Despite near-perfect conditions and incredible grape quality, the 2019 and 2022 vintages still faced stiff challenges, says MARY-THERESE BLAIR.
Most winemakers I know can tell you the weather on every single vintage they’ve been part of. So what’s the ideal when it comes to weather at harvest time? In a word – Goldilocks. Not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too dry, but juuuust right would be lovely please, Mother Nature.
A quick look at the top six from our tasting will give you a pretty accurate reflection of the quality of vintages 2019 and 2020. In 2019, both Hawke’s Bay and Auckland reported incredible crops – perfect for syrah adorers. And 2020 was a vintage for the ages with amazing conditions and incredible grape quality. All was well, apart from a global pandemic… and you thought worrying about the weather was stressful?
Make wine, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. How lucky we are as non-winemakers to be able to sit back, open a copy of Cuisine and simply decide which bottle of syrah we’re going to enjoy, whatever the weather.
In 2021, Church Road chief winemaker Chris Scott became the only winemaker to win the prestigious ‘New Zealand Winemaker of the Year’ award for a fourth time at the Winestate Wine of the Year Awards. This series of accolades combined with the increasing global acknowledgement of Hawke’s Bay as a world-class syrah- producing region, on top of the superb vintage Hawke’s Bay experienced in 2019, makes this wine quite the triple treat. The growing season in 2019 was dry from after Christmas 2018 until harvest was complete. When this happens it gives the viticulture team the luxury of time, which allows perfect grape ripening along with the ability to pick without the pressure of bad weather looming.
Church Road Grand Reserve wines are not single vineyard wines. This means that the grapes can be picked from select parcels across the best vineyards in Hawke’s Bay. The quality of these wines is such that at Church Road they are affectionately referred to as ‘Baby Tom’, which is high praise indeed, especially when available at a fraction of the price of the illustrious Tom itself.
It is described by our judges as gorgeous, bright and youthful with soft cherry and dark spice aromas on the nose and through into the palate. The oak has been beautifully integrated with subtle spice flavours against well-handled fruit. Fleshy yet silky, this is an expertly crafted elegant and nuanced syrah that will keep delivering for some time. A quiet yet powerful example of New Zealand syrah.
A complete wine with bright lifted aromatics of dark fruit, blueberries, red …2
A seductive nose that drags you into the glass where blueberries, mulberry …3
The nose is dense and fragrant with dark plums and spice that …4
Gorgeous primary characters abound on the nose as red plums and dark …5
Soft aromatics of lifted black fruits with hints of savoury characters and …6