edited by Sue Courtney
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Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
It seems only a few months ago when Mills Reef released their icon wine, Elspeth One. August 2003, in fact. But earlier this week the successor to that outstanding 2000 vintage was introduced. A much younger wine in retrospect, being a 2002 vintage wine it was only two years on from vintage rather than three.
One of the highlights of the release was the component tasting of Elspeth One, a wine that is made from five grape varieties - Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah - harvested from the Mills Reef Mere Road vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels subregion of Hawkes Bay. Four wines in total, the Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah wines being 100 % single varieties while the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are blended in a proportion of 80 to 20 respectively. All wines spend 12 months in oak of which 50% is new. All use French oak except for the Syrah, which has a small component of American. All carry 14% alcohol by volume.
"Outstanding" is the only way I can describe these wines across the board, I rated the Cab Franc 4 stars and the rest were easy top of their class, 5 stars without a doubt.
But my favourite, should I have to pick only one, was the deep, dark and mysterious Mills Reef Elspeth Malbec 2002. A wine that is dense and inky in its shining black colour with wonderfully bright rims like that of a rubellite gemstone. A sensuous smelling wine with leather, plum and a hint of tobacco spice from the oak that is not intrusive. A wine that builds up the expectations and delivers to the palate with an intriguing earthiness to the deep, dark, smoky flavour. There's a mysterious floral character and smoky herbs combining with dark fleshy plum and ripe berry fruits while the concentration of the fruit and the soft acidity tame the voluptuous tannins and spicy creamy oak. Hints of liquorice appear on the long lasting finish. What I call the essence of Malbec. A powerful wine. Certainly a benchmark for New Zealand. Only the Argentinians can do it better.
I just love this wine on its own and I just love the depth it adds to Elspeth One.
My other notes for the component wines are as follows-
Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Franc 2002
Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Merlot 2002
Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2002
Combine the four components and you get Elspeth One 2002, a wine of fragrance and concentrated fruit with tannins that are nicely settled and oak that is nicely balanced. A powerful blended wine with a winey richness, leather, chocolate, thick grainy tannins, a hint of pepper and that excellent fruit from the wonderful 2002 vintage. I would just like to see it with a little more age, it certainly has the pedigree to blossom in the cellar.
Expect to pay about $40 for the Elspeth range of wines. Luxury wines selling at what these days is an affordable price.
Find out more from the Mills Reef website.
© Sue Courtney
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