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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.
CURRENT RELEASES 2005 TE KOKO,  2007 RIVERBY SAUVIGNON AND 2006 THORN-CLARK SHOTFIRE QUARTAGE SHINE



LAYOUT AND THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
2004  Sherwood Estate Methode Traditionelle Reserve Laverique
Chardonnay
2005  Cable Bay Chardonnay
2004  Clearwater Vineyards Chardonnay
2006  Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay
2006  Palliser Chardonnay
2006  Riverby Estate Chardonnay
2006  Schubert [ Chardonnay,  Pinot Gris & Muller-Thurgau ] Tribianco
2007  Sherwood Estate Chardonnay [ Unoaked ]
2006  Southbank Estate Chardonnay Hawkes Bay
2007  Tohu Chardonnay Gisborne Unoaked
2006  Wyndham Estate Chardonnay Bin 222
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2007  Clearwater Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
2005  Cloudy Bay [ Sauvignon Blanc ] Te Koko
2007  Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
2006  Dog Point Vineyard [ Sauvignon Blanc ] Section 94
2007  Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc Reserve
2006  Morton Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marchioness Black Label
2007  Palliser Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Riverby Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Schubert Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Sherwood Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Southbank Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Stratum Wines Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Tohu Sauvignon Blanc
Riesling
2007  Matua Valley Riesling Reserve
2007  Palliser Riesling
  2007  Riverby Riesling
2004  Southbank Riesling
2006  Stratum Wines Riesling
2007  Tohu Riesling
Pinot Gris
   nv  Clearwater Vineyards Pinot Gris
2007  Palliser Pinot Gris
2007  Southbank Pinot Gris
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Red
Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2004  Elderton Cabernet Sauvignon Ashmead Single Vineyard
2004  Southbank Estate Merlot / Cabernet
2006  Stratum Wines Merlot / Cabernet
2006  Thorn-Clark [ Cabernets blend ] Shotfire Quartage
2006  Thorn-Clarke Cabernet Sauvignon Sandpiper
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2006  Clearwater Vineyards Pinot Noir
2007  Sherwood Estate Pinot Noir
2005  Southbank Estate Pinot Noir
2007  Tohu Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.
 

White
Sparkling
2004  Sherwood Estate Methode Traditionelle Reserve Laverique   16 ½  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $24   [ cork;  PN & Ch;  3 years LA;  made to mark 20th anniversary of Co.;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Palest lemonstraw.  Bouquet is fragrant fruit-dominant simple bubbly,  some apple-tart aromas but not enough yeast autolysis complexity,  reminiscent of some Lindauer variants.  In the still wine total aroma is reminiscent of pinot gris,  blind,  but once one knows it was bubbly,  the wine is clean,  a little pinot noir flush of flavour in the chardonnay,  dosage well within the brut class.  Not enough complexity for the price,  maybe,  but cellar 3 8 years.  GK 05/08

Chardonnay
2006  Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay   18 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ cork;  BF,  MLF and 18 months LA in French oak,  a small percentage new;  RS 1.3 g/L;  www.dogpoint.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  attractive.  Bouquet is a little unusual for chardonnay,  but if one thinks about acacia florals and extended lees-autolysis,  and some of Gaja's nearly-scented bread-crust chardonnays,  it starts to make sense.  The actual fruit is a little hidden in the artefact,  but it smells rich.  Palate is very rich indeed,  pure lees-autolysis of baguette crust and crumb flavour quality,  quite firm acid in the Marlborough style,  a suggestion of barrel-char throughout.  This distinctive chardonnay is a little outside the square,  but high-quality.  It should cellar well 5 12 years,  and may rate higher in a year or so.  GK 05/08

2006  Palliser Chardonnay   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  clones mendoza and 95;  BF,  MLF and 9 months LA in French oak;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  This chardonnay is almost reassuringly familiar after the Dog Point,  showing rich waxy golden queen peach fruit,  suggesting a good percentage of clone mendoza,  plus complementary barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis complexities subordinate to the fruit.  Palate is not quite as good,  not quite the concentration desired,  and a faint musty hint as if the fruit was not carefully enough checked in and after picking.  But the balance and style are attractive,  and the oaking careful.  This should give much pleasure,  the aftertaste being attractive and lingering.  Cellar 2 8 years.  GK 05/08

2006  Riverby Estate Chardonnay   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-picked from 18-year old clone mendoza,  @ 2.5 t/ac;  100% BF and MLF,  9 months LA and batonnage in French oak 30% new;  RS 2.7 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Straw,  a little developed for its age.  Bouquet is clear-cut chardonnay in the New Zealand yellow-fruited style,  quite oaky,  with more complex winemaker influences not immediately apparent.  Palate fills the wine out,  with an attractive textural quality from lees-autolysis,  the flavour a little narrow though clearly varietal.  Needs less alcohol and more of the delightful baguette crust and crumb quality which makes chardonnay more mealy and satisfying.  Cellar 2 5 years.  GK 05/08

2004  Clearwater Vineyards Chardonnay   17 ½  ()
Marlborough & Waipara,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $26   [ screwcap;  50% of the wine BF,  all the wine 'extended' LA;  2 g/L RS;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  appropriate for the age.  Bouquet is in the full golden peach plus baguette crust barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis style,  quite strong and very fragrant.  Palate follows well,  acid and oak a little higher than the Palliser,  but the flavours purer.  This is at about maximum complexity now,  but should cellar for another five years or so happily.  GK 05/08

2006  Southbank Estate Chardonnay Hawkes Bay   17  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $21   [ screwcap;  clones 15 mainly,  95 & mendoza cropped at 3.2 t/ac;  45% of the wine BF in French oak 35% new;  7 months LA,  c 15% MLF all told;  RS 2.9 g/L;  www.southbankestate.com ]
Elegant lemon.  This is a lighter kind of chardonnay,  but everything is beautifully judged and in proportion.  There are light vanillin florals on white stonefruit,  subtly counterpointed by suggestions of oak,  barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis.  In mouth the flavour is explicitly chardonnay,  delicately juicy,  not quite the mineral complexity of classed chablis,  but in that style,  with good acid.  One could drink this all night.  Cellar 3 8 years.  GK 05/08

2006  Wyndham Estate Chardonnay Bin 222   16 ½ +  ()
Australia:  13%;  $17   [ screwcap;  night-harvested,  cool-fermented;  some oak maturation,  LA,  MLF;  www.wyndhamestate.com ]
Lemon.  Bouquet on this chardonnay is more straightforwardly varietal,  some acacia floral notes and musk melon,  good fruit,  not a lot of barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis or winemaker artefact / complexity.  Palate is juicy,  a suggestion of grapefruit in added acid and fair body,  all very pure,  like several of the chardonnays in this batch,  not bone-dry.  Should mellow nicely with a year or two in cellar,  into a straightforward commercial chardonnay.  Cellar 2 5 years.  GK 05/08

2006  Schubert [ Chardonnay,  Pinot Gris & Muller-Thurgau ] Tribianco   16 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $28   [ supercritical cork;  hand-harvested;  some BF in new and older French oak,  some LA and batonnage;  www.schubert.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  Bouquet is fragrant,  ripe and grapey clean vinifera in a fruit-dominant approach well-suited to the label's QDW goals,  rather than 'a varietal'.  Price however does not sit happily with that goal.  There might be a whisper of oak and lees-autolysis enhancement (confirmed),  but they are incidental.  Palate shows the body of chardonnay,  enriched perhaps by some MLF,  a suggestion of oak and the nearly floral fragrance of muller-thurgau lifting the chardonnay.  Finishes off-dry,  but subtly so,  scarcely sweeter than most 'dry' sauvignons.  This should mellow in cellar 1 3 years,  and hold for somewhat longer.  GK 05/08

2007  Sherwood Estate Chardonnay [ Unoaked ]   15 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  33% wild-yeast fermentation;  1.5 g/L RS;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet opens a little surly,  and benefits from decanting.  It is then fragrant but light and unsubstantial for chardonnay,  another in the honeydew melon and lightly floral category,  as if un-oaked (website confirms).  Palate certainly seems stainless steel,  clean neutral but phenolic fruit more like pinot gris than chardonnay,  pure but empty alongside the Schubert Tribianco.  Will cellar a year or two,  but not to much advantage.  GK 05/08

2005  Cable Bay Chardonnay   14 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  (if same as 2006) 4 clones of chardonnay hand-harvested;  BF in French oak,  c. 20% wild yeast fermentations;  10 months LA in barrel;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Old straw.  Bouquet is old too in the present company,  vaguely figgy rather than peachy,  with some oxidation characters.  Palate is more complex,  with barrel-ferment,  MLF and autolysis flavours,  but the fruit is in an older style of mixed ripeness,  with acid and stalky / phenolic threads in the prematurely aged flavours.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 05/08

2007  Tohu Chardonnay Gisborne Unoaked   14  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  14%;  $18   [ screwcap;  MLF 100%,  4.2 g/L RS;  www.tohuwines.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is scented and ersatz,  a banana-y version of simple chardonnay,  perhaps due to an 'aromatic' yeast.  It is hard enough to achieve interesting / attractive un-oaked chardonnay anyway,  without these spurious characters.  Palate is much the same,  some body,  a kind of white raspberry cordial flavour,  not winey,  not bone dry [confirmed].  Simple QDW,  wholesome,  but not worth cellaring.  GK 05/08

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2005  Cloudy Bay [ Sauvignon Blanc ] Te Koko   19 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $41   [ screwcap;  grapes night-harvested @ 4 t/ac;  BF with wild yeasts in French oak with a low percentage new,  fermenting so slowly continued to mid-Dec. '05.,  some MLF;  continued LA in barrel till Nov. '06 a total of 19 months;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Glowing lemon,  a gorgeous colour.  Bouquet is simply sensational.  I don't think there's ever been a Te Koko so floral,  fragrant and beautiful as this.  Just on bouquet alone,  this bids fair to be the finest sauvignon ever made in New Zealand.  Floral components on bouquet are centred around yellow honeysuckle,  but with other more typical Marlborough sauvignon characters such as elderflower too,  grading into rich black passionfruit,  yellow stonefruit,  sweet basil and the spice of ripest red capsicum.  Palate adds wonderful barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and big baguette-crust complexities,  with a purity and freshness which makes one wonder if there is any MLF component this year.  Yet a certain creamy fatness on the palate suggests there is [later confirmed].  This is simply incredible sauvignon blanc,  grown at a true grand cru cropping rate and tasting superbly rich accordingly.  Every sauvignon drinker must try this as a special treat,  with food.  Cellar 2 10 years at least,  depending on taste preferences.  GK 05/08

2007  Riverby Sauvignon Blanc   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  SB 90%,  Se 10;  screwcap;  5 separate picks to achieve flavour complexity,  @ < 4 t/ac;  RS 3 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemongreen,  a little deeper than the Matua,  not as rich as Te Koko.  Bouquet is wonderfully ripe sweet and gently complex sauvignon,  a little more complex than the Matua Reserve,  simpler but as satisfying as Te Koko,  absolutely mainstream alongside the Dog Point.  In mouth,  the body and dry extract of the wine immediately strikes you,  the beauty of the sweet basil aromatics and black passionfruit fruit,  plus a touch of ripest red capsicum,  all complexed by considerable lees-autolysis and maybe some near-invisible barrel fermentation.  [ On checking,  there is no barrel-ferment or oak component at all.  Good sauvignon blanc so often has this fine oak-like aromatic to it it is damnably easy to be fooled.]  Finish is Marlborough 'dry'.  If Te Koko,  like Section 94,  is a bit too much / too intense for your taste,  try this exquisite Marlborough sauvignon.  It should cellar well 2 10 years,  or longer.  GK 05/08

2006  Dog Point Vineyard [ Sauvignon Blanc ] Section 94   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $36   [ cork;  BF and 18 months LA in older French oak,  no MLF (check);  RS 5.9 g/L;  www.dogpoint.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  a little deeper than the Matua Reserve.  This Section 94 is an altogether more assertive wine than the top two,  with a penetrating,  even pungent,  varietal character to it.  I think it will be a love or hate wine,  as Te Koko used to be.  There are a lot of other aromas in this strong bouquet too,  crushed chrysanthemums and sage,  sweet basil,  stonefruit,  plus sautéed red capsicums.  It is too strong to be easily described as floral,  in the normal sense of the word.  Palate is surprisingly harmonious after the bouquet,  again a grand cru cropping rate with tremendous volume,  presence and mouthfeel,  and gorgeous lingering flavours of sweet red capsicums and sweet basil.  With the right savoury foods,  this would be divine.  On its own,  as a wine,  it is almost too characterful.  Not sure how this will cellar,  with stronger slightly less ripe flavours than Te Koko.  One to three years might be safest.  GK 05/08

2007  Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc Reserve   18  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ machine-harvested;  cool-fermented and c. 2 months LA in s/s;  RS 2.2 g/L;  www.matua.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  a standard good Marlborough sauvignon blanc colour.  This wine is still too young to show its best,  needing a good decanting.  It is a much more fruit-dominated and familiar Marlborough sauvignon style than Te Koko,  but the point of ripeness achieved shows some white honeysuckle florals,  with fragrant black passionfruit pulp,  a hint of ripest red capsicum,  and again some sweet basil savoury complexity.  Palate follows-on well,  and it is only here that perhaps one might think there is some trace of sweet fragrant gentle oak,  reinforcing the grape aromatics [again, no].  This sauvignon seems to be coming together compared with the previous note,  is conventional alongside the Section 94,  and will look even better in a year.  Cellar 2 8 years,  perhaps longer.  A 'Search' function would be handy on the Matua website,  since the range of labels is now wide,  and the criteria for naming them not totally consistent for example the term Reserve is used under several headings.  GK 05/08

2006  Morton Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marchioness Black Label   17 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $26   [ screwcap;  fermented in s/s,  then 9 months LA in second and third year French oak,  then 2 months back in s/s;  no MLF;  RS 6.7 g/L;  www.mortonestatewines.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  In the blind tasting,  this is a sweet and riper stonefruit sauvignon,  as if the fruit were Hawkes Bay,  not Marlborough.  Bouquet is fruit-dominant,  mild alongside the top wines,  pepino and yellow nectarine,  just a little piquancy from black passionfruit skins,  red capsicums,  and oak.  Palate is more clearly sauvignon,  a clean fragrant bottled English gooseberries suggestion,  reasonably subtle oak,  not as rich or complex or subtle as Te Koko,  sweeter and not as fine as the Riverby,  but still satisfying.  Cellar 3 10 years.  GK 05/08

2007  Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  all s/s,  RS 2.6 g/L;  www.dogpoint.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  This wine is still too youthful,  needing decanting to open up.  It then shows sweet ripe straight sauvignon blanc,  with some lees-autolysis enhancement maybe,  but not the detailed trimmings of the top wines.  There are yellow and red capsicum aromatics on black passionfruit,  pure and fragrant.  Palate shows good concentration of these components,  attractive length,  but a certain linearity and firm acid (though note the low residual) alongside the more complex wines.  Cellar 2 5 years.  GK 05/08

2007  Stratum Wines Sauvignon Blanc   17  ()
Marlborough & Waipara,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $14   [ screwcap;  cool fermentation,  2 months lees contact;  2 g/L RS;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  This is a milder wine altogether,  lacking the aromatics and complexity one associates with Marlborough sauvignon.  Instead the wine shows a palely tropical / Hawkes Bay fruit quality reminiscent of pepino and melon,  on bouquet.  Palate likewise is gentle,  quite rich,  dry,  long on these fruit notes,  with an added aromatic red capsicum suggestion.  This is good sauvignon for those who find most Marlborough sauvignons too aggressive.  Cellar 2 5 years.  GK 05/08

2007  Palliser Sauvignon Blanc   16 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $26   [ screwcap;  no wine detail on website;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  This is an awkward wine,  since straight out of the bottle it is tending reductive,  congested and seems under-ripe.  It needs extended splashy decanting,  pouring it from jug to jug half a dozen times.  It then becomes pleasantly varietal,  lightly musky / aromatic sauvignon,  closer to Marlborough than Hawke's Bay in style.  In mouth the fruit concentration is good,  the flavours red capsicum and black passionfruit lingering well,  dry finish.  Hard to give a meaningful score when the wine is so different,  untreated (14) versus aerated (17.5).  Debatable for cellaring.  GK 05/08

2007  Southbank Estate Sauvignon Blanc   16 +  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  mostly Wairau Valley,  some Awatere;  cool ferment,  up to 10 weeks LA;  RS 2.8 g/L;  www.southbankestate.com ]
Pale lemongreen.  Initially opened this wine is a little reductive,  and like the Palliser needs a splashy decanting.  It opens up to be slightly vanillin,  one of those sauvignons confuseable with riesling,  on bouquet.  It comes into better focus on palate,  pleasant black passionfruit,  no great concentration or complexity,  straightforward.  Cellar a year or two.  Score is well breathed.  GK 05/08

2007  Sherwood Sauvignon Blanc   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $15   [ screwcap;  cool-fermented 19 days,  3 months LA;  2.5 g/L RS;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  Bouquet opens as modest sauvignon quite well ripened but not very concentrated,  and stays much the same on palate.  Fruit includes black passionfruit with a touch of red capsicum aromatics.  Sound commercial wine,  to cellar a year or two.  GK 05/08

2007  Tohu Sauvignon Blanc   15 ½ +  ()
Marlborough ,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  4 g/L RS;  www.tohuwines.co.nz ]
Palest lemongreen.  Bouquet is a little aggressive with VA,  on sauvignon ripened to the mixed capsicum plus some black passionfruit stage.  Flavour likewise shows some spurious fruitiness,  on ripe red capsicum and black passionfruit,  just a little phenolic / hard pressed.  Straightforward commercial sauvignon,  tending coarse.  Cellar a year or two only,  to mellow.  GK 05/08

2007  Clearwater Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc   15 +  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  machine-harvest;  BF in old oak 5 weeks,  10 months LA in barrel,  some MLF;  RS 2 g/L;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This is a difficult wine,  it basically showing under-ripe fruit with green bean notes,  but it has had a lot of winemaking go into it (confirmed).  The result is a kind of old-fashioned New Zealand 'white cabernet sauvignon',  with leafy whitecurrant fruit,  subtle oak,  lees-autolysis enhancement,  perhaps some MLF,  quite rich and complex and with a certain charm,  food-oriented.  It would go well with perhaps a quiche-like dish dominated by green capsicums,  but doesn't score well as sauvignon blanc alone.  It will look better in a year,  and cellar 1 3 years,  despite the under-ripeness.  GK 05/08

2007  Schubert Sauvignon Blanc   14  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $28   [ cork;  some intentional skin-contact;  full lees autolysis 5 months,  5% in old French oak;  www.schubert.co.nz ]
Colour is straw with a faint gold flush,  inappropriate to its age.  And bouquet shows why,  with botrytisy fruit showing more root ginger than varietal character.  Palate is strongly flavoured,  ginger dominating,  both phenolic and coarse,  drier than most.  Not a success or worth cellaring,  when evaluated and scored in a blind tasting as sauvignon blanc so expensive.  All that said,  it could accompany certain spicy Asian dishes well,  in its eccentric style.  GK 05/08

Riesling
2007  Palliser Riesling   18 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $22   [ screwcap;  no wine detail on website;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is very neat,  taut,  and restrained,  but clearly riesling in a fragrant lime-zest and vanillin way,  like some Eden Valley rieslings.  Palate is in that style too (though not as dry),  New Zealand riesling 'dry',  crystalline in flavour.  The citrus component grows in mouth,  and lingers long,  an elegant riesling which is light but shows good concentration.  This should cellar 3 10 years.  GK 05/08

2007  Riverby Riesling   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $18   [ screwcap;  hand-picked @ < 3 t/ac;  RS 3 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is tending unfocussed at this stage,  confuseable with pinot gris as well as riesling,  lightly floral and pure.  Palate is in the 'dry' understated Eden Valley style like the Palliser,  vanillin florals and some lime-zest qualities clearly apparent.  This should develop attractively in cellar,  though it is a little withdrawn now.  Cellar 3 10 years.  I hope to report on some older vintages of this wine in the not too distant future,  for this kind of riesling should develop well.  GK 05/08

2006  Stratum Wines Riesling   17  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $14   [ screwcap;  cool ferment 21 days,  3 months LA;  RS 28 g/L;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Full lemon to lemonstraw.  Bouquet is rich and strong,  a broad riesling full of citrus and even grapefruit aromas,  and quite strong freesia florals too,  attractive in that style.  Palate is as expected a little strong,  maybe even coarse,  with some botrytis,  but there is a lot of flavour in a medium finish.  Alongside this,  the Palliser looks a vanishingly subtle and academic version of the variety.  This is more an introductory riesling,  which should be popular.  Cellar 1 3 years.  GK 05/08

2007  Matua Valley Riesling Reserve   16 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested,  no lees-enhancement;  RS 1.7 g/L;  www.matua.co.nz ]
Palest lemon.  Bouquet is pure,  clean and quiet,  only on close examination revealing the subtlest freesia florals suggesting riesling.  Palate continues that trend,  a hint of lime-zest creeping in,  but the dry extract is too low for long development in bottle,  as one hopes for in riesling.  Doesn't quite meet the label expectation,  therefore,  as a reserve wine.  Cellar 1 5  years,  as pleasant light dry riesling.  GK 05/08

2004  Southbank Riesling   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  10.5%;  $15   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested @ 4 t/ac;  9 g/L RS;  www.southbankestate.com ]
Full lemon.  Bouquet is uncannily like South Australian riesling,  with big riesling terpenes in a fine lager-hops style,  on sweet citrusy fruit with a hint of vanilla custard.  Palate doesn't quite do the bouquet justice,  the flavours too developed,  with a suggestion of stalks.  Sweetness is medium-dry,  which helps hold things together.  A bit coarse,  short-term cellar only,  1 3 years.  GK 05/08

2007  Tohu Riesling   16  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  11 g/L RS;  www.tohuwines.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  This wine benefits from a splashy pouring,  opening to reveal loosely-focussed apple-tart aromas,  as much pinot gris as riesling.  Palate has good fruit,  but is in a coarse tending-fruit-salad riesling style,  a bit phenolic,  medium-dry finish.  Plenty of flavour,  but it might pall after a full glass which is not what riesling is about.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 05/08

Pinot Gris
nv  Clearwater Vineyards Pinot Gris   16 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14%;  $19   [ screwcap;  2006 & 2007 blend,  due to small-volume first crops;  no details on website yet;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Pale straw.  This is a difficult wine.  Smelling it one way,  e.g. blind in a line-up,  it seems a bit oxidised.  Smelling it as pinot gris,  one can reinterpret that character as attractively varietal with a touch of cinnamon,  lightly reminiscent of the old-fashioned pudding apple charlotte.  Palate shows fair fruit on a drier finish than some of the pinot gris in this batch,  some body and flavour,  attractively-handled phenolics.  Short-term cellar probably wiser.  GK 05/08

2007  Palliser Pinot Gris   16 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  no wine detail on website;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  In the blind tasting,  this one is hard to pin down.  Revealed,  it is more clearly in the elusive pinot gris category,  vague white florals on pearflesh fruit which expand somewhat in mouth,  off-dry sweetness and gentle phenolic balance.  Pleasant bland off-dry white,  to cellar 2 4 years.  GK 05/08

2007  Southbank Pinot Gris   16  ()
Fernhill,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ screwcap;  cropped @ 3.2 t/ac;  all s/s elevation,  2 months LA;  8.8. g/L RS;  www.southbankestate.com ]
Straw.  Bouquet is in the light pearflesh style of so many New Zealand pinot gris,  slightly more character than the Palliser,  a trace of cinnamon on the pearflesh.  Palate is not as rich as that wine however,  so the phenolics show more,  making the finish less attractive.  Straightforward New Zealand pinot gris.  Cellar a year or two only.  GK 05/08

Red
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2006  Thorn-Clark [ Cabernets blend ] Shotfire Quartage   18 ½ +  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.9%;  $28   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS 43%,  CF 19,  Ma 18,  PV 8,  Me 8,  Sh 4;  18 months in French 85% and American oak;  www.thornclarkewines.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a densely-saturated and lovely red wine colour.  And once it has breathed a little in glass,  bouquet is pretty saturated too,  with a violets aroma most unusual in even premium Australian cabernet / merlot.  There is a faint mint aromatic lift,  but thankfully it is not euc'y.  There is also wonderfully rich deep cassisy berry,  and darkest plums fruit.  In mouth,  the wine is rich and velvety,  the oak reasonably subtle and fragrant,  potentially cedary.  This is exceptional Australian cabernet / merlot,  of a quality which could be run with classed growths from Bordeaux.  It reminds me of the top Craggy Range bordeaux blends from the 2005 vintage.  Cellar 5 20 years,  perhaps longer.  It is worth noting that some wine people consider cabernet sauvignon can develop a faint mint aromatic component within its own chemistry,  citing Mouton-Rothschild as an example.  GK 05/08

2004  Elderton Cabernet Sauvignon Ashmead Single Vineyard   17 ½  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $78   [ cork;  DFB;  CS 100% old-vine cropped @ < 2 t/ac;  20 months in 100% new French oak;  www.eldertonwines.com.au ]
Ruby and garnet,  very dense.  Bouquet on this cabernet is more in the South Australian traditional style,  robustly fruited and showing some euc'y complexity.  Within the big fruit there is both cassis and dark plum,  and the oak is high-quality.  In mouth,  the wine is very rich indeed,  almost viscous,  saturated with fruit,  great cassis,  the oak potentially cedary,  but the euc'y note pervasive,  sadly.  Not easy to score,  because the fruit is so fabulous.  I guess for international tasters of Australian reds,  the search is to find those rare wines which contain all the pluses,  with no eucalyptus.  It does happen,  in years when there are no temperature spikes promoting volatilisation of the eucalyptus essential oils from the leaves.  The Thorn-Clarke Quartage within this batch is a closer approach to the ideal state,  though it is not as rich as this Ashmead.  Cellar 10 30 years.  GK 05/08

2006  Thorn-Clarke Cabernet Sauvignon Sandpiper   17 +  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS 100%;  12 months in predominantly French oak,  20% new;  www.thornclarkewines.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  nearly as rich as Quartage.  Bouquet is clear-cut cassis on aromatic oak,  simple and lightly minty when first opened,  but gathering depth and complexity with decanting / breathing.  Palate shows plenty of flavour,  good cassisy berry and darkest plum,  but also classically demonstrating the cabernet 'doughnut' effect not much fruit in the middle of the palate,  though plenty of cassis aromatics around the edges.  This is a pure,  highly varietal,  somewhat one-dimensional Australian cabernet with little sign of eucalyptus.  It will fill out in cellar attractively,  given 5 15 years.  GK 05/08

2004  Southbank Estate Merlot / Cabernet   14 ½  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle & Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 69%,  CS 17,  CF 14 cropped at c. 3 t/ac,  the Me from the Triangle;  12 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.southbankestate.com ]
Older ruby.  This red urgently needs splashy decanting,  to dissipate some bottle stink which makes it smell like a 15-year-old wine.  Well breathed,  it is lightly floral and leafy red in a minor Entre Deux Mers merlot / cabernet style,  only marginally ripe,  over-oaked for the fruit weight,  more tannic QDR than cellar wine.  Some brett issues to sort out in the winery,  too.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 05/08

2006  Stratum Wines Merlot / Cabernet   14  ()
Marlborough & Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $14   [ screwcap;  Me,  CS & CF perhaps,  PN,  Ma;  12 months in oak;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is fragrant,  both leafy / floral and berry,  a hint of buddleia,  and in the blind tasting it is easier to identify it as pinot noir (presence later confirmed).  But leafy merlot could fit too,  on light redcurrant berry.  Palate is short-fruited,  under-ripe and stalky,  reflecting the 1970s over-cropped and under-ripened approach,  not suited to the 2000s.  Skinny but wholesome QDR,  not worth cellaring.  GK 05/08

Pinot Noir
2007  Sherwood Estate Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $16   [ screwcap;  5 days cold soak;  further 11 days fermentation;  2 months in oak;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is familiar,  but not as majority New Zealand pinot noir.  This is reminiscent of gamay noir a jus blanc as in Beaujolais,  nearly violets florals,  and darkly fleshy plum more than cherry fruit.  Palate is only lightly oaked,  making the wine even more fleshy and beaujolais-like,  quite good beaujolais too,  with a dark spicy note like nutmeg suggesting maceration carbonique (apparently not so).  This is attractive as interpreted,  though a little stalky.  Cellar 1 3 years.  GK 05/08

2006  Clearwater Vineyards Pinot Noir   15 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  7 days cold soak,  12 days fermentation;  10 months in French oak;  www.sherwood.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is lightly varietal red cherry pinot noir,  with some floral notes hovering around the buddleia / leafy end of the ripening spectrum.  Palate is a little riper than that,  red currants and red cherry,  some varietal delicacy in a leafy minor satellite-Beaune way,  more even ripening than the Southbank,  and the tannins better-handled.  Short-term cellar only,  2 4 years.  GK 05/08

2005  Southbank Estate Pinot Noir   15  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ cork;  6 clones of PN cropped @ 1.6 t/ac;  5 days cold soak;  7 months in French oak,  15% new;  www.southbankestate.com ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  some age creeping in.  Bouquet is moderately fragrant in an old-fashioned New Zealand pinot style,  simple blackboy and plum fruits,  some stalks,  slightly varnishy oak.  Palate is exactly the same,  reasonably fruited but the grapes lacking physiological maturity,  a stalky note tending phenolic,  the oak plain.  Short-term cellaring only,  1 3 years.  GK 05/08

2007  Tohu Pinot Noir   14  ()
Awatere & Wairau Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $26   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  some cold soak,  some wild-yeast fermentation,  some BF;  11 months in French oak 33% new;  www.tohuwines.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby.  This is the old-style Marlborough pinot of the valley flats,  over-cropped and under-ripened,  lightly floral in a leafy way,  and lightly redfruits varietal.  Palate is skinny,  clearly leafy going on stalky,  the flavour stalky blackboy to redcurrant,  reminding of Loire Valley pinot at best (but not bone dry).  Clean and wholesome QDR,  but woefully commercial,  over-priced in the rapidly evolving New Zealand pinot noir scene.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 05/08