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Wine of the Week for week ending 18 March 2007
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Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 2005
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

I've tasted a lot of fabulous wines this week, but the one that made a profoundly memorable impression on me was not new. It was the Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 2005 which was released last year in time for the Eurowine Road Show that tours the country each September with its agency wines.

My notes I made on that occasion were very concise, trite scribbles, not for publication as I tasted near the end of the session, in fact just as I was rushing out the door. I hadn’t realised it was there. It gave me impressions of its potential but I felt I could not write notes that would do the brand new release any justice in the one or two minutes I had to focus on it. So I was looking forward to tasting it again in a more relaxed environment and that opportunity came about a month later when it was served 'blind' at a tasting at First Glass Wines and Spirits.

I was impressed, and my note was rather more fitting for this gorgeous wine.

"Dense crimson red with bright edges, it's tantalisingly fragrant with creamy oak, subtle pepper and spice box on the nose. Full-boded in style, it's spicy, long and savoury with chocolate, damson plums and rose spice (which you get on your fingers after cutting a rose from a bush). Still a baby with its tight, complex structure, firm acidity underpins the wine and dried herbs and that rose spice character linger deliciously on the succulent creamy finish. Intense, fine, lively and very very good."

Then at the Te Mata Showcase New Release Tasting last week, where Coleraine was the centre of attention, the Bullnose was served again. And it was even more gorgeous. Despite the presence of Coleraine, this was the star performer of the tasting for me. Even in the small XL5 tasting glasses that I've complained about elsewhere (see my blog) because they wouldn’t let the other reds express themselves to their best, the Bullnose roused a flood of passion with its aromas and flamencoed across the palate to finish with a victorious sting of spice. But to follow it up following night in the larger Zerrutti 'Ultimo' tasting glass - oh, heaven. It made me go weak at the knees. Fortunately I was sitting down.

Here are my notes from both tastings - which are also included with the reviews of all the wines at the Te Mata Showcase tasting at this link.

In the XL5 tasting glass: A lovely bright crimson-edged magenta, not as deep and opaque as some Hawkes Bay Syrahs, but very attractive to the eye. Aromatic and juicy on the nose with delicately spicy oak, allspice, hints of vanilla, liquorice and dried herbs with tar and rose hips emerging after a while. Tight in the palate with dry tannins, French oak, a myriad of spice, cloves, even the slightest hint of chocolate while cherry and other red and purple fruits abound. It opens up beautifully on the finish with pepper leaving a spicy sensation and a bouquet of bright fruit flavour. Dry, with great length and the aftertaste is as juicy as the first hint of the fragrance promised. A very harmonious, understated wine with great potential for the future.

In the Zerrutti 'Ultimo' tasting glass: Fragrantly aromatic, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, dried herbs. In the palate it's so harmonious with gorgeous silky tannins, clove, allspice, lavender and anise and the fruit - perfection - full of purple berries and cherries. The colour looks light but it shows that syrah does not have to have an overly saturated colour when there is ripe fruit intensity and weight and concentration in the palate.

Te Mata Bullnose Syrah is a single vineyard wine from a vineyard in the Ngatarawa Triangle subregion of Hawkes Bay. It is 100% Syrah from several clones and is matured in new and seasoned French oak barriques for 16 months with regular topping and racking. It carries 13.5% alcohol by voluma and has a cork closure. Expect to pay about $36-$40 a bottle.

I wrote about the background of Bullnose in January last year after a tasting of Te Mata's Rhone-inspired wines. Click here to read all about it.

This is magnificent Syrah, right up there with my other favourite, the Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2005, my Syrah of the Year, last year. And I am not the only one to think so. Check out Geoff Kelly's Reviews of Syrahs at the 2007 Hawkes Bay Syrah Symposium held at the end of January. He rates these wines both very very highly, in fact the top two of 51 Syrahs he tasted that weekend.

Te Mata's website is if you want to find out where to buy it, etc., etc - and of course you can read other critic's reviews. My reviews you read here.

© Sue Courtney
12 Mar 2007

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