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

HAWKES BAY BLENDS


In New Zealand,  ‘Hawkes Bay Blend’ is the emerging term for Bordeaux-styled red wines based on merlot and the cabernet-family of grapes,  sometimes with malbec and petit verdot,  and increasingly with a percentage of syrah blended in.  Discreet use of syrah in Hawkes Bay blends offers the potential to make these wines unique in the world,  and does no more than replay common Bordeaux practice in the 1800s.  In a temperate viticultural climate such as Hawkes Bay (or the northern Rhone),  syrah can be very cassisy and cabernet-like.  

Several recent blind tastings have allowed useful comparison of these evolving Hawkes Bay blends with a few recent Bordeaux.  Hawkes Bay Winemakers set the ball rolling with their splendid Hot Red Roadshow on 3rd May 2004,  part of which was a blind evaluation of 12 Hawkes Bay reds with four Bordeaux mixed in.  Subsequently,  some 54 reds were   assembled into a very useful blind tasting.  Later,  Wine Direct presented eight recent Bordeaux in the same 24 hours as the Sacred Hill wines were on display at Regional Wines,  Wellington.  Adding in the 2002 Mills Reef Elspeth Bordeaux blends allowed another blind tasting of 20 very relevant reds.  

The principal conclusion to be drawn yet again is that Hawkes Bay has a climate offering, and matching,  virtually all the subtlety achieved in Bordeaux reds.  This observation was implicit as soon as one delved into one’s case of 1965 Tom McDonald’s McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon 65/3 long ago,  and has been reaffirmed intermittently since,  never more explicitly than by 1982 and 1983 Te Mata Coleraine.  

In its magically appropriate merlot / cabernet climate,  Hawkes Bay has an inestimable advantage over Australia,  where virtually all mainland districts are too hot to achieve the subtlety and floral finesse which characterises fine wine,  as opposed to big wine.  One needs to look no further than the totality of Australian merlots,  to confirm the truth of this assertion.  

For Hawkes Bay to reach the ultimate complexity Bordeaux has achieved in its best wines, on its finest sites,  will however require a knowledge of site and circumstance which only long experience,  plus real vine age,  can bring.  These imponderables (including the human dimension) make up much of the appeal (and nonsense) currently embraced in the trendy catch-all concept of ‘the importance of terroir’.  Systematic research and evaluation will be a better guide.

If a general comment were to be made about our merlot / cabernet blends,  in New Zealand both oak and alcohol are trending higher than is ideal to achieve absolute complexity and finesse in such wines,  when measured against the great cabernet / merlot and related winestyles of the world.  Bordeaux remains the benchmark,  but Italy and California now provide serious competition. To avoid becoming tiresome,  excesses of these components have not been commented on for every offending wine,  but a glance at the given alcohols, which are usually lower than the true alcohols,  should suggest the real picture.  Wine ultimately must work with food,  and oak quite simply doesn’t.  In the new world,  the latterday public predilection for oak is almost the key issue in wine,  closely followed by increasing alcohols.  Some schools of wine-writing unfortunately feed these trends.  Winemakers are ill-advised to pander to popular (including judging) taste in this matter,  particularly while Europe remains a key export market for New Zealand wine.

Where wines have already been reported on elsewhere in these Reviews,  the impressions created in these tastings are presented anew,  irrespective of whether the remarks (or scores) concur.  We constantly need to remember the wise counsel of that late doyen of British winewriters,  Harry Waugh,  that the score given for any wine has meaning only in the context of the wines it is tasted with.  The latterday notion that wines can consistently be scored to unique and repeatable absolute numbers is a vanity.  Quite apart from the human element,  most fine wines are sealed with the variable medium cork,  and each bottle becomes an individual statement.  As André Simon so tellingly said decades ago,  there are no great wines,  only great bottles.  Anybody who has opened,  decanted and critically tasted half a dozen mature samples of the same fine wine,  for a public tasting maybe,  knows this to be true.   GK 5/04

[ These notes were first published in two parts in May and June 2004,  on Regional Wines & Spirits' website ]


CABERNET / MERLOT & RELATED BLENDS

2000  Ch l’Abbaye de St Ferme
2000  Alpha Domus Aviator  
2000  Alpha Domus The Navigator
2000  Ch Boyd Cantenac
2002  Clearview Estate Enigma
2001  Craggy Range Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot  Quarry
2002  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels
2002  Esk Valley Merlot Black Label
2002  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2002  Esk Valley The Terraces
2000  Ch Grande Puy Lacoste
2002  Gunn Estate Merlot / Cabernet / Malbec Woolshed
2000  Ch Lascombes
1999  Ch. Magdelaine
2001  Ch Margaux
2002  Mills Reef Cabernet Franc Elspeth
2002  Mills Reef Elspeth One
2002  Mills Reef Malbec Elspeth
2002  Mills Reef Merlot Block 3 Elspeth
2002  Mills Reef Merlot Block 4 Elspeth
2002  Mills Reef Merlot / Cabernet Elspeth
2002  Mission Merlot Reserve
2000  Ch Mondot
2000  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Alwyn Reserve
  2002  Ngatarawa Merlot Glazebrook
2002  Pask Declaration Reserve
2002  Pask Merlot Reserve
2000  Ch Potensac
2000  Ch Rauzan-Gassies
2000  Reserve de la Comtesse
2002  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman
2002  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone
2002  Sacred Hill Merlot / Malbec Basket Press
2000  Ch Sainte Colombe
2000  Ch Senejac
2002  Sileni Estate Merlot The Triangle
2002  Sileni Merlot / Cabernet Franc Cellar Selection
2000  Te Awa Farm Boundary
2000  Te Awa Farm Cabernet Sauvignon Zone 10
2002  Te Mata Cabernet / Merlot Awatea
2002  Te Mata Merlot / Cabernet Coleraine
2001  Trinity Hill Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot
2002  Trinity Hill Merlot Gimblett Road
2000  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2000  Vidal Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2002  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Selection
2000  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2002  Villa Maria Merlot Reserve
     

2002  Villa Maria Merlot Reserve   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $42   [ screwcap;  c. 18 months in French oak;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A rich ripe smooth bouquet of deeply plummy fruit and a hint of pennyroyal,  plus milk chocolate and hessian oak,  all smelling delicious.  Palate shows fantastic concentration of darkest plums,  some cassis,  and fragrant oak to a max,  producing a long aromatic aftertaste on which the cassis grows wonderfully.  An intriguing palate profile.  Very cellar-worthy,  10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Me 55%,  Ma 25,  CS 20;  MLF in barrel;  19 months in French oak;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A rich bouquet initially showing richness more than fruit characters,  so ripe is it,  but overall darkly plummy,  with the cassis becoming more apparent with air.  Flavours in mouth are superbly concentrated,  darkest cassis and plums,  the chocolate dark ‘energy’ chocolate compared with the Villa Merlot Reserve.  Nonetheless the oak is not too intrusive,  and there is magnificent length on dry grape skins,  fruit and oak.  Cellar 10 – 20 years,  and probably longer.  GK 05/04

2002  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ Me 92.5%,  CF 5,  Ma 2.5;  MLF in barrel,  20 months French oak;   www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deep.  A vibrant berryrich bouquet of ripest cassis,  darkest plums in the sun,  suggestions of violets,  all beautifully floral and fragrant.  Flavours are velvety,  wonderful berry and fruit,  oak at this stage in beautiful balance to create  total fragrance and potential cedar,  without being oaky.  This will develop elusive Bordeaux cigarbox complexity,  and has superlative berryfruit,  elegant balance,  and great length.  A lovely subtle wine which many proprietors in either Bordeaux or Hawkes Bay would be proud to own.  A contender for Hawkes  Bay’s greatest bordeaux-styled red in 2002 (though several wines have not yet been shown).  Cellar 10 – 20 years. VALUE  GK 05/04

2001  Craggy Range Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot  Quarry   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ CS 71%,  Me 24,  CF 4,  Ma 1;  cuvaison 28 days;  MLF in barrel,  19 months in French oak,  70% new;  unfiltered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  perhaps the deepest colour in the Bordeaux comparative tasting of 16 wines.  To first sniff this is very Bordeaux,  a complex wine with deep florals,  ripe cassis and rich and plummy fruit,  plus fragrant oak carrying savoury suggestions of trace brett and trace VA.  On palate the deep cassisy berry is great,  made aromatic by new oak which is more at a new world level,  and a slightly fresher acid balance than the '02s.  This will marry up in bottle into a fragrant,  complex,  rich and harmonious wine which will give much pleasure at one level,  and cause endless consternation in blind Hawkes Bay & Bordeaux comparisons,  in another.  Great stuff,  every bit as good as the best '02s,  just a little different in style !  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Pask Declaration Reserve   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $50   [ CS dominant,  Me,  Ma roughly thirds;  partial BF for the CS;  20 months in French and American oak 100% new;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deeper colours.  This is a huge bouquet among the set of 16 wines,  and it is easy to be unduly influenced by the slightly charry American oak showing at this stage.  However fruit richness and the depth of darkest cassis and plummy fruit is super,  and despite the weight there is freshness and fragrance in the berryfruit – qualities which set it apart from so many Australian cabernet blends much influenced by American oak.  The impressions of powerful fruit grow in mouth,  to make this a bold and individualistic statement in its own right.  It is much more cassisy and cabernet-dominant than most of the wines,  well in style,  but hard to confuse with Bordeaux – due not only to the level of oak, but also the slightly buttery (+ve) American oak.  The wine could be refined,  in that area.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ release date August '04;  MLF in barrel,  20 months in French oak;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  minutely darker than the Brokenstone Merlot.  A youthful bouquet which is still slightly closed,  below which are wonderful cassis,  violets and dark plums.  Oak is subtler than (for example) the Esk or Vidal Reserves,  acid balance a little crisper,  and the fruit not quite so rich.  The whole wine is very aromatic,  moreso than Brokenstone,  and should mature into an attractive Medoc-styled bottle.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Mills Reef Elspeth One   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ DFB;  Me dominant,  CF,  Sy,  Ma,  CS;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  an excellent colour.  This is the ripest,  richest,  most restrained and least apparently oaky of the Mills Reef bordeaux-styled blends in 2002.  It shows complex cassis with almost a hint of syrah,  big dark rich bottled plums,  and noticeable oak with subtle VA.  Palate is richly cassisy,  with the fruit weight to carry the slightly aggressive oaking.  This should marry up into an exciting if bold  ‘Hawkes Bay blend’,  but it is much too oaky to be readily compared with Bordeaux or fine Napa,  in blind tastings.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Selection   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ 18 months in oak;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This bouquet simply smells gorgeously plump, with richest,  ripest,  darkest plums plus some subsidiary cassis.  Palate is less oaky and firm than many of the top wines,  that making up for it being perhaps slightly less rich.  It is still wonderfully full-bodied,  redolent of cassisy plums and fragrant oak,  and clearly suggesting Bordeaux in style.  Considering this wine is just over $20 per bottle,  it is a dramatic illustration of just how much progress the New Zealand red wine industry has achieved in the 20 short years since 1982 Te Mata Coleraine.  Cellar 8 – 15 years.  VALUE  GK 05/04

2000  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Alwyn Reserve   18  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ 18 months in oak;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A fragrant but understated bouquet in this tasting,  showing ripe cassis,  mixed red berries and plums in a restrained oak setting,  and looking very Bordeaux-like.  Palate is richer than expected,  very pure,  the cassis deepening beautifully,  the oak continuing restrained.  This is astonishingly Bordeaux-like,  with just a whisper of leafy complexity.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   18  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $42   [ 21 – 28 days cuvaison;  MLF in barrel;  20 months in oak;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a little brighter than the matching Vidal Reserve from the same vintage.  Bouquet is quieter than some,  integrated and harmonious,  cassis and aromatic berry dominant,  the oak beautifully understated.  Palate is taut and very cassisy,  attractively balanced,  great berry,  good length though not the richest,  style winning out over weight.  This will cellar for 10 – 15 years,  and be readily confusable with some classed growths from Bordeaux.  GK 05/04

2000  Alpha Domus Aviator      18  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $60   [ Me,  CS,  CF,  Ma;   21 – 26 days cuvaison;  MLF in barrel,  22 – 24 months in French oak 90% new;  not filtered;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  another deep one.  A huge dark berry bouquet reveals vibrant cassis and berry tussling with fragrant but very prominent oak (as the above info would suggest).  Palate is a more complex take on the cassis concept than other top wines,  ranging from deepest plums to even a faint leafy edge,  adding piquant complexity just as many good Bordeaux show.  Oak is greater than optimal,  but the total flavour package is pretty exciting.  Like the Pask Declaration,  it will be good to see how this wine absorbs the oak,  over the next 10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ Me 85%,  Ma 9,  CS 6;  cuvaison 35 days;  MLF in barrel;  at least 15 months in French oak,  45% new,  un-filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  An intriguing bouquet with a savoury seasoning herbes note in wonderfully dry,  skinsy,  nearly raisiny currants.  Flavours are aromatic on big charry oak built into this rich wine,  the result being oakier than the Esk or Villa Merlot Reserves,  but the saturation of fruit pretty well excuses it (as the score suggests).  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  Cries out for time in cellar (as do most of the New Zealand wines),  to mellow the oak and better complement food.  GK 05/04

2000  Vidal Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve    18  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $42   [ MLF in barrel,  20 months in oak;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Rich dark cassis and blackish aromatic plum fruit is melding with smokey oak on bouquet,  to produce a very fragrant Hawkes Bay blend.  Flavours are plump cassis and complex plummy berry,  aromatic and fragrant in a slightly oaky and new world style,  attractive.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Esk Valley Merlot Black Label   18  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $25   [ 12 months in oak;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  There is a fragrant malbec-like quality in this wine,  through both bouquet and palate.  Fruit richness is good,  oak is a little prominent,  and total winestyle bears some relationship to The Terraces flagship wine.  Considering its price,  it looked very good indeed in the blind tasting.  Cellar 8 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Gunn Estate Merlot / Cabernet / Malbec Woolshed   18  ()
Ohiti Valley,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ Me 66%,  CS 17,  Ma 17;  18 months in French oak ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Beautiful soft berry is dominant on this wine,  with cassis and plums highlighted by fragrant oak,  all in a soft,  forthcoming style reminiscent of some barrel-fermented reds.  Flavour hasn’t quite the depth of the top wines,  but is delightfully berryish and accessible,  almost juicy,  with subtle oak.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Ch Rauzan-Gassies   18  ()
Margaux 2nd Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $80   [ CS 40%,  Me 39,  CF 20,  PV 1;  Jancis Robinson rating 15.5;   Robert  Parker 87 – 89 + ]
Ruby and some velvet.  A sweet ripe brambly and symmetrical bouquet in a classic Bordeaux mould,  no one factor dominating.  Palate is plummy,  rich,  beautifully balanced to oak,  lovely acid balance,  not a greatly complex wine,  but the richest of the Bordeaux in this set.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Mills Reef Malbec Elspeth   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ DFB;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is redolent of the most elegant side of malbec,  showing a mix of cassis,  raspberries,  boysenberries,  and black pepper which hints at syrah,  but the whole is remarkably Bordeaux-like.  Quite aggressive oak including VA takes the shine off it though,  if finesse is a concern.  Palate is richly fruity, lots of plums and oak,  one-dimensional and brash alongside Elspeth One,  but appealing.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Pask Merlot Reserve   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ partial BF in French oak 100% new,  plus 16 months in barrel;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  An harmonious ripe redfruits bouquet,  with soft fragrant oak,  nothing standing out.  Flavour is classic merlot or merlot / cabernet,   dark plums and cassis,  medium weight,  long and subtle,  but the oak increasing.  This will be an attractive food wine,  after 5 – 10 years in cellar.  GK 05/04

2000  Te Awa Farm Cabernet Sauvignon Zone 10   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ 18 months in French oak;  www.teawafarm.co.nz ]
Older ruby again than Alpha Domus Navigator,  noting this is relative to an essentially 2002 field.  A cabernet / merlot in a particular style,  showing a lot of nutmeggy oak and some brett,  all noticeable before any particular varietal quality.  Palate shows potential cedary and tobacco-y complexities,  and more cassisy fruit than the bouquet suggests.  Acid is a little high,  but the richness should cover that.  Complexity on palate is good;  this is a very Bordeaux-like and traditional approach to a cabernet winestyle.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Sacred Hill Merlot / Malbec Basket Press   17 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ Me c. 65%,  Ma 32,  CF;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  more concentrated than the Potensac.  A deep quiet bouquet,  not exactly reductive but benefitting from decanting and air.  Breathed,  reveals deeply cassisy and plummy fruit,  and an elegance of oak handling comparable with Bordeaux,  and confuseable with them too,  when mixed up in a blind tasting with other,  more brash,  new world wines.  Fruit richness is first-rate,  though the wine is a little acid.  This is the kind of concentration we have been promised in the much-hyped Bordeaux 2000s,  but some thus far have failed to deliver.  An attractive if youthful bordeaux-styled Hawkes Bay blend,  which will cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Esk Valley The Terraces   17 ½  ()
Bay View,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.9%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Ma,  Me,  CF;  MLF in new French barrels,  plus 17 – 22 months in oak;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Carmine,  ruby and velvet,  verging on lurid.  Bouquet is distinctive in the set too,  with a perfumed but not totally complex fruit note which is reminiscent of several things such as blueberries or ripest red rhubarb,  and once the labels are revealed turns out to be the distinctive smell of malbec.  Of course !   Palate shows the same dominant berryfruit,  looking a bit simplistic in the company of some of these deeply velvety cassis-dominated wines,  but good richness.  There is also a lactic / youthful note,  and a lot of new oak yet to marry up.  Rich fragrant and highly interesting wine,  but exotic among the more traditional Bordeaux / Hawkes Bay blends.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Ch Lascombes   17 ½  ()
Margaux 2nd Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ CS 55 – 63%,  Me 33 – 40,  PV 3 – 5,  CF;  18 months in 60%  new French oak;  Jancis Robinson rating 16;  Robert  Parker 90 – 91 ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  totally in class with the group of wines.  Initially opened, it is easy to be put off by slight reductiveness,  bottlestink,  and brett, so the first impression is of an old-fashioned wine.  With breathing / decanting however,  deeply plummy fruit and charry oak appear,  followed by a richly cassisy palate integrating the oak marvellously.  Total balance of flavours is closest to the Craggy among the New Zealand wines,  but the Craggy is cleaner,  richer and fractionally softer – a marvellous stylistic comparison.  The Lascombes will cellar 10 – 20 years,  to develop cigarbox complexities.  It will however always need to decanting to show its best.  GK 05/04

2000  Ch Potensac   17 ½  ()
Medoc Cru Bourgeois NW of St Estephe,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $55   [ CS 60%,  Me 25,  CF 15;  same ownership as Leoville Lascases;  Jancis Robinson rating 16;  Robert  Parker 87 – 88 ]
Ruby.  A good volume of bouquet,  in a benchmark Bordeaux style showing clear cassis as befits the 60% cabernet sauvignon,  dark plums,  tobacco and oak.   It is not magically complex,  but what is there is good,  and provides an excellent measuring stick for assessing Hawkes Bay cabernet / merlots.  Palate is richer than expected,  the flavours matching bouquet exactly,  and a concentration rare in cru bourgeois:  this is serious wine.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Te Mata Merlot / Cabernet Coleraine   17 +  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ Me 39%,  CF 36,  CS 25;  French oak;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  An appealing  plummy,  cassisy and lightly oaky bouquet,  with a suggestion of spice on the oak,  and an intriguing hint of pepper on the fruit,  as if there were a smidgeon of syrah.  Palate is richer than Awatea,  very youthful,  a hint of stalks in the red and black fruits,  all beautifully fragrant. This too is close to Bordeaux in style,  if fractionally oakier.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Te Awa Farm Boundary   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ Me dominant,  CF & CS;  18 months in French oak;  www.teawafarm.co.nz ]
Dense older ruby.  This is a difficult wine to report on.  Bouquet is dry and savoury,  reminiscent of the dry skin on over-roasted beef.  Palate shows a lot of fruit richness,  and raisiny cassis and dark plum flavours,  but all flattened by this roast beef and Brettanomyces component.   It is therefore a distinctive style of Bordeaux / Hawkes Bay blend,  which is excellent with many savoury foods and grills.  It could well be scored higher,  but brett at this level will shorten its cellar life,  the wine becoming prematurely dry.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Mills Reef Merlot Block 3 Elspeth   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ DFB;  French oak;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby, some velvet.  First impressions of oak and VA detract from the subtle varietal beauty merlot should show,  particularly alongside Bordeaux (or Sacred Hill Brokenstone).  There is good plummy fruit richness and length,  however,  within the limitations of its oaky show-pony style.  Oakniks will rate this wine more highly.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  but the oak is unlikely to fade away.  GK 05/04

2002  Sileni Estate Merlot The Triangle   17  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ release date August 2004;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Ruby,  lightish.  A lighter wine in this company,  with some redcurrant and red berries aromatics on plummy fruit.  Palate is unusual,  not showing a lot of flavour,  yet with a richness which bespeaks good cellaring potential.  The cedary hints in the oak are attractive too.  The whole wine is very right bank in its styling.  Maybe one to look at again after more time in bottle.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Mills Reef Merlot / Cabernet Elspeth   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ DFB;  Me 60%,  CS 40;  French oak 16 months;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  This is clearly new world cabernet / merlot,  with oak the first impression,  but behind that there are floral notes of violets,  good cassis,  and plums – more red plums than dark.  Palate continues the plummy fruit,  with good length,  but oak and some VA roughens it up a bit.  Should mellow in cellar  5 – 10,  but the oak is a problem.  GK 05/04

2002  Trinity Hill Merlot Gimblett Road   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  30%;  $13.50   [ Me 87%,  CF 13;  16 months in French oak,  75% new;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Good ruby,  light carmine and velvet.  This is a leaner wine on bouquet, but with attractive merlot florals including even violets,  and cassisy and plummy fruit.  Palate shows reasonable fruit weight,  soft plummy flavours with good ripeness,  and restrained oak more in a Bordeaux styling.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Ch l’Abbaye de St Ferme   17  ()
Bordeaux Superieur,  France:  13%;  $18   [ Me dominant,  8 months in oak ]
Ruby,  some velvet.   A rich,  ripe,  berry and fruit-rich bouquet showing total Bordeaux style including cassis,  dark plums,  potential tobacco,  invisible oak.  Palate is exactly the same,  merlot-dominant,  beautifully ripe and balanced,  old but clean oak.  This is as good as some lesser classed growths,  a taste of real claret for the price of many an under-ripe stalky local.  It is clearly riper and more pleasing than the 2000 Reserve de la Comtesse.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  VALUE  GK 05/04

2000  Ch Boyd Cantenac   17  ()
Margaux 3rd Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $75   [ Me 35%,  CS 30,  CF 20,  PV 15;  Robert  Parker 89 ]
Ruby.  Quite a modern bouquet in the blind tasting,  with some charry oak on an understated bouquet which benefits from breathing.  Palate is less ripe than expected,  slightly leafy in a plums and hint of cassis style.  A less vibrant  wine than Potensac,  but a little richer.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Ch Grande Puy Lacoste   17  ()
Pauillac 5th Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ CS 70%,  Me 25,  CF 5;  18 – 22 months in French oak 50% new;  Jancis Robinson rating 17;  Robert Parker 92 – 94 ]
Ruby and velvet,  but lighter in the company.  Among the vibrant new world wines,  this one too opens a little reductive and sulky,  needing decanting.  Breathes to a firm and integrated bouquet where nothing stands out except the Bordeaux style,  darkly plummy with an almost baguette-like lees autolysis lingering.  Palate likewise is not giving much away at this stage,  but fruit richness is good,  richer than the Mondot but less fragrant.  In terms of the much-hyped 2000 vintage in Bordeaux,  the wine is a relative disappointment for this chateau – having cellared it since the 1964 vintage.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2001  Ch Margaux   17  ()
Margaux 1st Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $395   [ CS 75%,  Me 25,  CF 5;  Robert  Parker 91 – 93 ]
Ruby,  among the lightest of the Bordeaux in this tasting.  A soft,  sweetly floral merlot / cabernet bouquet suggesting violets,  tobacco and charry oak are the first impressions,  but it is oh-so-light.  In the blind tasting the wine is so light as to be easily overlooked,  but it is attractively floral and pleasing in mouth,  though nearly leafy.  Once one learns the identity,  careful re-tasting naturally enough follows.  The elegance of the wine is undisputed,  but beauty can only go so far:  this wine really does lack depth of flavour,  though body is fair.  It would undoubtedly be a lovely bottle,  with food.   But,  like the 1999 first-growths,  tasting it is not memorable (which at this price,  it should be),  and it is hard to see the qualities implied in some of the flattering reviews.  Having made similar comments about 2002 Te Mata Coleraine lately,  the comparison is an eye-opener.  It is so hard not to score labels.  Makes me look forward to bumping into them again,  in somebody else's blind tastings.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Ch Mondot   17  ()
Saint Emilion,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ Second wine of Troplong-Mondot;  Me 65 – 80%,  CS 10 – 15,  CF 10,  Ma 1 – 10;  un-filtered;  Michel Rolland consultant ]
Ruby,  the lightest of the set.  This wine stood out for its integration,  harmony and balance, on the one hand,  and its lightness on the other.  Bouquet is lightly violets and mixed redfruits suggesting dominant merlot (in the blind part of the tasting).  Flavours show medium-weight berryfruit shaped by the subtlest oak including some new,  yet scarcely tasteable or smellable,  unless one looks for that component.  It is also faintly leafy,  making an interesting comparison with the Navigator.  Given such restraint and balance,  the whole wine lingers on palate far longer than one would suspect from the weight,  to provide the kind of refreshing yet satisfying claret one can drink with many food types.  A gentle reminder that our new world wines are sometimes tempted into being big and showy for its own sake,  overlooking their need to be companionable with food.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Clearview Estate Enigma   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ Me 54%,  Ma 38,  CF 6,  CS 2;  18 months in oak,  80% new,  90% French;  not filtered;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Ruby.  At first there is quite a perfumed note in the redfruits,  nearly peppermint.  Berryfruit is curranty and aromatic,  quite firm,  tending acid,  a lighter wine with not quite the fruit for the amount of oak.  In style,  but lacking excitement.  Cellar 5 –  8 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $42   [ MLF in barrel;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  An austere bouquet initially,  a reductive note taking the shine off it,  then breathing to understated cassis with some stalky suggestions.  Palate is lean in flavour,  yet there is a good concentration of the cassis component.  The wine is in style,  and will cellar well,  but it demonstrates to perfection why in a temperate Bordeaux-like climate straight cabernet benefits from plumping out with merlot.  The comparison with the high-cabernet Grand Puy Lacoste is instructive,  for the wines share several characters.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Te Mata Cabernet / Merlot Awatea   16 ½  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ CS 37%,  Me 36,  CF 17,  PV 10;  18 months in French oak;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Good ruby, some carmine and velvet.  To first sniff,  this is quite cru bourgeois-like,  with fragrant cassis and redfruits on light,  potentially cedary oak,  all lighter than the ‘big’ wines.  Palate continues the analogy,  medium weight,  fresh cassis and plum,  a little leafy to the edge as in some bordeaux,  well balanced in its lighter style,  but more acid than most 02s.  This will be an attractive food wine,  when mature in 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Mills Reef Merlot Block 4 Elspeth   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ DFB;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  darker than the Block 3.  This wine smells of oak and VA,  to the point of getting varnishy.  Palate shows fair richness,  but like the Block 3 (and moreso),  the beauty of the variety has been lost in the elevage.  The result is a populist wine again in the show-pony style,  rich and soft in the mouth,  but far too oaky (though fragrant from presumably some American oak).  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Alpha Domus The Navigator   16 ½  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ Me 58%,  CS 26,  CF 12,  Ma 4;  MLF in barrel;  18 months in 55% new oak,  70% French,  30 American;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet shows clear cassis and some leafy notes.  Many cru bourgeois are similar.  Palate flavours include  cassis and redcurrant fruits,  all a little stalky and acid.  Even so,  the wine is attractive and fresh,  closest in style to the Mondot,  but leaner due to the more prominent cabernet component.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Reserve de la Comtesse   16 ½  ()
Pauillac,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $60   [ CS 50%,  Me 35,  CF 7,  PV 8;  2nd wine of Ch Pichon-Lalande;  Robert Parker rating 89 ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  A two-edged bouquet,  with fair cassisy berry,  but also noticeable leafy and stalky qualities. Palate shows up the stalks rather more,  to give an austere claret of some richness but insufficient ripeness.  This will cellar for 10 – 15 years,  and become more fragrant but always leafy.  GK 05/04

2000  Ch Senejac   16 ½  ()
Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois south of Margaux,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $45   [ CS 47%, CF 25, Me 23, PV 3,  Ma 2;  Jancis Robinson rating 15;  Robert  Parker 88 – 89 ]
Ruby,  a little darker than Potensac.  A heavier bouquet tending to a new world style,  with toasty oak predominant over anonymous fruit.  Palate is cassisy and plummy,  good acid balance,  but the ‘black’ notes from the oak make the wine a bit heavy-handed and one-dimensional.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Sileni Merlot / Cabernet Franc Cellar Selection   16  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ Me 60%,  CF 32,  Ma 5,  CS 3;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  This wine smells astonishingly like a satellite Saint Emilion or similar merlot-dominant minor bordeaux,  light,  fragrant,  and clearly showing the floral and subtle red currant / cabernet franc component.  Palate continues the red currants and red plums,  with a leafy hint creeping in.  Light wine in this company,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  The ironic thing is,  though wines of this style score modestly  in the comparative line-up and numbers game,  they are actually pleasant drinking,  and sometimes more pleasant with food than their heavier,  oakier,  confreres.  GK 05/04

2001  Trinity Hill Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.2%;  $30   [ CS 66%,  Me 21,  CF 13;  c. 21 days cuvaison;   20 months in barrel,  mostly French,  30% new ]
Ruby,  one of the lighter.  A fragrant lightish bouquet with clear merlot violets and a hint of beeswax,  in leafy red berries.  Palate is light,  fragrant,  slightly stalky and a bit too acid,  but in total style pleasantly cru bourgeois-like,  probably due to the lack of overt new oak.  Attractive food wine, which will cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 05/04

2000  Ch Sainte Colombe   16  ()
Cotes de Castillon,  E of St Emilion,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $40   [ Me 70%,  CF 30;  Jancis Robinson rating 15;  Robert  Parker 87 – 88 ]
Ruby.  A plainish Bordeaux-styled bouquet,  dark plums and a suggestion of raw meat,  not very enticing.  Palate shows better plummy flavours,  old oak,  reasonable richness,  but not the relative elegance ($18 considered) of l’Abbaye.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 05/04

2002  Mills Reef Cabernet Franc Elspeth   15 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ DFB;  French oak;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  This is the oakiest of all the Mills Reef wines, drowning out all varietal qualities on bouquet.  Palate hints at the red currants of cabernet franc,  and is quite rich,  but for such a subtle and fragrant variety,  the level of oak and VA is incongruous,  reducing to clumsiness fruit which could have been elegant.  Reference to the more traditional wines of St Emilion would be helpful.  Scarcely worth cellaring,  unless oak is your thing.  GK 05/04

2002  Ngatarawa Merlot Glazebrook   15  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $25   [ Me 95%,  CS 5;  12 months in one-year-old oak,  66% American;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  A difficult bouquet,  with first impressions more a clinical reaction to some VA and strong oak.  There is cassisy and plummy fruit,  but the wine tastes raw and in an older style of New Zealand reds.  In this company it seems modest.  Should mellow in cellar after several years, but doesn’t seem worthwhile.  GK 05/04

2002  Mission Merlot Reserve   15  ()
Tuki Tuki,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ MLF in barrel,  15 months in French oak,  40% new;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet,  old for age.  Fading cassisy fruit on bouquet,  and a pleasantly mature,  light,  tobacco-y palate,  are more like an 8-year old merlot blend than a 2002.  Enjoyable as such,  but not a cellar wine.  GK 05/04

1999  Ch. Magdelaine   15  ()
Saint Emilion 1er Grand Cru,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ Me 90%,  CF 10;  22 – 24 months in 50% new French oak;  Robert  Parker 86 – 88 ]
Ruby,  the oldest colour and the oldest wine.  Bouquet is reductive to a fault,  though below the grey blanket one can detect a merlot-dominant wine,  softly mushroomy and plummy.  Reductiveness on palate is severe enough to introduce a bitter thread,  in rapidly maturing to prematurely aged plummy but drab fruit.  1999 was a modest year in Saint Emilion.  This wine did not contribute to the tasting at all,  and is not worth cellaring for anybody reasonably perceptive about sulphide,  though it will hold for some years.  GK 05/04