What I Drank Last Night
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Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz 2007

Full throttle.

Full throttle.

To mark Carl Schultz’s 20th anniversary as winemaker at Hartenberg in Stellenbosch, a tasting of six vintages of the ultra-premium Grave Hill Shiraz. From a particular 3.8ha site planted on low-potential koffieklip, vines give few bunches, the berries unusually small. The vineyard is picked over a broad two or three week period to accommodate variations in soil and elevation. “I’ve long since discarded the notion of homogeneity – I want as many different parcels as possible to work with,” says Schultz. Final volumes of Gravel Hill vary significantly depending on vintage.

1997
88
Red fruit, spice and some developed forest floor, meaty notes. Rich and broad, soft but sufficient acidity, tannins nicely resolved.

2003
89
A brooding nose showing earthy, malty notes. On the palate, dark fruit and black pepper. A wine of impressive concentration and power – full but balanced, bright acidity, smooth tannins.

2004
88
Black fruit and plenty of spice on the nose and palate. Less imposing but equally less layered than the other vintages on display. Well balanced with fresh acidity and fine tannins.

2005
91
A touch of shoe polish on an otherwise shy nose. Still remarkably primary with well-defined black fruit, bright acidity and a very dry finish. Big but expertly put together.

2006
87
Ultra-ripe red and black fruit as well as an oak-derived coffee note on the nose and palate. Also some developed character already in evidence. Relatively lacking in definition, moderate acidity, soft tannins.

2007
94
Pitch black with an intensely red rim. Red and black fruit, plus spice including cinnamon and coriander seed. Very pure fruit, oak carefully judged. Great definition and freshness, wonderfully fine tannins. Plenty of grunt but everything coming together for good.

2005, 2006 and 2007 currently all on special from the farm at R450 a bottle (normal price: R675).

Comments

  1. Christian says:

    Hi Harry, My interpretation of Gravel Hill is that it’s whole reason for being is weight and power (whether the brains trust likes to admit it or not). As I refine my wine aesthetic over time, I like wines that sit at extremes – for me Gravel Hill 2004 is a slighter vintage of a wine which is normally full-on. If you privilege elegance, then look elsewhere. If you accept that controlled power has a place (when the rain is beating down during a Western Cape winter), then I think Gravel Hill works gangbusters.

    • That’s a fair point, and I guess in a way similar as to what Hennie said in a comment on my post. I’ll begrudgingly concede, although I’d still prefer it to the 05. (you have any 04 you want to swap?)

      At least we agree that the 2007 manages to do both, where for me the 05 has me thinking, “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

  2. Interesting to read tasting notes side by side. I took the rest of the 2004 home with me and drank it quickly. I found it more layered than 06 and 97, and more enjoyable to drink than the 05.

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