The wine dripped as it was poured. I caught the drip with my tongue and I was amazed - how could this tiny droplet be so full of juicy, ripe, blackberry flavour? I couldn't wait to taste more.
It was the brand new Sacred Hill 'The Wine Thief Series' Hawkes Bay Syrah 2006. It's so deep and shiny in colour, it looks like a ripe juicy blackberry on the bush while on the top edge of the liquid it's like the berry has been plucked to reveal the bright crimson-purple-red of the juice inside.
Peppery notes float out of the glass with an amalgam of berry scents and wow - there's so much pepperiness to the taste - but not overpowering because the florals, the fruit cake spices, the cherries, the purple fruit richness and the firm meaty tannins form a harmonious bond. It's spicy and savoury with an explosion of berry fruit sweetness, yet there is an earthy tarry depth to the wine too. It's incredibly dry and best with food. We had a lightly peppered eye fillet steak with "Dale's Leeks" - that is leeks cooked in butter, lemon juice and brown sugar. A surprisingly good match, the sweetness of the leeks and the juiciness of the steaks the perfect foil to the dry tannin structure of the wine.
Sacred Hill 'The Wine Thief Series' Hawkes Bay Syrah 2006 has 13.5% alcohol by volume and sports a copper-coloured screwcap. The wine costs $27 direct from the winery, perhaps up to $30 elsewhere and should be widely available through its distributor, Glengarry Hancocks and the Glengarry stores.
There's a bit of educational info on the label too, about the wine thief, of course. It says, "the wine thief is a traditional winemaker's tool used to extract sample wines for tasting. Usually made from glass, the thief is the winemaker's best friend as they look for special wines."
In this case it is winemaker Tony Bish who holds that thief and he writes that the hand picked Gimblett Gravels grapes were hand plunged in small open fermentors with an indigenous yeast ferment then carefully and gently pressed to barrel for 12 months elevage in French oak. Check out www.sacredhill.com.
Now a drip of the wine with its burst of delicious fruit is exciting, but a big glass, with food, is even better. If you can't have a full meal like I did, at least accompany it with a slice of French bread and a creamy harvarti or similar mellow cheese.
© Sue Courtney
20 Jul 2008