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


Geoff Kelly,  MSc Hons

Conclusions from the tasting:
If the 1989 Bordeaux got off to dubious start in the first of these two 2019 Summer FAWC ! Library Tastings,  the syrahs in Pt 2 quickly revealed themselves to include some beautiful wines.  On my scale of values,  half the wines merit at least 18.5 = 92.5 points = gold medal in Australia / New Zealand.  That is not to say there were no hitches:  one of the (hopefully) top Hermitages had to be rejected for oxidation,  and a second wine showed some signs of the same issue.

There were two magical facets to the tasting.  The top syrahs were truly floral,  a key dimension for syrah only thought about by European wine-people (and too few of them),  and secondly,  two of the Australian wines were sufficiently subtle and not over-ripened to be classed as syrah.  But they did have the distinctive subtle floral mint note (akin to the garrigue character found in Rhone Valley wines) pointing to an Australian environmental influence,  rather than the true florals associated with the intrinsic syrah grape.

For the second evening,  these 1999 syrahs were simply beautiful.  20 years is the perfect time to taste well-constituted Rhone Valley wines,  either syrahs from the North,  or grenache-led blends from the South.  At this age they show perfect maturity,  yet with their youthful characters still evident,  plus no sign of decay.  In contrast to the 1989 Bordeaux tasting two nights earlier,  fully half the wines in this tasting showed syrah of gold-medal quality.  From the left:  1999 Guigal Hermitage,  still beautifully floral,  the wine subtle and gentle,  reminders of fine pinot noir,  18.5;  1999 Mount Langhi Ghiran Shiraz Langi from the Grampians in Victoria,  Australia,  highly floral with distinctive flowering mint Prostanthera notes to the fore,  aromatic berry and subtle oak,  syrah-quality not shiraz,  18.5;  1999 Mission Estate Syrah Jewelstone from New Zealand,  a rich palate outclassing the Langi and the Jamet,  showing just how exciting syrah will be for New Zealand in years to come,  Hermitage-like,  18.5 +;  1999  Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie,  magnificent syrah florals the finest in the set,  aromatic berry,  full maturity,  18.5 +;  1999 Torbreck Shiraz RunRig,  clearly the youngest wine in the tasting,  flowering mint on bouquet,  superb syrah-quality berry ripeness on palate,  great richness,  a great future ahead of it,  19;  and 1999 Guigal Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis,  showing the magical combination of subtlety,  finesse and power,  highly syrah-varietal,  slightly oaky in the Guigal style,  but magnificent,  19 +.

Tasters were delighted with the top French syrahs,  for wines of this calibre are always a thrill.  But many people were also very pleased by just how impressive and competitive the sole New Zealand 1999 syrah turned out to be.  This was an exciting result for New Zealand syrah,  in very respectable company.  As with the 1999 Southern Rhone Valley wines reported on recently,  and a 1999 pinot noir tasting yet to be published,  20 years is a lovely time to assess many wines,  including syrah.  The better wines are at a perfect level of maturity,  and truly delightful at table at that age.  You would never suspect that,  given the bizarrely myopic drinking window estimates stated by so many Australasian wine-writers.

Background information for participants:
For some years now it has been apparent that syrah is a red variety exceptionally well suited to New Zealand.  The key reason is that when carefully ripened,  syrah in New Zealand retains both florals and spice,  as in the Northern Rhone Valley.  These qualities make our syrah both rare on the world scale,  and exceptionally food-friendly,  being just a little bigger than pinot noir.  This tasting of 1999 vintage wines will illustrate the main syrah styles from its homeland in France,  together with three of Australia’s subtlest shiraz wines,  and one exceptional New Zealand wine.  Vintage conditions in each location were attractive – more fragrant wines than the warmer-year 1998s.  Australians (naturally) thought 1998 the better year,  because the wines were ‘bigger’.

For those who love syrah,  we span Cote Rotie,  Hermitage,  and one of the top wines of Crozes-Hermitage.  Elsewhere,  nine of our wines are marked 90 points or more,  two are not marked in the sources I use.  The Hermitage Les Bessards should be a benchmark experience:  Jeb Dunnuck @ www.robertparker.com:  a full-bodied, deeply concentrated, layered and perfectly balanced wine98.  And the Jamet Cote Rotie sounds attractive too,  Dunnuck again:  Sensationally rich, concentrated and full-bodied, it reveals a classic bouquet of pepper, smoked herbs, black currants and licorice97.

Turning to the New World,  I have deliberately selected only Australian wines which have some chance of being considered syrahs.  Henschke's Mt Edelstone is a lot subtler than Hill of Grace,  almost Cote Rotie to Hermitage (in a sense),  but it is the rare and increasingly sought-after Torbreck Runrig that I want to see,  blind,  with 20 years age on:  Lisa Perrotti-Brown @ www.robertparker.com:  this is a very elegant wine with vibrant acid and concentrated fruit99.  But will it in fact seem an elegant syrah,  or more a lumbering shiraz,  in this company ?  For the New Zealand wine,  the 1999 Jewelstone was conspicuously one of the best in New Zealand that year,  in those early days for syrah.  

Our tasting includes eight French syrahs reflecting the definitive Northern Rhone syrah districts,  four examples from the authoritative Hermitage appellation,  three of the more ‘feminine’ Cote Rotie wines,  and one of of the top wines from Crozes-Hermitage.  Against them we have three subtle and careful Australian shirazes,  wines which in some seasons can claim to be thought of as syrah.  One of them,  Torbreck Runrig,  is a rare wine in any terms,  and little tasted in New Zealand.  Wines such as Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace are inappropriate to a tasting such as this,  which focusses on syrah in its subtlety and beauty.  The twelfth wine is a particularly good one from New Zealand,  where climatically our syrahs are unequivocally in the French syrah camp,  not the Australian shiraz one.

1999 was an interesting year in nearly all grape-growing districts.  1998 was everywhere a big,  ripe and tanniny year,  making wines in a style much endorsed by the American school of wine-writers.  1999 was in contrast a much more subtle and understated season,  and the wines did not initially impress those who measure quality by size.  But in a country such as New Zealand,  we should be looking for more in our red wines than simply the ability to impress.  A key requirement  for syrah is for the wine to be fragrant,  versatile,  food-friendly,  and generally great at table,  in the same style as pinot noir but a little bolder and more substantial.

The best vintage assessments in the wine world used to be provided by (the late) Michael Broadbent.  With Michael’s retirement that role has now been seized by the Wine Spectator magazine and website,  which presents a careful and regularly updated summary of their estimation of the quality of each vintage.  And it is interesting to note that they are gradually moving away from the simple concept,  that bigger is better.  For our French 1999 wines,  Broadbent says:  The four best-known producers all agreed: “exceptional on two counts. Excellent in terms of quantity and quality.” … “comparable to 1995 and 1990”.  Reds with intense colours, ripe fruit aromas, good acidity, *****.  Wine Spectator has completely revised its relative estimation of 1998 and 1999 in the last few years,  and now says for 1999:  Voluptuous, silky vintage with stunning quality for Côte-Rôtie, 96.  Taken together,  these provide a pretty exciting background for our eight wines.

For Australia,  the country is so huge,  it is near-impossible to make meaningful statements.  For Australia,  Broadbent sums up with:  Shiraz generally has good colour and ripe fruit character, with supple tannins. On the whole, a satisfactory outcome,  *** → *****.  Halliday's vintage chart in The Wine Companion website is a much more detailed affair:  for our wines Eden Valley,  7/10;  Barossa Valley 5/10 (noting that 1998 is 10 – so a pretty old-style view there);  and the Grampians are 10.  

For New Zealand,  Michael Cooper’s annual Buyer’s Guide provides the best view.  1999 was still a bit early for syrah to be singled out in his account,  but by saying the season was too short for cabernet sauvignon,  but for some producers,  good for merlot and malbec,  we can infer it was also good for syrah.  My most recent tasting of our New Zealand wine confirms that supposition.

Broadbent,  Michael 2003:  Michael Broadbent’s Wine Vintages.  Mitchell Beazley,  223 p.  
Cooper,  M.  2002:   Michael Cooper’s Buyers Guide to New Zealand Wines.  Hodder Moa Beckett,  373 p.
Livingstone-Learmonth,  John 2005:   The Wines of the Northern Rhone.  University of California Press,  704 p.
Parker,  Robert,  1997:  Wines of the Rhone Valley.  Simon & Schuster,  685 p.  
www.winecompanion.com.au =  James Halliday and now associates,  but reviews not initialled,  subscription needed
www.drinkrhone.com  =  John Livingstone-Learmonth … subscription needed  
www.robertparker.com  =  Robert Parker and increasingly the associates … subscription needed for reviews    
www.jancisrobinson.com  =  Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding … subscription needed for reviews


The first ‘price’ given is the current wine-searcher value.  Where there is some evidence,  an approximation of the original purchase price is given in the text.  Because John Livingstone-Learmonth now has a knowledge of the Rhone Valley that matches or surpasses the excellence of Robert Parker’s earlier contribution,  I have reported his views nearly in full,  where available.  There is much to learn from his very individual mode of reporting.

1999  Henschke Shiraz Mount Edelstone
1999  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi
1999  Torbreck Shiraz Runrig
1999  Domaine du Colombier Hermitage
1999  Delas Cote Rotie Seigneur de Maugiron      
1999 Delas Hermitage Marquise de Tourettes

1999  Dom. A. Graillot Crozes-Hermitage La Guiraude  
1999  Guigal Cote Rotie Ch d’Ampuis
1999  Guigal Hermitage
1999  Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie
1999  Domaine Michel Ogier Cote Rotie
1999  Mission Syrah Jewelstone

1999  Domaine du Colombier Hermitage
1999  Delas Cote Rotie Seigneur de Maugiron
1999  Delas Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette
1999  Domaine Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage La Guiraude
1999  Guigal Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis
1999  Guigal Hermitage
  1999  Henschke Shiraz Mount Edelstone
1999  Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie
1999  Mission Estate Syrah Jewelstone
1999  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi
1999  Michel Ogier Cote Rotie
1999  Torbreck Shiraz RunRig

Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $159   [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$130;  typically Sy 93 – 95% & Vi  5 – 7,  average age 40 years,  both Cote Brune and Cote Blonde sites used,  average yield 4.4 t/ha = 1.8 t/ac;  4 weeks cuvaison;  36 – 38 months in French oak thought to be all new;  production around 2,000 x 9-litre cases;  John Livingstone-Learmonth,  no date:  compact, stylish black fruit/pine aromas; good silky, streamlined red fruit, then darkens, gets punchy. Quite full end, persists, with sound tannic structure. To 2022,  *****;  JD@RP,  2014:  a knockout bottle of wine that gives up gorgeously mature aromas and flavors of kirsch, blackberry, game, olive and spice in its medium-bodied, seamless and elegant profile. It’s a rock-star effort that’s drinking at full maturity ... While the single vineyard releases get all the buzz, this isn’t far behind in quality, especially in recent vintages, and can represent an incredible value, 95;  weight bottle and closure:  571 g;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  some garnet and velvet,  above midway in depth,  but below midway in the ratio of ruby to garnet.  Bouquet is simply magnificent,  syrah at its dramatic best,  picked at the perfect point of ripeness to retain florals in the grapes,  and grown in a year without undue heat,  further enhancing the florals.  The floral analogies are old-fashioned carnations and other dianthus,  wallflowers,  and an underpinning of dusky red roses.  Fruit and berry characters are centred on aromatic cassis browning now,  some dark plums,  and cedary oak.  The whole bouquet is spiced by faint black pepper.  This is a simply mouthwatering smell:  what syrah should be about,  and so rarely is.  Palate is equally magnificent,  not at all big and heavy,  more the size of great Cote de Nuits pinot noir,  but the cedary oak a little more noticeable.  Tasters liked this wine,  four first-places (the highest vote) and two second.  The subtle power of the wine was such that nine tasters thought it Hermitage,  rather than Cote Rotie.  Though a bit oaky in the Guigal style,  this wine was a joy to taste.  Fully mature now:  will fade gracefully for maybe 15 years.  GK 11/19

North-Western Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $227   [ cork,  50mm;   original price c.$200;  Sh 95% more than 100 years old and dry-grown,  plus 5% barrel-fermented viognier added pre-bottling;  Halliday rates the vintage in the Barossa Valley 5/10;  Torbreck Runrig is rated Exceptional in the Langton's Australian wine classification,  the first-level group of 22 wines.  The wine is too recent to be in Australia's Classic Wines by Halliday;  Runrig is the flagship wine of the famous winery and vineyard Torbreck,  which visionary Dave Powell built from scratch.  His goal was to match the wines of the Rhone Valley.  Elevation 30 months in French oak 100% new;  production c.600 x 9-litre cases;  JH@JR, 2008:  Some menthol, maybe even lavender. Perfumed and floral. Rich and spicy and full and very rich in the mouth. Scented but still has chocolate-like tannins. Dry, dark firm, dense and powerful but not overbearing. Elegant in a big style. Moreish but may be too big for some foods? To 2013, 18;  L.P-B@RP, 2013:  1999 RunRig presents an incredible nose with complex and layered aromas of smoked bacon, dried mulberries, kirsch and leather intermingling with sandalwood, anise and potpourri nuances. Medium to full-bodied, this is a very elegant wine with vibrant acid and concentrated fruit, structured with medium levels of grainy tannins through the long and layered finish. It is just beautiful. To 2024+, 99;  weight bottle and closure:  582 g;  www.torbreck.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly the deepest and freshest / reddest wine.  Bouquet is amazing,  no hint of over-ripe Australian boysenberry,  instead the characteristic flowering mint Prostanthera floral note confuseable with,  and (in moderation) just as attractive as,  garrigue complexity,  on deeply cassisy exquisitely fresh plummy berry,  plus cedary oak of a beauty and subtlety to match the top Guigal.  That is saying something.  In mouth the velvety fragrant quality of cassisy berry is of a quality rarely encountered in Australian reds.  Only to the late palate is there the slightest suggestion of acid adjustment.  This is wine-making of the highest degree,  the wine exhilarating.  Tasters reacted well to this wine too,  three first-places and two second.  Yet to my absolute astonishment,  16 tasters correctly located this wine in Australia,  at the blind stage.  It is the richest wine in the set:  a dry extract figure would be illuminating.  It is approaching early maturity,  with 20,  maybe 30 years cellar life ahead of it.  This lovely wine is a pointer to what could be achieved in Australian winemaking,  if the country’s winemakers tasted more widely.  GK 11/19

Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$35;  Sy 100% hand-harvested @ c. 3.2 t/ha = 1.3 t/ac,  from 5-year-old vines;  cuvaison c20 days,  MLF in tank;  9 months in French oak 55% new;  then 5 months in one-year-old barrels;  production c.510 x 9-litre cases;  light egg-white fining,  not filtered;  thanks to Paul Mooney,  these figures update previous;  Cooper,  2002:  The opulent 1999 vintage is … dark,  weighty and complex, concentrated wine with fresh, warm plum/spice flavours, a hint of chocolate, moderately firm tannin, and outstanding length, ****½;  Kelly, 2004:  It now shows all the attributes one would expect from fine Northern Rhone syrah:  carnations and violets florals,  beautiful cassisy berry going savoury and gamey as it develops,  some herbes de Provence,  a delightful touch of brett complexity adding a hint of venison,  and perfect ripeness,  not over-ripe.  This wine has been exciting since release, 18.5;  weight bottle and closure:  614 g;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  garnet and velvet,  the second-deepest wine,  and above midway in redness.  Bouquet is less floral than the top three,  but still fragrant and pure,  on clear cassis-led berry browning now,  plus the subtlest oak.  Two winemakers noted trace brett,  but at this level it is positive complexity.  Palate is magnificent,  a bigger,  plumper,  rounder wine than the Langi or the Jamet,  yet retaining subtlety and freshness,  in exemplary oaking.  The nett impression the wine creates is Hermitage-like.  It seems certain that in the 1999 vintage,  this is the greatest syrah in New Zealand.  But it is also one of New Zealand's great syrahs,  needing only a touch more florals to match great Northern Rhone Valley syrah.  Much credit is due to winemaker Paul Mooney.  Again,  tasters responded warmly to this wine as well,  two first-places,  three second.  It is at peak maturity now,  and will fade gracefully over the next 10 years or so.  GK 11/19

Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  12.5%;  $491   [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$70;  typically Sy 100% from up to 20 lieux-dits,  60 – 95% whole-bunch depending on season,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  20 – 22 months in French oak 20% new,  both barrique and puncheon size;  not fined or filtered,  production around 2,500 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L  comments in general,  that Jamet's sites span all that is great in Cote Rotie,  and that: "If you want to taste a wine that sums up the heartlands of Cote Rotie,  the classic cuvée [ of Jamet ] should be it." J.L-L,  no date:  ripe, sunny varied berry aromas, potential; rich, stewed fruits attack, sappy, confit; delicious raspberry, tasty wine. Still very young. More complexity around 2010. To 2036, *****;  JD@RP, 2015:  One of the all-time greats from this estate is the still inky colored 1999 Cote Rotie. From a hot year that had many vignerons struggling with vinification issues, Jean-Paul compared 1999 to 2009 more than once. Sensationally rich, concentrated and full-bodied, it reveals a classic bouquet of pepper, smoked herbs, black currants and licorice. One sexy Cote Rotie that's just hard to resist, it's drinking perfectly today but will evolve nicely for another decade or more, 97;  weight bottle and closure:  555 g;  www.cote-rotie-jamet.com ]
Ruby,  some garnet and velvet,  above midway in depth and just above midway in ruby versus garnet.  This wine is even more syrah-specific-floral than the Ch d’Ampuis,  showing a magnificent depth of wallflower and dianthus floral aromas without the stalky whole-bunch notes that so often bedevil the Jamet approach.  Off-hand this is the most perfect Jamet syrah bouquet I have seen.  On palate,  the berry qualities behind the florals are not so clearly defined as in the top two wines,  but there is good medium-weight fruit,  with now just a hint of stalk,  and subtle oak.  There is also an intriguing near-mint suggestion in the berry aromatics,  pointing the taster in quite the wrong direction.  Palate is lighter than the top two wines.  Tasters liked this wine too:  two first-places,  and four second.  At a peak of maturity now,  but should fade gracefully for another 10 years.  GK 11/19

The Grampians,  Victoria,  Australia:  14.5%;  $38   [ cork,  50mm;  original price $60;  Halliday rates the 1999 vintage in the Grampians 10/10;  this label rated Excellent in the Langton's Australian wine classification,  the third-level group of 68 wines,  and rated a Classic Wine of Australia by Halliday;  Sh 100% grown on granite-derived soils at 350 m altitude,  with summer temperatures reminiscent of Launceston;  hand-picked from vines planted in 1963,  in many vintages estimated to be the last-to-be-picked shiraz vines in Australia;  some years a percentage of whole bunches in the ferment,  c.21 days cuvaison;  this vintage matured in American oak 85%,  French 15,  some new,  for around 14 months;  production c.3,500 x 9-litre cases;  Halliday,  2011:  an archetypal Langi bouquet, offering a mix of spice, black cherry, mint, licorice and leather. The palate has lively, sweet fruit woven through the more minty/spicy characters of the bouquet, but slightly sharp acidity on the finish needs to integrate, to 2009, 93;  RP@RP,  2002:  Mount Langi Ghiran's flagship offering, the 1999 Shiraz Langi was closed and tight when tasted. It revealed interesting blackberry fruit notes intermixed with ground pepper, spice, and licorice. Medium to full-bodied, tightly-knit, tannic, and backward, it may merit a 90-point score in 2-3 years, and last for 15+ years, 88;  weight bottle and closure:  586 g;  www.langi.com.au ]
Garnet and ruby,  below midway in depth,  and one of the least red wines.  Like RunRig,  but a little moreso,  the initial bouquet on this wine is dramatically floral and aromatic,  but more Prostanthera flowering mint than carnations.  This floral slightly aromatic character gives a lightness and lift to the bouquet which is endearing,  when not too pronounced.  This wine is to a max.  Berry quality here is not so clearly cassis-led as the top two,  just good aromatic berry,  with a firmness to it.  At the altitude of the site,  it is hard to know if the acid is natural or adjusted.  It tastes harder than the Jamet,  so probably it is.  The two wines make an interesting pair.  Again this is syrah from Australia,  not shiraz – glory be.  This wine too was well liked,  three first-places and four second.  It is further along its plateau of maturity than the Jamet,  but should have another 10 years in it.  GK 11/19

Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $88   [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$115;  Sy 100%,  average age 40 years;  at the time Guigal owned no vineyards in Hermitage,  bought-in wines cropped at c.5.2 t/ha = 2.1 t/ac;  3 – 4 weeks cuvaison;  elevation 30 – 36 months in French oak c.20% new (J.L-L);  not fined or filtered;  production around 7,000 x 9-litre cases;  Parker,  2003:  … a big, masculine, virile nose of roasted meats, pepper, earth, minerals, and black fruits. Currently closed and impenetrable, it should open with another 4-5 years of cellaring, and age for 15-18 years90;  Wine Spectator,  2002:  A gentle giant … subtle and elegant Hermitage, layered with seductive aromas and flavors, from tobacco to green olive, roasted game, mineral and blackberries. Silky mouthfeel, this medium-bodied red is smooth, yet also fresh on the long finish. Will age for years. Drink now through 201593;  weight bottle and closure:  572 g;  www.guigal.com ]
Garnet and ruby,  just above midway in depth,  below midway in redness.  This wine has a very pretty floral bouquet,  such that you instantly think of wallflowers and Cote Rotie.  When you actually sniff it side-by-side with the Ch d’Ampuis,  the much greater new cedary oak loading on the latter wine is apparent,  making it seem much firmer and more Hermitage-like.  Below the beautiful florals is silky near-cassisy berry.  In mouth the wine is supple and gentle,  a smaller scale but beautiful example of Guigal's village Hermitage label,  and redolent of syrah the grape as it should be.  Tasters were not so attracted to the fragrant subtlety of this wine as I was,  one second-place ranking.  Seven thought it Hermitage,  though.  This wine is well along its plateau of maturity,  but it should hold for several years yet.  In its subtlety and charm,  it really bridges the link to good pinot noir.  It is so supple it would be [ and is ] magnificent with food.  GK 11/19

Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $230   [ cork,  45mm;  wine-searcher price seems improbable,  original price c.$45;  typically Sy 100% c.30 years age and hand-harvested,  some to 100% whole-bunch fermentations,  depending on season;  cuvaison to 21 days,  then 12 months in unspecified barrels 10% new,  some filtering;  production c.750 x 9-litre cases,  a hard-to-secure wine,  even though ‘only’ a barrel selection;  J.L-L,  no date:  Quiet, understated bouquet, smoky and floral; very wholesome attack, a lot of berried flavour and a long finish. Nice cool texture, good. Serious red Crozes here. 2023-25, ****(*);  JD@RP,  2002:  The exceptional, backward 1999 Crozes-Hermitage La Guiraude is a tour de force. The bouquet is dominated by blackberry and cassis intermixed with licorice, lavender, fennel, and a touch of new oak. Full-bodied, ripe, moderately tannic, and concentrated, it will be at its finest between 2003-2015, 90;  website address but no content yet,  good fact-sheet at:  www.europvin.com/9-advanced-search/99-alain-graillot/fact_sheets.html?;  weight bottle and closure:  559 g;  www.domainegraillot.com ]
Ruby,  some garnet and velvet,  midway in both depth and redness.  This is extraordinary wine,  displaying a pinpoint precision of cassis-like syrah varietal character which is most unusual.  As with most reds from Crozes-Hermitage,  it is not as floral and fragrant as good Cote Rotie or Hermitage,  but the berry and fruit flavours are exemplary.  It is richer than the Guigal Hermitage,  and just as beautifully oaked.  It is a most unusual,  and very demonstrative,  Northern Rhone.  A pity that the La Guiraude label is so scarce.  Two tasters had this as their top wine,  and two their second-favourite.  It is just coming up to peak maturity,  with 10 – 15 years ahead of it.  A far cry from the average Crozes-Hermitage.  GK 11/19

Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $60   [ cork,  50mm;  original price c.$95;  Sy 100% and 30 + years age in 1999,  from Les Baumes,  Les Diognieres, and another site,  totalling 1.6 ha;  fermentation incudes whole-bunches,  cuvaison c.8 – 21  days;  elevation c.18 months in French oak hogsheads 30% new;  not fined,  filtered;  production 580 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L,  2005:  lovely wild fruit aroma, mulberries with dry, resin edges; plenty of oily flavour, and a soaking of well-founded fruit. Piney aspect, acidity is good, will age. To 2022, *****;  Wine Spectator,  2001:  Tastes of cassis jam, but it's fresh and elegant in texture. Medium-bodied and rather lean, with some crisp acidity. Turns a bit dry on the finish. To 2008, 84;  weight bottle and closure:  933 g;  no website found. ]
Garnet and ruby,  some velvet,  the second to lightest,  and second to brownest wine.  This was a confusing wine,  there being an aromatic garrigue complexity note in the nearly floral bouquet which (just in passing) hinted at Australia (as well as nasturtiums).  Below,  this is another wine to clearly spell out browning cassisy berry on bouquet,  with shaping oak.  Palate is a size larger and firmer than for example the Guigal Hermitage,  and it speaks more clearly of syrah and Hermitage.  Fruit length on appropriate oak is good,  and much fresher than the colour implies.  The nett impression is plainer than the top wines.  Tasters did not respond to this wine,  with no votes in favour.  The wine is well along its plateau of maturity,  and will fade gracefully for another 10 years or so.  GK 11/19

Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $75   [ cork,  45mm;  original price c.$75;  typically Sy 100%,  70% Cote Brune,  30 Blonde;  all de-stemmed;  cuvaison to 20 days,  then 16 – 18 months in barrel,  ratio of new varying over the years,  but c. 15% in 1999;  not fined,  coarse filtering only;  Delas now part of the Deutz / Roederer group (since 1996);  production c.1,665 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L,  no date:  cooked garden fruit, truffle aromas, potential; solid wine, more than usual. Latent richness, chewy, masculine. Tannins at end, with raspberry. Powerful, but no excess. 2024-26, *****;  RP@RP, 2002:  The 1999 Cote Rotie Seigneur de Maugiron is brilliant ... sumptuous aromas of espresso, graphite, violets, and blackberry/cassis fruit. This is underlined by abundant power, good acidity for definition as well as freshness, and a superb, pure finish. This exceptional Cote Rotie requires 4-5 years of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2018. Beginning with the 1997 vintage, this firm has made remarkable progress with their Cote Rotie program, 92;  weight bottle and closure:  576 g;  www.delas.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  some velvet,  one of the lighter wines but also one of the redder.  Bouquet is small-scale,  but pure,  neat and fresh,  nearly floral,  red fruits of no clear analogy,  delightfully fragrant,  subtly oaked.  Palate introduces just a hint of white pepper into the red fruits,  so a wine not quite as ripe as most,  but the weight of berry and ratio of fruit to oak is attractive.  Real Cote Rotie,  in a petite way.  This was another wine to not attract any positive votes,  but no least votes either:  just an attractive small-scale Northern Rhone at full maturity.  It will cellar for several years yet.  GK 11/19

Eden Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.4%;  $113   [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$90;  Sh 100% planted in 1920,  and hand-picked;  Halliday rates the vintage in the Eden Valley 7/10;  Mount Edelstone is rated Exceptional in the Langton's Australian wine classification,  the first-level group of 22 wines,  and rated a Classic Wine of Australia by Halliday;  fermentation is completed in American and French oak hogshead-size barrels,  and is typically in barrel for 18 – 20 months;  production varies round c.1,000 x 9-litre cases;  Halliday,  2011:  the potent bouquet offers ripe fruit, smoky oak and leather overtones, the palate full of character and flavour, but falling away somewhat on the finish, perhaps reflecting a less than perfect vintage, 87;  Robinson,  2018:  … the same sophisticated ultra-ripe winemaking as the 2000 ..., 17.5;  Wine Spectator,  2002:  Rich and gamy, an explosive mouthful of berries, cherries and wild game notes, which linger on the plump, nicely burnished texture. Tannins are present but not intrusive as the complex flavors hang on nicely. To 2014, 93;  weight bottle and closure:  510 g;  www.henschke.com.au ]
Ruby,  garnet and some velvet,  just below midway in depth,  but well above midway in its ratio of ruby to garnet.  In an international syrah tasting,  this wine is just too blatantly Australian to be able to compete.  The minty aromatics here are pretty well euc'y,  and there is excess vanillin from American oak as well.  The actual ripeness of the fruit is careful,  with suggestions of cassis as well as loganberry,  and richer berry and more oak than most.  Thus in mouth it is a bit big,  and the tail is tending shrill on acid adjustment.  Set amongst Australian shirazes it would look good,  but here it seems lacking in charm.  Its more obvious character appealed to some,  one first-place and two second.  It was one of two only wines where nobody thought it French.  This will cellar well for another 20 years,  or longer.  The cropping rate must be very conservative.  GK 11/19

Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  12.5%;  $331   [ cork,  45mm;   original price c.$75;  considerable rearrangement of labels since 1999,  but if this wine has been succeeded by the Cote Rotie Reserve,  is typically Sy 100%,  Cotes Blonde & Brune equally,  cuvaison to 28 days,  up to 24 months in small oak maybe 30% new;  not filtered;  production c.830 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L,  2005:  blackberry aroma of interesting depth, some mystery - shows a cool side. Inky, full palate, with live tannins still, is young and displays the northern mineral cut, even though it`s a 1999, 2015-19, ***(*);  RP@RP, 2002:  The finest Cote Roties Ogier has made (and he agrees) are the 1999s ... a glorious bouquet of bacon fat, creme de cassis, licorice, violets, and spice box. It is full-bodied, with sweet tannin, great presence in the mouth, and a knock-out finish. Although it will be approachable in its youth, 3-4 more years of cellaring will be beneficial. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2018, 95;  no info on website yet,  Stephane is Michel's son;  weight bottle and closure:  587 g;  www.stephaneogier.fr ]
Ruby and garnet,  some velvet,  below midway in depth but above midway in redness.  Bouquet is rather different from the set,  being intensely savoury and reminiscent of a rich venison casserole with portobello mushrooms,  on drying berry.  Palate shows surprisingly good berry fruit in a browning cassisy way,  gentle oak,  but rather a lot of brown mushrooms / leather / horse stables savoury aromas and flavours too.  So this was our most bretty wine for the evening,  and as always,  some love it,  some hate it:  two first-places,  two second-places,  four least places.  This wine is nearing the end of its plateau of maturity,  the fruit starting to dry a little.  Best finished up in the next year or two,  noting that bottles will vary considerably,  now.  Be careful who you open it with !  One winemaker described the wine as ‘gross’,  and another taster was emphatic that it smelt of the elephant enclosure at the Auckland Zoo.  As my score indicates,  I am less fussed:  bretty wines are great with savoury foods,  the aforementioned venison casserole,  grilled dishes with parmesan,  ratatouille and the like.  GK 11/19

Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $63   [ cork,  45mm;   original price c.$85;  typically Sy 100% from Les Bessards,  L’Hermite and another site,  mostly planted 1960s;  all de-stemmed;  cuvaison to 20 days,  then 18 – 20 months in small oak,  ratio new c.15% (according to J.L-L,  see JD below),  some filtering;  Delas now part of the Deutz / Roederer group (since 1996);  production c.3,000 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L,  no date:  … spiced bouquet, some warmth, has complex tones - leather, dark fruit, polish. Tasty attack - great fat, has a lot of stone fruit, plums/prunes, also tobacco, cinnamon - great variety. Really authentic. I could imagine people drinking this, the perfumed wine of literature, out of a goblet two or three hundred years ago. Dryish end. 2017-23. ****(*);  JD@RP,  2015:  In stark contrast to the evolved, tired '00, the still inky ruby-colored 1999 Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette was still lively and fresh, with classic dark fruits, tobacco leaf, cured meats and chocolate aromas and flavors giving way to a full-bodied, fleshy, textured Hermitage that has sweet tannin and nicely integrated acidity. Aged in equal parts new and once-used barrels, to 2025, 92;  weight bottle and closure:  569 g;  www.delas.com ]
Garnet and ruby,  some velvet,  the lightest wine,  and the least ruby / most brown.  And as soon as you smell it,  the reason is clear.  The browning berry aromas are displaying a Bovril edge suggestive of oxidation.  Fruit flavours in mouth are still perfectly serviceable in a plain dry way,  the wine is richer than the Delas Cote Rotie,  but it didn't look too good in a formal tasting.  The 1999 Les Bessards Hermitage (hoped to be a top wine of the tasting) also from Delas had to be rejected for even worse oxidation,  so presumably the importers Eurovintage failed to import these two wines in a temperature-controlled container.  Disappointing.  Least wine for 11 people,  three times as many as for the bretty wine – interesting.  If this bottle is representative,  not worth cellaring any longer.  GK 11/19