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

Geoff Kelly  MSc (Hons)

Introduction   (mostly shared with the Syrah Symposium report)
As a lead-in to Pinot Noir 2010,  Hawkes Bay WineGrowers hosted two red wine Conferences in Hawkes Bay.  The first day was the Cabernet / Merlot Forum on Friday 29 January,  with a joint Conference dinner in the evening,  followed by the Syrah Symposium Saturday 30.  Since inquiries exceeded places,  the bookings and stats available are for both,  as a package deal.  144 people enrolled,  51 of them from overseas,  only 11 of those being Australian,  the balance coming from 9 other countries amongst which the United Kingdom contingent were most evident due to some high-profile wine-writers.  The impression was the Syrah day attracted a little more excitement than the first day,  but there wasn't much in it.  And it was certainly great to have the winemaking consultant for the first-growth-equivalent Ch Cheval-Blanc amongst us.  With only the Sunday off,  Pinot Noir 2010 started in Wellington on the evening of Monday 1 February,  continuing through to late on the Thursday.  This was certainly a saturated wine season,  without even mentioning the follow-up Aromatic 1-day Conference in Nelson on Saturday 6 February.  

The Hawkes Bay Conferences started on a lower-key note than the Pinot Noir Conference proper,  but a pleasing one.  A spokesman for Air New Zealand (one of the main sponsors for the Hawkes Bay programme) made the point that the airline sees New Zealand wine as critical to the branding of the company.  Their goal is to have demonstrably superior wine at each fare level,  to differentiate Air New Zealand from competitors.  Such is their progress with this,  that New Zealand syrah has already displaced Australian shiraz,  in terms of volume used.

THE CABERNET / MERLOT FORUM:  The Forum comprised approximately six seminars and four tastings,  the day concluding with a round-up all-speakers panel questions and discussion session,  and then a Hawkes Bay WineGrowers "Showcase Tasting".  The task set me was to report on the tastings and the wines.  However,  it was good to hear some of the research reports confirming positions which an experienced taster could come to intuitively,  and there was much else of interest.  A few impressions,  therefore,  before the wine reviews which conclude the report.

New Zealand Case Study,  and Tasting:  Peter Hurlstone
In the first session,  Peter Hurlstone,  chief winemaker for Corbans within the Pernod-Ricard group,  but speaking for the group,  mentioned:
#  the group makes 20% of all New Zealand's bordeaux-blend red wine,  and merlot amounts to 70% of it
#  cropping rates range from 1.2 kg / linear metre for premium wines to 3.2 kg for commercial wines.  Comment:  What a great day it will be when New Zealand wine companies adopt a standardised cropping rate measure that means something to the consumer,  as the Europeans have done.  If we consider four of the principal players in the Hawkes Bay production of fine bordeaux blends,  we now have Villa Maria advising cropping rate in kg / vine (or even more arcanely,  shoots / vine),  with no hint of vines per unit area so it is meaningless as to cropping rate (though we know that figures clearly less than c.1 kg / vine imply the kind of quality I refer to in the Pinot Noir 2010 review as a 'grand cru cropping rate'),  Pernod-Ricard are now advising cropping rates in kg / linear metre of row,  meaningless for the same reasons,  Craggy Range are thankfully setting the standard and advising cropping rate in hl / ha,  as the French do,  ultimately to be the most meaningful to the consumer (preferably accompanied by planting density) though we still prefer tonnes / ha or (more lazily,  and still including this website) tons / acre,  and Te Mata steadfastly refuse to provide any cropping rate information at all.  This is a subject where New Zealand WineGrowers initiatives are needed,  if we are to be taken seriously as a premium producer.  The reason why producers such as Te Mata are so coy,  and other companies are so reticent about being direct,  is likely to be a simple one.  One look at the vineyard stats for the great Ch Palmer in Margaux district reveals a planting density of 10,000 vines / ha,  and a cropping rate working out at about 600 grams per vine.  None of our self-styled high-end producers can match that (on average),  hence the obfuscation.  Even the straightforward Ch Meyney in St Estephe crops at c.800g / vine.  Food for thought.
#  all barrel (but not oak) purchases now are European,  with three-year air-dried oak preferred for premium use.
#  while by volume already more than 90% of their wine is bottled under screwcap,  nonetheless their experience is that wine ageing is enhanced under cork.
#  whereas once there was concern to keep all red pHs under 3.6,  now up to 3.85 is tolerated,  in the interests of mouthfeel and texture.  They attribute this learning to their relatively recent partnership with Cordier (of Bordeaux).  Comment:  anybody interested in classical wine,  not Roseworthy-trained,  and with access to a pH meter,  was aware of this decades ago.
#  nowadays cuvaison can extend to 45 days,  for premium batches.
#  there is increasing use of oxygenation in maceration / fermentation,  and for commercial wines,  much more use of pasteurisation post-ferment.

Tasting 1:     2 wines

2007  Church Road [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Tom
  2008  Montana Merlot / Cabernet North Island

This simple tasting of two wines was dramatic in displaying the range the Pernod-Ricard group of companies covers,  from commercial wines completely machine-harvested at heavy cropping rates,  and elevage more with oak in stainless steel,  contrasting with classical wines harvested by hand at a much lower cropping rate per hectare,  and raised in barrels in the traditional way.  The wines were dramatically different in smell,  taste and texture,  though technically of equal standing,  and clearly in the same general wine style.  They perfectly illustrated the difference between an (at best special price) $14 supermarket wine at a shippers Bordeaux Rouge AOC level,  and an $85 – $100 totally classed growth internationally fine wine.

Marketing,  followed by Research
Between this introductory tasting,  and the keenly awaited Bordeaux one,  Simon Tam spoke on marketing New Zealand wine to Chinese people,  as opposed to selling wine to China.  Then Dr Petra King presented research results which will lead to optimising fruit quality in merlot.  Both presentations had much to say to marketing and viticultural practitioners respectively,  though even to a taster it is gratifying to see tabulated / graphical confirmation of,  for example:  decreasing must sugar and increasing must acid as a function of increasing cropping rate.  And that trellis designs which optimise fruit exposure,  coupled with appropriate leaf removal / canopy management,  lead in the finished wine to increased aroma,  palate length,  perceived ripeness and overall wine quality.  This work is reported on by New Zealand WineGrower from time to time,  and will be published in more specialised journals.

French Case Study,  and Tasting:  Prof. Kees van Leeuwen
The Cabernet / Merlot Forum organisers did well to secure Prof. Kees van Leeuwen from the Bordeaux Agricultural University and consulting winemaker to Ch Cheval Blanc.  He talked about achieving red wine quality in Bordeaux,  and presented a tasting illustrating the concept of quality there.  Ch Cheval Blanc,  one of two St Emilion "first growths" and hence one of Bordeaux's most noble red wines,  runs an extensive research programme,  currently with great emphasis on clonal variation in methoxy-pyrazine production in cabernet franc.  There were many snippets of interest to a wine taster:
#  there are several very good clones of merlot available in Bordeaux,  but not of cabernet franc.          
#  methoxy-pyrazine concentration varies widely in clones of cabernet franc.
#  beware of clonal selection eroding genetic diversity / resources in a variety.
#  the speaker's definition of terroir was along the lines of:  an interactive ecosystem,  in a given place,  including climate,  soil and the vine – a sense of place.  Interestingly,  the role of people in achieving that integrated sense of wine and place was not much mentioned.
#  smaller berries have higher potential for making quality red wines.
#  red wine quality is positively correlated with increasing grape skin phenolics including anthocyanins.
#  under water deficit,  grapes contain less malic acid and more anthocyanins.
#  Sugar content is optimal when water deficit is moderate,  and the quality rating of the vintage correlates with increasing water deficit – but only up to a point.
#  Merlot is particularly prone to stress by water deficit,  and hence is better on higher-clay soils.

Tasting 2:     6 wines.

2006  Ch Belair
2006  Ch Bourgneuf
2006  Ch Cheval Blanc
  2006  Ch de Fonbel
2006  Ch Fonroque
2006  Ch la Serre

This tasting presented wines spanning the better half of the hierarchy of 2006 St Emilions plus one Pomerol,  ranging from one of the 200-plus St Emilion Grand Crus (a fairly meaningless ranking,  around the US$20 – 25 mark) via two of the 58 or so Grand Cru Classé wines costing around US$30 – 100,  then to one of the 14 Premier Grand Cru Classé B wines (US$50 – 200) and finally Cheval-Blanc itself,  one of the two Premier Grand Cru Classé A wines,  at prices varying with vintage,  in our case c.US$700.  The goal was to illustrate the hierarchy of better-quality wine rankings in St Emilion mainly,  and this was vividly achieved.  In appraising these wines,  to a New Zealander,  the two startling impressions were the extent to which our European visitors did not comment on brett,  and then the beauty but subtlety of the "first-growth-equivalent" Cheval Blanc.  At around $US700 it was really quite a petite wine,  yet it displayed exactly why good red bordeaux enchants wine-lovers worldwide.  It also vividly displayed why so many new world aspirants to the style fail.  It is doubtful however that those wedded to big,  brawny,  oaky,  high-alcohol,  over-ripe or sometimes mixed-ripeness cabernet / merlots would have perceived this.  The Cheval was optimally ripe,  yet subtle and delicate,  not qualities admired in some new world wine-making countries.  

At the other end of the scale,  it is always startling to be reminded how ordinary even middling bordeaux can be.  This must offer export hopes for a country such as New Zealand which is so uniquely placed climatically to match the exact bordeaux winestyle.  Unfortunately we cannot easily match the pricing from our only climatic competitor,  Chile.  And affordable 'claret'-style wines such as the Montana shown earlier in the day are not quite 'winey' enough.  Villa Maria in their PB series have shown what can be achieved in this sector,  though.  In the reviews following,  ratings and summary notes on the wines from Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker (or Wine Spectator for one) have been added (long after my notes were written),  to help see the wines in a pan-Atlantic context beyond Hawkes Bay.  This goal is sometimes frustrated a little by the not-unusual apparent disparity between the bottles of the same 'label' the tasters tasted.

Cabernet / Merlot in the Wider World,  and Tasting:  Brian Croser
The next session complemented the old world approach in the Bordeaux wines.  It was presented by Brian Croser,  one of Australia's  leading winemakers and wine academics,  under the title: "What's Wrong with Cabernet Sauvignon".  Numerous points of interest were presented.  For example,  in cooperation with the well-regarded West Australian viticulturalist / climatologist John Gladstones,  Croser concludes cabernet sauvignon requires more than 1300 degree-days to achieve full flavour maturity,  whereas cabernet franc requires more than 1250 degree-days,  and merlot more than 1200.  Petit verdot is even more than cabernet,  more than 1400.  As slightly older New Zealanders well know,  a key difficulty with cabernet sauvignon in New Zealand is the propensity to retain methoxy-pyrazine flavours in cool and / or damp seasons,  or when over-cropped,  a trend aggravated by its late ripening.  There is a great deal of information,  and much food for thought in the background paper (next para).

Tasting 3:       8 wines

2007  Betz Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille
2006  Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta [ Carmenere / Merlot / Cabernet ] Limited Release
2007  Cullen [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Diana Madeline
2007  Haskell Vineyards [ Cabernet / Merlot ] IV
  2007  Pask Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Declaration
2004  Petaluma Coonawarra [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Unfiltered
2006  Ridge [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Monte Bello
2006  Tappanappa Cabernet / Shiraz Whalebone Vineyard

The range of countries selected for this tasting was great,  and the labels promised well.  But in the event,  as happens quite often for a New Zealander,  and I suspect many a European,  the extraordinary aspect of attending a tasting of supposedly excellent wines presented by an Australian,  is the clumsiness of so many of the wines chosen.  And so it was here.  The finest richest yet subtlest Cabernet / Merlots of Waiheke Island or Hawkes Bay,  let alone Bordeaux,  inhabit quite another sensory world,  compared with the average of the wines shown.  Australians do seem inured to the textural harshness brought about by tartaric acid addition,  for example,  and oblivious to the ugly menthol / eucalypt taints so many Australian reds show.  And as for the bizarre latter-day Australian trend of striving for 'delicacy' by picking cabernet at Marlborough levels of methoxy-pyrazines,  one can only wonder.  The modest but superlative beauty of aroma and texture in perfect-season classed Medoc wines (or Bordeaux,  for that matter) seems an unknown or at least unrecognised concept,  in a country now habitually producing cabernet / merlots in the 14.5% range.  Three of the wines in this bracket were labelled as being above 14.5%,  including a wine made by Croser himself at his former winery Petaluma,  one being 15%.  The joy of this is,  New Zealand's best Waiheke Island and Hawkes Bay cabernet / merlot blends can now match all but the very best of those rarified Medocs.  Croser's paper,  and his view of the tasting,  is now available on Jancis Robinson's website.

Alternative Bordeaux-blend Varieties,  and Tasting:  Warren Gibson
The fourth tasting and discussion by Warren Gibson of Trinity Hill Winery set out to introduce and illustrate three alternative varieties of possible interest in New Zealand bordeaux blends,  cabernet franc,  petit verdot,  and malbec,  plus a blend of the three,  using unfinished barrel or tank samples from the 2009 vintage.

Tasting 4:      4 wines – and their perceived scores on the day:

2009  Cabernet Franc   14
2009  Petit Verdot   15.5 +
2009  Malbec   17 +
2009  Cabernet Franc / Malbec / Petit Verdot Blend   14.5

Not to put too fine a point on it,  this tasting didn't work.  Two of the three varietal wines shown were reductive,  so naturally the fourth wine,  a blend of all three,  was too.  Since the key to cabernet franc is its beautiful floral and red berry characters,  and they were invisible since that wine was the most reductive of the lot,  this was doubly unfortunate.  Winemakers can be too close to their work.  As with the Pinot Noir Conference,  much more effort and thought needs to go into appropriate pre-tasting and selecting good display wines from finished bottled wines canvassed from many producers.  As if to highlight this point,  a beautiful cabernet franc from Sileni was seen elsewhere in the Conference activities – I have included that wine in the wine reviews which follow,  but omitted the four component wines,  since they were merely unfinished blending components,  and won't be sold as such.

Of the three varieties,  only the malbec was clean.  It showed the exact fresh slightly firm omega plum characters that temperate-climate malbec illustrates,  on a rich fruity palate not unduly affected by oak.  It illustrated that malbec can in better years achieve acceptable physiological maturity in New Zealand,  and certainly needs it.  This example was only just over the line.  The petit verdot sample was the densest colour of the day.  Despite some reduction,  it showed the same mixed ripeness characters pinotage so often used to show,  like a blackberry with red green and white drupelets scattered through the black.  Palate was musky,  with the awkward tastes of mixed ripeness,  peppermint,  grassy and blackberry all mixed,  but reasonable fruit richness,  acid noticeable.  Considering petit verdot is regarded as harder to ripen in Bordeaux than cabernet sauvignon,  and Brian Croser in this Forum confirmed that in an Australian context it needed 1400 degree days to ripen it,  100 more than cabernet sauvignon,  why we would we want it in New Zealand (over the 10-year average of seasons) remains a mystery to me.  Some Waiheke Island winemakers do report good experiences with the grape,  but they were not invited to comment in Hawkes Bay.  A pity carmenere wasn't available,  though the sensory and viticultural evidence for that grape implies it won't be easy either.

All-Speakers Panel Session:
Then followed a useful panel discussion convened by Nicholas Buck from Te Mata Estate,  with all the day's speakers,  together with questions from the floor and some answers also solicited from overseas visitors.

Showcase Tasting:  Peter Cowley
The day concluded with a "Hawkes Bay WineGrowers Showcase Tasting",  with its own separately printed booklet of wine specs.  This was to imply that it was strictly a local tasting within the Forum.  There were 12 assorted 2007 Hawkes Bay bordeaux blends,  chairman Peter Cowley of Te Mata Estate noting that 2007 was a year in which it was hard to make poor reds in Hawkes Bay.  That observation sat unhappily with the wines,  as the tasting unfolded.    

Tasting 5:      12 wines

2007  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2007  Clearview [ Cabernets / Merlot Reserve ] Old Olive Block
2007  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia
2007  Matariki Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2007  Mission Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay Reserve
2007  Newton-Forrest Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Cornerstone Vineyard
  2007  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Alwyn Winemaker's Reserve
2007  Pask Merlot Declaration
2007  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone
2007  Te Mata Estate [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine
2007  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernet ] The Gimblett
2007  Villa Maria Cabernet / Merlot Reserve

In shaping up the tasting,  and selecting the 12 wines,  the organisers appear to have completely forgotten that Waiheke Island makes bordeaux blends which at their best are every bit as fine as Hawkes Bay's best.  So in my view this local-wines-only approach was a bad move,  in a forum styled as a "New Zealand Cabernet / Merlot Forum".  The fact that Hawkes Bay WineGrowers under-wrote the two Conferences does not justify being so insular.  

And even then,  not all the wines were well selected.  It was hard to believe these 12 represented New Zealand's (well,  Hawkes Bay's) finest achievements in the cabernet / merlot class for 2007.  As already commented on in my report on Pinot Noir 2010,  much more effort and objective evaluation needs to go into the selection of wines for formal Tastings such as this,  and the more so when we have overseas visitors reporting on them.  In a "Showcase" tasting,  the goal must surely be to objectively present New Zealand's best wines in the class,  not satisfy local political requirements as to representation.  Happily there were a couple of lovely wines amongst them.  In reviewing the tasting as a whole,  Matthew Jukes (wine correspondent for the Daily Mail,  UK,  and www.matthewjukes.com) commented that in general the wines showed too much oak,  and Neal Martin also from the UK (but writing for the American-based Robert Parker's Wine Advocate publication and website www.erobertparker.com,  but under his own heading Wine Journal) similarly thought many wines showed too much alcohol.  My reviews for all these wines conclude this report.                

CAN CRITICAL WINE EVALUATION HELP THE WINE INDUSTRY ... comment stimulated by both the Cabernet / Merlot Forum and the Syrah Symposium in Hawkes Bay,  Jan 2010:    (this section shared with the Syrah Symposium report)
First,  though,  a few general principles emerged from both the Cabernet / Merlot Forum and the Syrah Symposium in Hawkes Bay,  as they did from Pinot Noir 2010.  It is worth expanding on some thoughts already presented for the latter.

I touched on the contribution both local and overseas wine-writers,  critics and commentators can make to the New Zealand wine industry in my review of Pinot Noir 2010,  saying the wine industry in New Zealand needed to grow beyond the stage of 'needing'  praise.  The reciprocal is our overseas visitors appear to feel constrained by virtue of travel assistance received,  and therefore are reluctant to provide even constructive criticism.  Praise is naturally enough always welcome,  for a job well-done,  but we have reached a point of competence where praise now needs to be tempered by critical evaluation,  and fulsome praise is in fact unhelpful.  

Put simply,  as things stand right now,  we are not getting the best value out of these overseas people.  Visitors such as Jamie Goode PhD have both textbooks (The Science of Wine,  2005) and a website (www.wine.anorak.com) to their credit,  sources containing some of the best and most-accessible technical wine information in the world,  but that does not too often come through in these Conferences.  I can only hope that in some of the one-to-one meetings with winemakers,  more penetrating comment is made.  Likewise influential commentators such as Neal Martin,  by virtue of his connections,  now taste the greatest wines in the world regularly – wines which most New Zealand winemakers,  wine-writers and commentators can never hope to taste.  

We need the lessons these people can bring from such tastings urgently.  In particular we need long,  serious,  sit-down,  contemplative and interactive tastings where winemakers can meet with these people over selected bottles,  and a relaxed tasting and discussion can be both moderated and focussed by a New Zealander with a clear grasp of both wine-style as well as the technicalities on the one hand,  and the personalities on the other.  A Job-like role,  really ... such a person must particularly have the gift of disarming both parties from being unduly defensive.  Instead the topics must be explored in depth.  We particularly need constructive discussion on the interplay between style and technical components,  and the balance the critics see in a given wine,  compared with the evaluation of winemakers sometimes overly concerned with technical factors.  

The simplest example,  and it is only one example,  is brett,  where most wine-people simply love the savoury smells and tastes associated with 'acceptable' levels of this yeast.  In both the Bordeaux tasting,  and in the Syrahs of the World tasting,  our overseas visitors scarcely mentioned or acknowledged the clear presence of brett in several wines,  and tended to be dismissive of any concern about its presence even when obvious.  Yet in the leading Australasian wine judgings,  we are approaching a point where wines showing any detectable brett are rejected completely from any medal possibility.  As I have pointed out before,  Farr Vintners London are now regarded as the finest Bordeaux merchants on Earth,  and their considered view over the years has been that Ch Leoville Barton is the most 'bankable' of all the classed growths,  year in and year out.  It is rare to find Leoville-Barton without some brett.  Are we missing the point,  perhaps ?  Wine as an artefact of civilised life is ultimately about aesthetics,  beauty,  and enjoyment,  not technology.  Science can be one-eyed.  Surely the role of technology should be to optimise desired outcomes in wine,  rather than dictate what is and is not acceptable.  Where should the balance lie ?  As noted in the review for the Man O'War Dreadnought Syrah,  perhaps sterile-filtering to bottle allows us to have the best of both worlds.

When it comes to presenting formal Tastings in major Conferences,  a good indication of what could be achieved was evident in the Syrahs of the World (other than Australia and France) tasting organised by Tim Atkin MW of the UK,  for the Syrah Symposium on the Saturday.  That tasting showed superb deployment of wine resources,  bespeaking a great understanding of the performance of syrah the grape in various climates around the world.  The calibre of this tasting made a vivid contrast to either the Cabernet / Merlot "Showcase Tasting" on the Friday,  or "The Great Pinot Noirs of the World" tasting a few days later in Wellington,  though there were one or two technical quibbles in passing – European wine-commentators do have enormous difficulty in isolating brett in their sensory impressions,  which makes discussing its role difficult.  But overall,  this tasting superbly illustrated the need for organisers of Conference tastings to understand much more comprehensively the performance of the nominated grape variety,  and the range of legitimate winestyles it may display,  if the tasting is to work well.  And then,  organisers must personally taste a wide range of candidate wines,  before finalising and ordering purposefully for the Conference,  if that goal is to be achieved.

So in one sense,  for the best reasons in the world,  we are in receipt of a disservice,  on this whole issue.  Only Tim White from Australia had the gumption at one stage in Hawkes Bay to stand up and say,  at one of the Conferences,  and about one of the wines:  we are all being much too polite,  or words to that effect.  And another couple of thoughts on this issue are:  there is in fact informed opinion in New Zealand that is not being well used.  All too often,  conclusions reached by New Zealanders after careful comparative tastings are simply ignored by the industry.  And yet,  as soon as a commentator from overseas makes exactly the same observations,  their views are slavishly endorsed.  The extent to which New Zealand wine companies still issue press releases trumpeting praise of the firm's wines by some unknown wine-writer in Asia,  or favourable results from some equally obscure wine judging in deepest Bulgaria or similar,  while ignoring detailed New Zealand studies of infinitely greater local relevance,  bespeaks a colonial insecurity syndrome no longer appropriate to creative wine achievements in New Zealand in the 2000s.  We need to both believe in our own people a great deal more,  now,  and debate well-informed and well-intentioned criticism whether local or from overseas more constructively.  But,  as for overseas commentators,  or for the wines themselves (the underlying subject of this debate),  local commentators too vary in quality.  As always,  critical evaluation,  not defensive reaction,  is required.                  
A related concern could also be drawn from these Cabernet / Merlot and Syrah Conferences in Hawkes Bay.  There it was evident that panel and session leaders were at pains to keep most of the discussion in-house.  Perhaps this was subconscious,  but the underlying presumption conveyed seemed to be,  winemakers know best.  But further to that,  as I recollect,  no winemaker from outside Hawkes Bay was at any point asked to comment,  notwithstanding the expertise evident in making both cabernet / merlot and syrah winestyles on Waiheke Island,  some of whom were present.  And,  some of the wines shown by Hawkes Bay winemakers demonstrated that they are not in fact infallible.  Likewise,  very little comment was drawn from the floor generally – except sometimes from overseas visitors,  where there is the reservation noted above.  Consequently the level of debate was much less penetrating,  frank,  and constructive than ideal.  We need a much more thoughtful and mature approach in all these matters,  in 2010,  if the industry is to capture the hearts and minds of more tasters,  in more countries,  in the years to come.    

Acknowledgements:  It was a pleasure to be invited to report on these Conferences by Hawkes Bay WineGrowers.  Behind the scenes,  Nicola Pentelow of Gameplan NZ Ltd,  event organiser,  provided all help to secure samples and check wines.  I very much appreciated winemakers supplying supplementary information,  though this meant disturbing them at their busiest season.  These are exciting Conferences in the New Zealand wine calendar.  The suggestions I offer are made in the hope that further improvements will be sought,  so that future Conferences particularly benefit small-scale proprietors who cannot easily go to well-structured tastings relevant to their craft and business.  

All Conference wines are reviewed in one rank-order sequence.  This approach facilitates a more objective style of review,  compared with the special pleading a wine may sometimes receive in an individual tasting.  Brett taints in the European wines,  and euc'y taints in the Australian wines,  are clear examples.

2006  Ch Belair
2007  Betz Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille
2006  Ch Bourgneuf
2006  Ch Cheval Blanc
2007  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2007  Church Road [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Tom
2007  Clearview [ Cabernets / Merlot Reserve ] Old Olive Block
2006  Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta [ Carmenere / Merlot / Cabernet ] Limited Release
2007  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia
2007  Cullen [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Diana Madeline
2006  Ch de Fonbel
2006  Ch Fonroque
2007  Haskell Vineyards [ Cabernet / Merlot ] IV
2007  Matariki Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2007  Mission Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay Reserve
  2008  Montana Merlot / Cabernet North Island
2007  Newton-Forrest Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Cornerstone Vineyard
2007  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Alwyn Winemaker's Reserve
2007  Pask Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Declaration
2007  Pask Merlot Declaration
2004  Petaluma Coonawarra [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Unfiltered
2006  Ridge [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Monte Bello
2007  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone
2006  Ch la Serre
2008  Sileni Cabernet Franc The Pacemaker
2006  Tappanappa Cabernet / Shiraz Whalebone Vineyard
2007  Te Mata Estate [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine
2007  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernet ] The Gimblett
2007  Villa Maria Cabernet / Merlot Reserve

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2007  Church Road Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels 72% & Ngatarawa Triangle 28,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $38   [ cork;  CS 54%,  Me 41,  CF 5,  all hand-picked at c.2.5 t/ac from (on average) 10-year old vines;  cuvaison extended to 35 days for some components;  MLF and 22 months in 100% French oak c.50% new,  with no BF or lees stirring,  just racking;  not fined,  coarse filter only;  RS < 0.2 g/L;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby carmine and velvet,  wonderfully dense,  one of the deepest.  Bouquet is glorious,  superb violets-related and dark rose florals on crisp cassis and darkest bottled plums fruit,  matched by appropriate potentially cedary oak.  This initial impression is confirmed by wonderful presence in mouth,  great ripeness,  superb body and dry extract,  fresh berry,  bone dry,  absolutely velvety.  This is looking to be one of the finest New Zealand Cabernet / Merlots so far.  Cellar 5 – 30 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $50   [ cork;  Me 81%,  CF 10,  CS 7,  Ma 2,  hand-harvested @ c.2.2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed;  inoculated ferments in oak cuves;  18 months in 50% new French oak;  fined and filtered;  RS nil;  production around 2000 cases,  exported widely;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby carmine and velvet,  middling in weight.  Bouquet is the same wonderful fragrant and plummy berry style of the best of preceding Sophias,  and the best of the new-wave high-merlot Bordeaux  / Hawkes Bay blends from New Zealand.  It is not quite as floral as the Church Road Reserve,  and is slightly oakier,  but it illustrates the beauty of merlot well.  Palate matches bouquet exactly,  fine berry,  exciting oak,  great length.  What wonderful tastings these top 2007 Merlot / Cabernet blends and related wines will provide in 10 years time.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Church Road [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Tom   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  indicative price c. $100;  CS 50%,  Me 50;  all hand-picked [presumably at c. 2.5 t/ac as in 2005] from on-average 10-year old vines;  100% de-stemmed,  crushed,  no cold soak,  inoculated fermentation and cuvaison 4 weeks for the CS component in an older oak cuve,  3 weeks for Me,  no BF or lees work;  21 months in all-French oak c. 70% new,  balance 1-year,  successive rackings to clarify and aerate;  not fined or filtered;  RS < 0.2 g/L;  500 cases;  release date 2011,  not on website for some time yet;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Midnight-deep velvety carmine,  ruby and velvet,  if anything deeper than the Church Road Reserve 2007,  the deepest finished wine of the day,  sensational.  Freshly opened,  there seems almost Napa-like sweetness and ampleness of plummy berry that hints at sur-maturité,  especially alongside a relatively 'delicate' wine such as the Cheval Blanc.  Yet with air the wine expands into an enormously rich and saturated powerhouse of cassis and darkest plum,  both fresh and bottled,  with a lot of cedary oak yet to marry up.  The Church Road Reserve is much more fruit-dominant and accessible today,  and because of the great flesh,  at first sight it appears a bigger wine than Tom 2007.  But,  Tom is in fact huge,  richer than Sophia '07,  yet still alongside premium Australian wines it is totally fresh and fine-grained on natural acid.  The oak at this stage seems greater in the balance than even the Brokenstone Merlot,  but the richness though the wine is completely dry is sufficient to allow a 40-year life in bottle.  This will become a very special New Zealand wine,  if cellared long enough.  Whether it will give as much pleasure as the more gently oaked 2007 Church Road Reserve,  factoring in you can have three of them for the price of one Tom,  will be debated for decades !  Cellar 10 – 40 years,  speaking as someone with 40-year old Hawkes Bay cabernets still on hand.  GK 01/10

2007  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  Me 90.5%,  CF 4.5,  CS 4,  hand-picked from 7 year old vines @ just under 2.5 t/ac;  de-stemmed,  not crushed;  open-vat cuvaison approx 30 days;  18 months in French oak 75% new,  no BF;  no lees stirring;  RS < 0.1 g/L;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Colour is ruby,  carmine and velvet,  scarcely distinguishable from Sophia,  above midway.  If Sophia is a notch oakier than the Church Road,  Brokenstone is another notch oakier.  Yet the same violets florality and bottled black doris plums of the berry is discernible.  Likewise in mouth,  one just has to search harder to isolate the rich fruit:  it is good.  This wine needs time in cellar to harmonise its oak,  but on balance it is just a bit too oaky for merlot to excel.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Pask Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Declaration   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $50   [ screwcap;  CS 36%,  Me 35,  Ma 29,  machine-harvested,  de-stemmed;  5 days cold-soak,  main batch cuvaison to 28 days,  some partial BF;  c.18 months in French and American oak;  2007 not on website yet;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as dense as the Church Road two,  below midway.  Wow,  what a volume of Bordeaux-like bouquet this wine is showing,  with floral and fragrant cassisy cabernet plus good oak leading the pack,  thus showing a little more aromatic excitement than the high-merlot wines.  Palate likewise is not as fat as some,  but it is richer than the Cheval Blanc.  The Pask sat alongside the highly-regarded West Australian Cullen's Diana Madeline Cabernet / Merlot in the original tasting,  and the contrast was vivid,  the warmer-climate wine showing the awkwardness of earlier picking to conserve acid (presumably),  and a shrill character all through compared with the naturally-ripened beauty of cabernet / merlot from an optimal temperate-climate such as Hawke's Bay or Bordeaux.  I have often taxed the Pask winemakers' patience by commenting on excess oak,  so it is a pleasure to record the more harmonious berry / oak balance in this wine.  It is still the oakiest of these top six wines,  though,  and it is worth noting our UK visitors commented on the excess oak in the cabernet / merlot styles.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Ch Cheval Blanc   18 ½  ()
St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $1,025   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$720;  cepage for this one from the consultant winemaker Me 54%,  CF 45,  CS 1;  cropping rate c.1.8 t / ac;  18 months in oak usually 100% new;  Robinson 2007:  supple fruit on the front palate but no great intensity … a rather green puny little thing  … not one of Cheval’s most glorious vintages 17 ++;  Parker 2009:  Lush,  textured,  and opulent with superb purity,  medium to full body,  savory flavors,  and sweet,  sexy tannins. 95;  tiresome website;  www.chateau-cheval-blanc.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  not on the scale of the 2007 Hawkes Bay reds in size or hue,  below midway in density.  The quality of bouquet in this wine is exquisite,  showing a remarkable floral mostly roses lift on berries which are redder than the top New Zealand wines:  red currants,  cherries,  red plums.  Palate is long,  excitingly fine and fresh,  with exactly the elegance most of our producers have typically failed to achieve in their high-cabernet franc wines.  Cabernet franc is almost like pinot noir (or syrah),  a variety whose beauty is compromised or lost with excess oak.  It is therefore hard to explain how this wine can be so beautifully varietal,  supple and fine-grain,  with 18 months in 100% new oak,  according to the consultant winemaker and speaker Kees van Leeuwen.  Perhaps like the Guigal grands crus,  there are qualities of oak available to some French producers which we can only dream about in New Zealand.  Though total body is light against the Church Road,  palate length,  beauty,  complexity and pleasure are similar in a delicate way.  This wine gloriously meets the classic prescription for claret-styles to be refreshing with food,  a concept so many Australian reds so signally fail to achieve.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Te Mata Estate [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Coleraine   18 +  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $72   [ cork – superb 55 mm costing c.$2 each;  hand-harvested CS 52%,  Me 34,  CF 14;  de-stemmed,  extended cuvaison;  average vine age 20 + years;  20 months in French oak 75% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a notch less dense than the top wines,  about midway in depth,  more a match for the Cheval Blanc,  but the hue fresher.  Bouquet stands apart from the New Zealand wines mentioned so far in this tasting,  in that it is more subtle,  more restrained,  more integrated,  perhaps less oaky,  and more Medoc-like.  The actual quality of the cabernet-influenced bouquet reminds me of some lesser Margaux classed growths.  Palate does not quite match the bouquet,  however – there is often this worry in the Te Mata claret styles,  that in pursuing elegance they lose sight of the old American truism,  that a good big one will always beat a smaller good one.  So here there is not quite the richness of ripe berry,  and there is the slightest undertone of leaf,  as characterises many fine Medocs in sub-optimal years.  But,  2007 was a fine year in Hawkes Bay,  and 2007 Coleraine doesn't quite show that.  The quality of oak is good,  though,  adding to the resemblance to Bordeaux.  In terms of finesse,  Coleraine is at best unmatched in New Zealand,  and this leads to high praise from visiting European wine critics habituated to standard Bordeaux – which is the unashamed model for both Coleraine and Awatea.  But this wine in a great Hawke's Bay year is not quite as ripe as the Cheval Blanc in a fairly standard year.  So,  the tide has come in around Coleraine,  and if it is to regain its place as New Zealand's top Bordeaux blend,  rather than resting on its laurels,  it needs to be both riper and richer.  Hopefully cropping rate will be the place to start,  in correcting this.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Sileni Cabernet Franc The Pacemaker   18  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  CF 90%,  Me 10,  machine-harvested at just under 2 t/ac from 8-yr vines;  100% de-stemmed,  partially crushed,  16 days cuvaison;  14 months in barrel 90% French,  10 American,  20% new,  50% 1-yr;  fined and filtered;  RS 1 g/L;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  midway in depth,  on a par with Coleraine.  Is this the finest Cabernet Franc so far made in New Zealand ?  I think so,  for the winemaker has respected the fruit by not swamping it with oak,  as most producers have done previously.  Instead the wondrous red rose florality and red berry fruits of cabernet franc dominate the bouquet.  Sileni is another winery traditionally offering skinny reds,  but this wine is pleasing on palate,  helped by seeming not quite bone dry (the actual figure is well within the range considered 'dry' in reds).  The quality of red fruits is superb,  the oak subtle and potentially cedary,  the wine truly an interim New Zealand benchmark for cabernet franc,  subtle and fine rather than big and clumsy / oaky.  It is not a big wine,  more on the scale of the Cheval Blanc,  but the physiological maturity,  and quality of oaking to reveal rather than obscure the variety,  is exciting.  It will be absolutely essential stock for education and training purposes,  and lectures and tastings,  quite apart from drinking.  Compared with the sad so-labelled cabernet franc shown in the seminar,  this wine is a revelation.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Ridge [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Monte Bello   18  ()
Santa Cruz Mountains,  California,  USA:  13.6%;  $164   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$115;  hand-harvested CS 68%,  Me 20,  PV 10,  CF 2,  cropped at 1.5 t/ac from vines up to 56 years age,  @ 400 – 800 m altitude;  de-stemmed,  wild-yeast fermentations,  8 – 10 day cuvaison,  but 80% of the fermentations finished in barrel;  18 months in 100% new oak,  97% US,  3 French;  this label is the top selection,  only 39% of the crop;  Parker,  2010:  a very strong effort ...  copious aromas of creme de cassis,  licorice,  spice box,  and a touch of oak ...well-balanced,  dense,  pure,  layered,  and rich ... 94+;  www.ridgewine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  about midway in depth.  Initially opened,  bouquet has an almost mint quality and a lot of estery and vanilla-y oak showing,  even though the oak is potentially cedary.  It is therefore very new world.  In mouth acid and oak are noticeable,  and the slightly roasted flavours of a warmer-climate origin show,  but despite these factors the nett impression is one of oaky richness and softness and attractive cassisy flavours.  There are reminders of the Penfold's premium Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon here,  including the American oak,  though the Ridge wine is subtler and softer.  Croser described it as one of the best new world cabernet / merlots,  but that was not self-evident in this year's wine as seen on the day.  It is a little boisterous for that.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Ch Belair   18  ()
St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $100   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$70;  cepages offered range from Me 70%,  CF 30 at Forum,  to Me 65,  CF 35 Peppercorn,  to 60% Me,  40 CF Parker;  cropping rate c.2 t / ac;  18 – 26 months in oak c.50% new;  Parker,  2009:  certainly a good effort,  with notes of kirsch liqueur,  crushed rock,  and some subtle herbs in a medium-bodied,  finesse-styled wine  87;  Robinson,  2007:  taste of autumn undergrowth as well as ripe black fruits – cherries – which spread across the palate … a little bit of green astringency on the finish. 16.5;  from the 2009 vintage this estate is renamed Ch Bélair-Monange;  www.chateaubelair.com ]
Ruby,  the lightest in the Bordeaux field.  For this wine,  there was something of a gulf between the presenter,  and some more technical tasters,  the latter being worried about a little brett.  I have chosen to mark this wine as a total style achievement,  underscoring that though like Coleraine it is lighter than the top wines,  it is also fully physiologically ripe,  unlike Coleraine,  and is thus pleasing and harmonious.  It is useful to remember,  as we gaze in awe at wonderfully rich wines such as the Church Road two,  that traditionally,  before Americans,  claret was seen as typically light and refreshing relative to the richer (at best) burgundy,  and even bigger wines in favourable years need to retain that thought.  This wine illustrates that,  with the slightly leathery tobacco-y softness of merlot and cabernet franc,  less new oak than the famous premier grand cru Cheval-Blanc,  and much less of everything than for example Sophia.  But still,  there is much charm here,  and great potential pleasure at table.  This discussion also highlights why the odd truly exceptional year in Bordeaux,  when phenomenally ripe and rich wines were made,  lives on in memory at least for wine-lovers.  As an incidental point of current interest,  and to illustrate the last point,  Robert Parker considers the very best wines of the current-interest 2009 bordeaux en primeur may rank with the best wines of 1899, 1929, 1949 and 1959.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Villa Maria Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  CS 69%,  Me 29,  Ma 2,  all hand-harvested @ around 2.75 t/ac;  vinified @ Mangere,  100% de-stemmed;  s/s fermentation,  with 3 – 4 weeks cuvaison for merlot and up to 6 weeks for cabernet;  MLF and 20 months in 3-year air dried French oak 46% new;  RS nil;  filtration coarse only;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby carmine and velvet,  well above midway in depth.  Initially opened,  this wine was reticent to the point of being closed,  raising doubts about some reduction – which is a worry under screwcap.  Likewise it tasted hard and short on the palate initially,  though seeming also quite rich.  Well breathed,  meaning double decanting or more,  it is transformed into a Cabernet / Merlot richer and riper than Coleraine,  more on a par with the Pask,  with lots of cassis and agreeably subtle oak.  Hard to score therefore:  I have chosen to mark it for potential,  meaning don't touch it for five years,  and pour it from jug to jug several times when it is finally broached.  Fat chance !  So some will be disappointed.  It may well deserve re-rating in 5 years.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Betz Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille   17 ½ +  ()
Columbia Valley,  Washington,  USA:  15%;  $86   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$60;  CS 85%,  Me 8,  PV 7 from 3 vineyards;  de-stemmed,  7 – 9 day cuvaison,  fermentation and MLF finished in barrel,  with lees-stirring;  18 months in all-French oak presumably much new;  this is the winery's flagship bordeaux blend; 2007 regarded as a definitive vintage,  lowest Parker mark for six 2007 Betz wines 92;  Parker regards Betz as a Washington benchmark,  and for this wine reports: … brooding aromatic array of wood smoke,  scorched earth,  pencil lead,  violets,  black currant and blackberry.  Full-bodied on the palate,  it is … dense,  opulent,  and succulent … admirably combining elegance and power.  The pure finish lasts for over 60-seconds 95;  www.betzfamilywinery.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deeper wines,  scarcely distinguishable from the Church Road Reserve.  Bouquet is huge,  the first impressions being char and chocolate and nearly mocha,  on very rich plummy fruit much influenced by the winemaker,  totally modern and international in style.  Palate does nothing to dissuade one from such a view,  being both oaky and alcoholic,  but there is lovely fresh cassisy and berry-rich fruit forming the heart of the wine,  and there is little or no brett.  It will therefore marry up into a pretty interesting bottle,  which could be scored higher.  It is not my preferred interpretation of cabernet,  but for many consumers this would be one of the top wines of the seminar.  Croser was at pains to point out that this was a wine 'made for journalists',  but given the number of winemakers and winemaking consultants anxious to emulate this modern and American-pleasing style of winemaking,  and not only in America,  such a disparaging remark is questionable.  This Betz is certainly closer to cabernet truth than either of Croser's own wines in the tasting.  Cellar 5 – 25 years,  with interest.  GK 01/10

2007  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Alwyn Winemaker's Reserve   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels & Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $48   [ supercritical cork;  Me 80%,  CS 20,  hand-harvested @ c.2.5 t/ac,  inoculated ferments,  cuvaison to c.23 days;  16 months in French oak averaging 42% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  2007 not on website yet;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  in the middle for depth.  This wine marked a kind of turning point in the tasting,  the more highly-rated wines being exciting for one reason or another.  Bouquet and styling are more developed / forward than many of the 2007 Hawke's Bay wines,  giving a more integrated impression with berry and oak marrying up.  There are suggestions of cassis,  plums,  cedar and tobacco,  the whole wine showing more ripeness,  depth and concentration than previous Alwyns.  This presumably reflects the increasing Gimblett Gravels fraction in the wine,  contrasting with the rather more leafy style the home vineyards have averaged over the years.  Palate is intriguing,  the oak showing more now,  but the flavours are long and with reasonable fruit against the oak,  promising well.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Pask Merlot Declaration   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Me 100,  machine-harvested,  de-stemmed;  some cold-soak,  longish cuvaison,  partial BF and lees autolysis;  c.18 months in French more than American oak,  mostly new;  2007 not on website yet;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  below midway in depth.  Oak is more to the forefront on this Pask Merlot,  even more so than Brokenstone,  in clearly plummy fruit,  the whole wine fragrant due to the oak.  Palate brings up the oak more,  so even though the wine is fairly soft,  fruit character is attenuated and the longer aftertaste is oak.  Tactile richness remains good though,  and the Christmas-cakey balance of flavours is intriguing.  Merlot is a soft variety,   and does not benefit from too much oak.  Tim Atkin MW from the UK also commented adversely on the ratio of oak.  Cellar 3 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Ch la Serre   17 +  ()
St Emilion Grand Cru Classé,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $50   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$35;  cepages offered range from Me 70%,  CF 30 at Forum,  to Me 80,  CF 20 Peppercorn and Parker;  cropping rate 2 t / ac;  some months in oak c.50% new;  no website located ]
Ruby and velvet,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is plummy ripe,  showing more development than the mostly 2007 New Zealand wines,  but nonetheless it showed more similarities to them than some of the Bordeaux.  Palate is also plummy,  clearly merlot,  again the suggestion of tobacco,  the oak harmonious and not obviously new,  but all the flavours tending plainer than the Belair.  Straightforward pleasing east-bank claret,  to cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Newton-Forrest Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec Cornerstone Vineyard   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  CS 56%,  Me 23,  Ma 21,  if the same as the 2005 mostly hand-harvested,  balance machine @ < 2.5 t/ac,  average vine age 13 years;  70% French oak,  30 US,  1/3 new,  1/3 one-year and 1/3 two-year;  coarse-filtered only;  c.1000 cases;  2007 not on website yet;  www.forrestwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  middling in weight.  Freshly opened,  this is a disorganised wine,  showing good berry but some detracting notes.  They included a phenolic / carbolic edge,  red fruits more than black,  oak noticeable,  a strange undertone of shellfish,  not unpleasant,  just curious,  maybe cooperage-related.  Palate is better,  quite rich plummy fruit much more apparent,  the flavours long,  a hint of almonds.  It improved greatly with air,  so after three years or so to marry up in bottle,  this should be good but oaky Hawke's Bay Cabernet / Merlot.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Matariki Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  CS 90%,  Me 5,  CF 5,  all de-stemmed;  inoculated ferments,  varying cuvaisons some to 4 weeks;  MLF in barrel,  22 months in predominantly French oak 58% new;  RS ‘dry’;  2007 not on the website yet;  www.matarikiwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  midway in depth.  Bouquet shows the clear cassis of ripe cabernet,  and clear oak to excess,  with a note of cloves or mace.  Palate is leaner than the high-merlot wines,  but the cassis is intense,  with sufficient ripeness and length,  the length extended by a noticeably oaky finish.  This could be surprisingly long-lived wine,  which should become cedary and fragrant in a lean way.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2004  Petaluma Coonawarra [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Unfiltered   16 ½ +  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.8%;  $69   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from AU$55;  CS 65%,  Me 35,  the CS cropped @ 1.8 t/ac,  the Me @2.4 t/ac,  all hand-picked;  cold soak,  inoculated ferments,  varying cuvaisons some to 30 days;   MLF in barrel on full lees;  progressive racking to clarity in French barrels 100% new over 20 months;  by way of illustrating the Australian perspective commented on in the Introduction,  Jeremy Oliver rates this wine 19.2;  the website mysteriously omits the 2004;  www.petaluma.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is browning stewed plums,  in a surprisingly old-fashioned and oaky winestyle,  with a touch of oxidation.  Palate is oaky and spirity,  the fruit flavours likewise showing the bad-joke that referring to Coonawarra as cool-climate has become.  The nett result is winey in a hot-climate oaky way,  but lacking berry interest and thus one-dimensional.  The winery comments in their literature that this vintage will:  'age gracefully for many years to come',  rather illustrating the gulf between Australian wine norms in their expectations for the bordeaux-blend class,  and New Zealand,  or European views.  Such wines highlight how great the potential is for temperate-climate New Zealand reds from places like Waiheke Island and Hawkes Bay to excel internationally in the cabernet / merlot class.  Why exactly this lesser wine was shown at the Conference,  when the current vintage is the 2007,  was not clear.  Cellar some years,  in its oaky style.  GK 01/10

2007  Mission Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay Reserve   16 ½  ()
Lower Dartmoor Valley 60%,  Gimblett Gravels 40,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ supercritical cork;  CS 85%,  CF 8,  Me 7,  up to 35 days cuvaison;  MLF in tank,  13 months in French oak 20% new;  RS 1.2 g/L;  fined and filtered;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  above midway in depth.  This wine turns out to be not quite what one surmises from the colour.  Initially one thinks of intense cassis,  but then a tobacco note creeps in,  then a little more complexity from brett.  Palate contrasts surprisingly,  immediately a stalky note rather than the rich cassis expected,  so the nett impression is of fair fruit,  but mixed ripeness,  and a tending-stalky finish – as so often betrays Dartmoor Valley reds.  The total achievement is pleasingly minor Medoc-like,  with particularly good oak handling.  Cellar 3 – 10 or so years only,  otherwise the fading berry may leave the stalkyness exposed.  GK 01/10

2007  Haskell Vineyards [ Cabernet / Merlot ] IV   16 ½  ()
Stellenbosch,  South Africa:  14.3%;  $73   [ cork;   price is simple conversion from R400;  CS 70%,  Me 20,  CF 5,  PV 5,  hand-harvested @ 2.3 t/ac;  all de-stemmed;  inoculated ferments,  18 months in French oak 70% new;  light fining,  not filtered; release date July 2010;  www.haskellvineyards.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  old for age,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is intriguing,  quite different among the day's wines,  no floral component,  yet showing both the cassis and the leaf of high-cabernet,  and very fragrant in a tobacco-y west-bank approach to cabernet / merlot.  Palate is lesser,  the mixed ripeness of cassis and greener berries,  with a stalky and acid hardness detracting.  The nett flavour is in style and not unpleasant,  like the Petaluma just lacking finesse and the complex beauty of cabernet / merlots made in an appropriate climate,  but also harder.  Another wine to make New Zealanders rejoice in their temperate viticultural climates,  and the wonderful opportunities they offer in the bordeaux-blend class.  Cellar some years,  in its acid style.  GK 01/10

2007  Clearview [ Cabernets / Merlot Reserve ] Old Olive Block   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga & Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ supercritical cork;  CS 48%,  CF 25,  Me 14,  Ma 13,  hand-harvested from vines up to 20 years age on the home vineyard;  3 days cold-soak,  some wild yeast,  cuvaison extending to 28 days;  c.17 months in mostly French oak;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  above midway in depth.  Bouquet is well-berried and fragrant in a plummy way,  with tobacco-y and trace brett complexities.  Palate is leaner than the bouquet promises,  red plums only,  a bit acid and stalky,  the malbec not quite ripe enough – as one might suppose for the cooler Te Awanga district,  the oak noticeable against the weight of fruit.  Should mellow into a fragrant somewhat green-tinged and lean bordeaux blend,  to cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta [ Carmenere / Merlot / Cabernet ] Limited Release   16 ½  ()
Colchagua Valley,  Chile:  14.8%;  $100   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$70;  Ca 43%,  Me 30,  CS 21,  PV 6,  hand-harvested,  hand de-stemmed;  wild yeast fermentation,  cuvaison extending to 30 days for one var;  c.21 months in French oak 100% new;  not fined or filtered;  Croser reports that Michel Rolland consults to Clos Apalta;  the Colchagua Valley is 180 km south of Santiago,  south of the Maipo Valley;  www.casalapostolle.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the denser wines.  The volume of bouquet is considerable,  led by high alcohol,  but also intense ripe to over-ripe cassisy berry.  Palate shows a rich yet very drying cabernet-like structure,  the oak exacerbated by the high spirit,  a touch of coffee creeping in on the oak.  Despite some good components,  this is not a pleasing wine to drink,  it becoming very dry and artefact-influenced,  and the alcohol is biting.  It will cellar well in its far-from-Bordeaux and far from food-friendly style,  for 5 – 30 or more years,  but it is not an example of Chile's best in the category.  GK 01/10

2006  Ch Bourgneuf   16 +  ()
Pomerol,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $60   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$42;  cepages offered range from Me 70%,  CF 30 at Forum,  to Me 90,  CF 10 Peppercorn & Parker;  cropping rate 2 t / ac;  14 – 15 months in oak c.40% new;  Bourgneuf and Bourgneuf-Vayron are the same wine,  labelling varying on market;  Pomerol is unclassified;  Harding / Robinson 2007: … sweet on the nose.  Not especially fragrant – chunky and solid … slightly underripe tannins … a green streak.  Bit dull.  16.5;  Parker 2009:  simple,  one-dimensional wine with earthy,  decaying vegetative notes intermixed with cherry,  plum,  and a hint of currant,  this wine has adequate concentration,  but the earthiness and simplicity of it are largely unappealing.  84;  no website found ]
Ruby,  old for age,  one of the lightest.  This is another old-fashioned and traditional claret in a minor east-bank style.  Bouquet is soft ripe and plummy in a browning way,  with a little tobacco and brett complexity adding interest.  Palate is stalkier than the bouquet promised,  some mushroomy and leathery notes on the fruit,  again,  old-fashioned.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Ch Fonroque   16 +  ()
St Emilion Grand Cru Classé,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $32   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$22;  cepages offered range from Me 70%,  CF 30 at Forum,  to Me 90,  CF 10 Peppercorn,  and Me 85%,  CF 15 Parker;  cropping rate 2 t / ac;  16 – 18 months in oak c.70% new – allegedly;  Robinson 2007:  distinctive nose with … almost rhubarb-like fruit notes … sufficient fruit to cover the tannin … rather coarse and green … astringent,  bone dry finish. 15;  no Parker review,  Suckling / Wine Spectator:  sweet tobacco and berry aromas.  Full-bodied,  with round,  chewy tannins.  Slightly hollow mid-palate.  86;  no website found ]
Ruby and velvet,  below midway in depth.  This is another old-fashioned Bordeaux,  where style is more important than the components.  Bouquet shows slightly browning plummy berry,  with suggestions of leather,  tobacco and clear brett,  and seemingly no new oak at all.  Nett bouquet is therefore mellow,  and the palate follows exactly,  soft,  round,  plummy in a fruitcake way,  very European.  Food wine,  not a study or seminar wine,  to cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernet ] The Gimblett   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ supercritical cork;  Me 51%,  CS 17,  PV 12,  CF 11,  Ma  9,  hand-picked at c.2.6 t/ac,  de-stemmed;  average vine age 11 years;  c.28 days cuvaison;  18 months in 'predominantly' French oak 35% new;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby carmine and velvet,  middling for density.  This is a straightforward bordeaux-styled wine,  but Bordeaux in a cooler year.  Bouquet shows red currants as well as some cassis,  a hint of black pepper,  a pleasant note of stewed red rhubarb,  and some leafyness.  Palate matches,  distinctly leafy with some stalk hardness,  lighter than the Mission wine,  and more acid.  Disappointing ripeness given the quality of season in Hawke's Bay,  but pure and fragrant light wine to cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Cullen [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Diana Madeline   16  ()
Margaret River,  Western Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $125   [ screwcap;  price is simple conversion from AU$99,  but for tax reasons will probably be cheaper in NZ;  CS 84%,  Me 8,  CF 4,  PV 4,  cropped at c.2 t/ac from vines 36 years old;  14 months in French oak 48% new;  various Australian reviewers have rated this wine 94,  95,  and 97,  with prose to match;  www.cullenwines.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  old for age,  midway in depth.  Bouquet is hot-climate cabernet first and foremost,  leathery browning cassis and almost a saline note,  with some red fruits and a touch of leaf.  Palate is tending shrill on acid,  some aniseed and raisin flavours of over-ripe berries,  some browning cassis,  yet hard green-tinged notes too with even the Napa / University of California no-no,  green bean suggestions.  Total wine in mouth is quite rich and flavoursome,  but oaky and far from harmonious.  It is intriguing the Australians rate this highly,  and consider it worth showing here.  The British know more about the quality of our best Hawke's Bay and Waiheke reds,  in an international context,  I suspect,  and certainly acknowledge them more.  Cellar 5 – 15 years or more,  in its ungainly style.  GK 01/10

2006  Tappanappa Cabernet / Shiraz Whalebone Vineyard   16  ()
Wrattonbully,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.2%;  $95   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from AU$75;  CS 60%,  Sh 30,  CF 4,  PV 10,  hand-harvested at 1 t/ac from vines 32 years old;  100% de-stemmed,  3 days cold-soak,  plus 21 days cuvaison;  MLF and 20 months in French oak 70% new,  30 1-year;  www.tapanappawines.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  the second to lightest in its tasting.  Bouquet is eucalyptus first and second,  pretty well destroying any subtleties that might otherwise have been displayed.  In mouth,  the wine can be interpreted somewhat better,  soft ripe cassis,  soft plummy fruit and palate filled out by the shiraz,  attractive acid balance and mouthfeel,  but much too aromatic on the euc'y finish.  This would be an interesting gentle wine despite the alcohol,  if it were not so tainted on both bouquet and palate.  Hard for non-Australians not habituated to eucalyptus to find pleasant,  or score – it cannot be taken seriously in a wines of the world tasting.  The 2005 scored in the 90s in Australia,  but as implied earlier,  all too often Australian reviewers' scoring for Australian wines bears no relation to world views of wine style.  Wrattonbully is just north of Coonawarra,  perhaps fractionally cooler,  limestone parent materials,  with Padthaway to the north.  Cellar 3 – 15 or so years,  if it appeals.  GK 01/10

2008  Montana Merlot / Cabernet North Island   15 +  ()
Hawkes Bay c. 90% & Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  Me 70%,  CS 30;  machine-harvested,  100% de-stemmed,  MLF and elevage predominantly in s/s,  with toasted new French and American oak via chips and / or staves added;  the Montana website for this wine is less detailed than most from the company,  and draws a carefully worded veil over the relationship between the oak and wine – this vintage about 35% included time 'in' oak,  rather than 'with' oak,  but that ratio is declining;  RS 1.2 – 1.8 g/L presumably depending on destination market;  www.montanawines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is lightly berried,  red currants and red plums,  hints of sweet basil as in ripe sauvignon blanc,  very much minor (but clean) Bordeaux in style.  Palate is more modest again,  light red fruits,  lean,  tending acid and stalky,  perhaps a couple of grams of sugar to balance [confirmed],  pleasant and refreshing in its minor quaffing tending under-ripe but very clean new world claret style.  The Gisborne fraction may be letting this wine down,  on the ripeness side.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Ch de Fonbel   15  ()
St Emilion Grand Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $32   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$22;  various cepages offered,  ranging from Me 70%,  CF 30 at Forum,  to Me 80,  CS 20,  to Me 70%,  CS 20,  PV 7,  Ca 3 on the back label;  Robinson 2007:  … toasty and lively on the nose.  Slightly green and brutal on the palate though.  Not the charm of some vintages.  Maybe this will take on flesh? 15+;  Parker 2009:  A sleeper of the vintage … this elegant St.-Emilion offers up scents of lead pencil shavings intermixed with blueberries,  black currants,  and boysenberries,  and plenty of minerality. 89;  no website found ]
Ruby and velvet,  redder than some of the other Bordeaux samples,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is very old-fashioned,  more grubby shippers' claret than chateau quality.  There is generalised browning berry with brett dominant.  Palate has some of the hardness of sucking on red plum stones,  reasonable ripeness,  coarse old oak,  and a leathery bretty finish.  QDR,  not worth showing in a seminar,  or cellaring beyond 5 years.  GK 01/10