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

As always at this time of the year,  there are far too many prematurely-released 2005 wines.  For riesling and pinot gris,  last year's wine 18 months after vintage will always be superior to this year's.  Where the choice is available,  go for the older vintage.  The case for sauvignon is nearly as convincing.  

Exciting wines in this batch include:  2005 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc,  2004 MadFish Riesling,   2003 Vinoptima Gewurztraminer,  and the 2000 Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Reserve.

These reviews first appeared on the www.regionalwines.co.nz website during 2005.  With the change to Regional's website linking directly through to this one in March / April 2007,  they are now re-formatted and inserted here at their appropriate date.  In general,  they are not updated.  The word [then] is inserted occasionally,  to emphasise that.  Obvious errors have been corrected.


   nv  Bollinger Special Cuvée en magnum
2002  Domaine Chandon Brut
   nv  Domaine Chandon Brut
   nv  Henkell Blanc de Blancs Sekt Trocken
2004  Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti
   nv  Montana Lindauer Special Reserve [ 2001 Release ]
   nv  Number Eight Cuvée Methode Traditionelle Brut
   nv  Number One Cuvée Methode Traditionelle
2004  Crab Farm Chardonnay Reserve
2004  Dry River Chardonnay
2004  Esk Valley Chardonnay Reserve
2003  Domaine Georges Michel Chardonnay Golden Mile
2002  Domaine Georges Michel Chardonnay La Reserve
2004  Kakapo Chardonnay
2004  San Hill Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2005  Dry River Sauvignon Blanc
2004  Domaine Georges Michel Sauvignon Blanc Golden Mile
2005  Mud House Sauvignon Blanc
2004  Seresin Estate Sauvignon Blanc Momo
2003  St Hallet Poacher’s Blend
2005  Dry River Riesling Craighall
2004  Fuse Riesling
2004  MadFish Riesling
2002  Yalumba Riesling Eden Valley Hand-Picked
Pinot Gris
2005  Coopers Creek Pinot Gris
2004  Seifried Pinot Gris Nelson
2002  Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve
2004  Dry River Gewurztraminer Lovat Vineyard Botrytised Bunch Selection
2004  Lincoln Gewurztraminer Heritage
2003  Vinoptima Gewurztraminer
Sweet / Sticky
  2001  Trentham Estate Noble Taminga
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2004  Domaine Georges Michel Rosé Summer Folly
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2003  Brick Bay Cabernet / Merlot
2000  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Reserve
2001  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2000  Esk Valley The Terraces
2004  Esk Valley The Terraces  (barrel sample)
2003  Fuse Cabernet / Merlot
2002  MadFish Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Cabernet Franc
2002  Pikes Cabernet / Merlot The Dogwalk
2002  Pikes Merlot
2004  San Hill Red The Benches
2002  Wishart Merlot / Cabernet / Malbec Alexis
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2003  Alpha Domus Pinot Noir The Pilot
2003  Drystone Pinot Noir
2004  Fairmont Estate Pinot Noir
2002  Domaine Georges Michel Pinot Noir Golden Mile
2002  Domaine Georges Michel Pinot Noir La Reserve
2004  San Hill Pinot Noir
2004  Waipipi Pinot Noir Henry
Syrah = Shiraz
2002  St Hallet Shiraz Blackwell
2003  St Hallet Shiraz Faith
2001  St Hallet Shiraz Old Block
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2003  Fuse Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre
2002  Pikes Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre
2003  St Hallet Gamekeeper’s Reserve
All other red wines, blends etc
2003  Andrew Harris Shiraz / Cabernet Harvest Road
From the Cellar. Older wines.

2004  Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti   19  ()
Piedmont D.O.C.G.,  Italy:  5.7%;  $17   [ cork;  moscato di canelli on hillslopes around Canelli;  6.8% alcohol on website;  Moscato d’Asti held in higher regard than the Spumante versions;  www.chiarlo.it/English ]
Pale lemon green,  very spritz / frizzante.  Bouquet is exquisitely clean,  heavenly freesias and sweet muscat,  sweetly floral,  subtle yet rich,  lovely.  Palate is total asti,  exceptionally clean,  concentrated,  refreshing on the C02 load,  perfect varietal definition,  medium in sweetness with good acid.  This is top-flight.  Not a cellar wine beyond a year or so.  GK 08/05

nv  Number One Cuvée Methode Traditionelle   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $36   [ cork;  wine of No 1 Family Estate = Daniel & Adele Le Brun;  Ch 100%,  2 years sur lie. ]
Pale straw,  a suggestion of lemon.  Bouquet is very clean,  clearly autolysed,  slightly citric,  youthful.  Palate shows an attractive blanc de blancs style,  rich yet not fruity,  with baguette autolysis lingering attractively.  A cleaner wine than the nv Bollinger magnum,  but not as rich,  flavoursome and dramatic.  Richer and drier than the nv Laurent Perrier,  but perfectly comparable with either of them.  Good stuff.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 08/05

nv  Bollinger Special Cuvée en magnum   17 ½ +  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $190   [ cork;  PN 60%,  Ch 25,  PM 15;  5 – 10% reserve wines ± an oak component,  MLF,  3 years en tirage,  dosage 7 – 9 g/L;  www.champagne-bollinger.fr ]
Lightish straw.  Initially opened and poured,  a reductive note damping it down,  but one can re-interpret that as well-toasted baguette / breadcrust autolysis complexity in five minutes or so.  Palate brings up much more fruit and substance than the Laurent Perrier,  and much more pinot noir,  rich with suggestions of cherry and deeper more complex baguette autolysis.  The later palate and aftertaste is beautifully balanced and long,  a little oak from BF showing through,  and fully up to standard.  Just the bouquet lets this batch (or bottle) down a bit.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 08/05

nv  Montana Lindauer Special Reserve [ 2001 Release ]   17 ½  ()
Marlborough & Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12%;  $16   [ cork;  PN > Ch;  2 years en tirage;  12 g/L RS;  www.montana.co.nz ]
Onionskin pale rosé.  Bouquet now has some attractive mellowness,  as the fresh berry red-fruits of the pinot noir fade to something more complex and appealing,  intermingled attractively with clean autolysis showing just as much complexity and quality as the Laurent Perrier.  Palate tastes of pinot noir too,  good richness and style,  lovely acid balance,  and clear autolysis with some baguette complexity,  plus elegant tannins to the late taste.  The Reserve seems drier than straight Lindauer (specs show them the same),  but like the Laurent Perrier and Chandon,  it is less brut than some.  Given the quality of fruit this wine shows,  it would be a good move to make the Reserve wine a bit more “serious” or premium than commercial Lindauer,  and reduce the dosage a little.

But the main point of this review is to illustrate just how much more delightful Lindauer Reserve is after some years in bottle,  once it has mellowed and dried a little.  So the idea is (having checked that batch,  because it does vary) to buy as many cases as are needed every year in December,  when it can invariably be procured at the promotional price of $12 (sometimes even $11),  and put them aside for three to five (or more) years.  Once one has sufficient backlog,  one can then enjoy virtually premium quality wine as good as some (note,  some) French champagnes (including rosé variants),  for a ludicrously cheaper price.  Or cellar another five years,  as the mood takes one.  GK 08/05

2002  Domaine Chandon Brut   17 ½  ()
Australia:  12.5%;  $33   [ cork;  Ch 50%,  PN 45,  & PM 5 approx. from ‘premium cool climate regions’;  based in Yarra Valley,  but grapes sourced from WA to Tasmania;  30 months tirage ‘in this bottle’;  website [then] a mystery,  providing no info on sparkling wines;  www.chandon.com.au ]
Pale lemon straw.  A crisp,  clean attractively autolysed methode champenoise bouquet,  absolutely in style.  Palate is firm with beautiful yeast autolysis,  clearly a mixed cepage with noticeable pinot,  less fruity than the non-vintage and more brut,  so it could seem austere.  Drier and firmer than Laurent Perrier,  but certainly comparable.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/05

nv  Number Eight Cuvée Methode Traditionelle Brut   17 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $25   [ cork;  wine of No 1 Family Estate = Daniel & Adele Le Brun;  PN & Ch. ]
Pale lemonstraw,  paler than the same firm’s Number One (chardonnay) or nv Laurent Perrier.  A light clean slightly autolysed bouquet with faint suggestions of wholegrain breadcrust,  much lighter the Number One Cuvée.  Palate is fresh,  brut but sweeter than Number One,  firm acid higher than Laurent Perrier,  light autolysis on good fruit,  but not exactly “fruity”.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 08/05

nv  Domaine Chandon Brut   16 ½  ()
Australia:  12.5%;  $25   [ cork;  Ch & PN;  based in Yarra Valley,  but grapes sourced from WA to Tasmania;  extended tirage;  website [then] a mystery,  providing no info on sparkling wines;  www.chandon.com.au ]
Pale straw.  A light clean methode champenoise bouquet,  not as autolysed as the Number Eight Cuvée,  Laurent Perrier,  or Lindauer Reserve,  more on  par with standard Lindauer,  pleasant.  Palate tastes higher pinot noir than some,  good weight,  sweeter than some bruts,  but no sweeter than Laurent Perrier or Number Eight.  Sound sparkling wine.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/05

nv  Henkell Blanc de Blancs Sekt Trocken   13 ½  ()
Europe,  via Germany:  12%;  $17   [ cork;  not Deutscher Sekt,  traditional European varieties such as Ch,  SB,  PN,  CB particularly from the Loire;  www.henkell-trocken.de ]
Lemon.  Plain,  vaguely citric and cardboardy,  but otherwise clean,  anonymous sekt,  cleaner than a generation ago.  Palate is vaguely lemonade and grapey,  cardboard again,  a sweet / sour suggestion.  Plain.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/05

2004  Dry River Chardonnay   18 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $39   [ cork;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Elegant lemon green,  only a little deeper than the 2005 Sauvignon.  This wine is beautifully clean,  but still expands with air.  There is good but very understated chardonnay varietal character,  with suggestions of future golden mendoza peachy complexity,  in fragrant oak.  Palate has good fruit weight,  very understated flavour,  oak yet to assimilate and not excessive,  and firm acid.  Like the Sauvignon,  there is a slight mineral undertone,  rather than explicit lees autolysis.  This too looks to be one of McCallum’s better chardonnays,  and there is promise of good development to come.  It is quite austere now,  but may make a five-star rating in a couple of years.  It should cellar for 10 years or more.  GK 08/05

2004  Esk Valley Chardonnay Reserve   18  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed with only the free-run (c. 550 L / tonne) used,  100% BF in French oak c. 35% new,  wild and cultured yeasts,  70% MLF,  less batonnage than recently;  c. 10 months in oak;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Elegant lemon.  A very clean fragrant (helped by alcohol fume) bouquet showing citric notes,  white stonefruits,  and light autolysis and hessian complexities,  attractive,  and char-free.  Palate optimises the very rich stonefruits,  the oak more restrained than in previous years (though still to a max),  and the acid gentler too.  The wine is softer in mouth than some vintages have been,  yet it is still fresh and attractively balanced.  Spirit though is still higher than is easily compatible with ultimate finesse.  This is fine and very fruity big Hawkes Bay chardonnay,  which should cellar 5 – 10 years.  It is not as complex as the 2002 Morton Black Label,  and is lighter and subtler than the equally fine but more charry 2002 Esk Reserve.  GK 08/05

2003  Domaine Georges Michel Chardonnay Golden Mile   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ cork;  no BF etc,  9 months in 1 and 2-year French oak;  www.georgesmichel.co.nz ]
Pale lemon,  lovely.  This wine gives the impression of being a virtually un-oaked chardonnay,  with bouquet built up by an aromatic fruity yeast,  very clean.  Palate is delightful,  clearly chardonnay,  long white stonefruit flavours,  lightest oak,  such attractive fruit it seems sweeter than its dry analysis,  great with food and very easy drinking indeed.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 08/05

2002  Domaine Georges Michel Chardonnay La Reserve   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ cork;  2002 not [then] on website,  but more emphasis on 12 months LA in new French oak in the Reserve wine;  www.georgesmichel.co.nz ]
Lemon with a hint of straw.  A big oaky bouquet in a clean (VA aside) chardonnay base introduces a wine rich in white stonefruits,  clearly in a Marlborough style.  The level of oak however is old-fashioned,  and does not seem much relieved by barrel ferment and other complexity flavours,  so the wine palls as one drinks it with food.  Cellar 5 – 8 years,  maybe longer,  but I suspect it will stay oaky.  GK 08/05

2004  Crab Farm Chardonnay Reserve   15  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  100% mendoza,  hand-picked @ c.1 t/ac (in ’04);  BF in 65% new French oak,  and LA 10 months with batonnage;  www.crabfarmwinery.co.nz ]
Straw,  old for age.  A time travel bouquet,  very oaky and ‘80s style,  without much apparent BF or LA complexity.  Fruit richness is exceptional,  beautiful Hawkes Bay mendoza obvious even in the blind tasting,  with golden queen peach intensity.  But the excess oak is harsh,  exacerbated by high alcohol.  A lost opportunity here,  not really worth cellaring.  GK 08/05

2004  Kakapo Chardonnay   14  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $17   [ screwcap ]
Lemon.  Initially opened,  a farty organic and reductive component from the BF and LA components,  needing vigorous decanting.  Breathes to an austere and very acid chardonnay,  dry,  long on modest flavours.  This will cellar for some years,  but I don't think it will be worth the effort.  GK 08/05

2004  San Hill Chardonnay   13  ()
Central Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $18   [ cork;  one-third new oak,  two-thirds s/s;  www.pukeora.com ]
Straw and incipient gold,  very old for age.  Bouquet shows some oxidation,  and is butterscotch on broadening fruit,  eccentric.  Palate combines the butterscotch flavours with intense acid,  and residual sweetness.  Perfectly wholesome,  but hard to drink – too eccentric.  Already old,  not worth cellaring.  GK 08/05

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2005  Mud House Sauvignon Blanc   18 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  www.mudhouse.co.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  First impression is staggering cleanliness,  varietal quality and freedom from SO2,  for a current vintage wine.  It is ripened to the honeysuckle,  red capsicum and black passionfruit stage.  Palate is long,  highly varietal,  dry and flavourful.  This is almost enough to make me resile from my earlier urging that no current vintage sauvignons should be released till October,  each season.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  to taste.  GK 08/05

2005  Dry River Sauvignon Blanc   18  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $25   [ cork;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Elegant pale lemongreen.  This is a more interesting bouquet than the average I have found in McCallum's sauvignons,  clearly varietal,  a wine in which I would have sworn there was a percentage of barrel ferment component,  on ripest fruit.  Not so,  apparently – all stainless-steel.  So I wonder how it achieved the resiny complexity ?  Perhaps there is an appropriate element of high solids fermentation,  tip-toeing towards the extreme position Seresin takes on this matter,  and perhaps there is an element of sur lie complexity in tank,  cleverly taken to just short of being reductive,  so there is a hint of minerality.  Whatever,  it is an interesting wine.  Palate is bone dry in the European Graves style,  good body,  no green edges,  firm acid,  and it will I suspect cellar surprisingly well.  Very youthful now,  but it may emerge as Dry River’s best sauvignon yet,  a wine a little outside the Kiwi norm – though the experimenting into alternative sauvignon styles currently underway in New Zealand is exciting to behold.  Cellar to 5 years at least,  perhaps longer.  GK 08/05

2003  St Hallet Poacher’s Blend   15  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  12.5%;  $17   [ screwcap;  Se,  R,  SB,  Colombard;  ’03 not [then] on website,  but ‘04 ratios c. 64%, 23, 13, –,  with RS 9 g/L;  www.sthallett.com.au ]
Bright lemon.  Bouquet is straightforward,  s/s,  high-tech Australian dry white based on semillon,  but (as there so often is with this class of wines from Australia) there is a rubbery suggestion plaining it down.  Palate is clean,  rich,  the residual pretty well hidden by the crisp acid,  no oak,  more of the fruit salad composition apparent in the flavours,  but not satisfying to drink.  Just sound QDW,  so it looks a bit expensive alongside a more fragrant and subtle wine like Montana Sauvignon Blanc,  which with a little effort can be laid away by the case for $10 a bottle.  The Poacher’s would cellar a year or two,  but not much point.  New Zealand does this class of wine so much better.  GK 08/05

2004  Seresin Estate Sauvignon Blanc Momo   14 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $17   [ screwcap;  www.seresin.co.nz ]
Lemon.  A non-varietal bouquet,  clean apart from the bizarre high-solids characters this winery seems obsessed with maximising in some of their whites,  drowning out all else.  Palate has fruit richness,  and also some bitterness associated with this winemaking approach.  A perverse wine in the love it or hate it camp,  not worth cellaring for me.  GK 08/05

2004  Domaine Georges Michel Sauvignon Blanc Golden Mile   14 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $17   [ cork;  this wine not [then] on website;  www.georgesmichel.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  attractive.  A congested and cardboardy bouquet,  with grassy semillon-like under-ripe sauvignon apparent.  Palate brings up the cardboard even more,  and even though there is good fruit richness,  judging dry,  the flavours are fairly straightforward / plain.  QDW,  not worth cellaring.  GK 08/05

2004  MadFish Riesling   18 ½ +  ()
Great Southern district,  West Australia,  Australia:  12.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  free-run fraction only;  commercial label of Howard Park;  www.madfishwines.com.au ]
Beautiful palest lemongreen.  Bouquet is subtle,  varietal to the n-th degree,  floral verging on nectary,  delicate.  Palate introduces more varietal terpenes,  benchmark varietal flavours,  just in the riesling ‘dry’ class.  This is outstanding Australian riesling,  really delicate alongside the very good but flavoursome (and drier) Yalumba Hand-Picked.  It will cellar magnificently 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/05

2002  Yalumba Riesling Eden Valley Hand-Picked   18  ()
Eden Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  12.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  www.yalumba.com ]
Elegant lemon,  outstanding for 2002.  Bouquet is big and clean and strong,  clearcut terpene-y Australian riesling,  with excellent hoppy and floral components as well.  The aromatic resins are more hops than kero at this stage,  except for tasters of a more Germanic riesling disposition who may not like such a bold style.  Palate is full of flavour,  closer to bone dry than most South Australian rieslings,  though firm acid makes the residual hard to estimate.  This will cellar for 10 – 15 years,  becoming at the same time bolder and mellower as the years go by.  A classic Australian wine.  GK 09/05

2004  Fuse Riesling   16  ()
Clare Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  12%;  $18   [ screwcap ]
Lemon.  A quite strong lime and jujube bouquet,  clearly varietal but also a little estery and coarse.  Palate is similar,  very flavoursome,  just above riesling ‘dry’ in sweetness,  tasting cheap initially.  More a supermarket wine,  sound and wholesome,  which should settle down in cellar,  into a mainstream commercial South Australian riesling which will cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 08/05

2005  Dry River Riesling Craighall   16  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $33   [ cork;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.   It is simply inappropriate to release this wine so early,  for it is at present totally discombobulated,  and very estery.  Inquiry revealed that it had indeed just been bottled.  The building blocks for interesting riesling are there,  lime and related,  but the flavours at this stage are coarse and home-brewy,  the sweetness fractionally above the ‘dry’ class for riesling,  drier than some previous Craighalls.  Since the wine is on the market,  and it is the reviewer's task to review the wine and not the label,  it is scored as it is – unflattering.  I'm not certain it will achieve beauty either,  if this bottle is representative,  but I will be happy to reassess it in a year or two.  A gamble,  for cellar.  If the Aussies and the Germans can sell us beautifully integrated 2004,  2003 and 2002 near-dry table rieslings for much the same or a lower asking price than on this awkward infant,  the New Zealand obsession with premature marketing of current-vintage wines seems to me to be increasingly short-sighted.  This is particularly true for a variety such as riesling,  which cries out for time in cellar.  GK 08/05

Pinot Gris
2002  Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve   17  ()
Alsace,  France:  13%;  $29   [ cork;  www.maison-trimbach.fr ]
Lemon straw.  Bouquet is soft and pure,  with a clear yellow-floral component on pale stone fruits,  clearly varietal.  Palate is softer than expected,  however,  and the flavours a bit honeyed and prematurely aged,  in a nectariney underlay.  Pretty well mature,  perhaps due to the lowish acid,  and though perfectly sound,  lacks the excitement one hopes for in Trimbach wines.  Not a wise cellar prospect.  GK 08/05

2005  Coopers Creek Pinot Gris   16  ()
Huapai,  Auckland,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  s/s ferment and some LA;  this wine not [then] on website;  www.cooperscreek.co.nz ]
Pale straw.  Light clean fragrant wine giving the impression of being basically pinot gris,  but touched up with gewurztraminer.  Palate has clean varietal flavours,  with not quite enough richness to cover the phenolics totally,  and a near-dry finish again suggesting gewurz in the blend.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 08/05

2004  Seifried Pinot Gris Nelson   16  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ screwcap;  minimal tech. info on website;  www.seifried.co.nz ]
Straw.  Bouquet is softer and broader than the Coopers,  light rosepetal on white pear flesh.  Palate is rich and quite strongly flavoured,  clearly varietal,  but also phenolic,  acid,  and relatively sweet.  It therefore seems clumsy at this stage.  Could be worth checking in 18 months or so.  Cellar 1 – 5 years.  GK 08/05

2003  Vinoptima Gewurztraminer   18  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $48   [ cork;  the new Gisborne winery of Nick Nobilo ]
Lemon straw.   The simplest way of describing this wine is,  as a flawed masterpiece.  It therefore probably falls into the love or hate category,  not least because of the risks taken in creating it.  Freshly opened,  it is a little reductive and heavy,  but breathed,  the good part of the bouquet is sensationally rich,  chock-full of wild-ginger blossom,  lychee,  citronella,  and fresh and dried apricots.  There could well be a barrel-ferment component in this bouquet.  In its depth of character and weight,  coupled with relative dryness,  it is almost without parallel in New Zealand so far (since 1976,  apart from certain Matawheros,  the 2004 Stonecroft Old Vines,  and selected Dry River wines (though they tend to be sweeter).  The more obvious comparison is with Alsace.  In its weight / heaviness however there is a worry bespeaking a high solids ferment component,  which takes the shine off it now,  and may trip the wine up,  further down the track.  Palate is as concentrated as the bouquet suggests,  sensational varietal definition and spice,  nearly oily in texture,  dry or nearly so (it is hard to tell at this concentration).  The wine is forward for its age,  and tending slightly phenolic to the finish,  so it is probably not a good long-term cellar proposition.  Many people feel gewurztraminer is at its best in its first seven years or so,  which would suit this remarkable wine.  Stylewise,  this wine is to New Zealand gewurztraminer as the 2004 Dog Point Section 94 is to mainstream Marlborough sauvignon.  For those who don't much smell their wines,  or always decant them,  the Vinoptima will be rated very highly on that wonderfully concentrated underlying varietal character.  Some fine tuning and increased finesse is needed to optimise future vintages,  though,  if the Vinoptima is to match good modern (as opposed to traditional) Alsace examples of the variety.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  though it will coarsen later.  GK 04/05

2004  Dry River Gewurztraminer Lovat Vineyard Botrytised Bunch Selection   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  11%;  $47   [ cork;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Lemon and pale gold,  forward for its age.  Bouquet is the best part,  sweet,  ripe,  nectary going on potentially honeyed,  beautifully botrytised,  good floral / blossom notes,  acceptable VA,  tending apricotty,  but not dramatically varietal.  The botrytised late-harvest style has taken over.  Palate wraps all these up reasonably well,  though there is a faint stalky character underneath,  and a suggestion of added acid,  maybe.  Short-term cellar,  I suspect.  GK 08/05

2004  Lincoln Gewurztraminer Heritage   16  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  6 months LA and stirring;  www.lincolnwines.co.nz ]
Slightly brassy lemonstraw.  A big bouquet,  and clearly varietal,  but not in a totally happy style,  with some botrytis-affected and gingery notes on coarse lychee,  all a bit volatile.  Palate follows pro rata,  over-developed,  plenty of flavour,  but tending broad and gingery,  feeling as if acid added.  Not a good cellar prospect.  More an interesting short-term wine for spicy Asian foods.  GK 08/05

Sweet / Sticky
2001  Trentham Estate Noble Taminga   17 ½  ()
Murray River,  NSW,  Australia:  11.5%;  $17   [ cork;  taminga is a CSIRO cross-breed from riesling, farana (a Spanish variety) & gewurztraminer;  half the vines cut in April,  to leave the fruit to raisin,  half left to ripen and develop botrytis,  about 30%;  no oak;  winery considers the wine cellars well;  www.trenthamestate.com.au ]
Light gold.  A fragrant and tropical / floral bouquet,  with botrytis,  pawpaw and dried apricot fruit complexities.  Palate is full sweet,  rich,  and obvious,  with gewurz and over-ripe apricot flavours on reasonable acid balance. This is big,  lush,  flavoursome dessert wine,  already very soft and forward and enjoyable,  and probably not suited to cellaring beyond a couple of years.  GK 08/05

2004  Domaine Georges Michel Rosé Summer Folly   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $13   [ cork;  PN 100%;  www.georgesmichel.co.nz ]
Light bright salmon rosé.  Bouquet is fresh and fragrant rose petal and strawberry pinot,  very clean and pinot varietal.  Palate is similarly fresh,  some skin tannins for backbone and to confirm it is made from red grapes,  slightly acid,  sweeter than some rosés but dry enough,  enjoyable.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/05

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2000  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Reserve   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  Me 60%,  CS 21,  Ma 19;  open-top fermenters,  MLF in barrel,  French oak;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a flush of carmine,  younger than the 2001.  Bouquet is delightful,  the same cassis and dark plum richness as the 2002,  but all a notch less ripe and weighty,   less oaky,  and more fragrant and complex.  Unlike the 2002,  it is closer to Bordeaux than Australia in style.  The palate shows delightful cassisy berry and fruit,  attractive integration,  and an appealing fruit to oak ratio,  altogether more subtle and fragrant than the 2002.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 08/05

2000  Esk Valley The Terraces   17 ½  ()
Esk / Bay View,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Ma 39%,  Me 33,  CF 28;  open-top fermenter;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  lighter than the 01 Merlot / Cabernet Reserve.  Bouquet is plummy and ripe,  good berry,  noticeable oak,  all a little leathery and straightforward.  Palate builds on these characters,  the leathery component making a wine reminiscent of many very ripe Australian Cabernet / Shiraz styles,  tending one-dimensional.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/05

2002  MadFish Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Cabernet Franc   17 ½  ()
Western Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $23   [ cork;  CS 70%,  Me 17,  CF 13;  open-top fermentation, 10 –12 months French oak;  commercial label of Howard Park;  www.madfishwines.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is clean and berryrich,  with cassis and oak in a Bordeaux style.  Palate is oakier than ideal,  the cassis fresh and slightly acid,  just a trace of leafiness (as is equally found in all but the best years in Bordeaux),  but good fruit.  Clearly a temperate-climate wine,  surprisingly New Zealand in approach,  and not euc’y.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 08/05

2001  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Me 80%,  CS 20;  open-top fermenters,  MLF in barrel,  16 months in French oak;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is a much more evolved and leathery affair than the 2002 or 2000,  with a light brett component adding savoury complexity to the cassis and plum.  Palate is leaner than them too,  with a firmer stalky and slightly acid thread through oaky fruit which is still reasonably rich.  Total flavour is mature for its years,  relative to the 2002,  but will cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/05

2002  Pikes Cabernet / Merlot The Dogwalk   17  ()
Clare Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  no info [then] on website;  www.pikeswines.com.au ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  richer than the merlot.  A big bouquet too,  inclining more to fruit than oak,  which emphasises the cassisy component.  But there is pervasive euc there,  and in reality there is a lot of oak too,  with a suggestion of cloves.  Palate is sweet-fruited and rich,  with beautiful cassis.  This would be a fine South Australian cabernet / merlot,  if it weren't so minty / euc’y.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 08/05

2002  Wishart Merlot / Cabernet / Malbec Alexis   16  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $27   [ cork;  this wine not [then] on website,  but traditional techniques;  www.wishartwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  quite rich.  A big strong cassis,  plum and oak bouquet,  quite rich,  but not much subtlety.  Palate is very oaky indeed,  dominating good rich cassisy and plummy fruit,  all still surprisingly youthful.  This will cellar for 10 years at least,  but remain much too oaky.  GK 08/05

2002  Pikes Merlot   16  ()
Clare Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $27   [ cork;  Me 100%;  some wild yeast;  s/s ferment,  pressings returned,  14 months French oak;  www.pikeswines.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  dense.  Bouquet is rich,  but so euc’y as to be anonymous as to variety,  and further anonymised by excess oak.  Palate is much the same,  wonderfully rich fruit,  but never in a thousand years would one tell it was merlot,  as seen from an international perspective.  Just big South Australian cabernet / merlot dry red.  Cellar 5 – 15 years, as such.  GK 08/05

2003  Fuse Cabernet / Merlot   15 ½  ()
Clare Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $18   [ screwcap ]
Ruby and velvet.  A big juicy,  cassisy,  and leafy unsophisticated Australian cabernet / merlot,  with the kind of mixed ripeness berry and stalky miscellaneous smells which suggest machine picking.  Palate introduces minty,  oaky and more stalky dimensions to this fruit,  and one wonders if there is shiraz in there too.  Plenty of actual fruit,  but not much finesse,  so big Aussie QDR.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  as such.  GK 08/05

2004  San Hill Red The Benches   13 ½ +  ()
Central Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12%;  $21   [ cork;  Me 90,  CS 10;  limestone hill-slopes up to 250m a.s.l.;  9 months oak some new;  www.pukeora.com ]
Lightish ruby.  Another time-travel wine,  80s New Zealand dry red with cabernet,  the bouquet leafy going on green,  but clean.  Palate is oaky,  indeterminate light berry fruits,  scarcely ripe,  not bone dry,  not quite clean.  This would be modest QDR at half the price.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/05

2003  Brick Bay Cabernet / Merlot   13 ½  ()
Matakana,  North Auckland,  New Zealand:  13%;  $23   [ cork;  no 2003 red info on website [then],  but traditional elevage,  mostly French oak;  www.brickbay.co.nz ]
Older light ruby.  A tired bouquet,  in the botrytis-affected,  root ginger,  leafy and scarcely berried North Auckland style of lesser years.  Palate is similar,  light on fruit,  much too smoky and oaky,  tending acid.  This is a modest QDR,  not worth cellaring,  and hence much too expensive.  GK 08/05

2004  Esk Valley The Terraces  (barrel sample)
Esk / Bay View,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Ma / Me / CF;  open-top fermenter,  MLF in barrel,  French oak for 18 – 24 months;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
The barrel sample suggests this wine might be more complex and subtler than the 2002,  with berry aromatics showing through much more clearly at this stage.  The rich palate and black doris plum character plus some cassis is superb,  without prune suggestions.  Perhaps 18.5 – 19,  if it were bottled sooner rather than later,  for the balance and oak level seems perfect now,  relative to the more Australian-style 2002.  This too should be a 20-year wine.  GK 08/05

Pinot Noir
2003  Alpha Domus Pinot Noir The Pilot   16 ½ +  ()
West Heretaunga Plains, Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $15   [ screwcap; 12 months oak; website [then] under construction;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is voluminous and tending European,  in a traditional bourgogne rouge style.  Palate is clearly pinot noir,  remarkably so for Hawkes Bay,  quite rich,  flavour built up by quite a lot of older oak,  and some positive brett complexity.  This degree of vinosity is unusual for New Zealand wine,  and very food-friendly.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  probably,  though there is just a hint of stalky quality underneath.  Not a purist's wine.  GK 08/05

2003  Drystone Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ cork;  a label of Berridge Vineyard Estates;  www.berridgevineyards.com ]
Ruby.  A slightly offbeat but recognisably pinot noir bouquet,  with red cherries,  red plums,  and a suggestion of cooked tamarillo on bouquet.  Palate has good fruit,  reasonable balance,  and some length on a slightly acid and oaky finish.  Cellar  3 – 8 years.  GK 08/05

2002  Domaine Georges Michel Pinot Noir La Reserve   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $33   [ cork;  13 months in French oak;  www.georgesmichel.co.nz ]
Colour is lighter and brighter than the standard wine,  a good burgundy colour.  Bouquet is sweeter too,  with some floral components on red cherries,  and some brett complexity,  inclining to a bourgogne rouge style.  Flavours are riper than the standard wine,  red cherries,  savoury,  a food wine more than a judging one.  Cellar 3 – 5 years,  but it may dry somewhat.  GK 08/05

2004  Fairmont Estate Pinot Noir   15 ½ +  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  2001 latest info on website [then];  www.fairmontestate.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Crisp aromatic red cherry fruit is clearly varietal on bouquet,  and fragrant too.  Palate is leaner than the bouquet promises,  a suggestion of red crab apples and acid,  but nonetheless varietal,  and not exactly leafy.  An interesting wine,  which has some cool-year burgundy qualities to it.  Good to have such a clearcut red-fruits pinot.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 08/05

2004  Waipipi Pinot Noir Henry   15  ()
Masterton,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $21   [ cork ]
Light pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is very youthful and faintly estery,  with light blackboy and vaguely red cherry fruit,  and older cooperage.  Palate is quite fruity,  partly because it is not bone dry,  but the older oak is clean.  A slight raspberry cordial quality now,  but may dry out in cellar 3 – 5 years,  into pleasant light QDR pinot.  GK 08/05

2002  Domaine Georges Michel Pinot Noir Golden Mile   14 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $24   [ cork;  8 months in 2-year French oak;  www.georgesmichel.co.nz ]
Lighter older pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is tired,  with a stewed red plums quality and a stalky note,  but clean and modestly varietal.  Palate is more stalky,  a little varnishy,  some brett.  Straightforward under-ripe QDR pinot,  not worth cellaring.  GK 08/05

2004  San Hill Pinot Noir   14  ()
Central Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  11%;  $24   [ cork;  limestone hill-slopes up to 250m a.s.l.;  8 months oak some new;  www.pukeora.com ]
Older light pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is varnishy on old oak,  with strawberry warm-climate pinot fruit in the background.  Palate introduces a grassy note,  so the flavours are awkward,  varietal only in one of its under-ripe and lesser guises.  More a QDR pinot,  not worth cellaring.  GK 08/05

Syrah = Shiraz
2002  St Hallet Shiraz Blackwell   18  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $36   [ cork;  vines up to 80 years age,  un-irrigated;  matured in new,  1-year and 2-year American oak for 20 months;  www.sthallett.com.au ]
Magnificent dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This is huge Barossa Valley shiraz,  from a year cool enough for the wine not to be infested with euc.  There is very rich berry including blueberry and boysenberry,  fundamentally still too ripe for syrah florals and cracked black pepper,  but they are nearly there.  Flavour does show hints of black pepper and spice complexity,  and the oak is now more apparent in rich black plummy and sweet boysenberry fruit of great weight.  This will marry up and blossom in cellar for 10 – 20 years,  and will display some of the best facets of South Australian shiraz in a favourable year.  GK 08/05

2001  St Hallet Shiraz Old Block   17 ½  ()
Barossa and Eden Valleys,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $63   [ cork;  vines 80 to more than 100 years age,  un-irrigated;  some of the wine BF,  some MLF in barrel;  parts matured in new and 1 – 3-year oak 70% American and 30% French for 20 – 21 months;  www.sthallett.com.au ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  On bouquet,  this is a much more winemaker-influenced wine than the Blackwell,  with lots of charry and chocolatey oak on plummy and boysenberry fruit.  Palate is oakier,  euc'ier,  and more monolithic than the Blackwell,  more a mainstream heavy and over-ripe South Australian shiraz,  chocolatey,  still pretty rich.  It tastes the wine of a hotter year than the Blackwell.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/05

2003  St Hallet Shiraz Faith   17  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $28   [ cork;  a mix of techniques in elevage,  with some undergoing MLF in barrel,  some maturing 16 months in various ages of American oak and some retained in s/s;  www.sthallett.com.au ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is big euc’y and boysenberry Barossa Valley shiraz,  hearty and straightforward.  Flavours are juicy and rich boysenberry and dark plum,  oak in reasonable balance,  appealing in a one-dimensional rich way.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/05

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2002  Pikes Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre   18  ()
Clare Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $27   [ cork;  Sy 48,  Gr 35,  Mv 17;  14 months in old French oak;  www.pikeswines.com.au ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  A sweet ripe berry-rich Aussie GSM,  with a mint level which is perilously close to being euc’y.  Palate reveals rich ripe fruit of considerable depth,  the raspberry of grenache filled out by boysenberry and darker fruits of shiraz and mourvedre.  If there were not so much mint,  there might be some cinnamon too.  The whole palate reminds of Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  but Australian-accented.  This is fine wine,  if the mint is accepted.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/05

2003  Fuse Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre   17  ()
Clare Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $18   [ screwcap ]
Good ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  A sweet,  ripe and minty GSM bouquet,  the mint verging on euc’y.  Red fruits are abundant,  including a raspberry note.  Palate is berry-rich and juicy,  more raspberry than boysenberry,  pleasant oak tannins not overdone,  lingering attractively on a not-bone-dry finish.  A popular style.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  to dry out a little and gain in complexity.  GK 08/05

2003  St Hallet Gamekeeper’s Reserve   15  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $17   [ screwcap;  Sy,  Gr,  Mv,  To;  said to be made in a soft,  oxidative GSM style,  but without oak;  www.sthallett.com.au ]
Good ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  fractionally deeper than the Fuse.  This is a strange wine,  with the voluminous bouquet of grapes picked a little green.  There is thus a clear leafy / floral quality in the red berries,  and mint verging on euc’y.  Palate picks up the leafiness,  giving a clear green stalky streak running through red berries and euc.  A difficult style to assess,  and to drink.  Could be interesting to cellar a couple 5 – 10 years,  possibly to surprise in the way some rich but leafy southern Rhones do.  GK 08/05

All other red wines, blends etc
2003  Andrew Harris Shiraz / Cabernet Harvest Road   16 ½  ()
Mudgee,  NSW,  Australia:  13.5%;  $12   [ cork;  website being re-developed [then];  www.andrewharris.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  Clear red fruits and light oak present an attractive Australian dry red on bouquet,  not euc’y.  Palate moves more towards shiraz,  boysenberry rather more than cassis flavours,  good fruit,  appropriate oak,  clean and attractively balanced.  This will cellar for 5 – 10 years,  and be a pleasantly harmonious and serious QDR throughout.  VALUE  GK 08/05