2019 Giant Steps Pinot Noir

Nice to see a bit of clarity in labelling. You don’t have to declare grape ingredients below 15% on a label under Australian wine rules but here it’s noted there’s 8.5% Central Otago Pinot Noir as well as the majority Yarra Valley. Kudos for rigour. Sort of apposite to the last Fairbank post as the winemaker has made the move from there to here. Doubly so as both wines seem to be honest, no fiddling expressions of grapes, season and place. Perhaps this hasn’t the weight and charm of that lovely 2015 vintage. Here there’s mint, a lick of Oz forest, sappy stems and wild strawberries. Some lifted perfume, almost incense or joss stick like. Darker fruit emerges. Just enough flavour to buffer the slightly green stem and acid structure which dries things up enough to warrant another sip or bite of food. Must say I do enjoy Yarra Pinot when it’s young and fresh. Maybe with a bit of Otago richness too? Again a good drink not trying too hard to impress.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 on special.

91 points.

2018 Te Mata Estate Hawke’s Bay Cabernets Merlot

Te Mata have been doggedly producing gently extracted, quietly digestible Cabernets for a long time, impervious to the wild swings of wine fashion. An idiosyncratic persistence with corks in their two best perhaps their only silliness. From a warmer season, a swell of sweet ripeness buffers the herby, gravel astringency of proper Cabernet. There’s still a savoury raspberry leafiness though, perhaps from the Merlot and Cabernet Franc listed on the back label. The usual Cabernet suspects like blackcurrant, mulberry and leaf are evenly measured out, freshened to end with gentle ripe tannin and a clip of acidity to invite another sip. All at a price to make a bottle of Bordeaux blush.

13% alcohol. Screw cap, hooray. $24.

90 stylish points.

2017 Te Mata Estate Awatea Cabernets Merlot

From memory this is normally about half Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc making up the other half. If you have a Bordeaux itch, then this will scratch it with a gentle hand and leave you with enough money to buy another or even trade up to a top of the range Coleraine. Spotless perfume of red berries, dried flowers, a touch of tobacco and that old school pencil box. Beautifully judged extraction to just medium bodied, Perhaps not quite the fruit sweetness or depth of the warmer year 2016 release but it does have that pleasing drag of fine dry tannin and acidity that brings to mind those oft repeated words, gravelly and mineral. What exactly mineral means is hard to say when there are so many minerals on planet earth but it will have to do. The reviews of the 2018 Coleraine are so good, there may be extravagant purchase looming notwithstanding the archaic use of tree bark. Hawkes Bay’s own first growth.

13% alcohol. Very smooth, expensive looking bit of cork. Around $40. The Coleraine is still under $100 which in world terms is value.

93 points.

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.

2010 Escarpment Pahi Martinborough Pinot Noir

Preconceived ideas about how you like a grape variety to taste are always liable for a surprise. Over the years, a perfumed, crisply red fruited version of the mystery that’s Pinot Noir has become more appealing. Well, red fruited and lightly built this isn’t. Dark spiced berries, almost plum and licorice chocolate with a touch of fruit cake all melded by time. No flab though as there’s a perfect counterpoint of graphite like tannin and beautifully integrated naturally ripe wet stone acidity, all benefiting from time together in the bottle. A tickle of dried and sweet green herbs twists and turns the rich fruit too. Dark, complex and such an even keel that shows this most fickle of grapes can express itself in the most valid and surprising ways. Côte d’Or it ain’t but Martinborough it must surely be. Choice eh?

14% alcohol. Cork. About $60 a few years ago.

94 points.

2016 Te Mata Awatea Cabernets Merlot

Perfect way to celebrate Bastille day eve with a Kiwi that’s better value and probably a bit cleaner than some more illustrious Bordeaux, which was already an expensive dabble thirty years ago when the bug bit. Not that price stopped a reckless love of Burgundy instead. Probably as many disappointments too. Anyway, unlike nearly every other NZ producer, Te Mata are as nineteenth century traditional as the Bordelaise in the choice of stopper. Happily the expensive looking tree bark here didn’t spoil a seriously delicious wine. Just medium in body but achingly fragrant. A perfect mix of marginally tart but ripe fruit and a savoury anchor. Black cherry, cassis, sweet green leaves and seasoning of black olive and cedar oak, all in elegant proportion and driven long. Hint of that grounding claret gravel too. No grunt, just harmony. Anyone on either bank of the Gironde able to guarantee the same quality to price rapport? Could default to a predictably not funny….. choice, eh bro?

13.50% alcohol. CORK! C’est quoi!? $28 from what Dan’s questionably call a rationalisation which means they won’t stock it at my local. Happy to take the below cost discount to clear it though.

95 points.

2007 McArthur Ridge Southern Tor Central Otago Pinot Noir

The only bottle of Kiwi Pinot in the cellar. Ten years ago it was fresh and bright, lower in alcohol than a lot of Otago Pinots and Murphy’s decided to clear it for under $30 I think I remember. Despite a bit of smoky old bottle development, it’s still fresh red fruits that hit the tongue mid way and taper a bit to finish. Pliant tannins and some more pure ripe strawberry and cherry as well. The acidity’s just a bit too hard and assertive, standing a little separately from the fruit and tannin. Bit of a shame as the flavours are convincing and tasty.

13.50% alcohol. Screwcap. $35 retail originally roughly before the less than engaging label saw it heavily discounted.

91 points.