INSIDER'S PICK: 2020 ESK VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON/ MERLOT/MALBEC GIMBLETT GRAVELS HAWKES BAY $22.99
Most of the attention for New Zealand wines is on the Marlborough region and the South island, as it is the region that produces the most volume and gets to most consumer's eyes. The North island has a completely different set of geographic and environmental conditions, and while you don't see the volume of production the quality is definitely worth pursuing. The warmer overall climate helps the island do well with many red grapes, especially the Bordeaux varietals. One area in Hawkes Bay has become particularly noteworthy over the years because its well-draining rocky soil mimics what is found in Graves and much of Bordeaux's famous Right Bank. The Gimblett Gravels sits along the Ngaruroro River, with much of the exposed gravely features recently exposed by floods within the last 200 years. This type of soil is ideal for consistently ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, and is the backbone for many great wines in this area. Inky color (you don't even realize until you pour a little bit out that the bottle is completely clear) with immediate aromas of cool dark fruits and tobacco or eucalyptus, even a bit minty, definitely more of an Old School character. The palate is surprisingly silky at first, with some of the Cab Sauv tannins showing up more towards the finish, and the blacker fruits from the Malbec show up nicely as well, but the wine overall is surprisingly elegant, even restrained, and shows off a very Bordeaux-like alcohol balance. A bit youthful with some potential to age and evolve, fans of Old World wines will be surprised what the Gravels has to offer.
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