For several years now Trinity Hill has had a stronghold on New Zealand's production of the Spanish grape, Tempranillo. This grape, with its home in the high altitude Rioja vineyards, found its way to New Zealand in the early 1990s when John Hancock, the name behind Trinity Hill, was working at Morton Estate. He took cuttings with him when he left Morton Estate to start up Trinity Hill. A hillside vineyard was planted and the Trinity Hill Tempranillo has been commercially produced since 2002. It's a wine that consistently shows classic varietal traits and is a regular winner of gold medals and five star accolades.
Vertical tastings show that these wines can age and two years ago the 2002 vintage was still on a journey of evolution.
It's not surprising that Tempranillo has spread, albeit very slowly and it wasn't until the New Zealand wine trade show last year that I discovered more examples. Hawkes Ridge Tempranillo 2008 from Hawkes Bay and Yealands Pete's Shed Tempranillo 2008 from Marlborough were both were light styles, perhaps a reflection of the vintage. But now comes a serious challenger to the benchmark set by Trinity Hill.
Black Barn Hawkes Bay Tempranillo 2009 is a fragrant wine with a vibrant colour and a deep juicy flavour. The scents are reminiscent of juicy red berries, sweet smoky vanillin oak, spice and tobacco with creamy American oak aiding and abetting the deep fruit flavours. Red fruits initially spring to mind - concentrated red fruits reminiscent of raspberries, cherries and hints of tamarillo - with smoke, cedar, tobacco, citrus and a vinous complexity. The caressing tannins are velvet-edged and the bright acidity that underpins the wine suggests long term potential. It's a full-bodied red but has a light step and the lingering flavours are earthy and savoury.
Compared to a young Tempranillo from Spain, there are striking similarities - most noticeably the acidity, fruit and tobacco.
What I like about this wine, as I track its progress over a few days, it seems to get better and better with a little air with gorgeous rose and violet notes emerging. Best food accompaniment was a beef, bacon and mushroom casserole cooked with lots of dried herbs and copious quantities of cheap Aussie Shiraz.
Black Barn Tempranillo 2009 is (not surprisingly) a single vineyard wine, hand picked at harvest and the finished wine has 14.5% alcohol. It's closed with a Diam cork and the list price is $48 a bottle - the overrider being this is small volume wine and released only in exceptional years.
Perhaps hard done by when only awarded a silver medal at the recent Liquorland International Wine Competition, but it was the same result as Trinity Hill. I look forward to see this going GOLD later in the year. Meanwhile, my rating is 5 stars.
Black Barn also produces the Italian varieties Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Find out more from www.blackbarn.com.
© Sue Courtney
7 Jul 2010