Three red wines from New Zealand's shiraz heartland

Autumn vines at Craggy Range Vineyards in Hawke's Bay.
Autumn vines at Craggy Range Vineyards in Hawke's Bay. Photo: Supplied

The historic New Zealand wine region of Hawke's Bay, centred on the city of Napier on the North Island's east coast, was founded by missionaries in 1851 for sacramental wine. Bordeaux varieties cabernet sauvignon and merlot are at the heart of its modern fame, but lately more wineries are producing syrah (aka shiraz). Kiwi pundits often liken these wines to those of France's Rhone Valley, but for me they are more like the best cool-climate styles of Australia. Top wines aren't cheap, but they are superb.

Te Mata Estate Vineyards Syrah 2018, $25-$27

Score 90

From a pioneering winery of the modern Hawke's Bay era, this well-priced syrah makes a great introduction to the type. It has appealing floral overtones to plummy fruit with a savoury overlay of peppery spice. Oak is underplayed. Silky, lingering and refined with nice balance. Screw cap; 12.5 per cent alcohol.

Ageing? Drink over five years.

Stockists include: City Wine Shop, Melbourne (Vic); Le Pont Wine Store, Milsons Point (NSW).

Vidal Legacy Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2016, $67-$70

Score 95

Peppery and spicy, with dark berry fruit at its heart, this wine from affable Vidal winemaker Hugh Crichton is savoury, elegantly structured, intense and flavoursome. The silky mid-palate has excellent length of flavour, good depth, and a poised backbone of ripe tannins counterpoints it perfectly. Screw cap; 13 per cent alcohol.

Ageing? Drink over 15 years.

Stockists include: Camperdown Cellars stores (NSW); Blairgowrie IGA (Vic).

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Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2016, $145-$150

Score 96

Le Sol '16 is dense and dark, with a nose of spice, blueberry and blackberry, violets, clove and beef stock, full of varietal/regional interest. It balances ripe and savoury, velvety depth and concentration, supported by ripe tannins. A showpiece wine from a showplace winery. Screw cap; 13.2 per cent alcohol.

Ageing? Yes, two to 20 years.

Stockists include: Prince Wine Store, South Melbourne (Vic); Langton's, langtons.com.au.