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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
independent
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
BUBBLIES FROM NEW ZEALAND & CHAMPAGNE


INTRODUCTION:  

Before Christmas,  the Wellington firms Regional Wines & Spirits and Glengarry Wines both offered seasonal bubbly tastings.  This report integrates those with the then current releases of a number of New Zealand bubblies,  including the 2006 Air Zealand Trophy wine nv Paradox Marlborough Methode Traditionelle,  and the one I think is the best bubbly recently made in this country – 1996 C J Pask Brut.  The resulting exercise was sheer pleasure.  

The methode champenoise / traditionelle class in New Zealand is relatively out of the limelight currently,  but its stylistic improvement over the last 20 years has been exciting to watch.  Gradually we are mastering the viticultural practice needed to get appropriate fruit flavours at the relatively low alcohol essential for finesse in the style.  Similarly the progress in complexing the wines through extended tirage,  and varying ratios of barrel-fermented components in the base wine,  is producing wonderful results.  Thanks to our essentially cool-climate,  it is now a fair claim to say that our best wines not only easily match many buyers-own-brand and similar genuine champagnes,  but also they match some of the standard nv wines of the main houses.  At the topmost levels,  however,  there is still an ultimate elegance and finesse to the yardsticks which our slightly more sturdy wines have yet to achieve.  Considering some of the cooler districts still at very early stages in their exploration of the class,  or not yet started,  the methode champenoise / traditionelle class is one we can expect great things from in New Zealand.

One thing distinguishes the luxury and vintage champagnes from most standard ones:  the extra dry extract,  the substance on palate,  reflecting both site quality and classification in Champagne,  and cropping rate.  This extra concentration gives them their (at best) superbly satisfying and lingering mouthfeel and texture,  yet they still avoid 'fruitiness'.  Likewise,  many of the New Zealand wines tend to be lighter in body,  but the best bouquets now have very specific baguette crust autolysis which is completely international in class.  And,  better to have a lighter but correct wine,  rather than something more akin to sparkling chardonnay,  as was not infrequently the case 10 years ago in New Zealand.  

As in the previous bubbly article (17 Dec. 2005),  in these reviews,  bubbles are taken for granted,  and MLF is assumed unless noted otherwise.  For me,  the quality of bouquet (and taste to follow) is what matters in bubbly.  Sulphur-related slightly cardboardy,  stale wet-washing,  or dough-y odours,  all frequently encountered in lesser sparkling wines,  are marked down.  The closer the wine approaches to the elusive fresh-baked fine baguette character (as captured in Wellington by the bakery le Moulin),  the higher it rates.  An increasing ratio of crust to crumb,  by analogy,  further up-rates it.  A floral component too rates even higher.  Then follows texture and balance,  and substance from fruit without being 'fruity'.

All the wines were closed with laminated champagne corks,  except for Diam supercritical ‘corks’ in the three McCorkindale wines.  This ratio is likely to change dramatically in the near future.

In searching for background info,  it has to be said that in the last couple of years,  far too many champagne-house websites have become pretentious and irksome,  slowly unfolding PR fluff,  rarely offering data or hard info.  But life is not long enough to follow some of these ostentatious obfuscations through to their end.  They do little to engage one's critical interest in the actual wine,  and some are so enfuriating as to be (surely) counterproductive.

These reviews first appeared on the www.regionalwines.co.nz website in December 2006.  With the change to Regional's website linking directly through to this one in March / April 2007,  they are now re-formatted and inserted here at their appropriate dates.  In general,  they are not updated.  The word [then] is inserted occasionally,  to emphasise that.  Obvious errors have been corrected.  This Introduction has been added,  on transfer to this site.  


WINES REVIEWED:  

2002  Alan McCorkindale Blanc de Blancs
2002  Alan McCorkindale Blanc de Noirs
2002  Alan McCorkindale Cuvée Rosé
   nv  [ Amisfield ] Arcadia Blanc de Blanc Brut
1998  Ayala Perle d'Ayala
1998  Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs
1996  Bollinger Grande Année
1995  Bollinger RD Extra Brut
   nv  Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut
   nv  Charles Courbet Special Cuvée
1997  Dellamotte Blanc de Blancs Brut
1998  Deutz Cuvee William Brut
2002  Deutz Marlborough Cuvée Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle
   nv  Deutz Marlborough Cuvée Brut Methode Traditionelle (red label)
   nv  Deutz Marlborough Cuvée Rosé Methode Traditionelle
   nv  Drappier Carte Blanche
2001  Huia Marlborough Brut
2000  Huia Marlborough Brut
2003  Hunter’s Miru Miru
2002  Hunter’s Miru Miru Reserve
1989  Krug Brut
1996  Lanson Gold Label Brut
1997  Laurent Perrier Brut
   nv  Laurent-Perrier Brut
     nv  Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle Brut
   nv  [ Montana ] Lindauer 25 Years Anniversary Label
   nv  [ Montana ] Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle
   nv  [ Montana ] Lindauer Special Reserve Methode Traditionelle Brut
2004  [ Montana ] Lindauer Special Reserve Vintage Methode Traditionelle
1999  Louis Roederer Cristal Brut
1998  Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Brut
   nv  Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut
1999  No. 1 Family Estate Cuvée Virginie
   nv  Paradox Marlborough Methode Traditionelle
1996  Pask Brut
1997  Pask Methode Traditionelle Declaration Brut
1998  Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Brut
   nv  Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut
1997  Philipponat Reserve Brut
1998  Pol Roger Brut
1995  Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Brut
   nv  Pol Roger Reserve Brut
1995  Salon le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut
2001  Seven Oaks Methode Traditionelle
1996  Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut
   nv  Veuve Clicquot Brut
1996  Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut


1995  Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Brut   19 ½  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $235   [ cork;  cepage thought to vary around PN 75%,  Ch 25;  understood to be no BF,  understood to be hand-riddled;  www.polroger.co.uk not yet running;  PR fluff only on the main website;  www.polroger.com ]
Straw more than lemon,  above midway in depth.  Bouquet is one kind of champagne perfection,  showing beautiful pinot fruit,  in superbly complex baguette crust autolysis,  deep and satisfying.  Palate combines ripe fruit with the feeling of richness,  yet there is no hint of fruitiness.  The integration of the crusty autolysis component right through the palate is magical,  lasting long into the aftertaste.  There are suggestions of finest cashew,  yet the wine is refreshed by marvellous acid as well as the bubbles.  Like the 1996 of this label,  recently tasted in non-note-taking circumstances,  this is near-perfect champagne which will cellar well.  It seems more brut than most.  Residual could be hard to judge on a wine of this fruit quality and concentration,  though.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  GK 11/06

1998  Pol Roger Brut   19 +  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $106   [ cork;  probably PN 60%,  Ch 40;  www.polroger.co.uk not yet running;  www.polroger.com ]
Lemon to lemonstraw.  Bouquet on this wine is wonderful,  a complete champagne showing a perfect integration of classic baguette autolysis on nearly floral white cherry and apple fruit.  In mouth,  the wine is equally good,  mouthfilling yet fresh and firm,  perfect acid balance,  not at all aggressive,  and a gorgeous aftertaste in which white cherry and baguette crust meld together.  This elegant flavour with its perfect acid lingers wonderfully.  Dosage is subtly understated.  Model champagne.  Cellar to 20 years.  GK 12/06

1995  Salon le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut   19  ()
Le Mesnil-sur-Oger,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $359   [ cork;  Ch 100% ]
Lemonstraw,  above midway in depth,  the hue giving little clue to its blanc de blancs status.  Bouquet does not have quite the authority of the Churchill,  but in its lighter style,  it shows equally remarkable baguette crust autolysis,  and is quite magical.  On palate the chardonnay dominance shows a little more clearly,  but the depth  of autolysis still makes the cepage hard to pick.  In mouth the palate weight is less than the Churchill,  and acid is firm for the year,  with clean citric notes in white cherry fruit,  plus a touch of apple shortcake confounded by a very brut finish.  This is simply great refreshing champagne,  which will cellar for decades.  GK 11/06

1995  Bollinger RD Extra Brut   19  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $228   [ cork;  PN 60%,  Ch 40;  some BF in primary fermentation;  no MLF;  secondary fermentation under cork;  disgorged 6/05;  pretentious and inoperable website;  www.champagne-bollinger.fr ]
Straw,  one of the deeper wines.  Bouquet is Bollinger at its finest,  cashew-rich,  great pinot noir-dominant fruit,  a magical hint of oak,  perfect baguette crust autolysis.  Palate is mealy / nutty on the oak and autolysis,  fresh acid,  yet though rich in terms of champagne,  the whole is in one sense relatively light (in Bollinger terms) and elegant.  The depth of flavour however is magnificent,  and is long and lingering in the mouth.  One can just taste the oak here – this is exactly how oak should be used in the champagne style,  nearly invisible,  just adding to the cashew component of the autolysis,  adding perhaps a shade of hazel.  This will cellar 5 – 15 years plus – a wonderful wine.  GK 11/06

nv  Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut   19  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $100   [ cork;  PN 60%,  Ch 25,  PM 15;  no MLF;  www.champagne-bollinger.fr ]
The colour is indistinguishable from the Pol Roger,  surprisingly.  Bouquet is drier and nuttier,  less floral,  more Vogel’s Wholegrain,  on aromatic fruit and one imagines,  a whisper of oak – unlike the vintage, one can’t be sure.  This sample is much fresher and less developed than Bollinger NV traditionally has been.  Palate is wonderfully rich and flavoursome,  the cherry of high pinot,  superb autolysis and mealy complexity nearly of cashew depth,  a bigger flavour all round than the Pol,  and fractionally drier in dosage.  It seems light alongside the 1995 RD,  however.  Cellar to 20 years plus.  GK 12/06

1998  Deutz Cuvee William Brut   18 ½ +  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $165   [ cork;  PN 60%,  Ch 30;  PM 10;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com ]
Straw,  one of the deeper.  In the lineup,  this looked like a little Bollinger,  with lovely crusty autolysis just hinting at cashew,  on red cherry fruit,  very pinot (as the cepage confirms).  Palate is dramatically pinot,  perfect poise,  fresher and less weighty than the Bollinger,  firm acid,  very brut,  but with superb baguette crust autolysis right through and lingering into the aftertaste,  with a suggestion of button mushrooms.  One of the two cheapest (of the premium wines),  but one of the best.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 11/06

nv  Pol Roger Reserve Brut   18 ½ +  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $83   [ cork;  PN 34%,  Ch 33,  PM 33;  www.polroger.co.uk not running yet;  www.polroger.com ]
Firm lemonstraw,  an attractive deeper colour.  Bouquet on nv Pol Roger this year seems almost as good as last year's magical wine.  There is an almost-acacia floral lift on beautiful autolysis,  with blended fruit of all three varieties below.  Palate fills the mouth with white cherry fruit,  baguette crust autolysis,  and a long lingering crisp flavour which is marvellous,  as non-vintage champagne (though a little higher dosage than the vintage).  With the non-vintage wine of this quality,  most prestige champagnes alongside it look rather silly.  Cellar to 20 years.  GK 12/06

1999  Louis Roederer Cristal Brut   18 ½ +  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $343   [ cork;  PN 55%,  Ch 45,  no wine info on website;  www.champagne-roederer.com ]
Colour is intriguing,  not deep,  yet the only one of the premium champagnes with a touch of salmon.  Freshly-opened,  bouquet shows a remarkable briar-rose and strawberry component to the bouquet,  very floral and different.  Yet there is clear cut autolysis too,  and complexity below.  Palate is crisp and fresh,  light and aethereal,  the florals lifting right through the mouth,  ending on appley fruit and baguette crust,  a little less brut than some.  Fruit concentration is in fact good,  yet the style is so light,  it makes the Churchill or RD look heavy !  Probably not a wine that lends itself to long cellaring,  if it is too keep that subtle beauty on bouquet.  Nonetheless,  it should keep,  becoming in 10 years a more conventional mature good bubbly.  GK 11/06

1996  Pask Brut   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  France:  12.5%;  $33   [ cork;  Ch 80%,  PN 20;  7 years en tirage,  no MLF,  no BF,  7 g/L dosage.  Formerly available only ex winery, a little was distributed to the trade after its gold medal win in the 2006 Easter Show. It is now sold out.  With the time on lees reminiscent of Bollinger RD,  there is some resemblance,  but the wine though developed is lighter.  Closest NZ comparison 2000 Huia,  but without the barrel-ferment;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Straw.  Bouquet is sensational,  a vivid display of exactly what yeast autolysis transformed into finest baguette crust should smell like.  There are clear reminders of Bollinger's RD style on bouquet.  Palate is pretty well unique in New Zealand bubbly,  the depth of baguette flavour marvellous but not marmite-y,  showing good body but not at all fruity,  and finishing superbly dry with a delicate white mushroom hint.  Only the Huia 2000 comes close to this,  but alongside it is a little more acid and awkward,  with the barrel-ferment / oak component a little obtrusive.  This Pask is THE wine to present blind as an aperitif to quizzical overseas visitors keen on wine – few would suspect it was anything but French – and fine French at that.  It is the best New Zealand bubbly I have ever tasted,  and a great New Zealand wine achievement.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  though it is unlikely to get any better.  GK 12/06

1998  Ayala Perle d'Ayala   18 ½  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $153   [ cork;  PN 20%,  Ch 80;  secondary fermentation under cork;  now owned by Bollinger;  no wine info on website;  www.champagne-ayala.com ]
Colour is one of the lightest of the luxury champagnes.  Though clearly fitting in with the top wines,  this one too has floral and strawberry qualities on bouquet,  almost hinting at strawberry shortcake (in a positive sense).  Palate is more straightforward,  clearcut autolysis,  more clearly chardonnay-dominant than the Salon,  even more delicate then the Grand Siecle but no weaker,  not as brut as some,  perhaps because the acid is higher.  There might be a whisper of oak in this wine,  too.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/06

nv  Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle Brut   18 ½  ()
Tours sur Marne,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $214   [ cork;  Ch 52%,  PN 48;  www.laurentperrierus.com ]
Lemonstraw,  below midway in depth of colour.  This is another of the wines with a bouquet showing rose blossom and strawberry on the bouquet,  firmed by clear autolysis and baguette characters.  Flavours in mouth are pinot noir-dominant despite the cepage,  more the weight of the Deutz than the bigger wines,  with fresh acid.  Just fine and delicate champagne lingering attractively on a dosage higher than some,  the baguette crust increasing throughout.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 11/06

1998  Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Brut   18 +  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12.5%;  $213   [ cork;  Ch 50,  PN 45,  PM 5;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com ]
Lemonstraw,  midway.  On bouquet,  this is very straight good champagne,  no grape dominant,  attractive autolysis,  fragrant all through.  Palate is beautifully balanced pinot noir and chardonnay,  fresh acid,  slight citric and baguette crust components,  just a hint of phenolics on the tail (if one were ultra-critical).  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/06

1998  Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs   18  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $204   [ cork;  Ch 100%;  www.champagne-billecart.fr ]
Paleish lemon,  one of the lightest.  Bouquet is obviously a chardonnay-dominant wine,  showing chablis-like fruit complexed by clearcut baguette crust autolysis.  There is the faintest hint of toasty complexity,  citric aromas,  and the MLF component,  adding depth.  Palate is firm,  again clearly chardonnay,  tending acid,  lowish dosage,  the citric notes increasing.  As for the bouquet,  within the pale purity of chardonnay there are subtle complexity flavours,  button mushrooms,  best marzipan maybe.  Not quite magical,  but very good,  good dry extract,  and more-ish as one tries to pin down the many subtle flavours.  Cellar 5 – 20 + years.  GK 12/06

2002  Deutz Marlborough Cuvée Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $36   [ cork;  Ch 100%,  mostly mendoza clone,  hand-harvested,  lees contact in tank,  followed by just over 3 years en tirage;  dosage not given on website;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com ]
Lemon,  one of the palest in the batch.  Bouquet is clearly in the chardonnay / blanc de blancs style,  with a greater depth of autolysis than the Lindauer Reserve Blanc de Blancs – more baguette crust than crumb,  and with a delicate hint of popcorn (+ve).  Palate is similarly more sophisticated than the Lindauer version,  the fruit much the same but showing more autolysis and less residual / dosage,  all a little crisper (though not as brut as the top French).  This will cellar 5 – 15 years too.  Like the Hunter’s Miru Miru Reserve 2002,  this is another clear illustration of just how good New Zealand sparkling wine is going to be.  GK 12/06

2002  Hunter’s Miru Miru Reserve   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $27   [ cork;  Ch 48%,  PN 47,  PM 5;  hand-picked;  s/s ferment and full MLF,  c. 4 years en tirage;  dosage 9 – 10 g/L;  www.hunters.co.nz ]
Lemon more than lemonstraw.  Bouquet is lighter and milder on this wine,  seemingly more chardonnay-dominant than the cepage would suggest,  very pure,  showing a little more autolysis complexity than the ’03 Miru Miru.  Palate flavour,  length and style are all chardonnay-influenced,  more cashew and richness than the ’03 wine or Lindauer Reserve Blanc de Blancs,  with good mouthfeel but not fruity.  This is lovely lightish methode.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/06

2000  Huia Marlborough Brut   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.1%;  $36   [ cork;  Ch 48%,  PN 29,  PM 23;  hand-picked;  full BF and MLF,  plus 7 months LA in old French oak;  3.5 – 4.5 years en tirage;  hand-riddled;  dosage 6 g/L;  www.huia.net.nz ]
Straw,  deeper than the Pask.  Bouquet is wonderful in its big style,  great purity,  cleaner and more Bollinger-like than some samples of Bollinger (e.g. the 1996 vintage in this suite of tastings),  with great yeast autolysis and baguette complexity,  the oak from the barrel ferment component reasonably well married away.  Palate is rich and splendidly autolysed,  almost a mealy suggestion now like good Meursault,  but it doesn't quite have the marvellous dry authority and integration of nv Bollinger,  being a little more fleshy and oaky,  though no sweeter.  The dosage in Huia is superb,  as is the delicately autolysed / mushroom-influenced lingering finish.  The 2000 Huia Brut is (along with the 1996 Pask Brut) quite simply one of New Zealand's best methode traditionelle bubblies so far,  for those who like the rich Bollinger style.  Cellar 5 – 10 years to harmonise,  though it will be very developed in colour and flavour by then.  GK 12/06

1997  Laurent Perrier Brut   18  ()
Tours-sur-Marne,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $112   [ cork;  Ch 55%,  PN 45;  www.laurent-perrier.fr ]
Lemon to pale lemonstraw.  Bouquet on this bubbly shows clearcut influence of red cherry pinot noir,  along with a clear toasty note akin to barrel-fermented chardonnay.  A highly sensitive taster might find a subliminal whisper of mercaptan,  but for most,  it is ‘toasty’.  Palate is one of the gentler ones,  good cherry fruit,  attractive softish acid,  lingering long on cherry and baguette flavours,  mainstream dosage.  Just lacks the magic and purity of the Pol Roger.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 12/06

1996  Lanson Gold Label Brut   17 ½ +  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12.5%;  $99   [ cork;  PN 50%,  Ch 50;  no MLF;  www.lansonpf.com ]
Straw.  Bouquet is clearly autolysed into wholemeal baguette characters on fair fruit,  initially promising.  As one goes back and forth between the wines,  this one looks a little broader than many,  with a faintly aldehydic complexity around the edges of the breadcrust.  Palate is crisper than the bouquet suggests,  total acid noticeably higher than most of the vintage wines (as befits a non-MLF wine),  and dosage is lower.  All a bit confusing therefore,  with some of the characters reminding of old-fashioned Bollinger,  rather than Lanson,  which is normally so fresh.  Will become very flavoursome in bottle,  and is more a food wine than a light aperitif one.  Cellar 5 –10 years.  GK 12/06

1999  No. 1 Family Estate Cuvée Virginie   17 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $58   [ cork;  PN & Ch,  hand-harvested;  c.4 years en tirage;  dosage c. 6 g/L;  produced in premium years only;  1999 sold out at winery;  No 1 Family Estate is Daniel LeBrun himself;  www.no1familyestate.co.nz ]
Straw.  Bouquet on this wine is showing beautiful yeast autolysis and some development,  with cashew-like complexities building on wholemeal baguette aromas.  Flavour is very distinctive,  more developed and complex than some,  an MLF component detectable in a lingering ‘mushrooms on buttered toast’ flavour,  rich yet not fruity.  There is just a little nip of marmite (from the extended tirage) on the finish,  on dosage lower than many,  close to the Huia 2001.  This is an attractive rich bubbly,  with the body to be a good food wine,  as well as a satisfying rich aperitif.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 12/06

nv  Paradox Marlborough Methode Traditionelle   17 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.2%;  $31   [ cork;  Ch 54%,  PN 24,  PM 22;  3 years en tirage;  RS 8 g/L;  made for the NZ Wine Society by Hunter’s Wines,  and only available through the Society;  www.nzwinesociety.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet shows textbook light baguette-crust autolysis,  on light,  fresh,  faintly citric,  chardonnay-dominated fruit.  On palate,  fruit (as dry extract) is a little light in comparison with good champagne,  and the autolysis tapers away somewhat.  Residual seems fractionally drier than in the Miru Miru Reserve 2002,  which shows up the acid a little,  but total wine styles are similar.  This is marvellously quaffable bubbly,  better than many examples of the real thing,  and one of New Zealand’s top light methodes (i.e. in contrast to the weightier Bollinger-influenced Huia or Pask).  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  which will mellow it nicely.  GK 12/06

nv  Veuve Clicquot Brut   17 ½ +  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $82   [ cork;  PN 55%,  Ch 30,  PM 15;  www.veuve-clicquot.com ]
A lighter colour,  pale lemon.  Bouquet is mainstream good champagne,  without quite the precise complexity and beauty of the Pol Roger or the Bollinger.  The autolysis is good but a little more diffuse and biscuitty,  and the fruit is pretty good,  not quite as fine as the Pol NV.  Palate is fresh,  firm acid,  good flavours,  slightly more phenolic than the Pol,  drier on dosage than many.  Cellar to 15 years.  GK 12/06

2002  Alan McCorkindale Cuvée Rosé   17 ½  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $27   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  PN 95%,  Ch 5,  hand-harvested;  some BF;  c.4 years en tirage;  www.waiparawine.co.nz ]
A youthful rosé.  Bouquet is clean and fresh,  putting more emphasis on red berries (red currants,  subtle strawberry) than autolysis.  Palate brings up the autolysis delightfully,  and suggests the whole wine is too young as yet.  The attractive balance and fresh yet not phenolic fruit offers great potential to marry down,  particularly given the restrained residual sugar,  and firm but not aggressive acid.  This wine will benefit greatly from time in cellar,  giving it a chance to become more complex in bottle,  and more interesting with food.  Exciting wine.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/06

2001  Huia Marlborough Brut   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $36   [ cork;  Ch 55%,  PN 45,  hand-picked;  full BF and MLF,  plus 7 months LA in old French oak;  3.5 – 4.5 years en tirage;  hand-riddled;  dosage 6 g/L;  www.huia.net.nz ]
Full straw,  a hint of orange.  Bouquet is very full,  in an older Bollinger style,  richly old-meursaulty and Vogels Wholegrain yeast autolysis,  a little aldehydic and over-developed alongside the 2000.  Palate has great fruit weight yet is not fruity,  fresh acid balance,  and long autolysis flavours with just a nip of marmite to the finish.  This is not as exciting as the 2000,  and being over-developed for its age,  it could be criticised by those seeking delicacy above all else.  But as a food wine,  served after a more aperitif / lighter bubbly,  it would be pretty good.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  in its style.  GK 12/06

2003  Hunter’s Miru Miru   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $25   [ cork;  Ch 60%,  PN 35,  PM 5;  hand-picked;  s/s ferment and full MLF,  2.5 years en tirage;  dosage 9.2 g/L;  www.hunters.co.nz ]
Colour is more lemon than lemonstraw,  suggesting chardonnay dominance,  with a sustained bubble.  Bouquet is chardonnay-styled,  beautiful white cherry suggestions with fine autolysis of baguette crust quality,  plus the subtlest cashew mealy undertone.  Palate is attractive,  fine-grained and elegant,  lingering baguette flavours,  good mouthfeel yet not fruity,  delicious.  Dosage is subtle,  a little drier than the Lindauer Reserve Blanc de Blancs,  a little sweeter than the ’02 Reserve.  This is a light wine,  and easily over-looked in a comparative blind tasting.  It is however attractive as a virtual blanc de blancs.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 12/06

nv  Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut   17 ½  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $92   [ cork;  PN 40%,  PM 40,  Ch 20;  RS 11.5 g/L;  www.perrier-jouet.com ]
Surprisingly for a higher chardonnay wine,  the colour is more clearly straw here,  even with a hint of flush.  Bouquet is light and fresh and citrusy,  understated in both fruit and depth of autolysis.  Palate is pure and elegant,  interesting flavours of button mushrooms on toast,  all mild and low in phenolics,  not as brut as some [ confirmed ],  yet not soft on acid.  This was much liked by some tasters,  and is certainly very gentle and more-ish.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/06

1997  Pask Methode Traditionelle Declaration Brut   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $35   [ cork;  Ch 90%,  PN 10,  hand-harvested;  8 years en tirage,  no MLF,  no BF, c. 7 g/L dosage;  all riddling,  disgorging,  dosage and labelling by hand;  available ex winery;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Elegant lemonstraw,  a lazy bubble.  Bouquet shows clearcut baguette autolysis on good fruit,  in another wine with some reminders of the Bollinger style,  including a hint of aldehydes.  Palate is not as crisp and focussed as the 1996 wine simply labelled Brut,  and is clearly a little broader,  but it is still weighty,  flavoursome,  and more a food wine than a light aperitif.  Dosage is attractively on the dry side,  and aftertaste is long and integrated.  This is a bubbly for those liking the autolysed flavours of a more mature wine,  but who are not keen on too much fizz.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 12/06

1996  Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut   17 +  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12.5%;  $269   [ cork;  PN 60%,  Ch 40;  www.veuve-clicquot.com ]
Full straw,  the second deepest.  Bouquet is not in the top flight,  the luxury bubblies falling into two camps.  There is a broad aldehydic quality on this wine,  such as Bollinger is often accused of,  on broad mushroomy autolysis.  There is also a suggestion of high solids / almond,  adding a heavy note which is not so good in fine methode champenoise.  Palate brings up the autolysis flavours more attractively,  the mealy qualities darkening almost to hazelnut,  rich,  but all a little lacking in freshness.  Great food wine now,  but not a good cellaring prospect.  GK 11/06

nv  Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut   17  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  New Zealand:  12%;  $70   [ cork;  PN 50%,  PM 40,  Ch 10;  website inoperable;  www.moet.com ]
Lightish lemonstraw,  not too different from the Perrier Jouet.  Bouquet opens relatively cleanly,  not as sacky as the Dom Perignon,  just a shadow of cardboard in reasonable autolysis complexity and blended fruit.  Palate has the same foaming quality as the Dom Perignon,  which is not to all tastes.  Flavours are mild and  pleasant,  but lack excitement,  finishing sweeter on dosage than most.  Run-of-the-mill commercial / innocuous champagne,  tuned to a more populist market.   Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 12/06

1996  Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut   17  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $255   [ cork;  Ch 100%;  www.taittinger.com ]
Colour is rich lemon more than straw,  distinctive.  Bouquet is lesser on this wine,  with the faintest beery component in autolysis which is more sourdough than baguette,  all masking the elegance hoped for in a chardonnay-dominant wine.  Palate is better,  more clearly chardonnay,  straightforward autolysis,  more acid than most,  yet all lingering quite nicely by the rich aftertaste stage.  If this bottle is representative,  not cork-affected,  it is not a great example of the label,  though,  so not really worth cellaring.  GK 11/06

nv  [ Montana ] Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle   17  ()
Gisborne & Marlborough mostly,  New Zealand:  12%;  $16   [ cork;  Ch perhaps 100%,  lees contact in tank,  followed by 2 years en tirage;  dosage not given on website but its stable-mate is 12 g/L;  www.montanawines.com ]
Colour is more lemon than lemonstraw,  paler than most.  Bouquet is paler too,  like a lighter version of the ’03 Miru Miru,  beautifully clean chardonnay-dominant,  and clean autolysis but less of it – more crumb of baguette than crust.  Flavours on palate are classic blanc de blancs,  a lovely impression of chardonnay fruit yet not ‘fruity’,  good acid,  just a little let down by a dosage sweeter than the quality of fruit requires or needs.   This is a great improvement over the batch a year or so ago,  and should cellar well,  5 – 15 years.  GK 12/06

2004  [ Montana ] Lindauer Special Reserve Vintage Methode Traditionelle   17  ()
Marlborough, Gisborne & Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12%;  $18   [ cork;  Ch dominant,  PN,  some of the grapes hand-picked;  lees contact in tank,  followed by 2 years en tirage;  dosage 12 g/L;  www.montanawines.com ]
Palest lemon.  Bouquet on this wine is exquisitely pure,  and extremely subtle.  The delicacy is of the kind that could be confused with certain prestige champagnes.  There is autolysis,  and it is baguette crust,  but it is aethereally light.  Palate is along the same lines,  chardonnay dominant yet with some pinot noir backbone,  seemingly appreciably drier than either of the Lindauer Reserves,  or the 2002 Miru Miru Reserve (though the RS analysis given on the website denies this).  One could get to like this !  This is certainly a wine for delicacy fans – one to try.  It seems extremely hard to locate,  at retail.  But surely the challenge for Montana / Lindauer is to differentiate their Lindauers a little more.  If the Vintage version were three years en tirage,  and 8 g/L residual,  this would offer a more sophisticated wine which would help grow the standing of Lindauer both locally,  and overseas.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 12/06

1996  Bollinger Grande Année   16 ½ +  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $204   [ cork;  PN 60%,  Ch 40;  no MLF;  www.champagne-bollinger.fr ]
Straw,  one of the most developed colours.  This is a curious bottle of Bollinger,  in total not at all typical of the Bollinger vintage style.  Bouquet is rich,  with deep autolysis almost going as far as a marmite note,  deeper than usual for its age.  But gradually one realises there is a contra aroma,  very close to fresh dried parsley.  Assuming the bottle might be slightly corked,  I checked the other one courtesy of another taster,  but it was identical.  So a question mark here:  both might be subliminally corked.  Palate is intense and almost hazelnut-mealy on the autolysis and richness,  crisp red cherry fruit,  good acid,  low dosage,  suggestions of subliminal oak.  It is pretty strongly-flavoured,  but would be fine with flavoursome savouries,  or similar.  If these two bottles are representative,  not a fine example of vintage Bollinger,  so dubious for cellaring – particularly since it is now so expensive.  Score has to be arbitrary.  GK 12/06

nv  [ Montana ] Lindauer Special Reserve Methode Traditionelle Brut   16 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay & Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $16   [ cork;  PN dominant,  Ch,  some of the grapes hand-picked,  lees contact in tank,  followed by 2 years en tirage;  dosage given on website as 12 g/L,  but tastes drier now;  www.montanawines.com ]
Palest salmon flush.  Bouquet shows an attractive red-currant / faint red cherry / berry quality complexed by clearcut light baguette autolysis,  absolutely in style for a pinot noir-dominant methode traditionelle.  Palate is equally good,  the fruit fairly dry,  the autolysis lingering lightly,  with a piquant cherry freshness to it which is  attractive,  and more-ish.  No,  it does not have the gravitas of New Zealand's top methodes traditionelles,  or better non-vintage champagne,  but for sheer quality,  consistency,  and ability to improve markedly in bottle,  nv Lindauer Reserve is the best value quality bubbly available in New Zealand.  Lately it has been offered at prices down to $11,  which is ludicrous for a wine of this quality.  The trick is to buy it by the case at that price,  and cellar it for four years.  The quality of the resulting wine will surprise you,  and it loses that superfluous fizz Montana still indulge in.  This label now seems a little drier than it was five years ago,  and the fruit quality amply justifies this step towards sophisticating the style.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  VALUE  GK 12/06

1997  Philipponat Reserve Brut   16 ½  ()
Moreuil-sur-Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $99   [ cork;  PN 55%,  Ch 35,  PM 15;  www.champagnephilipponnat.com ]
Lightish straw.  Bouquet on this wine is also a bit out of line,  the overriding character being the malolactic fermentation component,  as in some Marlborough chardonnays starting off with high total acid.  Behind that,  there is good fruit and unfocussed autolysis which is more crumb than crust,  but the whole clearly in style.  Palate is less good,  and though rich,  the wine is tending phenolic,  with noticeable acid and a highish dosage not resolved completely happily.  Straightforward quite rich bubbly,  lacking magic.  Should mellow in bottle,  and cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/06

nv  Charles Courbet Special Cuvée   16 ½  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12.5%;  $35   [ cork ]
Light straw,  clearly flushed.  Bouquet is interesting and characterful on this wine,  with aromatic fruit suggesting pinot noir dominance,  and bold autolysis which is wholemeal more than baguette.  Palate however is lesser,  with elevated phenolics introducing a tinny note which is exacerbated by the low dosage.  With the clear-cut autolysis,  however,  this is a flavoursome glass of bubbly,  well in style.  It just illustrates the concept of differing qualities in the grapes and juice found in varying price levels of champagne rather well,  this obviously being harder-pressed and hence coarser than grande-marque wine.  Will probably coarsen and go very biscuitty with age,  so marginal for cellaring.  GK 12/06

2002  Alan McCorkindale Blanc de Blancs   16 ½  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $27   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Ch 100%,  hand-harvested;  some BF;  understood to be c.4 years en tirage;  www.waiparawine.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is clearly in a chardonnay style,  and contains an interesting floral note,  in the way fine chablis sometimes does.  Depth of autolysis is not marked,  but it is pure.  Palate brings up a greater depth of both fruit and autolysis,  but is offset by a dosage which is higher than ideal – as sweet as or sweeter than Lindauer Reserve Blanc de Blancs,  without quite the definition.  Like that wine,  these McCorkindales will probably score better after five years in bottle.  Fruit quality would have absorbed appreciably longer on tirage,  and less dosage.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/06

1998  Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Brut   16 ½  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12.5%;  $298   [ cork;  PN 50%,  PM 50;  website non-functional;  www.moet.com ]
Lemon more than straw,  one of the palest of the premium wines.  One does not have to wait long to find out why,  the bouquet showing that old-fashioned European wet-washing / minutely entrained sulphur odour that has characterised the label off and on for decades now,  and is off-putting to those sensitive to soft sulphurs like DMS.  In mouth the wine differs from the rest,  much more foaming rather than sparkling – which doesn't appeal to everybody.  Aftertaste is the best part,  with straightforward blended grape flavours,  and some autolysis.  Though not as brut as some,  it is not as blatantly sweet as the Moet NV.  A consistent wine in style,  very much in the king's new clothes category,  for me.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  but unlikely to blossom or be worth the effort.  GK 11/06

nv  [ Montana ] Lindauer 25 Years Anniversary Label   16 +  ()
Marlborough,  Hawkes Bay & Gisborne,  New Zealand:  12%;  $12   [ cork;  PN,  Ch,  CB;  c. 15 month en tirage;  dosage 12 g/L;  www.montanawines.com ]
Palest straw,  a bit much bubble.  Bouquet is just a fraction off-centre,  more a crushed wine-biscuit aroma than baguette crust autolysis,  but all fresh and pure.  On palate pinot noir seems the dominant grape,  on lightly autolysed flavours,  and fruit not offering the same mouthfeel as the (better of the) more expensive bubblies in the Montana / Deutz stable.  But to sell this wine at the price they do,  the cropping rate must be higher than the more highly-rated wines.  Nonetheless,  it is surprisingly in style,  and like the Reserve versions,  is I suspect drier than standard Lindauer was five years ago.  It finishes crisply but a little unfocussed – for example,  one could not say there is lingering autolysis.  How a wine of this quality can be retailed (at times) down to $8 occasionally $7,  is beyond me.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 12/06

1997  Dellamotte Blanc de Blancs Brut   16  ()
Le Mesnil sur Oger,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $106   [ cork;  Ch 100% ]
Almost lemongreen.  Bouquet on this wine is uncannily like some New Zealand blanc de blancs,  but there is a slightly ersatz quality,  either an exotic fruit like mango or a suggestion of cardboard,  or both (both share sulphur molecules).  Palate amplifies this less happy fruity component,  yet behind it there is good conventional blanc de blancs fruit too,  and light autolysis.  Like all the vintage champagnes,  fruit weight expressed as dry extract is good – this is where the French wines in general score,  relative to the New Zealand wines,  where many are clean but lighter.  Aftertaste is the best part of the Dellamotte.  Has the constitution to cellar well,  and may look much better in 5 years.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/06

nv  Laurent-Perrier Brut   16  ()
Tours-sur-Marne,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $91   [ cork;  Ch 45%,  PN 40,  PM 15;  www.laurentperrierus.com ]
Colour is odd among the champagnes,  quite distinctively lemon,  no straw,  no flush.  Bouquet too is a bit off-centre,  with an odd crushed bay-leaf note not endearing.  Behind that is straightforward blended fruit no more complex or autolysed than the Moet.  The aromatic on bouquet permeates the palate,  which coupled with a higher dosage than some,  makes for a pretty straightforward champagne.  Not a patch on last year's batch.  Dubious for cellaring.  GK 12/06

2002  Alan McCorkindale Blanc de Noirs   15 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $27   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  PN 98%,  PM 2,  hand-harvested;  some BF;  c.4 years en tirage;  www.waiparawine.co.nz ]
Palest lemonstraw.  This wine has a most unusual bouquet (as methode),  for though it is clearly pinot noir,  it has a scented kamahi bush honey quality to it which,  not to put too fine a point on it,  is an acquired taste.  Thoughts of mead arise.  Palate is tending raw,  the fruit a little quincy,  the dosage noticeable against acid higher than I prefer in methodes (unless the wine is a compelling cellaring style).  Needs five years to marry up,  and will cellar for 10 to 15,  but I am dubious about the success of this.  GK 12/06

nv  Deutz Marlborough Cuvée Brut Methode Traditionelle (red label)   15  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $30   [ cork;  PN dominant,  balance Ch,  hand-harvested;  at least 2 years en tirage;  RS not given;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com ]
Pale lemonstraw,  excessive bubble.  Bouquet is lightly autolysed,  on light red cherry fruit,  with a faint herbes and sur lie sulky complexity.  Palate is distinctly odd in the set,  quite phenolic,  almost foaming in the mouth,  the flavours reminding of some Deutscher Sekts,  high acid yet too sweet,  as if there were some riesling in the blend.  Like the current batch of Deutz Rosé Marlborough,  this is not a success,  when  measured against the Lindauer Reserve.  [ How one tells if a wine is impaired by the cork,  but not ”corked”,  I do not know.  Hence the caveat in the Introduction to the site.]  Not worth cellaring.  GK 12/06

1989  Krug Brut   15  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $392   [ cork;  PN ±50%,  Ch ±30,  PM ±20;  BF for primary fermentation,  no MLF;  website still in development (year later);  www.champagne-krug.com ]
Colour is deep straw with a brown wash,  inappropriate for the age.  Bouquet is mellow,  mushroomy,  tending aldehydic,  smelling more of (dry) amontillado than champagne.   Palate is first and foremost oaky,  reminiscent of old-style Spanish whites,  firm acid,  fairly brut,  a nutty aftertaste which would be good with some flavoursome / savoury foods.  An eccentric offering within the champagne concept,  however – another bubbly in the king's new clothes basket.  Not suited to or worth cellaring.  GK 11/06

nv  [ Amisfield ] Arcadia Blanc de Blanc Brut   15  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $24   [ cork;  PN & Ch;  minimum 3 years en tirage;  www.amisfield.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  good bubble.  The wine shows plenty of bouquet,  but the autolysis complexity is rather more crumb than crust (of baguette),  with a slightly dough-y note dulling the aroma.  Palate is crisp under-ripe stonefruit,  just slightly sour as if a whisper of entrained reduced sulphur,  coupled with relatively high total acid and dosage.  Nett impression is more of sparkling chardonnay then methode,  but it is otherwise clean and sound,  and should improve in cellar 5 – 10  years.  GK 12/06

nv  Deutz Marlborough Cuvée Rosé Methode Traditionelle   14 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $36   [ cork;  PN dominant,  balance Ch,  hand-harvested;  at least 2 years en tirage;  dosage includes red wine for colour enhancement,  to give a RS of 16 g/L;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com ]
Rosé,  but not attractive as to hue,  and over-pressured.  Bouquet likewise is a bit unsubtle on this wine,  noticeable VA emphasising the simple berry and red fruits,  and distracting from the autolysis.  Palate is both foaming in mouth,  and seems as uncoordinated as the bouquet.  Berry,  noticeable acid and sweetness are quite unintegrated and raw,  not the harmony the McCorkindale Rosé shows.  If it weren’t for the VA,  I'd say put it away for three years,  but no,  this is a lesser batch in the Montana stable.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 12/06

nv  Drappier Carte Blanche   14  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  New Zealand:  12%;  $55   [ cork;  understood to be PN dominant & Ch ]
Light straw,  clearly flushed.  Bouquet bears little relation to champagne as an idealised concept,  instead showing clearly oxidised base wine giving a fizz more cidery than winey / grapey.  Palate is no better,  with a high-solids dullness,  a phenolic marzipan undertone which is coarse,  and higher dosage than some.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 12/06

2001  Seven Oaks Methode Traditionelle   11  (-)
New Zealand:  11%;  $ –    [ cork;  PN & Ch,  24 months en tirage;  made by the CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) Horticultural Training Centre ]
Colour is orange-flushed straw,  inappropriate.  Bouquet is lesser in this company,  the base wine clearly oxidised,  and now aldehydic in re-fermentation.  The palate has the right fruit feel,  dosage is appropriate,  but the base wine was so oxidised that the varieties can't be recognised,  and the finish is now fusty,  verging on mousey.  Even the most modest methode should be fine in bottle for 5 years,  so this was not really of marketable quality,  from the outset.  GK 12/06