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

New Zealand wineries adopt very different,  and interesting,  approaches to promoting their wines.  On the one hand,  there are wineries such as the Villa Maria Group (Villa Maria,  Vidal,  Esk,  Te Awa),  or Sacred Hill,  who enter nearly all their wines in virtually every wine competition,  and send samples to nearly every winewriter.  The results are completely transparent and out in the open,  for everybody to evaluate.

Many wineries however do not participate in wine judgings,  or do so only intermittently.  There are c.700 wineries in New Zealand now,  but for this year's New Zealand Easter Wine Show,  entries were received from c.131 wineries,  say 19% of them.  The ratio is understood to be similar for the other 'major' New Zealand Show,  the Air New Zealand.  Many wineries therefore depend on mailing lists,  and distribution and promotion via specialist representatives.  Some of these wineries are little-known,  surviving on a local clientele.  A few wineries make intensive use of advertising.  When the latter approach is coupled with not entering wine competitions,  so the advertising cannot be validated in any way,  the advertising can become pretty cynical.  

Among those wineries who do seek a public profile,  there is a group who do not participate in any public wine evaluations such as wine competitions,  and either do not send their wines to any winewriters,  or send them only to persons known to be extraordinarily sympathetic to the winery's aims (that is a kind way of putting it).  Instead these wineries promote their wines through variations on the mystical approach,  where customers are encouraged to become totally converted and faithful believers in the infallibility of the winery.  The more cynical of these wineries compound their approach by frequently citing reviews from overseas wine commentators,  exploiting the cultural cringe about wine that is still rampant on both sides of the local wine industry,  irrespective of the great strides nearly all the rest of New Zealand society has made in this matter in recent decades.  Leading exponents of the mystical approach to winery promotion in New Zealand over the years have been Te Mata,  Millton,  Dry River when owned by the founder,  and now Pyramid Valley.  There are a number of others too,  less well known.  

One reason these people offer for not entering competitions is based on the observation that worldwide,  the most famous wineries do not enter competitions.  That is true,  but it needs qualifying.  If you are claiming to be the best,  the risk of in fact not coming out top in a judging is quite high.  On the one hand,  no winery excels every year,  and on the other,  judging is a fallible process.  Thus in a young wine country such as New Zealand,  the issue then becomes:  when is a winery genuinely entitled to appoint itself to a status 'above' wine competitions ?  In my view,  New Zealand wineries in this 'aspiring' category tend to have a somewhat inflated opinion of their achievements and standing,  when their wines are rigorously assessed against good world examples,  and presume to stand aloof too soon.  All too often this is because their pricing is high,  relative to their actual wine achievements,  and comparisons via wine competition results become invidious.  Further,  thus far,  New Zealand's most famous wine world-wide is 'Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc',  which is after all a class of wine,  not a winery.  Moreover,  it is not usually regarded as a prestige wine,  in the sense of a cellar wine,  good though it is.      

It follows therefore that the wine consumer has to be more careful,  when deciding whether it is worth purchasing the wines of producers who do not allow their wines to be evaluated in democratic / public forums.  For those of wine-snobbish tendencies,  it does not matter,  since they want labels,  and the quality of the actual wine is of less importance.  But for genuine wine-lovers,  guidance is hard to find.  The extraordinary thing about the New Zealand wine scene is that there is virtually no critical evaluation of wineries practising the mystical approach,  notwithstanding each of them has at times released wines which are ordinary,  and for one of the above wineries,  conspicuously technically faulty.  ( Many of the old-world overseas winewriters noted above are often serenely oblivious to technical failings in wine ... )  Are New Zealand winewriters mesmerised by the spin from these wineries,  or is the hangover from the bad old bullyboy days of the New Zealand wine industry still in effect ? That was in the days when the industry was Auckland-based,  and any honest written appraisal of New Zealand wines,  or comparison of local produce with world wine standards,  would all-too-often lead to threats of legal action from the winemakers,  even though most of them then were largely unfamiliar with the wines of the world,  rarely tasted them,  and certainly didn't understand them.

March is the season when Te Mata release their latest batch of wines,  premium wines mostly from two seasons previously,  other wines from the previous vintage.  They are the absolute masters of the mystical approach.  In recent years they have mounted quite large public presentations of their releases,  which are notified to their mailing list customers and via wine retailers.  They attract crowds unmatched by any other winery presentation in New Zealand,  sometimes over one hundred people attending.  Participating in one of these,  and seeing what used to be called the 'twin-set and pearls' brigade sitting in rapt admiration of every utterance of the Te Mata presenters,  with never a penetrating question being asked,  was an infinitely depressing experience.  A bit like a Billy Graham rally of yesteryear,  I would imagine.

This year the Te Mata release celebrates the 2013 vintage,  widely regarded as the best red wine vintage in Hawkes Bay in living memory.  Te Mata's most expensive red is their cabernet / merlot blend Coleraine,  which at its best is among New Zealand's top claret-style reds.  For 2013 Te Mata have chosen to release it under the slogan:  'No comparison'.  Such a statement has to reflect extraordinary presumption.  To any thinking person,  comparison is the stuff of life,  the means by which we decide on everything from partners to automobiles,  or foodstuffs,  every day.  Wine is no different.  The statement also completely ignores (or devalues) the many other New Zealand wineries now practising sophisticated bordeaux-blend wine-making,  in Hawkes Bay and Waiheke Island.  As a presenter of regular blind tastings,  in my Library Tastings series,  it is a matter of simple fact that whereas Te Mata used to be the leaders in New Zealand red wine styles,  the best of these wineries now challenge Te Mata achievements regularly,  and not infrequently surpass them.

Needless to say,  however,  the essentially uncritical wine retail trade has seized on this slogan,  actively supported by the winery,  and the long-suffering wine consumer is being confronted with tastings themed as 'No comparison',  from Auckland to Christchurch at least.  And as might be predicted,  dutiful New Zealand winewriters are faithfully falling into line,  in some cases simply promulgating the company line in their allegedly independent reviews,  under the same slogan.  In the New Zealand wine industry,  we are not good at being quizzical.  [ We so need a New Zealand Andrew Jefford.]

The gods must have been amused (or piqued) by the vanity of this 'No comparison' notion too,  for by chance Glengarry Wine Merchants presented a batch of wines from Domaines Rothschild the night immediately before the Te Mata public tasting in Wellington.  Further,  The Wine Importer,  Kumeu,  who has made a speciality of locating good-value Bordeaux petit chateaux in recent years,  has just released a batch of minor 2010s on the New Zealand market.  2010 is widely regarded as the best vintage in recent years in Bordeaux,  and possibly the ultimate successor in quality to 1961.

With plentiful ice and high-quality chillybins,  plus a dedicated wine-frig,  it is now possible to assemble very informative blind tastings comparing wines from different sources,  even from different days.  Since any young red wine of quality is in fact better the day after opening,  rather than straight from the bottle,  any criticisms that such an approach will be misleading,  are simply not valid.  Thus it was the morning after the Te Mata presentation,  I assembled 45 red wines spanning the cabernet / merlot and syrah winestyles for which Te Mata Estate is best known (amongst reds),  plus a couple of related wines,  and put the notion of 'No Comparison' to the test.  This tasting was a rigorously blind evaluation.

#  Parker,  Robert,  2003:  Bordeaux.  Simon & Schuster,  1244 p.
#  Websites too numerous to enumerate
#  Cepage details for the minor Bordeaux wines are taken from the Newsletter of The Wine Importer,  Kumeu,  also available for a time on-line:  www.wineimporter.co.nz ]


Cabernet / Merlot
2010  Ch L'Abbaye de Sainte Ferme
2009   Ch d'Armailhac
2008  Ch d'Armailhac
2009  Ch Beauvillage
2010  Ch Bellevue Canteranne
2010  Domaine de Bouscaut Caduce
2010  Ch Cap de Haut
2010  Ch Cap Saint-Martin
2012  Ch Clerc Milon
2009  Ch Clerc Milon
2013  Craggy Range Merlot / Malbec / Cabernets Te Kahu
2013  Craggy Range Merlot Single Vineyard
2013  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec
2009  Ch Le Grand Moulin
2010  Ch Le Petit Mouton
2010  Ch Marjosse
  2010  Ch Mouton Rothschild
2005  Ch Mouton Rothschild
2010  Ch L'Oume de Pey
2013  Pask Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Malbec Gimblett Road
2010  Ch Paveil de Luze
2010  Ch Puy-Marceau
2011  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman
2011  Sacred Hill [ Merlot / Cabernet ] Brokenstone
2013  Sacred Hill Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Halo
2013  Sacred Hill Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Orange Label
2010  Ch St Remy
2013  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Awatea
2013  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Coleraine
2013  Te Mata Merlot / Cabernet Estate
2013  [ Villa Maria ] Thornbury Merlot
2013  Villa Maria Merlot Organic Cellar Selection

Syrah  (following the blends)
2010  Ata Rangi Syrah
2010  Bodegas Torre de Barreda Amigos
2013  Craggy Range Syrah Individual Vineyard
2013  Crossroads Syrah Elms Vineyard Winemakers Collection
2010  [ El Escoces Volante ] Dos Dedos de Frente [ Syrah ] Unfiltered
2010  Fromm Syrah La Strada
2013  Martinborough Vineyard Syrah Lovat
  2013  Martinborough Vineyard Syrah / Viognier
2013  Sacred Hill Syrah Halo
2010  Staete Landt Syrah Arie
2013  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose
2014  Te Mata Syrah Estate
2011  Villa Maria Syrah 50th Anniversary Release

Cabernet / Merlot and Bordeaux winestyles:

2010  Ch Mouton Rothschild   19 ½  ()
Pauillac First Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $1,850   [ cork 50mm;  DFB;  CS 94%,  Me 6;  average vine age c.50 years;  100% new French barriques for 19-22 months;  c.25,000 cases;  www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  still nearly carmine,  the second deepest wine.  Freshly opened,  the wine smells like a caricature of new-world me-too oaky charry cabernet.  But as it breathes up in the glass,  the oak transforms into beautiful cedar saturated with glorious cassisy berryfruit.  The next day the berry is even showing floral and lighter notes of instant appeal,  very beautiful.  Below the berry and plum there is a thread of pipe tobacco,  adding  complexity.  Flavours in mouth marry cassis and cedar with enormous body,  texture and presence,  which to my taste (the following day) is compelling,  once some of the obvious early oak has blown off / softened.  The dry extract here is of reference quality,  making so many New Zealand claims to red wine excellence simply hot air.  This is a glorious wine,  to cellar 20 – 50 years.  But who could,  at the price now.  Even en primeur, it was around $NZ1600 landed.  And in the blind tasting,  because it had had the benefit of air,  it did turn out to be the absolute top wine in 45 – a comfort considering the price.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch Le Petit Mouton   19  ()
Pauillac,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $465   [ cork 50mm;  CS 68%,  Me 24;  CF 8;  the second wine of Ch Mouton Rothschild,  made from younger-vine sections of the vineyard;  elevation less dramatic than the grand vin,  detail not available;  www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com ]
A more vibrant and youthful-looking wine than the senior Mouton,  the colour ruby,  carmine and velvet still,  despite five years,  the fifth deepest of the cabernet / merlots.  Bouquet on this wine is simply sensational.  It is more varietal,  and less oaky,  less artefact,  less interfered-with than the Mouton proper.  Here there is clear cassis,  clear darkest bottled plums,  and a dusky florality which goes right through the bouquet into the palate.  If one has any interest at all in varietal characterisation,  this bouquet is infinitely more accurate and varietal than the Mouton proper.  I have never smelt a second wine of this calibre before.  But it is a second wine,  and on palate there is not the concentration and depth of the Mouton.  But again,  there is even greater berry character and precision.  To repeat,  this is sensational wine,  perhaps finer than my favourite of the 2010 class growths,  Ch Montrose.  I love it,  but the price is now on the high side,  relative to the en-primeur price.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 03/15

2011  Sacred Hill [ Merlot / Cabernet ] Brokenstone   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ cork 49mm;  DFB;  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  dry;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a beautiful young claret colour,  minutely deeper than the Petit Mouton.  Bouquet is wonderfully clean,  rich,  sweet,  deep and fragrant,  in one sense bridging the two Moutons wonderfully.  There is a great plummy fruit with darkest almost violets florality,  very deep,  and potentially cedary oak.  Though in a New Zealand context Sacred Hill's top wines often seem oaky,  here with Domaines Rothschild wines in the totally blind field of 45 wines,  this Brokenstone looks perfectly reasonable.  Hence the bridging comment.  In mouth the wine is still amazingly youthful,  and tannic / furry,  but there is a velvety berryfruit quality to the palate weight which bespeaks very serious viticulture and winemaking.  This wine is a great celebration of merlot in New Zealand,  and a triumph for the 2011 year in Hawkes Bay.  It will cellar for 10 – 30 years.  GK 03/15

2013  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Coleraine   18 ½  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $90   [ cork 49mm;  hand-harvested CS 56%,  Me 30,  CF 14;  extended cuvaison;  average vine age 25 + years;  18 months in French oak c.75% new;  RS nil;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a great colour,  not as dense as the Petit Mouton (allowing for hue),  but clearly denser and more saturated than the Awatea,  and showing a little more oak influence / less youthful.  Bouquet is really interesting.  On the face of it,  it is less floral and less obvious than the Awatea,  showing a taut integration of cassis and potentially cedary oak which is all promise,  exquisitely pure.  In mouth however it is the other way round,  Coleraine showing a richness of berryfruit,  and a texture and ripeness right through the tannins which eclipses Awatea.  It tastes excitingly young and contemplative,  all potential,  not giving away much now.  But it is still not as rich and ripe as either the 2011 Brokenstone,  or the 2010 Petit Mouton,  a second wine,  note.  Relative to Mouton proper,  the lack of richness and ripeness is dramatic.    

The issue here seems to be that proprietor John Buck set his palate parameters for bordeaux winestyles in the 1960s,  a time when the world was cooler and wines from Bordeaux tended to be lighter.  Even though based in London for a time then (at Stowells of Chelsea),  he seems not to have sufficiently registered the odd riper and richer wine of the mid-60s,  such as the wonderful 1966 Palmer I have written about frequently over the years.  Thus the style determination for the future Coleraine and Awatea which John brought back to New Zealand then,  is now out of step with the times.  And I say that even allowing for the all-pervasive influence and style preferences of Robert Parker,  in the intervening years,  which are too much the other way.  The truth lies in between.  

You just need to look at the wines in this tasting.  When the much-hyped Coleraine of the scarcely-matched 2013 vintage is a lighter wine than the second wine of Mouton Rothschild in 2010,  something is out of whack.  But New Zealand winewriters never talk about these things.  I wonder if they even think about them,  being apparently so totally mesmerised by the dicta of the proprietors.  Dry extract data would settle the issue,  but Te Mata rarely make this kind of hard data available.  In one sense,  Te Mata so believe and impose their own spin,  and a credulous wine public so fawn on them,  that these matters are never discussed.  

Yet in another sense,  Te Mata do things wonderfully well.  Their website pioneered the quality approach to communicating about wine in New Zealand.  There is information for every vintage of their wines that matter,  a feature many,  many wineries in New Zealand need to emulate,  if they are to be regarded as serious winemakers.  Naturally,  the information reflects Te Mata's favourable view of their wines,  but in this context,  that is to be expected.  Or take the corks.  They were by far the first to employ branded,  dated,  full length Bordeaux corks in New Zealand.  They formerly used 53 – 55mm corks in Coleraine,  a length used only by the most quality-conscious Bordeaux proprietors.  In a sad commentary on New Zealanders' lack of real affinity with wine (despite all the blah),  chief winemaker Peter Cowley comments that consumers seem not to have corkscrews suited to long corks,  and they complained the long corks broke in two.  So now they are 49mm.  Many New Zealand bordeaux-blend proprietors,  who desperately want to be taken seriously overseas (and at home),  still do not even date their corks,  despite Te Mata showing the way 30 years ago.  If only Te Mata would pay as much attention to classed-growth Bordeaux cropping rates,  as to their presentation,  their top wine could indeed in all reality still be New Zealand's top red.  But now,  the tide has come in around them,  and there are a number of other Hawkes Bay (and Waiheke Island) winemakers challenging for this title.  

But all this said,  2013 Coleraine is in truth a good wine.  It just does not fulfil the proprietors' lofty claims for it.  It will cellar for at least 25 years,  and given the good corks,  will still be pretty interesting at 35 years.  I do not have many doubts my 82s and 83s will still open reasonably well,  for those who like old wine.  In New Zealand terms it is therefore an ideal choice for cellaring,  to commemorate newborns in the year 2013,  21 years on.  But a number of other Hawkes Bay 2013 reds will be too.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch Paveil de Luze   18 +  ()
Margaux Cru Bourgeois,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $46   [ cork 49mm;  CS 65%,  Me 30;  CF 5;  c.12 months (depending on vintage) in French oak,  30% new;  www.chateaupaveildeluze.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  some age showing.  Bouquet is harmonious and beautifully complex smallish bordeaux,  with an integration of florality,  berry and oak which is delightful.  It smells as if it is cabernet sauvignon and merlot,  with an attractive cassisy lift in the fruit.  It opens up in the glass to show the exact amalgam of ripe berry,  brown  tobacco and cedar which characterises elegant Bordeaux,  yet the wine is not heavy.  Palate weight and style are delightful,  not as 'serious' as the 2009 Clerc Milon,  but not so oaky either,  and therefore much more food-friendly.  This is model cru bourgeois such as Te Kahu is aiming at,  making a marvellous comparison.  Often it is hard to agree with winery enthusiasms on their websites,  but the chateau says:  'The first vintage produced with our talented consultant, Stephane Derenoncourt. A new standard has been achieved',  and I can only agree.  This 2010 is of Fifth Growth quality.  The ripeness is definitive,  better than 2013 Coleraine,  but in the glass the whole wine does not seem quite so 'sophisticated' / complex as Coleraine.  Great value,  a Peter Maude (Auckland) wine.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/15

2009   Ch d'Armailhac   18  ()
Pauillac Fifth Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $140   [ cork 50mm;  CS 60%,  Me 24;  CF 14,  PV 2,  average vine age 46 years,  but 19% over 100 years,  planted at 10,000 vines / ha;  c.3 weeks cuvaison,  c.15 – 18 months (depending on vintage) in French oak,  25 – 33% new;  www.chateau-darmailhac.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the lighter.  It is so hard to find words to actually characterise each wine,  and deliver notes that clearly indicate how one wine differs from the one next door.  Everything said about the  Paveil de Luze in terms of ripeness,  balance,  harmony and complexity applies here too,  yet there is a subtlety and finesse to the Armailhac which lifts it wonderfully.  Mostly it is the subtlety of the very cedary oak,  and hence the freshness of the wine,  like Coleraine,  and relative to the less subtle 2009 Clerc Milon.  The integration of cedary oak with maturing berry,  coupled with good ripeness,  is a delight.  2009 being a hotter year,  these 2009 bordeaux mostly do not have the florality so evident in the better 2010s including the de Luze,  or the much younger top Te Mata reds.  In a sense,  tasters must pick the winestyle that appeals to them.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 03/15

2005  Ch Mouton Rothschild   18  ()
Pauillac First Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $1,650   [ cork 50mm;  DFB;  CS 85%,  Me 14,  CF 1;  average vine age c.50 years;  100% new French barriques for 19-22 months;  c.25,000 cases;  www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  some age showing.  Freshly opened,  the wine is all toasty oak and cedar,  a rich wine that is all about style,  and not about the component varieties at all.  Flavours amplify the bouquet,  the wine already softened and old in some senses,  hints of soft leather and coffee (–ve,  except in Australia) as well as cedar,  all much too oaky,  like some of the Pask Declaration bordeaux blends.  Taken as a whole,  it is the compelling richness which saves the wine,  the amalgam of browning cassis,  tobacco and cedar,  and the length of fruit and flavour on the palate.  A hard wine to score:  I had hoped for more,  given the reputation of the vintage,  but on this showing the wine is developing relatively quickly,  at the 10-year point.    I have to admit the aftertaste is lovely,  epitomising cedary claret and texture in one way,  but again,  it has little to do with grape aromas and flavours.  Cellar 5 – 25 years,  in its style.  GK 03/15

2013  Villa Maria Merlot Organic Cellar Selection   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $16   [ screwcap;  Me 100%;  all machine-harvested;  up to 28 days cuvaison;  30% of the wine in barrel for 12 months,  25% of oak new Hungarian,  balance in s/s with some staves;  RS <1g/L;  fined and filtered;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Dark ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper than the Craggy Merlot,  the third deepest wine,  in fact.  Bouquet is  deeply and darkly plummy,  darker than the Craggy on this component too,  but still lively and fresh.  Below is light cedary oak,  adding interest.  Palate is soft,  rich,  but more tannic than the Craggy wine,  taking away some of the charm of idealised merlot … at this stage.  It may cellar more successfully,  though.  I wondered while tasting if there is a bit of malbec here,  too,  but no.  This wine has more richness than Te Kahu,  and once it has fined down a bit in cellar,  it is going to be the more attractive wine,  I think.  Both this wine and the Esk have generous fruit and lovely ripeness,  but the oak handling is subtler here,  almost comparable with the Paveil de Luze.  This may be the greatest quality / value red from Hawkes Bay in the remarkable 2013 vintage,  at times available down to $13.90.  Cellar 8 – 15 years.  GK 03/15

2013  Craggy Range Merlot Single Vineyard   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 91%,  CS 9,  80% machine-harvested;  100% de-stemmed;  inoculated ferments in s/s;  17 months in French oak 21% new;  RS nil;  fined and filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  even brighter and less oak-affected than Awatea.  Bouquet is wonderfully plummy,  almost a hint of blueberry,  epitomising merlot the variety,  and contrasting with the cabernet-led wines.  It does not have the floral beauty and complexity of Awatea,  but it does have a riper and more ample palate,  though less complexed by oak elevation.  This wine is a dramatic illustration of how accurate varietal New Zealand merlot can be,  in the best sites in our temperate viticultural climate.  Few countries in the world can achieve this varietal quality.  The wine is soft already,  and does not seem to have been made as a long-term cellaring wine.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/15

2011  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ cork;  DFB;  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 nil;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  markedly less dense and clearly older than 2011 Brokenstone,  below midway in depth.    Bouquet is much leaner than Brokenstone,  with much more cedary oak showing.  In mouth the wine is even oakier than the 2009 Clerc Milon,  clearly excessive.  Alongside Brokenstone of the same year,  it does not seem as if cabernet sauvignon developed anywhere near the fruit weight and body that the merlot did,  in  2011.  Nonetheless the wine has some weight and style,  and sits with the more oaky classed Bordeaux in this tasting surprisingly well.  Those who like oak will rate it more highly.  Concentration and ripeness are fractionally ahead of 2013 Awatea,  but Helmsman is much more oaky.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/15

2013  Craggy Range Merlot / Malbec / Cabernets Te Kahu   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  DFB;   Me 73%,  Ma 13,  CS 12,  CF 2,  15% of crop hand-harvested;  100% de-stemmed;  fermented in s/s;  17months in French oak 15% new;  fined and filtered;  RS nil;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Vibrant ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper than the Craggy Merlot or Te Mata Awatea,  as befits a bordeaux blend with a malbec component.  Alongside the plummy Craggy Merlot,  this wine is clearly more aromatic,  with a big cassisy component.  One doesn't know at the blind stage,  but the malbec would be reinforcing that dark cassis.  As a blending variety in our climate,  malbec is a bit like mourvedre in the Rhone,  in our warmer years being unusually aromatic.  Palate is intriguing,  being intensely flavourful and sufficiently ripe and rich,  moreso than Awatea.  Yet at the same time,  there is a boisterous quality – it would be unfair to say roughness – a chunkyness which contrasts with the refined Awatea,  or Coleraine particularly.  It is safe enough to sheet this bold character home to the malbec component.  So one has to make a style choice,  or better,  cellar both.  Since Te Kahu is often sold at an attractive price,  it will be a good cellar wine,  over a 5 – 15-year time span.  GK 03/15

2013  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $24   [ screwcap;  Me 50%,  CS 25,  Ma 16,  CF 9,  all de-stemmed;  inoculated ferments;  12 months in mostly French oak,  20%  new;  RS nil;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper and older than the Te Mata Estate,  just above midway in depth.  This wine shows a lot of bouquet and some fragrant oak,  with a darkly aromatic berry component like the Te Kahu,  pointing at malbec.  When compared with Coleraine or Petit Mouton,  the malbec component is coarse –  no other word for it.  Palate is markedly flavourful,  richer than Te Kahu,  the Te Mata Estate,  or even Awatea,  and clearly much more appropriately ripe than the latter two wines.  When you think this Esk label is sometimes available down to $15 or even less at supermarkets,  and given its richness will cellar 8 – 15 years,  maybe longer,  it illustrates the enormous strides in New Zealand red wine-making in recent years.  It's just a pity about the malbec,  which detracts from the wine's quality,  if Bordeaux be the yardstick.  GK 03/15

2012  Ch Clerc Milon   17 ½  ()
Pauillac Fifth Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $130   [ cork 50mm;  CS 60%,  Me 29;  CF 9,  PV 1,  Ca 1;  average age of vines c.50 years;  c.3 weeks cuvaison,  up to 18 months (depending on vintage) in French oak,  30% new;  www.chateau-clerc-milon.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  below midway in depth.  This wine from the Domaines Rothschild offering was a great one to have in the blind tasting,  since it beautifully illustrates a wine of essentially the same age as our 2013s,  but from a year rated much less favourably.  Even so the fruit ripeness,  balance and weight in the wine highlights exactly how lacking in concentration and ripeness so many New Zealand cabernet / merlots can be,  even in good years such as 2013.  There is a much closer match to wines at the level of Awatea,  particularly in the beauty of bouquet,  but for palate the Clerc Milon is both riper and richer.  Both wines have that tail-end stalkyness signalling not quite perfect ripeness,  though it is better-hidden in the Clerc-Milon.  This will evolve into a refreshing example of the Bordeaux winestyle,  sharing something with Pichon-Lalande in some years.  Cellar 5 – 20 + years.  GK 03/15

2009  Ch Clerc Milon   17 ½  ()
Pauillac Fifth Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $135   [ cork 50mm;  CS 50%,  Me 44;  CF 4,  PV 1,  Ca 1;  average age of vines c.50 years;  c.3 weeks cuvaison,  up to 18 months (depending on vintage) in French oak,  30% new;  www.chateau-clerc-milon.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  almost carmine,  and midway for depth.  Freshly opened this wine too is very oaky,  belying the the colour.  It opens up gradually to a richly cassisy and bottled black doris aroma,  youthful still with plentiful oak.    Flavours however are soft and rich,  almost hot climate,  the wine seemingly more alcoholic than the label states,  the tannins obtrusive.  It is richer than Awatea,  but lacks the freshness and florality of both the top Te Matas.  It is hard in such assessments to exactly allow for the age difference.  The tannins and oak loading are verging on the clumsy,  not something one would ever say about Te Mata reds,  yet it is really ripe.  In sum it seems more a hot-season wine,  lacking the charm of the 2010s,  yet it will give much pleasure.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 03/15

2013  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Awatea   17 +  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $36   [ cork 49mm;  CS 40%,  Me 39%,  CF 16,  PV 5,  hand-harvested;  c.15 months in French oak c.40% new;  RS nil;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Colour is fine young claret,  ruby,  carmine and velvet,  in the top quarter for depth,  just.  This wine wins on bouquet,  with a precision of aromatic varietal cassis and incipient dusky roses / violets florality which one wants to compare with the Petit Mouton.  But when you do,  it immediately lacks that wine's spellbinding ripeness and depth.  Nonetheless the bouquet is beautiful.  In mouth the wine shows the fatal flaw of so many Te Mata bordeaux blends over the years:  what is there is good,  but the wine critically lacks body and dry extract.  And to the tail,  one further wishes for more actual ripeness.  Even in this superb vintage,  there is a clear touch of stalk,  letting the wine down.  The taste of the wine itself therefore tells a quite different story from the proprietors.  In an outstanding year in our temperate climate,  green flavours mean the cropping rate is simply too high.  The 2010 Paveil de Luze illuminates this wine brilliantly.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/15

2013  [ Villa Maria ] Thornbury Merlot   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Me 85%,  CF 7.5,  Ma 7.5;  extended 4 weeks cuvaison;  (perhaps not all the wine) 10 months in French and Hungarian oak some new;  www.thornbury.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  some carmine,  above midway in depth.  There is a lovely floral component to this wine,  so much so that at the blind stage I thought it syrah,  nearly carnations,  roses,  berry dominant,  appealing.    Palate is a whole notch lighter than most of the better-rated wines,  but the ripeness goes right through the wine and palate,  with no tell-tale green edge.  There is less new oak than some,  which simplifies the bouquet and tannins slightly.  Could there be 2 g RS to the finish,  I wonder ?  Good commercial red wine,  still tasting very young,  to cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch L'Abbaye de Sainte Ferme   16 ½ +  ()
Entre Deux Mers (Bordeaux Superieur),  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $20   [ cork 1 + 1 composite,  45mm;  Me 70%,  CS 20,  CF 10;  no info;  www.domainesderaignac.com ]
Ruby,  appreciably older than the Paveil de Luze,  well below midway.  Bouquet smells merlot-dominant,   clearly plummy though browning now,  some dark tobacco and cedary oak complexity,  a hint of chocolate and smoke,  all very much minor bordeaux.  Flavours in mouth are interesting,  soft and ample,  lightly oaked for bordeaux,  a trace of leaf to freshen it.  Good sound petit bordeaux,  mellow and food friendly,  already showing some maturity.  The Thornbury and this wine have much in common,  though L'Abbaye is a little more rustic.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 03/15

2008  Ch d'Armailhac   16 ½ +  ()
Pauillac Fifth Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $130   [ cork 50mm;  CS 54%,  Me 29;  CF 15,  PV 2,  average vine age 46 years,  but 19% over 100 years,  planted at 10,000 vines / ha;  c.3 weeks cuvaison,  c.15 – 18 months (depending on vintage) in French oak,  25 – 33% new;  www.chateau-darmailhac.com ]
Ruby,  older,  well below midway in depth.  Bouquet on this wine shows attractive red fruits and cedar,  plus a hint of stalks.  But with a number of tending-rustic petit chateaux in the line-up,  this one,  though older,  is  immaculately clean.  Palate suggests higher cabernet,  good richness yet a certain austerity,  lovely cedary oak,  and clear stalkyness.  Like the 2012 Clerc Milon,  this was a really useful wine to have in the line-up,  for calibrating achieved ripeness in the New Zealand reds.  Cellar 3 – 15 years.  GK 03/15

2013  Te Mata Merlot / Cabernet Estate   16 ½  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Havelock Hills & Woodthorpe Terraces,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  Me 58%,  CS 31,  CF11;  12 months in French oak some new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  well below midway in intensity.  Bouquet is freshly berried and fragrant,  but not complexly floral the way the premium Te Mata reds are.  Instead there is a simpler fruit / oak red wine aroma closer in style to the Craggy Merlot,  but much lighter.  Palate is a clear step down from the top two Te Matas,  with a raw tannic edge,  and a lack of ripeness and body contrasting with the Craggy wines.  In a year like 2013,  again this can only mean the cropping rate was too high for red wine quality.  Even so,  this Estate Merlot / Cabernet has more to say than the Estate Syrah,  and it should cellar well for 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch L'Oume de Pey   16 ½  ()
Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $19   [ cork 49mm;  CS 60,  Me 40;  12 months in barrels;  no website found ]
Ruby and velvet,  about midway in depth.  This one smells richer and riper than some of the 2010s,  with good nearly cassisy berry and plummy fruit,  quite aromatic and hinting at cabernet.  Flavours show slightly more new oak initially,  and good ripeness,  coupled with fair fruit richness.  Later it becomes a little more leathery,  with light brett complexity.  A little softening of tannins needed still,  cellar 3 – 15 years.  Rather nice in a modest way,  a good Medoc contra to the merlot-led Abbaye.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch Puy-Marceau   16 ½  ()
Entre Deux Mers,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $19   [ cork 45mm;  Me 70%,  CS 15,  CF 15,  at c.100m altitude;  12 months in vat and older barrels;  no website found ]
Ruby,  also showing some age,  a little older than the Abbaye,  and below midway.  Bouquet is in much the same merlot-dominant style,  a clear suggestion of cabernet franc leaf here (these observations at the blind stage),  already considerable marrying-up of browning berry with clean oak,  even suggestions of a little newish oak.  Once one is used to the narrower flavour profiles of cheaper New Zealand reds,  with their overt oak (not always from barrel),  these softer richer more autumnal winestyles can seem odd.  They actually work with food very well.  A little brett.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/15

2013  Sacred Hill Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Halo   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $28   [ Screwcap;  DFB;  cepage around Me 70,  CS 17,  CF 13;  12 months all in oak 20% new;  RS nil;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  midway in depth.  Bouquet is immediately in the simpler,  higher-cropping / made-to-a-price-point new-world winestyle,  clean,  fragrant in a way,  some berry,  some leafyness / stalkyness  (even in 2013,  note),  very pure.  As soon as you taste it,  and confirm the lack of fruit ripeness,  richness and depth,  in the context of technical purity,  you have to ask yourself – which is more pleasing:  perhaps slightly grubby but richer and softer minor bordeaux,  or the narrower hi-tech offering ?  Particularly when they are similar money.  Interesting,  lesser wine than the Estate Te Mata.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/15

2009  Ch Beauvillage   16  ()
Cissac, Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $20   [ cork 45mm;  Me 60,  CS 40,  average age 35 years,  planted at 5,500 vines / ha,  machine-harvest;  elevation mostly in s/s,  some oak;  best info at;  www.sergedoreselections.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the darker wines.  Bouquet is really distinctive on this wine,  clear-cut crushed nasturtium leaves in tobacco and sautéed red capsicums.  It is a clear time-travel reminder of the 1978 Montana Reserve Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon from Marlborough the winemakers were so proud of that time,  thus illustrating scanty knowledge of what good cabernet should taste like.  The flavours however are surprisingly different from the bouquet,  generous fruit with more cabernet sauvignon than some of these petit chateaux (hence the aroma),  fairly clean oak with a touch new (and trace brett),  all quite mouth-filling.  Intriguing but slightly flawed wine,  different,  will cellar in its style 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/15

2010  Domaine de Bouscaut Caduce   15 ½ +  ()
Fronsac,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $20   [ cork 46mm;  Me 70%,  CS 20,  CF 5,  Ma 5,  average age 37 years planted at an average of 5,000 vines / ha;  cuvaison c.25 days,  elevation in puncheons and larger,  unknown (small) percentage new.  Caduce is the entry level and largest cuvée of three qualities from Domaine de Bouscat (not to be confused with Ch Bouscaut in Graves);  appellation is Bordeaux Superieur from 10 km WNW of Fronsac;  no website found ]
Older ruby and velvet,  one of the deeper wines.  Bouquet is minor bordeaux,  plenty of fruit and richness,  but all set in tending-grubby oak with cola undertones.  Bouquets like this can go either way.  With hindsight,  the wine needs decanting.  With air the animal tendencies are dissipated,  and obscurely dark-plummy fruit and older oak dominate,  with a little brett.  Again the richness of these minor wines is a lesson to New Zealand,  but the winemaking standards for some of these minor wines certainly are not.  Riper than the Bellevue,  but a little too grubby to cellar many bottles.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch Bellevue Canteranne   15 ½  ()
Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $20   [ supercritical 'cork' 45mm;  CS 55,  Me 40,  PV 5;  no info found ]
Older ruby,  below midway in depth.  This is another minor wine which benefits from decanting.  It opens up to reasonably harmonious red and black fruits in leathery older oak,  plus some brett.  Palate is lighter and  fresher than some of the other clarets,  pleasantly balanced in a tending-stalky way,  even a hint of new oak.  This wine would harmonise with a few years in cellar,  but will remain a quaffer rather than one to show off.  GK 03/15

2013  Sacred Hill Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Orange Label   15 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $15   [ screwcap;  Me dominant,  some CS;  some of the wine sees French oak,  whether as barrels or more likely as staves or chips in s/s,  not given;  RS given as nil;  often discounted;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  in the lightest quarter.  Bouquet is clean,  hi-tech,  but tending empty and stalky.  There is no clear berry or fruit expression at all.  Flavours are a little better,  strictly a carefully-constructed supermarket wine designed to convey an impression of berryfruit without being able to recognise anything,  some stalkyness,  all eased I suspect by a couple of grams residual,  and low tannins.  When supermarkets are so disinterested in wine as 'wine' that they refuse to even record the vintage,  being interested only in volume sold at the lowest price they can hammer the winemaker down to,  I guess wine like this fulfils its goals as well as can be expected.  Definitely better after several years under the stairs,  but scarcely worth it (depends on the discount) ... but ... at least with wine like this,  you know it is technically clean and stable in bottle.  GK 03/15

2009  Ch Le Grand Moulin   15  ()
Blaye,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $20   [ cork 45mm;  Me 70,  CF 25,  Ma 5,  machine-harvested;  c. 3 weeks cuvaison;  elevation said to be in s/s,  some in French oak barrels;  appellation is Cotes de Bordeaux;   www.grandmoulin.com ]
Older ruby,  in the lightest quarter.  Bouquet is very familiar,  the kind of grubby bordeaux that used to be found behind shippers' labels such as B&G Saint Emilion,  etc.  There is some fruit on bouquet,  but it is overlain by brackish old cooperage / concrete smells.  Palate does show the richness of fruit the AOC regulations tend to produce,  irrespective of the winemaking,  but the flavours are drab,  ancient cooperage,  some brett,  other animal notes,  quite tanniny,  but dry.  Very minor claret,  not worth cellaring.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch Marjosse   14 ½ +  ()
Entre Deux Mers,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $25   [ cork 45mm;  Me 60%,  CS 20,  CF 10,  Ma 10;  owned by Pierre Lurton from Cheval Blanc;  www.chateau-marjosse.com ]
Older ruby,  the second to lightest wine.  Bouquet is old-time,  faintly skunky as well as bretty,  indeterminate fruit,  old leathery cooperage.  Palate is fractionally better,  leathery fruit with a phenolic streak,  probably merlot-dominant from taste,  again good richness but uneven ripeness.  Progress would appear to have been  backwards at this establishment since the still quite acceptable 2000,  which was worth cellaring.  This is not.  [ On checking,  I find I have reviewed this wine before,  when it rated 17 points.  This bottle does not appear to be corked,  so whether there are different shipments / batches or not,  I cannot say. ]  GK 03/15

2010  Ch Cap de Haut   14 +  ()
Blaye,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $20   [ cork 49mm;  Me 70,  CS 30;  appellation is Cotes de Bordeaux;  not to be confused with Ch Cap de Haut in Haut-Medoc;  no info found ]
Older ruby,  the lightest wine.  Hmmm … its hard to find something positive to start with,  for this wine.  Bouquet is classic grubby minor claret,  leathery at best,  bretty,  scarcely any recognisable fruit.  Even Mr Rumpole might sniff at this.  Palate does have some fruit,  as all these minor but AOC wines do,  but there is an acrid quality in the ancient cooperage / concrete vattage which detracts.  On the positive side,  it breathes up quite well,  so open / decant the day before.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/15

2013  Pask Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Malbec Gimblett Road   14  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  cepage around CS 45%,  Me 40,  Ma 15;  c.14 months in oak (barriques);  www.cjpask.co.nz ]
Ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is clean,  youthful,  stalky new-world commercial supermarket cabernet / merlot,  some oak,  clean but severely under-ripe,  even in this magical year.  Palate confirms,  some body,  total acid up,  red berries more than black,  some oak flavours,  but the whole wine skewered on a green stalky backbone.  The Orange label wine (from Sacred Hill) nearly gets away with it,  this one doesn't.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch St Remy   14  ()
Fronsac,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $20   [ cork 50mm;  Me 80,  CF 15,  CS 5;  no info found ]
Older ruby,  the third lightest.  Bouquet is simple plain concrete vat and ancient cooperage minor bordeaux,  the kind of wine that makes concrete vat Cotes du Rhone look simply ravishing.  Palate is surprisingly hard,  leathery and tannic,  which obscures the fruit these minor bordeaux do show,  some brett.  Decant this the day before,  too.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/15

2010  Ch Cap Saint-Martin   13 +  ()
Blaye,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $19   [ supercritical 'cork' 45mm;  Me 97,  CS 3;  elevation in vat and some barrels for 6 – 9 months;  appellation is Cotes de Bordeaux;  www.chateaucapsaintmartin.com ]
Older ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is modest,  bretty,  leathery more than anything.  In mouth it is downhill,  hard phenolic skunky flavours dominate despite the fruit level again being reasonable.  I have some minor bordeaux reds like this from the 1970s,  and these skunky flavours do not go away.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/15

Syrah (and related winestyles):

2013  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose   18 ½ +  ()
Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $50   [ cork 45mm;  3 clones of syrah hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed;  extended cuvaison;  15 months in French oak some new;  RS nil;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the fourth deepest syrah,  good but not dense weight.  Bouquet epitomises the floral qualities which set good syrah apart from other darker red grapes (though merlot from optimal climates comes close).  The precision of the wallflower and dusky rose florals here is stunning,  matched only by top-notch Cote Rotie (which is not over-oaked,  thus ruling out the Guigal grands crus),  such as the best Jamet and Cuilleron bottlings.  Behind the florals is rich berry embracing both cassis and omega plum,  plus subtle beautiful oak.  Flavour follows magically,  the florality continuing long into the palate,  again totally good Cote Rotie in style.  There is a subtlety and finesse to this wine unthinkable in Australian interpretations of the grape,  so more than likely it will be disparaged by some of their more boisterous commentators.  But to anyone attuned to Cote Rotie,  this is the real thing.  I took the 2005 Bullnose with me,  when visiting Yves Cuilleron a few years ago:  the consistency of style and achievement by Te Mata with their Bullnose syrahs is a pleasure to record.  This 2013 is as good as any vintage to date.  The proprietors,  being winemakers,  say to cellar it 6 – 8 years,  but those who like gentle mature wines and the way they are so magical with food,  can double that.  This is every bit as great an achievement,  in world terms,  as 2013 Coleraine,  and as I have argued in some previous vintages,  perhaps a greater one,  simply because it shows pinpoint ripeness to optimise the floral / burgundian side of syrah.  GK 03/15

2013  Crossroads Syrah Elms Vineyard Winemakers Collection   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested;  100% de-stemmed;  c.14 months in French oak 25% new,  no American oak;  RS dry;  www.crossroadswines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  bigger and more vibrant than Bullnose,  the deepest syrah.  Like Bullnose,  this syrah is distinguished in the set of syrahs by the elegance and purity of its bouquet.  The alcohol reflects thoughtful picking,  before too many florals were lost – wonderful.  It is not however quite so exquisitely floral and varietal as Bullnose,  showing more black pepper and more oak,  and less subtle complexity.  In mouth the wine is stronger,  bolder,  more tannic and more oaky,  but still the cassisy berry dominates:  it is dramatically syrah.  It is great to see the winemaker not falling into the excess new oak trap.  What a great step up this wine is,  for Crossroads.  It is as if a block of syrah has been grown specifically for quality,  with a much lower cropping rate than many of the Crossroads wines over the last decade.  Those who like their wines with a little more obvious grunt,  may well prefer this to the more subtle 2013 Bullnose.  With time in cellar,  it may well match or overtake Bullnose.  Exciting wine.  Cellar 8 – 15 years.  GK 03/15

2010  Bodegas Torre de Barreda Amigos   18  ()
Tierra de Castilla,  Castilla-la-Mancha,  Spain:  14.5%;  $20   [ cork 46mm;  DFB;  Te 65% 40 years old,  Sy 25,  CS 10,  both 10 years old,  all grown at 700m; 12 months in American and French oak,  some new,  followed by 6 months in concrete vat;  www.bodegas-barreda.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  quite dense,  the second deepest 'syrah' wine,  clearly older than the Villa Anniversary.  Bouquet is very different here,  as befits a wine made primarily from tempranillo.  There is a fragrant grapeyness,  plus a warm 'rabbit guts' quality to it which is more winey than it sounds,  in a lovely red fruits more than black context.  The bouquet is basically tempranillo and American oak,  I would think,  sweet,  ripe and intriguing.  Palate builds on the bouquet beautifully,  the wine showing the combination of richness and suppleness which good tempranillo so often displays,  and the oak though fragrant and noticeable is not at all phenolic.  Spanish magic.  So where does the syrah come in ?  There is a spiciness to the palate which could be black pepper,  and checking back through the wine,  perhaps the unusual bouquet reflects syrah 'fighting' with the tempranillo,  at this stage.  The actual palate structure is very like the Bullnose,  soft and lovely.  I suspect this will age into a distinctive Spanish beauty,  intensely fragrant,  rich,  yet not tannic,  as good tempranillo used to be in the 50s and 60s,  before modern tastes demanded overt oak.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  maybe longer.  A wine from The Wine Importer,  and already sold-out.  GK 03/15

2013  Craggy Range Syrah Individual Vineyard   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $26   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  90% hand-harvested;  95%  de-stemmed,  5% whole-bunch;  17 months in French oak 22% new;  no fining,  filtered;  RS,  dry;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  well above midway in depth,  a very bright youthful colour,  as if it has a little less oak exposure than Bullnose or Crossroads.  Bouquet is deep,  ripe and densely plummy and blueberry,  ripened fractionally past the optimal florality of Bullnose,  perhaps.  In the blind tasting therefore,  it can be confused with fine merlot,  but there is a critical dimension – subtle beauty – missing.  Palate is big,  soft,  ripe and ample,  showing much less oak influence than the Crossroads.  There is some black pepper and spice on palate,  less than  Crossroads,  and easily confuseable with new oak,  if you interpreted the wine as merlot at the blind stage.  I opened the 2004 of this label (then Block 14) the other day,  and its vigour amply supported my view on cellaring syrah,  re the Bullnose comments above.  Cellar 8 – 15 years.  GK 03/15

2011  Villa Maria Syrah 50th Anniversary Release   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $115   [ Sy 100% hand-harvested at 2.5 ton/ha = 1 t/ac,  a rate comparable with the finest Hermitages and Cote Roties;  100% de-stemmed,  nil whole-bunch;  4 weeks cuvaison;  MLF and 17 months in French oak,  50% new;  absolutely minimal fining and filtration;  RS < 1 g/L;  c.110 cases produced;  selected as the finest wine made by Villa Maria in the 2011 vintage,  to commemorate 50 vintages at Villa Maria;  packed in a one-off embossed bottle,  which if bottle-collectors survive as a species,  will ultimately become a collectors' item;  available from Villa Maria headquarters cellar-shop at Mangere,  cellarshop@villamaria.co.nz;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Darkest red velvet,  intensely deep and rich,  the darkest wine in the syrah line-up.  This is the most 'different' wine in the tasting.  Knowing I had a Spanish syrah in the line-up,  made by a UK MW,  it was near impossible to examine this specimen without thinking of a hotter-climate wine.  So once one knows what it is,  and proceeds to write notes to illuminate the actual wine,  rather than making a pretence of writing notes 'blind',  some re-shaping of one's thoughts is needed.  The wine smells of raisins,  seems the simplest summary interpretation.  All the florality and beauty of syrah picked at optimal ripeness before shrivelling / dimpling sets in,  as in the 2013 Bullnose,  has been lost here.  But nonetheless it smells wonderfully rich,  deep and best Californian moist prunes,  in style.  Behind the fruit there is an unusual oak-related smell,  very hessian and quite intrusive.  It should marry away,  being a legitimate aroma in some kinds of new French oak.  In mouth the concentration is phenomenal.  The dry extract rating I like to talk about,  as do the Europeans,  and so many New Zealand winemakers affect not to talk about,  is here exemplary:  it must be in the 30s.  The richness carries the oak character sufficiently,  so the hessian quality is more apparent than real.  The flavours again suggest unusually late harvest,  the raisin thoughts again,  but are not stale.  This is intriguing wine,  reminding of burly syrahs from Washington State maybe,  which some will love and others will not be so sure.  One thing is certain,  it will cellar for many years,  and thus be a vital souvenir of Villa Maria's 50th vintage anniversary.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 03/15

2013  Sacred Hill Syrah Halo   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  14 months in barrel;  RS <1 g/L;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  above midway in depth.  Bouquet is highly fragrant,  clearly varietal with florals including dianthus and dark roses,  but the florality augmented by a little VA.  Flavours add varietal white as well as black pepper and spice to cassisy and plummy berry,  but in a lighter and more acid wine than Bullnose,  lacking that wine's extraordinary finesse,  magic,  and concentration.  This wine too,  therefore,  illustrates the over-cropping dilemma,  in New Zealand.  In the semi-affordable price bracket,  this Halo makes a nice complement to the riper plusher Craggy wine,  between them illustrating syrah well.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/15

2010  Fromm Syrah La Strada   17 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ cork 44mm;  no info available;  www.frommwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  well above midway in depth.  Bouquet is odd,  an impression of quite rich anonymous fruit complexed with wintergreen / lawsoniana resiny undertones.  The nett impression is reasonably OK,  if you are not allergic to wintergreen.  Flavours however are remarkable for a syrah from Marlborough.  They show a depth and ripeness of berry way ahead of the Lovat syrah,  with impressive concentration,  and clear nearly black pepper spice.  If it weren't for the deviant note on bouquet,  this would clearly be a silver medal wine.  It is both riper and richer than the Halo wine.  Perhaps I'll overlook the bouquet,  in the hope that might be the cork,  and score it where the fruit sits.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  I look forward to the next blind encounter.  This is Fromm's second-level Syrah,  by the way.  GK 03/15

2013  Martinborough Vineyard Syrah Lovat   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  10% whole bunch;  14 months in barrel,  16% new;  to be released late in the year at around $50;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Medium ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is intriguing,  with on the one hand a beautiful carnations / dianthus highly varietal cool-climate syrah note,  but also a slightly more marc-y interpretation of the grape.  It is still remarkably varietal in the blind line-up of 45 wines,  however.  In mouth it springs more into focus,  distinct reminders of Les Collines Rhodaniennes,  the cooler zone above Cote Rotie where they have difficulty ripening syrah to its full varietal expression.  Actual fruit and berry are good,  but there is a touch of stalk and acid,  hints of red currants as well as black,  and red plums more than black too.  Oaking is subtly matched to this lighter fruit character.  Interesting wine,  illustrating how intensively syrah must be cultivated to deliver correct varietal character in the Martinborough district,  even when the cropping rate (as here) is appropriate for quality.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 03/15

2010  [ El Escoces Volante ] Dos Dedos de Frente [ Syrah ] Unfiltered   17  ()
Calatayud,  Spain:  14.5%;  $40   [ cork 50mm;  Sy 95%,  Vi 5,  grown at 950m altitude;  10 days cold soak,  c. 4 weeks cuvaison;  unknown months in all-French oak significant part new;  RS 1.8 g/L;  750 case production;  www.escocesvolante.es/dosdedos.html ]
Ruby and velvet,  some age showing,  midway in depth.  Bouquet is big,  cedary,  in some ways more bordeaux than syrah in style on account of the oak handling,  an amalgam of vaguely browning cassis and other fruit notes with oak.  Palate suggests a warmer-climate wine,  some alcohol apparent,  the oak right through the palate profile yet not unduly phenolic.  The finish however is drying,  on the oak,  and tending coarse and leathery.  It sits rather well alongside the Villa Maria Anniversary wine,  as a rich but not exactly varietal wine which will cellar well,  and make interesting 'old bones'.  The Dos Dedos is older than the Anniversary,  as a wine,  but the oak is a little more elegant.  Alongside the Barreda however,  it is too oaky.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  A Bennett & Deller wine.  GK 03/15

2013  Martinborough Vineyard Syrah / Viognier   16 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:   – %;  $48   [ screwcap;  Sy 95%,  Vi 5,  co-fermented in the Cote Rotie manner;  cuvaison 21 days;  14 months in French oak 29% new;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Medium ruby,  lighter than the Martinborough Lovat syrah,  the lightest of the syrahs – so no co-pigmentation  effect here.  Bouquet is light,  fresh,  cool,  and even more Les Collines Rhodaniennes than the Lovat:  white pepper and stalks are very evident,  in redcurrant,  red plum and just a hint of cassis.  The wine is attractively fragrant,  but not ripe enough to be exactly floral.  Flavours are clearly stalky,  red fruits only,  the tannins carefully shaped to the winestyle,  but it is simply not ripe enough to display the variety at its best.  Scores well as lightish red wine,  but less well as syrah.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 03/15

2014  Te Mata Syrah Estate   16  ()
Woodthorpe Terraces and Bridge Pa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  Sy 97%,  Vi 3;  de-stemmed;  7 months in French oak some new;  RS nil;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet,  the second lightest syrah wine.  Bouquet is juvenile,  unknit,  stalky,  almost a maceration carbonique undertone,  total sulphur unusually low,  giving the impression of being prematurely released as varietal syrah.  Below are red berries,  at best,  and thoughts of white pepper / stalk.  Palate matches pretty well,  reasonable fruit,  unpleasantly youthful,  but clean and not too dilute.  It is hard to believe all of this wine has been in barrel,  though the Te Mata notes are so carefully written that that is not specifically claimed.  [ Nearly all wineries draw a discreet veil over the actual percentage of their more affordable wine which is in oak,  as opposed to the use of staves or chips,  usually in stainless. ]  Te Mata do themselves a disservice by releasing the wine so young:  this will not attract customers to sample wines further up their hierarchy.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  as such.  GK 03/15

2010  Staete Landt Syrah Arie   15 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $49   [ cork 45mm;  Sy 100%,  3 clones hand-picked;  7 days cold soak,  extended cuvaison to 40 days for some parts;  MLF and 20 months in French oak 40% new;  RS <1  g/L;  www.staetelandt.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some age showing,  one of the lightest syrahs.  Bouquet is intriguingly different,  until one thinks of minor Crozes-Hermitage,  some browning red fruits,  some thoughts of brown mushrooms,  a touch of brett,  and a hint of honeycomb,  all quite European at this stage.  Palate however changes that impression,  fair fruit but more stalky than modest Crozes-Hermitage would be,  and total acid up.  A touch of new oak serves to accentuate the acid and stalk,  unfortunately.  There is some varietal white pepper in the red-only fruits,  and the wine is saved by not being dilute.  Should be food-friendly,  particularly where acid is helpful.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 03/15

2010  Ata Rangi Syrah   15  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $48   [ screwcap;  vines up to 30 years age;  up to 6 days cold soak;  up to 3 weeks cuvaison;  MLF in barrel;  11 months in French oak c.20% new;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Ruby,  an older wine,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is tending old-fashioned,  fragrant but reminiscent of Entre-Deux-Mers more than syrah,  showing reasonable fruit but all tending leafy and leathery.  It seems old for its age.  Palate shows reasonable red fruits browning now,  but acid is higher than the Staete wine and there is rather a lot of stalk too,  so this wine too is a cool-climate syrah.  Even once one knows the variety,  the total style still seems stalky merlot-dominant minor bordeaux,  rather than syrah.  It works as pleasant food wine,  rather than as a varietal.  It needs to lose some tannin,  so cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 03/15