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

Geoff Kelly  MSc (Hons)

The annual Hawkes Bay Hot Red Expo presented by Hawkes Bay WineGrowers continues to be one of the premier public wine events in New Zealand,  leaving aside the international symposiums which are more the preserve of the sponsored or the wealthy.  This year in Wellington (16 June,  2014) 149 people attended the trade session (last year 120),  and then there was a great consumer turn-out in the evening,  237 people (last year 135).  The Auckland attendances next day were 175 trade,  and 195 consumers.  As the centre of gravity of the wine industry moves south from its historic Auckland base,  it is good to see Wellingtonians burnishing their reputation as keen wine people.

It is intriguing to observe who comes to the Hot Red Expos.  Winemakers from other districts are conspicuous by their absence.  Extraordinary,  as if they had nothing to learn.  So too are self-styled wine aficionados,  for all too often their alleged interest in wine actually translates to being primarily interested only in imported wine,  or expensive wine,  or both.  This is the less-attractive side of the wine scene.  The bulk of the people there are from wine retail and hospitality in the widest sense,  and then in the evening everyday wine consumers.  The extent to which all these engage the winemakers in conversation is a pleasure to see.  And speaking of hospitality,  the WineGrowers provided snack food again throughout,  which is a great gesture.  Without wishing to appear ungrateful,  two details could be improved.  Firstly the food was on the soft and floppy side,  and hence messy trying to pick it up and eat it,  when one already has a glass and the programme in hand.  And secondly some of the flavours were strong,  and not best suited to aiding wine evaluation.

The Wineries and their approach:
Wineries participating in Wellington this year were:

Alpha Domus
Babich Wines
Beach House
Church Road Winery
Clearview Estate
Coopers Creek
Crossroads Winery
Cypress Wines
Elephant Hill
Esk Valley Estate [ Villa Maria Group ]     
Lime Rock Wines
Mills Reef Winery
Mission Estate Winery

Ngatarawa Wines
Pask Winery
Rod McDonald Wines
Sacred Hill
Sileni Estates
Squawking Magpie
Te Awa Winery [ Villa Maria Group ]     
Te Mata Estate
Tironui Estate
Trinity Hill
Unison Vineyard
Vidal Estate [ Villa Maria Group ]
Villa Maria [ Villa Maria Group ]

Abbey Cellars,  Ash Ridge and Black Barn Vineyards elected to go to Auckland only.  In the light of the attendances above,  wineries going to one-only of the two venues must decide who they most seek to impress,  trade or the public.  All told there about 80 wineries listed by the Wine Institute of New Zealand as active in Hawkes Bay,  but some one has never heard of,  and others are notional or subsumed within bigger companies.  Perhaps there are 55 real ones,  so about half of them contributed to the Expo.  It would be good to hear more from the so many other silent wineries.

Leaving aside all the Hawkes Bay wineries who do not bother to participate in the Hot Red Expo at all – hard to tally as above,  but 25-odd,  those who did participate showed wildly differing attitudes to and respect for the public.  Most wineries had winemaking staff present,  who are after all the people the typical visitor most wants to talk to.  Some had their most senior winemaker there.  Some made the effort to draw barrel samples of the highly-anticipated 2013 vintage,  knowing that keen consumers would be wondering how the important wines from that vintage were shaping up.  Others brought their most famous wines,  even though they might not be for sale.  The whole point of the Hot Red Expo should surely be to show what a winery can achieve,  not merely to hawk what they currently want to sell.  This simple concept seems to escape some Hawkes Bay proprietors.  
Among those with an excellent approach,  Villa Maria for example not only had their top winemaker down from Auckland,  they also presented three vintages of their Reserve Syrah,  a $60 wine,  for evaluation.  Thus the customer can appraise the winery,  then also learn a great deal about winemaking in Hawkes Bay,  and the play of the seasons in three different years.  Church Road likewise had their top winemaker,  and their flagship cabernet / merlot wine 2009 Tom,  a $120-plus wine,  available to taste on request.  Any opportunity to taste Tom is a thrill.  Sacred Hill likewise had their top man there,  offering a preview of their 2013 Riflemans Chardonnay,  arguably New Zealand's top and most famous chardonnay.  They also had not one but two vintages of their now-quite-expensive flagship wines Helmsman Cabernet and Brokenstone Merlot available – again a thrill.  And Esk Valley even drew barrel samples of 2013 The Terraces,  one of New Zealand's rarest and most expensive red wines.  This kind of gesture is really appreciated.  

The Vidal winery had their top winemaker present,  and pre-release samples of what they consider their finest chardonnay ever.  It is widely known that Hugh Crichton has been on a personal crusade to make great chardonnay for some years,  and his chardonnays each year are now exciting to check.  This wine,  to be called 2012 Vidal Chardonnay Legacy Series,  looks to be an antipodean Corton-Charlemagne look-alike.    But additionally they also had pre-release samples of their top 2009 and 2010 Cabernet / Merlot Legacy Series wines.  Babich,  Ngatarawa and Alpha Domus all showed their top wines,  if not their winemakers.  This approach really builds customer goodwill.  

In contrast it was apparent that other wineries,  including some which talk a great deal about their achievements and supposed quality,  had neither winemakers or anything beyond their bread and butter lines for tasting.  Not very convincing,  in fact,  disappointing.  The Hot Red Expo is an ideal forum in which to actually demonstrate the reality of one's claims.  And Craggy Range,  who used to attend,  did not participate at all.  This is a particularly poor show,  for a winery described by Decanter magazine as recently as 14 June this year as:  "a producer that has established itself as a significant global player".  Does the home market no longer count ?

My approach to the Hot Reds this year:
#  For last year's Hot Red Expo,  I prepared a lengthy review introducing the wines and wine circumstances of Hawkes Bay,  which I ask you to refer to.  I have taken the vintage chart from that review,  and amended it for this year's report,  but the balance of the introductory text can serve as an introduction to this year's report as well.  This year,  the emphasis is on a briefer article dealing more particularly with the wines alone.  Please note that in no case were last (or previous) year's notes referred to,  before drafting this year's review.  Any coincidence of comment (which one hopes to achieve) reflects only a consistency of approach.
#  Each year I concentrate on either Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends,  or Northern Rhone / Syrah winestyles,  in anticipation of and to prepare for the matching lecture & tasting I present in the spring,  to the Oenology and Viticulture Level 3 class at Lincoln University.  This year is the Bordeaux blends turn,  but I collected a few other (syrah) samples not only because I couldn't resist them,  but also to better utilise and facilitate the calibration opportunity some Jaboulet wines (below) allowed.  The number of wines reviewed is set by it not being easy to carry more than 60 glass-samples,  for later blind evaluation.
# The emphasis this year in marking is to reward palate weight and fruit ripeness,  particularly for the higher rankings.  This reflects my desire to give greater importance to (as assessed by taste) dry extract,  a measure of wine quality traditionally important in Europe,  but not much thought about in New Zealand.  I also continue to be concerned about reduced sulphurs in New Zealand wine,  and under-ripe / stalky fruit qualities,  both of which are tolerated in New Zealand wine media and judging circles more than they should be,  if absolute quality of New Zealand wine rather than volume exported is the goal.  Dry extract is not easily assessed in normal judging mode,  i.e. in haste and spitting,  and requires a more contemplative approach.  My approach to these three  elements of wine assessment,  coupled with the time put into prolonged comparative blind assessment of  the wine samples (days,  lots of ice),  will in many cases explain why my ratings are at times very different from 'the conventional wisdom' in New Zealand.  
#  Please note that barrel samples are an absolute occupational hazard for winewriters – yet it is great to see them.  My notes on them assess their relative quality as they stood on the day.  In no way can they be seen as a final statement,  until the wine is bottled and recovered from bottling.  Limitations of my site do not allow me to put those scores in square brackets,  so an interim or indicative score seems better than a blank.   Each wine known to be a barrel sample is clearly identified as such,  and the notes should therefore be read in the light of this caveat.  It is only human nature that the samples drawn for the Hot Red Expo would tend to be taken from one of the best barrels – surely ?  And after blending,  some of the wines will be fined,  or filtered,  or both.  So the final bottled wine really may be quite different.  And specifically,  in many cases,  its apparent quality now may well be much impaired by further or excessive time in oak.  Most of our winemakers simply do not taste the classic wines of the world enough to recognise and accept that the Australasian approach to oak is heavy-handed,  and caters only to new-world palates.  New world palates tend to rate size ahead of beauty.  Wines such as Penfolds Grange have totally distorted Australasian concepts of what fine wine should be.  It is a limitation we must grow out of,  but it will not be happening soon,  while the industry remains so curiously dependent on 'overseas' wine opinion.  In particular,  this limitation is reinforced by the industry giving far too much credence to Australian wine judges,  notwithstanding the intrinsic qualities of our wines reflect a viticultural milieu stylistically and climatically a world apart from theirs.  For all these reasons therefore,  the reviews of barrels samples in this review must be regarded as at best a hedged bet,  which may prove to be completely misleading when the final bottled wines become available.
#  Further to the comments above about sometimes-unhelpful Australian influences on our wine,  as in some  previous years I have used a tasting of quality French wines (in this case a highly-relevant Jaboulet tasting presented by Glengarry Wines,  and reflecting the new-found resurrection of this long-established Rhone Valley firm by the Frey family,  owners of Ch La Lagune,  Margaux) to calibrate the New Zealand wines.  I do not see much evidence of other wine commentators doing this,  in New Zealand.  It is critically necessary,  to avoid  parochialism and the limitations noted earlier.  In this connection,  the ludicrously inflated scores for wine now endemic among Australasian winewriters would be laughable,  if the whole phenomenon were not so misleading and unrealistic.  Unfortunately,  the industry encourages this kind of hyperbole,  so early change here is not likely,  either.  
#  Residual sugar:  readers should not fret about some of the wines being shown as < 2 g/L RS,  others < 1 g/L RS,  and yet others as 'dry'.  There are at least three analytical methods of establishing residual sugar,  and each gives different results.  In practical terms,  all of these entries should be regarded as saying the same thing,  though one is dependent on the wineries in fact faithfully using 'dry' as meaning <2 g/L.  In this context,  the 2 g/L refers (or should refer) to unfermentable sugar,  meaning unfermentable by Saccharomyces spp.  All wines contain such sugars,  pentoses,  hexoses,  etc,  plus where appropriate wood-sugars derived from oak.  Note some of these can be fermented by yeasts from other genera (hence sterile filtering for Brettanomyces),  and by some bacteria.  In trying to assess residual sugar,  one also has to bear in mind that wines of high dry extract can seem slightly 'sweet',  simply due to the enhanced textural richness such wines show.  Trace glycerol from fermentation also 'sweetens' the wine.  Among the wines evaluated for this review,  only one winemaker tends to make their red wines with actual residual sugar (Coopers Creek).  They commonly opt for about 3 g/L.  Most people cannot exactly taste this,  but may note the wine seems more fruity.  Acute tasters can however detect this level of sugar.  Those brought up on European wines tend to disapprove,  simply because European dry wines have traditionally been bone dry,  both white and red.  At the supermarket level,  this is likely to change as more European producers cater to the American taste for 'fruitier' wines.    

A quick nett impression of the 2014 Hot Red Expo:
The wines shown spanned (mostly) 2009 to 2013,  and thus included the full range of Hawkes Bay seasons,  to judge from the last 20 years.  Some of the reds shown are simply among the best wines ever made in the district.  But there is scope for greater beauty and finesse yet,  once winemakers taste sufficiently widely and often enough to realise they are obsessed with oak in their wines,  to their detriment compared with the classics of Europe.  Sadly they have found that oak wins awards in comparative judgings,  whether in New Zealand or overseas,  even in England.  This usually does not translate to pleasure at the table.  Europe remains the model for New Zealand,  and not for reasons of insecurity.  I can only repeat that for us in the New Zealand temperate-climate viticultural milieu,  warm-country wines remain at best a distraction,  and at worst actively misleading.  Only a few mostly barrel-samples of the highly-anticipated 2013 season were shown,  but many makers believe the best will surpass anything prior.  Much will depend on how they are handled in elevage,  and how many sacrifice the beauty of their fruit now on the altar of oak.  Please check the elevage detail given later for 2010 Jaboulet La Chapelle,  one of the most achingly beautiful wines I have tasted in 45 years,  and compare it with the elevage of some of the top-level New Zealand wines here.  The Jaboulet winemaker is now from Bordeaux,  just to reinforce the point.

Then there are the the distinctly cool-year 2012s.  The best of the latter show just how far New Zealand winemakers have progressed in the last 20 years.  A surprising number of the 2012s were pleasing little wines – the syrahs particularly successful in the context of the year,  and some of the merlot / cabernets real petites bordeaux in style,  some even with little or no searing acidity,  scarcely any green edges,  only moderate stalks.  They show wonderful attention to the fruit in the vineyard,  then skilful winemaking.  They will give much more pleasure than anticipated,  but they are for the short-term,  for simple enjoyment,  for say 5 years or so.  They are scarcely cellar wines.  Their main failing is too many wineries have refused to adjust the prices downwards to reflect the modest qualities of the wines of the year.  Some of them are objectionably and unrealistically over-priced.  This is another area where we should learn from the French,  since we too are a temperate-climate winemaking region.  Nature rules.

Turning to the 2011s,  the best of them excited me,  and required me to adjust the notes in the vintage chart (below).  Finally there is the exciting matched pair of fine vintages,  the cooler 2010s and warmer 2009s,  discussed last year.  Not only do they offer a wonderfully complementary pair of vintages,  between them encompassing nearly the full range of legitimate styles from temperate-climate cabernet / merlot (and  related) and syrah reds,  but they also exactly mimic the sequence of vintages in both Bordeaux and the Northern Rhone.  They will all repay study for many years to come,  irrespective of the charms of the perhaps more-accessible 2013s (and 2014s ...) to come.  

Finally,  on the price issue again,  some of these wines reflect yet another 10% increase in price in the last year or two.  There seems to be a belief among some New Zealand winemakers that the wine consumer will forever accept these increases,  without regard to the actual increase in the domestic CPI,  or the absolute quality of the wine.  Are they supposing that New Zealanders will become as blindly patriotic about New Zealand wines as Australians are about theirs ?  The fact is that prices for comparable European wines have in many cases eased in the same timespan.  There are many attractively priced wines elsewhere in the market,  for consumers prepared to do a little research.  

For example,  The Wine Importer (Kumeu) has recently had many pleasing and cellar-worthy bourgeois cru such as the always-reliable Ch de Courteillac for just under $30,  and others just over that mark.  They were from the great 2009 and 2010 years,  and both well-fruited and not over-oaked,  so much more food-friendly.  At a higher level,  the long-established Auckland wine merchant Peter Maude has from the West Bank the old friend 2010 Ch Paveil de Luze  (cabernet / merlot,  Margaux) @ $46.00,  rated 92 points by Robert Parker,  with the comment it will cellar for 15 or more years.  This is a wine of a beauty,  finesse,  ripeness and varietal specificity thus far scarcely matched matched in New Zealand,  though it is not a big wine.  It is hard to imagine an affordable wine better showing classic silky Margaux structure.  Maude also has other clarets including one from a highly regarded oenologist in  Bordeaux (Stephane Derenoncourt),  cropped at an unthinkable-by-New Zealand standards 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac),  yet still priced at $58.00.  Trinity's Homage and Esk's The Terraces can be excepted from that viticultural charge,  though note both are twice the price.  Traditionally,  few New Zealand reds were rich,  which is why I have been talking about dry extract for years now.  Latterly,  however it is true to say that the best of ours are progressively becoming more truly international in their technical parameters.  

There are one or two wines in this report which have scored 92 points or so from Robert Parker,  but some of them are priced up to $75 and one at $130 +.  There is a credibility gap.  Too many of our people simply are not sufficiently familiar with the wines of the world,  when it comes to pricing.  Where Robert Parker and (the overly-severe) Jancis Robinson scores are available,  they are included in the admin section of my reviews.  Note they may not be authored by Robinson or Parker personally.  Even so,  they provide the essential pan-Atlantic assessment we need,  to compare and contrast the views of American (warm-climate) and English (temperate-climate) people,  both the top critics in their country.  And both sampling an infinitely wider range of the wines of the world than Australasian commentators.  The goal is simply a reality check.  It is also worth mentioning that prices for New Zealand pinot noir have eased,  not before time,  and quality has increased.  With Marlborough now coming on stream as a producer of serious and in many cases well-priced pinots,  these eminently food-friendly wines will understandably provide stiff competition for Hawkes Bay wines.


  8 – 9  
Unexpectedly,  2013 having been regarded as the best vintage ever,  the feeling now is 2014 may be as good.  In terms of the Southern Oscillation,  neutral to weak La Nina.  The season was early,  there was one wet day (75mm) in flowering late November,  but mostly this stage passed without trouble,  then it was much drier than usual through to 6 April (March through to April 5 indication <50mm Gravels, <20mm Triangle),  when around 80mm fell in three days,  then a respite till 16 April when over 100mm fell,  pretty well closing the season.  Most had their cabernet in by then,  but some felt the cabernets were slightly curtailed.  Perhaps they were seeking wines which those attuned to classic claret would call over-ripe.  The GDD for the season is marginally the highest in the last 5 seasons,  Triangle 1490,  Gimblett Gravels 1480,  but the Gravels notably wetter in the April rain,  50% more.  A slight worry some of the syrahs will be big rather than floral and beautiful,  which is not the preferred destiny for this thus-far-distinctive and exciting variety in New Zealand.  Riflemans and The Terraces both made,  Tom not decided yet.  Two seasons of this apparent promise is a godsend to winemakers and consumers alike.  There should be no excuse for leafy and stalky cabernet blends (unless that feared curtailing of the cabernet ripening curve turns out to be real),  and those who continue to impose them on the New Zealand market are likely to be both over-cropping and over-charging.  Perhaps New Zealanders will be weaned off them ... a hope.  Perhaps even the less-desirable malbec will perform well – a mixed message,  since it is not a variety well-suited to New Zealand.  More a merlot and syrah year,  but some will have great cabernet too.  Again,  tasting will (in time) tell.


8 + – 9 +
A remarkably good long summer,  and not unduly hot.  El Nino early summer,  La Nina later didn't help the rainfall total.  Triangle 1435 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1410 GDD.  March / April rain indication 115mm good but not ideal.  Winemakers nonetheless are hopeful this may be the best season for reds yet (and uniformly across all districts),  in the current (meaning post-Prohibition) era.  Riflemans,  The Terraces and Tom all made.  Some reports of delayed physiological maturity and syrahs and cabernets running out of warmth,  though alcohols tending high.  Continuing high levels of winemaker enthusiasm for the vintage mean it is still too early to say if the best wines of 2009 and 2010 will in fact be surpassed.  Initial tasting of the few serious red wines presented in the 2014 Hot Red Expo shows attractive ripe fruit,  and supple and potentially satisfying wines of international calibre.  Definitely a cabernet year.  Further assessment needed.


2 – 4
Tending El Nino in April only.  Triangle 1120 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1170 GDD,  March / April rain indication 235.  Initially settled but late flowering with some rain,  wet January,  some respite till 60 mm 19 & 20 March initiated wet phase till 11 April,  then dryish till 30 mm 9 – 10 May.  An extraordinary year,  the worst in 20 years,  the persistent cold and lateness of the season (veraison two weeks late) having many growers in despair well into March.  But ultimately a vintage in two halves,  virtually all the whites cold and rain-affected,  yet because cooler than 2011,  less disease pressure for some producers on the critical chardonnay crop,  chance of reasonably good low-alcohol chardonnays locally.  A few merlots picked in March due to incipient rot,  very modest.  Later March rain did not help,  some fruit abandoned at this point.  Then late second week April an El Nino turnaround,  with syrah being the successful variety,  some delightful wines but white pepper rather than black – more likely those from Gimblett Gravels.  Insufficient warmth in system for international-quality cabernet blends,  however,  as bad as 2003,  though some tried hard – and nearly succeeded.  Picking of reds continued into May – but many light and green-tinged wines.  No Riflemans or The Terraces.  At this stage winemakers are so relieved by the dry April,  the reports may be too favourable – the data-loggers do say the coldest season in many years,  with one station reporting a GDD of 1050,  a Waipara number.  Smaller crop than 2011.  Cellar purchases unlikely.  Petite wines across the board,  but some astonishing 'saves',   showing the depth of learning there has been in the leading wineries in the last 15 years.
20115 – 7The clearest La Nina season this century,  warm but very difficult,  the wettest season in recent years,  requiring great attention to detail in the viticulture.  Triangle 1390 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1360 GDD,  March / April rain indication 270 mm.  Dry spring and flowering till 25 mm 15 Dec,  most flowering done by then,  large crops.  January wet,  c. 175 mm,  February dryish,  20 mm 6 March,  50 mm 21 & 22 Mar,  because warm too,  disease pressure made acutely difficult for chardonnay.  If whites not in by 21 March,  disease pressure – some fruit left on vines.  Nonetheless,  remarkable sauvignon blanc reported (maybe 8 +) by Te Mata,  Sacred Hill have made their Graves-styled Sauvage,  and Craggy Range have some very good wines.  April initially better,  enough warmth for many reds (even including possibly cabernet sauvignon on best sites) to achieve fair physiological maturity,  then 90 mm 25 – 27 April more or less terminated season.  Lighter reds therefore,  but some fragrant and pleasing wines.  But there are always exceptions:  Church Road made an astonishingly good Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve.  Villa Maria initially dubious they would have any Reserve reds;  finally an outstanding Reserve Syrah emerged.  Sacred Hill's top two reds are attractive,  but somewhat lighter.  No The Terraces.  No Riflemans,  either.  A vintage where critical tasting will be essential before buying a case of pretty well anything.


7 – 9
El Nino Jan to mid-April the strongest since 1998,  then La Nina.  Triangle 1245 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1245 GDD,  March / April rain indication 55 mm.  Light frost 7 & 20 Oct,  flowering looking good till 70 mm 3 – 5 Dec. impaired some vars.  Further 60 mm rain 31 Jan & 1 Feb despite El Nino,  so February not ideal,  season late.  Temperatures in places below average.  Then astonishing improvement / dry season March and April into May,  some very good whites and the best chardonnay outstanding (inc. Riflemans,  maybe 9 +) and gewurz like 2004,  others merely adequate.  Reds not comparable with Auckland district to north,  but small crops led to some promising merlot and syrah including many Reserve wines.  Some cabernets fell short,  best Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends will be merlot-dominant probably (Villa Maria may run counter).  No The Terraces.  Syrah now seems the outstanding red,  the best matching 'grand cru' Hermitage,  the required cellar variety for the vintage.  Best perhaps 9 +,  at least for the most careful viticulturists,  but in a crisper more aromatic style than 2009 (just like the Northern Rhone).  Not all Hawkes Bay blends released yet,  so this may change.  As with both Bordeaux and the Northern Rhone in France,  comparisons between 2009 and 2010,  and between the two countries likewise,  will be rewarding for many years.
20098 – 9 +A La Nina vintage.  Triangle 1355 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1410 GDD,  March / April rain indication 60 mm.  20 mm rain 27 Nov in flowering.  Variable summer,  growing degree days above average and rainfall below.  Wet patch totalling 50 mm starting 28 Feb.,  local hassles for chardonnay but 7 – 9 overall.  Riflemans made.  March coolish,  merlots looking good to great but some initial doubts about cabernet.  Then April dry apart from 15 mm 20 April,  near-ideal for reds,  little doubt (till 2013) that for the best producers 2009 produced the best cabernet sauvignon ever with wonderful richness and ripeness,  and that the best Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends exceed those of 2007.  Tom perhaps even fractionally over-ripe.  The Terraces made.  Some fine syrahs made,  but if goal is the French model,  some over-ripeness.  Some winemakers prefer their 2010 syrah.  As always,  hard to generalise,  much depended on the quality of viticulture,  and the yields sought.  No doubt though the best cabernet-dominant Hawkes Bay blends are required buying for any thoughtful and long-term Hawkes Bay cellar.  Syrah likewise.  Comparisons with Bordeaux and Northern Rhone 2009 and 2010s to look forward to.
20085 – 7Clear La Nina season.  Triangle 1340 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1430 GDD,  March / April rain indication 175 mm.  Frost 4 Oct,  varying impact,  then settled flowering,  temperatures average for season,  rainfall below average initially,  but then increasing.  Easterlies dominant = humidity.  So a difficult vintage,  uneven ripening and conflicting reports,  achieving good cabernet difficult,  on average merlots better physiological maturity – and occasional good ones.  Syrah quality localised,  white pepper rather than black,  Craggy Le Sol for example lighter and more aromatic,  better,  some think.  No Homage,  however.  For reds generally,  lighter wines,  few Reserve / top tier reds due to green notes in cabernets.  No Rifleman's Chardonnay from Dartmoor Valley.  Perhaps like '05 & '06 will be occasional notable exceptions,  for example 2008 said to be better for Te Awanga district reds than 2007,  but a difficult red wine zone in any case.
20077 – 9A weak El Nino season.  Triangle 1380 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1385 GDD,  March / April rain indication 75 mm.  Some frost 10 Oct.  Average temperatures but very dry Jan to April (driest 10 years),  near-perfect for many sites,  with full physiological maturity achievable at attractive (13.5%) alcohols in many appropriately-cropped reds.   The Terraces not made,  though climatic data OK.  Syrahs soft and rich,  but perhaps not as aromatic as best '05 / '06.  Fine whites too,  chardonnays among best of decade,  Riflemans made.  Vintage now challenged / surpassed (for some) by 2009 (and 2013 maybe) as the best red wine vintage of decade.  Later tastings reveal that Church Road excelled in their 2007 Reserves including Tom (exceptional),  and several other wineries have produced top wines which will match Second or Third-Growth Bordeaux,  or 'grand cru' northern Rhone.  Trinity Homage '07 matches la Chapelle in best years of '80s,  and La Collina highly rated.  An exciting vintage for Hawkes Bay,  but Trinity Hill rate 2006 higher (intriguing,  and counter-intuitive given the high March / April rainfall).
20066 – 8La Nina vintage.  Triangle 1340 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1470 GDD,  March / April rain indication 195 mm.  55 mm 27 to 29 Nov,  in flowering,  then dryish till 55 mm in the March 21 to 26 period.  One of warmest years of decade,  rainfall above average too but localised / unpredictable though March and April,  as in 2005.  Triangle March / April is 135mm vs Gravels nearly twice that. Then 85 mm starting 28 April finished the season.  Results variable,  some fine chardonnays including Church Road and Riflemans.  Some very good reds e.g. Church Road & Villa Maria Reserves may surpass 2005 in Hawkes Bay blends.  The Terraces made.  The best syrahs in an Hermitage style,  not Cote Rotie,  and include Trinity Hill Homage,  not made in 2005,  and Esk Valley.  Excellence of 2007 has now taken attention away from 2006.  Many reds fractionally lighter than best 2005s,  though described as fragrant,  ripe and stylish.  Which is better of 2006 and 2005 depends entirely on the winery / location,  so scores the same.  A London blind tasting (p.5) later ranked 2006 Helmsman # 4 in a batch of 2005 Bordeaux (fine year,  including first growths) and Gimblett Gravels wines.
20056 – 8 +El Nino dominant.  Longlands 1355 GDD,  Gimblett Gravels 1375 GDD,  March / April rain indication (substituting Longlands for Triangle) 150 mm.  Some frost early,  21 Oct.  40 mm rain late flowering 4 & 5 Dec.  Very dry coolish summer throughout till mid-May,  except for c.50 mm 18 March (up to 80 mm near Roy's Hill).  Best wines excellent,  but patch-wise March rain significantly raised botrytis issues and reduced final quality for some growers,  despite dry subsequently.  No Homage,  for example.  April dry unlike 2006,  and the top reds and particularly cabernet-dominant from selected wineries inc. Church Road and Craggy Range are very good.  A very Bordeaux-like Coleraine too.  The Terraces not made.  Best syrahs aromatic and very fragrant,  a fine Bullnose suggesting Cote-Rotie.  Critical selection needed for cellaring.  Some good whites this year,  including Riflemans Chardonnay.  My score more for better wines – an overlooked vintage,  in my view.
20044 – 6Highly erratic,  but April El Nino set in.  March / April rain indication (using Twyford,  Longlands and Havelock North) 60 mm.  Difficult flowering,  35 mm rain 26 & 27 Nov,  35 for 10 & 11 Dec.  Second coolest vintage of decade,  February both cold and wet with 40 mm rain 16 Feb,  then March dry,  leading to good Indian summer through April.  In general,  too late and cool for cabernets.  Best Gimblett Gravels reds fragrant and attractive if not over-oaked,  but red fruits more than black.  Beyond Gravels,  many leafy reds developing too rapidly.  Conversely,   The Terraces was made,  and many stunning whites,  marvellous / benchmark chardonnays including exceptional Riflemans (9 +) and gewurzs !
20032 – 4El Nino vintage.  For many growers,  severe and widespread frost 5 Oct. destroyed newly-budded shoots especially chardonnay,  meaning inevitably a very late season for resprouted shoots.  The coolish,  mainly dryish but difficult season did not help make up lost time.  Small crops,  but then humid periods following 25 mm March 12,  15 mm 7 April,  led to frequent rot.  Some reasonable medium-weight red wines,  virtually no Reserve wines anywhere.  Craggy Range declassified more than 60% of crop.
20027 – 9La Nina changing to El Nino March.  Modest early season and 45 mm rain 9 & 10 Dec at late flowering,  65 mm 18 Dec,  damp early summer,  105 mm Feb 13 & 14,  40 mm 14 & 15 March,  bleak prospects,  then miraculous Indian autumn (apart from 25 mm 26 April no significant rain till end May) gave best quality and quantity vintage since 1998,  but high alcohols – referred to locally by some as the Californian vintage.  At best very good reds,  but some too big.  The Terraces made.  Not the technical knowledge then as now,  but the best cellaring well.  Riflemans Chardonnay made.  Some whites also too big.
20013 – 5La Nina vintage.  Widespread frost 19 Nov and cool flowering generally led to reduced crops,  difficult summer,  coolest year of decade.  Some settled spells March allowed some fine chardonnays to be made,  including a long-lived Riflemans.  20 mm rain 3 April and 30 mm 12 April cooled soils and raised botrytis pressure,  uneven ripening,  mostly lean red wines,  now fully mature or fading.  Where very small crops / exceptional viticulture,  occasional growers such as Trinity Hill produced well-ripened wines.
20006 – 8 +La Nina vintage.  Promising  spring apart from 80 mm rain 28/9 Nov. at early flowering  Some good chardonnays made in March,  including Riflemans and exceptional Clearview Reserve and Elston.  For reds,  as in Bordeaux,  not a perfectly dry season,  but a settled summer / autumn except for 70 mm rain 8 - 10 April.  Where viticulture good and cropping rates were conservative,  a plentiful and stylish vintage with good wines.  Reasonable alcohols,  and Bordeaux style in the best blends too – so much so that 2000 Te Mata Coleraine was in 2003 judged in the top 10 reds in a bordeaux-blends class at VinExpo,  in Bordeaux !  The Terraces made.  Score given is more for the better cellar wines.           www.geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz

I appreciate very much that winemakers continue to be happy to respond to queries and in some cases repeated emails.  Thank you.


Because in a temperate climate,  optimally-ripened syrah and cabernet sauvignon share critical aroma and flavour characteristics,  plus with riper syrah there is also an overlap with correctly-ripened and not over-oaked merlot,  all wines are presented below in one hierarchy.  There is more to be learnt,  that way.

2010  Alpha Domus [ Cabernets / Merlot ] The Aviator
2011  Alpha Domus [ Merlot / Cabernets / Malbec ] The Navigator
2012  Babich Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Cabernet Franc Irongate
2011  Babich Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot The Patriarch
2012  Babich Merlot Winemakers Reserve
2011  Beach House Cabernet Franc
2011  Beach House Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec
2011  Church Road Cabernet Sauvignon McDonald Series
2009  Church Road Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Tom
2011  Church Road Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve
2011  Church Road Merlot McDonald Series
2012  Clearview Estate [ Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet ] Enigma
2013  Clearview Merlot / Malbec Cape Kidnappers
2011  Coopers Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 'Gravels & Metals' Select Vineyards
2011  Coopers Creek Malbec St John Select Vineyards
2012  Coopers Creek Merlot
2012  Crossroads Cabernet / Merlot Winemakers Collection
2013  Crossroads Merlot Milestone Series
2011  Crossroads Talisman
2012  Cypress Merlot
2012  Elephant Hill [ Malbec / Cabernet Franc / Merlot ] Hieronymus
2013  Elephant Hill Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Le Phant
2013  Elephant Hill Syrah
2013  Esk Valley [ Malbec / Merlot / Cabernet Franc ] The Terraces:  Barrel-Sample
2010  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon Winemakers Reserve
2013  Esk Valley Syrah Reserve:  Barrel-Sample
2010  Jaboulet Cote-Rotie Domaine des Pierelles
2009  Jaboulet Cote-Rotie Domaine des Pierelles
2009  Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Roure
2010  Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Roure
2010  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle
2007  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle
2010  Jaboulet Hermitage La Petite Chapelle
2009  Jaboulet Hermitage La Petite Chapelle
  2013  Mills Reef Cabernet Sauvignon Elspeth:  Barrel-Sample
2013  Mills Reef Syrah Elspeth:  Barrel-Sample
2011  Mission Cabernet / Merlot Antoine Jewelstone
2012  Mission Estate Merlot Reserve
2009  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Alwyn Winemaker's Reserve
2013  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Stables Reserve
2010  Pask Winery Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Malbec Gimblett Road
2013  Red Metal Merlot / Cabernet Franc
2010  Rod McDonald Wines Merlot / Cabernet Franc Two Gates
2011  Rod McDonald Wines Merlot / Malbec Quarter Acre
2010  Sacred Hill [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Helmsman
2011  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman
2011  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone
2010  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone
2013  Sileni Cabernet Franc Cellar Selection
2013  Sileni Merlot 100% Cellar Selection
2012  Squawking Magpie Merlot / Cabernets The Nest
2010  Te Awa Cabernet / Merlot
2013  Te Mata Estate Merlot / Cabernets Estate Vineyards
2010  Tironui Estate Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon
2009  Tironui Estate Malbec / Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon
2012  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Gimblett
2009  Unison [  Cabernet / Merlot ] Selection
2010  Unison [ Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah ] Classic Blend
2010  Unison Merlot Reserve
2010  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Legacy Series
2009  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Legacy Series
2011  Vidal Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Series
2012  Villa  Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve
2009  Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve (Library Release)
2013  Villa Maria Merlot Organic Cellar Selection
2012  Villa Maria Syrah Reserve
2011  Villa Maria Syrah Reserve
2010  Villa Maria Syrah Reserve

2010  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle   19 ½  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $399   [ 55mm cork;  hand-picked from 40 – 60 year vines at < 2.5 t/ha  (1 t/ac);  website not forthcoming as to elevage,  but Robert Parker reports 15 months in barrel,  20% new oak;  Parker,  96+:  great wine;  Tanzer,  96:  intensely perfumed (NZ winemakers please note,  how do you smell floral components if the wine is over-oaked,  vanillin alone is not enough);  Robinson,  18+:  real density;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a lovely colour and weight, the richest of the Jaboulets.  Bouquet impresses first for its wonderful purity,  then its eloquent expression of perfectly ripe cassis just grading into bottled black doris plums.  This smells at the perfect point of varietal expression,  in terms of my ripening curve for syrah (The World of Fine Wine,  Issue 34,  2011).  When you focus on the bouquet,  there are dusky florals too,   hinting at darkest red roses and violets,  but also mingling with traces of freshly cracked black pepper.   Tasting the wine is simply heavenly,  it is a perfect condensation of all the aromas on bouquet,  into a moderately rich yet not heavy wine of great clarity and focus,  illuminated but in no way dominated by new oak.  In this key component,  it contrasts with nearly all the New Zealand wines.  And it is wonderfully fresh.  I imagine the 2009 is a bigger wine,  but sadly it was not available for this tasting.  If it is both larger and as fresh and focussed,  then perhaps it is perfection,  but meanwhile,  this is definitive.  Any person who loves syrah,  and all New Zealand winemakers who make syrah,  and therefore expect New Zealanders to pay them for it,  are duty-bound to secure at least a 6-box of this wine.  And preferably a dozen,  for it will cellar for twice that time.  It is an absolute benchmark wine.  It is one of the most beautiful young wines I have ever tasted,  comparable with 1966 Ch Palmer at release.  Cellar 5 – 30 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Esk Valley [ Malbec / Merlot / Cabernet Franc ] The Terraces:  Barrel-Sample   19  ()
Bay View dissected coastal terrace,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  price unknown;  (all figures estimates) Ma 45%,  Me 35,  CF 20,  hand-harvested;  all vars co-fermented as one batch;  100% new French oak c. 18 months;  RS nil;  perhaps 250 cases;  the 1-hectare NNW-facing The Terraces vineyard was until recently pretty well unique in New Zealand,  being planted on man-made terraces in a natural semi-amphitheatre reminiscent more of some famous Northern Rhone vineyard sites than broad-acre New Zealand plantings.  Underlying soil parent materials are young sedimentaries including limestone and volcanic ash.  Vineyard practice is special too,  the cropping rate being of the order of 1 tonne per acre,  all the constituent varieties are harvested on the one day,  and co-fermented.  Maximum production is 300 cases (of 12).  The site was created in the 1940s,  but lapsed into pine plantation.  It was re-planted to vines in 1989;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
NB:  Provisional / indicative score only.  Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the second-deepest wine.  This too is gloriously ripe cassisy wine,  with an even greater aromatic edge to it than the 2013 Mills Reef Cabernet Elspeth,  bespeaking the significant percentage of malbec.  There is also more apparent oak than the 2013 Elspeth.  In mouth this wine shows a concentration of berry,  ripeness and potential charm and elegance,  which is phenomenal.  There is no hint of the traditional stalkyness found in New Zealand malbec,  but the flavours are darker than a cabernet-dominant wine,  due to that variety.  This promises to be a high-scoring wine of exceptional potential – noting that The Terraces is one of the very few exceptions to my general doubts about malbec in New Zealand.  Cellar 8 – 30  years.  GK 06/14

2009  Church Road Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Tom   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels 97.5%,  Bridge Pa Triangle 2.5,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.4%;  $155   [ cork;  CS 58%,  Me 42;  all hand-picked,  the dominant cabernet @ 5.1 t/ha (minutely over 2 t/ac),  absolutely a serious classed-growth cropping rate,  but the merlot at a surprising 9.6 t/ha (3.8 t/ac),  and hand-sorted from on-average 12-year old vines;  100% de-stemmed,  crushed,  no cold soak,  inoculated fermentation mostly in oak cuves,  a fraction in s/s,  cuvaison up to 5 weeks for the CS components,  less for Me;  21 months in all-French oak c.81% new,  balance 1-year,  successive rackings to clarify and aerate;  not fined or filtered;  RS <1 g/L;  450 cases;  Parker:  91;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  great freshness for the five years,  midway in the top third for weight of colour.  The wine benefits from decanting a couple of times,  to show a rich bordeaux-blend with signs of secondary complexity starting to appear.  The berry aromas include much cassis and dark plum,  but there are hints of blueberries too,  so that blind the mind wanders to syrah.  And then there is an aromatic edge that reminds of malbec,  too,  but on reflection is misinterpreted oak.  In mouth the wine is velvety rich,  still tannic on grape tannin as much as oak,  totally warm-year Medoc in approach,  and a big Medoc such as Leoville Las Cases.  The cassis component is much more evident now.   This is a very ripe wine,  at the upper limit of ripeness and oaking for elegance,  if we are to match Bordeaux.  Winemaker Chris Scott is clear this is the style he wants,  but Bordeaux is a tapestry of many colours,  as indeed is Hawkes Bay,  and as these 60 wines in the tasting confirm.  Close tasting of some of the other wines in the Hot Reds Expo would I hope convince Chris that fine claret styles can be made from fresher / more aromatic grapes than 2009 alone,  as the 2010 bordeaux are widely acknowledged to have achieved,  and 2010 La Chapelle tasted alongside these Hawkes Bay wines vividly shows.  Meanwhile this 2009 is one of the all-time benchmark New Zealand reds,  like 1965 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon,  which those long-sighted enough to provide for will be tasting and talking about until 2050.  I can guarantee that,  having shown that 1965 wine to Hawkes Bay winemakers in 2008.  Any chance to secure this wine in auction,  therefore,  act.  As Harry Waugh used to say,  there is still a lot of tannin to lose,  here,  but the result is going to be of international calibre.  Cellar 10 – 35 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Church Road Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels 92% & Bridge Pa Triangle 8,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $49   [ cork;  Me 77%,  CS 23,  mostly hand-picked the cabernet c. 3 weeks later than the merlot (just before the rain);  cuvaison mostly in oak cuves extended to 35 days for some components;  c.20 months in all-French oak c.60% new,  balance 1-year,  with no BF or lees stirring,  just racking;  not fined or filtered;  RS < 2 g/L all unfermentable;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper and denser than McDonald Series Cabernet Sauvignon,  in the top third for weight of colour.  The quality of cassis and berry here on bouquet is benchmark,  with wonderful freshness and varietal precision,  and a concentration on bouquet which is not only classed growth in quality,  but Second Growth in level.  In mouth the wine shows that wonderful and rare attribute of velvety concentration,  and extraordinary freshness,  coupled with a much lighter touch with the oak than some under this label have shown.  The quality of fruit here is of a Tom standard,  yet they didn't make one.  Chris Scott has a fondness for really ripe wines,  but when you taste the 2010 classed growth Bordeaux,  they have this kind of freshness,  contrasting with the sometimes slightly ponderous density of the ripe / sometimes over-ripe 2009s.  It would be good if Tom maintained its standard,  but was allowed to express some vintage variation in style,  provided the quality is there.  Bordeaux 2009 and 2010 provide the model.  This wine is sensational,  it may be lighter than 2009 Tom,  but it is more beautiful.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  and it will hold longer.  GK 06/14

2009  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Legacy Series   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ screwcap;  CS 76,  Me 24,  hand-picked @ 6.8 t/ha (2.7 t/ac),  all de-stemmed;  cuvaison varies up to 30 days;  20 months in French oak 50% new;  RS <1 g/L;  minimal fining and filtration;  350 cases;  Robinson:  16;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a lovely limpid colour,  towards the top of the lightest third.  Bouquet is showing some secondary development now,  the cassis with a browning edge,  and as is all too frequent in New Zealand wine,  the oak is noticeable.  It is however high quality fragrant oak,  developing attractively into the cedary quality so desired in the best Medocs,  and Pauillac noticeably.  Flavours reflect the bouquet,  lots of cassis  (and even if browning,  cassis retains its distinctive flavour),  good flesh,  the merlot sustaining the palate well.  Its not as rich as Tom,  but in a way it is fresher,  which adds to its attraction.  This is sophisticated  wine,  and an attractive example of a Hawkes Bay blend.  The consistency of achievement between this and the 2010 Legacy is highly commendable.  I did not realise until the editing and checking stage that I had tasted this wine so many times.  Happily the present result is in line,  in a rigorously blind exercise.  The Robinson score is surely out of line – we all err in this matter from time to time.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Villa Maria Syrah Reserve   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  100% machine-harvested at 6.25 t/ha (2.5 t/ac),  following inspection and hand-deleting of any defective bunches through the vineyard,  the cropping rate getting the wine off to a grand-cru-level start;  100% de-stemmed;  cuvaison extending to 6 weeks for some parcels;  17 months in French oak air-dried 3 years,  50% new;  minimal fining and filtration;  RS < 1 g/L;  Parker:  91,  Robinson:  15.5;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  in the top half dozen for concentration of colour.  This is the finest and most elegant of the three Reserve Syrahs that Villa thoughtfully presented at the Expo.  Comparison with the 2012 Villa Reserve Syrah is particularly instructive,  when it comes to the varietal character of this grape.  The 2011 wine is recognisably syrah in the blind line-up,  but in every component is just a little more varietally exact,  deeper,  plumper,  riper,  and enticing.  In mouth the aromatic cassis grading to bottled black doris plum is spot-on,  the black pepper is sweeter than the 2012,  there is no white pepper,  and the whole wine is plumper.  Compared with the 2010 Reserve,  it shows a better expression of fruit dominant over oak,  as it should be,  and as the 2010 La Chapelle displays to perfection.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe longer.  This is looking very good indeed,  yet alongside the 2010 La Chapelle,  it shows how much further we must travel,  to achieve absolute beauty in syrah.  Essentially this means less obsession with new oak.  That said,  Robinson's score is again overly severe.  GK 06/14

2013  Esk Valley Syrah Reserve:  Barrel-Sample   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ screwcap;  all figures estimates;  Sy 100% hand-harvested @ c.3.7 t/ha (1.5 t/ac),  all de-stemmed;  total cuvaison up to c.30 days;  c.16 months in French burgundy barrels c.30% new;  production c.400 cases (12);  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
NB:  Provisional / indicative score only.  Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the third deepest wine.  The bouquet is very attractive indeed.  It is a darker kind of cassis than the 2013 Elspeth,  showing beautiful berry with nearly violets florality,  sweetest and ripest black pepper,  and possibly the faintest hint of pennyroyal (though that may be an artefact entangled with the sweet pepper).  Palate is not as rich as the 2013 The Terraces,  but it is richer than the 2013 Elspeth Syrah.  It has a length and quality of flavour which is marvellous.  If the florality and beauty of this fruit is to be maintained,  it does not need much more oak (or at least new oak) at all.  As it stands it is almost of (better) La Chapelle quality.  Cellar 5 – 15,  maybe 20 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Legacy Series   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ screwcap;  CS 51,  Me 49,  hand-picked @ 7.6 t/ha (3 t/ac),  all de-stemmed;  cuvaison varies up to 30 days;  20 months in French oak c.60% new;  RS <1 g/L;  minimal fining and filtration;  345 cases;  Parker:  89+;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  as with some other of these 2010 top wines,  not a great depth of colour,  in the lightest third for weight.  The wine benefits from decanting,  to reveal an elegant fine-grained bouquet like the 2010 Helmsman,  nearly violets as well as roses,  really beautiful,  on cassisy and potentially cedary oak.  In mouth the wine almost reminds of pinot noir,  for the quality and suppleness of the fruit is a delight.  There is elegant cassis,  clear plum not as dark as some of the other merlots,  and even blueberry.  The oak is beautifully subtle.  The evolving oak approach at Vidal under Hugh Crichton's leadership is great.  There is a supple beauty here which reminds me of some of the older wines from Ducru-Beaucaillou.  It is not a big wine (note this observation blind correlates with the cropping rate cf. the 2009,  showing that dry extract can be assessed by taste),  it's fractionally 'cooler' than the 2009 Legacy,  but here you are paying for real finesse,  and total fine claret style.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Mills Reef Cabernet Sauvignon Elspeth:  Barrel-Sample   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  CS 100%,  hand-picked;  around 15 months in French hogsheads (300 L),  45% new;  intriguingly,  the Chinese allocation will be under cork;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
NB:  Provisional / indicative score only.  Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the richest and darkest colour of the 60.  Bouquet is glorious ripe cassis of great purity and depth,  still very youthful with dark aromatic edges as if there might be a splash of malbec too.   Palate is vibrant with aromatic cassisy berry,  showing a ripeness and intensity of varietal berry flavour rarely encountered in New Zealand.  The length of fruit on palate is a delight,  yet it is not as rich as some.  Cabernet alone is always at peril of lacking middle palate.  At the moment the young wine promises to be phenomenal,  and will score higher if it fills out in bottle.  Let us hope it does not end up carrying too much oak.  Cellar 8 – 25 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ cork;  Me 62%,  CS 13,  Sy 13,  CF 12,  hand-picked from mostly 10-year old vines;  cuvaison approx 30 days;  16 months in French oak c.40% new;  RS <2 g/L,  all unfermentable;  lightly fined and filtered;  Parker:  92+,  Robinson:  16.5;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly some carmine,  but (reasonably) not as fresh as the 2013s,  just in the top third for depth.  The bouquet here is very beautiful indeed,  showing a concentration of ripe berry and florality which is rare in Hawkes Bay blends whether from Bordeaux or Hawkes Bay.  There are nearly violets on the floral side,  slightly masked by vanillin from rather much oak.  Fruit quality is darkest plums dominant,  but with quite a cassisy note too,  the oak aromatics intertwining with the supposed cassis to perhaps confuse the nose.  Concentration is good too,  though not as rich as the 2011 Church Road Cabernet Grand Reserve,  or 2009 Tom.  This wine is totally of classed-growth standard,  but Saint-Emilion in style (except for the oak).  It is notably fresher than 2009 Tom,  and highly attractive.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe 20.  GK 06/14

2011  Church Road Merlot McDonald Series   18 ½ +  ()
Tukituki Valley 67%,  Gimblett Gravels 31% & Bridge Pa Triangle 2%,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $34   [ screwcap;  Me 100%;  all de-stemmed,  up to 5 weeks cuvaison;  18 – 20 months in French oak 33% new;  RS < 2 g/L,  all unfermentable;  coarse-filtered only;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly some carmine,  clearly darker than the matching 2011 McDonald Cabernet Sauvignon,  as if a little malbec had assisted colour,  towards the top of the middle third in depth.  Bouquet is every bit as fragrant and beautiful as the sister Cabernet Sauvignon,  just softer and more plummy.  In mouth it is clearly softer,  plumper,  richer and less aromatic than the sister wine.  These two wines therefore illustrate beautifully the essential style differences between West Bank cabernet-dominant bordeaux and East Bank merlot-dominant wines,  in general.  The oak balance here is more perfect than the Cabernet,  its greater richness better carrying the oak.  This is where New Zealand merlot needs to be,  style-wise,  compared to the too-many weedy merlot wines still lingering in the marketplace.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Elephant Hill Syrah   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels & Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $34   [ screwcap;  Sy 99%,  Vi 1,  hand-picked;  co-fermented with 8 – 10% whole-bunch;  11 months in French oak 30% new;  a bottled wine,  but not on website yet;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.elephanthill.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  near the top of the most concentrated third,  in colour.  Bouquet is raw and youthful,  really needing time.  There is fresh blackcurrant and hessian oak,  quite aromatic,  but it is too early to say much.  In flavour the wine jumps into focus,  there is attractive richness,  and exciting cassis and darkest black plum and blueberry fruit,  with clear black pepper.  The oak apparent on bouquet has all but disappeared into the textured rich fruit.  You can't help thinking that if this wine were still in clean old neutral oak,  it would become more sophisticated.  If this is already bottled,  don't touch it for three years,  and cellar 5 – 15 years.   Score includes an element of speculation,  but it's rich,  ripe and pure.  Tasted alongside 2010 La Chapelle,  the varietal precision is marvellous.  It needs a little more tannin structure (but not as new oak) and dry extract,  but it is not shamed by the comparison.  Since this turns out to be the standard wine,  the Reserve is awaited with interest.  GK 06/14

2009  Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve (Library Release)   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $70   [ screwcap;  CS 75%,  Me 25,  hand-harvested @ around 2.4 t/ac;  vinified @ Mangere,  100% de-stemmed;  s/s fermentation,  cuvaison up to 6 weeks for the CS,  4 weeks for the Me;  20 months in 100% French oak 3-years air-dried and 40% new;  RS nil;  Parker:  91;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  some carmine,  in the middle bracket for weight of colour.  Oh boy,  this is serious ... the  first impression in the blind line-up of 60.  Unlike so many of the younger wines,  this shows an integration of cassisy berry and cedary oak which is comparable only with classed growth Medoc.  The wine is wonderfully fragrant,  but any specific floral analogies are lost in the cedar.  Its flavours are just starting to show the  smoothness and harmony of secondary development,  and great elegance.  Those who say wines cannot develop properly under screwcap need to taste this wine in a rigorously blind line-up,  and at that stage point out the supposedly defective screwcap ones.   Though it is rich,  like fine claret there is a delicacy in the fruit / oak balance which is most impressive.  Thoughts of Grand-Puy-Lacoste here.  By strictest Bordeaux standards the wine is fractionally oaky.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/14

2009  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Alwyn Winemaker's Reserve   18 ½  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle 60% & Gimblett Gravels 40%,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $75   [ cork;  Me 76%,  CS 24,  hand-harvested @ c.6.25 t/ha (2.5 t/ac),  inoculated ferments,  cuvaison to about 3 weeks;  12 months in French oak 37% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  Parker:  87;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  markedly older than the 2009 Villa Maria Cabernet / Merlot Reserve,  in the middle of the second tier for concentration of colour.  Bouquet is clearly into secondary development,  but for the cassis side of cabernet that merely means a slightly browning kind of berry aromatic,  just as if you are opening a bottle of black currants of identical age.  Below the berry there is slightly lifted / aromatic oak,  all fragrant and  appealing.  In mouth this Alwyn has the concentration so many previous Alwyns have lacked:  it is great that the winery has now accepted that we must match Bordeaux cropping rates (especially at the asking price of $75),  if we are to effectively challenge them on the tasting table.  There is a fine-grained cedary elegance to this wine which is attractive.  The oak is subtler on palate than was supposed on bouquet,  but it is still to a max by Bordeaux standards.  Aftertaste is long and lovely,  though cedary.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Sacred Hill [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Helmsman   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ cork;  CS 45%,  Me 44,  CF 11,  hand-picked from 10 year old vines;  cuvaison approx 28 days;  18 months in French oak c.65% new,  RS <2 g/L,  all unfermentable;  Parker:  93+,  Robinson:  17;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  near the upper end of the middle third for concentration.  Bouquet is  exquisite,  subtle,  much less loud and more beautiful than some of the other good wines here.  But as fine Medoc has shown for many years,  before the American influence on desired size and weight in claret winestyles became apparent,  beauty is a key component in fine wine.  This almost smells of dark red roses,  grading into cassis.  The flavours of the wine are however a little smaller than hoped for on bouquet,  or in comparison with the plummy 2010 Brokenstone Merlot.  It is thus a classic Medoc,  but not so far up the classed growth hierarchy as some here.  It would be nice to open a 2010 Talbot alongside,  for example.  This is intriguing wine,  to cellar 5 – 20 years to lose some tannin,  and then open alongside same-vintage  bordeaux.  GK 06/14

2010  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon Winemakers Reserve   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  Me 73%,  Ma 14,  CS 13,  all hand-harvested @ c.1.9 t/ac from vines 18 – 20 years old,  and de-stemmed;  some wild-yeast;  cuvaison varies per variety,  least for malbec,  cabernet the longest 30 or more days;  18 months in French oak 50% new;  RS <1 g/L;  minimal filtration;  around 500 cases (12);  Parker:  92;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  at the head of the lightest third,  in colour weight.  Initial bouquet is most attractive,  round red fruits reminding almost of a rich Pommard,  pure and fragrant.  In mouth the wine fills out and puts on weight,   to become a fragrant St Emilion look-alike.  The oak becomes more noticeable now,  but the fruit richness is sufficient for it to marry up totally.  It is not a big wine,  but there is a charm to this that gains it marks,  and  makes it potentially more-ish.  And it is fresh throughout,  yet (just) avoids leafyness.  The malbec is the weak link here.  If cabernet franc had been used,  the Saint-Emilion comparison might be near-perfect.  Pretty interesting and attractive wine,  which I would like to watch evolve the next few years.  Cellar 5 – 15  years.  GK 06/14

2011  Coopers Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 'Gravels & Metals' Select Vineyards   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels 90%,  Bridge Pa Triangle 10,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  CS 90%,  Ma 10 (the Bridge Pa part);  c.12 months in French oak none new,  100% 1-year,  followed by 18 months in tank;  RS 3 g/L;  www.cooperscreek.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  right in the middle of the middle tier for weight.  Bouquet is soft ripe rich and very plummy,  at first suggesting merlot,  with vanillin from the oak.  In mouth this roundness continues,  the wine showing attractive cassis and dark plum flavours,  plus good richness,  on fragrant and more subtle oak than many here.  There is a fine-grain delicacy to this wine again reminding me of the Margaux district.  It is still youthful,  but on the not-quite-bone-dry aftertaste it is accurately cabernet sauvignon,  with more cassis here than on bouquet.  Acute tasters object to the few grams RS,  and in one sense it should not be necessary.  Grapes clearly cropped at well under 5 t/ha convey their own 'apparent' sweetness.  I am a little permissive on this:  in my view the accuracy of other parameters in our evolving red wine classes is more important.  Cellar 5 – 15 maybe 20 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Mills Reef Syrah Elspeth:  Barrel-Sample   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  around 15 months in French hogsheads (300 L),  50% new;  intriguingly,  the Chinese allocation will be under cork;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
NB:  Provisional / indicative score only.  Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  in the top third for weight of colour.  Bouquet is dramatically syrah,  showing wonderful floral notes including carnations and violets,  on aromatic cassisy berry.  First impressions are this has been picked at the optimal point for florality.  On palate however it is not quite as rich and concentrated as hoped,  and might perhaps have been picked a little too soon for total saturation of flavour.  Or,  perhaps the crop-level did not quite allow the dry extract needed to give the impression of saturation.  It is still richer than quite a few Cote Roties.  This should be an attractive wine,  all the same,  to cellar 5 – 12 years.  Great to see the ratio of new oak inching back year by year,  better allowing the exact variety to speak.  GK 06/14

2010  Unison [ Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah ] Classic Blend   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ supercritical 'cork';  Me > CS > Sy,  all hand-picked,  ratio not revealed,  CS picked 22 days after Me;  a small percentage of juice taken for rosé;  extended cuvaison to 30 days for some parcels,  using cultured yeast;  press wine blended back to taste;  12 months in barrels and puncheons,  30% new,  maybe some American,  then 12 months in older large wood;  website to be updated;  Parker:  89;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet and carmine,  right in the middle of the second third for weight.  Bouquet here is beautiful.  When I assessed it at the blind stage,  before knowledge of cepage or maker,  I commented on its fine cassis qualities,  so reminiscent of refined Medoc.  In mouth it is not as big a wine as some in the 60,  or the 2009 Selection from Unison.  There is a key issue here,  often lost on those brought up on Australian  reds,  that wine does not have to be big to be beautiful.  Here there is grace and elegance and charm,  lean and shapely.  Ballerinas.  Cassis is a valid descriptor for perfectly ripe syrah as well as cabernet sauvignon (recall Lafite Hermitagé),  so this wine is a fine illustration of the Hawkes Bay blend concept.  If  you personally have to have a wine so rich as to be tactile velvety,  make the score 18.  Though the oak is still a little prominent,  it is better balanced than the 2009 Selection,  and in time will give considerable pleasure at table.  Cellar 5 – 18 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Church Road Cabernet Sauvignon McDonald Series   18 ½  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle 77%,  Tukituki Valley 13,  Gimblett Gravels 10,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $34   [ screwcap;  CS 85%,  Me 15;  some components up to 5 weeks cuvaison;  21 months in French oak 37% new;  RS < 2 g/L,  all unfermentable;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly some carmine,  midway in the second third,  for depth.  Bouquet is beautifully fragrant,  cassis and cedary oak already integrating,  very Medoc even Pauillac,  lovely purity.  Palate carries on exactly as for the bouquet,  cassisy and plummy dark aromatic berry with cedary oak to a max,  perhaps not ideally plump,  but with a good feeling of fruit on the tongue.  These McDonald Series wines have offered outstanding value in recent years,  with the added excitement of sometimes being available with worthwhile discounts (as I write,  for example,  $22),  allowing customers the pleasure of achieving the case-quantity purchases the quality demands.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2009  Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Roure   18 +  ()
Crozes-Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $89   [ 54mm cork;  hand-picked from 40 – 60 year vines at < 4.5 t/ha  (1.8 t/ac);  de-stemmed,  cuvaison to 4 weeks;  elevage usually 12 months in barrel,  20% new;  Parker:  92+,  Robinson:  16.5+;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  the second deepest wine among the Jaboulets.  There was a question-mark over this particular bottle in the tasting,  that perhaps it showed trace oxidation.  Leaving that aside however,  the concentration of fruit is colossal for Crozes-Hermitage.  There is dense nearly cassisy berry and darkest plum,  with hessian oak.  The flavours are more aromatic than the bouquet suggested,  with traces of cassis in the dark plum,  plus new oak and suggestions of black pepper.  The fruit flavours are a bit stolid alongside the more exciting Hermitage expressions of syrah,  but it is rich and ripe and astonishingly good Crozes with lovely fruit sweetness to the finish.  This wine and the 2010 Villa Syrah Reserve have a lot to say to each other.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/14

2009  Jaboulet Hermitage La Petite Chapelle   18 +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $162   [ cork;  hand-picked from young vines as well as the main 40 – 60 year vines at mostly <3 t/ha  (1.2 t/ac);  website not forthcoming as to elevage,  beyond 15 – 18 months in barrel;  essentially the wines not making the now severely-tightened cut for La Chapelle proper,  including younger and higher-cropping vines;  Parker:  92,  Robinson:  17;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  scarcely lighter than the 2010 Petite Chapelle.  On bouquet this is a very different wine from the 2010 Petite,  immediately deeper,  darker,  less aromatic and more darkly plummy.  In mouth there is greater fruit richness and eveness of ripening,  blueberry as well as cassis,  and solid grape tannins making the wine seem hard at this stage.  They are however riper tannins than the 2010,   and the whole wine is just a bit burly alongside it,  lacking its poise and exact varietal definition.  I can well imagine that Americans and Australians would rate this much higher than the 2010,  whereas those  from Britain,  France and New Zealand might rate the 2010 higher.  Once this 2009 loses some tannins,  as it will once it crusts in 10 – 15 years,  the resulting line is going to be lovely.  Oh,  for the subtlety of oak handling here,  vis-a-vis some of the New Zealand wines such as the 2010 Villa Syrah Reserve.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 06/14

2009  Unison [  Cabernet / Merlot ] Selection   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ supercritical 'cork';  CS > Me,  all hand-picked,  ratio not revealed,  CS picked 18 days after Me;  a small percentage of juice taken for rosé;  extended cuvaison to 35 days for some parcels,  using cultured yeast;  press wine blended back to taste;  elevation for unstated months all small oak (barriques),  implication still some American,  40% new French though;  website to be updated;  Parker:  89;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  below midway,  in the middle third,  for weight.  The wine benefits from a good decanting,  to become fragrant,  elegant and sophisticated:  how good it is to have the Unison wines freed from their former reductive shackles.  On bouquet both cassisy berry and good oak are apparent,  so one tastes the wine with  interest to see which dominates.  And yes,  as commented for Helmsman,  this too is an oaky wine,  to a fault.  It does not have the fruit weight of 2009 Tom,  but the quantum of oak seems about the same,  hence it tastes oakier than that wine.  Being a 2009,  it is richer than the two 2010 Helmsmans,  but those wines show better balance.  Too oaky for gold,  therefore.  Let's hope this 2009 is evolutionary in style.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ cork;  Me 82%,  CS 8,  Sy 7,  Ma 3,  hand-picked from mostly 10-year old vines;  cuvaison approx 30 days;  16 months in French oak c.40% new;  RS <2 g/L,  all unfermentable;  lightly fined and filtered;  Robinson:  16+;  www.sacredhill.com ]
[[ 24 July 2014:  Winemaker Tony Bish has asked me to reassess 2011 Brokenstone,  since the analytical data (supplied) indicates I have misinterpreted the wine.  I have now done this,  using 2011 Helmsman alongside.  The score is essentially unchanged but I have rewritten the notes,  to more accurately reflect the nature of the wine. ]]  Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  in the top third for weight.  Bouquet is fragrant and even floral,  with an aromatic lift perhaps from the syrah blending component.  Below there is good plummy fruit.  In mouth the wine appeals as a Pomerol winestyle,  a classic exposition of a merlot-dominant wine,  fleshy and plummy,  a little richer than 2011 Helmsman.  There is nearly a hint of darker florals on the palate,  careful balance,  and lovely length finishing on fruit.  Being a 2011,  it is not as rich as the best Hawkes Bay blends of 2009 and some 2010s,  but it is already appealing.  Cellar 3 – 12 years,  maybe 15.  GK 06/14

2010  Villa Maria Syrah Reserve   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $60   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  94% of it hand-picked @ c.4.35 t/ha (1.75 t/ac),  all de-stemmed;  up to 42 days cuvaison;  17 months in French oak 60% new;  420 cases (of 12);  Parker:  89;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  another glorious colour,  in the top half dozen for concentration.  Initially poured there were some barrel characters interfering.  With air at the blind stage at first it seemed like an aromatic / oaky take on merlot.  In mouth however,  it immediately became much more aromatic and syrah-like,  with both cassis and black pepper.  The similarity to 2010 La Chapelle is remarkable (particularly in fruit weight),  but the Villa is much more oaky,  to its detriment.  In terms of balance,  the 2011 edition of this wine is closer to the elegant model 2010 La Chapelle provides,  but it is not as rich.  Size or beauty,  again.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  to mellow.  GK 06/14

2011  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ cork;  CS 50%,  Me 25,  CF 25,  hand-picked from 10 year old vines;  cuvaison approx 28 days;  18 months in French oak c.60% new,  RS <2 g/L,  all unfermentable;  Robinson:  17;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  below midway in the middle third,  for depth of colour.  Bouquet is elegant cassis and potentially cedary oak,  the oak a little noticeable,  but the whole winestyle delightfully tilted to the Medoc.   Flavours are attractive,  the cassis growing in size,  obviously high cabernet but elegant ripeness all the same.  The consistency of style in these Helmsmans is a treat,  this being a lighter wine than the 2010,  but the ratio of oak is pro rata.  Winemaker Tony Bish has found oak works for him in comparative tastings,  the British being no less susceptible / prone to endorse somewhat elevated oak levels as are New Zealanders.  Nonetheless the whole approach would find greater elegance with a little less,  and would work better with food.  We have too many oaky wines in New Zealand.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Jaboulet Hermitage La Petite Chapelle   18  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $155   [ 54mm cork;  hand-picked from young vines as well as the main 40 – 60 year vines at mostly <3 t/ha  (1.2 t/ac);  website not forthcoming as to elevage,  beyond 15 – 18 months in barrel;  essentially the wines not making the now severely-tightened cut for La Chapelle proper,  including younger and higher-cropping vines;  Parker:  92;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  the third deepest of the Jaboulets.  This wine needs decanting,  to reveal an aromatic cassisy wine tending to the same style as the 2010 La Chapelle,  but the bouquet not quite achieving the same clarity,  focus and perfect ripeness as that wine.  Once tasted you can see why:  there is all the cassis but also a touch of hardness here,  a touch of stalk there,  and not quite the beauty and amplitude of the senior wine.  It shows great selection in the winery,  therefore.  It is still highly varietal and shows a lot of cellar potential.  In the absence of La Chapelle proper one might think it a gold medal level wine.  With time in cellar it will be even more pleasing.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  maybe 25.  It has greater varietal focus than the 2009.  GK 06/14

2013  Red Metal Merlot / Cabernet Franc   18  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $18   [ screwcap;  Me 97%,  CF 3,  machine-harvested;  12 months in 80% French oak,  balance American,  5% new;  this label the most affordable of three Me-dominant wines at Red Metal;  www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  just in the top third for concentration.  Bouquet is both floral and fragrant,  underlain by bottled black doris plums,  and complexed by vanillin and (and at this stage) slightly hessian  oak.  In mouth the flavours carry on from the bouquet,  concentration is not up with the better 2013s,  but the wine will be highly interesting.  Cabernet franc is giving quite a lift to the rounder merlot [ or so it seemed  blind,  but 3% unlikely to be responsible ],  exactly as we see in the fabled Cheval Blanc.  Oaking is delightfully subtle.  This is richer than many Red Metal wines have been.  It will become a distinctive and interesting Hawkes Bay blend,  highlighting the potential for East Bank-styled blends in the district,  as well.  Must be the best price / quality wine in the Expo.  Cellar 3 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Villa Maria Syrah Reserve   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $60   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  all hand-harvested at c.1.6 t/ha (3.25 t/ac);  100% de-stemmed;  cuvaison extending to 6 weeks for some parcels;  17 months in French oak air-dried 3 years,  50% new;  RS nil;  minimal fining and filtration;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  an amazing depth for the year,  at the top of the middle tier for weight.  With syrah and cabernet sauvignon sharing cassis as a descriptor when perfectly ripe,  it's not as easy as you might suppose to accurately identify which wines are cabernet and which syrah in a rigorously blind line-up of 60 samples.  And sometimes not even merlot for that matter,  for when cool-climate syrah is fractionally riper than cassis,  it acquires glorious fragrant dark plum notes.  But this wine is clearly varietal from the outset,  clear-cut carnation and violets florals,  lovely cassis,  clear white more than black pepper on bouquet.  In mouth the flavours complement the bouquet totally,  and the style is cooler-year Cote Rotie exactly,  e.g.  Yves Cuilleron though not one of his most concentrated / expensive sites.  It says volumes about Villa  Maria's viticulture that they have achieved potentially Reserve quality fruit from the 2012 vintage,  and even more about the palates of the winemakers,  that they made the cut so perfectly to exclude any stalky flavours.  Surely any Reserve wines were a gamble in 2012.  This wine is therefore remarkable,  the only tell-tale being the thread of white pepper on the palate,  and there is not quite the concentration and weight of a better year.  The flavours are lovely,  in their cool-year style.  Simply cellar it a shorter time,  3 – 12 years.  This 2012 shares some details with the 2010 La Petite Chapelle,  but is both more oaky and higher acid.  GK 06/14

2010  Rod McDonald Wines Merlot / Cabernet Franc Two Gates   17 ½ +  ()
Hastings & Maraekakaho districts,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Me 60%,  CF 35,  CS,  Sy & Ma the balance,  all hand-picked,  Me the Hastings part;  28 days cuvaison;  22 months in French oak 30% new,  RS < 1g/L;  www.rmwines.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  the fourth to lightest.  The wine benefits from decanting,  to reveal a gentle and fragrant red fruits bouquet clearly reminiscent of the East Bank.  It is great to see the concept of Hawkes Bay blends expanding to embrace the gentler and fragrant wines on the other side of Bordeaux.  This one smells clearly of Cotes de Castillon.  In mouth there is much more to it,  lovely red fruits in which one can recognise the raspberry and red cherry of cabernet franc as well as quite rich plummy qualities of merlot.  And there is nearly a hint of cassis.  The  cropping rate is honest here,  unlike some of the wines in this review.  Notwithstanding the colour,  the wine is quite plump,  with lovely length.  In fact the more I tasted it,  the more I liked it.  On palate it therefore graduates to a Saint-Emilion style proper.  Cellar 3 – 12 years,  for great enjoyment with food and the opportunity to reminisce about confusing claret with burgundy.  GK 06/14

2011  Mission Cabernet / Merlot Antoine Jewelstone   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.3%;  $50   [ cork;  CS 51%,  Me 28,  CF 21,  hand-harvested at around 5.5 t/ha (2.3 t/ac);  inoculated yeast,  total cuvaison up to 5 weeks;  c.18 months in French oak 65% new;  RS <1 g/L;  Parker:  92+;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  just in the top third by weight.  This wine benefits from decanting,  to reveal an harmonious and developed bouquet with considerable European style,  berry dominant over oak.  The flavours are more youthful,  clear cassis,  plummy merlot showing both red and black fruits,  some complex undertones which are going to make this wine hard to pin down blind,  and attractively balanced oak.  The wine is quite rich,  and in the ripeness profile there is just a trace of potential tobacco complexity,  given a few years in cellar.  Subliminal brett contributes to the European feel about this wine.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Crossroads Talisman   17 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  several districts,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $55   [ Stelvin Lux;  mostly hand-picked;  cepage not revealed –  see text;  extended cuvaison;  16 months in French oak 100%,  no American this year,  high percentage new;  RS < 2 g/L all unfermentable;  www.crossroadswinery.co.nz ]
Ruby,  below midway,  in the lightest third.  The wine benefits from decanting,  to show an indeterminate red wine not immediately speaking of any variety (at the blind stage),  as I guess is appropriate for a wine where the makers make a song and dance about the cepage being 'secret'.  In mouth there is fair berry fruit,  red fruits more than black but with an aromatic lift,  much better concentration than the colour suggests,  ripe tannins and gentle oak.  Fruit weight is appropriate to a serious wine,  and the length of flavour is good.   Perhaps part of the games the winemakers play is to vary the cepage each year,  to optimise the season.   This year doesn't show much if any cabernet influence,  so one thinks of merlot,  pinotage comes to mind this year perhaps,  syrah,  and other bits and pieces such as chambourcin,  as previously speculated.  Nice that Talisman is consolidating in quality – it used to be a bit flaky.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  to soften and fatten.  GK 06/14

2013  Sileni Cabernet Franc Cellar Selection   17 +  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  CF 100%,  machine-harvested at just under 2 t/ac from 13-year vines;  35 days cuvaison;  9 months in barrel 60% French,  40 American,  30% new;  oak level reflects winemaking for Reserve tier,  being sold as Cellar Selection;  fined and filtered;  RS 1 g/L;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby,  below midway in the lightest third.  Bouquet shows the lovely raspberry-nuanced red currant more than black currant character of cabernet franc,  the red berry qualities differentiating it from cabernet sauvignon.  Palate is intriguing,  capturing cabernet franc at just enough ripeness to be berried rather than leafy,  but it is close.  This is a vivid expression of the variety,  and from memory,  critically riper than one I endorsed (over-enthusiastically) a few years ago.  It is therefore exciting wine,  yet in its simplicity (in one sense) it shows how infinitely hard and subtle it will be to achieve the richer,  riper and more complex yet still fragrant red-fruited franc which certain estates in Saint-Emilion achieve.  What a joy the red-fruits palate is,  not being crippled with oak,  as is the norm for cabernet franc in Australia and New Zealand.  Clearly silver medal wine.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Stables Reserve   17 +  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle & Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Me 91%,  CS 7;  no details on website yet,  some barrel time;  RS <1 g/L;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a great colour,  in the top third for weight.  Bouquet is youthful reasonably enough,  and benefits from decanting,  but indicates good grape concentration.  It then shows rich plummy fruits,  not a lot of oak,  and great purity.  In mouth it is simpler,  as if some of the wine is stainless steel,  but what a joy this rich ripe 2013 juice is !  I imagine this will have more to say in a couple of years.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Villa Maria Merlot Organic Cellar Selection   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $16   [ screwcap;  Me 100%;  all de-stemmed,  appropriate cuvaison;  33% of the wine to barrel for 12 months,  no new mentioned,  balance to s/s;  then blended,  RS < 1g/L;  intended to be soft and highly varietal;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  towards the upper end of the middle third,  for weight.  Bouquet is really fruity,  very ripe,  and tending unsophisticated,  reminiscent of elderberry wine.  Palate is plump and textbook merlot,  round,  darkly plummy,  soft,  pure but straightforward,  like some Australian stainless steel supermarket wines – but here without the acid adjustment.  The great merit of this wine is to learn the exact character of merlot without much oak,  then compare and contrast it with some of the merlot-dominant wines showing more complex elevation.  Comparison with cabernet-dominant wines such as the McDonald is worthwhile too.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Clearview Estate [ Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet ] Enigma   17 +  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $59   [ supercritical 'cork';  Me 61%,  Ma 31,  CS 8,  hand-picked;  28 days cuvaison;  c.17 months in 80% French oak 40% new,  20% top-grade American oak three years air-dried;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  in the top third for concentration. With a breath of air / decanting,  the bouquet is  distinctive on this wine,  not revealing as to individual varieties,  instead a more integrated and European winestyle,  with just a pleasant suggestion of chook-mash (as in a recent Escarpment Vineyard red) which I assume is oak-related.  The palate is intriguing,  showing both cool suggestions,  and yet a ripeness and weight of considerable achievement (for the year),  no intrusive phenolics,  subtle oak,  and greater length than at first supposed.  There is however a saline streak which detracts.  This will cellar well,  5 – 12 years,  and evolve into a complex and confusing bordeaux look-alike,  Entre-Deux-Mers,  maybe.  GK 06/14

2013  Elephant Hill Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Le Phant   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels & Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Me 67%,  CS 16,  Ma 10,  CF 7,  hand-picked.;  100% de-stemmed;  11 months in French oak,  20% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.elephanthill.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  near the middle of the middle third,  for weight.  Bouquet benefits from decanting,  to show light rosy / plummy fruit which is nearly floral,  with surprisingly little oak and  considerable charm.  It does not have the raw smell a stainless steel component in wine can show.  Flavours are just as pleasant,  in a smallish wine,  nicely ripe,  cassis lift on plummy fruit,  and clearly some oak influence or handling adding to a pleasant flavour.  This will be eminently drinkable in a few years,  cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/14

2009  Jaboulet Cote-Rotie Domaine des Pierelles   17 +  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $149   [ 55mm cork;  not on website;  100% Syrah from the Cote Blonde,  hand-picked;  cuvaison to 4 weeks,  12 months in French oak 20% new;  Parker:  91+,  Robinson:  16;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Ruby,  the lightest of the Jaboulets.  Bouquet shows a much lighter presentation of syrah than the Hermitage-related wines,  with nearly a floral component,  hints only of carnations and roses on berry fruit which is quite complex,  both cassis and blueberry.  Palate therefore comes as quite a shock,  being tannic at this stage,  older oak it seems,  quite different from the Guigal approach,  and an underlying trace of hardness and black pepper.  I suspect this will look altogether more fragrant and pleasing in even three years,  but as it stands it is routine as Cote-Rotie.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Alpha Domus [ Cabernets / Merlot ] The Aviator   17  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $72   [ cork;  CS 40%,  Me 26,  CF 24,  Ma 10,  hand-harvested;  cuvaison up to 30 days for some components;  17 months in French oak up to 75% new;  RS <1 g/L;  Parker:  90+;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than most of the 2010s,  in the top third for weight.  Bouquet on this wine is more old-fashioned,  with a clear leafy / green streak in the cassis,  even on bouquet.  Flavours reflect good concentration and richness,  and good oak,  but the fruit quality is too mixed,  as if everything went in,  no culling of green bunches in the vineyard,  no hand-sorting of the fruit at the winery.  The flavours are thus more 1990s in style.  I do wonder if there is trace residual sugar,  to cover the stalky notes [ no ].  This will mature into a complex green-tinged bordeaux blend,  as many bordeaux used to be,  developing tobacco notes as it ages.  The richness is commendable,  and the wine cannot be dismissed.  It is however expensive considering the total achievement.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Squawking Magpie Merlot / Cabernets The Nest   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $40   [ screwcap;  Me 79%,  CS 10,  CF 10,  Ma 1,  the merlot first hand-thinned to delete defective bunches,  then machine-harvested,  other varieties hand-picked;  small percentage of juice taken for rosé,  cuvaison least for malbec,  extending to 38 days for CS;  Me press-wine blended back;  c.15 months in French oak 36% new;  www.squawkingmagpie.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a hint of carmine and velvet,  in the middle of the lightest third,  for weight of colour.  This is another wine with a lovely soft rosy nearly floral bouquet,  totally at variance with the reputation of the year.  There is good plummy fruit,  but red fruit more than black.  This quality is initially sustained on palate,  a remarkable  achievement in such a cool year.  You can't help feeling there can't be much cabernet sauvignon in here,  perhaps it is cabernet franc,  to be so silky.  The other delightful thing about this wine is the oak is tailored attractively to the lighter fruit.  It does shorten up in mouth,  though,  betraying the year.  This will become delightfully drinkable wine after three years,  cellar 3 – 10  years.  GK 06/14

2011  Beach House Cabernet Franc   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ supercritical 'cork';  CF 100%,  hand-picked;  c.12 months in French oak,  around 35% new;  RS <1g/;  www.beachhouse.co.nz ]
Ruby,  above midway in the lightest third,  for weight.  The wine benefits from decanting,  to then show red-berried fruit and quite a lot of oak.  The berry quality hints at raspberry and glacé cherry,  well in the ballpark for cabernet franc.  Palate shows greater fruit ripeness than the Sileni 2013,  but also greater and coarser oak,  so it is hard to decide which is the better exponent of the variety.  Cabernet franc is so subtle,  it is easily killed by oak,  to become just another oaky Hawkes Bay blend.  Both of these wines show some of the charm of the variety,  unlike most New Zealand examples to date,  so this too slips into silver.  It will cellar a little longer than the Sileni,  3 – 10 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Unison Merlot Reserve   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ supercritical 'cork';  Me,  some CS,  all hand-picked,  CS less than 15% to comply with labelling rules;  a small percentage of juice taken for rosé;  extended cuvaison to 35 days for some parcels,  using cultured yeast;  press wine blended back to taste;  12 months in barrels and puncheons,  15% new,  maybe some American,  then 18 months in older large wood;  website to be updated;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  in the middle for weight.  This wine benefits from decanting,  to show soft berry and plummy fruit,  and gentle still-hessian oak.  Flavours are complex,  quite aromatic for merlot as if there were some cabernet in the blend [ later,  yes ],  not ideally ripe or rich,  in fact short to the finish,  the nett impression here left bank rather than right.  The wine is still taut for a 2010.  Intriguing,  different,  to cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Villa  Maria Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Reserve   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $50   [ screwcap;  CS 88%,  Me 12,  hand-harvested @ yields not exceeding 5.5 t/ha (2.2 t/ac) and often less;  vinified @ Mangere,  100% de-stemmed;  s/s fermentation,  6 weeks cuvaison for the CS,  up to 4 weeks for the Me;  MLF and 18 months in 100% French oak 3-years air-dried and 48% new;  RS < 1 g/l;  lightly fined and filtered;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  just above midway in the middle bracket,  for colour depth.  One sniff,  and this is critically cool-climate cassis and cabernet sauvignon,  there being an exciting edge on the berry exactly the same as tasting first a raw blackcurrant,  then a bottled (i.e. cooked) one,  and the dramatic difference in ripeness the latter shows (added sugar in bottling also relevant).  So given the bouquet here,  taste will be critical.  And it is.  The winemakers made a brave judgement in deciding on and bottling a 2012 Syrah Reserve,  and the wine deserved it.  Here however they erred.  Cabernet sauvignon is simply too unforgiving.  The concentration is amazing for the year (hence the score) and the flavours are a delight in a technical sense,  but the wine is like 1974 Ch Palmer,  exquisitely made but critically under-ripe with herbes and stalks throughout the raw cassis and berry flavours.  It is a great study wine for the ripening profile of cabernet sauvignon,  and will mature into a fragrant short bordeaux-like red,  but one from an under-ripe and hence green year.  Great display wine,  a certainty for my Lincoln Oenology and Viticulture lecture.  Noteworthy the New Zealand tolerance of under-ripe red wines continues in the gold medal and Trophy awarded to this wine in the 2014 Royal Easter Show.  Having first written explicitly about this issue in National Business Review in 1987,  one wonders how long it will be necessary to persist with this topic in New Zealand.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Te Mata Estate Merlot / Cabernets Estate Vineyards   17  ()
Tutaekuri Valley (mostly),  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Me 58%,  CS 31,  CF11;  12 months in French oak some new;  website still the class-leader and model for so many other wineries both disinterested in the customers' needs and ignoring their back-vintages and history,  and even moreso with Peter Cowley's vintage notes now easier to retrieve;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  in the top third for weight of colour.  Bouquet is younger,  fresher and fractionally more raw than most 2013s,  presumably reflecting a different approach to elevation for this affordable wine,  but there is fragrant darkly plummy berry,  plus an edge suggesting a little malbec in the blend – at least in  the blind tasting (not so).  Palate is not as concentrated as the top wines,  reasonably,  but the freshness of berry and oak yet to meld is promising.  Is this the best 'Woodthorpe Cabernet' yet (noting its not all from there) ?  It highlights a ripeness and plumpness which has often been lacking from this label.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2007  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle   17  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $375   [ 55mm cork;  hand-picked from 40 – 60 year vines at < 2.5 t/ha  (1 t/ac);  website not forthcoming as to elevage,  beyond 15 – 18 months in barrel,  but understood to be c.20% new oak;  Parker:  90,  Robinson:  18;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Older ruby,  in the middle for weight.  Bouquet is the only one in the eight Jaboulets to clearly show some secondary development / evolution,  with a softness that is appealing.  It has a greater floral component than the other wines,  thanks to this bottle development,  with hints of carnations and roses.  On the berry side,  there are mixed aromas,  and a suggestion of browning on the cassis component.  Flavour reveals a wine quite different in  style to the 2010.  It is in contrast all over the show,  some over-ripe components reminiscent of Australian blackberry,  some under-ripe fractions with hints of stalks,  a touch of leather,  but all tied together by good richness.  It clearly shows an absence of careful fruit selection,  relative to the 2010.  Palate weight is good,   and it will cellar for some years,  in its tending-generic syrah style.  In contrast,  the new winemaking approach showing in the 2010 La Chapelle really is something.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Babich Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot The Patriarch   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $70   [ 48mm supercritical 'cork';  CS 54%,  Me 32,  Ma 14,  hand-harvested;  13 months in all-French oak 40% new;  egg-white fined and filtered;  RS < 1 g/L;  Parker:  92+,  Robinson:  15.5;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  right in the middle of the lightest third,  for weight of colour.  Bouquet benefits from decanting,  to show fragrant light wine reflecting cool-year Medoc in style.  Like a number of the wines here,  it is mostly red fruits,  the genuine dark cassis aromatics of fully ripe cabernet sauvignon being absent.  Oak handling on bouquet smells appropriate,  for the fruit weight.  Palate is intriguing,  the oak is of fine quality but more apparent now in the relatively light fruit.  Flavours are again more red plums with suggestions only of cassis,  and the wine scarcely escapes a stalky undertone.  Comparisons with the richer The Gimblett (though 2012) and the riper 2009 Alwyn are intriguing.  Tannin handling is stylish,  but basically this wine lacks stuffing.  At the $70 price-point one can buy pretty attractive and ripe Bordeaux even including lesser classed growths,  wines of international calibre,  ripeness profile,  and cellaring potential,  whereas this wine is an older New Zealand style.  As Church Road demonstrate,  perhaps wrong-headedly when they ruled out even a 2010 edition of Tom,  this 2011 Patriarch is not up to the ripeness and dry extract standards the label should display,  given the price.  And it will not cellar in the way a $70 Hawkes Bay red should.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  possibly 10.  GK 06/14

2013  Crossroads Merlot Milestone Series   16 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  Me dominant,  maybe a little CS and CF,  grown in several districts but not the Gimblett Gravels;  12 months in mostly older French oak,  token older American;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.crossroadswines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  towards the lower end of the middle bracket,  for depth.  This wine needs a good splashy decanting too,  but retains an odd herbes / stalks / tannic note on bouquet,  which coarsens the wine.  Below there is plummy berry.  Flavours are more clearly plummy,  bottled dark plums,  some older oak,  but again a tannic streak not quite appropriate to merlot.  Could this be added tannin ?  If so it is not an improvement,  making the wine a bit hard to drink at the moment.  Or maybe it is malbec,  coarsening the  wine.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Jaboulet Cote-Rotie Domaine des Pierelles   16 ½ +  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $155   [ 54mm cork;  not on website;  100% Syrah from the Cote Blonde,  hand-picked;  cuvaison to 4 weeks,  12 months in French oak 20% new;  Parker:  90;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Ruby,  the second lightest of the Jaboulets.  Bouquet is on the small side,  almost some contradictory signals,  hints of red fruits (thoughts of pinot noir) yet some pepper too,  and some floral qualities … or is that a stalky note.  In short a difficult bouquet.  In mouth it becomes clearer.  There is fair fruit weight,  mixed red and black berry flavours,  but also some stalky notes,  with total acid up a little,  and white pepper more than black.  It is attractive as light sub-optimally ripened syrah,  but not at all convincing as Cote-Rotie.  Cellar 3 – 12  years.  GK 06/14

2012  Trinity Hill [ Merlot / Cabernets ] The Gimblett   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.8%;  $35   [ super-critical 'cork';  Me 39%,  CF 35,  CS 9,  PV 9,  Ma 8,  hand-picked;  c. 3 weeks cuvaison;  16 months in French oak c. 30% new;  Parker:  87+;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  a wash of carmine and velvet,  just in the top third for weight.  The Gimblett has become one of the unsung fine wines of Hawkes Bay in recent years,  but has not yet achieved recognition.  Like the Villa Reserves,  there must have been considerable debate whether to produce a 2012.  But first impressions on bouquet are attractive,  beautifully floral nearly violets,  a clear cassis infusion on darkly plummy fruits,  subtle cedary oak.  Palate does not quite follow-through,  partly because the styling is classic Medoc with more tannin than some of these wines show.  So this wine needs time in cellar,  to mellow a clear stalk component in the fragrant berryfruit.  Total acid is up a little too.  In five years this will be a convincing but austere petit Medoc in style,  but perhaps release under this label was a mistake.  Cellar 5 –  12 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Roure   16 ½ +  ()
Crozes-Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $89   [ 54mm cork;  hand-picked from 40 – 60 year vines at < 4.5 t/ha  (1.8 t/ac);  de-stemmed,  cuvaison to 4 weeks;  elevage usually 12 months in barrel,  20% new;  Parker:  90-92;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Ruby,  older and lighter than the 2009,  odd,  below midway in the Jaboulets.  This wine really needs  decanting,  to dispel a seaweedy note which I assume to be sulphur-related.  Below that,  there is medium-weight berry,  and vaguely red-plummy fruit,  but it's not communicating well.  In mouth the flavours are richer than the 2010 Pierelles but hard,  reinforcing the sulphur thought,  and the flavours plain though still aromatic (masked pepper) syrah.  Not sure this will blossom later,  but possibly worth a try.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Coopers Creek Merlot   16 ½ +  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle mostly,  some Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  Me 90%,  Ma 10;  c.12 months in older oak;  short exposure to chips in tank;  RS 2.5 g/L;   www.cooperscreek.co.nz ]
Ruby,  midway in the lightest third,  for depth of colour.  Bouquet is sweet,  quiet and seemingly merlot at the blind stage:  plummy,  nearly some roses florality,  attractive.  Palate shows surprising fruit for the year,  augmented by a little residual to the tail (even at the blind stage).  Flavours are red and black plum,  and oak is subtly adjusted to the lesser ripeness of the year.  A pleasing food-friendly small-scale wine almost suited to running in a pinot noir tasting (+ve),  to cellar 3 – 8 years.   Malbec well-hidden.  GK 06/14

2011  Rod McDonald Wines Merlot / Malbec Quarter Acre   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Me 56%,  Ma 42,  CF 2%,  hand-picked organically-grown grapes low-cropped;  c.14 months in French oak,  30% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.rmwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  just above midway in the lightest third.  Bouquet is winey and fragrant,  red plums more than dark,  oak nicely balanced.  Palate is less than the bouquet,  a stalky streak in the plum (that sucking-on-plumstones thought),  not quite the fruit richness and smoothness hoped for in a merlot blend – another wine sabotaged by malbec.  Cellar 3 – 8  years,  to soften.  GK 06/14

2013  Sileni Merlot 100% Cellar Selection   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Me 100%;  14 days cuvaison;  some oak contact,  minimal new;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  in the top third for weight of colour.  This wine benefits from decanting,  but  remains new and raw,  as if it has a stainless steel component.  Bouquet includes dark fruit notes and a suggestion of seaweed / saline,  and not much oak.  Flavours are soft,  round and darkly plummy,   appropriate to merlot if it weren't for that saline hint.  I wonder if this comes from imperfect cooperage for some of the wine,  or threshold reduction from a stainless steel component.  In three years' time this might be more charming and score higher than now.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Coopers Creek Malbec St John Select Vineyards   16 ½  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  c.12 months in older barrels;  sterile-filtered but not fined;  RS 3.5 g/L;  on the arcane side,  the name is correctly pronounced Sin-jin …;  www.cooperscreek.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  amazingly fresh for a 2011,  in the top third for weight.  On bouquet this is another rich modern wine with dark berry,  darkest of omega plums,  darker than merlot,  and a hint of seaweed,  all suggesting malbec.  Palate is not so good,  the oak a bit noticeable,  the fruit thinning,  rather much stalk (as so bedevils New Zealand malbec),  and the finish not hanging together as well as the top wines here.  It is still youthful in nett impression,  and should mellow a good deal in bottle.  Even so,  it will be a great day when our people quit malbec,  a few special sites excepted.  And even for those sites,  blending away the wine will be needed most years,  once we become less tolerant of stalky red wines in New Zealand.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  to mellow somewhat.  GK 06/14

2010  Te Awa Cabernet / Merlot   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  CS 45%,  Me 40,  CF 15,  hand-picked;  wild-yeast ferment;  18 months in French oak,  40% new;  RS < 2 g/L;  Te Awa now in the Villa Maria group of wineries;  Parker:  89+;  www.teawa.com ]
Ruby,  at the top of the lightest third,  for weight of colour.  Bouquet is light,  fine and elegant,  subtle cassis,  totally in a better cru bourgeois style,  subtly oaked.  The palate is less however,  rather small fruit for the level of oak,  the oak still hessian and not developing subtle cedary qualities,  the wine all a bit pinched and the total acid up a little.  Is this over-cropping ?  Will hopefully soften in cellar 3 – 8 years,  but likely to remain small-scale.  GK 06/14

2012  Elephant Hill [ Malbec / Cabernet Franc / Merlot ] Hieronymus    16 ½  ()
Te Awanga & Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $34   [ screwcap;  Ma 81%,  CF 11,  Me 8,  hand-picked;  100% de-stemmed;  13 months in French oak both barriques and puncheons,  30% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  www.elephanthill.co.nz ]
Carmine,  ruby and velvet,  a 'loud' colour,  as malbec can be,  in the top half dozen for weight despite being a 2012.  Bouquet is way different,  in the field of 60,  showing the strange nearly musky and aromatic out-of-line smells of unripe malbec,  plus mealy,  hessian and seaweedy qualities which may be cooperage related,  but are more likely marcy malbec.  Freshly opened it is quite raw,  and reminds of some of the cheaper but reputable Argentinian malbecs,  Trapiche for example.  Tasting the wine is again different,  showing mealy / chook-mash flavours mixed with dark plums and lots of stalks,  plenty of flavour but all elbows-out in style.  Astonishing that malbec achieved even this level of fruit in 2012,  let alone the apparent concentration.  The winemaker regards malbec as  'forgiving' in cool years,  but the result is more quantitative than qualitative,  considering the spectrum of flavour profiles in fact desirable in quality bordeaux blends / Hawkes Bay blends.  $34 is not QDR.  There is certainly concentration.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  to mellow.  GK 06/14

2011  Vidal Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Series   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $16   [ screwcap;  Me 70%,  CS 27,  CF 2,  Ma 1,  all de-stemmed;  up to 30 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 30% new;  RS <1 g/L;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  in the lightest half-dozen.  Bouquet is clean,  fragrant and very oaky,  perhaps a conscious stylistic choice to capture that section of the market that appraises wine quality by the volume of oak rather than the quality of the fruit.  In mouth one has a better chance to assess the wine,  initially pleasant fruits more red than black,  neither variety dominant,  a hint of cassis aromatics maybe near the finish,  quite soft but tending short.  This seems 'sophisticated' wine,  in its lighter style,  reminiscent of the Wolf Blass commercial  approach with oak.  Cellar 3 – 8  years.  GK 06/14

2010  Tironui Estate Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon   16 +  ()
Taradale,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ supercritical 'cork';  Ma 70,  CS 30,  hand-harvested;  10 months in French oak,  some new;  www.tironuiestate.com ]
Ruby,  just squeaking into the lightest of the middle group,  in depth of colour.  Bouquet shows a little oxidation,  on the kind of aromatic that usually indicates stalky malbec,  plus some red fruits and some oak.   Flavour follows through well,  quite good concentration but [ once identified ] the wine showing why malbec is essentially unsuited to New Zealand except in the warmest sites and in warmest years.  There is a hard stalky / marcy  quality through the berry,  which goes green in the aftertaste.  This too is an older-era wine,  now,  though the concentration is good.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  in its pinched approach.  GK 06/14

2012  Babich Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Cabernet Franc Irongate   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $37   [ supercritical 'cork';  CS 34,  Me 33,  CF 33,  hand-harvested;  extended cuvaison;  14 months in French oak 35% new;  RS <1 g/L;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  in the lightest third.  Bouquet is fragrant but light and cool,  red fruits more than black,  leafy more than floral.  Flavours are remarkably smooth and gentle for the apparent ripeness and the year,  showing careful tannin handling given the red currants more than black fruits,  and pleasant concentration and length in its leafy-going-stalky way.  Possibly the wine is lightly chaptalised.  The scale of the wine is such that here,  as elsewhere,  and one needs to say it over and over in a temperate-climate viticultural milieu such as New Zealand,  prices for a vintage such as 2012 should be less than the good years.  As the French have long-since demonstrated (again).  A sophisticated but petite green-tinged wine,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Pask Winery Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Malbec Gimblett Road   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  CS 45%,  Me 41,  Ma 14;  c.14 months in older French and some American oak;  RS <1 g/L;  Parker:  80;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  the second to lightest wine.  Like the Babich Irongate,  this wine is outside the norms.  It is really fragrant,  and if the label had turned out to be cabernet franc,  the score would be higher.  There is slightly browning raspberry and redcurrant fruit,  potentially tobacco-y leafyness,  and some vinosity.  Flavour shows more to taste,  more fruit than the colour suggests,  hints of cassis even,  but also a stalky / acid thread,  oak matching the fruit weight,  and attractive freshness belying the colour.  There's actually riper fruit than the Irongate,  though seemingly only half the depth of colour.  Pleasantly drinkable and food-friendly small wine,  to cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Beach House Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  CS 50%,  Ma 50;  c.10 months in younger French oak,  around 25% new;  RS <1g/L;  Ma ripened 3 weeks before CS;  www.beachhouse.co.nz ]
Ruby,  in the middle group for weight.  This wine needs pouring from jug to jug a few times to dispel some reduction.  It then shows generic berry fruit appropriate to the cabernet / merlot class,  but no detail.  Palate is better,  fair fruit,  the malbec speaking louder than the cabernet,  plummy,  aromatic,  pleasant oak balance,  a little stalky as is usually the case with malbec in New Zealand.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Cypress Merlot   16  ()
Roy's Hill,  SW of Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $22   [ screwcap;  Me hand-picked,  mostly grown in gravels round base of the hill;  some whole berries in the ferment;  some of the wine aged in older oak for some months;  sterile-filtered;  RS < 1 g/L;  bottled within 12 months of vintage;  www.cypresswines.co.nz ]
Light ruby,  the lightest of the 60.  Bouquet is sweetly floral,  another wine speaking of pinot noir red cherries more than bordeaux varieties.  One has to recall,  many since André Simon have said it is permissible to confuse merlot and pinot noir,  so one continues to the taste with interest.  And that is where this wine is honest,  compared with some of the over-cropped and under-ripe specimens elsewhere in this report.  The  concept of red cherries continues,  but with an attractive aromatic edge,  as if they were cabernet franc in the blend.  Though the colour is seriously on the lighter side,  the palate and winestyle pretty well reflects minor Cotes de Castillon,  apart from the total acid being a bit high.  It needs two years in cellar to soften,  and will then be a fragrant light red in an unusual style (for Hawkes Bay),  but not unknown in Bordeaux.  And well known in the Loire Valley.  Could be fun to try with salmon.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/14

2009  Tironui Estate Malbec / Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon   16  ()
Taradale,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ supercritical 'cork';  Ma 52,  Me 32,  CS 16,  hand-harvested;  10 months in French oak,  some new;  www.tironuiestate.com ]
Older ruby,  midway in the lightest third,  for concentration of colour.  This wine is tending oxidised on bouquet,  on indeterminate fruit,  and all a little bit clogged as well.  Palate confirms the oxidation,  but it's still more technical than real,  with the wine showing pleasant fruit of appropriate ripeness,  red berries more than black,  and an almost furry quality on the tannins reflecting imperfect elevage,  I think.  These flavours were not infrequent in Australian reds,  not so many decades ago,  and the wine will still cellar perfectly well in its style,  for 3 – 8 years.  A hard wine to score,  some would reject it on technical grounds,  but there is honest ripe fruit (unlike some of these wines) and oxidation is greatly preferable to reduction,  simply because the smells and flavours are so much nicer.  GK 06/14

2011  Alpha Domus [ Merlot / Cabernets / Malbec ] The Navigator   15 ½  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $29   [ screwcap;  Me 45%,  CF 22,  Ma 20,  CS 13;  12 months in older barrels 80% French;  RS < 2 g/L;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  below midway in the lightest third.  Bouquet benefits from decanting to show a small cru bourgeois-styled wine,  red fruits more than black,  some oak,  all slightly clogged – as so many Entre-Deux-Mers wines used to be.  On palate the clog becomes a sulphur hardness on the tannins,  which curtails the fruit and pleasure in the wine.  This too is old-style winemaking,  whether France or New Zealand,  not appropriate to a near-$30 wine.  Are there a couple of grams residual to the finish [ no ] ?  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe to soften up a bit.  GK 06/14

2013  Clearview Merlot / Malbec Cape Kidnappers   15 +  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Me usually c. 2/3,  then Ma,  some CS and CF,  hand-harvested;  cuvaison up to 28 days for some components;  12 – 13 months in French and older American oak,  25% new;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  below midway in the middle third,  for depth.  This wine benefits greatly from decanting a couple of times.  Bouquet shows quite rich plummy fruit with any floral qualities still masked,  smelling young and raw.  The reduction shows more clearly in mouth,  putting a leaden cast and hard edge on plummy fruit,  all appropriately oaked.  Straightforward but flawed wine,  to cellar and maybe improve over 10 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Crossroads Cabernet / Merlot Winemakers Collection   15  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ screwcap;  CS 46%,  Me 39,  balance other varieties,  grown in several districts including the Gimblett Gravels;  16 months in French oak,  40% new;  RS < 2 g/L;   www.crossroadswines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  towards the upper end of the lightest third,  in colour.  The wine needs decanting,  to then show a clogged and modest petit bordeaux winestyle,  smelling lean and one wonders about the ripeness (at the blind stage).  In mouth the reduction has affected the palate,  with hard tannins and short under-ripe flavours,  some indeterminate berry but no varietal character.  Oak is appropriate to a small wine.  Asking $40 for a wine reflecting 1980s-New Zealand red wine quality and standards such as this wine displays is simply not appropriate,  bespeaking frightening unawareness of the wines of the world today.  Beautiful cellar-worthy cru bourgeois from lovely vintages can be bought in New Zealand for markedly less.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/14

2012  Mission Estate Merlot Reserve   14 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $29   [ supercritical 'cork';  Me dominant,  perhaps some CF;  short cuvaison only in 2012,  c. 17 days,  some months in French oak 25% new;  RS ‘dry';  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  above midway in the lightest third.  Bouquet shows light clean plummy fruit,  fitting in well with the concept of light merlot.  On palate the wine shrinks a size or more,  red fruits only,  the wine stalky,  that sucking-on-plumstones thought again,  all tending hard and sour.  This wine reflects the cool year faithfully,  with total acid up.  Barely worth cellaring.  Prices in such a year should be reduced.  GK 06/14

2012  Babich Merlot Winemakers Reserve   14 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $30   [ supercritical 'cork';  Me assumed to be 100% and machine-picked;  c.4 weeks cuvaison;  9 months in French oak 25% new;  RS <1 g/L;  Parker:  84;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  the third to lightest,  in the 60.  Bouquet is light and rosy,  minor pinot noir weight,  not very appropriate to merlot – let alone a $30 merlot.  Palate is less than the bouquet,  short and stalky,  thoughts of red currants only,  total acid up,  reflecting inadequate ripening presumably correlated with over-cropping.  This is a 1980s New Zealand wine,  simply inappropriate to the 2000s.  $30 wines today need cropping rates around or below the 7.5 t/ha mark,  to ripen appropriately and be competitive.  Clean,  but not worth cellaring.  GK 06/14