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


Some batches of reviews on this site will report on a tasting or series of tastings where there is a common theme.  Other reviews (such as this) will simply cover assorted wines which have become available for review,  for one reason or another.  Reviews made in relative isolation cannot achieve the same consistency of scoring as themed tastings,  for perfect taste is as rare as perfect pitch.  Along with bottle variation in wines closed with cork,  these are two logical reasons why wine reviews made at different times may show quite different scores.  Such apparent conflict of scores will be  included on the site,  for it reflects consumer experience too.


   nv  Morton Methode Traditionelle
   nv  Wolf Blass Chardonnay / Pinot Noir
2002  Forrest Chardonnay Vineyard Selection
2003  Gravitas Chardonnay
2003  Gravitas Chardonnay Unoaked
2004  Bodega Lurton Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2003  Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc Long Cow
2003  Pond Paddock Riesling Harvest Moon
2002  Richmond Grove Riesling
Pinot Gris
2004  Bodega Lurton Pinot Gris
2003  Mount Maude Gewurztraminer
2004  Wairau River Gewurztraminer
Sweet / Sticky
2002  Rongopai Late Harvest Special Reserve
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2003  Trentham Estate Viognier
2004  Bodega Lurton Rosado
  2004  Harrier Rise Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2003  Bodega Lurton Cabernet Sauvignon
2002  Pirramimma Cabernet Sauvignon Stock's Hill
2003  Capricorn Estates Red Rock Gravel Pit Red Merlot / Cabernets
2002  Villa Maria Malbec Single Vineyard Omahu
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2003  Rockburn Pinot Noir
2002  Shepherds Ridge Pinot Noir
2002  Waiwera Estate Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2003  Karikari Estate Syrah
2002  Pirramimma Shiraz Stock's Hill
2001  Richmond Grove Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2002  Ch des Erles Carignan / Syrah / Grenache Cuvee des Ardoises
2002  Ch Marie-Josee Grenache / Shiraz
2002  Veritas Shiraz / Mataro / Grenache Heinrich
All other red wines, blends etc
2003  Bodega Lurton Malbec
2003  Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno
From the Cellar. Older wines.
1980  Penfolds Grange Bin 95 [ Shiraz ]
1994  Rockford Shiraz Basket Press
1998  Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Exceptionelle

nv  Wolf Blass Chardonnay / Pinot Noir   16  ()
Australia unspecified:  10.5%;  $13   [ www.wolfblass.com.au ]
Palest straw.  Very clean pure neutral fruit which could certainly be early-picked pinot noir and chardonnay,  though there is a sniff of semillon about it too.  The lightest hint of autolysis / breadcrust complexity.  Palate likewise is pure and correct,  but lacking flavour,  and finishing a little acid compared with Lindauer. Staightforward simple bubbly. Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 6/04  GK 06/04

nv  Morton Methode Traditionelle   14 ½  ()
Marlborough & Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  12%;  $21   [ Ch,  PM,  PN;   100% MLF;  www.mortonestatewines.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  A modest bouquet,  with a crumb-of-bread yeastiness verging on sur lie carboardiness,  rather than fragrant yeast autolysis.  Palate is yeast-influenced to a degree,  but is in the straightforward fruity new world sparkling style,  chardonnay dominant,  simple.  Scarcely worth cellaring 5 – 8 years to dry a little,  and seem more "complex".  Fair to say this seems a more modest batch than my memory of the wine.  GK 12/04

2003  Gravitas Chardonnay   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26
Pale lemon.   A beautiful mild 'sweet' chardonnay bouquet,  showing great varietal character in an almost Chablis Grand Cru style,  augmented by the subtlest oaking and sweetest lees autolysis imaginable.  Palate follows perfectly,  mouthfilling white stonefruits and hints of button mushrooms,  mild,  sustained,  all in harmony.  One could drink a lot of this.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Forrest Chardonnay Vineyard Selection   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $28   [ screwcap;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Youthful lemonstraw.   A big chardonnay showing a lot of varietal stonefruit and a lot of fine French oak,  welded together with obvious barrel ferment and lees autolysis.   Palate is likewise a big mouthful of complex chardonnay.  It is much more flavoursome than the Gravitas,  and superficially more appealing,  but after a while one notices the oak creeping up  –  as with most New Zealand chardonnays  –  and a less assertive wine can have more appeal.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 12/04

2004  Bodega Lurton Chardonnay   15 ½  ()
Mendoza,  Argentina:  13%;  $17   [ www.jflurton.com ]
A slightly brassy lemon.  This wine is something of a mixed bag.  Bouquet is slightly scented and rubbery,  but below there is oaky chardonnay.  On palate the fruit has a melony quality  reminiscent of much commercial South Australian chardonnay,  and a hollow oaky flavour.  It is the kind of wine that palls,  as one drinks it.  QDW chardonnay,  not worth cellaring.  GK 12/04

2003  Gravitas Chardonnay Unoaked   14 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $23
Lemonstraw,  deeper than the oaked one.  This wine suffers on bouquet from the same problem as the '04 Sauvignon,  showing suggestions of staleness.  There are also somewhat ersatz fruity notes,  as produced by some of the 'aromatic' yeasts.   Palate is pleasantly peachy in one way,  yet has a boiled sultana juice quality to it which quickly palls,  so it ends up as QDW chardonnay,  not worth cellaring.  GK 12/04

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2003  Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc Long Cow   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap ]
Light lemongreen.  VA detracts from an otherwise pure expression of ripe black passionfruit sauvignon,  with ripest red pepper complexity.  Palate is crisp,  attractive,  highly varietal.  This would be good wine,  without the VA.  GK 06/04

2003  Pond Paddock Riesling Harvest Moon   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  www.pondpaddock.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  Lovely fragrant varietal riesling,  with citrus blossoms and lime zest fruit characters on bouquet.  Palate is rich,  a bit big and soft and thus early-developing,  but highly varietal.  Sweetness is hard to judge,  the acid being a touch low,  but probably medium-dry.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 11/04

2002  Richmond Grove Riesling   17  ()
Barossa & Eden Valleys,  South Australia:  12%;  $13   [ screwcap;  www.richmondgrovewines.com ]
Brilliant lemongreen.  This is a classic Australian riesling on bouquet,  with vanillin florals starting to broaden out and introduce a faintest thread of rubber,  as is so often the case with their whites.  Palate is firm,  flavoursome,  quite phenolic on the limey terpenes,  coarser-grained than the Martinborough wine,  clearly 'dry'.  Cellar 5 –  8 years,  though it will coarsen.  GK 11/04

Pinot Gris
2004  Bodega Lurton Pinot Gris   17  ()
Valle de Uco,  Mendoza,  Argentina:  13%;  $17   [ www.jflurton.com ]
Lemon.   Bouquet shows a fragrant yellow-flowers quality which is not totally pure,  but is genuine pinot gris.  Palate has soft,  rich,  mild fruit akin to an unoaked chardonnay,  but tasting like reasonable Alsatian pinot gris.  Finish is on pleasant grape phenolics,  in lieu of oak.   Not as stylish as the '03 of this label,  but good varietal wine at a good price.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 12/04

2004  Wairau River Gewurztraminer   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $19   [ screwcap;  www.wairauriverwines.com ]
Lemongreen.  Quiet when first opened,  but develops in glass to show a good volume of bouquet,  with the complexity of rosepetal,  lychee fruit,  and wild ginger blossom.   There is also a trace of armpit-like character,  just taking the sheen off it.  Palate is richer than bouquet,  indicating good development lies ahead.  In addition to the bouquet aromas,  there are aromatic Otago dried apricot suggestions,  and fine aromatic hoppy flavours,  all medium dry.  Richer than the excellent Mills Reef wine.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 11/04

2003  Mount Maude Gewurztraminer   15 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.mountmaude.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  A light but clearly floral bouquet,  with a hint of wild ginger blossom and jasmine in it.  Palate is also light,  too light to be obviously gewurz in the blind tasting,  but once one knows the variety,  there is indeed a little spice and citronella.  This is a delicate and pure example of the variety which should cellar well,  in its very understated style,  for maybe 5 – 8 years.  GK 10/04

Sweet / Sticky
2002  Rongopai Late Harvest Special Reserve   17 ½  ()
Te Kauwhata,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $20   [ botrytised  riesling and chardonnay;  www.rongopaiwines.co.nz ]
Pale gold.  A clean pure bouquet of botrytis,  VA,  and passionfruit fruit salad,  nectary and quite delicious.  Palate is a little unusual,  fruity,  very botrytisy,  but also with a cool leafy quality plus fresh acid,  which makes the wine light and refreshing,  despite its sweetness and developed appearance,  and initial flavours.  Not a full sweet dessert wine,  and the body from the chardonnay makes it more a light sauternes style,  rather than an equivalent auslese or maybe beerenauslese.  Cellar with caution,  maybe to five years.  GK 06/04

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2003  Trentham Estate Viognier   17  ()
New South Wales,  Australia:  14%;  $19   [ screwcap ]
Elegant full lemongreen.  Archetypal canned apricot viognier on bouquet,  plus Australian weight,  promising.  On palate however,  the whole wine coarsens up in the familiar Australian white wine style,  with excessive alcohol exaggerating noticeable phenolics – whether oak-derived is not clear.  Already fully mature,  but worthwhile for its focussed varietal bouquet.  Gold Medal in Australian Shows.  Cellar a year or two only.  GK 09/04

2004  Harrier Rise Rosé   17  ()
Kumeu,  Auckland,  New Zealand:  12%;  $16   [ screwcap ]
Light pretty rosé.  A clean fresh bouquet intermediate in style between a very light merlot and a sauvignon blanc.  Palate has good fruit and is 'dry',  but it tastes as if it is not made solely from red grapes.   A cool-climate rosé,  in contrast to the Lurton wine,  fresh and pleasing.  Will cellar a year or so.  GK 12/04

2004  Bodega Lurton Rosado   17  ()
Mendoza,  Argentina:  13%;  $16   [ www.jflurton.com ]
Medium rosé.  This rosé smells as if it is made from red grapes alone,  soft,  fragrant,  lightly plummy,  but maybe faintest rubber too.  Palate is soft,  round and full,  not as fresh as the Harrier Rise,  but more serious,  more grape tannins and red grapes.   These are two totally different rosé styles,  each equally valid.  Cellar a year or so,  but it may flatten on the  lowish acid.  GK 12/04

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2002  Villa Maria Malbec Single Vineyard Omahu    18 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $55   [ screwcap;  Ma 100%;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Dense  ruby,  carmine and velvet.   Tasted blind amongst a batch of Chilean malbecs,  this NZ wine is perfectly ripe,  dispelling the notion malbec can't be ripened properly in New Zealand.  There is intense darkly plummy berry like merlot,  but with an aromatic edge to it reminding of black olives and syrah.  Plus a lot of hessian new oak.  Palate is velvety rich,  tending one-dimensional in the style of malbec,  but again,  beautifully ripe. One can see in this very good wine why it is nonetheless regarded as second rate in Bordeaux,  for there is a certain monolithic quality to the fruit flavours.  On the world stage this is internationally competitive top-level malbec,  as rich or richer than any of the Viu Manent (Chile) wines,  and subtler in its oaking,  even though the Villa wine is scarcely low oak.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Pirramimma Cabernet Sauvignon Stock's Hill   17 ½  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australian:  14.5%;  $22   [ www.pirramimma.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.   Clearcut cassis dominates the bouquet,  backed up by aromatic oak,  and alcohol.  Palate is strongly flavoured,  the oak increasing,  a hint of euc. creeping in,  but the cassis and berry are clearly varietal and competing well.  This is a classically dry Australian cabernet which will cellar for 10 – 20 years,  though remaining somewhat oaky.  GK 12/04

2003  Capricorn Estates Red Rock Gravel Pit Red Merlot / Cabernets   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  www.capricornwines.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet on this wine is rich, but somewhat stewed and porty,  and despite some VA, is lacking the vivacity one hopes for in Hawkes Bay.  Flavours are rich and concentrated,  but also monolithic,  oaky,  and quite Australian in style.  May just be in an ugly duckling stage,  but is pretty dull right now.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2003  Bodega Lurton Cabernet Sauvignon   15  ()
Valle de Uco,  Mendoza,  Argentina:  13%;  $17   [ www.jflurton.com ]
Good ruby.  A simple rank red on bouquet,  vaguely red plums,  smelling more like a concrete vat wine than one from wood.  Palate is similar,  quite good berry fruit,  but flavours are modest and the tannins bring back the rank quality.  Would cellar,  in its modest QDR style,  for 5 – 8 years.  GK 12/04

Pinot Noir
2003  Rockburn Pinot Noir   17  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $38   [ screwcap;  www.rockburn.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.   A sweet and fragrant red cherry bouquet,  with florals too in the rosepetal spectrum.  Palate is lightish,  as might be expected from such florals,  but there are attractive red currants and red cherries,  let down slightly by a leafy thread.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 11/04

2002  Waiwera Estate Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Golden & Tasman Bays,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $24   [ screwcap ]
Rich pinot noir ruby.   There is a good volume of bouquet on this wine,  combining blackboy peach and cherry fruit with slightly varnishy oak  –  by chance fitting in well with the de Courcel wines in the blind tasting.  Flavours follow in the same style,  fair fruit,  slightly stalky,  oak to a maximum,  clearly varietal but straightforward.   Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 11/04

2002  Shepherds Ridge Pinot Noir   15  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $26
Lightest ruby.  Initially opened,  bouquet is veiled.  Breathes to an old-fashioned fragrant but grassy / stalky bouquet,  like the Auckland wines of the early 80s.  Flavours are light redfruits including red currants,  fragrant,  more flesh than expected,  but stalky.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 11/04

Syrah = Shiraz
2002  Pirramimma Shiraz Stock's Hill   17  ()
McLaren Vale,  South Australian:  14.5%;  $22   [ www.pirramimma.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet.   Not much doubt about the make-up of this wine.  It shows sweet boysenberry fruit,  fragrant coconutty American oak,  and a warm-climate leatheryness,  in a rich bouquet.  Palate is soft,   round and velvety,  within the limitations of an oaky wine of 14.5%,  and tastes exactly how the wine smells,  not exactly complex, but certainly robust.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  to mellow but not change much.  GK 12/04

2001  Richmond Grove Shiraz   16  ()

Coonawarra & Padthaway,  South Australia:  14%;  $13   [ www.richmondgrovewines.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A stereotypical Australian commercial red wine,  clearly euc'y,  rich on indeterminate berry and fruit,  slightly leathery,  no obvious faults.   Palate continues in the same vein,  rich and juicy boysenberry and black plummy fruit,  heavy even oppressive tannins,  but the oak and acid reasonably well balanced to the weighty style.  Lots of grapes per bottle,  liquid sunshine,  but not easy to drink.  Cellar 5 – 10 years to lighten up.  GK 11/04

2003  Karikari Estate Syrah   16  ()
Karikari Peninsula,  North Auckland,  New Zealand:  12.6%;  $25   [ screwcap;  trace Vi;  www.karikariestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a flush of carmine.  A very oaky wine,  but also clear suggestions of syrah complexities including peppery florals,  making the whole wine fragrant.  Palate is moderately rich,  too oaky,  a little stalky and acid in the style of lesser Crozes-Hermitage syrahs,  but interesting.  Cropped more conservatively (to increase ripeness a little),  and raised in older oak for a shorter time,  this could be attractive,  and different from Hawkes Bay maybe.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 11/04  GK 11/04

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2002  Ch Marie-Josee Grenache / Shiraz   18  ()
Corbieres,  France:  13.5%;  $20   [ Marie-Josee Lahore-Bargez and J & F Lurton;  www.jflurton.com ]
Good ruby.  Benefits from decanting to display an attractive bouquet of good grenache raspberries
with sweet cinnamon suggestions,  all beautifully winey.  Palate is soft,  potentially velvety,  with much of the style of Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas,  but lighter.  Much drier and more savoury,  with herbes de Provence complexities,  than the Albada Garnacha.  Flavours linger in the mouth most attractively,  with soft furry tannins.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 08/04

2002  Ch des Erles Carignan / Syrah / Grenache Cuvee des Ardoises   17 ½  ()
Fitou,  France:  13.5%;  $29
Medium ruby,  a little older than some.  A big,  fragrant and slightly peppery bouquet,  similar in style to the Marie-Josee.  Palate is again sweetly grenache initially,  but not quite as smoothly velvety,  as the pepper of carignan builds up. Though more expensive than the Marie-Josee, I suspect it will not give the same ultimate pleasure.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 08/04

2002  Veritas Shiraz / Mataro / Grenache Heinrich   16 ½  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia:  14.5%;  $29   [ 16.5 ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This is a wine to put away,  and forget totally for eight or so years.  Freshly opened now,  it is euc'y to the point of being offensively wintergreen,  with aggressive oak as well.  Below this sensory affront,  there is good fruit.  Well breathed,  the aggressive characters retreat,  and beautiful aromatic lushly rich fruit emerges,  all with an aniseed suggestion.  Might be worth waiting for,  I suspect,  though it will always be dramatically Australian.  Hard to score,  could be rated higher,  depending so much on personal preferences.  Cellar 10 – 15 years,  or longer.  GK 08/04

All other red wines, blends etc
2003  Bodega Lurton Malbec   16  ()
Valle de Uco,  Mendoza,  Argentina:  13%;  $17   [ www.jflurton.com ]
Ruby.  A pleasantly straightforward red wine bouquet showing more aromatic berry than the Lurton Cabernet.  Plums and black olives are hinted at, and the total bouquet is reminiscent of very ripe pinotage,  on the local scene.  Palate shows some fruit plumpness,  little or no oak (or merely big old oak),  and pleasant balance.  Total achievement is more QDR,  but it will cellar for 5 – 8 years.  GK 12/04

2003  Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno   14 ½  ()
Marches DOC,  Italy:  13%;  $14   [ plastic closure;  Sa,  & montepulciano to a max of 40% ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  A veiled bouquet,  a grey reductive fog in fact,  on reasonable berry and fruit in which varietal character is obscured.  Palate is ripe and of medium weight,  little or no oak in the European rich QDR style,  but again specific flavours are lost  –  it is just vaguely plummy.  With a good deal of splashy to & fro decanting,  it cleans up reasonably well,  but the degree of aeration required is tending unrealistic.  Sturdy QDR which will cellar for several years,  but remain drab.  GK 11/04

From the Cellar. Older wines.
1998  Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Exceptionelle   19  ()
Alsace,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ bottle courtesy Peter Saunders ]
A great bouquet capturing all the floral and complex beauty of the variety  –  nearly rosepetal in intensity,  followed by a crisp (nearly dry),  flavoursome,  and non-spirity long palate, with orders of magnitude more to say in a varietal sense than our thus-far all-too-often relatively bland and alcoholic offerings.  Wonderful wine now,  but will cellar for some years.  GK 10/04

1980  Penfolds Grange Bin 95 [ Shiraz ]   17 ½  ()
South Australia:  12.5%;  $ –    [ bottle courtesy Nick Bulleid;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
An immensely fragrant wine,  but more of fine oak than immediately varietal fruit.  Palate is velvety browning boysenberry and cassis fruit richer than the Graveyard,  and the oak is every bit as supple in mouth as it is fragrant to bouquet.  But there is too much of it,  so the wine is impressive rather than beautiful.  Less good with food,  for the same reason.  GK 10/04

1994  Rockford Shiraz Basket Press   15  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia:  14.5%;  $ – 
A leathery (-ve) and very tannic wine maturing ungracefully from one-dimensional browning boysenberry and slightly salty shiraz,  plus excess oak.  A hard charmless finish,  food-unfriendly,  as most of these monsters are.  GK 10/04