Home
Page
Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
independent
analytical
non-commercial
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
AN APPEALING MISCELLANY OF WINES FOR AN ANNIVERSARY TASTING ...




With wine and wine-tastings being a subject so often blighted by snobbery and one-upmanship,  what a joy it is to find yourself invited to a tasting where a range of wines had been laid out,  the main goal being the hope that the contents of the bottles (as opposed to the labels) might raise old memories,  and be of interest to tasters.  Not much thought had been given to having prestigious labels,  rather the reverse,  just the desire to contemplate a diversity of wines of varying kinds and ages,  which had given the organiser pleasure in the formative years of his wine career.  That is not to say there were no interesting labels,  but that seemed almost incidental.  Some of the bottles chosen were in fact ones solely of interest to genuine wine-lovers,  due to their age or curiosity.  The only concession to a ‘plan’ for the tasting was to have some of the wines from matching years,  for example the cabernets all one year,  each a different country,  the syrahs likewise – to add to the educational value of the tasting.  The style of the tasting reflects the low-key but engaging approach to the subject of Wellington wine-man Mike Parker.    

In writing up the wines,  my notes reflect a more romantic approach to the subject than some might agree with.  They attempt to provide an answer to the implied question:  how appealing is this wine today ?  And I do like old wine,  whereas in a young wine country many people including wine reviewers are so habituated to young wine only,  that they find it hard to see the merits in fully mature wines – let alone fading ones.  Yet old wine is so food-friendly.  The notes include a few extra bottles that had been asking to be opened at my place,  just for fun,  since they seemed to match Mike’s theme,  and the labels are now all but forgotten.





THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
1992  Coldstream Hills Chardonnay Reserve
1978  Domaine Leroy Meursault
1991  Matua Valley Chardonnay Ararimu
1975  Montana Pinot Chardonnay
1994  Sonoma - Cutrer Chardonnay Les Pierres
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Riesling
1985  Dr Burklin-Wolf Ruppertsberger Hoheburg Riesling Spatlese QMP
1983  Corbans Rhine Riesling
1987  The Millton Vineyard Rhine Riesling Opou Vineyard Botrytis ‘Cinerea’
1986  Robard & Butler Rhine Riesling Amberley
1991  Villa Maria Noble Riesling Botrytis Selection
Pinot Gris
1974  Cooks Pinot Gris Classic Collection
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
2003  Ch Rieussec
All other white wines, blends, etc.
   nv  [ later 1960s ] McDonald's Pinot Blanc
  1959  Marc Bredif Vouvray
Red
Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
1969  Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon
1996  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Reserve
1996  Petaluma [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Coonawarra
1996  Ridge Cabernet Santa Cruz Mountains
1973  Slovin Cabernet Kakovostno Slovenska
1996  Ch Smith Haut-Lafitte
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
1995  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
1995  Main Ridge Estate Pinot Noir Half-Acre
1997  Nicolas Potel Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux-Monts Premier Cru
1995  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Omihi Hills Vineyard
Syrah = Shiraz
2002  Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon
2002  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
2002  Torbreck Shiraz RunRig
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.


White
Chardonnay
1994  Sonoma - Cutrer Chardonnay Les Pierres   18 ½  ()
Sonoma Valley,  California,  USA:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  reasonable-quality year in Sonoma;  well-regarded winery particularly for chardonnay;  higher-level label;  www.sonomacutrer.com ]
Lemon with a wash of straw,  much the lightest,  freshest and youngest of the whites.  Bouquet is clean and pure,  a lot of lees and barrel-ferment characters,  pure pale peachy fruit,  subtle oak as if a significant percentage of it old (even then),  highly varietal.  Palate is gorgeous,  illustrating vividly how much more evolved the 1990s Californian wine industry was than ours.  There is a perfect ratio of golden peachy fruit to barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis complexity,  all fully mature,  not a big wine and drying just a little,  but still fresh and vital (to a wine enthusiast,  not a winemaker).  Tasters recalled the enthusiasm the late Grant Jones had for Californian wines like these,  and the zeal with which he followed the NZ / US exchange rate,  with a view to stocking his (then inimitable) Regional Wines & Spirits.  GK 12/17

1992  Coldstream Hills Chardonnay Reserve   16 ½  ()
Yarra Valley,  Victoria,  Australia:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  James Halliday’s vineyard,  founded in 1985,  bought out by SouthCorp in 1996,  now part of Treasury Wine Estates;  www.coldstreamhills.com.au ]
Straw,  a wash of gold.  Bouquet is unusual for Australia,  even the Yarra Valley,  in showing hints of stalkyness and MLF fermentation,  on biscuitty slightly peachy chardonnay fruit,  all clean and fragrant.  Palate follows exactly,  not a big or powerful wine,  a New Zealand size and structure to it,  the hint of stalk on bouquet not so apparent on palate.  Attractive wine,  not as rich as the Matua but more varietal and subtle,  fully mature.  GK 12/17

1975  Montana Pinot Chardonnay   14 ½ +  ()
North Island,  New Zealand:  11%;  $2.41   [ cork,  45mm (of exceptional quality);  probably Mangatangi and Gisborne fruit sources;  the original label within the modern Brancott Estate winery in the Pernod-Ricard wine group ]
Light gold.  Bouquet is clean,  mature,  clear hints of biscuitty yet surprisingly fresh chardonnay in the sense of dried peaches and wine biscuits,  slightly vanillin,  winey.  Flavour is somewhat drying and suggestive of some oak in the maturation of the wine.  There is still fruit and clear light body confirming the chardonnay thoughts on bouquet,  total acid a bit high,  no elevation complexity.  Still acceptable mature dry white,  not as rich as the Leroy but more varietal in a cleaner,  simpler way.  Less oak is more,  at this age.  GK 12/17

1991  Matua Valley Chardonnay Ararimu   14 +  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  11%;  $ –    [ cork;  14 months in barrique;  Matua now part of Treasury Wine Estates;  www.matua.co.nz ]
Old gold and some brown.  Bouquet is a little maderised but clean,  oaky,  richer than the Coldstream,  ‘golden’ fruit with sultana-aromas more than varietal now,  no apparent elevation complexity (other than oak) alongside the Sonoma.  Palate is more varietal,  some richness considering the cropping rates of the day (even for ‘premium’ wines),  the fruit browning and drying a little now,  tannic from over-oaking,  but still recognisably chardonnay in texture and taste.  More palatable than the colour suggests,  due to some fruit richness.  GK 12/17

1978  Domaine Leroy Meursault   14  ()
Meursault,  Burgundy,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  a highly-regarded vintage for white as well as red burgundy;  www.domaine-leroy.com ]
Straw,  a wash of gold plus a touch of tan.  Bouquet is another where you wish for screw caps,  the wine not TCA-affected,  but smelling more of bark / wood than fruit.  Below is mature to over-mature biscuitty chardonnay fruit,  with virtually no sign of new oak or oak as such,  even though there is still a suggestion of barrel-ferment character.  Palate is better,  fully mature dried-peach chardonnay and old oak now clear,  quite rich in one sense,  but drying and going tannic now,  not much mealyness or excitement.  Faded,  but still OK with appropriate food.  GK 12/17

Riesling
1991  Villa Maria Noble Riesling Botrytis Selection   19 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $ –    [ cork;  three successive picks,  the ripest at 43° Brix;  2 x 375  ml bottles,  the colours very slightly different but the bouquets and flavours essentially identical,  showing how good cork can be … but still raising the thought of how much better the wine would be now under screwcap;  winemaker Kym Milne,  MW;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Glowing old gold.  Bouquet is simply sensational,  beautifully botrytised and bush-honeyed riesling with great freshness,  clear aromatics and terpenes,  still some fresh varietal hints (vanillin and linalool) if you look for them.  Hard to tell if a hint of oak,  the wine being so concentrated,  plus the riesling aromatics.  Palate is remarkable,  richer,  smoother and finer than the Millton,  again tasting as if some oak but it could be the concentrated riesling terpenes,  the sweetness totally married into the richness and honeyed flavour.  With the superb acid balance so many of the 1991 wines in Marlborough showed,  the aftertaste is long and almost refreshing.  One of New Zealand's greatest wines,  ever.  Will hold.  GK 12/17

1985  Dr Burklin-Wolf Ruppertsberger Hoheburg Riesling Spatlese QMP   18  ()
Rheinpfalz,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  highly regarded Pfalz producer,  since 2005 fully biodynamic;  www.buerklin-wolf.de ]
Full glowing straw with a wash of gold,  the lightest and freshest of of the rieslings and sweet wines.  Bouquet presents a much lighter and more hoppy interpretation of riesling,  nectary and fragrant,  aromatic,  nearly floral (honeysuckle,  maybe),  subtle yet highly varietal,  not a lot of botrytis.  Flavour is intriguing,  sitting nicely between the Amberley and Millton wines,  but much finer-grained,  yet still illustrating how exact the riesling character is in the better,  conservatively-cropped New Zealand rieslings.  The subtlety and lack of phenolics in the German wine is noteworthy,  though.  Approaching full maturity.  GK 12/17

1987  The Millton Vineyard Rhine Riesling Opou Vineyard Botrytis ‘Cinerea’   17 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  11%;  $ –    [ cork;  New Zealand’s pioneer biodynamic winemaker;  www.millton.co.nz ]
Gold to old gold.  Bouquet is deeply honeyed and botrytised,  with slightly leafy riesling fragrance and complexity,   plus remarkable freshness within the context of dark honeys.  Flavours continue the promise of the bouquet,  a supple entwining of botrytis,  dried apricots and some riesling aromatics with medium-plus sweetness,  and good acid balance.  Bold wine,  some tannins,  coarser than the subtle Burklin-Wolf or even the Robard & Butler,  but the sweet rich flavour,  in a big auslese or even beerenauslese-style from a warm year,  cannot be ignored.  Fully mature now.  GK 12/17

1986  Robard & Butler Rhine Riesling Amberley   17  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  Robard & Butler was a specialist almost ‘negociant’ label within Corbans,  which under Martin Carrington’s leadership in the 1980s became highly regarded,  including even some imported wines;  Corbans the wine firm became part of Montana,  then Pernod-Ricard,  and is now a Lion label ]
Light gold,  fractionally deeper than the Corbans Riesling.  Bouquet is more complex but a little edgy alongside the Corbans,   both citrussy and a hint of ripe stalk,  plus a thought of botrytis.  Flavour brings up the citrus,  more lime than lemon,  a surprising depth to the wine as if a hint of oak (probably just riesling terpenes),  with botrytis and bush-honey notes right through the long medium-dry aftertaste.  More honeyed character and slightly sweeter than the Corbans,  more varietal than the Millton,  but not as sweet or rich.  Fully mature.  GK 12/17

1983  Corbans Rhine Riesling   16 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  Corbans the Henderson pioneer wine firm became part of Montana,  then Pernod-Ricard,  and is now a Lion label ]
Light gold.  Bouquet is clean and fragrant slightly resiny / hoppy but not kerosene-y riesling,  biscuitty (wine biscuit) more than honeyed,  fully mature,  but still citrussy to a degree.  In mouth the wine shows quite good richness (for its era) in New Zealand,  an impression of complexity with honey now more apparent than on bouquet and melding into the fruit,  long off-dry flavours,  but the wine a bit grippy / phenolic for riesling elegance.  Intriguing though,  fully mature.  GK 12/17

Pinot Gris
1974  Cooks Pinot Gris Classic Collection   14 ½  ()
Te Kauwhata,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $ –    [ cork,  38 mm;  a brave new wine company of the late ‘60s / early ‘70s,  disappearing into the McWilliams group and later Montana;  the wine packed in the distinctive skittle-shaped bottle Cooks initially hoped to make uniquely their own,  for their premium wines;  the name now lost in the Pernod-Ricard (NZ) group ]
Straw.  For the era,  the bouquet is surprisingly fresh,  ‘rich’ and seemingly all-vinifera.  That was certainly the image the newly-hatched Cooks Wine Company was trying to convey at the time.  It does not retain quite the precise British primrose / exact varietal character the Mission Tokay d’Alsace had later in the 70s,  naturally enough,  but it is clean,  fragrant,  and winey,  hints of dried peaches and light vanilla biscuit on bouquet.  Palate confirms a genuine approach (for the times),  some light body,  mature pinot gris flavours even with a slight varietal grip,  dry or nearly so (< 5 g/L),  surprisingly palatable as light mature / fading dry white.  GK 12/17

Sweet / Sticky
2003  Ch Rieussec   17 ½ +  ()
Sauternes,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $ –    [ cork;  one of the best-known wines of Sauternes;  www.lafite.com/fr/les-chateaux/chateau-rieussec ]
Gold.  Bouquet is unusual for sauternes,  showing a piquant near-mint plus marzipan aromatic quality on the fruit,  a character presumably related to the oak – not totally appealing.  Even though the wine is honeyed and fragrant,  in one sense the aromatics make the wine look young and awkward in the company,  notwithstanding it is from a warmer and therefore presumably more forward year.  Palate is golden botrytis,  seeming incredibly sweet,  rich and long,  tending low-acid as might be expected in the year,  but the oak tannins stepping in to provide structure and add to the texture.  Mature already in one sense,  but will hold many years.  GK 12/17

All other white wines, blends, etc.
1959  Marc Bredif Vouvray   16 +  ()
Loire Valley,  France:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  1959 described as a ‘fabulous’ vintage by Broadbent;  Bredif the original famous producer in the area,  the winery now part of the Ladoucette empire;  more info at www.cellartours.com/france/french-wineries/domaine-marc-bredif;  https://bredif.deladoucette.fr ]
Old gold,  almost a wash of copper glow.  Bouquet is quiet,  biscuitty,  dried peaches and hints of sultanas,  slightly honeyed,  but also tending hollow as chenin so often can be to all but its keen (sometimes fanatical) adherents.  Palate is intriguing:  there is still some fruit plus a drying quality on old oak,  and a textural richness on (I assume) botrytis on the darkly honeyed and slightly sultana-y fruit flavours.  There is a little sweetness still,  adding to body,  and the aftertaste is long and clean with chenin acid,  all in a slightly dry-sherry way.  It has to be an interesting wine,  having regard to its 58 years age and the reputation of the proprietor – more for his sweeter versions.  I had hoped (on sighting the label) to be compelled,  but not quite on this bottle – age is catching up with it.  The wine breathed up remarkably over 24 and then 48 hours,  making it hard to score.  GK 12/17

nv  [ later 1960s ] McDonald's Pinot Blanc   12 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  no vintage – memory now unreliable,  but I suspect this label was not made after about 1970,  within McWilliams Wines NZ,  a company now lost within Pernod-Ricard ]
Light straw,  fresher than the 1974 Cooks.  Bouquet is seemingly a little maderised,  partly because it is affected by cork as a closure,  not in the sense of TCA,  simply that it smells a bit of bark or wood.  Below is dry biscuitty fruit still just alive.   Palate is clean and short,  dry,  slightly phenolic.  Danny Schuster had the view this wine was made from muller-thurgau,  but it doesn't taste like it.  Mission had pinot gris at the time,  and Tom McDonald had earlier had pinot blanc from the original Steinmetz vineyard at Greenmeadows,  and ‘pinot  chardonnay’ since the early 1960s at least,  so it is not impossible he still had some pinot blanc.  Perhaps the wine was some ‘white pinots’ bulked out with chasselas,  or even a neutral hybrid such as Baco 22A ?  It was affordable,  in its day.  Marginally OK for fish and chips.  GK 12/17

Red
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
1996  Ridge Cabernet Santa Cruz Mountains   19  ()
Santa Cruz Mountains,  California,  USA:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 80%,  balance vineyard blend (mainly Me, some PV and CF);  Paul Draper's Ridge Estate high up in the Santa Cruz mountains is legendary,  the mountain wines often having a finesse,  complexity and quality to them which (to the limited extent I have tasted them) some of the larger-scale lower-altitude Californian offerings seem to lack;  another bottle reflecting the late Grant Jones' flair with wine;  www.ridgewine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  still almost carmine,  incredibly youthful.  Bouquet is youthful too,  smelling of almost pure cabernet sauvignon,  very ripe cassis but definitely not hot-climate in style,  berry dominant over oak,  an exciting bouquet.  Palate builds on that impression,  the juicy richness of berry not quite Bordeaux in style,  but complex and exciting in its own right,  fruit dominating the fragrant cedary oak.  A long supple aftertaste gives a clue to the future beauty of this wine.  This is great Californian cabernet.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 12/17

1996  Petaluma [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Coonawarra   17 +  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 66%,  Me 34;  this is a Brian Croser wine,  so needs to be tasted particularly carefully;  interesting vertical (to 2001) at www.wineanorak.com/petaluma_vertical.htm;  www.petaluma.com.au ]
A surprisingly youthful ruby colour,  alongside the Bordeaux.  Bouquet shows clean pure berry characters nearly fresh enough to be classed as cassis,  in a taut tanniny frame making it also smell austere,  but happily neither unduly new-oaky or minty.  It is a little more oaky than the Bordeaux.  Nett impression in mouth is astonishing for an Australian cabernet,  there being no spurious eucy aromatics,  nor obvious alcohol,  or acid adjustment.  Instead there is cassisy berry appreciably riper than the Graves,  but remarkably similar in style – in the sense the wine lacks excitement,  and is tending one-dimensional.  Will it gain complexity in cellar ?  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 12/17

1996  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Reserve   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  Me 62%,  Ma 29,  CS 9;  17 months in French oak;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  remarkably close to the Petaluma,  much younger than the Bordeaux.  Oak is to the fore in this wine,   much moreso than the Bordeaux or the Petaluma.  Behind is rich berry,  but it is hard to tease out the nuances.  Palate shows good fruit richness,  and there is more precise complexity of ripe berryfruit flavours than the French or Australian wines.  The over-oaking detracts,  however,  and will crimp the future of the wine.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 12/17

1996  Ch Smith Haut-Lafitte   16 ½  ()
Pessac – Leognan,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  a winery of modest reputation until its sale in 1991;  1996 moderately successful in Bordeaux,  firm wines;  www.smith-haut-lafitte.com ]
Maturing ruby,  a good colour.  Bouquet is highly cabernet after the pinot noir and syrah wines,  but more in a narrow imperfectly-ripe older Hawkes Bay way than Bordeaux.  There is clear cassis alongside the Chilean and Yugoslav wines,  but suggestions of stalk in the berry too,  which the oak accentuates,  all very fragrant.  Palate confirms the bouquet,  a taut interaction of berry and oak,  reasonable concentration but the flavours tending austere and firm.  I suspect this wine won’t particularly blossom.  An older style claret,  now,  though not atypical for the year.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/17

1969  Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon   15 ½ +  ()
Maipo Valley,  Chile:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork,  38mm;  in the earliest 1970s,  the first three Chilean wine producers imported into New Zealand were Canepa,  Concha y Toro,  and Cousino Macul.  T & W Young of Wellington were active in their import.  All were pleasantly winey,  European in style and richer than the local offerings,  but New Zealanders proved conservative in taking to them,  preferring the more obvious and alcoholic Australian red wines;  www.conchaytoro.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  attractive for its age.  Bouquet shows good berry character in which browning cassis can easily be imagined,  combined with the clear old cooperage and maybe not all ‘oak’ character that so much Chilean (and South African) red wine of the later ‘60s and earlier ‘70s showed.  The best descriptor is roasted chestnuts.  Palate is good,  showing Bordeaux weight and structure in a light old wine,  but a rather different leathery oak character,  fair fruit and length,  ripe,  soft,  nearly round in a tanniny small-scale way.  Fully mature to fading a little,  no hurry,  good with food.  GK 12/17

1973  Slovin Cabernet Kakovostno Slovenska   15  ()
Ljubljana,  Slovenia:  11.2%;  $3.80   [ cork,  44 mm;  a surprising volume of Eastern European red wine found its way to New Zealand in the 1970s,  under various trade deals;  at the time it compared well with local reds,  as we slowly moved from hybrid-based production to all-vinifera wines. ]
Soft glowing light ruby and garnet.  Bouquet is equally soft,  clean,  showing fragrant browning berry combining aspects of cassis and rather more mulberry (mulberry ages in a strange way),  with suggestions of older oak.  Palate is soft,  ripe,  round,  totally berry-dominant though shaped by older (not new) cooperage,  wonderfully low alcohol,  dry.  The relative freshness and suppleness of the wine is astonishing,  given its age and provenance.  Alongside a 1973 Bordeaux this wine would show a furry / softly tanniny / older oak quality on the palate.  Fully mature to fading,  but pleasantly drinkable,  a real surprise.  GK 12/17

Pinot Noir
1997  Nicolas Potel Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux-Monts Premier Cru   17 +  ()
Cote de Nuits,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  moderate-quality vintage;  one needs to be a lot closer to Burgundy than New Zealand,  to comment on the standing and inter-relationship of wines in the changing Potel stable ... let alone provide a website ... ]
Classic pinot noir ruby with some garnet too,  lightish,  the second lightest of the pinot noirs.  Bouquet is clean,  sound but slightly stalky pinot noir,  showing (on bouquet) the best fruit to oak ratio of these four pinots.  The wine smells mature,  browning cherry fruit,  just a little spiced with oak.  Palate continues the attractive balance of cherry fruit to oak,  the wine supple and fully mature,  still (just) finishing fruit-dominant.  Good sound but straightforward red burgundy,  will hold.  GK 12/17

1995  Main Ridge Estate Pinot Noir Half-Acre   17  ()
Mornington Peninsula,  Victoria,  Australia:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  a pioneer (1975) highly regarded small (1,200 cases) winery on the famous Mornington Peninsula,  rated 5-stars by Halliday;  1995 vintage middling;  https://mre.com.au ]
Attractive light pinot noir ruby and garnet,  the lightest of the pinots,  light even by burgundy standards,  more the weight of a Rousseau wine.  Bouquet is clean,  pure but fading red fruits,  the oak moving to dominance.   There seems less fruit than the Omihi,  on bouquet.  In mouth however the pinot quality of the wine is much more apparent,  with scarcely a hint of Australian spurious aromatics,  the length of beautifully ripe fruit character good notwithstanding the light colour,  and the oak perfectly in balance.  Fully mature to fading a little.  A delight.  GK 12/17

1995  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  one of the founding Martinborough pinot noir producers,  the wines continuing to go from strength to strength;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby and garnet,  very close in hue to the Potel but deeper,  the second deepest of the pinots.  As so often with Ata Rangi,  the wine is very aromatic / touch of pennyroyal,  way beyond any Cote de Nuits spice level,  a quality which detracts for me,  but many commentators favour.  Oak is also creeping up,  reinforcing the aromatics as the fruit fades.  Flavours counteract that impression to a degree,  good red grading to black fruits and berry,  at this stage the fruit still nearly dominant over oak,  but the whole wine tending bold against both the Mornington Peninsula and Vosne-Romanée examples.  Fully mature to drying a little,  will hold.  GK 12/17

1995  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Omihi Hills Vineyard   16  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  wine from the Canterbury pinot noir pioneer Danny Schuster,  initially at St Helena,  then own vineyard in Waipara.  Not now producing. ]
Pinot noir ruby fading to garnet on the edge,  the deepest of the pinots.  Bouquet is slightly clouded by an overt forest-floor (a descriptor favoured by some burgundy fans) / organic decay note more prominent than the fruit.  Behind that are fading cherry suggestions and new oak.  Flavour is better,  slightly stalky red fruits still dominating for now,  but the oak threatening to becoming assertive.  Lacks the ‘ripe fruits’ character of the Mornington Peninsula wine,  but still recognisably varietal.  Fully mature.  GK 12/17

Syrah = Shiraz
2002  Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon   18 ½ +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  a single-vineyard wine from the upper slopes of the famous Hill of Hermitage;   15 – 18 months in 50% new French oak;  this wine from magnum;  www.chapoutier.com ]
Elegant mid-ruby,  not much sign of age showing,  the lightest of the syrahs.  Bouquet is wonderfully varietal,   a meld of black cherry,  cassis and blueberry,  subtle oak,  the wine lightly aromatic,  smelling refreshing and food-friendly.   Palate follows perfectly,  more big pinot noir than syrah in size,  the flavours complex cassis and blueberry,  but more subtle than the Craggy or Torbreck wines,  and therefore better at table.  A spicing of black pepper adds interest.  New oak is exquisitely soft and complex,  subordinate.  This wine is probably approaching maturity in 750s,  but this sample being from magnum,  is relatively youthful.  The smallest of the syrahs,  but the most beautiful.  Cellar maybe 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/17

2002  Torbreck Shiraz RunRig   18 +  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  RunRig is made from shiraz vines more than 100 years old.  It is the flagship wine of famous winery and vineyard Torbreck,  which visionary Dave Powell built from scratch.  His goal was to match the wines of the Rhone Valley.  The winery is a fond favourite for Mike Parker,  who has followed RunRig in particular from inception 1995,  till Powell's ousting in 2013;  www.torbreck.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  youthful,  the middle of the three syrahs for depth.  Unlike the Petaluma in the cabernets,   RunRig shows quite a strong mint aromatic nearly grading to euc,  somewhat obscuring big berryfruit which is at an interesting point of ripeness (for South Australian shiraz) of blueberry,  rather than boysenberry.  The wine smells big and rich but not unduly oaky.  Palate is gentle,  gorgeous ripe blueberry and cassis,  much more subtle than Grange,  less oaky than Le Sol,  the harmony on palate being a delight.  For those not sensitive to eucy characters in red wine,  this would be a gold medal wine.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 12/17

2002  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  15%;  $ –    [ cork;  a contentious wine from a warm year,  which I discuss more fully in a Sept. 2016 report.  It seems destined to continue to provoke (hopefully) delighted debate;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  fractionally fresher and deeper than the RunRig.  Bouquet is exciting,  showing fumey and huge berry character reflecting ripening of the syrah to a point where cassis is grading to blueberry.  Oak is apparent,  but seems well covered by fruit.  Le Sol has the dubious privilege here of being more alcoholic than the South Australian wine,  but the aromatics on the latter make it seem more aggressive.  Palate however is harder than the Torbreck,  more new oak than syrah needs,  but time should soften it.  Exciting but bold wine,  to cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 12/17