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

This batch of wines included some real highlights,  wines which when you smell and taste them,  the thought arises that this is a great example of the winestyle.  There were several in fact,  which makes a tasting so much more fun.  Often the batch includes plenty of worthy wines,  but none of these exhilarating ones.  Highlights for me were:  2008 Babich Sauvignon Blanc Winemakers' Reserve,  2007 Cloudy Bay Chardonnay,  2008 Black Riesling,  2008 Tahbilk Riesling,  2007 Babich Riesling Dry,  2008 Waimea Estates Gewurztraminer and 2007 Babich Gewurztraminer Gimblett Gravels.  All in all,  quite a killing for Babich,  whose whites are very much on the up and up at the moment.  They have a pretty sumptuous chardonnay just released too.  It is always a joy to see really good New Zealand gewurztraminers,  absolutely matching fine Alsatian examples.  

The only note for concern is the sweetness creeping into our chardonnays,  following blatantly commercial Australian practice.  There is scarcely a really dry wine amongst them.  Too many websites are coy about this detail,  merely stating 'dry'.  Dry is a bird of many colours on the wine scene.  For reds dry is ideally < 1 g/L,  but < 2 is not uncommon.  In commercial / supermarket red wines these days websites will blandly tell us up to 4 or so g/L is 'dry'.  Chardonnay likewise is ideally < 2,  but up to 4 g/L is creeping in.  'Dry' sauvignon has long had a 'sweet-spot' (to mix a metaphor) at 3 – 4 g/L particularly for the more acid Marlborough wines,  but this is one wine class becoming more sophisticated.  Residuals are trending downwards from many better winemakers,  witness the 2008 Babich Winemaker's Reserve in this review at 1 g/L.  We have reached the stage now where many are nearer 3 g/L than 4,  and wines at the 5 g/L point are starting to look a bit tacky.  

'Dry' in riesling and the related aromatic classes such as pinot gris has long been an issue,  simply because the essentially 'sweet' nature of riesling with its highly floral aroma and flavour notes lends itself to not being bone dry.  The Aussies have a few keen winemakers still pursuing really dry rieslings,  but most 'dry' rieslings are in the 5 – 7.5 g/L range.  This topic is discussed in more detail in the next section.  Most current Australasian judging schedules assume:  reds are under 2 g/L,  but an upper limit has regrettably not been prescribed;  chardonnay,  sauvignon and related wines were formerly under 5 g/L,  but are becoming looser;  and 'dry' riesling and related classes may be up to 7.5 or so g/L – there is an unfortunate looseness creeping in there too.  The main anomaly at the moment is including viognier in the riesling group,  when historically,  culturally,  and food-wise it should definitely be in the chardonnay bracket.  This is a winestyle we could excel at,  and even internationally,  but a lax approach to the permitted residual sugar will not advance that goal.  The European idea of a dry white is still truly dry.

Describing sweetness in riesling – a worthwhile proposal:
The excellence of the rieslings raises yet again this vexing consumer question:  but,  how sweet is the wine ?  It is a critical question for pinot gris too,  as well as gewurztraminer.  Keen students of taste have long known that how sweet a wine appears to be is not simply a function of the sugar left in the wine – the residual sugar.  In the first instance it is the balance of sugar to acid which determines nett perceived sweetness,  but on top of that is the complication of how acid the acid is.  This is where the arcane measurement called pH comes in.  I am not going to try to explain it beyond saying that the lower the number,  the more acid the fluid seems to be to the tongue.  And as a corollary,  for aromatic white wines,  the better it will keep and develop in cellar.  So earlier this year,  where the numbers are relatively easily obtained,  I started including both pH and residual sweetness for riesling reviews on this site.

Germany is the home of riesling,  and they have been thinking about ways of communicating perceived wine sweetness to consumers for many years.  Their work has now come to fruition in a publication from the International Riesling Foundation called the Riesling Taste Profile,  all summarised @ www.drinkriesling.com/home/tastescale/.

In essence they propose simply four sweetness categories (for white wines) defined by the sugar / acid ratio:
Drysugar-to-acid ratio not exceeding  1.0
Medium Drysugar-to-acid ratio1.0 to 2.0
Medium Sweet  sugar-to-acid ratio2.1 to 4.0  
Sweetsugar-to-acid ratio above4.1

There is more,  though,  all indexed on the page just quoted.  The key page is www.drinkriesling.com/home/tastescale/thescale/,  which (below the tabulation) discusses and illustrates the use of the skeleton outline above.  Because low pH (say below 3) wines taste drier,  and high pH (for whites,  say above 3.4) wines taste sweeter at the same sugar,  the Profile provides guidelines for further fine-tuning which category any candidate wine best fits into.  It gets a bit complicated,  but the point to remember is,  any wine displaying the proposed logo and an indication on the standardised scale will taste in the category described.  This would be a great step forward for consumers.

The effort to have these guidelines adopted in New Zealand is being spear-headed by Judy Finn,  of Neudorf Vineyard (no mean makers of riesling themselves),  more or less on behalf of the working party that organises the Aromatic / Riesling adjunct conference to the Pinot Noir 2007 and now 1010 Conferences.  If adopted in New Zealand,  for the first time consumers would be able to see at a glance how sweet or dry any white wine is.  This is the break that riesling needs,  I think,  to become more popular in this country.  We can only hope that all New Zealand and Australian wine-makers will be persuaded to cooperate in putting the proposed scale into practice from this vintage on.  


2005  Babich Chardonnay Irongate
2007  Cloudy Bay Chardonnay
2008  Craggy Range Chardonnay C3 Kidnappers Vineyard
2008  Craggy Range Chardonnay Gimblett Gravels
2007  [ Craggy Range ] Wild Rock Chardonnay Hawkes Bay Pania
2008  [ Tahbilk ] Four Sisters Chardonnay
2005  Golden Bay Wines Chardonnay
2008  Lake Chalice Chardonnay The Nest
2007  Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Chardonnay
2007  Pegasus Bay Chardonnay
2008  Sacred Hill Chardonnay Barrel-Ferment
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Saints Chardonnay Gisborne
2008  [ Waimea Estates ] Spinyback Chardonnay
2006  Tahbilk Chardonnay
2008  Waimea Estates Chardonnay
2008  Wild South Chardonnay Marlborough
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2008  Babich Sauvignon Blanc Winemakers’ Reserve
2008  [ Tahbilk ] Four Sisters Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon
2008  Grass Cove Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Jackson Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Jackson Estate Sauvignon Blanc Stich
2008  Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc The Nest
2008  Pegasus Bay Sauvignon / Semillon
2008   [ Villa Maria ] Thornbury Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Triplebank Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Waimea Estates Sauvignon Blanc Bolitho
2008  Waimea Sauvignon Blanc Barrel-Fermented
2008  [ Craggy Range ] Wild Rock Sauvignon Blanc Elevation
2007  Babich Riesling Dry
2008  Bald Hills Riesling Last Light
2008  Black Estate Riesling
2008  Forrest Riesling Doctors’
2008  Framingham Riesling Classic
2007  Mount Edward Riesling
2006  Mount Edward Riesling
2008  Mount Edward Riesling The Drumlin
2006  Mount Edward Riesling The Drumlin
2006  [ Pipers Brook ] Ninth Island Riesling
2008  [ Waimea Estates ] Spinyback Riesling
2008  Tahbilk Riesling
  2008  [ Villa Maria ] Thornbury Riesling Waipara
2006  Waimea Estates Riesling Bolitho
2006  Waimea Estates Riesling Dry
2006  Wild Earth Riesling
Pinot Gris
2008  Amisfield Pinot Gris
2008  Astrolabe Pinot Gris Voyage
2008  Babich Pinot Gris
2008  Bald Hills Pinot Gris
2007  Gibbston Valley Pinot Gris
2008  Gladstone Pinot Gris
2008  Gladstone Pinot Gris 12 000 Miles
2008  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Gris
2008  Neudorf Pinot Gris Moutere
2006  [ Pipers Brook ] Ninth Island Pinot Grigio
2008  Pipers Brook Pinot Gris
2008  [ Waimea Estates ] Spinyback Pinot Gris
2008  Tinpot Hut Pinot Gris
2008  Triplebank Pinot Gris
2008  Waimea Pinot Gris
2008  [ Craggy Range ] Wild Rock Pinot Gris sur Lie
2007  Babich Gewurztraminer Gimblett Gravels
2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Corbans Huntaway Gewurztraminer
2006  Matua Valley Gewurztraminer Judd Estate
2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Gewurztraminer Patutahi
2008  Pipers Brook Gewurztraminer
2006  Saints Gewurztraminer Gisborne
2008  Waimea Estates Gewurztraminer
2007  Babich Viognier
2008  Tahbilk Viognier
2008  Waimea Estates Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2008  Mount Edward Pinot Blanc
2008  Tahbilk Marsanne
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.

2007  Cloudy Bay Chardonnay   19  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $38   [ screwcap;  clone mendoza predominates,  mostly hand-harvested @ 3.8 t/ac;  most of the juice is wild-yeast fermented in French oak with a small percentage new,  a smaller percentage starts fermentation inoculated in s/s,  but all of it completes fermentation in barrel;  12 months LA and some batonnage in barrel,  then a further month or two in barrel,  c.80% MLF;  RS 2.9 g/L;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Lemon,  a great colour.  Bouquet on this wine epitomises coolish-climate chardonnay.  It displays beautiful acacia-blossom florals,  on mineral-infused stonefruits and cashew.  Mineral as I use the term is not a euphemism for reduced sulphurs as marked up by northern hemisphere tasters,  but instead is the smell of freshly-cracked greywacke.  This wine could at a pinch be confused with grand cru chablis,  and more easily with classed wines from the Puligny-Montrachet district.  Palate develops marvellous cashew flavours in stonefruit,  the result of superb barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis,  yet the oak is unrecognisable as such.  The texture is rich yet fine-grained,  lingering superbly.  The ’06 was great,  but this 2007 Cloudy Bay immediately becomes the new benchmark for serious South Island chardonnay,  matching the 2007 Sacred Hill Riflemans from the North Island,  and perhaps surpassing it.  All aspiring chardonnay winemakers owe themselves a case of this wine,  not only to study its evolution,  but also for use in benchmarking exercises.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  VALUE  GK 05/09

2005  Babich Chardonnay Irongate   18 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ cork;  100% clone mendoza BF with wild yeasts in French oak 25% new,  10 months LA and batonnage,  18% MLF;  RS 2.4 g/L;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Deep lemonstraw washed with light gold.  This is the oldest-looking wine in the chardonnay line-up,  which subconsciously tips one into negative mode.  Yet as soon as one smells it,  the softness and purity of its golden queen peach and button-mushrooms-on-toast fruit complexity is enchanting.  In mouth,  the velvety richness of its fresh-tasting fruit is superb – real golden queen peach tart flavours.  The aftertaste is a great too.  Nowhere does the oak or alcohol intrude – this is just gorgeous mendoza chardonnay at full maturity.  It is so trendy these days to decry anything but the youngest and freshest,  that I wonder if in releasing a wine this late there is a risk its quality might not be recognised.  The first Irongate was released from the 1985 vintage – I remember Joe Babich showing it to me with great pride at the winery – so this label is building up a fine pedigree.  In its early years it was a non-MLF wine which cellared well,  but the role of MLF varies from season to season these days.  In this case it has contributed to the softer ampler style.  It is perfect now,  but will hold several years.  GK 05/09

2008  Waimea Estates Chardonnay   18  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested clones mendoza and 95,  whole-bunch pressed to BF with a fraction solids in French oak 44% new,  mostly wild-yeast ferments; MLF and extended LA and batonnage;  RS 3.4 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  After the top three wines (one a foil) there is a step down to merely very good chardonnay.  Bouquet on this Waimea wine shows some of the florals of the Cloudy Bay,  but not the depth of yellow mendoza fruits,  in attractively mealy barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis aromas.  Palate is not as rich as the top wines,  but nor is the price.  This is exemplary $20 chardonnay,  which in a year will show more of the charm of the top wines (which are ‘07s).  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  VALUE  GK 05/09

2007  Pegasus Bay Chardonnay   18  ()
Waipara Valley,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  mostly clone mendoza hand-picked @ c. 1 t/ac from vines averaging 24 years age,  wild-yeast BF in 500L puncheons 30% new;  MLF about 50% in spring and 12 months LA,  no batonnage in barrel;  5 months in tank to harmonise;  filtered;  RS ‘dry’;  www.pegasusbay.com ]
Lemonstraw.  This is a chardonnay in a particular New Zealand style,  quite extravagant.  It is a big wine,  with barrel-related winemaking artefacts at this early(ish) stage quite dominating rich stonefruit,  including golden queen peaches.  People who like this extreme artefact call it ‘toasty’,  those less-inclined call it ‘charry’.  By the time the wine has undergone barrel fermentation and then extended lees-autolysis and batonnage in such barrels,  it may have  picked up a lot of non-grape flavours,  on top of mealy richness.  In mouth,  the texture is gorgeous – all that autolysis on top of conservative cropping rates – and the length of flavour remarkable.  This is a bigger and richer wine than the Cloudy Bay,  and for many it will be a better one,  for these artefact characters are addictive.  Alongside the Babich,  some could think the Pegasus shows too much artefact,  relative to the saturated fruit of the former.  So you make your choice !  The reason for the lower score here is simply my quest is for the beauty of grape aroma and flavour first and foremost,  then winemaking which optimises that rather than dominating it too much.  Nonetheless,  this Pegasus wine will be an exciting one to cellar,  for it will marry up.  Later it would be marvellous presented with a more conventional wine in a dinner format or similar – it would be a real conversation-turner.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Craggy Range Chardonnay Gimblett Gravels   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  clone 95 more than mendoza,  hand-harvested @ 2.3 t/ac in an excellent vintage;  whole-bunch pressed,  wild-yeast fermentation in French oak 42% new; 10 months LA,  c. 50% MLF in spring,  limited stirring;  RS 2 g/L;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Elegant lemon.  Bouquet is clean and fragrant,  showing explicit chardonnay varietal character of white and yellow stonefruits,  with potential mealy and cashew nut complexities yet to develop from the barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis components.  Palate is very close to the Waimea in richness,  the alcohol at a maximum but better in hand than some Gravels chardonnays,  and there is a potentially succulent undertone.  In a year’s time this will be delicious understated wine,  which should score higher.  Cellar 3 – 8  years.  GK 05/09

2007  [ Craggy Range ] Wild Rock Chardonnay Hawkes Bay Pania    17 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $18   [ screwcap,  Ch 100% hand-harvested;  whole-bunch fermented in both oak and s/s;  10 months in French oak 30% new;  RS 3 g/L;  www.wildrockwine.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw,  younger than the top ‘07s.  In the blind line-up,  this ended up right alongside the 2008 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels wine.  It seems to show many of the same fruit characters,  but all made gentler (I imagine) by less new oak at the outset,  more MLF,  and the magical extra year to mellow,  which so transforms any halfway-decent New Zealand chardonnay.  As these Wild Rock wines are rejigged into a brand in their own right,  some are moving up in price but others remain good bargains,  as for this lovely Hawkes Bay chardonnay.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  VALUE  GK 05/09

2008  Sacred Hill Chardonnay Barrel-Ferment   17 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $21   [ screwcap,  some BF,  MLF and 6 months LA;  RS 1 g/L;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Straw,  advanced for the year.  This is intriguing wine,  recapitulating some of the stages New Zealand has been through in achieving the world quality of our topmost chardonnay wines today.  It has a lot of golden queen-style fruit,  and plenty of bouquet and flavour,  with quite rich mouthfeel.  But hidden in those flavours are hints of botrytis and a faint grassy note,  bespeaking uneven ripeness as used to characterise so many wines of yesteryear,  even when they were awarded gold medals.  Enjoy this richly-flavoured but slightly flawed wine in the current year or two,  rather than cellaring it.  GK 05/09

2007  Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ screwcap;  hand-picked including clone mendoza vines up to 29 years old and 5 other clones;  BF mostly wild yeast with light solids,  100 MLF then LA and batonnage in French oak 25% new for 12 months;  RS 1.3 g/L;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Straw with a wash of gold,  advanced for the year.  This wine is a surprise,  being rather like the orange-label Sacred Hill wine,  and very forward for its year.  There are rich stonefruit flavours,  but again just a suggestion of grassy undertones,  as if they were difficulties with the season at harvest.  Total flavours are again reminiscent of some gold medal chardonnays of the 1980s,  some wine biscuit notes in golden queen peaches,  a suggestion of mushrooms in the finish,  but all tasting as if five years old.  Another wine to enjoy in the next year or so,  and not cellar beyond that.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Saints Chardonnay Gisborne   17 +  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap,  clone 15 dominates @ 71%,  mendoza 23,  clone 95 @ 2,  Vi 4;  100% BF in French 70% and American oak 30,  15% new;  some LA and 16% MLF;  RS 3 g/L;  http://www.pernod-ricard-nz.com/tastingnotes.php ]
Elegant lemon.  Bouquet is straight up and down chardonnay,  very clean and pure,  lightly influenced by fragrant oak possibly including some American.  White stonefruits dominate both bouquet and palate,  and it seems simple alongside the Pegasus Bay or Cloudy Bay wines.  But it is worth studying,  just to capture the simpler white-fruit flavours of the new chardonnay clones,  for the actual concentration of fruit here is surprisingly good,  as is the purity.  There is not much barrel-ferment or lees-autolysis complexity getting in the way (just enough to complex it attractively),  and the spurious VA lift which used to characterise quite a few Pernod-Ricard family chardonnays from Gisborne is not apparent at all.  The Saints labels vary in quality,  but examples like this one can offer terrific value when sometimes on special even down to $10.  Cellar 2 – 8 years,  in its simple way.  GK 05/09

2006  Tahbilk Chardonnay   17  ()
Nagambie Lakes,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  some BF and LA in French and American oak for 10 – 12 months,  for what % of wine unclear but some of the oak new;  no RS or MLF detail on website,  style said to be lighter / more food-friendly than before;  www.tahbilk.com.au ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet shows much the same degree of maturity as the Golden Bay Wines chardonnay,  the same wine-biscuit suggestions,  but the fruit richer and very clearly from a warmer climate,  again with light mango overtones to melon and stonefruit.  Palate has some barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis mealyness,  and is much richer and more complex than the Four Sisters wine,  but it is not maturing perfectly harmoniously,  the total acid being lowish.  There are components of mango chemistry that don't sit happily with cool climate tasters,  but the levels here are vanishingly small.  Mellow soft wine to enjoy now,  and in the next year or two.  GK 05/09

2005  Golden Bay Wines Chardonnay   17  ()
Golden Bay,  NW Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap,  some BF and MLF;  understood to be change of ownership,  website being re-designed;  www.goldenbaywines.com ]
Lemonstraw.  This is a more petite wine in the line-up,  but in its simple purity of varietal expression,  it scores well.  After all,  the wines of Chablis may be petite too,  but the best are famously attractive.  Here light stonefruit qualities on bouquet and palate are developing suggestions of wine-biscuit maturity flavours,  and gentle oak has married nicely into a lightly citric finish.  Another face of chardonnay,  well suited to delicate white foods,  better finished up than cellared.  GK 05/09

2008  Lake Chalice Chardonnay The Nest   16 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  clone mendoza and 6,  machine-harvested;  some BF,  some s/s,  some wild-yeast,  all has LA & MLF;  RS 2.6 g/L;  www.thenestwines.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is light and pure with a hint of floral component but scarcely any oak,  so much so that I wondered in the blind tasting if this were the marsanne,  since there was one in the field.  Fruit is palest nectarine / stonefruit.  Palate deepens the stonefruit attractively,  great purity,  but the total weight is that of the Golden Bay wine only,  tasting virtually unoaked.  Another chardonnay for pale white-fleshed fish.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Craggy Range Chardonnay C3 Kidnappers Vineyard    16 ½  ()
Te Awanga district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  3 clones hand-harvested @ 2.25 t/ac in an excellent vintage;  whole-bunch pressed;  40% fermented in s/s,  60% fermented in oak cuve and French barrels only 10% new,  some wild yeast;  4 months LA,  perhaps 20% MLF;  goal a chablis-style;  RS < 2 g/L;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Colour for this wine stands out in the 20 chardonnays.  It is the palest and greenest of them all,  implying the least exposure to oak,  and fitting in with Craggy Range seeing it as their chablis style.  This year’s is very pure indeed,  not quite floral but palest stonefruits on bouquet,  showing less oak,  lees-autolysis / mealyness complexity,  and body than the Lake Chalice.  Palate is light and pure though still more alcoholic than the chablis approach needs,  again a white-fish wine.  It is so pure,  it will be interesting to see how it cellars,  2 – 5 years.  It is too young at the moment.  C3 refers to the 3 clones employed in making the wine.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Chardonnay   16  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap,  RS 2.5 g/L;  96% chardonnay mostly clone 15,  some 6 and mendoza,  4% viognier for fruit notes,  all machine-harvested;  cool-fermented in s/s,  37% through MLF,  some LA;  RS 2.5 g/L;  background on www.montana.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemon.  Bouquet contains some mixed messages,  and is confuseable with pinot gris.  There is a suggestion of nougat and pearflesh,  more than pale stonefruit.  In flavour the nougat broadens into a suggestion of butterscotch,  implying an MLF component [ confirmed ].  Flavours are light but not weak,  and pleasant within these parameters,  not so much oak as the Saints wine from the same winery,  the fruit more diffuse.  Easy not quite bone-dry QDW chardonnay,  to cellar a year or two.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Tahbilk ] Four Sisters Chardonnay   15 ½  ()
Central Victoria,  Australia:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap,  around half BF in French oak followed by 6 months LA and stirring,  plus some MLF,  balance s/s fermented to contribute freshness,  with some of it in French and American oak to follow;  RS 4.2 g/L;  Four Sisters is understood to be a joint venture between Trevor Mast of Mount Langi Ghiran and Alister Purbrick of Tahbilk;  website @ www.foursisters.com.au remarkable for its lack of public wine information,  better at the distributors;  www.redandwhite.com.au ]
Glowing lemongreen,  a very stylish colour.  Bouquet is clean and fruity like some Gisborne chardonnays,  but the fruit more tropical and obvious,  with a touch of mango.  Palate is lightly to scarcely oaked,  again pure and fruity,  not much sign of barrel-ferment or lees-autolysis complexities,  a little harsh on acid.  More a straightforward QDW chardonnay in the tropical style,  to cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Wild South Chardonnay Marlborough   15 +  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $19   [ screwcap,  cool-fermented in s/s ‘with aromatic yeast’ (always a warning signal);  some MLF;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.wildsouthwines.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is tending to a citric chardonnay with a VA lift,  white stone fruits,  scarcely oaked.  Palate is more citric,  pure white fruits chardonnay like the Saints wine,  but simpler with virtually no oak,  and suggestions of melon in the South Australian style,  all a bit angular on the VA.  Cellar 1 – 3 years only.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Waimea Estates ] Spinyback Chardonnay   15  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested clones 95 & 15 mostly,  some BF with light solids in oak some new,  balance s/s;  all through MLF with LA and stirring;  RS 2.8 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Straw,  as old as the 2005 Babich Irongate but thinner.  Bouquet is a real old-timer,  obvious yellow-fruits chardonnay showing mixed ripeness from golden queen peaches through to grassy,  obvious MLF introducing vanilla custard notes,  and obvious oak including some coconutty American.  Great time-travel wine,  there were a lot of these wines in the 1980s.  Oh boy,  the Australian wine judges gave us a hard time about them,  particularly when we wanted to give them gold medals.  They were right,  too.  So there is nothing wrong with this wine,  and it illustrates dramatically just how far we have come with chardonnay in both the vineyard and the winery.  It is a fleshy and flavoursome pleasantly-fruited wine with both biscuitty and stalky notes,  just old-fashioned.  More QDW chardonnay,  not one to cellar beyond a year or two.  GK 05/09

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2008  Babich Sauvignon Blanc Winemakers’ Reserve   19  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $25   [ screwcap,  7% BF in new French oak puncheons,  several months LA;  RS 1 g/L;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  Bouquet is immediately clean and crisp sauvignon ripened to the red capsicum and black passionfruit level.  Like the Astrolabe Awatere benchmark wine,  it shows some sweet basil herbes and even elder blossom complexity.  Palate is gorgeous,  all the flavour of top examples of the grape,  yet drier than most.  The Awatere aromatics are readily apparent.  This label has climbed to be one of the stars in the Babich range,  and one of New Zealand’s best sauvignons,  with superbly subtle complexity factors such as barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis built in,  the oak near-invisible.  This is how oak should be used in sauvignon !  Great food wine,  and yet another to show that the top 2008 Marlborough sauvignons are as good as any year.  Much too much has been made of Marlborough’s later-season rainfall,  in what is intrinsically a low-rainfall and free-draining zone.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc   18 +  ()
Awatere Valley mostly,  some Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.3%;  $19   [ screwcap,  all s/s;  RS 4.1 g/L;  www.tinpothut.co.nz ]
Elegant lemon colour.  Bouquet is muffled at first – the whole wine benefits greatly from a splashy decanting.  It then opens to reveal one of the classical Marlborough styles of sauvignon,  with the elderflower character the English like so particularly.  Palate is rich,  combining black passionfruit and red capsicums with good texture.  I suspect some careful lees-autolysis has gone into this,  leaving behind a shadow of the component that shows to a fault in the unbreathed Pegasus Bay example.  The long aftertaste is gorgeous,  ripe,  sauvignon ‘dry’,  beautiful gentle acid,  great food wine.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc The Nest   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap,  all s/s,  cool-fermented,  cultured yeast;  RS 2.3 g/L;  www.thenestwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is sweet' and enticing on this sauvignon,  quieter than the top wines,  but beautifully ripe with almost citrus blossom and riesling notes,  so one wonders fleetingly if it is cool-climate viognier.  But quickly the red capsicum and black passionfruit notes assert themselves.  Palate is rich and ‘dry’,  seemingly not as dry as the Babich but like it one wonders if it is perhaps hiding subtle barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis characters,  the mouthfeel is so good.  Apparently not.  Identifying by taste if there is trace oak in good New Zealand sauvignon blanc is a never-ending challenge – fun for keen tasters.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Jackson Estate Sauvignon Blanc Stich   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley mostly,  some Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $23   [ screwcap,  all s/s,  cool ferment extending to 24 days;  some LA;  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.jacksonestate.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  a lovely colour.  Bouquet is lifted by threshold VA into a very fragrant Marlborough winestyle showing ripest black passionfruit,  but as always with good Marlborough sauvignon there is attractive ripe red capsicum complexity too.  Palate is ripe,  aromatic,  rich and long-flavoured,  but not quite as varietal as the Late Chalice wine.  Good drinking,  cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Grass Cove Sauvignon Blanc   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $16   [ screwcap,  website remarkable for its lack of wine information;  RS 3.9 g/L;  www.grasscove.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is light and fragrant on this wine,  not quite the honeysuckle florals the top wines show,  some yellow capsicum in the equation,  so not quite as ripe as optimal Marlborough sauvignons.  In mouth the wine fills out,  good black passionfruit flavour and mouthfeel,  a gentler,  riper and more food-friendly sauvignon than the Waimea examples.  Cellar 1 – 4 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Pegasus Bay Sauvignon / Semillon   17 ½  ()
Waipara Valley,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $28   [ screwcap,  SB c. 70%,  Se 30;  the sauvignon component is fermented in s/s or oak vats including in 2008 a new 9000 L cuve,  the semillon in older barrels,  both with some solids and wild yeasts;  both fractions spend 9 months on lees,  minimal (possibly no) stirring;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.pegasusbay.com ]
Lemongreen.  The Pegasus Bay winemaking duo have made their distinctive Sauvignon / Semillon one of the more talked-about New Zealand examples of the grape.  This is principally because they carefully build a fault into it,  which replicates the earlier-generation style of dry white Bordeaux and Graves.  Also they make it bone-dry,  too.  Accordingly,  some European and American wine commentators unconcerned about many technical matters,  but (in Europe) picky about sugar,  rave about this wine.  In the new world,  we are more concerned about such things as high total sulphurs and high-solids-derived complexity notes.  The intrinsic appropriateness of this approach is evidenced by the dramatic change in European white wine styles since the early 1980s.  

Accordingly,  the Pegasus Bay Sauvignon / Semillon runs the risk of presenting as an orphan.  Some years of the wine are in my view irretrievably high in bound sulphurs and high solids characters,  and will remain dull,  irrespective of what some sulphur-insensitive European commentators think about them.  The fact is,  many consumers are sulphur-sensitive.  But occasionally,  Pegasus produce one which is superb,  in which the fruit is dominant to the winemaking artefacts.  Therefore every new vintage,  one approaches the wine eagerly.  This 2008 is on the better side of the line,  but only just,  helped by good fruit ripeness and concentration.  To best enjoy this wine in its not-quite-modern Graves style,  open it the day before and pour it splashily into an open-mouth jug,  and leave it in a place with air movement.  24 hours later,  pour it back splashily into the bottles,  and adjust the temperature to optimal.  It is better nearer chardonnay temperatures,  not too cold.  Bouquet and flavour will now show ripe sauvignon and semillon still heavily lees-influenced,  the autolysis character not ‘sweet' enough to be called baguette-like,  but no longer patently reductive.  The wine will be fragrant,  rich,  bone dry,  and highly reminiscent of good modern Graves.  Aftertaste is long and ‘mineral’,  needing careful matching to food.  Score is next day.  This wine could be so made so  much more beautiful,  with more contemporary attention to the high-solids and sulphur loading.  Cellar 2 – 12 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Waimea Sauvignon Blanc Barrel-Fermented   17 ½  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap,  BF in 2 – 4 year oak with cultured yeasts,  coolish;  4 months LA and batonnage;  RS 3.7 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Lemon with a yellow wash.  This is a very distinctive wine,  in an older style.  It shows ripeish sauvignon fruit almost hidden by fresh aromatic oak,  with nearly an American coconut edge to it.  It has more the character of a wine held in oak,  rather than fermented in it.  Palate confirms the oak,  the whole wine being reminiscent of Hunter’s or Selak’s Fumé-style sauvignons of the later 80s,  except the fruit is richer here.  Needs a year to settle down,  but being so characterful,  this could well be a love or hate wine.  In terms of oak in sauvignon,  it is the polar  opposite of the Babich Winemakers’ Reserve or the rather different Pegasus,  being much more ‘obvious’.  As the score indicates though,  this wine has the fruit to carry the oak.  This winestyle can be good with smoked foods.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Tahbilk ] Four Sisters Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon   17  ()
South-Eastern Australia 96% & New Zealand 4%,  Australia:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap,  % vars unknown;  RS 4.3 g/L;  Four Sisters is understood to be a joint venture between Trevor Mast of Mount Langi Ghiran and Alister Purbrick of Tahbilk;  website @ www.foursisters.com.au remarkable for its lack of public wine information,  sometimes better at the distributors (but not for this wine);  www.redandwhite.com.au ]
Pale lemon.  This is a fragrant wine in the sauvignon class,  showing ripe fruit more in a Hawkes Bay style of sauvignon,  with black passionfruit dominant.  There is an intriguing aromatic edge reminding both of faintest American oak,  and pale tobacco (cigarette),  much subtler than the Waimea.  Palate is soft and ripe,  white stonefruit (the semillon showing now) and very different from the Marlborough wines,  good plumpness,  not as varietal as the bouquet,  pleasing mouth-filling food-friendly dry white.  A good dry white for those who find Marlborough sauvignons too brisk.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Craggy Range ] Wild Rock Sauvignon Blanc Elevation   16 ½ +  ()
Wild Rock Sauvignon Blanc,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $19   [ screwcap,  SB dominant,  small % Vi and Ri;  all s/s;  RS 2.3 g/L;  www.wildrockwine.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  This is the "good representative sauvignon" in this batch of wines,  in the sense it is clearly varietal,  technically pure,  shows attractive flavours,  but does not have quite the concentration and ripeness to be silver medal wine.  There is some yellow capsicum in its flavour spectrum,  but 'sweetened' by the neat use of augmenting varieties.  This is one of the Marlborough sauvignons illustrating the trend to a drier version of the sauvignon ‘dry’ finish,  producing easy refreshing drinking.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 05/09

2008   [ Villa Maria ] Thornbury Sauvignon Blanc   16 ½  ()
Awatere & Wairau Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap,  all s/s,  some LA,  RS 2.3 g/L;  www.thornbury.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is clearly sauvignon blanc,  at a point of ripeness a little below the Wild Rock wine,  more yellow capsicums,  a touch of green and cat’s pee,  mingled with ripe fruit including black passionfruit.  Both bouquet and palate show some lees-autolysis complexities,  and the wine is fresh in that style,  lighter and less concentrated than some.  Cellar a year or two only.  GK 05/09

2007  Jackson Estate Sauvignon Blanc   16 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap,  not on website;  www.jacksonestate.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  This is a difficult wine to report on.  Bouquet shows VA on mild fragrant fruit,  which in a rigorously blind tasting of 94 wines,  is not explicitly varietal.  It could be interpreted as un-oaked chardonnay,  or even cool climate viognier.  In mouth,  it is riper than the Wild Rock wine,  which gains it points,  but less varietal which with the VA loses points.  Straightforward Marlborough sauvignon blanc,  to cellar a year or two only.  GK 05/09

2008  Triplebank Sauvignon Blanc   15 +  ()
Awatere Valley mostly,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap,  s/s wine;  RS 2 g/L;  http://www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemongreen.  This too is a fragrantly under-ripe sauvignon (partly due to threshold VA),  showing green capsicums and snowpeas on bouquet.  Palate is gentler and sweeter than the Waimea Bolitho,  and the acid is more appropriate,  so the wine is easier to drink.  But basically,  we should leave these herbaceous sauvignons to the French.  Another to cellar a year or two only,  and serve with salads rather than food.  GK 05/09

2008  Waimea Estates Sauvignon Blanc Bolitho   15  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap,  s/s cool extended ferment 5 weeks;  several months LA and stirring;  RS 2.8 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Rich lemon.  Bouquet is straight back to the 1980s,  penetrating capsicum sauvignon with a high percentage of green,  and also a clear snowpeas fragrance.  There are some riper notes,  honeysuckle aromas maybe,  but the astonishing facet is the volume of under-ripe bouquet.  Palate shows why,  the wine being rich and concentrated,  very strong,  but the methoxypyrazines are simply too high and too green,  and the total acid is eye-watering.  The fruit was simply not ripe enough to merit the serious winemaking that has gone into this wine,  for there seems to be trace barrel-ferment as well as the lees autolysis complexities.  It has to earn points for the approach,  but the wine does not reflect contemporary values.  Yet there are Brits who love this hyper-herbaceous approach,  it has to be said.  Cellar a year or two only,  for this will develop the equally not-favoured asparagus flavours.  GK 05/09

2008  Black Estate Riesling   19 +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  11%;  $22   [ screwcap;  riesling planted 1998,  hand-picked @ 1.6 t/ac;  whole-bunch pressed,  long 40-day cool fermentation in s/s;  3 – 4 months lees contact and stirring;  pH 2.98,  RS 48 g/L;  www.blackestate.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is simply sensational middle-Mosel riesling,  in the style of a textbook label such as best Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr or nearby familiar label at a spatlese level.  White florals abound,  going as far as freesia notes,  with holygrass (Hierochloe),  citric and vanillin qualities plus surely some botrytis to achieve such complexity,  just beautiful [15 – 20% botrytis confirmed ].  Palate is full,  lovely pale stonefruits,  spatlese sweetness confirmed,  fine-grained acid,  long,  elegant,  pure.  This is superb riesling,  by either German or New Zealand standards,  one of the best ever made in this country.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 05/09

2007  Babich Riesling Dry   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $20   [ screwcap;  s/s & stop-fermented,  time on lees;  pH 3.2,  RS 5.3 g/L;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  The Babichs have long had a feel for the riesling style,  one I have followed since ordering their inaugural 1970 Riesling-Sylvaner direct from the winery.  [ Which incidentally raises the issue,  it is a great pity nobody is taking the understated but at best demurely beautiful muller-thurgau seriously in New Zealand any more.  In its subtlety and delicate flavours,  this Babich Riesling reminds us that we could make a world-beating example of muller-thurgau as well in New Zealand,  particularly given modern knowledge and practice in the vineyard,  with consequent increases in wine depth and flavour. ]  Back to the riesling.  This wine has all the floral delicacy of fine Mosel too,  with a softness to the subtle limezest terpenes which,  given the dry finish,  is exemplary.  If you have been disappointed by too many German riesling trockens and halbtrockens,  try this New Zealand wine – a revelation.  Being ‘dry’,  it compares with the subtlest Eden and Clare Valley rieslings too,  but is subtler again (though not as dry).  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Tahbilk Riesling   18 ½ +  ()
Nagambie Lakes,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  12.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  s/s elevation;  pH 3.15,  but no RS or other wine detail on winery website,  and ’08 not posted yet @ distributor www.redandwhite.com.au;  www.tahbilk.com.au ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is marvellous on this wine,  riesling with a measure more sun on the grape skins,  introducing subtlest nutmeg and cinnamon-like notes into freesia and holygrass florals.  Palate differs from the New Zealand wines in being drier,  more spicy,  with careful extraction lengthening the limezest palate astonishingly,  though the wine is not phenolic.  Classic good Australian dry riesling,  though bolder than some might prefer.  Comparison with the Babich Dry is fascinating,  the Tahbilk being a little bolder but just as good.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Forrest Riesling Doctors’   18 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  8.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Ri picked @ c.18 Brix and 3.5 t/ac;  s/s;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 2.8,  RS 30 g/L;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  John Forrest and his team are building up quite a reputation with various  incarnations of riesling.  This wine could not be more different from the 2005 Noble Riesling I enthused about last December,  being subtle and fine to the point of Mosel or Saar delicacy.  All the florals and character of the Black riesling are here too,  but petite in comparison.  Yet it is a delight the degree of physiological and flavour maturity the grapes show,  given the Brix at harvest.  It fits exactly into kabinett classification,  and in its beautiful medium / dry delicacy is a New Zealand riesling to be very proud of.  It will cellar deceptively well,  5 – 12 years,  maybe 15.  GK 05/09

2008  Framingham Riesling Classic   18 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  mostly machine-picked from 27-year vines;  very low solids juice cool-fermented in s/s,  stop-fermented;  4 months LA;  pH 2.85,  RS 17.5 g/L;  release date c. Oct 2009;  www.framingham.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is close to the Black in quality,  but not quite so Germanic,  perhaps having slightly less (positively) botrytis-affected berries.  The floral component therefore shows slightly more of the linalool / holygrass riesling signature on bouquet,  all beautifully pure and fragrant.  Palate is a little more aromatic,  explicit riesling with slightly more hoppy terpenes than the other ‘gold medal’ rieslings in the tasting,  a hint of grapefruit,  a bolder New Zealand style where one can see some links to good South Australian examples of the grape (sweetness aside).  Finish is medium-dry,  the low pH making it taste drier than it is.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Villa Maria ] Thornbury Riesling Waipara   18 +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  12%;  $20   [ screwcap;  s/s cool-fermented,  some lees contact;  a Villa Maria group wine;  pH 3.3,  RS 8 g/L;  www.thornburywines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  This is good riesling which could be marked at a gold-medal level,  except that on this occasion it came up against several even more beautiful wines.  The Thornbury therefore looked a little more straightforward.  Bouquet is fragrant white flowers and holygrass,  with no botrytis at all I suspect.  Palate shows the characteristic lime-zest and aromatics of Australasian riesling,  on good fruit probably just above the riesling ‘dry' level.  It is a bolder wine than the top New Zealand examples in this bracket,  and like the Framingham could easily be identified as good Australian.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/09

2006  Waimea Estates Riesling Bolitho   18  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  whole-bunch pressed,  cool s/s fermentation with cultured yeast and no solids;  pH 2.9,  13.8 g/L RS;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  On bouquet this wine has moved from the first white flowers stage of good riesling through to something a little more clover-honeyed,  with a hint of stonefruit.  Suggestions of vanilla wine biscuits are still several years away,  though.  Both bouquet and flavour are quite clear-cut in the Waimea style,  for they show great flair with their aromatic whites.  Finish is above riesling ‘dry’ in sweetness,  but not obviously medium-dry – let's say off-dry.  There are some terpene-y South Australian riesling notes in this one too,  but it is sweeter than most of theirs and should end up honeyed.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2006  Waimea Estates Riesling Dry   18  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  s/s fermentation with cultured yeast and no solids;  several months LA and stirring;  pH 3.05,  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This wine sits happily alongside the Thornbury,  on bouquet showing a similarly pure and nearly Australian approach to riesling,  with lime-zest aromatics and terpenes.  The hoppy aromas and flavours are more noticeable for two reasons:  the wine is two years older,  and it is drier.  Really dry riesling is a hard style to pull off,  the quality depending so much on the ultimate balance of fruit to aromatics,  but this one achieves harmony in a boldly flavoured limezest and pale stonefruit highly varietal way.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2007  Mount Edward Riesling   17 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $21   [ screwcap,  hand-picked,  whole-bunch pressed,  cold-settled to low solids;  s/s wine,  some wild-yeast;  pH 2.95,  14 g/L RS;  www.mountedward.com ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is another in a Germanic Mosel style,  showing clear white florals and a hint of citrus.  Palate is firmer than Mosel though,  with more terpenes.  It is not as limpid as the Babich Dry,  but in some ways is more varietal,  with crisp acid and a long lingering off-dry riesling finish.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 05/09

2006  [ Pipers Brook ] Ninth Island Riesling   17 ½  ()
Northern Tasmania,  Australia:  13.6%;  $22   [ screwcap;  pH 3.3;  not on winery or Red & White website;  www.kreglingerwineestates.com ]
Bright lemon.  Bouquet is evocative on this wine,  with clear freesia and lemon blossom aromas and a delicacy reminding of warm-year Mosel.  Palate is a little stronger in flavour than that though,  some pale nectarine,  some lime-zest,  all just a bit extractive and not as fine as the bouquet initially promised.  Acid balance against the ‘riesling-dry’ finish is fresh and attractive,  but firm.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Mount Edward Riesling The Drumlin   17 +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $30   [ screwcap,  hand-picked,  whole-bunch pressed,  cold-settled to low solids;  s/s wine,  some wild-yeast fermentation;  77 cases;  pH 2.8,  49 g/L RS;  www.mountedward.com ]
Lemongreen.  This wine is still youthful and disorganised,  the acid showing,  and too early to judge ideally.  Style follows from the 2006,  but it seems milder and less aromatic,  showing an intriguing grapefruit suggestion at the moment.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 05/09

2006  Mount Edward Riesling The Drumlin   17 +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  9.5%;  $22   [ screwcap,  hand-picked @ 0.4 t/ac,  no detail,  presumably similar to the 2008 but a little sweeter;  www.mountedward.com ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is less floral than the 2007 standard Mount Edward,  but shows more lime-zest,  so it is just as clearly riesling,  with great purity.  Palate is stronger all round,  more limezest resiny notes,  more acid,  more sugar,  but not quite so harmonious despite the extra year.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 05/09

2006  Mount Edward Riesling   17  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $21   [ screwcap,  hand-picked,  whole-bunch pressed,  cold-settled to low solids;  s/s wine,  analysis presumably similar to the 2007;  307 cases,  now sold-out;  www.mountedward.com ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is clearly varietal,  clean,  fragrant,  a little more hoppy / lime-zesty and less white flowers than the 2007.  Palate accordingly is bolder and quite aromatic.  It is intriguing assessing wine:  though the Waimea Dry looked bold alongside a couple of the delicate Marlborough wines,  that in turn looks subtle alongside this one.  Finish is off-dry,  though the nett  impression against pH and TA is more riesling ‘dry' .  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Bald Hills Riesling Last Light   16 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $25   [ screwcap,  hand-picked,  pH 3.07,  12 g/L RS;  www.baldhills.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  In the blind line-up,  this is a broader wine without the precise white flowers varietal quality a number of the more highly-rated riesling wines show.  Instead there is a white stonefruits quality confuseable with pinot gris,  even pinot gris with a touch of gewurztraminer.  Palate is bold and flavoursome,  some lime-zest varietal characters apparent now,  a full-bodied quite rich wine with off-dry sweetness.  I marked it well as pinot gris,  at the blind stage,  and it is attractive drinking.  In the varietal class,  as riesling it scores somewhat lower,  as the alcohol might imply,  but the flavours are good all the same.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Waimea Estates ] Spinyback Riesling   16 ½  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $14   [ screwcap;  cool s/s fermentation with cultured yeast and no solids;  pH 3.1,  13.7 g/L RS;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  the deepest colour in the riesling bracket.  There is a lot of bouquet to this wine,  and it tastes quite rich,  so at the blind stage it caused some confusion,  particularly since some of the viognier samples were riesling-like.  Bouquet includes clear yellow honeysuckle florals which fill out in mouth to rich stonefruit flavours with lime-zest notes too,  attractive.  The medium sweetness doesn't quite marry with the phenolics (botrytis influence maybe ?) though,  so while this is rich flavoursome wine which should be good with some foods,  as riesling it is on the coarse side.  Cellar 1 – 3 years only might be best.  GK 05/09

2006  Wild Earth Riesling   15 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.4%;  $24   [ screwcap;  cool 6-week s/s fermentation with cultured yeast,  stopped at desired residual;  3 months LA;  pH 3.1,  28 g/L RS;  www.wildearthwines.co.nz ]
Paleish lemongreen.  Bouquet shows fruit of a palest kind,  pearflesh more than anything,  a bit flat as if it had been on ullage at some stage.  Palate likewise is quite rich,  but the flavours tend to plain pinot gris more than riesling,  medium-dry,  though with some resiny undertones.  More aromatic QDW,  not worth cellaring.  GK 05/09

Pinot Gris
2007  Gibbston Valley Pinot Gris   18 +  ()
Bendigo & Gibbston districts,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  if similar to 2008,  is hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  85% s/s-fermented,  15 BF in older oak,  then total blend 3 months LA and stirring;  www.gvwines.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Australian wine people are known to say that you can always recognise a pinot gris,  because the wine smells and tastes of absolutely nothing.  This reflects I guess the impossibility of their climate,  when it comes to subtle varieties.  They need to smell a pinot gris such as this Gibbston Valley example or the Babich.  In one sense this is even more floral,  pure and varietal than the Babich,  though it does not have the vendage tardive notes.  It is floral in an English white-flowers sense,  more pale stonefruit than pearflesh (notwithstanding its greater ripeness at picking),  with attractive texture and beautifully-handled phenolics.  It is a little richer than the Babich,  and despite my thoughts on over-ripeness / high alcohol in pinot gris,  it is beautifully varietal.  It is comparable with the 2007 Villa Maria Taylors Pass wine in that respect.  Finish is off-dry.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Babich Pinot Gris   18  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap,  15% BF in old French oak (youngest 4 years) with 5 months LA and stirring to enhance texture,  balance s/s aerated as needed;  no wild yeast component,  no MLF;  RS 6 g/L;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Straw,  a faint orange flush.  Bouquet is gorgeous,  exactly what one of the now well-established styles of good New Zealand pinot gris smells like,  even allowing there may be a splash of gewurztraminer in it [ yes – later inquiry shows that like the lovely Astrolabe wine,  there are augmenting varieties in this wine ].  Bouquet therefore shows the varietal complexity such pinot gris can have,  when not over-ripened.  There is good fruit with aromas of rosepetal,  white nectarines and sultanas steeped in warm water,  and a suggestion of high solids which at this level can be positive.  There are reminders here of Alsatian pinot gris taken through to the vendage tardive stage too,  just a suggestion of dried peaches.  Palate wraps all these characters into a fruit-rich flavour,  the varietal phenolics covered by subtle residual sugar,  the whole wine long with some body as befits its pinot heritage,  but not quite as rich as the bouquet promised. This is exciting wine,  illustrating a delightful light fragrant style contrasting with all-too-often overly alcoholic pear-flesh examples – usually as a consequence of over-ripening it.  Finish is long on stonefruits,  surprisingly  ‘dry’,  inside the dry riesling class.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Pipers Brook Pinot Gris   17 ½ +  ()
Northern Tasmania,  Australia:  13.5%;  $29   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  short skin contact;  some BF;  RS not given on winery or Red & White website;  www.kreglingerwineestates.com ]
Pale slightly flushed lemonstraw.  Wow,  here is a real pinot gris from Australia !  This is a complex wine,  showing rosepetal and pearflesh characters of pinot gris in exactly the augmented New Zealand style,  plus the impression of subtle complexing via old-oak barrel ferment,  lees-autolysis,  and maybe even a little MLF.  The result is fragrant,  fresh on perhaps natural acid,  and the fruit speaks louder than the winemaking artefact.  Even so,  it does remind of some New Zealand examples where the thought of chardonnay arises on the attractive body,  but here the bouquet takes one back to pinot gris.  This is intriguing wine to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Gris   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  intensively managed vines with one bunch per shoot to concentrate character,  hand-picked;  whole-bunch pressed,  settled;  50% BF mostly wild yeast,  50% s/s cultured yeast;  9 months LA and some stirring but no MLF for both fractions;  RS 4 g/L;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  All the wines above this one in the pinot gris ranking are explicitly varietal,  but some perhaps not so finessed as this Martinborough Vineyard one.  This pinot gris is exquisitely finely cut,  but in the process has lost some varietal vitality and moved towards a grand cru Chablis style of chardonnay.  As such it is almost acacia-floral on bouquet,  with delicate white stone fruits too.  Palate continues the white stone fruits,  subtly shaped by both barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis,  but I imagine no MLF [ correct ].  Thus in contrast to Larry McKenna's interpretation also from Martinborough,  the delicate florals run right into the palate,  with not too much clutter.  Finish is near-dry,  delicate,  a wine crying out for scallops.  Assuming there is an old-oak barrel-ferment component in this wine,  it is an absolute object lesson in how seasoned oak should be used with a subtle variety such as pinot gris.  This could be scored at the gold medal level,  as chardonnay.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Waimea Pinot Gris   17 ½ +  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  s/s fermentation with cultured yeast and no solids;  fermentation stopped at RS 6.8 g/L,  then several months LA and stirring;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Straw.  Bouquet combines elements of the Babich and Gibbston Valley wines,  again illustrating some of the desired characters for New Zealand pinot gris.  First and foremost the wine must be floral and fragrant,  reflecting its pinot heritage.  Then while it should have body,  it must not wander too far into the chardonnay style in its elevage (as I grumbled about in Larry McKenna’s latest),  which is easy to achieve with such a delicate variety.  The white nectarine component of this Waimea wine is delightful.  Palate is not quite so good,  a little phenolic with sugar to cover that,  but here not achieved as well as the Gibbston.  Nonetheless the stonefruits linger delightfully,  into a ‘riesling-dry’ finish.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Gladstone Pinot Gris 12 000 Miles   17 ½  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $21   [ screwcap;  low-solids juice fermented in s/s,  extended LA;  RS 2.5 g/L;  www.gladstone.co.nz ]
Light straw,  a faint orange flush.  This is another wine with attractive New Zealand pinot gris characters that may owe something to a handful of gewurz,  but the nett result on bouquet is mock-orange blossom florality and even a hint of strawberry (+ve) on nectarine fruit.  Palate shows clear pinot gris flavours,  a hint of dried peaches as well as nectarine,  varietal phenolics there but not too obtrusive,  and neatly balanced to residual at around the riesling ‘dry' level [wrong,  lower].  Great to  see this winery getting its sulphur use in whites sorted.  This is the best wine I have seen in the 12 000 Miles series.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Astrolabe Pinot Gris Voyage   17 ½  ()
Awatere & Waihopai Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  PG 94%,  Gw 4,  Ch 2,  mostly machine-harvested;  most de-stemmed and fermented without solids,  some whole-bunch pressed and fermented with solids,  all cool-fermented in s/s,  no oak or MLF influence (unlike the 2007);  RS 6.2 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Colour is a little different from the 2007,  slightly flushed straw.  Bouquet is much more aromatic and fragrant than the 2007,  but whereas the 2007 smells of beautiful yellow flowers,  the 2008 smells of rosepetal,  pearflesh and nashi pear,  due to threshold VA.  Palate on the 2008 is fragrant,  well-fruited but simpler than the 2007,  without the latter's lovely rich texture from 25% MLF and the complexity of a dash of riesling.  Instead,  the 2008 shows the gewurztraminer a little too clearly to respect the delicate pinot gris totally,  on a slightly drier ‘riesling-dry’ finish.  These two vintages of the one wine make an exceptionally interesting pair in terms of massaging pinot gris character in different ways,  yet both are good examples of the ‘augmented’ New Zealand interpretation of this variety.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Triplebank Pinot Gris   17 +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap,  s/s wine,  cultured yeast;  2 months LA;  RS 8.5 g/L;  http://www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Light straw,  a faint flush.  Bouquet is understated,  but on close examination shows pearflesh,  palest stonefruits and a hint of cinnamon.  Palate is more clearly pinot gris,  the same flavours,  no oak but some varietal phenolics giving backbone,  on a mild nearly riesling-‘dry' finish.  Good mainstream pinot gris,  to cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Waimea Estates ] Spinyback Pinot Gris   17 +  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $17   [ screwcap;  100% de-stemmed,  cold-settled;  cool fermentation with cultured yeast in s/s;  fermentation stopped at RS 5.7 g/L,  then three months LA and stirring;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Straw.  Bouquet for this wine also reminds of the Alsatian vendage tardive style,  showing sultana and dried peach qualities which are explicitly varietal.  The palate is strongly flavoured,  with perhaps a positive botrytis component adding to the dried peaches,  and trace VA.  The nett result is a little coarser than the mainstream Waimea label,  but curiously this wine seems a little dryer too.  In a country where so much pinot gris is sweet anonymous QDW,  an affordable clearly varietal wine like this deserves celebration,  even though purists could criticise it.  Cellar 1 – 3  years only,  maybe.  GK 05/09

2008  Bald Hills Pinot Gris   17  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $21   [ screwcap,  s/s wine,  cool-fermented,  2 months LA;  RS 8 g/L;  winemaker Grant Taylor;  www.baldhills.co.nz ]
Palest lemonstraw.  This wine is so youthful there are still amyl acetate notes to marry away.  Below that is very pure pale stonefruit and suggestions of pearflesh.  In mouth,  the flavour of pearflesh develops,  and the pinot gris identity becomes more clear-cut.  Richness is reasonable,  the residual sugar a little above the riesling ‘dry' level giving a misleading impression.  Should be much more together in a year,  and illustrate a scarcely or no-oak [ none ] approach to the variety.  Cellar 2 – 6  years.  GK 05/09

2008  Gladstone Pinot Gris   16 ½ +  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $21   [ screwcap;  some fruit machine-picked,  some hand;  low-solids juice 30% BF including some wild-yeast ferments,  70% s/s;  extended LA and stirring;  RS 5 g/L;  www.gladstone.co.nz ]
Pale straw,  slightly flushed.  Bouquet is clear-cut pinot gris,  stonefruit including some nectarine and dried peach,  a touch of cinnamon,  all lifted by quite high alcohol.  Palate is flavoursome but lesser,  the alcohol highlighting the phenolics,  and not yet harmonising with the residual sweetness.  Better in a year,  and cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 05/09

2008  [ Craggy Range ] Wild Rock Pinot Gris sur Lie   16 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  PG 100%,  hand-harvested;  whole-bunch pressed;  some BF in older oak,  some s/s;  6  months LA,  no reference to MLF in site-notes;  RS 5.4 g/L;  www.wildrockwine.co.nz ]
Pale straw.  Better admit it,  I was fearful when I saw the label ‘pinot gris sur-lie’,  wondering if a marketer was out to create a virtue of the classic fault so often found in Muscadet-sur-Lie.  A label like this helps explain why I go to the time-consuming botheration in this case,  of creating a rigorously blind flight of 94 white wines.  And in the tasting notes,  no such fears were realised,  wine 48 being described as pinot gris,  a hint of rosepetal and pearflesh,  some cinnamon too.  Palate is medium weight,  a little coarser,  the varietal phenolics noticeable partly because the wine is drier than the average New Zealand pinot gris.  There is no hint of sulphur issues,  so it must have been well aerated while sur-lie.  It will therefore be a food-friendly wine.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Amisfield Pinot Gris   16 ½  ()
Lowburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $35   [ screwcap;  PG 100%,  hand-picked,  whole-bunch pressed;  early-picked fractions fermented in s/s,  later-picked wild-yeast BF;  5 months LA in French oak;  www.amisfield.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This is another wine which in the blind tasting is identified as a fragrant chablis-like chardonnay,  with delicate floral components but also a hint of VA.  Palate shows a lightly yellow-floral flavour,  as found in Alsatian pinot gris,  grading into white stone fruits and lees-autolysis complexities.  Total acid is a little high,  and body a little low,  but the nett result is ‘dry’ and should be attractive with a little more time in bottle to marry up.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Neudorf Pinot Gris Moutere   16 ½  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  whole-bunch pressed;  the younger-vines fruit BF with wild yeast in older French oak with some solids,  the older Mission-clone part wild yeast and warm-fermented in s/s over 24 days;  7 months LA and some stirring;  RS 11.6 g/L;  129 cases;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is youthful at this stage,  still showing some SO2 to marry in.  In the blind tasting this seems a pure but very subtle pearflesh version of pinot gris (perhaps because the wine is 100% varietal),  and some lees-autolysis of near-baguette quality,  but again subtle.  Palate is rich,  but so far lacks flavour.  Finish is above riesling ‘dry' in sweetness [ confirmed ].  Pinot gris is subtle at the best of times,  a character sometimes exacerbated by over-ripeness (the Aussie dilemma referred to).  But the alcohol here is 13.7%,  which should be within bounds.  Puzzled by this wine,  which shares something with Larry McKenna’s much-worked Martinborough wine already referred to.  In both wines there is this risk of the winemaking overtaking the varietal character.  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  for it will certainly develop more character on both the richness and the elegant lees-autolysis.  Whether it ends up more chablis-like or more varietal remains to be seen.

An ‘issue’ is developing in the appraisal of New Zealand pinot gris.  Many commentators mark them as variously full-bodied whites,  particularly in Australia where the variety lacks character.  Conversely I believe the variety has beautiful varietal character when handled appropriately,  and in a climate such as New Zealand’s,  the wines should express that.  Pinot gris is a pinot-family grape,  and when not over-ripened is floral.  I therefore specifically seek the yellow-floral varietal character of fine pinot gris,  and tend to mark down the ubiquitous pearflesh character of over-ripened fruit so praised in New Zealand.  Hence my recent low scoring of Larry McKenna’s much-praised pinot gris.  Neudorf Pinot Gris enjoys a similar reputation,  but I believe careful tasters must mark the wine,  not the label or the proprietor’s reputation.  The latter phenomenon is more common than one might suppose.  GK 05/09

2008  Tinpot Hut Pinot Gris   16 +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.3%;  $19   [ screwcap,  all s/s ferments and elevation with cultured yeasts;  RS 6.3 g/L;  www.tinpothut.co.nz ]
Pale straw.  Bouquet is as pure and subtle as the Neudorf,  but has only the pearflesh component without the elegant lees-autolysis.  Palate is pure pearflesh,  seemingly quite alcoholic,  more acid than the Neudorf and hence shorter,  with less flavour but equal purity.  This wine gives the impression of being 100% pinot gris.  Like the Neudorf,  it will gain complexity in cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 05/09

2006  [ Pipers Brook ] Ninth Island Pinot Grigio   16  ()
Northern Tasmania,  Australia:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  no info on winery website other than is s/s wine,  Red & White one miscues;  www.kreglingerwineestates.com ]
Light straw.  Bouquet still has a little sulphur showing,  and the wine benefits from splashy decanting.  Behind that pinot gris characters in the New Zealand rosepetal / pearflesh sense can be smelt.  Palate brings light pearflesh characters forward in a simple stainless steel way,  all slightly stalky / phenolic and drier than the average New Zealand ‘riesling-dry’ wine.  This is quite good pinot gris by Australian standards,  straightforward by New Zealand,  to cellar for several years.  GK 06/09

2008  Waimea Estates Gewurztraminer   19  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested very ripe,  whole-bunch pressed,  long cool s/s fermentation with cultured yeast and minimal solids;  6 weeks LA and stirring;  pH 3.85,  RS 6.3 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Lemon,  a great colour for gewurztraminer.  Initially opened,  there is a whisper of sulphur and mercaptan in the Alsatian style.  Decant the wine into an open-mouthed jug,  and leave for an hour or two.  It then reveals a simply sensational gewurztraminer bouquet of Alsace vendage tardive quality,  in which the alcohol is well hidden (gewurztraminer like viognier and grenache hides alcohol well).  There are marvellous yellow florals including both wild ginger and yellow honeysuckle,  and explicit lychee fruit spiced by citronella and backed by stonefruit.  This bouquet (once breathed) is simply stunning.  Palate follows on beautifully,  sufficient phenolics to give backbone to the strong flavours,  excellent acid,  ‘riesling-dry’ sweetness (but appearing medium-dry due to the high pH),  all combining to give great texture and length.  Thank heaven for a wine not made to wine-school formulae – here beauty has come before science.  The complexity of flavour suggests there might be some barrel fermentation in old oak here –  if so it has been done superbly – but it could be just the depth of flavour on gewurz aromatics [ no oak ].  This is Alsatian grand cru quality gewurztraminer from New Zealand,  for $22.  It will be better still in a year,  and will cellar 2 – 6 years.  Keep an eye on it though,  noting the pH.  GK 05/09

2007  Babich Gewurztraminer Gimblett Gravels   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  post-crushing skin contact to increase flavour;  cool controlled-temperature 100% BF in old French oak puncheons with some wild yeast;  9 months LA and stirring,  no MLF;  RS 9.3 g/L;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  This is a subtler and purer wine than the Waimea,  the volume of English rose varietal bouquet being extraordinary.  Below are wild ginger blossom and lychee aromas of good gewurztraminer,  all crisper and cooler than the opulent Waimea.  Palate is fresher and more fragrant too,  just a slight suggestion of the closely-related muscat grape,  all slightly sweeter,  but the saturation of these flavours is just as good,  due I suspect to well-aerated lees-autolysis,  and possibly even subtlest MLF [ not likely,  on later inquiry ].  It is scarcely a question of better or worse between these two,   rather just two wonderfully contrasting styles of Alsatian-quality gewurztraminer to revel in.  This wine illustrates an exciting way to make gewurz.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Gewurztraminer Patutahi    18 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $36   [ screwcap,  Gw 100% hand-picked mostly from the Patutahi vineyard,  table-sorted;  whole-bunch pressed low-solids juice,  cultured yeast,  s/s and stop-fermented;  3 months LA,  no oak at all;  pH 3.47,  RS 17 g/L;  background on www.montana.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemon,  another great colour for gewurztraminer.  This is an intriguing wine,  highly sophisticated,  giving the impression of having all the complexity and winemaking inputs of the Waimea gewurztraminer,  but all mellowed out so the wine is deliberately not so dramatically varietal.  Bouquet is gentle yellow florals and lychee,  but smells rich,  leading into a palate which is as rich as the Waimea but much milder,  and likewise clearly milder against the more zingy Babich.  Even so,  the flavours last wonderfully in a very mouthfilling way,  and the body and gentleness would make it a superb food wine,  appropriately matched.  Some previous "P"s have shown more VA than I care for,  but this one is fine.  In the sense that wine is for food,  I think I have to mark this at the gold-medal level,  for though it is not as exciting as the top two wines,  texturally it is superb.  Finish is long and pretty well medium,  sweeter than the other two.  Montana could do more with their fabulous Gisborne gewurz resources than they have so far,  their approach being 'diluted' by the high residual sugars.  More reliance on flavour is needed.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 05/09

2006  Matua Valley Gewurztraminer Judd Estate   17 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  (if like the 2007) hand-harvested,  6 hours skin contact as must;  s/s fermentation;  pH 3.1,  RS 8 g/L;  www.matua.co.nz ]
Straw washed with gold.  This is a different style of gewurz,  which first came to notice in New Zealand with the Babich 1979,  a wet year with excess botrytis.  The key character in such wines is the fresh root-ginger smells and flavours through both bouquet and palate,  which don't suit everybody.  By the same token,  they suit some Asian spicy foods superbly.  Palate is tending raw and phenolic,  and shows a little VA as is often the case with such wines,  but it is richly flavoured.  Finish is off-dry.  These wines appear to age very quickly at first,  such that one thinks they should be all drunk by 3 years,  yet they can hang on surprisingly well.  Scoring for wines like this is arbitrary,  for some would say the wine is too phenolic and clumsy,  whereas others like the heaps of flavour.  Probably better used sooner than later,  all the same – a couple more years.  GK 05/09

2006  Saints Gewurztraminer Gisborne   17  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap,  not often Pernod-Ricard omit a wine from their comprehensive website data file,  but this one missing.  Big change in winemaking from 2004 to 2008,  this one before MLF trials in gewurz,  pH 3.31,  RS 12.2;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemongreen,  younger in appearance than the top two wines.  This is a lighter simpler and sweeter version of gewurztraminer,  more a stainless steel wine,  but it is still specifically varietal in the way New Zealand (at best) captures easily.  We are one of the few countries in the world besides Alsace to do justice to the beauty of gewurztraminer.  Bouquet is subtly floral,  freesias,  citrus blossom and nearly wild ginger,  building on lychee fruit.  Palate develops the lychee,  showing softer phenolics than the top two examples (gewurztraminer is allowed some ‘bite’).  Sweeter again than the Babich,  more medium-dry,  this is an easy and attractive wine which should be good with mild Asian foods.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 05/09

2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Corbans Huntaway Gewurztraminer   16 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $23   [ screwcap;  all machine-harvested from the former Matawhero vineyard;  complex fermentation initially cool in s/s,  then 76% to an old oak cuve and stop-fermented,  24% to ‘seasoned’ barrels to ferment to dryness with complete MLF;  all the wine then on light lees with stirring for 12 months;  pH 3.63,  RS 6 g/L;  background @ www.huntaway.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Deep lemon.  New oak in gewurztraminer has the potential to be awkward,  unless it is barrel-fermented and benefits from the phenolics-fining lees effect.  That didn’t quite work in this case,  and the bouquet is raw,  oaky and strong.  Although there is a lot of yellow fruit,  the oak is dominant with some VA.  Palate is almost reminiscent of a golden queen peach creme brulée,  but still oaky,  medium dry.  This would have been so much better with much older oak,  for the nett impression is pretty raucous.  The complexity of the winemaking approach must be applauded though,  there may even be some MLF complexity,  the fruit is good,  and there is plenty of flavour and body.  Making wine is an evolutionary process.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  to mellow.  GK 05/09

2008  Pipers Brook Gewurztraminer   16  ()
Northern Tasmania,  Australia:  13.5%;  $29   [ screwcap;  harvested from mostly 24-year old vines at Pipers Brook vineyard;  some skin contact;  all s/s;  RS not given  on winery or Red & White website;  www.kreglingerwineestates.com ]
Pale lemongreen.  Bouquet is clean,  clear,  and strong,  but more muscat than gewurztraminer as we know it in New Zealand or Alsace.  Palate has the short,  acid (adjusted ?),  biting quality of under-ripe muscat,  nearly a spearmint hint and old-fashioned hair-oil,  no lychee at all.  Finish is neatly ‘riesling-dry’,  the best part of the wine.  As gewurz if strictly marked by Alsatian / New Zealand standards,  it would be under bronze medal,  not varietal,  but as a strongly-flavoured aromatic white that might be too severe.  A  wine to compare with torrontes from Argentina,  which some people like.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/09

2008  Tahbilk Viognier   17 +  ()
Nagambie Lakes,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  12.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  s/s elevation;  not much wine detail on winery website,  and ’08 not posted yet @ distributor www.redandwhite.com.au;  www.tahbilk.com.au ]
Brilliant lemon,  super-polished.  Bouquet is voluminous,  but not quite pinpoint viognier.  I suspect Tahbilk winemakers have become hooked on one of these so-called aromatic yeasts for some of their whites.  So while there are intriguing citrus blossom and mandarin aromas and fresh-cut apricot too,  there is also a suggestion of the same clumsy mango character showing in the chardonnay.  Palate is fresh,  crisp,  scarcely showing any barrel-ferment [ none ] or lees-autolysis complexity at all,  with perhaps some added tartaric hardening the finish.  Good viognier but not great,  all a little too exotic by classical Condrieu standards,  to cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Waimea Estates Viognier   16 +  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  most of the must s/s cool-fermentation with cultured yeast and (happily) no solids;  a smaller fraction BF at warmer temperatures in older oak;  fermentations to 5 weeks,  then two months LA and stirring;  RS 3 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is stunningly pure,  but in the blind tasting comes across more as riesling than viognier.  Tasting it with that mindset,  the wine doesn't gel too well,  being a little hollow and acid.  Then the thought occurs that there is a very light flavour of under-ripe apricots,  so perhaps it is a cool-climate viognier,  with residual sweetness used carefully to extend the palate.  A neat but understated wine,  acid but beautifully made,  needing more viticultural warmth than Nelson readily offers,  I fear,  if the wine is to have flavour.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 05/09

2007  Babich Viognier   16  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ cork;  25% BF in older French oak (youngest 3 years),  balance s/s;  5 months LA and stirring,  no MLF or wild yeast;  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Elegant lemon.  Bouquet is pure and fragrant,  but does not immediately declare:  I am viognier.  Teasing the wine out,  there are subtle citrus zest notes closer to grapefruit than orange,  and hints of yellow florals.  In mouth,  the grapefruit note becomes dominant,  with a hoppy terpene-like quality to it,  so the dry finish has a grapefruit-pith bitterness on the phenolics.  Was this picked too early ?  Viognier really needs to ripen to overt fresh apricot,  to achieve florality and harmony in mouth.  And there is the desirability of an MLF component in its elevation,  which when well-handled does wonders for the mouthfeel and pleasure of the wine,  as the 2008 Passage Rock wine from Waiheke so elegantly illustrates.  This Babich might be hard to match to food,  though there is fair body.  Something citrus-themed could be good.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 05/09

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2008  Mount Edward Pinot Blanc   17  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $21   [ screwcap,  s/s wine,  cultured yeast;  no MLF;  RS 12 g/L;  not on website;  www.mountedward.com ]
Lemongreen.  Pinot blanc is like pinot gris:  to be good,  it must show its pinot inheritance,  and ideally be floral.  These goals are achieved beautifully on bouquet,  which hints at some elegant subtle champagnes.  Palate lets the wine down though,  being stainless-steel,  slightly phenolic,  and sweet to cover that.  The marks are mainly for bouquet,  therefore.  Much more could be done with base material of this quality,  moving the wine towards initially the Alsatian ‘edelzwicker’ concept,  and later perhaps with oldest oak and dry or nearly so,  into pinot blanc proper.  The ever-reliable Steven Spurrier defines the edelzwicker winestyle as:  It is always white and dry, with the typical Alsace flowery aromas, refreshing and easy to drink on its own or with a meal.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 05/09

2008  Tahbilk Marsanne   16 ½ +  ()
Nagambie Lakes,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  s/s elevation;  made from vines planted in 1927;  not much wine detail on winery website,  and ’08 not posted yet @ distributor www.redandwhite.com.au;  www.tahbilk.com.au ]
Bright lemon.  Bouquet is distinctive on this wine,  but as commented for the viognier,  the ‘fruitiness' seems augmented relative to either marsanne from the Rhone Valley,  or Tahbilk’s Marsanne from the 1970s.  The result is attractive in its own style,  thoughts of cherimoya and mandarin being dominant.  Palate is firm,  again more strongly fruity than the prototype,  not oaked,  slightly phenolic,  dry.  Some gilding of the of the lily here,  I suspect,  which might affect its legendary cellar-keeping qualities.  Cellar 2 – 5 years maybe.  GK 05/09