It's party time in New Zealand -- that is, if you consider working twelve to fourteen hour days, seven days a week a party. We've begun harvest here at the Craggy Range winery, picking and pressing Chardonnay over the weekend and bringing in the first red grapes of the vintage in the form of our estate Merlot.
As you might imagine, I haven't had much time to sample any more Kiwi wines working these long hours, but I have been learning a bit about the area in which the winery is located. It's called the Gimblett Gravels, and it appears to have the potential to produce wines on a par with the finest bottles from France.
I know what you're thinking. Everyone likes to claim that their wines are as good as those from Bordeaux or the Cote Rotie, but few and far between are the bottles which actually deliver. The wines of the Gravels, I believe, have a good shot at it.
Graced with a climate nearly identical to Bordeaux and rocky dry riverbed soils, this regions vines produce fruit which has amazingly complex and mature flavors and aromas without high alcohols and the overt jamminess which is characteristic of overripe new world wines.
There are a number of producers in this region who are beginning to turn out stunning Bordeaux blends as well as Syrahs, and if this trend in quality continues, New Zealand's famed Sauvignon Blanc may take a back seat to these up-and-coming reds from Hawke's Bay.
On my next day off I'm planning a wine-buying trip around the area to search out some interesting wines and will pass on what I find to you. In the meantime, for more information on the Gimblett Gravels region and some of the wineries located here, visit their website at www.gimblettgravels.com. Hunt down a bottle or two at your local savvy wine shop and enjoy.