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Wine of the Week for week ending 7 March 2010
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Te Awa Boundary 2004
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Last week, when people started asking me what I knew about Te Awa Boundary 2003 from Hawkes Bay that an online wine store was discounting it at a ridiculous price, I thought I had better find out more.

It was a bit of a mystery because some of the wine writers who are very familiar with the Te Awa's icon red wine, Boundary, thought that the 2003 was not made.

Michael Cooper in his Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines, confirms this with a 'NM' (not made) in the wine rating section for the 2003 vintage for the Boundary.

Raymond Chan of Regional Wines and Spirits in Wellington also parlays this information in this review of Boundary vertical in 2007. He writes of the Te Awa Zone 6 Merlot Cabernet 2003, "potential Boundary but declassified due to the high Cabernet Sauvignon component, which took the wine out of style for the label."

The Te Awa website was no help either. It mentioned only Te Awa Zone 6 Merlot Cabernet 2003 and Boundary 2004. There was no mention of Boundary 2003 at all.

However at a tasting I went to in 2006, when I wrote up the Boundary 2000 as the Wine of the Week, I thought I heard winemaker Jenny Dobson say that the 2003 Boundary would be Cabernet Sauvignon dominant for the very first time.

Those of you who can remember back that far will recall the successive frosts in the spring of 2002 wiping out a huge percentage of the Merlot crops. Cabernet Sauvignon, which is later budding, proved to be the star of the 2003 vintage producing deep rich intensely coloured wines with flavour and concentration.

But the wine that is now on the market as Boundary 2003, is a Merlot dominant wine, although the Cabernet Sauvignon component is over double that of previous vintages.

The only way to get to the bottom of the mystery was to go to the winery and ask the question, "Is this 2003 vintage wine that is being discounted really a Boundary or is it a relabelled Zone 6?"

The answer from the new General Manager and Group Winemaker, Ant Mackenzie, was "Boundary 2003 and Zone 6 2003 are exactly the same wine."

He explains: "The wine was made as the Boundary 2003, labels were purchased and the wine was bottled. Then someone decided it was different than a ‘typical’ Boundary or there was too much stock of earlier vintages (after it was bottled and the labels were purchased) and thought OK let’s just call it something else (Zone 6). This wine has sat in our warehouse for five years gathering dust."

He goes on to say, "The reason it is different is because it has a huge amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in it. It is a fantastic wine and much nicer than most of the older Boundary’s I have tried (probably because of the extra CS)."

So Boundary 2003, with the original bottles and labels is being chucked out at $14.99 a bottle - possibly the bargain of the year (to date!!!!) for those who managed to secure some, because by the time you read this it is probably all gone.

On Saturday night we tried wine that is labelled as Zone 6 alongside Boundary 2004 - both current vintage wines, with these names, on sale at the winery. Zone 6 is cellar door only and costs about $38 a bottle while Boundary 2004 is available through the distributor as well as the cellar door and has an RRP of $40 a bottle.

Te Awa Zone 6 Merlot Cabernet 2003, a blend of 61% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc, is concentrated in the glass, looking very youthful for its age. It has rich, dense aromas of earth and brambles with a touch of leather then in the palate the tannins are dense and grippy and the flavours are earthy with sweet leather, creamy oak and concentrated berried flavours that range from cherry through to cassis. The Cabernet will ensure that this wine will be long lived.

Te Awa Boundary 2004, a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, is fantastic - more up my alley than the 2003 - horses for courses maybe. It's darker in colour, a crimson black, and a little brighter in the aromatics - but dense, deep, rich and intense nevertheless. In the palate the first thing that hits me is the fruit ripeness. It's very ripe, spicy, and juicy with an array of fruit from strawberry through to cherry to blackberry and plum - and then there's chocolate and I am seduced. The tannins are powerful yet fine and the whole impression is of a sumptuously smooth, deep, creamy textured wine with lovely fruit weight, a savoury backbone and a long, juicy full-bodied finish. Maybe it won't be as long lived as the 2003, but do I care? For me it is the Boundary 2004 that I would prefer to drink right now and because of that it has to be my Wine of the Week.

We accompanied the wines with eye fillet steak, pan-fried and the pan deglazed with a little red wine. This was accompanied with a marrow, tomato and basil vegetable dish and a vegetable layer cake made from sliced potatoes, sliced slightly underripe pears and sliced carrots baked in a dish in the oven with a little Sauvignon Blanc and cream.

With the tighter, more leathery Zone 6, it was the potato dish that was the star, the sweetness of the carrots and pears counteracting the grippy savouriness of the wine.

Wth the Boundary 2004, however, it was the steak that was the star. Boundary 2004 spent 18 months in fine-grained French oak before bottling in November 2005 with another four and a bit years in the bottle before my tasting. I really have to say it is an ideal meat lover's wine.

So what will happen with Boundary in the future?

Still to come are the 2005 and 2006 Boundaries but no 2007 was made. When the time came for the components of the 2007 to be prepared for bottling, the winemaking team had changed and the potential 2007 Boundary was blended in to the 2007 Te Awa Cabernet Merlot, so don't expect missing stocks to surface in four or five years time. They won't. No Te Awa wine was made at all in 2008 and Ant says he is not going to make a 2009 Boundary. If one is ever made again, he says will quite likley be Cabernet based.

So enjoy these wines while you can.

Check out the Te Awa website for more information.

© Sue Courtney
1 Mar 2010

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