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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
independent
analytical
non-commercial
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
SUPERB WHITES FROM ASTROLABE,  CLOUDY BAY,  CUILLERON,  FELTON ROAD,  HUIA,  RIVERBY,  VILLA / VIDAL,  TE MATA,  AND MORE THOUGHTS ON VIOGNIER


Like the red batch preceding them,  these whites are a delightful bunch of wines.  There are simply so many fully international and top-quality wines amongst them.  When I think back to the New Zealand vinifera wines of 1969,  the year before the first tentative Babich Riesling-Sylvaner,  when only Corbans had significant vinifera whites on the market,  what a fantastic change there has been in 40 years.  Hard to believe.

The majority of the wines in this tasting are current releases,  but there are some previous ones.  One great feature in this batch is the interest to be found in the pinot gris.  They have been a Cinderella class for so long.  There are both beautifully varietal 100% pure pinot gris,  and wines with a skilful touching-up of the bouquet with gewurztraminer,  and chardonnay to augment body.  Most winemakers don’t admit to this sort of thing,  so it is great to find a couple who are proud of their achievements, and tell us about it.  The tasting produced even more exciting wines in the riesling and chardonnay classes,  and a wonderful diversity of styles in the sauvignons.  The latter range from exemplary stainless steel Marlborough wines to equally attractive more complex wines elaborated with oak.

VIOGNIER IN NEW ZEALAND
In August 2007 I discussed the future of the viognier winestyle in this country,  and tried to characterise what viognier should taste like.  Since then,  I have naturally enough examined New Zealand presentations of the grape more carefully.  Additionally,  thanks to Paul Mitchell (The Wine Importer,  Auckland) I have been able to discuss viognier wines with one of the grape’s great interpreters,  Yves Cuilleron in Chavanay & Condrieu.

As noted in the previous account,  the tendency in New Zealand is to enthusiastically but unrealistically embrace new grape varieties,  all too often ranking quite indifferent examples of the wines from the first few years much too highly,  when measured against quality wines from the grapes’ homeland.  We are seeing this now in viognier,  amongst several newly-fashionable grapes both white and red.  

In the previous review,  I emphasised that full physiological maturity in the grape was essential to achieving viognier's characteristic aroma and taste,  and that in a climate such as New Zealand’s,  MLF would probably be essential to achieving desirable mouthfeel and texture.  These two components come together in the total style good viognier should present.  

In essence,  good viognier has a yellow floral component on bouquet,  deeper,  more enchanting and sultry than white flowers alone.  It is yellow honeysuckle,  not white.  And this component leads to clear yellow and orange-fleshed apricot,  near-to or fully ripe,  but not over-ripe.  The whole wine has an enticing aromatic and slightly tropical-fruits quality to it,  quite exotic alongside the demure white florals of riesling.  These essential aromas and flavours come late in viognier's ripening curve,  and in many seasons,  alcohol may reach or exceed 14% by that point.

But since the grape also tends to harsh phenolics,  and barrel fermentation is necessary to optimise its flavour complexity,  there is the risk the highish alcohols will emphasise phenolics and tannins,  and produce an angular or thin wine.  Skilled winemakers can attenuate those difficulties,  but from his familiarity with viognier specifically,  Yves Cuilleron is emphatic that if the wine is to have texture,  minerality and complexity,  100% MLF fermentation is essential.  Otherwise  the wine will be superficial,  floral and fruity only with no depth,  like the wine of young vines,  says Cuilleron.  

With viognier now being planted and cropped in parts of New Zealand where it seems highly unlikely the grape will ever achieve full physiological flavour maturity,  such as Marlborough and Nelson,  there are ever more pale non-yellow viogniers on the market,  many hard to tell from pinot gris in a blind tasting.  Most of  the Gisborne wines thus far incline this way too – and this is not too likely to change unless the current trend to autumn drought in the district in fact extends late enough into the season to benefit late-season varieties.

The goal of these notes,  and the previous account,  is to encourage our winemakers and others to seek genuine varietal character in viognier,  the character displayed by the wines of the original location which brought the grape fame,  namely Condrieu.  A few parts of the North Island,  amongst very few places in the world,  have the climatic parameters to emulate the wines of Condrieu.  To achieve this,  it is essential that viognier growers and winemakers alike become familiar with the Condrieu wines of Yves Cuilleron particularly,  now they are available in New Zealand,  and those from another great viognier practitioner,  Guigal.  They are essential tasting.

All this means if wines from viognier are to be taken seriously in New Zealand,  and more importantly,  are to be taken seriously overseas,  they demonstrably must show yellow florals,  not white,  and taste of various ripeness levels of apricots,  not pears.  The wines must then have the body,  texture and mouth appeal which subtle MLF augments in a wine,  yet be fresh and succulent,  and show the complexity achieved by barrel fermentation and lees autolysis in old oak,  not new.  Further details crop up in the individual wine reviews.  

Acknowledgements:  Winemakers' ready responses to many queries has again been enormously appreciated,  given it is the season to be preoccupied with the current vintage.





LAYOUT – AND THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
2007  Astrolabe Chardonnay Voyage
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Boundary Vineyards Chardonnay Tuki Tuki Road
2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Church Road Chardonnay Reserve
2006  Cloudy Bay Chardonnay
2006  [ Waimata ] Cognoscenti Chardonnay
2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Corbans Cottage Block Chardonnay
2007  Escarpment Chardonnay
2007  Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2
2007  Felton Road Chardonnay [ standard ]
2007  Huia Chardonnay
2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Chardonnay Reserve Hawkes Bay
2007  Moutere Hills Chardonnay
2007  Riverby Estate Chardonnay
2007  Sacred Hill Chardonnay Riflemans
2008  [ Pernod Ricard ] Stoneleigh Chardonnay Rapaura Series
2007  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston
2007  Vidal Chardonnay Reserve
2006  Villa Maria Chardonnay Reserve Gisborne Barrique-Ferment
2006  Villa Maria Chardonnay Single Vineyard Taylors Pass
2006  Waimea Estates Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2008  Alluviale Blanc
2008  Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Awatere Discovery
2008  Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Kekerengu Discovery
2008  Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Voyage
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Boundary Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Rapaura Road
2008  [ Pernod Ricard ] Camshorn Sauvignon Blanc Waipara Salix Clays
2006  Cloudy Bay [ Sauvignon Blanc ] Te Koko
2005  Cloudy Bay [ Sauvignon Blanc ] Te Koko
2007  Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 12,000 Miles
2008  Huia Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Johner Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Julicher Sauvignon Blanc
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Marlborough
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Sauvignon Blanc [ standard ]
2007  Moutere Hills Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Riverby Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Sileni Sauvignon Blanc Benchmark Block 2 Omaka Slopes
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc
2008  Te Mata Sauvignon Blanc Cape Crest
2008  Te Whare Ra Sauvignon Blanc Awatere
2006  Te Whare Ra Sauvignon Blanc Awatere
2008  Waimea Estates Sauvignon Blanc
2008  [ Waimea Estates ] Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc
Riesling
2008  Astrolabe Riesling Discovery
2008  Astrolabe Riesling Dry Voyage
2005  Chard Farm Riesling Vipers Vineyard
2006  Craggy Range Riesling Fletcher Family Single Vineyard
2006  Craggy Range Riesling Glasnevin Single Vineyard
2006  Craggy Range Riesling Te Muna Road Single Vineyard
2008  Felton Road Riesling Block 1
2008  Felton Road Riesling Dry
2008  Felton Road Riesling [ standard ]
2007  Gibbston Valley Wines Riesling
2008  Huia Riesling
2006  [ Orlando ] Jacob's Creek Riesling Steingarten
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Riesling Reserve Waipara
2006  Muddy Water Riesling Hardwick
2006  Muddy Water Riesling Unplugged
2007  Neudorf Riesling Brightwater
2007  Neudorf Riesling Moutere
2007  Riverby Estate Riesling
2006  Riverby Estate Riesling
2005  Riverby Estate Riesling
2004  Riverby Estate Riesling
2002  Riverby Estate Riesling
2001  Riverby Estate Riesling [ cork ]
  2000  Riverby Estate Riesling [ cork ]
2008  Riverby Estate Riesling Sali's Block Single Vineyard
2008  Riverby Estate Riesling [ standard ]
2001  Riverby Estate Riesling [ screwcap ]
2005  Saint Clair Riesling
2006  [ Matua ] Shingle Peak Riesling
2008  [ Pernod Ricard ] Stoneleigh Riesling
2005  Te Whare Ra Riesling
2008  Te Whare Ra Riesling D [ dry ]
2008  Te Whare Ra Riesling M [ medium ]
Pinot Gris
2008  Astrolabe Pinot Gris Awatere Discovery
2006  Astrolabe Pinot Gris Experience
2007  Astrolabe Pinot Gris Voyage
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Bensen Block Pinot Gris
2007  Bollini Pinot Grigio Trentino
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Boundary Vineyards Pinot Gris Waipara
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Corbans Huntaway Pinot Gris Reserve Limited Edition
2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ]  Corbans Pinot Gris Private Bin Hawkes Bay
2007  Escarpment Pinot Gris
2008  [ Escarpment ] Pinot Gris The Edge
2007  Huia Pinot Gris
2008  Johner Estate Pinot Gris
2007  Moutere Hills Pinot Gris
2008  Riverby Estate Pinot Gris
2008  [ Pernod Ricard ] Stoneleigh Pinot Gris Marlborough
2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Stoneleigh Pinot Gris Rapaura Series
2008  Te Whare Ra Pinot Gris
2007  Villa Maria Pinot Gris Single Vineyard Taylor's Pass
Gewurztraminer
2008  Astrolabe Gewurztraminer Voyage
2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Corbans Gewurztraminer Private Bin
2007  Huia Gewurztraminer
2008  Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Gewurztraminer Reserve
2008  Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminer
2005  Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminer
2002  Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminer Duke of Marlborough
Viognier
2007  Craggy Range Viognier
2007  Cuilleron Condrieu la Petite Cote
2007  Cuilleron Condrieu Les Chaillets
2006  Cuilleron Condrieu Vertige
2007  Cuilleron Viognier Vin de Pays
2008  [ Escarpment ] The Edge Viognier
2008  Passage Rock Viognier
2006  Rostaing Condrieu La Bonnette
2005  Rostaing Condrieu La Bonnette
2007  Rostaing Viognier Vin de Pays Les Lezardes
2006  Rostaing Viognier Vin de Pays Les Lezardes
2008  Te Mata Viognier Zara
2007  Vidal Viognier East Coast
2007  Vidal Viognier Reserve
Sweet / Sticky
2007  Astrolabe Noble Riesling Experience 375 ml
2008  Forrest Noble Chenin Blanc The Doctors 375 ml
2007  Johner Estate Noble Pinot Noir 375 ml
2008  Riverby Estate Noble Riesling 375 ml
2007  Te Whare Ra Noble Riesling 375 ml
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2008  Bellbird Spring Home Block White
2008  Te Whare Ra Toru Blended White
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.
 

White
Chardonnay
2007  Sacred Hill Chardonnay Riflemans   19 +  ()
Dartmoor Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $52   [ screwcap;  hand-picked clone mendoza,  whole-bunch pressed to barrel;  wild-yeast ferments temperature-controlled to max. c. 17 degrees in the barrel;  100% MLF and 12 months LA and some batonnage in French oak new and 1-year;  pH 3.46,  RS 2.3 g/L;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Having averred this might be New Zealand's best chardonnay,  it seemed a useful wine to include in this big blind tasting.  And it really is sensational,  coming through to the top again.  It is totally best international practice chardonnay,  floral and fragrant and ‘sweet’ on bouquet,  long in mouth and ripe all through,  not unduly dominated by oak or alcohol.  All wine-lovers owe it to themselves to taste and preferably cellar this wine,  to be familiar with it and have to hand an absolute benchmark for excellence in chardonnay.  It's worth noting this wine has its own dedicated chardonnay vineyard in the Dartmoor Valley,  where the grapes are grown ungrafted.  This is a cooler site than the Gimblett Gravels,  and it shows in the floral complexity of bouquet Riflemans displays.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Villa Maria Chardonnay Single Vineyard Taylors Pass   18 ½ +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $38   [ screwcap;  hand-picked clone 95 chardonnay,  BF on full solids in French oak 25% new;  MLF and 12 months LA in barrel,  80% of the wine through MLF;  pH 3.36,  RS < 1;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Elegant bright pale lemon.  Bouquet is neat and tight on this wine,  showing pale chardonnay from some of the modern clones,  I would imagine,  subtly evolved with barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and MLF into a very understated and surprisingly under-developed wine.  It looks clearly younger than the 2006 Cloudy Bay,  for example.  In mouth there are hints of acacia florals,  and citric notes in a good concentration of white nectarine fruit,  carefully oaked,  complexly flavoured in a subtle pale way.  Acid is firm.  All told,  this is an easy wine to overlook.  It should however have a most interesting evolution,  and is recommended for cellaring 2 – 10 years,  at least.  GK 04/09

2007  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston   18 ½ +  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ cork;  hand-harvested;  100% BF,  MLF,  LA and c. 9 months in French oak c. 50% new;  pH 3.27,  RS <2 g/L;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  Bouquet is immediately appealing,  reasonably soft,  pure,  clearly varietal,  nearly floral,  attractive white stone fruits,  and like Riflemans the oak and alcohol not assertive.  Flavours follow on naturally,  white stone fruit,  firmer and slightly oakier than the Riflemans as might be expected from the more austere winemaking and lower pH,  but beautifully balanced with good potential mealyness,  all well-integrated and reminding of Puligny-Montrachet in style.  Note Elston too comes from vineyards cooler than the Gimblett Gravels,  offering the same promise of greater floral finesse.  It may look even better in another year.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Huia Chardonnay   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $34   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  reasonably low-solids juice starts wild-yeast ferment in s/s,  completes in French oak 20% new,  balance up to 5 years;  c. 60% MLF and 10 months LA and batonnage in barrel;  pH 3.24,  RS <1 g/L;  www.huia.net.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  Total bouquet on this chardonnay is floral,  fruit-rich and mealy,  with complexities immediately reminding of Burgundy.  In mouth the mealyness is very attractive,  making the stonefruit seem even more succulent in texture.  Total acid seems higher than the Riflemans,  as is the tendency in Marlborough chardonnay,  but fruit richness is just as good.  This is exemplary Marlborough chardonnay to cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Cloudy Bay Chardonnay   18 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ screwcap;  clone mendoza predominates,  mostly hand-harvested @ 1.9 t/ac;  most of the juice is wild-yeast fermented in French oak with a small percentage new,  a smaller percentage starts fermentation inoculated in s/s,  but all of it completes fermentation in barrel;  c.80% MLF;  12 months LA and some batonnage in barrel,  then a further month or two in barrel;  pH 3.27,  RS 2.6 g/L ;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
With one repeated reference chardonnay from Hawkes Bay in the tasting,  it seemed only fair to also include a repeat Marlborough wine.  The 2007 Cloudy Bay Chardonnay was released just after this tasting,  unfortunately,  but the 2006 is still sparingly available,  and represents this firm well.  See previous review.  There is a degree of complexity and integration which is more European than Australasian,  and will give much pleasure.  The white mushroom notes on the long aftertaste are delightful.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Felton Road Chardonnay [ standard ]   18 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  100% BF in French oak 12% new;  100% MLF,  11 months LA and some stirring;  pH 3.41,  RS nil;  www.feltonroad.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  a little deeper than the top wines.  One sniff of this and the mind immediately goes to Meursault,  the wine is so beautifully mealy and fruit rich.  In mouth there is an elegant floral sensation reminding of acacia flowers,  and the MLF component is slightly more apparent than the other top wines,  but all in a totally positive way,  no butter.  There is a hint of barrel char,  just like some Puligny and Meursault producers.  This is gorgeous sensuous wine,  one of the best chardonnays out of Central Otago so far.  Cellar 2 – 7 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Vidal Chardonnay Reserve   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  BF in French oak 60% new,  two-thirds of the wine wild-yeast fermentations,  c. 40%  through MLF;  10 months LA in barrel with occasional stirring,  plus 2 months further in tank on lees;  pH 3.32,  RS nil g/L;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Pale lemon,  as pale as the Stoneleigh,  very elegant.  Bouquet is exactly what you'd expect the Felton to be,  clear pale chardonnay reminding of grand cru chablis,  with light oak.  There is a lot of barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis here too,  complexed with good MLF.  The total bouquet is excellent.  In mouth,  it is firmer than expected,  total acid making the oak seem a little apparent at this stage,  body not quite as succulent as the top wines,  maybe.  These top wines show an immensely rewarding diversity of styles,  which simply adds to the excitement of tasting them or cellaring a good selection.  The total achievement in chardonnay today is so much finer and more elegant than the wines of 10 years ago.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Astrolabe Chardonnay Voyage   18 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  Ch 100%,  mendoza dominant and clone 15 and 95,  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  100% BF in French and 20% American oak 35% new,  some wild-yeast ferments,  plus 100% MLF,  LA and batonnage;  pH 3.45,  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Attractive lemon.  Bouquet is fresh and fragrant,  lifted a little by trace VA,  in a paler style which does suggest Marlborough.  There are white florals and white stonefruits,  on vanillin oak which hints at the odd American barrel [ confirmed ].  Flavours are cool chardonnay,  thoughts of Chablis again,  but much longer in mouth than one would initially think,  bespeaking a conservative cropping rate.  This is attractive chardonnay which should cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  100% BF in French oak 15% new;  100% MLF,  12 months LA and some stirring in barrel,  plus 5 months assembled in tank;  pH 3.42,  RS nil;  www.feltonroad.co.nz ]
Light lemonstraw.  Well,  if there are hints of Meursault about the standard Felton Chardonnay,  this wine is straight out of Chablis.  The degree of pale acacia florals through bouquet and palate is exciting,  and though the actual fruit component is understated,  it is not weak.  The oaking is so simpatico to the delicate fruit,  this wine must be the closest to grand cru chablis we have ever achieved in New Zealand.  If the Villa Maria Reserve Taylors was easy to overlook,  this neat almost petite wine is even more so.  But its balance is just perfect,  the way the acid has been handled is superb,  and the wine is almost silky.  An exciting wine for Otago,  therefore,  which one could drink all night.  And the similarity between the Astrolabe from Marlborough and this even purer Felton wine is exhilarating.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Villa Maria Chardonnay Reserve Gisborne Barrique-Ferment   18  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  14%;  $58   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested clones mendoza and 95,  whole-bunch pressed to BF in French oak 50% new,  balance second year,  55% MLF;  6 months LA and batonnage,  around 9 months in oak total;  pH 3.56,  RS 1 g/L;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Full lemonstraw.  In this batch of wines this chardonnay smells quite different,  as if it were from a warmer climate.  There is quite an evolved barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and MLF-y complexity hinting at nougat and vanilla wafers.  Palate is rich,  tending broad,  fully-flavoured with mushrooms-on-buttered-toast qualities,  beautifully mealy,  with appropriate oak to balance the weight.  Against the Cloudy Bay of the same vintage,  it looks a bit loose,  and perhaps acid-adjusted.  This is a chardonnay for those wanting a rich mouthful of flavour.  The aftertaste of white mushrooms is delightful.  Cellar 1 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Church Road Chardonnay Reserve   18  ()
Tuki Tuki & Tutaekuri Valleys,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ Stelvin Lux;  hand-harvested and sorted clones 15 & 95 in equal parts,  whole-bunch pressed to French oak,  wild-yeast fermentation and MLF in barrel 53% new the balance 1-year,  then LA and some batonnage for 14 months;  pH 3.39,  RS <1 g/L;  background @ www.churchroad.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemonstraw,  fractionally deeper again than the Felton standard.  This is a bigger wine all through,  lots of golden queen peach fruit,  clear oak,  lots of barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis,  a wine to appeal to lovers of traditional big flavoursome chardonnays.  Oak is a little prominent at this early stage,  but the forward creamy nearly buttery (+ve) flavours are so rich,  this wine will appeal widely.  Cellar 2 – 5 years might be best,  for this edition of the wine is a little forward.  GK 04/09

2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Chardonnay Reserve Hawkes Bay   18  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $22   [ screwcap;  clones 15 and mendoza predominantly from the Tuki Tuki and Tutaekuri Valleys,  machine-harvested,  de-stemmed;  most of the wine cool BF on low solids,  balance s/s;  all the wine LA and stirring;  all French oak 15% new;  role of MLF unknown;  pH 3.38,  RS 1.8 g/L;  background on www.montana.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Good lemon.  This is an understated chardonnay on bouquet,  all the components well-melded together like the Cloudy Bay wine,  so another to remind of Europe.  Palate is an harmonious fusion of fruit,  barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis,  MLF and oak,  with nothing standing out,  yet lovely chardonnay flavours developing.  This pale style therefore contrasts vividly with the (this year) more showy Church Road Reserve Chardonnay,  which after a glass or two might start to look oaky,  in comparison with an understated wine such as this one.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Corbans Cottage Block Chardonnay   17 ½ +  ()
Ngaruroro Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  mainly clones mendoza and 15 predominantly from the Tuki Tuki and Tutaekuri Valleys,  all hand-harvested and whole-bunch pressed;  100% wild-yeast fairly high-solids BF in French oak 40% new,  60% MLF;  LA throughout and batonnage for 10 months,  total time in oak 12 months;  pH 3.34,  RS – g/L;  background @ www.corbans.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Pale straw.  Bouquet is explicitly varietal chardonnay,  in a slightly spirity white fruits with clear barrel-ferment,  lees autolysis and MLF approach,  which from the paleness and MLF aromas one would guess to be from Marlborough.  This impression is reinforced on palate,  which brings up the lactic component somewhat,  and total acid seems higher than most North Island wines.  The nett impression is of a cool but quite powerful chardonnay which cries out for development time in bottle.  It should cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Riverby Estate Chardonnay   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested at less than 2.5 t/ac from 19-year clone mendoza vines still on their own roots;  100% BF and MLF in French oak 35% new,  balance 1 and 2-year;  LA and 11 months in  barrel;  pH 3.4,  RS 3.6;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Straw.  In the blind tasting,  this forward wine seemed to be from somewhere much further north than Marlborough.  Bouquet suggests mendoza fruit,  lots of barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and oak,  appropriate MLF,  all making a big ripe wine in the more traditional ‘big chardonnay’ style.  Flavours match,  but there is particularly good waxy textural qualities from the lees-autolysis,  which nearly covers the quite strong oak.  This wine sits alongside the Villa Gisborne Barrique example rather well,  total acid higher but similar elevage.  It is a little forward for long cellaring,  so 1 – 5 years may be more appropriate.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Boundary Vineyards Chardonnay Tuki Tuki Road   17 ½  ()
Tuki Tuki Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ screwcap;  6-year old vines,  80% clone 15,  balance mendoza,  machine-harvested; 100% BF in Hungarian oak 25% new,  then 6 months LA and batonnage,  60% of the barrels through MLF;  pH 3.4,  RS 2.5 g/L;  background @ www.boundaryvineyards.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemon,  a wash of lemonstraw.  Bouquet is more rounded on this wine,  a little high-solids complexity which some like greatly,  good fruit and appropriate oak.  In mouth there is some mendoza waxiness / golden queen peach showing through,  all long-flavoured and firm.  This wine may develop more Meursault-like qualities in a year.  With its not-quite-bone-dry finish,  this wine and its price should appeal widely.  It does lack some varietal precision,  though.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod Ricard ] Stoneleigh Chardonnay Rapaura Series   17 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $24   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested clone mendoza,  barrel-fermentation in French oak 40% new the balance 1-year,  partial MLF,  then LA and some batonnage for 4 months;  pH 3.54,  RS 2.8 g/L; background @ www.stoneleigh.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemon,  as pale as Riflemans.  This is a completely different chardonnay,  which could be down-pointed on its clear cool-climate affiliations.  Considering the total achievement as a food wine however,  its aromas,  flavours and textures in mouth are intriguing.  So,  while one could be reminded of the best years of Te Koko (2005) or Dog Point Section 94,  it also reminds of grand cru chablis.  The subtle ratio of oak to fruit is particularly appealing,  and makes this Stoneleigh a terrific food wine,  though it is not quite bone dry.  It would be marked down in a formal judging for its sauvignon-reminders,  so try one before buying a case.  Short-term cellaring might be the best for this one,  2 – 4 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Escarpment Chardonnay   17  ()
Martinborough & Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ supercritical cork;  hand-picked;  100% BF and MLF in French oak 30% new;  dry extract 21 g/L including RS;  pH 3.45,  RS 1 g/L;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet on this wine jumps out in the bracket as being just like older-style Macon Blanc,  ripe,  rich,  a little broad with thoughts of pale butter.  Palate confirms the analogy is exactly the case,  the wine being soft and tactile,  seemingly not as dry as most [ incorrect ],  totally integrated stonefruit sponge (dessert) and cream flavours,  surprisingly long.  A wine to enjoy rather than analyse.  Shorter term cellar though,  1 – 4 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Waimea Estates Chardonnay   16 ½  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested clones mendoza and 95,  whole-bunch pressed to BF with some solids in French oak 44% new,  some wild-yeast ferments;  some MLF only to lower acid,  but more emphasis on extended LA and batonnage;  pH 3.51,  RS 4.2 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Full straw,  the oldest-looking wine in the bracket.  Bouquet is older too,  with suggestions of vanilla wine-biscuit in the slightly scented,  buttery and oaky rich fruit.  Palate marries all these up into a wine at full maturity,  the scent translating into a faintly leafy older-style chardonnay,  but there is good body and length and plenty of ripe flavours too.  Big,  but not a wine to age gracefully,  so cellar 1 – 2 years only.  GK 04/09

2006  [ Waimata ] Cognoscenti Chardonnay   16 +  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $20   [ screwcap;  whole-bunch pressed;  100% BF,  partial MLF,  8 months LA and stirring;  no wine info on website,  winery associated with Tairawhiti Polytechnic,  Gisborne;  www.waimata.ac.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is spirity pale stonefruits,  citrus notes and slightly smokey oak,  like the Stoneleigh a little different in this line-up.  Perhaps there is some American oak.  In mouth,  the oak is forward and the fruit retreats,  though there is a suggestion of waxy texture indicating the fruit is not weak.  It is all pure and attractive in its older-style oaky approach,  but one would like to see elevation in older (on average) oak,  to let the fruit speak more clearly.  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  to mellow.  GK 04/09

2007  Moutere Hills Chardonnay   16  ()
Moutere Gravels,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $39   [ screwcap;  hand-picked and sorted;  whole-bunch pressed,  wild yeast BF and 8 months LA,  some barrels MLF the following spring;  the proprietors are aiming for a clearly-dry crisp and mineral burgundian style;  half the chardonnay on its own roots;  www.mouterehills.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  This is another chardonnay to stand somewhat apart from the field,  being in a more old-fashioned and European style.  There is plenty of bouquet,  but it includes a high-solids component at a level which is negative for me,  and the fruit aromas tend to the austere with a suggestion of poorly-coloured cooked rhubarb.  Palate shows somewhat yellow-quincy fresh fruit,  noticeable acid,  fair body,  subtle oak.  The whole wine is recognisably chardonnay,  but more akin to a crisp bourgogne blanc.  As such it should cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2008  Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Awatere Discovery    19  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  machine harvested not in heat of day at c. 4 t/ac,  destemmed,  cool-fermented in s/s with no solids and a neutral yeast strain;  pH 3.47,  RS 3.2 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Here is the near-perfect straight Marlborough sauvignon,  totally a stainless steel wine yet with wonderful complexity (often with sauvignon,  due to its aromatics,  one imagines a trace barrel-ferment component),  achieved it would seem from fruit ripened to a perfect point (or points) of ripeness,  and grown at a fairly low cropping rate.  It has achieved optimal flavour intensity for a modern sauvignon.  Key characters are faintly musky sauvignon ripened to the yellow honeysuckle and sautéed red capsicum level,  ample fruit expressed as black passionfruit pulp,  and piquant varietal complexity from sweet basil herbes.  Richness in mouth is marvellous,  acid balance is fresh,  and residual sweetness for a sophisticated ‘sauvignon dry’ finish is perfect.  This wine will cellar for 10 or more years,  depending on preference for older sauvignon flavours.  They can be pretty interesting,  you know !  GK 04/09

2005  Cloudy Bay [ Sauvignon Blanc ] Te Koko   19  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $41   [ screwcap;  grapes night-harvested @ 4 t/ac;  BF with wild yeasts in French oak with a low percentage new,  a slow ferment continued to mid-Dec. '05.,  some MLF;  continued LA in barrel till Nov. '06 – a total of 19 months;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Having enthused about this wine before,  and with the 2006 to hand,  this seemed another case where it was very desirable to put the 2005 in again as a kind of yardstick,  as with the Riflemans in the chardonnays.  The wine is still youthful and fresh,  the MLF at a perfect maximum for both the variety (for sauvignon does not take happily to this fermentation) and the winestyle,  the wine piquant and (sort-of) varietal in an elaborated succulent way.  Te Koko has become a marvellous and pioneering alternative rendering of sauvignon,  and is essential tasting.  See previous review,  5/08.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Cloudy Bay [ Sauvignon Blanc ] Te Koko   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $41   [ screwcap;  grapes night-harvested @ 3.4 t/ac;  de-stemmed and whole-bunch fruit,  reasonably low-solids juice BF with  wild yeasts in French oak with a low percentage new,  a slow ferment continued to Nov.‘06.,  some MLF;  continued LA in barrel till Nov. '07 – a total of 19 months;  pH 3.32,  RS – g/L;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  a little more youthful than the 2005’s pale lemon.  Bouquet is essentially in the same style as the refined 2005,  the MLF not as obtrusive as earlier vintages,  and naturally enough it is not yet quite as silkily smooth and floral.  Generous ripe fruit is complexed by barrel-ferment,  and lees-autolysis,  good oak and some MLF complexities are all evident.  Palate is as rich and pure as the 2005,  total acid fractionally higher,  and again there seems to have been restraint with the MLF – continuing the great improvement of 2005.  Varietal character is thus illuminated,  not compromised.  This edition looks to be as good a cellaring proposition as the previous vintage,  2 – 10 years,  to taste.  GK 04/09

2008  Alluviale Blanc   18 ½ +  ()
Mangatahi,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $27   [ cork;  grapes not given,  but assumption is sauvignon blanc and semillon;  Mangatahi is in the Ngaruroro River valley some 25 km west of Hastings;  all hand-picked and sorted,  some fruit de-stemmed,  some whole-bunch;  some barrel-ferment and lees autolysis;  www.alluviale.com ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet here is in one sense more complex than the Astrolabe Awatere,  in that oak is involved,  but in another way it is not so perfectly varietal.  Ripe fruit,  barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis,  and some SO2 are still to marry up,  but the direction is clearly towards a complex Graves style.  Palate is black passionfruit more than red capsicums,  showing good body,  great length with the barrel-ferment / new oak component noticeable,  again a little SO2 to resolve.  This will be exciting wine in a year’s time,  and make a fine comparison with wines such as Te Mata’s Cape Crest and Sacred Hill’s Sauvage in Hawkes Bay,  as well as the intensely varietal sauvignons such as Section 94 and Te Koko from Marlborough.  Alluviale Blanc seems softer than some of these wines, which could help it with food.  It is a more substantial wine than the stainless steel Astrolabes,  but does not achieve their exquisite varietal definition.  Personal preference here,  but either way,  Alluviale Blanc is a great addition to the ranks of modern sophisticated New Zealand sauvignons.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Te Mata Sauvignon Blanc Cape Crest   18 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $28   [ supercritical cork;  SB 85%,  Se 11 and sauvignon gris 4,  hand-harvested,  de-stemmed,  brief skin-contact;  low-solids juice 100% BF,  LA and c. 8 months in French oak c. 33% new;  pH 3.11,  RS < 1 g/L;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Brilliant light lemon.  This wine is the prototype for all the Graves-style sauvignons now being essayed in New Zealand.  Te Mata have been quietly building their complex Cape Crest Sauvignon since the 1984 vintage,  well over 20 years,  yet it has a relatively low profile.  Dog Point’s Section 94 can be seen as its exact Marlborough analogue,  with no MLF,  thus contrasting both wines with Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko.  And in Hawkes Bay,  Sacred Hills’ Sauvage is now in the same league.  Now the new Alluviale Blanc is joining this intriguing group of wines.  But back to the Cape Crest.  Here is all the barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and oak-associated complexity introduced into ripe sauvignon,  but without the SO2 and sur-lie reduction attributes some of the other wines in the bracket show.  Without the softening MLF,  this wine is firmer and oakier than the Te Koko approach.  The smells and flavours resulting are very distinctive,  sometimes related to hypoid gear oil,  as I have observed before.  Coupled with the bone-dry palate on Cape Crests,  this can make the wine hard to match with food.  When achieved however,  the results can be magical.  At a recent presentation in Wellington,  chief winemaker Peter Cowley demonstrated the wines cellar marvellously for at least 10 years,  and this one will too.  GK 04/09

2008  Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Voyage   18 ½  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  SB 100%,  cool-harvested in evening at c. 5.2 t/ac,  de-stemmed avoiding skin-contact,  and cool-fermented with neutral cultivated yeasts in s/s with no solids;  pH 3.38,  RS 3.3 g/L;  Astrolabe is now famous for this standard-label Sauvignon Blanc – the variety accounts for 80% of production,  but there is a good range of other varieties.  The wine are marketed in 3 series,  the standard blended wines labelled (very faintly) Voyage),  individual-site wines labelled Discovery,  and occasional special wines labelled Experience;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
I have described this wine as the benchmark and definitive example of the Marlborough style,  so it was included again to check such an assertion.  The result was pleasing,  achieving much the same outcome – see previous review for description.  The thought that the slightly richer and drier Awatere wine might be even better does not detract from the glorious achievement of this more widely available wine.  If you are not familiar with these two top Astrolabe sauvignon blancs from the Awatere and Wairau Valleys (but not the Kekerengu example,  which is more a study wine),  do seek them out.  Any worthwhile wine merchant should stock them.  It is probably too good for the price-driven supermarkets,  and if it is too maintain its great intrinsic quality,  long may that remain so.  Cellar to 10 years,  if you like the flavours of older sauvignon.  GK 04/09

2008  Riverby Estate Sauvignon Blanc   18 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  SB 95%,  Se 5,  harvested in 6 picks to optimise flavour complexity,  mostly cool night harvest,  averaging 4 t/ac;  all s/s ferments,  some LA in tank;  pH 3.29,  RS 2.6 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is sweet,  ripe and mild,  black passionfruit more than red capsicum,  faintest sweet basil,  all a little milder than the Astrolabe Voyage.  Essential flavours are very similar,  so this is a good Marlborough sauvignon for those who find many of them too sharp.  It is drier than the commercial average,  though.  Cellar 2 – 8 years,  to taste.  GK 04/09

2008  Huia Sauvignon Blanc   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  cool early-morning-picked;  s/s fermented,  a small part wild-yeast;  pH 3.21,  RS 4 g/L;  www.huia.net.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  The whole style of this wine is close to the Riverby one,  clear-cut Marlborough sauvignon with red capsicums,  black passion fruit,  light sweet basil and herbes complexing,  and lovely purity.  The flavours are virtually identical too,  the only difference being this wine is just a little more phenolic / hard pressed.  A good long-flavoured sauvignon,  to cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Te Whare Ra Sauvignon Blanc Awatere   18  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  all Awatere in 2006,  machine-harvested,  de -stemmed;  cool-fermented majority s/s,  a little BF and LA and even MLF this year for texture and complexity;  pH 3.26,  RS 3.4 g/L;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  I did not taste this wine in youth,  so cannot say if it was as reductive as the 2008.  Assuming it was made in the same style as the 2008,  lees-autolysis complexities have now completely married away,  leaving sweet ripe fruit showing the primary red capsicum and black passionfruit stage just passing to a more European greengage and English gooseberries flavours,  with a suggestion of cooked rhubarb.  As such it is rich and well-flavoured,  lingering delightfully.  Cellar to taste for several years yet.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Marlborough   18  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  vines up to 20 years age,  machine-harvested;  a few hours skin-contact for some of the fruit,  cool fermentation on low-solids all in s/s;  pH 3.31,  RS 2.5 g/L;   background on www.montana.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemongreen.  Apart from threshold VA,  bouquet is textbook Marlborough sauvignon,  absolutely straightforward but at a very high level,  red capsicum,  black passionfruit and a little sweet basil to complex it.  On palate there is fresh clean fruit clearly more concentrated and elegant than the standard Montana Sauvignon Blanc,  a long lingering aftertaste of pure ripe fruit handled carefully in stainless steel.  Total acid is slightly higher than ideal,  though – noticeable only because the residual is lower than most sauvignons.  It's always pleasing when the Reserve wine is demonstrably better than the standard one.  A wine to look out for on supermarket specials.  Cellar to 10 years,  to taste.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Boundary Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Rapaura Road   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  vines up to 20 years age,  machine harvested,  cool-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.2,  RS 3.0 g/L;  background @ www.boundaryvineyards.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Pale lemongreen.  Bouquet is black passionfruit more than red capsicum,  teetering on over-ripe and thus losing the floral components.  It is very clean,  though.  Palate weight is a little lighter than the Montana Reserve,  and total acid is likewise noticeable,  but there is not much in it.  Representative Marlborough stainless steel sauvignon,  to cellar 1 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Te Whare Ra Sauvignon Blanc Awatere   17 +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  10% Wairau fruit;  some hand-picked,  de-stemmed;  cool-fermented majority s/s, a little BF and LA for texture and complexity;  pH 3.30,  RS 2 g/L;  1450 cases;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Freshly opened,  this wine is still disorganised,  with SO2 and a little reduction on the lees-autolysis component.  It needs a splashy pouring.  Behind this there is attractive red capsicum varietal fruit with potential herbes complexity.  In mouth the higher than usual sulphur load is negative,  and coupled with the low residual the result is a Muscadet-sur-Lie version of Marlborough sauvignon.  The lees-autolysis does augment the body attractively – the whole style would appeal to the UK.  Since New Zealanders have a near-pathological obsession with drinking sauvignon young,  and since this wine will not be in good shape for drinking until at least 18 – 20 months after vintage,  building up this level of reduced character is unwise,  I think.  By the same token,  it will cellar well,  to 10 – 12 years,  so the score here takes a generous view of the wine’s attributes.  Not everyone would agree.  GK 04/09

2007  Moutere Hills Sauvignon Blanc   17  ()
Moutere Gravels,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $25   [ screwcap;  www.mouterehills.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is voluminous on this wine,  but it is not quite perfect.  Like the Te Whare Ra 2008,  there is rather much retained SO2 and a little reduction presumably from an extended lees-autolysis phase in stainless steel.  Fruit intensity is complex,  with an aroma reminiscent of Cape Ivy,  as well as hard-to-pin-down capsicum and black passionfruit qualities.  Flavour likewise is complex,  still the SO2 and a shadow of reduction to marry away,  so these two European-style presentations of Marlborough and Nelson sauvignon blanc make an interesting coupling.  Total acid here is higher than the Awatere wine,  though.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod Ricard ] Camshorn Sauvignon Blanc Waipara Salix Clays   17  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $27   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested from 5-year old vines;  cool-fermented in s/s only;  a label mainly sold via restaurants and selected wine stores;  pH 3.3,  RS 3.5 g/L;  background on www.camshorn.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Bright pale lemongreen.  This is intriguing wine,  a little bit different,  the bouquet inclining to the green herbes character often referred to as nettly.  There are reminders of lightly-cooked tender spinach too (not silver beet).  Associated with it are thoughts of yellow capsicums,  and some black passionfruit.  Palate is thus fresher than the wines rated more highly,  some green capsicums entering the picture now,  producing a Sancerre-style wine.  Finish is very pure within those descriptors,  and light and elegant.  The British will like this wine.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc   16 ½ +  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  some machine-harvesting;  low-solids juice fermented mostly in s/s,  some barrel ferments;  extended LA;  pH 3.26,  RS 2.2 g/L;  www.gladstone.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  This is another sauvignon with higher SO2,  which has needed time to be pleasant.  The trouble with this older European / high SO2 approach is one loses the lovely aromas the grape shows at 12 months from vintage,  as exemplified by the Astrolabes.  This wine now shows the greengage / English gooseberry suite of smells and flavours,  now the sulphur is married away.  Finish seems sweeter than the number given,  so if correct the cropping rate / fruit richness must be good.  Palate fits in with that interpretation,  making for a good food wine.  A maturing suite of flavours,  but this will cellar another 2 – 5 years,  to taste.  GK 04/09

2008  Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Kekerengu Discovery   16 ½  ()
Kekerengu,  Kaikoura coast,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $26   [ screwcap;   machine harvested not in heat of day,  destemmed,  minimised skin-contact,  cool-fermented in s/s with no solids and a neutral yeast strain;  pH 3.42,  RS 1.3 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Palest lemon.  If one needs any convincing about grape performance relative to terroir including climate,  this Kekerengu-sourced sauvignon from Astrolabe is the clincher.  When contrasted with the special tending-continental qualities of the Awatere Valley (particularly),  and Wairau Valley wines,  this near-coastal wine from further down the Kaikoura coast is so cool and hollow in comparison.  Being Astrolabe it is beautifully made,  but the flavour is greener,  total acid seems higher,  and the wine really is austere.  Again,  there are reminders of Sancerre in this (not that Sancerre is a coastal,  but it is markedly cooler than Bordeaux).  Sauvignons like this need to be enjoyed young,  if one likes the cooler greener flavours.  If cellared they develop canned asparagus flavours in two or three years.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Sauvignon Blanc [ standard ]   16 +  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $17   [ screwcap;  vines up to 20 years age,  machine-harvested;  a few hours skin-contact for some of the fruit,  cool fermentation on low-solids all in s/s;  pH 3.20,  RS 4 g/L;   background on www.montana.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is modest,  no faults,  just straightforward sauvignon blanc with trace armpit complexity,  recognisably varietal.  It has more to say in mouth,  clearly sauvignon ripened to yellow and red levels of capsicum,  some black passionfruit,  all a straightforward stainless steel Marlborough example of the grape at a commercial level.  Hard to get excited about,  just reliable as always.  It is only fair to note though,  that with the introduction of Reserve and other label wines within the house of Pernod-Ricard,  the standard wine does not now reach the heights of some years in earlier days,  when there was just the one Marlborough Sauvignon label.  But on that note,  the firm is excited that this 2008 is their 30th vintage of Montana Sauvignon Blanc.  The first 1979 wine had a technical fault (not acknowledged at the time),  and was not one to create any impact,  but the 1980 was sensational,  and foretold a revolution.  Montana deserve most of the credit for achieving the only truly new winestyle the world has achieved since the war,  though Cloudy Bay actually garner most of the glamour.  Cellar this standard Montana for a year or two.  GK 04/09

2008  Johner Estate Sauvignon Blanc   16  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  cool s/s ferment,  some LA;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Pale lemon.  This is intriguing wine.  As happens sometimes in both New Zealand and Germany,  on bouquet this sauvignon is confuseable with some QbA rieslings from Germany,  in the blind tasting.  Bouquet shows indeterminate fruits,  slightly floral,  no hint of any ripeness levels of capsicum at all.  Palate continues the confusion,  for though there are black passionfruit characters of sauvignon more than anything,  there are also some terpene-like qualities very confuseable with the sweet vernal notes riesling can show.  Sweetness is higher than most Marlborough sauvignons.  This is attractive as rather acid QDW,  but unusual for varietal sauvignon.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc   15 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $19   [ Stelvin Lux;  some vines up to 20 years age,  minimal skin contact,  low-solids juice cool-fermented in s/s,  no oak or MLF;  pH 3.4,  RS 3 g/L;  background @ www.stoneleigh.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Palest lemongreen.  This is strange wine.  You can tell it is made from sauvignon blanc,  it is impeccably pure,  yet it has only the palest black passionfruit and red capsicum flavour,  less than the Montana standard.  But strangely,  you can feel it has reasonable fruit in mouth.  Ripeness levels are pleasant,  no green,  acid is satisfactory,  and the wine is easy but rather anonymous drinking.  Another sauvignon for those wanting a ‘mild’ example.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Waimea Estates ] Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc   15 ½  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $15   [ screwcap;  cool-harvested at dawn,  de-stemmed;  no-solids juice cool-fermented in s/s,  no LA;  Spinyback refers to Waimea Estates’ support for tuatara research particularly on Stephens Island,  north of Nelson;   pH 3.24,  RS 6 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is about on a par with the standard Montana,  mixed capsicums in a light way,  stainless steel,  uncomplicated.  Palate is stronger than the Montana,  more flavoursome but tasting harder-pressed,  so it is more phenolic,  acid,  and therefore clumsier.  Finish might be slightly sweeter [ confirmed ] to cover these attributes,  but it only succeeds to a degree.  More beverage sauvignon,  not for cellaring.  GK 04/09

2008  Julicher Sauvignon Blanc   15  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $20   [ screwcap;  third-crop,  hand-picked;  whole-bunch pressed,  no skin contact;  most of the wine cool-fermented in s/s,  small part BF French oak and LA for ‘mid-palate roundness’,  no MLF;  pH 3.11,  RS 1.5 g/L;  www.julicher.co.nz ]
Palest lemongreen,  nearly water-white.  Total sulphur is too high in this wine too.  Fruit ripeness and character is at an attenuated yellow capsicum point,  cool compared with commercial Marlborough.  In mouth the wine shows straightforward fruit on green to yellow levels of ripeness,  riper than the main Waimea Estates wine with better acid balance,  but still harder,  shorter and less ripe than the standard Montana.  A little better in a year,  but another not to cellar much beyond that.  GK 04/09

2008  Sileni Sauvignon Blanc Benchmark Block 2 Omaka Slopes   14 ½ +  ()
Omaka Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;   cool-fermented in s/s,  some time on lees afterwards;  pH 3.21,  RS 4.5 g/L;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is a cooler style of sauvignon with some sulphur showing,  and both yellow and green capsicums evident.  Palate picks up on the green capsicums – this really is too under-ripe for the 2000s.  Fruit richness is good,  but acid is high,  presumably with low pH,  so all the SO2 is just not needed – or more aeration is needed at the lees autolysis stage.  Hard to drink,  and will not cellar gracefully due to the under-ripeness.  So 1 – 2 years only.  GK 04/09

2008  Waimea Estates Sauvignon Blanc   14 ½  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  fruit de-stemmed;  a little skin contact,  no-solids juice cool-fermented in s/s,  LA and stirring post-ferment;  pH 3.21,  RS 4 g/L;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Excellent lemongreen.  Bouquet is clearly in the under-ripe sauvignon category,  yellow and green capsicums only,  some grassiness too,  seemingly cooler even than the Spinyback wine.  Flavours are distinctly cooler,  austere green notes,  high total acid,  not as phenolic as Spinyback but less ripe.  There seems to be some lees-autolysis to build body in this wine [ confirmed ],  but the flavour austerity countermands this.  Not easy to drink,  and due to the under-ripe characters,  won't improve in cellar beyond a year or so.  GK 04/09

2007  Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 12,000 Miles   13  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  12.7%;  $21   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested early morning;  no solids juice cool-fermented in s/s,  extended LA to augment texture;  pH 3.24,  RS 1.5 g/L;  www.gladstone.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This wine was much too sulphury in youth,  so it seemed only fair to give it another chance.  But alas,  the sulphur,  which was so high,  has now produced typically cardboardy aromas and flavours as it marries in.  The wine is vaguely varietal,  but irretrievably plain,  not worth cellaring.  Lees autolysis needs aeration,  if all the negatives of old-fashioned Muscadet-sur-Lie winestyles are to be avoided.  GK 04/09

Riesling
2007  Neudorf Riesling Brightwater   18 ½ +  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  11%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  whole-bunch pressed;  all s/s low-solids ferment stopped @ 10 g/L,  extended LA;  740 cases;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Pale lemon,  more youthful than the '08 Riverby Sali's Block.  Bouquet is clearly floral,  restrained,  much more understated than the Riverby,  but unequivocally riesling with some florals and similar but subtler lime-zest / terpene notes.  Palate is smaller too,  drier,  understated,  reminding of the description of some dryish Saar wines as 'steely'.  This is the kind of supremely elegant New Zealand riesling to put alongside Jeffrey Grossett top rieslings from the Clare Valley,  except the residuals don’t match.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  maybe 15.  GK 04/09

2006  Riverby Estate Riesling   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  non-botrytis bunches hand-picked at c. 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 2.9,  RS 3 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemongreen,  paler than the 2007 Riverby.  Bouquet is fragrant,  showing floral and almost hop-like terpene aromas in a very subtle attractive way,  with a nectary undertone.  Palate is silky in its phenolics,  undeveloped,  in the style of the 2007 Neudorf Brightwater.  It is more backward than the 2007 Riverby,  with the same dry impression.  Alongside the 2008 Felton Dry,  this wine shines as being a technically perfect really dry riesling.  It can be compared with a Jeffrey Grossett example on an equal footing,  though it may be too ‘delicate’.  Dry riesling is a hard winestyle to get right.  It should cellar well,  5 – 12 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Riverby Estate Riesling Sali's Block Single Vineyard   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.3%;  $19   [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  hand-picked in two phases,  a botrytis tranche later added in;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented,  all s/s;  pH 2.88,  RS 15 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is absolutely definitive riesling,  whether from Marlborough,  or Mosel.  There are superb white florals including modest English garden flowers on the one hand,  yet with vanilla orchid,  freesias,  almost a hint of frangipani,  and citrus florals too,  some white nectarine flesh and gorgeous lime zest zip.  Palate is medium-dry,  lovely fruit,  some botrytis complexity showing,  again the lime-zest,  the whole wine perhaps not quite as subtle on phenolics as Mosel,  but the flavour redeems it marvellously.  For those who find properly dry riesling rather loses the point of the grape,  this wine is the answer.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  perhaps longer.  GK 04/09

2008  Astrolabe Riesling Discovery   18 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $16   [ screwcap;  Ri 100%,  night and machine harvested;  fermented in s/s with no solids;  RS 13 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Paleish lemongreen.  Bouquet is pure and understated,  implicitly varietal at this stage,  a little vanillin and lime-zest only.  Palate is neat,  light and medium-dry,  firm acid,  like some Mosel trocken or halb-trocken wines in youth.  The late aftertaste shows beautiful handling of phenolics.  This score includes a considerable element of anticipation – give it a couple of years undisturbed.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  maybe 15,  noting the winemaker says 18 months (though to a peak).  Be fun to check.  GK 04/09

2006  Muddy Water Riesling Unplugged   18 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  this is a later pick from the same vineyards as the James Hardwick blend,  taking hand-harvested botrytis-affected bunches;  whole-bunch pressed,  no solids in wild-yeast s/s fermentation stopped at 58 g/L RS;  some months LA;  the name refers to an earlier vintage of this label being the first wine the proprietors tried screwcaps on,  hence not plugged with a cork;  www.muddywater.co.nz ]
Full lemon.  Bouquet on this riesling is very different from the first three,  there being clear development to a kind of lemon meringue analogy and richness which is most beguiling.  Palate is clearly sweet,  more flavoursome still with a hint of best pineapple (+ve – not a euphemism for VA),  at an auslese level of sweetness with some botrytis.  Such a description does not quite make clear that the wine is tending broad and a little phenolic by top riesling standards – Rheinhessen rather than Mosel,  early developing.  But it is still wonderfully flavoursome and varietal,  and will give much pleasure.  Cellar another five years or so,  for there is the acid to stay fresh on.  GK 04/09

2005  Saint Clair Riesling   18 +  ()
Wairau Valley & Kaikoura coast,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  s/s ferments with commercial yeast;  pH 3.1;  RS 12 g/L;  www.saintclair.co.nz ]
Good rich lemon,  not as deep as the Muddy Unplugged.  Like that wine,  this one is starting to show a little development,  but in a pure non-botrytised sweet-vernal and vanillin somewhat Mosel style,  clearly varietal.  Palate shows good body,  plenty of appley flavour,  medium-dry,  quite acid,  and good length without undue phenolics.  Attractive wine with good cellar potential 3 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Craggy Range Riesling Fletcher Family Single Vineyard   18 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  hand-harvested @ c. 2.5 t/ac;  whole-bunch pressed;  cool fermentation in s/s,  4 months LA;  pH 2.95,  RS 14 g/L;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Pale lemongreen.  Craggy are well-known for building wines which really need time in cellar.  I have commented adversely on the premature release of some of their whites,  since so many people seem to be pathologically unable to cellar wine these days.  I therefore wish I could say this 2006 wine is just being released,  but sadly that is not the case.  Even today,  it is still tightly in bud,  only slightly softened when compared with for example,  the 2008 Astrolabe Discovery.  Palate is Ballarat apple,  vanillin,  still seeming pretty dry,  just starting to communicate.  Riesling really needs patience,  to show its best.  Cellar 3 – 12 perhaps 15 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Riverby Estate Riesling   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  non-botrytis bunches hand-picked at < 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.04,  RS 3 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is light floral riesling,  understated freesia,  a little apple flesh.  Palate is roughly at the same stage as the Craggy Fletcher '06,  just starting to communicate,  clear white florals and lime-zest a bit bolder than the ‘06,  drier than 'riesling dry',  long and pure.  Presumably for this emerging class of dry rieslings in New Zealand we have been greatly influenced by the famous rieslings and winemakers of the Clare and Eden Valleys,  notably Jeffrey Grosset.  Our best are becoming clearly interesting wines.  They will compete with the South Australians very well,  even though differing in style somewhat.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Felton Road Riesling [ standard ]   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  9.5%;  $31   [ screwcap;   hand-harvested,  all s/s ferments,  3 months LA on fine lees;  pH 2.92,  RS 55 g/L;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Lemongreen,  close to the Felton Dry.  Bouquet is close to that wine too,  but seems to smell a little sweeter and more nectary,  but at the same time (and at this stage) less explicitly varietal.  Curious.  There are suggestions of sweet vernal and pearflesh,  but no lime characters.  Palate is the sweetest so far in this hierarchy,  a full medium,  juicy,  low phenolics but flavoursome riesling more in a cooked sturmer apple way (+ve),  clearly varietal but very youthful – naturally.  The wine is delightfully pure,  and should develop well in bottle for 3 – 12 years.  It may need re-ranking,  later on.  GK 04/09

2007  Neudorf Riesling Moutere   17 ½ +  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  10%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  whole-bunch pressed;  all s/s low-solids ferment stopped @ 39 g/L,  extended LA; 245 cases;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  elegant.  Bouquet is light,  pure,  fragrant,  but hard to pin down as to variety,  just lightly floral.   In mouth the style is much more apparent,  riesling in a spatlese Mosel approach,  fragrant apples such as Coxes Orange,  elegant phenolics,  long in mouth on the acid / sweetness balance,  a suggestion of beeswax and nectar.  If this had more bouquet,  it would rate very highly.  It will develop over the next three years,  and probably demand re-rating,  for it is superbly finessed.  Cellar 2 – 10 or even 12 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Felton Road Riesling Dry   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12%;  $31   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all s/s ferments,  3 months LA on fine lees;  pH 3.01,  RS 6 g/L;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Lemongreen,  a wonderful colour.  Bouquet is a little more explicit than the Neudorf Brightwater,  with subliminal VA lift to white and citrus florals,  and a clear lime-zest edge.  Palate is 'riesling dry',  quite grippy in youth with noticeable acid,  maybe with some enrichment from lees-autolysis.  Like young Mosel halb-trocken,  this is a wine needing time to blossom in cellar 3 – 10 years,  maybe longer.  GK 04/09

2006  [ Orlando ] Jacob's Creek Riesling Steingarten   17 ½ +  ()
Barossa Hills,  South Australia,  Australia:  12.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  vines planted in 1962;  night-harvested,  cool-fermented with no solids;  brief phase on lees not exceeding 5 weeks;  this wine "preserves the delicate lemon-lime citrus fruit and very soft mineral like flavours which typify … classic cool-climate Riesling";    pH 2.97,  RS < 2 g/L;  Steingarten is in the Heritage series;  www.jacobscreek.com;  the wine is virtually impossible to locate on this,  one of Australasia’s most obtuse wine websites – to illustrate,  this is needed to get to Steingarten in general:  http://www.jacobscreek.com/main.php?country=Australia#/Our-Wine/Ranges/Range-Ap-option-range=Heritage&variety=Steingarten-Riesling/;  or more directly to this exact wine (and even then,  the RS is omitted) via Pernod-Ricard;  http://www.pernod-ricard-pacific.com/TransferData/tastingNotes/pages/ICP-Marketing_JC/H-2006_Steingarten_Riesling.pdf ]
Pale lemon.  Even amongst 124 whites blind including 35 rieslings,  this one was clearly good Australian riesling on bouquet.  I guess this is largely a function of the aromatic lager-hops expression of the variety,  which characterises good South Australian riesling.  Bouquet includes lime-zest too,  but it smells drier than most New Zealand rieslings.  Palate is drier too,  the whole wine more in the style of some of the Craggy Marlborough rieslings,  low pH,  backward in development,  and the hoppy phenolics showing though to the palate and aftertaste too.  This is a classic example of the Steingarten approach,  perhaps a little more phenolic than the best.  Comparison with the same-year similar-residual Riverby is instructive.  It is pleasant to read that the winemakers at Orlando say this wine will cellar for 20 years.  This contrasts vividly with the less mature wine environment in New Zealand.  Even for classical cellaring varieties such as riesling,  too many winemakers here suggest they be finished at a point long before they have even reached full development.  Cellar 5 – 10 even 12 years,  at least.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod Ricard ] Stoneleigh Riesling   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $22   [ Stelvin Lux;  some vines up to 25 years age,  cool-fermented in s/s,  no solids,  no oak;  pH 2.99,  RS 10.5 g/L;  the website notes that Stoneleigh Riesling is now picked earlier than in previous years,  which emphasises fruit flavour and lowers alcohol;  background @ www.stoneleigh.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Pale lemon.  Though varietal,  bouquet has not quite come together on this wine yet,  the whole thing still smelling a bit bottling-shocked.  It scores well though,  because the flavours are clearly appley and vanillin riesling,  some lime-zest underpinning,  'riesling dry' or slightly more,  good fruit,  all slightly phenolic to the finish for the moment.  Leave this aside for another year,  and cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Muddy Water Riesling Hardwick   17 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  12.3%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  this is the first pick wine,  made in a drier style;  hand-harvested at < 2 t/ac,  whole-bunch pressed,  low solids in wild-yeast s/s fermentation stopped at c. 18 g/L RS;  pH 3.06;  some LA;  www.muddywater.co.nz ]
Lemon,  clearly lighter than the '06 Unplugged.  Bouquet is intriguing on this wine,  as if there were an extended lees-autolysis giving an attractive breadcrust note,  which in the blind tasting makes identification difficult at first.  The fruit is showing some development,  markedly more than the 2006 Craggy Riesling Fletcher in this tasting,  with almost a lychee suggestion.  Palate is richly flavoured,  lychee and yellow stone fruits,  more phenolic than the 2005 Te Whare Ra Riesling.  At the blind stage,  the thought of viognier did occur to me (there were some in the tasting).  The flavours are long and clean in mouth,  medium dry.  Ready now,  but will cellar for several years.  This is a bold wine,  not so much for lovers of finegrain subtle riesling in the German style,  but still attractive.  GK 04/09

2006  Craggy Range Riesling Te Muna Road Single Vineyard   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested at just over 2 t/ac;  whole-bunch fermented in s/s with cultured yeast;  4 months LA in s/s;  pH 2.95,  RS 8 g/L;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is understated pure lightly floral and fragrant riesling,  a hint of apple sauce and grapefruit.  Flavours are more tangy and aromatic than the bouquet suggests,  the grapefruit side expanding,  some hoppy terpenes too,  and a hint of vanilla wafer linked to the floral notes.  Like the Glasnevin Riesling from Craggy,  these are restrained and quite 'intellectual' approaches to the variety,  Mosel halb-trocken in general style,  not making many concessions.  Such wines cellar well.  I am looking forward very much to seeing them as 10-year-old wines,  for they will cellar for that length of time.  GK 04/09

2005  Te Whare Ra Riesling   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.9%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  some whole-bunches retained;  cool-fermented,  100%  s/s;  pH 3.0,  RS 6.7 g/L;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This is a characterful riesling,  with some reminders of Clare / Eden Valley too.  There is a hint of mandarin in the citrus,  and the floral qualities are melding with white fruits.  Palate shows more varietal terpenes than most,  and the wine is slightly hoppy,  again like South Australia,  but all these elements are sustained attractively on 'riesling dry' sweetness.   This is about at the peak of its first stage of development,  and will soon be developing secondary characters.  It will cellar another 2 – 5 years or so.  GK 04/09

2006  Craggy Range Riesling Glasnevin Single Vineyard   17 +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  9%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  first crop,  hand-harvested @ <2.75 t/ac with no botrytis;  whole-bunch cool fermentation in s/s,  3 months LA;  pH 3.05,  RS 30 g/L;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Lemon with a wash of green,  excellent.  This is another very pure wine lacking explicit varietal bouquet.  Such wines really do highlight the perils of wine-writing about prematurely released wine (i.e. most New Zealand wines),  when one hopes that what can be tasted,  will come forward onto the bouquet after a couple of years in bottle.  This wine is still pretty mute.  Yet in mouth,  there is a hint of citrusy fruit,  crisp acid,  and reasonable length on medium sweetness,  and from the lime-zest terpenes it is clearly riesling.  I can only wonder why there is so little bouquet,  at least today.  Hard to score,  therefore.  It should cellar well,  3 – 10 years.  GK 04/09

2004  Riverby Estate Riesling   17 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  non-botrytis bunches hand-picked at c. 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.27,  RS 6.5 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Elegant lemon.  Bouquet is grapey,  but not so explicitly varietal to first inspection.  Once one tastes it,  the riesling connection is apparent,  with appley,  hoppy and lime components all a little more phenolic than the top wines,  and noticeable on the 'riesling dry' finish.  The one might not develop so harmoniously,  just a slight thought of cardboard in the fruit,  so perhaps cellar 1 – 4 years only.  GK 04/09

2008  Te Whare Ra Riesling D [ dry ]   17  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-picked from older vines some in their 20s;  mostly de-stemmed,  some whole-bunches retained;  cool-fermented,  100%  s/s;  pH 2.89,  RS 7 g/L;  880 cases;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet initially shows a little SO2 still to marry away,  on straightforward riesling which is lightly floral,  showing citrusy white fruits with a touch of lime-zest aromatics.  Palate is fresh,  citric,  tasting drier than 7 g/L,  but at this stage very youthful,  awaiting future complexity.  Sound riesling to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2002  Riverby Estate Riesling   17  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  machine-harvested at c. 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.2,  RS 3.2 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemonstraw.  This one really smells like mature Clare / Eden Valley riesling,  even when there is a Steingarten in the flight that one can go and check up on (once IDs are revealed).  There is great fruit on bouquet,  clear citrus and almost a thought of lemon meringue,  but also with a touch of kero (+ve) starting to show.  Palate is flavoursome,  a little extractive / phenolic explaining the kero,  a kind of hoppy yellow peach flavour,  long and dry in mouth.  This is another wine that won't appeal to lovers of light elegant German rieslings,  but nonetheless it has a lot of varietal character in a legitimate Australasian style.  Perhaps it won't cellar graciously for much longer,  but no hurry.  GK 04/09

2008  Astrolabe Riesling Dry Voyage   16 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $16   [ screwcap;  Ri 100%,  night and machine harvested;  fermented in s/s with no solids;  pH 3.12,  RS 6.5 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is reminiscent of Meyer lemon juice with a suggestion of pearflesh,  clearly varietal yet lacking complexity.  Palate is similar,  one-dimensional,  tending short perhaps because it is 'dry',  and tasting very youthful indeed.  There is not the concentration of fruit that the benchmark Astrolabe Sauvignon Voyage shows,  so it is hard to score more highly at the moment.  Should improve in bottle,  2 – 6 or more years.  GK 04/09

2001  Riverby Estate Riesling [ screwcap ]   16 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  machine-harvested at c. 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.23,  RS 3.3 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemon with a flush of gold.  Well,  if anybody out there still doubts that riesling and screwcap is a marriage made in heaven,  they only need check this note against that for the cork-closed 2001 below.  Great of proprietor Kevin Courtney to send one of each.  This wine has a big bouquet,  taking me straight back to a time when many Australian rieslings were touched up with a little muscat.  With age,  they acquired a slightly phoney or too-obvious fruit-salad-sponge character.   Whether or not this is the case for this wine I do not know,  but it has a strong bouquet,  the thought of lemon meringue and a touch of (very old-fashioned) hair-oil,  all too aromatic.  Palate is richly fruity,  fully developed,  nearly dry,  but again boldly flavoured for riesling alone.  Perhaps this is just the downside of machine-harvesting,  which Riverby has since abandoned for its riesling.  Additionally,  the earlier winemaking tended to high pHs in the riesling,  and this character profoundly affects longevity in bottle.  Many dry rieslings designed to cellar aim for pHs close to 3,  preferably less,  which contrasts with the numbers on these older Riverby wines.  All told a flavoursome mouthful of wine,  but at its peak or a little past it.  It could go coarse,  as the fruit fades.  GK 04/09

2008  Huia Riesling   16 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  cool-fermented in s/s with wild yeast;  pH 3.1,  RS 4 g/L;  www.huia.net.nz ]
Lemongreen.  This is one of those intriguing rieslings which show some overlap in their sensory and chemical characters with well-ripened sauvignon.  This is seen in Germany too,  particularly in drier botrytis-free styles.  On bouquet,  the wine is fragrant with both the sweet vernal grass notes of Mosel riesling,  and subliminal suggestions of the sweet basil and black passionfruit characters of sauvignon ripened a little beyond the red capsicum stage.  Because the wine is 'riesling dry' (in fact,  'sauvignon dry' for this particular example),  the confusion is accentuated in a blind tasting.  Otherwise in mouth the wine seems a fragrant stainless-steel quite fruity but near-dry white.  It is obviously from Marlborough,  but not the optimal flavour ripeness for riesling.  Cellar 2 – 5 years only might be best.  GK 04/09

2008  Te Whare Ra Riesling M [ medium ]   16 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  9%;  $22   [ screwcap;  hand-picked from young vines only;  whole-bunch pressed,  cool-fermented in s/s;  pH 2.81,  RS 35 g/L;  117 cases;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Pale lemon,  paler than the dry version.  This riesling is just a little paler all through than its ‘D’ sibling.  There are even reminders of good Muller-Thurgau in it (a variety now unfashionably condemned in New Zealand).   Both bouquet and palate show mild white grapey aromas and flavours,  on slightly citric fruit with a medium level of sweetness.  A pure wine,  but simple and easy.  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  probably to gain interest.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Riesling Reserve Waipara   16 +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested;  cool fermentation in s/s;  pH 3.15,  RS 11.5 g/L;  background on www.montana.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Pale lemongreen.  Bouquet is pure but tending anonymous – I thought it was an un-oaked chardonnay in the blind tasting.  Once the wine is in mouth,  it comes into focus a little more.  This too has some muller-thurgau reminders about it,  palest freesia florals in slightly acid fruit without much body or flavour,  yet recognisably pale riesling a little more than 'riesling dry' in sweetness.  Will be more interesting in a year,  but I doubt it has the concentration to blossom in bottle.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2006  [ Matua ] Shingle Peak Riesling   16 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested;  cold-settled,  cool-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.0,  RS 3.6 g/L;  www.matua.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is clean and aromatic,  but in the blind tasting first thoughts are something like verdelho – almost overtly simple-fruity,  hints of melon.  Palate is more like commercial Australian dry riesling,  vaguely grapefruit,  some resiny varietal terpenes,  a little phenolic,  nearly dry finish.  This is straightforward quite flavoursome wine,  which will cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Felton Road Riesling Block 1   16  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  9.5%;  $38   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all s/s ferments;  3 months LA on fine lees;  pH 2.91,  RS 64 g/L;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Lemongreen.  This is a rarity from Felton these days,  a wine with something technical to object to.  For many,  it will be a very aromatic and clear-cut riesling,  freesia florals,  full-flavoured,  medium-sweet yet good acid.  For others it will be impaired by VA above their threshold.  Riesling being such a delicate and beautiful variety,  any adverse note does detract grievously.  After all,  the whole screwcap initiative originates with the desire to optimise riesling in bottle,  because it cellars and develops for so long.  So the score is meaningless – each to her own – one needs to read the words / explanation for this one.  I wouldn't cellar it,  but it should be fine for 2 – 6 years,  maybe longer.  GK 04/09

2005  Chard Farm Riesling Vipers Vineyard   15 ½ +  ()
Cromwell,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  9.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  This is a most unusual wine,  almost totally lacking bouquet.  It smells clean,  with just a tiny bit of fruit.  In mouth there is somewhat more apparent fruit and it is quite sweet,  but still lacking flavour against high total acid.  There are some varietal terpenes giving the clearest hint as to identity.  All in all a strange wine indeed,  but no reason why it shouldn't improve a little in cellar over 2 – 8 years.  GK 04/09

2000  Riverby Estate Riesling [ cork ]   15 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  machine-harvested at c. 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.26,  RS 3.5 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Colour is an attractive light gold,  but unreasonably developed in a tasting where nothing is more than nine years old.  Bouquet is soft,  ripe,  nearly honeyed,  but more wine biscuitty (vanilla) than immediate grape notes,  so one wonders if the wine is tired.  And in mouth that is the case,  the flavours broadening and starting to lose freshness.  Every bottle will be different under cork,  so if you have a number of them left,  line them up against a pure white background  and re-cellar only the palest.  The rest should be finished up.  It is still a pleasant ‘afternoon tea wine’ with paler cakes or biscuits.  GK 04/09

2001  Riverby Estate Riesling [ cork ]   15  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  machine-harvested at c. 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.23,  RS 3.3 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Full gold.  [ See the screwcap version,  above. ]  In comparison with that wine,  this cork-closed one is biscuitty going on woody,  otherwise clean but lacking in varietal bouquet.  In mouth riesling aromatics are still there,  and the wine actually tastes sweeter than the screwcap-closed one.  Strangely,  it is woodier than the 2000,  a function of cork variation I guess.  Both this and the 2000 vintage have aged prematurely under cork,  by Australian rieslings standards,  so as for the 2000,  all but the palest bottles left in your case need finishing up.  GK 04/09

2008  Riverby Estate Riesling [ standard ]   15  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  hand-harvested at c. 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 2.86,  RS 2.5 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemongreen.  What a puzzle this wine is,  for a producer with a strong record in riesling.  The wine is pure but empty,  a faint greengage aroma,  the main flavour malic acid,  which the very dry finish does not help.  This wine makes the quiet Montana Reserve positively verbose.  The nett impression is of a wine picked too early,  without the aroma and flavour potential sufficiently developed.  The pH certainly is a far cry from the earlier days.  Perhaps time will prove me wrong,  I hope so,  but I do like to see the precursors for flavour in wines I cellar.  Therefore,  a gamble cellaring this one.  GK 04/09

2007  Gibbston Valley Wines Riesling   14 ½  ()
Bendigo,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  www.gvwines.co.nz ]
Lemon.  If this were labelled pinot gris,  it might score somewhat higher.  But as riesling,  it is scented as if a high-ester yeast were used,  but otherwise lacking in varietal bouquet.  In mouth the phenolics are high for riesling,  and exacerbated by uncomfortably high total acid,  which some sweetness does not balance.  Not a success,  not worth cellaring,  hard to drink.  GK 04/09

2005  Riverby Estate Riesling   14  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994; hand-harvested at c. 3 t/ac;  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.26,  RS 6.4 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Lemonstraw.  This is the least successful of the Riverby rieslings.  It is fruity,  and has plenty of character,  but on both bouquet and palate there is a tending-rank sheeps-wool character which lingers in mouth unattractively,  and goes phenolic.  A combination of under-ripe grapes and a trace sulphur compound,  I suspect,  which in the case of a 'dry' wine is more pervasive.  The vintage was not adverse,  though.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 04/09

Pinot Gris
2007  Villa Maria Pinot Gris Single Vineyard Taylor's Pass   18 +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  100% PG hand-picked,  whole-bunch pressed;  100% s/s ferment plus 5 months LA with weekly stirring,  no MLF at all;  pH 3.57,  RS 10 g/L;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Excellent lemon.  Bouquet is so sweet and clean and truly New Zealand pinot gris varietal on this wine,  you have to pause and wonder:  yes,  perhaps nearly all the other pinot gris are touched up with gewurztraminer,  to show that rose-petal character.  It therefore seemed imperative to check with the winemaker George Geris,  and confirm that the details set out above were exactly accurate.  Labelling regulations do allow quite a bit of give and take,  and as is evident with other pinot gris in this batch,  winemakers do like to augment complexity.  So,  this 100% varietal Villa Maria wine tiptoes towards the Alsatian benchmark for pinot gris,  showing an improvement on the standard New Zealand white pear-flesh,  and moving towards pale yellow florals and stonefruits.  Palate is rich in body,  a little phenolic in texture,  a little sweeter than 'riesling dry',  but understated,  so though lovely pure wine,  it is hard to score it to the top.  It should cellar well,  and may be softer,  more complex and even more varietal in a year or so.  Cellar 3 – 5  years.  GK 04/09

2007  Astrolabe Pinot Gris Voyage   18  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  PG 86%,  Gw 6,  Ri 5,  Ch 3;  85% is the threshold for labelling the wine as a single varietal;  most of the fruit hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed,  and cool-fermented with solids, a small part in old oak;  balance machine-picked,  cool-fermented in s/s without solids,  then put through MLF;  RS 7.5 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  I knew nothing of the background to this exciting New Zealand pinot gris when I tasted the wine.  The websites are visited only at the stage of preparing the typescript.  I will put the hand-written tasting notes in inverted commas totally unedited,  because the background info above explains perfectly why a taster would be confused.  "This is a hard wine to pin down,  in a blind tasting with lots of rieslings and several viogniers,  as well as pinot gris,  chardonnay etc.  The detail that raises this wine in the ranks is the pale white-ish / pink nectarine component,  on both bouquet and flavour.  This is a vast step forward on the innocuous New Zealand average of pearflesh and even nashi (vulgar) pinot gris interpretations.  In mouth there is real body and presence,  careful phenolics,  perhaps a hint of MLF at a level that is compatible with the variety,  and a ‘riesling-dry’ finish."  I think it is fantastic that a top-notch winery such as Astrolabe is so open in telling us how it makes the wine,  and then how it can offer such a thoughtful pinot gris at an appropriate bottle age,  contrasting with the prematurely-released wines from most of the industry.  It is great too that the firm is going to such lengths to make a silk purse out of a wine and grape that so commonly is lowest common denominator in New Zealand.  And the price is good,  too.  This is the kind of wine that makes wine interpretation perilous,  but fun.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Boundary Vineyards Pinot Gris Waipara   18  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ screwcap;  6-year old vines,  not irrigated,  machine-harvested;  no oak involved;  RS 8 g/L;   background @ www.boundaryvineyards.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Pale lemon.  New Zealand pinot gris is so often modest alongside good examples from Alsace,  but in its purity,  this is a good example of the New Zealand style.  It is both floral (light English tea-rose) and pear-flesh fruity,  and not spirity on bouquet.  Flavour firms the wine up nicely,  good body, some white stonefruits now,  a hint of cinnamon phenolics drying the finish attractively,  and in fact the wine is 'riesling dry' anyway.   Some of the charm of this wine,  as with many in the class,  may be due to a gewurztraminer touch-up,  but it is subtle and attractive.  Cellar 3 –  5 years.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Corbans Huntaway Pinot Gris Reserve Limited Edition   17 ½ +  ()
Haumoana,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  the company deserve kudos for the explicit wine notes on their website – the kind of info traditionally concealed;  the wine is a blend of 94% pinot gris and 6 % gewurz,  initially all fermented at moderate temperatures in s/s;  30% of the crop finished fermentation in large (10 000 L) old oak cuves,  half the oak fraction went through MLF;  much of the wine had a couple of months LA;  RS 6 g/L;  background @ www.huntaway.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemon.  This is an intriguing wine,  overlapping with a dryish riesling,  particularly an Eden or Clare Valley one.  Bouquet is lightly aromatic freesia and lime-zest,  yet with pearflesh too (particularly once one knows the identity).  Flavour is clearly citrus zest and aromatic,  quite rich,  another in this near-dry category presumably around 7 g per litre [confirmed].  Phenolics are noticeable,  but not excessive for the variety.  This is how oak and MLF should be used with pinot gris.  The firm deserves praise too for achieving good aroma and flavour in the variety at appropriate alcohol,  both in this wine and the Boundary one.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Escarpment ] Pinot Gris The Edge   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  mostly s/s;  stop-fermented @ 7.5 g/L;  dry extract 26.8 g/L;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Lemon.  On bouquet this is another wine in which it is tricky to identify the variety in a big blind tasting of 123 wines.  What intrigued me on the bouquet was an elusive hint of mandarins,  quite captivating.  Below that there are gentle pale yellow fruits confuseable with viognier,  all pure and attractive.  In mouth the wine shortens up somewhat,  not quite the body of the top wines,  acid up a little,  the finish showing some residual mingling with the well-handled varietal phenolics,  but still this highly desirable suggestion of pale yellow stonefruits which I praise in the Italian example.  This is intriguing wine,  much closer to the varietal truth than McKenna's premium Escarpment Vineyard label.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Bollini Pinot Grigio Trentino   17 ½  ()
Trentino DOC,  Italy:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  4 months LA and batonnage (whether any oak involved not stated); Trentino is northernmost Italy,  highly relevant to the quality of the wine;  www.bolliniwines.com website not operational,  minimal info on;  www.empson.com ]
Colour is a lovely rich lemon,  exactly as in good Alsace examples,  but none of the kiwi pinot gris can compare.  For a country that has inflicted on the world truckloads of insipid pinot grigio,  worse even than the average Kiwi pinot gris,  the first thing to say is,  this is a great Italian example of the grape.  It shows exactly the yellow florals and pale yellow stonefruit which make good Alsatian pinot gris so much more satisfying than the local version.  Every New Zealand winemaker making pinot gris needs to study the bouquet of this wine,  which is superbly varietal.  Most New Zealand pinot gris has the florals ripened out of it by over-ripening – sur-maturité – simply not respecting the pinot heritage of the grape.  Palate is not quite so good,  a tendency to rankness beyond the fact that pinot gris is a phenolic variety,  yet with good body,  stonefruit flavours,  and a dry finish unlike our New Zealand wines.  Naturally therefore the phenolics show on the later palate.  What a great wine to have in the country though,  a real learning opportunity for those in mind to study it.  It should be good with food.  It might coarsen after a year or two,  though,  so short-term cellar only,  1 – 3 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Te Whare Ra Pinot Gris   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-picked and hand-sorted;  some whole-bunches retained;  cool-fermented,  70% s/s,  30% BF in old oak,  LA and stirring but no MLF for the barrel component,  some wild yeast;  RS 7 g/L;  634 cases;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is beautifully pure,  but at this stage still embryonic.  There are clear undertones of pear flesh,  white stonefruits,  rosepetal and a touch of cinnamon.  In mouth body is good,  sweetness is restrained at ‘riesling dry’,  and the phenolics are not too grippy.  This will be much better in a year,  and cellar 3 – 5 years at least.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Stoneleigh Pinot Gris Rapaura Series   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  some vines up to 20 years age,  grapes left to ripen late,  a little shrivel;  cool-fermented,  low solids,  no oak or MLF;  RS 12 g/L;  background @ www.stoneleigh.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Light straw,  not quite ideal for a 2008 wine,  but pinot gris is a red-grey-green-skinned variety,  and some colour pick-up is permissible.  Bouquet too raised just a suspicion of trace oxidation,  faintest quince,  but rich fruit.  Palate shows good flavour,  a lot more to say than most New Zealand pinot gris,  pale stonefruits a great improvement on pearflesh,  fine-grained phenolics giving the wine shape and length,  not quite dryish to the finish.  The intriguing thing is,  given the sur-maturité picking,  and the propensity of the variety to pick up alcohol,  the given alcohol is low,  even for the residual sugar.  Are we starting to see the advent of reverse-osmosis alcohol reduction from the big wineries ?  If the extra manipulation does not result in flavour impairment (note the query re threshold oxidation above),  any move away from the higher alcohols of recent years must be a good thing.  For a variety such as pinot gris,  which loses delicacy at higher brixes,  such techniques are not going to restore the floral component to bouquet,  however.  With its rich body,  this should be good food wine,  but maybe this example is one to cellar not quite so long,  1 – 3 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Astrolabe Pinot Gris Awatere Discovery   17 +  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  PG 100%,  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed,  and cool-fermented with solids all in s/s,  no oak or MLF influence,  and thus contrasting with the 2007 Voyage version;  RS 5.5 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen,  paler than the Voyage wine.  And right through the bouquet and palate,  the notion 'paler' seems to apply relative to the basic Marlborough wine.  It's almost as if this Awatere wine is a little cooler,  good richness but understated flavour,  perhaps a little drier.  I'd like to cellar both these wines for six years,  and open one each a year.  The differences in their cepage and elevage imply they will have a lot to say about pinot gris in New Zealand.  Real study wines to cellar for 4 – 7 years.  GK 04/09

2006  Astrolabe Pinot Gris Experience   16 ½ +  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  PG 97%,  Gw 2,  Ri 1,  hand-harvested;  whole-bunch pressed,  and cool-fermented with wild yeast and high solids,  in old oak;  100%  MLF and 16 months LA and batonnage;  RS 4 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Lemon to lemonstraw.  This is intensively elaborated pinot gris,  with 100% barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and the complete MLF approach taking a leaf from Larry McKenna's book.  It is a devilishly hard style to strive for,  pinot gris being suited to the MLF fermentation but easily overwhelmed by it,  in my view.  Yet one immediately has to acknowledge it is widespread in the grape's homeland,  Alsace.  This one smells like one of those elegant chardonnays with an acacia floral note,  with some desiccated coconut suggestive of American oak.  In mouth it rather goes to pieces,  for though there is good body and lots of flavour,  it is all rather buttery and the oak carries through to fight with the varietal phenolics.  As a taster one ends up feeling a helluva lot of winemaking went into this wine,  so there is a touch of guilt at not being too enthusiastic about the result – just like Larry McKenna's most expensive pinot gris.  A love or hate wine,  I would think,  and if you like Escarpment Pinot Gris (see below),  you'll love this,  since its a lot fresher.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ]  Corbans Pinot Gris Private Bin Hawkes Bay   16 ½ +  ()
Ngaruroro Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  100% de-stemmed fruit from Matapiro Estate, an inland site c. 25 km WNW of Hasting and approximately 300 metres above sea level;  pre-fermentation oxidation of the press-fraction to lower phenolics,  low-solids fermentation 50% in old French oak;  four months LA and batonnage for the barrel component;  RS 8 g/L;  background @ www.corbans.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Straw.  Bouquet is curious on this wine,  with a clear cooked rhubarb quality which is unexpected but not unattractive.  Palate is quite firm,  varietal phenolics showing rather much on a fairly ‘dry’ finish,  which doesn't hide them.  The rhubarb quality persists,  lightly quincy too.  If this wine were under cork,  one might think it slightly oxidised.  I suspect this will not cellar gracefully,  so a couple of years at the most.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Bensen Block Pinot Gris   16 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  machine-picked in evening cool,  all de-stemmed;  all s/s cool-ferment,  then 9% through MLF,  not much LA exposure;  pH 3.35,  RS 6.5 g/L;  Bensen Block does not have its own lead-in website yet,  but can be accessed via;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Pale lemonstraw.  This is more mainstream New Zealand pinot gris on bouquet,  light and pure pear flesh and a hint of white stonefruits,  no complications.  Palate is a little more nashi-like,  a hint of VA and sweetness,  not hanging together well,  in fact very nashi-like.  Varietal phenolics creep out on the tail,  despite the sweetness.  The subtle approach to an MLF component in pinot gris must be applauded,  though.  'Popular' pinot gris,  reasonably fruited,  to cellar a year or two.  GK 04/09

2007  Moutere Hills Pinot Gris   16 +  ()
Moutere Gravels,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.4%;  $34   [ screwcap;  hand-picked and sorted;  whole-bunch pressed,  part BF with wild yeast,  balance s/s;  www.mouterehills.co.nz ]
Straw.  This wine shows a big bouquet,  a lot going on,  things to like and some to be worried about.  I wondered (at the tasting stage) if it has been fermented on high-solids in old oak,  for the whole style is clearly European.  Stonefruit shows on both bouquet and palate,  quite yellow-fleshed,  good body with breadcrust flavours suggesting extensive lees-autolysis which is good,  and happily no apparent MLF to slacken the crispness.  Finish is very dry.  Scoring a wine like this is a compromise,  for some will love it,  and some will hate it,  and both viewpoints make perfect sense.  One to try and see for yourself.  It would be scored much more highly in a white wine district of France which employs high solids and trace oxidation as part of the winestyle,  and everybody is used to it – Jurancon for example,  see some Domaine Cauhape reviews on this site.  This will be a good food wine,  though personally I'd prefer the wine without the dull smells and flavours high-solids introduce.  Short term cellar might be better,  1 – 3 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Huia Pinot Gris   16  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap; hand-picked from several clones;  initial ferment low-solids in s/s,  half of it wild yeast;  40% of the wine completed ferment in French oak,  and went on to LA and batonnage;  RS 4 g/L;  www.huia.net.nz ]
Light straw.  Bouquet is a little congested on this wine,  some light sulphur compounds being tied up with fruit that is tending quincy,  not quite fresh.  Palate is moderately fruity,  slightly  quincy,  some phenolics showing,  a plainer side of pinot gris.  There is a fair volume of fruit,  and the finish is 'riesling-dry',  so it should be a useful food wine.  It is not suited to cellaring though,  a year or two at most.  GK 04/09

2008  Riverby Estate Pinot Gris   15 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.3%;  $21   [ screwcap;  night-harvested,  cold-settled,  cool- and stop-fermented,  all s/s;  RS 9.5 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is light,  clean,  fragrant,  but very subtle.  There are suggestions of pearflesh and rosepetal,  but you have to work at it.  Flavour is better,  more clearly pearflesh pinot gris with varietal phenolics,  'riesling dry',  but short on fruit and thus short on the palate – apart from lingering phenolics.  This should be better in a year.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Johner Estate Pinot Gris   15 ½ +  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ screwcap;  mostly s/s ferment,  some old oak;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Slightly orange-flushed straw.  Bouquet too suggests the light oxidation the colour hints at,  introducing a range of orange-quincy notes to pearflesh.  Palate adds a suspicion of older oak to the pale quince and pearflesh flavours,  all quite tannic and short,  despite a little residual sweetness.  The wine is richer than the Stoneleigh,  and attractive in a tending-acid quincy style.  Less suited to cellaring,  a year or two only.  GK 04/09

2008  [ Pernod Ricard ] Stoneleigh Pinot Gris Marlborough   15 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $22   [ Stelvin Lux;  some vines up to 8 years age,  grapes left to ripen late,  a little shrivel;  cool-fermented in s/s,  no solids,  no oak or MLF;  RS 7.5 g/L;  background @ www.stoneleigh.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is on the modest side here,  a clean innocuous New Zealand pearflesh interpretation of pinot gris here lifted by trace VA.  Palate confirms it is pinot gris,  clear pearflesh,  no oak or complications,  sufficient residual sugar to balance varietal phenolics,  and lengthen the light flavours a little.  This would seem to be a pinot gris exemplifying the disadvantages of late-harvest of the variety,  all the pinot florals of the grape long departed.  Since the alcohol doesn't fit presumed late-harvest sugars,  this may be an alcohol-reduced wine.  Scarcely worth cellaring,  but say 2 – 4 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Escarpment Pinot Gris   14 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ supercritical cork;  hand-picked;  100% BF and MLF in old to very old French oak;  dry extract 26.8 g/L;  RS 4.2 g/L;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  In a big blind tasting,  bouquet on this wine is soft,  broad and chardonnay-like,  with an obtrusive MLF-y component reminding of butterscotch and caramel.  The wine smells flabby.  Palate tightens things up in the sense of acid,  but the flavour is coarse buttery bottled stonefruit,  very phenolic,  clumsy.  I can't help feeling Larry McKenna needs to rethink this premium wine.  Pinot gris as a grape can have beautiful floral varietal character reflecting its pinot inheritance,  as the wines from Alsace reasonably frequently remind us.  Because so much New Zealand pinot gris and Italian pinot grigio is vapid and empty,  made off-dry for people who do not really like wine much at all,  that does not make a case for building so much buttery artefact into the wine that the original pinot-family nature of the grape is lost.  Larry's affordable The Edge expression of the grape is much more varietal,  and a much better wine.  It seems to me a more complex version of The Edge,  worthy of the Escarpment label,  would be better built from an even lower cropping rate,  older oak still,  and lees-autolysis but little or no MLF.  Or much subtler MLF,  since I have to concede the Alsatian models mostly go through this fermentation.  I acknowledge too that the present version of the wine has its devotees,  since it has been promoted as an alternative to chardonnay.  That rather loses the focus of the variety's own distinctive charms.  This 2007 Escarpment Pinot Gris is just too eccentric,  in my view.  Cellar a year or two only.  GK 04/09

Gewurztraminer
2002  Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminer Duke of Marlborough   18 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  this wine all s/s,  made by previous consulting winemaker John McGinlay,  a Californian;  the Flowerdays took over spring 2003;  RS 18 g/L;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Rich lemon,  almost a flush of pale gold.  Bouquet is wonderful,  explicit gewurztraminer with citrus,  citronella and hints of almost balsam-like spiciness on lychee fruit.  Palate is saturated with lightly spicy lychee and stonefruit,  real body in an Alsatian vendage tardive sense,  a totally international-quality wine with a marvellous nearly-dry aftertaste.  No hurry if you like older whites,  but this variety is often at its best in its first seven years.  This is New Zealand gewurztraminer at its best,  the alcohol well hidden,  and in any case the Alsatian model can be high-alcohol too.  Will cellar several years yet.  GK 04/09

2007  [ Pernod-Ricard ] Corbans Gewurztraminer Private Bin   18  ()
Haumoana,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  a single-vineyard wine,  one third hand-harvested;  s/s ferments,  6 months on light lees,  RS 10 g/L;   background @ www.corbans.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Lemongreen,  excellent.  Bouquet is very attractive,  a clear evocation of an understated style of New Zealand gewurztraminer,  citronella and rosepetal florals,  attractively spicy semi-citrus fruit.  Palate brings up the spice a little,  a touch of root-ginger,  good flesh and body,  nearer dry than medium,  satisfying.  It would be a good food wine.  Cellar 3 – 7 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminer   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-picked and hand-sorted from some of the oldest gewurz vines in Marlborough,  up to 29 years old;  some whole-bunches retained;  cool-fermented,  100%  s/s,  no wild yeast,  extended lees-autolysis;  RS 14 g/L;  646 cases;  the Duke of Marlborough label has been discontinued,  this is the top gewurz;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Apart from a little SO2 to marry away,  bouquet is pure and fragrant with clear varietal florals even including a thought of liliums,  a little citronella zip,  clear lychee,  attractive.  Palate is not quite so together,  lychee and white nectarine,  a bit sweeter and milder than the Corbans PB.  This will be elegant and appealing in a year's time,  and may score higher.  I don’t think it is as concentrated as the 2002 Duke of Marlborough,  though.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 04/09

2005  Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminer   17  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  hand-picked and hand-sorted from some of the oldest gewurz vines in Marlborough,  up to 26 years old; some whole-bunches retained;  cool-fermented,  100%  s/s,  no wild yeast,  some of the wine extended lees-autolysis;  RS 20 g/L;  the Duke of Marlborough label has been discontinued, this is the top gewurz;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw to straw.  This is a milder gewurztraminer than 2008 or 2002,  all a little softer and broader.  There is still pretty good varietal character,  but it is almost as if some of the wine were fermented or matured in old oak [ specifically not the case ].  Palate richness is good,  with lychee and slightly marmalade qualities to it,  on a nearer-medium lowish-acid finish.  Some gewurztraminer spice comes back on the late taste.  Probably at a peak now,  but will hold for several years.  GK 04/09

2008  Pernod-Ricard ] Montana Gewurztraminer Reserve   16 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  machine-harvested;  60% of this wine (from the former Matawhero vineyard,  now owned by Montana) had 6 hours skin-contact;  cool inoculated ferments on low-solids all s/s,  stop-fermented to RS 9 g/L;  5 months on light lees,  background on www.montana.co.nz,  leads to detail @;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com//tastingnotes.php? ]
Quite gassy lemongreen.  This is fragrant wine,  but it doesn't ring absolutely true,  another one almost suggesting that there might be some muscat blended in with the gewurz,  shifting the bouquet off-centre.  I happened to have a quite exceptional Moscato d'Asti available to check this thought alongside,  and it certainly didn't dissuade me.  Only fair to say,  though,  that gewurz and muscat are closely related.  In mouth the wine is flavoursome,  a bit sweeter than 'riesling dry' [ confirmed ],  with lychee fruit and nearly grippy phenolics,  not quite as ripe and delightful as gewurz phenolics should be.  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  but I have a reservation.  There is nearly a mint suggestion in the late aftertaste,  again raising the thought of cool-climate muscat.  GK 04/09

2008  Astrolabe Gewurztraminer Voyage   15 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $22   [ screwcap;  Gw 100%;  a small % hand-harvested and whole-bunch pressed,  fermented with some solids;  most machine-harvested and fermented on no solids;  all s/s;  RS 22 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is congested by light SO2,  on a base more like modest New Zealand pinot gris than gewurz – pearflesh.  Palate is sweet,  seemingly spirity and empty,  yet with an awkward phenolic finish which is more gewurztraminer-like,  but not at all married up.  Should be somewhat better in a year or so,  if it fills out,  but meanwhile not the usual Astrolabe class.  Dubiously worth cellaring,  2 – 6 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Huia Gewurztraminer   15  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-picked from six clones,  all de-stemmed;  33% of the wine fermented in old French oak,  balance s/s,  some wild yeast ferments;  RS 4 g/L;  www.huia.net.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  As for the 2008 Astrolabe,  sometimes gewurztraminer in Marlborough just does not come together.  This is strange wine,  pure,  but only vaguely pinot gris (rather than gewurztraminer) on bouquet,  and with a subtle undertone of parsley.  On palate it is more phenolic than the similarly-rated Astrolabe,  yet there is virtually no fruit,  so it seems empty,  and drier too.  The final aftertaste is vaguely gewurztraminer-varietal,  on the phenolics.  Another dubiously worth cellaring,  2 – 5 years.  GK 04/09

Viognier
2006  Cuilleron Condrieu Vertige   19 +  ()
Condrieu,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $175   [ cork;  Cuilleron makes four Condrieus,  all with 100% MLF,  like Guigal:  the standard cuvee including younger vine material La Petite Cote,  all hand-picked from sites above Chavanay,  all BF on low-solids in older oak 2 – 5 years,  100% MLF plus LA,  batonnage and 9 months in barrel,  c. 1300 cases;  the Les Chaillets label totalling around 1500 cases,  made from older vines (sometimes labelled Vieilles Vignes) on steeper slopes above Chavanay,  all hand-harvested with a little sur-maturité,  low-solids juice wild-yeast-fermented and 100% MLF in barrel,  with up to 30% new oak,  plus 10 months lees autolysis and batonnage;  the extremely rare Vertige from the top lieu-dit in Condrieu (about 125 cases depending on the year),  from even older vines on a steep granite slope,  all barrel-fermented with a much higher percentage new,  plus MLF,  LA and batonnage, in barrel up to 18 months;  and if conditions permit,  in some years a botrytised late-harvest Les Ayguets from sites above Chavanay,  hand-harvested in up to 8 tranches through to December,  similar fermentation to Chaillets,  usually 100 – 110 g/L RS,  up to 400 cases (of 500 ml bottles) – a cellar wine in Cuilleron’s view;  Cuilleron is imported into NZ by The Wine Importer (who has ’07 Les Ayguets, $125,  but not Vertige),  and latterly Glengarry;  www.isasite.net/Cuilleron ]
Colour is gorgeous lemon with nearly a flush of green,  the most elegant and fresh of the viognier colours.  Bouquet is simply sensational,  divinely citrus and mock orange blossom floral,  clear-cut fresh and canned apricots perfectly aromatic and ripe but not over-ripe,  a suggestion of limes,  all made piquant by barrel-ferment in new oak.  Despite the alcohol and time in oak,  the bouquet is totally fresh,  aromatic,  bursting with grapeyness,  so unlike Yalumba's Virgilius where the artefact intrudes and so often dominates.  Palate continues the freshness,  but in the wonderful richness one can see complexing lees-autolysis,  barrel-ferment and subtle MLF characters,  and the interplay of oak tannins and grape phenolics.  It smells and tastes as if it sees more new oak than the others,  but it is not dominated by it – glorious.  The wine shows the beauty of a good MLF component,  perfect acid balance,  slightly less than fully ripe apricots,  all lingering long on gentle phenolics,  close to bone dry.  Cellar 1 – 4 years,  maybe six.  This wine is essential tasting for all New Zealand viognier producers.  I cannot stress the word essential too much.  GK 02/09

2007  Cuilleron Condrieu Les Chaillets   18 +  ()
Condrieu,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $131   [ cork;  Cuilleron makes four Condrieus,  all with 100% MLF,  like Guigal:  the standard cuvee including younger vine material La Petite Cote,  all hand-picked from sites above Chavanay,  all BF on low-solids in older oak 2 – 5 years,  100% MLF plus LA,  batonnage and 9 months in barrel,  c. 1300 cases;  the Les Chaillets label totalling around 1500 cases,  made from older vines (sometimes labelled Vieilles Vignes) on steeper slopes above Chavanay,  all hand-harvested with a little sur-maturité,  low-solids juice wild-yeast-fermented and 100% MLF in barrel,  with up to 30% new oak,  plus 10 months lees autolysis and batonnage;  the extremely rare Vertige from the top lieu-dit in Condrieu (about 125 cases depending on the year),  from even older vines on a steep granite slope,  all barrel-fermented with a much higher percentage new,  plus MLF,  LA and batonnage, in barrel up to 18 months;  and if conditions permit,  in some years a botrytised late-harvest Les Ayguets from sites above Chavanay,  hand-harvested in up to 8 tranches through to December,  similar fermentation to Chaillets,  usually 100 – 110 g/L RS,  up to 400 cases (of 500 ml bottles) – a cellar wine in Cuilleron’s view;  Cuilleron is imported into NZ by The Wine Importer (who has ’07 Les Ayguets, $125,  but not Vertige),  and latterly Glengarry;  www.isasite.net/Cuilleron ]
Deeper lemon,  faintly brassy.  This seems the new-oakiest of the wines on bouquet,  more at a Guigal level,   but it is well-supported by vigorous apricot fruit and toasty barrel-ferment characters.  It is not quite as immaculately pure as the Vertige or the better New Zealand wines,  but only the carping would mention that at all.  Palate is much more varietal and flavoursome than the Vidal Reserve or the Craggy,  explicitly ripe apricot varietal,  though not quite the body of the Vertige.  It is an equally convincing demonstration of the character of fully ripe but not over-ripe viognier in a bone-dry presentation,  with body and texture enhanced by appropriate MLF and lees-autolysis.  This wine too rewards close familiarity.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 02/09

2007  Vidal Viognier Reserve   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels predominantly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ screwcap;  some fruit from the Tuki Tuki Valley;  all crushed and some skin contact;  fermented in older French oak with cultured yeast;  6 months LA in barrel,  with an MLF component;  pH 3.69,  RS c.2 g/L;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is nearly perfumed in a positive sense,  sweet and floral on mock orange blossom,  with understated fresh apricots and breadcrust complexities.  Flavour is clearly viognier,  all a little softer and more accessible than the Craggy Range wine,  but equally pure,  with the oak neatly under-done pro rata to the fruit.  Body is terrific,  making this a satisfying and food-friendly wine one could drink a lot of.  The MLF is very understated,  in the blind tasting one does not pick it at all,  noting only how good the total lees-autolysis and richness is.  Like the Craggy,  more varietal aroma and flavour is the key.  Cellar 1 – 4 maybe 5 years.  GK 04/09

2008  Passage Rock Viognier   18  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  half the wine BF in 1 – 3 year oak both French and American,  none new,  balance s/s;  up to 25% MLF;  2 months LA;  3 g/L RS;  220 cases;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Elegant lemon.  This is another wine to show the wonderful potential we have in New Zealand to achieve pinpoint viognier character.  The floral complexity here is comparable with a fair example of viognier from the northern Rhone.  Florality is a character which the Aussies find so climatically hard to achieve in viognier or syrah (hence their shiraz),  whereas New Zealand has an enormous advantage,  if we can achieve full physiological flavour maturity and ripeness to back up the bouquet.  For New Zealand thus far,  only Hawkes Bay has really qualified for clear viognier potential,  but now here is a Waiheke wine displaying beautiful yellow honeysuckle florals,  with good fresh apricot fruit.  It does not have the depth of varietal character of the Chaillets,  but is purer.  It has a little more varietal character than the Vidal,  even though the oak is more noticeable,  more like the Craggy,  but softer and more flavoursome (perhaps from the American side).  The body is slightly less than the Vidal – which excels in that respect.  Hard to score,  no two people would rank them the same way,  but that is the explanation for my scores falling the way they do.  This is an exciting wine both for Waiheke,  and to encourage other producers in warm-enough places.  Cellar 1 – 4 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Craggy Range Viognier   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.9%;  $37   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested at just over 1 t/ac;  whole-bunch pressed,  fermented in older French oak with cultured yeast,  < 20%  underwent MLF;  6 months LA in barrel;  pH 3.44,  RS <2 g/L;  130 cases;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is clearly viognier,  not big but in a light way unarguably yellow honeysuckle florals and fresh and canned not-quite-ripe apricot aromas.  Viognier is a variety where achieving the key varietal characters is paramount,  but aroma and flavour come late in the ripening curve,  so in most seasons one has to accept highish alcohol – though whether as much as this wine might be debatable.  The still-fairly-new oak is at a maximum here,  as it frequently is with Guigal,  and made more noticeable via the high alcohol,  but the wine is saved by the good lees-autolysis and partial MLF,  which nearly smoothes out the oak and grape phenolics into desirable breadcrust artefact.  Yet through all this,  the light varietal apricot persists.  As we are showing with syrah,  the best sites in Hawkes Bay promise great potential to climatically match the northern Rhone,  and achieve real florality in the key grapes syrah and viognier.  This wine has come together well since its release last year,  but needs more varietal flavour and less phenolics.  Young vines,  I guess,  but perhaps over-ripened too – the pinot gris syndrome.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Cuilleron Condrieu la Petite Cote   17 ½  ()
Condrieu,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $97   [ cork;  Cuilleron makes four Condrieus,  all with 100% MLF,  like Guigal:  the standard cuvee including younger vine material La Petite Cote,  all hand-picked from sites above Chavanay,  all BF on low-solids in older oak 2 – 5 years,  100% MLF plus LA,  batonnage and 9 months in barrel,  c. 1300 cases;  the Les Chaillets label totalling around 1500 cases,  made from older vines (sometimes labelled Vieilles Vignes) on steeper slopes above Chavanay,  all hand-harvested with a little sur-maturité,  low-solids juice wild-yeast-fermented and 100% MLF in barrel,  with up to 30% new oak,  plus 10 months lees autolysis and batonnage;  the extremely rare Vertige from the top lieu-dit in Condrieu (about 125 cases depending on the year),  from even older vines on a steep granite slope,  all barrel-fermented with a much higher percentage new,  plus MLF,  LA and batonnage, in barrel up to 18 months;  and if conditions permit,  in some years a botrytised late-harvest Les Ayguets from sites above Chavanay,  hand-harvested in up to 8 tranches through to December,  similar fermentation to Chaillets,  usually 100 – 110 g/L RS,  up to 400 cases (of 500 ml bottles) – a cellar wine in Cuilleron’s view;  Cuilleron is imported into NZ by The Wine Importer (who has ’07 Les Ayguets, $125,  but not Vertige),  and latterly Glengarry ]
Lemon,  a little deeper than Vertige.  Freshly opened,  there is some white burgundy-like fermentation character,  which it would be uncharitable to call reduction since it quickly dissipates with aeration.  Decanted and aired,  again the gorgeous viognier varietal expression Cuilleron is becoming famous for is beautifully expressed,  yellow florals,  some overlap with fresh gewurztraminer,  clear apricots.  Palate is a little less refined than the two top wines,  not so transparent and pure,  much older oak to the extent there is barrel-ferment,  I imagine,  but the varietal flavour is still explicit.  The dry mouthfeel is so much richer and more satisfying than many New Zealand wines,  with ideal ripeness.  Local producers in improbable places (for viognier) like Marlborough,  Nelson and to a degree Gisborne,  but seeking to exploit the 'anything new will sell' mentality the New Zealand wine industry suffers from,  must make themselves familiar with the character properly ripe viognier displays in Cuilleron's marvellous wines.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 02/09

2005  Rostaing Condrieu La Bonnette   17 +  ()
Condrieu,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $109   [ cork;  MLF is normal in viognier for Rostaing too,  a curious feature of the Rostaing Condrieus is they are said to be s/s only – but they taste of oak;  imported into NZ by Glengarry;  no website found ]
Colour is clearly straw,  lacking the lemon hues of the Cuilleron wines.  Bouquet is much more European and more old-fashioned than the Cuillerons or the New Zealand wines,  rich fruit,  clearly 'toasty',  quite fragrant,  but also all a bit clogged.  This statement applies to most of his Cote Roties too.  Palate is clearly coarser than the Cuillerons,  a suggestion of rankness in the phenolics,  and instead of crystalline varietal fruit purity there is an undertone of confectionery,  especially in the after-taste.  Concepts such as florality do not apply to the Rostaing wines very often,  but they are still clearly viognier,  even though importing one of this age seems strange.  It is virtually dry,  and would seem better if tasted more casually on its own.  It is hard scoring a wine like this alongside the technically purer but sometimes hedonistically less satisfying new world wines,  such as Escarpment The Edge.  Cellar 1 – 2 years at the most.  GK 02/09

2007  Vidal Viognier East Coast   17 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  Gisborne & Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $16   [ screwcap;  all crushed and some skin contact;  mostly fermented in older French oak with cultured yeast;  5 months LA,  with some MLF components;  pH 3.7,  RS 1.7  g/L;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  If Cuilleron has a Petite Condrieu,  relative to the Reserve this is Vidal's petite viognier.  And it is quite something.  But first I must comment that including Marlborough in the concept East Coast,  which was originally conceived to refer to Gisborne and Hawkes Bay only,  is too misleading.  This wine is transformed with a splashy decanting,  to reveal light honeysuckle and apricot fruit ripened to a more physiologically mature average than The Edge wine,  despite the hazard of incorporating Marlborough fruit.  Palate follows lightly but pleasantly,  showing lightest oak,  barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis characters.  Apart from slightly hard acid,  there is attractive texture and mouthfeel,  with sufficient fruit ripeness,  and the key thought of apricots lingering nicely.  This wine challenges the cheaper Yalumba viogniers,  as good straightforward viognier at a quality higher than its entry-level pricepoint.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  VALUE  GK 04/09

2006  Rostaing Viognier Vin de Pays Les Lezardes   17  ()
Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $62   [ cork;  the appellation Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes includes all the hilly country to the west of the Northern Rhone and outside the famous appellations.  Any permitted Rhone variety may be used.  Some good wines are found under the designation,  but frequently they do not reflect the ripeness and concentration hoped for in the main Rhone appellations;  imported into NZ by Glengarry;  no website found ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is clean,  quite strong,  and intriguingly varietal,  except for a quite a piercing hint of citronella,  like some New Zealand gewurztraminers.  Other fruit notes include rock-melon and apricot,  but there is not the VA rock-melon is often an unwitting euphemism for.  Palate is plainer than the better Condrieus,  varietal phenolics and some coarseness of flavour showing in a style more likely to be stainless steel dominated.  The degree of physiological ripeness for the 13% alcohol is commendable,  though.  This is quite a New Zealand presentation of the grape,  but with much better mouthfeel,  ripeness and acid balance than,  for example,  the Te Mata Zara.  Just a pity a Vin de Pays wine like this is so pricey.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 02/09

2006  Rostaing Condrieu La Bonnette   16 ½  ()
Condrieu,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $142   [ cork;  MLF is normal,  a curious feature of the Rostaing Condrieus is they are said to be s/s only – but they taste of oak;  imported into NZ by Glengarry;  no website found ]
Lemonstraw,  a hint of brass.  This is a wine in two parts.  Bouquet is fresher and more varietal than the 2005,  but lacks all the florals and complexity of the Cuillerons.  Instead there is a kind of citronella and grapefruit combination reminding me of gewurztraminer,  all quite fragrant but not clearly viognier.  Palate however is rich,  alcoholic,  but degraded towards a confectionery zone,  with almost banana essence  flavours,  and some residual sugar.  There have been tarty New Zealand chardonnays like this,  made for the popular market with so-called aromatic yeasts.  This Bonnette thus looks simple alongside the top viogniers,  even though it is rich and one can see much work has gone into it.  A pity Glengarry bring in old vintages,  for a grape like viognier.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 02/09

2008  Te Mata Viognier Zara   16 ½  ()
Woodthorpe district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  hand-harvested;  c. 70% of the wine 8 months LA and batonnage on gross lees,  balance s/s;  all oak French third-year or older;  small % through MLF;  < 2 g/L residual;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Pale bright lemon.  Bouquet is on the pale side for viognier,  lightly floral but needing imagination to say honeysuckle,  with a hint of clearly under-ripe apricots.  The wine has more to say in mouth,  clear flesh and body taking it towards viognier in the blind tasting,  but flavour development pinched and not surpassing green-fleshed yellowish apricots.  Noticeable acid makes the oak seem boney,  and the finish short and phenolic.  This is not the best vintage of Te Mata's viognier,  and given they pioneered the variety in New Zealand,  it is a curious one in which to promote the wine from the Woodthorpe commercial range to the ‘named’ premium group.  You can't help feeling over the years that the Woodthorpe vineyard is on the cool side for optimising a variety like viognier.  Cellar 2 – 4 years,  but there is not much prospect of a butterfly emerging here.  GK 03/09

2008  [ Escarpment ] The Edge Viognier   16 ½  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $23   [ screwcap;  100% s/s ferment,  no MLF;  dry extract 22.7 g/L;  RS 2.6 g/L;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is sweetly floral and fragrant with vanilla and citrus notes (augmented by some VA),  to the point where the wine is confuseable with riesling in a blind tasting.  There is not quite the ripe sultry honeysuckle / apricot quality sought in top viognier.   The flavour however quickly stops one from pursuing the riesling line of thought too far,  being quite rich and fleshy,  near-dry,  and palely apricotty,  but lacking complexity and texture.  It is going to be hard to achieve good viognier consistently in the Gisborne district,  and this one shows the understated nature of the fruit even in a relatively good year,  relative to good Hawkes Bay examples of the grape.  TA is up a bit too,  emphasising the grape phenolics and oak,  and making the wine narrower.  Perhaps there is no MLF to help mouth appeal [ confirmed ] – quite the opposite of Larry's Escarpment Pinot Gris !  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Cuilleron Viognier Vin de Pays   16  ()
Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $46   [ cork;  the appellation Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes includes all the hilly country to the west of the Northern Rhone and outside the famous appellations.  Any permitted Rhone variety may be used.  Some good wines are found under the designation,  but frequently they do not reflect the ripeness and concentration hoped for in the main Rhone appellations;  this wine is Vi 100%,  planted @ 6000 vines / ha at Chavanay (Cuilleron’s home town);  crop-thinning,  hand-picked;  mostly s/s ferments,  6 months LA mostly in s/s,  < 20% has old oak only;  around 1400 cases;  100% MLF;  imported into NZ by The Wine Importer,  and Glengarry;  www.isasite.net/Cuilleron ]
Lemonstraw,  a slight brass wash.  Bouquet is a bit clogged on this viognier,  more retained fermentation odours than obviously reductive,  but sulphur is implicated in a slight sweaty suggestion.  Palate is better,  clean quite rich fruit in a short dry presentation,  some oak maybe but barrel-ferment seems unlikely,  well-handled phenolics.  Clearly varietal,  but more as you would expect from reasonably good vin de pays,  rather than AOC.  Cellar a year or two.  GK 02/09

2007  Rostaing Viognier Vin de Pays Les Lezardes   14 ½  ()
Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $65   [ cork;  the appellation Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes includes all the hilly country to the west of the Northern Rhone and outside the famous appellations.  Any permitted Rhone variety may be used.  Some good wines are found under the designation,  but frequently they do not reflect the ripeness and concentration hoped for in the main Rhone appellations;  imported into NZ by Glengarry;  no website found. ]
Straw,  not a great colour.  Bouquet is spirity and scented,  with an intriguing rank plant scent somewhere between paper-whites / jonquils and Cape Ivy,  not totally appealing to many people.  Palate is very dry,  exacerbated by the high alcohol,  so total flavours are coarse,  with the grape phenolics showing.  If the 2006 of this label can be likened to a New Zealand winestyle,  this vintage is a lesser Australian one.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 02/09

Sweet / Sticky
2008  Riverby Estate Noble Riesling 375 ml   19  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  9.6%;  $25   [ screwcap;  Gm 239 vines planted 1994;  first noble wine;  virtually 100% botrytised,  cold-settled,  cool-fermented in s/s;  pH 3.45,  RS 165 g/L;  www.riverbyestate.com ]
Bright light gold.  Bouquet is marvellous,  clear-cut total botrytis on an equally clear riesling base,  showing voluminous white and yellow flowers,  nectar,  beeswax,  golden peaches.  Palate follows harmoniously with clear emphasis on the riesling terpenes adding zing to the flavour,  rich honeyed sweetness yet good acid balance,  all extended on very long flavours in which all these components maintain their balance and relative lightness.  I wonder if there is trace oak in this [ No ! ].  If so it is beautifully subtle.  Going back to it,  it is a delight how the botrytis can be recognised,  as well as the grape,  yet the wine is totally integrated,  fresh and light.  Magic.  Wines such as this can be deceptively long-lived in cellar – Larry McKenna’s 1987 Muller-Thurgau Late-Harvest for Martinborough Vineyards is still fantastic.  It is hard to foretell with new world sweet wines,  though,  so perhaps 2 – 10 years.  GK 04/09

2007  Astrolabe Noble Riesling Experience 375 ml   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  Ri 100%,  hand-harvested 24 May,  whole-bunch pressed,  cool-fermented all in s/s;  pH 3.73,  RS 214 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Full gold.  Bouquet is bigger and heavier than the soaring Riverby,  more a bush honey analogy to the Riverby’s spring flower garden.  In mouth,  the weight is more sauternes,  and I thought there might be some oak employed in the elevation of this wine.  But no,  it is just the marvellous alchemy of riesling terpenes and mini-tannins concentrated with botrytis in a wine like this.  There is a suggestion of marmalade left to cook just a little too long,  in the fruit component.  The faintest hint of stalkyness detracts slightly too,  but on the other hand,  with the acid it gives the wine good length and freshness despite the weight.  The chemistry and physiology of botrytised wines is so complex,  it's a miracle when everything comes right.  Enjoy this one for its sumptuous richness,  though the pH might militate against longterm keeping.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  maybe – hard to be sure.  GK 04/09

2007  Te Whare Ra Noble Riesling 375 ml   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11%;  $37   [ screwcap;  hand-picked 13 June from older vines some in their 20s;  whole-bunch pressed,  cool-fermented all in s/s;  pH 3.15,  RS 157 g/L;  880 cases;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Light gold.  This is an intriguing noble riesling,  with pure waxy botrytis on fruit which is more stonefruit than aromatic,  golden queen peach maybe.  In a blind tasting it seems more a noble pinot gris,  the botrytis extending right through to the rich finish.  It is a fatter wine than the Riverby,  not quite the lightness of touch,  but balanced right through.  It sits between the Riverby and the Astrolabe in style.  This should cellar well,  say 2 – 10 years,  maybe longer.  GK 04/09

2008  Forrest Noble Chenin Blanc The Doctors 375 ml   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  10%;  $24   [ screwcap;  harvested 14 May @ 1.75 t/ac;  pH 3.7,  RS 215 g/L;  last made in 2001;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw flushed with palest gold.  Botrytis is the first impression on bouquet,  on an obviously sweet late-harvest fruit base.  Alongside the three riesling noble wines,  it is more undefined stonefruit,  perhaps greengage more than anything.  Palate continues the botrytis into a nectary potentially honeyed flavour,  in which the total acidity is high,  as befits chenin grown in Marlborough.  The acid in fact takes some of the charm out of the wine,  for noble wines are a sensuous winestyle,  needing good balance to triumph.  But then it has to be said,  the Loire Valley is famous for its long-keeping botrytis-affected chenins.  Whether that is for their intrinsic worth,  or,  in a rather lack-lustre district,  more from a need to be famous for something,  is open to debate.  All that said,  and despite the pH being highish (curiously),  in its Loire / Marlborough high acid style this noble chenin is going to cellar very well indeed,  being under screwcap.  5 – 10 years should be fine,  and maybe longer,  and it is a safe bet that the acid will seem less even after five years.  An interesting study wine therefore,  and a great opportunity to learn to recognise pure botrytis (because chenin has so little intrinsic flavour,  beyond grapeyness).  GK 04/09

2007  Johner Estate Noble Pinot Noir 375 ml   17  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  9.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  no info available;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Colour is a gorgeous light burnished copper hue.  This is really intriguing wine,  completely outside the square,  yet good,  crying out for creative matching of food to its unique smells and flavours.  Trying to characterise it is another matter.  Bouquet is perfumed in an aroma that evokes bottled light red plums,  vanilla wafers and steamed pudding,  with a bush honey and beeswax note pointing to the botrytis.  Flavour is rich,  sweet,  yet quite tannic,  which immediately dries the sensation in mouth and makes the wine rather strange.  It is clean,  no ignoble fungal suggestions,  though the laccase component on a red base means it will darken prematurely in bottle.  I did wonder if there is oak in its elevage,  and trace brett adding complexity,  believe it or not in a 'white' wine.  There must be complex foods both savoury and sweet this would be magical with – worth experimenting.  Shorter term cellar I suspect:  1 – 3 years maybe.  GK 04/09

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2008  Te Whare Ra Toru Blended White   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Gw,  Ri & PG ratio unknown,  hand-picked and hand-sorted;  cool- and some co-fermented,  100%  s/s,  no wild yeast,  some of the wine extended lees-autolysis;  pH 3.3l,  RS 10.5 g/L;  www.te-whare-ra.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  This wine reminds of Penfolds Australian Traminer / Riesling from the '70s.  It is a kind of super riesling,  the gewurztraminer providing a fragrant aromatic lift to floral and citrus-blossom-infused fruit.  In mouth the flavours are rich,  gewurz dominant maybe,  a suspicion of root ginger (which could be dubious) in pale stonefruits,  very aromatic,  rich and juicy,  but a just a little phenolic (some might say,  coarse),  sweetness just above 'riesling dry'.  A flavoursome wine not at all like the Alsatian blends it might be modelled on,  but well worth trying.  Probably not a long-term cellar wine,  so 2 – 5 years or so.  GK 04/09

2008  Bellbird Spring Home Block White   16 ½  ()
Waipara,  Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ cork;  a single-vineyard wine with low yields,  PG  dominant,  Ri,  Mu,  Gw,  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  fermented in old barrels,  plus four months LA and batonnage;  some MLF in the PG barrels;  RS 20 g/L;   360 cases;  www.bellbirdspring.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  This is a most unusual wine,  with a strong bouquet combining freesia florals with high-solids / homebrew / yeasty notes,  a little root-ginger and less than optimal botrytis,  plus slightly pungent stonefruit.  The pungency may be the peppermint of under-ripe muscat,  which must be pretty marginal in Waipara.  Notwithstanding the Alsace model for blends like this,  muscat must be a dubious component in this location.  Palate is rich,  much more gingery,  the ignoble botrytis also edgy like the suspect muscat.  The barrel-ferment in old-oak has introduced some drying tannins,  but the oak flavour is delightfully low,  and appropriate for the style.  This is interesting richly-fruited wine despite its distracting notes.  It tastes drier than the residual suggests,  and with its strong even intense flavours,  it would be hard to match with food.  Some Indian and Asian dishes could work marvellously.  Probably not suited to long-term cellaring,  so 1 – 3 years.  GK 04/09