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On Tasting
The First Growth Gimbletts
Monday, 26th January, 2009  - David Farmer

"Formerly, farmers found the land too stony and dry to graze sheep or grow fruit so it was considered useless. A drag-race track and the town rubbish dump were located there. Then the whole lot almost became a shingle quarry but for the flinty resolve of one man: local winemaker Allan Limmer, who knew how good the land was." From the Gimblett Gravels web-site, December, 2008.

No consumer product is prone to such make-believe as the aspirational, meaning ultra expensive, end of the wine market. Even masked tastings do not alter the aspirational buyer's perceptions. For many decades now it has been standard practice to test the quality of wines from new wine areas against highly rated aspirational wines, not only because of their quality but because the very high prices they command make a splendid contrast to the low prices of the wines they are judged against.

Last year the makers of wines from the Gimblett Gravels decided to compare their six top 2005 cabernet styles against the best of Bordeaux 2005, a very great vintage. Now you would not conduct such a tasting unless you had quietly done a few sneak previews. The comparative tasting was done on the 18th October, 2008. The six Bordeaux wines cost NZ $7750 while the six Gimbletts cost NZ $290.

Two panels tasted. The first panel comprised journalists and other experts while the second was made up of wine makers from the Gimbletts. James Halliday was the chairman and later wrote of the tasting in the Weekend Australian. One quote from his article will set the scene: "The bouquet offered little assistance, except that new oak was more evident in some than others. Once the first few wines were tasted, I was sure all preconceived ideas were about to be confounded."

The results from the two panels are as follows:

Wine Journalists and Experts
Rank Wines - 2005 Vintage District
1 Blake Family Vineyards "Redd Gravels" Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
2 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
3 Sacred Hill "Helmsman" Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
4 Mills Reef "Elspeth" Cabernet Sauvignon Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
5 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
6 Trinity Hill "The Gimblett" Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Wine Makers from the Gimbletts
The order preference for this group has not been reported though their six top selections are:
Blake Family Vineyards "Redd Gravels" 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Mills Reef "Elspeth" Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Trinity Hill "The Gimblett" 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2005 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Chateau L'Eglise Clinet 2005*** Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Chateau Cos d'Estournel 2005 St Estephé, Bordeaux, France
***(David Farmer note: This is a highly rated Pomerol with 96/100 from Parker, 95/100 from Wine Spectator and 95+/100 Steve Stanzer)

Say what you will but this type of tasting cannot be buried or dismissed as an irrelevant anomaly. Incidentally the other Bordeaux were Chateaux Haut Brion and Chateaux Troplong Mondot. Recently I was in the Dan Murphy store at Mona Vale, Sydney and purchased the Craggy Range Sophia 2005 which was ranked 7th by the Journalists and is thus the fifth of the Gimbletts; what the sixth was I do not know at this stage. The price was AUS $62.00 and will be discussed soon in What We Drank Last Night.

While a tasting of this type should make all reasonably qualified drinkers take a deep breath the interest to me is in the shift it will produce in our thinking about terroir, a topic dear to my heart. The origin of the Gimbletts was discussed under In Praise of Gimblett Gravels .

My third article about the Gimbletts will appear shortly.

Please note: This information was taken from the Gimblett Gravels web-site and the article by James Halliday, Weekend Australian, November 29-30, 2008, at the end of which he reviewed the Craggy Range Sophia.

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