Craggy Range Sophia 2002 (review)

83 points

Gibblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand. 14%

Merlot & Cabernet Franc blend.

I’ve rated this wine that has been praised by Parker and others rather low. Because I found it very hard to drink, it is very powerful, concentrated, but with harsh yet dullish added acidity. It’s premium wne, a show pony wine, no doubt, yet I expect it will age into a something of a leathery dull wine.

This is Californian wine making comes to New Zealand.

Less confectionery than some of the Villa Maria wines, but in something of the same ilk.

Expensive.

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Domaine Bachelot Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru Les Corbeaux 2003

92 points

Burgundy, France. 13%

Given as a gift to me on the condition it not be cellared. Hence a review of a very young burgundy.

Monolithic wine. Very very concentrated, very tight yet huge hot flavours, but nothing jammy or confectionery like a grenache. Substantial tannin. Undrinkable without food. With food very enjoyable, power without fruity sweetness or high alcohol.

Very impressive, though I think I’d prefer a less hot vintage.

Puriri Hills Reserve 2002 (review)

86 points

From Clevedon, New Zealand.

I bought two bottles of this wine after reading a good review partly because I was born in Ness Valley, Clevedon, New Zealand. There are now a number of wineries there, some of real quality.

This is a Merlot dominant bordeaux blend.

Quite stylish, very nice savoury oak. Not a syrupy alcoholic wine as many top NZ reds from 2002 are. A very impressive early start for this winery, as the critics have said. Elegant fine wine, though lacking in serious backbone and depth. Certainly none of the fruit cake ripeness of a St.Emilion or Pomerol. Good acid, matches well to food, will drink best in a couple of years, not for long term cellaring.

Young vines show.

What really disappoints me about this wine is the pricing. NZ$50 from the winery, and nearby village shops. This is no way to build a brand and gain serious attention. This is MBA pricing (the owner has an MBA). And their other lesser wines are at $32 – even less appealing. Wineries with no track record can’t justify these prices. I disagree with Bob Cambell who argues that this is worth buying while you can, ie suggesting this will soon be an unobtainable superstar wine (and at higher prices still). A safer bet is that this is probably as good a wine as they will ever make. Many well run, well funded wineries make great starts but ultimately it’s the vineyard that decides their potential and most probably it will be modest.

I note that Arahura a nearby neighbour in Ness Valley Clevedon started with some impressive young vine bordeaux blends. 5+ years on they have failed to beat this start.

Palandri Reserve Margaret River Cabernet 2000

87 points

Margaret River, Western Australia.

A bit too oaky on the nose, but very juicy fruity on the nose and palate. It has a minty aftertaste with soft tannins and good lingering flavour. Definitely Cabernet character, but of the riper briary fruit type, rather than the cooler more vegetative style. Probably too expensive to slurp (it was a gift), but we enjoyed slurping!!

Les Servieres 2001 Cinsault

88 points- This wine comes form a single vineyard near Montpellier (Vin de Pays l’Herault). It is from 100 year old Cinsault vines. Cinsault is typically used as a blending variety in Languedoc. It is a high yielding and quite acid grape, but here with obvious low yields, it was a bit like Grenache with a bit more berry on the nose. It had a fruit and yet earthy nose with a smooth palate with no obvious oak. It was probably in old oak barrels. I had no idea what to expect, but was happy to drink the wine with a spicy fish stew- no rough edges and fun to drink. – Larry Lockshin

Bob does Oz

Robert Parker’s annual report on Australia is out for 2005. 852 wines (out of 3000+ tasted !) selected as scoring more than 83 points.

Parker says that old vine Shiraz and Grenache from Barossa, Clare, & McLaren Vale and the fortifieds from Rutherglen are our greatest treasures. And he was pleasantly surprised by the very high quality of our Rieslings.

But Australian critics are likely to be surprised by his restrained enthusiasm for some of our cool climate icons.

In part this is Parker’s taste. He prefers bigger, richer wines (I’m sure he cut his teeth on Californian wines). But his is also an international (ie not Australian) perspective. Warm climate reds are what Australia does best. Barossa shiraz can be truly unique on the world stage. Australians can sometimes undervalue it because there is so much of it available locally. Whereas a cool climate shiraz from say Canberra is a refreshing change and therefore is sometimes overvalued.

To say that Shiraz is the wine that Australia does best, and that Australian Cabernet is comparatively weak or plain poor is relatively uncontroversial to an overseas wine critic, but would shock many Australians.

All in all the Australian wine industry should be pleased with Parker. He gives a lot of praise and effectively does a great deal to promote Australian fine wine. And if he does write “of course, there is plenty of industrial crap that I wasted days tasting through” – we all know he is right.

Chateau Les Grands Marechaux 2003 (review)

Premieres Cotes de Blaye. 14.5%

Previous vintages of this wine from a humble Bordeaux appelation have been impressive, great value. This 2003 is freaky, obviously reflecting the super hot vintage it is more like a Rhone wine than Bordeaux. Or dry port.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen 14.5% alcohol actually listed on a Bordeaux label before.

I’m not willing to give this wine a point score. Too young, too weird (and I have a cold). But my first impression of 2003 is not that favourable.