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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
THE SYRAH SYMPOSIUM IN HAWKES BAY,  CURTAIN-RAISER TO PINOT NOIR 2007 – TASTINGS:


Introduction:  As a curtain-raiser to Pinot Noir 2007,  this 2007 Syrah Symposium in Hawkes Bay was a great success.  And like the Pinot Noir Conference in Wellington,  the key success was the obvious excellence of our emerging syrahs,  both intrinsically,  and when seen in limited comparison with wines from elsewhere in the world.  The Symposium assembled the finest range and quality of syrahs thus far made in New Zealand,  and offered them for public and international appraisal.  Never have I encountered such a high percentage of gold-medal level wines,  gold medal on my personal 'is it worth cellaring' scale,  which in terms of fruit ripeness and balance is more demanding than judging for commercial purposes.  There can be no doubt at all that New Zealand syrah is going to be one of the exciting wines of the world,  once more attention is paid to the winestyle our grapes and climate are best suited to.  I have discussed this issue in several recent syrah reviews on this site,  the most recent being 6 Nov 2006.

The Symposium ended up over-subscribed,  having attracted about 125 delegates,  more than half of whom were from overseas – a fantastic achievement.  In particular,  the number from California and Washington states was staggering.  Amongst this eager crowd were a number of well-known overseas wine-writers.  Whilst we are slowly shedding the shackles of the cultural cringe syndrome,  whereby any overseas comment on our wines must be more important than any local,  nonetheless this is happening more slowly in the wine industry than other creative sectors of New Zealand society.  No doubt therefore,  the views of the overseas writers will be reported widely.  

Proceedings started socially on the Friday evening,  with a greeting,  and then a Tasting presented by Hawkes Bay Winemakers.  This was casual,  in the sense of a walk-around tasting,  the opportunity to meet and talk with winemakers,  and taste recent vintages.  The Tasting was followed by the Syrah Symposium Dinner at Te Awa Winery.  Some of the wines which looked great on their own as young syrahs alongside other wines,  did not look so good with food.  No older wines were available – once again one lamented the lack of a tradition of cellaring wine in this country (though there was a noble exception offered during the Proceedings proper).

Syrah in New Zealand:  The formal programme the following day at Trinity Hill Winery attempted to shoehorn two days worth of Proceedings into one.  A good introduction to the development of syrah as a winestyle in New Zealand set the scene.  Alan Limmer (from Stonecroft) as the winemaker who 'rescued' syrah from the former Government Viticultural Research station,  played a large part in this.  This was followed by the first formal Tasting,  of six wines illustrating the traditional Limmer 'mass selection' clone and a new clone of syrah in New Zealand,  a rare opportunity to taste a fully mature New Zealand syrah,  two wines illustrating the main syrah districts of Gimblett Gravels and Ngatarawa Triangle,  and a third wine from hillslopes in Hawkes Bay.

SYRAH IN NEW ZEALAND – 6 WINES:
2004  Bilancia Syrah la Collina
2004  Craggy Range Syrah Block 14
1992  Stonecroft Syrah
  2004  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose
2006  Te Mata Syrah clone 174 [ research wine ]
2006  Te Mata Syrah Clone 'Mass Selection' [ research wine ]

Syrah & Climate:  Then followed one of the exceptional sessions of the Conference,  Syrah & Climate,  in which Tom Carson,  winemaker at Yering Station,  Yarra Valley near Melbourne,  described Syrah and Climate from the Victorian perspective,  followed by Michael Haven PhD doing likewise for California.  These were research-style presentations.  Both spoke amongst other things about the spectrum of sensory characters syrah displays in relation to climate.  I found much of interest in their conclusions,  comparing them with the sequence of ripening characters I discussed for temperate-climate syrah 6 Nov.  See slide 17 of Carson's PowerPoint presentation,  along with his detailed background research,  available @  http://www.winehawkesbay.co.nz//syrah_symposium/registration.htm  (as is some information from other speakers).  Among many thought-provoking statements,  Carson observed:  shiraz is the future of the Yarra Valley,  not pinot noir.  These presentations were followed by a Tasting of 6 syrah / shiraz wines,  three from the Yarra Valley,  three from California.  And the wines shown to accompany Carson's address were every bit as good as our top syrahs [Carson's wines are available in New Zealand through The Fine Wine Delivery Company,  Auckland ].  Yarra Valley shiraz is not representative of Australian shiraz,  it at best being much more in a syrah mould,  as the relatively cooler climate would lead one to hope.  The Californian wines represented three famous cool-climate districts,  but to this reviewer did not seem to exemplify that too well.  Five of the six wines shown have been reviewed by Robert Parker,  and all rated well there – see excerpts in reviews below.

SYRAH & CLIMATE – 6 WINES:
2005  Clonakilla Shiraz / Viognier
2002  Havens Syrah Hudson Vineyard
2002  Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate
  2002  Renard Syrah Peay Vineyard
2004  Yarra Yering [ Shiraz ] Dry Red Wine Number 2
2005  Yering Station Shiraz / Viognier Reserve

New Zealand Syrah in a World Context,  and International Syrah Tasting:  Highlight of the afternoon was Rhone Renaissance man Remington Norman's address.  This was a scholarly presentation,  as befits a man with both an Oxford PhD and then an MW in 1984.  He offered thoughtful advice to New Zealand winemakers,  in matters of both syrah style,  and marketing in general.  In particular,  he deplored the trend to pretentious packaging and pricing,  when syrah as a concept in New Zealand is little more than 15 years old.  His address was followed by a blind International Tasting of 12 syrahs,  including wines from Australia (Hunter Valley,  South Australia),  France (Northern Rhone – Cote Rotie,  Hermitage,  St Joseph),  New Zealand ( Hawkes Bay,  Martinborough,  Waiheke Island),  and South Africa (Franschhoek,  Stellenbosch).  This session opened up many possibilities for thoughtful debate,  nearly all of which were lost due to lack of time.  Remington particularly wanted discussion to focus on wine texture and structure,  'not endless descriptors' ….

REMINGTON NORMAN'S INTERNATIONAL SYRAH TASTING – 12 WINES:
2004  Boekenhoutskloof Syrah
2004  Brokenwood Vineyard Shiraz Graveyard
2005  Dry River Syrah Lovat Vineyard
2000  Guigal Cote Rotie Ch d'Ampuis
2002  Guigal St Joseph Vignes de l'Hospice
2003  Mt Henschke Shiraz Mt Edelstone
  2005  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve
2004  Sacred Hill Syrah Deerstalkers
2003  Saxenburg Shiraz Private Collection
2004  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage
2002  Vidal Syrah Soler
2004  Yann Chave Hermitage

Following the formal Proceedings,  the Gimblett Gravels Association presented another walk-around Syrah Tasting at Craggy Range,  followed by a concluding dinner.  There was therefore good opportunity for visitors to gain a feel for the range of syrahs currently being produced in Hawkes Bay.

SELECTED SYRAHS FROM THE WINEMAKERS' EXHIBITIONS BEFORE AND AFTER THE SYMPOSIUM:
2005  Beach House Syrah The Track
2004  Bilancia Syrah
2004  Bridge Pa Syrah Louis
2004  Craggy Range [ Syrah ] le Sol
2004  Crossroads Syrah Destination Series
2005  Esk Valley Syrah Reserve
2005  Gunn Estate Syrah Silistria
2004  Hatton Estate Syrah
2005  Hatton Estate Syrah The Doctor
2002  Matariki Syrah
2005  Mills Reef Syrah Elspeth
2005  Mission Estate Syrah
2004  Mission Syrah Reserve
  2005  Ngatarawa Syrah Glazebrook
2004  Pask Syrah Declaration
2005  Pask Syrah Gimblett Road
2005  Sacred Hill Syrah Deerstalkers
2005  Sileni Syrah Cellar Selection
2004  Te Awa Syrah
2004  Te Awa Syrah Zone 2
2005  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose
2005  Te Mata Syrah Woodthorpe
2005  Trinity Hill Shiraz Hawkes Bay
2005  Trinity Hill Syrah Gimblett Gravels
2005  Unison Syrah
2004  Vidal Syrah Soler


Follow-up:  It is worth commenting that for the Pinot Noir Conference the following week,  on the basis of their experience with three Conferences now,  90 minutes were allowed for each tasting,  and that was insufficient in 2007.  Half that time in Hawkes Bay meant the lessons the wines could convey were not well exploited.  It would be ideal if next time the Programme could be spread over a more leisurely one-and-a-half days,  rather than curtailed into a jam-packed one.  Starting at 1 pm instead of 5pm (the previous day) would not incur increased accommodation costs for travellers.

Scope of this review:  This was not intended or designed to be a review of the Proceedings.  The goal is to report on the Tastings,  and draw some information from the wines themselves.  I have decided to present all the wines seen in the 24 hours into one ranking,  below.  Where each wine fitted in is shown above.  Where wines have been recently described on this site,  the new appraisal is nonetheless repeated here,  without reference to the previous.  There will be discrepancies,  as has been discussed in previous reviews.  

Brief perusal of the reviews below may suggest my notes reflect a bad case of parochial palate,  in that the top wines are local,  and some of the overseas wines rate poorly.  Indeed,  the French wines were not outstanding examples of their districts,  or recent northern Rhone vintages.  I will therefore note that I have been paying close attention to Australian examples of the grape for more than 40 years,  and good French for more than 35.  I have good examples of those wines still to hand,  spanning all those years,  which adds to one's perspective.  California is the great unknown,  to a New Zealand-domiciled taster.  It is there I suspect,  that national palate tastes diverge widely between the cool-climate European taste and the (in general) warm-climate Australian / American one.  Hence the Parker / Robinson disputes,  re certain modern Bordeaux wines.  As I have written previously for syrah in New Zealand,  I believe we would be wise to develop our wines in the European style,  for we have a climate uniquely suited to doing so.  My notes reflect that approach,  and the virtues I look for in wines labelled or understood to be Syrah will be apparent in the reviews.

Brett:  One topic of interest arising from the Syrah Symposium is the role of brett in red wines.  We saw quite a lot.  A little can be very beautiful indeed,  and makes the wines incredibly pleasing with food.  But at the moment our more technical wine people and wine judges are becoming obsessive about the presence of this natural fermentation yeast,  and many good wines are currently being canned because of its presence in amounts only the utmost specialist can detect.  At the same time some of these wines are displaying massive amounts of new oak (or alcohol) which has exactly the opposite effect to brett,  making the wine raucous and incompatible with food,  especially in youth (when sadly,  most of these wines will be drunk,  until  we develop a culture of cellaring wine in New Zealand).  In the review section I have detailed my perceptions of the brett component.  More importantly,  I have included overseas reviews.  Even for the wines considered most bretty locally,  no mention at all is made of the subject in those reviews.  There is a lesson there,  for some of our industry people – along the  lines of:  moderation …   We most definitely do NOT want our red wines to revert to the kind of wines Australia went through a generation of making,  post the 1960s,  under the overly technical and sometimes soul-less influence of the Roseworthy school.  As Matt Donaldson said in the Pinot Conference the following week,  it took him years to unlearn some of the input from his time at wine-school in Australia.  [ Do I have to qualify these observations out of existence by now going on to list the great contribution Roseworthy has undoubtedly made to the evolution of Australian wine … ?]  The point is,  there is a need for art and soul in fine wine (as opposed to industrial wine),  as well as good science.  [ Notes from the Australian Wine Research Institute's presentation and tasting on brett to Pinot Noir 2007 are included in that report. ]

Acknowledgement:  I appreciate very much Hawkes Bay Winemakers facilitating my participation in this Syrah Symposium.  That is not to say they agree with or endorse this independent report.



                                                               

RANKING OF SYRAHS SHOWN DURING THE SYMPOSIUM PROCEEDINGS,  AND IN THE WINEMAKERS' EXHIBITIONS,  COMBINED:  (alphabetical within each level)

2005  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve   19  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  10 months in new oak;  gold medal @ 2006 Easter Show;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Deep ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a great colour.  This wine was for me the highlight of the blind International Syrah Tasting presented by Remington Norman.  In its beautiful darkest violets floral bouquet leading into rich cassis and blackest plum,  it reminded of fine Hermitage.  There is a suggestion of black peppercorn and spice,  and it is all made aromatic by new oak (with a whisper of fragrant American too,  I thought),  yet not dominated by it.  Sadly the alcohol is 14.5%,  so like le Sol,  it won't be so simpatico with some foods for a number of years,  but it is a wonderful statement about New Zealand syrah.  I note that some detractors in previous vintages have grizzled about brett in "all" Waiheke wines,  so it is worth observing that in practical terms,  this is pure.  Cellar 10 – 20 years,  particularly keeping it for blind comparative world-wide tastings.  This is a really exciting New Zealand red.  GK 01/07

2005  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose   19  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $44   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  including clone 470,  hand-harvested,  de-stemmed;  16 months in French oak 33% new;  the winery states: It is more concentrated than any previous vintage and will cellar for at least ten years.;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little carmine and velvet,  markedly lighter than the 'big' wines.  Against the Yering Station and Craggy wines,  this is (in a positive sense) almost a beauty and the beast deal.  2005 Bullnose has achieved superbly floral and fragrant full physiological maturity,  at a palate-friendly 13.5%.  The floral component is sensational,  overlapping with fine pinot in its violets,  boronia and darkest roses as well as carnations,  underpinned by sweet cassis and black peppercorn.  Palate is the logical extension of bouquet,  already delicious,  in the style of both modern Cote Rotie,  and Hermitage.  Bullnose in recent years has gone from strength to strength,  but this is the most beautiful of all.  Cellar 10 – 15 years,  perhaps more.  GK 01/07

2005  Yering Station Shiraz / Viognier Reserve   18 ½ +  ()
Yarra Valley,  Victoria,  Australia:  14.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  c. AU$50 in Australia;  co-fermented with c. 5% viognier;  18 months in 100% French oak;  Parker rated the 2003 @ 90;  release later in 2007,  available in New Zealand though The Fine Wine Delivery Company,  Auckland;  www.yering.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  scarcely lighter than the Passage Rock.  Here is a beautifully aromatic and floral syrah-styled shiraz from Australia,  showing delightful varietal specificity.  Bouquet and palate have deep varietal florals with only a subliminal hint of flowering mint,  and nothing as coarse as eucalyptus.  Under these aromatic florals,  rich berry characters include cassis,  blueberry and dark plum,  without lapsing into boysenberry over-ripeness.  This wine too,  sadly,  is 14.5%,  but it is a glorious example of modern Australian shiraz presented more as syrah.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Unison Syrah   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ supercritical cork;  French & US oak,  80% new;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Deep ruby,  carmine and velvet,  another nearly as deep as the Passage Rock.  This is one of the most distinctive syrahs in the current New Zealand field.  Bouquet has great fruit richness,  with a dark plum character like bottled omegas,  set off by a dark barrel-char and darkest chocolate complexity.  Yet on palate,  this chocolate almost disappears,  and there is no incongruous coffee artefact.  Instead there is just deepest velvety cassis and plum.  Quite remarkable.  Nobody will regret cellaring this.  And importantly,  it is one of the 'sweet' Unisons,  with no retained fermentation odours.  There perhaps is a little brett,  just at the trace equals complexity level.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 01/07

2006  Te Mata Syrah Clone 'Mass Selection' [ research wine ]   18 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ not for sale;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  very bright,  a little deeper (in youth) than 2005 Bullnose.  This wine was presented in the formal tasting sessions,  alongside one of the new clones (174),  to illustrate the original Te Kauwhata clone of syrah selected and propagated by Alan Limmer,  and now widely grown.  Comment was offered during the Proceedings,  as to how fortunate we had been that the original Government Viticultural Research stock seemed to be of such high-quality.  Certainly in my experience of Rhone wines,  in this tasting it looked more classically syrah than some offerings,  or the more 'modern' (in the sense of consumer wine) clone 174 it was shown with.  Total wine achievement is close to the 2005 Bullnose,  but with more cracked peppercorn showing,   and perhaps just a fraction less fragrant and harmonious.  This is a research wine in Te Mata's ongoing viticultural improvement programme,  and will not be made available for sale.  It was a treat to have samples offered in the Conference proceedings.  GK 01/07

2004  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $100   [ cork;  Sy 96 %,  Vi 4%,  cropped c. 1 t/ac; hand-picked and sorted,  high % whole berries;  MLF in tank;  26 months in mostly 6-month old French oak;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  not the deepest in the set.  This wine was presented in the blind International Tasting,  at position seven.  Compared with the six preceding it,  it looked dramatically fresh,  big sweet cassisy berry with some floral overtones,  and mulberry and plummy fruit flavours,  rich and aromatic on new oak,  needing time in bottle.  Total style is wonderfully northern Rhone-like,  and one overseas speaker also praised its pinot noir-like silkyness.  In my tasting it seemed as oaky as le Sol,  but less spirity.  Tastings of these top wines in 10 years time are going to be fantastic.  [ A peep at a barrel sample of the 2006 Homage (once aerated) looked exceedingly aromatic and Hermitage-like,  not over-ripened or overweight,  potential florals,  classic – and well worth waiting for.  Winemaker John Hancock rates it without any question whatsoever,  the best ... Homage yet. ]  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Dry River Syrah Lovat Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  release September 2007;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet,  markedly lighter than the other top wines.  Bouquet comes into the sensational category,  being straight out of Cote Rotie:  beautiful dianthus and wallflower florals,  a hint of balsam aromatics,  and the most delightful bush honey complexity,  as is sometimes seen in the Rhone – for example 1982 Jaboulet les Jumelles.  Palate is fragrant and supple,  a hint of syrah spice,  limpid fruit,  slightly acid,  refreshing.  It is not as big as the other top wines,  but like the 2005 Bullnose,  is beautiful.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Craggy Range [ Syrah ] le Sol   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $85   [ cork;  Sy 100% cropped @ c. 2.75 t/ac;  hand-harvested,  95% de-stemmed;  fermented in open oak cuves with wild yeast;  21 months in 65% new French oak,  no fining,  minimal filtration;  in the sense 2004 le Sol can be said to be more varietal if less weighty than the 2002,  it is worth paraphrasing Parker on the 2002 of this label.  R. Parker 155:  One of the finest reds I have ever tasted from New Zealand … tremendous freshness, concentration, and intensity… the acidity and definition of a top-notch northern Rhone … tremendous presence on the palate … remarkable elegance and precision. All of Syrah’s characteristics – smoke, licorice, pepper, blackberries, and currants – are present in this beautifully knit, pure, concentrated 2002. Kudos to winemaker Steve Smith. 94;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  as deep as the Passage Rock.  This le Sol was not part of the Symposium formal tastings,  instead being presented with food.  Like the similarly deployed '04 Pask Declaration,  this was a mistake,  in that context this very youthful wine looking raw and spirity.  Yet as soon as it is lined up in my post-Symposium taste-off,  it looks wonderfully varietal.  There are darkest violets and rose florals,  not quite the cassis and precise varietal definition of the Passage Rock,  but rich berry,  and great length and juicyness on palate.  The spirit shows more than the Yering Station or the Passage Rock,  and it is the most new-oaky.  With all these top wines,  we have to learn that 14.5% alcohol is not food friendly.  I acknowledge the magical qualities of grenache allow fine Chateauneuf-du-Pape to get away with it (particularly with cellar-age),  but syrah is closer to pinot in style,  and the marriage with high alcohol is less happy.  It is worth noting the superb 2005 Dry River has achieved physiological maturity at 12.5% alcohol.  So there is work needed here.  I hope le Sol will mellow in cellar.  Comparison with the Craggy Range Block 14 wine is interesting,  the two being similar in their nearly sur-maturité approach.  Le Sol is slightly the crisper and more focussed of the two,  presumably reflecting its greater percentage of new oak.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Clonakilla Shiraz / Viognier   18 ½  ()
Murrumbateman,  Canberra district,  New South Wales,  Australia:  14%;  $80   [ screwcap;  Sh 93%,  Vi 7%;  some whole bunch;  French oak;  R. Parker 168: The brilliant 2005 Shiraz/Viognier reveals … an exotic, flamboyant bouquet of peach jam intermixed with blueberry and blackberry liqueur. Deep and rich with excellent precision, full body, sweet tannin, and decent acidity, it can be enjoyed over the next decade.  91;  available in New Zealand though The Fine Wine Delivery Company,  Auckland,  but possibly sold out;  www.clonakilla.com.au ]
Ruby,  lighter than the Dry River.  Initially opened,  bouquet is distinctive,  with attractive florals at the red roses level,  uplifted by clear balsam notes (the dried leaves of Canadian balsam fir).  As with the Yering Station wine,  this is an attractive and rarified take on the flowering mint component sometimes encountered in more elegant Victorian and South Australian shiraz wines.  Palate is delicate,  low extraction of phenolics,  totally Cote Rotie styling,  yet persisting marvellously on succulent berry.  There is common ground with the 2005 Dry River,  both in style and in the approach to the tannins,  but the Clonakilla is richer.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Te Awa Syrah Zone 2   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ cork;  available cellar door only,  not on website;  8 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  16-day cuvaison;  15 months in French oak NONE new,  50% 1-year,  50% 2-year;  www.teawa.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  not as deep as some,  closer to the Bullnose.  This is another distinctive wine,  with an as yet unfocused floral component,  on a berry character that reminds of mulberry,  as well as cassis and plum.  Palate is rich,  a little more acid than some,  but with intense fruit,  and adding blueberry to the mix.  Oaking is a little too noticeable at this early stage,  but what a joy to have a syrah of this quality raised only in older oak.  Even 50% 1-year is obtrusive !  This wine has the physical structure to cellar happily.  It will be fun to see just where it fits in to the syrah spectrum,  in five and ten years.  Recommended.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Mills Reef Syrah Elspeth   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ cork;  100% French oak;  not on the website yet;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little carmine and velvet,  much the same weight as the Dry River.  My word,  what a change in style for Elspeth Syrah.  This is subtle,  no US oak,  all French,  no VA,  just floral and fragrant red roses,  cassis and almost red rather than black plums,  yet smelling beautifully ripe.  Palate includes blueberry in the spread of small fruits,  acid crisper than some,  oak delightfully aromatic.  On the acid and subtlety,  this wine should build terrific bouquet in the bottle,  over 5 – 12 years,  and be good with food too.  GK 01/07

2005  Esk Valley Syrah Reserve   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  rare (c. 200 6-packs),  release ex winery only early March;  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed;  French oak 50% new,  batonnage in barrel;  not on website yet;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as deep as some.  Bouquet is wonderfully clean and aromatic,  the new oak showing a little much at this stage,  but with air revealing lots of dark rose and violets florals,  on cassis in rich plummy fruit.  Below is a little black peppercorn spice.  Palate is rich too,  the quality of the cassis fruit first-rate,  all very pure,  both crisp and juicy.  This fruit with less new oak would be super,  and it may well marry up to be that,  anyway.  It is 14.5% alcohol,  sadly,  but carries it well.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Craggy Range Syrah Block 14   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ cork;  Sy 100% cropped @ c. 3.5 t/ac,  hand-harvested,  95% destemmed;  17 months in French oak 40% new;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  lovely.  Bouquet is a great presentation of very ripe New Zealand syrah,  deeply floral in a violets and lilac sense,  beautiful cassis,  dark plum and blueberry,  smelling soft and enticing,  yet clearly syrah more than shiraz.  On palate one is surprised by the level of tannin and oak,  which the bouquet gives little hint of,  but there is the fruit there for it to marry up.  It is a lighter wine than le Sol,  but still as big as most of the big ones.  This really needs to lose some tannin,  at the moment,  for in the richness it is potentially velvety.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Trinity Hill Syrah Gimblett Gravels   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ supercritical cork;  Sy 97%,  Vi 3,  hand-picked,  co-fermented;  de-stemmed but whole berry;  14 months in French & American oak some new;  attention to oxygen in elevage;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deep but not as deep as some,  a great colour.  Bouquet is fresh cassis,  violets  and black pepper florals,  highly varietal in a cooler-climate presentation than some Gimblett Gravels syrahs.  Palate is richer than the bouquet suggests,  quite a lot of oak as well as this floral berry.  Rumour is,  there is no Homage 2005,  so all the Homage premium material went into this.  The wine is still rather disorganised / closed,  and could well be scoring more highly in another 18 months.  It could be worth watching this wine closely to see how it settles down,  to purchase in quantity if appropriate.  The style is clearly northern Rhone,  St Joseph maybe or even Hermitage proper,  and the alcohol is superb.  Cellar up to 15 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Sacred Hill Syrah Deerstalkers   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  extended cuvaison followed by 18 months in French oak;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  much the same weight as the Clonakilla,  but older.  What a transformation here !  This wine has been through a relatively ugly patch,  bearing no relation to the 2002 (so it seemed),  yet suddenly,  here it is,  born again,  fresh,  floral,  fragrant,  all red fruits.  Palate is delightfully succulent,  more red cherry than cassis,  some plum,  subtle oak.  Not explicitly varietal,  but potentially delicious.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Sacred Hill Syrah Deerstalkers   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ screwcap;  not on website yet;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  a little darker than the 2004.  Bouquet is quiet rich cassis and darkest plum,  more accessible and sweeter than the '05 Silistria.  In mouth there is good red and black fruit tending to plummy richness,  with an intriguing allspice suggestion perhaps from oak.  It is not as fragrant a wine as the 2005 Bullnose,  and is slightly more acid,  but it has plenty of richness to develop on.  Promising.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Bilancia Syrah la Collina   18  ()
Roy's Hill,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $84   [ supercritical cork;  Sy 98%,  Vi 2,  100% de-stemmed;  fermented on c. 2% viognier skins;  MLF and 18 months in 100% new French oak coopered in Burgundy;  particular attention to the H2S-forming propensities of syrah;  grown on the NW slopes of Roy’s Hill,  adjacent to but not part of the Gimblett Gravels;  www.bilancia.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  a flush of velvet.  This wine slots in completely with the Yann Chave Hermitage,  in its explicit syrah florals in the dianthus spectrum,  on red fruits more than black.  Palate is twice the concentration of the Chave,  some cassis now in red and black plums,  just a thought of stalks,  clear white and black pepper.  Total style is more Crozes-Hermitage than the Chave's Cote Rotie.  This winestyle contrasts vividly with the riper wines of the Gimblett Gravels,  all around the foot of Roy's Hill.  For New Zealand syrah,  the truth lies somewhere between the two styles,  as for example exemplified in 2005 Bullnose,  and noting that la Collina is made from young vines.  As this vineyard ages,  the development of the wines will be watched with great interest.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2006  Te Mata Syrah clone 174 [ research wine ]   18  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ not for sale;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet on this version of syrah was intriguing,  with the floral component  including a salvia aromatic note.  There is clear cassis,  some cracked pepper,  and clear soft blueberry plumminess.  On palate the wine is softer and more ample than the original mass selection clone,  syrah in a softer more modern style.  Some would therefore prefer it to the more floral,  aromatic and classically-styled mass selection,  so the scoring ends up personal.  As for the other Te Mata clonal syrah shown,  this is a research wine,  not for sale.  I rather regretted Te Mata could not also show their syrah clone 470,  which I have associated (supposition) with the increase of precise Rhone-like florals in the evolution of Bullnose in recent years.  GK 01/07

2004  Yarra Yering [ Shiraz ] Dry Red Wine Number 2   18  ()
Yarra Valley,  Victoria,  Australia:  14%;  $ –    [ cork;  c. AU$80;  shiraz,  small percentage of viognier and marsanne;  R. Parker 168: The 2004 Dry Red Wine No. 2 (95% Shiraz and 5% Marsanne and Viognier) is more closed, tannic, and harder to fully penetrate … With aeration, the bouquet reveals notions of exotic Asian spices intermixed with flowers, blackberries, and cassis. In the mouth, the wine struts its stuff with a full-bodied, layered, broad, flavorful, concentrated style and moderately high tannin in the finish … two decades.  94;  no website ]
Ruby,  a flush of velvet,  fractionally deeper than the 2004 Bullnose.  Freshly opened,  the bouquet is very floral and fragrant,  not as ripe as most Australian shiraz,  distinctive.  Intertwined in its aromas is spicy nutmeg / cloves oak reminiscent of the kind Danny Schuster uses on his Omihi Pinot,  which the following week in the Pinot Noir 2007 conference,  the Australian Wine Research Institute convincingly demonstrated was part of the brett spectrum of aromas.  Methinks we are almost learning too much about wine,  to be able to enjoy it !  With air the bouquet tired a little,  a varnishy thought creeping in.  Palate suggests a higher percentage of viognier than some of the blends,  the floral component blending into unusual blueberry succulence,  all in older oak.  There was also a reminder in this wine of some of the Ridges Zinfandels – intriguing,  different,  delightful.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Vidal Syrah Soler   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $42   [ screwcap;  1% viognier;  hand-harvested;  80% whole berry in fermentation,  MLF in barrel,  16  months in French oak;  wine filed under Estate Syrah on website;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  This has mellowed-out somewhat in the last six months,  and lost some of its varietal edge.  Palate however is still richly syrah,  very ripe,  a touch of blueberry,  quite oaky,  a suggestion of best Australian on this occasion.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose   17 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ cork;  Sy 100%;  includes clone 470 for first time,  hand-harvested,  de-stemmed;  extended cuvaison 3 + weeks,  followed by 16 months in new and older French oak;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  markedly older.  In the Symposium flight,  this wine was not singing.  I couldn't say it was corked,  but it was certainly cramped on bouquet.  Next day it had breathed-off considerably,  to show aromatic cassis and darkly plummy fruit,  good length and richness,  subtle oak.  I would hate to think this wine has lost its way,  having reviewed it enthusiastically previously,  so for the moment I will suggest this was a lesser bottle.  Cellar to 12 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Yann Chave Hermitage   17 ½ +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $89   [ cork;  available through Maison Vauron,  Auckland ]
Ruby,  lighter again than the Clonakilla.  This was one of the key wines in the international tasting presented by Remington Norman,  showing exquisite florals in the wallflower / dianthus spectrum,  such as characterises syrah more commonly in its Cote Rotie alter ego.  Palate appears lightly red-fruited in the new world company,  almost a hint of stalks.  2004 is a more modestly-pitched and straightforward vintage in the northern Rhone,  yet the wine is harmonious and refreshing – some might say a little acid.  With the current trend to sur-maturité,  we are in danger of forgetting the beautiful floral component of syrah varietal specificity,  when it is ripened for maximum complexity.  This wine was a valuable reminder of that,  and a close link to the la Collina too.  Cellar 5 – 10 years only,  though,  for it is petite for Hermitage.  2003 was the year to cellar from Yann Chave,  his top Crozes in particular being magnificent.  GK 01/07

2000  Guigal Cote Rotie Ch d'Ampuis   17 ½ +  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  Sy 95% & Vi 5,  average age 50 years,  average yield 1.8 t/ac;  4 weeks cuvaison;  38 months in French oak said to be all new;  R. Parker 156:  … is good, but not nearly as perfumed, deep, or impressive as the 1999, 2001, and 2003. It offers aromas and flavors of sweet cassis intermixed with hints of frying lard and dried herbs intertwined with supple tannin. Although superficial, it is a seductive, rich, concentrated effort. 89;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  old for age.  Bouquet is classically Cote Rotie,  clearcut fading dianthus florals,  drying cassis just a little brown for the wine's age,  trace brett adding to the savoury complexity,  the oaking just a bit plain as if a high percentage of older barrels.  Palate is fully mature,  attractive berry as for bouquet,  totally in style,  but much lighter than the top New Zealand wines.  In the blind tasting its harmony and balance were somewhat overshadowed by the vibrant young wines preceding it,  but for the table,  this is great drinking,  crying out for food to accompany its savoury flavours and low alcohol.  Very forward though,  so cellar 3 – 10 years only.  GK 01/07

2005  Mission Estate Syrah   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $17   [ supercritical cork;  6 months in French oak;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  brighter and darker than the 2004 Mission Syrah Reserve.  Bouquet is youthful,  a little oak interfering,  but attractive cassis and black plum below,  and the suggestion of dark florals and peppercorn to come.  Palate shows attractive medium-weight berry and fruit,  some cassis now,  clear black pepper,  the oak to a max but probably OK.  This is more clearly varietal than the 2004 Reserve wine,  presumably as a consequence of less new oak – attractive.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Brokenwood Vineyard Shiraz Graveyard   17 ½  ()
Hunter Valley,  NSW,  Australia:  12.5%;  $100   [ screwcap;  price AU$;  Brokenwood's top shiraz;  average vine age 36 years;  not a great vintage;  4 day cold soak,  short cuvaison,  fermentation and MLF completed in barrel 80% French and 20% American,  about 80% new;  R. Parker 168: the 2004 is monolithic, backward, and tightly knit. Its deep ruby/purple color is accompanied by hints of red fruits, mint and herbal underpinnings, and a notion of sweet oak. 88;  www.brokenwoodwines.com ]
Bright ruby,  lighter than most.  Here was a wine that spanned the decades.  In its soft fragrance of red fruits and aromatic almost raspberry berry,  complexed by a little savoury brett,  it bespoke the classical Hunter Valley burgundy style.  Yet the wine is modern too,  with clean oak,  added acid,  and some winemakers thought,  added tannin too.  So,  an interesting wine,  and not at all euc'y.  But in its hotter-climate origins,  it does not retain much hint of syrah florals or complexity,  being classically shiraz – just a subtle free-run example of it – like the Edelstone in one sense.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe longer,  for these delicate Hunter styles can surprise,  in  cellar.  They weren't previously labelled Burgundy for no reason.  GK 01/07

2004  Bridge Pa Syrah Louis   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ supercritical cork;  12 months in French & US oak some new;  www.bridgepa.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Initially opened,  bouquet is a little withdrawn,  and benefits from a good splashy decanting.  Fruit is more plummy and oak than cassis,  smelling rich.  Palate is very rich,  long,  a potentially velvety texture like some Chilean carmenere,  oaky at this stage.  This could score more highly in three years.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2002  Renard Syrah Peay Vineyard   17 ½  ()
Sonoma Coast,  California,  USA:  14.4%;  $ –    [ cork;  small production 244 cases @ US$35;  the website describes the site as a 'marginal climate',  and the wine as: dark fruit … vibrant spice .. rich and dense … a dead ringer for classic Rhone syrah;  R. Parker 159:  complexity …  an elegant nose of camphor, truffles, blackberries,  cassis … and floral characteristics … complete, beautifully-textured, and opulent, this medium-bodied, complex, stylish Syrah offers considerable finesse and elegance.  91;  www.renardsyrah.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the densest.  This was one of the most interesting wines in the formal presentations,  for unlike the other two Californian wines,  it displayed syrah ripened to an almost European level of retained florals,  aromatics and complexity,  on intense cassis fruit.  The only trouble was,  it also showed a good deal of brett,   and many technical tasters couldn't get past that.  On palate the weight and intensity of berry was in the same league as le Sol or Yering Station,  and the berry flavours included classic syrah cassis,  black cherry and darkest plum.  This could have been one of the top wines of the day,  in the sense it was enormously concentrated,  and magnificently varietal in an almost Hermitage / Rhone sense,  but it was too flawed.  The score has to be arbitrary,  on account of the brett.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe more.  GK 01/07

2004  Te Awa Syrah   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ cork;  raised in French oak hogsheads 10 – 15% new;  www.teawa.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than its class average.  Bouquet is fragrant berry with some cassis and plum,  a thought of peppercorn,  oak to balance.  Palate tastes a little much of oak (though it is less oaky than the Pask Declaration),  but there is fair fruit,  all ripe and pleasing in mouth.  There is a family resemblance to the new Te Awa Reserve bottling Zone 2,  but this wine is lighter and more accessible.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Pask Syrah Gimblett Road   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%;  13 months in new and 1-year oak;  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a good colour.  Bouquet is clean,  fragrant,  red fruits,  more clearly varietal than the Declaration,  attractive.  Palate too is much more clearly syrah,  with cassisy and plummy berry,  clearcut black peppercorn and delightfully balanced oak.  This will please many a diner,  I suspect.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Gunn Estate Syrah Silistria   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  c. 4 weeks cuvaison;  18 months in French oak,  50% new;  www.gunnestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Initially opened,  bouquet is a little disorganised / closed at this stage.  With air,  there is clear peppercorn,  spice and oak,  and the suggestion of a floral component to come.  Palate is cassisy,  plummy,  rich and long,  some oak showing,  a little more oaky than the Soler 2004.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2002  Vidal Syrah Soler   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.8%;  $34   [ screwcap;  no info on website;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Older ruby and velvet,  quite dense.  Bouquet is in the rich ripe browning cassis and dark plum spectrum,  not exactly floral but with a suggestion of pennyroyal,  some sur-maturité.  Palate reinforces that thought,  richly plummy to nearly pruney,  going a little meaty and hot climate.  But there is plenty of fruit,  and plenty of tannin for it to live on,  so in its now foursquare style it should cellar for 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2002  Matariki Syrah   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ cork;  hand-picked;  de-stemmed;  a small % BF;  15 months in French & US oak 50% new;  www.matarikiwines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is more complex than some,  partly due to mellowing influence of another couple of years in bottle,  partly due to a touch of brett.  Palate shows fair fruit and oak melded into a plummy whole,  very dry to the finish with a little more oak showing now,  but good food wine.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Pask Syrah Declaration   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $48   [ ProCork;  machine harvested;  11 days cuvaison,  tail-end BF in 100% new French oak,  followed by 16 months in barrel;  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than most of its year and group.  Bouquet is very aromatic and fragrant,  but a moment's reflection and one realises it is new oak more than the grape which is speaking.  None the less there is berry and peppercorn spice too.  Palate is equally aromatic,  and in its style the interaction of cassis,  black peppercorn and new oak is fragrant.  The worry is the fruit is going to shrink around the oak,  rather than the oak marrying into the wine.  So,  a wine for oak enthusiasts particularly.  It didn't look too good served with food,  the oak becoming awkward.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

1992  Stonecroft Syrah   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  Alan Limmer:  coolest vintage in 20 years;  www.stonecroft.co.nz ]
Mature ruby.  This wine emphasised the point that the essential berryfruit of great syrah,  as opposed to shiraz,  is cassis.  Bouquet is remarkable,  fully mature browning cassis yet not fading unduly,  and smelling as much of mature Bordeaux as mature Crozes-Hermitage.  On palate the age showed a little more,  the fruit drying,  the oak and acid now more noticeable.  But what a treat:  one of New Zealand's earliest commercial syrahs,  and from a cool-year (Pinatubo),  yet in great order,  and very European (French) in style.  Thanks are due to Alan Limmer for contributing his total remaining stock to this event.  Best finished up in the next year or two.  GK 01/07

2005  Te Mata Syrah Woodthorpe   17  ()
Tutaekuri Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Sy 95%,  Vi 5,  hand-harvested,  destemmed,  co-fermented;  15 months French oak some new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Lightish ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is fragrant and floral,  like a lighter Cote Rotie,  promising,  with red and black currants and plums.  Palate adds a cracked peppercorn component,  some new oak,  and the faintest thought of stalks.  The actual flesh is not as light as the bouquet suggests.  The gap between the Bullnose and Woodthorpe syrahs is wider this year,  but I do not have the 2004s to hand.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Mission Syrah Reserve   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ supercritical cork;  hand-harvested from 10-year old vines;  raised in French oak 30% new;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet and palate on this syrah have quite an Australian touch to them,  with suggestions of boysenberry sur maturité.  There is plenty of fruit,  and oak too,  which is in a trendy chocolatey style.  Many will like this approach,  for it is soft and ample.  It does not however have the varietal precision better years of Mission Syrah have shown.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Boekenhoutskloof Syrah   17  ()
Franschhoek (c. 20 k E of Stellenbosch),  South Africa:   – %;  $ –    [ bottle not seen;  $US45;  Remington Norman – one of the best south African examples of the grape;  older French oak only;  merchant review (www.southernwines.com) quotes noted South African wine author John Platter as rating this wine five stars in 2007:  Admired for remarkable consistency, traditional styling. Splendid '04 tighter knit, more focused than ever, both sensuous & sophisticated. Gorgeous spicy red-fruit intensity, delicious savoury concentration will reward 8-10 years cellaring;  no recent Parker review,  but he comments on earlier vintages of this wine: R. Parker 145: Boekenhoutskloof fashions the finest South African Syrahs I've tasted. "I want to be in the style of Hermitage, not Barossa, that's the business," stated Mark Kent matter-of-factly. An admirer of Gerard and Jean-Louis Chave, Kent ferments his Syrah with natural yeasts and ages it for 27 months in used barrels;  website under construction;  www.boekenhoutskloof.co.za ]
Ruby,  old for age,  clearly older than the 2004 Bullnose.  Bouquet is interesting,  with some clear syrah varietal florals in browning cassis berry,  closer in style to the d'Ampuis than the new world wines.  Palate is a little less,  the oak including older,  with some varnishy hints,  good berryfruit but the phenolics higher than other wines of the same colour density.  Clearly syrah in style rather than shiraz,  but ageing prematurely.  Cellar 3 – 8 years maybe.  GK 01/07

2003  Mt Henschke Shiraz Mt Edelstone   16 ½ +  ()
Eden Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $90   [ screwcap;  vines 90 years old,  un-irrigated;  hot difficult season though described as 'very good quality';  R. Parker 167:  18 months in a combination of American and French oak (80% new) … sumptuous and voluptuous … Notions of blackberries, cassis, pepper, graphite, and melted road tar emerge from this rich, full-bodied, impeccably well-balanced Shiraz. 94;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby,  a little velvet,  another Australian shiraz much lighter than in earlier years.  Initially opened,  bouquet is intensely euc'y,  almost to the point of wintergreen,  so one has to wrestle with the wine,  to see its contribution to an international syrah tasting.  Remington Norman wanted us to appreciate the great structure the wine showed,  and the finesse of its extraction and elevation.  And certainly on palate,  red fruits dominate,  total phenolics were low,  and the wine is richly juicy and physically attractive.  But in the Barossa climate,  it is hard for syrah to retain either florals or precise aromatic cassis berry,  instead broadening into a raspberry / boysenberry / plummy mix of fruit parameters – classically shiraz.  So,  the wine is in one sense elegant in its lighter style,  but it so reeks of eucalyptus that there is no hope of hiding it in an international blind tasting – which rather defeats the purpose of the exercise.  The influence of the much-vaunted terroir concept at this intensity is totally negative.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Trinity Hill Shiraz Hawkes Bay   16 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ supercritical cork;  hand-harvested;  destemmed;  12 months in French and American oak;  www.trinityhill.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  Initially opened,  the wine shows some retained fermentation odours,  and needs a good splashy decanting.  Bouquet and palate then reveal cassisy berry and red plummy fruit,  a suggestion of boysenberry over-ripe fruit,  not the concentration of the Gimblett Gravels wine (naturally),  and the oak is pleasantly older.  But there is a good deal more richness and ripeness here than in the vintage of this wine that got lucky in a wine show a couple of years ago,  so at the price it should be popular.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Hatton Estate Syrah   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ cork;  www.hattonestate.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  rich,  one of the darkest.  Bouquet is tending reductive initially opened,  and needs splashy decanting.  With air it opens up to reveal rich plummy fruit of great length and concentration,  with oak noticeable,  and a slight hardness.  On concentration and richness,  this should score more highly,  but quality of bouquet is all-important.  With any luck,  this will look much more mellow and fragrant in 5 years,  and cellar to 15-plus.  GK 01/07

2002  Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate   16 ½  ()
Santa Maria Valley (between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara),  California,  USA:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  Qupe's top syrah – 680 cases @ US$47;  100% de-stemmed,  cold-soak 2 days;  7% of the juice BF,  20 months in French oak 60% new;  neither fined nor filtered;  R. Parker 154:  The most backward and potentially finest effort …  a complex, earthy, mineral, red and black fruit-scented nose, medium to full body … The fruit and richness build incrementally … The most northern Rhone-like of Qupe’s Syrahs, it … should be uncommonly long-lived – 12-14 years. 90 later 91;  www.qupe.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  This is a simpler and purer wine than the other two Californian examples,  showing dry plummy fruit on bouquet,  ripened well beyond florals,  fresh berry and spice,  but not as raisiny and pruney as the Havens.  Palate is lesser,  browning plum,  some baked and raisiny flavours,  drying leathery oak and some brett too on closer examination.  In taste it is reminiscent of Australian shiraz in the 60s and 70s,  before they invented new oak.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  in its style.  GK 01/07

2002  Guigal St Joseph Vignes de l'Hospice   16 ½  ()
St Joseph,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  this is a limited production wine from Guigal,  20 – 80 year vines cropped @ 1.5 t/ac,  and (generally) raised in new oak for 30 months;  2002 a modest year in the Rhone Valley;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  older.  This wine was something of a miniature,  showing premature maturity,  but also illustrating the dianthus florals and aromatic berry of classical northern Rhone syrah (as well as savoury brett).  Palate is leaner,  reflecting the difficult 2002 vintage in the Rhone Valley,  but it is maturing harmoniously into a slightly stalky and acid northern Rhone,  modestly varietal.  Cellar 3 – 5 years only.  GK 01/07

2004  Bilancia Syrah   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels 80%,  balance Roys Hill,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Sy 98%,  Vi 2,  co-fermented;  16 months in French oak 40% new;  www.bilancia.co.nz ]
Ruby.  This is a New Zealand syrah in the Crozes-Hermitage mould,  showing red fruits and white pepper on bouquet,  fragrant.  Palate likewise has the Crozes-Hermitage average-year stalk component,  though there is fair fruit.  Oaking is light.  Comparison with the Woodthorpe is intriguing,  the greater floral component on the latter pointing to the greater viognier.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Crossroads Syrah Destination Series   16 +  ()
Dartmoor Valley & Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $20   [ cork;  destemmed;  6 months in French oak 25% new;  www.crossroadswinery.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is light clean red fruits,  another suggesting Crozes-Hermitage,   but not as clearly so as the Bilancia.  Palate is even more Crozes-like,  light cassis,  some black pepper,  gently older-oaked,  slightly stalky,  attractive easy syrah.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Hatton Estate Syrah The Doctor   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ supercritical cork;  www.hattonestate.com ]
Dense ruby carmine and velvet,  nearly as deep as the standard '04 Hatton Syrah.  There is a family resemblance between the two wines,  but this one is more reductive,  and more definitely needs splashy decanting,  and standing in an open vessel.  The wine is equally rich,  more aromatic on greater oak,  and will cellar as long.  It is more doubtful if this one will pull through and blossom in cellar,  however,  the sulphide component not dissipating.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  GK 01/07

2002  Havens Syrah Hudson Vineyard   16  ()
Carneros,  California,  USA:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  US$40;  Haven's only single-vineyard syrah,  on fractured volcanic parent materials in the 'very cool Carneros district';  co-fermented with some viognier,  which (website) 'actually makes a darker wine, with more aromatic precursors, by a process called co-pigmentation. The resulting tannins are soft and fine, though substantial in total volume. Along with the exotic high tones of lavender and orchid, the white pepper spice, and the long finish, it develops … into a slightly bigger wine offering power in elegant form – real Syrah from Carneros terroir';  R. Parker 154:  The outstanding 2002 Syrah Hudson … a beautifully ripe nose of acacia flowers, creme de cassis, and vanilla. Dense but elegant and well-balanced with seamlessly integrated acidity, wood, tannin, and a long, smooth finish, it will provide a lot of pleasure over the next 5-8 years, 91;  www.havenswine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  dense.  This is an old-fashioned wine,  and notwithstanding it comes from a nominally cool district,  it is over-ripened to raisiny plum and prune fruit notes,  made leathery with brett and old cooperage.  On palate it is reminiscent of some Chilean syrahs,  rich and very baked in flavour,  a wine on its own terms.  Stylistically it is a long way away from the Rhone,  or Hawkes Bay.  If the similarly rich wines of the 50s and 60s from Australia are any guide,  this will cellar in its style for decades,  notwithstanding the brett.  GK 01/07

2005  Sileni Syrah Cellar Selection   15 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Light ruby.  This is a petite wine,  yet in style for a lightweight Crozes-Hermitage.  There is a floral component on red fruits,  and a touch of white pepper.  On palate there is a little more flesh than the colour suggests,  with subtle flavours and a softish finish,  faintly stalky.  More a pleasing QDR syrah,  easy drinking,  but will cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 01/07

2005  Beach House Syrah The Track   15 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ supercritical cork;  low-cropping – the website suggesting the grapes were over-ripened;  12 months in French and American oak;  www.beachhouse.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet.  This is another wine closed in by some retained fermentation odours,  but it responds well to a good splashy decanting.  Bouquet is then red fruits,  with a hint of black pepper and spice.  Palate too is dulled by these reductive-tending odours,  giving a marzipan note on hard berry phenolics,  even though it is not over-oaked.  It is richer than the Sileni,  but not as pure.  Syrah is prone to reductive tendencies in fermentation,  which must be attended to.  The wine may emerge in two or three years,  and will cellar to 10 years or so,  but probably not to blossom.  GK 01/07

2005  Ngatarawa Syrah Glazebrook   15  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  Bouquet is complexed by a touch of eucalyptus,  some retained fermentation odours,  and the leafy fragrance of under-ripeness,  on red fruits.  Palate is varietal,  some white pepper,  but is also stalky.  Even though there is some flesh,  the green suggestion is negative.  Comparison with the Woodthorpe is useful,  where a similar weight of wine has achieved markedly better physiological maturity.  And Bullnose from the same soils close by Ngatarawa has achieved near-perfect physiological maturity.  Cropping rate seems an issue here.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  doubtfully,  to see how it resolves the stalky component.  GK 01/07

2003  Saxenburg Shiraz Private Collection   14  ()
Stellenbosch,  South Africa:  14%;  $ –    [ cork;  R105 in South Africa = c. NZ$20;  100%  Sh,  cropped @ 3 t/ac;  up to 4 weeks cuvaison;  12 months elevation in 80% US oak and 20 French,  30% new;  no fining,  coarse filtration only;  in Wine magazine this 2003 wine was recently selected as the top South African Shiraz from 215 entries,  and described as: complex nose with clean, ripe fruit balanced by pepper and spice. Palate medium bodied with black fruit matched by firm, elegant tannins. Oak well managed. A long finish.;  www.saxenburg.com ]
Dense older ruby.  This is a time-travel wine,  rich and brown and baked,  no recognisable berry notes,  meaty going on horsey in its heavy strongly bretty aroma.  Palate is thick,  very tannic with what tastes like non-oak old cooperage,  totally non-varietal,  baked and lifeless.  The whole approach is reminiscent of Australia 50 years ago,  and poor for then.  Not worth cellaring.  [ Quite apart from the Wine quote above …] comparing these observations with a South African wine (merchant – www.cybercellar.com) website description of exactly the same wine provides a perspective on South African red wine styles and perceptions in general,  in a country which we rarely taste from:  ***** The flavour is a complex full ripe combination of spice and black fruit. The taste is warm, compact fruit with a superb balance between the fruit and tannins.  The five stars are reputed to be from John Platter,  in a Wine Spectator forum.  The comments on this wine provide a dramatic illustration of the differences in palate perception between warm-climate and temperate-climate tasters.  Not worth cellaring,  for a temperate-climate palate.  GK 01/07