2021 Craggy Range “Te Kahu”, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 3 g/l) LCBO Vintages $32.95 (750ml bottle)

While I’ve always thought highly of Craggy Range’s Te Kahu blend, especially since visiting almost 15 years ago, I feel that with this particular vintage, they have really nailed everything that makes for a great wine from the hallowed Gimblett Gravels terroir.

The percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon can change a fair bit from vintage to vintage, but in 2021, we are looking at 49% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot. The vintage started early with an extremely warm spring, but a mild summer with much lower than average rain led to some very low yields; I feel that perhaps these diminished yields led to a more concentrated and defined glass of wine as the end result.

The Gimblett Gravels’ unique stony soil absorbs heat during the day, releasing it throughout the night, making it one of the very best spots to grow the later-ripening varieties in all of New Zealand. This, combined with the warm, dry climate, makes for the perfect conditions to craft an assemblage wine like the Te Kahu. The name itself refers to the mist that covers the Craggy Range’s Giants Winery in Havelock North, Tukituki Valley; Te Kahu means “the cloak” in te reo Māori.

Craggy Range’s Te Kahu has always expressed a certain polish and purity of fruit, and this year is no exception. It’s a little closed and reserved at first, but truly opens up in the glass. In hindsight, I’d probably give this a decent decant around an hour before serving, as it really needs some air in there to show at its best.

Once it opens up, one will find a picture-perfect example of a New Zealand Bordeaux-style blend, with classic cassis, leafy blackcurrant, black cherry, warm cedar oak spice (16 months in oak barriques, 18% new), and dusty cocoa powder. The palate is medium-full-bodied, with some extremely attractive, smooth, ripe, chocolatey tannins that coat the mouth combined with cool-climate acidity, making this a dead-cert match for some grilled lamb. The finish is all about dark berry fruits and a very particular mineral stoniness and acid friskiness that keeps one coming back for another glass.

While this wine is in its relative youth, after the aforementioned decanting, it is already showing very well, but will only improve with around 6-7 years of sleeping in your cellar.

(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)



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