2018 Gathering Field Thousand Candles Vineyard Red Blend

A blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Malbec from a vineyard notorious for its ambitious first release from the wet and mulchy 2011 vintage – for a measly $100 a bottle. Better vintage weather and sensible pricing have prevailed. Very Yarra Valley, this is just ripe enough. Pencils, tobacco, leafy and just ripe black currants. Some mint and a hint of gum leaf. Oak supports but no more than a seasoning. It’s savoury but the tannins are ripe and sweet with just right acidity tucked well in. As it leaves, a dense mouth coating wave of still subdued fruit suggests there may be still lots more fruit depth to emerge with some time. Difficult to say, it may just dry out but I’d be willing to hide one away for a while, in fact I think I will. Optimism being essential to cellaring and definitely in the wider world these days.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $33.

93+

2014 Mudbrick Vineyard Reserve Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon

Waiheke island, only forty minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland, is a beautiful place of beaches, vineyards and desirable weekend escapes. A few days propping up cellar door tasting benches was both fun and interesting. For this precious and probably overly fussy wine bore, there were many wines that were just too ripe and oak showy. Such is the obvious comfort of wealth, the pricing was pretty aspirational too. This enterprise stood out a little for more moderate alcohol levels and better fruit clarity. Yes, even at 14% this appealed for its comparable freshness. It’s all relative goes the truism, when opened at home this looked quite ripe at first taste. Over time it evened out with some gorgeously lush red fruits, a splash of cassis and a delicious balance of herby Cabernet gravel bringing up the rear. A little taste of really good dark chocolate too. Clean and pure, like the sparkling sea surrounding Waiheke where the orcas crash through the swell. Such rich balance of fruit, natural cleansing acidity and sweet tannin would not be out of place in a similarly patrician Bordelais concoction.

14% alcohol. Screwcap. Was about $NZ 60? Their flagship Velvet bottling is now $NZ 750, take that Pauillac.

95 points.

2018 Hoddles Creek Yarra Valley Merlot

Bright purple red, inviting fresh raspberry leaf, sprig of mint and cool rain soaked forest. A mouthful starts quietly as raspberry and plum build and then are swept up in a very crisp acid and pinpoint tannin end. Just flavour ripe but as crunchy as perhaps a Loire or cool year Bordeaux. Some more used to full whack Australian richness will recoil. If this puts on a bit of fat with age, like most of us, then it’ll cut across a cut of red meat with precision.

13.20% alcohol. Screwcap. $20.

90 points.