Craggy Range Le Sol shiraz 2007

90+ points

Craggy Range, Hawkes Bay, NZ. 14%

Quite a sophisticated show pony. Well judged expensive oak frames silky cool climate shiraz. It’s good.

I just fear that it seems to lack character. Perhaps with age?

And I find the price a bit disconcerting. This is exciting cool climate shiraz but it has a number of Australian competitors now. It stands out for sophistication but some of its competitors have pedigree, distinctiveness, regional character and/or price advantages.

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Stonyridge Larose Cabernets 1999

81 points

Waiheke Island, Auckland. 13%

First bottle was barely drinkable, very ordinary. This one has an odd sheep shed aroma (I appreciate the humour in this being a NZ wine). Palate is not particularly inviting, green flavours with rotting ripeness. Very savoury, not so bad with food.

When I grew up in NZ this was an icon wine. This is very disappointing.

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Puriri Hills 2005 Estate

91 points

Clevedon, Auckland, NZ. 13.5%

There is an old saying that there are no great wines just great bottles. A reference to how variable bottlings and corks could be once upon a time.

Puriri Hills Estate can be like that, but this was one of the great bottles. Rich ripe fruit with depth and freshness. Just a touch of brett. Great character.

Enjoy now.

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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)

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Cambridge Road Syrah 2008

84 points

Martinborough, NZ. 13%

I was apprehensive about opening such a young wine but needn’t have been, it’s a soft gentle approachable wine.

Black pepper and dilute fruit on the nose continues on the palate. Very much a floral Pinot sort of style of shiraz, indeed the blend contains 9% Pinot Noir.

Geoff Kelly is a big advocate of NZ syrah, and quite down on hot climate shiraz. I have some sympathy for his advocacy and I prefer the more elegant Kiwi shiraz to some of the over extracted superbombs they have sometimes tried to make. NZ shouldn’t seek to emulate McLaren Vale but this wine goes too far, it reminds me of supermarket Crozes Hermitage but at 5 times the price. Bernard Faurie’s St Joseph 2005 tasted alongside has lots more stuffing, more acid, and seems years younger (not 3 years older).

Drink now.

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Te Mata Bullnose 2007, Clonakilla O’Riada 2007 and Turkey Flat Shiraz 2007

Three excellent modern, French oaked Syrah/Shiraz from the 2007 vintage. Young wines but now with 4 years in bottle.

The common varietal and age is very apparent. They all show excellent youthful deep colour. None of these wines reek of oak and they are all very clean.

The Bullnose is more savoury. The Clonakilla is slightly sherbity in comparison (in a way that some young Rhone wines can be in really ripe vintages). The Turkey Flat is sweeter still but in a fruit ripeness sense not actual sugar.

Alcohols = 13%, 14%, 14.5% respectively.

The hotter climate Turkey Flat is slightly less floral and clearly has riper flavours (a touch of fruit cake) yet it is pleasantly fresh for a Barossa wine amongst this cool climate company.

And at the other end of the spectrum the Te Mata Bullnose is not marred by any vegetal flavours. It’s the best on the night. Although the Turkey Flat is the most different in this company I’d place it second.

3 very good wines. The differences between them are fascinating. They share in common that they are reasonably priced (until their fame grows).

Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2005

90++

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. 13.5%

This is svelte stylish classy, also brooding with (quality) oak dominating. It’s what I’d expect of a young classed growth Bordeaux. It’s easy to have doubts that the wine hasn’t enough stuffing to last the decade or so needed for the oak to subside into its proper background role, yet the best Bordeaux aren’t bold show-stoppers. I wonder how this would compare to something retrained like Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2005?

Don’t drink until 2015.

Growing up with wine

I remember my parents often having a civilised drink before dinner. Though when I was very young this was not wine, I think it was usually Pimms, with ice I think. No I now recall that (NZ) ‘sherry’ was most common (which had an odd deep brassy orange colour).

Interestingly today they still don’t drink wine daily, though there is nothing stopping them – they do when I visit. And they largely drink one wine, Sauvignon Blanc, and largely one brand. Again except when I visit when they really enjoy trying different wines.

I remember going to a ‘wine and cheese’ event, this was a first I believe – a new social event in New Zealand. I think it was to raise funds for a charity, church or school – these became very popular for a while. For us kids there was soft-drink and chips. At this event was a wine called ‘hock’ (which seemed, to us children, to be a very odd name). I remember adults commenting that this ‘hock’ was all the rage. It was short for something like Hochenheim I believe though it was not German, nor probably made from Riesling.

Later wine appeared at all family social occasions, it was particularly popular with my grand-mother who drank it every night I think. We all used to think it was funny when she got a little ‘tipsy’ (lovely word). My other grand-parents didn’t like table wine much, except for very sweet sparkling, prefering sweet sherry. They cellared a bottle of Black Tower a bulk German wine for decades – I’m not sure if it was ever opened let alone consumed (I’m sure it would not have been drinkable).

Muller-Thurgau became the wine, particularly a few brands like Whonsiedler (or some such fake German name). I remember its distinctive dappled glass bottle – though bag in the box became dominant. We kids were delighted by the technology of bag-in-the-box, fascinated by the tap, and the plastic bag inside. We could pour an adult a glass whereas we couldn’t pour a heavy wine bottle (they were mostly large flagons or litre bottles back then – certainly no long-necked German bottles).

Wine was seen as a posh drink, and drunk from cut crystal glasses, even if it did come from a flagon or a box.

Mueller-Thurgau was the first wine I ever drank, and contrary to its reputation my memories aren’t that it was bad. Nor that it was as sweet as people later made out – when dry wines took over this was the principal criticism of Mueller-Thurgau, dry-ness became synonymous with quality (fashion and class) in the same way as in Roman to Victorian times sweetness was the mark of quality. NZ Mueller-Thurgau was not without charm, it was of medium sweetness, quite dilute, with acidity but low alcohol (possibly chapitalised). OK it sounds pretty awful, closer to grape juice than wine, which it probably was but it was better than the awful grape juice sold in New Zealand at the time. It worked as a bridge for those of us going from fruit juice and cordial to wine.

Occasionally red wine was seen. In fact I have a vague memory of seeing red Whonseidler (same distinctive bottle) which I think was a pale sweet red!!

All this pre-dates when I started drinking wine by which time the scene was becoming dominanted by 3 classic varietals (Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon) – but that is another story.

Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah 2007

89+ points

Hawkes Bay, North Island, NZ. 13.5%

From 20 year old vines this is NZ Syrah with pedigree and in a top vintage, but young cool climate Shiraz is not a wine I like. This is pristine with lovely natural acidity, restrained sweetness and oak. It is moderately concentrated in the Te Mata style, not at all syrupy. Enough depth to think it should drink best from 2014 when more secondary savoury characters should have emerged. I could be wrong and this might be a 20 year wine and it could be more complex than it seems now – we shall see (I’ve bought a couple of cases).

Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir 2006

88+ points

Waitaki Valley, Otago, NZ. 13%

Dark wine. Dense and rich. Not charming. A masculine style of Pinot.

A bit dumb for a kiwi Pinot that’s 4 years old. I suspect it will emerge and deserve even higher points but to be honest I don’t have enough experience with NZ Pinot Noir and how they age so I could very well be wrong and this is all you will ever get. Hedge your bets either drink now or in 2-3 years time.