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


Burgundy and the Golden Bay district of northwest Nelson both have calcareous soils,  so it stands to reason that thoughts of growing pinot noir in Golden Bay have arisen.  When vintage allows,  Nelson / Moutere has after all produced some of New Zealand's best pinot noir,  particularly from Neudorf and latterly from Greenhough.  Golden Bay is not so far away,  behind its marble mountain range,  and the lie of the land is intriguing,  with all the prime viticultural sites lying to the sun beautifully.  The vineyards are further north than Moutere / Waimea,  on the same latitude as Waikanae in the North Island compared with Moutere's Wellington equivalence.  They are moister at 1100 – 1200 + millimetres than Moutere's 900 – 1000,  but the summers can be similarly dry.  The day / night (diurnal) temperature fluctuation is probably greater than Nelson,  and the total climate a little cooler,  from enhanced cold-air drainage into the relatively narrow Takaka Valley from a more mountainous hinterland.  This combination could be particularly favourable for optimising bouquet complexity in pinot (the key to great pinot),  when one reflects that over the years a number of Nelson / Moutere pinots have been too heavy.

The eastern wall of the Takaka valley is the boldly upstanding block-faulted Pikikiruna Range of marble,  and granite to the north.  More importantly to vines,  faulted in at the foot of the marbles are younger limestones.  The 1890s Ellis winery at Motupipi illustrated in Dick Scott's Winemakers of New Zealand (following p. 32,  1st Edition,  1964) shows these rocks.  More than a century later,  one of the current Golden Bay vineyards,   Waiwera Estate,  has been developed close by right on top of these limestones,  on a karst topography with an apparently fabulous micro-climate (to judge from other fruit grown).  Another,  Golden Bay Wines / Petros nearby,  lies on fanslope material tapping a high proportion of limestones and marble.  This fanslope lies well to the sun.  A little further north,  Parr & Simpson have established a vineyard on mixed parent materials including calcareous,  similarly lying to the sun,  and probably significantly drier.  The first of these two proprietors (Wendy Parr) is noted for her wine sensory evaluation work on Marlborough sauvignon blanc,  and the latter (Philip Simpson) for recent books on cabbage trees,  and then rata and pohutukawa.  All these vineyards are small,  of Burgundian domaine size,  only Golden Bay Wines not being in truth tiny.

In January I was in Golden Bay,  to judge the newly-instituted wine section of the 2006 Golden Bay A & P Society Show.  Subsequently,  I was able to visit the above three producers,  and then on my way back,  the well-known Greenhough and Glover's Vineyards in Tasman Bay.  

The clear message to come out of this small selection of producers in Nelson,  is that 2005 is a very good year in both districts,  with superb sauvignon blancs in Nelson / Moutere,  fine rieslings,  and ripe to very ripe chardonnays and pinot noirs in both districts.  Noting that all 2005 pinot noirs were barrel samples,  and anything can happen between the barrel and finished bottle,  the most exciting 2005 pinot noir I tasted came from Waiwera Estate  in Golden Bay.            

The following notes give some impressions of selected wines tasted during my visit,  including both barrel samples as well as some finished wines.


2005  Golden Bay Wines Chardonnay
2004  Golden Bay Wines Chardonnay
2003  Greenhough Chardonnay Hope
2003  Greenhough Chardonnay Nelson
2004  Parr & Simpson Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2005  Glover’s Sauvignon Blanc
2005  Greenhough Sauvignon Blanc
2005  Stafford Lane Sauvignon Blanc
1992  Glover’s Rhine Riesling
2005  Glover’s Riesling
2003  Glover’s Riesling
2005  Greenhough Riesling Hope
2005  Greenhough Riesling Nelson
Pinot Gris
  2005  Golden Bay Wines Gewurztraminer
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2004  Glover’s Pinot Noir Back Block
2005  Glover's Pinot Noir Back Block
2005  Greenhough Pinot Noir Hope
2004  Greenhough Pinot Noir Hope
2005  Greenhough Pinot Noir Nelson
2005  Waiwera Estate Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.

2003  Greenhough Chardonnay Hope   18 ½  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  mostly mendoza and clone 15;  relative to Nelson wine,  more BF,  new oak,  MLF and wild yeast;  still available at vineyard ]
Lemongreen,  fractionally deeper than the Nelson wine.  Bouquet on this wine is in the same style as the Nelson one,  but deeper,  tauter,  drier even on bouquet,  with very attractive baguette crust / lees-autolysis complexity.  Palate is terrific,  total barrel-fermented chardonnay beautifully fresh – one would never know it was a 2003 vintage wine.  Flavours are almost floral white stonefruits,  great oatmeal and baguette crust lees-autolysis with a faint hint of Corban's Cottage Block character,  and the viscosity of a successful MLF component without any of the flavours.  This is an elegant rich chardonnay mellowing beautifully in one sense yet scarcely showing any sign of its extra year,  remarkably Burgundian,  and not at all overblown in the still-common oaky new world style.  It will be great with food,  and will cellar for 8 – 12 years.  GK 01/06

2003  Greenhough Chardonnay Nelson   17 ½ +  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  mostly clone 6;  62% BF in 15% new oak,  38 s/s;  some MLF and wild yeast;  still available at vineyard ]
Lemongreen.  One sniff reveals a perfectly clean,  ripe,  good chardonnay,  with unequivocal varietal character augmented by barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis,  and malolactic fermentation,  plus beautiful freshness.  Palate is white stonefruits,  oatmeal complexity,  attractive texture,  some new oak,  still very juicy and youthful,  so it seems not quite bone dry – an illusion.  Fruit richness must be good,  therefore.  This is great mainstream chardonnay,  which will cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/06

2004  Parr & Simpson Chardonnay   17 +  ()
Golden Bay,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14%;  $21   [ screwcap;  BF and MLF in older oak ]
Lemon,  attractive.  Bouquet is clean light chardonnay in a near-chablis style,  slightly citrus on white stonefruits,  restrained oak.  Palate is ripe,  long-flavoured and clearly varietal,  the MLF component attractively hidden away,  the whole a little acid / citric which accentuates the oak slightly,  very dry,  but with 5 – 8 years cellar potential in which to marry up and soften.  Interesting wine.  GK 01/06

2004  Golden Bay Wines Chardonnay   16 ½  ()
Golden Bay,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  mostly BF,  > 50% MLF;  www.goldenbaywines.com ]
Elegant lemon.  A light clean autolysed chardonnay bouquet showing understated varietal character almost in a methode champenoise style,  scarcely oaked.  Palate likewise is pale stonefruits and slightly mealy,  very lightly oaked,  not quite bone dry,  in a style attractive to less-experienced wine drinkers seeking a mild wine.  It would for example be superb with scallops.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 01/06

2005  Golden Bay Wines Chardonnay
Golden Bay,  Nelson,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ mostly BF,  > 50% MLF;  not yet on market;  website under development;  www.goldenbaywines.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is pure stonefruits chardonnay,  very mild in the sense of little apparent oak influence,  yet attractive with suggestions of mealy and cashew and malolactic complexities.  Palate shows good chardonnay texture and mouthfeel in an undemonstrative way,  following on perfectly from the bouquet,  with gentle acid balance.  It is not a big wine,  but it shows much more interest than most unoaked chardonnays.  It is richer and drier than the 2004 wine,  largely barrel-fermented in old oak,  in an almost Macon style.  Being mild,  it will be an excellent seafoods wine.  Cellar 1 – 4  years.  CAUTION:  this review is based on a proportional blend barrel sample,  and is rated maybe 17;  the finished and bottled wine may differ.  GK 01/06

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2005  Greenhough Sauvignon Blanc   18 ½ +  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $19   [ screwcap;  s/s wine ]
Elegant lemongreen.  The similarity of style between this wine and the Stafford is uncanny,  but the whole wine is a little deeper and richer,  with almost white nectarine fruit richness on top of vanillin florals,  black  passionfruit and ripest capsicum.  These are sauvignons that make one think of honeysuckle blossom.    Palate is richer too,  yet the wine is dry analytically as well as by taste.  Acid is fractionally the least of these three.  This is glorious sauvignon showing all the beauty of the variety perfectly ripe,  with no hint of winemaking negatives such as sweaty armpit  – exactly as sauvignon should be.  Cellar 2 – 10 years,  to taste.  GK 01/06

2005  Stafford Lane Sauvignon Blanc   18  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.3%;  $21   [ screwcap ]
Elegant lemongreen.  A beautifully fresh definitive sauvignon bouquet, combining almost riesling-like vanillin florals with ripest red capsicum notes adding zest,  all on black passionfruit fruit.  Palate is the same,  total acid on the fresh side,  residual sugar clearly in the ‘dry’ class,  the aromatic length of flavour very good,  tasting like a straight stainless steel wine.  Cellar 2 – 8 years,  to taste.  GK 01/06

2005  Glover’s Sauvignon Blanc
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ mostly BF;  not yet on market;  www.glovers-vineyard.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is not as dramatically varietal as the Stafford or Greenhough,  given the complication of barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis,  but it is still clearly sauvignon blanc,  and in one sense more interesting.  With a little air,  ripe sauvignon and floral red capsicum develops,  on a resiny aromatic golden-peachy depth,  which is very Graves-like.  Palate is rich,  complex,  bone dry,  and a little more acid than the other two,  with a very long flavour which will be great with foods like smoked mullet.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  CAUTION:  notes based on a barrel sample;  rating maybe 17.5;  the final wine may differ.  GK 01/06

1992  Glover’s Rhine Riesling   18 ½  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12%;  $ –    [ cork,  7 g/L;  www.glovers-vineyard.co.nz ]
Glowing light gold.  A mature riesling at the full honeyed peak of development.  All the vanillin and citrus notes of youth can still be detected,  but the nectar has passed on to golden honey,  and soon a vanilla biscuit note will creep in.  Palate is rich,  fully developed and flavoured with amber honey and golden peach fruit,  yet still fresh,  with delightful acid.  Being a 7 g / L wine,  finish is now seemingly sweet on the great fruit.  This developed wine foreshadows the wine style the drier 2005 will show.  GK 01/06

2005  Glover’s Riesling   18 ½  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12%;  $ –    [ cork,  dry;  www.glovers-vineyard.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  very youthful.  Bouquet on this riesling is delightful,  with already a strongly floral bouquet reminiscent of freesia,  or even as perfumed as jasmine,  on sweet vanillin and potentially nectary notes,  plus a zing of  aromatic hops.  Palate is exceptional,  with precise varietal definition made the more unusual (for New Zealand) by being bone dry,  yet with great body and length of flavour.  This is remarkable,  individual,  and distinctive wine,  in a style Dave Glover has made his own.  Unfortunately so little of this wine was made that it is available only at the winery,  and only then with a good deal of pleading.  Over the years,  riesling is the wine Glover has become best known for.  Not every year has the sweet Germanic florals of this one,  and  some years they are bottled with higher free sulphur,  to deliberately create a 10-year plus cellar wine.  Each vintage is worth assessing,  to find the superlative ones in time to buy.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/06

2005  Greenhough Riesling Hope   18  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  12%;  $24   [ screwcap;  s/s wine ]
Lemongreen,  fractionally deeper than the Nelson wine.  Bouquet is more together on the Hope Riesling,  with citrus and hints of fine marmalade evident,  on clear-cut varietal character.  Palate is lime and citrus riesling,  some white stonefruits,  clear medium in sweetness,  lovely acid balance.  This should cellar well,  5 – 12 years.  GK 01/06

2005  Greenhough Riesling Nelson   17 ½  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  s/s wine ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is still youthful and the SO2 not quite married away,  below which is fragrant and floral riesling in the holygrass / linalool style,  on fine white stonefruits,  and moist sultanas.  Palate is likewise still angular and youthful,  but with plenty of varietal flavour,  the finish at the top end of the ‘dry’ class,  lingering well on an appley note.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/06

2003  Glover’s Riesling   16 ½  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12%;  $18   [ screwcap,  dry;  www.glovers-vineyard.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  indistinguishable from the 2005.  This is an interesting bouquet,  but one in which the varietal character is still confused with some bottling SO2.  Underneath,  the fruit is less floral and varietal than the 2005,  with a more generalised lime and white stonefruits quality.  Palate is hard both on some sulphur and noticeable acid,  yet the fruit seems broader,  more a dry Australian style,  not Germanic like the 2005.  Finish is bone dry.  This wine will cellar well,  but will not reach the heights of the great years,  I suspect.  GK 01/06

2005  Golden Bay Wines Gewurztraminer   17 ½  ()
Golden Bay,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap,  website under development;  www.goldenbaywines.com ]
Straw,  a bit overdeveloped.  Bouquet is unequivocally gewurztraminer,  with gorgeous lychee,  loquats,  wild ginger blossom and citronella notes on bouquet.  Palate follows on perfectly,  with rich flavours,  attractive acid balance seeming natural (gewurztraminer is often hardened-up with added acid),  and a dry slightly phenolic finish (no doubt contributing to the long rich flavours).  This is probably only a short-term cellar wine,  more to be enjoyed in the next year or two.  The wine raises the interesting question:  will the calcareous fanslope soils on the southeast side of the lower Takaka Valley be as good for the early-season gewurztraminer as selected somewhat similar Gisborne sites ?  Gewurztraminer could be an exciting variety for Golden Bay.  GK 01/06

Pinot Noir
2004  Greenhough Pinot Noir Hope   16 ½  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap ]
Attractive pinot noir ruby.  Fragrant red cherry fruits and boronia / buddleia florals make this immediately a pinot noir bouquet.  Palate is a little lighter than the bouquet promises,  but is sweet and ripe enough,  faintly stalky,  with gentle oak augmenting cherry fruit,  all lingering attractively.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/06

2004  Glover’s Pinot Noir Back Block   15 ½ +  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:   – %;  $37   [ 2 years in barrel;  www.glovers-vineyard.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is red cherry pinot noir in an oaky style,  with just a hint of varnishy oak detracting.  Palate is firm,  the fruit ripe-ish,  tending acid,  but fair texture,  sustained by oak more than fruit.  This is more an oaky bourgogne rouge style,  to cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 01/06

2005  Glover's Pinot Noir Back Block
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ not yet assembled / bottled / on the market;  www.glovers-vineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby,  older than the other ‘05s.  Bouquet is different from many New Zealand pinot noirs,  more complex in one sense with cherry and brown mushroom smells married out into older oak.  Palate has the integrated cherry and oak of some Pommards,  ripe and quite rich and sturdy,  long-flavoured and finishing well.  This will be a good food wine.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  CAUTION:  notes based on a barrel sample;  rating may be 17-ish;  the final wine may differ.  GK 01/06

2005  Greenhough Pinot Noir Nelson
Nelson,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ not yet assembled / bottled / on the market ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  about a maximum for pinot noir.  This is a big sweetly floral and exciting pinot noir,  with aromatic and spicy notes on boronia-like and dark rose florals.  Palate is saturated with black and red cherry flavours,  and some blackboy peach,  with subtle underlying oak,  and beautiful acid balance.  This could be a gold medal wine.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  CAUTION:  notes based on a barrel sample from two only of a number of barrels,  rating maybe 18 points;  the final wine may differ.  GK 01/06

2005  Greenhough Pinot Noir Hope
Nelson,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ not yet assembled / bottled / on the market ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  overly dark for pinot noir.  Bouquet suggests 2005 was a wonderfully warm and ripe year in Nelson,  but maybe a bit too warm for the greatest floral complexity and magic in pinot.  The wine  does however show some Martinborough-like pennyroyal notes.  Palate is sumptuous,  with dense black cherry and blackboy fruit,  an aromatic peppercorn suggestion,  yet good texture and acid balance,  plus oak yet to marry in.  Whether these Hope samples will become magnificent big complex pinot eclipsing the 2005 Nelson wine,  which will cellar for 10 – 20 years,  or alternatively become over-ripe big pinot tending to a merlot style,  will have to await assemblage,  fining,  bottling etc and settling down.  The finished wines will be exciting to see,  and taste.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  CAUTION:  notes based on a barrel sample from two only of a number of barrels,  at this stage too youthful to make more than a tentative rating 17 – 18;  the final wine may differ.  GK 01/06

2005  Waiwera Estate Pinot Noir
Golden Bay,  Nelson,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ not yet assembled / bottled / on the market ]
Deep but appropriate pinot noir ruby,  excellent.  Bouquet is dramatically pinot noir,  violets,  boronia and dusky rose sweet florals on red and black cherry fruit,  very promising.  Palate is already gorgeous,  black cherry fruit of great varietal richness and perfect acid balance,  firmed by but not dominated by subtle oak.  Like the Greenhough Nelson,  this could be a gold medal wine.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  CAUTION:  notes based on a pro-rata barrel sample rating maybe 18 to 18.5;  the final wine may differ.  GK 01/06