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

These reviews cover some winter wines,  from a diversity of sources.  A few introductory words follow for a couple of sub-groups within them,  then all the wines are presented in my standard batch format.


2005  Forrest Cabernet Sauvignon John Forrest Collection
2006  Forrest Chardonnay Wairau Valley John Forrest Collection
2008  Forrest Chardonnay Waitaki Valley John Forrest Collection
2005  Forrest Noble Riesling John Forrest Collection
2009  Forrest Pinot Noir Bannockburn John Forrest Collection
  2009  Forrest Pinot Noir Waitaki Valley John Forrest Collection
2005  Forrest Riesling Wairau Valley John Forrest Collection
2009  Forrest Sauvignon Blanc John Forrest Collection
2007  Forrest Syrah John Forrest Collection
2007  Forrest The White John Forrest Collection

The 2011 John Forrest Collection:  John Forrest's top-level batch of wines,  called the "John Forrest Collection",  was introduced as an annual offering in July 2006,  with wines from the 2004 and 2005 vintages.  John describes them in terms of:  "an attempt to capture the best the land, the vines and the vintage have to offer."  The Collection has now grown to 10 wines,  though some are repeats of earlier releases.  Right from the outset,  they have been on the pricey side so there has been some reluctance in their take-up.  

Detractors have seen them as something of an ego trip,  but this overlooks the fact there are clearly some high quality wines amongst them.  John I think would rather we saw them as 'play' wines,  made in small volumes, somewhere he can let his imagination run loose,  and he can showcase wines from new districts.  Certainly this is the case for "The White",  which sets out to be a great white burgundy style without the constraints of chardonnay alone,  and in particular a wine with the body to stand up to a great range of foods.  The first release of this was certainly outrageously expensive for what you got,  but the latest is exciting in its own right.  You only need to check the price of sound chablis and compare the in-mouth values of this wine to see it offers value.  

Besides,  where we have so many wineries desperately competing to produce ever-more-standardised and cheap undrinkably young and forgettable beverage wines for the undiscriminating supermarket trade wars,  where interest in wine per se is so ignored that even the vintage is deemed irrelevant,  what a pleasure it is to see a winemaker deliberately setting out to be a bit provocative,  making quality wines in new styles,  releasing wines with appropriate bottle age,  and generally communicating his sense of fun as well as pride in doing so.  Thus,  I approached this year's release with particular interest,  considering New Zealand hasn't seen a poor vintage for some years now.


2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Franc
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Sauvignon
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Chardonnay
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Malbec
2007  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc Ariki
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon Ariki
  2008  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon Ariki
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Pinotage
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Sauvignon / Semillon Solan
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Syrah
2010  Kidnapper Cliffs Syrah (pre-bottling assembled tank sample)

Kidnapper Cliffs:  this new label springs from the purchase of Te Awa Farm in Hawke's Bay by American Julian Robertson,  along with Dry River in Martinborough.  The highly respected style-winemaker Jenny Dobson of Te Awa has gone,  and general oversight of the winemaking direction in the two wineries now seems to fall to the techno-winemaker Neil McCallum,  of Dry River.  So a change in the approach at Te Awa was inevitable.  There is now a curtailed Te Awa range at a more affordable level,  and a new Hawke's Bay prestige range bearing the new label Kidnapper Cliffs.  It is based on seven designated areas of older vines within the Te Awa holdings,  all on the Gimblett Gravels part of the property.  An intriguing detail of winery practice is the extensive use of 300-litre barrels,  to reduce oak uptake.  Production for the full range will total 1500 – 2000 cases or so.  The existing Dry River range continues as before.

All this raises interesting issues,  not least of which is the extent to which the wines will be reviewed objectively.  Unfortunately in New Zealand,  far too many winewriters review the labels,  rather than the fluid inside the label.  In the present case the potentiality for the first approach is much augmented by the role of Neil McCallum.  Many in the industry are confounded by Neil's techno-speak,  and many "reviews" of Dry River wines turn out to be little more than press releases for the winery.  Unfortunately the new Kidnapper Cliffs range of wines reinforces such thinking by being presented in the same damn-fool flanged bottles Dry River persists with,  an affectation as infuriating when it comes to opening them with many kinds of corkscrew,  as it is when you try decanting from bottle to bottle,  as keen wine people must often do.  [[ An interesting aside is,  these bottles are 10% narrower in the neck bore,  the corks are therefore tighter and better seals,  aiding the proprietor's goal of cellar-worthy wines.  Presumably this feature can be found in standard bottles,  though. ]]  And the website is simply infuriating,  a model of how not to present wine info.  And once a wine is found,  there is no substantive detail.  One should not have to write to the winemaker for basic info,  though it was freely provided on request – appreciated.

These wines initially came forward in dribs and drabs,  and I have already presented some reviews of them.  With time,  I became puzzled and disturbed to see so many of the wines in my tasting glass at variance with the,  to be frank,  sometimes effusive reviews so often presented for them.  This is par for the course for Dry River wines,  but to carry over such a policy for the new range of wines seems to me to illustrate the lack of depth and analysis in New Zealand wine writing.  For one thing,  there are two new winemakers involved now at the Hawke's Bay end,  Ant McKenzie of aromatic white wine fame in his Framingham / Marlborough days,  and Cam McInnes.

Accordingly,  when the two Hawkes Bay winemakers presented a tasting of the complete Kidnapper Cliffs range at Wellington's Regional Wines & Spirits,  with the opportunity to see the whole set in one sitting plus commentary,  I couldn't wait to be there.  One's understanding of any given wine is so much enhanced by assessing it with others.  This particular tasting was not assessed blind,  for logistical reasons,  but as soon as I had the wines back at my place I did open the odd bottle of other 2009 Hawkes Bay red to keep me focussed.

The results are interesting.  In sum,  with the undoubted desire for wine quality evident in the approach of all the parties,  and the age of some of the plantings of Te Awa Farm now,  these first wines show that with some qualifications,  there should in future be some outstanding wines from this Kidnapper Cliffs label.  The qualifications include the need to discard some of Dry River's red wine baggage,  and recognise that wine quality is about perceived beauty in the final result,  given reference to world wine standards,  rather more than technological prescriptions pursued slavishly in the winery,  and in isolation.  The consequences of the latter approach are evident in some of the wines,  for those with the sensory ability to recognise them.  Also,  much more thought needs to be given to optimal ripening,  in the context of wine beauty.  And seeking to engage the wine enthusiast via the website,  rather than turning them off,  would be helpful to both the wine consumer and the winery.


1990  Ch Climens
1989  Ch Coutet
1983  Ch d'Yquem
  1989  Ch Rieussec
1988  Ch Rieussec
1988  Ch Suduiraut

Magnum Society:  John Tizard recently presented a remarkable blind tasting of older sauternes from the Society's Wellington cellar – the kind of tasting which demonstrates why it is worthwhile belonging to a serious wine group.  Background tasting notes were excellent,  and have been cribbed for this review,  though augmented via Robert Parker's 1991 edition of his Bordeaux  bible,  which better reflects the details at the time.  But,  presented with half a dozen of the great names of sauternes,  spanning the years 1983 – 1990,  it is hard to report on the actual wines in the glass,  when reputations are so high.  This sort of wine tends to be more indulged in than tasted,  and all too often the reviews reflect that dilemma.  The comparison was made more interesting by having some noble rieslings from Marlborough open,  once I was back home again.  The latter are subtler wines,  with more emphasis on fruit expression,  finesse,  and beauty.  The sauternes in contrast are much bolder statements,  the use of oak to a degree coarsening the wine.

MT DIFFICULTY:  11 wines

2010  Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris Manson's Farm
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
2005  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
2003  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Long Gully
  2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace
2007  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully
2009  Mt Difficulty Riesling Dry
2010  Mt Difficulty Riesling Target Gully

Mt Difficulty:  After reporting recently on a batch of wine including the exciting Mt Difficulty Individual Vineyard pinots,  it was good to have Matt Dicey back in Wellington again to present his wines to a different audience at Wellington's Regional Wines & Spirits,  and with quite different accompanying vintages.  At risk of sounding like a fan club for Mt Difficulty,  you can't help noticing that while some winemakers complain about the dollar,  and generally bemoan the state of affairs in their industry as farmers are wont to do,  others like Dicey are stomping the country,  giving spectacular tastings showcasing their latest releases as illuminated by generous selections of back vintages.  Few winemakers bestir themselves to do this,  let alone twice in two months from Otago to Wellington,  as in Mt Difficulty's case.  These tastings are eminently worth seeking out.  Matt Dicey is emerging as one of New Zealand's pre-eminent pinot noir makers,  seeking a style of pinot noir which is both beautiful and totally international,  and his commentaries are invaluable.  Beyond pinot noir,  there are exciting wines amongst their other varieties too.

SPANISH WINES:  26 wines

2009  Bodegas Borsao Garnacha
2008  Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Tres Picos
2009  Bodegas Borsao Grenache / Syrah / Tempranillo Seleccion
2009  Bodegas Carchelo
2006  Bodegas Condado de Haza Ribero del Duero Crianza
   nv  [ Bodegas Pinord ] Dibon Cava Brut Reserva
2008  Finca Sobreno Tinta de Toro
   nv  Gonzalez Byass Pedro Ximenez Nectar 375 ml
2010  Luis Alegre Tempranillo Poco a Poco
2009  Marques de Riscal Proximo
2010  Bodegas Monteabellon Avaniel Tinto
2007  Bodegas Ochoa Mil Gracias Graciano Single Vineyard
2009  Bodegas Ochoa Muscatel 500 ml
  2006  Bodegas Ochoa Tempranillo Single Vineyard Crianza
2009  Pago de Los Capellanes Ribera del Duero
2009  Paso San Mauro Albarino
2008  Telmo Rodriguez Rioja LZ
2009  Telmo Rodriguez Toro Dehesa Gago G
2009  Telmo Rodriguez Vina 105
2008  Torres Coronas Tempranillo
2010  Torres  Esmeralda
2007  Torres Ibericos Tempranillo Crianza
2006  Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Crianza
2004  Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Reserva
2009  Bodegas Vega Real Ribera del Duero Roble
   nv  [Gonzalez Byass] Vilarnau Cava Brut

Spanish wines:  Regional Wines & Spirits of Wellington invited several importers of Spanish wines to show their wares in a little Spanish festival one recent weekend.  Spanish reds used to offer remarkable maturity and sometimes quality for the price,  the best being beautifully winey and exciting examples of traditional winemaking.  Their whites on the other hand were traditionally dull – stainless steel and refrigeration have changed that.  The reds now are all over the place,  some modern,  fault-free,  but not necessarily attractive,  whereas the more traditional wine styles are now much more expensive.  Selecting good Spanish wines has become no easier therefore,  and unfortunately two of New Zealand's leading practitioners of the art,  Ted Money of Argosy Wines,  and Bennett & Deller Wines,  both of Auckland,  chose not to be represented in this offering.  The nett impression left by this tasting therefore,  was that neither compelling value nor great quality were on display.  It was good,  though,  to see the arrival of the odd screwcap in European reds.


2009  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label
2008  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label
1997  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label
2008  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch
  2006  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch
2009  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet / Shiraz / Merlot
2010  Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz
2008  Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz Michael

Wynns Coonawarra:  Sue Hodder,  Wynns' chief winemaker at Coonawarra,  was over here recently visiting Glengarry Wines,  to introduce the 2011 recent releases of Coonawarra reds,  centred on the 2008 vintage.  James Halliday rates the 2008 red vintage in Coonawarra at 9/10,  so one needs to take notice.  It was good to be able to ask the winemaker some questions about wines one has been familiar with virtually all one's life.  

Reading through their PR material for the wines after tasting them,  however,  there is this enormous gulf between what the rest of the world considers appropriate fruit expression,  and Australia's.  The nett impression of the wines is they are so oaky and blunt.  All too often,  there is little evidence of subtlety,  florality,  or finesse,  despite the so-called cool climate of Coonawarra.

My experience with the Wynns Coonawarra reds starts with the 1964 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Back then,  new oak was a rarity,  and the very best of the wines had some genuine Bordeaux / claret style to them.  The 1964 Black Label was an example.  But then the 1965 was hot-climate blackberry juice.  Since then,  they have varied wildly,  including a very strange phase when mimicking bizarrely green Marlborough cabernet sauvignon seemed the goal,  and later a seriously bretty phase.  Finding wine really worth cellaring,  and by that I mean of a calibre fit to be taken seriously in round-the-world Bordeaux-style tastings,  has been hard,  over the 46 years now spanned.  Not that you would ever suspect that,  from the overly self-praising and non-critical Australian wine literature.

The PR material trumpets of the 2011 release that the 2008,  2009 and 2010 wines are the "strongest for many years".  And on inspection,  two made me think of buying the wine to slot into such round-the-world tastings.  Unfortunately,  these were not available for purchase at the time of review,  but they add credibility to the Company's claims for the release.  Now,  at the time of publication,  the 2009 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon is available from Glengarry Wines (and sometimes supermarkets) at the 'bargain of the year' price of $20.


2009  Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti Nivole DOCG
2000  Daniel Le Brun Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle Brut
   nv  [ Bodegas Pinord ] Dibon Cava Brut Reserva
2006  Hunter's MiruMiru Reserve
   nv  Lanvin & Fils Cuvée Selection Brut
2009  Tohu Methode Traditionelle Blanc de Blanc Rewa
   nv  [Gonzalez Byass] Vilarnau Cava Brut
2008  Dom de Bellene Saint Romain Blanc Vieilles Vignes
2008  Dom. de Bellene Santenay les Charmes Dessus
2007  Dom. de Bellene Savigny-les-Beaune Blanc
2008  Buller Wines Chardonnay Sinister Man [ Unoaked ]
2010  Crossroads Winery Chardonnay Kereru Road
2006  Forrest Chardonnay Wairau Valley John Forrest Collection
2008  Forrest Chardonnay Waitaki Valley John Forrest Collection
2007  Dom. V. Girardin Chassagne-Montrachet Clos du Cailleret Premier Cru
2009  Dom. V. Girardin Meursault Le Limozin
2009   Dom. V Girardin Pouilly-Fuissé Quintessence
2007  Dom. V. Girardin Santenay Blanc le Beauregard Blanc Premier Cru
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Chardonnay
2007  Matariki Chardonnay
2009  Milcrest Estate Chardonnay Reserve
2007  Dom. N. Potel Meursault Vieilles Vignes
2010  Redmetal Chardonnay
2008  Sunset Valley Chardonnay Reserve
2010  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston
2010  TerraVin Chardonnay
2010  Vidal Chardonnay Hawke's Bay Reserve Series
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2010  Charles Wiffen Sauvignon Blanc
2010  Ch de Sours Bordeaux Blanc
2010  Clark Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2009  Forrest Sauvignon Blanc John Forrest Collection
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Sauvignon / Semillon Solan
2010  Milcrest Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2010  Mount Brown Sauvignon Blanc
2011  Ohau Gravels Sauvignon Blanc
2010  River Farm Wines Sauvignon Blanc Ben Morven
2011  Sileni Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection
2010  Sunset Valley Sauvignon Blanc
2011  Te Mata Sauvignon Blanc Woodthorpe
2010  The 3rd (Third) Man Sauvignon / Semillon Darnley Corner
2010  Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Mugwi Reserve
2010  Vidal Sauvignon Blanc Organic Reserve
2011  Volcanic Hills Sauvignon Blanc
2011  Astrolabe Riesling Valleys Discovery Series
2010  Auburn Wines Riesling Alexandra
2009  Charles Wiffen Riesling
2009  Clark Estate Riesling
2005  Forrest Riesling Wairau Valley John Forrest Collection
2010  Georges Road Riesling Block Three
2011  Mount Riley Riesling
2009  Mt Difficulty Riesling Dry
2010  Mt Difficulty Riesling Target Gully
2011  Tohu Riesling Single Vineyard
Pinot Gris
2009  Charles Wiffen Pinot Gris
2010  Clark Estate Pinot Gris
2010  Johanneshof Pinot Gris Trocken
2010  Maori Point Pinot Gris
2009  Maori Point Pinot Gris
2009  Milcrest Estate Pinot Gris
2010  Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris Manson's Farm
2011  Ohau Gravels Pinot Gris
2010  River Farm Pinot Gris Godfrey Road
2010  Sileni Pinot Gris Cellar Selection
2011  Starborough Pinot Gris
2010  Volcanic Hills Pinot Gris
2009  Charles Wiffen Gewurztraminer
2008  Herzog Viognier
2009  Obsidian Viognier
2010  Te Mata Estate Viognier Zara
Sweet / Sticky
   nv  Campbells Topaque Rutherglen 375 ml
2009  Charles Wiffen Riesling Late-Harvest
2005  Forrest Noble Riesling John Forrest Collection
2009  Bodegas Ochoa Muscatel 500 ml
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2009  Bodegas Borsao Macabeo Seleccion
2011  Buller Wines Moscato Beverford
2007  Forrest The White John Forrest Collection
2009  Paso San Mauro Albarino
2010  Torres  Esmeralda
2011  Clearview Estate Blush Black Reef
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2008  Buller Wines Cabernet / Merlot Black Dog Creek
2005  Forrest Cabernet Sauvignon John Forrest Collection
2008  Gabion Vineyard [ Cabernet Franc / Merlot ] The Gabion
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Franc
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Sauvignon
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Malbec
2007  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc Ariki
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon Ariki
2008  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon Ariki
  2008  Bodegas Los Cerrillos Malbec Finca El Peral
2008  Bodegas Los Cerrillos Malbec Uroco
2008  Millaman Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Estate Reserve
2009  Rosemount Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra District Release
2010  Rosemount [ CS / Me ] McLaren Vale Traditional District Release
2010  Bodega Septima Malbec
2008  Bodega Septima Septimo Dia Malbec
2009  TerraVin [ Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet ] J
2009  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label
2008  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label
2008  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch
2006  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch
2009  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet / Shiraz / Merlot
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2009  Brodie Estate Pinot Noir
2008  Brodie Estate Pinot Noir
2009  Charles Wiffen Pinot Noir
2009  Forrest Pinot Noir Bannockburn John Forrest Collection
2009  Forrest Pinot Noir Waitaki Valley John Forrest Collection
2010  [ TerraVin ] Jazz Pinot Noir
2007  Lindis River Pinot Noir
2006  Maori Point Pinot Noir
2008  Milcrest Estate Pinot Noir
2009  Mount Brown Pinot Noir
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
2005  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
2003  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Long Gully
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace
2007  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully
2009  Sunset Valley Pinot Noir Reserve
2011  Te Mata Gamay Noir Woodthorpe
2010  TerraVin Pinot Noir
2009  The 3rd (Third) Man Pinot Noir Omihi Reserve
2009  Vidal Pinot Noir Marlborough Reserve Series
2010  Volcanic Hills Pinot Noir
2009  Volcanic Hills Pinot Noir
2010  Wycroft Pinot Noir Forbury
Syrah = Shiraz
2009  Buller Wines Shiraz Black Dog Creek
2008  Buller Wines Shiraz Sinister Man
2009  Esk Valley Syrah
2006  Esk Valley Syrah Reserve
2007  Forrest Syrah John Forrest Collection
2010  [ Pask ] Instinct Syrah Winemakers Selection
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Syrah
2010  Kidnapper Cliffs Syrah (pre-bottling assembled tank sample)
2009  Okahu Estate Syrah
2009  Pask Syrah Gimblett Road
2010  Philip Shaw Shiraz The Idiot
2008  Rosemount Shiraz McLaren Vale District Release
2005  Taylors Shiraz Eighty Acres
2010  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose
2002  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose
2009  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose
2008  Unison Syrah
2009  Villa Maria Syrah Cellar Selection
2010  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah
2010  Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz
2008  Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz Michael
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2009  Bodegas Borsao Garnacha
2008  Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Tres Picos
2009  Bodegas Borsao Grenache / Syrah / Tempranillo Seleccion
All other red wines, blends etc
2009  Buller Wines Durif Beverford
2009  Bodegas Carchelo
2006  Bodegas Condado de Haza Ribero del Duero Crianza
2009  Crossroads [ not-revealed red blend ] Talisman
2008  Finca Sobreno Tinta de Toro
   nv  Gonzalez Byass Pedro Ximenez Nectar 375 ml
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Pinotage
2008  Leopard's Leap Pinotage / Shiraz
2010  Luis Alegre Tempranillo Poco a Poco
2009  Marques de Riscal Proximo
2010  Bodegas Monteabellon Avaniel Tinto
2007  Bodegas Ochoa Mil Gracias Graciano Single Vineyard
2006  Bodegas Ochoa Tempranillo Single Vineyard Crianza
2009  Pago de Los Capellanes Ribera del Duero
2008  Telmo Rodriguez Rioja LZ
2009  Telmo Rodriguez Toro Dehesa Gago G
2009  Telmo Rodriguez Vina 105
2008  Torres Coronas Tempranillo
2007  Torres Ibericos Tempranillo Crianza
2006  Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Crianza
2004  Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Reserva
2009  Bodegas Vega Real Ribera del Duero Roble
From the Cellar. Older wines.
1990  Ch Climens
1989  Ch Coutet
1983  Ch d'Yquem
2001  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5
1989  Ch Gruaud-Larose
1984  Guigal Cotes du Rhone
1983  Jaboulet La Chapelle
1989  Ch Rieussec
1988  Ch Rieussec
1994  Stonyridge Larose
1988  Ch Suduiraut
1997  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label

2006  Hunter's MiruMiru Reserve   18 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $28   [ cork;  Ch 55%,  PN 41,  PM 4;  100% MLF;  32 months en tirage;  dosage @ 8.2 g/L;  I regret that in my previous review 11/08 incorrect info for this wine was posted,  and has been there for 3 years;  www.hunters.co.nz ]
Lemon to lemon-straw,  and now none of the excess gas noted in the point-of-release review is apparent – appearance is classic bubbly.  Bouquet is markedly fresher than the 2000 Le Brun,  not the depth of baguette-crust autolysis,  but still good,  with faintly citric chardonnay notes too.  Palate is gorgeous,  delightfully Brut at about 8 g/L [ verified ],  lingering fruit and baguette-crust,  another great New Zealand methode.  Outstanding New Zealand methode only comes along every 4 – 5 years,  in fact:  this and the 2000 Le Brun illustrate our best,  along with the current Nautilus.  The 2007 MiruMiru does not achieve the same excellence.  This experience indicates how essential it is to cellar good methode champenoise,  if the wine's true quality is to be enjoyed.  This applies to nv too,  when a good one is encountered.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2000  Daniel Le Brun Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle Brut   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $ –    [ cork;  Ch 100%;  7 years en tirage;  RS 8 g/L;  www.lebrun.co.nz ]
Straw.  Bouquet is both clearly autolysed,  plus an intriguing vanilla wafer quality,  beautifully clean.  Palate enlarges on these qualities,  light baguette-crust autolysis,  the wine drying a little now as it ages,  the nett result being a very Brut wine indeed,  at least to the first sip or two.  But then one is quickly seduced by the cashew and baguette-crust lingering aftertaste of superlative quality,  and the wine becomes a delight.  Exemplary New Zealand bubbly,  fully mature now,  but no hurry to finish up if you like old wine.  GK 08/11

2009  Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti Nivole DOCG   18  ()
Canelli district,  Piedmont,  Italy:  5%;  $27   [ cork;  Moscato bianco = M di Canelli;  s/s wine;  www.chiarlo.it ]
Lemon washed with gold,  strongly spritz / frizzante.  Bouquet is beautifully pure and intensely ripe muscat,  with strong floral notes reminiscent of certain daisies and a mix of yellow-fleshed fruits ripe enough to avoid the peppermint of under-ripe muscat.  The fruit flavours are fresh on acid,  the hint of ground almonds along with appreciable sweetness adds body or seems to,  and the whole wine is immensely flavoursome and attractive,  without being tacky sweet.  In one sense such wines are so obvious and fruity that they appeal to people who don't like wine.  On the other hand,  it is hard to make such a subtle and satisfying wine from a grape so strongly flavoured as muscat.  This one excels.  Mature,  hold a year or two only.  GK 08/11

nv  Lanvin & Fils Cuvée Selection Brut   16 ½  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $45   [ cork;  it is difficult to find out much about this wine.  EuroVintage in NZ say:  "Produced by Champagne Lombard exclusively for the New Zealand market",  but wine of the same name is available in the UK and US markets;  at one stage it was said to be part of the Charles de Cazanove house,  but that house's website advises it was "bought out in 2004 and has become the flagship of a Champagne family group.";  no website for Lanvin apparently – if it is a Lombard label,  their website indicates the house style includes MLF,  2 – 3 years en tirage for the nv,  no clue on dosage;  info welcomed ]
Scarcely less straw than the much older Le Brun.  Bouquet is much milder,  clean,  but only superficial autolysis,  more crumb of bread than crust,  seemingly a high chardonnay cuvée.  Palate has reminders of better cava,  a slightly coarse note,  not the depth of the Le Brun,  clearly sweeter,  again crumb of bread rather than crust,  no baguette qualities at all.  Sound but drab,  highlighting both how excellent the best New Zealand method champenoise wines are,  and sadly drawing attention to how unreliable the advice about bubblies is locally – this wine for example simply does not deserve the glowing reviews it habitually receives in New Zealand.  It is simply serviceable bubbly from Champagne.  Will cellar for several years,  but marginally worth cellaring,  if delight be the goal.  GK 08/11

nv  [Gonzalez Byass] Vilarnau Cava Brut    16  ()
Catalunya,  Spain:  13.5%;  $31   [ cork;  cepage most likely macabeo,  parellada,  and chardonnay;  18 months en tirage;  no info,  website unresponsive at time of writing;  www.gonzalezbyass.com ]
Lemon,  a little deeper than the Dibon.  Bouquet is more promising too,  a certain leafy fragrance reminding of Angas Brut back in its semillon days,  and like Angas,  a surprisingly respectable quality of yeast autolysis – clear suggestions of bread-crust.  Palate is softer and richer than the Dibon,  more clearly some chardonnay now,  perhaps 8 g/L dosage,  drier than popular New Zealand Bruts.  Still some cardboard,  a second glass palls,  but reasonable so far as cava goes.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

nv  [ Bodegas Pinord ] Dibon Cava Brut Reserva   14  ()
Vilafranca del Penedes,  Spain:  11.5%;  $18   [ cork;  macabeo 45%,  parellada 30,  xarello 25,  from organic vineyards 330 m asl;  a label within the Pinord group,  info not quickly locatable;  www.pinord.com ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is old-style,  no obvious varietal expression,  no clean autolysis,  just vaguely vinifera with cardboardy undertones.  Palate is hard from entrained sulphur-related compounds,  where the cardboard flavour is supposed to mimic yeast.  Very dry by New Zealand Brut standards,  distorted / commercialised as we are by the Lindauer family of bubblies at 12 g/L residual or more.  Not worth cellaring.  Needless to say this wine has favourable competition results both locally and in the still technically-illiterate UK wine competitions.  GK 08/11

2009  Tohu Methode Traditionelle Blanc de Blanc Rewa   13  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $29   [ cork;  Ch 100%;  initial s/s fermentation,  followed by 9 months on lees in old French oak;  then 12 months (only) en tirage;  dosage 5 g/L;  www.tohuwines.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw,  coarse bubble.  Bouquet is modest by methode champenoise standards,  a suggestion of oxidation and VA rather than pleasing autolysis.  Palate shows high total acid,  plain flavours,  and a dosage greater than the number on the website,  presumably to cover the defects up.  Seems dubious the base wine was appropriate to the task.  Disappointing,  not suited to cellaring.  GK 07/11

2010  Vidal Chardonnay Hawke's Bay Reserve Series   18 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  website info disappointingly generalised;  RS nil;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Colour is a gorgeous lemon,  getting the wine off to a great start.  And bouquet does nothing to dispel that impression,  being quintessentially varietal,  lovely white to yellow vanillin florals,  clean fruit and yeast autolysis from time on lees,  and scarcely any oak showing – a real white burgundy approach.  Palate follows on seamlessly,  peachy fruit,  exemplary barrel-fermentation and use of oak,  lees-autolysis and MLF components building the varietal flavour but not dominating it,  beautiful acid and gentle oak balance,  all long in the mouth.  It is not as big and oaky as many 'Reserve' wines (see below),  and is the better for it.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  VALUE  GK 8/11

The fly in the ointment is the labelling.  Vidal are now proposing a three-tier series of wines,  to match Villa Maria's Private Bin,  Cellar Selection,  and Reserve.  The latter set works reasonably well,  though with some caveats as below.  Vidal however proposes to play with words,  labelling their mid-point wines Reserve Series,  and are threatening to use a concept such as Legacy Series or somesuch for their hitherto 'real' Reserve wines.  So this is the Reserve that isn't a Reserve.

This latter approach reflects the American-inspired latter-day move to grandiosity in wine labelling,  initiated in New Zealand by Craggy Range with their Prestige Series.  The French in contrast let the simple wine name itself set the standing,  but more objectionable is the fact that for years to come,  consumers will think they are getting Vidal Reserve wines,  mysteriously now at an affordable price.  Surely it would be better to keep the term Reserve meaning something,  as has been the fine tradition in the Villa,  Vidal and Esk group till now – unlike some other wineries.  

When you look at the Vidal website,  the pricing structure is chaotic,  the proposed Reserve Series being scarcely differentiated from the Estate wines.  In the Villa Maria schedule,  pricing is even more confusing,  with some Private Bin wines costing more than other Cellar Selection wines.  Would it be so hard to have a tiered nomenclature,  where prices as well as names means something simple and intelligible?  For example Estate wines under $20,  the middle series under $30,  the Reserves over $30.  Or as suits.  If the firm can't make an acceptable pinot noir under $20,  augment both the standing of the grape and the reputation of the winery by not having one in the cheaper bracket at all.  The present jumble of contradictory prices ends up trying to be all things to all people,  but ends up serving none well.  GK 08/11

2010  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston   18 ½ +  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ supercritical 'cork';  hand-harvested;  100% BF,  MLF,  LA and c. 9 months in French oak c. 50% new;  <2 g/L residual;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Rich lemon-straw.  Bouquet is forward on this year's wine,  already showing a fine integration of pale stonefruits,  mealyness,  barrel fermentation and subdued oak.  Palate is less together,  the MLF milkyness still to marry in,  the oak more noticeable.  There are suggestions of both yellow florals and oystershell minerality,  on a properly dry finish.  This should evolve into an exemplary Elston,  which will cellar for 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Milcrest Estate Chardonnay Reserve   18  ()
Waimea Plains and Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  fruit handpicked from predominantly 10 – 15 year old vines @ c. 4 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac,  and de-stemmed;  fermentation in mostly US oak was followed by 10 months LA some batonnage;  60% of the wine thru MLF;  RS <1 g/L;  www.milcrestestate.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw,  attractive.  Bouquet is fine-grained and floral chardonnay with acacia blossom undertones,  and stonefruit aromas.  Palate is equally attractive and harmonious,  varietal and soft,  yet perfectly balanced.  Not a big wine,  but the oak is understated and simpatico notwithstanding the American predominance,  and the length of flavour is great.  Lovely wine.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 08/11

2008  Dom. de Bellene Santenay les Charmes Dessus   18  ()
Santenay,  Cote de Beaune,  France:  13%;  $71   [ cork;  a Nicholas Potel label,  aiming to be organic / biodynamic;  best source info:  www.burgundy-report.com/summer-2010/profile-domaine-de-bellene-beaune;  house website skeletal as yet;  www.domainedebellene.com ]
Lemon,  one of the two best colours in the eight white burgundies.  Bouquet is freshly varietal,  a beautiful evocation of ripe chardonnay with pale yellow floral notes,  light stonefruits and the subtlest oak,  all melded and appealing.  On palate there is a trace of char in the oak,  positive complexity at this level,  and the flavour enlarges the bouquet.  Weight of fruit is a little short of gold-medal maybe,  but this is lovely floral small-scale chardonnay.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 07/11

2009  Dom. V. Girardin Meursault Le Limozin   18  ()
Meursault,  Cote de Beaune,  France:  14%;  $80   [ cork;  the website advises a general prescription for white winemaking,  from which one has to infer what might apply here depending on its position in the ranking:  manual harvesting;  hand-sorting of the grapes;  generally wild-yeast ferments,  followed by MLF;  extended lees autolysis 14 – 20 months (and varying with vintage too) in French oak,  ratio new 10 – 35%;  www.vincentgirardin.com ]
Lemon,  the other fine hue in the set.  Bouquet is somewhat richer and more artefact-influenced than the Santenay,  pale yellow fruits,  light mealy complexity,  some charring in the oak.  Palate is richer than the Santenay too,  yellow stonefruit,  but the charring on the oak is becoming assertive,  walnuts rather than hazelnuts.  Only fair to note many like this artefact,  and we went through a phase in New Zealand of marking it up ludicrously,  without respect to the fruit quality.  This wine too lacks richness by fine Meursault standards,  but is very appealing.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 07/11

2006  Forrest Chardonnay Wairau Valley John Forrest Collection   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  not much wine-making detail given;  RS 4 g/L;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Deepening lemon,  a touch of brass,  a better hue than the 2010 Elston.  Bouquet is slightly leesy quite rich chardonnay with nearly floral notes,  plus yellow stonefruits qualities.  It smells like clone mendoza,  but clones 15 and 95 in fact dominate.  Palate shows oak still a little prominent,  marrying into reasonably rich oatmealy stonefruit of good length,  the length assisted by acid and oak.  Aftertaste has better ripeness than many Marlborough chardonnays,  a hint of mango even,  the acid covering the residual sugar totally so it seems dry.  It is a much bolder wine than the 2010 Elston,  but with the thread of white burgundy-like reduction,  it will cellar well another 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

2007  Dom. de Bellene Savigny-les-Beaune Blanc   17 ½  ()
Savigny-les-Beaune,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  12.5%;  $71   [ cork;  a Nicholas Potel label,  aiming to be organic / biodynamic;  best source info:  www.burgundy-report.com/summer-2010/profile-domaine-de-bellene-beaune;  house website skeletal as yet;  www.domainedebellene.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is a delight,  pure light varietal chardonnay showing white flowers,  pale stonefruit,  and scarcely any oak.  Palate likewise is light,  pure,  very dry,  a petite chardonnay,  but all the components in lovely balance and the oak (presumably all old) is subtle and masterly.  This wine beautifully illustrates how the finest fendant (Swiss chasselas) overlaps with petite white burgundy / chardonnay.  Rare provenance for white burgundy in New Zealand.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 07/11

2007  Dom. V. Girardin Santenay Blanc le Beauregard Blanc Premier Cru   17 +  ()
Santenay,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $61   [ cork;  the website advises a general prescription for white winemaking,  from which one has to infer what might apply here depending on its position in the ranking:  manual harvesting;  hand-sorting of the grapes;  generally wild-yeast ferments,  followed by MLF;  extended lees autolysis 14 – 20 months (and varying with vintage too) in French oak,  ratio new 10 – 35%;  www.vincentgirardin.com ]
Lemonstraw.  The initial impression on bouquet is too much oak,  just like so many new world chardonnays.  But that said,  the wine is pure and there are yellow-fruited qualities too.  Palate shows pale yellow peach fruit like New Zealand clone mendoza,  long-flavoured on oak.  The oak itself is clean and low toast,  so interferes less and lengthens the palate.  The fruit weight rescues the wine in mouth.  This should cellar well,  3 – 8 years,  though it is surprising just how new-world the style is.  GK 07/11

2008  Forrest Chardonnay Waitaki Valley John Forrest Collection   17  ()
Waitaki Valley,  Otago,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $50   [ screwcap;  irrigated vines on the south bank of the river,  harvested @ ± 5.4 t/ha = 2.2 t/ac;  a 400 mm rainfall zone,  on interbedded calcareous and terrace materials;  RS 2.8 g/L;  120 cases;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw,  deeper than both the 2006 Collection Wairau and the 2010 Elston.  Bouquet is lighter and purer than the Wairau Valley wine,  with delicate freesia / floral notes,  slightly appley white stonefruits,  and hints of crushed oystershell minerality.  Oak is invisible on bouquet.  Palate shows more malolactic influence than the Wairau Valley wine,  the residual is lower,  yet the total acid is much higher,  making the wine awkward.  There are some grand cru chablis reminders here,  but it is more oaky.  Something of a puzzle why it is more expensive than the Wairau Valley wine.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Chardonnay   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  clone mendoza c.90%,  balance clone 15,  all hand-picked at c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  the website offers the implication that chardonnay excels on the Gimblett Gravels only in the cooler years,  which correlates with observations on this website for example re the excellence of the Dartmoor Valley chardonnay Riflemans;  juice fined before fermentation so no solids,  thus contrasting with many chardonnay makers;  inoculated yeast,  all BF in French oak hogsheads,  20% new;  no MLF desired,  minimal batonnage;  c 10 months in barrel;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Straw,  deeper than the Solan.  Bouquet is too oaky to be promising,  with the oak vanillin perfuming the bouquet more than the fruit,  so the wine seems scented.  I like to see more of the beauty of the variety on bouquet.  Palate is scrupulously clean,  and fighting through the thickets of oak there is some attractive mendoza fruit to be found.  The late aftertaste with hints of figgy fruit richness gives some hint of the lost opportunity here.  Sadly,  this is old-style new world,  where oak flavours were seen as the main measure of chardonnay worth.  Disappointing,  therefore,  but will cellar 10 + years and no doubt mellow.  The 1981 McWilliams Hawke's Bay Chardonnay was not dissimilar at the outset,  and for those who like aged chardonnay,  that wine is still interesting.  GK 08/11

2009   Dom. V Girardin Pouilly-Fuissé Quintessence   17  ()
Pouilly-Fuissé,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $50   [ cork;  the website advises a general prescription for white winemaking,  from which one has to infer what might apply here depending on its position in the ranking:  manual harvesting;  hand-sorting of the grapes;  generally wild-yeast ferments,  followed by MLF;  extended lees autolysis 14 – 20 months (and varying with vintage too) in French oak,  ratio new 10 – 35%;  www.vincentgirardin.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is a little more angular than the top wines,  but shows pure chardonnay and more oak than expected for the appellation.  Palate is fresh,  showing citrus zest,  a suggestion of stonefruit,  but rather more oak.  The wine palls in mouth on the oak,  not quite the depth of fruit to sustain it,  but pleasing enough.  Mark generous.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 07/11

2007  Matariki Chardonnay   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels 60%,  Tukituki Valley 40,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $28   [ screwcap;  4 clones including mendoza,  hand-harvested; 60% wild-yeast ferments,  some of the wine started fermentation in s/s,  most BF,  all ended up in barrel;  oak all French,  some new,  most first and second year,  8 months LA in barrel, some batonnage,  most through MLF;  www.matarikiwines.co.nz ]
Light gold.  Bouquet is in an older slightly reductive and imperfectly ripe chardonnay style,  rich,  but with mixed cues.  There are clouded yellow stonefruits and pineapple aromas,  but a leafy edge bespeaking less ripe material too.  On palate the under-ripe component delivers hardness and noticeable acid,  and both are reinforced by a lot of oak.  To a degree the rich fruit helps conceal these deficiencies,  but the wine is tiring to drink.  Needless to say this wine has won gold medal in the London-based International Wine Competition,  which winemakers so like to quote.  The technical limitations of the judges in that venue allow the most bizarre wines to win high awards,  and the sooner consumers and makers alike learn that they provide no guide at all to developing our wine industry constructively,  the better off we all will be.  This wine for example presumably wins gold medal because it is reminiscent of a faulty French white burgundy,  but the judges lack the skill to either pinpoint the fault,  or acknowledge the French wine would be better without that component.  So shallow.  Has the size to hold a year or two in cellar,  but not develop.  GK 08/11

2008  Sunset Valley Chardonnay Reserve   16 ½  ()
Upper Moutere,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  hand-picked,  whole-bunch pressed,  BF and 12 months LA;  not much wine info on website;  BioGro organic producer;  www.sunsetvalleyvineyard.co.nz ]
Straw.  One sniff and this is another old-timer too,  showing lots of oak on golden queen-like peach fruit,  plus a little buttery complexity from MLF (+ve).  Palate is close to the Matariki,  not quite so rich,  a little purer without the French grubbyness,  long-flavoured but angular on excess oak.  Will hold a year or two.  GK 08/11

2008  Dom de Bellene Saint Romain Blanc Vieilles Vignes   16 ½  ()
Saint-Romain,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $62   [ cork;  a Nicholas Potel label,  aiming to be organic / biodynamic;  best source info:  www.burgundy-report.com/summer-2010/profile-domaine-de-bellene-beaune;  house website skeletal as yet;  www.domainedebellene.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet on this wine is modern to a fault,  the varietal quality rather lost in charry oak,  but all pure otherwise.  Palate confirms there is just too much oak for varietal expression or ease and pleasure of matching to food.  The charry quality degrades the flavour,  with just a subliminal trace of creosote.  Fruit weight is reasonable.  The combination of flavours could match coarse food flavours such as manuka-smoked kahawai quite well.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 07/11

2007  Dom. V. Girardin Chassagne-Montrachet Clos du Cailleret Premier Cru   16 +  ()
Chassagne-Montrachet,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $61   [ cork;  the website advises a general prescription for white winemaking,  from which one has to infer what might apply here depending on its position in the ranking:  manual harvesting;  hand-sorting of the grapes;  generally wild-yeast ferments,  followed by MLF;  extended lees autolysis 14 – 20 months (and varying with vintage too) in French oak,  ratio new 10 – 35%;  www.vincentgirardin.com ]
Lemonstraw.  It is a pity when chardonnay producers follow some of the excesses of countries like Spain,  such that because it is premier cru fruit they use more oak.  Like some Spanish Reservas therefore,  this practice can simply wreck the fruit and vinosity.  This wine reeks of new oak,  almost a resiny note,  with chardonnay fruit trying to get a word in edgeways.  Palate shows even more resin,  even though the fruit is quite rich.  Clumsy wine at the price.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  maybe to mellow.  I won't be trying.  GK 07/11

2007  Dom. N. Potel Meursault Vieilles Vignes   16 +  ()
Meursault,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $80   [ cork;  hand-harvested from vines growing on calcareous SPMs at 300 ± 50 m;  24 hour cold-settling;  BF and MLF followed by LA in French oak 100% new for 10 months;  some time in s/s including assemblage;  www.nicolas-potel.fr ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is varietal,  quite rich,  but tending rank,  oaky and MLF-y,  as if some imperfectly ripe fruit.  Palate confirms these impressions,  the wine reasonably rich but the fruit / MLF / barrel components unintegrated,  with an almost sour oaky thought.  Meursault should be so much 'sweeter' (though dry) and mealy / nuttier than this,  at four years of age.  Only on the late aftertaste is there a pleasant mealy suggestion.  Fruit richness helps this component.  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  hopefully to marry up.  GK 07/11

2010  TerraVin Chardonnay   16  ()
Omaka Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.7%;  $27   [ screwcap;  hand-picked from 12-year old hillside vines planted at 5500 vines / ha and cropped @ 6 t/ha = 2.4 t/ac;  whole-bunch pressed,  wild yeast,  BF and 9 months LA in French oak;  www.terravin.co.nz ]
Paleish lemonstraw.  Strange wine,  a slightly penetrating aromatic on its bouquet reminiscent of some Spanish whites (parellada for example) on fragrant fruit and oak.  Palate is hard,  dry,  acid and narrow,  some varietal fruit but not a charmer at all,  with a stalky and acid streak reminding of sauvignon.  Hard to drink on its own.  Needs to soften in cellar 2 – 4 years,  but marginally worthwhile.  GK 08/11

2008  Buller Wines Chardonnay Sinister Man [ Unoaked ]   16  ()
Murray Valley,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  13.5%;  $14   [ screwcap;  no info;  www.bullerwines.com.au ]
Lemon-straw.  Bouquet is clear-cut clean chardonnay in the Australian commercial mixed-ripeness / presumably machine-harvesting model – a mix of fruit characters from banana to leafy,  with little complication from lees work or oak.  Palate follows naturally,  fair fruit,  straightforward,  pleasant commercial QDW chardonnay,  not bone dry.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Crossroads Winery Chardonnay Kereru Road   16  ()
Maraekakaho district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  clones mendoza and 15;  hand-picked;  100% barrel-fermented some wild-yeast some cultured,  9 months LA in French oak,  16% new;  RS <2 g/L;  www.crossroadswinery.co.nz ]
Straw.  First impressions on bouquet are VA and oak,  an old-fashioned kind of chardonnay,  but not a well-executed one with that level of VA.  Palate has some rich chardonnay yellow-peachy fruit,  but it is harsh and non-food-friendly on the aggressive alcohol,  VA,  and oak.  The fact that there are people who like this sort of thing (hence the permissive score) does not justify a winery presenting this as a premium chardonnay priced in the $30s.  If wineries are to be respected,  a demonstrated ability to perceive and maintain standards is required.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2010  Redmetal Chardonnay   15  ()
New Zealand:  13.5%;  $15   [ screwcap;  no wine info on website;  www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz ]
Pale lemon-straw.  Bouquet is innocuous,  in the over-cropped style Sileni / Redmetal incline towards rather often,  showing simple stalky fruit.  Palate is reminiscent of an unoaked chardonnay,  no complexity,  no interest really,  just QDW chardonnay,  not completely dry.  Will soften in cellar 1 – 3 years,  but scarcely worthwhile.  GK 08/11

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2010  Clark Estate Sauvignon Blanc   18 ½ +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  three picks for complexity,  by machine;  cool-fermented in s/s,  half held on lees for 3 months;  RS 3 g/L;  www.borehamwoodwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet illustrates all the beauty of the best New Zealand sauvignon blanc,  beautifully made.  It combines some elderflower charm with nettles,  English gooseberry,  red capsicum ripeness,  and sweet basil,  plus some black passionfruit extending the ripe fruit notes.  Palate has the richness so many sauvignon blancs lack,  bespeaking a quality cropping rate rather than a commercial one,  and the flavour lasts and lasts in mouth.  This is exemplary wine,  up there with Astrolabe for quality.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Mugwi Reserve   18 ½  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $21   [ screwcap;  SB cropped @ 6 t/ha (2.4 t/ac);  free-run juice settled overnight,  straight to barrel % new unknown,  wild-yeast and not-cold fermentation;  LA and twice-weekly batonnage for some months; RS 4.2 g/L,  some filtering and bottled March following;  350 cases;  www.tohuwines.co.nz ]
Rich lemon.  A very fragrant and voluminous bouquet of ripe sauvignon blanc barrel-fermented in mellow oak,  to produce complex florals including not-totally-attractive daisy family (Cape Ivy,  chrysanthemum) notes as well as sautéed red capsicum,  black passionfruit and generalised fruit aromas.  Palate is soft and rich,  picking up on the black passionfruit pulp component particularly,  and here the seasoned oak really comes into its own,  not making this palate spikey.  A love or hate wine,  I would imagine,  not as interfered-with as Te Koko,  not as bracing as Sauvage,  richer than Cape Crest,  perhaps not one for delicacy fans.  This emergence of Graves-like (except for the RS) sauvignons in New Zealand is exciting,  mostly due to the attention now paid to physiological maturity in the fruit,  and conserving those flavours via subtle handling in old oak.  This is a lovely example.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  perhaps longer.  GK 08/11

2011  Te Mata Sauvignon Blanc Woodthorpe   18  ()
Tutaekuri Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  cold-settled and cool fermented in s/s;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Lemon-green,  an excellent colour.  Bouquet is already dramatically varietal,  at a careful point of ripeness bridging the gap between stone-fruited Hawke's Bay wine and capsicum-themed Marlborough.  This has some sweet basil aromatics which are nearly floral,  clear black passionfruit,  and sautéed red capsicum fruit on bouquet.  Palate is great,  extending the bouquet considerably,  attractive mouth feel,  maybe a hint of brief lees work or a fraction of barrel-ferment,  gentler acid than so many Marlborough wines,  'sauvignon-dry',  thoroughly pleasant wine.  This 2011 Woodthorpe seems to reflect a dramatic change of approach,  more than likely a significantly reduced crop,  and much more attention to ripeness parameters.  On the expensive side for s/s sauvignon,  but worth trying.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Sauvignon / Semillon Solan   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $35   [ cork;  SB 89%,  Se 11,  hand-picked typically @ c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  a wine inspired by Bordeaux blanc;  c.50% of the wine is barrel-fermented in French oak 20% new (i.e. 10% in the total blend),  followed by considerable lees-work and 10 months in barrel;  RS nil;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Straw.  This wine is another intriguing step along the route to achieving more complex sauvignons in New Zealand,  and more particularly sauvignons able to be compared with the age-worthy whites of Bordeaux generally,  and Graves in particular.  It thus follows in the footsteps of Te Mata Cape Crest,  Cloudy Bay Te Koko,  Sacred Hill's Sauvage,  and a number of other latter-day examples.  It includes beautifully ripe fruit,  50% barrel-fermentation,  and extended lees contact.  Bouquet is quite strange in the company cited,  perfumed in an elderflower,  grapefruit and other citrus plus camembert (+ve) way,  possibly complexed by trace MLF.  The intention was no MLF,  but on enquiry,  not 100% sure.  There is just a touch of Te Koko about the wine,  and the result is intriguing.  Palate pulls one up short,  bone dry as in the Bordeaux model,  initially seeming hard and short,  but on reflection,  quite rich,  just angular and youthful.  The camembert notes reminiscent of top muscadet certainly will marry the wine to food delightfully.  Exciting wine.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  with great interest,  perhaps to mark higher.  GK 08/11

2011  Volcanic Hills Sauvignon Blanc   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  s/s,  no winemaking info,  Volcanic Hills is a marketing concept,  no geographic relevance to vineyards;  4.1 g/L RS;  www.volcanichills.co.nz ]
Pale lemon-green.  Bouquet is potentially clean sound fruity Marlborough sauvignon,  sautéed red capsicums,  hints of sweet basil and faintest (acceptable) sweat.  Palate is mild,  ripe,  reasonable body,  seeming a little sweeter than the current industry trend,  but still 'dry'.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

2011  Sileni Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  cool-fermented in s/s;  RS 6 g/L;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  As could be expected from a wine released within four months of vintage,  to meet a fad subscribed to only by the trendy and thoughtless,  bouquet is raw and youthful,  but clean and varietal.  Palate shows a potentially attractive Marlborough sauvignon ripened to the mixed capsicums,  black passionfruit and hints of sweet basil stage.  In five months it should well merit the silver score.  In my estimation wineries releasing wines within six months of vintage risk classifying themselves in the down-market half of the wine scene.  No thinking wine consumer needs to or should buy sauvignon blanc released within eight months of vintage.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Forrest Sauvignon Blanc John Forrest Collection   17  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  SB 100% hand-picked at 5 – 6 t/ha (2 – 2.5 t/ac);  part s/s ferment,  part BF in old oak,  plus 8 months LA and some batonnage;  RS 2.5 g/L;  100 cases;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is slightly leesy verging on reductive,  with a clear barrel component.  Fruit shows good ripeness on bouquet,  as ripe as the Te Mata Woodthorpe wine.  Palate continues in an overtly or unsubtly lees-influenced style,  less lees component than the doubtful Ch de Sours,  more oak-affected than the Neudorf,  but markedly less so than the Mugwi,  better acid balance than the Wiffen.  An interesting wine therefore to pin down component flavours in sauvignon wine styles,  more particularly when opened with other wines.  Pretty squarely a Graves Blanc in approach.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe longer.  GK 08/11

2010  Charles Wiffen Sauvignon Blanc   16 ½ +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  not on website,  info on previous vintages skimpy;  www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz ]
Lemon-green.  Bouquet is clear-cut stainless steel Marlborough sauvignon at a mixed-colour capsicums point of ripeness,  more yellow and orange than red,  but some sweet basil and black passionfruit as well.  Palate retreats somewhat towards the cooler end of the ripening spectrum,  some green capsicum notes now,  total acid up a bit,  slightly phenolic and short,  seeming drier than the average for the district.  Short-term cellar only,  not ripe enough for long holding.  GK 08/11

2011  Ohau Gravels Sauvignon Blanc   16 ½ +  ()
Ohau district,  Manawatu,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  mostly s/s cool ferment,  5% BF in old oak and some lees work for complexity;  4.5 g/L RS;  www.ohaugravels.co.nz ]
Pale lemon-green.  Bouquet is youthful,  still with fermentation esters to marry away.  Below is clear capsicum more mixed in colour than the Volcanic Hills wine,  some herbes.  Palate is a little firmer too,  more yellow capsicum rather than red,  a cooler-climate presentation of the variety showing fair fruit and a sauvignon-'dry' finish.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 08/11

2010  River Farm Wines Sauvignon Blanc Ben Morven   16 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $15   [ screwcap;  SB 100%,  low cropping rate;  most s/s ferment,  some BF with wild-yeast;  consultant winemaker Brian Bicknell of Mahi,  RS 2 g/L;  www.riverfarmwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  There is still some unassimilated bottling SO2 on bouquet,  on otherwise clean light fruit ripened to yellow and red capsicum levels,  slightly aromatic presumably from the oak.  On palate the oak is more noticeable,  but pleasantly so,  the fruit OK,  acid high,  flavours short partly because it is drier than most local sauvignons,  partly the higher than optimal sulphur.  Much better in a year.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

2010  The 3rd (Third) Man Sauvignon / Semillon Darnley Corner   16  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  the sauvignon s/s ferment,  the semillon BF presumably with lees work;  not on the uninformative website,  so no detail;  www.thethirdman.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is interesting,  one of those wines illustrating there is some shared chemistry between sauvignon and under-ripe riesling.  The degree of elderflower and nettly florality is intriguing,  reminiscent of the Loire Valley.  Palate is less,  fair body from some barrel ferment and lees,  but herbaceous and tending grassy on fruit under-ripeness,  the finish phenolic and astringent despite some residual.  Only fair to report that tasters in the group panned the wine,  but I suspect some of a European bent would like it.  Cellar a year or two only.  GK 08/11

2010  Sunset Valley Sauvignon Blanc   15  ()
Upper Moutere,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $15   [ supercritical 'cork';  not on website but presumably hand-harvested,  a BioGro organic producer;  2011 has 7 g/L RS;  no relation of the yesteryear Golden Sunset Vineyards of the Henderson Valley,  and too,  there are Sunset Valley vineyards in nearly all English-speaking wine-producing countries,  to further confuse the issue;  www.sunsetvalleyvineyard.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is stronger than the average sauvignon,  but not for positive reasons.  There is a clear green pea and herbaceous component to this wine,  which is sort-of OK in youth,  but will quickly go canned-asparagus,  with only a little more age.  Palate confirms,  sweeter than average to cover the under-ripeness and phenolics,  a real 1980s wine.  More ripeness and gentler extraction needed.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2010  Ch de Sours Bordeaux Blanc   15  ()
Near Libourne,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  SB 80%,  Se 20;  some French oak;  www.chateaudesours.com ]
Lemon-green.  Needs pouring off into a jug pretty vigorously,  preferably several times,  when it opens to reveal still somewhat reductive and muted sauvignon / semillon blend aromas,  and some lees work.  Palate is milder than the New Zealand wines,  possibly trace oak,  pleasant acid,  dry,  reasonable body but all tending to the insipid.  A 1980s wine,  not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2010  Vidal Sauvignon Blanc Organic Reserve   14  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $23   [ screwcap;  s/s cool-ferment,  followed by some LA including in seasoned barrels, RS 3 g/;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  What a disappointing wine,  from such a skilled maker.  One sniff and this wine illustrates why consumers through bitter experience have learnt to be leery of organic practitioners,  until they have absolutely proved themselves.  Bouquet has a whiff of the gasworks about it (a concept lost on most of the population now) bespeaking reduction,  and on palate the whole wine,  though quite rich and ripe,  is cardboardy and grubby.  Villa Group don't often make a mistake,  or more accurately,  release them,  but this is one.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2010  Milcrest Estate Sauvignon Blanc   14  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  fruit early-morning machine harvested;  juice settled,  aromatic yeast,  s/s ferment;  a few weeks LA and stirring post-ferment;  RS 4.5 g/L;  www.milcrestestate.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is youthful,  still showing bottling / making SO2.  Below is varietal fruit tending under-ripe.  Palate is hard on the excess sulphur and grape phenolics,  and with age will go cardboardy.  Not a success.  More generally,  one can only despair that wines like this are apparently still winning silver medals in lesser competitions.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2010  Mount Brown Sauvignon Blanc   13 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $15   [ screwcap;  s/s wine;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.mountbrown.co.nz ]
Lemon-green.  Bouquet is reductive and under-ripe,  more the grassy side of sauvignon and green capsicums,  rather than the descriptors associated with appropriate maturity.  Palate follows naturally,  green flavours,  sour on sulphide,  hard and short.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 07/11

2009  Charles Wiffen Riesling   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $16   [ screwcap;  RS 12 g/L;  www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is clean strong varietal riesling with enough age to show some development on the lime-zest and citrus base.  Palate is slightly more phenolic than ideal,  but there is plenty of citrus and marmaladey fruit,  on firm acid and a near-dry finish.  It might develop a little kerosene character in cellar,  but pleasantly so.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Mt Difficulty Riesling Target Gully   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  9.5%;  $26   [ screwcap;  vines planted 1994;  stop-fermented @ 40 g/L,  pH 3.0;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Lovely lemon,  very fresh.  Bouquet is softer,  more floral than the dry version,  both apple blossom and a whisper of something like jasmine,  beautifully pure.  Palate is pure crystalline riesling despite the higher residual sugar,  no botrytis influence so one can study the flavour as essence of riesling the grape.  There is some linalool and holy grass,  some old-fashioned apple without the juicy esters of latter years,  some sweet white peach.  Below is a mineral and acid spine,  fleshed out by the sweetness.  This will cellar well,  5 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Auburn Wines Riesling Alexandra   17 ½  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  10.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Ri hand-picked from 10-year old vines,  no botrytis,  cool-fermented;  45 g/L RS;  Auburn Wines is a coming together of three riesling enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds,  with the goal of producing only riesling.  Thus far there are examples from Alexandra,  Bannockburn,  Bendigo,  and Lowburn,  none 'dry';  www.auburnwines.com ]
Pale lemon-green.  The name causes something of a double-take,  Auburn for tasters of a certain vintage being associated with the Clare Valley and Lindeman's.  Bouquet is spare and youthful,  with only hints of florals,  lime and citrus to come.  Palate shows the terpenes of the variety in an appropriate way,  fair fruit,  medium sweetness,  an unknit finish as yet.  Needs time in cellar,  3 – 12 years,  perhaps to be rated higher.  GK 08/11

2005  Forrest Riesling Wairau Valley John Forrest Collection   17 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.2%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Ri 100% hand-picked at 2.2 t /ha (0.9 t/ac);  presumably s/s ferment (but nothing would surprise me in these 'play' wines) plus some months LA;  pH 2.96,  RS 11.7 g/L;  225 cases;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Elegant lemon,  still a wash of green.  Bouquet is riesling varietal complexed by some lees work which is not quite perfect,  muting the lime zest and floral aromas.  Palate confirms a slightly reductive note in considerable autolysis,  but there is rich juicy fruit which is young for its age – as would be expected from the sulphur.  A lot of German rieslings were like this,  a few decades ago,  and the least-affected do clean up as the years go by.  This one may,  since the phenolics are low and the fruit is there to age 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

2011  Tohu Riesling Single Vineyard   17  ()
Upper Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $17   [ screwcap;  Ri cropped @ c.9 t/ha (3.6 t/ac);  free-run juice cold-settled 48 hours,  cold fermentation in s/s with selected yeast;  pH 3.07,  RS 4.9 g/L,  fined and filtered;  www.tohuwines.co.nz ]
Pale lemon-green.  There should be an absolute embargo on the selling of riesling within 12 preferably 18 months of vintage.  The young wines are so awkward on both bouquet and palate.  This wine is clean and fragrant in a slightly drier presentation than the Astrolabe,  with good fruit,  but how good it's going to be is anybody's guess,  as is the score.  It looks promising,  and the Awatere Valley provenance should assist its cellar prospects.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Riesling Dry   17  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested from vines planted 1994;  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-straw,  a bit deep.  Bouquet is in a 'dry' riesling format like some of the cool-area South Australian examples,  mineral as much as floral,  light citrus zest.  Palate continues similarly,  austere to a virgin palate,  but softening up with each sip,  good body from some lees work,  flintily varietal.  A wine for riesling aficionados.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2011  Astrolabe Riesling Valleys Discovery Series   17  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $16   [ screwcap;  Ri 100%,  night and machine harvested;  cool-fermented with aromatic yeast in s/s with light solids;  pH 2.93,  RS 8.3 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Pale lemon-green.  As for the Tohu,  there should be an absolute embargo on the selling of riesling within 12 preferably 18 months of vintage.  The young wines are so awkward on both bouquet and palate.  Despite a little SO2 yet to marry away,  this one is clean and fragrant as a near-dry riesling,  with good fruit,  but how good it's going to be is anybody's guess,  as is the score.  With this winemaker's track record,  a safe bet.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Clark Estate Riesling   16 ½  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  10%;  $19   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  not on website;  www.borehamwoodwines.co.nz ]
Quite deep lemon.  Bouquet is clear-cut lime and citrus blossom riesling,  with an impression of slight botrytis sweetness and fruit depth.  Palate is not so good,  some ignoble botrytis showing up in the citrus,  medium sweetness,  quite rich,  but the flavours a little degraded by lack of care at the harvesting / sorting stage.  Doubtful for cellaring,  though thresholds to the defect vary enormously.  GK 08/11

2010  Georges Road Riesling Block Three   16 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  11%;  $23   [ supercritical 'cork';  hand-harvested;  wild-yeast coolish fermentation in s/s,  stop-fermented followed by 4 – 5 months LA,  pH 3.15,  RS 30 g/L;  www.georgesroadwines.co.nz ]
Lemon-green.  Bouquet is clean,  delicately floral,  lightly varietal,  showing promise.  Palate adds clear citrus zest and white stonefruits flavours,  on medium sweetness.  Straightforward pleasant riesling to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 07/11

2011  Mount Riley Riesling   15 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  cool-fermented in s/s;  RS 9.5 g/L;  www.mountriley.co.nz ]
Lemon-green.  Bouquet is still at the jujube post-fermentation stage,  and the 'riesling dry' palate is likewise immature,  phenolic and hard to drink.  To release a noble variety such as riesling three months from vintage shows no respect at all for either the grape or the customer.  A disappointing attitude,  but the wine should cellar 3 – 8 years,  to improve in score and become sound Marlborough riesling.  GK 07/11

Pinot Gris
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris Manson's Farm   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $34   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested mid-May rather than mid-April from vines planted 1995;  s/s cool ferment;  some months stirring on gross lees to build palate,  40 g/L RS by stop-ferment;  made in / seeking a vendage tardive style,  150 cases;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw.  Bouquet is quite strongly varietal,  deeper than the pear flesh so often attributed to the variety,  more a soaked sultana and white nectarine fruit character.  There is no oak influence,  so one can study the pinot-family varietal flavours,  which in New Zealand (sadly) are all too often simpler than the yellow-flowers-tinged Alsatian interpretation.  In mouth though,  body immediately evokes images of Alsatian tokay,  a distinctly fatter and fleshy texture much suited to food,  the flavour overcoming the appreciable sweetness.  This should evolve in cellar into an unusual New Zealand pinot gris,  well worth investing in.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Clark Estate Pinot Gris   18  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  early-morning picked by machine;  free-run cool-fermented in s/s,  press fraction BF,  both fractions 3 months LA,  stirring not mentioned;  RS 5 g/L;  www.borehamwoodwines.co.nz ]
Straw.  There is some varietal excitement on the bouquet of this wine,  with more complexity and hints of yellow flowers as well as white,  much more like good Alsatian pinot gris.  Both bouquet and palate are beautifully clean,  with suggestions of yellow-fleshed plum as well as pear,  plus just a touch of cinnamon later,  thus finishing slightly phenolic and virtually dry.  This is serious pinot gris to cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe longer.  GK 08/11

2010  Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris   17 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $26   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested from five vineyards;  s/s cool ferment;  some stirring on gross lees over four months to build palate,  5 g/L RS;  2000 cases;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Faintly flushed light straw.  This wine in youth really needs decanting,  not because there is any hint of reduction,  simply to dissipate a suggestion of apparent / unknit spirit.  Looking at it amongst a batch of mainstream New Zealand pinot gris,  it immediately stands out for its depth of fruit and grand cru cropping rate.  This is real pinot gris,  cropped at a conservative rate which has given body,  as befits a grape which is (after all) a pinot variety.  Most New Zealand pinot gris is still off-dry lolly water,  to please those who don't really like wine,  but have to join in.  So here in contrast one smells nectarine and a hint of cinnamon,  and in mouth there is pear flesh,  more stonefruit,  and the grip of those cinnamon-related phenolics on a near-dry finish.  I expect this to smooth down into a good food wine,  with time in cellar 3 – 8 years.  It is a bit angular right now.  GK 08/11

2010  Volcanic Hills Pinot Gris   17 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $20   [ screwcap;  no winemaking info,  Volcanic Hills is a marketing concept,  no geographic relevance to vineyards;  7.8 g/L RS;  www.volcanichills.co.nz ]
Slightly flushed light straw.  An intriguing bouquet,  a slight exotic note on stonefruit and light cinnamon,  like a paler version of the Ohau Gravels wine.  Palate is pure stone fruit,  gentle phenolics attractively done,  clearly varietal.  Wines like this are such an advance on the New Zealand pinot gris of yesteryear,  which did not respect the concept of 'pinot' at all.  Finish is 'dry',  an attractively serious presentation of the variety.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2011  Ohau Gravels Pinot Gris   17 +  ()
Ohau district,  Manawatu,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  mostly s/s cool ferment,  small percentage BF;  some stirring on gross lees over four months to build palate,  12 g/L RS;  www.ohaugravels.co.nz ]
Faintly flushed straw,  remarkably close to the 2010 Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris.  Bouquet is too youthful,  it should it should not have been released so early with amyl acetate-like esters still to marry away.  But below that it is clean and pure,  not quite the lees work of the Mt Difficulty to complex it,  but the same peach and nectarine flesh.  Palate continues that theme,  a touch of cinnamon phenolics nicely covered by the residual,  good length,  not as rich as the Mt Difficulty and a little less grippy.  This is serious varietal pinot gris to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2011  Starborough Pinot Gris   17  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  not on website,  but if like 2010,  hand-harvested in cool temperatures,  mostly s/s cool-fermented,  part fermented in old oak,  some lees-stirring,  6.5 g/L RS;  www.starboroughwine.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Releasing wines within five months of vintage is an appalling practice,  to be deprecated.  Like the Ohau Gravels,  this wine too shows fermentation esters which need to be assimilated before release,  on clean varietal pear flesh.  Palate suggests there has been some lees work with the wine,  the texture is promising,  the finish dryish.  This looks good,  in a lighter kind of serious pinot gris.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Sileni Pinot Gris Cellar Selection   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  most cool-fermented in s/s,  small part barrel-fermented for complexity;  RS 3.8 g/L;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Straw.  Bouquet is gently white flowers and clean white fruits such as pears and nectarine.  Palate is much milder than the River Farm,  with good white fruits,  near dry, and a long mildly varietal flavour.  Sound and pleasing,  without being exciting.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Maori Point Pinot Gris   16 ½ +  ()
Tarras,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  presumably s/s ferment,  though the 2007 was 27% fermented in old oak,  lees-stirring over four months to build palate,  7 g/L RS;  www.maoripoint.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This is more typical New Zealand pinot gris,  clean,  lightly fragrant on pear flesh fruit,  very vinifera.  Flavour in mouth continues in a pear and suggestions of white nectarine palate,  not the cropping rate to give the body of the top wines,  and a little sweeter to distract the casual user,  but sound and pleasing.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Charles Wiffen Pinot Gris   16  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  RS 12 g/L;  www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw,  a bit developed.  Bouquet is disorganised,  with cardboardy and mixed ripeness notes in quite rich fruit.  Palate likewise shows a good level of fruit in a slightly quincey way,  but the wine is tending phenolic as well as hard on the cardboardy impressions,  mixed in with some stalks,  notwithstanding the off-dry finish.  Sturdy food wine only,  not a good cellar prospect.  GK 08/11

2010  Johanneshof Pinot Gris Trocken   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ supercritical 'cork';  no winemaking info;  4.3 g/L RS;  www.johanneshof.co.nz ]
Quite a rosy orange flush in straw.  This wine has more bouquet than some rated above it,  with reminders of rosé champagne,  but there is also a faintly varnishy / oxidised complexity.  Palate is dry,  clear nectarine fruit and cinnamon spice,  but again there is a flaw – a trace of ignoble botrytis,  and the phenolics are too high.  Flavoursome wine,  better in applications where it would not be scrutinised too carefully.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Maori Point Pinot Gris   15  ()
Tarras,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  presumably s/s ferment,  though the 2007 was 27% fermented in old oak,  lees-stirring over four months to build palate,  2.8 g/L RS;  www.maoripoint.co.nz ]
Light lemon.  A familiar aroma on bouquet,  the banana-y ester-producing yeast used to seduce consumers and wine judges not so long ago,  so the wine is 'fruity' but in a false-fruit / vulgar way.  Palate is fruity too,  varietal in a sense but coarsely flavoured,  not tasting quite as dry as the number.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2010  River Farm Pinot Gris Godfrey Road   15  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  SB 100%,  hand-picked from low-cropping vines;  most s/s ferment,  some BF with wild-yeast in older barrels;  consultant winemaker Brian Bicknell of Mahi,  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.riverfarmwines.co.nz ]
Pale straw.  Bouquet is lifted by VA,  on a neutral vinifera aroma scarcely hinting at pear flesh.  Palate has some richness,  is near dry,  but likewise lacks fruit flavours,  and is phenolic as well as rough on the VA.  The partial barrel fermentation augments this.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2009  Milcrest Estate Pinot Gris   14 ½  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14%;  $24   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  s/s cool ferment,  weekly stirring on gross lees for two months,  6.4 g/L RS;  www.milcrestestate.co.nz ]
Straw.  Quite a strong bouquet,  fruity but old-fashioned and suggesting not enough care in blanketing and protection.  Palate is straightforward,  good fruit richness with some stonefruit,  but phenolics creeping up and some cardboardy notes dulling it,  nearly dry.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2009  Charles Wiffen Gewurztraminer   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  RS 12 g/L;  www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz ]
Rich lemon.  Bouquet shows a clear fragrant rose-petal and lychee varietal fruit,  most attractive.  Palate is richly fruited,  medium dry,  a good mouthful of gewurztraminer flavour,  though a little phenolic,  balanced by a seemingly sweeter finish than the pinot gris.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Te Mata Estate Viognier Zara   17 ½  ()
Tutaekuri River Valley SW side,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $27   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  hand-harvested;  c. 70% of the wine BF in seasoned oak only plus 8 months LA and batonnage on gross lees,  balance s/s;  all oak French third-year or older;  fractions assembled and all in old oak further 3 months;  RS nil;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw,  attractive.  First impressions on bouquet are of a lot more ripeness and substance in this year's edition of Te Mata's viognier,  as if the cropping rate has been curtailed.  The piquant yellow honeysuckle and apricot-nuanced stonefruit aromas are great.  Palate is not quite so rewarding,  since Te Mata prefer no MLF in their viognier and hence the wine is a bit narrow and acid,  though quite rich.  But the flavours are lovely as far as they go,  with much better ripeness than previously,  so some yellow-tinged apricot does come through.  Finish is slightly phenolic,  always a problem with this variety,  though the oak is subtle.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 08/11

2008  Herzog Viognier   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $43   [ 50 mm supercritical 'cork';  hand-picked @ c. 1.3 t/ac,  100% whole bunch pressed,  100% BF,  100% wild yeast,  100% MLF,  lees autolysis and batonnage for 12 months in mostly older French puncheons;  RS <1 g/L;  www.herzog.co.nz ]
Straw,  a flush of lightest gold.  Bouquet is stronger than the Obsidian,  clearly aromatic in a spicy way,  but more like gewurztraminer than anything.  Palate is tending to the phenolic side of gewurztraminer,  coarsening in mouth with the phenolics building,  at the blind stage clearly gewurztraminer,  in a drier full-bodied presentation.  Revealed,  one can reinterpret it as coarser viognier,  the full MLF well hidden and contributing to body,  and no doubt softening the phenolics too.  The wine is fully mature to a little past its prime in terms of freshness,  interesting,  good with flavoursome foods,  but deviant as viognier – as one would expect from Marlborough.  The score is permissive,  therefore,  rewarding character and effort.  GK 08/11

2009  Obsidian Viognier   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  50% BF in older French oak with inoculated yeast,  balance s/s,  barrel fraction 6 months LA with some batonnage,  < 20% MLF;  RS < 2 g/L;  116 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Lemon-straw.  Bouquet is indeterminate,  slightly scented,  a hint of citrus and oak,  smelling full-bodied to the extent that is possible.   Palate is more explicit,  the faintest suggestion of mandarin and fresh apricots as one might hope for viognier,  dry,  but a bit loose too,  even though the oak is beautifully done.  Like pawpaw,  there is a hint of astringency as the fruit fades in mouth.  Pleasant food wine,  but lacking ripeness and varietal definition as viognier.  Cellar a year or so.  GK 08/11

Sweet / Sticky
2005  Forrest Noble Riesling John Forrest Collection   18 ½ +  ()
Brancott Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  9%;  $50   [ screwcap;  fruit grown on the 50m terrace,  hand-picked at 3.75 t/ha = 1.5 t/ac;  long slow cool s/s fermentation;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Pure light gold,  not much lighter than the youngest in a batch of 1983 – 1990 sauternes recently tasted.  Bouquet is quite different however,  the marmalade character of botrytised riesling darkening to a more saturated dried Otago apricots aroma and flavour,  with a clear suggestion of oak though none is used.  This impression is frequent in noble rieslings.  There are thoughts of crème brulée too.  Palate is much drier than one imagines from the 220 g/L residual given,  the terpenes now quite firm and new-oak-like,  the delicious flavours almost overlapping with the lightest of the sauternes,  but more luscious.  Will cellar for some years yet,  even though the colour will deepen.  GK 08/11

2009  Charles Wiffen Riesling Late-Harvest   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11%;  $28   [ screwcap;  not on website,  and info for previous vintage hopeless,  not even g/L;  www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz ]
Rich lemon washed with light gold.  Bouquet is wonderful,  clear-cut yellow honeysuckle,  yellow peaches,  grapefruit and lime zest riesling fruit with honeyed and waxy botrytis complexity,  all fragrant and harmonious with low VA.  Palate is luscious,  lime and citrus and stonefruits,  good acid,  a little darker than the 2009 Riverby Noble Riesling,  not quite as sweet,  slightly more grippy on more prominent terpenes,  very long.  This too is a lovely example of dessert riesling,  to cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Bodegas Ochoa Muscatel 500 ml   18  ()
Navarra,  Spain:  12.5%;  $34   [ cork;  100% muscat a petit grains (the top one),  hand-picked / late-harvested at c. 3.5 t/ha = 1.4 t/ac on calcareous sites;  de-stemmed and cool ferment in s/s;  www.bodegasochoa.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is much sweeter,  fuller,  finer and riper muscat than the Esmeralda,  reminiscent of the commercial line of Lindeman's Porphyry Sauternes in earlier years.  Palate shows the peppermint oil-infused flavour of muscat grapes,  all pure and fragrant,  not fully ripe,  the phenolics balancing the sweetness and giving the wine structure.  Sweetness is clearly above medium,  the wine long and soft and aromatic in mouth,  a light desserts wine.  Very varietal  indeed.  Wines like this can cellar surprisingly well,  3 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

nv  Campbells Topaque Rutherglen 375 ml   16 ½ +  ()
Rutherglen,  Victoria,  Australia:  17.5%;  $26   [ screwcap;  topaque is the new (no doubt committee-chosen) name for the variety traditionally known as Rutherglen tokay,  but latterly shown to be muscadelle;  the most junior of a flight of four Rutherglen tokays from Campbells,  ranging up to $120 per $375 ml bottle;  www.campbellswines.com.au ]
Slightly flushed old gold.  Bouquet is simple sweet spirity tokay,  lacking the benison of age and appropriate oak,  a kind of simple / mild high-octane Antipodean Muscat-Beaumes de Venise.  Palate is softer than the bouquet suggests,  softened by high sweetness,  lengthened by some oak,  refreshed by a hint of stalk.  A sound example of a rich young tokay,  but lacking excitement.  Will hold some years.  GK 07/11

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2007  Forrest The White John Forrest Collection   18 ½ +  ()
Various districts,  New Zealand,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $45   [ screwcap;  SB,  Ri,  Ch,  CB,  Vi,  Gw,  each from the district John Forrest considers it does best in,  cropped varyingly at 5 – 7.5 t/ha (2 – 3 t/ac;  no winemaking detail on website,  perhaps varieties suited to it see some oak (but it is subtle);  RS 6.5 g/L;  225 cases;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Attractive lemon.  Initial impressions on bouquet are of a slightly smoky very ripe sauvignon blanc subjected to subtle barrel-ferment and good lees-autolysis.  It immediately forms a good impression alongside the sauvignon.  It is hard to pick up the other varieties:  riesling always slides imperceptibly into ripe sauvignon,  and further along the ripeness pathway viognier does too.  Pinot gris just disappears,  chenin blanc likewise,  chardonnay up to a certain point contributes texture more than flavour,  leaving gewurztraminer as the joker in the pack.  It is invisible at this stage,  a good thing given the style – no point in raising confusion between this elegant wine and an el cheapo variety such as verdelho.  Body is lovely,  a beautiful rendering of a sauvignon-dominant wine,  much subtler than Mugwi,  richer than the Woodthorpe,  the finish 'sauvignon-dry' (at a stretch – the only detail misjudged).  I have been a bit of a knocker of The White concept,  and I still figure it is overpriced,  but this one is a glorious food wine.  And it has to be said,  some Bordeaux blancs are more expensive than their sibling Bordeaux rouges.  But they are bone dry,  so the challenge is still there.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2011  Buller Wines Moscato Beverford   16 ½ +  ()
Murray Valley,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  20 – 40-year Mu,  s/s elevation;  pH 3.24,  residual sugar 125 g/l;  www.bullerwines.com.au ]
Palest lemon-green.  Bouquet is offensively youthful,  with the toothpaste / peppermint quality of early-picked and overly young muscat still intrusive.  Palate shows softer and sweeter fruit,  but in a perfumed hints-of-toiletries / soap rather than wine way,  so it all seems pretty lolly-waterish (and acid) alongside good Italian examples of the winestyle.  Better in a year,  cellar 1 – 3 years only.  GK 08/11

2010  Torres  Esmeralda   16 ½ +  ()
Catalunya,  Spain:  11.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  moscatell meaning Muscat of Alexandria (the lesser one) 85%,  Gw 15;  cool-fermented in s/s;  Jamie Goode (Wine Anorak) records Esmeralda as being 11 g/L RS;  www.torres.es ]
Pale lemonstraw.  Bouquet is muscat and lemon balm mostly,  lightly minty,  clean,  one can imagine the gewurztraminer as a soft rosewater perfume maybe.  Palate is light fresh and near-dry,  but muscat is a flavour where a little goes a long way.  Sweetness is popular 'dry',  so it is not a dessert wine,  even for light desserts.  Hard to match to meals,  but some Asian (lemon grass ?) foods should be good.  Cellar 1 – 2 years only.  GK 08/11

2009  Paso San Mauro Albarino   16 ½  ()
Rias Baixas,  Spain:  12.5%;  $30   [ cork;  100% Albarino hand-harvested,  cool-fermented in s/s;  www.pazosanmauro.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is clean modern stainless steel white,  quite fruity in a straightforward vinifera and slightly grapefruity way,  reminiscent of boring grape varieties such as verdelho.  Palate is a little less,  quite full-bodied in a generic white burgundy but non-chardonnay style,  no oak,  dry with some grip from grape tannins.  Another wine which does not improve with a second glass.  Not a cellar wine,  I suspect.  GK 08/11

2009  Bodegas Borsao Macabeo Seleccion   15 ½  ()
Campo de Borja,  Spain:  13.5%;  $15   [ screwcap;  macabeo 100% grown at c. 500 m;  s/s ferment not unduly cool;  www.bodegasborsao.com ]
Lemon-straw.  This also seems to have had some barrel elevation,  in a mistaken attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.  It has all the plain fruity lack of charm of verdelho,  offering a straightforward oaky dry white,  for those who like oak more than grapes.  Not suited to cellaring,  not a wine that contributes in New Zealand.  GK 07/11

2011  Clearview Estate Blush Black Reef    18  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $17   [ screwcap;  chambourcin-dominant (chambourcin is a French / American hybrid introduced as recently as 1963,  and noteworthy for being free of foxiness – it is grown in both Europe (though not approved) and North America and Canada);  no further info on website;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Good rosé,  overly bright / lurid at four months from harvest,  but that will settle down.  Bouquet is already terrific,  really rosy red cherry,  red crabapple and raspberry highly reminiscent of Cabernet d'Anjou,  exciting (the next day),  so,  with another six months in bottle it should open that way.  Moving onto the palate in rosé wines is always a gamble,  but this wine lives up to its bouquet,  the youthfulness offset by perhaps 5 – 7 g / litre residual sugar.  To be good, rosé should smell and taste of red grapes:  this one does,  attractively.  It is part of the New Zealand immaturity with wine to say that rosé,  like sauvignon,  should be drunk as young as possible.  In contrast,  this wine will be lovely in a couple of years' time,  and will cellar longer.  GK 08/11

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2008  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch   18 ½ +  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $104   [ screwcap;  CS nominally 100%,  made from the best 1% of the crop in the better years only;  22 months in French oak 53% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  first made in 1982;  www.wynns.com.au ]
Densest ruby,  carmine and velvet,  brighter than the 2006.  Bouquet here is again very rich and saturated,  but whereas the 2008 Black Label is euc'y,  this is not.  That raises lots of interesting speculations.  Berry notes grade from cassis to bottled black doris on bouquet,  plus potentially cedary oak.  In mouth the wine is plusher than the 2006,  the reduction in new oak really benefitting the wine.  The aftertaste is cassis and dark plum more than oak,  thus setting the 2008 John Riddoch way above the 2006.  Is this wine a sign of the reputed new-age more subtle approach to Australian red wines ?  There is some blackberry in the plum,  but all in all this is pretty genuine cabernet sauvignon,  squeaky clean.  This 2008 Cabernet Riddoch offers something to look forward to.  Cellar 5 – 30 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Sauvignon   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ cork;  CS 100%,  typically hand-picked @ c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  7 days cold-soak,  13 days total cuvaison,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 18 – 20 months in French 300s and 220s,  25% new;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Wow,  what a colour,  midnight-deep ruby,  carmine and velvet,  much the darkest of the Kidnapper Cliffs reds.  If the wine is okay in sensory respects,  that first visual impression says:  this could be something.  So one smells with heightened anticipation.  Intriguing,  the first thing that must be said is that in this complete presentation of the Kidnapper Cliffs wines,  the reds had been properly decanted,  and put back into the bottles.  Right from the first moment therefore,  this bottle was totally different from the one previously reported on,  which was heavy and dull.  Being closed with cork,  inexplicable variation is perfectly possible,  though puzzling.  But the double-decanting is more the clue,  I suggest,  given the ponderous tendency of some the winery's reds.  I therefore hope this bottle and write-up represents the batch more faithfully than the previous one.

The bouquet for the ventilated wine is fresh enough to reveal clear-cut,  very dark,  but still fragrant cassis,  right at the limit for quality cabernet in a temperate climate.  There is potentially cedary oak in the dark berry.  Palate is a little harder,  just a little lack of oxygen,  but the weight of cassis and darkly plummy fruit plus the finesse of the oak is persuasive.  It is a sweeter and richer wine than the pinotage,  due to the vastly greater beauty and nobility of the variety.  Accordingly 18.5 + here means more than 18.5 + for the pinotage,  as noted.  The late palate is superb.  If this bottle is representative, 2009 Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Sauvignon will blossom in bottle,  if given sufficient time,  and decanted on opening.  Mark is strictly anticipatory,  therefore,  and I will be cellaring this one.  Cellar 10 – 40 years,  if you like old reds,  noting that 1965 McWilliams [Hawkes Bay] Cabernet Sauvignon was still lovely at last tasting in 2008.  GK 08/11

2009  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label   18 ½  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $44   [ screwcap;  CS nominally 100%,  average vine age 35 years;  15 months in 84% French oak up to 30% new and 16% American oak a little new;  RS < 1 g/L;  the 54th year of production;  www.wynns.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is clean and fragrant,  nearly floral,  with a clear suggestion of cassisy berry and potentially cedary oak.  There might be a trace of mint,  but the wine is not euc'y,  glory be,  suggesting a more reasonable set of temperatures at vintage.  Palate shows an attractive weight of fruit balanced to good oak,  again cassis and bottled black doris plums.  This wine overlaps with the Gimblett Gravels in its ripening curve parameters,  and the oaking is restrained.  It looks to be one to go for,  when it is released.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  [ 12/11:  VALUE @ $20 on special,  Glengarry Wines ]  GK 08/11

2006  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch   18  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $63   [ screwcap;  CS nominally 100%,  made from the best 1% of the crop in the better years only;  22 months in French oak 100% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  first made in 1982;  www.wynns.com.au ]
Dense ruby and velvet.  Bouquet suggests a huge wine,  the berry is cool enough to retain cassis character,  but there is a lot of oak.  Palate is clean,  rich,  very dry,  still showing cassis but starting to brown a little,  the oak potentially cedary but at a max.  This wine suggests about the greatest seasonal warmth for Coonawarra cabernet to retain a reasonably Bordeaux styling,  but the oak has the last word,  sadly,  letting down the fruit.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  doubtfully too finesse later.  GK 08/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon Ariki   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  Me 70% typically cropped at a little >5 t/ha = 2 t/ac,  CF 20,  CS 10,  both typically cropped at c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  7 days cold soak and 13 days total cuvaison,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 18 – 20 months in French 300s and 220s,  40% new;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  about the weight of the 2009 syrah.  Ariki may share the most expensive slot in the Kidnapper Cliffs range,  but it is not comparable with the Cabernet Sauvignon on this showing.  It is recognisably a Hawkes Bay blend,  there is good berry ripeness,  but the florality merlot needs to be beautiful (when not over-ripened) is scarcely recognisable under the cloud of reduction.  So decant it splashily several times.  There is attractive bottled black doris fruit,  and the level of reduction is a little less serious than the 2009 Syrah.  Palate is soft,  as befits higher merlot wine,  the oaking is again exemplary,  but in this case too the wine has just missed the bus due to a lack of oxygen in its elevage.  Put simply,  the wine does not sing.  Much Bordeaux used to be like this in the 70s and 80s,  but so many of their better chateaux have learned considerably in the last 15 years or so.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  maybe to bury its reduction,  though I'm not gambling.  Kudos though for bagging the concept 'Ariki' for the top Kidnapper Cliffs wines,  a wonder the word was still available.  GK 08/11

2009  TerraVin [ Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet ] J   17 ½  ()
Omaka Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $60   [ 'supercritical' cork;  DFB;  not on website,  Me 80%,  Ma 12,  CS 8,  hand-picked late April at only 450 g / vine from the Omaka Valley hillside site;  wild yeast fermentation;  16 months in French oak 50% new;  neither fined nor filtered;  33 cases;  www.terravin.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  considerable depth.  Initially opened,  the wine seems very oaky and quite spirity,  maybe slightly bretty,  on good fruit with suggestions of raisined berry rather than fresh,  but remarkably rich.  In mouth the flavours are plummy and oaky,  again with raisiny overtones.  In one sense,  if this wine is cabernet-dominant as the '06 was,  it has achieved the near-impossible goal of properly ripening cabernet sauvignon in Marlborough [ later found to be merlot-dominant,  as above ].  It avoids the danger of concentrating under-ripe flavours,  as some "leave them out to hang" red wines from cooler climates in New Zealand have displayed.  A  most unusual New Zealand Bordeaux blend,  to cellar 5 – 15 years and with interest.  Given global warming,  this wine offers a glimpse into New Zealand viticulture and wine production a generation or two hence.  GK 08/11

2008  Bodega Septima Septimo Dia Malbec   17 ½  ()
Mendoza,  Argentina:  14.5%;  $26   [ cork;  Ma 100% grown @ 1050 m;  10 months in French and American oak;  RS 2.2 g/L;  the winery Septima is in the Codorniu group,  there is both a Septima range of wines and a more expensive Septimo Dia range;  www.bodegaseptima.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  promising.  Aha,  here is an Argentinean malbec with appropriate ripeness and appropriate oak – not so easy to get both together.  There is nearly a floral note in fragrant dark plums,  and clean oak to balance.  Palate follows through beautifully,  supple berry,  hints of vanilla in French oak mainly,  and a long balanced flavour.  Well worth cellaring.  This wine illustrates neatly how few New Zealand malbecs are properly ripe.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Malbec   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  Ma 100% typically hand-picked @ c.5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  7 days cold-soak,  total cuvaison 13 days,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 18 – 20 months in French 300s and 220s,  25% new;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  between the 2009 and 2010 syrahs in weight,  much denser than the pinotage.  Like the pinotage,  this wine is pure and fresh,  showing red and black fruits,  pretty well ripened by New Zealand standards,  but not as ripe as serious high-quality Argentinean malbec,  or the 2002 Villa Maria Omahu.  Like pinotage,  but less so,  malbec tends to a slight olives-related note in its berry bouquet,  green in less-ripe wines,  black in riper examples.  Palate in this wine brings one back down-to-earth with a thump,  the wine being more typical New Zealand malbec,  tending under-ripe and stalky in mixed red-plummy and berry flavours,  short and hard on the tongue,  phenolics obtrusive.  Malbec is essentially out of our ripening comfort zone,  even on the Gimblett Gravels.  It can be done,  but not often.  In the set,  this is one of the fragrant wines,  and that is a plus,  but it is partly a consequence of sub-optimal ripeness.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  in its style.  GK 08/11

2008  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon Ariki   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  Me 75% typically cropped at a little >5 t/ha = 2 t/ac,  CF 20,  CS 5,  both typically cropped at c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  7 days cold soak and 13 days total cuvaison,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 18 – 20 months in French 300s and 220s,  33% new;  wine made at the Dry River winery,  Martinborough;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  a flush of carmine,  a little denser than the 2009.  Bouquet is rather different from the 2009,  more complex in one sense,  less clean in another,  with the kind of complexity best referred to as 'leathery',  as in so many Australian reds of an earlier time when there were threshold issues of both reduction and oxidation.  On palate,  there is pleasantly rich plummy fruit,  and much more mature flavours than the one year's extra age should suggest.  I'm not attracted to the slightly saline note on palate,  again Australia-like,  but otherwise the mellowness of this wine will appeal to undemanding tastes.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 08/11

2005  Forrest Cabernet Sauvignon John Forrest Collection   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS 98,  Me 2%,  hand-harvested @ 1.5 – 2 t/ac;  French oak 33% new;  coarse-filtered only;  300 cases;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Ruby,  medium weight.  Bouquet is clean cool cabernet sauvignon,  the ripeness retreating from my earlier memory of the wine,  a fragrant leafy and tobacco-y element now mingling with high-quality cedary oak to produce a bouquet reminiscent of cool-year Pauillac.  Palate confirms exactly,  a fair concentration of berry but total acid a little fresh,  modest cassis berry ripeness with some red currants too,  the oak,  acid and cooler green notes combining to deliver an austerity not found in good-year examples of Bordeaux.  An interesting fine-grained wine,  simply lacking berry ripeness at the point of picking.  Perhaps the vines were over-cropped relative to pinpoint physiological maturity.  In two earlier tasting notes,  I found the wine slightly reductive.  It does not seem obviously so now,  which is useful info for a screwcapped wine.  Perhaps they too can bury light reduction,  as cork-closed bottles do.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  in its style.  GK 08/11

2008  Millaman Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec Estate Reserve   17  ()
Curico Valley,  Chile:  14%;  $14   [ cork;  CS 50%,  Ma 50,  all hand-picked;  100% aged in French oak for 6 months;  www.millaman.cl ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  medium depth.  The Chilean wine comes across as just that bit cooler in the South American set,  showing attractive cassisy berry with plummy fruit and subtle oak.  Palate is more straightforward,  but this is pretty remarkable dry red at the price.  Chilean wines of this kind cellar very well indeed,  3 – 8 years or longer.  VALUE  GK 07/11

2008  Bodegas Los Cerrillos Malbec Uroco   17  ()
Mendoza,  Argentina:  14%;  $24   [ plastic 'cork';  Ma 100% hand-picked @ 9 t/ha = 3.6 t/ac from vines of average age 25 years,  grown @ 1440 m;  s/s ferment and cuvaison;  6 months in  oak;  RS 2.1 g/L,  dry extract 28.8 g/L;  the winery Uruco is part of Bodegas Los Cerrillos,  there is also a less expensive Finca El Peral range;  www.bodegaloscerrillos.com.ar ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is rather strongly oaky,  but shows good berry fruit at a more appropriate ripeness than the Septima.  On palate the balance seems better,  good berry,  and many people like this obvious oak character.  And the oak is clean and the wine modern.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  maybe longer.  GK 07/11

2008  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label   16 ½ +  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $44   [ screwcap;  CS nominally 100%,  average vine age 34 years;  17 months in 84% French oak up to 30% new and 16% American oak a little new;  the 53rd year of production;  www.wynns.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  denser than the 2009.  As is so often the case with what Australians rate as a top vintage,  the wine is a caricature.  First and foremost,  it screams of eucalyptus,  the peril of every hotter year when temperatures allow the volatilisation of eucalyptus oil.  It is therefore hard to pick up the nuances and character of the berry,  on bouquet,  but it is fruity.  On palate the euc'y character is offensive,  the berry is over-ripe bottled black doris plum grading to blackberry,  the oak is at a maximum,  and the whole style is loud and clumsy.  It will therefore be rated highly in Australia [ e.g. 93 points by several,  94 also ].  It should cellar well,  if this kind of wine appeals.  GK 08/11

2007  Kidnapper Cliffs Merlot / Cabernet Franc Ariki   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  Me 85% typically cropped at a little >5 t/ha = 2 t/ac,  CF 15 typically cropped at c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  7 days cold soak and 13 days total cuvaison,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 18 – 20 months in French 300s and 220s,  25% new;  wine made at the Dry River winery,  Martinborough;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the densest of the Arikis,  closer to the straight cabernet sauvignon,  but quite a different hue.  The 2007 is in the lesser style of the 2008,  but markedly more leathery on bouquet,  and more leathery and reductive,  and again saline,  on palate.  Fruit richness is good,  but I don't think this will make a graceful bottle.  Again reminders of Australia,  and it will cellar well within its limitations.  Cellar 3 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Rosemount Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra District Release   16 ½ +  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  CS;  no info at all on website;  www.rosemountestate.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  much weightier than the McLaren Vale District release.  Bouquet is much weightier too,  so weighty it needs decanting to diffuse a certain fusel-like dullness.  Attractive cassis and dark plum are then revealed,  with appropriate oak.  Palate is less good at this stage,  the dullness comes back as an almond undertone,  but the wine is rich and reasonably balanced in a raw and tannic way.  It will cellar well 5 – 15 years,  and should improve considerably.  GK 07/11

2008  Buller Wines Cabernet / Merlot Black Dog Creek   16 ½ +  ()
King Valley,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  14.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  CS 70%,  Me 30;  10 months oak contact;  www.bullerwines.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is rich,  ripe,  sun-baked and slightly euc'y,  lots of berry and plum,  but not varietal.  Palate follows pro rata,  rich,  oak more noticeable now,  a soft generous old-style cabernet red.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Franc   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ cork;  CF 100%,  typically hand-picked @ c. 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  7 days cold-soak,  13 days total cuvaison,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 18 – 20 months in French 300s and 220s,  25% new;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  on a par with the Malbec.  Bouquet here is simply inappropriate to the variety.  Like the Dry River pinot noir in many years,  it is so over-ripe there is no hint of florality.  The whole point of cabernet franc in the Bordeaux / Hawke's Bay blends,  or as a single variety,  is the fresh but ripe red roses / red fruits beauty of its bouquet,  subtle,  charming the senses.  You only need to taste one of the great St Emilion exemplars where the variety dominates to know that.  Cheval Blanc is 58% cabernet franc for example,  and as Stephen Brook says in his recent highly-acclaimed book on the wines of Bordeaux,  "a great Cheval Blanc is about perfume ...".  That was evident in the Cheval Blanc shown in the 2010 Cabernet / Merlot conference in Hawke's Bay,  though not all local winemakers,  aspiring to burlier stuff,  could see it.  Sad.  The bouquet on the Kidnapper example is full,  heavy and over-ripe,  and further dulled by some reduction.  Palate confirms,  a big wine,  which will cellar well in its dull way.  Like the syrah,  it may bury its reduction,  but I'm not wagering my dollars.  Those who like Irvine's incongruous idea of great McLaren Vale Merlot will like this.  Some of the flattering published reviews for this wine are simply wayward for a specified-variety temperate-climate wine – it is labelled cabernet franc,  for heaven's sake.  Cellar 5 – 20 + years.  GK 08/11

2008  Gabion Vineyard [ Cabernet Franc / Merlot ] The Gabion   16 ½  ()
Matakana,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $35   [ supercritical 'cork';  CF & Me;  not filtered;  no website or info found;  not in the local guide:  www.matakanawine.com ]
Medium ruby,  some age showing.  Bouquet is almost exactly Entre Deux Mers in a fragrant but sub-optimally ripe year,  trace retained fermentation odours,  the cabernet franc and merlot showing leafy brown tobacco and browning red fruits,  plus light cedar.  Palate reveals more oak than the bouquet,  a little much for the weight of the wine and the delicate currant and red plum flavours,  and total acid is noticeable.  Many North Auckland Bordeaux blends mimic the style of minor claret remarkably closely,  but it is hard to find the full physiological maturity of the better cru bourgeois.  Expensive therefore.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet / Shiraz / Merlot   16 ½  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  CS 51%,  Sh 45,  Me 6;  18 months in French and American oak 10% new;  www.wynns.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is much more commercial on this wine,  perfectly clean technically but with a hint of saline before you start thinking of berry analysis.  Both bouquet and palate show plummy fruit of a plain kind,  so much so you wonder if it is all Coonawarra.  There is a saline hardness through the flavour which is not endearing,  and adds to the suspicion for the sub-15% 'unstated' portion,  though the wine is fault-free.  Needs several years in bottle to soften and become winey,  maybe,  so cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Bodega Septima Malbec   16 ½  ()
Mendoza,  Argentina:  14%;  $18   [ supercritical 'cork';  Ma 100% grown @ 1050 – 1100m;  20 days cuvaison;  6 months in American oak;  RS 4.9 g/L;  the winery Septima is in the Codorniu group,  there is both a Septima range of wines and a more expensive Septimo Dia range;  www.bodegaseptima.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is berry-rich and plummy,  showing good but not perfect ripeness of the malbec – still a hint of leaf.  Palate confirms that thought,  some rawness and pepper,  but also the potential to mellow with time in bottle and become pleasing.  Clean sound wine,  cellar 3 – 10 years.  RS not noticed on the day,  but may become apparent as the wine softens.  GK 07/11

2010  Rosemount [ CS / Me ] McLaren Vale Traditional District Release   16  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  CS,  Me;  no info at all on website;  www.rosemountestate.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  The stupid name gets the wine off to a bad start,  since the 'traditional' varietal of the Southern Vales is shiraz.  That said,  bouquet is simple rather raw cassisy berry,  smelling as if a mechanical wine,  all stainless steel.  Palate is similar,  clean,  dry,  pleasant,  if you like wine far too young to be released.  All a bit of an insult to the customer,  really [ later,  an impression amplified by the firm not bothering to document the wine on their website ].  But it is varietal and dry,  if it is a chipped wine that is not overdone,  and it will be much nicer after 3 – 8 years in cellar.  GK 07/11

2008  Bodegas Los Cerrillos Malbec Finca El Peral   14  ()
Mendoza,  Argentina:  14%;  $19   [ plastic 'cork';  Ma 100% hand-picked @ 9 t/ha = 3.6 t/ac from vines of average age 25 years,  grown @ 1440 m;  s/s ferment and cuvaison;  3 months in  oak;  RS 2.1 g/L,  dry extract 28.8 g/L;  the winery Finca El Peral is part of Bodegas Los Cerrillos,  there is also a more expensive (but still plastic-sealed) Uruco range;  www.bodegaloscerrillos.com.ar ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is real time travel,  showing both oxidation and rubbery reduction,  just like so many Australian reds in the 50s and 60s,  before stainless steel and refrigeration.  Palate has good fruit in this old-fashioned way,  but it is all a bit leathery,  drying and short.  Will keep as big QDR,  but not worth cellaring.  GK 07/11

Pinot Noir
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully   19  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ screwcap;  several clones,  the oldest 15 years at hand-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 ]
This is one of the finest pinot noirs thus far made in New Zealand.  Right from the medium cherry ruby colour,  it emphasises that fine pinot noir is about beauty,  rather more than weight.  The bouquet is breathtaking,  a wonderful interweaving of floral notes with sweet mixed-cherry fruit.  Palate is soft,  enticing,  totally burgundian.  The standard 2009 Mt Difficulty is seriously beautiful,  but this is just magically more concentrated.  Every winemaker in New Zealand who aspires to make quality pinot noir needs to buy,  taste and own this wine,  for reference.  Cellar 3 – 8 years, maybe 10.  GK 08/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Long Gully   18 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ screwcap;  several clones up to 17 years age at harvest;  cropping 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 ]
Colour is fractionally deeper in the Long Gully wine than Target Gully,  bouquet is a little less but with decanting opens to red roses,  and palate is a little more tannic than Target.  It may be a little richer than Target – the tannins make it hard to tell.  Apart from these differences,  which are subtle,  the wines are near-identical.  Maybe in three or five years time the preference will be the other way around.  Comment brief since in the previous article also.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2005  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  hand-harvested @ 1.4 t/ac,  the product of a cooler reduced-yield year;  15 – 20% whole bunch,  5 – 7 days cold soak,  mainly wild yeast,  16 days cuvaison;  MLF and 11 months in barrel on full lees;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Ruby with a little garnet creeping in.  Bouquet benefits from decanting and air,  to reveal a highly varietal and quite strong pinot bouquet,  with a clear boronia depth of florality.  Palate is firmer than Target '09,  the tannin level raised like '09 Long Gully,  but there is plenty of red and black cherry fruit to carry it.  This gives the impression of considerably more cellar life ahead of it.  Using it now,  it really needs air to show its best,  not because it is reductive,  just because the fruit seems sternly wrapped up with tannin,  and the air exposure loosens it.  As winemaker Matt Dicey commented,  a dense introverted vintage.  Cellar to another 6 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ screwcap;  cropped at c. 1.8 t/ac from 5 vineyards and a range of ages,  the oldest 18 years;  c.10% whole bunch;  8 – 9 days cold soak,  mostly wild-yeast fermentations;  c. 3-4 weeks cuvaison;  11 months in barrel on lees,  MLF in spring in barrel;  filtered;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Perfect pinot noir ruby.  The bouquet on this wine is astonishing.  I am sure there are many readers who have muttered to themselves:  this talk about violets in wine is pure affectation and claptrap.  For them,  then,  this wine has the most dramatic violets bouquet I have ever smelt,  even thinking back to the great 1966 Ch Palmer on release / in its vibrant infancy.  On bouquet alone,  it has to be gold-medal ranking.  The palate at this point is not quite gold-medal,  beautiful but tending petite alongside those wines rated more highly.  Remarkable wine,  all the same,  illustrating to perfection Matt Dicey's preoccupation with delicacy and finesse in his red wines,  contrasting so vividly with the too many burly dark pinots elsewhere in New Zealand.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Forrest Pinot Noir Bannockburn John Forrest Collection   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.3%;  $65   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested from fruit cropped at  @ ± 3.6 t/ha = 1.4 t/ac;  all de-stemmed;  RS nil;  220 cases;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Dark pinot noir ruby,  the deepest in this batch of pinots.  Bouquet is immediately deeper and darker,  with boronia and violets florals reminiscent more of the Cote de Nuits than the Cote de Beaune,  quieter but deeper than the 2009 Brodie.  Palate is plump and rich,  black cherry more than red,  subtle oak,  the whole wine showing the charm of the 2009 vintage in Central Otago.  Perhaps it is even a little over-ripe,  there being a suggestion of bottled black doris plums.  Weight on palate suggests some good lees work here.  This is the best Forrest pinot noir I have seen,  worth cellaring 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace   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;  14 months in French oak,  32% new;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Colour is slightly fresher than the standard 2009 Mt Difficulty,  less deep than the Target Gully.  Bouquet shows a heightened floral component relative to Long Gully,  but in a cooler style than Target Gully,  not such dusky roses,  a bit more buddleia.  Palate is red cherry more than black,  quite dramatically so,  and it is the only one of the Individual Vineyard wines to show a stalky streak in 2009.  It tastes cooler than the standard wine even,  but is richer.  It will be wonderful to follow these three individual wines,  and the standard wine,  over their 3 – 8 maybe 10 year evolution in cellar.  GK 08/11

2003  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested @ c.5 t/ha =2 t/ac from four vineyards in a ‘normal’ year;  a small percentage of whole bunch,  5 – 7 days cold soak,  60% wild yeast,  balance inoculated,  c.14 days cuvaison;  MLF and 11 months in barrel on full lees,  < 30% new;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby with a little more garnet than the 2005.  If decanting is advisable to let the 2005 blossom,  here it is to essential to decant splashily,  maybe a couple of times.  Once the sulkyness is dissipated,  the volume of positive bouquet is marvellous,  not as youthful as the 2009 obviously,  a kind of autumnal quality in the florals,  but lovely.  Palate on this occasion seems richer than the 2003 Target Gully reported on last time:  it would be great to see them alongside one another.  Matt Dicey feels 2003 was the benchmark vintage for Otago,  a year now challenged by 2009.  This wine bears him out.  Lovely now,  cellar a year or two yet.  GK 08/11

2009  Brodie Estate Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  not on website,  if like the 2008 is hand-picked;  10 months in barrel;  www.brodieestate.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet here is immediately sweet and ripe pinot noir at an appropriate red grading to black cherry level of ripeness,  with the floral component deepening into the dark roses to boronia spectrum.  Palate is beautifully balanced,  medium weight,  fragrant subdued oak,  a little short and hard at this stage.  A pretty (in a positive sense) and highly varietal wine,  possibly not bone-dry.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2010  TerraVin Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Omaka Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  not on website,  hand-harvested from older dissected terraces @ 6 t/ha = 2.4 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  wild yeast fermentation;  11 months in French oak some new;  neither fined nor filtered;  www.terravin.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  much the same colour as the 2009 Mt Difficulty.  One sniff and it is obvious one is in serious Marlborough pinot noir country here,  as opposed to the light fluffy wines from the young alluviums.  Bouquet has voluminous roses and nearly boronia florals,  on red cherry fruit.  Palate shows lovely ripeness and substance and tannin structure,  not quite the Cote de Nuits complexity of the better Mt Difficultys,  but very attractive Beaune.  Oak is slightly ashy at this youthful stage,  but I'm sure that will look much better in a year.  This is the new face of serious pinot noir in Marlborough,  a field pioneered by Fromm,  but now spreading.  An exciting prospect,  therefore,  given the area available for quality viticulture.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe 10.  GK 08/11

2009  Forrest Pinot Noir Waitaki Valley John Forrest Collection   17 ½  ()
Waitaki Valley,  Otago,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $75   [ screwcap;  irrigated vines on the south bank of the river,  harvested @ ± 3.6 t/ha = 1.4 t/ac;  a 400 mm rainfall zone,  on interbedded calcareous and terrace materials;  RS nil;  220 cases;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  paler than the Forrest Bannockburn,  deeper than the 2009 Brodie Martinborough.  Bouquet is beautifully varietal,  reminding of some Yarra Valley pinots,  much the best Waitaki Valley pinot noir I have seen (amongst very few).  The floral component is sweet and fragrant,  roses grading to boronia with a hint of incense,  on aromatic red and black cherry fruit.  Palate shows a similar quality of red and black cherry to the Brodie,  much greater depth of maturity than the Wiffen,  a little drier than the Martinborough wine.  Looking expensive at the price,  but a great step forward for this trying-to-emerge district.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2007  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace   17 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $44   [ screwcap;  cropped at c. 1.6 t/ac in a slightly cool but good vintage;  up to 30% whole bunch;  8 – 9 days cold soak,  mostly wild-yeast fermentations;  c. 2 weeks cuvaison;  11 months in barrel on lees,  around 30% new oak;  MLF in spring in barrel;  filtered;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  remarkably close to the 2009 in hue,  slightly denser.  Bouquet is clearly cooler on this wine,  the floral component showing a good deal of leafyness,  which many tasters confuse with florals alone.  There is good berry,  but more red cherry with a suggestion of red currants.  It is not surprising therefore that though there is good fruit on palate,  there is quite a leafy quality too,  even a stalky note.  This set of Mt Difficulty wines really illustrates the ripening of tannins sequence in pinot noir beautifully.  Still young,  cellar another 6 years or so.  GK 08/11

2008  Brodie Estate Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  10 months in barrel;  www.brodieestate.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet contrasts with the 2009,  being immediately cooler and more stalky though still showing fair cherry fruit.  The floral component is more obvious but less complex than the 2009,  a step closer to the Wiffen 2009.  Palate is red more than black cherries,  the whole wine a notch more fragrant and stalky than the 2009,  though riper than the Wiffen.  It seems to be hard to know which is the better vintage between 2008 or 2009 in Martinborough,  some producers having their better wine in one year,  some the other.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 08/11

2010  [ TerraVin ] Jazz Pinot Noir   17  ()
Omaka Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  not on website,  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed,  wild yeast fermentation;  10 months in French oak some new;  neither fined nor filtered;  950 cases;  www.terravin.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  the deepest of this bracket of pinots,  but still good.  Bouquet is youthful and disorganised,  and benefits greatly from decanting.  It is not reductive,  it just needs air,  evidenced by it being much better the next day.  There are clear dark cherry including black cherry aromas,  all clean and pure.  Palate is rich and round,  not as oak-influenced as the TerraVin main label,  but a similar richness of fruit,  not bone dry,  and trace VA.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Wycroft Pinot Noir Forbury   16 ½ +  ()
Masterton district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ screwcap;  not on website,  6 clones hand-picked,  Wycroft and Matahiwi vineyards,  bunches hand-sorted via sorting table,  de-stemmed,  fermented together;  10 months in French oak,  30% new;  Forbury is in effect a second label to Wycroft unqualified;  www.wycroft.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  fractionally deeper than any of the Mt Difficultys.  Bouquet is fragrantly but leafily varietal,  with intense florals as if a high percentage of whole bunch in the ferment.  It is much lighter than the 2010 TerraVin wine,  with reminders of buddleia on red fruits.  Palate is less though,  total acid a bit high for comfort,  and fighting with the oak at this early stage,  both shortening the fruit on the aftertaste.  The comparison with the Terravin Jazz is intriguing,  the latter showing more perfect ripeness.  Even so,  the weight of fruit in the Wycroft is pleasing,  it is dry,  and I expect it to harmonise a good deal during the next couple of years.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Charles Wiffen Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  RS <2 g/L;  www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet shows a tremendous volume of highly floral and varietal fruit,  so floral that one wonders if it is fully ripe – as is often the case at the sweet pea / buddleia end of the floral spectrum in pinot noir.  Palate indeed proves to be a little on the stalky side,  but there is good red cherry fruit and pleasant mouth-feel,  providing a reasonable example of Marlborough pinot noir from the young soils.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Volcanic Hills Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.6%;  $24   [ screwcap;  no winemaking info,  Volcanic Hills is a marketing concept,  no geographic relevance to vineyards;  www.volcanichills.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is clean and varietal,  but tending too oaky,  with mixed red cherries below.  Palate is ripe,  nearly rich enough to carry the oak,  all still tending hard and youthful.  Better in a year or two,  cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Vidal Pinot Noir Marlborough Reserve Series   16 ½  ()
Awatere Valley 66%,  Wairau Valley 34,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  cold-soak up to 10 days,  some warm ferments,  some cooler;  French oak some new;  minimal filtering;  RS nil;  detail on website lacking;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Fresh pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is clearly varietal,  in the lighter Marlborough blackboy more than red cherry style,  quite fragrant.  Palate reveals a wine hovering at the 'is it stalky or not' point of berry ripeness,  the oak reinforcing the doubts,  a certain emptiness where pinot should have flesh.  Nett flavours are cherry and oak,  the latter lingering.  Should soften and appeal more,  in cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Volcanic Hills Pinot Noir    16  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  no winemaking info,  Volcanic Hills is a marketing concept,  no geographic relevance to vineyards;  www.volcanichills.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  markedly older than the 2010.  And the bouquet confirms an older wine than expected,  but all perfectly pleasant and lightly varietal.  Palate is more appropriately oaked  than the 2010,  but the whole wine is tending light.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 08/11

2007  Lindis River Pinot Noir   15 +  ()
Tarras,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.3%;  $38   [ supercritical 'cork';  hand-harvested,  'organic';  12 months in French oak,  30% new;  400 cases;  www.lindisriver.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  naturally somewhat older.  Bouquet is rustic,  more a European pinot noir reminiscent of bourgogne rouge,  savoury with some brett,  attractive as such.  In mouth the wine though quite rich is short on flavour and ripeness,  the stalkyness becoming phenolic on the later palate.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2011  Te Mata Gamay Noir Woodthorpe   15  ()
Tutaekuri Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12%;  $20   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  66% whole bunch and maceration carbonique ferment,  balance standard fermentation;  3 months in old French oak only;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Good rosé,  modest even by pinot noir standards.  Bouquet is even more modest,  with redcurrant and raspberry maceration carbonique aromas inclining to the rubbery and vulgar,  with overt leafy qualities.  Palate is rosé weight,  the balance of leafyness and red-fruits-only flavours reminding of some ice creams,  though the finish is dry or nearly so,  and the actual concentration of fruit is reputable.  But by Beaujolais standards,  the wine is simply lacking in depth,  ripeness,  and physiological maturity,  not to mention the magic which is so much part of fine gamay – reflecting its pinot noir heritage.  The proprietors huff and puff a great deal about the excellence of the clone,  and the charm of this wine,  but the plain fact is,  the grape is out of its climatic zone,  and the wine no matter how carefully made is the lame duck in the Te Mata portfolio.  Labelled as a varietal,  it is time to say it does not pass.  It should be labelled Gamay Noir Rosé,  when it could be marked positively.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 08/11

2006  Maori Point Pinot Noir   15  ()
Tarras,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  de-stemmed,  10% saignée;  10 months in French oak casks, one third new;  www.maoripoint.co.nz ]
Colour closely matches the 2005 Mt Difficulty,  bespeaking good richness.  Bouquet shows maturing cherry pinot noir lifted by VA,  all a bit too varnishy.  Palate indicates the wine had good fruit ripeness,  but the nett impression is marred by the VA.  Casual tasters actually like VA at this level,  but I'm marking it down.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2008  Milcrest Estate Pinot Noir   15  ()
Waimea Plains and Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested @ 4 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac from mostly 8 – 10 year vines,  de-stemmed,  5 – 7 days cold-soak;  12 months in French oak some new;  www.milcrestestate.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  a little older again than the 2009 Volcanic Hills.  Bouquet likewise is less than that wine,  distinctly cooler and more leafy,  red currants as well as red cherry fruit.  Palate is skinny,  leafy going on stalky,  not enough ripeness in the fruit,  as if over-cropped (cropping rate noted,  but the vine speaks).  Clean QDR pinot,  but not really worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2009  Mount Brown Pinot Noir   15  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $15   [ screwcap;  all de-stemmed;  10 days on skins after cold soak and fermentation;  MLF and 10 months in French oak 22% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.mountbrown.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is fragrant,  but not for the right reasons,  being under-ripe and thus showing leafy notes,  the bouquet lifted by light VA.  Nett impression in an uncritical sense is varietal,  though.  Palate confirms the lack of physiological maturity in the berries and hence the shortness of flavour,  but oaking is appropriate to light pinot,  and it is pleasantly balanced.  Cellar  1 – 4 years.  GK 07/11

2009  The 3rd (Third) Man Pinot Noir Omihi Reserve   15  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  wild yeast ferment;  uninformative website,  so no detail;  www.thethirdman.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby,  old for the year.  Bouquet is fragrant,  but for the wrong reasons,  reflecting both VA and brett as well as unripe fruit.  Palate is clearly varietal,  but lacks varietal charm,  the oak exacerbating the green phenolics,  the wine flavoursome but rough.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2009  Sunset Valley Pinot Noir Reserve   14 ½  ()
Upper Moutere,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  hand-picked,  12 months in French oak;  not much wine info on website;  a BioGro organic producer;  no relation of the yesteryear Golden Sunset Vineyards of the Henderson Valley,  and too,  there are Sunset Valley vineyards in nearly all English-speaking wine-producing countries,  to further confuse the issue;  www.sunsetvalleyvineyard.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby,  some age showing.  Bouquet is unusual,  leafy rather than berry,  plus an odd incense character.  Palate has modest and pallid cherry fruit,  with leafy and stalky under-ripe notes.  QDR pinot,  not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

Syrah = Shiraz
2009  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose   19  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  3 clones of syrah hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed;  extended cuvaison;  15 months in French oak some new;  RS nil;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  carmine and velvet,  like the 2010 not a heavyweight.  Bouquet is the 2010 exactly,  just melded and more harmonious,  the florals and cassis more evident,  the black pepper gorgeous and light oak even less visible.  Palate gives the impression of being just a little more weighty than the 2010,  but that is awfully hard to gauge because,  as noted for the 2010,  the wine comes together tremendously in the year after bottling.  This is arguably the most beautiful Bullnose yet,  and therefore perhaps New Zealand's most elegant syrah.  It is certainly not the biggest,  a number of others seeking size (and oak) before beauty.  It will be a magical food wine in a few more years – one could scarcely own too much of this !  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Villa Maria Syrah Cellar Selection   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels 65%,  Dartmoor Valley 35,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  inoculated yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top vessels,  30 days cuvaison;  c. 20 months on light lees in French oak 35% new;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  dense.  On bouquet,  this is much the biggest wine of the Pask / Esk / Villa  threesome,  with richer berry and more oak.  The oak is interfering with the florality at this stage,  but will undoubtedly marry up and the bouquet will become more complex.  In mouth it is clearly the richest of the three,  almost a Reserve wine quality of cassisy berry in bottled dark plum,  aromatic oak,  some black pepper,  and considerable length.  If the 2009 Villa Maria Syrah Reserve is conspicuously more oaky than this,  the Cellar Selection may in fact be the preferred wine for cellaring,  in this excellent year.  It is far too young now,  but at the very attractive prices this wine and the Esk are offered in supermarkets from time to time,  cellaring a case or two of each is only sensible.  2009 is a great year for Hawke's Bay reds,  and wine lovers with any foresight must ensure they have a large stock of them.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose   18 ½  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ cork;  3 clones of syrah hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed;  extended cuvaison;  15 months in French oak some new;  RS nil;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  carmine and velvet,  scarcely distinguishable from the 2009.  Bouquet is classic Bullnose syrah,  fruit ripened to a Northern Rhone point of perfection emphasising florality and sensuous charm,  berry dominant,  oak in the background.  Palate is pure cassis grading to bottled black doris berry,  subtle black pepper and oak,  youthful still,  but set to marry up beautifully over the next five years,  and cellar 5 – 15 years.  At the point of release Bullnose has always been easy to underestimate,  it really needs the extra year to harmonise and fill out.  This wine is New Zealand's closest approach to fine Cote Rotie,  even though there is no viognier – a function of the care taken in selecting the picking date to optimise florality and complexity.  The 2010 follows on delightfully from the 2009,  both representing New Zealand syrah at its most beautiful,  rather than as heavyweights.  GK 08/11

2006  Esk Valley Syrah Reserve   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $62   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  wild-yeast fermentation,  and cuvaison extending to 32 days;  16 months in French oak 33% new,  with lees stirring;  total production 260 cases;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  great.  Bouquet is so rich it smells of the most concentrated dark bottled plums,  enlivened by cassis and a hint of black pepper,  plus rather much oak.  Palate is infantile,  more cassis,  bottled black doris plum fruit,  and black pepper now,  but the oak is still obtrusive.  Don't even touch a bottle of this for another five years.  By 2015 it should be rich and mellow wine,  perhaps then ranking gold-medal.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2002  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose   18 +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  hand-harvested;  16 months in new and older French oak;;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Rich ruby.  What a volume of bouquet,  intense cassis browning a little,  likewise a wallflower florality also browning,  dark bottled plums,  good oak complexity,  a wine at full maturity.  Palate is soft,  rich and complete,  more oak than many Northern Rhones,  but subtle by Australasian standards.  In 2002 Bullnose is more Hermitage than its usual Cote Rotie styling.  One or two people have mentioned light brett in this wine,  but it is academic,  it is not increasing,  and it is invisible alongside the 1989 Gruaud-Larose.  Far too much comment is made about this fragrant little yeast,  the smell and flavour of which in moderation most people love.  Cellar another 5 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Esk Valley Syrah   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% hand-harvested @ 24+ degrees Brix,  all de-stemmed;  mostly wild yeast,  warm-fermented in concrete open-top vessels,  extended cuvaison;  c. 18 months in French oak 30% new;  RS <1g/L;  www.esk.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  medium depth.  Bouquet is much sweeter,  riper and more charming than the Pask,  closely matching some Cote Roties from Yves Cuilleron on the one hand,  and some Ngatarawa Triangle wines such as Te Mata Bullnose on the other.  There is clear wallflower,  lovely cassis,  and dark bottled plum.  On palate the fruit is indeed riper than the Pask,  so the oak seems a little less,  though still noticeable,  and the wine is plumper and more pleasing in mouth.  Late flavours are very varietal,  wallflower again,  cassis,  black pepper,  and gentle oak,  all nicely aromatic.  Not a big wine,  but potentially a beautiful one,  which in three years or so will be a delight.  It is the most accessible of the Pask / Villa / Esk syrah threesome right now,  and well worth cellaring.  See the Villa comment.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2007  Forrest Syrah John Forrest Collection   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $75   [ screwcap;  grown on the Cornerstone vineyard,  hand-picked @ ± 4.6 t/ha = 1.8 t/ac;  RS nil;  145 cases;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Good ruby and velvet,  still some carmine.  Bouquet is fairly rich,  a bit heavy on more oak than is ideal,  but much less oaky than some earlier Forrest offerings.  Fruit ripeness is at the appropriate stage to still retain wallflower and dianthus florals,  though they are somewhat hidden in the oak,  with some black pepper.  Palate is good syrah,  oakier than ideal for temperate climate finesse,  but not so much as to bludgeon the cassis and bottled black doris plummy fruit.  The oak does make it a little austere alongside 2009 Bullnose,  however.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2010  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Sy 97.5%,  Vi 2.5%,  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed;  co-fermented,  up to 4 days cold-soak,  cultured yeast,  c.18 days cuvaison;  MLF and 9 months in barrel 25% new French,  balance older French and American;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is clean,  plump,  very plummy and ripe,  in fact ripened past the point of optimal varietal complexity.  Palate confirms a rich round wine,  beautifully clean,  long-flavoured,  just a suggestion now of black pepper in bottled black doris fruit,  but no florality and not much cassis.  Like merlot,  syrah can be over-ripened in New Zealand,  if optimal variety complexity is the goal.  This is a more popular interpretation,  and pretty good as such.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  maybe longer.  GK 08/11

2008  Unison Syrah   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $48   [ supercritical 'cork';  Sy 100%;  no info on website,  if similar to 2007 is hand-picked @ < 4 t/ac;  up to 3 weeks cuvaison;  13 months in barrel some new;  winemaker Jenny Dobson;  200 cases;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is clearly fragrant,  rather much new oak,  but also good very dark cassis and plummy notes,  plus some black pepper.  It smells remarkably ripe for 2008.  Palate is rich,  the syrah over-ripe relative to optimal floral complexity,  and then over-oaked,  so the whole wine is more Australian than New Zealand.  This is a pity,  I think,  when the best parts of Hawke's Bay allow us to make syrah wines of a quality which will one day be considered distinctive in the world.  This style aims for a more popular constituency,  and is good as such.  The alcohol stated on the label seems conservative.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Syrah   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $55   [ cork;  all hand-picked @ c.5 t/ha = 2 t/ac and de-stemmed;  7 days cold-soak,  c. 13 days cuvaison including the cold-soak,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 13 – 14 months in French 300s and 220s,  25% new;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  amazing for such a relatively short cuvaison.  Would that this syrah showed the beauty of the same-year pinotage,  but it doesn't.  Sadly,  the wine is tending reductive,  which immediately kills the floral component so essential to beautiful syrah as opposed to impressive shiraz.  So decant this wine splashily 10 times from jug to jug,  as a first step.  One of the key problems in New Zealand wine evaluation is that so many winewriters,  wine commentators,  and even judges are to varying degrees insensitive to sulphide in red wines.  The sensitive consumer is thus all too often ill-served in this matter,  for no wine can be beautiful with the grey blanket of reduced sulphur hanging about it,  both on bouquet and palate.  Lifting the blanket as much as one can however,  there is recognisable cassisy berry fruit not over-ripened too much,  a touch of black pepper,  and a level of oak appropriate for syrah (which like pinot noir,  reveals its beauty only with subtle oak aging),  and a long aftertaste,  all a little soured by reduction.  This wine could have been so much more beautiful.  There is a chance it will bury the reduction in 6 – 10 years,  so cellar 8 – 15 years.  This would be a gamble if you dislike reduction,  and not one I am prepared to take.  If you want to see beauty in syrah,  compare with 2009 Bullnose.  GK 08/11

2005  Taylors Shiraz Eighty Acres   17 ½  ()
Clare Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  Eighty Acres designed as a ‘juicy down-to-earth’ range of wines;  dawn harvest;  100% de-stemmed;  all s/s co-fermentation;  MLF and 12 months in US oak 300s 10% new;  RS not given;  www.taylorswines.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  In the New Zealand context,  clearly Australian wine,  but the eucalyptus is in the subtler spearmint spectrum,  and the fruit blackberry rather than boysenberry.  Oak is obtrusive.  Palate is lighter and more sophisticated than the bouquet promises,  more the weight of the Bullnose Syrah.  Once the oak marries in,  this will be fragrant interesting wine,  if the peppermint also marries away a little.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Philip Shaw Shiraz The Idiot   17 ½  ()
Orange,  NSW,  Australia:  13.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  Sh 100%;  18 months in French and American oak 10% new;  vineyard @ 900m so one of the highest in Australia,  soils derived from volcanic,  calcareous and loess material,  annual rainfall c.850 mm,  Feb – April the driest months;  this is the young vines / second-level shiraz,  18 – 20 days cuvaison,  older French oak only;  www.philipshaw.com.au ]
Ruby,  quite light.  The crass name gets the wine off to a bad start – unfortunate when Orange promises so much as a district,  if the goal be the refinement of Australian wine.  Bouquet shows a lot of eucalyptus-tainted mint,  but it is not as coarse as some eucalyptus oil aromas.  Below that is fragrant red-fruited shiraz,  reminiscent of some Grampians and Great Western shiraz wines.  Palate matches exactly,  a lighter and fragrant but not weak interpretation of shiraz,  reminding of the style Seppelts used to make when their Chalambar Burgundy was mainly Great Western fruit,  long before it sank into commercial anonymity.  Those wines aged astonishingly well,  and I suspect this one will too.  An interesting wine,  therefore,  if only it weren't so minty.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

2008  Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz Michael   17 ½  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $104   [ screwcap;  Sh nominally 100%,  made from the best fraction of the crop in the better years only;  14 months in French oak 60% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  first made in 1955,  then lapsed till 1990;  www.wynns.com.au ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a little brighter than the 2008 John Riddoch.  Bouquet is too ripe for syrah character,  there being only shadows of cassis in a soft rich blackly plummy aroma,  with hints of dark chocolate and lots of oak.  Palate is ample,  saturated with plummy grading to blackberry fruit,  some chocolate,  still a lot of oak.  At this ripeness level beauty is being sacrificed to size.  Sadly there is a huge constituency for whom size is all that matters in wine,  food matching is irrelevant,  and macho prevails.  This wine will please such people,  but sadly,  the opportunity to produce something beautiful has been lost.  Cellar 5 – 30 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz   17  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Sh 100%;  10 months in French and American oak 10% new;  www.wynns.com.au ]
Quite rich ruby,   carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is sweet and ripe to over-ripe and darkly plummy,  not much varietal character in terms of syrah left,  but a little.  Perhaps there is a little dark florality,  and traces of cassis,  but the main aroma is bottled black doris plums.  Palate has a fleshy looseness to it which suggests a stainless steel component,  but the winemaker says not.  The blackberry level of expression becomes more apparent,  making the wine plainer.  Should cellar well,  5 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Buller Wines Shiraz Black Dog Creek   17  ()
King Valley,  Central Victoria,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  no info;  www.bullerwines.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  a suggestion of carmine,  fresher and richer than the Sinister Shiraz.  This wine needs a breath of air to reveal a slightly cooler richer boysenberry version of shiraz than the basic Buller Sinister Series wine,  and though there are still euc'y suggestions,  there is better oak.  Palate is definitely cooler,  a clear stalky thread,  and a touch of pepper in the ample berry,  so the wine seems less harmonious now,  but will become more interesting in bottle.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Okahu Estate Syrah   16 ½ +  ()
Ahipara,  North Auckland,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  no wine info on site;  www.okahuestate.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  medium depth.  Bouquet is new oak and a slight VA lift more than varietal fruit,  always a pity in syrah which,  like pinot noir,  needs subtle oak to explicitly express its florality and subtlety.  There is good berry and fruit below,  but on bouquet it is masked.  In mouth,  one can access the fruit a bit more,  it is darkly cassisy grading to bottled black doris plum,  with attractive ripeness.  The given alcohol figure seems understated.  This should marry up into a pleasing wine,  still too oaky,  but much purer than the earlier days of Okahu Estate.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Pask Syrah Gimblett Road   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  90% de-stemmed and crushed,  10% whole-bunch;  some cold-soak;  MLF and c.12 months in new and 1-year French oak;  RS <1 g/L;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  modest depth.  Bouquet is youthful,  some florals,  with fresh cassisy berry and a hint of blackberry – but not perfectly ripe blackberries.  Palate confirms that latter thought,  fair berry fruit,  moderate oaking but it tastes more perhaps due to the stalkyness in the berries,  so the finish is short and angular.  This is too young now,  but will harmonise with 3 – 5 years in cellar,  and keep 10.  GK 08/11

2008  Buller Wines Shiraz Sinister Man   16 ½  ()
Murray Valley,  Central Victoria,  Australia:  14%;  $14   [ screwcap;  no info;  www.bullerwines.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is sweetly fruity,  euc'y and oaky in a warm climate simple way,  with boysenberry aromas.  Palate is more oaky,  simple juicy fruit,  the same feeling of an unknit wine maybe chipped as for the Durif,  though the colour suggests big old wood rather than stainless steel.  It has the richness to marry up in bottle,  into a big soft QDR shiraz.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2008  Rosemount Shiraz McLaren Vale District Release   16 ½  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Sh;  no info at all on website;  www.rosemountestate.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper again than the Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra.  Bouquet is tending aggressive on oak and alcohol and a suggestion of VA,  with standard Australian over-ripe shiraz fruit in quantity below.  Palate marries things up better,  the alcohol smoothing the components together,  the over-ripe boysenberry fruit giving chocolatey notes so liked by latter-day tasters,  the oak reasonably in balance.  A lot of fruit for the money.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/11

2010  [ Pask ] Instinct Syrah Winemakers Selection   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  machine harvested;  some whole-bunches in the ferment,  9 months in new to 3-year oak;  will have its own website later;  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  slightly velvet and carmine.  Bouquet is clean light slightly oaky syrah,  with suggestions of rose and wallflower floral notes,  white more than black pepper,  cassis and  bottled black doris plum,  but not rich enough to be compelling.  Palate is similar,  but the berry more modest,  a bit stalky so the oak is made more apparent,  all tending short.  Better in a couple of years when it has softened a little,  cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2010  Kidnapper Cliffs Syrah (pre-bottling assembled tank sample)
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ will be cork;  all hand-picked @ c.5 t/ha = 2 t/ac and de-stemmed;  7 days cold-soak,  c. 13 days cuvaison including the cold-soak,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 13 – 14 months in French 300s and 220s,  33% new;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Very dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Unwise to say too much about a wine at this stage of its career,  pre-bottling.  It seems a bigger and richer wine than the impressive 2009,  but again muted by some reduction.  The winemakers think it may be a better wine than the 2009.  I can't assess whether the fruit was over-ripened – the lack of florality could be that cause,  or the reduction.  As has long been the case with Dry River Pinot Noir,  much more thought is needed here about optimising the beauty of the grape,  which for both pinot noir and syrah means the critical floral components on bouquet,  and ideally on palate too,  must be evident.  Over-ripening in the vineyard,  and lack of oxygen in the winery,  both kill that beauty.  In its style,  this looks to be an 8 – 15 year cellar wine too.  Scoring deferred till bottled,  but close to the 2009.  GK 08/11

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2009  Bodegas Borsao Grenache / Syrah / Tempranillo Seleccion   16 ½ +  ()
Campo de Borja,  Spain:  14%;  $15   [ screwcap;  Gr 70%,  Sy 20,  Te 10;  no oak;  www.bodegasborsao.com ]
Quite rich ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a fresh modern colour.  Bouquet is clean,  grapey,   and appreciably deeper on this wine,  more boysenberry than raspberry,  a clear black peppercorn spicy complexity note from the syrah I imagine adding flourish.  It is all pleasantly attractive in a simple stainless steel (or concrete) way.  Palate has good weight,  is bone dry,  but at this stage is a bit raw on hard tannins.  It might be an oak chips wine,  rather than seeing any oak in the conventional sense.  Well worth cellaring 3 – 10 years,  for a more mellow and fragrant dry red.  GK 08/11

2008  Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Tres Picos   16 ½  ()
Campo de Borja,  Spain:  14.5%;  $36   [ cork;  Gr 100% cropped at c.5t/ha = 2t/ac,  35 – 60 years age,  grown @ c.650m;  21 days cuvaison in s/s;  5 months in new French  oak;  www.bodegasborsao.com ]
Medium ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A wine caught between two worlds,  trying to appeal to people who think chocolate is a plus-factor in red wine,  but let down by old-fashioned complexities.  As is so often the case with more expensive Spanish reds,  increased exposure to oak has led to plain leathery smells and flavours reminiscent of the wines of much earlier decades.  The makers try to make a virtue out of this on the back label,  which no doubt works well in markets like the UK.  Bouquet is dark fruits,  chocolate and smoky bacon bespeaking the kind of brett the UK winewriters don't recognise,  but having its own appeal.  Palate is soft,  round,  dark grape flavours,  fair richness,  'let down' only by a fault most people positively like.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Bodegas Borsao Garnacha   15 ½  ()
Campo de Borja,  Spain:  13.5%;  $14   [ screwcap;  Gr 70%,  CS 20,  Te 10;  no oak;  www.bodegasborsao.com ]
Lighter bright ruby,  nearly carmine and velvet.  Initially opened,  bouquet is faintly reductive in the way stainless steel / concrete reds often are,  so it needs a splashy decanting.  It then opens up to a clean juicy bag-in-the-box kind of wine,  the bouquet obvious and fruity simple raspberry grenache,  more hot climate than subtle.  Reminds of cheap Australian grenache.  Once breathed the palate softens to a popular raspberry / blackberry ice-cream style of red wine rather than a serious contender,  maybe not bone dry.  Sound at the price,  though.  QDW,  marginally worth cellaring 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

All other red wines, blends etc
2009  Kidnapper Cliffs Pinotage   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ cork;  no information at all on the website;  discussion and inquiry reveals fruit cropped at c.5 t/ha = 2 t/ac,  all hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed;  a desire for phenolic ripeness in the fruit (which is a welcome contrast to the so-many leafy New Zealand pinotages over the last 40 years,  in a variety hard to ripen here),  and the adoption of some pinot noir techniques;  7 days cold-soak yet short cuvaison totalling c.13 days,  MLF preferably with the alcoholic fermentation but in any case before barrel;  typically 10 months in French 300s and 220s,  25% new;  www.kidnappercliffs.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  More than any other wine in the portfolio,  this wine gives a glimpse into what could be the future of Kidnapper Cliffs,  if more attention is paid in the vineyard to achieving maximum complexity on bouquet by avoiding over-ripeness,  so retaining florality,  and then not dulling the wine in the winery.  Pinotage is the absolute cinderella variety of all red wines,  and deservedly,  most examples being either weedy (New Zealand) or dully over-ripe (South Africa).  It is not an easy variety to achieve optimal ripeness with in temperate climates,  a bit like malbec in taste terms though it is much earlier-ripening,  but here in what is probably the best vintage in Hawke's Bay in 40 years,  we see pinotage picked at a point of perfection.  Bouquet is darkly floral like some of the over-ripe Otago pinot noirs,  with rewarding bottled plum notes.  Being pinotage,  there are also still some tell-tale lesser notes reminiscent of bottled tamarillos and mixed-colour olives,  but they are minor.  Palate follows perfectly,  beautiful ripeness,  subtle oaking,  attractive length,  the whole wine fresh and enticing,  much more so than most in the range.  This is the best pinotage made in New Zealand since Nick Nobilo's 1970 and 1976,  though they were not as pure as this,  and had at least some American oak,  if I recollect right.  The high score is for pinotage as pinotage – the case can be argued that pinotage will never be a noble variety,  and should therefore always be marked out of some number less than 20.  I believe the approach taken here is the more intellectually rigorous.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  more if you like old wine.  GK 08/11

2009  Crossroads [ not-revealed red blend ] Talisman   18 +  ()
Hawkes Bay (three districts),  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  mostly hand-picked;  cepage not revealed –  see text;  14 months in all-new oak,  French 85%,  balance American;  RS ‘dry’;  www.crossroadswinery.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a very promising colour.  One sniff,  and you start to think,  jeez … this is better than any Talisman I can recall.  There is lovely ripe berry fruit of fine richness,  potentially cedary oak,  and spicy undertones adding interest.  In mouth the richness is impressive,  but the ripeness reflects some sur-maturité of some components,  as so desired in Australia and America,  leading to some chocolatey flavours which degrade its complexity and freshness.  The oak handling is interesting,  there being quite a lot of it,  but the fruit richness is greater than most Talismans and covers the oak fairly well.  This looks like the best Talisman yet,  but it is in more a Robert Parker style than a Jancis Robinson one.  As to the cepage,  Crossroads play this silly game of 'not telling' every year,  merely saying:  "The composition varies each vintage".  So,  one assumes merlot and syrah dominant,  some cabernets,  malbec and minor varieties adding complexity.  In this interpretation of the Hawke's Bay blend,  which I think can legitimately include syrah to help create a district winestyle,  the balance is closer to a Napa blend than a Bordeaux one.  Given our climate,  I would prefer it somewhat cooler and fresher,  to optimise this remarkable vintage.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/11

nv  Gonzalez Byass Pedro Ximenez Nectar 375 ml   18  ()
Jerez,  Spain:  15.5%;  $19   [ cork;  pedro ximenez;  9 years in a sherry-style solera to produce a luscious wine of c 370 g/L RS;  oak old American;  www.gonzalezbyass.com ]
Colour is chestnut with a brassy edge.  Bouquet is like wonderfully old muscat,  illustrating long storage in mostly older oak,  with some magic rancio complexity notes evident.  Rancio is a very particular aroma more frequently talked about than encountered.  Trying to get plain tasting sense out of chemists is one of life's great challenges,  but my impression is the rancio character illustrates a state in wine evolution well short of oxidation or even maderisation,  which is in effect almost stable if oxygen ingress is strictly limited.  In mouth the wine is syrupy rich,  flavours between golden syrup and treacle,  but grapey too,  some oak and nuttiness below.  The total achievement is closest to old Rutherglen muscat,  slightly marred here by trace staleness,  like the faintest whiff of formalin.  Special stuff,  to be tasted at least once.  Wines like this hold in bottle,  but don't improve,  rather gradually going 'flat' / developing stale notes.  Once poured,  it improves greatly in the glass,  becoming 'refreshed – so leave some and try it again the next day.  GK 08/11

2004  Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Reserva   17 ½  ()
Rioja,  Spain:  14%;  $26   [ cork;  Te 90%,  mazuelo 10;  18 months in American and French oak;  www.valdemar.es ]
Ruby,  and some garnet.  Total bouquet has a lot going on,  a lot of fragrant pinot-like tempranillo,  a lot of citrusy American oak,  and some VA lift.  On palate the fruit richness carries the VA,  the oak again has the attractive 'one blue-mouldy orange in a carton' smell,  and as with some others,  the oak is more apparent than real.  There is the fruit to attenuate it.  An old-style / traditional Spanish red,  but slightly flawed so not such a great long-term cellar prospect.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/11

2006  Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Crianza   17 +  ()
Rioja,  Spain:  13.5%;  $26   [ cork; Te 90%,  mazuelo 10;  15 months in American and French oak;  www.valdemar.es ]
Lightish maturing ruby.  This is a more old-fashioned (+ve) and traditional Spanish red,  showing aromatic American oak,  and buried far below,  some fragrant tempranillo (I suspect – yes) fruit.  Palate builds on this,  the fruit fresh and fragrant,  the oak obvious but not harsh,  the styling more Reserva than Crianza.  The oak really is at a maximum though.  Cellar 3 – 8 years to mellow into a traditional Spanish red.  GK 08/11

2009  Buller Wines Durif Beverford   17  ()
Murray Valley,  Central Victoria,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  durif;  perhaps including some from cooler districts such as Heathcote;  10 months oak contact;  www.bullerwines.com.au ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is soft,  rich,  sweet and clean,  with a juicy aroma reminiscent of bottled omega plums,  plus some black pepper and sweet oak.  It smells like a chipped wine,  rather than one raised in oak.  Palate adds to that impression,  but there is a pleasing level of fresh fruit in this plummy way.  The varietal character of durif is hard to pin down,  in one way a kind of gamay on steroids,  plus a touch of pepper,  though the winemaker notes it is tannic.  It is plentifully rich to cover that.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2007  Torres Ibericos Tempranillo Crianza   17  ()
Catalunya,  Spain:  14%;  $31   [ screwcap;  Te 100%;  French and American oak 15% new for 18 months;  www.torres.es ]
Lightish ruby.  This is more like it !  This wine is an even more dramatic example of the 'one blue-mouldy orange in a carton' aroma,  not at all unpleasant,  complexed with fragrant tempranillo fruit.  The degree of oaking including some new on the one hand shows insufficient respect for the beauty of the tempranillo grape,  but on the other the total winestyle is traditional,  in what Spain used to refer to as the 'Pomal' style of Spanish red – vaguely burgundian in structure and mouthfeel.  This will cellar better than one might suppose,  and become beautifully fragrant over 3 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Bodegas Carchelo   17  ()
Jumilla,  Spain:  14%;  $17   [ screwcap;  Te 40,  Mv 40,  CS 20;  vineyards @ 700 m;  some whole-bunch fermentation;  some oak;  2 g/L RS;  www.carchelo.com ]
Rich ruby and velvet.  Carchelo epitomises obvious modern 'popular' wine,  fragrant plummy red fruits,   clean and high-tech,  all the character in the shop window,  not a lot of depth.  As such it succeeds very well,  and lacks the faults so many Spanish wines still show.  I think it would be more interesting with some bottle age,  so ideally,  cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Bodegas Vega Real Ribera del Duero Roble   17  ()
Ribera del Duero,  Spain:  13%;  $27   [ cork;  Te 100% grown at c.850 m altitude;  4 months in American oak;  www.vegareal.barbadillo.net ]
Quite rich ruby,  carmine and velvet.  The wine opens a little clouded by retained fermentation odours,  but quickly clears to reveal plummy berry fruit,  and some oak,  all very young.  Palate too is clearly youthful,  quite tannic,  more oak than anticipated,  but with the prospect of marrying up well and becoming attractive wine.  Will probably always benefiting from decanting.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Telmo Rodriguez Toro Dehesa Gago G   16 ½  ()
Toro,  Spain:  14.5%;  $28   [ cork;  Te 100%,  hand-picked;  s/s cuvaison,  concrete elevage;  www.telmorodriguez.com ]
Quite rich ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A slightly scented bouquet,  red fruits,  light in the older tempranillo style.  Palate is simple,  pure,  the hardness perhaps from concrete elevation [confirmed],  but clean and sound.  Should soften in cellar and become genuine light tempranillo.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Pago de Los Capellanes Ribera del Duero   16 ½  ()
Ribera del Duero,  Spain:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  Te 100% harvested at 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac from calcareous soils;  short cold-soak,  wild-yeast fermentation,  cuvaison c.22 days;  5 months in new French oak;  www.pagodeloscapellanes.com ]
Good rich ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is oaky and modern,  in a style targetted to American reviewers perhaps,  berry-rich and tending over-ripe and fruity.  Palate is fairly rich and plummy,  but much too oaky,  tasting like a chipped wine.  But within these limitations it is clean and wholesome,  and could marry up quite well and cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/11

2007  Bodegas Ochoa Mil Gracias Graciano Single Vineyard   16 ½  ()
Navarra,  Spain:  13.5%;  $34   [ cork;  graciano 100%,  a late-ripening var.,  on calcareous sites;  9 months in 2-year old French and American oak;  www.bodegasochoa.com ]
Good ruby and velvet.  This red is in a mixed modern styling,  some of the chocolatey oak tendencies of the Borsao Garnacha,  but here on the more refined grape graciano.  A good splashy decanting helps this wine.  Palate has good darkly plummy red fruits,  the oak quite attractive in its chocolatey way,  but masking varietal expression somewhat.  A little brett adds attractive complexity.  This should cellar well 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/11

2008  Telmo Rodriguez Rioja LZ   16 +  ()
Rioja,  Spain:  13.5%;  $26   [ cork;  Te,  Gr & graciano,  hand-picked;  s/s cuvaison,  concrete elevage;  www.telmorodriguez.com ]
Quite rich ruby and velvet.  A more complex bouquet,  a clear maceration carbonique estery component (+ve),  and a flowery fragrance reminding of 10/5 pinot noir to a degree.  [ The varietal expression of tempranillo is closer to pinot noir than cabernet sauvignon,  not withstanding all the wine books copying each other in talking about the grape. ]  Palate shows attractive structure for a non-oaked wine,  good berry,  pleasant tannin,  a slightly wild under-taste suggesting this is not a long-term cellar prospect.  Pleasant soft rich red reminiscent of hot year / coarse beaujolais.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 08/11

2009  Marques de Riscal Proximo   16  ()
Rioja,  Spain:  13.5%;  $21   [ cork;  Te;  some at least 4 months oak;  www.marquesderiscal.com ]
Lighter bright ruby.  Bouquet shows simple berry,  slightly estery,  some plain old oak,  straightforward.  Palate is quite winey,  traces of brett,  some leafyness suggesting under-ripeness,  a bit tannic,  but all fairly pleasant as young QDR.  Better with a year or two in bottle,  cellar 2 – 5 years,  but not at all what M. de Riscal stood for 20 years ago.  GK 08/11

2010  Luis Alegre Tempranillo Poco a Poco   16  ()
Rioja Alavasa,  Spain:  13%;  $17   [ plastic 'cork';  Te 90%,  Gr 5,  Viura 5,  hand-harvested;  all s/s wine,  short 5-day cuvaison;  Bodegas Lagunas de Laguardia is a marketing name for Alegre to sell de-classified Rioja wine affordably,  note dry extract is still = 27 g/L;  www.vinoslibres.com ]
Medium ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Another lifted bouquet showing maceration carbonique characters,  plummy,  juicy,  in a heavy beaujolais style.  Palate follows exactly,  probably no oak at all [confirmed],  purer and simpler than the Rodriguez Rioja LZ.  Finish is a little stalky.  There is more to tempranillo than this.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 08/11

2006  Bodegas Condado de Haza Ribero del Duero Crianza   15 ½  ()
Ribera del Duero,  Spain:  14%;  $43   [ screwcap;  Te 100%;  American oak some new for 18 months;  www.condadodehaza.com ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is very oaky,  exacerbated by VA,  so it is hard to see the variety.  At this level,  oak and VA become faults.  Palate has fair fruit,  it tastes like fragrant tempranillo,  and in its unsubtle approach it will probably have considerable appeal.  Traditional Spanish red,  but not a fine one.  Not a long-term cellar prospect,  more 1 – 3 years.  GK 08/11

2008  Torres Coronas Tempranillo   15  ()
Catalunya,  Spain:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Te dominant,  some CS;  American and French oak;  a long-established brand name registered 7/2/ 1907;  www.torres.es ]
Older lightish ruby.  Bouquet is old-fashioned and plain,  some oxidation,  non-varietal,  just QDR red.  Palate follows,  clean,  dry,  short and boring but sound.  What a disappointment so many Torres wines have become:  the firm seemed so exciting in the '60s.  Scarcely worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2006  Bodegas Ochoa Tempranillo Single Vineyard Crianza   15  ()
Navarra,  Spain:  13.5%;  $27   [ cork;  Te 100% on calcareous sites;  16 – 20 days cuvaison;  12 months American oak;  www.bodegasochoa.com ]
Older ruby and velvet.  This is an old-fashioned wine in the present company,  smelling of oak,  brett and oxidation,  as so many Spanish wines used to do.  There is also a certain 'one blue-mouldy orange in a carton' smell – this fragrance from tempranillo in American oak gives such wines a certain charm.  Palate therefore has lots of flavours from all these minor spoilages,  and it ends up quite winey and food-friendly,  though a food technologist's nightmare.  Cellar 3 – 8 years if the style appeals.  GK 08/11

2008  Finca Sobreno Tinta de Toro   14 ½  ()
Toro,  Spain:  14%;  $22   [ cork;  Te 100%;  cuvaison c.20 days;  14 months in American oak less than four years old;  www.sobreno.com ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is locked up,  the whole wine needing splashy decanting.  It opens somewhat to reveal a vaguely red fruits bouquet,  but in a concrete cooperage style.  Palate doesn't improve much on the bouquet,  being short,  hard and again concretey.  It is said to have some oak.  Plain red,  not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2008  Leopard's Leap Pinotage / Shiraz   14 ½  ()
Franschhoek (c. 20 k E of Stellenbosch),  South Africa:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  if similar to 2009,  is Pi 52%,  Sh 48;  extended skin contact,  the Sh standard elevation and 12 months in European oak,  Pi matured in s/s with oak staves and micro-oxygenation for 6 months;  RS 3.2 g/L;  www.leopards-leap.com ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is immediately that drab sour plum and green olives smell of imperfectly ripe pinotage,  which courtesy of Montana particularly in earlier days we know all too well in New Zealand.  Below is some leathery oak.  Palate likewise has the same sour berry character (notwithstanding the RS,  not noticed at the time),  highly varietal in a negative sense,  not pleasing.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  in its style,  but why ?  GK 7/11  GK 07/11

2010  Bodegas Monteabellon Avaniel Tinto   14 +  ()
Ribera del Duero,  Spain:  13.5%;  $21   [ cork;  Te 100% from young vines;  concrete elevage,  intended as a joven style;  www.monteabellon.com ]
Quite rich ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is old-fashioned concrete wine,  clearly reductive,  but with plenty of plummy berry.  Palate shows rich fruit and plummy flavours hardened by reduced sulphur to give some astringency on the tannins.  Our market needs better-selected wines than this,  even if sulphide-blind reviewers recommend them.  The comments on the web are astonishing,  especially from the UK.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11

2009  Telmo Rodriguez Vina 105   14  ()
Cigales,  Spain:  13.5%;  $24   [ cork;  Te & Gr;  s/s cuvaison and elevage;  some at least 3 – 4 months in new oak;  www.telmorodriguez.com ]
Medium ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is soft and appealing,  immediately reminiscent of the variety tempranillo with fragrant berry,  the faintest aromatic lift.  Palate is lesser,  though alleged to be non-oaked,  there is some less-than-pristine wood or concrete contact of some sort here,  the  faintest skunky taste in the berries,  which lingers.  This used to be a common 'complexity factor' in lesser Bordeaux,  and is negative.  Doubtful cellar.  GK 08/11

From the Cellar. Older wines.
1989  Ch Coutet   18 ½  ()
Barsac Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  Se 75%,  SB 23,  Muscadelle 2,  planted @ 5500 – 7500 vines / ha,  average age then 30 or so years,  typically yielding little more than 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac);  BF and 16 – 18 – 24 months in oak with 50% new each year at the time;  www.chateaucoutet.com ]
Medium gold,  a lovely colour.  This wine stood out from the others by virtue of its total integration,  and the dominance of fruit and botrytis over other factors such as oak and VA.  The nett impression on bouquet was of golden queen peach tart and creme brulée,  yet fresh throughout.  In mouth the flavour was far from the richest,  but the yellow peach flavours dominate attractively,  the oak in particular being secondary.  This is a welcome contrast with some of the others.  The harmony and length make this the most food-friendly of the wines.  It is fully mature,  long flavours on fruit though already perhaps drying a little.  It will hold for some years,  drying as it goes.  GK 08/11

2001  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  clones 5 and 6,  7 years old,  harvested @ c.6 t/ha = 2.5 t/ac;  up to 24% whole bunch,  c. 9 days cold soak,  c. 21 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 30% new;  not fined or filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Mature ruby,  a little garnet.  One sniff,  and this is dramatically Otago pinot noir,  deeply boronia floral,  black cherries rather than red,  perhaps a little bottled black doris plums,  but enticing.  It seemed positively adolescent and ebullient alongside the 1983 La Chapelle.  Palate is on the burly side of pinot noir,  the oak now melded-in but you can taste it was more previously,  the long palate richly fruity,  the aftertaste a wee bit furry on the oak tannins.  Absolutely at its peak,  but no hurry at all,  a lovely bottle – generally thought to be the wine of the night.  GK 08/11

1989  Ch Rieussec   18 +  ()
Sauternes Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  Se 80%,  SB 18,  Muscadelle 2,  planted to 7500 vines / ha,  cropped @ c. 15 hL/ha (0.75 t/ac),  average vine age c.30 years;  BF and 26 – 32 months in French oak,  more than half new;  www.lafite.com ]
The lightest of the six,  slightly brassy pale gold.  Bouquet is understated in the company,  seemingly a high semillon wine [ yes,  80% ],  an attractive floral and riesling-like suggestion like linalool,  rich botrytis.  Palate starts off well,  again with crème brulée and peachy fruit,  the new oak a little more apparent than the Coutet,  but still well within bounds,  VA hovering around the average threshold.  The wine finishes a little more abruptly than the Coutet,  oak replacing the fruit.  Will hold for some years.  GK 08/11

1990  Ch Climens   18  ()
Barsac Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  Se 98%,  SB 2,  planted @ c. 6600 vines / ha,  average age then 35 or so years,  typically yielding little more than 1 t/ha (0.4 t/ac);  BF and 18 – 24 months in oak with c.40% new each year;  www.chateau-climens.fr ]
Slightly older gold than most,  the second darkest wine.  VA is prominent on this wine,  on rich fruit and slightly charry oak,  with bush honey and slightly toffee'd notes.  In mouth the VA and new oak roughen the palate,  and the toffee notes continue,  taking away some freshness.  It is however among the richest of the six,  and there is an attractive nuttiness on the finish,  so one can forgive quite a lot when it comes to technical detail.  This should cellar for some years yet,  in its style,  darkening all the while.  GK 08/11

1983  Ch d'Yquem   18  ()
Sauternes Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  Se 80%,  SB 20,  planted to 6500 vines / ha,  cropped @ c.1 t/ha (0.4 t/ac),  average vine age 30 years;  BF and 36 – 42 months in 100% new French oak;  www.chateau-yquem.fr ]
The oldest gold of the six,  slightly the deepest in colour.  With its barrel-ferment and 100% new oak for 36 – 42 months,  Yquem is in peril of becoming a prisoner of its own forceful style,  much as Grange used to be.  This wine is simply too oaky,  detracting both from its internal harmony,  and it's food-friendlyness.  That said,  the mealy caramel shortcake / rich fruit cake quality the barrel-ferment brings can be remarkably attractive,  and the wine has great richness and length.  As the richest of the wines,  it will cellar for many years,  but the oak will intrude more and more.  GK 8/11  GK 08/11

1983  Jaboulet La Chapelle   17 ½ +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked in a drought year,  yield in normal years usually 1.5 – 2 t/ac;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Garnet and ruby.  Bouquet is as old as the Weeping Sands is young,  still clearly varietal,  but florality fading on browning cassis and berry.  Palate is clear-cut mature syrah,  long,  dry to very dry,  the browning cassis neat and taught,  still refreshing acid despite the hot year,  the oak subtle,  mostly old I suspect,  but clean.  This much-debated dry and hot-year vintage of La Chapelle has been marked up to 100 points by some (much earlier),  yet not valued by others.  The much-commented-on tannins are now (in good bottles) in harmony with the fruit,  the acid is showing despite the year,  and the style is that of a sinewy long-distance runner.  A wine therefore for lovers of classical very dry and old wines,  not the modern blackberry ice cream stylings.  It is now fading a little,  but will be lovely for some years to come – again,  if you like old wines.  Sadly,  Robert Parker no longer finds merit in this wine now it is lean.  GK 08/11

1984  Guigal Cotes du Rhone   17 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  thought to be then Gr dominant with Mv & Sy,  some minor vars;  average vine age significant and cropping rate lowish to house standards;  much of the wine spent time in large old French oak;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  mature pinot noir weight.  Bouquet is floral in a fading sense and beautifully fragrant,  as so many of the Guigal wines were in the 1980s.  Palate still has lovely red fruits now browning somewhat,  red cherries,  plums and raspberry,  a touch of cinnamon as if grenache were dominant then.  Guigal Cotes du Rhone was vastly superior in the 1980s to what it is now,  with mass-produced syrah dominant.  It astonishes me how condescending the American reviewers are about Cotes du Rhone,  even good Cotes du Rhone.  Remarks like "Drink now" or "consume within 1 to 3 years" abound,  whereas well-constituted blended wines with appropriate varieties (particularly mourvedre) will evolve into beautiful pinot noir-like but slightly spicy,  fragrant,  and well-fruited light wines for 30 + years.  Robert Parker / The Wine Advocate has expressed more appreciation for the style than most,  but the underlying view can be surmised from the fact the 1984 has been deleted from the website.  Sad really,  for such wines are more accessible to the less well-off,  and go to show that good cellar wine can be had affordably.  This wine epitomises all that is endearing (and food-friendly) in old red wine,  as opposed to big and superficially impressive.  And the 1983 and 1985 are much better,  clearly very beautiful wines indeed,  yet they too are deleted.  1989 is the oldest.   Bizarre.  Wine Spectator is to be commended for reaching back to the 1980 in their reviews,  though they find it harder to give the wine its due.  GK 08/11

1989  Ch Gruaud-Larose   17 ½  ()
St Julien Second Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  vineyard cepage then approx. CS 64%,  Me 24,  CF 9,  PV 3,  Ma trace,  average age c.35 years,  planted @ an average 9250 vines / ha,  and typically cropped @ c.6 t/ha = 2.5 t/ac;  www.gruaud-larose.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  clearly older than the Stonyridge.  Bouquet is mellow,  ripe,  round,  gorgeous fragrant berry with cedary oak much less noticeable than the Larose,  instead a cassis / dark plums / dark pipe tobacco / dark mushrooms enchanting autumnal smell.  Palate is not as generous as the bouquet promised,  the fruit having a shortness and slight sour edge totally unsuspected on bouquet,  oak noticeable,  acid firm for such a warm year.  1966 Gruaud-Larose is my mental benchmark for this chateau,  and many later vintages haven't quite matched it.  1989 is a riper year,  and on the face of it should have been more impressive.  There is a bit of brett,  for those picky about such things.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  it is richer than the 1994 Larose.  GK 08/11

1988  Ch Rieussec   17  ()
Sauternes Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  Se 80%,  SB 18,  Muscadelle 2,  planted to 7500 vines / ha,  cropped @ c. 15 hL/ha (0.75 t/ac),  average vine age c.30 years;  BF and 26 – 32 months in French oak,  more than half new;  www.lafite.com ]
This wine presents the dullest hue in the set,  just a touch of black in the gold.  Bouquet is curious,  tending varnishy on VA,  and an aroma of boiled sultanas more than botrytised semillon / sauvignon.  Initial impression in mouth is better than the bouquet,  but too soon a suggestion of browned apple flavour draws attention to slightly oxidised qualities,  leading to walnut on the finish.  This may simply be bottle variation.  Still pretty workable as mature sauternes,  but seems older than the similarly-sized Coutet.  If this bottle is representative,  a wine less suited to holding.  GK 08/11

1994  Stonyridge Larose   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  DFB;  CS,  Me,  CF,  Ma,  PV,  hand-picked @ c. 2.5 t/ha = 1 t/ac;  12 months in oak probably 90% French,  10 US,  70% either new,  or shaved and re-toasted;  not filtered;  www.stonyridge.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet.  Bouquet is a dead-ringer for a Pauillac such as Grande-Puy-Lacoste in a cool year – 1994 for example !  There is a terrific volume of cassis and cedar,  enchanting.  Palate is a little less,  some stalkyness in the cassis and berry,  a little acid,  but the dry extract is clearly of classed growth standard in such a year.  Oak is now becoming a little prominent,  but I imagine the wine will fade gradually for several years to come.  Good to see such fragrance and aroma in mature New Zealand red.  Will easily make 20 years.  GK 08/11

1988  Ch Suduiraut   16 ½  ()
Sauternes Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  Se 80%,  SB 20,  planted to 7000 vines / ha,  cropped @ little more than 2.5 t/ha ( 1 t/ac),  average vine age c.25 years;  mostly fermented in s/s,  some in barrel,  up to 30 months in barrel plus time in vats,  some new oak;  no wine info on website;  www.suduiraut.com ]
Light gold,  the second to lightest wine.  Bouquet starts well,  in a lighter semillon-dominant style,  fragrant,  suggestions of riesling-like florals,  fruit dominant.  In mouth however immediately there is a problem with the oak,  an ashy quality and sensation leading to a bitterness which quite intrudes on the light fruit.  It is a similarly-sized wine to the Coutet,  but the wine is sabotaged by its oak.  Not suited to further cellaring,  therefore,  if this bottle is representative.  GK 08/11

1997  Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label   16  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  CS nominally 100%,  14 months in French oak some new and American oak some new;  www.wynns.com.au ]
Garnet and ruby,  old for its age.  Bouquet is leathery,  oaky and fading,  with coffee and allspice including aniseed hints and already clear organic decay.  If you compare this with a 1997 Petit Bordeaux,  it neatly proves that size is no guarantee of cellar-worthiness.  The wine must have been grossly over-oaky right from the start.  Palate is better than bouquet,  but it simply isn't winey enough to be pleasing.  I so wish Australians tasted the wines of other countries,  much more than they do.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 08/11