I spent the afternoon today at the annual New Zealand trade tasting - one of the best of the so-called generic (i.e. country-based) tastings. Each year I'm impressed at how good the overall standard is though it usually confirms my view that New Zealand's whites outperform its reds - with the exception of Pinot Noir.
In general I find that that the other reds - mainly Cabernet blends and Syrah - tend to be overworked and over-extracted and after two and a half hour's tasting was ready to call it a day when the guy at the Adnams' stand persuaded me to try three wines from the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawkes Bay on the North Island: a Syrah, a Cabernet and most impressive of all - a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec under the Newton Forrest label called Cornerstone.
So this is basically a style of wine that doesn't hugely appeal to me and which I'm not convinced New Zealand handles particularly well and from a producer (John Forrest) better known for his Sauvignon, Riesling and Pinot Noir. And yet it was fantastic - soft, fluid, elegant, as good as a top-class Bordeaux. And I'm not the only one to think so. In a tasting last year of Gimblett Gravels reds alongside first growth Bordeaux the 2006 Cornerstone came out sixth.
The best news of all is that it costs only £17.50 a bottle which is a fantastic price for a wine of this class. Snap some up while you can.