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

Been having a bit of a break from articles for the website,  and been reading some others,  by way of change.  It certainly makes you think,  particularly when you have recently tasted some of the wines.  Recent releases have included a particularly beautiful pinot noir of totally international quality,  plus a couple of others which show just how far New Zealand has already travelled on the road to pinot noir veracity,  and an auslese-style riesling which is amongst the loveliest so far released in this country.  These rare phenocrysts of excellence are the rewards in tasting wines in Australasia,  where all too often the ordinary and even the incongruous both continue to win gold medals in parochial competitions,  and are lavishly,  indeed sometimes gushingly described by Australasian winewriters.

With one conspicuous exception,  most Australian wine-writing has for years been an embarrassment in terms of its total disregard for the wine standards the civilised world considers normal,  and their still bizarre levels of praise for their all-too-often over-ripe,  overly alcoholic,  heavily acid-adjusted and often too-oaky wines.  And that is not even mentioning the frequent eucalyptus taint.  So many Australian wines are technically over-correct,  but stylistically empty.  Wine chauvinism / jingoism plus parochialism is a pretty despairing mix,  if the goal in wine-writing is to communicate useful information to wine-lovers.   And sadly,  there is a danger New Zealand may follow Australia's unfortunate lead in this matter of wine braggadocio,  as more and more people with less and less critical and in-depth experience of the wines of the world write ever more about wine.

This potential difficulty is made more acute in New Zealand,  where so many local people are still habituated to Australian ideas of wine quality,  in both white and more particularly red wines.  This is seriously inappropriate,  in a temperate-climate wine country with the climatic opportunity to make beautiful wines with natural acid balances,  as opposed to merely big or impressive ones,  and acid-adjusted to boot.

Beyond that general concern,  at this stage of our evolution in a temperate viticultural climate offering almost unimaginable possibilities for producing fragrant and finessed wines,  the acute deficiencies in the national palate,  and in New Zealand wine assessment,  judging and commentary generally are:
#  failing to recognise dulling sulphides,  retained fermentation odours and heaviness consequent on a lack of oxygen in the wine;
#  failing to differentiate between leafyness and florality,  in other words rewarding under-ripeness;
#  over-rewarding oaky wines;
#  and,  perversely,  over-rewarding wines where size,  weight and sometimes over-ripeness are dominant,  and varietal precision and beauty are lacking.

Achieving accurate and meaningful wine reviews which will stand the test of time is much harder than it seems.  The key issue is,  good reviews must enable the consumer to really discriminate,  and not merely be camouflaged PR for the winemaker.  And we all make mistakes – achieving success with the second deficiency (in the list) requires considerable thought about the wine,  and the ripeness of its tannins and so forth.  It is not always easy to do.  But then until recently,  they used to say that a stockbroker managing to be right half the time was doing well.  Winewriters need to do better than that,  to be respected.  So,  for those seeking beauty,  suppleness and food-friendliness more than size in their wines,  and particularly in their wines for cellaring,  I can only say:  calibrate your advice carefully.

In preparing an adequately back-grounded wine article,  an author must visit many websites,  all too often fruitlessly if the goal is facts.  The concept of maximum information retrieval in the shortest possible time appears to be beyond the comprehension of many website-designers.  It is a pleasure to record therefore,  that the Mt Difficulty website has become one of the models in the industry,  where the reader can easily find all the factual information you need to know,  and for any wine since they started.  In this they follow the early nearly-exemplary lead of Te Mata Estate (a bit shy with some parameters),  and then in desirably more detail Craggy Range.  Such websites contrast vividly with so many other wine sites where the proprietor frustrates entry by demanding form-filling or first imposing bombastic or otherwise grandiose scene-setting material,  merely waffles in the most general terms about each wine (if you are lucky),  or worse,  is out to distract the viewer with moving widgets,  bamboozle them with spurious information,  conceal information about the actual wines,  or generally brag about the excellence of the wines but without any substantive content,  citing trivial results from the plethora of lesser wine competitions and biddable winewriters.  A website such as the Mt Difficulty one is therefore a matter for rejoicing.    


2009  Charles Wiffen Chardonnay
2007  Felton Road Chardonnay
2010  Felton Road Chardonnay Bannockburn
2008  Domaine W.  Fevre Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru
2009  Greystone Chardonnay
2009  Mills Reef Chardonnay Reserve
2004  Mt Difficulty Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2009  Mills Reef Sauvignon Blanc Reserve
2010  Carrick Riesling Dry
2010  Escarpment Riesling
2010  Felton Road Riesling Bannockburn
2009  Greystone Riesling
2009  Greystone Riesling Late-Harvest
2009  Mt Difficulty Riesling Dry
2006  Mt Difficulty Riesling Long Gully Single Vineyard
2009  Mt Difficulty Riesling Target Gulley Single Vineyard
2008  Riverby Estate Riesling Sali's Block Single Vineyard
2010  Stoneleigh Riesling
2010  Vidal Riesling
2007  Waimea Estate Riesling Bolitho
2008  Waimea Estate Riesling Classic
Pinot Gris
2009  I Masqetti Pinot Grigio della Venezia
2009  Lime Rock Pinot Gris
2010  Mills Reef Pinot Gris Reserve
2010  Mills Reef Viognier Reserve
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Franc
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Sauvignon
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Malbec
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon Ariki
2009  Mills Reef Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2010  Akarua Pinot Noir
2009  Akarua Pinot Noir
2007  Akarua Pinot Noir Gullies Single Vineyard
2009  Akarua Pinot Noir Reserve
2010  Akarua Pinot Noir Rua
2009  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2009  Bannock Brae Pinot Noir Goldfields
  2008  Bannock Brae Pinot Noir Goldfields
2008  Clos Henri Pinot Noir
2009  Clos Henri Pinot Noir Bel Echo
2009  Clos Henri Pinot Noir Petit Clos
2009  Escarpment Pinot Noir
2010  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn
2010  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3
2010  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point
2009  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point
2008  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point
2009  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh
2008  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh
2008  Greystone Pinot Noir
2006  Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rouge La Bourgeoise
2009  Julicher Pinot Noir Te Muna Road
2008  Lime Rock Pinot Noir
2007  MacArthur Ridge Pinot Noir
2009  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir
2009  Matua Valley Pinot Noir Central Otago
2009  Mondillo Pinot Noir
2009  Mount Edward Pinot Noir Morrison Vineyard
2009  Mount Edward Pinot Noir Muirkirk Vineyard
2009  Mount Edward Pinot Noir Stevens Vineyard
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Long Gully Single Vineyard
2007  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Long Gully Single Vineyard
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace Single Vineyard
2005  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace Single Vineyard
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Roaring Meg
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gulley Single Vineyard
2009  Mud House Pinot Noir Swan Central Otago
2010  Peregrine Pinot Noir
2008  Pisa Range Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block
2009  Porters Pinot Noir
2008  Rippon Pinot Noir
2007  Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin
2009  Schubert Pinot Noir Block B
2008  [ Mount Edward ] Wanaka Road Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2008  Cambridge Road Syrah
2008  Dry River Syrah
2008  Kusuda Syrah
2009  Martinborough Vineyard Syrah / Viognier
2009  Mills Reef Syrah Reserve Gimblett Gravels
2009  Villa Maria Syrah Reserve
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
2009  Poggio Basso Chianti
From the Cellar. Older wines.
2002  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
2003  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gulley Single Vineyard
2003  Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Dundee Hills

2008  Domaine W.  Fevre Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru   18 ½  ()
Chablis,  France:  12.5%;  $133   [ cork;  alcohol given surely notional;  no website found ]
Good lemon,  scarcely separable from the Felton 2010 Chardonnay,  or maybe a little lighter.  Grand cru chablis is always (hopefully) a treat,  whenever you bump into it,  and in organising the Felton Road tastings, convener Alistair Morris included this wine to see how it illuminated the Felton chardonnays.  The answer can only be:  brilliantly.  It is quieter than either of the Feltons,  not so beautifully floral,  but none of the grey fog (sulphur-related) of yesteryear chablis.  On bouquet there is just a suggestion of English white flowers,  on pale stonefruit.  Palate is fresh,  a little more mineral yet gentler than the Feltons (and other cool-climate New Zealand chardonnays) and less oak influenced if at all (maybe large old oak vessels),  bone dry,  with an enticing mouthfeel and length.  If the Felton had even less new oak than the current 15%,  which exacerbates the high acid,  the styles would overlap delightfully.  And indeed,  there are some Chablis proprietors using some new oak.  Lovely wine,  eminently drinkable,  cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2010  Felton Road Chardonnay Bannockburn   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  100% BF with some solids and wild yeast in French oak 15% new,  other barrels to 11 years;  100% MLF,  c.11 months LA with minimal stirring;  www.feltonroad.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  This wine has the most marvellous bouquet.  There are white English flowers,  and subtle acacia blossom,  leading into fragrant white stonefruits on palate.  This dry wine is rich enough to be food-friendly,  but so subtle in its oaking as to be matchable with whitebait or flounder.  Total acid is on the high side,  but few chablis are as good as this.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Greystone Chardonnay   18 +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $31   [ screwcap;  clones mendoza and B95,  hand-picked;  100% BF in French oak % new not stated,  40% MLF;  11 or so months in barrel;  www.greystonewines.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw,  more straw than ideal for the age.  This wine presents a Waipara-based match for the 2010 Felton Road wine.  It is similarly a carefully ripened,  highly floral and subtle approach to cool-climate chardonnay. The whole wine is exceptionally fragrant,  with even more acacia blossom notes,  fresh,  fractionally stronger in both its fruit flavours and its oak than the Felton,  seemingly not quite as bone dry,  and a little more forward.  But alongside so many more burly interpretations of the grape,  this wine too asks for grand cru chablis for comparison – though a producer using new oak.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Charles Wiffen Chardonnay   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  not on website,  previous vintages suggest around 10 months in new and old French oak,  and c.3 g/L RS;  www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz ]
Deep lemon,  fresher than the Greystone.  Bouquet has that intriguing Marlborough chardonnay quality to it,  both slightly floral yet is their trace leafyness too ?  Below are complex mealy quite burgundian aromas,  white stonefruits,  some oak,  fragrant.  Palate brings up the stonefruits,  even some yellow peach notes,  and dispels any thoughts of under-ripeness.  Fruit on palate is weightier than the two chablis-like wines,  the mealyness from lees-autolysis,  barrel-ferment and MLF components reminding of Meursault,  and the length of flavour is attractive.  Oak and acid become slightly obtrusive later on the palate,  but the richness covers that.  The wine is not as dry as the Felton pair,  and might be more popular on that account.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2007  Felton Road Chardonnay   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  mendoza and clone 95 hand-harvested,  100% BF in French oak 12% new;  100% MLF,  11 months LA and some stirring;  www.feltonroad.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw,  considerably deeper lemon than the 2010 wine,  but still only the faintest wash of straw,  fresher than the Greystone.  On bouquet,  this wine contrasts a little with the 2010,  there being a more conspicuous high-solids / trace reduction component at the level most people call 'mineral',  which clouds the floral component somewhat.  But otherwise the wine is similar,  pale stonefruits,  a little more strongly flavoured,  the oak showing a little more and the wine slightly more phenolic.  Still pretty lovely chardonnay,  just a little closer to the New Zealand norm.  Winemaker Blair Walter has these naturally high-acid Otago chardonnays well under control in these two examples.  Best ventilated by decanting.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/11

2004  Mt Difficulty Chardonnay   17 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  100% BF with high solids in old more than new French oak;  weekly to fortnightly stirring on gross lees to build palate;  <2 g/L RS;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw,  deeper than the other chardonnays in this tasting – reasonably.  Bouquet is fragrant,  maturing nicely,  clearly yellow-fleshed stonefruits,  some toasted-almond mealyness,  attractive.  Palate is a little more abrupt,  the toastyness of the barrel component rather much as if one or two of the almonds were scorched,  some stonefruit,  and total acid a bit noticeable.  These details went unnoticed in the context winemaker Matt Dicey presented the wine,  with an alternation of smoked salmon and roast pork,  which made the wine seem magnificent.  Useful wine reviews must be more clinical,  however.  At a peak,  will hold 2 – 4 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mills Reef Chardonnay Reserve   16 +  ()
Meanee district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  79% BF in French 54% and American 46% oak,  with some lees stirring,  21% s/s;  35% MLF;  the wine assembled and all into oak c.10 months,  RS not given;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Straw,  old for its age.  Bouquet is first and foremost oak,  with a scented artefact as well,  not so appealing.  Palate shows peachy fruit of good richness,  sufficient to mop up some of the oak.  There is just a whisper of oxidation,  shortening the finish.  A more burly straightforward example of the grape,  which could be popular on the oak – which may include some American.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 06/11

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2009  Mills Reef Sauvignon Blanc Reserve   17 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $21   [ screwcap;  s/s cool-ferment,  brief lees-contact;  RS not given;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw.  Bouquet is rich and ripe and strong,  in an elaborated and oak-handled approach to sauvignon blanc.  In this case the fruit is from Hawkes Bay,  so the fruit characters are a little more tropical,  in the New Zealand context.  Aromas of mountain pawpaw,  grapefruit zest and sautéed red capsicums mingle with oak and trace botrytis.  Palate is a little broad and extractive,  but not flabby,  the flavour long and sustained on oak.  One can imagine a hot year Graves showing something of this styling.  Could work well with ratatouille and the like.  Delicacy fans would score it lower.  Cellar 2 – 4 years only.  GK 06/11

2009  Greystone Riesling Late-Harvest   19 +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  9%;  $30   [ screwcap;  not on website;  no info forthcoming;  www.greystonewines.co.nz ]
Elegant lemon.  Bouquet is intensely floral,  with holy grass,  freesia,  vanilla and subtle acacia notes really obvious on bouquet,  confuseable only with fine Mosel at an auslese level of sweetness in a botrytis year.  Palate confirms,  a perfect balance of nectary fruit yet refreshing lime zest and citrus-like acid,  plus beautifully handled phenolics,  the flavour and gentle sweetness lingering long in the mouth.   Wonderful.  Offhand,  it is the most beautiful and complex New Zealand riesling I can remember.  It should cellar for 15 years,  at least,  and confuse many tasters along the way.  GK 06/11

2008  Riverby Estate Riesling Sali's Block Single Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.3%;  $19   [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  hand-picked in two phases,  a botrytis tranche later added in;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented,  all s/s;  pH 2.88,  RS 15 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is softly freesia floral,  not as dramatic as the late-harvest Greystone,  but fine and fragrant,  with suggestions of lemon juice,  lime-zest,  and sweet botrytis.  Palate fills out the fruit delightfully,  the lime zest much more apparent but not phenolic,  the riesling varietal character assisted perfectly by the 15 g/L residual sugar.  The nett impression is just off-dry.  This too should cellar for 10 – 12 years.  GK 06/11

2010  Escarpment Riesling   18 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $24   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  s/s ferment;  RS 20 g/L;  not released yet;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is exquisitely clean,  and highly varietal riesling in an almost juicy way:  some floral notes,  lemon and black passionfruit aromas,  an undertone of mandarin,  lovely.  Palate slots in well with the Riverby,  seemingly a little bolder in its lemon-fruit flavours,  less botrytis,  but just as long and exciting on roughly similar residual sweetness.  This should cellar 10 – 12 years.  GK 06/11

2007  Waimea Estate Riesling Bolitho   18 +  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  dry vintage,  hand-harvested;  whole-bunch pressed,  inoculated  yeast,  s/s ferment;  pH 2.9,  RS 25 g/L;  not on website;  www.waimeabrands.com ]
Lemon.  Freshly opened,  the wine is a bit closed – it needs a good swirling in the glass.  Bouquet is clearly varietal in a more new world style,  not quite the acacia floral complexity of the two top wines,  more some holy grass / linalool fragrance,  with suggestions of freesia.  Palate is a little richer and slightly more phenolic than the Riverby,  but not quite so fresh,  with probably much less botrytis influence.  It is 'riesling dry' and should therefore be a fine food wine,  for those rare foods that 'go' with riesling.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Riesling Target Gulley Single Vineyard   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  9.5%;  $26   [ screwcap;  vines planted 1994;  stop-fermented @ 40 g/L;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Lemon-green to lemon.  Bouquet is vanillin and citrus complexed from lees enrichment,  in many ways bringing this wine closer still to Germany – Mosel again.  The rich palate is sweeter than most here,  but fresh and vibrant on the acid / residual sweetness balance,  and low pH.  Apparent sweetness is between kabinett and spaetlese.  Again,  the cellaring potential is great,  10 – 15 years,  since the phenolics are so well handled in these top rieslings.  Should score higher in three years.  GK 06/11

2010  Felton Road Riesling Bannockburn   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  9%;  $31   [ screwcap;   hand-harvested,  all s/s ferments with wild yeast,  some LA on fine lees;  RS 56 g/L;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Elegant lemon-green.  Freshly opened,  bouquet is a little disorganised,  some freesia florals and citrus,  also some freshly-cooked baby sweetcorn,  not unpleasant,  just slightly odd.  With air the wine fills out to clear lemon-juice flavours,  gentle lime zest,  considerable flesh on the higher residual,  clearly nectary yet with a mineral underpinning.  Winemaker Blair Walter comments it will cellar 'for ever',  so 10 – 15 years should be OK.  May surprise and merit re-ranking.  GK 06/11

2009  Greystone Riesling   17 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  not on website;  www.greystonewines.co.nz ]
Fractionally deeper lemon than the Late-Harvest version.  Bouquet is subtle in this company,  a delicate linden blossom quality,  only the lightest lemon and citrus zest,  very pure.  Palate is much clearer in character,  now showing freesia floral notes in mouth,  as well as vanillin and lemon juice flavours with some botrytis,  in an off-dry finish nicely balanced to acid.  Yet there is still some awkwardness too,  the wine really needing more time in bottle to harmonise,  and maybe score higher.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/11

2006  Mt Difficulty Riesling Long Gully Single Vineyard   17 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  10.5%;  $34   [ screwcap;  vines planted 1992;  long hang-time,  riper flavours sought,  harvest 11 May,  virtually no botrytis;  stop-fermented @ 90 g/L;  pH @ 3.17;  60 cases;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Older lemon.  Bouquet is straightforward riesling,  some citrus fruits,  no botrytis,  a suggestion of floral nectar only.  Palate has an astonishing flavour of Lisbon lemons,  much more complexity,  some botrytis and a hint of lanolin,  the flavour long extended on the higher residual.  Strange wine,  not quite as symmetrical and enchanting as one would hope,  but clearly varietal.  Cellar 5 – 8 years,  perhaps.  GK 06/11

2008  Waimea Estate Riesling Classic   17 +  ()
Waimea Valley,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ screwcap;  no skin contact,  s/s ferment,  German yeast;  some LA;  pH 3.1,  RS 22 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Older lemon,  just a wash of brass creeping in – surprisingly.  On bouquet too there is some development showing,  the floral and nectary notes becoming a little honeyed,  with some suggestions of finest Clare or Eden Valley riesling as well as New Zealand.  Palate is not as elegant as the top wines,  lots of varietal flavour,  almost a honeyed note in suggestions of passionfruit,  but the phenolics already showing through.  This will not cellar so happily,  more a wine for earlier drinking over 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2010  Vidal Riesling   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $16   [ screwcap;  some LA;  pH: 3.01,  RS 7.1 g/L;  better prices frequently available;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Lemon-green,  paleish.  Initially opened,  there is still a little bottling sulphur to dissipate,  needing a swirl or two of the glass.  The wine smells very high-tech and pure,  its sensory qualities latent compared with some of the higher-marked wines.  In that it is like a young Clare Valley wine,  lightly citric,  with only hints of freesia,  no evident botrytis.  Palate continues in this flinty rendering of riesling,  the wine dry on the acid despite the 7 g/L residual.  This needs five years to soften and show its best.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Riesling Dry   16 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  s/s cool ferment;  some stirring on gross lees to build palate,  3.1 pH,  4.5 g/L RS by back-blending;  160 cases;  great website;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This is another wine in the tight youthful style,  more promise than pleasure at this stage.  Bouquet is mineral and lightly citric,  pure,  also reminiscent of the Clare Valley / Eden Valley,  no botrytis,  needing time in bottle to show vanillin and white stonefruits complexities.  Palate shows good fruit relative to the very dry (for riesling) 4.5 g/L residual,  but the wine is austere and mineral at this stage,  rather like a young Grosset Riesling.  Best put away for five years,  and should cellar 10 – 15.  GK 06/11

2010  Carrick Riesling Dry   16 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  11.3%;  $22   [ screwcap;  s/s cool-ferment,  wild yeast;  RS 4 g/L;  www.carrick.co.nz ]
Lemon-green.  It is tough on riesling to release it at one year of age,  especially if they are 'dry'.  Riesling so needs time in bottle to show its charms,  and its flavours cry out for some residual sugar.  This wine is pure,  lightly floral,  palely lime juice on bouquet.  Palate at this stage is severe,  richer and dryer than the Stoneleigh but not as finessed,  finishing flinty.  Another to not touch for three years,  and cellar for another 5 – 10,  maybe to surprise.  GK 06/11

2010  Stoneleigh Riesling   16 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11.8%;  $25   [ screwcap;  some vines to 25 years age,  cool-fermented in s/s,  no solids,  no oak;  pH 3.04,  RS 10.7 g/L;  promoted down to $12 in supermarkets recently;  background @ the website given leads to specs;  www.stoneleigh.co.nz/wines/stoneleigh/riesling.html ]
Lemon-green,  paleish,  a little lighter than the Vidal.  Bouquet is clearly varietal in an austere Saar / Ruwer style,  light white florals,  cooking apples,  mineral in the sense of knapped rocks.  Palate lacks the fruit of the good wines here,  clearly a higher cropping rate wine covered by higher residual than for example the Vidal.  But it is all clean and pure,  and not too phenolic.  Another wine needing three years in bottle before it is worth drinking,  and will cellar to 10 years.  GK 06/11

Pinot Gris
2009  I Masqetti Pinot Grigio della Venezia   15 +  ()
Venezia IGT,  Italy:  12.5%;  $21   [ plastic closure ]
Lemon-straw.  Bouquet is clean,  white and neutral to first inspection,  at least free from the technical faults so many Italian pinot gris showed in earlier days.  Maybe there are fleeting pear-flesh aromas.  Palate shows fair body,  bone dry alongside most New Zealand pinot gris,  again perhaps some pear-flesh suggestions.  Pleasant dry quaffing white,  but not clearly varietal.  Not worth cellaring,  but will hold a year or two.  GK 06/11

2009  Lime Rock Pinot Gris   14 ½  ()
Waipawa district,  central Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  vineyard 250 m,  north-facing;  hand-picked;  half the wine BF & LA in 3-year French oak,  stirred weekly,  half s/s;  RS 3 g/L = dry for most tasters;  www.limerock.co.nz ]
Straw.  Bouquet is estery and simple,  slight lanolin,  no clear variety.  On palate the VA level is too high for elegance,  but it is vaguely varietal,  and there is some fruit.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/11

2010  Mills Reef Pinot Gris Reserve   14  ()
Haumoana,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $21   [ screwcap;  12 hours skin-contact,  BF and 3 months in [said to be] old oak barrels so some lees-contact;  RS not given beyond off-dry;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Orange-washed straw.  Bouquet is clumsy,  seeming like oak chips probably including American oak,  in an alcoholic solution.  Palate does reveal fair fruit which could well be neutral pinot gris,  but due to the oak one could hardly tell.  Apart from the oak mishandling,  it is otherwise fault-free,  and I guess might appeal to oak lovers.  Wines like these last three illustrate why pinot gris is so much mocked.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/11

2010  Mills Reef Viognier Reserve    17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  100% BF in French oak none younger than 3 years,  plus 2.5 months LA;  nil MLF,  RS not given;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Attractive lemon.  Among the chardonnays in the blind tasting,  the lovely apricots-infused aroma of viognier immediately stands out.  It is not dramatically varietal,  but on bouquet there are suggestions of yellow honeysuckle and crisp yellow apricots – not ripe enough to be full orange.  Palate is softened by some residual sugar,  but there is good body as well.  The oak here is as subtle as the Mills Reef Pinot Gris is clumsy,  with the kind of mouthfeel suggesting some barrel-ferment in older oak only.  A frankly commercial presentation of the grape in one sense,  but fine enough to be good,  too,  despite the sugar.  Should be popular.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 06/11

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2009  Mills Reef Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  CS 64%,  Me 36;  4 days cold soak followed by fermentation in s/s;  15 months in barrel 60% French,  40 American,  some new;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  considerably deeper than the Mills Reef Syrah,  more oak-affected than the Kidnapper Cliffs.  There is a lot of bouquet,  like the Syrah the soft fragrant oak lifting the berryfruit but not dominating it too much.  In this wine 'lifted' is used advisedly,  there being threshold VA.  Palate shows clear cassis,  nice fruit in a medium-weight wine,  all fragrant and harmonious with nicely judged ripeness,  well in style but not seriously rich.  Like the syrah,  I imagine will this will give much pleasure,  and at the price is well worthwhile.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  VALUE  GK 06/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Sauvignon   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ cork;  no info,  see Ariki;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Dense ruby,   carmine and velvet,  a most impressive colour.  Straight out of the bottle,  given the colour,  bouquet immediately disappoints,  like so many big Australian reds.  It is heavy and dull,  almost a fusel oil-like dullness suppressing florality and berry charm.  This wine needs oxygen desperately.  Splashily decanted a number of times,  it improves considerably.  Through the heavy tannins one can now see a terrific concentration of darkest plum more than cassis fruit,  you can detect it has passed through the cassis stage of flavour,  and traces remain,  but at this stage the wine is too black and biting and tannic to qualify as a good Hawkes Bay blend.  By the same token,  it will cellar for ages,  and in old age as the tannins condense,  it should be much more pleasing.  The score is strictly for long cellaring – the wine is almost impenetrable right now.  Cellar 10 – 25 years,  maybe longer.  GK 06/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon Ariki   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ cork;  no info – the website is in the same irritating format as the Dry River one,  concealing rather than revealing factual information,  the wines already hard to locate;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a good colour.  Bouquet is nearly fragrant,  let down by light reduction / a lack of oxygen,  but there are plums and a touch of blueberry.  On palate,  there is beautifully fine-grain oak wrapped in rich berry,  thoughts of cedar and chocolate,  a touch of leaf linking it to the Malbec.  All in all the style is reminiscent of Petaluma reds,  high-tech and squeaky-clean (reduction aside),  but lacking charm in any Bordeaux sense.  Since Hawkes Bay is one of the few places on earth precisely suited to emulating the Bordeaux style,  this result in such a remarkable vintage is disappointing.  Cellar 5 – 15 or more years.  GK 06/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Malbec   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ cork;  no info,  see Ariki;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Carmine,  ruby and velvet,  the malbec blue showing through.  This is intriguing wine,  showing enhanced bouquet due to under-ripeness,  exactly as we see in syrah or pinot noir.  Too many commentators mistakenly mark this up,  without going on to check the ripeness of the tannins on palate.  The berryfruits have that wild note malbec often shows in New Zealand,  loganberry and a hint of olive,  not unattractive.  On palate the critical lack of ripeness shows clearly,  the tannins hard,  and despite the quite rich berry,  there is some stalkyness.  An intellectually interesting wine,  but for a different reason from Ariki,  it lacks charm.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Franc   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ cork;  no info,  see Ariki;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  on a par with the Malbec.  The comments made for the Cabernet Sauvignon apply here,  but with added poignancy.  The whole point of cabernet franc is to achieve a wine of great florality,  and red berry aromas,  fresh and inviting,  fragrant,  silky,  enchanting in its wonderful aromas.  This example however has been over-ripened,  and thus stripped of aroma.  It is rich but tannic and short,  though concentrated.  There are some blueberry suggestions,  perhaps.  Like the Cabernet Sauvignon,  once it loses some tannin,  it may have more to say after 8 – 20 years cellaring.  For anyone with an understanding of the beauty of cabernet franc in an appropriate climate,  which Hawkes Bay is,  it is simply disappointing.  Stylistically therefore it makes the same mistakes as so many vintages of the Dry River Pinot Noir.  GK 06/11

Pinot Noir
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gulley Single Vineyard   19  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ screwcap;  clones 5, 6, 10/5 and 777,  the oldest (on own roots) 15 years at harvest;  earlier vintages have been cropped at c. 4 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac;  9 days cold-soak,  7 days fermentation,  9 days maceration,  giving a cuvaison of 25 days,  25% whole bunches;  16 months in French oak,  some new,  MLF in barrel the following spring;  light fining only;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Fine pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet epitomises fine New Zealand pinot noir,  beautifully and warmly floral with violets,  roses and boronia,  attractive red and black cherry fruit which is not too black,  subtle oak,  and great excitement.  Palate follows through perfectly,  great international-quality pinot noir,  supple,  charming,  with layers of flavour,  yet not overly dark and fruity as so many Otago examples can be.  Not a big wine or a show-stopper in the conventional New Zealand sense,  but a very beautiful example of New Zealand pinot noir which is truly burgundian in styling.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  10 in a cool cellar.  GK 06/11

2010  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3   18 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $91   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  25 – 30% whole-bunch,  wild-yeast fermentation;  13 months in French oak c.35% new,  not fined or filtered;  Blocks 3 & 5 are allocated to all markets,  principally fine wine resellers and a mailing list.  The latter now has a waiting list to be on it,  and members need to order a dozen bottles to secure (commonly) a maximum of 4 bottles of each Block;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Deep pinot noir ruby alongside the Target Gulley,  about the maximum desirable in the variety.  Bouquet is much deeper,  darker and richer than that wine too,  much more in the big Felton Road style,  but redeemed by clear-cut florals more in the boronia spectrum,  delightfully apparent.  Palate being a year younger is much juicier and fuller than the Target Gulley,  the cherry component darker / more black cherries,  but the oaking is equally subtle.  These two wines paint a glowing picture of current achievements in Central Otago pinot,  and pretty well span the range of styles as well.  Block 3 is virtually limited to direct ex-vineyard purchase,  preferably by being on the 'Block list' for advance notice of release.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Akarua Pinot Noir Reserve   18 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.7%;  $55   [ screwcap;  clones 5 and 6 predominate in a mix of 7 clones cropped @ c. 5.5 t/ha = 2.3 t/ac;  no whole bunch,  some wild yeast;  a barrel selection comprising 4% of the harvest;  11 months in French oak,  35% new;  www.akarua.com ]
Attractive pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is more in the red grading to black cherry fruit camp,  with again a supple floral lift adding charm and varietal precision.  Here the oak is slightly more noticeable,  and it is entwined with a light savoury aromatic note which makes one wonder about the thyme characters sometimes mentioned in Otago wines.  It is vanishingly subtle though.  Palate is very attractive,  beautiful cherry fruit just a little more shaped by oak than the Target Gulley.  Alcohol is higher than one might wish for pinot noir,  but at this stage the wine carries it well.  I am confident it will perform well in cellar,  noting that some of the 2002 ripe-year Otago pinots have matured attractively.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Escarpment Pinot Noir   18 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $49   [ supercritical cork;  70% Te Muna Road,  mix of clones,  30% whole bunch,  wild yeast,  18-day cuvaison;  11 months in French oak,  30% new;  dry extract 30 g/L,  RS 1.2 g/L;  c. 500 cases;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  It is astonishing the degree to which this Martinborough wine can be confused with less dark Otago pinots of the same year.  There is a slightly aromatic violets and boronia florality on cherry fruit,  with a fair measure of black cherry.  It is fractionally riper than the Cornish Point 2008,  with slightly more oak influence.  The scope for confusing the two districts is intriguing,  since so many claim they are worlds apart.  This is a lovely example of Larry McKenna's craft,  the best standard-label yet,  achieving European standards of fruit weight as expressed by the all-important dry extract figure.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Long Gully Single Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ screwcap;  5 clones of pinot,  the oldest (on own roots) 17 years at harvest;  earlier vintages have been cropped at c. 4 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac;  up to 9 days cold-soak with c. 6% whole-bunches,  up to 8 days fermentation,  up to 9 days maceration,  a similar cuvaison to Target Gulley,  but the least whole-bunch component;  16 months in French oak,  some new;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is the quietest of the three Single Vineyard wines on bouquet,  at the moment just an implied dusky florality in quite dark cherry fruit.  On palate the fruit richness from red and black cherries is close to Target Gulley,  the acid is lower than Pipeclay,  but there is a slightly burly tannin quality yet to marry in.  It is very hard to say which of Long and Pipeclay is the better,  indeed one's view can change from tasting to tasting,  but they are different.  Winemaker Matt Dicey sees this as the most 'masculine' of the Individual Vineyard pinots.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  10 in a cool cellar.  GK 06/11

2008  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $58   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested in a generous year (see text),  25 – 30% whole-bunch,  wild-yeast fermentation;  c. 12 months in French oak c. 30% new,  not fined or filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little deeper than the Target Gulley,  clearly older and lighter than the 2010 Block 3.  What a great bouquet – here is a wine to immediately demonstrate that where the crop was appropriately handled in the vineyard,  2008 did not have to be a year of lighter wines brought about by the heavy crops of that season.  But to make doubly sure,  when the crop did exceed their preferred 6 – 6.5 t/ha = c.2.5 t/ac,  winemaker Blair Walter increased the concentration in the wine by running off 8% of the juice immediately after pressing,  to produce their Vin Gris.  The resulting Cornish Point Pinot Noir is intensely floral,  in fact the most floral of these top four wines,  the fruit inclining more to black cherry.  The palate contradicts that impression a little,  revealing a certain coolness of character that the water-surrounded Cornish Point (the south river-like end of  Lake Dunstan) frequently shows.  The length of this boronia-saturated fruit is enchanting.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace Single Vineyard   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ screwcap;  a more diverse range of clones than Target Gulley,  the oldest (on own roots) 15 years at harvest;  earlier vintages have been cropped at c. 4 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac;  up to 10 days cold-soak,  up to 10 days fermentation,  up to 10 days maceration,  giving a longer cuvaison than target Gulley,  with a smaller whole-bunch component;  16 months in French oak,  some new;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little brighter than the Target Gulley.  Initially on bouquet one can hardly tell the Pipeclay and Target Gulley Mt Difficulty wines apart,  such is the depth of wonderful violets,  roses and boronia florality,  backed by good cherry fruit.  Yet in another sense,  for this wine you would never pick it as from Central Otago,  for it shows the kind of vivid red-fruits florality sometimes found in Martinborough,  plus an entwining of fine oak.  Palate however is considerably cooler than the Target and Long Gulley wines,  the balance of flavour clearly more to red fruits,  and there is not quite the depth of tannin ripeness.  This is the most acid of the three Single Vineyard wines in 2009,  there is a little stalk,  but it is beautifully fine-grain.  The nett impression is Pipeclay this year does not show quite the grand cru cropping rate pinot needs to achieve perfect ripeness and body.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2010  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $58   [ screwcap;  winery price,  nearer $70 in retailers;  hand-harvested,  25 – 30% whole-bunch,  wild-yeast fermentation;  c. 12 months in French oak c. 30% new,  not fined or filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  not as deep as the Block 3.  At this stage the bouquet is showing vanilla from the oak,  so it is hard to separate that pseudo-floral note from grape florals.  The balance of ripeness is nicely middling red to black fruits,  distinctly cooler and more fragrant than the Bannockburn wine.  Palate in contrast seems much darker,  yet at the same time with that fresh hint the Cornish point wines show.  This should marry up into just as lovely a wine as the 2008.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mount Edward Pinot Noir Muirkirk Vineyard   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $68   [ screwcap;  hand-picked,  single-vineyard wine,  second release;  14 months in French oak;  not fined or filtered;  no other info;  www.mountedward.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is soft,  warm and inviting pinot noir,  showing good roses to boronia florality on attractively ripened cherry fruit.  In mouth a suggestion of barrel complexity adds to interest,  with fine fruit richness and the flavour-length extended by oak.  Many will prefer this slightly more oak-influenced styling to the subtler wines I have put ahead of it.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Bannock Brae Pinot Noir Goldfields   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $30   [ screwcap;  if like the 2008,  hand-picked,  cuvaison extending to 4 weeks for some parcels;  c. 8 months in French oak c.25% new;  not fined or filtered;  www.bannockbrae.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  In contrast to the Muirkirk Vineyard wine,  this is a more fruit-forward pinot noir showing less oak influence.  On bouquet the fragrant black more than red cherry fruit is warm and inviting,  with subdued florals.  Palate shows great fruit subtly oaked,  a touch of coolness freshening the wine up,  and pleasing texture and weight in mouth.  At the price,  this is a great introduction to the darker styles of Otago pinot.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  VALUE  GK 06/11

2009  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh   18  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $32   [ screwcap;  hand-picked and sorted;  thought to be 5% whole bunch;  10 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.grasshopperrock.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is red cherry fragrant,  clearly varietal,  in a much more Cote de Beaune than Cote de Nuits styling,  appealing.  Palate follows exactly,  not dark Otago pinot noir at all,  but still attractive crunchy burgundian cherry fruit,  freshened by a trace of coolness as seen in the Cornish Point wine.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  This is gorgeous !  VALUE  GK 06/11

2009  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $58   [ screwcap;  winery price,  nearer $70 in retailers;  hand-harvested,  25 – 30% whole-bunch,  wild-yeast fermentation;  c. 12 months in French oak c. 30% new,  not fined or filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Darker pinot noir ruby.  This is intriguing wine.  Like nearly all the Cornish Points,  it is clearly boronia-fragrant,  on darkly cherry fruits,  but this one seems to show a cooler component than the 2008 sibling.  This is not quite what you would expect,  on the reputation of the two vintages.  Palate is still showing some tannins,  but the breadth of pinot fruit is delightful,  just a trace of stalk deep below.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/11

2010  Peregrine Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Cromwell Basin 85% & Gibbston 15,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  not on website,  if like 2009 is hand-harvested from 7 clones of pinot;  100% de-stemmed,  up to 7 days cold-soak,  c. 21 days cuvaison;  10 months in French oak c.35% new;  RS 1 g/L;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Bright ruby,  nearly as dense as the Felton Road wines.  Bouquet is in the riper spectrum of Otago pinots,  fragrant but tending too ripe for optimal florality,  with the fruit tending a little plummy as well as dark cherry.  Palate is fresher,  clearly some cherry here,  good richness and length,  subtly oaked.  This is the more usual 'fruity' Otago approach.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $72   [ screwcap;  10% whole bunch,  5 – 8 days cold-soak,  wild yeast,  cuvaison 21 – 28 days;  MLF and 12 months in French oak,  25% new;  not filtered;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little lighter than the 2009 Target Gulley.  Bouquet is both floral and red cherry fragrant,  with subtle oaking.  On palate it is as explicitly cherry varietal as the 2009 Escarpment,  but just a little cooler,  so the bouquet is stronger,  but the palate is firmer,  just a trace of stalk like the Cornish 2009.  What a great vintage 2009 is for pinot noir in both Martinborough and Central Otago.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mount Edward Pinot Noir Stevens Vineyard   17 ½ +  ()
Gibbston,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $69   [ screwcap;  hand-picked,  single-vineyard planted in 1995;  42 cases made,  not on website;  www.mountedward.co.nz ]
Darker pinot noir ruby than the Martinborough wines.  Bouquet has quite an aromatic lift to fair fruit,  another to make you wonder about the thyme factor in Otago wines.  In another context,  one might think of balsam.  In mouth,  the wine is richly cherry-fruited but oakier than the average of the wines reviewed in this batch so far,  but it is already harmonising attractively to produce a distinctively aromatic pinot.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Bannock Brae Pinot Noir Goldfields   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $30   [ screwcap;   4 clones hand-picked,  cuvaison extending to 4 weeks for some parcels;  MLF and c. 8 months in French oak c.25% new;  not fined or filtered;  www.bannockbrae.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  With a breath of air,  there is a real Pommard quality in this wine,  soft warm floral notes of roses,  all red fruits,  clean,  subtly oaked,  highly varietal.  The roundness of palate is totally burgundian.  It is not a big wine,  but a very pleasing one,  with some mellowness of maturity appearing.  Good value,  and latterly as a one-off has been promoted at even better prices in supermarkets.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/11

2010  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn   17 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $49   [ screwcap;  winery price,  nearer $60 in retailers;  hand-harvested,  25% whole-bunch,  wild-yeast fermentation;  c. 10 months in French oak c. 27% new,  not fined or filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  a little lighter than the Peregrine.  This wine too is in a riper spectrum,  losing florality and gaining in plummyness,  but still reasonably clearly pinot noir.  Palate is much more clearly varietal,  rich supple dark-fruited pinot,  so it is reasonable to assume the bouquet will build with time in bottle.  The wine is very young:  cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Akarua Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $38   [ screwcap;  clones 5 and 6 predominate in a mix of 7 clones cropped @ c. 5.5 t/ha = 2.3 t/ac;  no whole bunch,  some wild yeast;  a barrel selection comprising 22% of the harvest;  10 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.akarua.com ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is benchmark New Zealand pinot noir,  a similar weight and floral complexity of bouquet to the Ata Rangi,  with attractive red cherry fruits,  fresh flavours,  balanced oak,  and pleasing length – a food-friendly wine.  It is not quite as rich as the Ata Rangi.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh   17 ½  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $35   [ screwcap;  5% whole bunch;  10 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.grasshopperrock.co.nz ]
Lighter pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet on this wine is astonishingly burgundian,  in the apparently lighter yet in fact still satisfying style of Rousseau (again).  There are lovely roses and boronia florals on red cherry fruit,  subtly oaked.  Palate is fragrant and integrated,  red fruits,  savoury,  refreshing,  all the charm of pinot noir.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mondillo Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Bendigo,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $41   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  100% de-stemmed;  11 months in French oak c.30% new;  www.mondillo.com ]
Lighter pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is attractively fragrant,  showing real boronia florality and red cherry pinot character,  plus a touch of aromatic and perhaps estery complexity.  Palate is much more mature than some 2009s,  with an attractive flavour let down by stalky tail.  Nett impression is clearly varietal.  Intriguing that the Rippon and the Mondillo come from one of the cooler and wetter versus warmer and driest parts of Otago,  respectively,  yet share a certain cool complexity,  disregarding the differing vintages.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Rippon Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Wanaka,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $64   [ supercritical cork;  6 clones of pinot,  hand-picked;  27% whole bunch,  cold-soak,  wild-yeast ferment in s/s,  cuvaison varying to 28 days for some batches;  MLF in spring and c. 11 months in French oak,  30% new,  then 6 months in older;  www.rippon.co.nz ]
Lighter and older pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is much more fragrant and burgundian on this wine,  lifted by trace VA.  This could well be a reputable Burgundy village wine,  in a blind tasting,  with sweet roses and boronia florals,  and some mushroom.  Palate is a little on the short cool and tannic side though,  more red cherry than black,  some oak tannins.  Interesting wine,  to cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/11

2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point   17 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $55   [ screwcap;  winery release price,  nearer $65 in retailers;  hand-harvested in a cooler year,  25 – 30% whole-bunch,  wild-yeast fermentation;  c. 12 months in French oak c. 30% new,  not fined or filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Older but deepish pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is mixed,  with clear cherry and blackboy fruit,  yet also a hint of premature development / decay in the forest-floor sense.  It is slightly reductive,  adding to the latter impression.  Palate however is full of flavour,  juicy,  a lot of slightly leafy red fruits,  oakier than the later vintages.  Flavoursome wine,  but a little stalky reflecting the cooler year.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mount Edward Pinot Noir Morrison Vineyard   17 +  ()
Lowburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $69   [ screwcap;  hand-picked,  single-vineyard planted in 1997;  hand-picked,  wild-yeast ferment;  14 months in French oak;  150 cases made;  www.mountedward.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is another wine tending to a burly and plummy character,  fragrant though,  with a touch of malt or licorice too,  some oak.  Palate is clearly hotter and fatter in style,  more oaky,  less varietal,  just a thought of merlot.  This is the kind of pinot noir we are evolving away from,  as winemakers taste more fine burgundy.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Roaring Meg   17  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $28   [ screwcap;  second label including young vines;  cuvaison c.24 days;  9 months in c. 20% new French oak;  no fining,  light filter;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is a clear-cut example of pinot noir ripened mostly to the red fruits / red cherry stage of physiological maturity.  Being the junior label of Mt Difficulty,  it probably reflects young vines too.  There are some red currants,  always a tell-tale in pinot noir,  leading to a fresh palate,  yet more substantial and less leafy than the Waipara Greystone.  An affordable,  interesting and clearly varietal statement about Otago pinot noir,  to cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Pisa Range Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block   17  ()
Pisa,  Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $45   [ screwcap;  oldest vines c. 15 years;  all hand-harvested @ c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  all de-stemmed;  c. 12 months in French oak,  c. 30% new;  www.pisarangeestate.co.nz ]
Deep pinot noir ruby,  another about as deep as pinot needs to be.  In the blind tasting this didn't communicate too well.  Bouquet is odd for the year,  tending heavy in style,  no florality,  black more than red fruits,  a touch of chocolate (negative in pinot noir,  unless one is trendy and thoughtless).  Palate is very rich,  quite tannic,  youthful in one sense,  long-flavoured,  much better than the bouquet.  But,  bouquet is critical to fine pinot.  This wine needs to lighten up in cellar,  shed some tannin and hopefully generate a more varietal bouquet and palate.  I think it may,  some past vintages have been excellent.  Over the years Black Poplar Pinot has hovered between wonderfully ripe and varietal in a darker pinot phase,  and just a little heavy and maybe over-ripe.  To augment the florality this vineyard has demonstrated in its best years,  trialling a slightly earlier-picked component and a small percentage of whole-bunch in the ferment would be exciting,  and could help nudge the alcohol to a more burgundian figure too.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Clos Henri Pinot Noir   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $37   [ cork;  the website gives indicative notes,  rather than vintage-specific ones:  hand-harvested at c 2 t/ha = 0.8 t/ac from the older terrace soils now known to produce Marlborough's most promising pinots,  some cold-soak,  no fermentation info;  unknown time in French oak 30% new;  www.clos-henri.com/vineyard/index.en.php4 ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a denser and older colour than the Bel Echo.  Bouquet shows the lighter florals so frequent in Marlborough pinots,  more sweet-pea than deeper boronia-like qualities,  on red cherry and oak.  Palate is both richer and oakier than the Bel Echo,  a much more 'serious' wine,  but also a bit heavy and losing a little in pinot charm.  Its size will win fans,  sadly,  at this stage of our pinot evolution .  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  to lighten up,  I hope.  GK 06/11

2005  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace Single Vineyard   17  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $72   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed;  6 days cold soak;  16 days cuvaison;  14 months and MLF in barrel;  not fined or filtered;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Mature pinot noir ruby.  Initially opened,  the wine is a little reductive,  and needs a good splashy decanting.  Breathed,  it fits in well with the other Mt Difficultys,  mixed cherry bouquet riper than the Long Gully wines,  mature red and black cherry fruit on a long sustained palate.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $66   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested from a suite of 10 clones of pinot noir,  still with plenty of 10/5 and the oldest vines 28 years;  some whole bunch,  up to 7 days cold-soak,  wild yeast fermentation;  usually around 20 days cuvaison;  12 months in French oak around 30% new;  not fined or filtered;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Lighter pinot noir ruby.  This is another wine in the red fruits spectrum.  It makes an interesting comparison with the Otago Roaring Meg,  the similarities far outweighing the differences.  Care is needed therefore,  in generalising about the character of pinot noir in the two districts.  This wine tiptoes towards the dividing line:  is this a little leafy / is the cropping rate a bit high / are there young vines in this – thoughts arising from the fresh red cherry and a touch of redcurrant bouquet.  Palate is more substantial.  The 2008 I thought a lovely example of Beaune-style pinot in New Zealand.  This vintage seems a little cooler or weaker.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/11

2007  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Long Gully Single Vineyard   17  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $84   [ screwcap;  5% whole bunch;  c.14 months in French oak,  34% new;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a similar hue to the 2007 Rousseau,  but twice the weight.  Bouquet is wonderfully fragrant at the roses and red cherry level of maturity,  with hints of boronia too.  It is much more floral than the Rousseau,  reflecting accurately that this is in effect a grand cru wine,  against the French village example.  Palate is beautifully fine and delicate,  these Mt Difficulty Individual Vineyard wines are some of the most subtle pinots in New Zealand,  but against the Rousseau the wine is let down by a suggestion of leafy under-ripeness.  Hard to score,  therefore.  Cellar 2 – 5 years or so.  GK 06/11

2010  Akarua Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $38   [ screwcap;  clones 5 and 6 predominate in a mix of 7 clones cropped @ c. 5.5 t/ha = 2.3 t/ac from 13-year-old vines;  no whole bunch,  some wild yeast;  a barrel selection comprising 20% of the harvest,  this year augmented by there being no Reserve;  c. 10 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.akarua.com ]
Deep pinot noir ruby,  more on a par with some of the Felton wines.  Bouquet is on the black cherry side of the pinot noir spectrum,  some sur-maturité and plummyness,  but rich and pure.  Palate is soft and velvety,  seemingly not bone dry from the richness (RS in fact < 1 g/L),  a wine to appeal to red wine beginners.  May well develop more bouquet and complexity with time in bottle.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Porters Pinot Noir    16 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed,  extended cold-soak and cuvaison up to 28 days;  12 months in French oak around 33% new;  www.porterspinot.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little denser than the Martinborough Vineyard.  This is a much riper pinot noir,  with a good ratio of red plummy fruit to oak.  It is fragrant but not exactly floral,  mouth-filling,  with an attractive mellow quality to the rich fruit reminiscent of some of the highly burgundian shirazes from Great Western in the 1960s.  The result is a less specifically varietal,  but still pleasingly round red,  which could be scored higher.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mud House Pinot Noir Swan Central Otago   16 ½ +  ()
Bendigo,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $29   [ screwcap;  thought to be nil whole bunch;  part of the wine is raised in French oak some new,  and some stays in stainless steel to retain freshness;  RS 3.8 g/L;  has recently been discounted in supermarket sales;  www.mudhouse.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is clearly varietal to first inspection,  but on this occasion I wondered if the florality is augmented by under-ripeness,  which might detract from nett complexity.  Palate shows a good weight of red cherry fruit,  but there is some leafyness as well,  plus a suggestion of roses florals,  the oaking appropriate.  The wine may not be bone dry,  or maybe it is just fruit richness,  deceptive.  I am getting confused with the way these subtly differentiated 2009 Mud House Pinots open:  this one was definitely the Swan variant,  liked more on a previous occasion.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/11

2007  Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin   16 ½ +  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $149   [ cork;  Rousseau owns 2.2 ha of unclassified vineyards in the village;  old oak only;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Lighter pinot noir ruby,  some age.  This wine sits alongside the chianti very happily,  fragrant and enticing light red wine crying out to accompany food,  so different from some of the stolid black pinot noirs misguided proprietors still pursue in New Zealand.  In mouth it is classically red-fruited pinot noir,  but the difference between so many New Zealand wines of this weight,  and this AOC village wine,  is the Rousseau is totally ripe.  There are no hints of leaf or stalk,  just red cherry and subdued older big wood.  Lovely dinner wine,  though the price of even this village wine in New Zealand is now unreal.  Unlike the chianti,  it is also squeaky-clean.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2010  Akarua Pinot Noir Rua   16 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn & Wanaka,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  various clones including young vines;  no whole bunch,  all the wine sees some oak,  unusual in this price range,  c. 15% new;  www.akarua.com ]
Deep bright pinot noir ruby,  nearly as deep as the main Akarua wine.  In bouquet,  style,  weight and purity the junior Rua wine is very close to the standard wine,  the main difference being a little less oak,  a softer wine,  even more a beginners' pinot noir.  In classical terms it is tending over-ripe,  so merlot thoughts occur here too.  Matt Connell commented that Sweden takes 3000 cases a year of this label.  At its affordable price,  you can see why.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2007  MacArthur Ridge Pinot Noir    16 ½  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13%;  $37   [ screwcap;  original price,  lately greatly discounted due to receivership;  9 months in French oak,  some new;  sample bottle thanks to Caro's wines,  Auckland;  www.mcarthurridgewines.com.au ]
Deeper pinot noir ruby.  Against the Rousseau and the Individual Vineyard Mt Difficulty of the same year,  this is a much more robust wine on bouquet,  a riper pinot altogether with some sur-maturité,  grading to merlot in approach.  The oak level is reminiscent more of a Hawke's Bay blend too.  On palate there is plenty of fruit,  yet it is lighter in style than the bouquet leads one to expect.  Pushing aside the oak you can see it is pinot noir,  just a burly one.  There might be academic brett.  Many will like this more robust approach,  and would score it appreciably higher.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Clos Henri Pinot Noir Bel Echo   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  the website gives indicative notes,  rather than vintage-specific ones;  this wine hand-harvested at c 6 t/ha = 2.4 t/ac from mainly younger valley-flats soils,  all de-stemmed,  some cold-soak;  35% of the wine raised in large French oak,  small part new,  balance s/s for freshness;  www.clos-henri.com/vineyard/index.en.php4 ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is clearly varietal,  some florals,  red cherry,  tending cool and leafy.  Palate matches,  more a satellite-Beaune suite of cooler pinot flavours,  but pleasingly balanced to subtle oak.  Finish is tending a little short.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Greystone Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  not on the website,  but if like the 2009,  is hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed,  wild yeast fermentation,  extended cuvaison;  unknown time in French oak perhaps 25% new;  www.greystonewines.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is fragrant in a satellite-Beaune sense,  some sweet-pea florals,  some leafyness,  on redcurrant fruit as much as red cherry.  Palate shows pleasing tannin softness relative to the sub-optimal ripeness on bouquet,  with clear burgundian delicacy lengthened by a not quite bone dry finish.  Blind one would pick this as a Marlborough pinot rather than Waipara.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Matua Valley Pinot Noir Central Otago   16 +  ()
Bendigo,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $29   [ screwcap;  several clones pinot noir,  hand-harvested,  some whole bunches retained;  10 months in oak;  RS c. 3 g/L;  often discounted in supermarket sales;  www.matua.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby.  On bouquet,  the depth of maturity in the blind tasting suggests Marlborough more than Otago,  a simple sweet-pea / pink rose florality on red currants / red cherry fruit.  Palate is a little less,  tasting like a generously-cropped wine,  the finish not bone dry,  but the oak appealingly subtle and in balance with the light character.  It is clearly varietal.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Julicher Pinot Noir Te Muna Road   16 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14.8%;  $47   [ screwcap;  four clones of pinot noir,  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed;  cold-soak,  MLF and 11 months in French oak 35% new;  www.julicher.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  in a similar weight to the Martinborough Vineyard,  but older / more oak-affected.  Bouquet is clearly varietal and in the Martinborough district red-fruits style,  though perhaps a little more leaf showing.  Palate is drier and narrower than the Martinborough wine,  not quite the physiological maturity,  tasting a little more leafy still,  the under-ripeness exacerbated by the higher oak.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2007  Akarua Pinot Noir Gullies Single Vineyard   16 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $36   [ screwcap;  some whole bunch,  MLF and 11 months in French oak 33% new;  RS nil;  www.akarua.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  old for age.  Bouquet is another on the oaky side of the varietal equation,  and again old for its age.  Naturally therefore it has won gold medals in competitions.  Ripeness is more red fruits,  the wine is quite rich,  it is clearly varietal,  but is developing surprisingly quickly into a more burly style.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Clos Henri Pinot Noir Petit Clos   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.6%;  $22   [ screwcap;  the website gives indicative notes,  rather than vintage-specific ones;  this wine made from young vines hand-harvested at c 6 t/ha = 2.4 t/ac from mainly younger valley-flats soils,  all-de-stemmed,  some cold-soak;  fermented in s/s and 91% of the wine stays in it,  9% in new French oak to complex;  www.clos-henri.com/vineyard/index.en.php4 ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is a plainer presentation of pinot noir,  some red fruits but not floral,  a little oak.  Palate is pleasantly non-oaky,  yet it is firm enough on modest fruits and slight stalks,  some redcurrant notes in red cherry / red plum.  Clean light QDR pinot,  to cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Schubert Pinot Noir Block B   16  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $60   [ cork;  5 clones of pinot noir hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed,  cold soak,  21 days cuvaison,  followed by 18 months in French oak,  50% new;  www.schubert.co.nz ]
Pale pinot noir ruby,  old for age.  Bouquet is as much new oak as red fruits pinot noir,  fragrant but not quite for the right reasons.  Palate shows more fruit than the bouquet suggests,  a kind of red Meursault mouthfeel and texture which is appealing,  but also a leafy hint in redcurrant and red cherry fruit,  the wine possibly not bone dry.  Pleasing in one sense,  the oak wins gold medals,  but not exactly satisfying as pinot noir.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2008  [ Mount Edward ] Wanaka Road Pinot Noir   15 ½ +  ()
Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  wine not admitted to on Mount Edward website,  no info;  www.mountedward.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is a great example of an over-cropped 2008 Otago pinot noir,  reflecting the generous season they had.  Bouquet is clean,  varietal in a slightly peppery / stalky way at the red currants to red cherry level only.  Palate follows exactly,  pleasantly flavoured,  but lacking concentration and modest,  perhaps not bone dry,  with leafy thoughts throughout.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Lime Rock Pinot Noir   15 ½  ()
Waipawa district,  central Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $27   [ screwcap;  vineyard 250 m on limestone,  north-facing;  9 clones of pinot noir,  mostly on own-roots,  hand-picked;  all de-stemmed,  cold-soak;  inoculated yeast,  MLF and 8 months in French oak;  www.limerock.co.nz ]
Older lightish pinot noir ruby.  Oh dear,  what a difficult wine this is.  There is a tremendous volume of bouquet.  It is the kind of pinot noir which still wins gold medals,  where judges do not think enough about the stages of physiological maturity in the fruit.  But in the sweet-pea grading to roses florality, there is leafyness too.  This becomes more apparent on palate in the red currants more than red cherry fruit,  which is clearly leafy.  In flavour,  the concentration of berry is good bespeaking a conservative cropping rate,  the oaking is simpatico and a delight,  and the wine is supple and burgundian.  The point is,  it is burgundian only in the sense of Savigny-les-Beaune wines.  Wine judges need to reflect more deeply on whether that district represents the acme of pinot noir achievements.  Meanwhile,  some of our more southern pinot producers know full well that is not.  The problem for more northerly producers of pinot noir in New Zealand,  even at the altitude this one is grown,  is that presumably the limited diurnal temperature range is insufficient to stimulate the precursors of the kind of complex sweeter florals and darker fruit notes one sees in the Cote de Nuits.  This is a topic needing much more thought in Australasia.  So,  though this is the most serious of pinot noirs,  it falls short.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

2006  Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rouge La Bourgeoise    15  ()
Sancerre,  Loire Valley,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  £20 in the UK;  25 – 40 years old pinot noir on calcareous soils;  much emphasis on hand-sorting the grapes;  12 day cuvaison;  MLF and 10 – 12 months in small Troncais oak;  good background @ http://www.thewinedoctor.com/loire/bourgeoishenri.shtml;  proprietor's website hard to find info on a given wine;  http://www.henribourgeois.com/blog/index.php?q=rouge ]
Light mature pinot noir ruby and garnet.  The wine is pinot noir,  not cabernet franc or merlot.  Bouquet is lesser,  in this range of mostly New Zealand pinot noirs.  The level of physiological maturity is at the leafy red currants point,  congested by a little entrained sulphur.  Palate shows a similar kind of serious fruit weight and approach as the Lime Rock,  but it is even more leafy,  with red currants only,  and the wine is not so pristine in its elevation.  It finishes short.  Fully mature.  GK 06/11

Syrah = Shiraz
2009  Villa Maria Syrah Reserve    18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  this wine not yet for sale,  so not on website – if as previous examples is Sy 100%,  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed,  fermentation in open-topped French oak vessels, c. 21 days cuvaison;  c. 16 – 20 months and MLF in French oak c.55% new,  minimal filtration;  RS nil;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  fractionally deeper than the Dry River,  more CO2 than desirable.  And bouquet is a size bigger too,  showing both richer fruit and more ripeness,  but also more oak.  Even so,  oaking has been pulled back from the earlier Reserves,  and the key characters of the variety show well:  dark roses and wallflower florality on deep cassis.  Alongside the Dry River,  the cassis is darkening to bottled black doris plums.  Palate is bigger,  richer,  rounder and more oaky than the Dry River or 2009 Bullnose,  the oak now to a maximum.  I think fruit richness is sufficient to ultimately win,  though.  This wine illustrates the beautiful 2009 vintage in Hawke's Bay very well,  in this case via a fine New Zealand syrah,  though in a new-oak styling.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Dry River Syrah   18 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $71   [ cork;  no substantive info about the wine on website;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a good young colour.  Apart from a first corked bottle,  bouquet is redolent of cool-climate syrah at its most beautiful,  clear wallflower and black pepper,  equally clear cassisy berry with a cool-climate vivacity that is exactly best individual-vineyard St Joseph,  say.  Palate is firm,  dry and youthful,  slightly cooler than the bouquet suggests,  and hence firmer than many Hawkes Bay wines.  There is a trace of white pepper on the palate,  adding complexity,  but reinforcing the coolness.  Oaking is particularly fine.  The Northern Rhone analogy really is very apt.  This is a greatly superior wine in terms of varietal precision than Dry River's much-touted pinot noir,  and is well worth seeking out.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Mills Reef Syrah Reserve Gimblett Gravels   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  previous years have had a little viognier,  unknown for this one;  100% de-stemmed,  6 days cold-soak,  s/s ferment and cuvaison;  15-ish months in barrel,  the kind of oak and percentage new unknown;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as rich as the Dry River.  First impression on bouquet is oak,  but below there is clear cassisy fruit with perhaps some wallflower florals,  plus blackberry and loganberry undertones.  The oak is a little charry,  adding a populist touch of chocolate.  Palate is smoother than the oak aroma suggests,  the wine attractively balanced and flavoursome in mouth,  and it lingers well.  There is almost a touch of the Wolf Blass approach to oak elevation,  here.  Cellar 3 – 8 years or so.  VALUE  GK 06/11

2008  Cambridge Road Syrah   16 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $63   [ cork;  Sy 91% from vines up to 22 years,  PN 9,  hand-harvested;  not much info about the wine on website,  intention light oaking;  www.cambridgeroad.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  This is a smaller scale wine,  bearing the same relationship to the Villa Maria Reserve wine as representative Crozes-Hermitage does to Hermitage proper.  There is a suggestion of florality,  but it is at the leafy sweet-pea end of the spectrum,  with a touch of white pepper.  Palate follows through naturally,  reasonably fresh red plums only,  quite rich but all a little cool and stalky,  with total acid up a bit.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2009  Martinborough Vineyard Syrah / Viognier   16 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $53   [ screwcap;  not on website,  2006 was Sy 95% now 9-year old vines,  Vi 5,  hand-harvested;  21 days cuvaison,  c. 12 months in French oak 25% new,  balance 1 & 2-year;  not fined or filtered;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  the lightest of these Martinborough syrahs.  Bouquet is fragrant,  with clear dianthus-like floral notes,  and some white pepper,  on red fruits and suggestions of cassis.  It shows a cool-year Cote Rotie styling.  Palate is more concentrated than the bouquet suggests,  the fruit tending crisp and aromatic,  clean white pepper and a little stalk,  all a little hard therefore.  The wine clearly shows how marginal Martinborough is for syrah,  and makes the Dry River example all the more remarkable.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/11

2008  Kusuda Syrah   16  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $ –    [ cork 55 mm;  hand-picked;  95% de-stemmed,  5 – 6 days cold-soak,  s/s ferment,  cuvaison 25 days;  19 months in French oak 31% new;  no fining,  coarse filtration only;  www.kusudawines.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a similar depth to the Dry River,  or even deeper.   Freshly opened,  the bouquet suffers from simple H2S reduction,  which untreated doesn't give the wine much chance in the comparative blind tasting.  Later,  very well ventilated,  one is staggered to find a syrah even riper and richer than the Dry River,  but still within the cassis spectrum which ideally would show wallflower scent in a wine with a better oxygen status.  Palate is softer and richer than the Dry River,  and much more subtly oaked than the Villa Reserve.  If it had been more carefully raised,  it would be a clear-cut gold-medal wine (18.5) – hard to score therefore.  Cellar 7 – 15 years,  in the hope it might one day bury its reduction.  GK 06/11

All other red wines, blends etc
2009  Poggio Basso Chianti   16 ½  ()
Tuscany DOCG,  Italy:  12.5%;  $23   [ supercritical cork;  Sa 80%,  Canaiolo nero 10,  Malvasia bianca 10 ]
Older ruby,  sitting amongst the pinots very happily.  Bouquet is savoury and aromatic,  dramatically chianti as in fiasco days,  and mouthwatering partly due to light brett.  Palate is exactly the same,  wonderfully savoury and food-friendly as chianti should be,  an appealing QDR of pinot noir weight.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/11

From the Cellar. Older wines.
2003  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gulley Single Vineyard   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $73   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5, 5,  then 9 years,  harvested @ c 1.8 t/ac;  12% whole bunch,  5 day cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 24 days cuvaison;  13 months in French oak 40% new;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Mature pinot noir ruby.  What a revelation a freshly opened bottle is.  Bouquet epitomises the concept of florality in pinot noir,  the palate is round and reminiscent of a Rousseau grand cru,  and the whole wine is delicious mature New Zealand pinot.  This wine was shown in the 2010 Pinot Noir Conference .  In my report on this site I expressed dismay that the 2003 Target Gulley had come forward so quickly,  relative to the rave review of the wine I made in writing up the 2007 Conference.  Tasting this wine again now suggests that some at least of the wines in the 2010 Conference either experienced heat in transit,  or stood too long in the glasses after pouring for the session,  and thus lacked excitement at the point of tasting.  Lovely wine,  fully mature now.  GK 06/11

2002  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  grapes from all four of the vineyards soon to become known for their Individual Vineyard wines,  in a warm dry vintage;  some whole-bunch,  up to 7 days cold-soak;  75% wild yeast;  c. 20-day cuvaison;  11 months on lees in French oak 30% new;  RS < 2 g/L;  light fining and coarse filtration only;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Mature pinot noir,  not quite as rosy as the 2003 Target Gulley.  Comparison between the two wines is intriguing,  the 2002 a little more sturdy and oaky,  as befits the bigger year,  the 2003 more aethereal.  Both are fine examples of mature Otago pinot,  which should give great pleasure at table.  Checking my earlier review of this wine in 2004,  the cellaring recommendation has worked out well,  even perhaps a little conservative.  We will know we are truly a wine country,  when consumers are interested in and proud to own older and mature wines.  This has more time in hand than the 2003 Target Gulley.  Fully mature,  no hurry.  GK 06/11

2003  Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Dundee Hills   16 ½  ()
Dundee,  Oregon,  USA:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  this is a $US50 wine these days,  $US28 at release;  contemporary reviews describe it as tending dry;  the website is narrative rather than informative about current wines,  nothing on older;  sample courtesy Andrew Swann,  Wellington;  www.sokolblosser.com ]
Medium pinot noir garnet and ruby.  Bouquet is fragrant and fully mature,  a somewhat oaky pinot noir in this context,  close to the village Rousseau in one sense,  but in contrast clumsy on the new oak.  Palate is fully mature too,  good fruit but some decay in an undergrowth sense,  the oak standing firm and drying the wine.  Interesting to have among the New Zealanders,  though.  GK 06/11