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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
independent
analytical
non-commercial
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
HENSCHKE AND OTHER CURRENT / RECENT RELEASES


This month's batch of wines includes the always eagerly-awaited annual release of Henschke wines from South Australia,  and some novel wines from Jurancon,  in the southwest corner of France,  along with a diversity of others.  There is thus no theme to this article.  

Henschke is another of those wineries which in Australasia have floated up to the top of the rankings,  and it is therefore very hard to get objective reviews of their wines.  Assessing them in such a heterogeneity as here does help to simply see the samples as anonymous wines,  to be assessed for nett vinosity and pleasure.  Then later,  when labels are known,  one can splice in further assessment of each wine's achievements as to the varietal it is labelled.  

None of this applies to the Jurancon wines,  which are from another world,  both time and place.  They defied the blinding exercise.  It is therefore hard to judge them.  It is also hard to judge them in the sense that,  I imagine their makers give not a fig for the technically-oriented approach of new world wine judgings.  These Jurancons are clearly meant to be assessed only with food,  which as critical tasters well know,  immediately obfuscates most analytical parameters of the wine.  Hence the European blah about food with wine,  particularly in the days when nearly all European wines were faulty to greater or lesser degree.  Buy on apples,  sell on cheese,  is the story !  Apples are an essential part of my tasting kit …






LAYOUT – AND THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
2004  Henschke Chardonnay Croft
2006  Mt Difficulty Chardonnay
2007  Sileni Chardonnay Cellar Selection
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2006  Ara Sauvignon Blanc Composite
2005  Henschke Semillon Louis
2007  Mud House Sauvignon Blanc
2007  [ Mud House ] Sauvignon Blanc Haymaker
2007  Mud House Sauvignon Blanc Swan
2007  Tohu Sauvignon Blanc
Riesling
2006  Henschke Riesling Julius
2006  Sileni Riesling Cellar Selection
Pinot Gris
2005  Henschke Pinot Gris Innes Vineyard
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
2005  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Ballet d’Octobre
2004  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Symphonie de Novembre
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2005  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Sec Chant des Vignes
2005  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Sec La Canopée
2005  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Sec Seve d’Automne
Red
Rosé
2006  Banfi Rosé Centine
2007  Morton Estate Rosé Musetta
  2006  Mount Dottrel Rosé Saignée
2007  Sileni Rosé Cabernet Franc Cellar Selection
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2002  Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon Cyril Henschke
2004  Henschke Merlot Abbot's Prayer
2007  Sileni Merlot Cellar Selection
2005  Sileni Merlot Triangle Estate Selection
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2006  Ara Pinot Noir Composite
2005  Ara Pinot Noir Resolute
2006  Devils Backbone Pinot Noir
2005  Mount Dottrel Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2005  Henschke Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre / Viognier Henry's Seven
2001  Henschke Shiraz Hill of Grace
2004  Henschke Shiraz Mt Edelstone
2001  Penfolds Shiraz Bin 128
2005  Tapestry Shiraz
2006  Trinity Hill Shiraz
2006  Trinity Hill Syrah Gimblett Gravels
2004  Zema Estate Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2005  Henschke Grenache / Mourvedre / Shiraz Johann's Garden
All other red wines, blends etc
2005  Farnese Sangiovese
2006  Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
2004  Henschke Shiraz / Cabernets / Merlot Keyneton Estate Euphonium
2006  Trinity Hill Tempranillo Gimblett Gravels
From the Cellar. Older wines.
 

White
Chardonnay
2006  Mt Difficulty Chardonnay   19  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  100% BF with 'full solids' in controlled cool temperatures;  c. 9 months LA,  stirring,  70% MLF;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is magnificent,  opening vaguely like some even richer kind of Bollinger RD,  with superlative yeast autolysis from immaculate barrel fermentation in appropriately older oak.  And notwithstanding the ref. to full solids in the website,  there is no dull high-solids odour – great !  Along with the superb baguette crust aromas is beautiful peach,  cashew and stonefruit.  Palate is exceptional too,  a tactile viscosity of cashew and peach and finest pale butter,  like some kind of superb sweet croissant,  yet finishing dry.  The flavours linger superbly.  Cellar 3 – 6 years,  maybe a little longer,  but already the wine is delicious.  GK 02/08

2004  Henschke Chardonnay Croft   16 +  ()
Lenswood,  Adelaide Hills,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $56   [ screwcap;  website lacks specifics for some wines,  but has many words – all vintages seem to be variations on great,  excellent or exceptional;  barrel fermentation is mentioned for this wine;  Halliday rates Adelaide Hills 7 /10 for whites in 2004;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is immediately oaky,  which always gets chardonnay off to a bad start.  Beyond that,  there is good fruit showing complex barrel fermentation and other chardonnay techniques.  Palate carries on to white stonefruit chardonnay of tactile appeal,  clear oatmealy lees autolysis,  and good fruit presence in mouth.  It is all let down by the clumsy oak-handling,  in the way many Henschke reds used to be.  The basic fruit quality looks good,  but as presented the wine is tiring to drink.  Cellar 3 – 5 years,  maybe more,  to mellow a little.  GK 02/08

2007  Sileni Chardonnay Cellar Selection   15  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  no wine detail on website;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is slightly fragrant in a neutral / tending insipid way.  In mouth in the blind tasting there is the body of chardonnay,  but little of the flavour,  the whole thing seeming stainless steel in evolution,  perhaps with a few chips to the side.  Nett impression is of a slightly sour wine,  yet not bone dry,  perfectly sound and wholesome,  but lacking the come-hither factor.  Somewhat better in a year,  but scarcely worth cellaring.  GK 02/08

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2007  Mud House Sauvignon Blanc Swan   18 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  the top Mud House sauvignon;  www.mudhouse.co.nz ]
Lemongreen to lemon,  the richest colour of the Mud House sauvignons.  Bouquet is superbly classical Marlborough sauvignon,  white nectarine,  red capsicum and black passionfruit with complexing notes of sweet basil and other aromatic herbes,  honeysuckle florals,  plus faint musky armpit notes at an acceptable level,  all very attractive indeed.  On palate there is a richness and satisfaction of flavour which makes one wonder,  in the blind tasting,  is there trace barrel-ferment / new oak there too.  When subtle,  it is impossible to tell,  given the phenolics of ripe sauvignon.  Flavour is long in mouth,  tasting all free-run,  and low in phenolics.  Residual sugar is the usual ‘dry’ level for the variety.  This is model modern Marlborough sauvignon,  to cellar up to 10 years,  if mature wines appeal.  GK 02/08

2005  Henschke Semillon Louis   18  ()
Eden Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.2%;  $36   [ screwcap;  Se 100%;  12% aged on lees in older French oak for 6 months;  Halliday rates Eden Valley 9 /10 for whites in 2005;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Lemon to lemonstraw.  Freshly opened,  there is a slight burgundian heaviness suggesting a barrel ferment component (confirmed),  on good but not instantly recognisable fruit.  Decanted / well swirled,  it opens up gratifyingly to the vanillin-rich fragrance of holygrass / semillon and trace lanolin.  In mouth there is a fruit richness which is chardonnay-like,  but also clear semillon flavours extended by this beautifully subtle oak – great to see this from Henschke.  This should be a fine food wine,  which will cellar 5 – 10 years.  It is not absolutely bone dry,  but close.  GK 02/08

2007  Tohu Sauvignon Blanc   17 ½  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  www.tohuwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is aromatic on clear varietal character and trace VA.  Both red capsicum and black passionfruit are prominent,  all more aromatic than many examples of the grape.  Palate is clearcut varietal sauvignon,  good ripeness and length,  slightly less acid than the Mud House Swan,  but also less concentrated.  It is also a little more extractive / phenolic,  which in this case lengthens the flavour pleasantly.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 02/08

2007  Mud House Sauvignon Blanc   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $19   [ screwcap;  www.mudhouse.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is vividly sauvignon,  but at a slightly less ripe point than the Swan wine,  with some aromatics of green and yellow capsicum entering the picture.  Palate has a lot of flavour and good concentration,  showing some Sancerre suggestions in its English gooseberry,  plus Marlborough black passionfruit.  It seems fractionally drier than the Swan variant,  adding to the European comparison.  It is however beautifully clean.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 02/08

2007  [ Mud House ] Sauvignon Blanc Haymaker   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $17   [ screwcap;  www.mudhouse.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is good sound straightforward Marlborough sauvignon,  a mix of capsicum colours,  plus black passionfruit.  Palate is fresher in acid than its siblings,  with slightly raised phenolics suggesting a notch more pressing than the other two.  Nett impression is full of flavour,  and pleasing,  but not quite as rich as the more highly-pointed two.  Cellar 1 – 2 years.  GK 02/08

2006  Ara Sauvignon Blanc Composite   14 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ screwcap;  50% hand-picked;  3 months LA on fine lees;  dry extract 20 g/L;  RS <1;  www.winegrowersofara.co.nz;  www.compositewines.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This wine opens plainly,  with entrained sulphur creating cardboardy overtones,  in still recognisable sauvignon fruit.  Palate shows good fruit richness,  but sulphur hardens the palate,  losing the charm and point of Marlborough sauvignon,  and instead delivering an old-fashioned white,  more QDW than anything,  very dry.  Perfectly wholesome,  but not going anywhere,  not worth cellaring.  The company (and the back label) state:  All wines carrying the Ara name are quality and origin certified by a classification panel of respected wine industry professionals.  Some excellent tech info on the websites,  at least for the Composite wines.  GK 02/08

Riesling
2006  Henschke Riesling Julius   18 ½  ()
Eden Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  12.5%;  $37   [ screwcap;  Ri 100%;  pH 2.97;  no RS given;  Halliday rates Eden Valley 8 /10 for whites in 2006;  www.henschke.com.au ]
When it comes to reds,  Henschke is a much-revered name in South Australia.  But traditionally,  the whites have not been in the same class.  A pleasure therefore to find this absolutely classic lemongreen 2006 Eden Valley riesling,  epitomising the best South Australian dry examples of the style.  Bouquet is exquisitely clean,  fragrant with vanillin and freesia florals,  highly varietal.  Palate is delicate lime fruit,  not phenolic,  drier than almost all New Zealand rieslings.  When the pH is below 3 however it is hard to estimate residual sugar.  Cellar to 15 years.  GK 02/08

2006  Sileni Riesling Cellar Selection   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  10.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  no wine detail on website;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is curious,  with some riesling aromatics and floral aromas on pale fruit,  but also an undertone of composite-family / chrysanthemum smells which are negative.  Palate likewise is mixed,  but the whole winestyle is a pleasant off-dry riesling,  with similar complexity notes to some cheaper German examples of the grape.  Bottling the wine in a Bordeaux Blanc bottle-shape is out of phase with the times.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 02/08

Pinot Gris
2005  Henschke Pinot Gris Innes Vineyard   16  ()
Littlehampton,  Adelaide Hills,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.2%;  $43   [ screwcap;  rainfall around 500m;  no RS on website;  Halliday rates Adelaide Hills 8 /10 for whites in 2005;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Copper-flushed straw,  not inappropriate for the variety.  This wine doesn’t open well,  with some heavy undertones detracting from rosepetal and nougat varietal characters.  In mouth the palate expands to over-ripe strawberry and old bottled nectarines flavours,  with the phenolics the variety is noted for coarsening the finish.  That is offset by noticeable residual sweetness.  The whole thing ends up as a strongly flavoured but coarse example of the variety.  Nonetheless to achieve this degree of varietal character in the Australian climate is noteworthy in itself.  More a food wine,  but wearying to drink,  and expensive for what you get.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 02/08

Sweet / Sticky
2004  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Symphonie de Novembre   18  ()
Jurancon AOC,  SW France:  14%;  $51   [ cork;  location virtually on the Spanish border;  grape –  petit manseng hand-harvested in three successive pickings in the first 10 days of November,  @ 1.5 – 1.75 t/ac;  BF in new and second-year French oak,  followed by 9 months in barrel and 6 months in cuves;  www.cauhape.com ]
Lightish gold.  Bouquet is a close look-alike to old-fashioned sauternes in a low-botrytis year,  but very oaky the way Guiraud used to be 40 years ago.  Nonetheless the fruit is attractive,  with clear bush-honey overtones.  Palate is much the same,  very sweet,  but the toasty oak almost implies barrel fermentation in this topmost label (later confirmed),  giving great texture and mouthfeel to the wine.  It is forward for its age,  at about the same stage as a 20-year old Lehman Semillon Sauternes (of a good year) is now.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  maybe longer,  to give an interesting but oaky wine to run blind in sauternes tastings,  or use with rich desserts.  The website advises cellaring up to 15 years.  GK 02/08

2005  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Ballet d’Octobre   17 +  ()
Jurancon AOC,  SW France:  13.5%;  $31   [ plastic-sleeved foam;  location virtually on the Spanish border;  grape –  gros manseng harvested at the end of October;  10 months in 3 – 4 year barrels;  www.cauhape.com ]
Lightish gold,  fractionally lighter than the Symphonie wine.  Bouquet is a subtler affair than the Symphonie,  as if the wine had less than half the time in oak,  and had a little more botrytis too.  Even so,  the winemaking style is still so oxidative,  it is hard to perceive the actual grape character.  As for the dry ones,  the nett result is consistent with the whites of the northern Rhone,  where all too often,  at least in the luxury cuvees,  varietal character is more or less over-ridden by winemaker artefact.  Palate is sweet,  lighter and fresher than the Symphonie wine,  but still a high-solids old-fashioned approach to winemaking,  with almond-tart undertones.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  except it is closed with a drink-now plastic 'cork'.  GK 02/08

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2005  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Sec La Canopée   17 +  ()
Jurancon AOC,  SW France:  14.5%;  $58   [ cork;  location virtually on the Spanish border;  petit manseng allowed to shrivel somewhat on the vine,  hand-harvested @ 1.5 t/ac;  barrel-fermented,  with 10 months LA and batonnage;  www.cauhape.com ]
Lightish gold.  Like the most expensive of the sweet wines,  this wine from the dry range smells and tastes as if it were barrel-fermented (confirmed).  This gives a lovely cashew / nutty complexity to the bouquet,  which marries well into the pale mineral stonefruit of the palate,  and the not-quite-dry finish.  I can imagine this going wonderfully well with some foods,  in the way sherry sometimes does,  so the score is second-guessed for that.  Like the Automne wine,  however,  and for the same reasons,  it would not survive a modern Australasian judging.  Does not seem a cellar wine,  therefore,  but could surprise.  The website suggests 6 years.  GK 02/08

2005  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Sec Seve d’Automne   16  ()
Jurancon AOC,  SW France:  14%;  $37   [ sleeved plastic foam;  location virtually on the Spanish border;  gros manseng old-vines,  hand-picked at 1.75 – 2 t/ac in late October;  15 months sur lie in barrel;  www.cauhape.com ]
Straw,  the freshest of this not-so-fresh-looking bunch.  Bouquet is in an old-fashioned northern Rhone marsanne / rousanne style,  almost floral on neutral white stonefruits,  but still the product of oxidative winemaking techniques and a high-solids ferment.  Palate is quite rich,  clearly flinty,  dry,  the flavours consistent with and developing the bouquet,  but not quite as fresh.  This doesn’t taste like a wine to cellar,  but the website comments that if the flavours appeal,  can be cellared 3 – 4,  or even to 15 years – which seems incompatible with the plastic closure.  Hard to score – in an Australasian judging it would be tossed out,  but it has the body to be interesting with food.  It is only fair to note that the descriptions for the dry wines on the website  – fresh,  floral etc – bear no relation to the wine as sampled here in New Zealand.  Perhaps this is truly a wine that does not travel.  GK 02/08

2005  Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Sec Chant des Vignes   14 ½  ()
Jurancon AOC,  SW France:  13.5%;  $28   [ sleeved plastic foam;  location virtually on the Spanish border;  gros manseng hand-harvested early in October;  6 months on lees in s/s;  best in the first 3 years;  www.cauhape.com ]
Orangey light straw.  This is the basic wine in the Cauhape / Jurancon range.  It smells biscuitty with oxidation,  on slightly fragrant fruit with a touch of 10-year old bottled nectarines – i.e. not unpleasant,  just very old-fashioned.  There is quite a high-solids component to the fermentation too,  dulling it further.  Palate is rich,  mineral in one sense,  but all dulled by the oxidative winemaking.  This is the kind of wine that seduces,  no doubt,  in its own village with beguiling local foods,  but viewed with a new-world eye from half a world away,  it is drab.  Not worthwhile.  GK 02/08

Red
Rosé
2007  Morton Estate Rosé Musetta   17  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $18   [ screwcap;  Me & Ma;  all s/s;  www.mortonestatewines.co.nz ]
Good bright rosé.  Bouquet is fresh red berry,  fragrant and attractive as soon as opened,  and slightly winey too,  even so soon.  Palate shows good fruit,  a suggestion of red grape tannins to show it is genuine,  off-dry in sweetness but not overdone.  Apart from trace VA and excessive alcohol,  this is attractively-styled wine, which will be better in a year.  A residual nearer 5 g/L would move it more up-market.  Cellar 1 – 3 years,  despite popular opinion.  GK 02/08

2006  Mount Dottrel Rosé Saignée   16  ()
Cromwell district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  PN 100% hand-harvested;  de-stemmed,  24 hours skin-contact,  s/s;  off-dry;  formerly Chantmarle Vineyard ;  www.mountdottrel.co.nz ]
Light rosé.  Bouquet is straightforward strawberry pinot noir,  fruity,  a bit sweet,  some blackboy peach (bottled) underpinnings.  In mouth there is good fruit,  simple flavours following on from bouquet,  some tannin adding gentle backbone,  but the residual is a little high / commercial for the near-dry good rosé should be.  Cellar 1 – 2 years.  GK 02/08

2007  Sileni Rosé Cabernet Franc Cellar Selection   15  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  CF;  the lack of wine detail on the website is frustrating;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Good rich rosé,  the deepest of the 4 wines.  Initially opened,  there is some reduction and retained fermentation odours,  needing splashy decanting.  Aerated,  the wine slackens off,  the subtlety desired in the variety cabernet franc instead passing to a rather coarse raspberry cordial flavour,  with elevated acid.  The nett impression is dry verging on sour,  and not winey.  This will be much better in two years,  I suspect.  Again,  cellar 1 – 3 years,  despite popular opinion.  GK 02/08

2006  Banfi Rosé Centine   14 ½  ()
Tuscany IGT,  Italy:  12.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  Sa,  CS,  Me;  s/s;  www.banfi.com ]
Salmon rose,  attractive.  Initially opened,  the wine is reductive.  It needs very splashy decanting from jug to jug,  half a dozen times,  to free it up.  Thus aerated,   it reveals a more sophisticated and winey approach to rosé than the local wines,  only partly from the extra year’s age.  It is for example dry,  and the low alcohol is delicious.  Red fruits incline to a grenache-like rosé,  with the same whisper of silver pine that variety often shows,  leading to a redcurrant palate which is attractive.  The actual variety will be Tuscan [ see detail above ],  but irrespective this wine shows what can be done with the rosé style,  and makes a welcome contrast to the New Zealand approach.  There are however much cleaner and better rosés of the same style available from Spain or the southern Rhone,  often for less outlay.  This wine will disappoint unless decanted appropriately,  and who is going to bother to do that – certainly very few New Zealand restaurants I have been in – so hard to recommend.  It could have scored much better.  GK 02/08

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2002  Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon Cyril Henschke   18 +  ()
Eden Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.8%;  $133   [ cork;  CS 75%,  CF 12.5,  Me 12.5;  Halliday rates Eden Valley 9 /10 in 2002;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby,  some age showing,  clearly richer than the Abbot's Prayer.  Bouquet is classically cabernet sauvignon,  and remarkably Bordeaux-like.  It shows great cassis-influenced berry character,  almost cedary oak,  and fragrant Brettanomyces at about the level of Ch. Leoville Barton.  Palate is exactly pro rata,  almost the delicacy of a rich-year Bordeaux,  richer than the Abbot's Merlot,  the high alcohol seemingly well-hidden,  great complexity of browning berry,  tobacco and leathery oak.  This wine too has virtually no trace of euc,  and can be run in Bordeaux tastings.  The brett level is excessive for techno-winemakers,  but most people will love it.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 02/08

2004  Henschke Merlot Abbot's Prayer   18  ()
Lenswood,  Adelaide Hills,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $89   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 88%,  CS 12;  Halliday rates Adelaide Hills 8 /10 in 2004;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than the Henry's Seven.  Bouquet is completely astonishing,  a real merlot from Australia.  There are suggestions of florals and pipe tobacco on deeply plummy fruit,  plus a touch of dark chocolate from the oak.  It is not euc'y,  though.  Palate is fresh,  crisp on acid adjustment in the Australian way but not overdone,  a little oaky in youth,  but attractively berry-fruited.  Aftertaste is long and lovely,  varietal,  lingering on the fruit.  Anyone who objects to the trace of complexing brett in this wine is too picky.  This is that rare concept,  an Australian bordeaux-blend worthy of running in international tastings of the style.  Cellar 5 – 15 years at least.  GK 02/08

2005  Sileni Merlot Triangle Estate Selection   17 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  lack of wine detail on the website is frustrating;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  quite rich,  tending developed for age.  Initially opened,  the wine is very oaky,  almost Australian and unsubtle in approach,  though there is good fruit beneath.  It needs several years in cellar,  to harmonise.  Well breathed,  it reveals good berry,  but the oak is heavier than the 2004 Henschke Abbots Merlot,  which is not what merlot needs to reveal its florality and berry charm.  It should come into better balance in cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 02/08

2007  Sileni Merlot Cellar Selection   14 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  lack of wine detail on the website is frustrating;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Initially opened the wine is stinky,  suggesting a curtailed / inappropriate elevation,  presumably in the haste to put it on the market.  This overlooks the view,  that to even be marketing a Merlot within 10 months of vintage is unpleasant.  In mouth the retained fermentation odours are massive and bitter,  in plummy featureless fruit like Australian roto-fermenter wine plus chips,  but less carefully made.  This is exactly the kind of red wine we don’t need,  if New Zealand is to optimise the fragrant varietal beauty of its temperate-climate fruit.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 02/08

Pinot Noir
2005  Mount Dottrel Pinot Noir    17  ()
Cromwell district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  PN 100%,  5 clones hand-harvested;  destemmed,  21 days cuvaison inc. cold-soak,  9 months in French oak;  formerly Chantmarle Vineyard;  www.mountdottrel.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a bit old for its age.  This wine needs decanting / aeration to show its best.  Breathed,  there are clear red and black cherry varietal fruits,  plus a hint of red rhubarb stalks.  Palate is pinot in weight and style,  gentler and rounder than the Resolute wine,  more burgundian.  There is a slight aromatic lift to the finish,  maybe the much-talked about thyme aroma of Central Otago.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 02/08

2005  Ara Pinot Noir Resolute   16 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $46   [ cork;  www.winegrowersofara.co.nz;  www.resolutewines.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet.  Initially opened,  the wine is a little oaky / varnishy.  It benefits from aeration,  to reveal clear-cut pinot a little old for its years,  some VA,  and a better balance of fruit to oak than initially supposed.  Palate is richly flavoured,  a slight stalky streak as is still frequent in Marlborough pinot,  tending coarse for the pricepoint,  but the wine is mouthfilling,  and will be good with many foods.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 02/08

2006  Devils Backbone Pinot Noir   16  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  no wine info on 1 p website as yet;  www.devilsbackbone.co.nz ]
The wine opens to be quite massive,  over-ripe,  and non-varietal,  more like a popular Australian shiraz.  With air it reveals a big soft dark wine,  still rather oaky,  more pinot by exclusion than conviction in the blind tasting.  Should be better when it has lost some tannins,  in bottle,  so cellar 5 – 10 years.  It is pure,  so may conceivably blossom.  GK 02/08

2006  Ara Pinot Noir Composite   14 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $27   [ screwcap;  cuvaison c. 22 days inc. cold-soak;  14 months in French oak 20% new;  RS <2;   www.winegrowersofara.co.nz;  www.compositewines.co.nz ]
Light ruby,  old for age.  First opened,  the wine has some varietal suggestions,  but it quickly becomes too oaky,  somewhat oxidised,  and showing VA.  Palate is similar,  the fruit short,  revealing a stalky component.  Sound enough QDR pinot,  but expensive – not worth cellaring.  Considering the lofty goals this big grouping sets out on their websites,  it is surprising the first releases include some strangely inappropriate wines.  See also their Sauvignon.  GK 02/08

Syrah = Shiraz
2005  Henschke Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre / Viognier Henry's Seven   18 +  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  15%;  $42   [ screwcap;  Sh 65%,  Gr 25,  Mv 5% and  Vi 5;  Halliday rates Barossa Valley 7 /10 in 2005;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet is sensational,  fragrant in the style of Cote Rotie,  explicitly showing the rare and sought-after carnations / dianthus / wallflower floral complexity of shiraz ripened to a syrah level of complexity.  Anyone who doubts red wines can be floral should check this Henschke out – it will cost much less than comparable Cote Rotie.  The red florals are augmented by honeysuckle complexities from the 5% viognier,  perfectly done.  Berry characters range from cassis to loganberry to some boysenberry,  once aired.  Don't expect the freshly-opened bottle to show all these characters,  however.  Come back to a glass the next day,  when it will foreshadow 10 years down the track.  Alcohol aside,  palate is Cote Rotie syrah in weight,  beautifully balanced,  delicate by Australian standards (despite the grenache component),  a little raw in youth.  This is the new style of shiraz from both Australia and Henschke,  more syrah in approach,  and glorious it is too.  It is a wine to cellar alongside Guigal Cote Rotie Brune & Blonde,  and the Te Mata syrahs,  and then delight in 5,  10 and 15 years later.  GK 02/08

2005  Tapestry Shiraz   18 +  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  the website data for this wine provides the all-to-rare discrimination between harvest analysis and wine analysis – great;  oak mostly US 41% new,  second & third-use 59%;  RS 2./3 g/L;  Halliday rates McLaren Vale 8 /10 in 2005,  website notes good natural acid retained in the grapes,  good cellar potential;  www.tapestrywines.com.au ]
Dense ruby and velvet,  nearly carmine.  Bouquet is soft rich round shiraz in the boysenberry and dark plummy style,  showing fragrant nearly cedary oak,  and acceptably subtle mint / eucalyptus.  Palate is rich and over-ripe (in the syrah context),  boysenberry more than black plums with suggestions of prunes and chocolate,  but all soft,  ample,  generously flavoured and not too oaky or aggressive.  Note this is the standard label,  which is much more true to the grape than the 'Reserve' Vincent version – which is over-oaked,  as 'reserve'  wines all too commonly are.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 02/08

2001  Henschke Shiraz Hill of Grace   18  ()
Eden Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.3%;  $624   [ cork;  DFB;  Sh 100%,  noteworthy for being based on pre-phylloxera vines c. 140 years old,  dry-grown @ 400 m in an 8 hectare vineyard with 520 mm average annual rainfall,  cropped @ 1 – 2 t/ac;  open-vat fermentation followed by some barrel fermentation,  and c. 18 months traditionally in American oak,  but the ratio of French increasing;  the key point of difference between Hill of Grace and Penfolds Grange,  the two "first-growth" shirazes of Australia,  is that Hill of Grace is a single-vineyard wine,  and varies from year to year.  Grange in contrast is a multi-region wine created to a style-standard,  and can therefore be more consistent (though it still shows the impact of climate in some years);  Halliday rates Eden Valley 9 /10 in 2001;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly older than the batch.  Bouquet initially opened is one-dimensional,  and too oaky by far.  Decant this in the morning before going to work,  and leave it (lightly covered against fruit flies) till the evening.  It will then show a beautiful floral dimension of shiraz reminiscent of the Henry's Seven but older,  and set in a richer and more complex wine with cassisy and plummy fruit.  On palate,  total oak remains on the high side,  and there is some brett,  but this is complexly flavoured wine,  which should be good with many foods.  It is not big wine,  and (oak aside) there is quite a suggestion of Hermitage itself,  though its origin is betrayed by subtle euc'y aromatics.  At around $600,  it is hard to see the value – see the Penfolds 2001 Bin 128 review.  However,  few trophy wines are tasted blind …  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 02/08

2001  Penfolds Shiraz Bin 128   17 ½  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  Sh 100%;  12 months in French oak 21% new,  balance 1 – 3,  all hogsheads;  Halliday rates Coonawarra 8 /10 in 2001;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  younger than the Hill of Grace,  reflecting less oak exposure.  Bouquet is right in the middle of these shiraz-based wines (mostly Penfolds & Henschke),  showing in a subdued way some of the florals of the Henschke Henry's,  some of the cassis of the Bin 389,  some of the brett of the Hill of Grace,  but in contrast to that wine,  the oak is much subtler.  It mightn't be quite as rich,  but the berry is attractive,  and when one considers the 2001 Penfolds 128 was freely available at release for (often) less than $15,  and now in a rigorously blind tasting scores in the same ballpark as the $600-at-release 2001 Henschke Hill of Grace,  it makes a compelling case for cellaring carefully-selected South Australian reds.  The key word there is "carefully-selected".  Whether Penfolds or other companies,  many South Australian reds are big rather than beautiful – they cellar but don't necessarily improve.  Cellar another 5 – 10 years.  GK 02/08

2004  Zema Estate Shiraz   16 ½ +  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $33   [ cork;  shiraz 100%,  grown on the limestone-based terra rossa,  non-irrigated;  some BF;  16 months in French and US oak;  www.zema.com.au ]
Ruby and some velvet.  Bouquet is in a fragrant but straightforward raspberry / boysenberry Australian shiraz style,  not unduly complicated by oak.  Palate shows red berryfruit more than black,  pleasingly-flavoured and reasonably subtle in its simple raspberry way,  dry.  A typical lighter Coonawarra Shiraz,  lightly oaked.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 02/08

2004  Henschke Shiraz Mt Edelstone   16 ½  ()
Eden Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $111   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Sh 100%,  based on vines 80 – 90 years old,  dry-grown in a single 16 ha vineyard @ c. 400 m in an average annual rainfall of 600 mm,  cropped @ c. 2.5 t/ac;  open-vat fermentation followed by some barrel fermentation,  and less than 18 months traditionally in American oak,  but the ratio of French increasing;  Halliday rates Eden Valley 8 /10 in 2004;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  This is an awkward wine.  There is a good volume of bouquet,  but in the blind tasting there is excess eucalyptus verging on wintergreen,  blurring varietal specificity and pleasure.  Palate is rich in berry,  almost succulent,  bespeaking great fruit quality,  and it is all well-handled in oak,  but the flavours are caricature Australian.  It is very hard to take these euc'y shirazes seriously,  when they can't be run constructively in international tastings.  A wine (and label) for Australians,  this year.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 02/08

2006  Trinity Hill Syrah Gimblett Gravels   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ supercritical cork;  Sy 97% and Vi 3,  hand-harvested,  de-stemmed and co-fermented in closed s/s fermenters;  extended cuvaison,  14 months in new and older French and American oak;  2 g/L RS;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This wine opens reductively,  and needs violently-aerated decanting,  pouring it from one jug to another from as great a height as one can manage,  say 10 times.  It then reveals varietal berry in a classical cassisy Rhone style,  plus some black pepper.  It is too reductive to show florals though.  Palate is quite rich,  reminiscent of some better Crozes-Hermitage (Louis Belle !).  It will cellar for ages,  but whether to blossom or not is debatable.  Syrah is a variety prone to reduction in elevation,  so though this wine has good fruit,  what could have been a good wine has ended up flawed.  Note however the contrary view:  this wine has won high placings in some competitions.  I find it a worry the extent to which reductive red wines can win high awards in certain judgings.  Many wine-people are sensitive to reduced sulphur smells,  and for them,  their presence completely muffles the wine.  It is like a grey blanket over it.  And,  above a certain concentration,  these smells do not disappear with time.  So though this wine will cellar for 10 – 15 years,  personally I am not doing so despite a desire to monitor significant New Zealand syrahs in years to come.  (I have no such concerns about its expensive sibling,  the 2006 Homage Syrah.)  GK 02/08

2006  Trinity Hill Shiraz   15 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% de-stemmed;  10 months in mostly older French and American oak;  3 g/L RS;  for this grape,  the winery labels its cheap / supermarket version 'shiraz',  and its more serious ones 'syrah';  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is simple red fruits,  again with a reductive veil.  The berry characters are not as complex or ripe as the Trinity Hill Syrah.  Red currants as well as black are detectable,  plus red plums.  In mouth,  the wine is austere,  the thought of sucking on red plum stones arising.  It will be mellower in a couple of years,  and keep longer,  but is barely worth cellaring.  GK 02/08

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2005  Henschke Grenache / Mourvedre / Shiraz Johann's Garden   17 ½ +  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  15%;  $50   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Gr 68%,  Mv 19,  Sh 13;  Halliday rates Barossa Valley 7 /10 in 2005;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  much the same as the Henry's Seven.  Bouquet is richer and quieter than the Henry's,  but like it shows a freshness and lack of Australian over-ripeness which is enchanting.  There is good attractive berry with subtle spicy qualities,  but not the florals or finesse of the shiraz-based Henry's.  Palate is richer and softer,  showing much of the style of Gigondas or Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  but a little fleshier / trace jammy,  not quite the aromatic complexity,  even though there is similar older-oak handling.  These two Rhone-style Henschkes make an intriguing pair.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 02/08

All other red wines, blends etc
2004  Henschke Shiraz / Cabernets / Merlot Keyneton Estate Euphonium   17 ½  ()
Eden & Barossa Valleys,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $55   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Sh 40%,  CS 25,  Me 25;  CF 10;  Halliday rates the two valleys 8 and 9 /10 respectively in 2004;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  This Keyneton blend also shows the freshening-up of approach in the more recent Henschkes.  It shares something with the 2005 Penfolds Bin 389,  in that the cabernet component is noticeable in the blend,  but the Keyneton tastes more shiraz-dominant.  There are some euc'y aromatics,  but the wine is not over-ripe.  Berry richness and wine plumpness are attractive,  and it lingers nicely in mouth.  This is good South Australian dry red,  but it loses a little through varietal taste-confusion.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 02/08

2006  Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo   16 ½  ()
Abruzzo DOC,  Italy:  13%;  $15   [ plastic-sleeved foam;  DFB ]
Dense ruby and velvet,  rich.  Bouquet is richly fruity,  gamey and rustic in the traditional Montepulciano style,  though here with more VA and more new oak than usual.  Palate is velvety rich,  a fair dose of brett in the gamey rusticity,  all flavoursome and long and soft in mouth.  Hard to tell from many other examples on the market.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 02/08

2006  Trinity Hill Tempranillo Gimblett Gravels   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ supercritical cork;  Te 90%,  Ma 7, Sy 3,  hand-harvested,  de-stemmed;  14 months in French and American oak;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a good colour.  Like the same firm's syrah,  the quality of bouquet here is impaired by a reductive component,  below which are whole-berry suggestions,  reminiscent of hot-year beaujolais.  Palate is rich,  fruity in a dull plummy way,  a far cry from the variety famed in its homeland for its fragrance and subtlety – in riojas.  Because of its bouquet in classic Rioja blends,  the grape used to be referred to as the pinot of Spain,  but latterly comparison has been with cabernet.  If one contemplates 30-year-old Pauillac or Cote de Nuits wines together,  both views are understandable.  It should cellar for 5 – 8 years,  but for the same reasons as the Trinity Syrah,  how worthwhile that will be for this particular vintage is uncertain.  GK 02/08

2005  Farnese Sangiovese   15  ()
Abruzzo IGT,  Italy:  13%;  $14   [ plastic-sleeved foam;  Sa 100%;  de-stemmed,  10 days cuvaison;  dry extract 32 g/L inc. 4 g RS;  400,000 cases of this label;  good fact-sheet on Farnese @ www.empson.com;  the firm's given website not working at time of writing;  www.farnese-vin.com ]
Dense ruby and velvet,  rich,  older than the Gran Sasso.  This is a more old-fashioned wine again than the Gran Sasso,  the fruit richness being offset by brett to the degree the wine smells horsey / leathery / brackish.  Fruit in mouth is good,  the flavours are savoury more than plummy,  and only 10 years ago almost everyone thought this normal (from parts of Italy).  Many still like this kind of wine greatly,  it is perfectly wholesome,  so in one sense one cannot reject it on pure wine technology grounds perceptible only to the highly trained.  But in terms of the brett load,  this one has to be scored down.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 02/08