Conclusions from the Tasting:
The level of taster interest in this historic New Zealand wines Library Tasting was a delight, it being over-subscribed within an hour of offering. It is however probably fair to say that people came more out of curiosity and interest in earlier New Zealand wines than in anticipation of sensory delights. But as the tasting unfolded, there is only one word to describe the reaction of participants: astonishment.
First there were the colours, so many of the wines retaining appreciable red in the maturing hues. And then there was the the volume of winey / loosely ‘claret-y’ aroma the set of 12 glasses generated, the wines collectively smelling true to type, alive, and vital. But when it came to taste, only then did some of the wines make clear that this was a set of wines from an earlier generation of New Zealand cabernet / merlots … and rather many of them did not taste of the bordeaux-like hints the collective bouquet suggested. But even so, there were some reasonably well-balanced and good wines to carry the day. And the best wines were indeed the benchmark wines of the times that the Invitation held out promise for. A clue to that can be gleaned from the fact that 6 of the 12 wines were rated top of the set by at least one of the participants. An even more surprising 10 of the 12 wines were at least one person’s second-favourite.
But, it was the 1987 Stonyridge Cabernet / Merlot / Franc Larose that carried the evening. In 1989 I wrote in National Business Review that: The results were clearcut. Stonyridge Larose is New Zealand's top red in the 1987 vintage. It joins a shortlist of all-time great New Zealand cabernet styles, such as 1965 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 1982 and 1983 Te Mata reds. And that conclusion remains true today. In this tasting, 1987 Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon, 1987 Goldwater Cabernet / Merlot / Franc, and 1987 The Antipodean (to a degree) also added weight to the view that 1987 was indeed a turning-point in the evolution of fine and appropriately ripe New Zealand cabernet / merlot or bordeaux blend wines. Three of these wines showed Bordeaux-like ripeness and harmony, without intrusive acid. Unfortunately that step forward could not be consolidated in 1988, that being the year of Cyclone Bola. But the years 1989, 1990, and 1991 were again variably favourable, with some good wine made. Only a few … these were still early days.
This tasting was designed not only to check up on how these 1987 New Zealand reds are holding up in 2021, and see to what extent wine reviews made at release of the wines were relevant, but also to see how the New Zealand wines compared with good but not great international wines of the day. The key factor of interest in that comparison is to assess the dry extract, that is the richness and texture of the wine. The reason for this approach is that New Zealand reds have traditionally been skinny, due to over-cropping … by international standards. This factor can be analysed for, but careful tasting can also give an approximation. Reference wines for dry extract were 1987 Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, one of the better Chilean reds of the day, and 1986 Gressier-Grand-Poujeaux, a cru bourgeois from Moulis, in the Medoc, Bordeaux. The latter shown here on the left, is clearly one of the richer wines in the tasting, with sound berry and older oak flavours appropriate to a cru bourgeois, 17 +; next to it The Antipodean from Matakana, north of Auckland, also quite good body, a wine smoothed-over by very high-quality oak, but fractionally under-ripe, 17.5; then 1987 Goldwater Cabernet / Merlot / Franc, from Waiheke Island, a ripe and supple wine showing a smoothness and charm then unusual in New Zealand reds, 18; to the right again 1987 Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 18, seeming understated back in 1989, but now in full flower and richer than the Villa / Vidal blends with merlot, which were preferred at the time. The merlot in those blends was picked at a higher cropping rate, and is now letting them down a little. Finally on the right, the most complete wine of the tasting, 1987 Stonyridge Larose, also from Waiheke Island, a wine of international calibre showing all the benefits of a cropping rate aligned to Bordeaux AOC standards, multi-variety blending, good ripeness, and beautiful oak, 18.5. It was clearly the top 1987 New Zealand red in 1989, and remains so today. Font>
This Library Tasting highlighted yet again how critical the issue of dry extract is to perceived and actual quality in New Zealand wines. Notwithstanding that import of New Zealand wine into the European Union requires dry extract analyses in the accompanying documentation, the significance of dry extract to wine quality was a near-total mystery to most New Zealand winemakers in the later 1980s and 1990s. The critical problem is, it remains so, to far too many in the 2010s and 2020s. Too many New Zealand wines both white and red have plenty of freshness, initial impact, fruit notes and aroma, but lack body and satisfaction in mouth. This failing becomes critically apparent, with food. The most obvious example has been our beverage sauvignon blanc, when compared with any half-way-decent Loire Valley sauvignon blanc made in accordance with AOC cropping regulations. All too often our beverage wines win out in the (super)-market place more because they are affordable, they are cleaner and fresher, and the closure is the handy-to-open screwcap. When price is the determining factor in wine purchase, attributes such as body become secondary. Mouthfeel / body / dry extract in the wine is not a subjective factor in wine evaluation: it can be measured analytically.
As well as illuminating wine industry achievements in the climatically favourable 1987 vintage, this tasting set out to highlight exactly the issue of dry extract, by including both a representative cru bourgeois made in accord with Medoc / Bordeaux AOC yield requirements, and one of the better Chilean commercial cabernet sauvignons of the day, where cropping rates have long been attuned to European values. These two wines were conspicuously the richest and most satisfying wines in terms of dry extract in the tasting. The Stonyridge came close, and it is thought to also have been cropped at a Bordeaux cropping rate ... nearer 5 t/ha =2 t/ac rather than the much higher figure the New Zealand industry then thought 'normal'. The Antipodean was also noticeable for its body on palate, suggesting more an appropriate meaning European AOC cropping rate. The other reds were lighter, right down to thin, with cropping rates bearing no relation to the 5 – 6 t/ha (maybe up to 7 t/ha for whites) considered the maximum for quality wine in Bordeaux. This is a critically important dimension of quality wine, both for export in that sector, and for people who cellar wine for the decades.
Appropriate smells and flavours are more-or-less a given in fine wine. Cropping rate, dry extract, mouthfeel and body in the wine remain key issues, however, if New Zealand’s better table wines are to be taken seriously on the world wine stage. Thus far, these key attributes of fine wine have been insufficiently thought about, in New Zealand wine industry practice. A few leading winemakers are now increasingly aware of this key dimension of fine wine – Larry McKenna at Escarpment for example has pioneered providing a dry extract figure in the specifications sheet for his top wines.
This tasting also cast some light on the still widely-held view that New Zealand wines do not cellar well. In my experience over the last 50 years of New Zealand wine, the simple fact has been that where our better wines have been made to international standards of practice particularly with respect to yield, dry extract and body, good New Zealand wines have kept as well as similar wines from overseas. The problem was not New Zealand wines, but viticultural and winemaking practices in a country then insulated from full knowledge of both the wines of the world, and how they should taste and perform, as well as the viticultural practices that produced them.
It would be a step forward for the industry now, if wine-researchers were year by year documenting dry extracts for a cross-section of current New Zealand wines, some thirty years after these 1987 wines, and publishing the results. Ideally this work would be tied in with careful sensory evaluation. Such work would widen understanding of this worthwhile dimension of fine wine. The New Zealand wines must not be documented in isolation: it is imperative that such a survey each year include a few agreed / unarguable international benchmark wines (which do not need to be unduly expensive), to introduce the reference-points of reality so often (and so critically) missing in New Zealand wine evaluation. On the red side for example, suitable wines would be for the cabernet / merlot winestyle the cru bourgeois Ch Meyney from Saint-Estephe, and for the ‘burgundy’ winestyle (that is, pinot noir and syrah) Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone.
Invitation and background to the tasting:
This tasting could more fully be titled: The top 1987 New Zealand reds: does 1987 mark a turning point in the evolution of New Zealand Cabernet / Merlot winestyles ?
During the 1980s I was wine correspondent for National Business Review, at a time when it took a broad and liberal view of the ‘business’ world. In mid-1989 there were three articles I particularly enjoyed preparing, reviewing the quality of the 1987 New Zealand cabernet / merlot wines. In the June 16, 1989 article I commented: "... the top 1987 wines show a considerable advance on those reviewed in my account of the 1985 wines (NBR, 26th of June 1987). The review was titled: "Ripe fruit needed for cabernets", and the point remains." I have recently re-published these articles, available here.
Thus the goal for our June Library Tasting will be to assess how the 1987 wines are faring, and to what extent those comments 32 years ago were at all well-informed and accurate … bearing in mind they had to be read against the woeful standards for most New Zealand red wine before the mid-1980s. Yes, there had been odd quality wines, Tom McDonald and Denis Kasza’s 1965 and 1969 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon from Hawkes Bay, odd Cabernets from Alex Corban and Dudley Russell in Henderson, occasional special reds from the earlier Mission Estate, and the 1982 and 1983 Te Mata Coleraine, also Hawkes Bay. But more generally, the long shadow of hybrid reds still lingered, when cropping rates were bizarre by world standards, water addition was still widespread / had only recently been disallowed, and few New Zealand winemakers were at all familiar with how the quality red wines of the world in fact tasted.
This tasting will provide a now-rare opportunity to taste the best 1987 New Zealand Cabernet / Merlot or bordeaux blends, at 34 years of age. Yes, some may be frail, some may be either skinny or too oaky (or both), as was the norm then (and still is, to a degree) … but all will be interesting, and a couple are both rare and exciting. They will allow us to peer back into a very different world. And there will be a couple of foils, to calibrate the tasting.
It is doubtful any wine group in New Zealand could now offer this tasting … let alone with wines sourced from the ideal-for-cellaring temperate Wellington climate. It is the kind of tasting which the wine industry itself should have provided for, and be offering, particularly New Zealand Winegrowers. It is therefore a rare opportunity.
As a bonne bouche to the tasting, note that the line-up will include arguably the finest bordeaux blend made in New Zealand in the 1980s, namely the Waiheke Island 1987 Stonyridge Larose. This wine is now rare. Bottles cellared in Auckland are much more advanced than those from cool Wellington cellars. There will be a reserve bottle of this rare wine, so you are pretty well guaranteed to taste it. The other wine that springs to mind as a contender for that title is 1982 Te Mata Coleraine, and naturally we will include the 1987, but 1987 was not a stand-out year for Te Mata.
1987 not being a noteworthy vintage year for most parts of the world, at this distance it is a little hard to put together 12 x 1987 wines. As calibration wines for the whole exercise, we will have a 1987 (or 1986) Cabernet Sauvignon from a leading producer in Chile, which should fit in well. At the time Chile seemed to offer the greatest export challenge to our cool-climate red wine styles. We will also include a 1986 cru bourgeois from the West Bank, Bordeaux. These wines should illuminate the concepts of appropriate cropping rate, and appropriate ripeness in the cabernet / merlot wine style, without too much overshadowing the New Zealand contingent.
Pricing: current auction realisations for older / better New Zealand wines of the calibre in this tasting have doubled in the last two years. There is a small but growing consumer interest in these older New Zealand vintages, even if winemakers are slow to help them. It seems realistic therefore to price the tasting to partly reflect the value the bottles would achieve at auction. In the March Webb's (Auckland) sale, our exact 1987 Te Mata Coleraine sold for $300, to which must be added c.19% fees. It is quite a while since any Coleraine sold for under $150. Likewise in the May Webb’s sale our exact 1987 Stonyridge sold for $260. But surprising prices, meaning a few tens of dollars, are currently being paid even for modest wines like Montana Cabernet Sauvignon.
So join us for a visit to a bygone age, a sensory walk in New Zealand red-wine history at a time when alcohols were commonly 12 – 13%, and in one of its more exciting years.
Michael Parker and Peter Whittington contributed much-appreciated bottles to this Library Tasting. All winemakers contacted dug deep in their memories and office filing systems, to contribute indicative facts and in two cases, labels, for this tasting. I appreciated their response very much. Invidious though it is to single one out, Kym Milne MW, now Adelaide Hills but then Chief Winemaker, Villa / Vidal Group, wrote at length and fondly, of their very special 1987 reds, the wines in his view eclipsing anything made in the 10 years he was in charge.
Cooper, Michael 1990: Michael Cooper’s Pocket Guide to New Zealand Wines & Vintages. Hodder & Stoughton, 256 p.
Cooper, Michael 1992: Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines. Hodder & Stoughton, 280 p.
Halliday, James, 2002: Classic Wines of Australia, 396 p. Third Ed. Harper-Collins.
Kelly, Geoff 1989: National Business Review: articles in issue for Friday, May 19, 1989; Friday June 16, 1989; Friday August 18, 1989, now re-published on www.geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz
Parker, Robert 1991: Bordeaux. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1026 p.
THE WINES REVIEWED:
In the reviews below, cropping rates tend to be indicative / from memory, rather than exact, few wineries now having records. There will be reviews for some of the wines in this tasting in Peter Saunders’ annual Guides of the time: I do not have the relevant issues. 1988 / 89 was before Michael Cooper started his now remarkable series of annual Guides. 1990 was the first, format yet to crystallise. There is one Cooper review elsewhere for 1987 Larose, and one Raymond Chan review for 1987 Coleraine. Otherwise, we have to use my reviews in the three National Business Review articles cited, regrettable though that may be. Where I have more than one review, I have quoted the latest.
The first price given is the original purchase price, expressed in $NZ. Older New Zealand wines are (in effect) not covered by wine-searcher. Apart from the Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon cellared in Masterton, all wines have been cellared in Wellington since original release. A few comments from a similar tasting of these wines I presented in 2002 (but failed to publish) have been added in, to add continuity to the appraisal of these important New Zealand reds. An outline of the Reserve wines is included, at foot.
The twelve 1987 (one 1986) wines in the tasting presented an enchanting sight. As can be seen, the colours were astonishingly good … compared with what tasters were expecting. This is a result of very conservative and thermally efficient cellar practice in the cool equable Wellington, New Zealand, climate. The wines are presented in two rows of 6. Colours ranged from the deepest, 1986 Ch Gressier Grand Poujeaux, in position 4 front row, to the lightest, 1987 Brookfields Cabernet / Merlot, in position 2. By far the reddest was wine 11 in the back row, The Antipodean, not what one might expect given two years in 100% new oak. Wine 9 the second deepest, is the remarkable 1987 Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve picked at 20° yet seemingly (at the time) fully ripe, all Ihumatao / Mangere fruit. The top-ranking wine, 1987 Stonyridge Larose in position 12, was exactly at the mid-point, for depth of colour. It matched very closely the Chilean, 1987 Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon, at position 5. The other high-profile wine in the tasting, in the sense of expectation, was Te Mata Coleraine, at position 3. In this vintage it was the second lightest of the 12. As the text comments, the wines looked good, and smelt even better. A great start to the tasting. Font>
Ruby and garnet, an appropriate colour for a 34-year-old bordeaux-blend, midway in depth. Bouquet is pure and fragrant, some cassisy and dark plummy notes browning to a degree now, a little brown tobacco and mushroomy complexity, no obvious alcohol, and very fine-grained cedary oak – all astonishingly bordeaux-like. Palate shows both a texture and an integration of clear berry flavours and very gentle oak which are delightful. They are coupled with natural acid and silky mouth-feel, which is long, rich, balanced with respect to acid, and sustained. It has the same kind of detail, delicacy and enchantment that 1970 Ducru Beaucaillou showed last year, though if they were alongside each other, the Larose would be a little more cedary. Like 1965 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1982 Te Mata Coleraine, but in a much more complex and sophisticated way than either of those two wines, 1987 Stonyridge Larose is an absolute benchmark wine in this country, pointing to the emergence of great bordeaux-look-alike reds in New Zealand. Anybody professing the slightest interest in the emergence of fine New Zealand red wines (as opposed to bulk beverage wines) must ensure they taste this wine, while they can. Note that bottles cellared in Auckland / anywhere north of Palmerston North are now markedly more advanced than Wellington stock from a good cellar. Note also that wine auction rooms advising you that this or that wine has been cellared in ‘impeccable’ conditions in temperature-controlled cellars, never tell you from what year the owner installed an air-conditioned cellar. There were virtually none in New Zealand, when this wine was released in 1989. Fully mature for some years now, nearing the end of its plateau of maturity, and now losing just a little fruit freshness, in Wellington. So, sadly, in the next 5 – 10 years, this definitive wine must be finished up. Top wine for five people, the clearest vote on that aspect in the set of wines, second favourite for another two, and four thought it bordeaux, a number matched only by the actual bordeaux. The analogy I made to Pomerol or Saint-Emilion in 1989 was off-target. This wine speaks now of Saint-Julien or Pauillac. In a similar tasting in 2002, Stonyridge Larose also topped the field, scoring 18.5, with the concluding comment: ‘Fully mature, but no hurry’. GK 06/21
Good ruby, more red / less garnet than the Stonyridge, above midway in depth. Bouquet is more focused / two-dimensional than the Stonyridge, very pure cassis browning now, and slightly more noticeable cedary oak, so the whole wine is more aromatic, hinting at pure cabernet. Bouquet does not have that thought of softness / silkyness / plummyness some of the wines with merlot blended in show. Palate continues the single-focus thought, still clearly cassisy / curranty berry though browning, with long nearly ‘sweet’ (ie vanillin) cedary oak sustaining the flavour over any cabernet ‘hole’. This wine is riper and showing a much better acid balance than the Villa Maria straight Cabernet Reserve, and is a little richer than the Vidal Cabernet / Merlot Reserve (I now think), so this far down the track, it wins points on both scores. As 100% cabernet sauvignon, it invites comparison with the 1965 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon. I last showed the latter wine in Hawkes Bay in November 2008, noting then it was not quite as rich as the 1966 Ch Gruaud-Larose at 43 years of age. Likewise this 1987 Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon clearly does not have the dry extract of the 1986 Gressier-Grand-Poujeaux (in this tasting) at 35 years of age, so we may conclude that the cropping rate for the 1965 McWilliam's wine was extraordinarily low, for its day in New Zealand. No subsequent year was as concentrated, or as ripe, only the 1969 showing some approach to the 1965. This 1987 Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon is therefore also an important way-point on the road to great New Zealand cabernet / merlot wine-styles. It is worth noting also, that it is one of the first Gimblett Gravels reds to come close to international standards, in terms of ripeness, harmony and balance. Being not as rich as the Stonyridge, it is nearer the end of its plateau of maturity, when cellared in the Wellington district. Three people rated the Vidal Cabernet Reserve the top wine in this tasting, and two their second favourite. In contrast to the Stonyridge, however, the relative simplicity of this 100% cabernet sauvignon wine meant that no tasters thought it Bordeaux. Astute tasting. Will fade gracefully, from now on. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, a little lighter but no older in hue than the Stonyridge, just below midway in depth. This was the understated wine in the tasting, there being a delicacy of both berry and oak which meant it was easily under-estimated. On closer examination however, when you compare it against the more outspoken Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve also from Auckland, you gradually realise that the Waiheke wine in its gentle way is not only riper, and with a much better acid balance, but also nearly as rich. The Goldwater is conspicuously not as rich as the Stonyridge, however, and that accords with the winemakers’ recollections for the cropping rate for each. This is a wine that wins high points on its harmony and gentleness, not features we are well attuned to in New Zealand reds, being so influenced by Australian red wines and winemakers, habituated as they are to tartaric acid addition. Like the Stonyridge, it has bordeaux-like qualities. 1987 Goldwater Cabernet / Merlot / Franc cellared in Wellington is also now at the far side of its plateau of maturity, but in a food context it will still give much pleasure. No first places, two second favourite votes. Some tasters thought it too understated, three least places. In the 2002 tasting, this wine is written up similarly as to winestyle, but that bottle seemed lighter. I used the word ‘lean’, and scored it 17. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, notably the youngest / reddest wine in the 12, and the third-deepest. This wine showed a lot of bouquet right from first opening. The cabernet component speaks loudest, with quite a fresh blackcurrant note still hovering about it. If this character were any more noticeable, or the wine were less rich and complex, you would say there is trace methoxypyrazine showing, but it is not as simple as that. Berry characters and cedary oak are totally integrated, and any former hint of under-ripeness on bouquet has been ‘rescued’ by the extraordinary oak handling, and the fact the wine has the dry extract to carry this amount of oak. Or nearly. Palate is interesting. There is a tactile richness on palate here nearly matching the bordeaux and the Chile. It is not quite as concentrated as the Stonyridge, but it is hard to tell, the acid being higher in The Antipodean. It was thus a wine very much out-of-line in terms of cropping rate, when compared with the (appalling) cropping standards of the day in New Zealand. Total flavour is long and complex, again that shadow of fresh blackcurrants, but more giving a freshness rather than an edge to the palate. To stop prevaricating, yes, this Antipodean is not quite perfectly ripe, and the acid is a little high. But at 34 years, its richness and its elevation have concealed that to an astonishing degree. Interesting wine therefore, which still has some years ahead of it. Note that winemaker James Vuletic was the only one in the group to present the wine to ‘quality’ bordeaux standards: a 54 mm branded and dated cork. Such notions are still a mystery to too many New Zealand winemakers, among those who favour the traditional closure ... the implication being they are not sufficiently familiar with the benchmark wines from France. Top wine for four tasters, and second favourite for one. One taster thought it bordeaux. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, still some velvet, clearly the deepest wine, immediately suggesting an appropriate cropping rate for quality wines. Bouquet is quite different from the New Zealand wines, being richer, more complex, more fruit-dominated, and totally integrated. There is not the clear berry and clear oak of the better New Zealand wines. The fruit side is darkly plummy browning now, and brown tobacco, not very aromatic, and relatively lacking in new oak on bouquet. Palate has a texture to it you can clearly feel in the mouth. It bespeaks a wine made in accord with classical cropping rates for quality international red wines, a characteristic shown here only by this French wine, the Chilean, Stonyridge and The Antipodean. Tasters were asked to try and focus on this key aspect of assessing wine quality, since we do not think about it enough in New Zealand. In flavour you would think this is a merlot-based wine, from the lack of berry aromatics. It is very much a sound cru bourgeois from a hotter year, lacking the excitement of flavour that a slightly cooler more aromatic year can bring. The wine is fully mature, but as a result of its fruit weight, will not fade away in any hurry. No votes for first place, but two for second favourite. Four tasters thought the wine Bordeaux. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, below midway in depth, lighter than the Vidal straight Cabernet. Bouquet is likewise softer, ‘sweeter’ and smoother than that wine, but also less ripe, less aromatic and exciting. Cassis and dark plum notes meld with clean oak, but like the Cabernet, the oak dimension is not as cedary / subtle as the Stonyridge. Palate still shows almost a surprising hint of berry freshness, cassis and red plums almost, but there is not quite the concentration of the straight Cabernet, and the acid is higher. This accords with winemaker Kate Radburnd's recollection that the merlot was cropped at a higher rate than the cabernet. This is another wine that is now fully developed: as the fruit fades the oak is going to become noticeably hessian in smell and flavour, detracting a little. And the acid will be more noticeable. One person rated the Vidal Cabernet / Merlot their favourite wine of the 12, and four their second favourite. The 2002 write-up also mentions oak noticeable, the wine then being thought ‘fully mature, but no hurry’, 17. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, older and lighter in appearance than the bordeaux, below midway in depth. This wine smells closer to the bordeaux in style, for two reasons. It is one of the richer wines, Chile observing classical cropping rates, unlike New Zealand particularly in the 1980s, and its bouquet rests more on the volume of maturing berry, rather than new oak. You gain the impression there is quite a chestnutty component to the cooperage here, most of it older. As with other Chilean reds of the era, but here conspicuously less than some, you wonder if some of the cooperage is non-oak. Palate is ripe, rich, and of good texture, yet there is a firmness hiding in there too, which contrasts with the French wine, and points to the high cabernet. Interesting wine, which people liked, one first place and three second. Four tasters astutely thought it straight cabernet sauvignon, and three thought it bordeaux. Two zeroed in on Chile. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, just above midway in depth. Bouquet is related to the Vidal Cabernet / Merlot Reserve, but clearly a little more edgy, that hint of currant leaves from cooler climate cabernet sauvignon, with similar hessian oak. Palate likewise is more aromatic, the aromatics coming from the cassisy cabernet component, but there is also noticeably higher acid than the Hawkes Bay wine. It thus has more flavour, but less ripeness, in mouth. Some tasters thought therefore this was a straight cabernet wine, five people, more than any other wine. There were no votes for first place, two for second, and three for least. Four thought it might be the Chilean wine. In 2002 there was also the comment of ‘high cabernet precisely’, but that bottle was thought to be drying already, 17. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, the second deepest colour. Bouquet is quite voluminous, and shares something with The Antipodean, a hint of methoxypyrazine. But whereas The Antipodean gets away with it, due to the quality of the cooperage, this Auckland-district cabernet now has a more apparent raw blackcurrant note to it, which is reinforced by the oak. Compared with its triumphs as a young wine, this is presumably due to the ripe ‘fruity’ berry notes of the cassis aroma fading with the years, allowing the more pungent side of blackcurrant complexity, the methoxypyrazines, to show. Interesting. Palate is still intensely aromatic, and with surprisingly fair body, so the total fruit impression in mouth is quite good … until you realise the acid is too high. Comparison with the harmonious Goldwater is informative, on that point. All these things said, however, tasters liked this flavoursome wine more than I did, three first places, four second places, and two correctly surmising it is 100% cabernet sauvignon. This is a wine with a critical story to tell, in the evolution of New Zealand high-cabernet wines, but the wine is fading now. As the volume of berry retreats, the acid will become more noticeable. My 1989 comments on the quality of red grapes from the Lambie vineyard were misinformed. 1987 was simply exceptional in the Auckland district. In 2002 the bottle on the night seemed much too oaky. The comments then reinforce the thought that this 2021 set of 1987s opened unusually well. Score then 16.5. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, the third to lightest wine. Bouquet has a pleasing aromatic harmony to it, reminiscent of the quality the Goldwater wine shows, but the wine not quite so ripe. Cassisy notes from the cabernet dominate. Flavour however is immediately a contrast, the wine showing some cassis and cedary oak, but lacking ripe fruit flavours alongside the Goldwater, and acid clearly greater again than the Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon. In the sense that this wine points to the New Zealand Cabernet / Merlot winestyle in climatic conditions less warm than now, it was set as the ‘sighter’ wine in first place, but it did not fill that role ideally, due to the acid level on virgin tongues. No votes for first or second place, three least votes. My 1989 review does not give a good lead to this wine’s future achievements. In 2002 I commented: ‘none of these later ‘80s Te Matas compare with the 1982 and 1983, score 16’. GK 06/21
Ruby and garnet, the second lightest wine, lighter than Awatea. Bouquet on this wine has long had a distinctive carbolic / phenolic note to it, which is both characteristic, and, as the fruit fades, is becoming more noticeable. Behind that is light clean cassisy berry, and hessian oak. Palate shows less ripeness again than Awatea, the curranty berry having quite a stalky edge, smoothed over a little by cedary oak, and less body also than Awatea. It is clearly an under-ripened / over-cropped wine. As the berry fades, the acid is becoming ever more noticeable. 1987 Coleraine needs to be finished up, with suitable food. No first-place votes, one second favourite, three least votes. Interesting to note that not long after the 1987s, Coleraine ceased to be a single-vineyard wine, instead from 1989 being made from the best fruit available to the winemaker. At the same time, the disparity in price between Coleraine and Awatea started to grow. My 2002 report speculated on the ‘medicinal’ note, and marked the wine more severely, 14.5. GK 06/21
Light ruby and garnet, not an appropriate cabernet / merlot colour, by far the lightest wine. Bouquet is clean, fragrant but in a leafy / stalky way rather than ripe berries, with cedary oak. The wine smells chaptalised. Palate is thin, lacking ripe or dark berry flavours entirely, being instead leafy browning red-currants fading now, and acid. The impression of chaptalising returns on the aftertaste. My original review hints at a lack of ripeness, but not to the extent now revealed. No favourable votes, three least places, but still a perfectly wholesome wine in its style, to be finished up with pizza. GK 06/21
1986 Matua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Dartmoor-Smith vineyard, western Hawkes Bay
No info available, perhaps a little fruit from Auckland, perhaps 15 months in French barriques; www.matua.co.nz
1987 Matua Valley Merlot, Dartmoor-Smith vineyard, western Hawkes Bay
No info available; www.matua.co.nz
1986 Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile
400mm annual rainfall, likely French and US oak; www.santarita.com
1988 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia.
Vines planted from 1960s. First produced 1982. 15 – 26 months (depending on vintage) in new (now c.30%, probably more then) and one-year old French oak hogsheads more than barriques. No previous vintages on website; www.wynns.com.au