John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Wine: Not for any Tom, Dick or Harry

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Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

This is the first year that super premium Church Road wines Tom Chardonnay and Tom Cabernet Merlot have been simultaneously released.

These wines are only ever made in vintages where fruit quality is exceptional and it's sometimes difficult to co-ordinate release dates when the wines are deemed "ready to go to market".

Now available, but in tiny quantities, are the 2010 Tom Chardonnay and 2009 Tom Cabernet Merlot.

To refresh memories, Tom is a tribute to Church Road winemaker Tom McDonald who died in 1987.

His demanding high standards and brilliance have earned him the title of "the father of red wine in New Zealand", being one of our first winemakers to produce quality chardonnay.

In charge of deciding when a vintage is exceptional enough to release the Tom, is Chris Scott, who has been senior winemaker at Church Road since 2005.

"There's only ever between 100 to 300 cases available, and with the wines we are going for more elegance and structure rather than being too big and blowsy."

Scott emphasises that wine bearing the Tom label represents only the very best of Church Road's innovation and experience.

"We continue Tom's vision with a single-minded quality focus on traditional Hawkes Bay varietals - chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot."

Scott says there was a good deal of subterfuge involved when creating the inaugural Tom from the 1995 vintage, which was released in 1999. The accountants were not overly excited about a super premium wine made in tiny volumes, so the winemaking team closed ranks, made and bottled it in secret, and then pleaded ignorance upon release.

Fortunately the wine was so good that despite a relatively hefty price, it soon developed a cult following and is always in high demand with consumers looking for a fine premium wine.

A recent tasting of back vintages proved that the wines, red and white, are developing beautifully and fully justify their super premium pricing.

Available from July and worth seeking out.


Recommended

2010 Church Road Tom Chardonnay - $100

Only the third release of this wine and a stunner. It is full-bodied, finely textured, with oodles of character and enough complexity. A flavoursome, flinty and fabulous wine.

2009 Church Road Tom Cabernet Merlot - $150

The latest release vintage is cabernet dominant but only just (58 per cent to merlot's 42 per cent), this is from an excellent vintage with Gimblett Gravels grapes, and is a smooth, savoury, youthful wine with classic concentration and sweet, ripe, red fruits.

- NZ Herald

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