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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.
WHITES & REDS FROM THE WAIHEKE ISLAND WINE EXPO 2010,  D'ARENBERG,  & OTHERS,  AND SYRAHS FROM A CONVIVIUM VINTAGE 2007 TASTING IN HAWKES BAY


Introduction
With 2008 being a highly regarded vintage on Waiheke Island,  I approached this 2010 opportunity to review their recent wines with a great sense of anticipation,  even excitement,  knowing there would be a first peep at some of the serious 2008 reds.  But,  it is always a challenge writing up Waiheke wines,  with their often ambitious pricing structure.  Likewise,  the rest of New Zealand all-too-often assumes that Waiheke Island wine-pricing both caters to and is symptomatic of the affluent Auckland scene.  Consequently many ignore the Island's wines,  unwisely in my view,  since the best are making great strides now.  Writing them up in a neutral way is not easy.  

The excellently-structured Waiheke Winegrowers Association therefore has a major challenge on its hands if it is to improve the public perception of their wines.  Some vineyards are now developing significant vine age,  raising the hope that wine quality should be improving,  and increasing volumes of wine generally mean the task of presenting the Island and its wines in a favourable light is becoming urgent.  Accordingly,  last year they initiated a Waiheke Wine Expo,  presented right in the heart of downtown Auckland.  I wrote this up with a good deal of supplementary and background information about Waiheke Island and its wines,  on this website,  30 Jun 2009.  This year they repeated the Auckland exercise,  and additionally took the wines to the absolute centre of downtown Wellington,  Queens Wharf.  My review this year essentially deals with the wines only – for more detail about Waiheke Island please refer back to last year's review.  I have however amended the vintage chart a little to reflect later views on recent vintages,  including the excitement of what may be a near-perfect vintage in 2010.  It is not only winemakers enthusing about 2010:  Auckland senior citizens are saying:  a summer like my childhood memories ...

This year 12 producers showed their wine in Wellington,  a few less than in Auckland.  Twelve is about half the Waiheke Island producers,  but included several of the larger ones.  Newcomer this year was View East.  In Auckland this year,  55 people attended the trade session (120 last year),  and 42 people attended the public session (150 last year).  In Wellington,  52 people attended the trade session,  and 45 people attended the follow-on public session.  Unfortunately,  the Auckland session coincided with awful weather,  and clashed with other functions including a Wine Institute / New Zealand Winegrowers meeting.  At a time when public participation in tastings is still reluctant,  I hope the organisers do not lose heart with this less-encouraging result.  The challenging goal for the Waiheke Island proprietors is to make their annual presentation as eagerly anticipated as Hawkes Bay Winegrowers' annual Hot Red Roadshow.

Some reviews this year are briefer than usual,  and some of the 'admin' info is recycled from earlier reviews – compiling that component is taking too long.  I have asked winemakers to check the correctness of that info for the current vintage,  before publishing.  Marking criteria are a little flexible,  since several of the Hawkes Bay wines as well as some of the Waiheke wines are less than squeaky-clean.  However marking for the top wines is as strict as usual.  As wine-writing elsewhere becomes more and more commercial,  for this site I want gold medal-level ranking (18.5 and up) to mean the wine really is something – worth seeking out.  My pitching of gold medal-level is harder-won than even our strictest New Zealand wine judgings,  but is appreciably softer than Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding,  on the former's site.  


Vintage Chart:  Ratings for Vintage Quality 2000 – 2010 on Waiheke Island – for discussion:
The eleven years 2000 – 2010 have been auspicious for Waiheke Island.  There are three investment grade vintages in 2005,  2008,  and 2010,  three which are very good in 2000,  2002,  and 2009,  three with plenty of good drinking from 2004,  2006,  2007,  and only two which are distinctly modest,  the 2001s and 2003s (in general) needing drinking up by now.

Climatic data is scanty for Waiheke,  there being no network of MetService-approved recording sites.  An impression of uniformity prevails,  meaning the task of preparing a vintage summary for Waiheke is easier than the recent more challenging reports prepared for Hawkes Bay and the much more diverse Central Otago districts.  Nonetheless,  as outlined in last year's Waiheke Island report,  it is likely there are rainfall gradients both from the centre of the island to the periphery,  and more particularly from the west to east ends.  The advantage in being dryer at the eastern end may be compromised by salt load being higher too,  at least in windy seasons.

As for other districts,  the most exciting wines come from those years where crop is reduced at flowering / reduced fruit set,  the middle summer is favourable,  and the later summer / autumn is exceptional climatically.  Vineyard management can mimic the former condition relatively easily,  but no amount of leaf plucking and adjusting of crop load and exposure can make up for great weather in those critical last 6 weeks or so.  Another factor pointing to more exciting wines in years to come is the increasing age of the vineyards.  The first established,  Stonyridge and Goldwater Estate,  now contain core areas in their prime.  For many vineyards from the later 1990s,  the establishment years are drawing to a close,  with vines approaching full maturity.  There is much to look forward to.

Any exercise such as this is ongoing.  Corrections and comments from wineries and keen observers are welcomed.  Address near the foot of home page,  under:  Feedback:

2010                    
9 – 10
Some rain at flowering,  fruit-set and crop variously 20 – 30% down,  then appropriate light rain January,  followed by a perfect summer and autumn through to end April.  Whites good,  reds including cabernet clearly best ever due to both dry season and reduced crop,  good acid balances,  a dream vintage.
20097 – 8Good flowering,  over-large crops for some,  unsettled late Feb / part March may affect whites and delayed cabernet.  Dryer late summer and autumn right through April,  with unusually cool nights both March and April,  allowed good ripening most reds,  with promise seen in syrahs particularly.
20088 – 9Good flowering,  good crop,  long settled late spring and early summer meant a little rain in early March was beneficial.  Then dry right though balance of season,  a cabernet year,  for most just replacing 2005 as the best vintage yet in the vinifera era.
20075 – 6 +Difficult flowering,  low crop particularly in merlot and malbec.  Some early season varieties promising,  rain in late March caused difficulties for some producers.  A drawn-out harvest,  later varieties / cabernet lesser.  Again,  careful selection needed.
20066 – 7 +Settled spring and most of summer lead to both big bunches and large crops.  Good ripening was abruptly curtailed by sustained rains starting 8 April,  affecting late season reds.  Some earlier wines good,  selection needed.
20058 – 9Difficult flowering,  smaller crops,  then a settled summer with a particularly dry April produced superb grapes for all varieties.  Considered the best vintage in the decade,  till then.
20046 – 7 Unsettled early spring,  then good flowering and fruit set.  Unsettled  December,  improving January on to give a long tending cool but dry season with distinctly cool night temperatures March and April,  producing good whites but lean aromatic reds.
20034 – 5Reasonable crops,  but summer a month too short,  chardonnay good for some,  reds affected by significant rainfall before and over harvest.
20027 – 8 +Good flowering and fruit set,  a large crop yet quality of summer allowed good ripening all varieties,  fractionally ahead of 2000.
20013 – 4Small crops,  rain,  summer lacking,  the least vintage of the decade.
20007 – 8Good flowering and crop,  long dry season,  good quality all varieties.


Calibration of the Waiheke Island wines,  and wine assessment / judging:
At much the same time as the Waiheke Expo,  wines from several other tastings became available for cross-calibration.  These included the Hawkes Bay wine firm Convivium offering a review of the 2007 Syrah vintage in Hawkes Bay at EIT in Napier the night before the Wellington presentation,  so it seemed a desirable goal to attend that tasting.  The wines would be ideal foils to include in the follow-up blind tasting of the Waiheke syrahs.  I very much appreciate organiser Geoff Wilson's help in facilitating that goal.  For the bordeaux blends side of the equation,  as previously,  2007 Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Coleraine fulfilled the calibration role,  for reasons expanded on below.  All told,  some 77 wines were assembled into the first blind tasting,  which allowed a good assessment of current winestyles and wine-technical achievements on Waiheke in 2010.  

The d'Arenberg wines and the first release of an Obsidian Syrah arrived not long after the formal Waiheke presentation.  In terms of timing for calibration,  they were not assessed with the Waiheke wines,  but were in time to check aspects of them,  and vice versa.  The d'Arenbergs are not as good a batch as some seasons have offered.  South Australia has great vintages every year,  so they tell us,  but in recent seasons heatwaves and bushfires bespeak factors inimical to fine subtle wines,  at least from a temperate climate viewpoint.  But these d'Arenbergs are less consistent again,  with some wines reductive and some volatile – not enough care and attention in the winery.  The firm's spokesman seemed blithely unconcerned,  instead skiting about the 90 points from Wine Spectator,  for a clearly faulty wine.  Wine promotion is a subtle business – preparing an article like this requires visiting many websites,  and the fine line between engaging the reader's interest,  and switching them off,  can easily be crossed.

With the sometimes blatant statements of self-aggrandisement evident in wine promotional literature (including websites) these days,  it follows that if critical assessment is desired,  blind tastings for wine reviews such as this one must be done with reference wines,  and be executed to modern new-world technically informed standards.  Several of the Waiheke Island wines are quite clearly technically faulty,  but wineries continue to extravagantly promote awards won in overseas wine judgings,  where technical standards are or may be lax,  and the results are in one sense a lottery.  There is a certain cultural imperialism in some of the wine pronouncements emanating these days from the United Kingdom in particular,  where all too often the assessments are based on the values of an older generation to greater or lesser degree insensitive to,  or unconcerned about,  the role of oxidation (and VA),  reduction,  and Brettanomyces in wine.  Note I say the values of an older generation:  the practitioners need not be old in elapsed years.  In particular the results from the London International Wine Competition are becoming a kind of latter-day Ljubljana,  a competition notorious in earlier decades for its 'tolerance' – shall we say.  

Likewise,  in this year's Syrah Symposium a clearly brett-affected Waiheke wine was held up as benchmark syrah and definitely free of brett by MW-level British wine 'authorities',  despite questioning in the formal tasting session.  Since the entire New Zealand wine industry nowadays gives the impression of being beholden to the infallibility of "overseas" wine assessments of our wines,  not one participant (among 120 + in the room) was prepared to dispute the issue on the Symposium floor.  How can we learn,  as a wine country,  with this approach ?  The Symposium and its wines are written up on this site, 18 May 2010.  

The message that New Zealand winemakers must take out of this is:  if you put your faith in all-too-often technically-wanting European wine judges,  rather than the two or three of Australasia's most highly regarded and technically competent judgings,  such as the Air New Zealand Wine Awards,  the Royal Easter Show,  the Australian National Wine Show (Canberra),  and the Royal Adelaide Wine Show,  then there is a high risk you will end up following false prophets and pursuing wine styles which are inappropriate at best,  and incongruous at worst,  in the modern world.  The old-world standards centred in London (but widespread in Europe) will not persist forever,  as new-world technology and standards actively and demonstrably flow back to the leading winemakers of France.  Even these judgings make mistakes,  naturally enough,  as do winewriters,  but the above competitions are likely to provide a good starting point to defining winestyles appropriate to the 2000s.  Note too that tolerance of brett is still extraordinarily high in parts of America.

Consumers need to be a good deal more quizzical about wine rankings,  therefore.  If a winery will not enter its wine in high-calibre technically-proficient Australasian judgings (as above),  be on guard.  Nobody is infallible,  but even for wine there are absolute standards (despite much self-justifying froth written glamourising the essential subjectivity of wine assessment).  As already suggested,  using technically-deficient overseas hoopla-results to market wines,  instead of focusing on absolute intrinsic quality,  is not the road to long-term success – unless supermarket success is the only criterion.  That is not an option for most Waiheke wines,  due to both the underlying cost-structure,  and issues of scale.


'Brett' character in wines
One detail about 'bretty' wines still seems to need clarifying.  In New Zealand,  when a winewriter speaks of brett in wine,  they are referring to the characteristic smells and tastes of the biochemistry associated with the yeast Brettanomyces (= Dekkera) having at some stage lived in the wine.  The wine may or may not still have a live population of the yeast,  depending on whether it was sterile-filtered to bottle.  Unfiltered wines (as favoured by Robert Parker) infected with Brettanomyces are at peril of gradually deteriorating in bottle,  for the yeast can continue on from metabolising 'unfermentable' simple sugars to metabolising more complex carbohydrate-related molecules derived from oak maturation.  Not only does this dry out the wine,  but there seems (from empirical observation) to be a risk of such metabolism progressing to the more disastrous biochemistry referred to as the mousey odour and flavour / aftertaste,  formerly associated with the yeast Pichia.  Conservative winemakers thus sterile-filter to bottle,  preferring a less complex but more predictable and harmonious evolution of the wine in bottle through maturity into old age.  Robert Parker and others are of the view such filtering strips the wine of 'character',  but they do not think through to the consequences of a wine with a live yeast population passing a point of no return in terms of mousey odours and tastes,  or even collapsing.

It is not as simple as just that however.  When a technically-inclined winewriter reports that a wine has brett character,  more commonly simply saying it is 'bretty',  at the current level of debate in New Zealand,  many winemakers assert the winewriter is wrong,  because the wine is "brett-free".  In most cases they base that statement on the analysis of Pacific Rim Oenology in Blenheim,  who test wines for brett stability.  What is not sufficiently understood is that their test is a plating test for live yeast cells.  Obviously,  if the wine is sterile-filtered to bottle,  it will demonstrate no brett activity in the subsequent plating test.  The winemaker then asserts the wine is "brett-free",  drawing an obfuscatory veil over the fact that there may have been a good population of brett yeast in the wine before filtering,  all the while producing its characteristic aroma and flavour compounds.  The winemaker may even berate the winewriter,  for daring to suggest their wine is or has been bretty.  A moment's thought reveals that,  as above,  the winewriter is reporting on the smells and tastes of Brettanomyces metabolism,  whether or not the wine still supports a live population of the yeast.  If the winemaker is to 'prove' the winewriter wrong,  the wine must be analysed for 4-EP = 4-ethylphenol and 4-EG = 4-ethylguaiacol,  the immediate characteristic by-products of Brettanomyces metabolism.  In earlier days,  that involved sending samples to Australia,  so was less done,  but since 2002 or thereabouts the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) has provided gas chromatography analysis for both compounds in New Zealand.  If such analysis proves negative,  only then may the winemaker take the winewriter to task.  Most commonly,  the analysis reveals some brett by-products,  for it is a natural fermentation yeast in the vineyard and winery.  The question then is whether the recorded levels are at or above a reasonable sensory threshold.  A complex subject indeed.

Since many people (including the writer) in fact like the smells and tastes of light to medium brett biochemistry,  happily this is a complicated situation with a simple solution.  If the wine is sterile-filtered to bottle,  it will be stable in bottle,  and the consumer can enjoy the results of 'artisan' winemaking without risking half the case later becoming less drinkable or truly undrinkable.  It is helpful if the winewriter can advise / confirm the wine is sterile-filtered,  and this info is usually made available in New Zealand.  Overseas is another matter,  complicated in the last 15 years by unfiltered wines enjoying a certain cachet (non-filtré),  thanks to Robert Parker.  The whole topic needs to be thought about a good deal more by the advocates of 'no-fining' / 'no-filtration' / non-interventionist winemaking.

A little more detail is available on this site (scroll down),  more detail in an excellent essay by Jamie Goode of Wine Anorak fame,  later discussion on the same site by winemaker Matt Thomson,  and greater detail still in Sam Harrop's 1993 MW dissertation.  The Australian Wine Research Institute in Adelaide is the world leader in brett research,  from where even more information is available.


A couple of thoughts on Waiheke Island wine styles:
Several quite divergent strands of winemaking are emerging on Waiheke.  Several wineries are tending artisan,  and their wines are erratic in their achievements.  Specific mention is needed here of Man O' War Vineyards,  with 60 hectares planted potentially the biggest winery on the Island.  They continue to struggle with technical issues,  having thus far been woefully mislead by the kind of reviews mentioned above.  But their sites look to be so superb,  and their supporting resources so great,  that Man O' War should by virtue of size become the flagship Waiheke winery – in terms of market recognition of Waiheke Island as a wine place.  Meanwhile wineries such as Mudbrick,  Obsidian / Weeping Sands,  and Passage Rock are the mainstream technically-informed practitioners making wines similar in their attributes to reputable mainland New Zealand wineries,  but often with a Waiheke stamp.  Stonyridge and Goldwater Estate are mentioned in the next paragraph.  The reasonably long-established Te Motu winery is intent on pursuing claret / cabernet / merlot winestyles which clearly have their roots in 'classical' Bordeaux blends of the 1960s and 1970s,  when longer elevage was the norm.  The best have been enchanting,  but not all.  Intriguingly,  the new and high-flying Destiny Bay winery seems to be modelling its winestyles on the very fashionable Ribera del Duero region of Spain,  a kind of modernised Rioja approach,  though they use only the Bordeaux varieties.  This diversity makes Waiheke wines all the more interesting,  and a great topic for wine-talk.  

The longest-established wineries Goldwater Estate and Stonyridge have demonstrated the extraordinarily Bordeaux-like qualities of the Waiheke climate unequivocally,  springing clearly into focus with their 1987 premium releases.  Unfortunately the Goldwater Estate has now passed into corporate ownership,  and the new direction is not yet clear.  And at Stonyridge,  though the premier wine Stonyridge Larose has stuck to the straight and narrow,  and is the Island's most famous wine,  it is dramatically over-priced,  those prices overflowing to other better wines in their portfolio.  The winery has further succumbed to trading on its reputation,  and is now introducing over-priced and underachieving party wines.  Such wines give Waiheke Island a bad name,  as earlier suggested.  

It is worth noting that in general perceivable style,  favoured sites on Waiheke,  along with certain sites in the Havelock Hills and the Ngatarawa Triangle in Hawkes Bay,  offer perhaps the greatest scope in New Zealand to be comparable / confusable with the 'classical' wines of Bordeaux.  These wines clearly ripen more appropriately than the wines of the Te Awanga coastal zone,  or the Dartmoor and other cooler valleys,  both in Hawkes Bay.  Conversely,  they are critically cooler and at best more fragrant and delicate than the wines of the Gimblett Gravels,  where in the hotter years the wines can be tending over-ripe and burly.  Note that with global warming,  the nature of 'classical' Bordeaux wine is itself changing to a warmer riper slightly more Californian winestyle.  Certain Gimblett Gravels proprietors are seizing on this with gusto,  to rationalise / justify their approach.  Winestyle is forever in flux,  and critical care is needed therefore,  in reading the various views expressed.  






LAYOUT – AND THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
2008  Cable Bay Chardonnay
2006  Chanson Meursault Blagny Premier Cru
2008  Man O' War Chardonnay
2009  Man O' War Chardonnay Valhalla
2009  Mudbrick Chardonnay Reserve
2009  Obsidian Chardonnay
2009  Stonyridge Chardonnay Athena Equinox
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2009  Man O' War Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Riesling
Pinot Gris
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
2009  Cable Bay Viognier
2009  Mudbrick Vineyard Viognier Reserve
2009  Obsidian Viognier
2009  Passage Rock Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2007  d'Arenberg Marsanne / Viognier Hermit Crab
2007  d'Arenberg Roussanne Money Spider
2007  Millton Chenin Blanc Te Arai Vineyard
Red
Rosé
2010  Miro Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2008  Cable Bay Merlot / Malbec Five Hills Bordeaux Blend
2008  d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon High Trellis
2006  d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon High Trellis
2006  d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Petit Verdot / Cabernet Franc Galvo Garage
2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Destinae
2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Mystae
2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Mystae
2006  Destiny Bay Destinae
2007  Destiny Bay Dulce Suavi [ Cabernet Sauvignon Late Harvest ] 375 ml
2007  Jurassic Ridge Cabernet Franc
2005  Kennedy Point Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2007  Kennedy Point Malbec Reserve
2006  Kennedy Point Merlot
2008  Man O' War Merlot / Cabernet Franc Ironclad
2008  Man O' War Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Malbec
2008  Miro Cabernet / Merlot
2006  Miro Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Summer Aphrodisiac
2007  Miro Malbec
2004  Miro Merlot / Cabernet Archipelago 375 ml
2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Cabernet / Merlot
2009  Mudbrick Vineyard Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon
2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Velvet
2008  Obsidian [ Cabernets / Merlot ] The Obsidian
2008  Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2009  Stonyridge Cabernet / Malbec Airfield
2008  Stonyridge [ Cabernets / Malbec / Merlot ] Larose
2008  Stonyridge Malbec Luna Negra Single Vineyard
  2009  Stonyridge Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Faithful
2007  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine
2006  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2005  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2004  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2002  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2006  [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2005  [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2007  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot
2009  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Merlot
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2007  Bilancia Syrah la Collina
2007  Bridge Pa Syrah Louis
2007  Brookfields Syrah Hillside
2008  Cable Bay Syrah
2007  Church Road Syrah Reserve
2007  Cypress Terraces Syrah
2006  d'Arenberg Shiraz Dead Arm
2008  d'Arenberg Shiraz Footbolt
2007  d'Arenberg Shiraz Footbolt
2007  d'Arenberg Shiraz Lovegrass
2007  d'Arenberg Shiraz / Viognier The Laughing Magpie
2007  Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage Papillon
2008  Jurassic Ridge Syrah
2008  Man O' War Syrah Dreadnought
2008  Miro Syrah
2008  Mudbrick Syrah Reserve
2009  Mudbrick Vineyard Syrah Shepherds Point
2008  Obsidian Syrah
2009  Obsidian Syrah [ preview ]
2007  Paritua Syrah
2007  Pask Syrah Declaration
2008  Passage Rock Syrah
2008  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve
2008  Stonyridge Syrah / Mourvedre / Grenache Pilgrim
2007  Te Awa Syrah Gimblett Gravels
2007  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose
2007  The Hay Paddock Syrah
2006  The Hay Paddock Syrah
2008  The Hay Paddock Syrah Harvest Man
2007  Tin Pot Hut Syrah
2007  Two Gates Syrah
2007  Unison Syrah
2008  View East Syrah
2009   [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah
2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2006  d'Arenberg Grenache Custodian
2008  d'Arenberg Grenache / Shiraz / Mourvedre Stump Jump
2006  d'Arenberg Shiraz / Grenache d'Arry's Original
All other red wines, blends etc
2008  Jurassic Ridge Montepulciano
2009  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Montepulciano
From the Cellar. Older wines.
 

White
Chardonnay
2006  Chanson Meursault Blagny Premier Cru   17 ½ +  ()
Meursault Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $120   [ cork;  13 months in barrel,  no detail;  nominal website;  www.vins-chanson.com ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is soft 'sweet' pure oatmealy chardonnay,  in predominantly older oak,  beautifully ripe,  pure and modern,  enticing.  Palate is smaller scale,  but shows Meursault oatmeal and incipient hazelnut to perfection,  the wine totally fresh yet the acid harmonious,  not noticeable,  and the oak optimising the wine,  not dominating,  scarcely tastable.  Lovely more-ish food-friendly chardonnay,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Obsidian Chardonnay   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  100% BF in French oak 25% new with 30% wild yeast,  balance inoculated yeast,  10 months LA and occasional batonnage,  some MLF;  RS <2 g/L;  170 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Elegant green-washed lemon.  Bouquet is fragrant,  verging a little to the unnecessarily 'fruity' side as several of these Waiheke Island chardonnays do,  a hint of banana in the stone fruit,  a suggestion of American oak in the desiccated coconut aromas,  but all fragrant and knit.  Palate shows good fruit to oak at a max,  the fruit so good it suggests some residual sugar,  but it is in fact less than 2 g/L.  Accessible chardonnay in a popular rather than classic style.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Cable Bay Chardonnay   16 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ screwcap;  4 clones of chardonnay hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  20% wild-yeast fermentation and BF in French oak some new,  10 months LA and batonnage;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Lemon,  a little deeper than the Mudbrick.  Bouquet is initially a bit oaky,  but in the glass pale white nectarine stonefruits and a hint of fruit salad develop.  Palate shows fair fruit,  low-level complexity as if MLF was not desired in this wine,  and a pleasantly tapering but acid finish with a hint of mealyness developing.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Mudbrick Chardonnay Reserve   16  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $42   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  100% BF in all-French oak 25% new,  100% wild-yeast ferments,  some MLF;  10 months LA in barrel,  with batonnage the first 6 months;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is understated,  but also contains a suggestion of jujube / banana 'fruity' character,  which though they win gold medals in New Zealand,  is not part of serious chardonnay.  On inquiry,  the ferment is all wild yeast,  so this may be a downside of the local population.  Palate shows reasonable fruit,  but is tending phenolic,  making it hard to drink.  Better in a year,  I imagine,  and will cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Man O' War Chardonnay   15  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $28   [ screwcap; hand-harvested from mendoza and clone 15;  whole-bunch pressed;  30% BF in older oak;  no MLF or batonnage;  RS < 2 g/L;  www.manowarvineyards.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is tending wayward,  with aromas of pineapple,  smoked fish (perhaps brett-related) and a little VA,  which could be OK if they marry up on palate.  To me however,  the palate is clumsy,  the VA and pineapple fruit far from classical,  the finish a little tacky as if not bone-dry.  'Popular' chardonnay,  not cellar wine.  GK 06/10

2009  Man O' War Chardonnay Valhalla   14 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ screwcap; hand-harvested from mendoza and clone 15;  whole-bunch pressed;  100% BF in French oak including puncheons,  40% new;  no MLF or batonnage,  c.8 months in barrel;  RS < 2 g/L;  www.manowarvineyards.com ]
Old straw,  inappropriate for age.  Bouquet is a love or hate proposition,  those who like it will say it is deep,  rich and toasty,  those who don't more seeing charry oak to the point of mercaptan,  tired fruit,  clumsy.  To me the sulphur-related flavours permeate the aged golden queen peach fruit characters,  so though the wine is rich,  there is a suggestion of bitterness.  But,  it is a big mouthful of flavour,  and with barbecue grilled foods or smoked fish in the half-light,  the nett experience could be good on the occasion.  Only the individual can decide if this wine suits them,  therefore.  I would not cellar it,  but it will hold 1 – 3 years in its eccentric style.  GK 06/10

2009  Stonyridge Chardonnay Athena Equinox   14 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ cork;   hand-picked;  foot-trodden by female staff only;  relationship with oak uncertain,  but some influence;  not fined or filtered 'as per Stonyridge winemaking philosophy';  21 cases only,  available in Stonyridge café only;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Lemon,  not quite bright,  but that is almost by design.  Bouquet is on the jujube side for chardonnay,  fair fruit behind,  plus oak.  Palate is lesser,  scented fruit with banana and fruit salad flavours,  the oak unknit,  and a curious aftertaste almost reminiscent of brett.  The notes for the wine imply it is a fun wine.  The price is not fun at all.  Not cellar wine.  GK 06/10

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2009  Man O' War Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc   16 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  all s/s;  4 g/L RS;  www.manowarvineyards.com ]
Full lemon.  Initially opened there is some SO2,  which with swirling opens up to a clean,  clear and strong bouquet,  reflecting more the sauvignon styles of the 1980s.  There is quite a yellow capsicum component, plus pepino as in Hawkes Bay.  Palate likewise is very flavoursome,  a little phenolic,  but this is nicely covered by the 4 g/L residual sugar.  I imagine this working well with smoked fish and salad greens etc.  There is not the elegance to cellar for more than a year or two only.  GK 06/10

Viognier
2009  Passage Rock Viognier   18 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  up to 50% BF,  only small percentage new oak,  up to 50% MLF,  4 – 5 months LA;  RS 4 g/L;  250 cases;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Attractive lemon.  One sniff and this is like a homecoming – simply lovely viognier,  showing clearly varietal character and appropriate ripeness,  something so few viogniers in either New Zealand or Australia achieve.  On the showing of the last two vintages,  Passage Rock Viognier is rapidly becoming the New Zealand reference wine for the variety.  Bouquet is sweetly yellow honeysuckle and wild ginger blossom,  and fresh and canned apricots.  Palate amplifies,  limpidly ripe,  lovely fruit and acid,  invisible oak,  invisible MLF,  yet the complexity of both is evident in the texture and the way the flavour lingers beautifully – real apricot.  It has the freshness of Condrieu,  and none of the ponderous qualities so many Australian examples of the grape show.  This wine is really something – search it out.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  VALUE.  GK 07/10

2009  Obsidian Viognier   16 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  50% BF in older French oak with inoculated yeast,  balance s/s,  barrel fraction 6 months LA with some batonnage,  < 20% MLF;  RS < 2 g/L;  116 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is meyer-lemon citric,  but not ripe enough to be obviously viognier in the blind tasting,  even though it is a little different from most New Zealand chardonnays.  Palate is better,  now subtle fresh apricot flavours (but not very ripe apricots),  with attractive mouthfeel and delightfully subtle oak,  avoiding the phenolics the variety is prone to.  This is the most varietal of the central Waiheke viogniers offered in the Wellington version of the Expo,  but stands well below the more easterly  Passage Rock wine secured shortly after.  Is this location,  vine age,  or picking date / style perception ?  Elucidating the microclimates of Waiheke is going to be a great story,  and viognier is a very subtly-tuned indicator-variety for achieving that.  It suggests that central Waiheke is not warm enough to achieve worthwhile viognier varietal character,  in comparison with for example,  the Passage Rock 2008 and 2009.  Yet in the central area,  Stephen White at Stonyridge ripens both grenache and mourvedre,  both more demanding,  to a level where they blend harmoniously with syrah.  So there is much more to this Waiheke climatic story than has been told so far.  

Current standards for assessing and judging viognier in New Zealand need comment.  These pallid viogniers have been much praised in New Zealand.  Presumably the judges are insufficiently familiar with the range of appropriate ripenesses good examples from Condrieu display in the variety's homeland.  Presumably too there is a desire to justify the generally pale examples so far from places like Gisborne,  and the more hopeless ones from Nelson and even Marlborough.  This is the pinot gris syndrome all over again,  but a more incongruous manifestation of it.  The varietal parameters for viognier are well-understood in the international market-place.  Living on an island as New Zealanders do,  we must guard against insularity.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Mudbrick Vineyard Viognier Reserve   15 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  15%;  $36   [ screwcap; hand-picked;  all wild yeast ferments,  50% BF in old French oak with some lees stirring,  50% s/s;  no MLF;  RS < 2 g/L;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Elegant light lemon.  Freshly opened,  this wine has a jujube aroma like the chardonnay from Mudbrick,  and though the wine is clean and fresh,  it is even less varietal than the Obsidian.  Palate again does suggest canned under-ripe apricots,  but the phenolics of the variety have not been so well-handled,  and the late palate is quite bitey.  The finish is short on desirable flavours.  Viognier needs to be much more sultry than this.  Cellar 1 – 3 years,  but not much point.  GK 06/10

2009  Cable Bay Viognier   15  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  small percentage BF in French oak;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Light straw with a worrying faint flush of brown.  Bouquet is a mixed affair,  with some oxidation and some hoppy gewόrztraminer-like notes,  fragrant but not 'correct' as the English say.  Palate has good fruit,  but with a jujube and smokey component,  good body and some length.  If it were labelled verdelho,  one could be more forgiving.  But viognier is a very precisely defined noble variety.  There are enough poor ones from France,  without us endorsing wayward ones here.  Pleasant enough as a full bodied aromatic white,  but misses as viognier.  Not cellar wine.  GK 06/10

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2007  Millton Chenin Blanc Te Arai Vineyard   18  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  12%;  $23   [ cork;  hand-picked;  fermentation and maturation in 600-litre older oak in the Loire Valley style;  11 g/L RS;  biodynamic wine;  good website;  www.millton.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is exceptional,  the most beautiful side of chenin blanc,  all the linalool of riesling and the delicacy of linden blossom,  a hint of lanolin,  magic.  James Millton is known for being nuts about the variety,  but few chenins demonstrate why anybody should feel so positive about it.  This one does,  on bouquet.  Palate is a little less,  a nice waxyness implying some botrytis,  residual sugar a bit tacky on the finish,  and acid noticeable.  Even so,  this is one of the best examples of the grape achieved so far in New Zealand.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2007  d'Arenberg Marsanne / Viognier Hermit Crab   17 ½  ()
McLaren Vale 66%,  Adelaide Hills 34%,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Vi 66%,  Ma 34;  5% of the Vi BF in 5-year or older French and American oak,  balance s/s;  RS 4.6 g/L;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Attractive lemon,  much the same as the Passage Rock Viognier.  Bouquet is intriguing,  much less obvious than the Passage Rock wine,  with more emphasis on orange blossom and citrus,  and just a hint of spice,  mace perhaps – not sure.  Palate is beautifully clean and fresh,  also not heavy as so many Australian whites are,  the use of oak a masterpiece of subtlety.  It is not as vibrant as the Passage Rock Viognier,  but in its mildness this would be great food-matching wine.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 07/10

2007  d'Arenberg Roussanne Money Spider   17  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Ro 100%;  all s/s;  RS 1.5 g/L;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Lemonstraw.  This is a really confusing wine.  It is much more typically Australian white,  fruity but tending broad and soft,  vaguely mealy,  hints of grapefruit and chardonnay.  Palate is intriguing,  clearly orange zest suggestions,  crisper than the bouquet suggests.  The puzzle is this wine smells of oak and lees autolysis,  but there are none,  it being made in stainless steel as if it were riesling.  This too would be a good Asian foods wine.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 07/10

Red
Rosé
2010  Miro Rosé   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;   Me & CF,  hand-harvested;  inoculated yeast,  all s/s,  no MLF,  no oak;  made as rosé from scratch;  < 2 g/L RS;  c.70 cases;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Palest rosé,  paler than I would prefer,  a bit lurid from excessive youth.  The whole styling of this wine is,  it seems,  to make an excessively pale but highly fragrant wine to match exactly the equally pale pinot noir rosés from further south in New Zealand.  It is however made from Loire Valley / Bordeaux grapes (as befits Waiheke).  And in it's fragrant nearly raspberry fruit and purity,  it succeeds admirably.  Like the Obsidian chardonnay,  it is in fact 'dry' (less than 2 g/L),  but the fruit is so good,  it tastes a little sweet.  It will be much more attractive in a year,  but it seems to sell out long before then.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  if you like reflective rosé.  GK 06/10

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2008  Stonyridge [ Cabernets / Malbec / Merlot ] Larose   18 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $220   [ cork;  CS 37%,  Ma 29,  Me 16,  PV 16,  CF 2,  hand-picked;  up to 25-day cuvaison;  MLF in barrel;  oak usually 90% French,  10 US,  70% new;  not filtered;  c.500 cases on average,  but varying considerably with vintage;  oppressive noise on website obscurely switchable,  thankfully;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Deep ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper,  richer and fresher than the other top wines.  Bouquet shows a clear violets and cassis component,  on a rich bottled black doris plummy background,  at a concentration which is thrilling.  It is as rich and full as the Velvet wine,  but more aromatic,  suggesting more cabernet.  Palate likewise is intensely aromatic,  an exciting interplay of cabernet cassis and potentially cedary oak,  with great latent strength.  This wine is clearly of upper classed-growth quality,  and dramatically Medoc alongside the contrasting Velvet,  so they make a really exciting pair of world-class wines for Waiheke wine-people to rejoice in.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Mystae   18 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $115   [ cork;  CS 57,  Me 22,  CF 17,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  the middle wine of the three tiers;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  not a big colour,  and a little age showing.  Bouquet is immensely fragrant,  and totally true to the Destiny Bay style,  again with reminders of Ribera del Duero in its elevage component,  but also very St Emilion premier grand cru,  irrespective of cepage.  Initially,  one might think it light,  misled by the colour.  But it is on the palate that this wine scrambles up the ranking.  Leaving aside the differences in oak-handling,  it demonstrates greater fruit physiological maturity than either the 2007 Coleraine Cabernets /  Merlot on the one hand,  or the 2008 Obsidian Merlot / Cabernet on the other.  Both years are great vintages in their respective districts.  2007 Mystae is not a big or rich wine,  but it is already very beautiful.  As the young vines age,  and noting this is their second tier wine (below Magna Praemia),  exciting wines can be anticipated from this ambitious / shoot-for-the-stars company.  Time will tell whether they're ambitious pricing is sustainable.  Cellar 5 – 25 years,  deceptive,  I suspect.  GK 06/10

2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Velvet   18 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $105   [ supercritical 'cork' 47 mm;  cepage not revealed,  guessing – Me,  Sy,  CS,  Ma,  hand-picked;  15 months elevage in 80% new barrels some American (confirmed);  120 cases only,  a label made only in top vintages when the desired rich texture can be achieved;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet and carmine.  Bouquet is soft,  smooth,  very winey and rich,  not as explicitly varietal as Stonyridge Larose,  but as rich,  with aromatic oak perhaps including some American.  There is an attractive and intriguing savoury character reminiscent of light brett,  but specific analysis shows incidence to be well below threshold.  At the blind stage,  it was not at all clear whether to class the wine with the Bordeaux blends or the syrahs,  and then with the identity revealed,  but the cepage not given,  the soft fragrant rich plummy fruit could sit with either.  There is beautiful floral complexity hinting at both violets and wallflowers,  suggesting that both merlot and syrah are prominent,  but the blackberries in the sun and cassisy lift in the later palate add the thought of cabernet and malbec too.  The mouthfeel does live up to the wine's name,  showing superb texture and natural acid,  all the quality of a classed growth in a ripe year.  This is an excellent wine by any standards,  with great flavour,  ripeness,  freshness and richness.  Styling approaches the best St Emilions.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 06/10

2005  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   18 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $100   [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.25%,  balance CF,  Sy & Ma,  handpicked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French & Hungarian oak c.30% new;  c. 500 cases;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little garnet,  some velvet.  This is the wine that sets the pace for the time being,  in the Te Motu stable.  Bouquet is very fragrant,  an intriguing blend of browning cassis and bottled dark  plums lifted by threshold VA (much lower than the 2002) and complexed by an aromatic quality slightly reminiscent of bay-leaf,  but more pleasant.  As mentioned for the 2006,  this wine is extraordinarily like Graves classed growths in the 60s and 70s –or even certain Pauillacs from the same era.  Palate is already harmonious,  older than one would hope for a 2005 Bordeaux,  but the other Te Motus show they in fact hold their fruit well even when the colour suggests otherwise – the length of fruit on the aftertaste gives a clue to this.  The similarities and differences in style between Te Motu and Destiny Bay are a delight,  and the contrast between these two more classical producers,  and the others mostly more modern,  adds further interest and diversity to the range of bordeaux blends now emerging from Waiheke.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe longer,  on the fruit weight.  GK 06/10

2008  Obsidian [ Cabernets / Merlot ] The Obsidian   18 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $54   [ cork;  CS 38%,  Me 30,  CF 14,  PV 12,  Ma 6,  all hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  MLF and c.13 months in all-French oak 30% new;  395 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  nearly as deep as the 2008 Larose.  Bouquet needs a little air to show its best,  then revealing fragrant dark plums,  some cassis,  hints of florals,  and subtle oak,  all very pure.  Palate is a little less,  now rather much oak concealing fair richness,  and total acid up a little.  Even though the fruit flavour and maturity is good,  the wine is tending hard and youthful at this stage.  It is riper and firmer than the Weeping Sands 2007 Cabernet / Merlot,  and clearly intended for the long haul in cellar.  Cellar 10 – 20 + years,  though it might be on the lean and fragrant side by then.  GK 06/10

2007  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine   18 +  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $72   [ cork;  hand-harvested CS 52%,  Me 34,  CF 14;  extended cuvaison;  average vine age 20 + years;  20 months in French oak 75% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  closely matching the Mudbrick Velvet.  Bouquet is very fragrant,  clear violets on plummy berry,  appealing.  It is not quite so gloriously cassisy as the Miro,  nor so opulently rich as the Velvet or Stonyridge Larose,  and it is a little more oaky than either,  more Medoc alongside the Velvet's east-bank.  Palate shows complex berry of considerable length,  cassis,  dark plum and even a blueberry note of good richness,  mingled with firmer oak than the top Waiheke wines.  It is not quite so perfectly ripe as the top two Waiheke wines,  but still looks good and potentially cedary,  at a lower classed growth level.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Destiny Bay Dulce Suavi [ Cabernet Sauvignon Late Harvest ] 375 ml   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 90,  Me 10, hand-harvested;  stop-fermented at 10 g/L RS;  old oak only;  1000 x 375 ml bottles,  mode of sale unclear;  not on website;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is sensational,  pure cassis,  reminiscent of liqueur cassis,  plus a touch of brett.  Palate is soft,  rich,  almost velvety,  the sweetness level sophisticated,  the whole wine perfectly judged for dark chocolate desserts.  Aftertaste is long and elegant,  the merest hint of stalk and oak giving structure and drying the finish admirably.  As a concept,  I approached this wine negatively,  but in the blind tasting,  from the bouquet alone,  it has to be taken seriously.  Cassis is such a gorgeous smell.  Probably better not cellared beyond 5 years,  as the freshness appeals for dessert use – not sure.  GK 06/10

2008  Miro Cabernet / Merlot   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ NeoCork plastic 'cork';  CS 52%,  Me 30,  CF 17,  Ma 1;  c.18 months in French oak some new;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet shows beautiful vibrantly ripe cassis with near-perfect black-currant expression,  on a bottled black doris plummy fruit underpinning,  subtle oak,  wonderful purity.  Palate likewise is crystal-clear cassis,  not the weight of the Mudbrick Velvet,  2008 Stonyridge Larose or top Hawkes Bay Cabernet / Merlots,  but with lively cabernet berry aromatics,  fair richness,  a little acid but no hint of stalks.  An exciting cabernet-dominant wine,  to cellar 10 – 15 maybe more years,  if the wine is unaffected by contact with a plastic closure for such a time.  Such evidence as is on-line is not encouraging.  GK 06/10

2008  Man O' War Merlot / Cabernet Franc Ironclad   18  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $46   [ cork;  Me 52%,  CF 27,  Ma 10.5,  PV 9,  CS 1.5,  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed,  MLF and 11 months in mostly French oak 20% new,  some older American;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Deep ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is lifted by threshold VA,  on rich plummy berry showing good ripeness and depth,  in a quiet way.  Palate suggests merlot taken past the fragrant stage,  on to darkly plummy fruit,  but still with appropriate acid balance.  There is quite a lot of oak,  just a trace of smoked fish,  but also the richness to carry it.  It is not quite as fresh as the 2008 Obsidian or 2008 Mudbrick Reserve,  but the great thing is,  it is nearly free of the complexing brett that has been a problem for this winery.  This wine is therefore a pointer to the future reds from this excitingly-located estate.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Mystae   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $115   [ cork;  CS 57,  Me 22,  CF 17,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  the middle wine of the three tiers;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  much lighter than the top wines.  Bouquet is extraordinary,  showing beautiful fragrant berry-fruit totally out of style with the leading Waiheke or Hawkes Bay examples of Bordeaux blends,  but totally in style with the better Reservas or Reservas Especials of Rioja in the 1950s and 1960s (tempranillo),  and some later and contemporary highly regarded wines from Ribera del Duero in the same style.  The key to this distinctiveness seems to be a particular kind of American oak introducing the distinctive aroma found in a carton of oranges when one in the bottom is going blue-mouldy (+ve in this context).  Palate follows bouquet exactly,  very fragrant and supple red fruits rather more than black,  no cassis as such yet a lovely fruit sweetness,  totally distinctive as fine wine,  yet a world apart from new world cabernet as usually understood.  More richness is needed,  but these are young vines and 2006 is not a great year.  Cellar life is therefore hard to estimate,  there already being some maturity evident.  It could maintain this profile surprisingly well,  so 5 – 10 years,  maybe a little more.  GK 06/10

2006  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $90   [ supercritical 'cork' (experiment);  CS dominant,  Me significant,  balance CF,  Sy & Ma,  handpicked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French & Hungarian oak c.30% new;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet,  a little older than the Destiny Bay '06s.  This is different and interesting wine,  which can be approached from several angles.  A technocrat could dismiss it,  yet anyone with experience of Bordeaux in the '60s and '70s would feel right at home.  And like classed Bordeaux,  by the time you reach the aftertaste,  it dawns there is much more fruit richness than one supposed – this wine is richer than 2006 Mystae.  Loosely speaking,  the wine reminds me of some well-regarded Graves wines from that earlier era,  the big browning cassis and cedar made more fragrant by a touch of nutmeggy brett,  the palate already harmonious and surprisingly velvety,  whereas I supposed that it would be oaky,  from the bouquet.  Actual fruit ripeness is good,  and the total style achievement in European terms is remarkable.  With the Destiny Bay wines,  Te  Motu stands apart from the more typical New Zealand approach to Bordeaux blends which the other Island wines show.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/10

2006  d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon High Trellis   17 ½ +  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $24   [ screwcap;  CS 94%,  Me 3,  PV 3,  the Me Adelaide Hills;  a small part of the wine BF and lees-matured,  some raised in French and American barriques some new,  at least half in large old oak;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This one too on opening needs the jug to jug five times treatment.  With air it reveals good but still slightly heavy cassis,  with the slightest hint of spearmint.  Palate is quite rich,  clearly cabernet in its texture,  the good fruit continuing with no doughnut.  Both oak and acid addition are subtle,  so the berry lingers attractively in mouth.  There is just a hint of almond dulling it slightly.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/10

2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Me,  CF,  CS,  hand-picked;  c.14 months in French oak;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is soft,  ripe and showing more maturity than some,  with attractive plum tart aromas.  Palate is firmer than the bouquet,  with a lot more oak influence,  affecting both colour and the palate,  so in one sense one has to hunt for the fruit.  There is good browning cassis,  acid balance is good,  and the richness turns out to be much better than the first impression.  I suspect this wine is in a mute phase.  In its oak component,  it is built rather like some Pask Declaration wines from Hawkes Bay,  and should like them soften in cellar,  over 5 – 12 + years.  GK 06/10

2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Destinae   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $75   [ cork;  CS 35,  Me 33,  CF 21,  Ma 11 (NB these numbers differ from those previously given me),  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  third tier wine;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  the same lighter colour and weight as the 2006 Mystae,  but fresher in hue.  Bouquet is rather different however,  not so much Spanish influence,  instead the soft St Emilion-like red fruits of a merlot / cabernet franc blend,  clearly floral,  younger and attractive.  Palate shows the same silky light texture as the 2006,  and the balance has some reminders of the 2006 Cheval Blanc shown in the Cabernet / Merlot Forum in Hawkes Bay in January,  but it is more oaky.  These Destiny Bay wines are supremely finessed,  but in a style contrasting dramatically with conventional New Zealand practice.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Cabernet / Merlot   17 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $36   [ screwcap;  CS 49%,  Me 32,  Ma 10,  CF 9,  hand-picked;  up to 20 days cuvaison,  cultured yeast; some months in older French 80% and American oak;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  some carmine.  Bouquet benefits from decanting,  becoming fresher and more cassisy / aromatic than the merlot-dominant Reserve wine,  attractive,  Medoc-like,  but not a big wine.  Palate is leaner than the 2008 Reserve,  but there are clear cassis and dark plummy flavours of considerable appeal and length.  It is a little richer and riper than the Weeping Sands '07 Cabernet / Merlot.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years,  for a fragrant bottle.  GK 06/10

2006  Destiny Bay Destinae   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $75   [ cork;  CS 46%,  Me 22,  CF 16,  Ma 16,  hand-harvested @ average 1.7 t/ac;  10 – 15 months in French and American oak about equal,  60% new;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is sweetly fragrant on American oak,  in the same style as the 2006 Mystae.  Exactly the same descriptors apply,  except the wine is leaner than the Mystae version,  the fruit not quite as generous,  and the American oak influence is greater in the 2006s.  Again one would not know blind it is cabernet-dominant,  but the winestyle is attractive.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/10

2008  d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon High Trellis   17 ½  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  CS 94%,  Me 3,  PV 3,  the Me Adelaide Hills;  a small part of the wine BF and lees-matured,  some raised in French and American barriques some new,  at least half in large old oak;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This is an intriguing wine.  It opens quite differently from the 2006,  instead showing overt juicy cassis with academic VA,  but also a strange herbes aromatic more like dried salvias than any other clear analogy.  Palate is lighter and fresher than the 2006,  the oak and acid again subtly done,  with attractive cassis tapering into the aftertaste.  These are two very different wines,  but I imagine as many would prefer one as the other.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/10

2004  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   17 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $80   [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.25%,  balance CF,  Sy & Ma,  hand-picked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.11 days cuvaison,  inoculated;  MLF and c.30 months in French c.70%,  Hungarian c.20% and balance American oak,  c.30% new; c.500 cases;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  richer than the 2006 Te Motu or the 2004 Miro.  As discussed for the 2006,  these Te Motu wines stand apart.  With their relatively longer exposure to good oak,  though they appear old for their age,  the browning cassis conceals a good weight of fruit by average Bordeaux standards.  Smells and flavours here include a lot of dark tobacco in addition to cassis and red plums,  and cedary oak.  Fruit length on palate is good,  though acid is a little higher than the 2006,  and appreciably higher than the 2002.  Cellar 3 – 7 years.  GK 06/10

2007  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot   17 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $27   [ screwcap;  CS 77,  Me 18,  PV 2,  CF 2,  Ma 1,  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed,  cuvaison c.15 days,  cultured yeast;  MLF and 11 months in French oak some new,  1010 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet.  The wine style here is closer to Coleraine than the Waiheke wines so far,  but it is a little harder.  There is good rich cassis,  fragrant oak,  good plummyness below,  but the acid balance is firmer than Coleraine or the Miro.  Flavours are attractive,  cassis and dark plum,  a little lean (reflecting the high percentage of cabernet sauvignon) but lengthened by oak.  This is going to end up on the Medoc side of the style line,  and should cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2002  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   17  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $90   [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.30%,  balance CF  & Ma,  handpicked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French and some American oak c.30% new;  a bottle opened for interest;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Mature ruby and garnet.  This Te Motu is a bit out to one side,  being fragrant and aromatic on VA above threshold,  which amplifies the oak side of the equation.  There is good browning cassis in the bouquet,  which in mouth leads into good mature very cedary fruit.  The evidence is people really like this level of VA,  not recognising it but instead thinking the wine is excitingly lifted and fumey.  It does not mar the palate.  Real grilled steak wine,  but hard to score – I do have to be a little more clinical in these appraisals.  Though quite rich,  richer than the 2004 Te Motu,  and from a good year,  probably best not cellared beyond 5 years or so.  It needs the fruit to hold it all in shape.  Score is a little permissive,  therefore.  GK 06/10

2008  Cable Bay Merlot / Malbec Five Hills Bordeaux Blend   16 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $35   [ cork;  Me 46%,  Ma 31,  CS 17,  CF 6,  hand-picked @ c 2 t/ac;  12 months in French oak;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  There is a hint of oxidation around the cassis,  plum and oak in this wine,  but there is good fruit too.  Palate is better,  fair fruit ripeness,  good berry length,  slightly acid,  but the oak understated,  so the latter two components don't reinforce each other.  Should marry up in bottle to be pleasantly true to label.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   16 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  CS 90%,  Me 5,  CF 5,  hand-harvested;  14 days cuvaison;  15 months in mostly American oak 50% new;  sterile-filtered;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is awkward and unknit,  with trace VA and light brett complexing edgy cassis and nutmeggy oak,  but also a thought of stalks and spearmint.  Palate draws attention to the stalkyness,  even though the cassis continues at quite a concentrated level.  At this stage the wine is surprisingly unintegrated,  and not too harmonious.  It is early days,  and the wine should marry away the details I comment on,  and may well surprise later.  It is much fresher than the Galvo Garage,  for example.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 07/10

2008  Man O' War Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Malbec   16 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  Me 42%,  CF 27,  Ma 19,  CS 12;  11 months on lees in older French and American oak,  none new;  the location for the vineyards is so extraordinarily scenic,  be great to have more photos on the website,  not rotating so fast;  www.manowarvineyards.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet has a lot going on,  with a note of smoked fish including some brett,  on plummy fruit with an edge of bay-leaf and spicy herbes complexity.  In mouth the plummyness increases markedly,  with some cassis suggestions,  and good fruit ripeness.  It is still on the youthful and firm side,  and should soften attractively in cellar 5 – 10 years.  Longer than that might be unwise.  Scoring is permissive,  since Man O' War is in the process of re-shaping itself.  With the vineyard locations they have,  the future should be exciting to watch.  GK 06/10

2006  Kennedy Point Merlot   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ cork;  Me 85%,  CF 9,  CS 6,  hand-picked @ c.1.2 t/ac;  MLF and 16 months in French oak 50% new;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Bouquet is a mixed affair,  but the nett result is pleasant.  Thoughts of VA,  cod-liver oil,  smoked fish,  and brett waft past the nose,  but there are also fragrant redcurrants,  some cassis,  and plum berryfruits too.  Palate is medium weight,  carefully oaked,  more clearly merlot / cabernet in an Entre Deux Mers styling.  There is a hint of cigar-box / tobacco leaf,  yet the whole thing has fruit and is food-friendly and attractive,  richer than the purer 2004 Miro Archipelago.  As noted,  scoring is permissive today.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Mudbrick Vineyard Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon   16 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Me dominant,  then CS,  Ma 10,  CF 10,  hand-picked;  up to 20 days cuvaison,  cultured yeast;  some months in French and American oak 80 / 20,  none new;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet here is more straight up-and-down cabernet / merlot,  pure,  youthful,  raw plum,  some cassis,  a suggestion of pepper so the variety is not clear at the blind stage.  Palate is firm and youthful,  clean / high-tech,  fresh,  total acid a little elevated,  not the richness of some 2008s,  but still fair fruit and flavour.  The suggestion of syrah persists through the palate,  whether in truth or mimicry I don't know.  This will become a very fragrant bottle.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Stonyridge Malbec Luna Negra Single Vineyard   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $80   [ cork;  Ma 100%;  French and American oak,  some new;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a magnificent colour,  the darkest of the set.  This wine benefits from decanting,  to show a bouquet lifted by threshold VA and a mint suggestion,  on dark bottled omega plums,  plus quite strong vanillin oak,  all as yet unintegrated.  Palate is not as rich as the bouquet promised,  total acid is noticeably up,  there is some stalk in the ample berry,  but the whole flavour is long,  excessively oaky and persistent.  Malbec really needs summer warmth,  like cabernet,  yet this has not turned out as well as might be hoped,  even in 2008.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2009  Stonyridge Cabernet / Malbec Airfield   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  CS dominant,  Me,  CF 11,  PV,  CF,  hand-picked;  cultured yeast,  c.12 months in French oak 40% new;  now marketed as the second wine of Larose in the exact Bordeaux sense;  not fined or filtered;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is a more familiar New Zealand cabernet / merlot style,  a suggestion of austerity  / stalkyness in raw dark plum and cassis,  the oak yet to marry in,  the whole wine suggesting not quite enough oxygen in elevation.  Palate confirms the hardness,  good berry including cassis,  but total acid and stalkyness up somewhat,  the fruit and oak still to harmonise.  A straightforward Bordeaux blend,  to cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2005  [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $55   [ cork;  CS c.62%,  Me c.27%,  balance CF & Ma,  hand-picked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.11 days cuvaison,  inoculated;  MLF and c.22 months in French c.70%,  Hungarian c.20% and balance American oak,  none new;  sterile-filtered;  c.350 cases;  the second wine to Te Motu;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet,  much the same depth but not as fresh as 2005 Te Motu.  Bouquet is in the distinctive Te Motu style,  which sees more oak than most New Zealand reds.  Each wine therefore has to be checked for the ratio of fruit to oak.  In comparison with 2005 Te Motu,  2005 Dunleavy has a varnishy note around the oak,  and the whole wine is leaner in its curranty fruit.  It therefore seems unduly oaky.  It might not be wise to cellar this for more than 5 – 8 years or so,  in case it runs out of its browning cassis fruit,  leaving only the cedary oak.  GK 06/10

2006  d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Petit Verdot / Cabernet Franc Galvo Garage   16 ½  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  CS 56%,  Me 20,  PV 18,  CF 6, the Me and half the CF Adelaide Hills;  some BF,  raised in a mix of predominantly French and some American oak,  up to 20% new;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This annoyingly-named wine is more old-fashioned.  It is rich and ripe,  with blueberry and oak aromas plus an almondy dullness,  all rather hot-climate in style for fine cabernet.  Palate is more oaky than the affordable High Trellis Cabernet,  and the oak fights with the added acid,  making the texture in mouth less attractive.  Almond and sucking-on-plumstone notes dull it off somewhat,  too.  It will cellar well in its rich style,  5 – 15 + years.  GK 07/10

2009  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Merlot   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Me dominant;  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  c.9 months in French oak 15% new;  400 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is intriguing,  another young wine to make one think of Entre-Deux-Mers in an averagely ripe year.  Red fruits dominate,  plus suggestions of tobacco,  all quite fragrant.  Palate is a little less,  total acid higher than ideal and some leafyness grading into stalks.  Happily oak is restrained,  so this lightish wine should soften in cellar and become fragrant and more attractive,  in a slightly under-ripe way.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Miro Malbec   16 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.9%;  $35   [ screwcap;  Ma 88,  CS 12;  not on website;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is fragrant on threshold VA,  the wine inclining to softer plum and tending merlot rather than cassisy cabernet in style.  There is quite a leafy component and a light suggestion of spearmint.  Palate has fair fruit reminiscent of cool-year St Emilion,  the leafy component continuing.  Phenolics are well-handled though.  Malbec does need warm years to fully ripen in New Zealand as a straight or dominant-varietal wine.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2004  Miro Merlot / Cabernet Archipelago 375 ml   16 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Me 55%,  CS 35,  CF 10;  15 months in French and American oak;  a bottle for interest;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  a suggestion of garnet,  older than the Destiny Bay wines.  In the blind tasting,  there are several wines akin to this one,  as different from the field as the Destiny Bay wines,  but likewise equally different again from them.  This one reminds very much of a reputable St Emilion in the modest years of the 1970s,  especially chateaux with a higher percentage of cabernet sauvignon in the cepage,  for it is quite leafy yet in a mellow red fruits and tobacco-y way.  Palate is more browning red fruits,  quite a lot of maturity,  leafy but not phenolic,  gentle oak,  possibly not bone dry,  but an appealing food-friendly wine.  In 750s,  it should be okay to cellar another 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/10

2005  Kennedy Point Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $49   [ cork;  CS 85%,  Me 12,  CF 3,  hand-picked @ low cropping rate;  MLF and 18 months in barrel 50% new (approx);  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Clear edgy cassis with rather a lot of what smells like American oak (though French mentioned) which takes the mind back to 1968 McWilliams New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon.  Palate continues the cassis,  but the edginess becomes stalks,  making the whole wine short.  It is clearly varietal and quite rich,  but more ripeness is needed for the level of oak.  Comparison with the 2005 Te Motu and 2005 Dunleavy is interesting,  on that point.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2006  [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  CS c.62%,  Me c.27%,  balance CF & Ma,  hand-picked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.11 days cuvaison,  inoculated;  MLF and c.22 months in French c.70%,  Hungarian c.20% and balance American oak,  none new;  sterile-filtered;  c.350 cases;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby,  fresher and slightly deeper than the 2005 Dunleavy.  On bouquet,  this wine doesn't hang together quite so well as the other Te Motu wines.  There is a curious almost raspberry note entangled with the oak,  which lets it down somewhat.  Palate is fresher and more angular than the 2005,  with varnishy qualities around the oak.  May harmonise given a year or two more in bottle,  but it is less appealing at the moment.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2006  Miro Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Summer Aphrodisiac   15 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.9%;  $23   [ screwcap;  CS 48,  Me 32,  CF 18,  Ma 2,  some months in older French and American oak;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Lighter and older ruby.  Bouquet has an intriguing note to it extraordinarily reminiscent of shippers AOC bordeaux rouge of yesteryear.   It is startling in the blind lineup – a real memory-lane exercise.  Nett impression is of red currants more than black,  slightly red-plummy,  a little leafy,  and a little plain / cardboardy.  Palate is light,  totally in style for the analogy,  marginal ripeness but phenolics well handled,  so the leafyness is covered by fruit.  Inconsequential light food red,  pleasant enough,  nearly mature,  or to hold a year or two.  GK 06/10

2009  Stonyridge Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Faithful   15  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $25   [ cork;   Me 67,  CS 17%,  Ma 12,  CF 4,  hand-picked;  a third-tier wine catering to the picnic trade at three times the price of better quality from a supermarket;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Lightish ruby.  Bouquet is more rosé weight in a Loire Valley style,  but tending leafy / under-ripe.  Palate confirms,  a very light wine with redcurrant rather than blackcurrant fruit,  some red plums,  but under-ripe,  fresh acid,  slightly cardboardy.  Picnic wine at best,  better after a year or two in bottle,  but not worth cellaring.  Stonyridge do their image a disservice,  by producing entertainment wines like this (and the chardonnay) under their main label.  GK 06/10

2007  Kennedy Point Malbec Reserve   14  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $49   [ cork;  Ma 100%,  hand-picked @ a low cropping rate;  around 18 months in French oak some new;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a superb colour.  The wine however has been taken over by VA,  at a level that is probably illegal (or close to it) in terms of the more civilised EEC regulations,  even if it scrapes past the more permissive Australasian standard.  There is some spearmint in the raw plummy fruit.  All a pity,  as the ripeness achieved is promising.  Not worth cellaring,  note the price,  more real-world discrimination needed,  as elsewhere among these Waiheke reds.  GK 06/10

2007  Jurassic Ridge Cabernet Franc
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $30   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  CF 86%,  Me 14,  hand-harvested;  2 weeks cuvaison;  12 months in French oak;  RS < 1 g/L;  no fining,  light filter;  c.140 cases,  sold out;  www.jurassicridge.com ]
Ruby.  I have a procedural difficulty with this wine,  in that the winemaker advises me my interpretation and conclusions are contradicted by the laboratory analysis.  Since in this case the analysis is straightforward,  and there are not layers of meaning as in brett assessment,  I have withdrawn my first comments and score.  Another bottle may not be available,  since it has sold out.  On the positive side,  my first-draft review referred to pretty floral notes reminiscent of cherry-pie (heliotrope) on bouquet,  and a palate showing some of the raspberry and red fruits of cabernet franc.  I further commented that it would be good to have a cabernet franc from Waiheke with the subtle oaking this wine showed,  now that Hawkes Bay is starting to respect the variety.  I regret the equivocation,  but this is a clear case where,  as anticipated in the Introduction to the website,  the winemaker is entitled to request a second assessment.  GK 06/10

Syrah = Shiraz
2007  Church Road Syrah Reserve   19  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle 55% & Gimblett Gravels 45,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ cork;  Sy 100% hand-harvested and sorted;  no cold soak,  inoculated yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top oak and s/s vessels,  up to 4 weeks cuvaison,  controlled aeration;  c.12 months in burgundy barrels c. 53% new,  c. 600 cases (as 12s);  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Rich ruby,  carmine and velvet,  close to the Mudbrick Reserve.  Bouquet is soft,  sweet,  and deeply floral,  with a hint of cracked black peppercorn,  plus superb cassis and darkest plum richness.  Oaking is gentler than either the Mudbrick Reserve or the Weeping Sands,  and the quality of the deep cassisy dark plum is opulent,  really velvet,  yet with this intriguing sensuous floral and freshly cracked black pepper lift through both bouquet and palate.  This is wonderful transparent wine reminiscent of the beauty and style of great pinot noir,  but three times the size – loosely speaking.  It is a candidate for the greatest syrah made in New Zealand in the modern era,  in that it has deeply woven florality right through the bouquet and palate.  [ In such a final analysis,  it would probably be pipped at the post by 2007 Trinity Hill Syrah Homage.]  For the EIT syrahs as a whole,  this was the top-rated wine for the group.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  VALUE.  GK 06/10

2008  Obsidian Syrah   18 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $54   [ cork;  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  cultured yeast,  MLF and c.12 months in barrel 20% new French,  40% second-year French,  balance older mixed;  light fining;  125 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  fractionally the deepest wine in the Auckland release tasting,  slightly fresher than Homage.  Bouquet on this wine is pinpoint Syrah taken to the optimal stage of ripeness where soft wallflower florals are clearly retained,  and classical cassis berry is just grading into dark bottled black doris plums.  This level of physiological maturity with subtle cracked black peppercorns in simple terms matches a wine from a great year on the Hill of Hermitage.  Palate is textbook syrah,  showing a similar quality of French oak to Homage but not quite so much of it,  so the berry definition of cassis and a hint of blueberry is clear,  and the firmness on palate slightly less.  It is therefore slightly more fleshy than the Trinity Hill wine.  This is great Syrah too,  and for Waiheke Island the absolute benchmark wine so far,  because it is completely free of brett – a joy.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  GK 07/10

2008  Mudbrick Syrah Reserve   18 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.4%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked and sorted in field,  cropping rate average 2 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  inoculated yeast,  1 day cold-soak,  15 – 21 days cuvaison,  no additional acid needed,  no BF;  most MLF in barrel,  14 months in American 75% and French 25 oak,  50% new (the American fraction for 2008);  totally dry;  sterile-filtered to bottle,  296 cases;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Rich ruby,  carmine and velvet,  excellent.  Bouquet shows glorious soft sweet wallflower and darkest roses florality,  on cassis and darkest bottled black doris plums,  all wonderfully fresh and fragrant and enticing,  with cracked black peppercorn,  and oak aromatics too.  Palate shows great fruit amplifying the bouquet,  beautifully shaped by oak,  but not dominating it,  the cassis,  dark plum and gentle black pepper all rich and lingering long in mouth.  Like Stonyridge Larose,  this virtually fault-free wine points to the future of Waiheke Island premium reds.  It is astonishing how this wine has come together since the January Syrah Symposium,  in just the same way Bullnose blossoms after 18 months in bottle.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  GK 06/10

2007  Two Gates Syrah   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $54   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested;  extended cuvaison,  aeration;  MLF in barrel,  18 months in French oak 50% new,  light fining;  new and 1-year oak;  first release,  certified organic;  www.twogates.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  not quite the carmine of the top wines,  fractionally older.  Bouquet shows an intriguing interplay of carnation and wallflower florals on slightly browning (or oak influenced) cassis and dark bottled plum fruit.  Palate confirms the greater oak influence,  but there is good cassisy berry in a more aromatic wine style.  The oaking level is more akin to Guigal's d'Ampuis than the top wines,  but it is still dramatically syrah.  It is also clearly a notch denser and warmer climatically than the 2008 Mudbrick Reserve,  yet has not lost syrah varietal character in the way most Australian examples do.  For the EIT group as a whole,  this was the second-ranked wine.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2008  Stonyridge Syrah / Mourvedre / Grenache Pilgrim   18 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ cork;  Sy 89%,  Mv 8,  Gr 3,   hand-harvested;  cultured yeast,  10 day cuvaison (2 days cold soak);  MLF in barrel,  12 months in French oak,  30% new initially,  then older;  not fined or filtered;  75 cases;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  an attractive colour,  though clearly not the depth of the top two.  Bouquet is a delight,  the trace VA lift acceptable in the wonderful florality of syrah,  another wine closely matching Cote Rotie,  and thus forming a great comparison wine to the View East.  Since the Stonyridge wine is clean / brett-free,  the varietal qualities in the syrah-dominant blend can be focussed on totally.  Palate is equally beautiful,  pinot noir-like in its purity and velvety styling,  not as big as the top wines,  but so graceful it scores as highly.  How exactly the mourvedre component achieved sufficient ripeness on Waiheke to not add a stalky note is a mystery – 2008 was certainly a good season.  There is something freaky about the nature of the warmth on Waiheke,  for though daily maxima are less than Hawkes Bay,  growers report success with both petit verdot and grenache.  On the face of it,  they should both be marginal on Waiheke.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Pask Syrah Declaration   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested;  all de-stemmed;  some cold soak;  some BF in new oak;  > 3 weeks cuvaison;  14 months in new French oak;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a great colour,  one of the richest.  Bouquet is quiet on this wine,  just a hint of violets in deepest bottled plums,  the whole wine very rich and pure.  Palate is quite a revelation,  syrah ripened almost beyond the wallflowers and cassis stage to blueberry,  huge fruit,  soft and velvety texture,  some reminders of subtler years of Penfold's famous RWT.  I initially marked it down a little on the lack of bouquet and explicit varietal complexity,  but for those to whom bouquet is lesser and palate all-important,  this is a marvellous wine.  It seems a quite different wine from the bottle reported on last year,  which at the time I thought was sealed with ProCork.  Kate Radburnd advises however that the whole bottling was screwcap,  so that was an error.  This therefore is an astonishing example of the degree to which New Zealand syrah comes together after a couple of years in bottle.  The earlier remarks on oak would therefore seem to be wrong too.  It would be good if this wine heralds a less oaky approach to the Pask Declaration range.  The wine is slightly more acid than the Mudbrick Reserve.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/10

2006  d'Arenberg Shiraz Dead Arm   18 +  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $67   [ screwcap;  Sh 100%;  a barrel selection from the oldest shiraz blocks;  partial BF in French and US oak 30% new,  and 20 months in barrel;  not filtered;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is classically rich McLaren Vale shiraz,  a little euc'y sadly,  but much more restrained than in earlier years.  The fruit is not so over-ripe,  there still being a good component of blueberry and dark plum,  and the oak is a lot more subtle,  and with a higher percentage of French these days,  rising to 100% in a few years.  No American oak has been bought since 2005.  Richness on palate is markedly greater than the other d'Arenberg shirazes,  though the oak does increase somewhat in mouth.  This should cellar well and soften,  over 10 – 25 years.  GK 07/10

2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah   18 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed;  up to 4 days cold-soak,  cultured yeast,  c.18 days cuvaison;  MLF and 9 months in barrel 25% new French,  balance older French and American;  360 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a lovely colour.  Bouquet on this wine is so dramatically floral and cassisy,  I thought violets initially,  that at the blind stage I classed it with the cabernet / merlots.  This florality is the kind of bouquet syrah only achieves in temperate climates,  and is wonderful.  Palate (once one knows the variety) is softly cassis and syrah,  the oaking more restrained than most Waiheke reds,  the palate a little richer than the 2009,  making the wine magical as a consequence.  There are some similarities to the Church Road,  but the Weeping Sands wine is a size smaller.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  VALUE.  GK 06/10

2008  View East Syrah   18  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $39   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed;  some cold-soak,  shortish cuvaison;  MLF and 10 months in American oak some new;  www.vieweast.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a little older than most 2008s and 2007s.  This report is a little permissive.  The nett impression on bouquet is supremely Cote Rotie,  in a style which Guigal himself would be happy to own (considering many recent d'Ampuis bottlings).  There is glorious florality embracing dianthus / carnations and wallflowers (fitting in with the lower given alcohol),  excellent browning cassis berry,  clear white and fresh-cracked black peppercorn,  and the whole bouquet has the magic lift of an academic level of savoury brett complexity.  Palate is harmony itself,  supple fruit,  a quality of oaking unusual in a new winery,  the American oak not making the wine clumsier at all.  Cellar 5 – 8 years,  perhaps 10 if sterile-filtered.  GK 06/10

2008  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve   18  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Syrah 100%,  hand-picked;  c.30 days cuvaison;  c.10 months in barrel,  much more French oak than previously,  now predominant,  c. 70% new;  sterile-filtered;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.   Bouquet is complex and appealing,  showing a quality of berry ripeness which I think would have been beautifully floral at the pinpoint level of wallflowers.  Unfortunately however,  the implicit florals and sumptuous cassis now show a little savoury brett character.  Palate shows good fruit richness,  cassis and bottled black doris fruit,  and elegant texture,  let down somewhat by the gamey notes and chocolate.  Twenty years ago these characters were welcomed – and in the old world British and French winewriters and judges still rave positively about them,  but in the new world the tide is turning against the complexity flavours introduced by the spoilage yeast Brettanomyces.  This wine is not as markedly affected as Man O' War Syrah Dreadnought,  but it still takes the shine off it,  and the top marks it would otherwise have enjoyed.  Since it is sterile-filtered to bottle,  the wine should be stable in bottle,  so cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 07/10

2007  d'Arenberg Shiraz Footbolt   18  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Sh 100%;  an average of 12 months in mostly older larger-format French and American oak,  but a small BF component in barriques some new;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  In many ways,  this shows much the same berry,  blueberry and bottled plum fruit as the Dead Arm Shiraz,  not as rich,  but with a lot less oak.  It is therefore a particularly good wine to study McLaren Vale shiraz varietal quality,  which at its best can be much more restrained than warmer South Australian districts.  In some seasons therefore,  their shiraz almost grades into the hottest years of Gimblett Gravels syrah,  particularly for those producers who over-ripen their fruit.  Blueberry is the common fruit note.  Acid adjustment and oak are not too obtrusive.  Attractive wine which will cellar 5 – 15 + years.  VALUE.  GK 07/10

2009  Obsidian Syrah [ preview ]   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $54   [ cork;  preview of the just-bottled next vintage,  2.5% Vi co-fermented this year;  greater % French oak;  not on website until release next year;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  much the same depth as the 2008.  Bouquet however is at this stage altogether less integrated and harmonious,  the cassis,  black pepper and oak unknit,  the floral components yet to emerge,  and there is perhaps the slightest suggestion of sur-maturité.  On palate that idea grows,  the entire riper end of the ripening spectrum from deepest cassis,  blueberry,  bottled black doris plum and even a hint of boysenberry being tastable.  This wine has only just been bottled,  and was offered solely as a preview for interest.  I'm sure once it has settled down,  it will speak much more elegantly at release mid-2011.  Several premium New Zealand syrahs have already consistently shown they are transformed after 18 months in bottle.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe more.  GK 07/10

2007  Unison Syrah   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ supercritical 'cork';  Sy 100% hand-picked @ < 4 t/ac;  up to 3 weeks cuvaison;  13 months in barrel some new;  no wine info on website;  Jenny Dobson the new winemaker;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby and carmine,  dense.  Bouquet is rich and elegant,  different again in this fascinating bracket of syrahs.  Aromas of stewed best red rhubarb stalks,  blueberries and vanillin American oak pour from the glass,  the volume of blueberry unusual.  Palate is rich,  blueberry more than plum,  but oakier than the Pask,  reminding a little of some Clonakilla syrahs.  This is a confusing wine,  but good:  it widens the range of styles to be embraced in our interpretations of New Zealand syrah.  For the EIT group as a whole,  this was the third-rated wine.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/10

2009   [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Sy 97.5%,  Vi 2.5%,  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed;  co-fermented,  up to 4 days cold-soak,  cultured yeast,  c.18 days cuvaison;  MLF and 9 months in barrel 25% new French,  balance older French and American;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  close to the Mudbrick Reserve,  perhaps fractionally lighter.  Bouquet shows intriguing florals including both carnations and the wallflower of the Northern Rhone,  on cassis,  blueberry and darkest plum berry.  It is intriguing to speculate on the contribution the 2.5% co-fermented viognier has added to the complexity,  once revealed,  for the bouquet is a delight.  The palate shows similar berry fruit qualities to the Mudbrick Reserve,  but is slightly more aromatic with more new oak,  and slightly less body.  This wine is clearly modern Northern Rhone in style,  and one senses a potential bush-honey note yet to develop – a hallmark character of Cote Rotie and Hermitage in certain years.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 07/10

2008  Cable Bay Syrah   17 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap; Sy 97%,  Vi 3,  hand-picked;  2 days cold-soak,  co-fermented;  c.14 months in French oak some new;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  one of the lightest syrahs.  Bouquet is light,  clean and fresh,  with a light 'red' version of cassis (rather than the darker colour normally associated with it),  red plums and rose florals,  not at all clearly syrah in this blind tasting.  Palate likewise could easily be a merlot / cabernet franc wine style,  for it has attractive St Emilion mouthfeel and styling,  and much more fruit than the bouquet suggests.  Later,  once revealed,  one can re-interpret the tasting stimuli as loganberry,  maybe.  This is a fascinating syrah,  beautifully oaked,  food-friendly,  but not clearly varietal !  Score is for the delightful fruit.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose   17 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ cork;  3 clones of syrah hand-harvested, 100% de-stemmed;  extended cuvaison;  16 months in French oak 40% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little ruby and carmine.  Bouquet is very fragrant in a red fruits floral style,  a hint of the same Spanish complexity as is suggested by an American component (Te Mata don't use American oak in Bullnose Syrah).  The florals include dianthus and red roses,  there is some cassis,  but more fragrant red plums,  with white more than black pepper.  Palate expands these sensations,  the flavours a little different,  quite a vanilla wafer with a touch of raspberry in the red-fruits aftertaste,  on softly aromatic oak.  There is not the weight of the top wines,  but potentially this is a good food wine – almost a pinot noir thought again.  Cellar 5 – 8 years,  maybe 10.  Once the identity is revealed,  I have to record I have never tasted a bottle of 2007 Bullnose Syrah like this EIT one,  before.  It is not obviously cork-affected in the sense of anything negative,  but it is not 'right'.  The other reviews on this site give a better guide.  [[ Date should be 6/10,  for technical reasons has to be changed ]]  GK 07/10

2007  Bridge Pa Syrah Louis   17 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ supercritical 'cork';  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  c.18 months in American oak,  some new;  www.bridgepa.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet of good weight.  Bouquet is beautifully fragrant and rich,  berry dominant with aromas of aromatic plums and cassis,  plus a touch of juniper berry,  nasturtium nectar,  a savoury character reminiscent of faint brett,  and noticeable oak.  Palate is rich and savoury,  the suggestion of brett still present,  but fusing with the blueberry fruit in an exciting way,  positive at this level.  A suggestion of Australia here too,  on the oakyness,  but interesting wine.  Sterile-filtered to bottle,  so can be cellared confidently.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Bilancia Syrah la Collina   17 ½  ()
Roy's Hill,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ supercritical 'cork';  Sy 97%,  Vi 3,  100% de-stemmed;  co-fermented on c. viognier skins;  MLF and 18 months in 100% new French oak coopered in Burgundy;  grown on the NW slopes of Roy’s Hill,  adjacent to but not part of the Gimblett Gravels;  release date mid-2011,  though some has escaped;  www.bilancia.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  quite rich.  Initially opened,  the wine is sulky and tending reductive.  It needs pouring from jug to jug splashily half a dozen times.  Bouquet is then on the oakier side in this batch,  but still explicitly syrah with dianthus and wallflower florals on good plummy fruit.  Palate is aromatic on the oak,  but fruit is quite rich and the aftertaste long.  The wine is more acid than some.  Styling is a little closer to some Australian wines,  and the score given here is very 'well-ventilated'.  A later release date makes sense,  but it will still benefit from holding some years,  and then decanting splashily.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Cypress Terraces Syrah   17 +  ()
Roy's Hill,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  20 months in French oak 50% new;  www.cypresswines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is unusual,  fragrant in a mixed way,  with both wallflower-like florals and some pennyroyal mint on cassis and white and black pepper.  Palate brings up the berry,  and the wine swings back from nearly Australian to reminders of Cote Rotie,  light cassis and even dianthus smells and flavours in mouth,  but the oak is a little too aromatic for the lighter fruit weight.  The wine is very pure,  richer and riper than the Brookfield's,  not as rich as (even this tasting's lesser) Bullnose.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2008  d'Arenberg Shiraz Footbolt   17 +  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Sh 100%;  an average of 12 months in mostly older larger-format French and American oak,  but a small BF component in barriques some new;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This is another d'Arenberg that needs vigorous aeration,  to show its best.  The technical control on this batch of reds does seem a bit slack – hopefully a passing phase for this well-regarded winery.  Well ventilated,  this wine too reveals blueberry and boysenberry shiraz,  all a little lighter and fresher than the 2007 of the same label,  with the acid slightly more noticeable.  It should marry up in cellar,  over 5 – 12 or so years.  GK 07/10

2008  Passage Rock Syrah   17 +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% hand-picked;  30 days cuvaison;  c.10 months in oak mostly American 60% new,  but more French oak than 2007;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a little lighter than the Reserve,  but not much.  Bouquet is even more dramatically varietal syrah than the Reserve,  showing wallflower florals on cassis and bottled black doris fruit,  plus clearer black pepper than the Reserve.  There is less oak,  and less brett,  but still some.  Palate is fresh and plummy,  not as rich as the Reserve,  and slightly higher acid,  but attractive.  The berry quality of this fruit is so good,  and the role of American oak so much less than in earlier vintages of Passage Rock Syrah,  that it will be exciting when the winery has the brett issues sorted.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 07/10

2009  Mudbrick Vineyard Syrah Shepherds Point   17  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $42   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked,  all de-stemmed,  inoculated yeast,  1 day cold-soak,  15 – 21 days cuvaison,  some months in American and French oak,  some new;  sterile-filtered to bottle;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  attractive.  Bouquet shows wallflower florals and white pepper lifted by light VA into a very fragrant wine,  clearly syrah.  Palate is a little edgy on the VA,  but shows cassis in the blueberry fruit,  all attractively oaked,  and fair richness.  Should marry up and be fine in cellar 3 – 8 years,  and maybe 10.  GK 06/10

2007  Brookfields Syrah Hillside   17  ()
Hill-slopes south of Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  Brookfields' 'Hillside Vineyard' lies on the gentle slopes south of SH50,  lying ideally to the north;  18 months in mixed French and American oak,  much new;  www.brookfieldsvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet suggests wallflowers and oak,  before plummy berry registers too.  Palate shows quite noticeable oak in a more blueberry-fruit lean style of syrah,  not quite the weight of the wines marked more highly,  and a hint of stalk,  making the oak more obtrusive.  There are suggestions of white more than black pepper,  and reminders of cooler-year Cote Rotie.  This is another syrah which could develop bush-honey notes in maturity.  These hillside sites,  like Bilancia's La Collina,  illustrate just how subtle the temperature gradient is in the Bay.  Most of the hillside syrahs from Hawkes Bay so far have tended critically under-ripe,  notwithstanding the gushing reports from "overseas",  and thus reflect imperfect-year Cote-Rotie in their styling,  not good-year Hermitage.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Paritua Syrah   16 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ Stelvin Lux;  hand-picked at a low cropping rate;  all de-stemmed but 20% whole berries;  some cold soak;  c.11 month in French oak,  50% new;  www.paritua.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than most.  Bouquet is clean and fragrant,  but with a note of oxidation and mint in red plummy fruit.  Palate is therefore quite Australian and shiraz-like,  with suggestions of loganberry apparent and some blueberry,  plus careful fragrant oak,  tasting better than it smells.  The mint note becomes a trace of euc on the aftertaste.  Unusual syrah,  in the  New Zealand context.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage Papillon   16 ½  ()
Crozes-Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  Sy 100%;  Papillon is the estate's commercial wine,  with enzyme use pre-fermentation,  seeing little or no oak but some aeration in (presumably concrete) tank,  fined and filtered;  a Maison Vauron wine ]
Older ruby and velvet,  quite deep.  Bouquet is strong and fragrant in the set,  with an off-centre floral component reminiscent of paper-whites / jonquils plus almost a suggestion of spearmint.  There is also a darkly spicy nutmeg and friars balsam hint,  which is probably brett-related.  Palate shows fair fruit which is clearly syrah,  quite darkly plummy with a hint of black peppercorn,  older oak only,  all quite rich and more attractive than the bouquet.  All in all,  rich,  mixed ripeness,  old-fashioned / rustic syrah,  which should cellar 5 – 8 years.  When English winewriters persist in comparing better New Zealand syrahs with the wines of Crozes-Hermitage,  wines like this though quite widely distributed show that the comments are near-insults.  GK 06/10

2007  The Hay Paddock Syrah   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $65   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Syrah 88%,  PV 12;  the website info is updated from the verbal,  this is website;  hand-picked second crop from fourth-year vines said to be @ c.1 t/ac,  100% de-stemmed;  6 days cold soak,  cultured yeast,  c.28 days cuvaison,  MLF in tank;  initial 6 months in new French oak,  then 6 – 8 months in a mix;  around 300 cases,  light fining,  filtration uncertain;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is lifted by VA,  on oaky and slightly cassisy berry not immediately identifiable as syrah in the blind tasting.  In mouth there is fair fruit,  more red plums and a hint of raspberries than black fruits,  suggestions of white pepper rather than black,  more fruit than the Harvestman label,  but no great excitement as syrah.  Finish is soft and food-friendly,  the level of VA not interfering with palate qualities.  A little more richness and ripeness is needed here,  if the cropping rate is correct,  presumably from increasing vine age.  Adding petit verdot to syrah seems unwise to me,  in the sense it is hard to ripen in Bordeaux,  and stalkyness is the last thing one wants in syrah.  Merlot usually ripens at about the same time as syrah,  and seems a much more fragrant and plausible companion texturally,  if a blending partner is needed at all to optimise syrah quality.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  in its style.  The "overseas" awards are noted.  GK 06/10

2007  d'Arenberg Shiraz / Viognier The Laughing Magpie   16 ½  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  Sh 90% co-fermented with 10% or more Vi and Vi skins;  some BF in newer oak,  11 months US & French barriques,  some new;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is more old-fashioned on this wine in this year,  with rich fruit,  but also a dull fermentation quality,  and some eucalyptus.  Below is dark plummy to boysenberry fruit.  Palate is not as rich as the bouquet promised,  with harsh acid making the oak seem clumsy too.  It will smooth out in cellar over 5 – 15 years,  but probably end up a bit leathery,  'Australian',  and straightforward.  Not a great year for this label.  GK 07/10

2008  Jurassic Ridge Syrah   16 +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $35   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Sy 100% Limmer clone,  hand-harvested;  2 weeks cuvaison;  French and American oak 50/50 and 30% new for 12 – 18 months;  no fining,  minimal filtration;  c.175 cases;  www.jurassicridge.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is congested,  still retaining fermentation and MLF odours,  not enough oxygen in elevation.  Pour the wine splashily from jug to jug five or so times,  to give a better chance of revealing austere red plum fruit,  still not very varietal.  Palate is better than bouquet,  in all other respects the wine is technically sound,  a good level of ripe fruit,  and well balanced as a medium-weight syrah.  The retained fermentation odours simply destroy varietal beauty.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  perhaps to emerge from its sulky chrysalis and display hints of Cote Rotie.  Will always need decanting.  GK 06/10

2007  Te Awa Syrah Gimblett Gravels   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ supercritical 'cork';  Sy 99% all Limmer clone,  Vi 1,  all hand-picked;  100% de-stemmed,  5 days cold soak,  wild-yeast fermentation;  MLF and 15 months in French oak 300s,  some new;  improved website;  www.teawa.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a great colour.  This wine is a bit the odd-man-out,  the bouquet being fat and rich but not fresh and elegant,  and probably not optimally stable – there is a stewed and estery quality to it.  Palate is rich and ripe to over-ripe,  dull as syrah,  over-ripened,  no florality.  Palate opts for heaviness and chocolate,  American-style,  not varietal precision.  Will probably marry up in cellar and become stable,  and if so could be marked higher,  but cellaring beyond 3 – 8 years looks dubious at the moment.  GK 06/10

2007  d'Arenberg Shiraz Lovegrass   16  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Sh just over 85%,  PV 5,  CS 5,  Te 2,  Vi 2,  the balance an astonishing mix of red varieties from experimental sections of the vineyard,  including in addition Gr,  graciano,  various Portugese tinta varieties,  tannat etc to lift the shiraz;  up to 20 months in mostly older larger-format French and American oak,  but a small BF component in barriques some new;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is muted and puzzling on this shiraz blend.  Just under 15% of the wine is aromatic red varieties from France,  Spain and Portugal mainly,  but at this early stage,  sadly the main aromatic on palate is unattractive raw euc.  Palate is lighter than some,  acid noticeably adjusted,  the eucalyptus tastable.  Needs a few years to soften and become more winey,  hopefully.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  if euc'y wines appeal.  GK 07/10

2008  Man O' War Syrah Dreadnought   16  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $46   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested from hillsides sites @ c. 1.5 t/ac,  100% de-stemmed,  3 days ambient-soak,  wild yeast supplemented by cultured,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  MLF and 15 months in barrel,  French oak 15% new,  American 5% new,  balance older and mostly French;  dry;  sterile-filtered to bottle;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  quite rich.  Bouquet too is rich and winey in an old-fashioned Chateauneuf-du-Pape sense.  I have already said that marking is permissive in this set of reviews,  but when in a rigorously blind tasting of cabernet blends and syrahs a wine smells primarily of smoked fish and bacon,  even I,  tolerant of brett,  am inclined to call a halt.  Sad,  because there is lovely cassis-quality syrah fruit below.  In this tasting at the blind stage I scored this wine lower than my last encounter with it in the January Syrah Symposium,  but for once will consciously reapply the Symposium score.  As noted previously,  this wine is sterile-filtered,  so if you like its spectrum of savoury smells and flavours and its undoubted richness,  it will be stable in bottle.  Again,  the "overseas" awards are noted.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/10

2006  The Hay Paddock Syrah   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $65   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Sy 98%,  PV 2,  hand-picked first crop from third year vines @ c.1 t/ac,  100% de-stemmed;  no cold soak,  cultured yeast,  10 days cuvaison,  MLF in tank;  12 months in French oak 75% new, balance third year;  300 cases,  sterile filtered;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is older too,  a little oxidation,  a little brett,  a slightly leafy under-ripe florality and red fruits only,  a dash of white pepper,  all tending old-fashioned like the Robin.  Palate has browning cassis,  and lightly stalky red plum fruit with a savoury lift,  clearly syrah in a rustic and minor Cote Rotie styling.  As for the 2007,  better ripening would help these wines,  but at least the style is food-friendly.  Again,  the "overseas" awards are noted.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 06/10

2007  Tin Pot Hut Syrah   15 ½ +  ()
Dartmoor Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ screwcap;  MLF and c.6 months in barrel;  website has no wine-specific info;  www.tinpothut.co.nz ]
Ruby.  This is the strangest wine,  for a New Zealand syrah.  It smells and tastes to a degree like Seppelts Moyston in the 1960s,  when some of the fruit still came from Great Western,  and there was no new oak.  Bouquet has raspberry-led fruit,  a suggestion of white pepper,  and odd 'oak'.  In mouth it is even more raspberry,  very Australian parameters indicating shiraz styling rather than syrah,  and the finish is not bone dry.  On reflection,  the oak has a suggestion of Californian redwood in its flavour.  Strange wine,  concocted if one didn't like it,  or fragrant QDR otherwise.  Certainly not varietal in the New Zealand context.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/10

2008  The Hay Paddock Syrah Harvest Man   15 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $38   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked @ c.2 t/ac from fifth year vines,  following 50% crop-thinning;  (if like 2007) 100% de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  cuvaison 18 days (8 cold-soak,  8 ferment,  2 maceration);  MLF in tank,  12 months in barrel 25% new American,  balance older French;  sterile filtered,  increase over the 372 cases in 2007;  'An earlier-drinking, fruit driven style …';  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Older ruby.  This is curious wine too,  tending French in a negative sense,  slightly oxidised,  slightly bretty,  vaguely varietal mainly on the white pepper,  but some red fruits,  even a hint of raspberry like the Tin Pot,  so enough in the blind tasting with the white pepper to identify it as syrah.  Palate is more clearly varietal,  but under-fruited and tending stalky,  over-cropped probably (though the site notes make a point of saying not so),  or at least under-ripened,  to the red fruits level only.  Oak is careful,  not dominating the light fruit.  More a QDR syrah,  cellar 2 – 5 years.  Again,  the "overseas" awards are noted.  GK 06/10

2008  Miro Syrah   14  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $55   [ cork;  Sy 97%,  Vi 3,  hand-picked from (the Sy) 18-year vines on a terraced vineyard;  no detail on website;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Rich ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet sadly is reductive,  completely stifling the rich fruit.  Palate confirms the fruit quality implied by the colour,  but is short  and austere on the entrained sulphide.  Many people are blind to reduced sulphur,  and will like this better than me.  Doubtful it will recover in bottle / cellar,  even after 10 to 12 years – I wouldn't cellar it.  GK 06/10

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2006  d'Arenberg Shiraz / Grenache d'Arry's Original   18  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Sh 50%,  Gr 50;  half the wine raised in French and American barriques some new,  some in large old oak,  after blending all in old oak 12-ish months;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  a hint of age.  This is the latter-day incarnation of the original and famous 1960s d'Arenberg Red-Stripe Burgundy.  The glorious thing about the wine is that it's style has scarcely changed over the years,  yet it has benefitted from modern thinking too.  Back in the 60s this wine was sometimes oppressively reductive.  Even now,  the first thing to do on opening is to pour it splashily from jug to jug five or so times.  Bouquet then freshens up remarkably to display an antipodean kind of Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  with soft varietal fruit and a touch of raspberry,  dark plum and tar.  Palate is potentially soft and velvety,  with fresh berry yet older oak,  scarcely any sign of added acid,  and no euc'y taints.  This will cellar for 30 years,  if you ask it to and like old and mellow wine,  and mature beautifully.  A case-buy wine.  VALUE.  GK 07/10

2006  d'Arenberg Grenache Custodian   16 ½ +  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Gr 100%;  half the wine raised in French and American barriques some new,  some in large old oak,  once blended all in old oak 12-ish months;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  The styling on this wine is a bit too old-fashioned,  it being plainly reductive on opening.  Pour it from jug to jug 10 times,  as splashily as possible.  It gradually clears to raspberry-like grenache fruit,  but still with shadows of heaviness.  Palate is better,  good fruit weight,  broader than the Original,  similar older oak mainly.  Cellar 5 – 15 or more years.  GK 07/10

2008  d'Arenberg Grenache / Shiraz / Mourvedre Stump Jump   15 ½  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $16   [ screwcap;  Gr 100%;  large old oak only,  for what percentage unknown;  info lacking on website;  www.darenberg.com.au ]
Light ruby.  Bouquet shows clean light VA on somewhat stalky raspberry and cinnamon grenache,  the stalky part presumably the mourvedre.  Palate is almost totally grenache,  pleasant 'lifted' raspberry of no great weight,  slightly stalky,  but happily not much oaked either.  This big old cooperage is a lovely way to handle wine,  if palatability and food-friendlyness is the goal,  rather than Show awards.  Just a pity this wine is a little flawed – a flaw,  it has to be said,  which many people (and wine judges) like,  and even mark up.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  unless you are sensitive to VA.  GK 07/10

All other red wines, blends etc
2008  Jurassic Ridge Montepulciano   18 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.8%;  $35   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Mo 100%,  hand-harvested;  3 weeks cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 30% new;  no fining,  minimal filtering;  c.210 cases;  sold out;  www.jurassicridge.com ]
Rich ruby,  carmine and velvet.  In the blind tasting,  this wine like the Stonyridge straight malbec causes confusion,  because of its big richly omega plummy style,  with complexity notes which don't fit neatly into the main classes represented – Bordeaux blends or syrah.  The big fruit on bouquet is lifted by a little VA,  and in mouth the texture is deliciously thick,  with oak still to marry in.  This is exciting montepulciano,  free of the brett the original almost always shows.  It is quite robust wine (to put it constructively),  rather than a finessed one,  but so are many from Abruzzi.  There is some similarity with the malbecs of Cahors,  in that.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/10

2009  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Montepulciano   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  15%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  cuvaison c.15 days,  cultured yeast;  MLF and 9 months in barrel,  20% new French,  25% 1-year American,  balance older French;  387 cases,  fourth vintage;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  an attractive colour.  Bouquet is pure,  bright,  and plummily fragrant,  with almost a dark floral note and beautifully ripe cassis,  seemingly riper and deeper than the Destiny Dulce.  Palate contrasts however,  being much firmer with some sucking-on-plum-stones phenolics,  but an attractive ratio of plum-flesh richness too.  Physiological maturity is demonstrably better than the 2009 Weeping Sands Merlot,  which is counter-intuitive and intriguing,  and even more interesting when compared with the 2008 Jurassic Ridge Montepulciano,  which shows near-optimal physiological maturity in the riper 2008 season.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/10