One thing I have found through teaching wine courses is that students who are new to wine bring a refreshing perspective to the way they describe it. Wine should be described in an evocative (but hopefully pretention-free) way and we shouldn’t feel shackled by use of conventional anglo-saxon lexicon.
This normally works well and I get some great contributions such as when a Marlborough sauvignon was ‘as sunny and bright as a summer’s day’. Though there was a slightly awkward moment when one chap said a wine smelled of marijuana.
I use the term ‘Chinese medicine chest’ to conjure up an image of an ancient wooden cupboard with a distinctive whiff of lacquered wood, cinnamon, black tea, and aged dusty leather, a term that hopefully resonates with some of my students. (Although I admit many of my Chinese students look bemused at this term, no doubt like the rest of us, having had no more than aspirin, Savlon and bandages in their homes).
In the good old days, I would have described syrah as smelling of Elastoplast, smoked bacon and ‘horse’ but find myself doing less so nowadays, as the new, bright and clean syrahs lack that certain flawed charm of wines from my youth. These days I increasingly use the term Chinese medicine chest to help describe the distinct perfume of high quality syrah.
To my mind the 2014 Trinity Hill Homage has ‘Chinese medicine chest’ written all over it. The aroma is magical. It combines fruit, sitting firmly in the red spectrum with cherry and plum, and floral notes of lavender and dried rose petal too. There is something exotic; lacquered wood and spicy herbals. There is cracked pepper but it is subtle and wraithlike, not powerful and dominating. The tannins are ripe, silky and well-judged and mercifully the oak seems very much in the background. Not powerful but ethereal and aromatic. For a wine so tantalising now, it has tremendous length and persistence which surely bodes well for those prepared to cellar it.
The combination of Hancock and Gibson, surely one of the NZ wine industry’s most enduring partnerships, seems to result in wines of increasing finesse and refinement. Although the bottle itself is a bit of a bruiser, the latest Homage is further evidence of the intricacy and nuance that continues to be demonstrated by Trinity Hill wines. Gibson is a self-confessed lover of Nebbiolo and I can’t help but feel this Homage is influenced by the florality and complexity found in the best Piedmontese wines.
I showed the 2013 Trinity Hill Homage in Beijing in June and it was received by the audience (as it was for me) with high praise. Maybe some there had ‘Chinese medicine chest’ in their minds when they were tasting it? In any event it’s hard to think that the 2014 wouldn’t get the same reaction and putting the exotic descriptors aside, I simply found it delightfully subtle, yet built to go the distance.