“Hugh Crichton, winemaker at Vidal in Hawke’s Bay must be buzzing. The recent releases of his ‘grand cru’ styled ‘Legacy’ wines have earned exceptional praise with critics and judges both overseas and in New Zealand. I’ve had the fortune of tasting a number of the ‘Legacy’ wines recently, and can categorically state they are among the country’s finest wines. The quality of these wines is backed up by the excellence of the ‘Reserve’ or ‘premier cru’ tiered wines as well as the ‘village-style’ ‘Estate’wines. Hugh uses the Burgundian hierarchy model as a simple way of explaining the Vidal tiers, but in many ways, the quality of the Vidal wines could fit easily into that if Vidal were an estate in Burgundy.” Raymond Chan

Vidal wines, especially the Legacy range have received much acclaim around the world. Only produced in exceptional vintages and in very small quantities, each vintage release of the Legacy wines are awaited with anticipation. Tonight’s tasting was to mark the release of the 2016 Legacy Chardonnay and we included the 2011 to show how some bottle age compares. It was also a treat to taste the outstanding Legacy Cabernet Merlot 2013 and 2014 Syrah. The Reserve range is actually the top of the Vidal range and the fruit sourced from the top vineyards with Legacy only being produced in “exceptional” years. As we saw in the tasting, good vintages (such as 2015 reds) that don’t actually make the cut for any Legacy to be produced, increases the quality of the Reserve wines.

That Hugh is a passionate and talented winemaker came through clearly at the tasting in both the wines and his presentation.

Vidal Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016 $15.99

Such is the power of the Sauvignon Blanc category overseas, that Vidal have to include a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in the range. But Hugh, being Hugh, isn’t satisfied with an average Sauvignon. This is very, very good and probably a surprise for most of us. Plenty of flavor and juiciness, with the aromas filling the room. A great mix of the more herbal flavours of the Awatere Valley fruit and the tropical notes of the Wairau. There is a purity and persistence with a fine, long, dry finish.

Vidal Reserve Chardonnay 2016 $15.99

With the accolades given the Legacy Chardonnays it is no surprise to see the quality coming through on this, the Reserve range. A blend of Hawkes Bay sites including the famous Keltern. There is a little bit of flinty smokiness on the nose, but the palate is all about ripe stonefruits with a savoury underline. There is a freshness and the full barrel ferment in 19% new oak adds just a hint of vanilla spiced oak character.

Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2011 $49.99

Whilst Hawkes Bay didn’t have a great red wine vintage in 2011, there were some very good Chardonnays produced, although not as ripely intense as vintages preceding it. A chance to try this wine with 6 years of age, shows how these wines can age very well. There is intensity of power, yet it remains quite light on its feet. It tastes like a wine you just want to drink and enjoy now as it is so appealing and Hugh agreed, saying it is in a ‘great place’. Yet it still has plenty of life and will remain a drinking proposition for quite a few years yet.

Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2016 $49.99

The first thing that was obvious to the tasters was  that this 2016 is much more ‘classically’ style compared to most of the previous vintages of Legacy Chardonnay – that is, less of the funky, gun flint character. Still there, but not at all confronting. This is a high-tone wine. Powerful aromatics then a real whoosh of flavour and intensity on the palate. Layers of flavour – ripe citrus, stonefruits, spice, nuts toast… they are all there. A ‘great’ Chardonnay.

Vidal Reserve Pinot Noir 2016 $19.99

Like the Sauvignon, this is also from Marlborough. Fragrant and juicy with a touch of raspberry/strawberry berry fruits and a savoury character. Quite youthful and maybe needs a few months to integrate the elements.

Vidal Reserve Merlot / Cabernet 2015 $16.99

75% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Malbec from the Gimblett Gravels, aged 16 months in 24% new French oak barrels. With no Legacy reds produced in 2015 this has had the effect of increasing the quality of the Reserve reds and the quality of this wine in particular really does over deliver. This just missed the latest Gimblett Gravels  Top 12 Reds selection at number 13 – considering the others wines in the selection this is quite an amazing result. Ripe Blackcurrant, cassis, dark fleshy fruits, cocoa and backed by spicy oak.

Vidal Legacy Cabernet / Merlot 2013 $62.99

This 2013 has been held back from release (the 2014 was release before this) to allow it some time to develop in the bottle before release. The quality of this rivals the classed growths of Bordeaux, and as Hugh proudly told us, this was adjudged the top wine at a recent tasting in China against 1st and 2nd Growth Bordeaux. 80% Cabernet 20% Merlot aged for 19 months in 50% new French oak. Dense and mouth coating with big chalky tannins. 98/100 – Andrew Caillard, MW. Selected as one of top 12, 2013 Gimblett Gravels reds.

Vidal Reserve Syrah 2015 $19.99

Like the Merlot Cabernet there was no Legacy Syrah in 2015. The fruit is all sourced from Gimblett Gravels vineyards and this is what can be described as ‘very Hawkes Bay’. Dark berry fruits, some floral notes with just a dash of pepper spice. Juicy and pure on the palate. Excellent value.

Vidal Legacy Syrah 2014 $69.99

Much darker and deeper in the glass than the Reserve. This is a super concentrated Syrah that just fills the palate whilst retaining good freshness and drive. Along with Syrah’s dark fruit flavours there is also notes of roasted meats, nuts, liquorice, dark spices. The tannins melt into the palate. A top, world class Syrah. A great way to finish an excellent tasting.