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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

CLEARVIEW CHARDONNAY RESERVE 1994 – 2004:  11 REVIEWS


Hawkes Bay is famous for its full-flavoured mendoza-based chardonnays,  wines which are characterised by golden queen peach smells,  and similar flavours made mealy and complex by barrel ferment,  lees autolysis and MLF components in the winemaking.  For some years now,  Tim Turvey’s Clearview Chardonnay Reserve has been one of the richest and most indulgent of those wine styles,  and many regard it as the top Hawkes Bay chardonnay.  Whether or not that is always true,  the opportunity to share in a vertical tasting of the 11 vintages 1994 to 2004 was eagerly taken up.  The tasting was hosted by Rob Bishop and Shelley Hood,  of Wellington.

A key feature to emerge from this Clearview Chardonnay tasting is the fine-tuning apparent in the character of the wines from 2000 on.  Later discussion with Tim confirmed that the 2000 vintage was indeed the first year they used a bladder press,  compared with the earlier screw-pattern machines.  Rarely have I seen such dramatic evidence of the benefit of improved technology.  2003 aside,  these later wines are tending subtler and finer,  with much enhanced cellar prospects.  At the same time they retain all the richness of the classic Clearview Reserve style.  Incidentally,  Tim advises that with the purchase of a Diemme press for the 2005 vintage,  they anticipate another comparable leap in quality.

Chardonnay the variety is particularly susceptible to oxidation in bottle,  so the capricious nature of cork as a closure becomes very apparent in this variety.  Recently,  I looked through half a dozen bottles of a 1986 New Zealand chardonnay that I wanted to present at a serious wine dinner in Gisborne.  Just placing the six bottles before a white card,  no two were the same depth of colour.  So these notes have to be read with bottle variation from oxidation in mind,  for who (apart from the winemaker) can say which bottle of any vintage is representative.

Thus far,  the wines seem to be at their most-integrated,  freshest and best at the 3 to 5 year point.  2000 and later ones have more chance of holding in cellar for longer.  From 2005 vintage on however,  there will be a further leap in the quality and even more importantly the consistency of the bottled wine.  The wine will now be bottled  either under screwcap,  or under the new hi-tech composite corks perfected by Diam and other manufacturers.  In these all the cork material is ground to a constant size specification,  and treated with supercritical CO2 to remove all traces of TCA cork taint,  down to a level beyond instrumental sensitivity.  The material is then moulded with inert binder into corks of totally specified density and permeability,  with each batch subject to post-manufacture testing.  These corks are achieving the same consistency of closure as screwcap,  with the advantage of enhanced flexibility for permitting oxygen ingress if the winemaker desires,  while retaining the romance of the cork closure.  Adopting these new closures can only make the wines more consistent and interesting,  and enhance their longevity.  What a joy vertical tastings will be in a few years time,  when we have 10 years of screw-capped or Diam-corked wines to present.  

All the wines over the years have been made in broadly the same way,  the primary emphasis being on rich fruit flavours achieved through letting the grapes ripen to 23º Brix or more,  up to 26º.  Detail is given for the current 2004 vintage.  Alcohols averaging over 14% are therefore part of the package,  like it or not.  Where the dry extract is sufficient (as in most of the Clearview Reserve Chardonnays),  I have to admit the style hides the alcohol reasonably well.  From 2001 vintage on,  there has been the added subtle complexity of 3 – 4% of the wine being fermented in American oak,  once barrels made from three-year air-dried timber became consistently available.
 

CHARDONNAY

2000  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   19  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  Like the 1994,  this wine stands a little apart in showing a whisper of Puligny-Montrachet-styled complexity about it,  which romantically,  one can call mineral,  but more prosaically is sulphur-related.  It is so subtle as to be academic,  but will keep the wine fresher than some vintages.  There is also glorious golden queen peachy fruit,  and great barrel-ferment and wholemeal lees autolysis complexity.  Palate is rich,  oily-rich,  peaches and best dried figs,  the alcohol more harmonious than some,  the lees autolysis beautifully mealy and well integrated.  Definitive Clearview Reserve Chardonnay,  and likewise definitive Hawkes Bay mendoza chardonnay in the rich style,  as well.  Perfection now,  or will hold in cellar 3 – 6 years,  maybe longer.  GK 10/05

2002  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   18 ½ +  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
This is the palest of all the wines,  more lemon than straw,  gorgeous.  Bouquet on this wine is just like the 2000,  but purer,  without the hint of France,  just glorious golden queen peachy fruit of exquisite purity.  Some tasters rated it higher than the 2000,  therefore.  Like the 2000 and perhaps more so,  the palate is superb,  again succulent golden peach of textbook definition,  with the harmony and integration one hopes the 2004 is aiming for,  and little sign of the high alcohol and new oak.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   18 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $39   [ cork;  hand-harvested  24 - 25º brix;  40%  6 - 10 hours skin contact,  balance whole-bunch pressed;  free-run juice BF in French (96%) and American oak (4%) all 100% new,  then LA 11 months with weekly batonnage;  c. 25% MLF;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Colour is lemonstraw,  very close to the 2000.  The fruit is the triumph here,  with golden queen peaches and custard pouring from the glass,  plus barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis characters still a bit unintegrated.  Palate is as rich as the best,  and the depth of flavour is superb,  but it needs another couple of years to gain the harmony and integration of the 2002 and 2000.  Earlier this year,  I thought this was the subtlest and best Clearview Reserve Chardonnay yet,  but with this unprecedented opportunity to see the last 11 vintages side-by-side,  I am not now quite sure it will surpass the elegance of the 2000 and 2002.  But it is certainly as good as them.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/05

2001  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   18  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  with the very faintest hint of development introducing a light golden sheen on the lemon.  The golden peach fruit here shows greater depths of lees autolysis character,  with sweet smells reminiscent of peach shortcake or similar.  Palate is as rich as the top wines,  but alcohol and oak are a little more boisterous on the finish.  At a peak now,  and will hold 2 – 4 years.  GK 10/05

1999  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   17 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.6%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Colour is gold,  in clear contrast with the younger wines.  In vintage 2000,  winemaker Tim Turvey started doing something differently,  more subtly [see introduction].  Bouquet on the 1999 is very rich,  and despite the colour,  it is still pretty fresh.  There is no smell of oxidation as such,  but there is more suggestion of dried peaches (quality ones)  as well as fresh.  Barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis characters are clearly wholemeal or even wholegrain,  on bouquet.  Palate likewise is fully mature,  ripe peach with dried fruit and fig flavours coming in,  but not yet showing biscuitty notes.  Just past the peak of maturity,  so about now is the last opportunity to see it still with fresh fruit characters as well.  That should be qualified – bottles from warmer places such as Auckland will be older.  Will hold 1 – 3 years.  GK 10/05

1994  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   17 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Colour is lemonstraw with a flush of gold,  paler than the 1999,  and with no orange / brown hues – the surprise of the tasting.  The reason is obvious as soon as one smells it,  with total sulphurs just a fraction higher than most,  and freshly opened the wine shows a hint of sackyness  (which quickly clears).  Fruit is an interesting mixture of the same golden queen peaches and figs as the younger wines,  without quite the depth of lees-autolysis and barrel-ferment characters.  This is at a peak of maturity,  and if this bottle is typical,  the wine will hold / decline in a pleasant way for 1 – 3 years more.  GK 11/05

1996  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   17 +  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Colour is gold,  with a flush of orange,  quite deep.  At this point,  the wines are clearly past their peak,  with the biscuitty qualities of incipient or actual oxidation detectable,  as well as all the fruit and fermentation characters described in the younger wines.  The combination can be very pleasant,  as in this wine which is saved by wonderfully rich fruit,  still fleshy and succulent.  These older wines accompany many foods well,  such as pastry-related white meat dishes and similar.  It is richer than the 1995,  and fractionally more oaky,  but like it,  would be best drunk in the next year or two.  GK 11/05

1995  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   17  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Gold and orange,  a little paler than the 1997.  At 10 years old,  this is showing its age,  but is nonetheless gracefully mature.  Bouquet combines fresh golden peaches and dried,  with wine-biscuit complexity,  and the palate sustains these beautifully.  Oak and alcohol are better integrated than the 1997,  with an attractive button-mushroom aftertaste from the lees-autolysis.  Fading gracefully,  a gentle wine,  best used in the next couple of years.  GK 11/05

2003  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga 50%,  Bayview 50%,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  fruit frost-affected;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Colour is straw,  between the 1994 and the 2001.  This is an awkward wine,  illustrating the older style of chardonnay,  which we used to mark highly in New Zealand,  but happily are now retreating from.  Bouquet has the peachy fruit of the style,  but also both tropical fruit and stalky notes,  giving a character best described as pineapple.  Palate tends to emphasise the stalky even slightly green and acid components, even though it is awash with other fruits.  Combined with the alcohol and oak,  the whole thing becomes relatively unharmonious and tiring to drink,  the oak spikey.  Probably at a peak now,  and will hold for a couple of years before declining more quickly than most.  GK 11/05

1997  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   16  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Colour is gold and orange,  the darkest / deepest of the set.  Bouquet on this one is broadening,  with a clear butterscotch / caramel clumsy component in the biscuitty oxidation characters.  Like the 1996,  the wine is saved by the rich fruit to a degree,  but this is not as harmonious.  Oak and alcohol intrude on the biscuitty finish,  as the fruit fades.  If this bottle is representative (and colour is the index),  should be finished-up soon.  GK 11/05

1998  Clearview Estate Chardonnay Reserve   16  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  simpler variations on 2004 practice,  qv;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Depth of colour is about the same as the 1995,  but the hue is different,  with marked orange.  And on bouquet,  this is the most oxidised of the set,  almost certainly due to the inherent variation of cork as a closure,  rather more than the wine (though this is the hottest recent vintage in Hawkes Bay).  Below the slightly cidery oxidation,  there is the same peachy and biscuitty fruit,  of good weight.  Finish is integrated and attractive,  more like the ‘95 than the 1997. With this wine and the 1997,  scoring of older wines is pretty arbitrary,  depending on how much one tolerates (or even likes) the complex flavours of age and incipient breakdown.  All these older Clearview Chardonnays are saved by their very rich fruit,  and if one concentrates on the positive aspects of the wine,  they are well worth trying.  And some bottles will be much better than the 1997 and 1998 in this tasting.  One would have to be fairly picky (or totally habituated to current vintage wine) not to find this 1998 pleasantly drinkable with appropriate food,  but (if this bottle is representative) it needs finishing up.  GK 11/05