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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.

SOME SPARKLING WINES FROM FRANCE AND NEW ZEALAND


In these reviews,  bubbles are taken for granted,  and MLF is assumed unless noted otherwise.  For me,  the quality of bouquet (and taste to follow) is what matters in bubbly.  The closer the wine approaches to the elusive fresh-baked fine baguette character (as captured in Wellington by the bakery le Moulin),  the higher it rates.  Then follows texture and balance,  and substance from fruit without being 'fruity'.  Among current offerings,  the latest lot of nv  Pol Roger Reserve Brut is quite simply superb,  a rare treat.  Locally,  the 2002 Hunters Miru Miru is both clearly in style,  and good value.

These reviews were first published on:  www.regionalwines.co.nz   A few small editiorial improvements have been made along the way.

SPARKLING

   nv  Ayala Brut
   nv  Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut
2001  Cloudy Bay Pelorus
   nv  Deutz Classic Brut
   nv  Drappier Carte Blanche Brut
   nv  Duval-Leroy Fleur du Champagne Brut
   nv  Gosset Grande Reserve Brut
2002  Hunters Miru Miru
2001  Hunters Miru Miru Reserve
   nv  Krug Grande Cuvée Brut
   nv  Lanson Black Label Brut
   nv  Lanvin Cuvée Superieure Brut
   nv  Laurent Perrier Brut
     nv  Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle
   nv  Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial
   nv  Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut
2001  Palliser Estate Methode Traditionelle
   nv  Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut
   nv  Piper-Heidseck Brut
   nv  Pol Roger Reserve Brut
   nv  Louis Roederer Brut Premier
   nv  Roederer Estate Brut
   nv  Taittinger Reserve Brut
   nv  de Venoge Cordon Bleu Brut Select
   nv  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut

nv  Pol Roger Reserve Brut   19 +  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $79   [ cork;  third each PN,  PM,  Ch;  108 000 cases;  www.polroger.co.uk or www.polroger.com ]
Lemonstraw.  This bouquet comes close to champagne perfection,  showing magnificent clean yeast autolysis as complex and enticing as fresh-baked Vogels wholegrain loaf,  on superb fruit.  The whole bouquet is rich,  yet not fruity in any simple sense.  Palate simply extends the bouquet,  glorious,  matching and surpassing many a vintage champagne,  long flavoured,  again rich yet not at all fruity,  beautiful acid balance and brut dosage.  The wholegrain / baguette autolysis lingers long on the superb aftertaste.  This is simply marvellous champagne,  which will cellar for many years.  GK 11/05

nv  Laurent Perrier Brut   18 ½  ()
Tours sur Marne,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $82   [ cork;  Ch 45%,  PN 40,  PM 15;  reserve wines 10 – 20 %;  500 000 cases;  www.laurentperrierus.com ]
More lemon than lemonstraw.  Bouquet on this one is understated relative to the Pol Roger,  firm,  very clean,  combining baguette and wholemeal crust autolysis with cherry fruit and pinot character at the moment.  Flavour is fresh and crisp,  with citric notes in good stonefruit / baguette  flavours,  all slightly tauter than the Pol,  more brut than many,  and delicious.  Cellarworthy.  GK 11/05

nv  Taittinger Reserve Brut   18 ½  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $90   [ cork;  PN & PM 60%,  Ch 40;  335 000 cases;  www.taittinger.com ]
Colour is clearly medium lemon.  The first impression on bouquet is pure and modest,  with subtle baguette autolysis,  on a blanc de blancs style of fruit.  Palate however instantly fills the wine out,  with great richness and much more flavour from the soft pinot meunier.  Flavours hint at strawberries and cream in the best way,  but drier.  This wine seems lower in tannins,  but not at all wishy-washy.  Acid balance,  residual sweetness and aftertaste are fine and elegant.  GK 11/05

nv  Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut   18 ½  ()
Ay,  Champagne,,  France:  12%;  $101   [ cork;  PN 60%,  Ch 25;  PM 15;  5 – 10% of blend reserve wines 5 – 10 years old;  minimum 3 years en tirage;  100 000 cases;  www.champagne-bollinger.fr ]
Colour is full straw,  the second deepest here.  Bouquet is unequivocally in the complex,  developed,  oak-influenced,  pinot noir dominant,  rich Bollinger style,  with almost a hint of rose florals.  Just as some tasters like to hunt for brett in red wines,  only a fault-finder would claim this wine is aldehydic,  rather than gloriously complex.  Nett impression is wholegrain yeast autolysis on peachy and maybe some dried peaches fruit,  plus a hint of marmite.  Flavour is richly mouth-filling,  a very big champagne indeed,  developed relative to the Pol Roger,  not as fresh,  the mushroom component more brown mushrooms than white,  with an intriguing cashew-nutty and savoury finish to the autolysis flavours.  A polar opposite to the Taittinger style,  and more brut maybe,  but the wine is so rich,  it is hard to analyse in mouth.  Bollinger is understood to be a non-MLF wine,  but one could never tell,  from the taste.  It cellars well,  if one likes the style.  GK 11/05

nv  Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut   18 +  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $76   [ cork;  PN 45%,  Ch 30;  PM 25;  some reserve wines in blend;  RS 10 g/L;  625 000 cases;  www.mumm.com or www.adwnz.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet on this bubbly is intriguingly different,  with a buttered toast quality combining the yeast autolysis and MLF component,  on attractive fruit.  Palate adds pale button mushrooms onto the buttered toast,  with very beautiful complex flavours including cherry fruit.  But as always with fine bubbly,  though rich it is not fruity as such.  Aftertaste is slightly more acid and phenolic than some,  but the dosage covers it.  Attractive.  GK 11/05

nv  Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut   18 +  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $87   [ cork;  Ch ‘dominant’,  PN & PM;  some reserve wines in blend;  RS 11.5 g/L;  250 000 cases;  www.adwnz.com ]
More lemon than lemonstraw.  Bouquet is lighter on this one,  showing subtle autolysis,  slightly citric very white fruits,  very pure.  Palate is stunningly pure,  the autolysis expanding to baguette crust of delightful flavour,  the fruit white cherry in style,  the MLF component invisible.  Just so eminently drinkable,  fresh,  delicious.  GK 11/05

nv  Ayala Brut   18  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $73   [ cork;  PN 60%,  Ch 25,  PM 15;  now owned by Bollinger;  50 000 cases;  no wine info on website;  www.champagne-ayala.com ]
Lemon more than straw.  What a change there is in Ayala these days,  the bouquet showing crisp fresh citric fruit and lees-autolysis complexity.  Palate shows little evidence of the MLF component,  instead the citric thought persisting through white cherry and white stonefruits,  with lighter but very pure autolysis complexity.  Mouthfeel and palate weight are so much better than Ayala used to be.  Unfortunately,  the price is also creeping up.  GK 11/05

nv  Deutz Classic Brut   18  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $69   [ cork;  PN 38%,  PM 32,  Ch 30;  40% of blend said to be reserve wines;  75 000 cases;  www.adwnz.com ]
Lemonstraw.  There is a small step down at this point,  from great nv champagnes on this particular showing,  to good ones.  In these the autolysis is not quite so dramatic,  and one can’t so easily contrast in one's mind's eye (palate) the difference between a fine baguette,  and Vogel’s wholegrain.  The autolysis is instead more meshed with a generalised fruit character,  more bready,  or breadcrust if one is lucky.  On palate,  this wine shows good strawberry fruit suggesting plenty of pinot meunier,  and good richness and length.  Interestingly,  the autolysis on the aftertaste is very good.  Not as brut as some.  GK 11/05

nv  Duval-Leroy Fleur du Champagne Brut   17 ½  ()
Vertus,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $50   [ cork;  Ch 75%,  PN 25;  3 years en tirage;  500 000 cases;  www.duval-leroy.com ]
Lemonstraw.  This is one of the wines where the MLF component is obvious.  It is harder to pick it up when one has the wine solo,  but in a field of 24 the slightly buttery note on the white breadcrust autolysis is apparent.  Though chardonnay-dominant,  there are intriguing thoughts of strawberry in the white fruits.  The autolysis component creeps up attractively on the slightly acid finish,  dispelling any worries of softness the bouquet may have induced.  The style is a little broader,  though.  GK 11/05

2002  Hunters Miru Miru   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12%;  $25   [ cork;  Ch 64%, PN 36;  MLF 100%;  c 33 months en tirage;  RS 9.5 g/L;  www.hunters.co.nz ]
Lemon,  one of the lightest colours.  Bouquet is beautifully pure and in-style internationally,  with a seamless quality to the integration of clean lees-autolysis with suggestions of baguette crust,  light cherry fruit,  and invisible MLF.  Palate is not quite as rich as the better champagnes,  but the balance of flavours is excellent,  not fruity,  fresh verging on a little acid,  all leaving attractive autolysis thoughts on the brut aftertaste.  This wine is one of Hunters best methode traditionelles so far,  capturing a little more of the essential (but elusive) Champagne style.  Comparison with the Perrier-Jouet is instructive.  If the 2002 Reserve wine has the autolysis character of this with the body of the 2001 Reserve,  it will be well worth waiting for.  Meanwhile,  the 2002 is very more-ish,  and should soften attractively in cellar.  VALUE  GK 12/05

nv  Lanson Black Label Brut   17 +  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12.5%;  $62   [ cork;  PN 50,  Ch 35; PM 15;  500 000 cases;  no MLF;  www.lansonpf.com ]
Lemonstraw.  This one smells and tastes a little different,  with a freshly stewed-apple quality on the fruit,  reminding slightly of Mosel riesling.  The autolysis is blurred into the fruit here,  more bread crumb than crust,  and total acid is higher than many.  These qualities all match up with the wine being revealed as one of the non-MLF ones.  Fair to comment that this sample is not quite as rich and autolysed as some batches of Lanson in the last couple of years,  and there is a suggestion of dried apples in the apple.  GK 11/05

nv  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut   17  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $85   [ cork;  PN 55%,  Ch 30,  PM 15;  25 – 35% of blend reserve wines up to 9 years old;  830 000 cases;  time-wasting website,  the following direct;  www.veuve-clicquot.com/final_upload/eyla.pdf ]
Like the Taittinger,  colour here is more deep lemon than lemonstraw.  Bouquet has a fleeting odd note to it reminiscent of burnt plastic,  but unless one focuses on it,  it quickly marries away into a rich fruit and autolysis bouquet reminiscent of the Deutz,  not quite fine enough to isolate the components,  but good.  Palate is bigger and fresher than several,  plenty of fruit flavours,  acid  noticeable,  MLF and hints of milk chocolate in the complexity.  A big style (until you taste the Bollinger alongside),  with subtle residual sugar.  This bottle may have been unlucky with its cork.  GK 11/05

nv  Lanvin Cuvée Superieure Brut   17  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $50   [ cork;  PN 50%,  Ch 35,  PM 15;  290 000 cases;  part of Charles de Cazanove;  no website apparently ]
Straw,  one of the deeper.  Bouquet is in a softer broader style here,  the difference between Macon and Puligny-Montrachet,  but there is good fruit,  and clear breadcrust autolysis.  Palate is certainly more broadly flavoured,  with mushrooms on thickly-buttered toast flavours as well as stonefruit,  attractive in its style.  Finish is less crisp and authoritative than the more highly-pointed wines,  with a little more dosage.  This is soft flavoursome champagne,  less suited to extended cellaring.  GK 11/05

2001  Palliser Estate Methode Traditionelle   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $37   [ Ch 54%,  PN 46;  30 months en tirage;  dosage 8 g/L;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Pale lemon,  one of the lightest colours.  Bouquet shows an attractive interaction of light autolysis and breadcrust / nearly baguette characters with very clean fruit smelling as if chardonnay dominant.  It is a little more ‘fruity’ than the French wines.  Palate is firm and crisp,  some autolysis,  but in the lineup with champagnes,  the autolysis is less complex than some,  and a little lighter than the 2002 Miru Miru.  But the flavours that are there are correct and in style,  with subtle dosage.  It is less acid than for example the Roederer,  which makes it attractive.  GK 11/05

nv  Drappier Carte Blanche Brut    17  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $49   [ cork;  PN 90%,  balance PM & Ch;  www.champagne-drappier.com ]
Colour is a standout in the tasting,  being salmon,  very like Lindauer Special Reserve.  And bouquet matches that wine,  with high pinot noir red cherry smells dominating clean and very fresh lees-autolysis,  plus some suggestions of mushrooms.  Palate is a little less than the bouquet promises,  at this stage being very fresh,  crisp and tending phenolic.  Dosage is a little more than most in the tasting.  Exactly like the Lindauer Reserve,  this will benefit greatly from 3 – 5 years in cellar,  and be much more mellow and appealing.  GK 11/05

2001  Hunters Miru Miru Reserve   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $30   [ cork;  PN 62%,  Ch 29%,  PM 9;  MLF 100%;  c 48 months en tirage;  RS 10 g/L;  www.hunters.co.nz ]
Lemon,  a touch of straw alongside the 2002.  Bouquet is softer and richer than the standard 2002 Miru Miru,  with the chardonnay component seemingly more evident,  and the autolysis clean and fragrant,  with hints of baguette crust and even wholegrain crust.  Palate is richer than several of the champagnes,  with some evidence of chardonnay fruitiness letting it down a bit,  but light autolysis persists through to an attractive brut finish.  This should cellar well,  and become more attractive as the fruit fines down.  If palate weight is more important to you than bouquet,  this will score higher than the 2002 Miru Miru.  GK 12/05

nv  de Venoge Cordon Bleu Brut Select    17  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $69   [ cork;  PN 45%,  Ch 30,  PM 25;  90 000 cases;  www.champagnedevenoge.com ]
Straw,  one of the deeper.  As the colour suggests,  this is a more developed kind of champagne,  but rather than the complex yeast autolysis development of the Bollinger,  here it is rather more a broad,  slightly quincey fruit,  plus toast crusts.  Palate is a complex interaction of this developed fruit,  lees-autolysis and MLF,  all going just a bit biscuitty for fresh stock,  but attractive.  Another flavoursome wine,  less suited to cellaring.  GK 11/05

nv  Louis Roederer Brut Premier   16 ½ +  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $78   [ cork;  PN 62%,  Ch 30,  PM 8;  216 000 cases;   no detail on website;  www.champagne-roederer.com ]
Lemon.  An understated and slightly floral bouquet,  with hints of acacia flowers on white breadcrust autolysis,  and also a slight yeastiness which is less noble.  Palate tastes much higher chardonnay than the cepage suggests,  with acid noticeable.  The yeasty component detracts a little,  and though the wine is rich,  it is both sweeter and more acid than some of the others.  Should improve with a little time in cellar,  to marry up more.  GK 11/05

nv  Piper-Heidseck Brut   16 ½  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $67   [ cork;  PN 55%,  PM 30,  Ch 15;  420 000 cases;  website too politically correct to be worth persevering with;  www.piper-heidsieck.com ]
Lemon.  Around this point in the tasting,  the wines drop to a more generic level,  with bouquets more typical of methode champenoise wires generally.  Fruit is in style,  but the autolysis is less defined,  and thoughts of cardboard start to enter one's mind.  This wine has good fruit,  some phenolics,  and a little more acid than most,  so it is sound but a little coarser.  GK 11/05

2001  Cloudy Bay Pelorus   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $42   [ PN 60%,  Ch 40;  part of base wine BF in oak;  9 months LA after primary ferment,  then after assembling,  3 years en tirage;  RS / dosage 7.2 g/L;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Pale lemonstraw.  In a lineup of methode champenoise wines,  this is another that stands to one side.  The bouquet combines an odd quince note with a deep version of yeast autolysis,  perhaps marmite on Vogels wholegrain.  On palate,  the quincey fruit becomes assertive,  and along with noticeable acid and aggressive oak phenolics,  the total wine style is less champagne in style,  and rather more reminiscent of parellada and Spain.  Within these parameters,  the wine has big fruit,  a clearly brut (but oaky) finish,  and lots of flavour,  but it is not one of the successful Pelorus vintages for me.  Those who like Krug,  might like this,  too.  Otherwise,  for wines reflecting the 'thinking of Bollinger' kiwi approach,  the 2000 Huia is well worth trying.  GK 11/05

nv  Krug Grande Cuvée Brut   16 ½  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $292   [ cork;  PN ±50%,  Ch ±30,  PM ±20;  40 000 cases;  BF for primary fermentation,  no MLF;  website in development;  www.champagne-krug.com ]
Lemon,  like the Taittinger.  In the blind bubbly tasting,  bumping into a Krug wine in the line-up is like trying to conceal the average Australian cabernet in an international Bordeaux-style tasting.  And as much as I don't want to smell and taste eucalyptus in red wines,  I don't want methode champenoise wines that smell of acrid new oak,  taste of new oak,  and have an aftertaste of new oak.  So I come into a minority of wine people who believes that Krug suffers from the "the King's new clothes syndrome",  and the intrinsic wine has little to say about the beauty of pinot noir,  pinot meunier and chardonnay,  when sympathetically handled.   As an oak solution in wine,  it is technically sound,  and underneath one can physically detect rich fruit.  But one can't taste it,  apart from acid.  A fashion phenomenon,  methinks,  at the price.  GK 11/05

nv  Roederer Estate Brut   16  ()
Anderson Valley,  California:  12%;  $40   [ cork;  Ch 70%,  PN 30;  s/s fermentation,  no MLF,  oak-aged reserve wines 11 – 15% of blend;  at least two years en tirage;  RS not given;  216 000 cases;  www.roedererestate.net ]
Lemon.  This wine is uncannily like nv Piper-Heidseck,  with the yeast autolysis starting to blur with faint cardboard suggestions,  taking some of the charm out of it.  Palate is quite rich,  tasting of pinot noir,  but sweeter than most in the tasting.  Straightforward bubbly,  but not quite the excitement hoped for,  considering California has had French involvement in its sparkling wines for longer than New Zealand.  Will cellar for several years,  and should look a little better for it.  Worth noting from the cork,  that the wine has already been in final bottle a year or two,  though.  GK 11/05

nv  Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle   15 ½  ()
New Zealand:  12%;  $18   [ Ch 100%;  fruit mostly Gisborne and Marlborough;  LA following the primary ferment,  then 2 years en tirage;  RS not given,  but on the standard Special Reserve is 12 g/L;  www.adwnz.com ]
Pale lemon,  the palest in the tasting.  The ‘is it cardboard or autolysis’ question is to the fore here,  too,  like the Californian Roederer and the Piper-Heidseck.  Beyond that,  the chardonnay-dominant bouquet is reminiscent of the Taittinger,  but the magic is not there.  Palate confirms the blanc de blanc style,  the autolysis improving to bready,  but not quite crusty.  Richness is surprisingly good,  though,  as good as the Palliser,  but it is also markedly sweeter.  Fair to say this batch looks a bit less attractive than some soon after it was released,  as if time en tirage was rushed.  Standard pinot noir-dominant Lindauer Reserve improves dramatically with 3 – 5 years in cellar.  This batch of blanc de blancs does not seem quite so pure as the standard Reserve I cellared four years ago,  so comparable improvement cannot be guaranteed.  It would nonetheless be worth trying a few.  GK 11/05

nv  Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial   14 ½  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $79   [ cork;  PN 50%,  PM 40;  Ch 10;  2 000 000 cases;  website non-functional;  www.moet.com ]
Lemon.  First impressions are the smells of cardboard,  damp sacks,  and the clogged anonymous sulphur-related smells of European white wines of yesteryear.  There is fruit on palate,  but the entrained sulphurs overpower the subtlety of yeast autolysis characters,  so the whole thing tastes plain,  and finishes less brut than most others.  This label was looking up recently,  but this is back to the 80s.  Wholesome enough,  but very straightforward bubbly,  not worth cellaring.  GK 11/05

nv  Gosset Grande Reserve Brut   14  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $73   [ cork;  Ch 46,  PN 38,  PM 16;  12% of blend reserve wines at least 2 years old;  50 000 cases;  www.champagne-gosset.com ]
A totally different colour from the others in the tasting,  orange-flushed straw.  But since the bubble is good,  the fault is presumably generic to the base wine,  not this particular bottle showing a cork problem.  Bouquet is dull,  extremely aldehydic,  on quincey fruit.  There is no freshness,  flowers,  or sunshine at all.  Palate is nearly browning on the quincey note,  showing oxidised base wine,  with nutty (but rancid nutty) suggestions continuing though to the aftertaste.  Only fair to say some tasters liked the style,  but it is a long way from good fresh methode champenoise.  Won’t improve in cellar,  either.  GK 11/05