For leading Master of Wine Andrew Caillard choosing a top 12 selection to internationally represent a unique region is always a fine challenge.
In terms of the 2017 vintage from across Hawke's Bay's Gimblett Gravels the challenge was a slightly daunting one as the conditions that year made the vintage a difficult one to produce.
But as the Sydney-based wine master said, the winemakers across Gimblett Gravels excelled and he applauded the way they "rose to the challenge" and as a result produced a selection of "exemplary wines".
He has been the independent selector of the Gimblett Gravels Reds top 12 for all 10 vintages since 2008 and as he has in the past, came away hugely impressed — more so given what the winemakers had to deal with that year.
"The growing season was very difficult (but) there were plenty of wines that transcended the vintage because of attention to detail in the vineyard and the winery," Caillard said.
He paid particular note of what he saw as a "natural fit" between cabernet and the unique Gimblett Gravels terroir.
He described those he chose for the top 12 reds selection as unforced styles where the oak was matched to the fruit and the tannins well managed.
Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association chairman Gordon Russell was delighted with both how the difficult vintage had come through and said they featured wines that would surprise those who had judged the vintage before the very wines themselves.
"The fact our producers managed to make high quality wines from such a challenging year highlights our sub-region's unique attributes."
The 2017 vintage summer had been going superbly well until early autumn belts of rain stepped in.
"But you have to maximise the opportunities you get — and there are some really great winemakers out there," he said.
It came down to closely targeting every facet from picking times, using the right barrels and fermentation processes.
And possessing the "you can do it" attitude.
And from a difficult vintage the leading winemakers had done that.
In terms of numbers Elephant Hill picked up two of the syrah spots with their Airavata and Stone Syrahs, while Trinity Hill, Smith & Sheth and Squawking Magpie each took a place in the syrah line-up and the blended reds selection.
A limited number of 2017 Annual Vintage Selection packs are being prepared and will shortly be sent out to key wine media and influencers around the world for review.
THE 2017 ANNUAL VINTAGE SELECTION
Blended reds (Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon dominant):
Craggy Range Te Kahu
Mission Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Sacred Hill Special Selection Helmsman Cabernet Sauvignon
Smith & Sheth CRU Cantera Cabernet Sauvignon
Squawking Magpie SQM Cabernet Merlot
Trinity Hill The Gimblett
Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah
Elephant Hill Stone Syrah
Smith & Sheth CRU Heretaunga Syrah
Squawking Magpie Gravels Syrah
Trinity Hill Homage
Vidal Estate Soler Syrah