into pieces. Lower the heat and let the juices infuse. The moist, juicy and tasty mushrooms are an excellent accompaniment to the beef, both of which are a gorgeous match to these Cabernet dominant wines.
I'm hoping to taste the Puriri Hills wines again soon, but after they have been decanted - and hopefully with food, so I'll post my notes on those wines then.
© Sue Courtney
5 Aug 2007