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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.

2000 VINTAGE BORDEAUX CRU BOURGEOIS AVAILABLE IN NEW ZEALAND


As excitement grows about the 2005 Bordeaux vintage currently being released en primeur,  it is intriguing to see the bordeaux vintage 2000 being held up as the one to beat.  Until now,  2000 has been rated as the best / most consistent vintage across all districts since at least 1961.  Individual years might have been fractionally better in a given district (for example 1990),  but on Robert Parker’s latest vintage chart,  for 2000 ALL red wine districts score from 94 – 97,  only Margaux and Pomerol being below 96.  This is pretty hard to ignore.  Some may feel that this rather dismisses 1990 and 1982,  but it cannot be denied that both of those vintages all too frequently contain an element of sur-maturite or even roasted character.  One reason for the high rating of those two vintages was the awakening interest of the American consumer in Bordeaux,  for (put simply) there is a tendency for American commentators to like over-ripe wines.  For those of a more European palate persuasion,  the hope is that vintage 2000 and now 2005 will reveal a higher percentage of wines with perfect phenolic and flavour ripeness,  but without any roasted undertones.  That would make them ‘classical’ bordeaux.  

The tasting group I convene in Wellington has looked at 4 batches of good-value 2000s so far (and elsewhere two batches of classed growths),  each time finding more to like.  With the surfeit of 2001s and 2002s in the market,  I had assumed few 2000s were left.  But lately we have had that indefatigable sleuth of fine and good-value imported wine from Auckland,  Paul Mitchell / The Wine Importer,  having rustled out yet another selection of good-value / minor 2000 Bordeaux.  Checking them seemed desirable,  for they can so closely approach merlot / cabernet blends from New Zealand.  For both Bordeaux and New Zealand,  the great challenge in the affordable price bracket of cabernet / merlot (and the reverse) blends is to produce harmonious wines with full flavour ripeness,  and full physiological maturity of the phenolics and tannins.  The merest trace of green can sometimes be acceptable if it can be classed as nearly floral,  or leafy – this is not infrequently seen even in labels as distinguished as second-growth Pichon Lalande,  or the prominent St Emilion Ch Figeac.  But the plain fact of the matter is,  that even for them,  wines ripened to the magical point of full cassis berry bloom,  without leafy florals,  are rated more highly – as the 2005 reports for these two chateaux suggest.  In New Zealand,  even in our premier cabernet / merlot Hawkes Bay district,  all too often the reds have contained green edges going beyond slight leafyness to frankly stalky,  or even green proper.  

Another rationale for these tastings of second tier Bordeaux is they provide a happy hunting ground for good-value wines,  affordable for casual drinking,  and with sufficient age to be pleasant drinking.  In contrast,  so many New Zealand wineries impose much younger  wines upon us,  even including raw and unpalatable 2005 vintage claret-styled reds.  But even when selecting from older Bordeaux,  the wines have to be ripe to be worth cellaring.  My experience with several good-value minor chateaux of the 1982 and 1966 vintages is that physiologically ripe minor wines can keep astonishingly well,  and be delicious,  fragrant,  ever-so-food-friendly light wines,  even 20 or so years later.  In those days,  not only was the fruit in minor Bordeaux orders of magnitude riper than New Zealand’s attempts at the claret style,  but fruit concentration and dry extract were likewise much higher,  and the oak was lower.  All of these factors optimise them both for cellaring,  and with food.  Today however,  the gap is narrowing fast,  and our very best ‘bordeaux blends’ from the 2000,  2002,  and 2004 vintages display the best features (including ripeness,  and now concentration) of quality crus bourgeois or even classed growths.  This is particularly the case with the Hawkes Bay blends.  But for both Bordeaux and Hawkes Bay,  each wine must be assessed rigorously each vintage,  for the tinge of green is hard to escape in both marginal climates.  

Thus we approached these cheaper wines from the vintage 2000 with some excitement,  for the pricing on most of them is comparable with middle ranking reds from Hawkes Bay.  For a New Zealand yardstick to spice the tasting,  I put in one of the few cabernet franc / merlot wines from New Zealand,  since on the face of it this wine better matched the cepages from mostly lesser-known appellations we were presented with.  This didn’t work out too well on the day,  and a fairer New Zealand ‘state of the art’  and value-for-money indication would have been achieved with a more mainstream second-tier wine such as Villa Maria’s Merlot / Cabernet Cellar Selection 2000.  

One of the Bordeaux included is a re-supply of a wine (de Courteillac) I have previously rated as of classed growth quality,  and it costs $25.  I first tasted this wine 1 Nov. 2002,  and it has been consistent twice since.  It was included again to cross-reference the whole exercise,  and blind,  it scooped the pool.  That such a great-value and quality wine 6 years old can still be available in the European market-place shows how hard it will be for us to export Bordeaux-styled reds to Europe,  particularly when we are offering raw young wines.  With one or two noble exceptions emerging,  for example Trinity Hill on occasion,  there is as yet in our wine market virtually no appreciation of the fact that red wines require maturing before release,  to be pleasant.  Until our winemakers accept responsibility for holding red wines in cellar until such time as they offer at least a semblance of youthful drinking pleasure at the point of release,  there will always be a place for imports from more mature wine societies – as these 2000 vintage Bordeaux currently for sale display.

CABERNET / MERLOT & RELATED BLENDS

2000  Clos Sainte Anne
2000  Domaine de Courteillac
2000  Harrier Rise [ Cabernet Franc / Merlot ] Monza
2000  Ch de l’Hospital
2000  Ch Labarthe
2000  Ch Loudenne
  2000  Ch Mazeris-Bellevue
2000  Ch Pontoise Cabarrus
2000  Ch Rose d’Orion
2000  Ch Saint-Paul
2000  Vieux Chateau Landon
2000  Ch Vieux Robin

2000  Domaine de Courteillac   17 ½ +  ()
Bordeaux Superieur,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $25   [ cork;  Me 63%,  CS 23,  CF 14;  Parker 139:  A fine offering ... sweet cassis fruit, straightforward flavors, and good purity, ripeness, and balance ... ( but sums it up as past maturity )  87 ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the two deepest.  This wine has been reported on recently (8/05).  It was included in this tasting as a reference point and known quantity,  the same tasting group having previously assessed it in 2002,  when the first batches of 2000 Bordeaux became available.  On this occasion it showed as the richest wine in the bracket,  with a ripe raisiny fruit quality hinting at some of the Penfold's reds (e.g. Bin 407),  but nowhere near so oaky,  a little more rustic,  and certainly Bordeaux.  Palate is rich,  dry,  a fine example of slightly old-fashioned bordeaux rouge,  well up the cru bourgeois pecking order,  matching some minor classed growths.  Cellaring 20 years as previously suggested is probably optimistic,  but it should be good for many more years than Parker advocates – say 5 – 15.  GK 04/06

2000  Ch Loudenne   17 ½  ()
Saint-Yzans,  Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $33.50   [ cork;  Me 55%,  CS 40, CF 4,  PV 1;  planting density 6500 vines / ha;  mechanical harvest + hand-sorting table;  3 weeks cuvaison in s/s or epoxy-lined cement;  MLF in barrel,  and 16 months barrel-ageing with 25 – 30% new oak;  Michel Rolland consultant since 2000 vintage;  the wine has traditionally been light and inconsequential,  so it will be fun to see if the modern-style Rolland has changed things;  www.lafragette.com/chateau-loudenne/medoc.asp ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the deeper.  One sniff and this is a totally different wine from the pinched little Medoc it was in the 60s and 70s.  Bouquet is now first and foremost chocolatey / charry oak in the modern artefact style,  below which is attractive cherry and plum fruit.  This mix of smells is a bit like Black Forest gateau – a far cry from classical claret,  but also pretty attractive.  Palate is rich,  but the flavour is more austere than the bouquet promises,  very much cabernet-dominant at this stage,  quite tannic.  Needs time to lose tannin,  and soften.  Good wine in a totally modern / international presentation.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/06

2000  Clos Sainte Anne   17 +  ()
Entre Deux Mers,  Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $30   [ cork;  Me 80%, CS 20;  owned Francis Courselle,  ex Prof. Oenology @ Bordeaux Uni. ]
Ruby and velvet,  about halfway in the depth of colour for the set.  Bouquet is beautifully poised modern / compromise bordeaux,  hints of violets florals on dark plummy fruit,  all beautifully ripe and fragrant.  Palate is silky and light,  maybe not as rich as the bouquet promises,  but beautifully balanced,  with the oak showing cedary potential – classic young Medoc.  Initial impressions are this wine is the most elegant of the lot,  but it is lighter and finishes a little acid.  Hence two more robust wines have moved ahead of it.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 04/06

2000  Ch de l’Hospital   17 +  ()
Graves,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $30   [ cork;  Me 85%,  CS 15;  hand-picked,  sorted,  cuvaison 15 – 21 days,  12 months in French oak,  35% new;  this is the first wine,  is a second wine;  silver medal @ 2002 Challenge International du Vin,  Blaye-Bourg;  Swiss owner as for Loudenne (Domaines Lafragette);  www.lafragette.com/uk/chateau-hospital/graves-rouge.asp ]
Ruby,  a little garnet,  the second lightest.  Bouquet is tantalising on this wine,  with a soft richness which is almost burgundian to the first sniff.  There are mellow berry and plum qualities merging into cedary oak.  Palate is somewhat less,  faintly leathery,  ageing sooner than expected,  but showing ripe berry to the finish.  This might not age so well,  cellar 5 – 8 years,  but is lovely soft drinking even now.  GK 04/06

2000  Ch Saint-Paul   17  ()
Saint-Seurin,  Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $30   [ cork;  CS 55%,  CF 40,  Me 5;  vineyards mostly in St Estephe;  only available in 375 ml @ $15 ]
Ruby and velvet,  above halfway in depth.  In some ways this is the most distinctive wine in the set,  smelling for all the world as if some syrah had been blended-in – there  is a clear black peppercorn edge,  on cassis and plummy fruit.  Palate is firm,  quite rich in an austerely flavoured cassis style with a little new oak,  like a slightly stalky version of the Sainte Anne.  It is both classical Medoc,  yet with a beautiful lingering skins-rich aftertaste hinting at the northern Rhone,  as well.  Needs five years to soften,  and will cellar 5 – 15 years.  A tricky wine for options games.  GK 04/06

2000  Ch Rose d’Orion   16 ½ +  ()
Montagne Saint-Emilion,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $25   [ cork;  Me 70%,  CF 30;  older oak;  the second wine of Ch Grand Barail;  gold medal @ 2002 Concours General Agricole,  Paris ]
Ruby and velvet,  the deepest of the set,  and older in hue than some.  Bouquet is attractive,  rich,  mellow,  obviously high merlot,  with an interplay of plums,  best prunes, dark leaf tobacco and cedar – classic claret.  Palate is fairly rich,  more rustic than initially supposed,  just a hint of stalks alongside the de Courteillac.  This wine is less suited to high-tech tasters – a bit too bretty,  but its pretty delicious for claret drinkers.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 04/06

2000  Ch Labarthe   16 ½  ()
Sainte-Terre,  Bordeaux Superieur,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $25   [ cork;  CF 40%,  Me 35, CS 25;  matured in barrels 25% new ]
Ruby and some garnet,  just below midway in depth.  Bouquet is absolutely the smell of clean straightforward claret,  fragrant,  no variety dominant,  hints of florals,  cassis and plums,  all light and pleasing.  Palate is a little less,  showing the leafiness of cabernet franc,  but still attractively balanced to light and older but clean oak.  Rumpole would have been pleased with this,  and it will cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 04/06

2000  Vieux Chateau Landon   16  ()
Begadan,  Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $30   [ cork;  CS 70%,  Me 25,  Ma 5;  one third new oak;  ‘96 favourably reviewed by Parker @ 88;  www.vieux-chateau-landon.com ]
Ruby,  right in the middle for depth.  Initially opened,  this one is slightly reductive.  All it needs is a splashy decanting from jug to jug a couple of times.  It then opens to a slightly leafy cassis-rich wine,  clearly reflecting its high cabernet cepage.  Palate is the same,  quite rich cassisy and aromatic berry,  clean oak,  nicely balanced as a lighter claret.  Will cellar for 5 – 10 years.  GK 04/06

2000  Ch Pontoise Cabarrus   15 ½  ()
St Seurin,  Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $30   [ cork;  CS 55%,  Me 35, CF and odds 10;  machine-harvested,  hand-sorted;  cuvaison 21 days;  all the wine in oak,  each parcel spending 3 months in new oak;  this is the first wine,  a second wine is a good sign;  www.chateau-pontoise-cabarrus.com ]
Ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is representative petit bordeaux,  lightly fragrant,  anonymous mixed berry,  nothing standing out.  Palate shows more fruit richness and ripeness in a cassisy way than Vieux Robin,  but this is offset by a slight bitter / astringent suggestion in the aftertaste.  This should lose tannin in cellar over 5 – 10 years,  and become pleasant minor / QDR claret.  GK 04/06

2000  Ch Vieux Robin   14 ½ +  ()
Begadan,  Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $25   [ cork;  CS dominant;  Parker 146:  The straightforward 2000 shows plenty of density and solid cherry and cassis fruit intermixed with a bit of smoke, licorice, and earth. It is a medium-bodied wine to drink over the next 5-6 years.  87 ]
Ruby,  in the middle for depth.  Bouquet on this wine illustrates the leafy / stalky side of less-ripe cabernet,  but is otherwise clean and sound.  Palate is quite rich,  cassisy but with a clear green edge,  some new oak as well as older,  all a bit acid.  The green notes make the flavours pinched,  even though there is plenty of berry.  It will cellar for 5 – 10 years,  but with more bouquet than palate.  GK 04/06

2000  Ch Mazeris-Bellevue   14  ()
Canon-Fronsac,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $20   [ cork;  Me 45%,  CS 35, CF 15, Ma 5;  modest reports on other vintages from Parker,  not exceeding 82 ]
Ruby,  below half way.  A familiar bouquet for older tasters,  the smell of shippers' Medoc,  quite fragrant,  but both stalky and slightly skunky,  the smell of very old cooperage.  Palate picks up on both the stalks and the grubbiness of the old oak,  on soft round plummy fruit,  but all leaving a slightly musty flavour in the mouth.  Modest QDR claret,  will keep,  but scarcely worth cellaring.  GK 04/06

2000  Harrier Rise [ Cabernet Franc / Merlot ] Monza   13 ½  ()
Kumeu,  North Auckland,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ cork;  a second wine,  the cepage closer to several of the minor Bordeaux ]
Ruby and garnet,  about the palest.  Bouquet benefits from decanting,  to be in style for the tasting but still modest,  with weedy notes in a vaguely cabernets / merlot but very light wine.  Palate is similar,  wholesome enough and cleaner than the Mazeris,  but half the richness,  all lacking fruit and fading already.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 04/06