Gimblett Gravels is perhaps New Zealand’s premier red wine growing region. Esk Valley is a boutique winery located in the Hawke’s Bay wine-growing region of New Zealand’s North Island. Esk sources fruit from Hawke’s Bay, including the very highly regarded Gimblett Gravels, and Marlborough. Their most famous wine is Esk Valley The Terraces sourced from fruit grown terraced banks above the winery, but there are also some very high quality wines in the Winemaker’s Reserve range.
Please check our selection of New Zealand wines for current vintages of Esk Valley wines.
Gimblett Gravels Terroir
The Gimblett Gravels are what remains of the Omahu Channel of the Ngaruroro River riverbed which dramatically changed course after the 1876 floods depositing the famous gravels. The old riverbed comprises the 800 hectares of Gimblett Gravels and is composed of (unsurprisingly) gravels and heavy sands with a thin layer of silt, it is highly infertile and free draining. Gimblett Gravels is located some 15 kms inland and is therefore not subject to the same cooling coastal winds as many of the other Hawke’s Bay growing regions which means it gets pretty hot. This combined with heat retention of the Gimblett Gravels stone also means the ground gets quite hot too. This creates a significantly warmer meso-climate. All this creates quite low vigour vineyards where the vines put all their effort into ripening grapes rather than vegetative growth. The low water table also means that irrigation is necessary, certainly when establishing vineyards, and a certain amount to manage established vineyards.
Grape Varieties in Planted in Gimblett Gravels
Originally the area was quarried by the Gimblett familyand the land was not seen as particularly useful and the region was first planted with grapes in only 1981 by Chris Pask of the CJ Pask Winery. Prior to 1991 only 20 hectares of vineyards were planted, soon growing to over 200ha in 1997 with a further 400has planted since 1998. 80% of the grapes planted in Gimblett Gravels are red and the focus is on red Bordeaux varieties, mainly Merlot, Cabernet and a smaller amount of Malbec and Cabernet Franc. The first Syrah was planted in 1993 and account for only 7% of red grape plantings, but produces some great wines with Craggy Range being one of the best. There are also small plantings of Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Petit Verdot, Gamay Noir, Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Tempranillo. The remaining 20% is planted with mostly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with small amounts of Arneis, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier.
Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve wines are made from grapes selected from the wineries best and low yielding vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels. The Winemakers range of wines is almost as iconic as Esk Valley’s The Terraces and are , rightly, highly regarded. This Winemakers red blend was also the wine which pioneered the use of Malbec in Bordeaux blends in New Zealand. “One of the very best winemakers in New Zealand” (Tim Atkin, The Observer).
Grapes are hand picked, destemmed and then fermented in Esk’s open top, 75 year old, concrete fermentation vats where it is hand-plunged and left on the skins prior to being pressed off into barrels for malolactic fermentation. Each parcel of grapes is vinified separately before the final blend. 60 to 70% of the wine is aged in new French oak barrels for 21 months.
Winemaker’s Notes (2007 Vintage)
This Reserve Blend is widely regarded as one of the finest of New Zealand’s red wines. This 2007 vintage is deeply coloured with aromatics hinting at black fruits, dried herbs, cocoa and cedar. The flavours typical of Gimblett Gravel merlot blends tend toward fruitcake, cherry, chocolate and oak spice. The palate as a young wine is firm and tannic, needing time to truly show its best; however, the potential is evident. Dry and long finishing this is a fine vintage for this blend.
For more information visit the Gimblett Gravels Website