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

This batch of recent releases gained great interest from the release of Larry McKenna's new Escarpment Vineyard Single Vineyard 'Insight Series' (or reserve) wines,  from the 2006 vintage in Martinborough.  Other pinot producers have already created individual vineyard approaches to marketing their pinots – Felton Road and Mt Difficulty immediately spring to mind.  But in the sense Larry has been making pinot noir for over 20 years in the Martinborough district,  and is regarded by many as the spiritual leader of New Zealand pinot enthusiasts,  this new step will attract much interest.

Escarpment Vineyard's Martinborough Insight Series
[ The following is paraphrased (with comments) from Larry McKenna,  www.escarpment.co.nz.  By my calculations,  Larry made his first complete Martinborough vintage in 1986,  giving him 22 vintages under his belt,  the 23rd coming up this year. ]
Escarpment has 4 sites in the Martinborough district producing grapes to their prescription,  and two of them are amongst the oldest vines in the district.  Given the quality of the 2006 vintage,  Larry believes it is time to start defining the terroirs of the Martinborough Geographic Indication with a range of single vineyard wines.  He is calling these the "Martinborough Insight Series".  

Escarpment's company-owned vineyard is in the new extension of the Martinborough Terrace,  at Te Muna Road.  This is the source of the Kupe wines,  both pinot noir and chardonnay,  which Larry hopes will be his flagship wines,  in the fullness of time.  As yet the vines are young.  The other three wines,  Moana,  Voyager,  and Te Rehua,  are from contract vineyards,  with viticulture and cropping rate to Larry's requirements.  They are in the village zone,  on the original Terrace.  All these are older vines,  the Voyager one including some of the oldest pinot noir vines in the district.    

In the sense that each site has different clones,  and in particular the new Kupe Vineyard is close-planted by New Zealand standards (@ 6,600 vines / ha),  the Insight Series is not the perfect expression of site variation and its influence on wine characteristics,  the much-hyped terroir effect,  that Larry implies.  But nonetheless,  he has found the sites do differ in their fruit quality,  ripeness levels,  and flavour profiles from year to year.

The Insight Series therefore offers a valuable understanding not only into the subtle effects of site and climatic variation within a local region,  but also gives us insight into the workings of Larry's mind.  Larry has thought about pinot noir more than just about anybody in New Zealand.  Underneath his love for the grape,  is the almost unstated goal of producing a wine that is not only varietal pinot noir,  but also captures the magic of,  and can be confused with,  some of the great wines of Burgundy.  These four wines therefore reflect a kind of coming of age for New Zealand pinot noir.

Larry concludes by saying:  This range now completes the Escarpment collection of Pinot Noirs. The future will allow us to present unique vintage expressions from these sites and allow enthusiasts to explore the range and distinctive characters of each site. We trust the serious Pinotphile will find these wines provide interest and enlightenment into the complex world of Pinot Noir.

More detail of the vineyards and clones etc,  and also the new closures used on Escarpment wines,  can be found at:  www.escarpment.co.nz

The floral component of the pinot noir / burgundy winestyle:  
Many countries make wines in the soft round red winestyle which before the days of European hypersensitivity about wine names and appellations,  used to be called burgundy-style.  A perfect example is Seppelts Chalambar Burgundy of the 50s and early 60s,  when it was premium wine made wholly or largely from light fragrant Great Western shiraz.  Those wines were often confused with the real thing.  Another was Hunter Valley Burgundy,  also shiraz.  Some of the reserva and gran reserva wines of the Rioja district,  made from tempranillo-dominant blends,  likewise with age could be confused with burgundy.  More latterly the wines of the southern Rhone,  both Cotes du Rhone and higher levels such as Chateauneuf du Pape,  appeal to many people quite simply because in a sometimes more alcoholic way they offer essentially the same generous mouthfeel as pinot noir from Burgundy,  but at a more affordable price.

How therefore do we differentiate between the real burgundies made from pinot noir,  and other soft dry red winestyles ?  I believe the key factor in fine pinot noir is the quality of bouquet,  and in particular the precise floral qualities of this wonderful extra dimension which good examples of the grape display.  Some will immediately say,  that is nonsense,  many red grapes are cited as offering the aroma of violets,  for example.  I would argue that few if any other red grapes combine such a suite of floral notes into the (at best) haunting perfume which characterises good pinot noir from temperate climates.

This floral component can range from the light and ephemeral (such as buddleia) in not quite fully-ripe grapes,  through the many facets / hues (by association) of rose aromas,  into the deeper more elusive smells of violets and boronia in perfectly ripe grapes – but only when grown in a climate cool enough and with sufficient diurnal variation to optimise and then retain the chemical precursors necessary for such subtle and very beautiful aromas.  

It cannot be stated too often that great pinot noir demands a beautiful floral component to its bouquet,  if it is to be clearly differentiated from other soft round reds.  In pinot noir these florals add enchantment to the sweet blackboy peach,  red cherry and other red berryfruits,  and then black cherry,  grading through with increasing physiological maturity to dark red and black plummy fruits,  plus the mushroom and savoury complexity notes which pinot noir can at best display.  

Sadly,  many winemakers and commentators have difficulty with these enticing fragrant components of the wine.  Some simply have not been in gardens enough,  some have not thought about florals enough,  and some in fact cannot smell them at all well (many people have difficulty detecting the heavenly perfume of boronia).  Therefore their commentary may lack completeness and sometimes relevance to the essentials of the grape pinot – like a colour-blind person describing a sunset.  

Additionally,  commentators from hotter climates are at a further disadvantage.  When pinot noir is grown in a climate too hot for optimal quality,  it often completely lacks the floral component – as does syrah,  merlot or cabernet for that matter.  So they may literally be unaware of this extra dimension to temperate-climate wines,  and judge pinot on other sometimes irrelevant factors,  such as size.  [ The great exception to this sweeping generalisation is Australian James Halliday,  who in his writing,  lectures and hands-on via his Yarra Valley Coldstream Pinot Noir in its best years,  has shown an understanding of the essence of pinot which is rewarding. ]  Texture of palate is certainly critical to pinot noir quality,  but size is another matter.  

Sadly,  the new world tends to ignore the traditional European concern with sur-maturité (over-ripeness) in pinot noir,  and its negative impact on wine quality / complexity – expressed as a lack of the floral dimension,  as well as greater or lesser raisining of the grape.  More sadly,  this traditional European viewpoint has latterly been over-ridden for some even in Europe,  by the desire to make their wines bigger,  to please the American taste.  That path leads to the risk of bigger non-floral and hence simple round dry reds,  in the style so many Californian pinots seem to be,  and some in New Zealand have mistakenly veered towards.  Some of us hope this is merely the swing of the pendulum,  and subtler tastes will again soon prevail.

When contemplating the question,  what does good pinot noir smell and taste like,  it is extraordinary how when you look through a couple of dozen reference sources,  so few actually have anything substantive to say on the issue at all.  Most immediately slide into the history and geography of Burgundy,  the classification of the vineyards etc etc.  Sometimes they mention in passing that burgundy / pinot noir is different from bordeaux / cabernet / merlot,  but they do not try to put into words why.  Few come to the point of characterising the wine.  Even the port of first call in such matters these days,  the Oxford Companion to Wine,  is still reticent on this topic.  

There is plenty of comment on the mouthfeel,  texture,  and nett pleasure of pinot noir with food,  but that is hardly the essence of characterising a varietal wine.  So,  to return to my focus on the uplifting floral dimension of pinot noir outlined earlier,  it seems useful therefore to compile a few lines quoted from other authors,  where they have paid some attention to this essential aspect of pinot noir character.  It is not exhaustive.  James Halliday for example gave a great account of the characteristics of pinot noir the wine to (I think) the Pinot Noir 2001 conference in Wellington,  but I cannot retrieve it at this moment.  I make no apology for quoting about the wines of Burgundy,  nor for referring to the top wines,  because these by definition are generally conceded to epitomise the characteristics sought in quality pinot noir.  I have however avoided lush quotes on the trophy / excessively expensive wines,  to reduce irritation.  

When musing over the descriptions below,  it is worth reflecting on New Zealand pinot noirs,  and judging-results over the last 10 years which have endorsed sometimes quite incongruous examples of the grape.  In New Zealand wine competitions,  we must have regard for overseas norms in world winestyles.  If we can improve on those standards,  as we have in varietal sauvignon blanc,  great.  But mistakenly aiming for something lesser,  through lack of familiarity with the original,  will not further either our export goals,  or the intrinsic quality of wine in New Zealand.  With his latest batch of pinot noirs (and the Kupe Chardonnay),  Larry McKenna is setting a great lead in this matter.  Please note the added emphasis below is mine.

#   Decanter – Learn about Wine:  www.decanter.com/learning/grapeguide.php#P
There's no other grape like Pinot Noir with its wonderfully heady perfumes, and thrillingly pure, sweet, red berry flavours of raspberry, loganberry, mulberry, cherry and strawberry. It takes well to French oak and, in bottle, develops truffley and gamey undertones.

#   André Simon,  1967, 1981:  André Simon's Wines of the World.  2nd Edition, 1981,  639 p.
... There is a magnificent array of premiers crus in Gevrey-Chambertin ... Straight village Gevrey-Chambertin should be warm and generous,  with a lovely scent ... The 1978 Varoilles is outstanding,  with a fantastic colour,  wonderful nose of violets and glorious structure.
... Clos de Vougeot ... At its best it should be a big, rich wine,  with a complex, scented nose
... Vosne-Romanee wines can give immense pleasure,  and their heady perfume and generous nature are very individual ...
... Volnay at its most distinguished presents a different picture of charm, scent and delicacy,  not highly coloured,  but lingering and flowery ...

#   James Halliday & Hugh Johnson,  1992:  The Art and Science of Wine.  Mitchell Beazley,  232 p.
Pinot Noir is the opposite to chardonnay.  It ever so reluctantly reveals the glorious perfume,  the sappy-silky taste and texture of great burgundy ... Pinot Noir flavours in ideal conditions range from slightly simple red cherry or raspberry fruit (as in Volnay) to more textured and voluptuous plum (as in Vosne Romanée).

#   Hugh Johnson,  1983:  Hugh Johnson's Wine Companion.  Mitchell Beazley,  544 p.
... Pinot Noir ... has a singular and memorable smell and taste,  sometimes described as ... 'floral' or 'fleshy' ...  In unripe years it smells mean, pinched and watery (German red wines ... ).  At the other extreme it roasts to a raisiny character (many Californian Pinot Noirs are out-of-character in this way).  The ideal young red burgundy has the ripe-grape smell with neither of these defects ...
... The Cote de Nuits ... the most potently flavoured, concentrated,  eventually smooth and perfumed wines ...
... Musigny has the scent of a dewy garden ... of the rose and the violet at dawn.
... Clos de Vougeot ...  Classical references to it always stress its perfume.
... There is a lightness of touch,  a gentle sweetness and airy fragrance about a good Echezeaux ...

#   Serena Sutcliffe,  1986:  The Wines of  Burgundy.  Mitchell Beazley,  144 p
The top wines of Chambolle should have supreme scent and lacy delicacy.  The light soil should lead to perfume,  elegance,  and "femininity" ...

#   Hubrecht Duijker,  1983:  The Great Wines of Burgundy.  Mitchell Beazley,  199 p.
[ quoting the French historian Gaston Roupnel, pre-war Prof. @ University Dijon ]  "Musigny is a wine of silk and lace, supremely delicate ... the perfume of a rose, a violet bathed in morning dew ...  "Duijker goes on to say:  The poetic comparison seem entirely appropriate to me as every Musigny I have ever tasted has left an indelible memory.  Its bouquet evokes flowers as well as strawberries and raspberries ...

#   James Halliday,  in Decanter,  April 1997:  How Well does Pinot Noir Age ?  James Halliday & Clive Coates.  
... the Burgundians say 'get the bouquet right,  and the palate will take care of itself' ... Pinot Noir ... it is the aroma that announces the quality of the wine ... strawberries,  red cherries,  black cherries and plums are the fruit-component;  violets lead the flowery elements;  while underneath lie hints of tobacco,  cedar and forest floor ... The palate will follow inexorably,  reproducing the aromas,  deceptive in its lightness,  but with a softly silky texture, a roundness,  and an exceptionally long finish ...

#   Jancis Robinson – Pinot Noir,  10 Dec. 2004:  www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/jrs03402
... Pinot ... can vary enormously but its essential characteristic is charm. It tends to be fruity, perfumed and haunting. It dances on the palate rather than overpowering it. Heavy tannins and deep colour are not essential elements in a fine Pinot Noir - not even in a young Pinot Noir.

And so,  back to this batch of wines.  They include perhaps the most exciting pinot noirs yet created in New Zealand,  or if not quite that,  wines to take their place alongside 2003 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully,  or certain of the topmost pinots from Felton Road.  They were hidden in a fully blind tasting of 25 reds, 13 of them pinot,  and some of repute.  That should be enough samples to confuse a taster.  The results were unequivocal.  Larry McKenna's new pinots from Martinborough took the top five places,  in the reds.  They will advance the reputation of New Zealand pinot noir enormously.

In overseas reviewing of New Zealand pinots,  there has been a tendency for some commentators to patronise New Zealand achievements so far – comments along the lines of:  interesting examples of the variety,  perhaps:  even as good as the new world has achieved with the variety,  but usually the implication,  a far cry from the wines of Burgundy.  But the fact of the matter is,  there is such a diversity of pinot interpretations emerging from Burgundy these days,  such generalisations have little validity.  These McKenna pinots are not at all in the style of the wines of Rousseau or Drouhin,  for example,  which epitomise one kind of burgundy.  But burgundian they still are.  There are only 200 cases of each of the single vineyard wines,  of which maybe half are going to export.  If you want the wines,  and I believe they are pivotal  to anybody monitoring the evolution of pinot noir in New Zealand,  grab them right away.

Acknowledgement:  this introduction has benefitted from discussion with fellow-pinotphile John Comerford.


   nv  Chard Farm CO2 Bubbles
   nv  Taittinger Brut Reserve
2005  Balthazar Chardonnay
2004  Chard Farm Chardonnay Judge & Jury
2006  Escarpment Chardonnay
2006  Escarpment Chardonnay Kupe
2006  Neudorf Chardonnay
2006  TW Chardonnay Reserve Black Label
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2007  Belmonte Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Chard Farm Sauvignon Blanc Swiftburn
2007  Waipara Springs Sauvignon Blanc Premo
2007  Kingsmill Riesling Premo Tippet's Race
2006  Neudorf Riesling Moutere
2005  Waipara Springs Riesling
Pinot Gris
2006  Chard Farm Pinot Gris
2007  Rabbit Ranch Pinot Gris
2006  Chard Farm Gewurztraminer
Sweet / Sticky
2007  Te Mania Ice Wine
All other white wines, blends, etc.
1996  R Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Crianza Blanco
1989  R Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco
2007  TW Viognier
  2006  Can Rafols Petit Caus Rosado
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2004  Balthazar Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Cabernet Franc Magi
2004  Balthazar Merlot
2002  Can Rafols Gran Caus
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2006  Chard Farm Pinot Noir Finla Mor
2006  Chard Farm Pinot Noir River Run
2006  Chard Farm Pinot Noir The Viper
2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir
2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe Single Vineyard
2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir Moana Single Vineyard
2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir Te Rehua Single Vineyard
2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir Voyager Single Vineyard
2006  Kingsmill Pinot Noir Tippet's Dam
2006  Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere
2006  Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir
2006  Waipara Springs Pinot Noir Premo
Syrah = Shiraz
2005  Balthazar Syrah
2006  Beresford Shiraz Highwood
2006  Beresford Shiraz McLaren Vale
2005  Heathcote Estate Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
2005  Bodegas Almansenas la Huella de Adaras
2001  R Lopez de Heredia Vina Cubillo Crianza
2005  Molino y Lagares Lavia Monastrell / Syrah
2006  Pago Casa Gran Reposo
2004  Vinya l'Hereu Petit Grealo
From the Cellar. Older wines.

nv  Taittinger Brut Reserve   17 ½  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $90   [ cork;  PN 40%,  Ch 40,  PM 20;  MLF;  www.taittinger.com ]
Straw,  slight orange flush.  Bouquet is in a broader style,  the kind of classic champagne bouquet which in new world judgings might be regarded as a trace aldehydic,  and down-pointed (technology over-arching style again).  Fruit includes a clear strawberry hint from pinot noir,  while the flavour has good lees-autolysis and MLF breadcrust complexity,  on a fresh acid balance.  Palate has the good weight / dry extract which distinguishes good champagne from many new world bubblies.  The residual is a little higher than some leading local wines though – more at the Lindauer point – which is a little disappointing.  I wonder whether Taittinger send us the UK dosage or the US one,  in New Zealand.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 03/08

nv  Chard Farm CO2 Bubbles   15  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $31   [ cork;  PN 50%,  Ch 50;  2 years en tirage;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Slightly drab full straw.  Bouquet is mixed,  with clear complexity from both pinot noir and chardonnay fruit,  plus reasonably extended lees-autolysis en tirage.  There is also a lesser cheesy / camembert note from (I assume) a not-quite-pure MLF component.  Palate combines these elements into an acid and slightly phenolic bubbly,  which demands food to show at its best.  In a social context,  in one sense it is surprisingly lesser champagne-like,  but as a drinking wine rather than a judging one.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/08

2006  Escarpment Chardonnay Kupe   19 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $55   [ supercritical cork;  hand-picked clone 95 @ grand cru cropping rate;  100% BF with appropriate fraction solids in French oak 30% new,  100% MLF,  plus 12 months LA & some batonnage;  20.3 g/L dry extract,  < 1 g/L RS;  200 cases;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Lemon more than straw,  nearly a touch of green,  a superb chardonnay colour,  much more lemon than the standard 2006 Escarpment Chardonnay.  On bouquet there is a depth and beauty to this wine that immediately reminds of famous old world chardonnays one has been lucky enough to taste – a Drouhin Laguiche Montrachet here,  a Romanee-Conti one there.  It smells of every stonefruit you can imagine,  not as obvious as golden queen peach,  but not as pale as white nectarine.  And added to that there is the glorious mealy complexity of beautifully done lees-autolysis and perfect MLF,  giving a baguette crust and Vogel's wholegrain toast buttered with palest European butter quality,  on a totally dry very long finish.  This is fully comparable with the Te Mata Elston I enthused about recently,  and maybe is better – a tasting to look forward to (along with Sacred Hill Riflemans,  a Kumeu River etc).  Palate is bolder than the Elston,  tremendously rich,  very long,  yet subtle in its mealy stonefruit and cashew flavours.  One could never tire of tasting / drinking chardonnay of this calibre.  It may not be as rich as those great French benchmark wines mentioned,  but nonetheless 2006 Escarpment Kupe Chardonnay is clearly fine international chardonnay.  It is the best Larry McKenna has made,  and perhaps New Zealand's most complete and finest example of the grape yet.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  but should hold longer.  GK 03/08

2006  Neudorf Chardonnay   18 ½  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $71   [ screwcap;  100% clone mendoza hand-picked;  non-settled juice BF in French oak 30% new,  100% MLF,  LA and batonnage 10 months;  dry;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  This is the most distinctive chardonnay in this batch.  Bouquet is richly varietal,  complexed by the kind of charred oak note that Corbans were famous for in the Cottage Block series in the 1990s.  At this stage that character is a little prominent,  along with a high-solids note,  suppressing subtleties somewhat.  In mouth however,  the rich golden queen peach fruit is of tactile richness,  against firm acid balance and fine texture.  The high alcohol seems better hidden than some previous examples of the label.  The only caveat about the wine is,  if you are not so keen on the faintly coal-tar char note, this mightn't be the one for you.  It will marry into the mealy qualities,  becoming nutty,  in the way walnuts have a little bite to them.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Escarpment Chardonnay   18  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ supercritical cork;  hand-picked;  100% BF and MLF in French oak 30% new;  dry extract 24 g/L including RS;  RS 4 g/L;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Straw.  In the blind tasting,  this came up well too.  It is however clearly broader and less refined than the Kupe.  The components including the MLF are a little more obvious,  all in rather more Meursault style – as the review last October suggested.  It is an earlier-developing wine than the Kupe version,  and won't cellar for so long.  In other line-ups,  this could mark at gold medal level.  See earlier review 10/07.  GK 03/08

2005  Balthazar Chardonnay   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $29   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  some BF and MLF in French oak;  wine not on website;  www.balthazar.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  Freshly opened,  this is representative premium chardonnay,   rich stonefruit,  some barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and MLF complexities,  a trace of French complexity.  The latter breathes off,  to reveal a wine showing some integration from the extra year's bottle age,  the nutty component from lees-autolysis a little more developed,  another New Zealand chardonnay which reminds of Meursault.  It is a little firmer,  and less rich,  than the standard Escarpment.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 03/08

2006  TW Chardonnay Reserve Black Label   17  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  clone mendoza hand-harvested;  barrel-fermented in mostly French oak,  50% wild-yeast ferments;  11 months LA in barrel and partial MLF;  RS 2 g/L;  www.twwines.co.nz ]
Straw flushed with gold,  the most developed colour among the chardonnays.  This wine continues the trend for big bold TW Golden Slope chardonnays (though with a welcome lower alcohol this year),  with lots of tactile golden queen peach fruit so rich it tastes a little sweet,  and  lashings of oak.  It is therefore an old-fashioned style,  but it is properly ripe and one that continues to be popular.  If the oak level is accepted / liked,  it is well-balanced and long in flavour,  though it may not cellar so well.  For others,  it could be tiring to drink.  Probably best in its first three or so years.  GK 03/08

2004  Chard Farm Chardonnay Judge & Jury   16 ½ +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  BF,  LA and MLF in French oak;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  This wine stands out in the sub-group of chardonnays,  being not quite so explicitly varietal.  There is a certain European complexity,  a touch of cardboard,  in quite rich fruit.  Flavour shows lees-autolysis richness and maybe barrel-ferment complexities,  in a tending acid wine,  which is more clearly chardonnay on palate weight.  Nonetheless the fruit is physiologically ripe,  in contrast (say) to the 2005 Matariki top chardonnay (a later batch of wines).  Should be good with food,  but could be tiring to drink on its own.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 03/08

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2007  Belmonte Sauvignon Blanc   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $15   [ screwcap;  Belmonte is a vineyard owned by John Forrest's brother-in-law,  sustainably farmed,  no pesticides,  with winemaking etc done by Forrest Estate;  no website found ]
Pale lemongreen.  Bouquet is clear-cut Marlborough sauvignon,  showing clear yellow and red capsicum ripeness,  plus some honeysuckle and sweet basil aromatics,  and black passionfruit too.  Palate is not quite as concentrated as the bouquet promises,  but this is very typical and pleasing Marlborough sauvignon,  at the usual Marlborough 'dry' level of residual sweetness.  Cellar 2 – 3 years.  GK 03/08

2007  Chard Farm Sauvignon Blanc Swiftburn   17 ½  ()
South Island,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  no wine detail on website;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  Bouquet is astonishingly close to the Belmonte wine,  the same yellow and red capsicum point of ripeness,  plus aromatics and black passionfruit.  Palate follows through well,  just a little more English gooseberry in the fruit flavours,  and a little less flavour overall,  on a slightly more acid and mineral base.  The label admits to some Marlborough fruit in the blend,  but it seems to dominate.  This should cellar well in a Sancerre style,  2 – 8 years or so.  GK 03/08

2007  Waipara Springs Sauvignon Blanc Premo   14 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  underlying limestone;  regrettably the 2007 is not on the website,  but the 2005 was wild-yeast fermented,  75% s/s,  25% in oak age unstated,  finished @ nil RS;  the Premo series would appear to be reserve wines in effect,  emphasising regionality and terroir etc;  www.waiparasprings.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Initially opened,  there is some SO2 to marry away,  on a less ripe kind of sauvignon,  more 80s than 00s.  Breathed,  the under-ripe component is quite explicitly cut green-bean,  as well as green and yellow capsicum,  leading to an acid short palate well off the pace in today's sauvignon market.  No faults,  just too tart and under-ripe.  These sauvignon flavours do not cellar.  GK 03/08

2005  Waipara Springs Riesling   18 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  10.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  regrettably the 2005 notes are no longer on the website (why – we need to encourage New Zealanders to cellar and treasure wine,  and to be able to refer to all back vintages,  not regard it as an evanescent / disposable commodity),  but perhaps the 2006 was made similarly – stop-fermented @ 29 g/L in a spatlese style,  25% of the wine briefly in old oak;  www.waiparasprings.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Notwithstanding being a 2005,  this opens as a very youthful wine,  still with some SO2 to assimilate.  It benefits greatly from a good swirling,  to reveal freesia,  rosepetal and citrus-blossom florals on bouquet,  on gently lime-infused white fruits.  Palate is a little sweeter than hoped,  at medium-dry,  but showing beautiful fruit and varietal integrity,  and a lingering floral and citrus aftertaste.  Lovely wine,  which should be popular.  It will cellar beautifully 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Neudorf Riesling Moutere   17 +  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  9%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested in mid-May;  all s/s ferment,  some LA,  stop-fermented @ 44 g/L,  and a pH of 2.8;  strong encouragement to cellar on website – great !;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Pale greeny lemon.  Bouquet is quite unformed as yet,  as if recently bottled (which seems unlikely).  On close examination,  there are some lime suggestions,  on a pure vinifera base reminiscent of some young wines of Jeffrey Grosset,  which can also be uncommunicative in youth.  Palate is richly fruited,  gentle in its phenolic extraction,  quite sweet (more a medium wine),  delightfully pure,  but once again,  flavour is shy as yet.  It has all the makings of a fine wine,   but at this moment can't be marked as one.  [ Bit of a worry,  this cross-over between fortune-telling and wine evaluation … ]  Taste aside,  the numbers suggest it will cellar very well indeed,  and develop in bottle over 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/08

2007  Kingsmill Riesling Premo Tippet's Race   16 +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  hand-picked 1 May;  RS 7 g/L;  www.kingsmillwines.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  In the blind tasting,  this one is hard to come to grips with.  It is light and fragrant,  with a fruit quality closest to bottled English gooseberries or rhubarb.  It does overlap somewhat with sauvignon blanc from a cooler climate,  as German riesling does too,  sometimes.  Palate is a little austere and mineral,  awaiting fruit and flavour development.  Its sweetness level is probably just outside the dry class [ later,  on the line ],  but this is hard to estimate on low pH wines from cooler climates.  Cellar 2 – 10 years,  with interest.  GK 03/08

Pinot Gris
2006  Chard Farm Pinot Gris   17 +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $28   [ screwcap; no wine detail on website;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Pale lemon,  a little deeper than the Rabbit Range.  Bouquet is clearly pinot,  pearflesh,  white stonefruit,  a trace of cinnamon,  the same touch of VA as the Rabbit Ranch,  but bigger all round.  The consequence of this being bigger shows up on palate,  where in addition to more flavour and more flesh,  there are also more phenolics,  leaving a slightly burning and spicy taste on the tongue.  Like the Rabbit Ranch,  this is carried by medium-dry residual sugar.  There are reminders of the richer but subtler Dry River Pinot Gris here.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 03/08

2007  Rabbit Ranch Pinot Gris   16 ½ +  ()
Cromwell district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ screwcap;  no website found,  brief background on www.otagowine.com,  same winemaker (John Wallace) as Chard Farm ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is typical New Zealand pinot gris handled in stainless steel,  with pearflesh and some white nectarine,  slightly lifted by VA.  Palate shows a fairly commercial approach,  mild,  medium-dry,  good fruit,  not phenolic.  Mark might be generous,  could be described as bland,  but many seem to prefer pinot gris for that.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Chard Farm Gewurztraminer   17  ()
Queenstown district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13%;  $25   [ screwcap;  no wine detail on website;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  a great colour.  Initially opened,  bouquet is a bit youthful,  cheap and scented,  clearly varietal but showing rather much of the muscat side of gewurztraminer's personality.  It opens up in glass after swirling,  to a more citrus and lightly lychee version of the grape.  Palate shows good fruit,  and some of the phenolic nip of the variety,  balanced by medium-dry sweetness,  so the flavours linger well.  Should improve in varietal quality in cellar 2 – 7 years.  GK 03/08

Sweet / Sticky
2007  Te Mania Ice Wine   14  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  riesling,  hand-harvested;  a freeze-concentrated wine;  RS 103 g/L,  TA 11.7 g/L;  www.temaniawines.co.nz ]
Lemon to lemonstraw.  Bouquet is drab,  with both an oxidised and a cardboard note,  plus VA,  on indeterminate fruit.  Palate is sweet and initially fruity,  but then incredibly phenolic,  acid,  and sweet / sour.  Not a success,  not worth cellaring.  GK 03/08

All other white wines, blends, etc.
1989  R Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco   17 ½ +  ()
Rioja DdO Calificada,  Spain:  12.5%;  $57   [ cork;  brass-wire bound;  Viura 85 – 90%,  10 – 15 Malvasia,  cropped at < 1 t/ha;  'at least' 4 years in oak;  the websites www.tondonia.com and www.lopezdeheredia.com are far from easy to use,  but there is info buried in there;  www.lopezdeheredia.com ]
Rich lively straw.  By contemporary New Zealand white standards,  few will give this a second thought,  so old and maderised is it.  But look at it again,  and think of dry amontillado or unusually old (good) chardonnay,  plus tapas,  and suddenly the wonderful palate weight / dry extract,  coupled with the bone-dry finish,  make you realise that the flavour is a very special.  Predominant is a white truffle / button mushroom quality,  on clear brazil nut mealy richness,  all a little marmite-y on fragrant oak.  The wine is wonderfully long in flavour,  not falling away as an oxidised wine would.  The aftertaste goes on and on.  It would be wonderful with the right accompanying foods.  But one certainly has to climb right out of the white wine box,  and think again,  to enjoy it.  One has to allow the difference between a maderised wine,  and an oxidised one,  for example.  Once again,  in wine,  style is sometimes more important than technology.  All that said,  a limited market in New Zealand,  I would think.  Unlikely to improve in cellar.  GK 03/08

2007  TW Viognier   16 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  elevage:  (not sure I have this right) c. 2/3 fermented in older French oak,  plus 6 weeks LA in barrel,  1/3  standard s/s ferment;  20% total wine wild-yeast ferment;  all blended in s/s,  no MLF,  6 g/L RS;  www.twwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen to lemon,  a gorgeous colour.  Bouquet is fragrant honeysuckle aromatics and just-ripe apricots,  light but clearly varietal,  attractive.  Freshly-opened the wine is tending aggressive on palate,  the high alcohol exacerbating the phenolics and acid,  but it is well-fruited and should mellow in a year.  A little residual sweetness helps balance the roughness on palate.  Cellar 2 – 3 years.  GK 03/08

1996  R Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Crianza Blanco   15  ()
Rioja DdO Calificada,  Spain:  12%;  $41   [ cork;  Viura 100%;  4 years in cask;  the websites www.tondonia.com and www.lopezdeheredia.com are far from easy to use,  but there is info buried in there;  www.lopezdeheredia.com ]
Straw,  with an orange note.  On bouquet,  this wine is clearly related to the Reserva,  but in this lighter example,  the aged character does seem oxidised rather more than maderised.  Palate is lighter too,  bone dry,  quincy rather than nutty,  not as richly oaky or autolysed,  but still some of the white mushroom late flavours.  It could still appeal in some circumstances,  but it is not as easy to take seriously as the Reserva.  Not cellar wine.  GK 03/08

2006  Can Rafols Petit Caus Rosado   18 ½  ()
Penedes DdO,  Spain:  11.5%;  $18   [ cork;  Me 35%,  Ull de Llebre = Te 35,  Sy 20,  Sumoll 10;  RS 1.3 g/L;  the back-label website www.stvincentscave.com is not functional,  the winery website cumbersome;  www.canrafolsdelscaus.com ]
Perfect light red cherry rosé.  Bouquet is fragrant,  immediately enticing,  combining red crab-apple,  red cherry and best side of strawberry with absolute cleanliness.  Palate is just as good,  flavoursome yet light,  superbly refreshing at 11.5% alcohol and dry,  yet showing the lovely mouthfeel of real rosé,  tasting as if made with red grapes.  Model in fact marvellous quaffing wine,  clearly winey,  confirming yet again rosé is NOT best in its first year,  despite much conventional wisdom to the contrary.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 03/08

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2004  Balthazar Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Cabernet Franc Magi   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $34   [ screwcap;  CS 75%,  Me 17,  CF 8,  hand-harvested;  extended cuvaison > 25 days,  followed by MLF and 14 months in French oak 75% new;  www.balthazar.co.nz ]
Colour is a deeper ruby and velvet than the Merlot,  and older to the edge.  Bouquet is very similar too,  perhaps slightly more aromatic reflecting the higher cabernet,  and again a little European complexity.  Palate shows a little more richness than the Merlot.  It seems both a little riper,  yet harder on the oak tannins.  It may soften somewhat in cellar – hard to be sure on that.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 03/08

2004  Balthazar Merlot   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $38   [ screwcap; wine not on website;  www.balthazar.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet,  old for age.  Bouquet is a little clogged and needs decanting,  to show a quite complex European-style red,  with some tobacco in the browning plum of merlot,  and a little brett.  Palate is less,  a hard stalky streak developing which won't fade much with time,  and a little acid reflecting the cooler year.  The wine is reasonably rich,  though,  so it will cellar 2 – 8 years,  maybe longer.  GK 03/08

2002  Can Rafols Gran Caus   13 ½  ()
Penedes DdO,  Spain:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  Me 42,  CF 38,  CS 20%,  aged 12 months in French oak,  and 3 + years in bottle;  RS 1.3 g/L;  the back-label website www.stvincentscave.com is not functional,  the winery website cumbersome;  www.canrafolsdelscaus.com ]
Ruby and garnet.  Don't breathe this wine.  Bouquet has a spurious vinosity to it which is initially beguiling,  though very bretty.  In mouth,  the wine shows soft fruit initially,  but rapidly one becomes aware of the unclean finish.  This is too old-fashioned in its winemaking to be appropriate for New Zealand.  Northern hemisphere reviewers like it a good deal more.  An extraordinary contrast with the rosé.  GK 03/08

Pinot Noir
2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir Voyager Single Vineyard   19  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $65   [ supercritical cork;  Insight Series;  hand-harvested from 25-year old clone 10/5;  fermented in cuves,  19 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  12 months in French oak 30% new;  dry extract 30.2 g/L,  RS <1 g/L;  200 cases;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  but appropriate,  the lightest of the Escarpments.  Bouquet is simply sensational.  Here is an antipodean expression of pinot noir immediately ready to take its place alongside some grand cru Cote de Nuits burgundies.  It is not as floral as Te Rehua (also in McKenna's Insight Series) but it balances that by being rounder,  mellower,  showing deeper dusky red roses and violets on midnight-soft fragrant fruit.  Florals carry right on through the black cherry fruit,  suffusing the entire palate with the fragrant magic of fine burgundy.  Oak is perfectly in balance to the fruit richness,  and the percentage of new is sufficient to spice the wine and augment the bouquet,  without dominating.  This Voyager is arguably the greatest pinot noir so far made in New Zealand.  Larry McKenna has been thinking deeply about pinot noir in New Zealand for a full 23 vintages now,  and it shows.  Many regard him as the champion New Zealand pinot maker.  And other,  greedier,  producers might like to note the $65 pricing on this wine – no trophy-wine pretensions here.  There are 200 cases.  Buy as much as you can afford,  and cellar 3 – 15 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe Single Vineyard   18 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $85   [ supercritical cork;  clone Abel hand-harvested @ < 2 t/ac from Te Muna road young vines planted @ 6600 vines / ha,  fermented in cuves,  15 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  12 months in French oak 50% new;  dry extract 27.1 g/L,  RS <1 g/L;  500 cases;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  the freshest colour of the Escarpment wines,  fractionally deeper than Te Rehua in weight.  Initially opened,  bouquet is reticent on this wine,  the new oak component showing more than for some.  There are again suggestions of Martinborough pennyroyal,  and implicit florals on clear cherry fruit.  Palate seems cooler and fresher than Moana,  very pure,  beautifully ripe,  and in fact there is no worry about the oak level here.  The elegance,  balance and poise are delightful,  but the beauty is yet to come,  I suspect.  One cannot ignore the magical harmony of the finish – perhaps it will eclipse the others,  in three or so years' time.  It will be great to see the complete set in five years time,  when the real achievements of this marvellous group of pinots will be on display.  It will also be great to see the dry extract increase with vine age,  in this new vineyard.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir Te Rehua Single Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $65   [ supercritical cork;  hand-harvested from vines > 20 years,  many clones;  fermented in cuves,  15 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  12 months in French oak 30% new;  dry extract 28.9 g/L,  RS <1 g/L;  200 cases;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  fractionally deeper than Voyager.  This pinot noir is as dramatically varietal as Voyager,  and for some tasters,  it will be even more varietal.  This is a wine optimising the floral expression which is key to great pinot noir,  the aromas spanning the full range from buddleia through roses and violets to boronia.  It is clearly more aromatic than Voyager,  with also the faintest touch of Martinborough pennyroyal.  Palate contrasts with Voyager in being a little leaner and firmer,  a little less ripe but very aromatic,  very Cote de Nuits in style.  It is glorious pinot noir,  the quality of florals right through to the finish making one wonder:  will this be a pinot to later develop the elusive / much talked about (or at least reputed) peacock's tail spread of aromas and flavours on the aftertaste?  Like Voyager,  this wine too is a contender for New Zealand's greatest pinot yet.  For those hooked on the floral component of the grape,  it may well outpoint Voyager.  Normally that would include me,  but I deducted a little for the pennyroyal note.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir Moana Single Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $65   [ supercritical cork;  hand-harvested from 3 clones of PN 25 years,  fermented in cuves,  16 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  12 months in French oak 30% new;  dry extract 32.3 g/L,  RS <1 g/L;  200 cases;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  some velvet,  the deepest and oldest looking of these Escarpment top pinots,  approaching the Dry River pinot noir in depth,  but not hue – this is older.  Bouquet in this wine is deeper,  darker,  riper and somewhat less floral than my top wines,  but fragrance of bouquet develops in glass,  and is augmented by trace brett at a positive level.  Fruit is still black cherry,  but bottled black doris aromas are creeping in,  all complexed with some oak and a touch of barrel toast.  In many ways,  therefore,  this is a more complex wine than the pure varietal Voyager and Kupe,  and could be said to be more European in style.  It is very ripe,  though.  Fruit weight is exemplary – as noted previously,  we must rejoice that in New Zealand we are finally seeing red wines with a dry extract of 30 g/L,  bespeaking a true grand cru cropping rate.  It needs several years for the oak tannins to marry into the fruit,  and will cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Escarpment Pinot Noir   18  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $45   [ supercritical cork;  hand-picked;  fermented in French oak cuves;  11 months in French oak 30% new;  dry extract 30.2 g/L,  RS < 1 g/L;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  not too different from Kupe in hue and weight.  In the blind tasting of 13 pinots,  this was my fifth of the top five,  and those five were all Escarpment – an astonishing performance for the label.  Total style and achievement is incredibly close to the individual vineyard and Kupe reserve wines – the wine only missing out on gold pointing by a whisker,  and in other company could easily point to that level.  My notes and score this time were uncannily similar to the October review (not checked before the tasting),  which is always a pleasant outcome from a blind tasting.  That was dated 10/07.  GK 03/08

2006  Chard Farm Pinot Noir The Viper   17 ½  ()
Parkburn district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $52   [ screwcap;  no detail on the website;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is beautiful pinot noir,  soft,  sweetly floral,  ripe,  lifted by both trace VA and fragrantly aromatic oak.  In mouth red and black cherry fruit shows on more oak than expected,  all in a firmer,  leaner and more aromatic wine than the Escarpments.  It is closest in style to the Te Rehua wine,  without quite the flesh and poise.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Kingsmill Pinot Noir Tippet's Dam   17 +  ()
Bannockburn district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $42   [ screwcap;  10/5 and 5 other clones,  hand-picked;  5 days cold soak,  14 days cuvaison;  c. 10 months in French oak 35% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.kingsmillwines.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is little different in the set of wines,  showing some of the florals and red fruits of pinot noir,  but also a tending euro-style component reflecting a little oxidation and brett,  drabbing the wine down.  Palate is quite rich,  well balanced to oak,  some black fruits now,  not acid or lean,  but it is let down a little by the 'complexity' factors.  Possibly not bone dry.  [[ 3 April 2008:  Matt Connell,  winemaker,  advises me I have misjudged this wine.  Brett was checked,  nil.  RS is < 1 g/L,  so I clearly misinterpreted fruit richness for trace residual.  Checking my tasting notes,  I have to wonder if this particular bottle could have been less than perfectly sealed,  mechanically,  since I mention oxidation.  Even under screwcap,  there are occasional impaired bottles.  As soon as I see the wine again,  in a blind tasting,  I will do another review. ]]  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere   17  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $62   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  French oak;  not fined or filtered;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot ruby.  Bouquet is very youthful and precise pinot noir,  showing a nearly full range of florals from buddleia through roses and violets to maybe suggestions of boronia,  delightfully fragrant.  Palate does not sustain the promise of bouquet quite so well,  the wine being a little stalky alongside the top wines in this batch.  Concentration is good though,  and a slightly smoky note to the cooperage adds complexity.  This should mature to an attractively fragrant and highly varietal but lean wine,  which will cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Chard Farm Pinot Noir Finla Mor   16 ½ +  ()
Cromwell district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $38   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  between the River Run and Viper pinots in weight and hue.  Bouquet is between these two wines too,  illustrating beautifully the deepening of the floral component that comes with increasing ripeness in the variety – up to the point of sur-maturité.  There are the same buddleia and roses,  but also deeper notes of boronia maybe,  elusive and attractive.  Palate too is richer than the River Run,  some black cherry in the red,  but all let down by a sucking-on-plum-stones austerity on the finish.  A passing phase one hopes,  for the wine is richer than the River Run,  and should ultimately score higher.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Waipara Springs Pinot Noir Premo   16 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap;  hand-picked from some of the older vines in the district,  sorting tables;  wild yeast fermentation,  cold-soak & extended cuvaison;  c. 13 months French oak 40% new;  < 1 g/L RS;  www.waiparasprings.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This wine opens quietly,  and benefits from air.  There is an attractive mix of floral components with red and black cherry,  and some blackboy peach on bouquet too.  Palate is a little less,  crisp fruit more red than black,  slightly acid,  shorter than the top wines.  This should be very fragrant but tending lean wine in two or three years,  and cellar to eight.  GK 03/08

2006  Chard Farm Pinot Noir River Run   16 +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $29   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  scarcely separable from the Neudorf.  And the bouquet is similarly fragrant and floral,  in the buddleia and roses spectrum mainly.  Palate is fresh and crisp,  red fruits more than black,  even some red currants,  slightly acid,  leaner than the Neudorf.  This too will be fragrant clearly varietal wine,  in a tending-acid Volnay style.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir   15 ½ +  ()
Cromwell district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  no website found,  brief background on www.otagowine.com,  same winemaker (John Wallace) as Chard Farm ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet shows a clear light varietal quality,  with sweet pea and buddleia florals at the leafy end of the ripening spectrum.  Palate reflects this,  clean redcurrant and red cherry only,  with perhaps a little chaptalisation and not quite bone dry to the finish.  Apart from the residual,  the whole winestyle is startlingly like village Savigny-les-Beaune,  that is,  tasting as if over-cropped and under-ripe,  but pleasant light quaffing pinot.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 03/08

Syrah = Shiraz
2006  Beresford Shiraz McLaren Vale   17 ½ +  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  website out-of-date as to vintage,  but 2004 was 18 months in new American oak,  RS nil;  www.beresfordwines.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  quite rich.  Bouquet reveals a serious shiraz showing good but not excessive ripeness,  so there are some syrah thoughts in the dark plums and boysenberry.  There is a soft American new-oak component too,  suggesting maybe some barrel-ferment complexity.  Palate is very rich,  a little euc and more oak,  but all in a good big soft Australian style,  not overdone.  This should be popular.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/08

2005  Heathcote Estate Shiraz   16 ½  ()
Heathcote,  central Victoria,  Australia:  14.5%;  $43   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Sh 97,  Gr 3,  grown on volcanic soils;  up to 3 weeks cuvaison;  MLF and 18 months in barrel French 90% American 10,  30% new,  balance first and second year;  www.heathcoteestate.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is very euc'y,  disappointingly so both relative to previous vintages,  and for this premium district,  where it is possible to achieve syrah-like complexity in shiraz.   In this wine,  however,  any such achievement is not perceivable,  below the all-enveloping eucalyptus taint.  Palate shows rich ripe fruit in very aromatic oak,  but this year it all seems more Australian in style,  boysenberry rather than anything subtler,  and too oaky.  Pity.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/08

2005  Balthazar Syrah   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $38   [ screwcap;  Sy 91%,  CS 9,  hand-harvested from 10 year vines;  extended cuvaison > 35 days,  followed by MLF and 14 months in French oak 75% new;  www.balthazar.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet.  Bouquet needs a breath of fresh air,  to reveal explicitly cool climate syrah,  with some cassisy berry offset by stalky notes and cracked pepper.  Palate is a little richer than the bouquet suggests,  some black pepper as well as white,  clear cassis,  and some bottled red plums.  Acid is firm,  but at least it is natural alongside the cheaper Beresford.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Beresford Shiraz Highwood   16  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $15   [ screwcap;  2006 not on website,  but 2004 was drawn from McLaren Vale > Langhorne Creek > Adelaide Hills;  70% of the wine sees 2 – 4 year American and French oak;  www.beresfordwines.com.au ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is fragrant clean rasp / boysenberry,  very straightforward.  Palate is the same,  so the wine seems simple,  and tastes hard on the added acid,  in the Australian commercial style.  Could be more interesting as it mellows in cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/08

All other red wines, blends etc
2001  R Lopez de Heredia Vina Cubillo Crianza   17 +  ()
Rioja DdO Calificada,  Spain:  12.5%;  $41   [ cork;  Te 65%,  Grenache 25,  Graciano 5,  Mazuelo 5,  ± Viura;  3 years in cask;  the websites www.tondonia.com and www.lopezdeheredia.com are far from easy to use,  but there is info buried in there;  www.lopezdeheredia.com ]
Lightish ruby and a touch of garnet,  mature burgundy in hue and weight.  Wow!  Time travel.  This wine was imported into New Zealand in the 1960s by Dominion Breweries / T & W Young.  It last sold at the same price as Tahbilk Shiraz,  $1.40.  This sample smells absolutely identical.  Now as then,  the same fragrant tempranillo blend prevails,  the same citrus-inflected oak,  fragrant and lovely.  Back then,  the concept of brett was still 20 years ahead of us,  and now,  yes,  there is a little,  but totally in proportion.  Palate is food-friendly mature wine,  at 12.5% alcohol note.  Considering however that Cubillo is the lowest ranking of the top R Lopez red wines,  a more favourable pricing reflecting the earlier relativities is needed in New Zealand.  The mainstream Tahbilk reds are now $23 – 24.  [ And we need the Reserva reds in New Zealand,  not the whites.  They are cropped at < 1 t/ha,  and all agree they are still in their glorious traditional style,  unaffected by modern fashion or fancy. ]  Though it seems mature,  Vina Cubillo will cellar for years in its style,  5 – 10.  Bottles from the 60s are still worth drinking now,  though faded and very dry.  The original colour is deceptive,  concealing the good dry extract.  GK 03/08

2006  Pago Casa Gran Reposo   16 ½ +  ()
Valencia DdO,  Spain:  14.5%;  $19   [ cork;  Me,  CS,  Mv,  Sy,  organically grown,  mechanically harvested;  wild yeast fermentation and MLF in s/s;  no wood maturation;  www.pagocasagran.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  quite dense.  Bouquet benefits from vigorous decanting.  It gradually opens up as more a modern winestyle,  in the blind line-up passing as a somewhat heavy Hawkes Bay blend.  Bouquet is darkly plummy as if malbec and merlot (see above),  with slight retained fermentation odours.  Palate is rich,  tannic,  very dry,  not oaky (see above),  a little austere as yet – some mellowing needed.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  to achieve this.  GK 03/08

2005  Molino y Lagares Lavia Monastrell / Syrah   15 ½  ()
Bullas DdO,  Spain:  14.5%;  $26   [ cork;  Mv 68%,  Sy 13,  CS 10,  Te 9;  said to be raised in French oak ]
Ruby and some velvet.  Bouquet is vaguely in a heavy Cotes du Rhone style,  as if raised in concrete,  with some retained fermentation odours.  Needs air.  Palate darkens the wine further,  into a drab mourvedre-dominant very tannic wine (seemingly) unleavened by oak,  all foursquare and plain.  This needs 5 or more years in cellar,  to soften and perhaps become more fragrant.  It will keep for much longer,  but hardly seems worth it.  GK 03/08

2004  Vinya l'Hereu Petit Grealo   14 ½  ()
Costers del Segre DdO,  Catalonia,  Spain:  14%;  $26   [ cork;  Sy 40%,  Me 30,  CS 30,  grown organically,  hand-harvested;  30 – 35 days cuvaison;  12 months in s/s;  reviews on the web are extraordinary:  Wine Spectator – pure aromas of violets, pepper, black currant, and blueberry. The wine is medium-bodied with plenty of spicy black fruit flavors, soft tannins, and excellent balance. Drink this outstanding value over the next 3-4 years, 89;  given website not functional at time of writing;  www.vinyalheureu.com ]
Older ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is curious on this wine,  smelling of bottled red plums,  bouquet garni including parsley,  and brett,  yet not exactly winey.  Palate is totally unknit,  tannic to a fault,  and finish is quite bitter.  This is a wholesome but very plain wine,  not worth cellaring.  A more favourable view is also obtainable at www.grapesofspain.com/wines.cfm?wineid=100.  GK 03/08

2005  Bodegas Almansenas la Huella de Adaras   13 ½  ()
Almansa DdO,  Spain:  14%;  $20   [ cork;  Mv 40%,  Tintorera = Alicante (a teinturier) 40,  Sy 20;  s/s and concrete only;  useful background information on Spanish grapes @ www.winesfromspain.com,  and also www.winesofvalencia.com. ]
Dense ruby and velvet.  This is a very heavy wine,  in a dull extractive ox-liver and a little H2S style.  Many Australian reds were like this in the 50s and 60s.  Palate makes one think of Australia even more,  it being clearly saline,  with minty / euc'y overtones on this black tannic heavy fruit.  The tannins finish clearly bitter in mouth.  Will keep for ages,  but not worth cellaring.  GK 03/08