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Visiting New Zealand's wine regions 
Part 14: Trinity Hill, Hawkes Bay

2396 State Highway 50, RD 5, Hastings, New Zealand  4175
Website: www.trinityhill.com

The final stop of the day in my Hawkes Bay itinerary was Trinity Hill. Already, the sun was beginning to dip, and the imposing winery was casting angular shadows. I met with owner John Hancock and winemaker Warren Gibson, and tasted through a broad range with them in a relaxed, end-of-day atmosphere.

Trinity Hill is actually a three-way partnership between John, Robert and Robyn Wilson, and Trevor and Hanne James. They bought their first vineyard – 20 hectares of Gimblett Gravells – in 1993, and the first wines were made in 1996. The winery was built in 1997, and a further 20 hectares of the gravels were purchased in 2000. Currently, 600 tons (35 000) cases are made, but this is expected to rise.

John Hancock (left) and Warren Gibson

John has some interesting things to say about the Gimblett Gravels, which I’ve talked about a lot here in this series. ‘The Gimblett Gravels is not homogeneous by any stretch of the imagination’, he says. ‘It’s variable, with different levels of silt and alluvial materials. You can’t avoid the variation because of the way the braiding works in the rivers’. So what are the implications for the vineyard? ‘The areas with more silt can be more vigorous. The way we deal with this is composting, but it will take forever to deal with it. Organic matter is a makor issue’. The way organic matter is added back is with a compost made of chicken manure and grapeskins. ‘It’s very expensive’, says John, ‘and you have to do it for 50 years before you get the benefit: it works its way down’.

The Trinity Hill wines really impress. [Is New Zealand the world’s most consistent wine-producing nation? The wines all seem to be pretty good.] In particular, the Homage Syrah is a real stand-out – one of New Zealand’s top reds.


Trinity Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Hawkes Bay
Making up one-quarter to half of Trinity Hill’s annual production, this is a fresh, bright, fruity Sauvignon with real precision. A food-friendly style that’s mouthwateringly fresh. 89/100

‘Matis’ 2007 Hawkes Bay
This is a glimpse of what is intended to be a new joint venture with Pascal Jolivet (Sancerre), and it was made by a colleague of Pascal who was doing vintage here. Natural ferments, working with higher solids and extended lees ageing were used. Lovely tight aromatic minerally nose with a strong herbal component. The palate is restrained and quite complex with a chalky minerality and nice precision. Savoury with high acidity. 89/100

Trinity Hill Viognier 2006 Gimblett Gravels
A fresh, herby, aromatic style of Viognier. The palate is ripe and full but with some herbiness, along with pear and grape fruitiness. Nicely textured and food compatible. 88/100

Trinity Hill Pinot Noir 2006 Hawkes Bay
A blend from three different sites. Fresh, bright focused cherry and berry fruit dominate with a subtle earthy, forest floor character. Supple and expressive, this is a nice Pinot that’s under NZ$20, which makes it good value. 90/100

Trinity Hill High Country Pinot Noir 2006 Hawkes Bay
Aromatic nose is fresh and supple with a bit of spice alongside the berry and dark cherry fruits. The palate is expressive and rounded with lovely purity of supple red fruits, together with some earthy spicy notes. ‘We try to keep a savoury style to the wines’, explains Warren Gibson. ‘The style is savoury with dry tannins for ageability’. 92/100

Trinity Hill Shiraz (White Label) 2006 Gimblett Gravels
Supple expressive dark fruits nose with a really elegant white pepper freshness. The palate has smooth elegant dark fruits with some nice pepperiness. Very accessible and drinkable. 90/100

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2006
Aromatic fresh dark fruits on the nose, complemented by notes of grilled meat, spice and pepper. Smooth with some floral notes. The palate is dense and full with nice fresh fruit and lovely taut, spicy structure. There’s a bit of oak evident, too. This is currently tight-wound, waiting to emerge. Delicious stuff in a savoury style. 93/100

Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2006 Gimblett Gravels
Deep coloured. Thrillingly intense nose is dark, meaty, spicy, peppery and brooding. Hard to describe all the aromas. The palate is intense, concentrated and tight with lovely freshness and pure, dark, spicy fruit, backed up by huge tannins. Delicious now, but just a baby, made in a wonderful Rhôney style with freshness and definition. 95/100

Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2004 Gimblett Gravels
Wonderfully sweet, dark, open nose with warm, spicy fruit. The palate is broad and full with dense, warm, sweet fruit. It’s delicious and open, but there’s perhaps a slightly unusual sweet confected character to the fruit on this showing that stops it reaching the levels of the 2006. Still, a very good wine. 92/100

Trinity Hill ‘The Gimblett’ 2005 Gimblett Gravels
A Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blend showing a lovely blackberry and blackcurrant fruit nose – fresh and pure with a nice savoury edge. The palate shows more pure, intense fruit with savoury complexity. Youthful, with grippy tannins. Beautifully structured. 92/100

Trinity Hill Tempranillo 2006 Gimblett Gravels
Full, bright red fruits nose is quite pure. The palate is juicy and fresh with nice red fruit character. Vibrant, well-defined and fresh with a spicy finish. A primary sort of wine where fruit purity is the key. 

Wines tasted 11/07  
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