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


The vintage 2002 was exciting for chardonnay in both Burgundy and New Zealand,  with fine,  ripe,  textured wines.  The vintage was generous in the Mosel too,  though reputedly not as aromatic and subtle as the classic 2001s.  These reviews first appeared on www.regionalwines.co.nz mid-2004,  now not available there.


2002  Cloudy Bay Chardonnay
2002  Felton Road Chardonnay Barrel-Fermented
2002  Girardin Bourgogne Blanc 'Emotion de Terroirs'
2002  Girardin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Vielles Vignes
2002  Girardin Corton-Charlemagne
2002  Girardin Meursault les Genevrieres
2002  Girardin Meursault les Perrieres
2002  Girardin Puligny-Montrachet les Folatieres
2002  Girardin Puligny-Montrachet les Referts
2002  Girardin Rully les Cloux
2002  Girardin Santenay les Gravieres
2002  Kumeu River Chardonnay Maté’s Vineyard
2002  Sacred Hill Chardonnay Riflemans
2002  Te Awa Chardonnay
2000  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston
2002  Trinity Hill Chardonnay Gimblett Gravels
2002  Vasse Felix Chardonnay Heytesbury
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2002  Donnhof Norheimer Kirscheck Riesling Spatlese QmP
  2002  Donnhof Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett QmP
2002  Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese QmP [ gold-cap ]
2002  Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese QmP [ white-cap ]
2002  Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett QmP
2002  Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese QmP
2002  Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett QmP
2002  Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett QmP
Pinot Gris
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2003  J F Lurton Viognier les Salices
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.

2000  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston   19  ()
Havelock North,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ whole bunch pressed,  100% BF and MLF;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This is an almost perfect chardonnay bouquet,  totally seamless and beautiful.  One cannot see fruit,  oak or autolysis as components at all,  just this effortless outpouring of a mouthwatering chardonnay smell – white stonefruits,  finest oatmeal, button mushrooms (cooked),  potential hazelnuts.  Palate is succulent and equally glorious,  marvellous drinking.  This is the greatest Elston yet,  and arguably therefore New Zealand’s finest chardonnay achievement.  Well,  it would be fun to disprove that statement,  anyway.  Will cellar to 10 years. GK 4/04  GK 04/04

2002  Trinity Hill Chardonnay Gimblett Gravels   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ the black-labelled one;  whole-bunch pressed,  LA & partial MLF in French oak;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Paleish lemonstraw.  A fragrant,  toasty and faintly charry topnote on underlying peachy and mealy chardonnay fruit makes for an appealing contemporary chardonnay bouquet.  In mouth the oak-related characters retreat,  and fruit is dominant.  There is outstanding texture and richness of mouthfeel in an almost Meursault-like style,  and a long supple balanced finish,  which hides its alcohol well.  This is excellent chardonnay which can be compared with many fine French examples.  It is more succulent than the Te Awa,  richer than the Cloudy Bay,  and should cellar for 10 years or more.  GK 07/04

2002  Girardin Meursault les Genevrieres   19  ()
Meursault Premier Cru,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $90
Lemon,  fractionally one of the two deepest,  but still pretty pale.  A rich and complex chardonnay bouquet combining citrus zest and white stonefruits with oak and slight charry notes.  Palate is perhaps the richest in the tasting of 12,  showing beautiful chardonnay stonefruits,  attractive Meursault mealy and lightly mineral complexities,  firm acid,  great length.  This is a potentially classic Meursault,  given time in cellar to blossom.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Cloudy Bay Chardonnay   19  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $34   [ cool night-picked;  100% BF,  all French 20% new;  partial wild yeast fermentation,  'most'  of the wine through MLF,  extended LA 12-months +;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  a gorgeous colour.  Bouquet is sensational,  with total acacia blossom complexity on beautiful chardonnay fruit,  reminiscent of the finest chablis.  Palate expands the bouquet into white stonefruits,  oatmeal,  potential hazelnuts,  and a flinty and floral minerality which is stunning,  going well beyond chablis towards wines such as Corton-Charlemagne.  This might be Marlborough's finest chardonnay yet,  not the biggest,  but very beautiful.  Cellar to 10 years.  GK 07/04

2002  Girardin Meursault les Perrieres   18 ½ +  ()
Meursault Premier Cru,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $80
Pale lemon.  This one smells like a caricature of Meursault,  with beautiful oatmealy and baguette crust richness on white stonefruits.  Palate is soft,  delicious already,  nearly as rich as the Genevrieres but not quite as firmly constructed,  but still marvellous cellar wine.  A lovely accessible Meursault,  the oak invisible.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Vasse Felix Chardonnay Heytesbury   18 ½  ()
Margaret River mostly,  some Mt Barker,  West Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $39   [ BF,  LA,  and 15% MLF,  10 months in French oak;  www.vassefelix.com.au ]
Perfect lemon.  An understated but totally varietal chardonnay bouquet showing beautiful white stonefruit,  light hazelnuts and oatmeal,  and charry barrel mealiness,  the high alcohol not intrusive.  Palate is rich,  devastatingly dry,  the alcohol now more apparent and shortening the succulence,  but the flavours are great:  white stonefruits chardonnay,  hazelnuts and subtle oak.  Cellar to 10 years,  possibly longer.  GK 06/04

2002  Kumeu River Chardonnay Maté’s Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Kumeu,  Auckland,  New Zealand:  13%;  $46   [ screwcap;  hand harvested;  whole-bunch pressed,  wild yeast,  100% MLF,  BF,  LA in French oak 12 months;  www.kumeuriver.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet here shows a beautiful integration of slightly charry oak with mealy fruit,  for all the world in the style of Meursault.  Fruit flavours are maybe a little more yellow-peachy than the Girardin wines,  presumably reflecting the Mendoza clone.  Fruit weight,  acid balance,  and mealy complexities plus some new oak enable this new world wine to slot straight in amongst the modern Girardins,  a number of tasters identifying it as French.  Wonderful to have such ripe and elegant chardonnay flavours and intensity at 13% alcohol,  with the Girardins all said to be 14%.  One can see exactly why this wine and /or the sibling Kumeu River Chardonnay have figured so consistently in Wine Spectator’s top 100 lists,  over the last 13 years.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Sacred Hill Chardonnay Riflemans   18 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ clone mendoza;  hand-picked,  whole-bunch pressed;  BF 100%,  LA,  partial MLF;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Elegant lemon.  A classic chardonnay bouquet,  just a touch of barrel char,  then lovely pale stonefruits,  oatmeal and vinosity.  Palate is succulent,  so rich as to make one wonder if it is not bone dry,  carefully oaked,  subtler than the Te Awa,  the flavours lingering as varietal for ages.  Cellar to 10 years,  but delicious now.  GK 06/04

2002  Te Awa Chardonnay   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ BF and extended LA,  30% new French oak;  nil MLF;  www.teawafarm.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  fractionally deeper than the Trinity Gimblett.  First impression is of absolute purity of  mendoza-dominant chardonnay and beeswax characters,  coupled with gorgeous golden queen peachy fruit.  Complexity factors include mealy and hazelnutty suggestions,  and careful oak,  but the beauty of the fruit rules.  In mouth the oak increases somewhat,  but the peachy flavours are great,  with excellent length on fruit plus lees autolysis mealiness,  and this waxy texture of fine mendoza fruit.  With no MLF,  relatively subtle alcohol actually less than that stated,  potentially mealy and nutty complexity,  and finely-textured oaking,  this should cellar for 10 years easily,  and still be an interesting bottle in 20.  As the similarly non-MLF McWilliams 1981 (Hawkes Bay) is today.  Lovely wine.  GK 07/04

2002  Girardin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Vielles Vignes   18  ()
Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $80
Pale lemon.  These top chardonnays are so similar,  one is searching for descriptors to differentiate them.  White nectarine and stonefruit are more prominent on the bouquet of this wine,  but below there are the same suggestions of oatmeal and charry oak adding interest.  Palate however differs,  with an almost glucose-sweetness to the slightly citric and intensely white-peachy fruit.  Richness is good,  and the wine is well balanced,  though not quite as complex as the Meursaults.  Cellar 5 – 10 + years.  GK 04/04

2002  Felton Road Chardonnay Barrel-Fermented   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Lemon.  This wine is just a little more obvious,  the fruit and oak not quite so integrated as the top wines – but that is at a critical level.  The Felton is still much less oaky than the Referts,  for example.  Fruit is white peachy and mealy,  and the charry oak and citric overtones are amazingly like several of the Girardins.  Richness is super,  but the alcohol shows a little,  just needing to marry up more.  The acid may be slightly higher than the Girardins,  but this wine shows yet again the great potential Otago has for world-class chardonnay,  a potential lying almost latent and unrecognised.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Girardin Corton-Charlemagne   18  ()
Corton Grand Cru,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $139
Pale lemongreen,  brilliant.  This is an understated wine,  almost closed but not at all reductive – just hugging itself.  Palate shows white stonefruits and quite a mineral complexity in the style of Puligny,  with mealy,  charry and almost almondy autolysis / oak complexities also discernible.  Only on the aftertaste can one detect the 100% new oak this wine was apparently exposed to,  which gives a hint to how rich it must be,  behind its reserved exterior.  This will cellar for two decades,  and needs several years to have much to say at all.  It may well ultimately merit a higher score.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Girardin Puligny-Montrachet les Folatieres   17 ½  ()
Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $80
Good lemon,  with the Genevrieres fractionally the deepest colour among the 9 Girardins and 3 New Zealanders.  Bouquet has a novel character to first sniff,  reminiscent of brewing beer wort,  not unpleasant.  Palate is richly fruity,  with almost a grapefruit quality in the slightly oaky stonefruits.  Like the Felton,  it is one of the more youthful and new-world wines in style,  at this stage lacking the seamless integration of wines rated more highly.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Girardin Santenay les Gravieres   17 +  ()
Santenay Premier Cru,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $40
Lemon.  An intriguing citric character in several of these wines is very apparent here,  on white stonefruits.  Flavours are very pure,  very white-peachy,  slightly acid,  and this is another wine where the oak is not yet much integrated,  giving quite a new world feel.  There is not the concentration and complexity of some of the top-rated wines,  but this is still delightful white burgundy / chardonnay.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Girardin Bourgogne Blanc 'Emotion de Terroirs'   17  ()
Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $25
Lemon.  This wine is clearly chardonnay,  in a very citric style emphasising the fresh fruits.  Flavour is less serious than the more expensive wines,  scarcely oaked,  slightly acid,  but all beautifully balanced,  clean,  and varietal.  One could happily drink a great deal of this with food,  particularly when it is a year or two older.  Girardin’s reported goal of an affordable white burgundy to match the typicité,  quality and price of Guigal’s Cotes du Rhone is well met.  The challenge will be to maintain the standard set.  ‘Launch’ wines are so often ‘uniquely’ good.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Girardin Puligny-Montrachet les Referts   17  ()
Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $80
Lemon.  Bouquet is dominated by new oak,  to a level which would raise many an eyebrow in the new world,  so it is sensational from Burgundy.  Below the oak there is good minerally and white peachy fruit appropriate to Puligny,  but the level of oak does make one wonder if it will ever mellow out true to its homeland,  or stay new world in nett impression.  Oak junkies will rate this ‘international’ chardonnay more highly.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Girardin Rully les Cloux   16 ½  ()
Rully,  Cote Chalonnaise,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $35
Pale lemon.  This is the simplest of the Girardins tasted,  showing straightforward fruit which includes a hint of more tropical and warmer ripeness levels.  Palate is very citric,  older-oak maybe,  but concentration is reasonably good in a slightly buttery way.  Several tasters thought this would be the Emotion de Terroirs,  which shows how good that wine is.  Perfectly sound white burgundy,  and clearly chardonnay.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 04/04

2002  Donnhof Norheimer Kirscheck Riesling Spatlese QmP   18 ½  ()
Nahe,  Germany:  8.5%;  $46
Brilliant lemongreen,  excellent.  A very clean and clearly varietal riesling bouquet,  with elegant lime and citrus blossom florals on top,  and fragrant white stonefruits below.  Flavour develops the bouquet,  with fine lingering acid to balance normal spatlese sweetness,  the lime note persisting through to the aftertaste.  The lime notes presumably bespeak greater terpene development as in a warmer year,  but acid balance remains elegant.  Lovely wine.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 03/04

2002  Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett QmP   18 ½  ()
Mosel,  Germany:  7.5%;  $34   [ www.drloosen.de ]
Lemon,  faintest straw.  One of the most eloquent bouquets in the set,  with clearcut sweet white flowers and sweet vernal / linalool florals,  making for unequivocal riesling.  Palate shows palest stonefruits and white cherries,  hints of pure fresh pineapple (without the VA),  good body,  fine acid almost concealing appropriate sweetness,  and a long elegant finish.  This can be compared with the 2001.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 03/04

2002  Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese QmP [ gold-cap ]   17 ½  ()
Mosel,  Germany:  7.5%;  $116   [ www.weingut-fritz-haag.de ]
Pale lemongreen.  A big bouquet,  but depending on whether one is an optimist or a pessimist,  one notes beautiful florals,  clean botrytis and white stonefruits,  or one comments that these same things are veiled by light H2S.  Palate deepens the fruit on bouquet,  acid is fine and elegant and just enough against full auslese sweetness,  and the botrytis is potentially nectary.  I think this will triumph over its trace sulphur,  judging by some of the 1976s tasted recently,  when compared with notes made in their infancy.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 03/04

2002  Donnhof Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett QmP   17 ½  ()
Nahe,  Germany:  9%;  $38
Bright pale lemongreen.  An austere youthful appley presentation of riesling,  still with clean SO2 subduing it.  Palate is quite weighty,  typically Mosel in one sense,  yet with suggestions of austere Alsace riesling too.  This should bury its traces of sulphur and develop pleasingly in bottle,  since it has good body and subtle sweetness.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 03/04

2002  Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett QmP   17 +  ()
Mosel,  Germany:  8%;  $34
Palest lemongreen,  lovely.  The lightest bouquet of the set,  but exquisitely clean,  with faintest white flowers,  freshcut cooking apples (e.g. Ballarat),  and mineral undertones in a Saar style.  Flavour is very pure,  quite rich,  very low pH I would think,  with long austerely floral and limey flavours.  This will cellar well,  and may surprise in decades to come.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 03/04

2002  Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett QmP   17  ()
Mosel,  Germany:  8%;  $39   [ www.weingut-fritz-haag.de ]
Pale lemongreen,  slightly steely-looking (-ve).  A muted bouquet,  showing both clear sweet vernal and riesling florals,  and some SO2 and a little H2S.  Palate is still youthful and awkward,  with good fruit and flesh but not a lot of flavour development as yet,  though the acid is reasonably good.  This is as sweet as some spatlesen.  The potential is there for good riesling,  but I am doubtful of it being exciting.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/04

2002  Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese QmP   17  ()
Mosel,  Germany:  7.5%;  $77   [ www.drloosen.de ]
Deepish lemongreen.  A mixed bouquet,  austere and appley on the one hand,  but slightly false-fruity and honeycomb on the other.  Palate shows floral and white stonefruit components,  good sweetness and moderate acid,  but a lack of integration and magic.  Just a little clumsy and warm-year,  without the finesse of so many 2001s.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/04

2002  Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese QmP [ white-cap ]   16 ½  ()
Mosel,  Germany:  8%;  $69   [ www.weingut-fritz-haag.de ]
Austere lemongreen,  slightly steely.  Initially opened,  this wine is a bit pongy,  but it breathes to a veil of H2S on white florals,  cut apples and pearflesh.  Palate is very youthful,  sweet and appley in part,  markedly acid,  yet showing an awkward fleshy quality like some Australian examples of the grape.  Improves with decanting,  and will improve in cellar for many years,  but maybe not to blossom.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 03/04

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2003  J F Lurton Viognier les Salices   17 ½  ()
Vin de Pays d'Oc,  France:  13%;  $21   [ www.jflurton.com ]
Lemon.  Better with a splashy decant,  to reveal clearcut varietal viognier,  with attractive freshness,  mock orange-blossom and canned apricot varietal characters on bouquet.  First impression is this is better than the varietal but sometimes heavy and spirity Yalumba Eden Valley – which is saying something,  for d'Oc wine.  Palate is 100% varietal too,  apricots to the fore,  lots of flavour without  the weight of the Yalumba wines,  no oak (or not detectable),  and a 'sucking on apricot stones' dry finish.  In this slightly austere finish is a hint of savoury herbes,  and if one drinks a lot of it,  a faint cardboard note detracting.  Even so,  that is being very picky:  this is the best Languedoc viognier I have seen,  and a good illustration of the variety at an affordable price.  In its freshness and lightness it is very close to the best examples we have so far seen from New Zealand.  In general,  viognier is not a wine to cellar for more than a year or so.  GK 07/04