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

GEWURZTRAMINER AND OTHER AROMATIC WHITES FROM NEW ZEALAND & FRANCE


2004 produced wonderfully aromatic whites in both New Zealand and Europe,  and 2005 is shaping up well too.  Latterly,  with the constant profile New Zealand sauvignon blanc achieves,  and now both pinot noir and to a degree syrah hustling to share the limelight,  we tend to forget just how good the best New Zealand aromatic whites are becoming.  Once Australians scoffed at our riesling styles,  given theirs are so good and versatile in a near-dry style.  This was particularly the case when ours were based on muller-thurgau.  Now however,  our finest rieslings more than challenge Australia’s top examples of the variety,  whether from the Eden or Clare Valleys,  or now Western Australia.  The Waipara district is consolidating its reputation as perhaps the pre-eminent spot for the variety in New Zealand,  but in truth there have been beaut wines from all districts between Hawkes Bay and Otago.

Gewurztraminer is another story.  Australia doesn't have much to show for this variety,  which is only beautiful in temperate climates.  In hotter places,  it quickly goes muscatty and coarse,  and being low acid,  the coarseness is exacerbated by the tartaric acid addition needed to maintain wine balance.  Tasmania however must challenge in due course.  Our gewurz story started in the 1970s with the pioneering wines of Denis Irwin in Gisborne.  They immediately showed that we could make gewurzs to rank with sound Alsatian wines.  But as people found how temperamental and irregular a bearer the grape was,  enthusiasm for the variety has waned more than waxed in the ensuing 30 years,  until very recently.  Now we are starting to see world-class wines emerging from all districts between Hawkes Bay and Waipara.

And then there is the new kid on the block,  viognier,  which I discussed in some detail in an article on this site dated 24 Dec. 2005.  There has been some progress and consolidation since then,  but world-class viognier is still a little way ahead.  Meanwhile the 2004 Guigal has provided an almost textbook example of the style we are climatically suited to making in New Zealand,  and should be emulating.  Guigal too has been learning with the variety,  producing as he does more Condrieu than any other winemaker.

In the aromatic scheme of things,  the other grape to consider is pinot gris.  The variety is so in danger of being the wine you give to people who don’t like wine,  that too many are following the American-influenced model of innocuous,  over-ripe,  off-dry bland wines which won't offend.  Real pinot gris is something else again.  The essence of the matter is for winemakers to realise it is a pinot variety,  and should therefore be floral, beautiful,  and have body.  Like pinot noir,  its complexity is lost if it is over-ripened and overly alcoholic.  Most New Zealand examples are.  This tasting included only a couple of token wines,  but it only fair to record that there are a few encouragingly varietal and beautiful wines being produced,  and more producers are likely to take this variety seriously once it is better understood.  At the moment the judging of the class lacks focus,  due to overlooking the above key point,

All things including the excellent vintages considered therefore,  the opportunity to participate in a couple of aromatic white tastings in August was an exciting prospect.  One of them was assembled by Raymond Chan,  of Regional Wines & Spirits,  Wellington,  where the variety under scrutiny was gewurztraminer.  The other I presented to a tasting group in Wellington,  with the four varieties gewurztraminer,  pinot gris,  riesling,  and viognier.  But first a little background.

Among older wine writers,  Michael Broadbent has long been my mentor.  But among younger ones,  Jancis Robinson stands out as someone who is irrepressibly her own person,  conveying completely independent views on wine assessment,  without regard to the conventional wisdom.  So much wine comment is in fact relayed,  re-cycled,  second-hand,  cobbled together from the authorities of the day.  Robinson's views in contrast are always original,  and sometimes irreverently so.  Additionally,  she has the ability to encapsulate in a few words,  a vital picture of the wine which makes you absolutely want to taste it.  

Accordingly,  in planning a tasting of aromatic white varieties,  I was delighted to find a recent thought from Jancis on how she sees New Zealand's current achievements with riesling,  and an assessment of one wine I wanted to include.

In my book,  New Zealand Rieslings have been a little slow to join the party.  Many clung to too high a level of residual sugar for too long, I think.  Natural fruitiness in a great and fascinating German wine with massive extract is one thing,  but simple sweetness in an alcoholic one is another.  It has also taken time to reduce levels of astringency and phenolic bitterness in many NZ Rieslings.

But now I see more and more evidence of really fine zesty Riesling from New Zealand,  which to my palate are well balanced and just off dry. Particularly impressive examples to have come my way include two from Waipara, the very promising wine region in the hinterland of Christchurch in the South Island …
 
As is often the case,  Jancis has put her finger on a key traditional deficiency of New Zealand wines relative to the world market,  namely lack of dry extract (which is a simple wine parameter that can be measured).  As recently as the 1980s,  those who tried to advise the industry in this matter,   including via amply documented research at the then Government viticultural research facility at Te Kauwhata,  were ridiculed,  or worse.  But now happily,  our wines are being measured by international standards rather than parochial ones,  and the successful winemakers have or are adapting to that world market.  The result is much greater pleasure to our tongues.

These changes have been dramatic in wines such as merlot / cabernet,  but the same trends are being re-played with the whites.  Thus it is an exciting time to assess some gewurztraminer,  pinot gris,  riesling and viognier wines from such good vintages,  to check progress.  The wines are scheduled below,  with on this occasion the varieties mixed to illuminate the level of achievement within the concept 'aromatic white'.  Few if any of these wines were bone dry,  but many fall into that pleasant category I refer to as 'dry',  meaning the residual sugar is less than 5 – 7 grams per litre.  Many people find such wines 'fruity' rather than 'sweet'.

The wines reviewed may be classed as in the Index below.  The reviews,  however,  are interleaved into one sequence,  to indicate one view of the relative levels of achievement.  


THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Riesling
2005  Camshorn Riesling Dry Salix Clays
2004  [ Fromm ] La Strada Riesling Dry
2004  MadFish Riesling
2005  Richardson Riesling
2004  Schoffit Riesling Harth Cuvée Tradition
Pinot Gris
2005  Kaituna Valley Pinot Gris
2004  Schoffit Pinot Gris Colmar Cuvée Tradition
Gewurztraminer
2004  Albert Mann Gewurztraminer Steingrubler Grand Cru
2004  Domaine Paul Blanck Gewurztraminer Altenbourg
2004  Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer
2004  Corbans Gewurztraminer Private Bin Hawkes Bay
2004  Hugel Gewurztraminer
2005  Johanneshof Gewurztraminer
2005  Montana Gewurztraminer McLoughlin Terroir Series
2004  Montana Gewurztraminer Riverpoint Terroir Series
2003  Domaines Schlumberger Gewurztraminer les Princes Abbés
  2004  Schoffit Gewurztraminer Harth Cuvée Caroline
2005  Stonecroft Gewurztraminer Hawkes Bay Old Vine
2005  Villa Maria Gewurztraminer Ihumatao
2004  Vinoptima Gewurztraminer Reserve
2003  Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Mambourg Grand Cru
2002  Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2004  Guigal Condrieu
2004  Vidal Viognier
2005  Villa Maria Viognier Omahu Single Vineyard
Red
Rosé
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.


THE WINES IN RANK ORDER:

2005  Villa Maria Gewurztraminer Ihumatao   19  ()
Mangere,  Auckland,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $31   [ screwcap;  RS 17 g/L;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet on this wine is sensational,  fresh,  crisp,  floral and spicy,  with an almost perfect expression of precise lychee and rosepetal varietal fruit lifted with citronella piquancy,  and spiced with wild ginger florals.  Palate is superbly fresh and crisp,  enough phenolics and extract to secure pinpoint varietal character,  yet not in any way coarse,  perfect acid balance for length of flavour,  well balanced to reasonably subtle residual sweetness – medium.  It is not quite as fresh as the Johanneshof,  but the weight of varietal character is greater.  This wine avoids the great weakness of gewurztraminer,  a flabby variously 'barley-sugar' finish.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 08/06

2004  Guigal Condrieu   19  ()
Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $76   [ cork;  33% BF in new French oak,  67% s/s,  100% MLF;  dry;  2004 exceptional for whites in the northern Rhone;  www.guigal.com ]
Lemonstraw.  First sniff shows gorgeous yellow florals in a honeysuckle style,  leading into clear-cut canned apricots though with the thought of cherimoya too,  lightly aromatic,  infinitely enticing.  Palate immediately reveals a subtle oak component,  and the MLF input,  giving the wine a breadth of body not so apparent in most New Zealand examples.  The flavour is pure canned apricots,  slight phenolics giving grip and great length to the flavour,  dry.  It is good to see Guigal backing off a little on the oak the wines showed to excess over the last few years,  which now lets the grape shine through more clearly.  Not a big wine when compared with something like Yalumba’s Virgilius,  but superbly focused,  fresh and varietal.  This is the best Guigal straight village viognier in years:  it reflects exactly the style we should be aiming for in New Zealand.  Cellar 2 - 4 years.  GK 08/06

2004  [ Fromm ] La Strada Riesling Dry   19  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $31   [ cork;  described by the winemaker as an ‘oyster wine’  which will age,  all s/s.  RS 5.4 g/L,  pH 2.93,  so should be cellar-wine par excellence;  www.frommwineries.com ]
Brilliant pale lemon.  Bouquet is gorgeous,  explicit riesling varietal character expressed as white flowers and holygrass / sweet vernal aromas,  softly vanillin,  hints of white nectarine,  lovely.  Palate shows gorgeous varietal terpenes,  exact flavours with a citrus underpinning,  ‘dry’ finish,  and great length on the flavoursome aromatics,  yet the wine is not phenolic.  There is a hint of lees-autolysis / baguette complexity too,  marvellous.  How good to see the la Strada wines retreating from the higher total sulphurs of a few years ago.  Cellar 3 – 15 years,  possibly longer.  GK 08/06

2004  MadFish Riesling   18 ½ +  ()
Great Southern,  West Australia,  Australia:  12.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  free-run only;  www.madfishwines.com.au ]
Lemongreen,  that wash of almost beetle-green iridescence the Aussies sometimes capture in their best stainless steel whites.  Bouquet on this wine is stunning,  a slightly cooler appley style all through than the Fromm,  but the same holygrass / sweet vernal / linalool and floral fragrances,  on lovely fruit.  Palate is a little narrower and purer than the Fromm,  no hint of lees-autolysis complexity,  just the pure variety,  with terpene flavours and some lime-zest but no phenolics,  leading to not quite as ‘dry’ a finish.  This will cellar well,  5 – 10 years plus,  and could be worth trying for longer.  GK 08/06

2004  Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer   18 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $33   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  winemaking is artisan Alsatian,  BF in old oak,  and 6 months or so LA;  RS 8 g/L;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Marvellous lemon,  a superb colour.  Bouquet on this wine is sensational,  combining magical varietal character with great depth yet not heaviness,  plus what seems like barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis complexities (later confirmed).  The fruit qualities are lychee,  apricots,  root ginger,  citronella and pale stone fruits such as nectarine:  almost a definition of great gewurztraminer.  Palate is intense,  rich,  just above ‘dry’ to cover the varietal phenolics,  with a clear Te Koko-like barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis complex undertone,  but all much subtler than that wine.  However,  the winemaker / artefact component could detract,  for some.  Finish is intense and superb,  some gewurz ‘bite’,  beautiful acid balance,  a wine overcoming the traditional weak point of gewurztraminer with deft ease.  This is a very individual,  characterful and distinctive take on New Zealand gewurztraminer,  and like Te Koko,  is possibly a love-or-hate style.  It is drier than the Ihumatao or Johanneshof.  Cellar 5 - 10 years,  maybe longer,  for a wine to compete with Alsatian ones.  GK 08/06

2005  Johanneshof Gewurztraminer   18 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap; website not up-to-date,  lacks wine info;  www.johanneshof.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is dramatically varietal,  not quite the floral complexity of the Ihumatao,  but considering the wines are growing more than 500 kilometers apart on wildly differing soil parent materials,  the similarity of varietal character is astonishing,  complete with subtle citronella lift on the lychee.  Palate is a little more acid than the Mangere wine,  again balanced by reasonably subtle residual sugar at the medium level,  with near-perfect phenolic extraction to optimise flavour without coarseness.  The finish is superb.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/06

2005  Richardson Riesling   18 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  the label of Michelle Richardson,  formerly chief winemaker at Villa Maria,  noted for her rieslings;  Robinson:  just 4g/l residual sugar so tasting almost bone dry, the balance seems just about right for this refreshing, lightly floral, quite Germanic, ‘cool’ wine which will have an interesting life in bottle. Quite complex.  17.5 ]
Lemon,  between the Fromm and the MadFish.  Bouquet on this wine is intriguing,  clearly riesling yet in the vanilla-pod intensity is a hint of something else,  in the nougat / desiccated coconut spectrum.  In mouth the flavours reflect the bouquet,  great dry extract,  some reminders of Mosel trocken style,  a little sweeter than the MadFish,  lime-zest again.  A distinctive style,  which should cellar well 5 – 10 + years.  GK 08/06

2002  Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl   18 ½  ()
Wintzenheim,  Alsace,  France:  14.5%;  $109   [ cork;  no website found ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is in a late harvest rich style,  with botrytis,  oak contact and light VA all introducing an almost sauternes-like fullness and complexity to great lychee and golden queen peach fruit.  And florals are not missing either,  with wild ginger and almost citronella complexities.  Palate is wonderfully rich and flavoursome,  extending all the bouquet qualities into a bigger and bolder wine with all the flavours (and more) of the Ihumatao wine.  Due to the extra sweetness (full medium) and botrytis,  it lacks the pinpoint varietal focus and delicacy of that wine.  VA roughens the finish a little.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 08/06

2004  Schoffit Gewurztraminer Harth Cuvée Caroline   18 +  ()
Colmar,  Alsace,  France:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  Cuvée Caroline series wines are off-dry. ]
Light gold,  a little worrying for an ’04.  But bouquet makes one overlook the colour,  for here is a most beautiful demonstration of explicit gewurztraminer varietal character:  lychee,  citronella,  root ginger,  yellow nectarines and peaches,  plus a gorgeous yellow floral honeysuckle quality – absolutely dreamy.  Palate is exactly the same,  more medium than ‘dry’ in sweetness,  a little sweeter than the Cloudy Bay,  pure straight intense slightly raisiny gewurztraminer.  The only worry is the wine is so forward.  Cellar for 2 – 5 years only,  probably.  GK 08/06

2003  Domaines Schlumberger Gewurztraminer les Princes Abbés   18 +  ()
Guebwiller,  Alsace,  France:  13.5%;  $33   [ cork;  the commercial label les Princes Abbés is young vines from various domaine-owned vineyards,  including grands crus;  fermentation in temperature-controlled wooden vessels several months,  plus 6 – 8 months on lees;  RS 18.4 g/L;  www.domaines-schlumberger.com ]
Pale lemonstraw.  This is a milder rendering of gewurztraminer,  with less lychee and citronella,  and more white nectarine and freesia florals,  all spiced just a little.  Palate is more clearly gewurz,  some root ginger spice,  but all less-developed and slightly sweeter than the Schoffit – a gewurztraminer for people who do not really like gewurz.  The long aftertaste does bring out a little more varietal character and flavour.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/06

2004  Corbans Gewurztraminer Private Bin Hawkes Bay   18  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ cork;  RS 8 g/L sugar;  www.corbans.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Among the Alsatians,  the Corban is closest to the Albert Mann,  with pure floral vanilla and slightly spicy lychee characters on bouquet,  a lovely delicate varietal wine.  Palate is drier than most,  so it seems a smaller wine,  but the flavours are very precise,  beautifully subtle,  long in the mouth and finishing elegantly.  One could not ask for a better introduction to the variety,  gentle yet clear-cut,  perfectly balanced,  not quite ‘dry’,  and affordable.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/06

2004  Vidal Viognier   18  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  BF old oak then 6 months LA and batonnage,  small fraction MLF,  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  the palest of the three viogniers.  Bouquet on this viognier is very understated,  showing an almost floral component,  more white than yellow.  Fruit is slightly lychee and palest apricot,  with a big lees-autolysis component making the bouquet confusable with chardonnay,  if one were not thinking.  Palate brings up the varietal fruit,  slightly pale and under-ripe tart apricots,  with a conspicuous barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis component.  The oak is so subtle as to be scarcely tasted,  the net impression being more of baguette complexity from lees autolysis.  Palate weight and length are superb,  but the flavours of ripeness are a little lacking.  This is a very individual handling of viognier,  subtle,  refined,  and food-friendly.  It some ways (the artefact) it is closer to the Virgilius style than the Guigal,  but much more acid and not so weighty.  Cellar 3 - 5 years.  GK 08/06

2005  Camshorn Riesling Dry Salix Clays   18  ()
Waipara,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  from the new Montana ‘alias’ series of labels,  with no clue it is not an independent vineyard;  5.5 g/L RS;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com ]
Pure lemon,  a great colour.  Bouquet is a bit obscure freshly opened,  but clears to a limey straightforward presentation of riesling,  fragrant and clearly varietal.  Palate brings up attractive varietal terpenes and vanillin,  with excellent dry extract,  so the wine seems juicy even though it is ‘dry’.  On the night,  this didn't look as good as the ‘04 wines,  but in another year it might surprise.  Riesling is nothing if not a cellaring wine.  Waipara has a great reputation for riesling,  and these Camshorn wines look set to further it.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  maybe more.  GK 08/06

2005  Kaituna Valley Pinot Gris   18  ()
Banks Peninsula,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ cork;  from their intriguing Port Hills Summerhill vineyard. ]
Pale lemonstraw.  This bouquet is uncannily Alsatian,  showing much more varietal specificity than most New Zealand pinot gris.  There are clear English primrose florals,  on a pale stonefruits note which is yellow rather than the pallid white pearflesh which passes for varietal character in most New Zealand pinot gris.  Palate dramatically focuses the bouquet impressions,  with great fruit and dry extract on a nearly dry finish,  again shifting this wine well away from New Zealand's all-too-frequently medium sweetness pinot gris,  and into exactly the Alsace model.  Phenolics are a little apparent,  but they characterise the variety.  Given the wine’s other qualities,  one can overlook that – and they are certainly preferable to overt oak.  This is exciting New Zealand pinot gris to cellar 3 – 6 years,  perhaps longer.  GK 08/06

2004  Albert Mann Gewurztraminer Steingrubler Grand Cru   17 ½ +  ()
Wettolsheim,  Alsace,  France:  13.5%;  $53   [ cork;  no website found ]
Pale lemonstraw.  Bouquet is milder again than the Schlumberger,  yet in the freesia florals and white stone fruits is a lovely suggestion of wild ginger blossom and spice,  wonderfully floral.  Like the Schlumberger,  it is more clearly varietal on palate,  with lychee and a hint of root-ginger spice,  but marked by high residual sugar,  so the wine is more medium in sweetness.  The spicy phenolics grow a little in the finish,  and deepen the wine,  but it is essentially mild gewurz.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/06

2005  Villa Maria Viognier Omahu Single Vineyard   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  '05 not yet on website,  but ’04 was BF in old French oak and LA and batonnage for 7 months,  20% MLF,  finished to 2 g/L;  Omahu is the vineyard that produced the remarkable 2002 Malbec;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is much stronger here than on the Vidal,  but with viognier in mind,  it is slightly ersatz – there is a toothpasty edge suggesting unsubtle oak.  This detracts from the exquisite florals and subtle yellow fruits which good viognier should show.  Palate is attractive,  more clearly varietal and better balanced than the Vidal,  the MLF fraction detectable in a positive way,  the whole mouthfeel and style very close to 2004 Guigal.  One can only commend Villa's choice of such a role model.  There are such good features in this wine,  I'd like to reward it at gold medal level,  but the bouquet is too off-centre.  Mouthfeel and body are well on the way to great New Zealand viognier,  and with closer scrutiny and older oak,  next year's might achieve the breakthrough.  The MLF component is the key,  in my view.  Cellar 2 - 4 years.  GK 08/06

2004  Schoffit Pinot Gris Colmar Cuvée Tradition   17 ½  ()
Colmar,  Alsace,  France:  13.8%;  $28   [ cork;  Cuvée Tradition series wines are dry,  or virtually so. ]
Full straw,  a touch of orange,  worrying.  And bouquet is a little worrying too,  with a thread of oxidation in a more old-fashioned Euro-style – not at all what I associate with Schoffit.  Palate however is great,  very similar yellow stone fruits and some phenolics to the Kaituna,  similar near-dry finish,  good mouthfeel.  A food wine,  but not suited to cellaring beyond a year or two,  if this bottle is representative.  This one may show slight oxidation from an imperfect cork.  GK 08/06

2004  Schoffit Riesling Harth Cuvée Tradition   17 ½  ()
Colmar,  Alsace,  France:  13%;  $38   [ cork;  Cuvée Tradition series wines are dry,  or virtually so ]
Lemon,  the deepest of the five rieslings.  And bouquet is the most characterful too,  with a stronger citrus component almost suggesting grapefruit zest in the Jamaican style,  plus a slight ‘scent’,  which some tasters found off-putting.  Palate is less refined than the Australasian wines,  plenty of flavour but all a little phenolic,  similar ‘dry’ finish,  clearly varietal but not the finesse of the wines rated more highly.  What a reversal of conventional wisdom!  Cellar 3 – 5 years only,  I suspect.  GK 08/06

2004  Domaine Paul Blanck Gewurztraminer Altenbourg   17 ½  ()
Kienzheim,  Alsace,  France:  13.5%;  $49   [ cork;  vines 20 years age;  also www.blanck.com;  www.blanck-alsace.com ]
Light straw.  Bouquet is like a junior version of the Schoffit,  yellow fruits rather than white,  not quite as clearly varietal,  but still lychee.  Palate introduces some root-ginger complexities,  all more phenolic than the top wines,  fairly dry.  Cellar 5 – 8 years only perhaps,  for it may coarsen beyond that.  GK 08/06

2004  Hugel Gewurztraminer   17 +  ()
Riquewihr,  Alsace,  France:  13%;  $40   [ cork;  not much wine detail on website;  www.hugel.com ]
Pale lemon.  This is a more old-fashioned kind of Alsatian gewurztraminer,  with some clean sur-lie reductiveness apparent,  when freshly opened.  Below are clear lychee and white stonefruits,  with suggestions of ginger.  Palate is firmer and drier than most others,  seeming austere on the sur-lie component,  but the flavours are correct.  Leave this for five years,  and a clear-cut truly dry gewurztraminer will emerge,  which should score higher.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/06

2005  Stonecroft Gewurztraminer Hawkes Bay Old Vine   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ supercritical cork;  detail of wine lacking on website;  www.stonecroft.co.nz ]
The palest lemon of the set,  nearly a hint of green.  This wine is so floral as to be perfumed,  which appealed greatly to some tasters,  and less to others.  In mouth the  wine expands,  and reveals freesia florals,  a hint of citronella and spice,  white stone fruits,  and very delicate varietal phenolics on palate.  I suspect this will rate more highly in 3 – 5 years,  but for now it seems a little too pretty and delicate,  even though it is not weak.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/06

2004  Vinoptima Gewurztraminer Reserve   16 ½ +  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $51   [ cork;  hand-harvested;  the wine of Nick Nobilo's single-variety vineyard at Ormond,  aiming to make great New Zealand gewurztraminer;  website not up to date ('04 not up),  detail lacking but some fermentation in wood;  RS 20 g/L;  www.vinoptima.co.nz ]
Full lemon,  virtually identical to the Cloudy Bay or slightly deeper,  much lighter than the Schoffit,  a great colour.  Bouquet is softly fruity,  peach and stonefruits  dominating,  with a vanilla floral edge to it,  pleasing but not dramatically varietal.  If one is critical,  there is the faintest hint of rubber / sulphur,  and the wine could be confused with some kinds of 'tropical' chardonnay.  The floral,  spicy,  lychee,  and citronella edge of good gewurztraminer is more implicit than explicit,  even when the wine is seen on its own,  let alone in good company.  Palate is a little more spicy and up to the mark,  and shows good dry extract,  but the winestyle is tending to sur maturité and hot climate,  the flavours fleshy and lacking zing,  the finish alcoholic and tending phenolic,  perhaps acid-adjusted,  then going barley-sugar to the weak finish – a perennial weakness of less than top-notch gewurztraminer.  The whole winestyle is tending over-ripe and Australian.  I don't have them alongside,  but this year's wine seems less focussed and varietal than last year's,  though it too did not compare with the top New Zealand in this batch.  Would cellar 5 – 8 years,  but not worth cellaring as gewurz.  Pleasing as full-bodied wine in an aromatic style.  GK 08/06

2003  Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Mambourg Grand Cru   16 ½ +  ()
Kayserberg,  Alsace,  France:  13%;  $120   [ cork;  not much wine detail on website;  www.domaineweinbach.com ]
Good lemon.  This is another light wine sharing something of the style of the Stonecroft.  The bouquet is floral including vanilla,  with a just perceptible note of mace or nutmeg.  Palate is lacking,  however,  scarcely varietal and much too sweet,  rich in fruit but short on specific varietal characters,  more like some New Zealand pinot gris.  It will cellar well,  in its 'delicate' style,  but it is a disappointment for gewurz fans.  GK 08/06

2004  Montana Gewurztraminer Riverpoint Terroir Series   16 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-picked,  sorting table;  5 months LA (presumably in tank);  29 g/L RS;  grown on the former Denis Irwin / Matawhero land,  where NZ’s first world-class gewurzs (but dry) arose in the later 70s;  www.montana.co.nz ]
Lemon.  In the present company,  bouquet is disappointing,  with a clear VA lift to modest gewurztraminer varietal character,  not going much beyond the Turkish delight sector.  Palate shows a little more varietal fruit,  lychee and nashi pear (to reflect the VA,  apparent in even fresh nashi) and a little root-ginger,  but all finishing a little tacky on excess sweetness and VA roughness – reminiscent of many indifferent too-sweet  New Zealand pinot gris.  Given this site’s heritage,  this is disappointing as a wine,  being a very commercial offering.  It was grown on the famed Matawhero Riverpoint vineyard site,  and the quality of the gewurztraminer formerly there made much finer wine than this.  The Matawhero model was dry,  and good vintages cellared well,  as the 1978 Matawhero Gewurztraminer still shows (in an elderly way).  It is a worry too that some of the Montana Gisborne whites show this detectable VA.  For most,  it doesn't interfere with enjoyment of the wine.  For many people it just makes it more zingy,  but for cellaring less would be better.  This particular example is not worth cellaring as gewurztraminer,  though like the Vinoptima (but sweeter),  it is pleasant,  full-bodied,  aromatic medium-white,  nearly Australian in style.  GK 08/06

2005  Montana Gewurztraminer McLoughlin Terroir Series   16  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  some LA;  23 g/L RS;  www.montana.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This wine is in the same wishy-washy pinot gris style as the Riverpoint,  but with less varietal character,  a little more VA,  and fractionally less sweetness,  on nashi-like fruit which is palely varietal.  Gewurztraminer is such a difficult variety to get right,  but for these two wines,  the flavour simply isn’t there.  It is both sweeter and shows less character than the Vinoptima,  and is thus not worth cellaring as gewurz,  though it is pleasant in its fleshy,  hot-climate,  aromatic medium-white style.  GK 08/06