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

Once again,  Paul Mitchell / The Wine Importer (Auckland) has the first good sampling of 2005 Bordeaux in New Zealand.  At this stage they are cru bourgeois and the like,  under $50 in price.  The pattern for this tasting was first to assemble the French wines with 2005 Te Mata Awatea,  and present them blind in two flights of 9,  to 23 people.  The first flight comprised wines up to $33,  the second including the Awatea was from $33 upwards.  The next day I re-assessed the line-up,  together with a few other comparable New Zealand wines interleaved.

The 2005 vintage in Bordeaux has met with general acclaim,  as below (a little paraphrased):  

Wine Spectator,  2008:  (Issue 31 March 2008,  www.winespectator.com,  compiled) ... The 2005 Bordeaux vintage is among the greatest since the legendary 1961,  99 points ... The reds show complex aromas of ripe fruits, tobacco and minerals, intensely flavored palates, and seamless textures of powerful yet ultrafine tannins and fresh acidity. They are in total harmony in their structure as young clarets ... the palates of the top 2005s are dense yet agile, with superripe, seamless tannins and long, fresh finishes. It's rare to find such structured Bordeaux so light-footed and crisp ...  "You really can't compare what we are doing today to what we were doing in a great year like 1989 or 1982," admits Jean-Guillaume Prats, president of second-growth St.-Estephe Cos-d'Estournel. Prats made his greatest wine ever in 2005 (98 points). "For example, our grape yields are half compared with those vintages, and the attention to detail in every aspect of our winemaking is incomparable".
Robert Parker,  2007:
  Remembering that for this article we are discussing cru bourgeois and similar,  whereas he is thinking more of classed growths,  in an article last year ( www.erobertparker.com) titled "The Compelling 2005 Red Bordeaux Revisited – Prior to Bottling" he says:  
Retasting all the 2005s a few months before they are bottled confirmed just about everything the pundits had declared last year. It is an extraordinary vintage and one that is different from anything I have tasted in the last twenty-eight years. As a general rule, the wines are very concentrated, extremely high in tannin, and backward, but the fresh acids combined with the massive concentration and higher than normal alcohols make for a distinctive vintage that will probably be one of the longest-lived I have ever tasted.

Some of the northern Medocs will have to be watched more carefully than the other areas as their tannins are elevated.  ... the very best St.-Juliens, Pauillacs, and St.-Estephes are exceptional, yet will require considerably more patience than their counterparts in 2003 and 2000. Expect these wines to last 30-50 years!

There appears to be little doubt about the greatness in Margaux, Pessac-Léognan/Graves, Pomerol, and St.-Emilion. All four appellations have produced exquisite wines that possess exceptional longevity as well as remarkable fruit concentration, precision, and freshness.

In short, this vintage has no shortage of legendary wine. Although the wines came out at absurdly high prices (especially the first growths), no one seems to be complaining except those who did not buy them. Sadly, most of the stock that was offered has been completely sold through the marketplace. Replacement costs are already 50-100% higher than the opening prices. This is a fabulous vintage, and no one who purchased these wines will regret having done so, as prices will continue to set new records for young Bordeaux.

Jancis Robinson,  2006  (www.jancisrobinson.com)
The great thing about the successful 2005s is their purity. They have power but they also have refreshment value. They have keeping potential, as witness the high levels of tannins in virtually all the wines, but in the best those tannins are fully ripe, beautifully managed and so well hidden by ripe fruit that the wines are already delicious. One would like to call the wines classic claret, but Bordeaux has surely never known a vintage quite like this. The vintage was the driest since 1949, for the period between budding and harvest.

In 2005,  the grapes were very small and unusually low in juice. It was the thickness of the skins, in which all flavour-, colour- and tannin-producing compounds reside, which were responsible for the 2005s' quite exceptional charge of these vital elements.  Another vital difference was in night-time temperatures. In the summer of 2005 nights were relatively cool, which helped to keep the grapes ripening gently and steadily rather than stopping photosynthesis altogether as in 2003.  This helped the gradual accumulation of all the important phenolic compounds in the grape skins, which were lacking in the less successful 2003s.

If vintage 2005 had any drawback at all, it was the ripening of the Merlots. Merlot, the dominant grape variety on the right bank, always ripens much earlier than the naturally late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon which predominates in the Médoc and Graves on the left bank. Because of this, Merlots were much more heavily influenced by the warm weather in early September, which saw acids plummet in Merlot to levels practically unknown except in 2003. Although the dry weather persisted, temperatures were much more moderate in late September and early October, leaving the Cabernets to continue their gentle ripening on the vine, so that average acid and sugar levels in the Cabernets were very respectable – provided crop levels were limited and full ripeness achieved. Some Merlots got just too ripe and had to be consigned to the second wine rather than the grand vin. At both Ch Margaux and Ch Leoville Las Cases, for example, there is more alcohol and markedly less freshness in the second wine than usual.

I found hundreds of wines to recommend ... but I also encountered too many wines that were spoilt by winemakers who could not accept that Nature had given them perfection and were vainly determined to improve upon it ... .

The immediate thing to note here,  is how true each of these authors is to themselves.  Jancis with her preference for freshness / 'refreshment value' in red wine,  implies that some of the merlot-dominant wines,  which dominate the right bank,  will be low in acid.  Parker with his warm-climate preferences,  makes a particular point of saying how good the right bank wines are.  

Some of the information in the italicised section of reviews is courtesy Paul Mitchell.  The French wines in this batch range in price from $NZ17 to $45.  Note the new-world alcohols for some of them.  Change is the order of the day ...  


2005  Ch de l'Abbaye de Saint Ferme
2005  Ch d'Agassac
2005  Ch Beaumont
2005  Ch Cambon la Pelouse
2005  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2006  Coopers Creek Merlot
2005  Ch de la Cour d'Argent
2005  Domaine de Courteillac
2005  Ch la Dauphine
2005  Ch la Fleur Carrere
2005  Clos Floridene
2005  Ch Fongaban
  2005  Ch de Francs les Cerisiers
2005  Ch Gigault Cuvée Viva
2005  Ch Lagrange les Tours
2006  Mills Reef Malbec Elspeth
2005  Ch Picque-Caillou
2005  Ch Pontoise Cabarrus
2005  Ch Reynon
2005  Ch Sainte Colombe
2005  Ch Saint-Paul
2005  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Awatea
2006  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Private Bin
2006  Villa Maria Merlot Omahu Gravels Single Vineyard

2005  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels mainly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ cork;  CS 74%,  Me 26,  80% hand-picked at c. 2.5 t/ac from 6-year old vines;  cuvaison approx 24 days;  no BF;  22 months in French oak c. 53% new,  no lees stirring;  not fined,  coarse filter only;  RS < 0.2 g/L;  VALUE;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
This wonderful wine has already been reviewed on this site (18 Dec 2007).  It has classical Bordeaux ripeness,  richness and style,  and is of classed-growth standard.  Acid balance is particularly pleasing – so many New Zealand wines are too acid.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 04/08

2006  Villa Maria Merlot Omahu Gravels Single Vineyard   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $57   [ screwcap;  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed;  MLF and 18 months in French oak,  50% new;  wine not on website yet;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  but not dense.  Bouquet is clearly floral violets and varietal plummy merlot,  with oak in attractive aromatic balance.  Palate is not quite so good,  some youthful austerity,  tannin and acid shortening it up more than is ideal for merlot.  But in five or so years this will be wonderfully fragrant,  varietal and food-friendly wine,  totally lighter Bordeaux in style.  It does taste as if there is some cabernet in it,  though.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Beaumont   17 ½ +  ()
Haut-Medoc (Cussac) Cru Bourgeois Superieur,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $35   [ cork;  CS 60%,  Me 35,  CF 3,  PV 2,  av. vine age 22,  cropped @ av. 2.6 t/ac;  12 – 14 months in oak,  33% new;  JancisR:   Deep and purplish. Sweet, opulent, heady purple fruits. Great sweetness and opulence. This is a wine punching way above its weight. Lovely completeness and attack with no tarty sweetness on the finish.  16.5;  Parker:  87 – 88,  no specific notes.  In his indispensable Bordeaux (2003) book,  Parker comments for Ch Beaumont:  now one of the more interesting, best made and reasonably priced cru bourgeois … the goal an … amply-endowed wine … up-front fruit … toasty vanilla aromas … new oak … recent vintages taste as if the percentage of merlot is higher than claimed;  www.chateau-beaumont.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  hard to differentiate from Clos Floridene in weight or colour.  Bouquet is even more international / modern in its toasty oak styling than Floridene,  and Parker's comments quoted above are perfect.  Palate is fractionally richer,  and acid balance a little gentler,  showing great cassis and bordeaux berry.  What a turnaround in this wine,  from a generation ago.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Clos Floridene   17 ½ +  ()
Graves,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $34   [ cork;  CS 55%,  Me 45;  owned Denis Dubourdieu,  Prof. of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux since 1987,  consultant,  merchant too,  www.denisdubourdieu.com (unstable);  Parker:  87 – 89,  no specific notes;  Averys of Bristol:  2005 Clos Floridene Rouge is strongly marked by an unusual association in Bordeaux, Cabernet-Sauvignon on calcareous soil. With a bright and intense colour, it has black-currant and wild strawberry aromas, with hints of mint, liquorice and smokiness. The fruit and tannin are powerful, silky and fresh. ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  medium-sized,  a little lighter than the Villa Merlot Reserve.  Bouquet is in the modern style,  clear toasty oak with a touch of grated chocolate on the toast,  a fragrant plummy merlot-dominant wine.  Like the Villa,  in mouth it immediately shortens up somewhat,  firm acid,  austere grape tannins yet lovely fruit,  with more cabernet noticeable now,  remarkably comparable with the Villa,  but more modern / international in its oak styling.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Pontoise Cabarrus   17 ½  ()
Haut-Medoc (Saint-Seurin) Cru Bourgeois,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $28   [ cork;  CS 55%,  Me 35,  CF 5,  PV 5,  machine harvest,  manual inspection via conveyor belt;  implication of c. 15% new oak;  Parker:  86 – 88,  no specific note,  but the general comment that for cru bourgeois of this kind,  2005 is the best year since 1982 – for some 1982 cru bourgeois recently shown in the Regional Wines & Spirits Library Tasting series,  the best are still delicious;  www.chateau-pontoise-cabarrus.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  closer to the Villa Merlot in weight.  A change of key here,  from modern wines to more traditional ones,  this one smelling of soft ripe plummy fruit in mostly older oak,  including a touch of (positive) brett complexity.  Palate is sterner than the bouquet promises,  the firm grape tannins of the 2005 vintage showing up,  yet rich too.  Demands five years in bottle and will cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Reynon   17 ½  ()
Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $33   [ cork;  Me 80%,  CS 20;  owned Denis Dubourdieu,  Prof. of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux since 1987,  consultant,  merchant too,  www.denisdubourdieu.com (unstable);  Parker:  86 – 88,  no specific note;  Dubourdieu has been quoted as saying that in his view,  2005 is the greatest vintage he has experienced in 35 years in Bordeaux,  surpassing 1982,  1990,  2000. ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  again on a par with the Villa Merlot Reserve.  Bouquet is quiet,  gentle,  but lightly floral and classical very pure Bordeaux in style.  There is a red fruits note in here,  making one think of cabernet franc,  but none is admitted to.  Palate is not as rich as some,  but the flavours are classical cassis and plum,  and the oak sparkling clean.  The whole winestyle is close to the Villa Merlot,  but the Reynon is rounder,  and the acid is lower.  This will be delicious wine,  to cellar 3 – 15 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Awatea   17 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $34   [ cork;  Me 43%,  CS 35%,  CF 18,  PV 4;  20 months in French oak probably around 45% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little carmine and velvet,  similar to the Floridene.  The first thing to say is,  this was run blind with the 17 Bordeaux cru bourgeois and similar,  and it was astonishing the degree to which it disappeared into the group.  Only 7 of 24 tasters exactly identified its origins.  It shows good red fruit more than black,  a suggestion of herbes and tobacco,  and more new oak than most (or is ideal).  Palate is on the acid side,  which coupled with the oak,  in hindsight might have given the game away,  but total flavour,  weight and mouthfeel are unbelievably in class.  This is the second wine of Te Mata,  and at $34 was the perfect and obvious foil for the tasting.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Saint-Paul   17 +  ()
Haut-Medoc (Saint-Seurin) Cru Bourgeois,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $25   [ cork;  CS 55%,  Me 40,  CF 5;  12 months in barrel,  25% new;  formerly parts of Le Boscq and Morin,  then St Estephe;  Sam Kim / Wine Orbit: lifted aromas of blackcurrants,  dark plums and subtle spicy oak.  With time in glass tar and smoked meat … concentrated … fresh acidity … impressively structured  92;  there is a second wine to help maintain the quality of this main wine. ]
Ruby and velvet.  This is an intriguing wine,  there being a leafy / nearly floral and blackcurrant note on bouquet,  suggesting syrah as well as cabernet sauvignon,  plus good berry and fairly clean oak.  Palate confirms a cabernet component,  cassis and dark plum,  some new oak,  though still essentially a minor cru bourgeois with a touch of brett.  Ripeness and richness are attractive,  in a classical claret style,  but there is not quite the elegance of the higher-pointed ones.  This should cellar 5 – 15 years,  and provide pleasing fragrant and affordable bordeaux along the way.  GK 04/08

2006  Mills Reef Malbec Elspeth   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ cork;  hand-harvested;  some barrel-ferment,  18 months in oak 42% new;  2006 not on website;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the deepest colour in the tasting.  Bouquet is clean and fragrant,  but in that curious black fruits and black olives style which malbec shows,  a little dull.  Palate lets the wine down a little,  with some stalky thoughts intruding,  even though there is plenty of fruit.  The oak is very fragrant,  but the total mouthfeel is tending austere,  and in international terms,  the wine lacks the absolute ripeness essential for the variety.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch d'Agassac   17  ()
Haut-Medoc (Ludon) Cru Bourgeois Superieur,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.2%;  $43   [ cork;  Me 50%,  CS 47%,  CF 3;  av. vine age 25,  cropped c. 2 t/ac;  15 months in barrel,  including LA and batonnage;  Wine Spectator:  Aromas of coffee, blackberry, raspberry and milk chocolate follow through to a full body, with round, chewy tannins and a jammy, sweet fruit aftertaste. Very fruity. Best after 2012.  90;  JancisR:  Rich, round, supple nose. Full, glamorous, good acidity though just medium weight. A charming, relatively fleshy cru bourgeois. Quite racy.  15;  www.agassac.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a good colour.  Bouquet is richly plummy with some cassis,  and quite a measure of charry oak,  but at this youthful stage it is also tending disorganised and faintly estery.  Palate has good fruit,  the cassis showing through more now.  Oak is more apparent than real,  so the wine is not too new world in approach.  Finish is long,  juicy,  cassis-rich and modern,  with sufficient fruit to cellar well for 5 – 15 years,  and perhaps become more classical in style as it marries down.  It is a bit loose and fleshy right now,  as Jancis says.  GK 04/08

2006  Coopers Creek Merlot   16 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $16   [ screwcap;  2006 not on website,  but info sketchy for reds;  www.cooperscreek.co.nz ]
A very youthful ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deeper ones.  Bouquet is robust fleshy black fruits in the comparative line-up,  fitting more with the older-oak minor bordeaux than the top wines.  Palate is rich and well-balanced with respect to acid and oak,  but the oak is tending plain for new world merlot.  This should cellar well 5 – 12 years,  in its simple modern cru bourgeois style.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch la Fleur Carrere   16 ½ +  ()
Montagne-St Emilion,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $22   [ cork;  Me > CF or CS;   no info,  but some retail presence US and France. ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is quiet but clean,  hard to extract much information from.  In mouth,  it tastes of cabernet / cassis and red plums in an austere yet ripe way,  on clean oak.  Richness is good,  but the wine is very reticent,  so an element of 'benefit of the doubt' in the mark here.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Gigault Cuvée Viva   16 ½ +  ()
Premieres Cotes de Blaye,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $43   [ cork;  Me 85%,  CS 10,  CF 5;  considered the top wine of Blaye,  oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt consults;  JancisR:  Very dark crimson. Veering towards overripe on the nose. Good freshness on the palate, quite tough tannins at present. Certainly a good effort but a bit over-extracted and too severe on the finish.  15;  Parker:  One of my favorite inexpensive offerings from the Blaye region, this deep ruby/purple-colored 2005 reveals relatively big tannin for its style along with plenty of blackberry and earthy fruit, and impressive body, density, glycerin, and alcohol (14% naturally). It should age easily for 4-6 years.  87 – 88;  Wine Spectator:  Ripe cherry and berry, with a mélange of fresh herbs, olive and a hint of coffee and chocolate on the nose. Medium- to full-bodied, intense and silky, with loads of fruit pushing through the long finish. Delicious even now. This is always excellent value.  91 ]
Ruby and good velvet.  Bouquet is lovely,  clear red fruits suggesting cabernet franc and merlot,  on clean oak,  very fragrant and east bank in style.  Several tasters commented on the tobacco in the bouquet.  Palate lets the wine down somewhat,  quite a severe tannin streak at this stage,  with a stalky note in it,  surprising against the bouquet.  Oak is clean and good,  so palate may improve in cellar,  since the wine is rich – richer than the la Dauphine for example.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Domaine de Courteillac   16 ½  ()
Bordeaux Superieur (Ruch – Entre-Deux-Mers),  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $27   [ cork;  Me 70%,  CS 20,  CF 10;  oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt consults;  Parker:  87 – 88,  no specific note;  Wine Spectator:  Dark in color, exhibiting beautiful aromas of blackberry, coffee and milk chocolate. Full-bodied, with silky tannins and a light toasty oak and citrus fruit aftertaste. Balanced and pretty. Best after 2013.  90;   Sam Kim / Wine Orbit:  opulent aromas of blackcurrants, plums, and espresso with creamy oak … fleshy … ripe .. solid tannins providing wonderful structure. 93 ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the older ones.  Bouquet shows almost a new world hint of mint,  in red fruits more than black,  merlot more than cabernet,  red currants and plums,  pleasantly counterpointed by oak.  Palate again shows the austere tannins of the year,  and some plainer and older oak,  but there is less of the worrying stalky notes some of the wines show.  I am not quite so excited by this as the 2000 vintage,  which excelled at its pricepoint.  It is richer than the la Dauphine,  but not as pure.  It should cellar 5 – 15 years all the same.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch la Dauphine   16 ½  ()
Fronsac,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $45   [ cork;  Me 90%,  CF 10;  JancisR:  Full, gamey nose – very ripe and opulent. Just this side of overripe! But good taming of fruit and no aggressive extraction. Pretty dramatic and thick and a strong attack.  16;  Parker:  This dense ruby/purple-tinged Fronsac reveals sweet fruit, medium body, loads of character, 14% natural alcohol, and more concentration than one might suspect. Drink it during its first decade of life.  88 – 90 ]
Ruby,  quite light for the vintage.  This wine opens curiously,  with almost a mint or Australian shiraz hint.  With air,  it opens up to a red fruits more than black minor bordeaux bouquet,  with sweet light new oak.  Palate reveals a lighter slightly more acid wine,  the red fruits and cabernet franc really showing.  This will be fragrant and pleasing,  even pretty claret-styled wine,  though not substantial.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Fongaban   16 ½  ()
Cotes de Castillon / Puisseguin St Emilion,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $19   [ cork;  Me 85,  CS 15;  JancisR:   Smoky oaky black fruit, chewy tannins and a little dry on the finish. Fresh moderate length without much concentration.  15 ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet presents plenty of sturdy dark berry in a plainer / minor Bordeaux style,  with the oak a little on the grubby side.  Palate is similar,  good plummy fruit,  not clearly any variety but showing fair ripeness,  mainly older oak,  a touch of brett.  The wine lacks finesse against the more highly-pointed ones,  but there is good richness.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch de Francs les Cerisiers   16 ½  ()
Cotes de Francs,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $33   [ cork;  Me 60%,  CF 40;  owned Hubert de Bouard (Ch Angelus & La Fleur de Bouard) and Dominique Hebrard (ex Cheval Blanc);  Sam Kim / Wine Orbit:  a super-charged Bordeaux … dark plums, blackberries and cedar oak … plush and generous with concentrated fruit …well balanced acidity … ripe but firm tannins … stunning value … 93 ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet shows fragrant ripe red more than black fruits,  almost a cherry thought,  in older oak.  Palate is typical Bordeaux richness for the AOC,  good mouthfeel,  but the oak is a little old when compared with model unclassified clarets,  introducing a plain streak.  Should cellar well for 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch de l'Abbaye de Saint Ferme   16 +  ()
Entre Deux Mers Bordeaux Superieur,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $20   [ cork;  Me 70%,  CS 25,  CF 5;  Sam Kim / Wine Orbit:  Ripe plums,  cherries … juicy … firm grip … 90 ]
Quite dense ruby and velvet,  a similar weight to the Church Road,  but older.  Around this point in the tasting,  the wines became more regional Bordeaux,  older oak,  more old-fashioned.  This is a fairly rich wine,  plenty of berry on bouquet in the merlot / cabernet style,  but the oak is plain.  Palate confirms,  rich and sturdy,  good ripeness,  a little brett,  straightforward cellaring for 5 – 12 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch de la Cour d'Argent   16 +  ()
Entre-Deux-Mers (approx),  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $25   [ cork;  presumably Me dominant;  same owner as Ch Lynsolence;  Wine Spectator:  Dark ruby in color, with plenty of blackberry, spice and coffee bean undertones. Full-bodied, with soft tannins and a medium, caressing finish. Nice core of fruit. Best after 2010.  88 ]
Ruby,  light for the vintage.  Bouquet is classic minor Bordeaux,  and even blind,  one might hazard Entre Deux Mers as an appellation.  There is the slightly leafy red-fruit fragrance of marginally ripe merlot,  in clean oak.  Palate is a little less,  the stern tannins of the year still to soften,  less fruit on the finish.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  for absolutely typical fragrant minor Bordeaux.  GK 04/08

2006  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Private Bin   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  Me 88%,  CS 10,  CF 2;  12 months in French & American oak (not all the wine I suspect);  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is modest,  a slightly under-ripe red reminiscent of Bordeaux,  but as if some of the wine were stainless-steel only,  clean but quiet.  Palate brings the wine into sharper focus,  the berry cassisy but slightly under-ripe,  total acid highish offset by some fruit sweetness,  carefully oaked to not accentuate any shortcomings.  Straightforward commercial red clearly in a lightish new-world claret style,  richer than the Lagrange les Tours.  It should cellar 3 – 10 years,  and mellow pleasantly.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Cambon la Pelouse   16  ()
Haut-Medoc (Macau / Margaux) Cru Bourgeois Superieur,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $40   [ cork;  Me 50%,  CS 30,  CF 20,  av. vine age 30, cropped 2.3 t/ac;  12 months in French oak,  50% new;  JancisR:  Very obvious, slightly tarty sweetness. A lot of effort has gone into this, especially to ease the sweetness and suppleness of the fruit on the front palate but it´s still very drying on the finish as though the oak is not the best-seasoned. Shame. 14.5;  Parker:  An exceptional, up-and-coming performer in the southern Medoc (just outside the Margaux appellation), this sensual blend of 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot possesses a dark ruby/purple color, sweet fruit, and tremendous purity, definition … With medium to full body, velvety but noticeable tannin, and abundant glycerin (no doubt because of the 13+% natural alcohol), it should drink well for 7-8 years.  88 – 90;  Wine Spectator:  Offers tea and fresh mushroom, with ripe fruit on the nose. Medium-bodied, with medium tannins and a delicate finish. Best after 2008.  85;  www.cambon-la-pelouse.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is over-ripe and dull on this wine,  a suggestion of ox liver and black fruits,  all a bit pruney and bretty.  Palate is rich but tannic,  and the oak old.  The whole wine is grubbier than its reputation would have had one believe.  Cellar 5 – 15 years for sturdy minor Bordeaux.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Picque-Caillou   16  ()
Graves / Pessac-Leognan,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $40   [ cork;  CS 45%,  Me 45,  CF 10,  hand-picked,  av. age 25,  cropped @ 2.3 t/ac;  12 – 14 months in barrel,  30% new;  JancisR:  Rich, sweet and plummy. Lots of very dry tannins on the finish. Could do with very slightly more acidity perhaps. Very creditable though.  16.5;  Haynes Hanson & Clark (this is the Anthony Hanson MW of burgundy fame): The 2005 has deep, garnet-purple colour, with attractive, open ripeness of aroma. On tasting, it is evident that fruit and savour have been extracted to just the right level. The wine is a lovely, ripe mouthful, with power on the middle palate and soft tannins. The finish is sweet and elegant, all elements being beautifully knit. Ch Picque-Caillou from a top vintage ages magnificently, and this could gain complexity for at least 2 decades. ]
Ruby,  one of the lighter.  This is the most distinctive wine in the set,  the bouquet in particular having a fragrant aroma embracing both nutmeg and friar's balsam,  not unpleasant.  A similar nutmeg aroma has cropped up in some years of the Benfield & Delamare wines,  and is presumably cooperage-related.  Fruit is good in an understated way,  very fine-grained,  though one can't taste the cabernet sauvignon much yet.  Blind,  one would think it more merlot and cabernet franc.  Finish is gentle and lingering,  clean new oak and berry,  stylish.  This is a wine to check a bottle before buying a case,  since on bouquet it is somewhat outside the Bordeaux square.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Sainte Colombe   15 ½  ()
Cotes de Castillon,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $23   [ cork;  Me 70%,  CF 30;  owner Gerard Perse of Pavie,  Pavie-Decesse and Monbousquet;  Sam Kim / Wine Orbit:  lifted aromas of black plums and cherries with smoked meat … well balanced acidity and ripe tannins … approachable … 89 ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  older than most.  This is an older-style wine,  showing some richness and typicity for minor Bordeaux,  red fruits dominant,  quite fragrant,  older oak obvious.  Mouthfeel and flavour are a little less,  the older oak being a bit on the coarse side,  but that will marry away into the fruit,  giving a plainish regional bordeaux,  slightly acid.  Not as rich as the higher-scored wines.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 04/08

2005  Ch Lagrange les Tours   15  ()
Bordeaux Superieur (SE of Bourg),  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $17   [ cork;  Me 66%,  CS 26,  CF 8;  limited oak exposure ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is fragrant,  showing good regional / minor Bordeaux typicity,  but it is much lighter than the other wines in the tasting.  Fruit is merlot-dominant,  a leafy note in red currants and light red fruits.  Palate is fragrant too,  light but balanced,  all a little leafy and stalky throughout,  with older oak.  It tastes exactly as one would imagine an Entre-Deux-Mers wine to be,  and turns out to be not far away stylistically,  towards Bourg.  At the price,  it is a pleasant if simple introduction to the food-friendly claret wine style.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 04/08