Thornberry Merlot 2007

80 points (with potential to get better, or worse)

Hawkes Bay, NZ. 14%

How’s this for different reviews (see below), the first comes from Geoff Kelly, the 2nd I found online from someone who like me took Geoff Kelly’s advice. Personally I had a similar experience. I bought a case given his review and the low price – then when I tried it I was surprised that it was such a dense charmless wine. Now that it is 5 years old it has softened a bit but it is still without charm or character.

Geoff Kelly wrote:

2007 Thornbury Merlot Hawke’s Bay 18.5+ (*****)
Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay,New Zealand:14%;$20 screwcap; hand-harvested Me 89%, CS 9, Ma 2; extended 4 weeks cuvaison; 16 months in French and American oak 30% new; a Villa Maria group label
Ruby, carmine and velvet, a little denser than 2007 Coleraine. Bouquet is remarkably close in style and achievement to Coleraine, but a little softer,less aromatic and cassisy, more floral and smooth. These characters fit in with the Thornbury being merlot almost entirely, unlike the cabernet-imbued Coleraine. Palate has the same velvety quality of perfectly ripe fruit harvested at a grand cru cropping rate, and raised in good oak. The American component does not stand out, the oak may not be quite so exquisitely (potentially) cedary as the Coleraine,but this is wonderful wine at a sensational price. My understanding is the Thornbury label is (loosely speaking) a winemaker’s play-label within the Villa Maria group,to try and achieve something remarkable. They have succeeded superbly here. Cellar 5 – 15 + years. EXTRAORDINARY VALUE GK 03/09

Anonymous wrote:

Tasted by toddr on 4/24/2009 & rated 88 points: Interest wine. Geoff Kelly raves about it, but the overwhelming impression is acid, leaning to tartness/sourness. Wonderful concentration, lovely dense nose of fruit, florals, pepper. Slightly lifted. Palate is concentrated claret, more cab sav than cepage would suggest. after 5 days progressive sampling and chilling it is opening up, but good points aside, practically undrinkable as a pop’n’pour.If GK is right this wine will soften out yet maintain its freshness and be unbelievably good in 10 to 15yrs. If he’s wrong the fruit and tannins will disappear and leave a bottle of acid. I’m tempted to get a case just for my own education rather than enjoyment – I can’t see it coming together, personally (417 views)




Stella Bella Shiraz 2007

90 points

Margaret River, WA. 14%

This has that intense varietal character that marks Margaret River Cabernet and Chardonnay. Clear as a bell Shiraz without any of the super ripe characters of Barossa or the floral characters of cool areas. A relaxed loose knit style, potentially a wine of great charm. Certainly very high on the drinkability stakes, restaurants should be clamouring to get this on their list.


Bernard Baudry Chinon “la croix boissee” 2005

90+ points

Chinon, Loire, France. 14%

Loire reds have long been dismissed as light Summer picnic wines. Indeed Cabernet Franc has this reputation in general even though some very substantial long-lived Bordeaux feature Cabernet Franc as a substantial part of their blend.

I suspect that the Loire has been producing serious reds for some while but I first came across a 2005 in France when they had just been released. Densely coloured, with tonnes of tannin and acid, with ripe red fruits incredibly vinous. Headache inducing.

This Baudry wine was obviously like this too. Now at 7 years old it has calmed down, a little. I’m sure this will last to 20 years old the question is whether it will shake off the friskiness of its acidity and develop complexity and depth. It certainly has tonnes going for it.

I once thought that it was best left deep in the cellar until 12+ years old. Now I’m hedging my bets and removing 6 for drinking over the next 3 or so years.

Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE: Sept 2012 – At last this is starting to show some development, though the acids are still prominent.  I wonder if this will ever develop the complexity of old Bordeaux, at this point in time I have strong doubts.


Chateau Potensac 2000 and 2005

90 points

Medoc, Bordeaux.  13.5%

Firm, somewhat minerally claret.  This is Potensac in two very good vintages.  Good food wine.

Very similar wines, which is not surprising.  The extra 5 years has softened the 2000 and toned down the smidge of new oak.  Suggests to me that Potensac isn’t built for aging, certainly it holds itself together comfortably but doesn’t gain anything much from cellaring.  The winemakers didn’t intend this wine to evolve in bottle much.

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 1998

90 points

Coonawarra, South Australia.  14%

Interesting contrast to the Penfolds Kalimna 1998.  Both clearly from the same stable with Penfolds density of fruit, heavy oak and added acid – not over-blown but tight, built for age.  The Kalimna is warmer, with more sweetness – showing Barossa fruit and American oak.  The Bin 128 is more savoury, French oaked.  All to be expected I suppose, but that overriding family similarity is more than I expected.

Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon 2009

88+ points

Morgon, Beaujolais. 13%

I don’t like young reds. This is just starting to shed its youthful freshness and turn into something worth drinking. I think it will become something quite fine. It’s very clean, poised, with precise ripe fruit just peaking through the veil of youthful acidity.

There is a hint of real character emerging. Gamay and terrior.


Saintayme 2005

82 points

St Emillion Grand Cru. 14%

Reeks of carpentry. Not sweet oak but raw. Plus green olives. Palate is the same, dominated by hard savoury green olives. Finish is mouth puckeringly tannic, raspy.

Will this ever come right? Or will this remain over-extracted devoid of lively sweet fruit?

2nd wine of L’Eglise Clinet


Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2009

91 points

Margaret River, Western Australian. 13%

Modern vibrant Chardonnay. In fact almost the poster child for what Australian Chardonnay has become (in the $30+ bracket).

Tasted alongside Ashton Hills this is warmer with more overt oak but I don’t want to give the impression that this isn’t a fine wine. It is. It’s just less tightly wound without the depths that should emerge in the Ashton Hills with a little more age.

Enjoy over 2012-13.

Ashton Hills Chardonnay 2009

91+ points

Adelaide Hills, South Australia. 13.5%

This is a very very good wine, potentially excellent. Best cellared for another year. Cool climate, in a coiled powerful style.

Unusually for wine labels this has something clear meaningful (to non wine geeks) and worth reading. See photo.

Unfortunately this is the 2nd to last vintage of this wine. The vines have been grafted over to Pinot Noir – such a shame.


Ashton Hills Sparkling Red 1998

91 points

Clare Valley, South Australia. 13%

This is wine from the Wendouree vineyard revitalised by secondary fermentation. Stephen George, Ashton Hills winemaker is consultant at the iconic Wendouree.

I’ve always thought this sparkling shiraz was very unusual, much drier and less exuberant than others. I was recently told at cellar door that it isn’t shiraz, but a Cab/shiraz/malbec blend (if I recall correctly). It tastes very much like a delightfully old-fashioned Aussie red from the days when 13% was a big red. Dry, slightly leathery. Savoury yet charming still.

A style that some drinkers today may sadly find quite under-stated, and difficult to understand.

Enjoy now.