So I’ve wanted to write about this wine for a while. And, in fact, it’s one of the reasons I decided to open up the blog to wines from places outside of the U.S. I’ve been looking for a Syrah like this — one that has cool-climate characteristics yet with a modest price tag. I tasted this blind in a large group of Syrahs and guessed it to be French. Now, I didn’t peg it for an expensive French Syrah but I did think that the combination of dryness and clarity on the palate made it French. I was obviously surprised to see that it was from New Zealand and only $13 and I’ve been buying it for a while since then.
On the nose this wine really tells you it’s a Syrah. There is no oak to mask the aromas, just pure red berry, smoke, and pepper aromas. It has a light and elegant nose and no hints of alcohol and, in fact, this wine comes in at a low 12.5% alcohol. It’s got tons of flavor and a nice acidic lift on the mid-palate. A very food-friendly wine — I’m thinking pork or roast chicken. I would suggest decanting it or opening it and letting it sit for a bit to mellow out some of that acidity because it can be a little harsh on first opening. In fact, this wine was much better on the second day.
The Mission Estate Winery is one of the older wineries in New Zealand. The grapes for this Syrah are grown in the famed Gimblett Gravels area of Hawkes Bay, which is mostly known for its Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc.), but is also known for some spectacular Syrah. There isn’t much of it, but the few examples I’ve had in addition to this wine show that great things can be done with Syrah there. The defining characteristic of the Gimblett Gravels terroir is, as you can gather from the name, the gravel. The rocky soil means that there’s little water retention and the vines struggle to grow and have a tendency to focus their efforts into producing concentrated fruit.
The other interesting aspect of this area is that it’s virtually impossible to grow grapes in the Gimblett Gravels without using irrigation. For many winemakers and consumers, irrigation is a bad word. They will tell you that wines that are irrigated are not truly representative of the environment in which they are grown because the addition of water masks their authenticity. Well, here’s an area of the world in which wine would not exist if it weren’t for this judicious addition of water. And the wines are ridiculously good.
To allow the purity of that Gimblett Gravels fruit to come through, the wine is aged in stainless steel tanks, which could account for a bit of the rather rustic mid-palate since there is no oak aging to mellow it out.
This is a great wine for 13 bucks. You might be more likely to find the 2011 now but from what I’ve heard the vintages are very similar.