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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.

CABERNET BLENDS FROM NEW ZEALAND,  BORDEAUX AND AUSTRALIA


Tastings in the last few months have included some worthwhile blind assemblages of wines in the claret or cabernet / merlot style.  Noteworthy were several Australian reds offering varietal character,  and subtlety and finesse,  whilst battling sometimes highish alcohols.  The French wines included some reasonable labels from Bordeaux,  but they by no means outclassed the Australasian wines,  unless one judges solely in terms of conformity to one style. And even that can be tricky.  Pegasus Bay have again achieved a remarkable Bordeaux look-alike from their Waipara vineyards,  well south of where conventional wisdom in New Zealand says claret styles can be ripened.

CABERNET,  MERLOT & RELATED BLENDS

2002  Cape Mentelle Cabernet / Merlot Trinders
2000  Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon
2001  Carruades de Lafite
1999  Carruades de Lafite
2002  Craggy Range Cab. Sauvignon / Merlot / Cab. Franc The Quarry
2002  Craggy Range Merlot / Cabernet Franc Sophia
2002  Craggy Range Merlot Seven Poplars
2001  Ch Duhart-Milon
1999  Ch Duhart-Milon
1998  Ch Duhart-Milon
2000  Ch Duhart-Milon
2002  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2002  Jim Barry Cabernet Sauvignon The Cover Drive
2002  Kingsley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec / Merlot
2001  Ch Lafite
1999  Ch Lafite
1998  Ch Lafite
2002  Newton – Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec
1999  Orlando Jacobs Creek Shiraz / Cabernet Limited Release
2002  Pask Cabernet / Merlot Gimblett Road
2002  Pask Merlot Gimblett Road
  2001  Pegasus Bay Merlot / Malbec Maestro
2001  Penfolds Cabernet / Shiraz Bin 389
2001  Peter Lehmann Cabernet Sauvignon
2000  Peter Lehmann Mentor
2002  Red Metal Merlot / Cabernet Franc Basket Press
2002  Red Rocks Merlot / Malbec Gravel Pit Red
2000  Domaines Rothschild Bordeaux Reserve
2001  Smith & Hooper Cabernet / Merlot
2001  Te Awa Boundary
2000  Te Awa Boundary
1999  Te Awa Boundary
2002  Terravin Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec
2001  Vasse Felix Cabernet Heytesbury
2001  Vasse Felix Cabernet / Merlot
2001  Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon
2000  Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon Menzies
1999  Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon Menzies
1999  Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz Signature
2000  Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz  Signature
1998  Yalumba Cabernet / Shiraz The Reserve


1999  Orlando Jacobs Creek Shiraz / Cabernet Limited Release   19  ()
Barossa Valley & Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $60   [ shiraz from Barossa,  cabernet from Coonawarra;  12 months in new French & US oak, then 8 - 12 months in oak;  seen as the flagship wine in the Jacobs Creek range;  www.jacobscreek.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a wonderful colour for its age.  This bouquet is sensational.  First impression is benchmark cassis,  as if the wine were a great cabernet / merlot.   Below that is blueberry betraying the shiraz,  but it is astonishing the extent to which the cabernet has taken over this wine.  Oaking is subtle and smells like firmest French.  Palate is equally marvellous,  aromatic cassis,  great finesse approaching Bordeaux in style,  long and lingering on raisiny cassis skins.  Beautiful and classic wine which will cellar for 20 – 30 years.  GK 05/04

2001  Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon   19  ()
Margaret River,  West Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $36   [ CS 90%,  Ma 7,  Me 3;  extended cuvaison,  partial BF and 18 months in French oak;  www.vassefelix.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  A big sweet ripe and slightly charry cabernet bouquet,  smelling of beautiful cassis and darkest plum,  plus some barrel ferment components.  Palate is gloriously rich,  ripe and yet subtle,  retaining the complexity of the grape, and not smothering it with oak or eucalyptus.  Alcohol aside,  this astonishingly Bordeaux-like wine will cellar for 15 – 20 years,  and could be run with classed growths.  In that company,  I guess it would seem faintly minty.  GK 06/04

2002  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Me 55%,  Ma 25,  CS 20;  MLF  in barrel,  19 months in French oak;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
This wine has recently been reviewed favourably (5/04),  so it was intriguing to have it somewhere among the 12 blind wines.  On this occasion,  it appeared understated on bouquet,  but with phenomenal fruit richness on palate,  so one has to take the wine very seriously indeed.  It gradually opened to dense plummy fruit lifted by some cassis and oak,  and the following day was showing a much better indication of its potentially Bordeaux-like complexities – fragrant and berryrich.  Except that there is a faint New Zealand tell-tale in the suggestion of pennyroyal on bouquet.  This is an exciting wine to cellar for decades rather than years.  GK 07/04

2001  Ch Lafite   19  ()
Pauillac 1st Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $574   [ CS 87%,  Me 13;  18 – 20 months in up to 100% new French oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Ruby, carmine and velvet,  but not a big or dense wine.  Bouquet is contemporary in the sense of some charry oak notes,  but there are also beautiful florals suggesting violets,  and intense cassis,  berry and darkest plum.  The whole bouquet is fragrant,  fine,  and potentially cedary,  a classic expression of high-cabernet claret.  Palate is intensely fragrant too,  the florals seeming to intensify in mouth to saturate the roof,  the texture beautifully finegrain and velvety,  yet the berry flavours intense,  with the oak shaping yet almost invisible.  It is this wonderful combination of power yet restraint,  coupled with absolute quality of smell and flavour,  which differentiates great wine from those designed rather more to impress.  Though this '01 Lafite is not a big wine,  it has the concentration and perfect balance to cellar for 10 and 20 years,  and still be charming if frail at 30 years.  And we in New Zealand could well note these flavours of perfect physiological ripeness,  at 12.5% given alcohol.  GK 07/04

2001  Pegasus Bay Merlot / Malbec Maestro   18 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ release July 04,  scarce;  Me 50,  Ma 40,  CS 5,  CF 5;  intense canopy management to optimise fruit quality;  DFB;  www.pegasusbay.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  but not a big wine – markedly denser than '02 Coleraine,  not as deep as 02 Brokenstone.  Bouquet on this wine is sensational.  With very good wine,  it is scarcely necessary to taste it,  so fine and enveloping is the bouquet.  Here there are overwhelming violets and deepest roses,  plus cassis,  blackberries in the sun,  and ripest dark plums.  Oaking is sublime,  lightly spicy,  and as subtle as any in New Zealand.  Palate is fresh and intensely berry-flavoured,  a little exotic from the high percentage malbec (when compared with Bordeaux sensu stricto),  not as rich as some of the Hawkes Bay wines,  but still suggesting a grand cru cropping rate.  Complexity of berry flavours against the potentially cedary oak is great,  there are absolutely no green or stalky notes,  and the acid balance is no fresher than some well-rated 2001 Hawkes Bay wines,  or the '01 Lafite.  Total wine achievement is as close,  or closer,  to east-bank Bordeaux than any of the Hawkes Bay wines – an astonishing achievement in Canterbury,  more than 1.5 degrees of latitude further south than Hawkes Bay.  But then,  Pegasus Bay achieved a similar miracle with their 1998 Maestro,  and that had significantly more cabernet.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 07/04

2002  Red Rocks Merlot / Malbec Gravel Pit Red   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Me 65%,  Ma 35;  Capricorn Wines Estates subsidiary of Craggy Range;  www.capricornwines.co.nz ]
An excellent ruby,  carmine and velvet.  In a Wellington-based blind tasting of 12 of some of the more eminent 2002 Hawkes Bay Blends,  by 23 tasters,  this wine was rated one of the top three.  The reasons lie in its ripe but not over-ripe Bordeaux-like florals,  its fruit complexity in which cassisy,  berry and potentially tobacco-y qualities are dominant,  and in its attractive mouthfeel,  with ripe tannins,  soft texture,  well-balanced acid and light oak.  It is the most complete wine in the set,  at this early stage,  and there are no technical failings.  We can only look forward to seeing how it cellars under screwcap,  and also hope that such a magnificent achievement for the price is repeated.  Too often,  wine companies launch a new wine with a splendid batch to establish the label,  and quality thereafter never quite recaptures the original.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  and at the price one would have to be very short-sighted not to cellar a case.  VALUE  GK 07/04

1998  Yalumba Cabernet / Shiraz The Reserve   18 ½  ()
South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $122   [ CS  71%,  Sy 29;  22 months in French oak 22% new,  625 dozen only;  rated 98 points by Robert Parker;  DFB;  www.yalumba.com ]
Ruby and  velvet.  Even on bouquet,  this is immensely impressive wine,  with huge brambly berry of great weight and presence,  made fragrant by excessive oak,  in the Australian style.  It is however very high quality and potentially cedary French oak.  Palate is velvety-rich,  showing immense concentration of cassis,  and a fruit quality in mouth comparable with Grange – but in this case made from cabernet sauvignon more than shiraz.  The cassis broadens out into milk chocolate and plum in mouth,  but always the nagging oak (and high alcohol) takes the magic out of it.  One has to score it at gold medal-level on the concentration of cassis,  blackberry and plummy varietal character,  but alongside it,  '01 Lafite from a middle-weight year achieves so much more finesse and sheer pleasure,  with so much less.  Cellar 10 – 40 years,  in the latter part of which it should be attractive with food.  GK 07/04

2000  Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon Menzies   18 ½  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $40   [ 25-year vines;  22 months in French oak;  DFB;  www.yalumba.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  fresher than the 2000 Signature.  Aha,  this is more interesting,  a Yalumba red not immediately smelling of oak.  Bouquet is out-and-out cassis with a hint of violets,  sweet,  pure,  simple in one sense,  but complexed subtly by potentially cedary French oak.  Palate is exactly the same,  essence of cassis,  only slightly oaky.  There are suggestions of a cabernet doughnut palate,  not quite the complexity the blended 2001 Vasse Felix or 2001 Pegasus Bay Maestro show,  but this  '00 Menzies is a very clean strict example of beautifully-defined Coonawarra cabernet.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 07/04

2001  Vasse Felix Cabernet Heytesbury   18  ()
Margaret River,  West Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $54   [ CS 84%,  Sy 8,  Ma 5,  Me 2;  18 months in new French oak;  www.vassefelix.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  a little deeper than the standard Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is more an Australian cabernet in style than the standard wine,  with rich cassis but also strong French oak introducing quite a hessian note.  Palate is very dry,  rich,  fine-grained,  firmly oaky and very taut.  Cepage is almost a Hawkes Bay Blend,  except the shiraz has more prominence.   One cannot taste the shiraz easily,  but the whole wine is less compellingly Bordeaux-like than the standard wine,  both grapewise and in the more emphatic oak handling.  Cellar 15 – 25 years.  GK 06/04

2002  Cape Mentelle Cabernet / Merlot Trinders   18  ()
Margaret River,  West Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $29   [ CS 56%,  Me 36,  CF 4,  PV 3;  15 months in 35% new 50 / 50 French and US oak;  www.capementelle.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  The cassis of cabernet is delightful in this wine,  and there is even a hint of violets.  Palate is  lighter and fresher than the Vasse Felix 2001,  but the cassis is still intense,  with good supporting plummy fruit,  and fragrant oak which is slightly nutmeggy.  This should cellar for 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/04

2002  Newton – Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  CS 35%,  Me 34,  Ma 31;  French and American oak;  DFB;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  In contrast to the Esk Reserve and the Sacred Hill (5/04),  this wine opens immediately fragrant,  with clear cassis,  berryfruits and violets,  as well as the pennyroyal aromatic note which is so common in New Zealand reds.  Palate is juicy,  berryrich and flavoursome,  a bit oaky,  not as tautly knit and Bordeaux-like as several of the more highly-scored wines,  but there is plenty to like.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 07/04

2001  Penfolds Cabernet / Shiraz Bin 389   18  ()
South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $44   [ mainly Padthaway, Bordertown and McLaren Vale, plus some Barossa, Kalimna and Robe;  13 months in new (22%), and older US oak;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Deep ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A very rich,  deeply floral,  ripe,  fruity and nearly raisiny bouquet creates a good first impression,  chock-full of cassisy berry and darkly plummy fruit.  One can nearly imagine violets in the depths of this.  Palate is deeply skinsy,  very dry with the cassis showing the raisiny edge again,  not excessively oaky,  and some of  the  oak older.  A classic example of the better Penfolds styles,  though not quite matching the best of recent years. In this instant gratification age,  good to see even Penfolds saying this wine will cellar for 20 years.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Kingsley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec / Merlot   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ screwcap;  CS 71%,  Ma 15,  Me 14;  French oak;  DFB;  www.kingsley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as deep as some.  Bouquet on this wine is astonishingly like an Haut-Medoc wine such as Ch Lanessan,  where cabernet sauvignon is a high percentage (75 at Lanessan),  and new oak is less apparent.  Bouquet and palate are beautifully dominated by intense cassis and darkest plum,  and though the oak is understated,  nonetheless the whole wine is tauter and shows better tannin integration than for example the Cornerstone.  This is elegant Bordeaux-styled red wine,  not the richest,  but one to illuminate the Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux climatic analogy to the
utmost.  What a pleasure it will be with food in 10 – 15 years.  GK 07/04

2002  Craggy Range Merlot Seven Poplars   18  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $34   [ Me 98%,  Ma 2;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Dense ruby,  velvet and carmine.  Bouquet on this merlot is cooler than the Gimblett Gravels wine,  showing cassis notes as well as violets and plums,  but with oak interfering.  Flavours are in part like modern Bordeaux,  but there is too much new oak,  which exacerbates the acid,  making the whole wine taste more austere.  This may grow more fragrant and complex in cellar,  and could even overtake the Gimblett wine on bouquet,  but I suspect the oak will remain a matter for regret.  The depth of fruit in these Craggy reds bespeaks a conservative cropping rate,  giving great flavour.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 02/04

1998  Ch Lafite   18  ()
Pauillac 1st Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $574   [ CS 81%,  Me 19;  18 – 20 months in up to 100% new French oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Older ruby.  Unlike the 2001,  this is a much softer,  plummy and even slightly leathery wine,  showing some development for its age.  It smells more of merlot-dominance,  notwithstanding the high cabernet percentage.  Palate is much firmer however,  tannic,  still quite tough with plenty of plummy fruit and suggestions of older cassis below.  The family resemblance to the 1998 Duhart-Milon is remarkable,  but the Lafite seems more than twice as concentrated.  The style is not as supremely fine and floral as the 2001, but it is still a classic claret,  with potential cedar and cigarbox complexities to develop.  Cellar 10 – 20 years plus.  GK 07/04

1999  Ch Lafite   18  ()
Pauillac 1st Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $434   [ CS  74%,  Me 19,  CF 6,  PV 1;  18 – 20 months in up to 100% new French oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Older ruby,  less weight than the 1998.  Like the 2001,  this example of Lafite is in the firm cassisy style of claret,  but it is lighter,  with a suggestion of austerity.  Palate shows that 'light'  is relative,  for the concentration of cassis is splendid.  Again the oak is well-nigh invisible,  potentially cedary,  and the wine is finegrain and long-lasting in the mouth,  if slightly more acid than the other two.  It reminds me of the 1966 Pauillacs,  wines which were stern and tending austere in their youth,  but have cellared well,  in their fragrant style.  This too will cellar well,  to give a very fragrant,  pleasing,  yet always relatively austere claret.  Real Englishman's claret,  in contrast to Americans'.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 07/04

2002  Jim Barry Cabernet Sauvignon The Cover Drive   17 ½  ()
Clare Valley & Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  15%;  $20   [ DFB;  Clare 80%,  Coonawarra 20;  mostly French oak ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A very fragrant wine indeed,  with quite strong floral mint on top of cassis and blackberry,  all emphasised by the excess alcohol.  This sweetly fragrant mint character is pretty well simpatico with shiraz,  but in my view tips cabernet blends off course,  and standardises them.  Palate is exactly the same,  fragrant,  beautifully fruited,  oaky but not outrageously so.  This will cellar for 10 – 15 years.  GK 06/04

2000  Te Awa Boundary   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $42   [ Me 85%,  CS 10,  CF 5;  15 months French oak,  30% new;  DFB;  www.teawafarm.co.nz ]
Ruby.  A fragrant cassisy and potentially cedary bouquet,  the oaking beautifully subtle by New Zealand standards,  but still more apparent than most Bordeaux.  Volume of bouquet is very attractive,  with plum and mulberry as well as the cassis,  and some savoury suggestions,  all starting to marry up.  Palate is intense red and black fruits,  the tannins ripe,  the fruit quite rich in an understated slightly austere Medoc-like balance and style,  all subtly oaked.  This should cellar well for 5 – 15 years,  and be a real foil for lesser classed growths and best crus bourgeois of the exciting 2000 vintage.  [This review is an example of a wine appearing to open differently on different days,  in different company,  as discussed in 'About this Site'  under Marks / Scoring.  Such experiences are consumer reality too,  and honest reviews should reflect that.  Hence two reviews. ]  GK 07/04

2000  Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz  Signature   17 ½  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $40   [ CS c.60%,  Sy c.40;  CS in French oak,  Sy in US;  DFB ]
Ruby and velvet.  Clear cassisy cabernet in a minty,  chocolate and char Australian-style red is the first impression,  with good berry ripeness which is not too overripe.  Palate shows plenty of cassis with good fragrance,  and a cool fine-grained quality to it which,  coupled with relatively low oak,  is attractive.  If only the wine weren't so minty,  one could run it with 2000 Bordeaux,  in round-the-world cabernet-style tastings.  The Menzies will have to suffice for that,  though in one sense it is more one-dimensional.  This should cellar for 10 – 20 years,  and become a lighter and fragrant but very Australian red of some appeal.  GK 07/04

1999  Carruades de Lafite   17 ½  ()
Pauillac,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $113   [ Second wine of Ch Lafite;  CS  69%,  Me 31;  18 months in 10 – 15% new French oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Ruby.  In colour,  style and flavour,  the 1999 Carruades is an absolute miniature of the grand vin,  except that it is softer and more accessible.  Technically it is just as impeccable,  fruit weight is good,  cassis-dominated flavours,  beautiful oak.  It will cellar for 5 – 15 years.  This is a case of a second wine being clearly as good as a lesser classed growth.  GK 07/04

2002  Pask Merlot Gimblett Road   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ new,  1-year and 2-year oak,  75% Fr,  25 US;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby,  half the weight of the Reserve Merlot,  more like Awatea.  Unlike the weightier Reserve wine,  this straight Pask Merlot clearly shows some of the florals and violets of merlot,  with dark plums and cassis below.  The whole bouquet introduces thoughts of the right bank of the Gironde.  Palate doesn’t follow up quite so well,  being slightly stalky,  but otherwise fine-grained,  quite rich,  and dominated by fruit,  not oak.  This wine makes an interesting comparison with the similarly weighted Coleraine,  where the complex cepage of that wine makes this straight merlot look more one-dimensional.  This Pask will be attractive drinking,  in 5 or 10 years time.  GK 03/04

2000  Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon   17  ()
Margaret River,  West Australia,  Australia:  15%;  $58   [ CS  93%,  CF 7;  DFB;  18 months in French oak 75% new;  www.capementelle.com.au ]
Older ruby and velvet.  A sweet ripe Australian cabernet bouquet with soft cassis and blackberry,  fragrant oak,  and faintest mint greets the taster.  Palate is rich,  but (like the alcohol) the oak level is too high,  despite being high quality oak which will go cedary.  The wine may fine down in bottle,  and allow the fruit richness to shine a bit more,  but the level of the oaking in Trinders appeals more.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 06/04

2002  Craggy Range Merlot / Cabernet Franc Sophia   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $42   [ Me 63%,  CF 27,  Ma 5,  CS 5;  fermentation to 35°,  extended aerated maceration to 35 days;  MLF in barrel;  12 months in 100% new French oak plus 6 – 8 months in older French;  unfiltered;  DFB;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  fresher than The Quarry.  A strong bouquet with rich cassisy berry,  prominent oak,  and noticeable VA.  Palate is rich,  dry,  with attractive cassis ripeness which in the blind tasting tastes like a cabernet-dominant wine.  The richness of cassisy and plummy body is good,  and requires one to contemplate whether it can maybe support the level of VA.  In my view the wine is borderline to living dangerously – it is considerably better in balance than The Quarry,  but the VA is still rough on the throat.  An exciting wine,  flawed in the winemaking – see The Quarry report,  and the Craggy Range website.  Cellar 5 – 10 maybe,  but not a longer-term cellar wine,  given the VA.  It is fair to comment that for many tasters,  such a level of VA is merely 'very fragrant'.  GK 07/04

2000  Peter Lehmann Mentor   17  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  13%;  $52   [ CS 80%,  Ma 16,  Me 4;  partial BF,  16 months in French oak;  DFB;  www.peterlehmannwines.com.au ]
Older ruby.  A leaner bouquet in this company,  with slightly tealeafy and assertive cassis,  as if it were from Coonawarra,  or early-picked.  Palate continues similarly,  combining leafy cassis with slightly jammy fruit, oak,  and a suggestion of spearmint.  Doesn't seem together yet,  but rich enough to have cellar potential in its style,  10 – 15 years.  GK 06/04

2000  Ch Duhart-Milon   17  ()
Pauillac 4th Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $99   [ CS  80 – 85%,  Me 15 – 20;  18 months in 50 – 55% new oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Ruby, a suggestion of carmine and velvet.  A youthful and reserved bouquet,  and another high-cabernet wine showing at this stage the more merlot side of its personality,  plums more than cassis,  oak subtle,  but there is a smokey note to it.  Palate shows good fruit ripeness,  firm tannins,  good acid and oak,  all very youthful indeed.  There is not that magical definition and concentration of cassis and cedar to be found in the Lafite,  naturally enough,  the flavours being more classical Medoc in a blended sense,  attractively ripe.  Though this is the richest of the Duhart-Milons,  and the wine of a famous year,  it is intriguing stylistically that of the New Zealand wines,  it seems slighter than all but Coleraine and Red Metal.  It is only just above the ripeness point of subliminal leafy.  Interesting to think about,  over-influenced as we are by the heavy wines of Australia.  This 2000 Duhart-Milon will cellar for 10 – 20 years.  GK 07/04

2001  Carruades de Lafite   16 ½  ()
Pauillac,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $110   [ Second wine of Ch Lafite;  CS  50%,  Me 42,  CF 7,  PV 1;  18 months in 10 – 15% new French oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Ruby,  a suggestion of carmine and velvet.  This is an odd-man-out in the Bordeaux,  the wine having a plummy and almost obvious blackberry character to it which is both modern and new world,  exacerbated by a touch of VA.  On palate it is likewise a long way from classical young claret,  showing as soft,  juicy,  full of berries.  This is almost a populist Bordeaux style,  perfectly good in its way,  but one would never think it the second wine of a first growth.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 07/04

1999  Te Awa Boundary   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ DFB;   Me 85%,  CS 11,  CF 4;  15 months French oak,  30% new;  www.teawafarm.co.nz ]
Lightish older red,  some garnet.  Bouquet is much more developed than the 2000 Te Awa,  with some secondary tobacco-like qualities creeping into the light cassis and red plums,  plus a leafy hint.  Palate is astonishingly like minor-year Bordeaux,  the cassis quite leafy hinting nearly at stalky,  offset by the fragrant berry.  Oak is more apparent than the 2000,  but still reasonably well balanced.  Length of palate will shorten as fruit fades,  and this does not look a good cellar prospect beyond 3 – 5 years or so.  GK 07/04

2001  Peter Lehmann Cabernet Sauvignon   16 ½  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $24   [ DFB;   mostly larger French oak;  www.peterlehmannwines.com.au ]
Ruby.  A straightforward red plums and eucalyptus bouquet introduces a familiar kind of Barossa cabernet.  Palate is more cassisy,  slightly stalky as if early-picked,  and tending oaky and minty.  Sound medium-weight wine which will cellar 8 – 12 years.  GK 06/04

1999  Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon Menzies   16 ½  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $40   [ 22 months in French oak;  DFB;  www.yalumba.com ]
Older ruby and velvet.  Ripe rich red with plummy and some cassisy qualities,  plus some of the standardising Aussie mint.  Palate is rich and concentrated,  finegrain,  quite oaky but good quality oak,  the cassis persisting well,  but the wine ultimately finishing on excess oak,  and thus heavy.  Cellar 10 – 15 years,  in which time it will lighten up.  GK 06/04

2002  Pask Cabernet / Merlot Gimblett Road   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $26   [ CS 50%,  Me 35,  Ma 15;  oak similar to the Merlot;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby.  After the Pask Merlots and the remarkable Declaration,  this blend is the quarter-scale model.  Bouquet is fragrant and slightly leafy,  showing red and black currants,  red and black plums,  and pleasant oak.  Palate is juicy,  cassisy,  and supple,  but all a notch leafier / cooler in style than the straight Merlot,  and a little more acid.  Like the Awatea,  it is reminiscent of lighter Bordeaux,  but from a sound workaday vintage,  not a great one.  It will be fragrant but slightly austere drinking for 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/04

2001  Ch Duhart-Milon   16 ½  ()
Pauillac 4th Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $91   [ CS  80 – 85%,  Me 15 – 20;  18 months in 50 – 55% new oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Ruby.  A hint of charry oak in the modern style is backed up by clear cassis and lightly plummy fruit,  in a firm and perhaps even slightly austere bouquet.  Palate shows fair ripeness,  good balance,  and classic Bordeaux flavours,  with just a hint of stalkiness on the later palate.  It is markedly lighter than the 2000,  and less ripe and rich.  This will mature into an attractive and more traditional fragrant claret.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/04

1998  Ch Duhart-Milon   16 ½  ()
Pauillac 4th Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $73   [ CS  80 – 85%,  Me 15 – 20;  18 months in 50 – 55% new oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Ruby.  This is the most developed bouquet in this bracket of Domaines Rothschild wines,  combining straightforward plumminess with suggestions of leather and farmyard  –  a more old-fashioned Bordeaux altogether,  but likeable.  There is also a hint of leafiness in the plums,  and on palate that is more noticeable,  producing flavours not unlike Marlborough Merlot,  but with finer oak,  and good dry extract.  Pleasant claret,  good with food.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 07/04

2002  Craggy Range Cab. Sauvignon / Merlot / Cab. Franc The Quarry   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $61   [ CS 80%,  Me 15,  CF 5;  DFB;  fermentation to 35°,  extended aerated maceration to 35 days;  MLF in barrel;  12 months in 100% new French oak plus 8 months in older French;  unfiltered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  'older'-looking than Sophia.  Bouquet is strong but rough:  VA is so high the wine is completely out-of-kilter.  Palate is rich,  with big plummy and raisined cassis flavours,  huge oak,  but a level of VA which is abrasive to the mucous membranes.  The Bordeaux style is about elegance,  whereas this is old-fashioned Australian in its raucousness.  It reminds me of wines from the '60s which have not cellared well,  on VA levels comparable to this – perhaps approaching a gram / litre.  Such an over-expressed commitment to an oxidative style of winemaking (see the website),  and its consequent risk of elevated VA,  is a mistake in my view (even given that I prefer subtly oxidative red winemaking to reductive).  Fine wine is about balance,  and harmony.  In our blind tasting of 12 premium Hawkes Bay Blends,  conducted in clinical silence by 23 tasters (i.e. no 'leading'),  this wine recorded the most votes as bottom,  which at the price,  is disappointing.  To round out the picture,  however,  the wine has recently been reviewed and scored highly (18) by Jancis Robinson,  with no mention of technical failings (as is usual for English winewriters),  so tasting for oneself before investing is recommended.  Stylistically,  it is a far cry from the more classically-styled and elegant,  though slightly acid,  2001 Quarry reviewed 5/04 and rated 18.5.  The 2002 is not worth cellaring,  in my view.  GK 07/04

2002  Red Metal Merlot / Cabernet Franc Basket Press   16  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ DFB;   Me 95%,  CF 5;  www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  clearly the lightest of the wines.  A clean but simpler bouquet in this company,  showing soft redcurrant jelly and redfruits rather than black,  light oak,  and a leafiness which is distracting.  Palate likewise is redfruits,  one-dimensional and tending stalky,  though not weak.  It is markedly more stalky than the Coleraine.  It should develop in cellar into an east bank winestyle, more a satellite appellation than a major one,  which with the low oak will be pleasant with food.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 07/04

1999  Ch Duhart-Milon   16  ()
Pauillac 4th Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $97   [ CS  80 – 85%,  Me 15 – 20;  18 months in 50 – 55% new oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Older lighter ruby.  This is a great wine to have in a New Zealand cabernet / merlot tasting,  for it illustrates to perfection that Bordeaux in a modest year is climatically so like parts of New Zealand that often,  indeed usually,  have difficulty ripening cabernet to full physiological maturity:  North Auckland,  Waikato,  Manawatu,  Marlborough,  Nelson,  and much of the Wairarapa.  There is a fair concentration of modestly ripe fruits suggesting red currants more than black,  red plums ditto,  and a leafy quality throughout.  Palate shows considerable finesse,  but the leafy note becomes a little stalky,  so the fruit seems short.  It is a bit acid,  too.  Oaking however remains textbook in its subtlety.  Pleasant drinking with food,  as a classically styled claret of a coolish year,  and if one disregards the price.  Alternatively,  a wine of academic interest,  as we define our evolving Bordeaux-blend winestyles.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 07/04

1999  Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz Signature   15 ½  ()
South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $40   [ CS 56%,  Sy 44;  22 months in US and French oak;  www.yalumba.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  A heavy wine,  with big anonymous berry,  but also tarry and slightly congested qualities,  as well as being both minty and euc'y.  This is very traditional stuff.  Palate is too aromatic on the euc'y notes,  and the strong mintyness is almost biting.  Quantitatively it has plenty of fruit to cellar on,  but there isn't much elegance to make the process worthwhile,  unless one likes heavy,  old-style Aussie reds.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 06/04

2002  Terravin Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec   15 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ DFB;   French oak;  www.terravin.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  An unusual bouquet,  showing both jammy cassis characters,  and leafy and stalky qualities,  close in style to a machine-pruned and picked Coonawarra cabernet.  Palate is rich,  and the cassis is good,  but in the leafy part there is a stalkiness approaching methoxypyrazine.  In a blind tasting it stands out as an awkwardly cool-climate cabernet,  and despite the richness and the evident care and attention which has been lavished on it,  the green notes handicap it.  More interesting than enchanting,  therefore.  Given Marlborough is the source,  the same winemaking in a merlot-dominant wine,  with malbec and maybe a little syrah for seasoning,  could be much more pleasurable.  Cellar 5 – 10,  in its style.  GK 06/04

2001  Te Awa Boundary   15 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $42   [ DFB;   Me 82%,  CS 15,  CF 3;  15 months French oak,  30% new;  www.teawafarm.co.nz ]
Ruby.  This is the least bouquet of the 1999 – 01 Boundaries,  with clear leafy,  stalky and even green notes in the cassis.  On palate there is modest berry and plum,  but the wine is austere and under-ripe throughout,  with greenness beyond that encountered in serviceable minor Bordeaux.  In all other respects it is beautifully made.  Given this property on the famed Gimblett Gravels,  and the quality of some other 2001s from nearby,  the lack of physiological ripeness in this wine suggests there is a cropping rate / viticulture issue to be considered here.  Not really worth cellaring.  GK 07/04

2001  Vasse Felix Cabernet / Merlot   15  ()
Margaret River,  West Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $26   [ CS 53%,  Me 44,  CF 3;  a roto-fermenter,  earlier-drinking wine;  www.vassefelix.com.au ]
Older ruby.  Straightforward,  slightly leathery,  indeterminate redfruits on bouquet,  lead into a slightly brackish,  faintly cassisy simple red of fair richness,  but modest flavour.  Tending to a QDR style,  but should cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 06/04

2000  Domaines Rothschild Bordeaux Reserve   14  ()
Bordeaux,  France:  12%;  $25
Ruby.  This is a straightforward negociant's claret blend,  fragrant,  wholesome,  skinny,  with all the smells and flavours generic.  Talking about specifics such as cassis just does not arise.  There are indeterminate stalky red fruits raised in somewhat rustic old cooperage,  yet in its nett flavour,  and fresh acid and tannin balance,  it is clearly Bordeaux.  A Bordeaux QDR really,  half the concentration of the lightest Duhart-Milon,  similar in quality to a light quaffing chianti.  In a year such as 2000,  one could have hoped for more,  given the house and the price.  There are petits chateaux of far more substance than this,  available in New Zealand for less outlay.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 07/04

2001  Smith & Hooper Cabernet / Merlot   13 ½  ()
Wrattonbully,  South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $22   [ 10 months in French and US oak,  15% new ]
Ruby.  An unfocussed vaguely plummy and merlot-like red,  but let down by reductiveness.  Palate is stalky,  faintly cassisy,  short,  and lessened by the reductive thread.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/04