Velvet reds… the making of a great Syrah

Posted by Joelle Thomson on

Velvet reds… the making of a great Syrah

By Joelle Thomson, wine programme director, author and writer

Best ever is a big claim but when the product in question has evolved as radically as the new 2015 Trinity Hill Homage Syrah has, well, it’s a claim worth investigating.

The newest Homage was launched in Hawke’s Bay last month at a tasting of every vintage ever made of this high priced Syrah. I was invited to the tasting. The newest wine from 2015 is the best yet, and next month you can taste it, alongside two others – from 2013 and 2014 – at a Trinity Hill tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits on Thursday 16 November from 6pm to 8pm. Well, that is, you can taste, if you have booked a spot because this tasting sold out almost as soon as we opened it up. If you’re keen to come along, you can get on our waiting list - email John Shearlock at
And if you’re as interested in reading as you are in tasting, read on...

Homage is Trinity Hill’s flagship wine and was first made in 2002 to highlight the potential of the Syrah grape and Hawke’s Bay. Back in 2002, Syrah and Hawke’s Bay were like a newly wed couple. Untested, unproven and, in most wine drinkers’ minds, a partnership that had yet to be properly consummated. So, a flash wine with a $105 (give or take) price tag could have been seen as a risky proposition, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was so impressively made from day one.

The wine has since gone on to gather a following of Syrah devotees, not only in New Zealand, but around the world. Which is no mean feat for a wine that is made in relatively small quantities - about 600 bottles are produced in years when Homage is made, so there’s not a lot to go around. About a third of the production is sold directly into bars and restaurants before it has even left the winery.

Last month I was lucky enough to try every vintage of Trinity Hill Homage ever made, and the best vintages, were, in my view, – 2015, 2014, 2013. The very best of the bunch is the newest from 2015.

Like all vintages of Homage, the 2015 is a statement wine. Big, bold and powerful but it is also more approachable than many Syrahs are when they’re first launched onto the market. This is because the wine has evolved significantly since it was first made.
To begin with, the use of oak has changed. Initially,100% new French oak was used during the wine’s maturation process and Homage has always been bottled in a weighty bottle to suggest a big wine. The bottle remains, but today the wine has taken a turn in an elegant new direction – and it’s all the better for it.

Whole bunches were introduced to the fermentation in 2013, which was when the amount of new oak began to decline too, thankfully. And – perhaps not so thankfully but understandably, given the extra care in the winemaking - the price has risen – to about $135 a bottle, give or take a dollar or two at different retailers. The burning question is: Is Homage a better wine as a result of these changes? As Meg Ryan said in When Harry met Sally, yes, yes, yes.

The 2015 Trinity Hill Homage is fresh off the bottling line and is undoubtedly the best vintage of Homage ever, in my view.

New Zealand wine writers were invited to Hawke’s Bay last month (September 2017) to taste every vintage of Homage: 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The style of the wine has changed noticeably and while age comes into the stylistic diversity of a vertical tasting like this, the better wines are from 2013, 2014 and 2015 – a string of exceptionally good vintages in Hawke’s Bay. Each of these years had temperatures which were drier, sunnier and warmer than usual.

Winemakers Warren Gibson and Damian Fischer considered the amount and type of oak they used and decided to reduce it because they wanted to change the texture of the tannins and how dense they feel in the mouth. The wine will no doubt continue to evolve and I’m looking forward to tracking its journey in the future.

In the meantime, next month we are tasting an impressive line up from Trinity Hill Winery, including the three most recent vintages of Homage. If you can’t join us in the flesh, join us in spirit and head down to Regional Wines to pick up a bottle of the outstanding 2014 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels The Gimblett or push the boat out and buy the latest Homage. As many famous people have supposedly said – and it is true – we only regret the things we don’t do.

2014 Gimblett Gravels 'The Gimblett' -  $29.99 (RRP - $33.05)

The Trinity Hill tasting

Taste Trinity Hill at Regional Wines on Thursday 16 November, 6pm to 8pm, $45 per person. This tasting is now booked out but you can join our waiting list. Email John Shearlock, tastings coordinator at:

The wines

2016 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Marsanne Viognier
2016 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay
2016 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo
2015 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah
2014 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels The Gimblett
2015 Trinity Hill Homage
2014 Trinity Hill Homage
2013 Trinity Hill Homage

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