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Wine of the Week for week ending 25 Apr 2011
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Waimea Nelson Merlot Malbec 2008
Nelson, New Zealand

When you think about Bordeaux blends made in New Zealand, wines made from traditional grape varieties grown in the hallowed soils of Bordeaux, grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, you probably immediately think Hawkes Bay. Excellent choice, because that's where most of the country's Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is grown.

If you had a second choice you probably think Waiheke. Another excellent choice because that's where the most expensive wines made from these grapes are grown.

But you would probably never think the South Island. Not unless you had some inside knowledge and knew the microclimates within the dominant sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot noir producing regions, where these grapes could possibly grow. If you had the knowledge, you could probably count the producers on one hand. Pegasus Bay in Waipara who make outstandingly good Bordeaux reds – in particular the one they call Maestro – coincidentally a Merlot Malbec blend. And Saint Clair and Spy Valley who produce Merlot in Marlborough that’s been known to win gold medals.

But would Nelson come into your reckoning? Probably not. Well, not until now.

You won't find much Malbec in Bordeaux these days, but it's a bona fide Bordeaux grape. I like the personality Malbec adds to Merlot. It adds depth, it adds richness, it adds purple fruit and it adds violet and rose petal florals. It take the Merlot to another level.

Waimea Nelson Merlot Malbec 2008 was the top wine in a recent tasting and I even preferred it, on the night, to a double gold medal and trophy winner from Hawkes Bay tasted alongside it.

In the glass, the Waimea wine was the most intriguing of them all and every time I smelt it and tasted it, it revealed another part of its personality.

It's a deep, dark red, with a translucency to its appearance. The bouquet is an assortment of creamy oak and ripe red and purple fruits with a touch of chocolate and perhaps some mocha and leather then it's flirtingly floral and a little bit herbal with hints of pencil shavings too. The taste is initially meaty and savoury and the tannins are firm. There's underlying acidity, red fruit sweetness and then Malbec's characteristic purples too. There's a touch of anise, some mocha and leather, then a lovely floral lift to finish and a lingering nuance of mint. This wine is a great conversation piece for wine descriptor geeks.

A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Malbec, the Merlot was matured in American oak and the Malbec in older French oak, then were blended together after 11 months. The Merlot came mostly from the Kina Peninsula, west of the Waimea winery, while the Malbec came from the Waimea Plains.

Waimea Nelson Merlot Malbec 2008 has 13% alcohol and a screwcap closure. It's sells for less than $25 a bottle. I rate it 5 stars. Check out for more.

© Sue Courtney
18 Apr 2011

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