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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.
SENSATIONAL SYRAHS INCLUDING 2003 GUIGAL,  2004 PENFOLDS,  AND 2005 CRAGGY RANGE


Without doubt,  this is the most exciting bracket of syrahs I have set out to try and crystallise into words.  They represent some of the best syrahs,  arguably the best syrahs,  from each of France,  Australia and New Zealand.  The opportunity to put 2002 Penfolds Grange into a tasting with the Guigal grand crus wines was marvellous.  But some other straight shirazes in the latest Penfolds release of 2004 wines in fact scored just as well,  in a blind tasting conducted outside Australia.  These were wines not so characterised by Aussie artefacts including American oak.

The reason for my excitement is a personal one.  Last year I published (06 Nov 2006) an account of the sequence of smell and flavour characters marking the syrah ripening curve,  as it reaches maturity and then passes into over-ripeness (sur-maturité) in some climates.  The present tasting included 2005 vintage wines from Hawkes Bay,  where winemakers consider the season allowed the best expression of ripe cabernet and merlot characters for many years.  Optimal varietal expression in syrah requires very similar heat summations and length of season,  and the best syrah wines from 2005 coincide perfectly with the optimal point for syrah on my sequence:  full florals,  black peppercorn spice,  yet ripe cassis-dominated berryfruit and saturated fresh flavours.  In South Australia,  2002 particularly and 2004 to quite a degree,  are both seen as (relatively) cooler years,  with varieties such as cabernet and syrah showing great aromatic complexity,  so that in itself is worthwhile to compare with a good warm year in Hawkes Bay.  And then there is 2003 in France,  a notably hot year.  The question was therefore:  in such a year would the French syrahs move into the boysenberry over-ripe Australian spectrum of smells and flavours documented on my curve,  or would they still be classically syrah ?  Might they even perhaps still retain the key floral components so critical to full varietal expression and quality in this subtle yet complex variety,  when grown in an appropriate climate.  My conclusions follow,  in the wine reviews.

The 2003 Guigal grands crus are preceded by their reputation,  set by the 100-point scores for all four awarded by Robert Parker,  so blind tasting is the only way to see them in any kind of perspective.  Likewise Penfolds Grange Shiraz has such a reputation (the only first growth of the Southern Hemisphere,  etc) that it needs to be similarly treated.  The New Zealand wines on the other hand are so new,  their reputation has so far travelled only a few hundred kilometres from their home base in Hawkes Bay.  They are scarcely known internationally as yet,  though Parker has reported on the 2002 Craggy Range le Sol:  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 … as well as remarkable elegance and precision.  94.  And Wine Spectator commented on the 2004:  Streamlined and fragrant, with a medley of peppercorn, dark chocolate and black plum flavors. Fresh herb accents, toasty oak and racy tannins highlight the firm finish, which should soften with a year in bottle.  91.   I understand Jancis Robinson may be reporting on the 2005 shortly.  

Certainly on the basis of this tasting and others reported on recently,  the top New Zealand Hawkes Bay syrahs amply merit international attention.  Their style is closer to the Rhone than most,  less floral than the best,  but often with more varietal clarity on palate,  due to somewhat more attention to the brett component in the new world.  The only sensible conclusion to draw from this exercise is to plan for a repeat tasting,  in 10 or 15 years.  

Penfolds Grange 2002 is a little more available in New Zealand this year than last,  but in general it is scarce despite quite high production.  Secure it while you can.  The four Guigal grand crus are extraordinarily scarce,  and very small scale in production,  against insatiable world demand.  The number of bottles of each of the 2003s imported to New Zealand was not divulged to me,  but I guess it is of the order of 24.  So you need to have a good relationship with a leading retailer such as Peter Maude in Auckland,  Regional Wines in Wellington,  or Hemingway Fine Wines in Christchurch,  to secure any.  Each of these three sold out more or less on the day of release.

Published info on these wines from recognised authors is scarce,  so far.  Most is behind subscriber-only bars.  Robert Parker (USA) has reviewed all four of the Guigal grand crus,  and Jancis Robinson (UK) three of them.  A summary of their scores is:
Wine        Parker        Spectator        Robinson
2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Mouline          100          –          18.5 +
2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Turque          100          –          19
2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Landonne          100          –          19
2003  Guigal Hermitage Ex Voto          100          –          –
2002  Penfolds Shiraz Grange          –          –          18.5
2004  Penfolds Shiraz RWT          –          –          17 +
2005  Craggy Range Syrah le Sol          –          –          –

In the notes below,  I rank strictly on my scale of wine values for the wine itself,  not the label.  This may appear a gratuitous comment,  but it is not in fact so easy to assess wines of this reputation at all objectively.  My ranking is essentially an aesthetic scale heavily influenced by the intrinsic beauty of the variety (when sympathetically vinified),  underpinned by technical factors.  In other words,  a combination of which wine seems the most perfect as syrah / which would I most like to drink now,  or preferably cellar at least 10 years.  

Acknowledgement:  The helpful response to queries by Guigal's man in London,  Brett Crittenden,  is appreciated.


SYRAH / SHIRAZ  REVIEWED:  

2005  Craggy Range Syrah Block 14
2005  Craggy Range Syrah le Sol
2003  Guigal Cote Rotie Brune & Blonde
2003  Guigal Cote Rotie Ch d'Ampuis
2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Landonne
2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Mouline
2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Turque
2004  Guigal Crozes-Hermitage
2002  Guigal Hermitage
  2003  Guigal Hermitage Ex Voto
2003  Guigal St Joseph
2004  Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28
2002  Penfolds [ Shiraz ] Bin 95 Grange
2004  Penfolds Shiraz Coonawarra Bin 128
2004  Penfolds Shiraz Hyland
2004  Penfolds Shiraz RWT
2003  Penfolds Shiraz St Henri


2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Turque   19 ½  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $535   [ cork;  Sy 93%,  Vi 7,  100% de-stemmed; average vine age 17 years;  cropped at less than half the normal 35 – 37 hL / ha (1.7 – 1.9 t/ac),  so less than 1 t/ac;  fermented in s/s,  5 weeks cuvaison;  42 months in new French oak;  Parker 170:  an amazing aromatic profile of espresso coffee interwoven with scorched earth, tar, truffle, incense, blackberry, bacon fat, and flowers. Powerful, thick flavors ooze across the palate with a viscous texture, amazing purity, and just enough acidity and tannin to give uplift and precision … 100;  Robinson:  Very interesting menthol note on this energetic, superripe, very opulent wine that is JUST this side of overripe but saved by acidity and freshness. Really dramatic and rich. …. Tannins deeply submerged beneath a richly embroidered canopy of fruit. 19;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  just below half way in depth of colour for the set,  the second lightest of the grands crus.  Bouquet is magical,  a glorious combination of syrah berry at the point of ripeness where it is losing the lightest dianthus fractions of bouquet,  but still is darkly red rose florals,  on rich ripe cassis scarcely showing any hot-year raisining.  The benison of viognier can be identified,  once one thinks about it.  This wine is in effect pure,  no brett,  for all reasonable discussion purposes.  Palate is velvety rich.  What does Guigal do to achieve such magical oak integration given 42 months in 100% new oak,  all integrated into the body of the wine as in great chardonnay.  The oak simply is not loud,  a vivid contrast to the Grange.  Aftertaste is perhaps the most over-ripe component,  some chocolate notes in the intense berry,  maybe a sort of Black Forest gateau suggestion at this point,  yet wonderfully dry and long – just lovely.  Alcohol is almost certainly more 14%-ish than the 13 given.  2003 La Turque finishes on berry,  not oak,  astonishing.  Cellar 10 – 35 years.  GK 06/07

2003  Guigal Hermitage Ex Voto   19 ½  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $535   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  age 40 – 90 years;  cropped at less than half the normal 35 - 37 hL / ha (1.7 – 1.9 t/ac),  so less than 1 t/ac;  fermented in temperature-controlled s/s,  5 weeks cuvaison;  42 months in new French oak;  production 330 cases,  much less than le Sol;  the name Ex Voto embraces the thought of giving thanks;  Parker 170:  It is the most alcoholic of all the wines at 15%, but its off-the-chart richness, full-bodied, powerful, and amazing creme de cassis flavors along with truffle, crushed rocks, and acacia flowers, are utterly profound.  100;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly a hint of carmine,  the deepest of the Guigal grands crus,  in the middle across the set.  Bouquet on this syrah is even more intensely cassisy than la Turque,  and going back and forth between the two,  it is now easier to detect the presence of viognier in la Turque – marvellous.  The concentration of cassisy berry and syrah character is exceptional,  what one hopes of Hermitage and these days,  infrequently encounters.  If one were to be really carping,  there is trace raisiny / over-ripe character,  yet it is so vividly cassis,  and it was after all a hot dry year,  who cares.  Likewise,  there is trace brett,  at a level that is frankly delicious.  On palate one immediately registers the alcohol.  The label gives a completely imaginary figure of 13% (as for all the reds including and above the Brune & Blonde label).  Parker records 15% and Tanzer 15.5%.  Yet because the oaking is so beautifully incorporated with the fruit,  there is no alcohol / oak interaction / harshness as bedevils Australian wines,  the palate instead being more dry smooth blackcurrant liqueur.  Extraordinary wine,  the richest Hermitage I have ever tasted,  infinitely desirable.  Cellar 10 – 50 years.  GK 06/07

2005  Craggy Range Syrah le Sol   19 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $90   [ cork;  Sy 100%;  hand-harvested @ 2.4 t/ac;  95% de-stemmed,  wild-yeast fermentation;  18 months in French oak 52% new;  better supply of the '05 @ 650 cases,  but 65% will be exported;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  towards the darker end of the set.  The degree to which this wine has come together in bottle since my report in April is staggering.  There are now explicit floral components on bouquet,  violets,  dianthus and darkest roses,  and the dominance of cassisy berry over oak is dramatic.  Alongside the top Guigal and Penfolds wines,  2005 le Sol is delightfully primary still,  extraordinarily pure,  the least oak-affected.  It is now varietal to a degree that makes most Hermitage wines shrink by comparison.  And it is completely free of brett.  The result is magical,  a great wine of absolutely international stature,  even more impressive than in my previous report.  In this blind tasting it fully matches 2002 Grange in terms of quality,  while differing in style quite markedly.  Le Sol could be European,  whereas that is scarcely a possibility for Grange.  Only on the later palate and finish does it not have quite the superb fruit concentration,  weight and dry extract of the Guigal grands crus or Penfolds Grange.  A lower cropping rate will be needed,  to get le Sol absolutely into this top league of the world's finest syrahs,  showing not oppressive size but infinite length and subtlety – a product of higher dry extract.  In this tasting my relative marks amongst these wines reflects a style preference for explicit varietal quality and beauty,  the purest wines (those lacking brett or oak artefact) scoring higher.  But ultimately,  concentration on palate is the ultimate arbiter,  if all else be equal.  Cellar 10 – 25 years,  perhaps longer.  GK 06/07

2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Mouline   19 +  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $535   [ cork;  Sy 89%,  Vi 11,  co-fermented,  100% de-stemmed;  average vine age 77 years;  cropped at less than half the normal 35 - 37 hL / ha (1.7 – 1.9 t/ac),  so less than 1 t/ac;  fermented in s/s,  5 weeks cuvaison;  42 months in new French oak;  Tanzer records an actual alcohol of > 14%;  Parker 170:  La Mouline is by far the most delicate and elegant wine …  the enormous aromatics of spring flowers intermixed with creme de cassis, black raspberry, mocha, caramel, and cola, and enormous full-bodied opulence and striking velvety, seamless texture make for one of the most memorable wines anyone could ever drink.  100;  Robinson:  Extremely intense and glamorous and appealing. Still young and unformed but opulent spice, great succulence, leathery notes – masses there but great balance. Not hot. And not raisined. Fresh. It’s the intensity that is the key. Good dry finish and it does taste like Cote-Rotie. Neat and lovely – tastes of purple fruits. … 18.5 +;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the lightest of the grand crus,  and towards the lightest in the tasting.  Bouquet on this Guigal interpretation of syrah is the least varietal,  the most floral,  and the most burgundian of the grands crus.  Nor is it as varietal as the Brune & Blonde,  but it is a good deal richer and more voluptuous.  The 11% viognier adds a wonderful fresh yellow stonefruits and floral vanilla pod quality through bouquet and palate.  Palate is velvety rich,  burgundian particularly in the sense one thinks of a great chardonnay in the exquisite oak integration and length of aftertaste,  yet one thinks of red burgundy too.  The texture is simply divine – this wine would be so good with so many foods.  And it is pure too.  This is an exceptionally hard wine to score,  for style triumphs over varietal precision.  It does not seem big,  yet the concentration and dry extract on tongue is fabulous.  Pure hedonism in red wine.  Cellar 5 – 30 years.  GK 06/07

2005  Craggy Range Syrah Block 14   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $37   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%;  hand-harvested @ 3.4 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  wild-yeast fermentation;  17 months in French oak 54% new;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a little brighter and deeper than le Sol,  reflecting less oak exposure.  It is one of three deepest wines in the tasting.  Initially opened,  this time the Block 14 showed a faintly reductive note,  easily interpreted as charry oak.  Whatever,  like all these big wines,  it benefits greatly from a splashy decanting.  Thus optimised,  carnations and violets florals,  and rich cassis,  bottled black plums and blueberries soar from the glass.  It is a little more juicy than le Sol,  and less oak-affected.  It wins through to such a high ranking because of its precise varietal character.  There is no hint of coarse Australian boysenberry / shiraz over-ripeness,  just a perfect expression of cassisy rich syrah,  subtly oaked.  The only reservation may be,  if there is a reductive note,  and that if needs underlining,  that could be a worry under screwcap.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  VALUE  GK 06/07

2004  Penfolds Shiraz RWT   18 ½ +  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $168   [ cork;  14 months in French hogsheads 69% new,  31% 1-year;  RWT = Red Winemaking Trial;  Robinson:  intensely sweet fruit, firm chewy tannins, fresh and peppery. Touch of herbs, even lavender. Pretty oaky on the palate. Very dense. With time in the glass: chocolate orange on nose, very fragrant on the mid palate, slightly abrupt finish. 17 +;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  fresher than Grange or Bin 128,  deeper than Craggy le Sol,  in fact the deepest wine in the set,  a great syrah colour.  Bouquet is to first sniff disappointing,  with a lot of oak,  French oak maybe,  but as oaked-up as Bin 707 has been till recently.   Below that is superb berry richness,  with a degree of finesse in the berry ripeness which again is almost cassis and syrah,  rather than boysenberry and shiraz.  If it weren't so oaky,  there might be a floral component here.  Palate is Grange-like in weight,  but more juicy,  more obvious berry including blueberry,  plus a charry incipiently chocolatey note on the aromatic oak.  I expect a lot from RWT,  hoping for finesse,  but at this stage this is more the older Penfolds heavy-handed approach to new oak.  Nonetheless I suspect it has the concentration to marry the oak away,  and develop florals and complexity in 10 – 15 years' time.  My mark therefore includes a considerable anticipation factor,  in the hope that my first impressions will seem harsh and short-sighted later.  Cellar 10 – 40 years.  GK 06/07

2003  Guigal Cote Rotie Brune & Blonde   18 ½ +  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $125   [ cork;  Sy 96%,  Vi 4;  average vine age 37 years;  cropped at nearer half the normal 38 hL / ha (2 t/ac),  maybe 1 t/ac;  5 weeks cuvaison;  36 months in French oak,  60% new;  Parker 170:  Stunningly rich, it offers a beautiful, sweet nose of cassis, mocha, espresso, bacon fat, black olives, and underbrush. Some smoked meat notes also make an appearance in this rich, lush, opulent wine.  93;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  nearly some velvet,  more a deepest pinot noir burgundy colour,  the lightest wine on the bracket.  Bouquet is slow to open,  but in its own good time reveals simply sensational syrah varietal character,  in an archetypal Cote Rotie style.  The floral component so essential to top-notch syrah develops wonderfully to show dianthus,  carnations,  violets and dark rose florals dominating beautiful cassis and dark cherry fruit.  It is as pure an expression of syrah as the Craggy Range Block 14,  but here showing in the classical lighter Cote Rotie style,  against the Block 14's  Hermitage-like presentation.  Palate is wonderfully ripe,  perfectly balanced to oak,  in fact the most perfect balance of berry to ripeness to oak I can recollect for Brune & Blonde since the lovely wines of the mid-1980s.  There has always been the worry the Brune & Blonde Cote Rotie label has become lighter and less concentrated,  as the fortunes of the grands crus have waxed.  Even now,  it is not rich in the sense la Turque or Ex Voto is rich,  but it is just exquisite northern Rhone syrah one could drink all night,  unfazed by excess alcohol or oak.  New Zealand winemakers who want to know about syrah varietal character must buy a case of this wine,  while it is available.  It really is a critical wine,  essential to learning,  and staying in tune.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/07

2003  Guigal Cote Rotie la Landonne   18 ½  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $535   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  all stems in ferment;  average vine age 27 years;  cropped at less than half the normal 35 - 37 hL / ha (1.7 – 1.9 t/ac),  so less than 1 t/ac;  fermented in s/s,  5 weeks cuvaison;  42 months in new French oak;  Parker 170:  Dense purple to the rim with a nose of graphite, creosote, earth, olives, and black, black, black fruits, the primordial, full-bodied, monumental 2003 Cote Rotie La Landonne is amazing stuff. I suspect this is more akin to a dry vintage port than most Cote Roties ever tend to be, but the purity, the richness, the texture, the length are all out of this world.  100;  Robinson:  Extraordinarily deep colour. Very intense, deep and leathery. Savoury, very Syrah. Very deep and rich start with very dry savoury finish.  19;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the deepest of the Guigal Cote Roties,  in the middle for the set.  And to first impression,  it is the deepest and finest of the Cote Roties in taste too.  The depth of midnight ruby bouquet is wonderful,  great cassis,  hidden oak,  a touch of roti maybe.  On palate the concentration of syrah berry is all one could hope a great Cote Rotie would be,  the flavours long and savoury and lingering.  At the Regional Wines public tasting,  I rashly made the comment that,  in the Cote Rotie flight,  la Landonne could be compared with 2002 Penfolds Grange,  since it was the subtlest for ages.  That comment looked pretty silly when the next wine was poured,  the 2003 Hermitage Ex Voto,  but the comment gives an idea of how rich and cassisy la Landonne is,  in the context of current Cote Roties.

So why the relatively lower mark ?  When one goes back to it,  the wine does show rather more roti / hot year character than the other grands crus.  And in that roti character,  there is quite a noticeable brett component,  in the sense of the skin-of-roast-beef savoury complexity,  which makes the wine so magical with grilled steak or similar.  It really is a bit higher than optimal.  That means to a brett-nazi,  the wine is clearly bretty,  maybe even unacceptably so.  In a blind line-up of syrahs,  some technocratic new world judges might reject it.  I would expect that character to increase,  with age.  In 10 years time or so,  we will present a Library Tasting of some of these syrahs,  and check that comment out.  Meanwhile,  2003 Guigal la Landonne is a great but slightly flawed wine,  too cellar perhaps a shorter time than the other grands crus,  10 – 20 + years,  maybe,  since brett has the effect of prematurely drying wines.  GK 06/07

2004  Penfolds Shiraz Coonawarra Bin 128   18 ½  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $25   [ cork;  Sh 100%;  elevage 12 months in French hogsheads 22% new;  www.penfolds.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  not as black as some recent Bin 128s have been,  just above halfway in depth.  And on bouquet,  this is remarkable Australian shiraz,  showing a concentration of fine berry characters which matches the Craggy Block 14,  though all clearly a notch riper:  boysenberry dominant with dark plum instead of cassis.  But,  the wine is light enough and 'sweet' enough to be nearly floral,  with even suggestions of syrah.  Oak is subtle,  the French oak is so good,  and the balance in mouth is both rich and attractive.  It reminds me of other attractive years of this label such as 1996,  but is a little less oaky,  and thus softer.  And thoughts of machine picking / mixed berry ripeness simply do not arise.  So this is a terrific example of the label,  a classic Australian expression of syrah as shiraz,  but scarcely mucked up by winemaker artefact.  The latter is a key factor in why I am scoring it as highly as Grange,  despite that icon (or trophy) wine being 20 times more expensive.  And the slightly lower alcohol also makes this Bin 128 a more civilised wine.  Most people would get more pleasure out of a case of this,  than a bottle of the flash stuff.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  VALUE  GK 06/07

2002  Penfolds [ Shiraz ] Bin 95 Grange   18 ½  ()
South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $499   [ cork;  Sh 99%,  CS 1;  perhaps some barrel-ferment;  15 months in American hogsheads 100% new;  even with the recent strength of the NZ$,  Grange has been increasing in price about 15% per annum for some years now,  reflecting continuing strong American demand;  Robinson:  Balanced and poised even in its extreme youth. Savoury, dense but very smooth tannins, which also contribute freshness. Not yet very expressive though it has bags of sweet black fruit in the mid palate; quite primary. Incredible savoury blackness.  18.5;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  not the carmine of RWT or le Sol,  reflecting more new-oak influence,  but very dense,  the second darkest wine of the tasting.  Bouquet is intense,  showing marvellous berry and a lot of fragrant oak,  and all in a very fresh style (for Grange).  The berry is not 'brown' as so many Penfolds top reds can be in lesser years.  Aroma descriptors do not quite embrace the floral components essential to great syrah,  as in le Sol,  Block 14,  or the top northern Rhone syrahs such as the Guigals in this tasting,  thus reflecting a relatively hotter growing climate for Grange,  even in a 'cool' year.  Even so,  there is superb cassis and darkest plum of great freshness and intensity.  Palate introduces blueberry into a velvety fruit weight on palate which is magnificent in mouth (if one disregards the excessive oak),  and much less raisined than many Granges have been.  It is as rich as the Guigal Hermitage Ex Voto,  showing just how incredible that wine is – to be of similar size to Grange is saying something about a French wine !  The Voto however shows how oak should be used.  Notwithstanding the lavish oak,  this is the finest and subtlest Grange I have tasted.  It is much oakier than le Sol,  needless to say,  and clearly more concentrated.  The two wines differ quite markedly,  yet nett quality is comparable – see discussion under le Sol.  Cellar 10 – 40 years.  GK 06/07

2003  Guigal Cote Rotie Ch d'Ampuis   18 +  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $237   [ cork;  Sy 93%,  Vi 7; a blend of 6 vineyards,  average vine age 50 years;  38 months in new French oak;  Parker:  This is staggering wine and as profound as most of the single vineyard Cote Roties are in some other vintages … a deep ruby/purple color and an extraordinary nose of smoky bacon fat and roasted meats, tapenade, black raspberry, cherry, and cassis. The intense aromatics are followed by equally thick, unctuous flavors with huge body, a voluptuous texture, and yet wonderful freshness, purity, and length.  96;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby in some velvet,  a little older than the Brune & Blonde, the second lightest in the set.  This wine is closer in total style and achievements to the grand cru Cote Roties rather than the Brune & Blonde,  showing a fully ripe and rich berry quality with a roti suggestion like la Landonne,  and similarly much more oak influence.  Bouquet is obviously floral,  plentifully red-fruited in a slightly browning cassis and cherry way,  but there is also some savoury brett complexity and a hint of bacon.  Most recent vintages of d'Ampuis have shown brett,  so one wonders if the more affected barrels are culled from the grands crus,  to end up in this label.  It is certainly richer than the Brune & Blonde,  but not as pure and explicitly varietal.  Palate is soft,  rich,  forward,  clearly in a warmer-year style but no hint of Australian characters,  just a little brown.  It will be a superb food wine,  and only technically astute dinner guests will wrinkle their noses at the brett component.  Perhaps they need to be advised to leave their labs behind,  and concentrate on matching the wine with the food.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/07

2003  Penfolds Shiraz St Henri   18 +  ()
Barossa Valley,  Clare Valley,  McLaren Vale & Langhorne Creek,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $69   [ cork;  15 months in large old oak;  Robinson:  Meaty liquorice notes. Touch of mintiness. Very sweet black fruit, sweet ripe, softened tannins. Broad, rich, warm. Soft and mouthfilling. Rich and sweet but very well balanced.  17 +;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  a little older than the 2004 Bin 128,  towards the deeper end of the colour range in the tasting.  This year St Henri is uncannily like the Bin 128,  but a little fresher and more aromatic,  particularly in the oak handling.  St Henri is alleged to be raised only in big old wood,  but this year there is in fact quite noticeable new oak,  at about a normal level by French standards,  though delicate by Australian norms.  Presumably some of the big oak vessels have been renewed / replaced recently.  Fruit is almost syrah-like in its near florals,  fragrant aromatic boysenberry a little crisper than the 128,  a suggestion of added acid.  This is a lovely fresh St Henri – a far cry from its stale casky image of 20 and 30 years ago.  If only the alcohols were civilised in these wines,  instead of the monstrous 14.5% Penfolds now routinely indulge in.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28   17 ½ +  ()
Barossa Valley,  McLaren Vale,  Langhorne Creek & Padthaway,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $30   [ cork;  12 months in older American oak;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  fractionally deeper than St Henri.  This is a much better Bin 28 than many over the last 15 years,  showing signs of a return to the quality of the mid-80s and earlier.  The berry is fresh,  the stale older cooperage has been freshened up / cleaned out,  and critically,  there are no brackish notes.  The whole wine is a plump boysenberry-styled South Australian shiraz of some richness,  a little hard on the finish,  but clearly in the Penfolds better style.  It will cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/07

2003  Guigal St Joseph   17 ½  ()
St Joseph,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  12.5%;  $50   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  > 25 years of age,  cropped at less than 35 h/L / ha (1.75 t/ac) in 2003;  c. 16 months in older French oak;  Parker 170:  Liquid minerality intermixed with black cherry, raspberry, and plum jumps from the glass of the outstanding 2003 St.-Joseph. This is a beauty of precision, minerality, and superb fragrance.  90;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and some velvet,  deeper than the Brune & Blonde,  a little below midway in the field.  Bouquet shows fragrant ripe berry with some florals,  fair cassis and red fruits,  and good syrah varietal character in a top Crozes-Hermitage style.  It is nowhere near as floral as the Brune & Blonde,  nor as pure – being let down by quite significant brett.  Yet on palate,  the wine is lovely,  crisply cassis,  subtle oak,  good fruit length,  not as rich as the d'Ampuis but like it,  a wine crying out for savoury foods.  Richness approximates the Brune & Blonde.  It will cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Penfolds Shiraz Hyland   17 ½  ()
Barossa Valley,  McLaren Vale,  & Adelaide districts,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $20   [ cork;  13 months in older French and American oak;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  above halfway in depth.  This label really does provide a great sample of the Penfolds red style,  at a very biddable cost.  Bouquet is rich boysenberry showing a lot of oak,  yet the oak seems well incorporated with the wine,  not smelling or tasting chippy.  Palate is not quite as mellow as the bouquet promises,  but the boysenberry richness and juicyness is remarkable,  and the alcohol commendable.  This Hyland is better than several recent vintages of Bin 28,  and in five years time will be lovely South Australian shiraz,  secured for a song.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  VALUE  GK 06/07

2002  Guigal Hermitage   17 +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $121   [ cork;  Sy 100%;  average vine age 42 years;  typically cropped 40 hL/ha (2 t/ac);  3 weeks cuvaison;  elevage usually 60% new French oak,  but may have been less in such a modest year,  for 24 months;  Parker 163:  The straightforward 2002 Hermitage exhibits scents of herbs, raspberries, and cherries, medium body, a steely mineral character, tart acidity, and a short finish.  86;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  a touch of garnet,  in the middle for depth.  Sadly,  the 2003 Guigal Hermitage was not available for this tasting,  but there is a chance Negociants New Zealand will be able to secure some for delivery later in the year.  It should be well worth looking out for,  from all I've read,  given the ranking for Brune & Blonde in this tasting.  Meanwhile,  this wine of a lesser year is advanced for its age,  but shows remarkably ripe cassisy and plummy berry,  even with some floral components.  It is altogether a 'browner'  wine than the 2003s,  and yes,  there is a fair amount of brett.  On palate,  the flavours are already mellowing out into a deliciously drinkable example of somewhat rustic but well-bodied Hermitage,  which would be a joy with roast meats.  The score therefore is academic in the sense it notes the brett and premature maturity.  As an illustration of northern Rhone syrah in a dinner sense,  it is pretty delicious.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Guigal Crozes-Hermitage   16 ½ +  ()
Crozes-Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  12.5%;  $36   [ cork;  Sy 100%;  average vine age 37 years;  typically cropped 40 hL / ha (2 t/ac);  3 weeks cuvaison;  18 months in older French oak;  Parker 170:  The 2004 Crozes-Hermitage reveals plenty of olive, black currant, and cherry notes, with good acidity, but in a supple, spicy, earthy style to drink over the next 4-5 years.  88;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  a touch of velvet,  one of the three lightest.  Crozes-Hermitage is the staple French tasting syrah of the northern Rhone in New Zealand,  but we missed out on Guigal's 2003.  That is a great pity,  as it might have provided a brilliant sketch of real syrah varietal character at an affordable price.  This 2004 opens a little reductively,  but it clears with a brisk decanting.  Bouquet is then lightly fragrant cassis,  with aromatic pepper both white and some black,  indicating a threshold level of ripeness for full syrah character,  as we typically see in Martinborough for example.  Palate is crisp,  cassis and reasonably dark plum,  clean,  lightly oaked,  better berry concentration than some of the lighter-style New Zealand syrahs such as Matariki Aspire,  but clearly related.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/07