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

There have been some lovely wines in the last few weeks,  but some are expensive.  The expense will be worth it,  since the best are world-class.

Top of the list is 2010 Trinity Hill Syrah Homage.  If this is not the greatest syrah so far made in New Zealand,  it is very close to it.  The calibre of the wine is equivalent to Jaboulet's Hermitage La Chapelle in its heyday,  and the top Hermitages of today.  It is without qualification a totally world-class wine.  There is florality,  a whisper of black pepper,  cassis and dark plum,  wonderful concentration,  absolute purity,  and subtle oaking.  Since those Rhones are $400 bottles,  this 210 Homage,  clearly the best yet,  is value at $NZ124 RRP.  Buy as much as you can afford – 1983 La Chapelle,  for example,  is drinking beautifully right now – since it will cellar for several decades

Much more affordable and scarcely less good is the same firm's top Bordeaux blend,  2010 Trinity Hill Merlot / Cabernets The Gimblett.  The saturation of fruit in this wine eclipses most of the 2010 Bordeaux we checked out recently in a tasting at Regional Wines.  Those that were richer were not as pure and fine.  Of particular note is the beauty of the oaking,  as winemakers John Hancock and Warren Gibson retreat from new world levels of oak to an approach which is much more subtle and food-friendly,  like classical Bordeaux.  This wine is more concentrated than the 2010 Te Kahu reviewed with the bordeaux,  and will therefore cellar longer.  Like Te Kahu it is merlot-dominant,  and will become soft and fragrant.  A case of The Gimblett is essential,  since it too will cellar for 15 maybe 20 years.  It is outstanding value,  outclassing a number of New Zealand Bordeaux blends at up to twice the price.

I was also very struck with 2010 Churton Pinot Noir The Abyss.  Again,  this is an expensive wine,  but it may be the best pinot noir so far made in Marlborough.  The district winemakers regard 2010 as an exceptional vintage.  What a thrill it is to see this variety finally achieving quality in Marlborough,  after decades of a more quantitative approach.  Essentially,  achieving this quality has been a function of winemakers first knowing what good pinot noir tastes like,  and then planting grapes on soils which would crop at something closer to classical Burgundy yields,  to allow more chance of classical flavours and textures.  This 2010 The Abyss is a beautiful wine,  reminiscent of grand cru Corton,  loosely speaking.  It should cellar for 8 – 12 years easily.


   nv  La Gioiosa Prosecco Treviso DoC
2011  Millton Chardonnay Opou Vineyard
2011  Te Awanga Estate Chardonnay
2011  Trinity Hill Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2011  Churton Sauvignon Blanc
2009  Churton Sauvignon Blanc
2011  Gerard Fiou Sancerre
2011  Haha Sauvignon Blanc
2011  Ellero Riesling Pisa Terrace
2010  Mt Beautiful Riesling
Pinot Gris
2011  Ellero Gewurztraminer
2007  Chapoutier Condrieu Invitare
2011  Churton Viognier
2011  Trinity Hill Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2011  Saumon Montlouis Mineral
2011  Trinity Hill Arneis
2011  La Vieille Ferme Rosé Ventoux
2012  The Hay Paddock Rosé Silk
 Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2011  First Drop Cabernet Sauvignon Mother's Ruin
2011  Te Awanga Estate Merlot
2010  Trinity Hill Merlot / Cabernet The Gimblett
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2009  Domaine de l'Arlot Nuits St George Les Petits Plets Premier Cru
2010  Churton Pinot Noir
2009  Churton Pinot Noir
2010  Churton Pinot Noir The Abyss
2009  Ellero Pinot Noir
2010  Ellero Pinot Noir Pisa Terrace
2010  Haha Pinot Noir
2009  [ Mitre Rocks ] Mount Dottrel Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2010  First Drop Shiraz Mother's Milk
2011  Te Awanga Estate Syrah
2009  The Hay Paddock Syrah Harvest Man
2010  Three Brothers Reunited Shiraz
2011  Trinity Hill Syrah Gimblett Gravels
2010  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage
2009  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage
2007  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage
2006  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
2009  First Drop Montepulciano Minchia
2010  Trinity Hill Tempranillo
From the Cellar. Older wines.

nv  La Gioiosa Prosecco Treviso DoC   15 +  ()
Treviso district,  Veneto,  Italy:  10.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  grape variety glera often referred to as prosecco;  no info on website;  www.lagioiosa.it ]
Palest green,  quite a fizz.  Bouquet is pure clean and empty,  scarcely even vinifera or winey.  Palate shows reasonable body in its flavourless style,  a manufactured wine.  Good prosecco has more to say than this.  Not worth cellaring,  and rarely a cellaring wine in any case.  GK 03/13

2011  Trinity Hill Chardonnay   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $35   [ screwcap;  chardonnay clones 95, 15 and mendoza;  whole-bunch pressed to French oak,  the 25% new component all puncheons to reduce oak influence;  100% BF including some wild yeast fermentations;  10 months lees ageing and stirring in barrel,  plus 40% MLF,  all to add body,  texture and minerality;  pH 3.23,  RS 1g/L;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Elegant lemon.  Bouquet shows classical chardonnay pale stonefruit flesh raised in subtlest oak,  the varietal quality of the grape dominating totally,  with beautiful vinosity and appeal.  The fruit is supported by barrel-fermentation and lees-autolysis in mostly older oak,  plus some MLF.  In mouth it is not a big wine,  but there is elegance and finesse,  and surprisingly long fruit,  given the lightness of the wine.  It needs another year or two to really harmonise,  when it will be dangerously drinkable.  Model New Zealand chardonnay to cellar longer than expected,  3 – 12 years,  if you like older wine.  GK 03/13

2011  Te Awanga Estate Chardonnay   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  chardonnay clones 6 and mendoza planted 17 years ago;  12 months lees ageing and stirring in barrel;  www.rmwines.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  This is a bigger and bolder wine than the Trinity Hill,  mainly because the oak is more apparent,  with more vanillin,  on fair fruit.  In mouth the wine is rich,  but the first thing you taste is the oak,  the second the buttery malolactic component,  and the chardonnay comes last.  The Trinity Hill is the other way round.  This more old-fashioned kind of New Zealand chardonnay has its following,  and the wine will cellar 3 – 7 years.  GK 03/13

2011  Millton Chardonnay Opou Vineyard   14  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  2010 on website,  if similar:  mixed clones,  hand-picked grapes pressed to small French wood 12% new;  wild yeast fermentation,  c.12 months in barrel with MLF fermentation and lees ageing;  biodynamic wine;  www.millton.co.nz ]
Colour is light gold,  a worry right away in a 2011 wine.  In one way,  the bouquet smells fresher than the colour suggests,  but that is mainly due to some under-ripe fruit giving a stalky edge to an otherwise broad buttery high-MLF interpretation of the variety.  Flavours in mouth are soft and forward,  there is a hint of caramel in the MLF component which detracts further,  body is quite good,  perhaps some botrytis,  but it is all terribly forward and unknit,  with a seemingly-sweet tacky yet stalky finish.  Hard to drink.  Not a cellar wine,  a year or two only.  GK 03/13

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2009  Churton Sauvignon Blanc   19  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ cork;  40% hand-picked @ c. 7.5 t/ha (3.5 t/ac);  whole-bunch pressed,  limited cold-settling;  c.10% BF in non-new French 500-litre barrels with some wild yeast fermentation;  9 months elevation on lees to enhance texture;  pH 3.22,  RS 1 g/L;  biodynamic;  www.churtonwines.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  On bouquet this wine shows the absolute purity the 2011 lacks,  with wonderfully ripe sauvignon blanc complexed with some old oak,  barrel-ferment and considerable lees-autolysis.  In mouth the wine is at a peak of perfection now,  the palate showing pale stonefruit flesh,  almost invisible old oak adding structure,  gentle acid,  great length,  a marvellous wine.  Winemaker Sam Weaver seeks wines which will age,  and show mineral complexity and body.  This wine fills the bill.  It may not get better than it is now,  but I suspect this will still be rewarding drinking in another 6 – 8 years.  Wonderful with food.  GK 03/13

2011  Churton Sauvignon Blanc   18  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ cork;  40% hand-picked @ c. 10 t/ha (4 t/ac);  whole-bunch pressed,  12 hours minimum cold-settling;  c.10% BF in non-new French 500-litre barrels with some wild yeast fermentation;  8 months elevation on lees to enhance texture;  pH 3.0,  RS 1.8 g/L;  biodynamic;  www.churtonwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is totally different from most New Zealand sauvignons,  as if the wine has a high-solids component.  There is considerable fruit,  but no obvious fruit analogies on bouquet.  In mouth,  things change rather,  the wine showing huge body by New Zealand sauvignon standards,  a subtle barrel-ferment component,  considerable lees ageing and body-building,  yet it tastes like a low-pH wine (confirmed).  In style this is more in the Cloudy Bay Te Koko camp than mainstream stainless steel Marlborough sauvignon,  but it is a good deal more subtle than Te Koko.  It was shown alongside a Sancerre,  and all made sense.  This wine should be sensational with food.  If it weren't for the high solids notes on bouquet,  I'd be gold-medal level in marking.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/13

2011  Gerard Fiou Sancerre   17  ()
Sancerre,  Loire Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $30   [ cork;  hand-picked from 60-year old vines at yields averaging 6.25 t/ha (2.5 t/ac);  all s/s fermented;  6 months lees autolysis and batonnage;  biodynamic;  www.gerardfiou-sancerre.com ]
Lemon.  The relationship to the Churton sauvignon is obvious – but fruit character is less perfectly ripe,  some snow-pea notes,  and total sulphur is higher.  Palate shows similar good body to the Churton,  the flavours again let down by some less ripe material,  but a similar elevation.  A fascinating comparison.  Cellar 1 – 3 years,  at risk of canned asparagus notes appearing.  GK 03/13

2011  Haha Sauvignon Blanc   16 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.6%;  $15   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested @ 9 t/ha (3.6 t/ac);  all s/s fermented;  pH 3.31,  RS 3 g/L;  www.hahawine.com ]
Lemon,  a flush of straw,  not quite the colour expected.  Bouquet is clean and straightforwardly varietal,  suggestions of white stonefruits,  black passionfruit,  mixed capsicum.  Palate is less,  acid and phenolics tending apparent as if the fruit of mixed ripeness and hard-pressed,  some body,  clearly varietal,  but short.  Cellar 1 – 2 years.  GK 03/13

2010  Mt Beautiful Riesling   18  ()
Cheviot Hills,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $23   [ Stelvin Lux;  hand-picked;  6 months on light lees;  pH 2.97,  RS 7.5 g/L;  www.mtbeautiful.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is wonderful,  totally pure and varietal riesling untainted by so-called 'aromatic' yeasts.  Bouquet recalls both the Mosel,  and the Clare Valley:  freesias and hops.  Palate explains the Clare Valley and hops part,  the wine being a little more extractive / phenolic than ideal from riesling,  but the flavours and body are lovely.  Finish is riesling "dry" to palate,  but analysis shows a little more sweetness than expected,  reflecting the low pH.  The extra year before release really helps this wine,  and is more than appropriate for a wine from a cooler but promising site visible from SH1 as one drives down to Waipara – the most northerly vineyards in Canterbury.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  perhaps longer given the pH.  GK 03/13

2011  Ellero Riesling Pisa Terrace   16  ()
Pisa district,  Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.4%;  $23   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested @ 2 t/ha (0.8 t/ac);  s/s ferment,  6 months in old French puncheons;  pH 3.14,  RS 8 g/L;  Pisa Terrace vineyard is BioGrow certified;  www.ellerowine.com ]
Lemongreen,  a little fresher than the Mt Beautiful.  Bouquet shows a more commercial kind of Australasian riesling,  with the fruit salad (including bananas) aromas of an 'aromatic'  commercial yeast.  Palate is clean,  good fruit,  riesling-dry,  but more a frankly commercial interpretation of the grape.  At the time of tasting I did not know about oak exposure,  and this may have slanted my views.  For riesling in the traditional Alsatian / German style via fuder,  the oak needs to be both big and old,  if the subtle beauty of riesling is to be optimised.  The sweetness indicator bar-graph on the back label is excellent.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/13

2011  Ellero Gewurztraminer   17 ½  ()
Pisa district,  Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $26   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  sourced from the oldest gewurztraminer vineyard in the Cromwell Basin,  Terra Sancta’s vineyard in Bannockburn planted in 1991;  80% of the wine fermented and matured on lees in an old French puncheon,  balance s/s,  62 cases produced;  pH 3.29,  RS 6 g/L;  www.ellerowine.com ]
Lemon.  Bouquet has a good deal more varietal character than most Otago gewurztraminers have shown.  It is clearly floral with just a hint of yellow aromas such as honeysuckle or (better) wild ginger,  plus good fruit which includes lychee suggestions.  Palate shows the phenolics of the variety,  good fruit and flavour,  near-dry sweetness,  quite a big wine.  If the same yeast has been used here as in the riesling,  the stronger varietal character of good gewurztraminer successfully smothers it.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe longer.  Exciting wine.  GK 03/13

2011  Trinity Hill Viognier   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $35   [ screwcap;  Vi 91%,  marsanne 9;  hand-picked;  whole-bunch pressed to French oak including more puncheons nowadays,  100% BF including some wild yeast fermentations;  significant lees ageing in barrel,  and some MLF,  to add body,  texture and minerality;  pH 3.49,  RS 2.6 g/L;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is much more clearly varietal than the Churton,  with a pleasing hint of yellow florals such as Himalayan golden honeysuckle,  but not the excitement of wild ginger blossom.  Purity of the wine is stunning,  however,  and pale peach and nearly apricot notes underpin the bouquet.  In mouth there is a clear suggestion of apricots with some yellow ripeness,  not exactly orange ripeness,  so the wine is a little grippy and cool.  It's a whole notch riper and nearer the goal than the Churton,  though,  the oak and barrel-ferment components are subtler,  and the body,  mouthfeel and wine style are terrific.  Beyond the vineyard,  I attribute much of this quality to the old oak and adopting some MLF.  It conspicuously achieves almost everything in terms of flavour that the Arneis so conspicuously lacks.  A delicate viognier therefore alongside Condrieu from a good year,  but an immaculate wine.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 03/13

2011  Churton Viognier   16 ½  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $37   [ cork;  hand-picked @ c. 6 t/ha (2.4 t/ac);  whole-bunch pressed and mostly BF in one year old French 600-litre barrel with some wild yeast fermentation;  10 months elevation on lees,  no MLF;  pH 3.3,  RS 1.7 g/L;  biodynamic;  www.churtonwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is clean,  clearly vinifera,  vaguely floral / white flowers,  plus palest white nectarine suggestions.  In mouth,  there is remarkable similarity to the Trinity Hill Arneis,  good body,  beautiful wine-making though the oak / barrel-ferment slightly more apparent,  but the specific smells and flavours of good viognier are lacking.  Viognier to be good must show yellow florals and yellow fruit touching on ripe apricots.  At a long stretch,  this gets about as far towards that goal as imperfectly ripe greengages,  with the phenolics of the variety becoming obtrusive,  given the lack of flavour.  It is also tending acid.  Growing viognier in the South Island is (in general) simply torturing innocent plants.  It is hard enough to get good varietal exposition in Hawke's Bay and Waiheke Island,  but those climates do at least allow exciting wines be made in the best years.  Until viognier the grape is more accurately judged in New Zealand wine shows,  the nonsense of giving gold medals to climatically-limited / inappropriately ripened wines will continue.  New Zealand judges are not yet sufficiently familiar with the variety.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 03/13

2007  Chapoutier Condrieu Invitare    16  ()
Condrieu,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $77   [ cork;  Vi 100% on granite hillsides;  hand-harvested;  cold-settled 48 hours,  wild-yeast cool-fermentation peaking @ 21 C;  full MLF;  8 months elevation on lees,  30% only in old French oak;  www.chapoutier.com ]
Full straw,  a flush of gold.  Bouquet is tired,  wine biscuits and cheap tinned pineapple with suggestions of marzipan,  a real old-style European white.  Palate has the structure of viognier and remnants of ripe apricots flavours,  but now rather more dried apricots than fresh.  The oak balance was bolder than the Trinity Hill,  in its prime.  In general viognier does not cellar well,  and this wine confirms that.  It was presented with the Churton,  but did not illuminate it.  Past its prime.  GK 03/13

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2011  Trinity Hill Arneis   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  juice cold-settled, cool-fermented including some BF in older oak,  some s/s;  9 months on lees to add body,  texture and minerality;  no MLF;  pH 3.25,  RS <1 g/L;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is soft,  full and winey,  though exactly what variety is debatable.  There is a delicate white flowers quality,  beautifully pure.  Palate is surprisingly big,  a little hard,  but also lacking in explicit vinifera flavours.  When one hears it is all barrel-fermented in old oak,  the wine falls into place.  This is a immaculate winemaking on a base grape about as worthwhile as trebbiano.  Because it is so exquisitely and complexly made,  it therefore costs more than it is worth.  New Zealand does not need nonsense varieties like arneis.  Company chief winemaker John Hancock points out the phenolic backbone and body makes it a good food wine,  and given the honest cropping rate and good body associated with that,  I can confirm that view – if one likes anonymous wines.  Cellar a year or two maybe.  GK 03/13

2011  Saumon Montlouis Mineral   15  ()
Montlouis,  Loire Valley,  France:  13%;  $40   [ cork;  fermentation and elevation in older oak;  20 – 30 year vines;  organic producer,  minimal sulphur (and it shows);  10 – 15 g/L RS;  no website found ]
Straw,  not a good colour for the age.  Bouquet is honeyed if you are positive,  or tending biscuitty / oxidised if you are critical,  on good white stonefruits flesh.  It is very evolved,  with a suggestion of ester rather than florality.  In mouth a hint of marzipan comes in,  as with so many European whites,  and there are traces of oak,  VA and maybe botrytis.  Finish is near-dry.  The whole thing is a very broad interpretation of chenin blanc,  considering its youth.  In a more technically influenced new world judging,  it falls below medal level,  reflecting issues all-too-often associated with 'organic' winemaking.  For a contrasting view,  see the very experienced taster and winewriter The Wine Doctor,  who marks the wine 18 (www.thewinedoctor.com/weekend/frantzsaumonmontlouismineral2011.shtml).  [ Damn:  since drafting this,  his website has moved to paid-access,  sadly:  £45,  but this full ref still locates the article.]  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/13

2011  La Vieille Ferme Rosé Ventoux   17 ½  ()
Ventoux,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $19   [ Gr & Ci dominant,  a little Sy;  all s/s;  website lacks info;  http://lavieilleferme.com ]
A perfect rosé colour.  Bouquet is immediately winey,  fragrant,  clean,  enticing,  everything a good commercial Rhone rosé should be – strawberries,  raspberries and a touch of cinnamon.  Palate is probably not touched by oak,  pleasant fruit,  some tannin grip,  the flavours a little simpler than ideal,  dry.  Pretty good,  especially since it is cheaper and dryer than many local rosés.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 03/13

2012  The Hay Paddock Rosé Silk   17  ()
Onetangi,  Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.2%;  $25   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%, hand-picked;  cold-fermented;  website lacks specific info;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Good rosé,  close to La Vieille Ferme.  Bouquet is fragrant vinifera with red berries and light spice,  perhaps a touch of older oak,  appealing.  Palate however is somewhat less than the  Rhone wine,  less berry and fruit,  more acid,  all suggesting a higher cropping rate than the AOC Rhone rosé.  Even so,  there are fair berry flavours,  more in the style of a New Zealand pinot noir rosé,  but with a little more grip and a dry finish.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 03/13

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2010  Trinity Hill Merlot / Cabernet The Gimblett   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ screwcap;  Me 60,  CS 17,  CF 16,  PV 4,  Ma 3;  hand-picked;  the grapes de-stemmed,  average vine age 14 years;  c.28 days cuvaison;  18 months in 'predominantly' French oak 35% new;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Dense ruby,   carmine and velvet,  an excellent colour,  denser than 2010 Te Kahu.  Bouquet displays wonderful varietal purity and complexity,  nearly a violets floral complexity,  the berry dominant over oak,  styling a totally modern Bordeaux blend with the cassisy cabernet speaking with a louder voice on bouquet than its percentage composition would suggest,  in saturated bottled black doris plum.  Flavour follows perfectly,  rich wine more perfectly oaked than the Mother's Ruin,  plummy merlot on the mid-palate,  all firm and taut.  This wine is richer and purer than most of the 2010 minor bordeaux checked recently.  It would be a sin against the spirit of the bottle to open this before five years from vintage,  at the least.  If you have to,  for the next few years pour it out into a wide-mouthed jug preferably overnight.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 03/13

2011  First Drop Cabernet Sauvignon Mother's Ruin   18  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $31   [ screwcap;  CS 100% (implied) from vineyards 130m above seas level;  14 days cuvaison;  MLF and 15 months on lees in 10% new French hogsheads,  the balance both French and American hogsheads;  www.firstdropwines.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  dense.  Bouquet is hugely cassisy and darkly plummy,  very aromatic,  not too oaky,  altogether an exciting winey smell.  The flavours follow on well,  it tastes surprisingly light and delicate,  there is not much blending material in this,  it shows real cabernet sauvignon flavours with aromatic oak noticeable,  but not too excessive.  This is a much higher quality wine than the label suggests,  even though it is narrower on the palate than The Gimblett (as straight cabernets can be).  It reminds me of old-time classics like the 1963 Seaview Cabernet Sauvignon in youth,  also from McLaren Vale.  It will cellar extremely well,  5 – 20 years.  GK 03/13

2011  Te Awanga Estate Merlot   17 +  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $34   [ screwcap;  Me 100% from vines 10 – 15 years old;  hottish fermentation and nearly four weeks cuvaison;  18 months in French oak,  some new;  www.rmwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  much lighter than the other wines in the non-pinot / non-syrah batch.  Bouquet immediately shows how closely merlot can resemble syrah in varietal character,  there being a soft nearly violets vanilla florality on this wine which is highly varietal,  and not so far from syrah wallflower.  Palate is a good deal richer than the colour predicts,  and shows fragrant soft plummy flesh in gently aromatic oak.  There are pleasant reminders of a modern St Emilion grand cru classé wine styling here,  except possibly it is not bone dry.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/13

Pinot Noir
2010  Churton Pinot Noir The Abyss   18 ½  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $71   [ cork;  hand-picked @ c. 3.7 t/ha (1.5 t/ac) from one of the exciting new-generation old-soil vineyards 200 m. above seas level,  sloping 14°,  and planted c.5,000 vines / ha;  double-sorted fruit,  destemmed but retaining whole berries;  7 days cold soak,  wild-yeast fermentation 5 days,  then 18 days further skin contact making a cuvaison of 30 days – much more traditional;  16 months in French oak 40% new,  not filtered;  pH 3.8,  RS nil;  biodynamic;  www.churtonwines.co.nz ]
A lovely pinot noir colour,  just right,  slightly above midway in depth.  Bouquet immediately smells saturated with complex floral aromas including cherry-ripe,  and red and black cherries.  Oak is very much in the background,  so the wine seems understated in comparison with the more oaky Otago wines alongside.  It is on the palate this wine demonstrates absolute fidelity to the model of grand cru Burgundy.  Fruit is more red cherry than black,  there is a lovely evolution of dark red rose florality in the mouth,  and the style of the wine is (loosely-speaking) Corton.  Acid balance and oak complex the wine delightfully and ensure good cellar life.  I thought last year that the 2010 Greywacke Pinot Noir was perhaps the best pinot noir yet to emerge from Marlborough,  as the new generation of older-soil vineyards come to fruition,  but this 2010 The Abyss poses an exciting challenge.  Love to have them alongside !  Well worth cellaring 5 – 12 years.  Total sulphur is much lower than the average New Zealand pinot noir.  GK 03/13

2010  Ellero Pinot Noir Pisa Terrace   18  ()
Pisa district,  Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $36   [ screwcap; 5 clones hand-harvested @ 4 t/ha (1.6 t/ac);  14 months in French oak,  33% new;  pH 3.6;  210 cases;  website good combination of discursive and factual info;  www.ellerowine.com ]
Ruby,  a touch of velvet,  the deepest of nine pinots,  big for pinot noir.  Bouquet skirts with being too big,  darkly plummy,  quite oaky,  but redeemed by an aromatic floral lift.  Palate is a step up,  the flavours as much darkly cherry as plum,  the oak at a maximum or slightly exuberant,  but it is potentially fragrant cedary oak.  The length of fruit is good and the wine finishes well.  This is exciting concentrated but rather dark pinot noir from a site which (from the air photo) looks highly interesting.  Optimising pinot noir varietal expression via less oak is the goal now,  as the vines gain age.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 03/13

2010  Churton Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $40   [ cork;  hand-picked @ c. 3.7 t/ha (1.5 t/ac) from one of the exciting new-generation old-soil vineyards 200 m. above seas level,  sloping 14° and planted c.5,000 vines / ha;  destemmed but retaining whole berries;  7 days cold soak,  wild-yeast fermentation 5 days,  then 21 days further skin contact making a cuvaison of 33 days – much more traditional;  14 months in French oak 20% new,  pH 3.8,  RS nil;  biodynamic;  www.churtonwines.co.nz ]
Classic pinot noir colour,  not quite as rich as The Abyss.  The whole style of the wine is close to the top wine,  showing potentially deep sweet florals,  which may include boronia with a little more time,  on red more than black cherry fruit.  The flavours are burgundian through and through,  with a suppleness which is enchanting.  The main point of difference from the top wine is simply concentration,  yet this is still good,  the flavours long and resting on fruit.  In one sense,  these two wines finally put Marlborough on the serious New Zealand pinot noir map.  Up till recently the district approach has been more quantitative.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  Low sulphur here too.  GK 03/13

2009  [ Mitre Rocks ] Mount Dottrel Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Cromwell district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $42   [ screwcap;  2009 not on website,  if like 2008 is:  up to 30 days cuvaison for some lots inc. cold-soak,  10 months in French oak (barriques) c.30% new;  the second label of Mitre Rocks;  www.mitrerocks.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  the second deepest,  exciting.  Bouquet is in the New Zealand context a little more old-fashioned,  dark ripe fruit,  rather a lot of new oak,  in fact too much to support and respect the fruit.  Palate shows a wonderful richness of darkly cherry berry,  and you can see why the winemaker could think it would support lots of oak.  Despite the rich fruit,  it still finishes oaky though,  so I stick to my earlier thought.  There are some lovely 2009 Otago pinot noirs,  and this one adds a contrasting style to them.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/13

2009  Domaine de l'Arlot Nuits St George Les Petits Plets Premier Cru   17 +  ()
Cote de Nuits,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $79   [ cork;  hand-picked from the 'young' vines of Clos des Forets,  but still up to 25 years age,  very low crops in 2009;  grapes double-sorted,  some whole-bunch;  no info on elevation;  biodynamic producer;  www.arlot.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  some age showing,  the second to lightest.  Among the brightly-fruited New Zealand wines,  this example of the grape looks very laid-back,  yet it is fragrant in a quite different way,  red fruits and leather.  Flavours are quite wild-yeasty and furry on tannin,  there may be a touch of brett,  but either way the oak is spicy with a hint of cloves,  all a little drying.  Cellar 3 – 10 years in its style.  GK 03/13

2009  Ellero Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Pisa district,  Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $36   [ screwcap;  5 clones hand-harvested @ 6 t/ha (2.4 t/ac);  11 months in French oak,  25% new;  pH 3.64;  210 cases;  www.ellerowine.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a hint of age showing,  one of the deeper wines.  Bouquet is richly varietal in a darker style,  with a floral quality so intermingled with fragrant oak it is hard to tease them apart.  Palate continues the rich fruit,  the wine being more developed than the 2010s,  but there is a tannic streak in it which lets it down a little on the finish.  Cellar 3 – 8 years  GK 03/13

2010  Haha Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Awatere Valley and Upper Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  3 clones of PN hand-harvested @ 7.5 t/ha (3 t/ac);  no elevation info at all on website;  www.hahawine.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is much lighter and simpler in this wine,  more in the older style of Marlborough pinot noir,  buddleia as much as rose florals,  simple red more than black fruits,  beautifully clean.  Palate is fleshy,  the fruit dominant to the point of lacking tannin structure a little.  This impression may be augmented by it possibly not being bone dry.  It should have popular appeal,  and attract people to the variety.  Wine being a European phenomenon,  the name Haha for a winery needs revisiting.  Cellar 2 – 6 years  GK 03/13

2009  Churton Pinot Noir   16 +  ()
Waihopai Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ cork;  hand-picked @ c. 3.7 t/ha (1.5 t/ac) from one of the exciting new-generation old-soil vineyards 200 m. above seas level,  sloping 14° and planted c.5,000 vines / ha;  destemmed but retaining whole berries;  7 days cold soak,  wild-yeast fermentation 5 days,  then up to 21 days further skin contact making a cuvaison of 33 days – much more traditional;  14 months in French oak 20% new,  pH 3.75,  RS nil;  biodynamic;  www.churtonwines.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the pinot noirs,  some age showing.  Bouquet is clearly varietal,  in a lighter rose and buddleia way.  Palate shows maturing red cherry fruit,  in an older New Zealand pinot style.  Why it varies so much from the 2010 offerings is not clear.  Could the ferments have been significantly warmer ?  The whole wine is clearly varietal,  but ready now.  There is a stalky streak to the tail which may become unflattering in cellar,  so short-term only,  1 – 3 years.  GK 03/13

Syrah = Shiraz
2010  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage   19 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $124   [ cork;  hand-picked at about 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac) from Sy 100%,  mostly Limmer clone,  some vines propagated from Jaboulet's la Chapelle vineyard in the hill of Hermitage,  vine ages 1994 and 2001;  the grapes de-stemmed,  lightly crushed to leave whole berries;  shortish cuvaison;  MLF commenced in tank,  completed in barrel,  c.15 months in French oak mostly new,  some lees stirring,  not a lot of racking;  this wine is the largest volume yet made of Homage,  nearly 600 cases;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the most perfect colour of all the syrahs,  and the darkest.  Bouquet is textbook Northern Rhone syrah,  spicy cassis,  darkest plum and gently aromatic oak lifted by a near-floral quality,  wall flowers and black pepper.  It is a much cooler wine than the 2009,  cassis being dominant.  In mouth the concentration of berry flavour is colossal,  the cassis coming through,  yet the weight is in one sense quite light,  magical,  with beautifully subtle oaking.  This wine captures all the memories of great examples of Jaboulet's earlier La Chapelle wines,  before the decline.  It is very much Hermitage in style.  It is therefore totally fitting the wine should be named Homage for the memory of Gerard Jaboulet.  

It is hard to juggle all the Le Sols and other fine New Zealand syrahs of the last 10 years such as later Deerstalkers and one or two subtler ones from Waiheke Island in one's mind,  but this is either the greatest syrah so far made in New Zealand,  or one of the very few candidates.  This wine combines absolute concentration with quality of flavour and beauty,  and is therefore in a different league from for example,  Te Mata's Bullnose syrah,  which in its best years is beautiful but not so rich.  Many other candidates are clumsy in their oak handling,  alongside this Homage.  Note how wondrously the 100% new oak has been assimilated.  That is what a cropping rate around 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac) allows – the absorption capability being a function of dry extract.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 03/13

2007  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $120   [ cork;  hand-picked at about 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac) from Sy 91%,  mostly Limmer clone,  some vines propagated from Jaboulet's la Chapelle vineyard in the hill of Hermitage,  9% Vi,  vine ages 1994 and 2001;  the grapes de-stemmed,  lightly crushed to leave whole berries;  shortish cuvaison;  MLF commenced in tank,  completed in barrel,  15 – 18 months in French oak mostly new,  some lees stirring,  not a lot of racking;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the lightest of the Trinity Hill Reds.  This is the odd one out,  in its 9% viognier,  and what a wine it is.  Styling is totally Cote Rotie,  and immediately the Guigal grands crus come to mind.  Like them it has a high percentage of new oak,  yet it scarcely shows.  The power of the wine is such that is hard at first to say if the wine is floral,  exactly,  but it is certainly very fragrant.  Later one decides yes,  clearly dusky red roses.  The suppleness of palate is a delight,  the cassis and plummy berry showing a little maturity now,  slightly more oak than the 2010,  the faintest touch of leather in a positive way.   It would be great to see this wine in a blind tasting of the Guigal grands crus of the same year,  La Mouline particularly.  I doubt it will be shamed,  and the oak might be subtler.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 03/13

2009  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $120   [ cork;  hand-picked at about 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac) from Sy 98%,  mostly Limmer clone,  some vines propagated from Jaboulet's la Chapelle vineyard in the hill of Hermitage,  2% Vi,  vine ages 1994 and 2001;  the grapes de-stemmed,  lightly crushed to leave whole berries;  shortish cuvaison;  MLF commenced in tank,  completed in barrel,  c.15 months in French oak mostly new,  some lees stirring,  not a lot of racking;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  a flush of carmine,  not as deep as the 2010.  Oh boy,  the contrast between the 2010 and 2009 wines is sensational.  Both Homages are great examples of the grape,  but the climatic differences between the two seasons separates them.  Whereas the 2010 is cassis-laden reflecting the slightly cooler year,  the 2009 is darkly plummy and almost (glacé) figgy,  much riper,  almost showing a reminder of the very best (i.e. coolest) years of Balmoral Syrah from McLaren Vale.  In mouth the figgy thought really takes hold,  the wine just as rich and concentrated as the 2010,  and just as beautifully made,  but so much riper all through.  There is a soft velvety quality in this wine which suggests it may not cellar as long,  yet the concentration is so good that in fact it should be long-lived.  Which one prefers is a matter of personal style and taste.  Australians and Californians might prefer the 2009,  Europeans the 2010.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 03/13

2011  Te Awanga Estate Syrah   18 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% the website implying but not confirming the vines may be 20 + years age,  hand-picked;  7 days cold-soak,  wild-yeast fermentation,  21 days further skin contact,  cuvaison therefore around 33 days;  18 months in French oak some new;  www.rmwines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a flush of carmine.  Bouquet is the beautiful side of syrah,  immediately floral wallflower more than dianthus,  on cassisy and darkly plummy fruit.  In mouth the fruit is soft and velvety,  quite a nod to Te Mata Bullnose here in styling,  and the oak is beautifully vanillin and soft,  not at all spiky.  This is lovely wine,  and a great debut for Rod McDonald's Te Awanga Estate label.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/13

2010  First Drop Shiraz Mother's Milk   18  ()
Barossa and Eden Valleys,   South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $31   [ screwcap;  Sh 100% from vineyards 180 and 550 m above sea level;  MLF and 15 months on lees in 3 – 4 year old French hogsheads;  www.firstdropwines.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  dense.  Bouquet is rich and fragrant in an appealing style of Barossa shiraz,  darkly plummy grading to boysenberry fruit,  not too much oak,  and mercifully free of euc'y taints though perhaps a little aromatic.  Palate is berry-rich,  concentrated,  and fulfils the promise of the bouquet delightfully.  Despite the 14.5% alcohol (still),  what a joy it is to see shiraz from Australia not too over-ripened,  and not too dominated with new oak,  or devalued with too old oak like Penfolds Bin 28.  This is almost syrah,  and picked at lower Brix,  might have been even closer,  though in a climate where grapes gallop to maturity so quickly,  it is hard to be sure.  If this is the new face of Australian red wine interpretation,  it is more than welcome.  Finish is so rich it seems not bone dry,  but I doubt there is actual residual.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/13

2011  Trinity Hill Syrah Gimblett Gravels   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $35   [ cork;   Sy 96%,  Vi 4,  vine ages back to 1994;  the grapes de-stemmed,  lightly crushed to leave whole berries;  fairly short cuvaison; c.10 months in French oak of varying ages,  some lees-ageing and even lees-stirring,  in a more pinot noir-based approach to the grape nowadays;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is fresh and simple alongside the Homage syrahs,  yet the clarity of varietal character,  with its wallflower and dark red roses florals,  a touch of black pepper,  and cassisy berry,  is a delight.  In mouth there is good berry,  black pepper,  a simpler elevage than the Homage or Te Awanga wines,  so a somewhat simpler and less concentrated flavour.  It couldn't be anything but syrah,  however.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/13

2006  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $120   [ cork;  nominally Sy 96%,  Vi 4,  hand-picked at about 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac) from mostly Limmer clone,  some vines propagated from Jaboulet's la Chapelle vineyard in the hill of Hermitage,  vine ages 1994 and 2001;  the grapes de-stemmed,  lightly crushed to leave whole berries;  shortish cuvaison maybe 15 days;  MLF commenced in tank,  completed in barrel,  c.18 months in French oak 92% new,  some lees stirring,  not a lot of racking,  311 cases;  winemakers Warren Gibson & John Hancock;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the second deepest of the Homages.  On bouquet this Homage is immediately out to one side.  There is a much more European cast to its styling,  and a significant brett component on the rich fruit.  Palate is quite different too,  the oak much more apparent,  the fruit masked,  a hint of saline impression on the phenolics.  It is still immensely concentrated,  and the style as a whole will give much pleasure,  brett being notoriously food-friendly.  It's just not as modern a wine.  Looking back to my earlier 2007 review,  perhaps the brett is a little more apparent now.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  but keep an eye on it.  GK 03/13

2010  Three Brothers Reunited Shiraz   16 ½  ()
McLaren Vale mostly,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Sh 100%;  no useful info on website;  www.journeysendvineyards.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  dense.  This is a more typically Australian shiraz,  rich in boysenberry fruit,  high in vanillin oak,  some euc'y taints,  a big South Australian red.  In mouth it is riper than the Mother's Milk wine,  browner in flavour,  all big soft and rich,  lots of fruit,  clean,  possibly not bone dry,  not as heavy as the bouquet suggested,  but very oaky and popular.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/13

2009  The Hay Paddock Syrah Harvest Man   14 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $39   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,   hand-picked;  c.12 months in French oak,  60% 1-year,  balance older;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Pale ruby and garnet.  Bouquet is sensationally bretty,  no varietal character remaining,  though still winey in the style of an old-fashioned light southern Rhone red.  Palate is light and still surprisingly pleasing,  (browning) pinot noir weight,  gently oaked,  but the berry pretty well faded into leathery animal flavours.  A fully mature wine in a very old-fashioned European styling,  but as with many bretty wines,  still food-friendly.  I cannot explain this bottle seeming so different from one tasted last year,  but the strange experiences under supposedly infallible screwcap are increasing.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/13

All other red wines, blends etc
2010  Trinity Hill Tempranillo   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ supercritical 'cork';  Te 90%,  TN 10,  hand-picked;  the grapes de-stemmed but not crushed,  fermentation in s/s,  curtailed cuvaison;  elevation for 15 months in mostly French oak,  some new,  some American,  some held in s/s for freshness;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  really dense.  Bouquet is wonderfully pure,  dark,  rich and velvety,  even on bouquet,  but it doesn't smell like tempranillo.  Happily cabernet is now omitted,  but the blending variety touriga nacional used here makes the wine much too black-fruited and aromatic,  I think,  to fit classical tempranillo.  This is a pity,  because tempranillo in its more correct pinot-noir-like sensory spectrum (despite what most winewriters say) could be well suited to New Zealand.  Later palate is still darkly plummy,  bottled omega plums,  and oak is well-balanced to the rich fruit.  Finish is dry and a little short as yet,  considering the weight of the wine.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  perhaps longer,  when it may be transformed into something more 'correct'.  GK 03/13

2009  First Drop Montepulciano Minchia   16 +  ()
Adelaide Hills,   South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $31   [ screwcap;  Mo 100% (implied) from vineyards 340m above seas level;  14 days cuvaison;  MLF and 24 months on lees in 10% new French hogsheads,  the balance 3 and 4 years old French hogsheads;  www.firstdropwines.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  very dense.  Unlike the other two First Drop wines,  this one is a bit of a monster,  a caricature of the oaky,  very minty and euc'y Australian red class.  There is great richness of berry fruit on the palate,  but no hope of any varietal character.  Flavours are very long and aromatic on saturated minty fruit and oak.  Heroic red drinkers will love this,  but those seeking a little European finesse and food-friendliness must look elsewhere.  In its style it is beautifully made,  but the total impression is about as subtle as the name – the Australian approach again.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  perhaps longer.  GK 03/13