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.

REGIONAL WINES ROADSHOW:  PINOT NOIR,  MERLOT OR CABERNET BLENDS,  OTHER REDS


For several years now,  Regional Wines & Spirits of Wellington has presented an annual public tasting of New Zealand wines,  assembled from wineries keen enough to participate.  The 2005 event (25 October) was in the now-popular Roadshow format,  at Wellington's Boatshed venue on the waterfront,  with a representative (sometimes the winemaker) from the winery present for discussion.  This year at least 122 wines were available for tasting in a stand-up but not too congested layout,  for an entry cost of $20.  

The following notes select most of the pinot noirs,  merlot & cabernet blends,  and syrahs for review.  Samples were taken for more careful evaluation in my tasting room,  rather than just on-the-hoof impressions in the less than ideal conditions of a public tasting,  where people wish to talk etc.

The nett impression of the wines was something of a let-down.  There are still rather many domestic red wines which are not really internationally competitive,  and since they are invariably more expensive than carefully selected quaffing wines from Chile,  Spain or Italy,  let alone Australia,  they do not offer value.  I was puzzled that they were presented in such a context.  New Zealand wine consumers are remarkably patriotic.  

At the other end of the quality scale,  highlights included the 2003 Peregrine Pinot Noir,  and the newly released on the day 2003 Benfield & Delamare,  from an exceptional vintage in Martinborough.  From Hawkes Bay,  2004 Mills Reef Merlot / Malbec Reserve illustrates the quality of this vintage,  in an affordable wine that is not too oaky.  An exhibition like this Roadshow certainly highlights the good wines.

These reviews were first published at:  www.regionalwines.co.nz  They have been slightly edited / updated.


LAYOUT,  and THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Riesling
Pinot Gris
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Red
Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2003  Benfield & Delamare
2002  Benfield & Delamare
2004  Benfield & Delamare Song for Osiris
2004  Coopers Creek Merlot Hawkes Bay
2004  Lucknow Merlot / Malbec
2002  Lucknow Merlot Quarry Bridge Vineyard
2002  Matua Valley Merlot / Syrah / Cabernet Ararimu
2001  Mebus Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Franc
2004  Mills Reef Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2002  Mills Reef Malbec Elspeth
2002  Mills Reef Merlot Block 4 Elspeth
2004  Mills Reef Merlot / Malbec Reserve
2002  Newton-Forrest Estate Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Cornerstone
2004  RedMetal Merlot / Cabernet Franc
2003  RedMetal Merlot / Cabernet Franc
2002  RedMetal Vineyards Merlot / Cabernet Basket Press
2002  Rongopai Merlot Ultimo
  2004  Sileni Merlot Cellar Selection
2002  Sileni Merlot The Triangle
2004  Te Mania Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon Three Brothers
2004  Unison Marie’s Vineyard
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2004  Astrolabe Pinot Noir
2004  Coopers Creek Pinot Noir Marlborough
2004  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Twin Vineyards
2004  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Waipara
2004  Forrest Pinot Noir
2004  Gladstone Pinot Noir
2004  Koura Bay Pinot Noir Blue Duck
2004  Lucknow Gamay Noir
2003  Matua Valley Pinot Noir Innovator
2004  Mebus Pinot Noir Young Vines
2004  Mt Riley Pinot Noir
2003  Peregrine Pinot Noir
2004  Sileni Pinot Noir Cellar Selection
2004  Sileni Pinot Noir The Plateau
2004  Te Mania Pinot Noir
2003  Te Mania Pinot Noir Reserve
2004  Voss Pinot Noir
2004  Vynfields Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2003  Lucknow Syrah Lomond Bridge Vineyard
2004  Mills Reef Syrah Reserve
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.
   

Red
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2004  Mills Reef Merlot / Malbec Reserve   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap; 12 months in 1 and 2-year seasoned oak, MLF in barrel, regular batonnage;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  towards the deep end of this batch.  A little quiet freshly poured,  the bouquet on this wine becomes very attractive with air.  Violets and sweet plummy fruit of beautiful ripeness pour from the glass,  supported by toasty oak.  Palate brings up the oak somewhat,  but it is far less oaky than the Elspeth series have tended to be.  The wine thus reveals highly varietal merlot fruit,  in a much more Bordeaux-like balance.  And it is cleaner than the 2002 Elspeth series wines too,  with no significant brett.  This is not a showy wine,  and in its lighter oak it may not win the gold medals.  It will be infinitely more appealing with food,  though.  Remarkable for a second-tier wine.  The score includes an element of forecast.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  VALUE  GK 10/05

2003  Benfield & Delamare   18 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $53   [ cork;  Me 65%,  CS 25,  CF 10;  20 days cuvaison,  c.20 months French oak 40% new;  www.benfieldanddelamare.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deepest.  The 2003 Benfield & Delamare has been eagerly awaited,  for the vintage was a great one in Martinborough.  Public release was this debut at the Regional Roadshow,  but though the wine has been released to the mailing list,  and is available at the winery,  release to the limited number of trade outlets is expected "shortly".  Bouquet is wonderfully full and fragrant,  with at this stage,  the trademark spicy clove and nutmeg oak dominant,  and plummy fruit below.  Palate is another matter altogether,  with a texture and viscosity to the densely plummy and cassisy fruit which is remarkable,  and covers the oak totally.  And the low alcohol is magical,  the way Bordeaux used to be.  Martinborough in its warmest years achieves a similar fruit complexity and flavour to Bordeaux,  and this wine is one of the best achievements yet from these two committed proprietors.  From memory,  only two other vintages of theirs in the last 14 years compare with this 2003.  Expensive,  but in the top years,  the quality and rarity of this wine combine to make it a distinctive and desirable top New Zealand claret style.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe longer.  GK 10/05

2002  Newton-Forrest Estate Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Cornerstone    18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  CS 35%,  Me 34,  Ma 31 at 2.2 t/ac;  French 70% and American oak;  MLF in barrel;  previous review 7/04;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the second deepest colour.  Initially opened,  there is a deep,  clean and quietly understated bouquet with suggestions of cassis,  darkest plum,  tobacco,  oak and pennyroyal.  Palate is beautifully rich however,  with the berry leaping into clearer focus.  There is good cassis,  and great plum,  all richer and fresher than the Malbec Elspeth,  and equally rich.  Oak on palate is more than ideal,  as with so many premium Australasian reds and chardonnays,  but it is subtler than the Elspeths.  This wine is coming together attractively,  even though it may be in a quiet phase now.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 10/05

2002  Mills Reef Malbec Elspeth   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ cork;  French oak;  previous review 5/04;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a great colour,  and the deepest on the table.  Bouquet shows good complexity and concentration,  and many more berries per bottle than a number of the skinny wines in this batch.  Intense darkest plums and new oak to a maximum are prominent,  with hints of cedary,  tobacco-y and savoury complexity.  Palate is rich and round,  with good fruit ripeness.  Only the level of aromatic oak keeps me out of gold medal,  but there is no doubt this wine is marrying-up attractively in bottle,  and should have wide appeal.  Cellar 5 – 15 years plus.  GK 10/05

2002  Matua Valley Merlot / Syrah / Cabernet Ararimu   17 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  Matua’s top series,  intended to age;  French oak 9 months;  www.matua.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the third deepest.  Bouquet is oaky first and foremost,  but there is complex cassisy berryfruit behind the oak.  Palate is not quite as rich as some of the wines rated more highly,  but the flavours are attractive.  Cabernet sauvignon seems to dominate at this early stage,  though in our temperate climate,  syrah can also be quite cassisy.  The aftertaste however becomes oaky again,  as the fruit tapers anyway.  This would have been outright gold-medal wine,  10 years ago,  for the ripeness is super.  Only the amount of oak is negative,  for me.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Coopers Creek Merlot Hawkes Bay   17 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $17   [ screwcap;  3 different sites;  www.cooperscreek.co.nz ]
Carmine,  ruby and velvet,  very youthful,  in the middle for depth.  No bouquet worries from the bright colour though,  with an intriguing floral and fresh baked blackberry shortcake character which is attractive,  and plummy fruit below.  Perhaps there is an element of whole berry fermentation in here.  Palate is ripe,  sweetly plummy,  oak reasonably in balance,  suggestions of cassis on the finish.  Like the Mills Reef Merlot / Malbec Reserve,  this is an example of the new reality for New Zealand reds – internationally competitive reds under $20.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  It is excessively youthful now.  GK 10/05

2002  Mills Reef Merlot Block 4 Elspeth   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ cork;  previous review 5/04;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deepest.  Good to have straight merlot and straight malbec in the same blind tasting,  and difficult to tell which is which,  for both are plummy by nature.  To judge from my previous critical review,  this wine has mellowed more than the 2002 Malbec Elspeth,  with a ‘brown’ mulberry hint in the dark plum.  Like that wine,  this is also very oaky,  in its brash new world style,  but the fruit richness is good.  There is a little more brett complexity in this,  which for most consumers adds to the complexity and wineyness.  Cellar 5 – 10 + years.  GK 10/05

2002  Benfield & Delamare    17 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $53   [ cork ;  Me 50%,  CS 43,  CF 7;  20 days cuvaison,  c.19 months French oak 70% new;  www.benfieldanddelamare.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  fractionally older than the 2003 and of similar depth.  The proprietors’ trademark spicy oak is more prominent on this wine,  too prominent,  though there is good brambly fruit below.  Palate brings up the fruit richness,  to give a long-flavoured but very tannic wine,  in which ultimately I think the oak will overcome the fruit.  Almost a caricature of the distinctive B & D style,  and not unpleasant,  just a little out of balance.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Mills Reef Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   17  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  CS 55%,  Me 45;  French oak;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  below average in weight.  Bouquet is quite fumey and aromatic,  as if rum barrels were involved in its elevation (not unpleasant),  behind which is plummy fruit.  Palate is quite rich,  tasting of merlot more than cabernet,  benefitting greatly from decanting and air.  It is very oaky,  freshly poured.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Benfield & Delamare Song for Osiris   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ cork;  Me > CS > CF;  modelled on Bordeaux,  this is in effect the second wine of B & D;  for 2004 there will be no premium label;  www.benfieldanddelamare.co.nz ]
Carmine and ruby,  in the middle of the batch for depth.  Bouquet is fragrant and clearly merlot,  with violets and other floral notes,  and plummy fresh berry on toasty and slightly spicy oak.  Palate is youthful,  good berry and ripeness once breathed,  less fruit weight than the top wine,  slightly acid but an attractive flavour,  and not oaky.  Still infantile,  and should be more mellow in a year.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2002  Lucknow Merlot Quarry Bridge Vineyard   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  24 months in American oak;  www.lucknowestate.com ]
Older ruby,  middling for weight.  This is more an old-fashioned European bouquet,  with winey characters from older cooperage and Brettanomyces,  on reasonable berry and plummy fruit.  Palate has fair berry but is tending austere,  with a little entrained sulphur.  The whole wine is reminiscent of (an oaky) minor cru bourgeois claret,  and quite pleasant with food.  It will mellow in cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2002  Rongopai Merlot Ultimo   16 +  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ cork;  18 months in oak;  www.rongopaiwines.co.nz ]
Ruby and carmine,  a little velvet.  Freshly opened,  bouquet is austere on a slight reductive component,  behind which is fair red berry and plumminess.  Palate is initially hard on the sulphur,  the flavours expanding to add a cassis note to the plums,  with good richness,  and good oak  balance.  Pity about the reductive thread,  for the rest is pretty good,  and it is hard to get reds physiologically ripe in Gisborne.  It should gradually soften in cellar,  and become more bordeaux-like in 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/05

2002  RedMetal Vineyards Merlot / Cabernet Basket Press   16 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ cork;  Me 95%,  CF 5;  www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby and carmine,  one of the lighter ones.  Bouquet is withdrawn,  at that difficult point where subtle H2S is confuseable with floral / violets smells.  Below is ripe plummy and berryfruit,  not oaky.  Palate is more modest than the bouquet,  with a rank edge to the plums detracting somewhat,  picking up the reductive suggestion.  Fruit richness is quite good,  though.  A little more air in the system would have helped this wine.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/05

2001  Mebus Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Franc   16  ()
Masterton,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $24   [ cork;  wild yeast,  long maceration;  French oak ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the deepest.  Bouquet here is quite strong,  and a bit outside the square,  combining big pungent oak with an almost methoxypyrazine / red capsicum note,  and then a suggestion of bush honey,  as if the wine had significant syrah in it.  Palate inclines more to the cabernet sauvignon component in flavour,  good fruit richness,  but an under-ripe streak (from the cabernet presumably),  and much too oaky.   Interesting,  but probably tiring to drink much of,  yet awhile.  Should cellar 5 – 10 years,  and mellow.  GK 10/05

2004  Lucknow Merlot / Malbec   15 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:   – %;  $20   [ screwcap;  Me 73%,  Ma 27;  hand-picked;  cuvaison 21 days,  5 months in older American oak;  www.lucknowestate.com ]
Ruby,  below average in weight.  Bouquet is tending austere on retained fermentation odours and a stalky note,  with some red fruits.  Palate brings up the stalkiness,  and the palate is tending light and under-ripe,  and a little acid.  Will soften in cellar 3 – 8 years,  but scarcely worth cellaring.  GK 10/05

2004  Sileni Merlot Cellar Selection   15  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  website more PR than info;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby, one of the lightest.  A simple red fruits bouquet with quite a leafy hint,  reminiscent of minor satellite St Emilion or similar.  Palate has reasonable fruit,  but lacks ripeness,  so the berry is redcurrant and red plum at best,  with a green streak.  Cellar 3 – 6 years,  but scarcely worth it.  GK 10/05

2003  RedMetal Merlot / Cabernet Franc   14 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $20   [ Me 76%,  CF 24;  www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz ]
Light ruby,  the palest in the set.  Bouquet is light red fruits,  reticent,  verging on being reductive.  The palate however is shrinkingly light,  just redcurrants,  stalky,  reasonable fruit weight as QDR,  slightly acid.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 10/05

2002  Sileni Merlot The Triangle    14 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $34   [ screwcap;  website more PR than info;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby,  middling in weight.  A slightly different merlot bouquet,  showing stewed red plums and a suggestion of canned baby corn,  not unpleasant.   Palate however misses the point of merlot,  being stalky and astringent to a fault,  though of fair fruit weight.  Cellar 3 – 8 years to soften,  but not really worth it.  GK 10/05

2004  Unison Marie’s Vineyard   13 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $17   [ screwcap ]
Ruby,  carmine and some velvet,  medium weight.  Bouquet lets this wine down severely,  for though there is good plummy fruit on palate,  the wine is too reductive on pure H2S.  It creeps into the palate as well,  and dulls it.  H2S has been an issue in some earlier Unison reds,  too – eternal vigilance is needed.  The wine can never shine,  with this defect.  I don’t think this one will get over it,  so not worth cellaring.  GK 10/05

2004  Te Mania Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon Three Brothers   13 ½  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ cork;  Me 36%,  Ma 32,  CF 32;  10 months in French and American oak;  www.temaniawines.co.nz ]
Lightish ruby,  the second palest.  Bouquet is clean,  fragrant,  but under-ripe,  with palest redcurrants and cooked rhubarb fruit suggestions,  all leafy as if cabernet sauvignon dominant.  Palate is distinctly green-tinged and stalky,  lacking fruit,  but with a little botrytis and maybe residual sugar – or is it glycerol from the botrytis.  Cabernet blends are simply not a good idea in Nelson,  even if once in eight years or so they can be ripened.  Modest QDR.  GK 10/05

2004  RedMetal Merlot / Cabernet Franc   13  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:   – %;  $20   [ pre-bottling tank sample;  Me 64%,  CF 36;  www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  tending to the lighter end of the set.  Bouquet is insipid on retained MLF-y and fermentation odours.  Palate has some ripeness to a red fruits level,  but is reductive and hard / sour.  Needs cleaning up – a mistake to show it at this stage.  GK 10/05

Pinot Noir
2003  Peregrine Pinot Noir   18  ()
Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ screwcap;  10 months French oak;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Deep pinot ruby,  the deepest of the pinot subset.  Bouquet is deep and almost mysterious freshly poured,  and very pure.  This is a wine which would expand in one of those big show-off glasses.  With air,  deep sweet boronia florals become apparent,  on black cherry depths.   Palate is even more impressive,  deeply varietal,  black cherries rather than the red of the Koura Bay,  with an aromatic complex lift more Cote de Nuits than Cote de Beaune.  Finish is a little short thus far,  but the wine has the fruit weight to mellow out beautifully.  Cellar 5 –12 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Coopers Creek Pinot Noir Marlborough   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  French oak;  MLF in barrel,  and LA on gross lees ]
Good pinot ruby,  the third deepest of this set.  Bouquet is soft and rich on this wine,  not pinpoint varietal,  a  trace of VA,  but burgundian all the same.  Palate is more blackboy and plum than cherry,  the oak not quite as fragrant and clean as the Peregrine,  the finish slightly phenolic.  But the whole package is in style,  and with 18 months to mellow,  it should become an attractive food wine,  and more varietal.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  VALUE  GK 10/05

2003  Te Mania Pinot Noir Reserve   17 +  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ cork;  hand-picked,  2 t/ac,  7 days cold soak, wild yeast;  9 months in French oak 40% new,  MLF in barrel;  www.temaniawines.co.nz ]
Deep pinot noir ruby,  second deepest of these wines.  Bouquet has some of the floral complexity of the Peregrine,  in red and black cherry fruits complexed by bacony oak and some brett.  Cherry and plum fruit on palate are masked by quite strong oak at this stage,  and the wine dries a little to the finish on the brett.  In a couple of years,  this should be mellowing into a pleasantly winey pinot,  which will be good with food.  Cellar 5 – 8  years.  GK 10/05

2004  Astrolabe Pinot Noir   17 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ screwcap;  5 days cold soak;  wild yeast;  French oak 40% new ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is very fragrant,  both on varietal florals like the Koura Bay,  but also on new oak which is to the fore at the moment.  Palate has red cherry and blackboy peach fruit of good weight,  in a  similar style to the Koura Bay,  but seemingly richer and certainly more oaky.  It has the concentration to mellow out attractively,  and cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Koura Bay Pinot Noir Blue Duck    17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $37   [ screwcap ]
Good pinot ruby,  one of the deeper.  Bouquet is sweetly floral,  with fragrant cherry and berry fruit,  unequivocally varietal.  The florals continue right into the palate,  with bursting red cherry fruit just like biting into the real thing,  long flavour,  subtle oak and a fragrant finish.  Not a big wine,  but an attractive one.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Waipara   17  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ cork;  Hull Vineyard;  the middle wine of a 3-tier range of pinots,  ’04 not on website,  ’03 12 months French oak;  www.danielschusterwines.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet has an exciting fumey lift to it reminiscent of the spicy oak Benfield & Delamare use,  but much subtler,  accompanied by floral pinot noir fruit in a Cote de Nuits style.  Palate does not quite sustain the promise of the bouquet,  with a slightly stalky and caramel varietal quality developing on tongue,  but there is good richness.  Should mellow with a couple of years,  and cellar 5 – 10.  GK 10/05

2004  Mt Riley Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Marlborough 60%,  Nelson 40,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  30% raised in oak;  2004 not on website,  2003 oak portion in French and American oak 8 months;  www.mountriley.co.nz ]
Pinot ruby.  Bouquet has an attractive light estery fragrance to it,  like biting into a Gala apple,  on clean red fruits.  Palate shows red fruits and an interesting lees autolysis complexity,  reasonable richness,  but a slightly stalky finish.  Good middle-of-the-road pinot.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Mebus Pinot Noir Young Vines   16 +  ()
Masterton,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13%;  $17   [ screwcap;  vines 5 years and younger;  wild yeast;  French oak ]
Pinot ruby.  Bouquet here is the same lifted style as the Schuster wines,  clearly varietal,  but a little oakier and leafier.  Palate shows fair red fruits,  not quite as ripe as the Schuster Waipara.  The similarity is startling,  though.  With greater vine-age,  fruit ripeness,  and concentration,  this looks interesting.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Sileni Pinot Noir The Plateau   16  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.8%;  $37   [ screwcap;  website more PR than info;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is sweet,  ripe and fragrant,  surprisingly varietal,  not giving away its warm-climate origins.  Palate is attractively balanced,  quite rich blackboy and red cherries,  and not oaky.  In general,  these warmer-climate styles make beautiful drinking wine,  especially at this subtle alcohol,  but cannot score highly when judged against the precept of pinot as an international variety.  That said,  this is one of the best Hawkes Bay pinots thus far.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2003  Matua Valley Pinot Noir Innovator   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $28   [ screwcap;  RS 2.1 g/L;  www.matua.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  one of the deeper.  Bouquet is a little congested,  with a hint of sackyness and brett detracting from straightforward pinot noir fruit.  Palate is good red fruits,  slightly cardboard and tannic,  but the whole wine is clearly varietal,  richer than some,  and will mellow into good sound drinking,  in cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Gladstone Pinot Noir   16  ()
Masterton,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  48 hours cold-soak;  9 months in mixed-age French oak;  www.gladstone.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot ruby,  the third lightest.  This wine is a little different,  with a red cherries and red berry quality which reminds a little of straightforward Cote de Beaune.  Palate is blackboy and red cherries of reasonable weight,  oak creeping up on the finish,  milder than the Mebus.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Vynfields Pinot Noir   15 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $45   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  c. 12  months French oak 45% new;  www.vynfields.com ]
Pinot ruby.  Bouquet is sweetly vinifera,  and lightly spicy,  in a style which blind I thought was warmer climate,  Hawkes Bay.  There are hints of fragrant strawberry grenache,  like very delicate ruby port.  Palate shows the alcohol,  too,  but the wine is sweetly fruited and lightly varietal,  a little oaky,  more blackboy peach and strawberry than cherry.  See comment under the Sileni Plateau wine.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Voss Pinot Noir   15  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  11 months in French oak 30% new;  un-filtered;  www.vossestate.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot ruby.  Bouquet on this wine is a little congested,  masking the delicacy of pinot the variety behind suggestions of wet washing and cardboard,  all illustrating a bit much sulphur in the system,  or a relative lack of oxygen.  Palate is clear red fruits,  red cherries and a hint of pennyroyal in the Martinborough style,  finishing stalky to the tail.  Will be pleasant food wine in a couple of years,  and cellar to 2 – 6 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Sileni Pinot Noir Cellar Selection   15  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $25   [ screwcap;  Cellar Selection denotes the basic wine,  at Sileni (opposite of Villa Maria);  website more PR than info;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Pinot ruby.  Bouquet is lightly floral including red roses,  with strawberry fruit aromas as associated with pinot grown in a warm climate style,  very clean.  Palate shows good soft fruit and lovely mouthfeel,  but in its lightly red plummy approach it could equally be a pale free-run merlot.  It is less varietal than the Plateau version,  presumably from a warmer site,  but equally drinkable.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 10/05

2004  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Twin Vineyards   14 ½  ()
Rakaia & Waipara districts,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $19   [ cork;  hand-picked;  10% whole-bunch fermentation;  8 months French oak 5% new;  28 g/L dry extract (a good figure);  www.danielschusterwines.com ]
Lightish pinot ruby,  second to lightest of these pinots.  Bouquet shows the same Schuster signature,  a ‘fumey’ and lightly spicy style,  irrespective of the alcohol.  This character is attractive,  and hints at Cote de Nuits.  Palate on this one does not deliver however,  with short varietal flavours and noticeable acid in redcurrant and rhubarb fruit,  tending stalky.  This is a pity as the good dry extract is indicative of serious winemaking,  and gives the wine an impression of sweetness as residual sugar on the finish,  whereas the analysis is 1 g/L.  Not really worth cellaring.  GK 10/05

2004  Te Mania Pinot Noir   14  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ cork;  mostly s/.s elevage;  www.temaniawines.co.nz ]
Light pinot ruby,  the lightest colour in this set of pinots.  Bouquet is lightly fragrant,  in a modest Hawkes Bay strawberry style of pinot.  Palate seems almost chaptalised,  for the flavour continues in a light warm-climate red fruits way,  simple and tending stalky.  QDR pinot,  not worth cellaring.  GK 10/05

2004  Forrest Pinot Noir   13 ½  ()
Marlborough & Waipara,  New Zealand:  14%;  $24   [ screwcap; hand-harvested, some whole-berry fermentation; 15 months in French oak 30% new;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot ruby.   Bouquet is not quite clean on this wine,  too organic,  masking varietal delicacy and character.   Palate is reasonably rich,  red fruits and blackboy peaches,  but with cardboardy flavours and some phenolics,  the latter exacerbated by the highish alcohol.  Is there a trace of residual sugar ?  Not worth cellaring.  GK 10/05

2004  Lucknow Gamay Noir   13  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $16   [ screwcap;  gamay noir a jus blanc;  s/s elevation;  www.lucknowestate.com ]
Good ruby,  in the upper middle of the pinot bracket.  Bouquet is a mixed proposition,  showing some of the fruity juiciness of the maceration carbonique approach,  but also some of the rubbery characters of reduced sulphur.  Palate has softened in the year since release,  and shows slightly sour and composty red fruits hinting at blackboy peaches,  but also cardboardy flavours,  and not quite bone-dry.  The Te Mata Gamay Noir is the New Zealand model for this particular wine style.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 10/05

Syrah = Shiraz
2004  Mills Reef Syrah Reserve   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  whole berry fermentation;  9 months in French oak;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby and carmine,  medium weight.  This is the most distinctive bouquet in this batch of wines,  with a pervasive crushed daisy stalks quality to it I have otherwise encountered only in Chilean syrah.  Behind that is good plummy fruit.  Palate is quite rich,  not oaky as such,  with the aromatic quality on bouquet recurring on the aftertaste.  This could be a love or hate wine.  Another bottle tasted recently showed the same odd character,  and the wine is screwcap – so no complications there.  A bit outside the square,  so one to taste before investing.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 10/05

2003  Lucknow Syrah Lomond Bridge Vineyard   13  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $19   [ cork;  calcareous site,  14 months French oak;  www.lucknowestate.com ]
Ruby,  below the middle in depth.  This is the kind of wine which can kindly be described as rustic,  but is verging on unclean.  Reasonable fruit is complexed by organic and cheesy smells and tastes,  with quite dramatic Brettanomyces.  Drinkable,  but not one to cellar.  GK 10/05