Trinity Hill is a quintessential Hawke’s Bay producer, making a well-crafted range that runs from entry level through to some of New Zealand’s most highly regarded wines. Established in 1993, the wines were made first by the ebullient John Hancock, who then handed the reins to the laconic Warren Gibson, who retains a chief winemaker-at-large role while the winery runs mainly under the steady hand of Damian Fischer.
The Trinity Hill Estate Collection is a trio of single variety wines, sourced from particular blocks within its Gimblett Gravels vineyards; while the chardonnay and cabernet are single vineyard wines, the syrah a blend of three sites. This however was driven more by the demands of the 2018 vintage, and going forward, the syrah will also be a single vineyard wine, likely from the hillside block beside the winery. The wines sit above the Gimblett Gravels range and command a significant jump in price. It’s an expensive business making wine purely from Gravels fruit, and one could argue that the roughly $40 per bottle price point of the Gimblett Range is quite a bargain for the quality of the fruit. Trinity Hill have developed a solid following for their flagship Homage syrah which is $150 per bottle and the new Collection range evidently represents an opening to further ‘premiumize’. This appears to have been a marketing sleight of hand as the wines have already sold out. With only a couple of hundred cases of each available, we’re not talking big volumes but it’s an interesting and bold move from Trinity Hill.
The 2018 Trinity Hill ‘125 Gimblett’ Chardonnay ($80, 13.5%) has rich and enticing nose of sizzled butter, toasted cashew, ripe peach and citrus; the palate has a much of the same and no shortage of silky finesse. This is classic seamless chardonnay, with a pleasingly fruit rich yet savoury and taut palate, fresh citrussy acidity that puts a spine down the middle and a clean, slightly nutty, dry finish. Very smart, it’s one of those wines where you’re disappointed to reach the end of the bottle.
Straight Cabernet Sauvignon is a relative rarity in New Zealand, its later ripening habits making it a fairly marginal variety, and one mostly destined for blends. This situation does however seem to have weeded out the lesser sites and wines; certainly the 2018 Trinity Hill ‘Prison Block’ Cabernet Sauvignon ($120; 14%) is a pretty good advertisement for a decent Gimblett Gravels cab vineyard. Very perfumed nose, a satisfying inhale of cassis, blackberry and red capsicum with delicate cedar and oak spice, the fleshy, fruit-rich medium-bodied palate has fine-grained, firm tannins, bright acidity and spicy long finish. Quite the baby but lovely to see such textbook character and precision. (The name of the Prison Block is evidently due to its site on the banks of the Ngaruroro River having previously been earmarked for a prison but it might equally give a nod to former Trinity Hill investor, Charles Banks, who in 2017 was jailed for fraud.)
Trinity Hill made its name with syrah, from the early days of its White Label Shiraz (John Hancock is after all, an Australian) it now commands one of New Zealand highest wine prices for the brooding, age-worthy Homage. The 2018 Trinity Hill ‘l’Eritage’ Syrah ($120, 13%) has a confident aromatic nose with loads of ripe berryfruit, mocha choc notes, spice and sweet oak, the palate is quite dry and tight compared to nose and shows very nice build to the finish, which is waxy and long. Tight and young, this is a delicious wine. (NB this wine was tasted at a blind tasting of 2018 New Zealand syrah, December 2019).
It seems only reasonable that New Zealand’s top wines should command decent prices – this after all is the way of the world. Perhaps we have just become used to our wines being too modestly priced and we should rejoice in the upwards trend. That the three wines have now sold out shows price was no barrier to their fans – indeed, perhaps it was even an enticement?