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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
THE 2010 HOT RED WINE EXPO – HAWKES BAY / BORDEAUX BLENDS & RELATED WINES, ONLY


Geoff Kelly


Hawkes Bay WineGrowers and the Hot Red Wine Expo
Hawkes Bay is one of the very few regions on earth that can produce red wines to compare with the magical beauty and delicacy of the great wines of Bordeaux.  They are delicate in the sense that at best,  they are floral and fragrant,  but they can have real substance too,  and be totally satisfying with food.  With the growing recognition of these facts,  the annual presentation of the Hawkes Bay WineGrowers' Hot Red wine-tasting road-show has become a ‘must-visit’ event.  

This year’s Hot Red Wine Expo in the third week of June was the seventh.  The wines were shown in Auckland,  Wellington and Christchurch,  not all wineries showing in all three centres.  Trade attendance was on a par with last year,  but perhaps due to the general gloom still pervading the economy,  public attendance was down.  Auckland had marginally the greatest trade attendance,  but when it comes to public interest,  there is absolutely no doubt where the enthusiasm lies.  Wellington this year had twice the attendance of either Auckland or Christchurch.  Total trade and public participation this year amounted to 625 or so,  against last year's more than 800.  On the brighter side,  this did allow better interaction between proprietors and customers,  and good info exchange.

There are approximately 70 wineries in the Hawkes Bay district,  but as last year only 25 chose to participate.  Some of the absentees are tiny wineries some making eccentric or over-priced wines,  so they have little to gain by comparison with the mainstream.  More worrying however is the absence of larger or better-known wineries which people have heard about,  and would very much like to taste.  Some wineries are retrenching in tough economic times,  others feel their individual marketing efforts work better for them than an expensive week via the group approach.  Whatever the reason,  the simple fact is,  keen consumers miss them,  in what is supposed to be a show-case of the entire region's red wine achievements.  The more notably absent included:

Notable non-participants in the 2010 Hawkes Bay Hot Red Expo in Wellington::
Brookfield Vineyard                            Morton Estate
Craggy RangeSacred Hill Wines & Gunn Estate
Kemblefield EstateSquawking Magpie
Mills Reef WineryTe Mata Estate

Hawkes Bay Wineries exhibiting in the 2010 Hot Red Expo in Wellington:
Abbey CellarsLime Rock Wines
Alpha DomusMatariki Wines
Askerne VineyardMission Estate
BabichMoana Park Winery
Black Barn VineyardsNgatarawa Wines
Bridge Pa VineyardsPask Winery
Church Road  (Pernod-Ricard group)Salvare Estate
Clearview EstateSileni Estate
Corbans  (Pernod-Ricard group)Te Awa Winery
Crossroads WineryTrinity Hill
Cypress WinesVidal Estate  (Villa Maria group)
Elephant Hill EstateVilla Maria  (Villa Maria group)
Esk Valley Estate  (Villa Maria group)

Details and addresses for all the wineries in the district are available on the Hawkes Bay WineGrowers website:  www.winehawkesbay.co.nz

This Year's Report:
A reasonably lengthy (6,000 word) introduction and background information for the red wines and winestyles of the Hawkes Bay district was provided in my Hot Red report last year (Kelly, 2009) – rather than repeat that,  please refer back to it.  The vintage chart has been revised and updated,  and is included again here,  however.  

This year's report deals only with Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends and related single-varietal wines:  cabernet sauvignon,  merlot,  cabernet franc,  malbec,  and their various blends.  Virtually all such wines in the Expo are included.  The amount of background and supporting information for each wine has been reduced,  to closure and website for most,  so additional info can quickly be sought by the reader.  Back-grounding the wine can end up taking longer than the actual reviewing process.  Since there have been several worthwhile tastings recently,  a more condensed approach is needed.  

Vintage Ratings for 2000 to 2010 in Hawkes Bay – for discussion:
As noted in introducing a vintage chart last year,  any attempt to summarise the vintage for a district is subject to infinite exceptions,  both in the geography of a district as large as Hawkes Bay,  and for example where a winemaker halves the crop load in a cool year,  in pursuit of excellence.  In discussing this topic with Peter Cowley,  the long-experienced (26 vintages) Te Mata Estate winemaker,  he felt the key issue is that the last six vintages in Hawkes Bay have been so much easier climatically than the average of the 1980s and 1990s.  Given that cabernet sauvignon is at its most magical in climates slightly warmer than marginal for the variety,  namely places such as Hawkes Bay and Bordeaux where it retains all its fragrant cassisy aromas,  then if the global warming trend thus far is sustained,  the North Island of New Zealand has much to look forward to in its Bordeaux blends class.  In assessing the success of a vintage,  my stance below is a little more inclined to the absolute quality of the kind of wines people cellar,  rather than simply the commercial success of the vintage.  Input to revising the chart progressively is requested,  since vintage conditions do vary considerably within the district.  Address near the foot of home page,  under:  Feedback:

2010
           
5 – 8
A challenging year,  for reds not comparable with Auckland district to north,  or Wairarapa to south.  Moderate flowering,  January wettest in 100 years,  February not ideal,  season very late.  Then great improvement March and April,  small crops led to some promising merlot and syrah (more at the white pepper stage) achieved locally,  including Reserve wines.  Many cabernets fell short,  best Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends merlot-dominant,  probably.  Whites mixed,  some report exceptional chardonnay (inc. Riflemans,  maybe 9 +) and gewurz like 2004,  others merely adequate.  Score range indicative,  assessment even by winemakers difficult since many wines still in malo …
20097 – 9 +Variable summer,  wet patch starting 28 Feb.,  some hassles for chardonnay.  Then March coolish,  merlots good to great but some initial doubts about cabernet.  April dry,  near-ideal for reds,  cabernet doubts dispelled,  opinion growing that the best Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends exceed 2007.  Some also consider their syrahs their best ever,  but others are disappointed with the variety.  Hard to generalise,  much will depend on the quality of viticulture,  and the yields sought.  As always,  the proof will be in the tasting,  but the indications are for some exciting wines.
20086 – 8Spring frosts,  varying impact,  warm dryish summer but easterlies dominant = humidity.  So difficult vintage,  uneven ripening and conflicting reports,  some report good cabernet but on average merlots better physiological maturity.  Syrah quality localised,  Craggy Le Sol for example fractionally lighter and more aromatic,  better,  some think.  No Homage,  however.  For reds generally,  some have no Reserve / top tier red wines due to green notes.  No Rifleman's Chardonnay from Dartmoor Valley.  Perhaps like '05 & '06 will be occasional notable exceptions,  for example 2008 better for Te Awanga district reds than 2007.
20077 – 9Average temperatures but very dry season (driest 10 years),  near-perfect for many sites,  with full physiological maturity achievable at attractive (13.5%) alcohols in many appropriately-cropped reds.  Syrahs soft and rich,  but perhaps not as aromatic as best '05 / '06.  Fine whites too,  notably Riflemans Chardonnay.  Now challenged by 2009 as the best red wine vintage of decade.  Later tastings reveal that Church Road excelled in their 2007 Reserves including Tom (exceptional),  and several other wineries have produced top wines which will match Second or Third-Growth Bordeaux,  or 'grand cru' northern Rhone.  Trinity Homage '07 matches la Chapelle in best years of '80s.
20066 – 8 +Warmest year of decade,  localised / unpredictable rain as in March 2005 but not as heavy,  some superb wines e.g. Church Road & Villa Maria surpass 2005 in Hawkes Bay blends.  The best syrahs include Trinity Hill Homage,  not made in 2005.  Excellence of 2007 has now taken attention away from 2006.  Many reds fractionally lighter than best 2005s,  described as fragrant,  ripe and stylish.  Some fine chardonnays.
20056 – 8 +Best excellent,  but patch-wise rain (up to 80 mm near Roy’s Hill 18 March) significantly reduced final quality for some growers,  despite dry subsequently.  Nonetheless the top reds and particularly cabernet-dominant from selected wineries inc. Church Road and Craggy Range exceptional.  Syrahs aromatic and fragrant,  a fine Bullnose Cote-Rotie-like.  Score more for better wines,  some average.  Critical selection needed for cellaring.  A London blind tasting has now confirmed several premium Hawkes Bay blends matching better classed-growth Bordeaux.
20044 – 6 + Second coolest vintage of decade,  but great Indian summer.  Best Gimblett Gravels reds fragrant and attractive (7),  but red fruits more than black.  Beyond Gravels,  many leafy reds developing too rapidly.  Conversely,  some stunning whites,  marvellous chardonnays (9) and gewurzs !
20032 – 4For many growers,  severe and widespread frost 5 Oct. dominated the coolish,  mainly dry but difficult  season to follow.  Small crops,  but then humid periods during ripening led to frequent rot.  Some reasonably good medium-weight red wines,  virtually no Reserve wines anywhere.
20027 – 9Modest early season and damp early summer,  then great Indian autumn gave best quality and quantity vintage since 1998,  but high alcohols – referred to locally by some as the Californian vintage.  At best superb reds,  but many too big.  Not the technical knowledge then as now,  but the best cellaring well.  Some whites also too big.
20014 – 6Widespread frost 20 Nov,  difficult summer,  coolest year of decade but not good for chardonnay even so.  Some settled spells March / April but botrytis pressure,  uneven ripening,  mostly lean red wines,  now near their peak.  Due to small crops,  some growers such as Trinity Hill produced well-ripened wines where viticulture exceptional.
20006 – 8As for Bordeaux,  not a perfectly dry season (70 mm 9 & 10 April) yet where viticulture good a plentiful and stylish vintage,  with very good wines if cropping rates were conservative.  Reasonable alcohols,  and Bordeaux style in the best blends too.  Score given is more the better wines.

                 
Acknowledgements
Several people in the Bay helped me with detail and perspective,  and were patient with emails and phone calls to check the latest thought,  irrespective of whether they participated in the Hot Red Roadshow.  Sincere thanks to:  Gordon Russell of Esk Valley Estate,  John Hancock of Trinity Hill,  Peter Cowley and Larry Morgan of Te Mata Estate,  Rod Easthope of Craggy Range,  and Tony Bish of Sacred Hill,  amongst others.





THE CABERNET / MERLOT AND RELATED WINES REVIEWED:

2006  Abbey Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Cardinal
2005  Abbey Cellars Cabernets / Merlot
2009  Abbey Cellars Malbec Temptation
2006  Abbey Cellars Merlot / Cabernet Graduate
2007  Alpha Domus Cabernet / Merlot The Aviator
2005  Alpha Domus [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Navigator
2007  Alpha Domus Merlot / Cabernet The Pilot
2006  Askerne Cabernet / Merlot / Franc Reserve
2007  Askerne Merlot / Malbec / Franc
2006  Askerne Merlot Reserve
2007  Babich Cabernet / Merlot / Franc Irongate
2007  Babich Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec / Cabernet Franc The Patriarch
2007  Babich Merlot Winemaker's Reserve
2009  Black Barn Vineyards Cabernet Franc Hawkes Bay
2007  Black Barn Vineyards Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Malbec
2009  Black Barn Vineyards Merlot Reserve Hawkes Bay
2006  Bridge Pa Vineyard Merlot Zillah
2007  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2007  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Tom [ pre-release sample ]
2007  Church Road Cabernet Sauvignon Cuve
2008  Church Road Merlot / Cabernet
2007  Church Road Merlot Cuve
2007  Clearview Estate [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Basket Press
2008  Clearview Estate [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Old Olive Block
2008  Clearview Estate [ Merlot / Cabernets ] Enigma
2008  Clearview Malbec / Merlot Two Pinnacles
2007  Corbans Cabernet / Merlot Cottage Block
2009  Corbans Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Couper's Shed
2008  Crossroads Winery Merlot Hawkes Bay
2008  Cypress Merlot
2009  Elephant Hill Merlot
2008  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec
  2007  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Winemakers Reserve
2007  Matariki Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot
2005  Matariki Quintology
2007  Mission Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2007  Mission Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2008  Mission Estate Merlot Reserve
2009  Moana Park Merlot / Malbec Vineyard Selection
2008  Moana Park Merlot Vineyard Tribute Gimblett Road
2007  [ Ngatarawa ] Merlot / Cabernet Glazebrook
2009  Ngatarawa Merlot Glazebrook
2005  Pask Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Declaration
2007  Pask Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Gimblett Road
2006  Pask Malbec Declaration
2006  Pask Merlot Declaration
2007  Pask Merlot Gimblett Road
2007  Salvare Merlot
2008  Sileni Cabernet Franc The Pacemaker
2009  Sileni Merlot Cellar Selection
2008  Sileni Merlot / Franc The Plains
2008  Sileni Merlot The Triangle
2007  Te Awa Cabernet / Merlot
2007  Te Awa Merlot Left Field
2007  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Gimblett
2006  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Trinity
2008  Vidal Estate Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon
2007  Vidal Estate Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2008  Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve
2007  Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve
2005  Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve
2008  Villa Maria Merlot Reserve
2007  Villa Maria Merlot Reserve


Red
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2007  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Tom [ pre-release sample ]   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  indicative price c. $100;  CS 50%,  Me 50;  release date 2011,  not on website for some time yet;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  fresh and dense,  a great young claret colour.  Bouquet is wonderfully floral,  darkest roses / violets giving an exciting lift and excitement to classic cabernet / merlot cassis and bottled black doris plums,  plus spice and complexity from vanillin and hessian new French oak.  Palate shows great ripeness at a maximum for optimal florality,  potentially velvety texture but at this stage with the 'fibre' of new oak apparent in very rich fruit.  This is a great young Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blend,  one of the finest such wines made in New Zealand so far.  Alcohol aside (which is well hidden) it reminds me of the calibre of 1966 Ch Palmer as it was in an evaluation of some young 1966 Bordeaux 40 years ago.  On that occasion I cellared a case,  and watched it blossom over the years.  It is still great,  today.  That will be the need for this one,  on release probably in later 2011.  The style of Tom is closer to great St Julien,  however.  It sailed through the field of 64 red wines in a rigorous blind tasting,  without any doubt as to which was the top wine.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Villa Maria Merlot Reserve   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Me 93%,  Ma 7;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  scarcely distinguishable from Tom,  maybe a little brighter.  Bouquet is an extraordinary look-a-like to classed growth Bordeaux,  showing all the violets,  rose and cassis aromas of the 2007 Tom,  plus a little magical extra.  Palate has cigar-box and bottled black doris plum richness,  plus some dark tobacco,  the fruit and acid balance slightly fresher than the Church Road pair.  Gradually it dawns on one that this Leoville-Barton-like note may be trace brett,  almost totally hidden by the fruit richness and fragrant slightly prominent new oak.  At this level,  brett has never stopped Leoville-Barton being a gilt-edged wine investment,  and the same applies here.  This is remarkable wine,  which deserves to be raved about in London.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels 72% & Ngatarawa Triangle 28,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ cork;  CS 54%,  Me 41,  CF 5;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is immediately sweet and rich bottled black doris fruit of beautiful ripeness,  backed by fragrant new oak.  Palate is plump and round,  obvious cassis complexity and beautiful potentially velvety texture,  all very young at this stage.  This wine too is remarkably Bordeaux-like,  with superb acid balance.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  CS 70%,  Me 30;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  another great colour for a young Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blend.  The fruit richness and sweetness on this wine is exceptional,  with slightly more overt new oak,  perhaps because the VA is approaching threshold.  The total impression is sensational.  Palate is plums and cassis in fragrant oak,  a firmer slightly leaner wine than the top three,  beautifully clean.  This too will cellar to 10 – 20 years,  and become more fragrant and supple in its slightly oaky Medoc styling.  GK 06/10

2009  Black Barn Vineyards Merlot Reserve Hawkes Bay   18 ½  ()
Havelock North district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $58   [ supercritical cork;  Me 100%,  10 years old;  the firm’s top wine,  release spring 2010;  www.blackbarn.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  half the weight of the top wines.  But appearance isn't everything,  and the bouquet on this wine is really beautiful.  If you've ever shaken your head in despair about all the nonsense some people talk about allegedly floral wines,  then shout yourself a smell and taste of this one.  There is a veritable bouquet of flower-like aromas here,  extending from almost sweet buddleia of pinot noir via dark roses to real spring violets.  Those wonderful smells are reinforced by the vanillin of new French oak,  and beautiful ripe plummy fruits.  At the blind stage,  I rather hoped this was a cabernet franc / merlot blend due to the red berry aromas – a New Zealand St Emilion maybe.  Palate however is firmer than the bouquet promised,  with clear cassis now,  so perhaps there is more cabernet sauvignon than one thought [ later,  none in fact ].  All very confusing,  but enchanting too.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe longer.  GK 06/10

2007  Babich Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec / Cabernet Franc The Patriarch   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ 48 mm supercritical cork; CS 49%,  Ma 29,  CF 22;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as dense as the top wines,  but a lovely colour.  Bouquet is floral with violets,  again in the cassis and bottled black doris berry style,  with fragrant and potentially cedary French oak adding complexity.  Palate is intriguing,  exceptional cassis,  the floral quality extending right through beautiful gentle berry fruit,  not as rich as some but elegant throughout.  This is a real northern Medoc look-alike.  It has been a long wait for Babich Patriarch to be cropped at a rate allowing the flavours of proper Bordeaux-like ripeness to be evident,  and thus be truly a gold medal wine.  This result is therefore very welcome,  to someone who has monitored their cabernet sauvignons from the first release in the '70s.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Church Road Merlot / Cabernet   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels & Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $26   [ screwcap;  not on website yet;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a lovely fresh claret colour.  Bouquet is sweetly floral and pure,  with violets hints passing into fragrant cassis,  and good aromatic oak.  In mouth the wine is very youthful,  the berry qualities seemingly optimised for cassis,  not as rich as the top wines,  but wonderfully varietal and elegant.  Though not a big wine,  there is a finesse in this which is most appealing.  At the blind stage one felt that if this is cabernet sauvignon to the Black Barn's Cabernet Franc,  they make a great pair.  Again the acid balance is superb,  as we thankfully shed the Roseworthy influence.  If this bottle is representative of the wine already appearing in supermarket promotions at $14 per bottle,  it is the bargain of the year.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  VALUE.  GK 06/10

2007  Church Road Merlot Cuve   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $29   [ screwcap;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper than the Black Barn Merlot,  less rich than the top three.  This bouquet is more in the regular Hawkes Bay blended style,  a bit more oak,  but behind it is clear crisp cassisy berry,  not a big wine but fine and subtle.  Palate simply fills out the bouquet,  firm long cassis and dark plum fruit lengthened further by clean aromatic oak.  Styling is a little drier than the top wines,  due to the oak component,  but total flavours are great.  Cellar 10 –  20 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Corbans Cabernet / Merlot Cottage Block   18 +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Gimblett Gravels and Havelock North,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  2007 wine not on website – some of the Pernod-Ricard websites have become time-consuming and vexing to use,  compared with 5 years ago;  www.corbans.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is unknit at this stage,  youthful cassis with a slight phenolic edge to it,  hard to pin down.  In mouth,  the oak is at a maximum for the fruit,  and the 'edge' is I think just oak yet to marry in.  Cassisy berry is rich,  with plummy depths and a hint of dark chocolate.  This should cellar well,  10 – 20 years,  though remaining oaky.  GK 06/10

2007  Te Awa Cabernet / Merlot   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $30   [ cork;  www.teawa.com ]
Excellent ruby,  carmine and velvet,  of considerable depth.  Bouquet is very ripe,  too ripe for florality or obvious cassis complexity,  but showing great plummy depths mingled with rather high oak.  Palate confirms the oak and the over-ripeness,  with just a hint of canned prunes,  introducing Napa Valley-like qualities to the fruit profile.  The long aftertaste is oakier than ideal,  maybe,  but this is interesting big rich wine in a somewhat different style from mainstream Hawkes Bay.  The indulgent high rating for a wine not quite in my preferred style is for settled down,  in three years time or more.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Clearview Estate [ Merlot / Cabernets ] Enigma   18  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ supercritical cork;  Me 75%,  CF 14,  CS 8,  Ma 11;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  quite dense.  Bouquet here shows clean sweet ripe plummy berry,  with an exotic edge to it just hinting at five-spice.  There is good fragrant fruit on the palate,  in a ripe plummy wine with great integration just hinting at a warmer-climate than New Zealand,  the spicy oak continuing but not obtrusive.  Finish is long soft and warm.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  Proprietor Tim Turvey comments that 2008 was better than 2007,  in the Te Awanga district.  GK 06/10

2007  Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  CS 69%,  Me 29,  Ma 2;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a very attractive colour.  This wine benefits from a swirl or two in glass,  to reveal a mellow and gentle wine in a merlot cast,  plummy and fragrant on bouquet,  but with just a hint of something lesser around the oak – I can't find the right word without sounding too negative.  Palate brings out some cassis,  and oak,  the wine tasting older than it looks,  already mellowing nicely.  The odd character does not presage anything negative,  probably just an oak factor yet to marry in fully.  The actual level of oak is higher than some,  in the current Villa style,  but well within bounds.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Black Barn Vineyards Cabernet Franc Hawkes Bay   18  ()
Havelock North district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $32   [ supercritical cork;  CF 100%,  vines 10 and 14 years old;  spring 2010 release;  www.blackbarn.com ]
Ruby,  an elegant medium weight colour only.  Bouquet is gorgeous,  softly violets and red roses,  with a sweetness of red fruits,  almost raspberry,  another which at the blind stage one wants to be high-cabernet franc.  Palate is entirely matching,  red currants and raspberry in the best sense,  some cassis and plum,  vanillin oak beautifully balanced to its medium weight.  There is a good reminder of St Emilion in this wine.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Church Road Cabernet Sauvignon Cuve   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels & Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $29   [ screwcap;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  also an excellent colour.  Bouquet is clean,  slightly marcy and unresolved,  but showing dark plums and oak with an aromatic edge.  Palate is quite rich,  very plummy (in the blind tasting it seemed more a softer merlot-dominant wine),  oaked to the maximum,  but otherwise showing good balance and length for cellaring 5 – 15 years.  When tasted right alongside the Merlot Cuve,  it is indeed firmer and more cassisy,  as befits cabernet sauvignon.  GK 06/10

2005  Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $51   [ screwcap;  CS 55%,  Me 30,  Ma 15;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than the wines around it in this ranking.  Bouquet is more oaky,  another wine reflecting a more typical new world Hawkes Bay approach,  though there is good berry fruit.  In mouth cassis and plum fruit of good length are apparent,  the oak continuing as a firm backbone,  a little excessive on the cassisy aftertaste.  A popular winestyle though.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Winemakers Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  Me 54%,  CS 33,  Ma 13;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is oaky but integrated.  There are clear suggestions of violets and sweet dark flowers on cassis and dark plums.  Palate is more clearly cassis,  slightly oaky balance but potentially cedary,  retiring now but becoming increasingly attractive as the oak marries in.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Clearview Estate [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Old Olive Block   17 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ supercritical cork;  CS 48,  CF 25,  Me 14%,  Ma 13;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This is a cabernet / merlot tending Australian in style,  good berry fruit but a lot of oak,  a suggestion of mint,  very new world.  In mouth the berry shows suggestions of mixed ripeness,  not exactly perfect cassis expression,  the floral and fresh small-fruits notes being replaced by vanillin aromas and long plummy suggestions.  Fruit richness is fairly good,  and needs to be,  to stand up to the oak.  It achieves a better balance than the Matariki.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $23   [ screwcap;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  good weight.  Bouquet here is more northern Medoc,  a lovely lift to it which might be just a hint of cooler fruit,  a touch of redcurrant in the cassis maybe,  nicely balanced to fragrant oak.  Palate confirms a slightly lower level of ripeness,  not exactly a hint of stalks,  but a freshness which introduces a suggestion of lean-ness.  The oak balance however is impeccable,  and the total styling remains very Medoc.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Abbey Cellars Malbec Temptation   17 ½  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $31   [ screwcap;  Ma 100%;  all the wine in three-year French oak;  www.abbeycellars.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  good.  Bouquet opens up with air,  to be a little unusual in a cabernet / merlot class.  There is a clear suggestion of cassis and wallflower florality as if there were a percentage of syrah,  on bottled black doris plummy fruit.  Though not applicable in this case,  syrah in Hawkes Bay blends makes good sense,  and could lead to making them distinctive in the world scene.  Palate matches,  a plummy and fruity soft wine without a lot of oak influence,  yet unlike the Corbans Couper's Shed it doesn't seem a stainless steel wine [ later confirmed ].  The soft almost juicy (+ve) plummyness is appealing,  perhaps a little simple,  but there is enough oak to add interest.  Not a big wine,  but nicely varietal,  to cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Gimblett   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $34   [ supercritical cork;  Me,  CS,  PV,  CF,  Ma;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Best decanted vigorously,  to reveal plummy fruit with a shadow of mixed ripeness,  in fair oak.  Palate is another in a sturdy obvious style,  very plummy,  a bit oaky,  but it should fine down in cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2006  Pask Merlot Declaration   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is fragrant,  but without clear fruit definition,  and made more fragrant with some American oak.  Palate is ripe and soft,  some cassis and plum now,  reminders of the earlier McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon from Hawkes Bay (re that vanillin oak),  already mellowing nicely.  Not a big wine,  but attractive,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Villa Maria Merlot Reserve   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  not on website yet;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a gorgeous colour.  Bouquet benefits from decanting,  to show a richly cassisy and oaky wine of great purity,  appealing despite the oak.  Palate expands the berry to include quite dark plums,  potentially cedary oak,  good ripeness in a fresh crisp way,  and great elegance.  I would prefer the acid and oak a little lower,  but this should become very fragrant wine.  At the blind stage,  it seemed more cabernet and northern Medoc in style.  Cellar 5 – 15 years, maybe longer.  GK 06/10

2007  [ Ngatarawa ] Merlot / Cabernet Glazebrook   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels & Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet shows good red fruits in a generalised sense,  not exactly cassis,  more plummy so perhaps merlot-dominant,  with fragrant oak.  Palate is softly plummy,  very merlot,  brown tobacco suggestions,  attractive oak including older and not too assertive,  with some promise of cigar-box to come.  An attractive medium-weight wine to cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2005  Alpha Domus [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Navigator   17 +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $25   [ cork;  Me,  CS,  CF,  Ma;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  some velvet and garnet,  much older in this context.  And bouquet reflects an older wine too,  browning cassis marrying into a cedary slightly bretty aroma,  all a little lacking in berry and fruit.  Palate is soft and cedary,  the fruit well into its secondary phase,  with trace aniseed and tobacco complexity in maturing red and dark plum.  Seems all a little old for its age,  and slightly cool,  but is an attractive food wine.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Babich Cabernet / Merlot / Franc Irongate   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ supercritical cork;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet is lifted by a little VA,  to reveal good red berry all married up into generalised berryfruit rather than any clear varietal analogies.  In mouth the fruit quality is robustly plummy,  not too  oaky,  making a big fresh cabernet / merlot which is obvious rather than refined,  all slightly acid.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Sileni Merlot / Franc The Plains   17 +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet shows another wine with red fruits and rose florals pointing to cabernet franc,  like 2009 Black Barn Vineyards Cabernet Franc Hawkes Bay,  and is both soft and enticing,  lovely.  The oak is beautifully in the background.  Palate follows through exactly in the style of a light St Emilion,  good fruit,  but not quite enough ripeness,  so there is some leafyness in the florality.  Even so,  given a little more ripeness this new kind of Hawkes Bay blend appeals to me very much,  when the oak is subtle.  It almost encroaches on pinot noir territory.  Finish may not be bone dry.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Vidal Estate Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ screwcap;  Me 46%,  CS 46,  Ma 8;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as dense as the top wines.  Bouquet is fragrant,  but at a simpler oakier level than some,  the fruit reddish plums mainly,  some cassis.  Palate is shorter than hoped on bouquet,  total acid up a bit so the oak shows rather much too.  Even so,  the wine is fragrant and attractive,  for those who like oak.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Cypress Merlot   17  ()
Roy's Hill,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.cypresswines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is softly floral and enticing,  with red and black currants,  and red more than black plums,  again making one wonder about cabernet franc as well as merlot.  Palate fits in with cabernet franc,  since the whole wine is a little acid and lacking slightly in ripeness.  Later:  the wine is 100% merlot.  Even so,  the elegance and precision of its bouquet,  and its subtle oaking,  makes one want to score the wine to silver.  It is a little richer than 2007 Salvare Merlot,  and will be a good food wine.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/10

2006  Askerne Merlot Reserve   17  ()
Havelock North district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ supercritical cork;  www.askerne.co.nz ]
Old ruby and velvet.  This is an older and riper wine,  softly plummy in a merlot way,  just a suggestion of pruney over-ripeness,  generally older oak,  and maybe a touch of brett.  Palate shows advancing maturity,  reasonable richness,  the oak showing more,  the acid a little firmer than 2007 Te Awa Merlot Left Field wine,  shortening the fruit length.  Still attractive in mouth,  though.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Matariki Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $27   [ screwcap;  www.matarikiwines.co.nz ]
Good ruby and velvet.  This wine needs vigorous aeration / splashy decanting,  to dispel some reduction.  It gradually opens to a suggestion of leafyness in cassis,  a lot of oak,  and some very ripe smells too.  Palate fits in exactly,  big,  quite rich and oaky wine with the 'complex' flavours of mixed ripeness,  but in a pretty positive way.  Finish is clean berry and cedary oak,  slightly acid.  Needs time to marry down.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Moana Park Merlot Vineyard Tribute Gimblett Road   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $32   [ screwcap;  www.moanapark.co.nz ]
Dense ruby and velvet.  Needs decanting,  to show a more old-fashioned bouquet,  with clear mixed ripeness qualities in plummy berry,  quite a lot of oak,  and nearly bacony brett complexity.  Palate confirms all the bouquet signs,  with flavours extending from subliminal leaf through red and dark fruits to a hint of chocolate,  in a cedary frame,  all slightly acid.  Actual richness is good,  and the nett impression is integrated and pleasant.  A more detailed approach to viticulture,  fruit selection and winemaking is needed now.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Vidal Estate Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Me,  CS,  Ma;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is attractively redfruits fragrant,  with some roses florality,  another wine one would like to be dominated by cabernet franc and merlot.  Palate is less,  not quite the ripeness to be plump,  all a little austere with a sucking-on-red-plum-stones quality in its acid / tannin balance.  The flavours are pleasant,  though.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  hopefully to soften.  GK 06/10

2007  Salvare Merlot   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  www.salvare.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is beautifully soft floral roses,  red currants and raspberry,  light cedary oak,  another wine which at the blind stage one very much wants to be cabernet franc-dominant.  Palate is lighter than the Black Barn Cabernet Franc,  a little less ripe and the acid just noticeable,  but this is a pleasing style.  It would be too generous to rate it silver,  though.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Te Awa Merlot Left Field   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  www.teawa.com ]
Deep ruby and velvet.  Bouquet here suggests a more old-fashioned New Zealand cabernet / merlot approach,  with the aromas of mixed ripeness and a suggestion of stewed fruit confusing the nett impression,  plus oak.  Palate is quite rich,  bottled plums more than cassisy flavours,  some stalks,  and a reasonably careful oak balance not yet fully integrated.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  in its style.  GK 06/10

2007  Mission Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   16 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ supercritical cork;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Older ruby and velvet,  dense.  This is an old-fashioned wine with a big rich bouquet,  but clear signs of mixed ripeness – quite a leafy component.  Palate continues rich,  browning cassis,  plum and leafy flavours married with tobacco notes and good potentially-cedary oak.  Given the richness it is a hard wine to score.  It is particularly fine-grain.  If however we are to match good Bordeaux as now understood in this century,  as has been elsewhere discussed with reference to Te Mata Estate's Coleraine,  we must pay particular attention to achieving optimal levels of ripeness.  The leafy notes let this wine down.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Sileni Cabernet Franc The Pacemaker   16 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet shows red fruits more than black fruits,  and fragrant oak,  another smelling attractively of merlot and cabernet franc in a St-Emilion style.  Palate takes that thought but adds a suggestion of leafyness,  the light oak nicely balanced to the light fruit,  but the wine a little acid.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  My earlier report (2/10) on this wine was too enthusiastic,  missing the imperfect ripeness.  GK 06/10

2008  Sileni Merlot The Triangle   16 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet.  Bouquet bespeaks merlot in a fragrant plummy and dark tobacco way,  very reminiscent of minor St Emilion,  and not too oaky.  Palate has fair fruit richness concealing a hint of leafyness,  but is possibly not bone dry.  The Bordeaux styling with less oak is attractive and food-friendly.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Askerne Merlot / Malbec / Franc   16 ½  ()
Havelock North district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ supercritical cork;  www.askerne.co.nz ]
Older ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is rich,  fragrant,  intriguing,  another wine with the Entre-Deux-Mers fragrance of mixed ripeness,  and suggestions of brett complexity.  The plummy merlot-like component is definitely a little stewed, and there is even a suggestion of canned prune over-ripeness,  as well as the leafy fragrance of some under-ripe berries.  Palate introduces a thought of syrah white pepper in the leafy-going-on-stalky component,  in otherwise rich berry and plum.  In some ways is a complex and serious wine,  but the final aftertaste is more stalky than the Mission Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  This critical lack of berry ripeness marks the wine down,  by contemporary Bordeaux / Hawkes Bay blend standards.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Clearview Malbec / Merlot Two Pinnacles   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ supercritical cork;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  an excellent colour.  This is a wine to decant splashily,  to ventilate some reduction.  It then opens to big cassis and darkest plum,  with appropriate oak,  looking more promising on bouquet.  Palate is markedly less,  hard,  noticeably acid,  still some unresolved MLF odours to assimilate,  even though the berry quality is good,  and the new oak is subtle.  This wine needed more air in its elevage.  It should marry up in bottle,  but decant well ahead into an open jug / large-surface-area decanter.  Cellar 10 – 20 years,  maybe to improve markedly.  GK 06/10

2007  Mission Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   16 ½  ()
Lower Dartmoor Valley 60%,  Gimblett Gravels 40,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ supercritical cork;  CS 85%,  CF 8,  Me 7;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  quite dense.  Bouquet is an older style of New Zealand cabernet / merlot red,  quite rich but imperfectly / unevenly ripened,  the aromas ranging from darkly plummy to leafy.  Flavours amplify the bouquet,  almost a stewed fruit quality on the one hand with some clearly pruney flavours,  yet some stalkyness too,  rich yet clumsy,  the oaking a bit excessive.  Cellar 5 –12 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Corbans Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Couper's Shed   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels & Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  www.corbans.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a lovely colour.  This wine need splashy decanting,  to dispel a suggestion of roto-fermenter-like reduction.  Below it is fragrant,  freshly-bottled plummy fruit of considerable appeal,  once breathed.  Palate is not as good,  again that thought there is too much stainless steel in the elevage of this wine,  when the fruit quality suggests it deserved better.  The nett impression is raw and uncoordinated,  with a stalky streak too.  Acutely needs a couple of years' rest to sort itself out,  cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/10

2005  Pask Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Declaration   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $50   [ ProCork;  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet is very oaky,  nearly varnishy,  on lightly browning cassis and plum,  an old-fashioned wine.  In mouth there is quite good cassisy berry richness,  on potentially cedary oak,  but much too much of it (at the blind stage).  A wine for oak fans,  to cellar 3 – 8 years only.  The long-term relationship between the oak and the fruit does not look happy.  GK 06/10

2009  Elephant Hill Merlot   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  www.elephanthill.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet is subdued,  some plummy fruits,  a suggestion of olives,  some oak,  youthful and clean.  Palate is near-identical,  attractive berry and oak yet to harmonise,  a touch of stalkyness.  Would team well with (for example) olive-rich pizza.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Clearview Estate [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Basket Press   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $140   [ supercritical cork;  CS 75%, Me 16,  CF 6,  Ma 3;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Rich ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is let down by thoughts of trace oxidation and VA,  on a good level of red more than black plummy fruits,  not quite ripe enough.  In mouth the wine is rich,  but old for its age,  the VA confusing the taste components,  the finish tending acid.  Oak is fragrant and potentially cedary,  though overdone.  Gives the impression blind of a serious but flawed wine.  Later revealing of identities confirmed that interpretation,  though it can be observed it is not the only aiming-high wine to falter in the glass.  Prestige wines must be international-calibre with respect to ripeness,  these days.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Pask Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Gimblett Road   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet reveals a pleasant light cabernet / merlot winestyle,  red and black plummy fruits,  a touch of leaf maybe,  but harmonious and pleasing.  Palate is medium weight again,  remarkably minor Bordeaux in its not quite ripe enough but fragrant styling,  carefully oaked,  easy drinking,  and good with food.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Moana Park Merlot / Malbec Vineyard Selection   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  www.moanapark.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  older.  Bouquet shows a clear white pepper syrah note,  on fragrant red and black currant berry and light oak,  all smelling quite rich.  Palate is lighter than the bouquet promised,  again with a leafy fragrance through it,  but the oak is attractively balanced to fruit weight.  The cassis and berry flavours are a bit acid,  but linger attractively.  Another wine needing more ripeness to really charm,  but it is beautifully made.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2006  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Trinity   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  Me,  CS,  CF,  Sy;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is fragrant,  another in the marginal ripeness genre of Entre-Deux-Mers,  with fragrant but leafy merlot,  redcurrant and red plum aromas,  gentle oak,  plus a curious little phenolic 'edge'.  Palate is crisper than some of the other similarly-styled blends,  and tending stalky too,  but there is enough fruit to be a pleasant minor Hawkes Bay blend.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2005  Matariki Quintology   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.6%;  $50   [ cork;  Me 41%,  CS 30,  Ma 12,  CF 10,  Sy 7;  www.matarikiwines.co.nz ]
Old ruby.  Bouquet indicates an old-fashioned wine,  showing reasonable browning berry,  but signs of mixed ripeness,  and some brett.  Palate is pleasant in this style,  maturing fragrant berryfruit,  careful oaking,  fair length and balance.  More QDR cabernet / merlot,  even though seriously oaked,  but still good with food.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/10

2006  Pask Malbec Declaration   15 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $50   [ screwcap;  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet indicates another old-fashioned New Zealand bordeaux blend,  the berry ripeness insufficient to absorb the oak tannins,  so even on bouquet one presages a stalkyness / oak phenolics war on palate.  Noticeable VA doesn't help.  Palate is tending short,  red and black currants,  leafy going on stalky longer flavours,  excess oak,  the finish a bit sharp.  Less crop,  better ripened (or sorted) needed here.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  if you like VA,  for it may harmonise.  GK 06/10

2006  Bridge Pa Vineyard Merlot Zillah   15 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ supercritical cork;  www.bridgepa.co.nz ]
Older lighter ruby.  Bouquet is light and pretty in the class,  almost a thought of slightly leafy pinot noir in a maturing redcurrant lightly plummy and chaptalised bouquet.  Palate has a suggestion of syrah white pepper [is in cepage,  I find later],  the taste of chaptalising (hint of caramel),  but in its light way pleasantly tobacco-y merlot-styled fruit,  careful oak balance,  and reasonable length.  Many shippers' Bordeaux AOC are less than this,  amongst minor clarets.  Small wine by New Zealand standards,  but balanced.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Alpha Domus Cabernet / Merlot The Aviator   15 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ cork;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Older ruby and velvet.  Bouquet benefits greatly from splashy decanting.  It then reveals more fruit richness than some of the wines of similar ranking,  with good integration of merlot-dominant berryfruit and older oak,  and pleasant length.  Un-aired the palate shows MLF-related hardness.  Should improve in cellar 3 – 10 years,  but aeration on opening will probably be needed throughout.  GK 06/10

2009  Sileni Merlot Cellar Selection   15 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet suggests cabernet franc dominance,  with pretty red fruits including redcurrants,  ripest red rhubarb stewed,  red plums,  subtle oak,  but a worrying undertone of leaf.  Palate is light,  fresh,  probably chaptalised,  scarcely oaked,  stalky but not as acid and stalky as feared on bouquet.  Almost reminds of Touraine Rouge,  for its lightness.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  for a fresh and fragrant illustration of very cool-climate merlot / cabernet franc.  GK 06/10

2009  Ngatarawa Merlot Glazebrook   15 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Ngatarawa Triangle & Dartmoor Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  This gives the impression of being a modern commercial red in the sense it smells of slight reduction,  juicy plummy fruits,  fragrant oak,  and stainless steel.  It benefits from splashy decanting,  opening up somewhat but still being very primary,  no fruit integration,  tasting of berries and (presumably) chips.  Pleasant enough at its supermarket level,  but will be better if cellared 3 – 5 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Alpha Domus Merlot / Cabernet The Pilot   15 ½  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Good ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is sound straightforward cabernet / merlot,  which benefits from decanting splashily.  Fruit is not easily identifiable by analogy,  but is plummy in a slightly phenolic raw / youthful way,  with what tastes like both raw new oak (chips ?) and older oak too,  plus a trace of brett.  Fruit on palate is tending hard,  not quite ripe enough,  and the whole wine tastes much younger than the colour suggests.  Cellar 3 – 8 years for a straightforward tending-leafy cabernet / merlot.  GK 06/10

2007  Babich Merlot Winemaker's Reserve   15 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ supercritical cork;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Ruby.  This is intriguing but small-scale wine,  initially showing as if slightly oxidised,  but improving with decanting and air to lightly attractive red berry fruits,  with understated oak,  all clean and minor Bordeaux by analogy.  Palate is just as expected,  redcurrant and almost raspberry / red plum berry fruit,  not quite ripe enough,  slightly stalky,  but all attractively balanced in a skinny way.  The whole wine is a little youthful and uncoordinated,  but worth cellaring 3 – 8 years for a fragrant slightly acid minor Castillon style.  GK 06/10

2006  Abbey Cellars Merlot / Cabernet Graduate   15 +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ screwcap;  www.abbeycellars.com ]
Older ruby.  Another wine to need a splashy decanting,  to reveal a merlot-led minor Entre-Deux-Mers winestyle,  pleasant red fruits just ripe enough,  older oak.  Palate is a notch stalkier,  not quite ripe enough,  but the wine redeems itself in its subtle clean older oak,  and it's perhaps not bone-dry finish.  Pleasant QDR food wine.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Pask Merlot Gimblett Road   15 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet is straightforward small merlot,  light red fruits and red plums,  older oak mainly,  clean.  Palate is lesser,  slightly rank and under-ripe,  with a stalky / phenolic / brackish quality to the aftertaste,  which is not more-ish.  Wholesome QDR,  which should soften in cellar and improve over 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Crossroads Winery Merlot Hawkes Bay   15  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.crossroadswinery.co.nz ]
Ruby.  This wine opens reductively and cardboardy,  and needs a lot of splashy aeration.  Well breathed it shows pinched red fruits,  but MLF-y and cardboardy flavours persist,  in older oak.  Perfectly drinkable,  but not a contemporary winestyle,  not worth cellaring.  GK 06/10

2006  Abbey Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Cardinal   14 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  www.abbeycellars.com ]
Older light ruby.  Bouquet is old-fashioned in its congestion which needs splashy decanting,  its under-ripeness,  and its excess oak,  relative to its light weight.  Another wine where a smaller crop ripened more carefully is needed.  In mouth stalkyness and oak are more apparent than the tending-acid red plums.  Perfectly wholesome QDR cabernet / merlot,  needing time to mellow but not worth cellaring.  Cardinal here referring to rank is not a great name for a New Zealand red wine.  In the wine world cardinal is better known as a table grape.  GK 06/10

2007  Black Barn Vineyards Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Malbec   14 ½ +  ()
Havelock North district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $25   [ supercritical cork;  www.blackbarn.com ]
Ruby.  Unusual wine,  smelling for all the world like some simple old-fashioned red from a warmer-climate appreciably west of Hawkes Bay.  Ripeness is good,  but there is some oxidation of indeterminate red fruits,  on bouquet.  Palate shows fair fruit and ripeness,  but is marred by a brackish flavour,  seemingly all in older oak.  If sample is representative (even screwcaps fail occasionally),  wholesome as QDR,  but not worth cellaring.  GK 06/10

2006  Askerne Cabernet / Merlot / Franc Reserve   14 ½  ()
Havelock North district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ supercritical cork;  www.askerne.co.nz ]
This is a much older wine,  ruby and garnet,  old for its age.  Bouquet is very old-fashioned,  where New Zealand cabernet was in the '70s or '80s,  red fruits only but browning prematurely now,  leafy,  very oaky,  some VA and brett.  Palate follows,  clearly leafy and under-ripe,  skinny,  probably chaptalised,  acid and oak noticeable.  OK as QDR,  but a totally different style of 'sweeter' wine,  meaning less crop ripened properly,  and cleaner wine,  is needed to compete now.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/10

2005  Abbey Cellars Cabernets / Merlot   14  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ screwcap;  www.abbeycellars.com ]
Lighter older ruby,  some garnet.  Back to the '70s here,  via a bouquet indicating leafy under-ripe fruit,  chaptalisation,  brett and excess oak,  the wine not clearly varietal.  Palate is clean and oaky,  the oak dominating the lack of ripe fruit.  Wholesome simple QDR,  not worth cellaring.  GK 06/10

2008  Mission Estate Merlot Reserve   14  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ supercritical cork;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet is dominated by VA,  so much so it is hard to see through it to indeterminate red fruits and raw oak.  Palate is much the same,  but riper than quite a number.  The VA must be approaching the max for compliance,  at least in EEC terms.  Still viable as rough red,  some may even like the 'lifted' character,  but for most,  definitely not worth cellaring.  GK 06/10