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

This was a great batch of wines to review.  I do not think I have ever marked so many wines as VALUE before.  It may include the best New Zealand red I have ever tasted.  All this largely reflects the quality of the 2007 vintage in Central Otago and Hawkes Bay,  and Martinborough to a degree.  It is a red wine vintage to invest in.

This tasting included a few rosés,  a class which excites me in NZ.  Currently however they are being treated with fatigued tolerance by too many in this country.  Rose should be fragrant and delicious,  but also sufficiently dry and serious for a second glass to be actively wanted.  New Zealand has the kind of climate which produces fragrant grapes and fine-textured wines,  and it follows that we have the potential to produce exciting examples of the rosé winestyle.  Yet my Cuisine tasting companion of many years back,  Bob Campbell,  recently published a report on 83 rosés on his intriguing new wine review site (http://www.bobswinereviews.com/blog/a-large-rose-tasting),  and none of the New Zealand examples achieved more than 88 points.   Yet Bob too is excited by rosés,  as a class.

There really is a great challenge out there for New Zealand producers particularly in the North Island to take this class much more seriously.  Wineries such as Esk Valley and Te Mata have worked hard on the style,  but the Esk Valley Rosé remains a little too burly and sweet for ultimate accolades,  and the latter company very rarely offers their wines for review,  so objective evaluation is hindered.  The South Island mostly is pursuing rosé via pinot noir,  a grape not always lending itself to satisfying interpretations of the style,  but in parts of the North Island there is this evident potential to match the climate not only of the Loire and Bordeaux regions,  but also more desirably,  much of the Rhone.  The world's best rosés tend to be based on grenache (Tavel and its relations),  but there is no reason at all why we could not create equally exciting examples from blends of merlot and syrah.  These are varieties we can ripen superbly in New Zealand,  complete with the floral and aromatic dimension so needed to make rosé exciting,  yet with flesh and soft tannins on the palate.  Cabernet sauvignon is not really a suitable variety,  though much-used.  

My idea of the ideal New Zealand rosé would be based on a blend of merlot and syrah appropriately ripened to optimise both bouquet and palate,  plus other varieties to hand which have enhancing and complementary sensory characters.  It would include a subtle old-barrel-fermentation component,  and would be finished with appropriate tannins (so the wine is taken seriously) but softish acid,  at this stage of local palate evolution at a maximum of 4 g/L residual.  Such wines could be enchanting in their bouquet,  yet satisfying to drink,  achieving a pleasure at table comparable with the best (richest) Marlborough sauvignon on the one hand,  and good light pinot noir on the other.  

The Pinot Noir 2007 Conference created more awareness in New Zealand about the qualities sought in international-class pinot,  yet reading some the quotes and glowing endorsements in the documentation accompanying recent pinot samples,  there is still some distance to go.  I worry that we are still endorsing fragrant but leafy red-fruits-only interpretations of pinot,  wines at a Savigny-les-Beaune level of physiological maturity and depth of aroma and flavour complexity.  Yet we have been through all this before,  in the 1980s,  when wines such as the Babich Henderson pinot noirs were exactly in the light red currants and leafy style described for a number of today's examples.

Savigny-les-Beaune is rated pretty lowly on the Burgundy hierarchy of excellence,  compared with the fatter rounder wines in the best parts of the Cote de Beaune,  and then the aromatic floral majesty and complexity of the top Cote de Nuits wines.  International-quality pinot noir aroma and character cannot be developed in too temperate / equable a climate,  much as for developing optimal quality in almonds or apricots.  This physiological fact of pinot life affects virtually all the North Island except for favoured spots in the Wairarapa,  and much of Marlborough too (though recent developments on older soils with more clay are showing promise).  

The fact that these often imperfectly ripe red-fruits pinots at a Savigny-les-Beaune level of flavour complexity are still well-accepted in some market segments both here and overseas tells us only that such wines need to be priced in accordance with that comparison and that market.  To delude ourselves into thinking that acceptance and export success for such wines means they are de facto great pinot is mistaken.  

Upon what do I base these observations ?  After tastings,  I cellared my first case of fine grand cru pinot noir / burgundy from the 1969 vintage,  a great vintage.  I still have the wine and it remains a yardstick,  a rather frail one now maybe,  but along with wines tasted and cellared since,  a vital basis for views such as the above,  and those which follow in the wine reviews.  Latterday however,  many local wine people have never cellared a case of wine of this calibre,  relative to wines of more modest qualifications,  and watched its evolution.  This makes it very hard to gain an understanding of the essence of this wonderful yet elusive grape called pinot noir.  In particular it makes it difficult to come to terms with the difference between perfectly ripe and physiologically mature grapes,  and the less than perfect grapes which often characterise many unclassed though named vineyards in lesser years from Burgundy,  let alone the more common village wines.  Hence the elaborate cru classé system for optimal sites in Burgundy.  Hence too perhaps the difficulty so many New Zealand wine people have in recognising that the leafy side of less than physiologically mature pinot noir is sub-optimal.

On the exciting side though,  there is the compelling fact that our best pinots are already of international calibre and class.  Certain of the best can be run in rigorously blind tastings with the better cru classé wines of Burgundy,  and are not shamed one bit.  There are now so many new producers in Burgundy,  and so many estates where an outwardly-looking younger generation has taken over from the older generation,  and are producing technically superior wines,  that wine style in burgundy is now surprisingly diverse.  There are certain 'icon' wines (with associated prices) that these observations may not apply to,  but those wines do not represent the burgundy marketplace,  no matter how frequent they may be in trophy-hunters' cellars.  

In New Zealand we must specifically aim to match £40 – £100 premiers and grands crus,  if we are to continue the breathtaking qualitative development of pinot noir in this country.  [ The price range is due to the wide price variation in Europe relative to vintage,  a practice thus far all-too-rarely implemented in New Zealand.]  This goal is perfectly achievable,  indeed has already been occasionally met by our best producers,  in their best years.  Belief in this notion is still far from general acceptance,  however.  We need to reach a point where European commentators do not almost unconsciously patronise our wines,  whilst praising them.  

As with syrah,  taste alone tells us this is perfectly possible for pinot noir,  but it will take time.  The Brits are not known for their rigorously blind tastings.  The corollary to this is,  naturally,  that New Zealand winemakers who aspire to this goal must be tasting cru classé wines frequently,  and participating in blind tastings and discussions about them,  vis a vis New Zealand examples.  Pinot style leaders such as Larry McKenna (Escarpment) and Blair Walter (Felton Road) have been doing this regularly for many years,  but that is not everywhere the case.  Sometimes it saddens me to see how few New Zealand winemakers do participate in imported and comparative wine tastings.  

It is hard to meet international expectations for style in a wine class,  if one is not well familiar with the wines that define the class.  We were dead lucky with sauvignon blanc,  where for climatic and terroir reasons we were able to produce something relatively unique.  That does not apply to our red wines.  This lack of familiarity with the flavours of truly ripe but not over-ripe pinot noir extends through to the judging arena too.  It is the single explanation for not only the tolerance of,  but too frequently the endorsement of,  leafy florality and even stalkyness in our pinots.  It explains too why many producers go to the opposite extreme to avoid leafy characters,  and instead offer pinots which are clearly showing sur-maturité,  lack of aroma,  and heaviness – all features removing the wine from the top levels of pinot achievement.  We must not rest on any supposed pinot laurels for one moment,  in pursuing truly world-class pinot in New Zealand.  

Acknowledgements:  I particularly appreciate the contribution Dr Ken Kirkpatrick made to an earlier draft of this manuscript,  and winemakers' ready responses to many queries,  given it is the season to be preoccupied with the current vintage.


Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Pinot Gris
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2008  Amisfield Rosé Saignée
2007  Jacobs Creek Rosé Three Vines
2007  Morton Estate Rosé Musetta
2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Rosé
2008  Waimea Pinot Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2005  Cable Bay Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Five Hills
2007  Craggy Range Cabernet / Merlot The Quarry
2007  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia
2007  Esk Valley Merlot Black Label
2007  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Black Label
2007  Johner Estate Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Malbec
2006  Montana Merlot Hawkes Bay Reserve
2006  RedMetal Vineyards Merlot / Cabernet Franc Basket Press
2008  Sacred Hill Merlot / Cabernet Basket-Press
2007  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Awatea
2007  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine
2006  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine
2005  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine
2004  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine
2007  Thornbury Merlot Hawkes Bay
2007  Vidal Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay
2007  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Selection
2007  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Private Bin
2007  Villa Maria Merlot Private Bin
2006  Villa Maria Merlot Single Vineyard Omahu
Cabernet / Shiraz
2006  Penfolds Cabernet / Shiraz Bin 389
Pinot Noir
2007  Astrolabe Pinot Noir Voyage
2006  Bald Hills Pinot Noir
2007  Camshorn Pinot Noir Domett Clays
2005  Carrick Pinot Noir Excelsior
2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Bannockburn Sluicings Vineyard
2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard
2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir [ Te Muna ] Aroha
2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Vineyard
2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Zebra Vineyard
  2006  Dog Point Pinot Noir
2007  Escarpment Pinot Noir
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard ]
2007  Huia Pinot Noir
2007  Johner Pinot Noir
2007  Johner Pinot Noir Reserve
2006  Johner Pinot Noir Reserve
2007  Julicher Pinot Noir
2007  Montana Pinot Noir Terraces 'T'
2007  Moutere Hills Pinot Noir
2006  Palliser Estate Pinot Noir
2007  Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard
2007  Riverby Pinot Noir
2007  Te Whare Ra Pinot Noir
2006  Te Whare Ra Pinot Noir
2007  Thornbury Pinot Noir Otago
2007  Trinity Hill Pinot Noir High Country
2007  Two Paddocks Pinot Noir
2007  Vidal Estate Pinot Noir Marlborough
2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection Marlborough
2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin Marlborough
2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Reserve Marlborough
2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Seddon
2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Taylor's Pass
2007  Waimea Estate Pinot Noir Barrel Selection
Syrah = Shiraz
2005  The Jumper Shiraz
2007  Church Road Syrah Reserve
2006  [ Corbans ] Cottage Block Syrah
2007  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
2006  Martinborough Vineyard Syrah / Viognier
2007  Mission Estate Syrah Jewelstone
2007  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose
2007  Vidal Estate Syrah Hawkes Bay
2006  Vidal Syrah Reserve
2007  Villa Maria Syrah Cellar Selection
2007  [ Waimata ] Cognoscenti Syrah
2006  [ Waimata ] Cognoscenti Syrah
2007  Waimea Estate Syrah
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2007  Penfolds Grenache / Mourvedre / Shiraz Bin 138
All other red wines, blends etc
2006  Serenata Nero d'Avola [ = Corallo ]
From the Cellar. Older wines.
1985  Delas Cote Rotie Seigneur de Maugiron
1985  Delas Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette

2008  Waimea Pinot Rosé   17 ½ +  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  PN 100%,  saignée from the main crop;  25% of the juice BF in lightly-toasted new American barrels;  LA but no MLF;  RS probably around 5 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Light rosé.  Bouquet is terrific,  clear red fruits complexed via barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis to produce redcurrants / red crab-apple fruit with a touch of complex chardonnay characters.  Palate matches,  fresh fruits,  the complexity of elevation for this rosé so outshining the stainless steel wines,  and matched by a neat residual sweetness which tastes less than the number given on the website.  This is one of the best pinot rosés so far in New Zealand,  achieving a complexity and interest to drink which rosés from pinot so often lack.  Cellar several years,  to taste.  GK 03/09

2007  Morton Estate Rosé Musetta   17 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $17   [ screwcap;  Me & Ma;  no oak;  www.mortonestatewines.co.nz ]
Medium rosé,  the deepest of this bracket,  a slight drabness of hue unrelated to age.  Bouquet is real summer-pudding rosé,  clear red fruits,  fragrant,  attractive.  Palate has the appropriate tannins good rosé needs (to avoid the lollywater label),  and pinot rosés so often lack,  redcurrant / red plum flavours,  but it is one of the sweeter ones to the finish.  Good now,  or can be cellared another year or so,  to taste.  GK 03/09

2008  Amisfield Rosé Saignée   17  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $25   [ screwcap;  saignée means juice is run from the main pinot crop,  once the berries have soaked on skins in tank 12 hours (in this case);  no oak,  not much winemaking detail on website,  described as a dry style,  but winemakers use the term dry for anything under 2 g/L for reds,  and up to 7 g/L for whites,  so for rosé it is always hard to say (and estimate);  www.amisfield.co.nz ]
Typical rosé.  Bouquet is quite complex on this wine,  fragrant red fruits,  a suggestion of lees-autolysis,  a hint of grapefruit suggesting maybe a molecule or two of botrytis aroma,  but all grapey and attractive.  Palate is strawberry and redcurrants,  acid up a bit even against a few grams residual to balance,  all a little fresh but well in style.  A good showing for pinot rosé.  Cellar a couple of years.  GK 03/09

2007  Jacobs Creek Rosé Three Vines   16 ½  ()
Australia:  13%;  $14   [ screwcap;  the 'three vines' are shiraz for plumminess,  grenache for spice,  and sangiovese for a savoury note;  a pretentious,  tiresomely slow,  and uninformative website,  giving no info on this wine within a reasonable timespan – it needs a Search function on the home page;  www.jacobscreek.com.au ]
Typical rosé.  The bouquet here shows pleasant light red fruits,  with an unfocussed quality which is unclear as to variety,  but nothing to object to.  Palate is closer to the Morton in style though a little drier,  but as is so often the case,  there is not the textural harmony New Zealand wines can achieve,  the wine finishing a little phenolic.  A pleasant and 'safe' rosé label.  Cellar another year or so.  GK 03/09

2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Rosé   13 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Me 100%,  hand-harvested;  pressed off the skins,  cold-fermented;  no oak,  4 g/L RS;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Typical rosé.  Bouquet is high-solids and reductive,  simple sulphides obscuring the varietal detail.  Palate does not redeem the wine,  being hard and confirming the bouquet,  explicitly.  This is one of the driest in the batch,  but it is too marred to improve / be worth cellaring.  GK 03/09

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2007  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia   19 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $50   [ cork;  DFB;  Me 85%,  CF 9,  CS & Ma 6,  hand-harvested;  if like the 2006,  cropped @ c.2.6 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed;  inoculated ferments in oak cuves;  19 months in 60% new French oak;  fined and filtered;  production around 2000 cases,  exported widely;  release date 1 June '09,  not on website yet;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby carmine and velvet,  a glorious young claret colour,  one of the densest in the set,  much richer than 2007 Coleraine.  And the bouquet is pretty glorious too,  explicit merlot florals uplifted by the alcohol,  but in this instance,  seemingly neither spirity or aggressive.  That is I think largely a benefit of subtler use of oak than sister-wine The Quarry shows,  though Sophia is still more assertive than '07 Coleraine.  Aromas include violets and dark red roses,  cassis,  fresh tree-ripened and bottled black doris plums,  and cedar,  all delightfully fresh for the size of the wine.  In mouth there is tactile plummy berry of exciting weight,  a whole size larger than 2007 Coleraine but not losing anything from size (when compared with the Aroha pinot,  for example),  and the floral quality on bouquet saturates the palate.  This is a big and quite bold wine,  but despite the youthful tannin one is left simply with the succulent richness of fruit,  and a fabulous merlot flavour made aromatic by new oak.  Few countries in the world can achieve this purity of perfectly ripe merlot varietal expression.  The total winestyle in youth is rich Saint Emilion rather than Pomerol,  cepage notwithstanding,  but it will be great to check it out every so often over the next 20 years,  and watch this facet of the wine's style evolve.  This is one of the finest Bordeaux blends ever made in New Zealand.  It will be a wonderful keeping wine,  to cellar 5 – 20 years plus.  VALUE.  GK 03/09

2005  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine   19  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $77   [ cork;  Me 45%,  CS 37,  CF 18;  average vine age 20 years;  20 months in French oak 75% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Fine ruby and velvet,  not quite as youthful as the 2007,  naturally.  Bouquet stands out in this blind tasting of 60 reds for its harmony,  integration,  ripeness,  florality, and total classed-growth Margaux styling.  The violets florals in perfect cassis and black doris bottled plum fruit are enchanting,  with potentially cedary oak wonderfully subtle,  yet lifting the whole wine.  Palate is a little firmer than bouquet still,  great length of flavour and balance,  a classic expression of the New Zealand Cabernet / Merlot style,  reflecting a climate uncannily close to the Bordeaux model.  A wine for New Zealanders to be proud of.  It is essential in cellar for the '2005 Bordeaux and competitors' tastings keen wine people are looking forward to eagerly.  Cellar 10 – 20 + years.  GK 03/09

2007  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine   19  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $72   [ cork – superb 55 mm costing c. $2 each;  hand-harvested CS 52%,  Me 34,  CF 14;  extended cuvaison;  average vine age 20 + years;  20 months in French oak 75% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a classic youthful claret colour,  fractionally deeper and clearly younger than the 2005,  but not a huge wine.  Bouquet is sweetly floral,  more floral than 2007 Craggy Range Sophia,  with great cassisy berry reflecting the higher cabernet percentage,  still very primary alongside the 2005.  Palate is delightfully fleshy for a high-cabernet wine,  every bit as good as the 2005 and probably better in the long run,  with wonderfully subtle and integrated cedary oak.  These two Coleraines are reminiscent of the before-their-time '82 and '83 wines,  but now exhibiting more finesse,  ripeness,  richness and technical control.  The Margaux analogy is even more apposite here.  They show exactly why British winewriters increasingly say the best Hawkes Bay cabernet / merlot is the closest competitor Bordeaux has.  Cellar either of these wines with great confidence for 10 – 20 + years,  and open them only for people who appreciate fine wines sculpted in a classical style.  Even so,  that means buying two cases,  to have only one bottle a year over their cellar-life (less than 20 years north of Taupo).  Coming back to the wine at the re-tasting against notes stage,  it is the best Coleraine ever,  I think.  Dry extract seems greater than the 2005.  The whole wine is in a much more classical and understated Bordeaux / Medoc style than the matching blend 2007 Craggy Range The Quarry.  Good too that Te Mata have reduced their price c.7% on their 2007 range,  reflecting current economic vicissitudes.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2007  Thornbury Merlot Hawkes Bay   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested Me 89%,  CS 9,  Ma 2;  extended 4 weeks cuvaison;  16 months in French and American oak 30% new;  a Villa Maria group label;  www.thornbury.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a little denser than 2007 Coleraine.  Bouquet is remarkably close in style and achievement to Coleraine,  but a little softer,  less aromatic and cassisy,  more floral and smooth.  These characters fit in with the Thornbury being merlot almost entirely,  unlike the cabernet-imbued Coleraine.  Palate has the same velvety quality of perfectly ripe fruit harvested at a grand cru cropping rate,  and raised in good oak.  The American component does not stand out,  the oak may not be quite so exquisitely (potentially) cedary as the Coleraine,  but this is wonderful wine at a sensational price.  My understanding is the Thornbury label is (loosely speaking) a winemaker's play-label within the Villa Maria group,  to try and achieve something remarkable.  They have succeeded superbly here.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  EXTRAORDINARY VALUE  GK 03/09

2007  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Awatea   18 ½  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ cork;  CS 40%,  Me 38%,  CF 17,  PV 5,  hand-harvested;  c. 20 months in French oak 40% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  scarcely distinguishable from 2007 Coleraine.  This is the sweetest,  ripest and finest Awatea in years,  maybe ever.  In some ways it is more charming than the same year Coleraine,  at least at this stage and in the sense it is not quite so new oak-influenced and rich,  and will thus be accessible earlier.  But in terms of pinpoint cassis character,  florality,  and Bordeaux styling,  this is a lovely wine.  The advent of 375 ml bottles is inspired – and should introduce many more people to the fact that the best New Zealand cabernet / merlot is world-class wine.  A pity our grasping restaurateurs do not cellar wines,  so their customers could more readily appreciate that.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe longer.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2007  Craggy Range Cabernet / Merlot The Quarry   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $60   [ cork;  DFB;  CS 92%,  Me 6,  CF & Ma 2,  hand-harvested;  if like the 2006 cropped @ c. 2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed;  inoculated and fermented in oak cuves;  21 months in French oak 84% new,  fined and filtered;  production around 200 cases,  not exported;  release date 1 June '09,  not on website yet;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  some carmine,  appearing a little older and more oak-influenced than 2007 Sophia.  Freshly opened,  and for some time afterwards,  first impressions are of an overtly cedary Bordeaux and Medoc-styled wine,  in a kind of out-doing Mouton approach.  Below is rich cassisy berry,  and some plum and depth,  but it is not so transparent as Sophia.  Palate reveals the cassis much more,  with a berry richness which may evolve and stand up to the oak with time,  but the wine seems to me not as beautifully pitched as 2005 The Quarry,  or 2007 Sophia.  Alongside Coleraine 2007,  this Quarry wine looks distinctly brash and new world,  being both bigger and much more oaky.  However,  because people love oak,  the popular view will be The Quarry is the superior wine of the two premium 2007 Craggy Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends.  The only way to find out is to secure a case of each,  for they will both cellar for 20 years easily.  Together with Coleraine and other certain-to-be-top-notch 2007s yet to be released they will provide great interest and satisfaction along the way.  My score reflects the fact there is lashings of fruit,  and stylistic interpretation aside,  it is beautifully made.  And it is less oaky than Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707,  for example.  GK 03/09

2007  Esk Valley Merlot Black Label   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 90%,  CS 5,  Ma 5;  11 months in mostly French oak,  some new;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  not as dark as the Te Mata or Thornbury '07s.  It is all very well enthusing about expensive labels,  but for a wine such as this Black Label Merlot,  this is where varietal quality meets the people.  The depth of violets florals and specific merlot varietal suppleness and charm on the bouquet of this wine is all one could hope.  Palate is saturated with ripe fruit,  yet without a hint of over-ripeness.  This is fine Bordeaux styling through and through,  both on bouquet and the silky natural-acid palate,  something the Aussies almost never achieve with merlot.  This wine is a little less oaked than Awatea,  so the cedary component is not so apparent,  making the velvety and plummy fruit even more obvious.  Not a big wine (and therefore more food-friendly),  but as with these other top wines,  very beautiful and potentially a charmer.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2006  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine   18  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $77   [ cork;  Me 49%,  CS 43,  CF 8,  hand-harvested from vines of average age 21 years;  100% de-stemmed;  20 months in French oak 75% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  velvet and some carmine,  between the 2007 and 2005 Coleraines in freshness of hue.  Bouquet is very aromatic,  intense cassis and oak all a little more spiky than the gorgeously smooth 2005 and 2007 Coleraines,  yet close to them in style.  In mouth exactly the same impression carries on,  a firmer leaner wine,  acid a little more apparent,  yet with the same cassis-rich qualities.  The sophistication of oak handling at Te Mata takes a lot of beating,  but the more highly-rated wines indicate the charm of perfectly ripe fruit.  A good Coleraine,  but not a great one.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Selection   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $24   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 47%,  CS 40,  Ma 10,  CF 3,  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed,  20 – 25 days cuvaison;  MLF and 20 months in French,  American and Hungarian oak with a good percentage new;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a great colour.  Bouquet is sweetly floral and beautifully ripe cassis with underlying dark plum,  made aromatic by quality oak.  The total achievement here is comparable with the 2007 Awatea,  in terms of varietal precision,  fruit ripeness,  balance and weight,  but the quality of the oak handling seems finer and more fragrant in Awatea,  and the total acid less.  So the Selection seems a little sterner,  at this stage.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/09

2006  Villa Maria Merlot Single Vineyard Omahu   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $57   [ screwcap;  DFB;  hand-picked Me 87%,  CS 13,  100% de-stemmed;  MLF and 18 months in French barriques 60% new;  no info on website yet;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  not the depth of the 2007 Craggys,  more like '07 Coleraine.  Bouquet is subdued when initially opened,  the wine needing a good decanting to show its best.  It is neither as floral as Coleraine,  or as berry-saturated as Sophia,  being more a plummy style of merlot without the high points of those wines.  Palate seemed disappointing on this occasion,  contrasting with my use of the wine as a demonstrator last September,  this time showing signs of a leathery quality we have seen in some of the Pask Merlots,  with the wine drier than the top examples.  It may be in an awkward phrase.  It will cellar 5 – 12 or 15 years,  but it does need decanting.  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Private Bin   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  Me 57%,  CS 28,  balance CF and Ma;  all destemmed,  MLF with the primary fermentation; 12 months in older French & American oak (maybe not all the wine);  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  lighter than the Cellar Selection.  I'm tempted to say that in practical taste terms,  at my end of the tasting glass,  the only obvious difference between the Private Bin and the Cellar Selection Villa Merlot / Cabernets in 2007 is the quality of the oak.  This PB has less new oak,  and in truth it is less concentrated,  but it is even more like good minor Bordeaux.  It is simply a sensational New Zealand example of the modern claret style in a good vintage,  and sensational also in the sense that it was available nation-wide in early January for $10,  in one of the supermarket chains.  At that price,  one would be mad not to buy three or four cases,  and leave them all quietly aside for two or three years,  to blossom into a fragrant and sophisticated QDR.  The pleasure to be had from it then over the ensuing seven or so years would be unbeatable.  Cellar 5 – 10 years or so.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Merlot Private Bin   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $19   [ screwcap;  Me 87%,  balance CS,  CF & Ma;  12 months in older French & American oak (maybe not all the wine);  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  close to the Awatea.  Initially opened,  this wine is a little closed up.  It benefits from a splashy decanting.  Though falling a little short of gold-medal ranking on my points,  this wine represents a triumph for Villa Maria.  In their quality wines series,  PB is the basic label,  yet here is a wine speaking clearly of exact merlot quality,  and made in such volume to be sometimes available at $11 during supermarket promotions.  Like the Esk Valley wine,  it has the violets and bottled black doris plummy characters of merlot,  but it is not quite so concentrated,  the oak is not quite as fine,  and the acid seems a little higher.  Nonetheless,  it is neatly softer and rounder than the PB Merlot / Cabernet,  exactly as the Bordeaux right bank / left bank model would require.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2007  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Black Label   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 40%,  CS 37,  Ma 23;  commercial yeasts;  12 months in French & American oak some new;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is aromatic and fragrant,  with cassis and floral aromas,  but also a hint of coolness.  Palate picks up the cool notes relative to the wines rated more highly,  and though the berry is clear and aromatic,  there is a hint of stalkyness plus firm acid,  relative to the Black Label Merlot.  Otherwise fruit quality is good,  clean,  and it will cellar well 5 – 12 years,  in a leaner fragrant style which is a little more oaky than the Villa Maria PB blend.  GK 03/09

2007  Vidal Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 46%,  CS 39,  CF 12,  Ma 3,  all destemmed;  MLF and 15 months in French and American oak some new;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby carmine and velvet,  a little more developed than the Villa Maria PB.  The reason is soon apparent,  the wine being much more oaky than the Villa Maria,  on similar fruit quality.  It is much oakier than the Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet too,  so among these mainstream wines in the Villa / Vidal / Esk stable,  it stands a little apart,  with its own devotees.  Otherwise,  cassis,  berryfruit and balance are just as attractive.  It will cellar for up to 12 years or so.  GK 03/09

2006  RedMetal Vineyards Merlot / Cabernet Franc Basket Press   17  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ screwcap;  Me 88%,  CF 12;  up to 18 months in French and American oak,  some new;  www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a softer colour in this company.  This wine is a little different from most of the others,  being softer and more fragrant,  almost a Pomerol style amongst Medocs (even though some of the others are straight merlot – that's wine generalisations for you).  Bouquet includes red fruits,  red currants,  raspberries and the charm of cabernet franc,  just as in some famous east bank wines,  and is soft,  floral and easily overlooked.  Palate likewise is gentle,  though there is a trace of stalkyness.  RedMetal wines are always different from the mainstream,  food-friendly and winey.  Worth trying.  Cellar 3 – 10 years or so.  GK 03/09

2004  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine   16 ½ +  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $70   [ cork;  Me 45%,  CS 39,  CF 16;  hand-harvested;  c. 20 months in 75% new French oak;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  clearly an older wine.  Bouquet is intriguing,  displaying the fruit of a less-ripe year subjected to very sophisticated elevation.  The cedary qualities of the oak and the cassis component almost obscure the fact that there are traces of methoxypyrazine / sautéed red capsicums from the less than optimally ripe cabernet component,  in curranty and plummy fruit.  Palate is surprisingly soft and round against the bouquet,  red and black fruits,  so the total achievement is pleasing and remarkably like cool-year classed Bordeaux.  Already drinking well.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2006  Montana Merlot Hawkes Bay Reserve   16 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  Me 90%,  Ma 6,  CS 4,  6-year old vines grown on low-vigour sites;  100% destemmed,  c.16 days cuvaison;  MLF and 12 months in French oak,  20% new;  though traditionally a Marlborough label,  Montana Reserve Merlot will henceforth be a Hawkes Bay wine (wisely);  details not on website yet;  www.montanawines.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet,  lighter than the 2006 Coleraine.  This is a more old-fashioned wine than the Te Mata and Villa group wines.  It opens with a shadow of reduction,  and needs decanting.  It then reveals good ripe red and black fruits confuseable with syrah as much as merlot in the blind tasting,  some barrel toast adding a little chocolate,  total acid higher than some,  and faint European complexity.  Will mellow in cellar to be pleasant winey dry red.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2008  Sacred Hill Merlot / Cabernet Basket-Press   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 86%,  CS 8,  CF 4,  Ma 2,  all from the Helmsman vineyard;  c. 21 days cuvaison;  12 months in French oak;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  It's a bit sad that a winery with Sacred Hill's reputation for reds should be releasing even their workaday red within a year of vintage.  Short-sighted.  The wine is quite rich and flavoursome,  but still shows retained fermentation odours in straightforward red and black plummy berry.  In mouth it is riper and drier than the Johner,  but also much more raw.  Perhaps only some of the wine is in oak.  Or perhaps some of the wine is chipped.  At this stage it cannot compete with the similarly-priced but 2007 Hawkes Bay-blend Villa Maria wines,  due to premature release.  Better in two years,  and will cellar for 5 – 12.  GK 03/09

2007  Johner Estate Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Malbec   16  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ screwcap;  cepage not available,  low yields,  destemmed;  4 weeks cuvaison,  15 months in barrel;  RS 2.2 g/L,  sugar-free dry extract 27 g/L;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Ruby,  close to the RedMetal.  Bouquet is quite different from that wine,  however,  showing intriguing cooked red fruits such as red currants and red rhubarb,  all tending leafy / cool-climate,  but with attractive oak.  Palate confirms the cool climate associations,  with reminders of Crozes-Hermitage as much as Bordeaux,  even the thought of the bush-honey syrah sometimes shows,  on a finish which is a little acid and not rigorously bone-dry [confirmed].  The result is food-friendly and supple,  but lacking in physiological maturity and hence not quite in the desired New Zealand idiom for a Bordeaux blend.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2005  Cable Bay Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Five Hills   15  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland District,  New Zealand:  13%;  $33   [ cork;  DFB;  Me 64%,  Ma 18,  CS 11,  CF 7,  hand-harvested at < 2 t/ha;  surprisingly,  since the claret style is for cellaring,  previous vintages are not shown on the website,  so apart from cepage the detail is for 2006,  assuming similar;  12 months in French oak,  presumably some new;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  This wine is the outsider in the Cabernet / Merlots,  showing cool and leafy qualities like the 2004 Te Mata and the 2007 Johner,  but in an old-fashioned tending oaky wine showing rather much brett / European complexity.  Flavours in mouth are reasonably berry-rich within these parameters,  but are also very aromatic with the thought of red capsicums cropping up again,  on a dry finish.  Be good with pizza including capsicum.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  but keep an eye on it.  GK 03/09

Cabernet / Shiraz
2006  Penfolds Cabernet / Shiraz Bin 389   18  ()
Barossa Valley,  Langhorne Creek,  Coonawarra & McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $38   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS 52%,  Sh 48;  12 months in American oak 22% new,  all hogsheads;  some BF material from the Grange,  Bin 707 and other top-end red wine programmes;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  some carmine,  much the same colour and weight as 2007 The Quarry.  Bouquet however is very different from that wine,  being more overtly minty than the best vintages of Bin 389.  Below there is clear-cut cassis which melds with aromatics at the level of mint rather well (though not with euc.),  and quite bold oak.  And we must remember that subtle floral mint is regarded as part of the spectrum of straight cabernet descriptors,  and is recorded even from certain famous Medoc wines.  Palate is as oaky as The Quarry,  but not quite so berry saturated,  the shiraz body not showing up yet so it seems a little harder and shorter at this stage.  Total acid balance and texture is good relative to most South Australian Cabernet / Shiraz wines,  though Quarry is finer-grained on the acid.  Like the Te Mata 2007s,  Penfolds are offering the 2006s at a lower price than the 2005s.  Cellar 5 – 20 years at least,  for Bin 389 has a great cellar record.  GK 03/09

Pinot Noir
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert   19  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ screwcap;  several clones hand-harvested at varying yields not above 1.6 t/ac;  up to 32% whole-bunch in some batches;  up to 9 days cold-soak,  cuvaison up to 23 days,  all wild yeast;  MLF also wild and 13 months in French oak c. 26% new;  no fining or filtration;  winemaker Blair Walter considers:  'The 2007 Pinot Noirs are wines of unmatched concentration and rich complexity without losing any purity or finesse. They combine the ripeness of the 06’s with the concentration of the 05’s adding a certain extra magic that is unique to this vintage. In short we see them as landmark wines';  introduction to the Calvert concept 25 Nov 2008;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  on a par with the 2007 Block 5,  perhaps fractionally the deepest of the Feltons.  This wine shows wonderfully explicit pinot characters,  even more deeply floral than the standard Felton,  yet with the same dark cherry fruit,  all a little more aromatic as if the percentage of new oak were slightly higher than the standard wine.  The richness of black cherry fruit on the somewhat firm palate (at this stage) is exhilarating.  It will be exciting to see if these subtle differences are maintained as the wines soften with age over 3,  5 and 8 years.  Great New Zealand pinot,  to cellar 5 – 12 years,  maybe 15.  GK 03/09

2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Zebra Vineyard   18 ½ +  ()
Bendigo,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $47   [ screwcap;  not on website yet;  www.craggyrange.com ]
A big pinot ruby,  but good and attractive.  Bouquet is clear-cut New Zealand pinot noir,  smelling of flowers and cherryfruits at a perfect point of pinot physiological maturity,  but not as demonstrative as the Felton Road standard or the Craggy Calvert.  Palate is crunchy black and red cherry right through,  a little fresher than either of the Calvert wines,  a little richer than the standard Felton,  oak not as visible as some,  and slightly firmer tannins at this stage than the Craggy Calvert.  This is very attractive pinot noir indeed,  needing three years or so to optimise its Cote de Nuits styling.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard   18 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $47   [ screwcap;  DFB;  hand-picked @ c. 1.5 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  6 – 8 days cold-soak,  wild-yeast fermentation,  3 – 4 weeks cuvaison,  MLF and 10 months in French oak 38% new,  some lees but no stirring;  RS < 1 g/L;  introduction to the Calvert concept 25 Nov 2008;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  much the deepest of the three Calvert wines,  deep for pinot noir,  but attractive.  Bouquet is one of the sweetest and most florally complex in the bracket,  not overtly floral like some of the slightly leafy / stalky wines,  just a smooth enticing aroma of dark red roses,  boronia florals,  black more than red cherry flesh,  and virtually no dark plum – ideal pinot noir.  Palate follows perfectly,  the florals persisting right through the palate,  the fruit crunchy cherry exactly,  the oaking totally simpatico with soft  tannins adding structure to the long flavour.  Though a little riper and richer than the standard 2007 Felton Pinot Noir,  and weightier than the Felton Calvert too,  only a very cool-climate pinot aficionado would say this wine shows traces of sur-maturité.  Much more important is the complete absence of leafy or stalky notes,  compared even with some of the other 2007 Craggy Range pinots.  A model New Zealand pinot to cellar 5 – 12 years.  As with last year's three Calverts,  cellaring the set will provide a great learning opportunity.  GK 03/09

2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard ]   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $53   [ screwcap;  several clones hand-harvested at varying yields not above 2.5 t/ac;  up to 30% whole-bunch;  up to 10 days cold-soak,  cuvaison up to 27 days,  all wild yeast;  MLF also wild and 11 months in French oak c. 29% new;  no fining or filtration;  winemaker Blair Walter considers:  'The 2007 Pinot Noirs are wines of unmatched concentration and rich complexity without losing any purity or finesse. They combine the ripeness of the 06’s with the concentration of the 05’s adding a certain extra magic that is unique to this vintage. In short we see them as landmark wines';  www.feltonroad.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  fractionally lighter than the same year Calvert and Block 5 wines.  In this blind tasting of 60 reds,  half pinot noir,  the result is nearly a total walkover for Felton Road.  What a model this winery is,  in setting the pace for pinot noir in southern New Zealand - like a latter-day Te Mata for cabernet / merlot.  Bouquet is textbook New Zealand pinot noir,  explicitly floral in the boronia and dark red roses category,  on black and red cherry fruit,  beautifully fragrant and clean.  Palate follows perfectly,  cherries through and through,  yet still with the appropriate acid of some underpinning redfruits,  showing no sur-maturité / excess plummyness,  a little lighter than the Felton Calvert.  The oaking is exquisite,  gently shaping the wine yet in no way dominating.  This is one of the most satisfying standard Felton pinots yet,  a reference wine for the vintage which can be run in future Cote de Nuits tastings with confidence.  Though slightly 'cooler' than the Felton and Craggy Calvert Vineyard wines,  this standard Felton pinot illustrates beautifully what pinot noir without a leafy or stalky thread is like.  As noted previously with respect to syrah,  the dividing line between leafy florals and really sweet florals is subtle.  Yet it is exactly this subtle quality which makes the great wines of Burgundy,  the Northern Rhone,  and yes,  Bordeaux too,  so exciting and 'refreshing' as Jancis Robinson would say,  in comparison with their more burly competitors from warmer parts of the new world.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ screwcap;  virtually unknown at retail,  mainly sold to the mail-order list;  several clones hand-harvested at varying yields not above 2.3 t/ac;  up to 23% whole-bunch;  up to 10 days cold-soak,  cuvaison up to 22 days,  all wild yeast;  MLF also wild  and 11 months in French oak c. 38% new,  then 7 months in 3-year-old oak;  no fining or filtration;  winemaker Blair Walter considers:  'The 2007 Pinot Noirs are wines of unmatched concentration and rich complexity without losing any purity or finesse. They combine the ripeness of the 06’s with the concentration of the 05’s adding a certain extra magic that is unique to this vintage. In short we see them as landmark wines';  www.feltonroad.com ]
Big pinot noir ruby.  Initially this wine opens a little massive,  like some of the 2002 Otago pinots.  With decanting or aeration,  it reveals a darker more brooding version of the standard Felton or Calvert wines,  but the deep florals are still there,  on probing.  In mouth too it is fuller,  fatter and riper,  with some suggestions of bottled black doris plum.  Some will like it more for that,  whereas classicists may say there is some sur-maturité.  Whichever,  it is a great mouthful of pinot,  and will bring much pleasure when cellared 5 – 12 years,  maybe 15.  GK 03/09

2007  Thornbury Pinot Noir Otago   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $32   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  80% de-stemmed,  20 whole-bunch,  up to 7 days cold-soak,  commercial yeasts;  10 months in French oak 40% new;  minimal filtration;  a Villa Maria group label;  www.thornbury.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  This is an intriguing wine,  showing both lovely pinot noir varietal character and some European styling in its oak handling (that is not a euphemism for brett),  making the wine aromatic and spicy.  There are clear varietal florals at the darker red rose and boronia level of complexity,  on black cherry fruit.  Palate is soft,  rich,  flavoursome,  with lingering cherry fruit and slightly cedary attractive oak,  subtler and more appropriate than the Excelsior.  It is not quite as pure and varietal as the Villa Maria Taylor's,  the oak is a little bolder,  but it is good rich wine with more ideal ripeness,  no thought of stalks.  It may not be absolutely bone-dry to the finish.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ screwcap;  several clones hand-harvested at varying yields not above 2.1 t/ac;  up to 28% whole-bunch;  up to 10 days cold-soak,  cuvaison up to 22 days,  all wild yeast;  MLF also wild and 13 months in French oak c. 26% new;  no fining or filtration;  winemaker Blair Walter considers:  The 2007 Pinot Noirs are wines of unmatched concentration and rich complexity without losing any purity or finesse. They combine the ripeness of the 06’s with the concentration of the 05’s adding a certain extra magic that is unique to this vintage. In short we see them as landmark wines;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  slightly darker than the standard wine.  Felton Road continues its winning streak with this wonderfully aromatic Cornish Point vineyard wine.  On both bouquet and palate,  this richly fragrant pinot is a little more assertive than the standard wine,  with an intriguing hint of syrah,  whether due to fractionally more new oak or a mix of physiological ripenesses in the fruit was not clear in the tasting.  There certainly are dark cherry and almost plummy notes,  yet the palate is extended on more phenolics than the others.  It would be tough to describe this character as slightly stalky,  given the ripeness and richness,  but the thought does occur.  This is the kind of teaser these Feltons pose,  and makes one wish to own a case of each variant,  to study over the years.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  to soften.  GK 03/09

2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ screwcap;  virtually unknown at retail,  mainly sold to the mail-order list;  several clones hand-harvested at a more steady yield c. 1.8 t/ac;  up to 24% whole-bunch;  up to 9 days cold-soak,  cuvaison up to 22 days,  all wild yeast;  MLF also wild and 13 months in French oak c. 37% new,  then 2 months in 3-year-old oak;  no fining or filtration;  winemaker Blair Walter considers:  The 2007 Pinot Noirs are wines of unmatched concentration and rich complexity without losing any purity or finesse. They combine the ripeness of the 06’s with the concentration of the 05’s adding a certain extra magic that is unique to this vintage. In short we see them as landmark wines;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the Felton pinots.  This wine teams up with the Villa Maria Taylor's in showing a lighter more fragrant expression of the variety,  a little cooler,  still with boronia complexity but a little more roses and buddleia in the florals.  In mouth however it is a riper and more complete wine than the Villa or the Pyramid Calvert,  showing silky red cherry pinot with freshness but no stalk.  It is a little understated at the moment,  and fresher than the standard Felton,  but this could end up the most Musigny-like of the Felton '07s.  It may therefore score more highly in 3 years.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Taylor's Pass   18  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $58   [ screwcap;  clones 5,  113 and others,  7 years old,  around 1 t/ac,  hand-picked;  100% de-stemmed,  up to 16 days cold soak,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  14 months 'fine' French oak 32% new;  minimal filtration;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  deeper than the standard Felton.  First impressions are very positive for this wine,  with a degree of florality showing what could be almost a Cote Rotie styling of syrah as much as pinot,  on red and black fruits.  In mouth the thought of syrah continues,  a hint of cassis and pepper with attractive plumpness hinting at pale butter,  offset by fragrant leaf notes.  It doesn't achieve the depth of varietal precision and physiological maturity the best Otago pinots show,  as is commonly the case in Marlborough,  but once one stops suspecting it is syrah,  the wine becomes attractive rich pinot noir,  to cellar 3 – 12 years.  This is a slightly quirky interpretation of the grape,  though,  and this score may reflect my liking for syrah.  GK 03/09

2006  Palliser Estate Pinot Noir   18  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $46   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and more modern burgundy clones;  in general c. 4 days cold-soak;  12 months new and older French oak;  not much winemaking info on website;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little more mature than some.  Bouquet is distinctly fruity,  piquant and exciting,  with clear-cut pinot varietal character.  It is a little oaky,  which makes it not so easy to characterise the floral component,  but there are dark florals on clear red and black cherry fruit.  Balance is aromatic and attractive,  and it feels like pinot noir in mouth,  so one can forgive it the oak and alcohol.  The exciting thing about this wine,  in the context of the other middle-latitude pinots is,  there is full physiological maturity of the fruit,  no hint of leafy / stalky components,  yet the wine retains good florality.  Earlier Palliser pinots were not as clean as this one,  so all in all this is an attractive example of Martinborough pinot noir,  to cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/09

2005  Carrick Pinot Noir Excelsior   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $85   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5, 5 and others from the Cairnmuir vineyard,  hand-picked later April from c. 10 year-old vines at very low yields due to poor set at flowering;  c. 5 days cold-soak,  c. 70% wild-yeast fermentation with less than 5% whole-bunch,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  MLF and c.12 months in French oak c. 30% new;  minimal filtration;  150 cases;  www.carrick.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  more mature than the 2007s,  reasonably.  The first impression in an analytical blind tasting of 60 mixed reds is of fragrantly cedary / pencil shavings new oak,  but that won't be the case at table.  Behind that are attractive red and black fruits of pinot,  with clear rose and boronia florals.  In mouth the wine is mellow and rich,  but the new oak continues apparent,  almost in an east-bank bordeaux,  rather than burgundy styling.  This premium or 'reserve' label has been made with the explicit goal of building a 10-year New Zealand pinot.  It looks well endowed for the task,  and thus will be a good one to cellar with a view to future blind tastings against the outstanding 2005 vintage in Burgundy.  Watching the evolution of the fruit relative to the oak will be a key interest in cellaring the wine.  I hope I will be re-rating this wine at the next tasting,  for it impressed me greatly when seen on its own last spring.  At this moment the oak is a little too drying and prominent.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $55   [ screwcap;  hand-picked @ 0.7 t/ac;  85% destemmed,  c. 6 days cold-soak,  wild-yeast fermentation,  c. 28 days cuvaison;  MLF in barrel and 15 months on lees in French oak 33% new;  unfined and unfiltered;  140 cases;  introduction to the Calvert concept 25 Nov 2008;  www.pyramidvalley.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  not quite as deep as the Felton Calvert.  This is a pinot in a slightly lighter,  more pretty or Chambolle style than the Felton.  It shows clear rose and boronia florals,  on red and black cherry fruit plus suggestions of blackboy peach.  Palate follows through exactly,  faintest leaf and acid tying in with the 15% whole-bunch and the blackboy component in the bouquet,  silky,  less oaky than the 2006 (I think).  This is attractive pinot in a lighter style than the Felton,  but it may cellar longer than I have indicated.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Vineyard   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $47   [ cork;  hand-picked  @ a "minuscule" < 0.25 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed, fermented in French oak cuves with wild yeast;  10 months on lees in French oak 38% new;  no fining,  light filtering;  RS nil;  in a normal year,  this is Craggy Range's main pinot label;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Big pinot noir ruby.  The volume of bouquet on this wine is a little more than some of the higher-pointed wines,  the reason being a slight leafy contribution adding buddleia florals to the deeper floral notes.  Fruit is aromatic red and black cherry,  again beautifully oaked.  There is a little more stalk than the higher-pointed pinots,  but this is stalk at a level where it will marry away as the wine matures.  This is a good example of the slightly firmer Martinborough pinot style,  relative to the (at best) more generous but clearly floral and still aromatic Otago wines.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Te Whare Ra Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  hand-picked from 10/5 and 5 other clones mostly 10 years old,  hand-sorted;  100% de-stemmed,  up to 10 days cold soak,  up to 9 days fermentation,  total cuvaison up to 26 days;  12 months in French oak 30% new;  RS < 2 g/L;  c. 300 cases;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the pinots so far in this ranking,  more a true burgundy depth of colour.  Freshly opened the wine is slightly reductive,  needing a splashy decanting.  With air it reveals an intensity of pinot fruit which is ahead of many Marlborough examples of the grape.  Florals however are more at the buddleia level of complexity rather than boronia and roses,  and that correlates with the blackboy fruit notes on palate,  as well as red and black cherry.  There is a faint suggestion of leaf,  but richness is good without being ponderous.  Apart from the inappropriate alcohol for pinot,  good wine,  to cellar 3 – 10 years.  This is the exciting side of Marlborough pinot,  tending towards the physiological maturity of some of the wines from the old terraces.  Like the Johner,  it may not be rigorously bone-dry to the finish.  GK 03/09

2006  Bald Hills Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $44   [ screwcap;  4 clones of PN hand-picked;  70% de-stemmed,  30 whole-bunch,  7 days cold-soak,  15 further days cuvaison;  MLF and some months in French oak 35% new;  no fining,  coarse filter only;  RS < 1 g/L;  winemaker Grant Taylor;  www.baldhills.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  The wine opens a little subdued,  benefitting greatly from decanting,  or at least a good swirling.  It then reveals a darkly floral aroma,  seemingly more influenced by barrel and lees-autolysis characters than some of the other pinots.  It is therefore not quite so pure,  with almost chocolate notes showing on black cherry and  darkly plummy fruit.  Palate is shorter and drier than the bouquet suggests,  tending a little savoury,  at this stage finishing on drying tannins.  Good food wine,  but a worry it may dry prematurely in cellar,  so keep an eye on it in the latter part of 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Bannockburn Sluicings Vineyard   17 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $47   [ screwcap;  not on website yet;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the Craggy pinots.  This is the most voluminous pinot bouquet in the Craggy subset,  but not for the right reasons – there is an excess of buddleia florals bespeaking leafyness.  In mouth this quality becomes a clear stalky component,  making the wine very aromatic.  Bouquet includes buddleia and rose florals,  perhaps with slight aromatic herbes.  Palate is red cherry more than black,  long and crisp with good flesh,  but the length is partly sustained on the stalky component.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Johner Pinot Noir Reserve   17 +  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $50   [ screwcap;  in 2007 mostly clone 115 hand-harvested @ a very low 0.6 t/a from the oldest vines;  destemmed;  5 weeks cuvaison,  matured 'mostly' in new oak;  RS 2.7 g/L,  sugar-free dry extract 31.7 g/L;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  maybe too big,  a little darker and older than any of the Feltons.  The wine has a lot of bouquet,  and is very fragrant,  another pinot overlapping with a Cote Rotie styling of syrah.  There is a touch of pepper in both cherry and plummy fruit,  all with a little more bottled fruit character than the fresher Feltons.  In mouth fruit richness is very good,  but total acid is up a bit,  and oak is at a maximum for both the acid and the suggestion of stalk,  so the overlap with Cote Rotie continues.  I wonder if maximum fermentation temperatures were higher here than for the Feltons ?  This should cellar well over the 3 – 10 year period,  and be an intriguing wine throughout.  As with previous Johners,  there is this touch of leaf,  but it has to be said that character is found in Burgundy in sub-optimal seasons,  too.  It is however a sign of less than perfect physiological maturity,  offset by some raisining maybe.  Finish may not be rigorously bone-dry [confirmed].  GK 03/09

2007  Craggy Range Pinot Noir [ Te Muna ] Aroha   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $100   [ cork;  DFB;  hand-picked  @ a "minuscule" < 0.25 t/ac from a small plot amounting to 8% of the Te Muna vineyard,  with about 30% Abel clone;  100% de-stemmed,  fermented in French oak cuves with wild yeast;  10 months on lees in French oak 38% new;  no fining,  light filtering;  RS nil;  65 cases only,  like le Sol,  a Prestige Series wine,  but the volume of Aroha much reduced in 2007 at Martinborough;  release date 1 June 2009,  not on website yet;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Some velvet in ruby,  very big for pinot noir.  On bouquet this is the odd-man-out in the Craggy pinots,  with a heavy mixed-message quality to it reminiscent of bottled omega plums with just a thought of cod liver oil on the one hand,  but also with a clear aromatic cypress-foliage-like leafy note too.  Subtle florals and cherries,  and hence 'pinosity',  are not too apparent.  Palate is very rich too,  another to remind of some shiraz interpretations from South Australia,  except that the cypress note on bouquet becomes clearly stalky on palate,  despite the great richness.  In the blind tasting,  having this wine alongside the 2007 Penfolds Bin 138 certainly made for an interesting comparison,  the latter being a little stalky on the mourvedre component,  yet the wine obviously in the 'burgundy' class.  For the Aroha,  this results in an intriguing big wine with pinot affiliations,  but in an older style reminding of earlier Pegasus Bay or Dry River pinots.  Perhaps like some of Danny Schuster's top Omihi pinots,  the mixed message is due to raisining of imperfectly physiologically mature grapes.  All in all a bit of monster,  impressive,  worth cellaring 5 – 15 years,   but not the beautiful side of pinot noir.  A mistake to price it in the Prestige Series,  therefore.  GK 03/09

2007  Escarpment Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $48   [ supercritical cork;  hand-picked;  fermented in French oak cuves;  c.11 months in French oak c.30% new;  dry extract 29.4 g/L,  RS < 1 g/L;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Big ruby,  another very dark pinot.  Freshly opened,  this is a heavy wine too,  not singing and floral,  more plummy,  with a slight off-note at this stage reminiscent of burning perspex.  The wine benefits greatly from decanting,  opening up to reveal a much better but still big pinot in weight and feel,  carefully oaked.  Again there is not quite perfect physiological ripeness,  a trace of leaf,  but all lingering nicely,  with real pinot aftertaste.  I suspect this wine is in an ugly-duckling phase,  and will marry up and score much better in a couple of years.  McKenna builds his wines to last,  rather than initially please.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  perhaps 15.  GK 03/09

2007  Huia Pinot Noir   17  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ screwcap;  hand-picked from 6 clones of pinot from 3 differing sites including older Brancott Valley soils;  10 months in French oak;  not much winemaking info on website;  www.huia.net.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is intriguing,  explicitly varietal with a clean floral component which is not as physiologically deep and complex as the 2006 Palliser or the Felton wines – more buddleia and roses.  Palate is fresh,  red and black cherry,  carefully oaked,  and here one can just see some leaf,  clearly more than the Te Whare Ra,  tying it in closely with many lesser Beaune wines even at the named vineyard / maybe premier cru level,  but in an average year.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Waimea Estate Pinot Noir Barrel Selection   17  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  at least 4 modern clones of pinot all hand-picked;  100% destemmed,  5 days cold-soak,  commercial yeasts;  MLF and  c. 10 months in barrel;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  between the Te Whare Ra and the standard Felton in depth.  Leaving aside a little grubby oak,  this pinot shows the explicit varietal character which makes Nelson one of the four premium pinot districts in New Zealand so far.  There are both buddleia and boronia florals,  on red and black cherry fruit.  Palate embraces some of the blackboy character of pinot fruit not quite so perfectly physiologically mature as good Otago examples,  but it is all let down somewhat by the quality and cleanliness of the oak (like many bourgognes rouges).  Nonetheless,  attractive and food-friendly wine.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Seddon   17  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $58   [ screwcap;  several clones,  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed;  14 months 'fine' French oak 25% new;  minimal filtration;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  clearly deeper and darker than the Taylors or the Craggy Calvert.  Bouquet follows on from the colour,  being heavy for pinot noir,  darkly plummy more than cherry,  quite oaky,  very youthful.  This is the kind of pinot which does well in new-world judgings.  Palate is very rich indeed,  and in the plummy fruit there is some evidence of a more elegant future – once the wine has lost some tannin and weight.  It is almost opposite in style to most of the current Villa pinots,  which have a prevailing thread of leafy weakness in them which is scarcely detectable here.  Leaving aside style,  the wine is immaculately made,  and will cellar very well indeed.  It could surprise after five years in bottle,  so like the Escarpment wine,  there is an element of 'sitting on the fence' in the score.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/09

2006  Te Whare Ra Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  presumably similar detail to the 2007,  not on website;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  much the same weight as the 2007,  but markedly more mature.  With breathing,  the bouquet has a intriguing depth of rose florals to it,  very beguiling and Cote de Beaune-like.  Palate is not quite so good,  more red plums than cherry,  a little hardness in the phenolics,  but clearly pinot in weight and style.  Cellar 2 – 6 years or so.  GK 03/09

2007  Johner Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $37   [ screwcap;  no detail on website;  RS 2.6 g/L,  sugar-free dry extract 30 g/L;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  older than the 2007 Reserve.  Bouquet shows a great volume of florals,  on red more than black fruits plus a suggestion of peppercorn,  so this is another pinot confuseable with a Cote Rotie handling of syrah.  Palate matches those thoughts well,  attractive flesh,  complex flavours,  very aromatic,  but the acid seemingly up a bit relative to the Reserve.  The oak is older than the Reserve,  I suspect,  and the finish a little more peppery / stalky.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  for an attractive and confusing wine.  If marked strictly on varietal character,  this should be a little lower,  but it is pleasing.  Again,  not absolutely bone-dry.  GK 03/09

2007  Two Paddocks Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13%;  $55   [ screwcap;  up to 10 days cold-soak;  up to 14 days cuvaison;  11 months in French oak 25% new;  www.twopaddocks.com ]
Older pinot noir ruby.  There is attractive physiological maturity of pinot fruit,  and real varietal florals including roses and boronia in this wine.  There is also a little European complexity this year,  meaning brett.  Palate is quite developed for its age,  with the wine already drinking well.  This style of pinot gives much pleasure to consumers,  but is better not offered to winemakers.  Cellar 3 – 7 years or so.  GK 03/09

2007  Vidal Estate Pinot Noir Marlborough   16 ½ +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested clones 5 & 777,  100% destemmed;  cold-soak up to 12 days,  some wild-yeast ferments,  cuvaison up to 18 days,  MLF and 10 months in French barrels the following spring,  21% new oak;  minimal filtering;  RS nil;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  This wine has a clear pinot bouquet,  but with an intriguing complexity factor reminiscent of Lawson's cypress – which distracts a little.  In mouth it is attractively fruited,  soft red more than black cherries,  subtle oak,  only a trace of leaf / herbes,  a pleasing version of the simpler Marlborough style.  Without that note on bouquet,  it would score a little higher.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Reserve Marlborough   16 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $55   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed and extended cold soak;  11 months and MLF in French oak 40% new;  RS nil;  minimal filtration;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  darker than the Craggy Calvert,  darker than all the Feltons,  doubtful for pinot noir.  This is a strange wine.  It smells leafy like lesser Crozes-Hermitage,  but also has clear berry including cassis.  Palate is intense but essentially non-burgundian,  with an under-ripe stalky grip to it which is unbecoming within the generally-accepted notion of pinot noir (wine competitions aside – this wine has won a gold medal at the International Wine Competition in London,  and in Perth,  both venues noted for their quirky results).  Yet,  the wine is very pure and rich enough to mature healthily,  and will be pleasant in its style after five years or so.  I hope Villa do not pursue this mistaken approach,  since by sheer weight of numbers and presence they are in a position to influence smaller and more isolated New Zealand winemakers quite profoundly.  Here,  it is scored more as a red wine,  syrah-style.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Camshorn Pinot Noir Domett Clays   16 ½  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $37   [ screwcap;  not irrigated;  no tasting detail on website;  a label mainly sold via restaurants and selected wine stores;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  another which is deep for pinot noir.  This is an off-centre pinot noir too,  combining stewed red plum with a penetrating leafy / floral note,  and a (probably) cooperage-derived aroma reminiscent of Californian redwood.  It reminds of the former-times Christian Brothers Pinot St George label,  where redwood was indeed used for large cooperage.  Palate shares some characters with the Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough,  being quite rich,  stewed fruits,  yet physiologically immature / under-ripe.  Quite good red wine,  but not such good pinot,  so again hard to score.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection Marlborough   16 ½  ()
Awatere & Wairau Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  many clones,  hand-harvested;  100% destemmed,  up to 10 days cold soak;  some wild yeast fermentations,  some inoculated;  MLF in barrel the following spring,  c. 10 months in barrel;  RS nil;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  one of the more appropriate ones.  There is some consistency in these 2007 Villa pinots,  in that several show signs of sub-optimal physiological maturity this year.  There are attractive red fruits,  but on both bouquet and palate there is a leafy / floral component betraying some flavour under-ripeness.  This is the difficult side of pinot viticulture in Marlborough,  an almost North Island character which the best of Martinborough happily escapes in its better years.  I have criticised earlier Villa Maria Marlborough pinots for being too over-ripe and plummy,  which makes this year's flight to the opposite stylistic pole of interest.  Pinot noir in Marlborough illustrates exactly how rare great pinot terroirs are.  The truth lies between the red fruits and overly floral slightly leafy approach as here,  and darker plums beyond black cherry where florality is being lost to sur-maturité.  Hence the regular mention of red grading to black cherry in descriptors for fine burgundian pinot.  Physiological maturity aside,  this is a beautifully-made wine which will cellar well in its style,  3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Astrolabe Pinot Noir Voyage   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ screwcap;  7 clones grown in the Waihopai,  Brancott & Wairau Valleys,  including older sites;  hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed,  5 days cold soak,  33% wild yeast,  partial barrel-ferment;  MLF and time in French oak some new;  RS 1.2 g/L;  Astrolabe is now famous for its standard-label Sauvignon Blanc – their Sauvignons account for 80% of production,  but there is a good range of other varieties.  The wine are marketed in 3 series,  the standard blended wines labelled (very faintly) Voyage),  individual site wines labelled Discovery,  and occasional special wines labelled Experience;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby.  This is a very fragrant pinot,  absolutely in the Marlborough mainstream,  a little herbes and leafyness in red more than black cherry,  with florals at the buddleia level,  in contrast to the deeper physiological maturity of the Otago wines.  Palate is explicitly varietal,  fair fruit,  but the leafyness persisting.  Oak has been carefully handled.  Wines like this still win gold medals in New Zealand pinot judging,  so it is well worth trying.  It is more concentrated than the Villa Maria Pinot Noir PB,  though displaying similar physiological maturity.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Riverby Pinot Noir   16 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-picked @ less than 2.5 t/ac from a mix of several clones,  including vines up to 16 years old;  11 months in French oak,  30% new;  RS nil;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Pinot noir ruby.  The wine opens modestly,  a little reductive,  and needs a good splashy decanting.  It then shows red fruits rather than black,  a suggestion of red currant and raspberry,  and a simple floral note no more complex than buddleia.  Palate likewise is red fruits,  straightforward,  faintly leafy as in much Marlborough Pinot.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2006  Dog Point Pinot Noir   16 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ cork;  18 months in French oak some new;  RS nil;  www.dogpoint.co.nz ]
Older pinot noir ruby,  some garnet.  Bouquet is in an older European style,  showing red fruits lifted by both roses-level florals and savoury brett / skin-of-roast-chook aromas.  Palate carries on exactly,  red cherry and red plum,  an attractive level of physiological maturity in the fruit at that level,  no leafyness,  drying tannins,  absolutely old-style burgundian.  Many people will like it greatly for that, but the modern / new world desire is to move away from a brett component in wines,  along with its fragrant savoury complexity factors.  The issue is that unless the wine is sterile-filtered to bottle,  bretty wines can become very unpredictable,  with the wine drying in bottle and the risk of 'savoury' degrading to something much less.  Meanwhile,  this wine is great with savoury foods,  but cellar a shorter time only,  say 2 – 5 years might be best.  GK 03/09

2007  Montana Pinot Noir Terraces 'T'   16  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ screwcap – Stelvin Lux;  4 clones of pinot grown on the older and hence higher-clay soils on Brancott Valley terraces;  100% de-stemmed,  5 days cold-soak;  MLF and 10 months in French oak 39% new,  balance 1 and 2 years;  this label seen as the Co's flagship pinot;  www.montana.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  very deep for pinot noir,  as if the fruit had undergone saignée.  And bouquet follows,  tending heavy for pinot noir yet not faulty,  just sur-maturité and over-extraction,  producing a wine confuseable both with some merlots and some brett-free montepulcianos.  In other words,  it is soft,  rich,  plummy more than cherry,  a fair aroma but not really floral.  As such it is an attractive round rich red,  and will be 'popular'.  The score here is for varietal character,  however.  Certainly an intriguing wine from Marlborough,  with no leafyness at all.  Removing leafyness from pinots by over-ripening introduces other deficiencies,  however.  The international concept of pinot is rather narrow,  and hence the great challenge lies in finding sites that optimise the grape's beauty.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  in its style.  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin Marlborough   16  ()
Awatere & Wairau Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  a wide mix of techniques in the winemaking;  some cold-soak;  most of the wine barrel-matured 10 months,  some tank on retained lees;  RS nil;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Light but appropriate pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is lightly varietal in a vaguely floral and red currants way,  with a suggestion of leafyness.  It is followed by a pleasantly fruity but red fruits and red cherry only palate,  clearly varietal,  soft and easy drinking,  but showing little pinot complexity or depth – just like many Cote de Beaune bourgognes rouges.  It has less character,  but more appropriate varietal ripeness and drinkability than the Trinity Hill High Country.  This would be much better priced as an introduction to pinot noir at $18 – $19,  matching the PB Merlot / Cabernet (though it is not of the same calibre).  It is purer than the Dog Point,  but neither as concentrated or winey.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Julicher Pinot Noir   15 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  8 clones of pinot noir,  hand-picked;  French oak some new;  www.julicher.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  getting dark for pinot noir.  Bouquet is very much syrah,  again in the Crozes-Hermitage style,  tending to leafy red fruits,  with florals more jonquils than carnations.  The fruit is therefore seriously lacking in physiological maturity and appropriate varietal character.  Palate however is well-fruited and quite rich,  and carefully oaked.  There is a little European complexity and perhaps brett,  but the leafyness persists right through,  like lesser Crozes-Hermitage.  This is pleasant drinking wine,  but for varietal precision,  greater physiological maturity,  and less extraction,  is needed.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  in its style.  GK 03/09

2007  Trinity Hill Pinot Noir High Country   15  ()
Mangaorapa district,  southern inland Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap;  4 clones of pinot noir including Ata Rangi's Abel clone,  hand-picked;  100% destemmed;  10 months in French oak some new;  minimal filtering;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Slightly lurid pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is a little outside the square,  tending to stewed red fruits,  with notes of strawberry,  raspberry and red rhubarb,  plus an explicitly leafy / cool floral note bespeaking warm-climate pinot.  Palate is lesser,  concentrated but distinctly stalky,  acid noticeable,  lacking physiological maturity.  Except that it is much richer,  this is very much a style of North Island New Zealand pinot from the 80s,  fragrant,  not unattractive as such but far from classical pinot.  The Villa PB is a better introduction to the concept of pinot noir,  being only a little leafy in an international sense.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/09

2006  Johner Pinot Noir Reserve   15  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $55   [ screwcap;  in 2006 made from several of the oldest clones in the vineyard,  hand-harvested  @ c. 1 t/a;  destemmed;  5 weeks cuvaison,  matured 'mostly' in new oak;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Older pinot noir ruby.  This is an odd wine,  exhibiting a confectionery and false-fruit stewed character on bouquet and palate.  It is recognisably varietal,  and though stalky is soft,  round and well-fruited,  pleasant quite rich red,  but just a little too sultana-y and outside the square to be ranked well as varietal pinot.  Cellar 2 – 5 years or so.  GK 03/09

2007  Moutere Hills Pinot Noir   14 ½  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $39   [ screwcap;  hand-picked and sorted;  all destemmed and cold-soak 5 days;  MLF and 9 months in barrel;  some vines up to 15 years age;  the proprietors are striving to keep the pinot on its own roots,  noting the (not uncommon) French belief that latterday wines do not match the best of the pre-phylloxera wines;  www.mouterehills.co.nz ]
Attractive light pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is vaguely simple redfruits pinot,  but in a slightly reductive and not-quite-clean way.  Decanted and well-breathed,  palate is dry,  quite rich,  light red plum,  old cooperage,  some brett.  The 2007 Villa Maria Private Bin is a climatically similar modest example of the grape at a comparable level of physiological ripeness,  but it illustrates perfect hygiene in winemaking.  The Moutere is older-style European,  more tannic,  with greater 'complexity'.  It will cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/09

Syrah = Shiraz
2007  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol   19 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $100   [ cork;  Sy 100% Limmer clone,  (if like the 2006) hand-harvested @ just under 2.5 t/ac from a stony part of the vineyard;  100% de-stemmed,  2 days cold soak,  wild-yeast fermentation in open-top oak cuves,  22 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  no BF component;  MLF and 20 months in French oak 40% new;  RS nil;  filtered;  release date 1 June 2009,  not on website yet,  c. 1000 cases (of 12) of the 2007;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  midnight deep,  glorious.  Not to beat about the bush,  Craggy Range's Syrah Le Sol is internationally their most famous wine after a mere six vintages (no 2003),  and this 2007 is unequivocally the finest yet.  It is the star wine in the 2007 Craggy Range premium releases.  I don't have the previous vintages in front of me,  but I have attended to each one closely.  This wine is both lower in alcohol and lower in new oak than most of them,  so on bouquet the saturation of explicit syrah cassisy berry complete with a touch of cracked black peppercorn seems much greater.  There is almost a floral component,  darkly wallflower,  though one is at peril of 'willing' it to be there,  so exciting is the bouquet.  In mouth all the promise of the bouquet unfolds,  aromatic cassisy berry and darkest plum dominant,  a touch of black pepper,  beautiful balance,  no rough edges,  a real beauty in the making.  The depth of fruit is wondrous.  This is both great New Zealand syrah,  and a great Hermitage look-alike.  It is therefore a praiseworthy retreat from the more heroic winestyle some earlier Le Sols presented.  

To my mind,  all that is needed now is even more emphasis on the floral component of the bouquet,  for that is where the greatest Hermitage excels (and converges with great Cote Rotie).  In discussing the wine,  CEO Steve Smith related the picking is deferred in the Le Sol block until there is slight dimpling of the berry skin – a trace of raisining in effect.  This must run the risk of some sur-maturité,  of losing some floral precursors,  relative to the sweet 'tree-ripened' fully mature grape at maximum plumpness.  Think of how quickly a perfect big black plum changes from immensely fragrant and enticing to blowsy and over-ripe,  if left on the tree.   Picking a tranche of fruit for Le Sol a critical a few days earlier would not only optimise the critical dianthus and wallflower component of perfect syrah,  but also maybe lower the alcohol slightly as a side benefit.  The alcohol this year is 14.2%,  and it gets away with it.  But every point below 14% improves the silky texture of any wine (given full physiological maturity).  On the floral side,  Te Mata's Bullnose Syrah provides the most consistent New Zealand model so far (the 2005 particularly),  since the best sites in the Ngatarawa Triangle have shown themselves to be superior to the Gimblett Gravels in achieving the exact floral components which characterise great syrah.  Alongside this Le Sol,  the 2007 Bullnose looks decidedly feminine and Cote Rotie-like,  compared with the more imposing and Hermitage-like persona of Le Sol.  This is the highest score I have given to a New Zealand wine,  but whether that means it is the best New Zealand wine I have tasted becomes a bit rarefied.  The key thing is,  one must cellar it,  and other contenders like 2005 Tom when released,  to check such thoughts over the years to come.  Cellar the 2007 Le Sol for 5 – 25 years,  joyfully,  for it is going to be relatively freely available,  for the first time.  VALUE,  even at $100,  when compared with good Hermitage.  GK 03/09

2007  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose   18 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ cork;  3 clones of syrah hand-harvested, 100% de-stemmed;  extended cuvaison;  16 months in French oak 40% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not quite as vibrant as the Vidal Reserve.  Nor is the bouquet,  the whole wine being more restrained,  but wonderfully elegant and varietal.  This wine has come together remarkably since the first tasting last spring,  and is explicitly varietal with its wallflower florals emerging much more now,  plus subtle black peppercorn spice in cassis and black cherry fruit.  Winemaker Peter Cowley considers it their best syrah yet.  Certainly the wonderful physiological maturity they are achieving in their Bullnose syrah at a relatively subtle alcohol is a model for the whole industry,  and demonstrates the disadvantages of excess alcohol in this variety – as shown by some of the overtly plummy Gimblett Gravels examples.  Against some of the bigger New Zealand syrahs,  Bullnose can look remarkably Cote Rotie-like.  I look forward to seeing the 2007 alongside the compelling 2005,  when it has settled down a little more.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  maybe longer.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2006  Vidal Syrah Reserve   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $56   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed but 30% un-crushed;  cold soak,  wild yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top vessels,  MLF and c.19 months in French oak some new;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
The colour is great,  vibrant ruby,  carmine and velvet,  dense.  Bouquet is a little oak-assertive at this early stage,  but is saturated with rich violets and dark roses florals on cassis,  blueberry and bottled back doris plummy fruit.  In mouth,  the dark plum fruit richness is sufficient to cover the oak,  with attractive suggestions of black peppercorn.  In another couple of years this should be great New Zealand syrah.  Cellar 10 to 12 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Church Road Syrah Reserve   18 ½  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle 55%,  Gimblett Gravels 45,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ cork;  Sy 100% hand-harvested and sorted;  no cold soak,  inoculated yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top oak and s/s vessels,  up to 4 weeks cuvaison,  controlled aeration (syrah is sulphide-prone);  c. 12 months in burgundy barrels c. 53% new,  c. 700 cases (as 12s);  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the densest colours.  Once well-swirled or decanted,  bouquet on this year's edition of the Church Road Reserve Syrah is very fragrant,  clearly syrah yet with a yellow honeysuckle and fresh apricot note,  making me wonder if there is some viognier in the blend.  There is a depth of cassisy and dark plum aromas which is beguiling,  plus savoury oak and even a complexity factor suggesting some barrel-ferment.  In some ways the bouquet is more complex than the pure but contrasting syrah interpretations offered by the 2007 le Sol and Bullnose syrahs.  Palate is rich,  dark,  and a little drying on firmer oak than the Bullnose.  From memory,  the Church Road Reserve Syrah this year seems a more burly wine,  not quite as pure and aromatic as the 2006 maybe,  and just a touch more European in total achievement.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  VALUE  GK 03/09

2007  Mission Estate Syrah Jewelstone   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $45   [ cork;  hand-harvested @ c. 2 tonnes / acre;  cuvaison in the order of 4 weeks,  13 months in French oak 50% new;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  dense,  almost black,  darker than the 2006 Vidal Reserve.  This wine is a little richer,  deeper and riper than the Vidal,  and hence shows less varietal florals at least at this stage,  but even more berry.  And it is not so ripe as to lose black peppercorn spice.  Palate is rich and youthful,  chock-full of fruit.  This looks to be in the top stream of Mission Jewelstone Syrahs,  a wine somewhat over-looked despite good ones regularly since 1998.  It may be the best yet.  This is going to be exciting wine to watch – it may rank higher in a year.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Villa Maria Syrah Cellar Selection   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels & other districts,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ screwcap;  details probably much as for 2006,  Sy 100% hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  inoculated yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top vessels,  15 days cuvaison;  c. 18 months in French and American oak 40% new;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This syrah opens a little quietly,  just a shadow of reduction,  needing a splashy decanting.  It opens out to a classic Hawkes Bay example of the grape,  not as rich as the Te Mata Bullnose,  and a little oakier and more acid,  but with cassis and blueberry fruits on palate.  At the price the Villa Maria Cellar Selection wines have sometimes been promoted lately,  this will be a classy yet affordable introduction to syrah.  It will cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Vidal Estate Syrah Hawkes Bay   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ screwcap;  detail probably similar to 2006 -  Sy 100%,  all de-stemmed;  c. 18 months in oak;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is a little reserved initially,  a youthful wine needing decanting now,  or more time in bottle.  With air,  it opens to a fresh varietal and aromatic syrah,  total acid a little higher than the top wines,  and richness and oak clearly less than the 2006 Vidal Reserve,  but still good.  Like the Villa Maria Cellar Selection,  there will be buying opportunities for this wine,  and cellaring will provide a great introduction to syrah.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/09

2006  Martinborough Vineyard Syrah / Viognier   18  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $48   [ screwcap;  Sy 95%,  Vi 5,   hand-harvested;  6-year old vines,  but first significant crop;  21 days cuvaison;  c. 12 months in French oak 25% new,  balance 1 & 2-year;  not fined or filtered;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  This wine stood out for its exceptional florality and total Cote Rotie styling,  comparable only with the Delas Cote Rotie also in the tasting,  if one allowed for the age difference.  The floral including carnation / wallflower qualities extend right through the palate,  though it is a little acid.  Trial blends illustrate what sensational syrahs could be achieved by a judicious blending of Hawkes Bay fruit for body and ampleness,  and Martinborough fruit for breathtaking aroma.  This idea has already been illustrated by Kai Schubert with his 2000 Syrah,  but with rather much new oak.  The obvious people to pursue such a goal now are Craggy Range,  with their holdings on both the Gimblett Gravels and at Te Muna Road having the potential to provide perfectly contrasting syrah fruit.  At the moment however their 'single vineyard' policy constrains them.  Another candidate could be via the common ownership of Dry River in Martinborough,  and Te Awa on the Gimblett Gravels.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/09

2006  [ Corbans ] Cottage Block Syrah   18  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $35   [ cork;  a single-vineyard Sy 100% hand-harvested and sorted;  all de-stemmed,  no cold soak,  inoculated yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top oak and s/s vessels,  up to 26 days cuvaison,  controlled aeration (syrah is sulphide-prone);  MLF and c. 18 months in burgundy barrels c. 40% new,  balance 1-year;  no fining or filtering;  www.corbans.co.nz/block_syrah.html ]
Colour is ruby and velvet,  older than some of the 2007 syrahs.  Bouquet is distinctive among this batch of wines,  showing overt syrah varietal character combining carnation florals with white pepper as well as black.  Below these Cote Rotie-like top notes there is rich dark fruit.  Palate is rich and ripe,  no stalky worries to associate with the white pepper,  but the whole wine is shorter than the top syrahs,  and clearly aromatic.  The oak seems not as new as Le Sol for example,  so the total wine style is surprisingly northern Rhone,  in total more like Cornas maybe,  on the very dry finish.  Intriguing wine illustrating the precise climatic analogy between the northern Rhone and Hawkes Bay rather well.  Cellar 5 – 12 years or so.  GK 03/09

2006  [ Waimata ] Cognoscenti Syrah   17 ½ +  ()
Patutahi district,  Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% first-crop hand-harvested @ c. 1.6 t/ac,  50% clone 470,  50% 174,  95% de-stemmed,  5% whole-bunch;  inoculated yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top vessels,  26 days cuvaison;  MLF and 15 months in new European 400s,  and older French and American oak,  with aeration at rackings;  not fined or filtered;  1.7 g/L RS;  winemaker James Hillard comments that clone 470 shows deeper spice and plum characters,  whereas 174 is more red fruits;  www.waimata.ac.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  still a little carmine,  rich.  Bouquet is not quite as floral and fragrant as the top wines,  and is a little more oak-influenced,  but it is explicitly varietal.  In mouth it is rich,  firm,  suggestions of carnation florals and bottled black doris plums,  quite oaky and tannic just now.  This should be softer in a couple of years,  but meanwhile,  it remains a revelation for Gisborne  red wines.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/09

2007  [ Waimata ] Cognoscenti Syrah   16 ½ +  ()
Patutahi district,  Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Sy 98%,  Vi 2,  second-crop hand-harvested from clones 470 and 174,  100% de-stemmed,  3 days cold-soak;  inoculated yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top vessels,  24 days cuvaison in all;  c. 10 months in a mix of all-European oak 40% new;  particular attention to aeration at rackings;  not fined,  coarse filtering only;  RS < 2 g/L;  2007 regarded as a great season in Gisborne,  but the crop larger than 2006;  winemaker James Hillard comments that clone 470 shows deeper spice and plum characters,  whereas 174 is more red fruits;  www.waimata.ac.nz ]
Ruby and carmine,  some velvet,  lighter than the 2006.  Bouquet is very fragrant and floral,  as if there might be a little viognier included this year [confirmed],  but the variety syrah is not explicit in a blind tasting of 60 mixed reds.  Red fruits show more than darker.  In mouth the wine is fresh,  the fruit lighter than the 2006 and the total acid higher,  but cassis and black peppercorn suggestions are now apparent.  Flavours linger well in mouth,  and the oak seems lower than the 2006,  so this wine too represents an interesting stepping-stone in the rise of syrah in districts not traditionally known for their red wines.  The results in 2007 show how important cropping rate is to depth of varietal character,  particularly in marginal climates.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/09

2007  Waimea Estate Syrah   16  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  (if same as 2006) all hand-picked;  100% de-stemmed,  co-fermented with c. 2% viognier;  c. 10 months in barrel mostly American some new;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is intriguing,  a medium-weight wine with quite a European undertone to it,  clearly winey but not explicitly varietal,  a suggestion of pennyroyal and a little brett maybe.  In mouth it falls away somewhat,  total acid noticeable,  clearly leafy,  and berry flavours reminding of some minor Crozes-Hermitage syrahs.  Even so,  there is good fruit,  and the European styling is attractive.  Syrah is going to be difficult to pull off at all consistently in Nelson,  I suspect.  Dave Glover has given it a good shot.  Cellar 2 – 5 years or so.  GK 03/09

2005  The Jumper Shiraz   15  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $15   [ screwcap;  a wine selected for bottling by Peter & James Macdonald of Marlborough,  but not on the website;  www.springcreekestate.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  some velvet.  In the present company,  this is a much plainer wine.  There is fair old-fashioned shiraz berry with some boysenberry and a touch of saline,  with older oak.  Palate is ripe,  juicy straightforward QDR shiraz,  finishing a bit harsh.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  in its style.  GK 03/09

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2007  Penfolds Grenache / Mourvedre / Shiraz Bin 138   17  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  Gr 66%,  Mv 21,  Sh 13;  14 months in American oak hogsheads 5 years old;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby.  Surprisingly,  the bouquet of this wine fits in with one or two of the New Zealand pinots,  in the sense of a fragrant slightly stalky component.  Most of the bouquet is attractive red-fruits grenache with faintest mint,  but it is the slightly under-ripe mourvedre which is adding spice and the stalky hint in mouth.  Shiraz adds lovely plummy fruit.  Oaking is subtle,  but the wine is youthful,  as yet.  It will mellow beautifully in cellar,  becoming more fragrant,  softer and rounder.  Finish is almost juicy,  despite the mourvedre tannin.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  perhaps to improve considerably,  and become even closer to the southern Rhone wines Bin 138 is modelled on.  The wine benefits greatly from decanting,  and serving at a pleasant red wine temperature (to alleviate the stalky notes).  GK 03/09

All other red wines, blends etc
2006  Serenata Nero d'Avola [ = Corallo ]   16 ½  ()
Sicily IGT,  Italy:  13.5%;  $15   [ screwcap;  the same wine is marketed under two labels,  Wine Direct advise;  nero d'Avola is the main red grape of Sicily,  rated by Jancis Robinson as the best,  suited to barrel-ageing,  a fine aroma,  and cellar potential;  www.winedirect.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  older.  This wine opens a little sulky / reductive,  and benefits greatly from decanting.  With air it opens up to a wine style not unlike middleweight Montepulciano d'Abruzzo,  red and black fruits,  a touch of herbes,  not much oak,  not quite clean and a little bretty (but less than many M. d'Abruzzos),  winey,  soft and easy QDR.  Pity it has now left behind its $10 associations !  Cellar 1 – 5 years.  Very much a consumer's wine,  not for winemakers.  GK 03/09

From the Cellar. Older wines.
1985  Delas Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette   19  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  $39 in 1988;  Delas own 6.5 ha on the Hill of Hermitage,  and rent 3.5;  Sy 100%,  some stems in the 1980s;  up to 18 months in barrel,  a small percentage new maybe in the 80s;  Delas now part of the Roederer group (since 1996);  www.delas.com ]
Colour is ruby and garnet,  but still with good depth and freshness for its age.  Bouquet is a perfect expression of syrah in full maturity,  dramatic wallflower and carnations florals,  good cassis and red and black plums,  clear black peppercorn spice,  all mellow and harmonious and lingering,  yet surprisingly fresh.  I showed this wine at the judges' dinner for the Royal Easter Show wine judging,  thinking that  many younger judges would be unfamiliar with one of New Zealand's most promising red varieties,  in full maturity.  The response on the night was gratifying,  and a conserved sub-sample looked as good in this blind tasting a few days later – not at all fragile.  Fully mature, but no hurry.  GK 03/09

1985  Delas Cote Rotie Seigneur de Maugiron   18  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  $33 in 1988;  typically Sy 100%,  70% Cote Brune,  30 Blonde;  some stems in the 1980s;  up to 18 months in barrel,  very little new in the 80s;  Delas now part of the Roederer group (since 1996);  www.delas.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  older than the matching Hermitage,  both being presented at the judges' dinner for the Royal Easter Show wine-judging.  This wine is more intensely carnations-floral than the Hermitage,  but lighter in constitution on palate,  and further along its cassisy red-fruits development path.  The two wines illustrate the essential differences between AOC Cote Rotie and AOC Hermitage to perfection,  the former more fragrant and burgundian,  the latter more sturdy and even a thought of the Medoc.  I reviewed this wine in Cuisine # 9 in 1988,  rating it 5 stars and describing it as:  Superb ripe Syrah on bouquet,  with some floral life and much ripe berry,  plus subtle spice of white pepper and some beeswax … excellent balance and good cellaring prospects.  The article went on to say:  These first seven wines sum up nearly all one needs to know or own of the northern Rhone.  All seven probably rank five stars.  A case of each would make a memorable investment,  which one could follow into the next century.  In today's uncertain world,  that is an empowering thought.  I did that,  and it was good advice.  Unlike the matching 1985 Hermitage,  the Cote Rotie is now slipping off its plateau of maturity – so time to be finishing the case !  GK 03/09