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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
independent
analytical
non-commercial
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
THE JOYS OF BEAUJOLAIS,  GRASSHOPPERS TOO,  PURIRI HILLS & OBSIDIAN VINEYARDS,  ODDMENTS:


What a joy good beaujolais is !   Earlier in the year I had to comment on how sadly New Zealand gamay fell short of the smells / flavours / physiological maturity requirements for the gamay grape of the Beaujolais district of Burgundy,  France.  Now however,  in the last two years Maison Vauron in Auckland have started importing an exhilarating range of beaujolais.  This is pretty well the first serious attempt to represent a cross-section of wines from this magical viticultural district since Negociants NZ had a good Sylvain-Fessy selection and Murray Sandman had the Duboeuf range in the latter part of 1986 (which I reviewed in National Business Review,  at the time).  At that point the market simply was not sophisticated enough to recognise the quality of those wines,  and importing them lapsed,  but now with New Zealand pinot noir such an emerging success,  beaujolais should be another story.  Mason Vauron's website lists no less than 47 different beaujolais labels or vintages,  and I suspect that is not complete.  Remarkable !

I can't speak for all of them,  but the Maison Vauron wines in this batch are the real thing.  They are modern Beaujolais,  overlapping remarkably with affordable to middle-range New Zealand pinot noirs.  Many of them seemed to have the slightest whisper of oak about them,  some a little more.  Later inquiries to Jean-Cristophe Poizat of Maison Vauron confirmed a the presence of oak,  one way or another,  in many of them.  A little background reading confirms that there is a widespread desire to restore the Beaujolais district to being a serious producer of burgundy red wines,  after the excesses of the light fresh wines in the maceration carbonique era.  Thus more and more producers are reverting to at least a percentage of traditional fermentation and a little time in oak.  These latterday wines are the type Maison Vauron are selecting.  The district has been assisted in this by three attractive vintages in a row,  the very ripe and rich 2009s,  the more classically ripe and aromatic 2010s,  and then it seems another serious year in 2011.

The most exciting part is the prices overlap with New Zealand pinot noir too.  All the better beaujolais are in the $25 $35 range,  exactly where the quality / price ratio is optimal for selected New Zealand pinots.  Beaujolais may not cellar as long as the better New Zealand pinots,  and with its fresh gamay fruit it does not have quite the magic in food-matching that either pinot noir or fragrant Cotes-du-Rhones do,  but do not suppose these serious beaujolais are ephemeral wines far from it.  To illustrate some of these points,  and little knowing what was in store,  I put the new release 2010 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh into the totally blind tasting,  along with a modern Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and a modern Argentinean malbec.  What a wonderful sensory workout and not as obvious as you might suppose.  The 2010 Grasshopper is exquisitely floral,  surpassing all the beaujolais.  This really is a winery to watch,  and buy while it is affordable.

Otherwise these wine notes include a few from the emerging Waiheke Island winery Obsidian Vineyard and its more commercial label Weeping Sands,  the current reds from the very focussed Puriri Hills premium winery at Clevedon southeast of Auckland city,  and a variety of others.  

Acknowledgments:  Jean-Cristophe Poizat of Maison-Vauron,  Judy Fowler of Puriri Hills,  and Lindsay Spilman of Obsidian Vineyard went out of their way to provide background information.






LAYOUT AND THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
2010  de Vine Chardonnay Nelson
2010  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Chardonnay Black Label
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2012  Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc
2010  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc
2012  Starborough Sauvignon Blanc
2011  Te Pa Sauvignon Blanc
Riesling
Pinot Gris
2010  Crater Rim Pinot Gris
2009  Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Gris The Pioneer
2011  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Pinot Gris
2010  Spy Valley Pinot Gris Envoy
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
2010  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2011  Elephant Hill Le Phant Blanc
2010  Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc
Red
Rosé
2012  Black Cottage Rosé
2010  Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2010  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Merlot
2008  Puriri Hills [ Cabernet Franc / Merlot ] Pope
2010  Puriri Hills [ Merlot / Cabernet Franc ] Pope
2008  Puriri Hills [ Merlot / Cabernet Franc ] Reserve
2008  Puriri Hills [ Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec ] Estate
2010  Puriri Hills [ Merlot / Carmenere / Cab Sauvignon ] Reserve
2010  Trapiche Malbec Oak Cask
2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot
2009  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Merlot
Cabernet / Shiraz
 Pinot Noir
2010  J-P Brun Terres Dorées Morgon
2010  Domaine Cheysson Chiroubles
2010  Domaine Chignard Fleurie Les Moriers
2009  de Vine Pinot Noir Central Otago
2009  de Vine Pinot Noir Martinborough
2009  Vincent Girardin Domaine de la Tour du Bief Moulin a Vent Clos de la Tour
2010  Ch Grange-Cochard Morgon
2008  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh
2010  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard
2009  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Pinot Noir Black Label
2007  Peregrine Pinot Noir The Pinnacle
2010  [ Peregrine ] Saddleback Pinot Noir
2010  Domaine Piron-Lameloise Chenas Quartz
2010  Potel-Aviron Julienas Vieilles Vignes
2011  Starborough Pinot Noir
2011  Te Pa Pinot Noir
2010  Ch Thivin Brouilly
2010  Ch Thivin Cote de Brouilly Clos Bertrand
2010  P-M Chermette Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Coeur de Vendanges
2010  P-M Chermette Domaine du Vissoux Moulin a Vent La Rochelle
Syrah = Shiraz
2009  Boutique Wine Company Shiraz McLaren Vale
2010  de Vine Shiraz Barossa Valley
2010  Equis Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Lises
2009  Obsidian Syrah
2011  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
2007  Jacobs Creek Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon / Tempranillo
2010  [ Umani Ronchi ] Podere Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
2011  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Montepulciano
2011  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Tempranillo
From the Cellar. Older wines.
1994  Delas Freres Hermitage Cuvée Marquise de La Tourette
2002  Obsidian [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Obsidian
2000  Ch Picque-Caillou
1991  Ch Tahbilk Shiraz [ 1860-Vines ]


White
Chardonnay
2010  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Chardonnay Black Label   17 ½  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  Ch hand-harvested from 11-year vines;  all BF in French oak 30% new,  20% warm ferments,  20% wild yeast,  no MLF component at all;  11 months in the same barrels;  what a pleasure the Ngatarawa website is becoming,  with such a good level of detail now;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Lemon more than straw,  good.  Bouquet is clear chardonnay in a fractionally lighter weight than the de Vine wine,  not quite so ripe and oaky,  subtle all through.  Palate shows an elegant balance of pale peachy fruit,  subtle barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis,  in a clean wine which is attractively balanced.  This is elegant chardonnay which will appeal to those preferring not quite so much oak.  Cellar 3 8 years.  GK 08/12

2010  de Vine Chardonnay Nelson   17 +  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  BF in 80% French 25% new,  20% American 20% new barrels,  and 12 months in barrel with batonnage;  produced to the specification of the Manly Liquor Store,  Whangaparoa Peninsula;  no website. ]
Good lemonstraw.  Bouquet is clearly ripe clean and fragrant mendoza-style chardonnay,  showing golden queen peach and some grapefruit qualities plus considerable barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis complexity.  Bouquet is lifted by highish alcohol,  yet complexed and softened by the oatmeal of the winemaking.  Palate is clear-cut chardonnay,  strong enough and oaky enough to appeal to those seeking a traditional rich chardonnay,  yet the quality of the winemaking has softened the oak with mealy flavours and good textures,  and a long finish.  Cellar 2 6 years.  GK 08/12

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2011  Te Pa Sauvignon Blanc   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  no useful wine information detectable on the website;  www.tepawines.com ]
Pale lemon green.  The wine needs splashy decanting to dispel light reductive winemaking odours.  There is then fairly ripe sauvignon varietal character with a slightly sweaty complexity,  and pleasant fruit.  In mouth,  the finish is commercially dry and shows good gentle acid balance.  Cellar 2 5 years.  GK 08/12

2012  Starborough Sauvignon Blanc   16 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $23   [ screwcap;  no information for this wine on website,  if like the 2010,  is cool-picked,  cold-settled,  cool-fermented in s/s,  a small % BF in French oak for complexity;  RS 4 g/L;  www.starborough.co.nz ]
Pale lemon green.  Leaving aside it is offensive to market sauvignon blanc under six months old,  bouquet on this wine is lightly varietal and clean,  with hints of red capsicum and black passionfruit.  Palate is infantile,  not quite as rich as the Mount Riley,  but not as acid and clearly riper.  It should be much better in six months.  Cellar 2 5 years.  GK 08/12

2012  Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc   16  ()
Wairau Valley 90%,  balance Marlborough too,  New Zealand:  13%;  $15   [ screwcap;  cool-fermented in s/s;  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.mountriley.co.nz ]
Pale lemon green.  Leaving aside it is offensive to market sauvignon blanc under six months old,  the bouquet here is raw and needing aeration,  to reveal slightly under-ripe clear sauvignon.  Palate shows the under-ripeness more,  yellow capsicum rather more than black passionfruit,  total acid on the high side,  residual sugar less than the average commercial 'dry' (or seeming so from the high acid).  A wine more suited to the English market than the New Zealand one,  I suspect.  Cellar 1 3 years.  GK 08/12

2010  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc   15 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ screwcap;  all s/s;  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is simple sauvignon blanc well-past its first bloom of youth,  mild,  slightly leafy and semillon-like.  Palate is slightly cardboardy,  fair fruit,  tasting more like a minor Hawke's Bay sauvignon than a Marlborough one,  the gentle acid balance making it better with food than some in this batch,  commercially dry.  A mystery why a two-year-old sauvignon showing no benefit from ageing has been released at a retail price of more than $20.  Under $10 would be more realistic for this wine,  in 2012.  Will hold a year or two.  GK 08/12

Pinot Gris
2011  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Pinot Gris   17 ½  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ screwcap;  PG machine harvested,  s/s-fermented;  RS 4 g/L;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Faintly flushed pale straw.  Bouquet is beautifully fresh,  clean and lightly varietal,  nearly floral in a palest rosebud way.  Palate is clearly pear-flesh pinot gris,  but the phenolics are carefully handled to give just a pleasing suggestion of grip and some cinnamon.  The residual sweetness is elegant,  virtually dry.  Serious pinot gris,  to cellar 2 6 years.  GK 08/12

2009  Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Gris The Pioneer   16  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  only PG mentioned,  two pickings one 20%  botrytised;  RS 12.6 g/L;  www.lawsonsdryhills.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  Bouquet is lifted by light VA,  from a rather featureless plain base.  In mouth,  the palate is coarse and phenolic as if something else has been blended in,  but the wine is 'fruity' in an off-dry non-varietal way.  At the price one would expect benchmark pinot gris,  but this is too estery and sweet.  It will appeal to people wanting flavour.  Cellar a year or two only.  GK 08/12

2010  Spy Valley Pinot Gris Envoy   14  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ screwcap;  hand-picked,  BF and 7 months LA in barrels kind unspecified;  RS 31 g/L;  tiresome hard-to-read but so-fashionable all-black website;  www.spyvalleywine.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  Bouquet is dominated by VA,  below which is nashi fruit.  Nashi itself is high in VA,  particularly the esters,  but that does not make it a good wine feature.  Palate is coarse,  thick,  estery and sweet,  with an un-ripe phenolic component detracting further.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/12

2010  Crater Rim Pinot Gris   12  (-)
Waipara Valley,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ screwcap;  a single-vineyard wine,  website implies but does not confirm hand-picked,  not cold-settled,  s/s ferment and perhaps 6 months lees autolysis; RS not given;  the name The Crater Rim derives from the firm's first vineyard on the slopes of the Akaroa volcano,  above Akaroa;  www.thecraterrim.co.nz ]
Light gold.  I don't know whether this was a hoped-to-be botrytised pinot gris,  but the result is a fluid smelling greenly herbaceous,  old-fashioned and totally un-winey.  Flavours in mouth are similar,  clearly phenolic,  but also with premature oxidation and clumsy sweetness.  Avoid.  GK 08/12

Viognier
2010  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Viognier   15 ½  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle and Moteo district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  Vi machine-harvested,  BF with cultured yeast in French oak 12% new;  unstated time in barrel presumably on lees,  no MLF;  RS < 2 g/L;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  Bouquet is pleasing in a meyer lemon-inflected kind of way,  but pale and lacking ripeness characters for good viognier.  If it tasted the way it smells it would be better,  but on palate the under-ripe leafy side of the fruit plus stalky phenolics make the wine clumsy and not good as varietal viognier.  Like Te Mata's Woodthorpe plantings of viognier,  one has to wonder if Moteo is warm enough to develop ideal viognier ripeness.  Palate richness is helped by pleasant body which seems like subtle residual sweetness,  but the numbers say not.  Cellar a year or two only.  GK 08/12

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2010  Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc   17 +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $26   [ cork;  Vi 55%,  Ro 20,  Ma 10,  Cl 10,  Bo 5;  average vine age 25  years;  cropped at c.5 t/ha (2 t/ac);  free-run juice,  all s/s;  33,000 cases;  www.guigal.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is light,  clean,  pure and winey,  highly vinifera,  blind smelling like good marsanne.  Palate shows pleasing body,  is 'dry',  sophisticated,  exactly what good New Zealand pinot gris should be like,  an ideal mild dry white suited to all sorts of pale foods.  The predominance of viognier in the blend is all but invisible now,  but it will become more apparent.  Unlike the New Zealand viognier in this batch it is properly ripe.  Compared with a marsanne-based Rhone dry white,  this will not cellar too well beyond 3 5 years.  GK 08/12

2011  Elephant Hill Le Phant Blanc   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Vi,  PG and Gw,  all hand-harvested and sorted;  5% of the Vi BF,  the remainder s/s ferment;  dry extract 22 g/L;  RS 8.5 g/L;  www.elephanthill.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  This is a wine in two parts.  Bouquet is fragrant and attractive,  in the style of some better verdelho whites due to the slight lift the aromatic varieties in the blend give to dominant pinot gris notes.  Palate however is clumsier,  rather coarse phenolics then noticeable sweetness,  as if to cover that up,  and the aromatic varieties tasting banana-y and cheap.  Be hard to drink much of this,  but certainly a flavoursome aromatic white.  Cellar a year or two only.  GK 08/12

Red
Rosé
2010  Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé   17 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $26   [ screwcap;  Gr 50%,  Ci 40,  Mv 5,  Sy 5;  average vine age 25 years;  cropped at slightly more than 5 t/ha (2 t/ac);  free-run juice,  all s/s;  20,000 cases;  www.guigal.com ]
Pretty medium-light rosé.  Bouquet is pure,  winey,  and fragrant in a light way,  smelling of red grapes and especially cinsaut.  Palate shows slightly fleshy good fruit and body,  light tannin grip, and a dry finish.  Guigal's Rosé really is the world benchmark.  All New Zealand winemakers who make rosé need bottles of this to hand,  for calibration purposes.  One can easily imagine a more interesting rosé,  but firstly candidate wines need to be as straightforwardly pleasing as this rosé is,  clearly made from red grapes,  and dry or nearly so.  Cellar 1 3 years,  which improves the wine distinctly (as usual,  despite conventional wisdom).  GK 08/12

2012  Black Cottage Rosé   14  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $16   [ screwcap;  little specific info on website;  RS 4 g/L;  www.blackcottagewines.co.nz ]
Faintly pink-flushed 'white'.  Leaving aside it is offensive to market rosé under six months old,  the bouquet is clean and empty.  Together with the flavour,  the wine suggests pinot gris ripe sauvignon blanc flushed with a trace of pinot noir,  finish off-dry and acid.  It neither smells or tastes of red grapes,  and therefore fails as proper rosé.  It is perfectly clean,  wholesome and pleasant as a kind of 'blush' wine,  and better in a year or two.  GK 08/12

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2010  Puriri Hills [ Merlot / Cabernet Franc ] Pope   18 ½  ()
Clevedon,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $140   [ cork;  Me 54%,  CF 25,  Ca 17,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested @ c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  22 months in French oak 75% new;  not fined,  lightly filtered;  will not be released for some time,  price indicative;  www.puririhills.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Needs some air,  then the bouquet has that magical violets,  cedar and cassis quality that says Bordeaux,  really quite freaky.  There is a hint of blackberry too,  and fine fragrant oak.  Palate has great precision and delicacy,  a wine which would easily become lost amongst more burly / oaky Australasian bordeaux blends,  but one gradually realises  there is an enchanting fruit weight and texture.  Even so,  new-oaking is to a max,  but the oak is of high quality and potentially cedary.  This wine is totally of lighter classed growth quality.  It is exciting to think about how it will look in tastings of 2010 Bordeaux and 2009 Hawkes Bay blends in a few years time.  Cellar 5 15-plus years,  for a very beautiful medium-weight example of an east-bank-styled New Zealand bordeaux blend.  GK 08/12

2010  Puriri Hills [ Merlot / Carmenere / Cab Sauvignon ] Reserve   18 +  ()
Clevedon,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ cork;  Me 61%,  Ca 14,  CS 14,  CF 7,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested @ c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  22 months in French oak 57% new;  egg white fined,  lightly filtered;  will not be released for some time,  price indicative;  www.puririhills.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  darker and faintly older than the Pope.  Needs some air,  for the bouquet to show a deeper,  denser,  darker,  oakier wine than the 2010 Pope which is counterintuitive relative to the ratio of new oak in the two wines.  That's wine.  One would like to think the cassis note in this wine is a little more detectable than in 2010 Pope,  reflecting the greater cabernet sauvignon percentage,  but that may be a vanity.  In mouth,  there is succulent cassisy and plummy fruit,  and greater apparent richness than the Pope,  but at this stage the oak is quite intrusive.  Clearly 2010 was miraculously warm and ripe year in the Auckland district,  and this wine reflects that.  It is great to have New Zealand bordeaux blends with the more burly yesteryear variety carmenere in the blend.   Oak fans and big-wine fans will rate this higher than the more elegant 2010 Pope.  Cellar 5 20 years.  GK 08/12

2008  Puriri Hills [ Merlot / Cabernet Franc ] Reserve   18  ()
Clevedon,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $85   [ cork;  Me 51%,  CF 20,  Ca 13,  CS 9,  Ma 7,  hand-harvested @ c.6.75 t/ha = 2.7 t/ac;  21 months in French oak 48% new;  lightly fined,  filtered;  www.puririhills.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  This is a more petite wine alongside the 2010 Pope,  which is the wine of a fabulous year.  But there is the same extraordinary florality and berries on bouquet,  violets and nearly cassis,  not quite the plumpness maybe to suggest blackberry,  but totally good cru bourgeois-level Bordeaux in style.  Palate again has attractive delicacy and texture in wonderful red berries,  but not quite the richness of the 2010 Reserve.  It is enchanting to have such delicate,  subtly oaked New Zealand bordeaux blends of an east-bank persuasion with berry fruit so dominant.  In one sense this is a prettier wine than 2010 Pope,  due to less oak and also the cabernet sauvignon speaking with a louder voice than the % would justify.  Cellar 3 12 years.  GK 08/12

2008  Puriri Hills [ Cabernet Franc / Merlot ] Pope   17 ½ +  ()
Clevedon,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $140   [ cork;  CF 52%,  Me 32,  Ca 16,  hand-harvested @ c.6.75 t/ha = 2.7 t/ac;  21 months in French oak 73% new;  lightly fined,  filtered;  www.puririhills.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  lighter than the Reserve 2008.  In these three 2008 Puriri Hills bordeaux blends,  this smells the oakiest of the three.  It benefits from air.  It is all very pure,  and will appeal to oakniks,  but great Bordeaux allows for more explicit varietal expression.  [ Sadly this is changing under the influence of American commentators demanding more ripeness,  more power,  more oak,  less subtlety,  but with any luck this phase will be but the swing of the pendulum ].  In mouth,  the same Bordeaux-like fruit quality that the Estate and Reserve wines show can be found,  and the total wine is richer,  but the level of cedary oak remains intrusive.  Otherwise the wine is beautifully flavoured,  and there is no hint of the leafyness I commented on for the 2005 vintage at this property.  Cellar 5 15 years.  GK 08/12

2008  Puriri Hills [ Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec ] Estate   17 ½  ()
Clevedon,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $45   [ cork;  Me 53%,  CS 25,  Ma 16,  Ca 6,  hand-harvested @ c.6.75 t/ha = 2.7 t/ac  21 months in French oak 0% new;  lightly fined,  filtered;  www.puririhills.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  the same hue but a little lighter than the Reserve.  Bouquet has this extraordinary Bordeaux look-alike quality the best Auckland district merlot / cabernets (and related wines) show,  being beautifully floral and fragrant,  cassis and violets.  Palate is a little less,  the wine dainty rather than impressive,  exactly in the style of many a good cru bourgeois at perhaps the Potensac level,  despite this Estate wine being merlot-dominant.  The fragrant even vibrant cassis notes from the cabernet component lift the bouquet greatly.  Not a big wine,  but one showing good varietal precision.  It reminds a little of Benfield & Delamare in that Martinborough wine's riper years.  This will be delicious with food,  once it has softened in cellar 3 10 years.  GK 08/12

2010  Trapiche Malbec Oak Cask   17 ½  ()
Mendoza,  Argentina:  14%;  $13   [ supercritical cork;  Ma 100% grown above 750 m,  hand-harvested;  cuvaison 25 days presumably in s/s;  unstated % aged in French and American oak for 9 months;  http://www.trapiche.com.ar/english/vinos_pdf/roble/MA.pdf ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the darkest wine in the beaujolais set,  but not ridiculously so.  Quite apart from the modern closure here too,  how the Trapiche wines have changed over the last 15 years.  This wine shows fragrant plummy berryfruit which is just gorgeous.  It is not too far out of kilter with the 2009 Moulin a Vent in its plummyness,  which shows how dramatically Trapiche have finessed their wines.  In mouth the wine is not quite so special,  there is a trace of stalk in the plummy fruit,  but again it is so much lighter,  fresher,  purer and more winey than 15 years ago.  It gives the impression of a wine blended from a stainless steel component,  a big old oak component,  and a new barrique component perhaps the smallest percentage.  Being a 2010 it is not yet completely married up.  This wine is absolutely benchmark commercial malbec.  It shows convincingly how most New Zealand malbec is not ripe enough,  so winemakers try to hide the stalkyness with oak which only makes the wine coarser.  Here the hint of stalk is so subtle,  like the oak now,  it merely freshens the wine.  There might be 2 g/L residual sugar.  This is a great commercial wine,  which will cellar 3 10 years.  Like the montepulciano therefore,  at $13 or thereabouts it is best bought by the caseload.  VALUE  GK 09/12

2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot   17 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $27   [ screwcap;  CS 54,  Me 40,  PV 4,  Ma 2,  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed,  cuvaison c.15 days,  cultured yeast;  MLF and 10 months in barrel all French < 15% new;  500 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a little deeper than the 2009 Merlot.  Bouquet shows clear cassis in a dramatically varietal cabernet way,  but with noticeable oak too.  Palate has attractive fruit,  good berry,  less oak than the 2002 Obsidian but it is still on the high side,  the berry fruit lingering well through to the aftertaste.  In the good years,  these Auckland bordeaux blends show a precision of ripening which is very attractive.  Cellar 3 8 years.  GK 08/12

2010  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Merlot    16 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Me machine-harvested;  c.21 days cuvaison;  elevation omitted in tasting notes on website;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Lightish ruby.  Bouquet is really evocative,  a kind of cassis,  red plum and pale tobacco aroma straight out of Entre-Deux-Mers,  clean and fragrant.  Palate is soft,  moderate richness,  and reasonably ripe,  the wine beautifully expressive of the variety merlot,  subtly oaked.  It is not perfectly ripe,  as neither are many of the wines of that Bordeaux district,  but the styling is attractive.  Cellar 3 8 years,  for a food-friendly petit Bordeaux winestyle.  GK 08/12

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.10 months in French oak 15% new;  450 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a little lighter and brighter than the 2008 Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot,  attractive.  Bouquet is clean and fragrant,  quite oaky so it is hard to see the subtleties of merlot,  but good berry.  Palate reveals a softer more plummy wine than the cabernet / merlot blend,  with good texture and fair varietal quality.  The late aftertaste reverts to the oak though,  letting the wine down relative to the Ngatarawa Merlot.  Cellar 3 8 years.  GK 08/12

Pinot Noir
2007  Peregrine Pinot Noir The Pinnacle   18 ½ +  ()
Cromwell Basin & Gibbston,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $175   [ screwcap; 11 months in French oak 48% new,  then 6 months in French oak some new;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Elegant pinot noir ruby,  a little age showing.  Bouquet is attractively floral and fragrant,  both roses and nearly boronia with a vanillin oak suggestion too,  sitting happily amongst the best of some 2006 Clos de Beze wines.  Palate has beautiful varietal fruit,  far richer than any of the Clos de Beze wines,  yet is not heavy at all.  The wine is totally burgundian,  though like some modern burgundies the oak is at a maximum.  This is totally grand cru level Cote de Nuits pinot noir / Burgundy.  Cellar 3 10 years.  GK 08/12

2009  Vincent Girardin Domaine de la Tour du Bief Moulin a Vent Clos de la Tour   18 ½ +  ()
Moulin-a-Vent,  Beaujolais,  France:  13%;  $37   [ cork;  gamay grown mostly on granite,  hand-picked;  traditional destemming and mostly fermentation in s/s,  elevation some in 5000-litre old wood,  some in barrique including some new;  www.vincentgirardin.com/fr/#/Bief ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the second deepest of these wines.  Alongside the 2010 Moulin a Vent,  this 2009 both provides a brilliant comparison of the vintages,  and illustrates another kind of perfection in beaujolais.  Here the whole wine is a notch riper,  but it is still dramatically gamay,  just slightly less floral,  instead more darkly plummy.  The volume of bouquet is great,  so much a key component of good beaujolais.  It follows that the palate is much softer,  riper,  and more ample as befits a very warm year,  yet it still has the fresh charm of gamay.  This is classic big Moulin a Vent,  and serious beaujolais,  the oak more apparent than the Chermette yet still subtle by New Zealand pinot standards.  Another glorious wine,  which will cellar 3 10 years.  GK 09/12

2010  P-M Chermette Domaine du Vissoux Moulin a Vent La Rochelle   18 ½ +  ()
Moulin-a-Vent,  Beaujolais,  France:  12%;  $40   [ cork;  gamay grown on granite,  hand-picked;  mostly maceration carbonique fermentation in concrete,  wild-yeast,  no chaptalisation,  minimal S02,  10 12 days cuvaison;  elevation half in big wood,  half in barrels to 5 years age;  www.chermette.fr ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not dense though,  above midway in depth.  Bouquet is benchmark for beaujolais and gamay ripened to the point of perfection,  richly floral with buddleia,  roses and violets,  beautiful cherry fruit more black than red,  no leafyness on bouquet.  Palate is fresh,  plump,  juicy,  yet still crunchy-fresh,  again no stalks or leafyness,  just perfect berry.  The oak is unbelievably,  vanishingly,  subtle.  It is extremely hard to obtain this pinpoint ripeness yet freshness in the Beaujolais style.  Lovely wine to cellar 3 8 years,  longer if you like old wine.  GK 09/12

2010  Potel-Aviron Julienas Vieilles Vignes   18 ½  ()
Julienas,  Beaujolais,  France:  13%;  $27   [ cork;  gamay grown mostly on granite,  average vine age 50 years,  hand-picked;  mostly maceration carbonique fermentation in concrete,  cuvaison 12 15 days;  elevation 12 14 months in 600-litre old wood;  no website found,  some info @ www.frederickwildman.com/national/winery/potel-aviron and follow lead for this label. ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the same medium weight is the Chermette Moulin a Vent,  just above midway in depth.  Quality of bouquet here is exactly between the top two wines,  not quite as floral as the La Rochelle but still wondrously floral,  and not quite as ripely plummy as the Girardin wine.  Palate is chock-full of black more than red cherry fruit,  in between the freshness of the top wine and the breadth of fruit of Girardin.  It could well be marked top,  therefore,  this gets pretty subtle.  Oak is a little apparent for beaujolais,  in classical terms.  Another to cellar 3 8 years.  GK 09/12

2010  Ch Thivin Cote de Brouilly Clos Bertrand   18 +  ()
Brouilly,  Beaujolais,  France:  12.5%;  $33   [ cork;  gamay grown mostly on andesite,  Cote de Brouilly the upper slopes,  hand-picked;  mostly maceration carbonique fermentation 8 12 days initially in concrete,  then big old wood,  elevation in 600-litre old barrels c. 6 months;  www.chateau-thivin.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  exactly midway.  This is absolutely conventional best beaujolais as usually understood,  perfect gamay florality,  cherryfruit and freshness in a big volume of aroma.  In mouth,  it has the freshness more typical of most better years of beaujolais,  not quite the perfect ripeness of the top three,  but you couldn't say any hint of leaf.  Just noticeably fresher,  though.  Cellar several years,  2 6.  No oak apparent at all here.  GK 09/12

2010  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard   18  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $29   [ screwcap;  hand-picked and sorted;  9 months in French oak,  32% new;  www.grasshopperrock.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  quite a different hue from the beaujolais,  below midway in depth.  The bouquet is a standout,  quite the most floral wine in a beautifully fragrant lineup.  If you don't believe at all in the floral component of good red wines,  buy a bottle of this and then seek out some purple buddleia,  lilac,  or pink roses.  Along with the florals,  there are red and black cherry fruits.  In mouth the florality and some vanillin permeate gorgeous red cherry flesh,  to develop a winestyle which is reminiscent of Chambolle-Musigny.  Like the 2008 Grasshopper,  there is just a hint of leaf later on the palate which detracts slightly,  and explains why the floral component is so good.  That's why these top beaujolais are so special,  they have all the florals yet no leafyness very hard to achieve.  Grasshopper Rock is becoming one of the great New Zealand pinot noirs,  yet it remains affordable.  This needs a year or two to soften,  cellar 3 8 years.  GK 09/12

2008  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh   18  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $36   [ screwcap;  5% whole bunch;  10 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.grasshopperrock.co.nz ]
Attractive pinot noir ruby,  medium weight.  Bouquet is exciting,  combining clear red floral qualities with the faintest hint of thyme,  on red cherry fruit.  The volume of exact burgundian varietal aroma is enchanting.  Palate follows perfectly,  firm fruit with just a hint of stalk,  oak to balance or perhaps a little noticeable,  elegant drinking.  Cellar 2 6 years.  GK 08/12

2010  Domaine Cheysson Chiroubles   17 ½ +  ()
Chiroubles,  Beaujolais,  France:  12.5%;  $27   [ supercritical 'cork';  gamay c. 60 years age grown mostly on granite,  hand-picked;  mostly maceration carbonique fermentation in s/s 7 8 days,  then elevation in big old wood;  no website found,  snippets on merchants' sites. ]
Pinot noir ruby,  the third to lightest wine.  The smells like a gamay handled in a more conventional / less maceration carbonique approach.  There is good florality and some oak,  fresh cherry fruit,  a lovely bouquet.  Palate is slightly less,  red cherries,  no black fruits,  lighter,  fresher,  a hint of leaf.  It is not as rich as the Grasshopper Pinot Noir,  but there are similarities.  Cellar 1 3 years only there is a suggestion of low total sulphur here.  GK 09/12

2010  Domaine Piron-Lameloise Chenas Quartz   17 ½  ()
Chiroubles,  Beaujolais,  France:  12.5%;  $37   [ cork;  gamay with half handled via maceration carbonique,  half a more traditional destemmed approach;  then elevation in big old wood;  website being reconstructed;  www.domaines-piron.fr ]
Pinot noir ruby,  the lightest wine.  This one also smells like gamay handled as pinot noir,  rather more than via maceration carbonique. It is clearly fragrant and floral,  a hint of cherry-pie vanillin,  red fruits.  Palate is red fruits,  a little more leaf,  even a touch of stalk,  yet with good richness and typicité.  It's a different kind of beaujolais from the plump Moulin a Vents,  but just as legitimate.  Cellar several years,  but not as long as the top wines.  GK 09/12

2009  de Vine Pinot Noir Central Otago   17 +  ()
Gibbston Valley and Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  15 days cuvaison,  10 months in new-ish French oak,  none first-year;  produced to the specification of the Manly Liquor Store,  Whangaparoa Peninsula;  no website. ]
Pinot noir ruby,  totally burgundian.  Bouquet is sweetly floral,  roses and boronia,  attractive red cherry fruit,  immaculately clean.  Palate is red more than black cherry,  showing the good ripeness of the 2009 vintage in Central Otago,  and a styling that is as burgundian as the colour.  Not a big wine,  not quite as classical or rich as the Grasshopper 2008,  but attractive.  Cellar 2 6 years.  VALUE  GK 08/12

2010  P-M Chermette Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Coeur de Vendanges   17  ()
Beaujolais,  France:  12%;  $28   [ cork;  85-year old gamay gown on granite,  hand-picked;  mostly maceration carbonique fermentation in s/s,  wild-yeast,  no chaptalisation,  minimal S02,  cuvaison starts in vats 7 days,  finished in 5 10-year  barrels;  elevation 6 months half in big wood,  half in barrels to 5 years age;  www.chermette.fr ]
Fresh pinot noir ruby,  just below midway.  I had assumed from the name this was a popular beaujolais,  though the price should have told me otherwise.  It is a serious wine.  In smell,  taste and weight,  it is representative good beaujolais.  There is a little oak,  but the wine is fragrant and floral,  convincing red cherry flesh,  pleasant body,  just a little stalk to freshen.  Actual fruit in mouth is very pleasant.  Cellar 2 6 years or so.  GK 09/12

2010  [ Peregrine ] Saddleback Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Bendigo area 65%,  Gibbston Valley 30%,  Pisa district 5%,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  all hand-harvested;  100% de-stemmed;  10 months in French oak c.20% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is in a darker style than the wines rated more highly,  black cherry more than red,  but not quite singing / not floral.  Palate follows,  plummy more than cherry,  quite firm as yet and slight stalks,  more sturdy than elegant,  but pleasant.  Cellar 3 8 years.  GK 08/12

2010  Ch Grange-Cochard Morgon   16 ½ +  ()
Morgon,  Beaujolais,  France:  13%;  $34   [ cork;  gamay mostly 40 years plus,  hand-picked;  mostly maceration carbonique fermentation in s/s,  elevation in large old oak and some smaller barrels including some new;  www.lagrangecochard.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the third richest.  Bouquet is interesting on this wine,  initially beguiling with its lifted aromatics and nutmeg-spicy complexity.  Behind that there is good darkly plummy fruit and a kind of very ripe florality.  In mouth it is plump and rich and pleasing,  initially right up there with the top wines.  This is the kind of wine English wine writers would praise highly,  but closer examination shows the complexities are augmented by VA,  esters,  and brett.  Such wines are judged more harshly in the new world.  It will be stable in cellar for several years,  if you like the rich style,  but preferably cellar others for the longer term good beaujolais is capable of.  GK 09/12

2009  de Vine Pinot Noir Martinborough   16 ½  ()
Martinborough,  Wairarapa district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  20 days cuvaison,  16 months in French oak,  15% new;  produced to the specification of the Manly Liquor Store,  Whangaparoa Peninsula;  no website. ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  faintly deeper than the same firm's Otago pinot.  Bouquet is clearly varietal,  not quite so sweetly floral as the Otago wine,  a faint suggestion of leaf.  Palate is fresh,  red cherry,  crisper than the Otago wine,  good fruit weight and clearly burgundian,  just a little stalky / tannic as is common in imperfect years in Burgundy.  Cellar 2 6 years.  GK 08/12

2010  Ch Thivin Brouilly   16 ½  ()
Brouilly,  Beaujolais,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $28   [ cork;  gamay grown mostly on andesite,  hand-picked;  mostly maceration carbonique fermentation 8 12 days in concrete,  elevation in s/s;  www.chateau-thivin.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  towards the lighter end.  Like the Coeur de Vendanges,  this wine shouts out typical beaujolais.  It is clean and fragrant with maceration carbonique,  red fruits,  some leafyness,  fresh and appealing.  The palate follows naturally,  good red fruits,  slightly stalky,  no hints of oak at all [ confirmed ],  completely representative.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 09/12

2009  [ Ngatarawa ] Glazebrook Pinot Noir Black Label   16 +  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $34   [ screwcap;  PN hand-harvested;  5 days cold soak,  initial wild yeast fermentation,  cultured yeast added,  perhaps three weeks cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 30% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is slightly floral in a leafy way,  red fruits only,  Savigny-les-Beaune in style.  Palate has pleasant fruit weight,  red cherries,  more stalk than the de Vine from only 25 kilometres to the SSW,  clearly varietal.  Cellar 2 6 years.  GK 08/12

2010  J-P Brun Terres Dorées Morgon   16  ()
Morgon,  Beaujolais,  France:  12%;  $31   [ cork;  hand-picked,  destemmed burgundy-style,  long fermentations up to 6 weeks cuvaison;  elevation variously in large old oak or concrete;  no website found,  idiosyncratic background info @ www.louisdressner.com/mpdf/Brun/?dl. ]
Pinot noir ruby,  the second to lightest.  This wine has less bouquet than the others,  but it is clean and fragrant to a degree.  Palate is more clearly beaujolais,  pleasant redcurrant and red cherry fruit,  initially seeming stalky but the palate quickly adapts.  Clean,  sound,  but lacks magic in the company.  The proprietor speaks of wanting the wines to age,  but this one did not seem particularly suited to that goal.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 09/12

2011  Te Pa Pinot Noir   15 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  no useful wine information detectable on the website;  www.tepawines.com ]
Lightest pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is on the light side of florality in pinot noir,  just a suggestion of buddleia with some leafyness,  as if a wine from the alluviums in Marlborough.  Palate is pro rata,  pale red fruits only,  pleasant fruit weight for its light stalky style,  but needing more physiological maturity and flavour development.  Cellar 2 5 years.  GK 08/12

2010  Domaine Chignard Fleurie Les Moriers   15  ()
Fleurie,  Beaujolais,  France:  12.5%;  $34   [ cork;   hand-picked from vines averaging 60 years age;  mostly maceration carbonique fermentation in s/s,  elevation in older oak barrels;  not fined or filtered,  no website found. ]
Pinot noir ruby,  below midway.  This wine starts off well,  with attractive red fruits,  valpolicella-like aromas,  some strawberry / raspberry even,  good ripeness.  Flavours are initially similar,  quite fruity,  scarcely any oak suggestions.  On the late palate however a concern grows that the SO2 status of this wine is too low,  and it will not be stable.  Enjoy this wine now,  do not cellar at all.  GK 09/12

2011  Starborough Pinot Noir   14 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  PN hand-harvested;  wild yeast fermentation;  11 months in French oak some new;  no information on this wine on website;  www.starborough.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of these eight pinots.  Bouquet is very much the unripe phase of Marlborough pinot noir as typically produced by the less suitable young alluviums,  leafy more than floral,  barely red fruits,  but clean and pleasant.  Palate is less good,  more stalky / phenolic,  lacking physiological flavour development,  though still recognisably pinot.  Barely worth cellaring.  GK 08/12

Syrah = Shiraz
2010  de Vine Shiraz Barossa Valley   18 ½  ()
Near High Eden,  Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.6%;  $20   [ screwcap;  18 months in older French and American oak;  produced to the specification of the Manly Liquor Store,  Whangaparoa Peninsula;  no website ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deep and rich.  Bouquet is a delight,  elegant shiraz even revealing some suggestions of syrah varietal quality in its deep florality,  and nearly hints of cassis.  These attributes are augmented by flowering mintbush (Prostanthera) aromas,  but one could not say the wine was degraded by euc'y notes.  Palate is a little riper than the bouquet suggests,  some boysenberry creeping into bottled black doris plums,  all rich and velvety and soft,  only lightly oaked,  long and flavoursome.  This wine reflects a temperate vintage in the Barossa Valley,  plus the dawning of some varietal sensibilities amongst Australian red-wine makers.  A wine to buy by the case,  and cellar 5 20 years.  VALUE.  GK 08/12

2009  Obsidian Syrah   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $54   [ cork;  2.5% Vi co-fermented;  10 months in French oak 40% new;  120 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  appreciably older than the 2010.  Bouquet is softly cassisy on blackberries and fruit,  rich and oaky,  very much a new world reading of syrah,  pure.  Palate is velvety,  clearly syrah ripened beyond the optimal floral cassis and suggestions of black pepper stage,  rather much blackberry apparent,  but still beautifully rich.  It is clearly a notch less vibrant and more oaky than the 2010 Obsidian Syrah,  when seen alongside,  but many would prefer it for that.  The comparison with the 2010 de Vine Barossa Shiraz in this batch is intriguing.  Cellar 5 12 years.  GK 08/12

2010  Equis Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Lises   18  ()
Crozes-Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $37   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested at a conservative cropping rate;  reports vary but Maxime Graillot appears to use less whole-bunch than his father Alain;  typically 3 weeks cuvaison;  12  months in French oak (burgundy barrels),  none new;  des Lises is a vineyard in Beaumont-Monteux,  8 km SE of the Hill of Hermitage and on gravels,  being converted to organic production;  Maxime is now responsible for vinification of the Alain Graillot wines also;  no website found. ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deep by Northern Rhone standards,  but not alongside the Australian shirazes.  Bouquet is just a little veiled on first opening,  but quickly clears to a quite intense boronia,  carnation and cassis florality,  on dark cassisy fruit.  It is more floral than the 2009 Equis Cornas.  Palate is concentrated by Crozes-Hermitage standards,  the cropping rate must be very low.  Flavours are cassis and blackberry,  clearly a notch less ripe than the boysenberry of Australian shiraz on my ripening curve,  beautiful acid balance,  subtlest oak really high-lighting the berry.  What a joy to see syrah not hammered by new oak.  This winemaker's syrahs give the impression of the lowest possible SO2,  sometimes dangerously low as in the 2010 Crozes-Hermitage Equinoxe,  such that one checks and double-checks the purity.  There might be trace brett here,  but I think this one is otherwise OK,  so it can be bought by the case.  Cellar 5 20 years.  GK 08/12

2009  Boutique Wine Company Shiraz McLaren Vale   17 ½ +  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  old-vine Sh c. 65 years;  22 months in American and French oak,  c.20% new;  produced to the specification of the Manly Liquor Store,  Whangaparoa Peninsula;  no website. ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly carmine,  a rich colour.  Bouquet is clean,  rich and ripe,  more clearly South Australian shiraz than the de Vine Barossa Valley shiraz,  the fruit riper with more boysenberry,  the mint stronger with suggestions of eucalyptus,  and much more oak.  Palate weight carries the oak happily though,  boysenberry fruit,  good length,  the slightest hint of saline as is not uncommon in McLaren Vale reds.  This is good rich South Australian red in a more traditional style.  Cellar 5 20 years.  GK 08/12

2011  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed;  10 months in French oak 30% new;  280 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  at the lighter end of 15 syrahs looked at the same day.  Bouquet is fragrant,  nearly dianthus floral,  red berries and suggestions of both stalks and cassis,  subtle oak.  Flavours carry on in the same vein,  still very youthful,  red plums,  white more than black pepper,  clearly varietal and tending Crozes-Hermitage in style,  slightly acid,  but easy drinking.  Cellar 3 8 years.  GK 08/12

All other red wines, blends etc
2011  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Montepulciano   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  10 months in French oak 30% new;  460 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  excellent.  Bouquet is deeper and darker than the tempranillo,  darker berries,  even on bouquet a more rough-hewn hearty berry character,  extraordinarily reminiscent of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo but technically purer than most.  Palate is juicy,  darkly plum with a touch of blackberry yet a suggestion of stalks too,  much subtler oaking than some earlier reds from this stable,  again well in style with the Italian original.  These two extraordinarily pure wines,  the 2011 Weeping Sands Tempranillo and the complementary Montepulciano,  are despite the modest vintage the most clear-cut statement yet that these two varieties show great promise for warmer parts of New Zealand.  Exciting.  Cellar 3 10 years.  GK 08/12

2010  [ Umani Ronchi ] Podere Montepulciano d'Abruzzo   17 +  ()
Abruzzo DOC,  Italy:  13%;  $13   [ screwcap;  Mo 100%,  hand-harvested;  10 days cuvaison in s/s;  the website says elevation all s/s too;  http://www.umanironchi.com/en/ourwines/thenatives/montepulcianodabruzzo/introduction.php ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  above midway.  Wow,  what a transformation from the last bottle reviewed on this site the screwcap announces the total makeover to modernity.  Bouquet fits astonishingly well into the richer beaujolais,  being clean,  fresh,  a kind of dark sultry florality,  dark berries dominant,  but a little more oak complexity,  which becomes more apparent as one tastes the wine.  In mouth,  the flavours are omega plum,  light clean oak presumably as chips in the s/s,  mouth-filling but not as weighty as many monte's,  all clean,  fresh and modern.  Like the Waiheke Weeping Sands Montepulciano in this batch but moreso,  there is a little stalk,  but much less oak than that wine.  Considering how well the bretty monte's such as La Valentina of yesteryear cellared,  this should cellar well 3 10 years.  That means when it is available on special at $12 or $13,  one should buy a case.  VALUE  GK 09/12

2007  Jacobs Creek Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon / Tempranillo   16 ½ +  ()
Australia:  12.5%;  $16   [ screwcap;  some only of the wine sees older oak;  new website since previous review,  better;  www.jacobscreek.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little age showing.  What a transformation from when I last reviewed this wine.  Bouquet is now fragrant and attractive,  in a modern more grapey and  less alcoholic / oaky approach,  a step forward which is making Australian reds more palatable and food-friendly.  Like the Barossa Valley shiraz in this batch,  this bouquet also has a lift of flowering mintbush.  Palate is now attractively softened and supple,  light and food-friendly,  almost a natural acid balance,  all nicely in keeping with good tempranillo from Spain,  though the stronger varieties do speak a little louder.  At five years of age this bottle confirms that most Australian supermarket red wine is not fit for discriminating consumption,  at the point of release / sale.  Cellar 3 8 years.  GK 08/12

2011  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Tempranillo   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  10 months in French oak 33% new;  130 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Fresh ruby,  a great colour for genuine tempranillo.  Bouquet is red fruits,  almost pinot noir-like as good tempranillo should be (it is a total misconception that tempranillo is cabernet-like,  this being solely a consequence of over-oaking in trendy versions of the variety (such as Ribera del Duero,  made to pander to latter-day wine-tastes),  beautifully fragrant.  Oaking is noticeable relative to the light body,  and TA is up a little with slight stalkyness reflecting the lesser vintage.  Nonetheless,  this is interesting wine,  showing that this variety should suit New Zealand particularly well.  Thus far,  the Hawke's Bay examples have (I suspect) not been 100% varietal,  and have been too dark and 'fashionable' to illustrate tempranillo's true promise.  Better Auckland-district vintages for this new Weeping Sands label are awaited with great interest.  Cellar 3 8 years.  GK 08/12

From the Cellar. Older wines.
1991  Ch Tahbilk Shiraz [ 1860-Vines ]    19  ()
Nagambie Lakes,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  first released in 1979,  this wonderfully historic wine comes from a half-hectare un-grafted,  pre-phylloxera original Estate planting of shiraz vines,  as the winery says: 'amongst the oldest Shiraz vines in the world'.  Hand-picked,  fermented in century-old oak vats,  then 18 months in French oak,  the wine is held for four years before release. In 1991 the label was a straight reproduction of an 1875 label,  complete with Chateau Tahbilk.  Latterly the wording is more modern,  but the design remains evocative;  the wine is now seriously expensive,  around $AU150,  but if the style today is true to the earlier wines,  it is more worth that than some of the latterday lumbering monsters from other wineries;  www.tahbilk.com.au ]
Ruby and garnet,  medium weight.  Bouquet is soft,  fragrant,  and really syrah-like in its beguiling wallflower / flowering mint on bouquet.  This could easily be confused with 21-year-old Hermitage.  Palate is enchanting,  almost strong pinot noir,  great fruit delicacy,  subtlest oak,  the kind of beautiful classical shiraz Tahbilk did so well before the desire for new oak,  high alcohols,  and technically-lead winemaking raised its ugly head.  Fruit on palate is simply superb.  At a peak of perfection now,  no hurry at all,  one of the most beautiful Australian shirazes I have ever tasted,  fully qualifying as syrah,  the kind of beauty in mouth one associates with grand cru Morey-St-Denis,  as well as fine Hermitage.  Tasted alongside 1994 Delas Hermitage Tourette,  the similarity of florality,  berry and subtle oaking is wonderful.  The Tahbilk is richer and younger though,  by far.  No hurry here at all.  GK 08/12

2000  Ch Picque-Caillou   17 ½  ()
Graves / Pessac-Leognan,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 50%,  Me 50,  hand-picked @ c.2.3 t/ac,  planted 7 10,000 vines / ha,  av. age 25;  12 months in barrel 30% new;  c.6,000 cases;  www.picque-caillou.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  some garnet,  medium weight.  Bouquet is beautifully fragrant and browning cassis,  darkly plummy berry lifted by cedary oak and a touch of savoury venison casserole brett.  Palate is absolutely silky,  a model demonstration of the need for berry dominance over oak,  long,  sustained,  slightly cedary,  rich yet delicate.  One could drink a lot of this,  and it is great  with food.  Cellar 3 8 years yet.  GK 08/12

1994  Delas Freres Hermitage Cuvée Marquise de La Tourette   17 +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;   Delas own 6.5 ha on the Hill of Hermitage,  and rent 3.5;  Sy 100%,   up to 18 months in barrel;  www.delas.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  a pinot noir weight.  Bouquet is not dissimilar from 18-year-old burgundy either,  suggestions of wallflower and boronia florality,  red fruits easily imagined to be cherry,  really winey.  Palate is a little dry for burgundy,  however,  some browning cassis notes now,  total acid up a bit reflecting the modest year,  a wine at full stretch,  drying / fading a little.  The commonality between this and the 1991 Tahbilk 1860 Shiraz is enchanting,  but the Delas is much lighter.  Needs finishing over the next year or two.  GK 08/12

2002  Obsidian [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Obsidian   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  Me 40%,  CS 35,  CF & Ma,  hand-picked;  c.13 months in French oak,  50% new,  balance 1 and 2-year;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  velvet and garnet,  much older than the Graves alongside.  And the reason is not too hard to find,  the first impression on bouquet being oak,  lots of oak,  in the terrifying new world style where if a little bit of oak is a good thing,  more must be better.  Palate is better than the bouquet promises because there is good berry richness,  and one can still see good cassis and browning plum jam fruit in the cedary oak.  Sadly,  this level of oaking is what many new world audiences still want,  but at this level the quality of the fruit is scarcely recoverable.  Alongside the 2000 Picque-Caillou,  the latter has much better balance.  Cellar 3 5 years,  but at peril of going varnishy.  GK 08/12