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edited by Sue Courtney

Wine Reviews - Merlot & blends
by Sue Courtney
23 May 2018

Although some of these tasting notes may be found elsewhere on this site, this page brings together most of my Merlot notes, listed alphabetically by Producer. Click here for rating systems and abbreviations.

[2016] [2015] [2014][2013][2012][2011][2010][2009][2008] [2007] [2006] [2005] [2004] [2003] [2002 & 2001] [2000 and older][index]

2016 Vintage [top] [index]

Mission Estate Jewelstone 'Antoine' Hawkes Bay 2016 (c) Dark red black in hue with considerable density. The bright blackcurrant and plum aroma is infused with smoky oak and it’s full-bodied and concentrated in the palate with dark savoury notes, sappy herbs, oak spice, ripe juicy fruit, firm yet pillowy tannins and a gobsmacking succulent finish with nuances of mint adding brightness. Made from predominantly Merlot with a touch of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc, it’s stylish and memorable. 14% alc. $49.99. 11Apr2018.

Saint Clair Block 17 The Plateau Hawkes Bay Merlot 2016 (sc) The colour is seductive crimson black red. The bouquet entices with its vinous scent of blackberries, black Doris plums, spice and cedar and it's concentrated, sweet fruited, spicy and savoury to the taste with smooth tannins and a silky flow. The fruit is dense and ripe and there's a creamy milk chocolate character to the rounded finish. Harmonious and remarkably approachable. 13.5% alc. $20.99. 14Feb2018.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Organic Merlot 2016 (sc) This is a vibrant crimson-edged black red hue. There's a leathery, dusty, woody herb, Bordeaux character to the bouquet and it’s dry and firm in the initially savoury, cedary, cigar box palate that opens up with plum and cherry fruit and a lingering succulence to the creamy finish. Smooth and elegantly poised in a medium to full-bodied style. Gold and Trophy AirNZ. 13.5% alc. $14.99. 29Nov2017.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2016 (sc) Intense crimson-edged blackberry hue with an attractive bouquet of savoury oak, pencil box, blackcurrant and woody herbs that carry through to the palate where there is refreshing brightness of mint infusing the earthy savoury undertones and the succulent plum and blackberry fruit. The tannins are velvety and firm and there are hints of cigar box on the finish where the purity of the fruit and the savouriness of the oak linger harmoniously. Gold Easter Show. 13% alc. $14.99. 14Mar2018.

2015 Vintage [top] [index]

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Merlot 2015 (sc) Inky black red. Savoury on the nose with hints of freshly baked dark berry pie. Vanillin oak is noticeable on first tasting together with plums, cassis, currants and well balanced tannins cake spices and a touch of pepper. While still unfolding, it is full-bodied, generous and voluptuous with an ornate oak frame and an impressively long succulent finish with just a whisper of mint. Gold and Trophy NZIWS. 14.5% alc. $26.99. 6 Dec2017.

Craggy Range Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2015 (sc) Deeply translucent in the glass, not quite opaque. This is a deep dark brooding wine both on the nose and also initially in the palate that’s characterised by fine textured tannins and a rounded mouthfeel. Made from predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec mixed in, it offers up hints of violets, earthy brambly notes, nuances of chocolate and a suggestion of cigar box with lifted acidity brightening the finish. What stands out for me is the profound and lingering fruit purity. 14% alc. $23.99. 3May2017.
Inky blackberry red in hue with an enveloping bouquet infused vanilla, nutty oak, cedar, chocolate and cassis liqueur. A ripe, juicy, blockbuster red with velvet coated tannins, hints of cigar box, touches of vanilla, a smidgen of mint in the background and ripe currant fruit with a chocolate coating. This serious and fairly dry Bordeaux-inspired red blended from 76% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec is opulent and tasty and developing nicely. 14% alc. $23.99. 22Nov2017.

Matawhero Gisborne Merlot 2015 (sc) (white label) Black cherry red. Aromatic with polished savoury oak, dark plums and cherries, and an enchanting floral allure in the musky/rose petal spectrum. In the mouth this is a medium-bodied wine with fine tannins and an initial sensation of spritz which adds brightness to the mouthfeel. The fruit is dark and the backbone is fine and savoury. There’s a fine layer of chocolate over the fruit with a depth to the savoury oak, a touch of woody herbs and the slightest nuance of mint with blueberry fruit coming forth on the finish and a zing of spice as the wine lingers. This was a terrific wine to accompany roasted lamb shoulder chops and fabulous with the roasted vegetables also. 14.1% alc. $23. 8Jun2016.

Mission Estate Vineyard Selection Merlot 2015 – Hawkes Bay (sc) Youthful pinky red with a concentrated cherry and blueberry scent mingling with a touch of cedar. It tastes fruity yet quite savoury with tobacco, cigar box, tar and leather and while very dry, a touch of dried mint adds brightness to the finish. A medium-bodied red that needs food to counteract the dry tannins and cheese went well on the night. 14% alc. $14.99. 19Apr2017.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 17 ‘Plateau’ Hawkes Bay Merlot 2015 (sc) Deep inky boysenberry red in the glass. The bouquet is full, opulent, plummy and chocolatey with dark spicy oak and a touch of pencil box then in the mouth the tannins are smooth and the ripe-fruited taste is fleshy and generous. There’s cocoa, chicory, plums and loads of sappy cedar with lingering vanilla and chocolate on the long, powerful finish. Gold AirNZ 2016. Gold NZIWS 2016 14% alc. $20.99. 15Nov2017.

Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2015 (sc) This is a value packed Bordeaux style from Hawkes Bay. It’s deeply coloured with a bramble-rich bouquet and the taste delivers plenty of juicy fruit flavours supported by polished, creamy, nuggety oak with leather, spice and silk edged tannins and a smooth, succulent and savoury finish. 13.5% alc. $15.99. 22Feb2017.

2014 Vintage [top] [index]

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Merlot 2014 (sc) This is a saturated shiny red black. The bouquet smells ripe and creamy with scents of cherry and plum jam and it presents as velvety smooth with supple tannins in the creamy palate. There’s a bit of a spicy kick with a hint of pepper, juicy plums, a touch of leather and Christmas cake connotations on the long mellow finish. A super full-bodied, deep, dark Merlot that I would be happy to recommend to everyone. 14.5% alc. $26.99. 3May2017.

Mills Reef Estate Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2014 (sc) Lovely rich ruby red. The bright fruity aromas is balance by a touch of leather and fruitcake then in the mouth it is a lovely soft, smooth, creamy medium-bodied style with juicy flavours of summer berries with a lovely smoky savoury undercurrent and a lick of anise on the finish. Smooth and rounded with a deep berry fruit finish. Very nice with freshly cracked macadamias. 14% alc. $18.00. 24Jan2016.

Redmetal Vineyards Basket Press Merlot Cabernet Franc 2014 (sc) Rich black red. The bouquet is bright and fruity with wafts of polished savoury French oak a perfect teaser to the full-bodied and seemingly youthful, slightly sappy oak palate that becomes quite rounded as the wine flows. Ripe fruit, ripe tannins, touches of cigar box and Christmas cake spices lift the fleshy mouthfilling finish where there is a pleasing touch of grip. 14.5% alc. $28.99. 8Feb2017.

Sacred Hill Orange Label Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2014 (sc) Bright blackberry red with ruby edges. The sweet woodsmoke aromas are embellished with fruit notes of plums and blackberries with a creamy aura, like fruit rippled through ice cream. Youthful to the taste with an upfront tannin presence that flows like velvet and disappears. Typical Merlot notes of plums and leather together with smoky bacon and spices that have a touch of pepper. With cabernet’s acidity and firm structure in behind, there is plenty of satisfying under-$20 drinking here. Like this as a food match with deconstructed shepherd pie, i.e. mince and mashed potatoes. 13..5% alc. $19.99. 17May2015.

Te Awa Single Estate Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2014 (sc) Inky red black with a crimson glow to the edges. The bouquet is rich and full with a hint of chocolate, a touch of smoke and juicy brambles. It smells ripe and ready and the flavour delivers with a youthful sappy vibe, touches of cigar box, a nuance of mint, a slightly youthful firm tannin edginess underpinning juicy plum and cassis fruit and a long persistent finish. Lovely wine that begs for barbecued lamb. Gold NZIWS. Gold AirNZ. 14% alc. $24.99. 18Jan2017.
Concentrated purple red. Opulent aromas of vanilla and cedar and savoury and spicy in the full-bodied palate that’s brimming with creamy oak, opulent ‘velvet cloak’ tannins and well-balanced sappy notes. Mouth filling and supple with oodles of concentration and flavour and outstanding quality for the price. Gold AirNZ. 14% alc. $24.99. 31May2017.

Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay 'The Trinity' 2014 (sc) This is bright blackberry red in the glass with a juicy berry fruit aroma that's interweaved with leather and tar that follows through to the palate with succulent dark-hued berries and plums, meaty savoury notes (marmite and soy said John) and moderate tannin structure. A medium-bodied, lightly oaked blend based mainly of the trio of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with an odds and sods addition of other interesting reds such as Tempranillo, Touriga, Montepulciano and Syrah, etc., it's juicy and immediately approachable. 13.5% alc. $16.99. 18May2016.

2013 Vintage [top] [index]

Church Road McDonald Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Shiny blackcurrant red in hue. Classically Merlot with a bouquet of plums, cigar box and leather. Savoury and spicy to the taste with a plump softness to the texture, then plum, cherry and redcurrant fruit bursts out of the depths with a fine layer of milk chocolate, hints of chicory, a touch of jaffa, a suggestion of tar and the most subtle nuance of mint. Medium to full bodied with concentrated fruit, attractive vinosity and fine in its flow. 14.5% alc. $24.99. 1Jun2016.

Craggy Range Te Kahu Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Vibrant inky youthful crimson purple with a beautiful lifted perfume that radiates classy oak and ripe red berry fruits. The taste is rich, ripe and fleshy with smoky cigar box notes, pencil shavings, touches of earth and leather, hints of red liquorice and perfectly ripe Black Doris plums with a plump mid palate and vinous sweetness to the long firm finish while underlying acidity ensuring it will develop in the cellar. A outstanding blend of 73% Merlot, 13% Malbec, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc that’s so enjoyable already, the quality belies the very smart price. 13.5% alc. $22.99. 8Jul2015.

Elephant Hill Le Phant Hawkes Bay Merlot – Syrah – Cabernet 2014 (sc) Rich crimson-edged black red. Fragrant with hints of pepper, rose petal, chocolate box, leather, blackberries and spiced bottled cherries carrying through to the juicy succulent, aromatically spicy, peppery palate. Tannins are fine and silky and in harmony with the polished oak and the succulent fruit flavours linger with touches of chocolate, mint and leather. 13.5% alc. $21.99. 16Sep2015.
Deep red black. The first impression on the nose is sweet oak, brambles and leather, then a hint of Vitamin B wafts through. Sappy and leathery with touches of cigar box and pepper, initially the wine seems very tight and savoury – and quite European actually – then as it traverses the palate it opens up beautifully with layers of chocolate and cherries emerging. An exciting blend for Hawkes Bay with a dry yet succulent finish it’s not too heavy and will be a versatile match to a variety of foods. Gold Easter Show. Gold NZIWS. 13.5% alc. $21.99. 24Feb2016.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Malbec 2013 (sc) This concentrated inky purple-red hued wine is powerful and creamy. The spicy bouquet is fragrant and inviting and the taste is rich and powerful with firm tannins that still need time to resolve. It's quite sappy and herbaceous – as to be expected for the variety – with plums, violets, cakes spices, leather. Worth cellaring. Absolutely. A bargain for the quality. 13.5% alc. $16.99. 26Nov2014.

Esk Valley Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2013 (sc) Inky blackberry red with a bouquet that is reminiscent of a well worn leather jacket as well as more classic chocolate box, cedar and bramble berries. A massive chewy wine in the sumptuous palate with fine and moderately dry tannins, sappy oak, herbs, mint, graphite and succulent berries. This is a stellar wine and is developing beautifully with many years to go. 14% alc. $54.99. 27Apr2017.

Grey Rock Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Bright crimson black in colour with initially a Euro impression in the tasting tonight, there’s a touch of menthol to the juicy red berry and woodsmoke scent and a slightly nuggety undercurrent to the succulent red fruit flavours with well integrated savoury oak, fruit cake spices, a smidgen of chocolate and firmness to the finish. Overall soft, smooth and easy-going, it’s Merlot for full-bodied Pinot Noir lovers. Made by Sileni Estates. 12.5% alc. $15.99. 3Dec2014.

Kim Crawford Small Parcels Corner 50 Vineyard Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2013 (sc) Inky blackcurrant red in the glass looking so youthful for its 5 years of age. The bouquet is positively creamy with a chocolate box scent that recurs in the soft fine-tannined palate where pencil box oak and graphite frames the mellowing fruit that’s an amalgam of plums and bramble berries with just a smidgen of mint that adds brightness. 2013 is one of the greatest vintages ever in Hawkes Bay and this stellar wine is an absolute steal . 14% alc. $14.99. 28Feb2018.

Matua Single Vineyard Matheson Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 Inky purple red with a black core and crimson purple edges. Rich, dark, cedary and leathery on the nose – it is what we expect from young Merlot. The taste is full-bodied, rich, concentrated and meaty with thick firm-edged velvety tannins, an earthy richness, fruit cake spices, dark fruits, smoky cedary oak and hint of tobacco. A big, full, rounded, juicy, sumptuous wine that is satisfying already but has a long way to go. 10% Malbec in the blend. 14% alc. $49.99. 15Apr2015.

Mills Reef Estate Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2013 (sc) Lovely inky boysenberry hue. The savoury bouquet is accented with brambly fruit and is very appealing. Full-bodied, just a little grippy with a firm mid palate on first tasting with savoury oak and aromatics spices with perhaps some cumin in the mix. With food to tame the tannins down it’s a lovely rich ripe juicy red and the finish is long soft and creamy. Youthful but good with a long life ahead of it. Great value buying. Voted favourite with friends in a recent tasting 13.5% alc. $18.00. 13Dec2015.

Mission Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (D) Inky blackberry red. Enticing red wine fragrance to the bouquet with a subtle cedar smokiness, floral notes and a touch of chocolate. Full bodied and robust in the palate with fresh acidity and tobacco underpinning the plum and bramble fruit, velvet edged silky tannins, and a long dry finish. Great value with plenty of oomph for the price. 14% alc. $19.99. 6May2015.

Sileni Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Blackberry red with cerise edges, it has good depth and intensity of colour. The juicy opulent scent has aromatic spices that carry through to the smooth velvety palate that's filled with plums, lovely sweet smoky notes and a touch of spice. Very exciting and shows the quality we can expect from the outstanding 2013 vintage. 13% alc. $17.95. 12Nov2013.

Sileni The Triangle Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Deep dark red. A little herbal and leathery on the nose with hints of mint, brooding dark fruit and cedary oak – it smells ripe and definitely nods toward Bordeaux varieties but we find out it is 100% Merlot. A finely textured, elegant wine with cassis, plums, nuances of dried herbs, firm tannins and chocolate emerging on the lingering finish where the tannins integrate and the lasting impression is muscular yet smooth. 14% alc. $28.99. 10Aug2016.

Squawking Magpie The Nest Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Ink purple black in hue with a rich concentrated bouquet scented with creamy oak, vanilla, hints of chocolate, plums and cherries. Concentrated and magnificently structured with plush velvety tannins, this opulent wine brims with spiced cherries, juicy brambles, seductive smoky oak, hints of dark chocolate and the most subtle suggestion of anise. Quite firm but super succulent and caressing. 13.8% alc. $39.99. 1Oct2014.

Te Awa Left Field Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Blackberry red in hue with depth, brightness and vivid crimson edge. This is a deliciously juicy red full of plums, cake spices and cedar with soft, plump, fleshy tannins and a dry finish. Succulent and tasty, it is dangerously drinkable. Preferred this as a quaffer than with the food. 14% alc. $23.99. 18May2015.

Te Awa Single Estate Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2013 (sc) Deep purple black. Quite sappy and leathery on the nose with a hint of cigar box, rosemary and a tinge of vanilla. These all carry through to the palate where juicy plum, cherry and bramble fruits offset the fine dry tannins, the texture becoming smooth and silky as the wine flows through. It’s more of a medium-bodied wine with a mouthfilling vinosity, a hint of cocoa and a spicy oak nuance as the pleasing flavours lingers. Gold Easter Show. Gold NZIWS. 13.5% alc. $24.99. 24Feb2016.

Te Mata Estate Vineyards Merlot Cabernet 2013 (sc) This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with a touch of Petit Verdot is vibrant purple red in hue. Aromas of creamy oak, plum and red berry fruit with the most subtle suggestion of mint carry through to the palate where there is a smoky, cigar box-like character with smooth fine slightly dusty tannins, hints of violets and a touch of cake spice. Underlying acidity imparts a 'peacocks tail' flare and will ensure longevity. Exceptional value. 14% alc. $16.99. 14May2014.
Purple red with crimson edges, aromas of creamy cedar and brambles and mouthfilling flavours of plums and juicy red berries with cigar box in behind, hints of liquorice and a touch of mint. This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is very concentrated but showing its youth with its underlying acidity and firm edgy tannins so ‘slosh decant’ or accompany with food for the utmost enjoyment right now. One of the great value buys with excellent cellaring potential. 14% alc. $16.99. 16Jul2014.

Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2013 (sc) Deep purple red with a satin sheen. Inviting creamy oak aroma with perfectly ripe Black Doris plums then in the palate attractive cedary oak enhances the Bordeaux character of the wine with spice, leather and a beautiful black- and red-currant intensity. The tannins, while still showing their youth, are velvety and smooth and the finish is bright and long. Fantastic buying, a wine to enjoy now with food or cellar for several years – and why not at this bargain price. 14% alc. $15.99. 11Nov2015.

Rich purple plum red. Lovely smooth smelling aroma of concentrated berries & violets with a touch of chocolate wafting through. Full-bodied, spicy, fruity, savoury & lathery with moderately firm tannins and a soft finish with a follow through of lots of vinous flavours. Reminds me of Blackberry ripple ice cream. “Soothing, quite soft to drink," says my nephew, adding "A good thing." 13% alc. $15.99. 4Jan2016.
Bright crimson-edged black red. It smells soft, plump and fleshy with currants and cedar and the taste is savoury and spicy with firm plump velvety tannins that are indicative of its youth and juicy plums and red and black currant fruit. Delivers on taste, mouthfeel and value. Gold Air NZ. 13.5% alc. $15.99. 6Apr2016.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (sc) This is a stupendously good wine. It’s a lovely dark purple colour; the aromas are cedar and liquorice with spiced macerated berries and hints of chocolate. Solid in the palate with bright berry fruit, a lovely creamy allure to the oak, a crushed velvet texture, loads with spice with accents of anise. Long, full, satisfying finish. 13.5% alc. $17.99. 13Dec2015.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Organic Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Shiny inky blackcurrant red. A fruity wine from the outset with plums, loganberries and black cherries on the nose following through to the juicy, supple, generous palate with plenty of tar and leather, underlying spicy oak, hints of dried herbs, cigarbox and liquorice and moderately firm tannins holding it nicely together. The 2013 vintage looks to be a ripper for the Hawkes Bay reds. 13% alc. $15.99. 3Sep2014.
Boysenberry red, fine looking in appearance. The rich plummy aroma is infused with earthy savoury notes, smoky oak and leather. This shows the floral traits of Merlot beautifully in the palate. It's juicy and succulent with a silky edge to the grippy tannins and has a touch of cigar box and a leafy note coming through on the finish. 13.5% alc. $15.99. 19Nov2014.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Inky blackberry red. Crushed chocolate biscuits and crushed cherries on the nose – Black Forest comes to mind while creamy oak adds to the aromatic allure and charm. A baby wine at this stage of its life, it is massively tannic and dry, but look past that and there are some very desirable traits coming through. Classic Merlot in a Bordeaux style with cigar box, leather, violets, plums, cake spices, sappy notes and underlying acidity to aid and abet its cellar potential. A wine to cellar but will be totally worth it – it just needs patience and time. 13.5% alc. $44.99. 19Nov2014.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Braided Gravels Organic Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013 (sc) Rich blue red. The bouquet is overflowing with sweet smoky oak, fruit cake spices and bright, juicy, ripe red berry fruits. Firm and powerful in the mouth with the assertive tannins tamed by ultra juicy fruit that is simply oozing super ripe mulberries and golden sultanas – it evokes memories of Griffins ‘Golden Fruit’ biscuits – and the smoky finish is beautifully balanced with the flavours never losing their intensity. It seems already complete but with a multitude of years ahead of it, it will evolve quite magnificently. Made from organically grown grapes. 14% alc. $50.99. 11Nov2015.
Concentrated and classical Bordeaux varieties bouquet of cassis, plums and cedar with savoury / milky / slightly leathery / gamey nuances. Firm and structured in the palate with the fruit from the nose carrying through, a wonderfully silky seamless flow, a creamy richness, violets, smoky oak and crushed chocolate wheaten biscuits. A stellar wine that exudes total class, it is the structure, the mouthfeel, the silky flow and the fruit harmony that is so compelling. 14% alc. $50.99. 12Oct2016.

Wise Owl Ruffled Merlot 2013 (sc) This is very approachable and drinkable if you are not looking for anything too serious and heavy. It seems like it would be an excellent conversation starting wine. The blackberry colour is incredible with its crimson-edged sheen. Typical Merlot scents of chocolate box, plums and leather. Berry and plum fruit ruffles through the palate with a well balanced savouriness in behind. Spiced cherries, orange peel, star anise and cinnamon infuse the flavours. Juicy, rich and delicious without little influence of oak – reminiscent of a young Spanish wine in many respects. 13.5% alc. $13. 21Jun2014.

2012 Vintage [top] [index]

Main Divide Waipara Valley Merlot Cabernet 2012 (sc) Deep ruby / loganberry red, the slightest suggestion of transparency. Quite sappy on the nose, sappy oak and leather, then in the palate fine tannins make for a velvet-edged silky flow. A meaty, earthy, savoury leathery wine – wonder if there is some Brett action happening there – with red currant fruit and a firm acid backbone. Tasted again two days later and still so leathery! Matched to roasted lamb shoulder chops with red currant jelly and Brussels sprouts and leeks in white sauce, liked with the vegetables but not with the meat. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 19May2015.

Sileni The Triangle Hawkes Bay Merlot 2012 (sc) Deep cerise/violet. Lovely creamy scent with a nuance of plum, very smooth and silky in the palate with a lovely touch of spice and a nuance of liquorice in behind. Plums are more pronounced in the palate together with blackberries and chocolate, and the finish is firm. 13% alc. $27.95. 12Nov2013.

2011 Vintage [top] [index]

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Merlot 2011 (sc) Inky purple red in hue, this profound wine has a smoky sandalwood bouquet with a plummy richness and a touch of spice. Rich and dense to the taste with a creamy texture, flavours of juicy brambles and spiced plums, milk chocolate, cigar box and just a suggestion of mint on the very long savoury finish. Tannins are there but beautifully integrated and velvety. 13% alc. $26.99. 2Oct2013.

Craggy Range Hawkes Bay Gimblett Gravels Sophia Merlot Cabernet Sauv 2011 (sc) Enticing from the very first sniff – all purple berries, plums, violets, spices, sweet vanillin infused cedar wafting out of a vibrant dark purple red, almost black coloured pool. Firm and structured in the palate, brimming with everything that the perfume alluded to … and more. Upfront tannins simply dissolve into the creamy, almost chocolatey backbone and the layers of violet jam, blackberry and raspberry jubes, red jelly babies, liquorice, more chocolate, lots of oak, a deep set savouriness and more, more more …. 13.5% alc. $72.95. 28Jun2013.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2011 (sc) A rich dark red in colour with a bouquet that has plenty of oak and concentrated fruit. A classic rendition of Merlot with cedar, leather, dried herbs and ripe cherry and plum fruit. Overall a smooth harmonious impression on the palate with firm tannins and good acid spine. A wine that will evolve nicely with time. Typical value for money quality from the Mills Reeef reserve labels. With a juicy scotch fillet steak, the wine is robust and leathery. A much more pleasing experience at this stage of its life with a soft camembert making the wine seem creamy and luscious. 13.8% alc. $24.95. 21Mar2013.

Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (sc) Dark ruby black red, moderate saturation. There’s a vanillin nuance to the smoky oak scent with an intensity of ripe cherry fruit coming through. Quite savoury in the palate with woody herbs, leather, the brightness of cranberries and cherries, and an intriguing smoky layer. Silk-edged velvety textured tannins, the finish actually seems quite fine with a hint of milk chocolate lingering. Ripe and flavoursome with fine velvety tannins and bright fruit. It has an upfront easy drinking charm with cigar box and nuances of leather. 13.5% alc. $18.95. 3Jan2013.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Valley Merlot Cabernet 2011 (sc) Deep ruby / loganberry red, a little denser than the Main Divide 2012 tasted beside it. Rich and plummy on the nose with a pleasing waft of fresh pencil shavings and cedar and a subtle nuance of mint. It smells concentrated and the full-bodied plush taste delivers on that suggestion. Plum and bramble fruit is fleshy and plump, a touch of citrus adds brightness together with fruitcake spices and harmonious cedary oak flavours, then touches of mocha and liquorice emerge on the finish. Concentrated with finesse to the silky flow and a lingering taste tinged with woodsmoke. Excellent with roasted lamb shoulder shops and redcurrant jelly. % alc. $29.95. 19May2015.

Sacred Hill Halo Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc 2011 (sc) Deep carmine/maroon red, youthful, intense. Lovely aromatics of smoke, cedar, cigar box and leather evoking a dominance of Bdx varieties. Smoky and savoury to the taste with a charming touch of anise/liquorice emerging on the front to mid palate and accenting the end. The texture is like brushed velvet with tannins supple yet youthful and just a little drying. The fruit is all blackberries and raspberries and there’s a meaty richness to the dark nuggety finish. Perhaps a little fresh but plenty of brightness and charm with a nice touch of spice and a well rounded almost creamy finish, violet notes too. 14% alc. $28. 3Jan2013.

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Orange Label Merlot Cabernet 2011 (sc) The colour of a freshly plucked boysenberry. Inviting aromatics of plum, cherry, vanillin oak and leather. Dry and crisp in the palate with a minty herbaceousness, boysenberry fruit, allspice and pepper. Full-bodied, concentrated and oaky with pleasing savoury tones and a long, juicy, mouthfilling finish. I like this wine, we need more like this - I think is delicious. Paired with baked lamb shoulder chops in a mint sauce marinade. 13.5% alc. $22.99. 22Jan2013.

Soljans Hawkes Bay Tribute Merlot Malbec 2011 (sc) A dark ruby / berry red but not overly intense. Lovely refined French oak aroma and some lovely floral notes in the palate – violets come to mind – the purples very evocative. Fine tannins; beautifully balanced savoury oak, a touch of mulled wine spices. Still very young but has finesse. Give it more time. 13.35% alc. $40.00. 27Apr2013.

Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay 'The Trinity' 2011 (sc) A crimson black wine with youthful brightness to the hue, this has a lovely floral musky fragrance to the cake spice-infused bouquet and tastes of juicy red fruits and allspice with hints of fennel and star anise. With its smooth, velvety tannin structure there's a lot going on in this multi grape blend. Made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Malbec, and Petit Verdot, it is a good bench mark for the 2011 Hawkes Bay vintage. 13% alc. $17.99. 11Jul2012.
This deep purple blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with the addition of Tempranillo, Malbec and Petit Verdot has a beguiling fragrance that hints of violets, allspice and chocolate coated liquorice. Full bodied and juicy, yet concentrated and intense with firm velvety tannins, sweet ripe fruit and a dry finish that begs for a juicy steak. 13% alc. $17.99. 5Jun2013.
Purple red with a creamy nuance to the bramble fruit bouquet, it is firm in the palate with crushed velvet tannins, succulent berry fruit, cake spices, a savoury almost gamey layer and cigar box-like oak. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it is medium bodied in style. 13% alc. $17.99. 28Aug2013.

2010 Vintage [top] [index]

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2010 (c) Purple red. Deep scented opulent bouquet of savoury cedary oak, strawberry biscuits, macerated plums and spices. It's a powerful wine, a robust wine, with concentrated berry fruit flavours, a touch of oak, a suggestion of mocha, svelte tannins and a long, vinously sweet finish. A stylish wine that will be at it best with food. 14% alc. $37.99.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2010 – Hawkes Bay (sc) Purple red with smoky savoury aromatics joined by plums, leather and sweet cedary oak. Ripe and juicy tasting with firm tannins kicking in, it has ripe berry fruit in harmony with cedary oak. Concentrated and impressive, but needs more time. 13.5% alc. $26.99. 7Nov2012.

Craggy Range 'Sophia' Hawkes Bay 2010 (c) A blend of Merlot, Cabernets, Malbec and Petit Verdot, this more 'elegant' wine is dry with firm rather unforgiving tannins at this stage of its life – but take into consideration it is a wine that is made to age. There's an earthy nuance and an interesting cherry allure to the smoky cedar bouquet, then in the palate there are cherries and plums with Merlot's typical cigar box characters, dried herbs and a spicy oak vibrancy to the finish. A wine that need to be enjoyed in a big glass because as it lingers you can see the quality that is there. 13.5% alc. $69.99.

Cypress Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010 (sc) Shiny blackcurrant red with a spicy oak, blackberry and redcurrant bouquet and a firmly structured, full-bodied palate with dry tannins and leather tamed by concentrated plum and red berry fruit with a touch of cake spice and chocolate on the long creamy, succulent finish. 14% alc. $18.99. 7Mar2012.
Dense purple red with a hint of vanilla to the plum and cedar scent and a definite herbal undercurrent to the flavours of this more blockbuster style. It's rich and concentrated with velvety tannins, leather, cigar box, blueberries and violets and a mouthfilling and lasting finish. There's lots going on in this wine and it begs to accompany a meal. Gold NZIWS. 14.5% alc. $19.99. 20Jun2012.

Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – Gimblett Gravels (sc) Wonderfully bright aromatics of cherries, spice and cedar carry through to the palate. Once again it is the tannin structure and mouthfeel that is the sensual highlight but of course the harmonious flavours of savoury oak, a little earth, a little spice, the plum and berry fruit and the lingering finish make this the top wine it is. 14% alc. $66.99. 28Aug2013.

Gladstone Auld Alliance 2010 (sc) This earthy, savoury meaty wine is a blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Malbec and 25% Cabernet Franc. It's a deep plummy red colour with a perfumed aroma and while it seems rather brooding wine at first there is a bright fruit seam running though it. The brambly fruit is accented with roasted beetroot and orange zest infused with smoky cigar box-like oak and cloaked in velvety tannins. From a very good year and it delivers, albeit in an 'old-fashioned' style. Matched to lamb shank cuts in a Puttanesca style sauce, it worked very well. 14.85% alc. $45. 3Jul2014.

Mahurangi River Matakana 'Mostly Merlot' 2010 (D) Medium dark red, not totally opaque; the bouquet is leather, cedar, cake spice and plums and it is medium to full bodied in palate weight with firm velvety tannins, ripe cassis and plum fruit, allspice, an ethereal nuance of anise and a tingle of freshness. There’s mouthfilling juiciness to the plush textured, smoky finish with cherry chocolate lingering in the background. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, there's lots of interest and satisfaction here and an outstanding match with my steak and mushroom combo. 14.5% alc. $39. 7Dec2012.

Marsden The Winemaker's Daughter Bay of Islands Merlot 2010 (c) Deep ruby / crimson. Smoky, spicy, plummy, sweet leather scents. Quite dry on entry to palate but with bright spices and fruit vibrancy, a savoury undercurrent and a hint of bacon. Shows excellent potential and while firm, it has an opulent softness to it. 12Sep2011.
Inky rich red. Deep, rich, opulent scent and spicy and savoury to the taste with creamy oak, tobacco and fairly massive tannins. With wild berries, hints of chocolate and incredibly juicy fruit that helps to cut through the structure, the earthy ripe finish is full and fulfilling. 13.5% alc. $28.00. 17Sep2011.

Matua Single Vineyard Matheson Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010 Dark red with a deep almost black core. The bouquet is very aromatic – perhaps a bit of volatile acidity, also black tea with a fruit infusion, hints of liquorice and the most subtle suggestion of mint. In the mouth the texture is silky and fine. There’s a delightful touch of chocolate, barely there mint, liquorice tea, red plums, bottled cherries and it’s quite cedary on the finish. From a light year according to Nikolai, this is on the medium side of full-bodied with a little bottle development that has allowed the tannins to become so smooth. A wine to pour into a big glass and muse over with time to spare. 14% alc. $49.99. 15Apr2015.
Rich dark red. Cedar, chocolate biscuits and fruit cake on the nose then big, bold, opulent and juicy in the palate with dusty tannins, a touch of pepper and a zing of eucalypt and while showing some bottle maturity and meaty notes mid-palate, the finish is long and creamy. I loved it but it was a wine that polarised tasters on the night and maybe it does have a bit of an old-fashioned leathery pong but that was alright with me. Gold Easter 2014. 14% alc. $48.99. 13Jan2016.

Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2010 (sc) Rich crimson berry red. Deep dark berry scent with creamy oak, leather, tar, woody herbs. Layers of boysenberry ice cream too. Full-bodied and hearty with a lovely savoury spicy oak backbone. Cake spices, red and blackcurrants, cherries. Just a slightly bretty, flannelly, barnyard character detracts for me but the lasting aftertaste is sweet-fruited, long and rich. Rounded and satisfying as it lingers. 13.5% alc. $18.95. 27Apr2013.

Mills Reef Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010 (sc) Deep concentrated puce red. The aroma of sweet cedary oak has a rustic overlay - like the scent of dried dusty, bracken-lined road. Seems a little metallic, edgy on first tasting. Red fruits abound in the palate of the sweet oaked red - it’s juicy and bright with firm tannins and it finishes surprisingly dry. Juicy with a touch of mocha as the full taste lingers. 14% alc. $24.95. 27Apr2013.

Mills Reef Reserve Gimblett Gravels Merlot Malbec 2010 Deep dark red with violet edges. Chocolate vanillin oak on the nose and dry and rich in the palate with firm fine tannins, boot leather, chocolate biscuits and smoky oak. A lovely, rich, dense, full-bodied, rounded, mouthfilling wine with soft acidity and lingering fruit flavours of plums and black cherries. 14% alc. $22.99. 9May2012.
It’s so intense and concentrated in colour, it’s almost black. Concentrated plum and blackberry infuse into the sweet creamy oak scent. A big, rich, hearty tasting red with sweet oak, ripe berry fruit, lots of deep, earthy savoury characters, crushed velvet tannins, some acid bite to finish but long rich and tasty with liquorice and a chocolate velvet topping as this delicious wine lingers. 14% alc. $24.95. 27Apr2013.

Red Metal Basket Press Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc 2010 (c) This wine is beautiful. The medium red colour is translucent, it has an evocative smoky oak and cherry bouquet and in the mouth the wine caresses the palate with its silky smooth texture and flow. The cherry and red berry fruit is delicate yet assertive and anise-infused cake spices and vanillin oak are in harmony. Stylish. My kind of wine. 14.5% alc. $27.99. 16Apr2014.

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2010 (sc) The colour of blackberries with aromas of blackberry, cassis and leather and also a kind of green herbal edge. Tannins are firmly structured and flavours evoke milk chocolate, red and black brambly fruit and black currants. A dry wine that needs food for utmost enjoyment right now - an earthy, gamey dish such as lamb. 13.5% alc. $15.99. 21Sep2011.

Saint Clair Marlborough Merlot 2010 (sc) Dense black red and seemingly very youthful with aromas of dark chocolate, nuances of mint, hints of cigar box and leather. Quite thick and chunky textured in the palate with dark fruit that seems a little stewed - blackberry, perhaps. Savoury, earthy, game meat with a rich fruit sauce to balance it, charry oak and firm tannins that flesh and leaves the mouth with a plush warm feel. There's some heat to the finish and a nuance of pepper that gives a spicy veneer. A touch of mint comes through as the flavours linger. 14% alc. $21.50. 7Jul2011.
This juicy succulent wine is a medium dark red colour and smells earthy and savoury yet also concentrated and fruity. The savouriness carries through to the tasty palate that's full-boded and spicy with concentrated plum and mixed berry jam, a touch of chocolate, hints of liquorice and a long, smooth finish, 14% alc. $15.99. 17Oct2012.
Loganberry red. Ripe plums on the juicy smelling nose with a smoky nuance and dark chocolate too. Lifted in the palate with a silky smooth chocolate-coated texture, Light to medium-bodied with underlying bite to the stewed berry fruit finish where chocolate-coated cherries linger. 14% alc. $21.50 2Feb2013.

Te Mata Estate Merlot Cabernets 2010 (sc) Black red coloured with a bouquet of leather, juicy plum and black cherry, this is savoury and meaty to the taste with a bright fresh spiciness and harmonious creamy oak as the wine traverses the palate. Merlot characters seem dominant upfront, the Cabernets are firm mid palate but the depth, richness and voluptuousness of the Petit Verdot characterises the concentrated finish. 46% Merlot, 26% CS, 17% CF and 14% PV. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 13Mar2013.

Thornbury Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010 (sc) Deep ruby red with vanillin oak and berries on the restrained bouquet. Tasting savoury and just a little smoky, it has a concentrated red berry sweetness, plush mouth-coating tannins and a rounded finish. Medium-bodied in style, an easy-going crowd-pleaser. 13.5% alc. $12.99. 20Jun2012.

Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010 (sc) A blend of 87% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc, this is a rich, juicy wine with a deep cerise colour, a lovely creamy oak and berry fragrance to the scent and a creamy oak undercurrent with smoky cigar box nuances. The tannins are supple, there is a touch of fruit cake cherry and black forest chocolate and the concentrated finish is full and long. 14% alc. $19.00. 15Aug2012.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2010 (sc) Deep red black right to the edges. There's a hint of mint to the dusty, leathery aroma. A powerful full-bodied wine in the palate with intriguing flavours of mocha, leather, plum and blackberry, firm fine tannins and a sappy, savoury oak undercurrent then increasing succulence to the chocolate-coated berry finish. Serve in a big glass with food. 13.5% alc. $15.99. 29Jan2014
Inky purple red. Enticingly fragrant with plump red fruits and hints of liquorice. Supple and juicy in the palate although there is noticeable firmness in behind. Smoky oak, plums, chocolate, liquorice. Harmonious texture and flow. Four years on from vintage this is sensational drinking and hard to beat for value. 13.5% alc. $15.99. 6Aug2014.

Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010 (sc) Wonderful fragrant red fruit bouquet follows through to the concentrated and opulent palate – it seems like a wine that really needs time. Tannins are powerful and firm while a lovely allspice complexity infuses the flavours with plums, currants, a touch of chocolate, dried herbs and pencils shavings coming through. 14% alc. $49.99. 14Nov2012.
Inky black crimson. Coconut-infused sappy oak and red berry fruit fill the bouquet and it's a massive wine in the palate with succulent sweet berry fruit, opulent sweet oak and a beautifully harmonious savoury undercurrent with a touch of mint and fine textured velvety smooth tannins. Not for the faint-hearted, it really needs food at this stage of its life so pair it with a rare cut of juicy tender beef and you will be delighted. 14% alc. $43.99. 3Sep2014.

2009 Vintage [top] [index]

Abbey Cellars Bishop Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009 (sc) Deep dark red, still very concentrated and intense. There's creamy nut chocolate on the nose and it tastes full bodied and plummy with a savoury cedary oak backbone, succulent plum and blackberry fruit, a bright flourish of baking spices and the merest hind of dried orange zest too. There's a firm structure to this deeply coloured red, and the whole impression is of mouthfilling generosity. 13% alc. $25. 5Jun2013.

Ake Ake Vineyard Northland Merlot 2009 (c) Dense, bright crimson/purple/red. The bouquet offers up plenty of interesting nuances of cake spices, plum and cherry fruit, liquorice and vanillin oak with creamy vanillin oak is a feature in the smooth, rounded, medium bodied palate with well balanced spice, raspberries and cherries. It's a ripe, sweet-fruited wine with a dry finish and some pleasing savoury notes coming through. Very nice. 13% alc. $25.00. 17Sep2011.

Alpha Domus Hawkes Bay The Navigator 2009 (sc) Rich red black in colour, it smells like it is made from Bordeaux varieties with its scent of cigar box, chocolate box and leather. In the mouth there's a lovely marriage of savouriness and succulent fruit sweetness with blackcurrants, black cherries, plums, liquorice, some well balanced sappy herb notes and a spicy flourish to the juicy finish. Savoury and earthy yet bright and fresh, it's a firm textured wine with succulence and depth. A blend of 31% Merlot, 31% CS, 22% CF and 16% Malbec, but it seems like the Merlot is expressing the dominant traits this tasting.. 14% alc. $28.95. 31Jan2013.

Couper's Shed Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2009 (sc) Youthful purple red, dense and deep, this wine has aromas in the currant spectrum. It's concentrated and juicy with supple tannins, savoury oak, hints of liquorice, plum, blackberry, tar and a hint of rose petal that comes from about 8% Cabernet Franc and adds to the fragrance too. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. $14.99 special 26Aug2010.

Craggy Range Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels Merlot Cabernets 2009 (sc) Intense black-purple-red. Smoky oak, plums, cedar, dried herbs on the nose are followed by succulent berry and blackcurrant fruit in the smooth, velvety-textured palate with smoky cedar, some meaty nuances and even a hint of tobacco. A vibrant wine in colour, aroma and taste, it's full-bodied in style and quite delicious! 14% alc. $24.99. 24Nov2010.

Cypress Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009 (c) Inky purple black. The aroma is deep, brooding and smoky with cassis, vanilla and leather pushing through. Sweet fruit fills the perfumed palate and there's a deep sense of juiciness with floral intonations, hints of tar and leather, opulent mouth-filling tannins and a dry finish with a very subtle suggestion of mint as the flavours linger. A very impressive Hawkes Bay red. 14% alc. $19.99. 14Sep2011.

Discovery Point Gravels Selections Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2009 (sc) This 60/40 blend has a vivid, bright black/crimson red hue and smells smooth, succulent and a little cedary with an abundance of dark fruit. The aromatic impression follows through to the rounded palate, which is deep and savoury with nuances of smoky oak, cassis and blackberry fruit, milk chocolate, leather and dried herbs, and the finish is long and fine with a touch of anise lifting the finish. 13.5% alc. $32.99. 25May2011.

Goldridge Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009 (sc) Dense bright dark crimson red. On the nose it's fragrant with a rich, plummy and leather overtone and wood smoke in the background. But the taste is decidedly fruity - boysenberry, concentrated plum and black fruits with smoky oak, fine tannins, a hint of mint and an almost chocolaty richness to the finish where leathery savoury tones come through to linger. Medium bodied style with a juicy brightness throughout. 3.5 stars. 13.5% alc. $15.95. 21Jun2010.
Deep black red in colour and brightly perfumed with dark berries, almond, some leather and tar. Full-bodied and juicy with smoky oak, velvety tannins, red and black fruit, plums, chocolate and spice, it's total value for money and absolutely ready to go. 13.5% alc. $9.99 10Nov2010.

Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki 2009(c) Intense deep purple black with vivid edges. There's red fruit brightness to the exotic fragrance that evokes nuances of liquorice and vanillin oak. Firm yet fine tannins in the palate and a lovely floral lift with dark fruit and a silky savouriness with underlying creamy mocha notes and again a red fruit brightness to the creamy finish. The most harmonious wine of the line-up it seems more 'ready'. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.5% alc. $55. 14May2013.

Main Divide Waipara Valley Merlot Cabernet 2009 (sc) Boysenberry red with some fading to the edge. The bouquet emanates scents of juicy freshly crushed berries with a savoury 'sous bois' complexity, hints of milk chocolate, earth, mint, cedar and leather. Spicy and savoury to the smooth-textured taste with creamy oak, concentrated plum and boysenberry fruit, sweet juicy cherries and some lovely cedary smoky complexities on the mouthfilling finish where hints of anise of rose petals linger seductively. Drinking beautifully. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 2Feb2013.

Man O' War Waiheke Merlot Cabernet 2009 (sc) The aroma wafts out like fruit salad from a distance but nosing the wine it's leather, oak spice, mercurachrome and bittersweet cherry. In the palate there's firm tannins, creamy oak, brambles, plums, sweet spices and tobacco with a leathery backbone and a herbaceous flourish. The upfront tannins dissolve as the wine lingers and there's a touch of chocolate at the end and juicy black cherries too. Juicy and moreish in the blind tasting glass. Later in a plain glass it's a fine textured black red. Very nice. 14.5% alc. $27.99. 30Dec2011.

Matawhero Gisborne Merlot 2009 (sc)Dark ruby in colour, very deeply translucent, with sumptuous chocolatey oak and concentrated berry aromas and warm cosy velvety tannins supporting the full-bodied flavours of bright red fruit, chocolaty oak, mulled wine spices, tobacco and eucalypt. A voluptuous red that warms the blood and pumps through the veins with a warming richness, leaving behind a dry finish and savoury aftertaste. So eucalypt, it's easy to mistake for Australian. 13% alc. $20. 21Jun2010.
Dark red, Moderately restrained aroma in the context of the tasting: a touch of smoke and a little meaty. On tasting there's masses of creamy oak, sweet cherries, black currants and a touch of spiced plum. An immediately approachable and juicy wine – it's on the medium side of full-bodied with a rounded demeanour and firm tannins providing structure. The meaty nuances detected on the nose linger on the finish with leather, a touch of nugget and dried herbs – the juicy fruit pushing through again to keep everything in balance. Just lacks overall excitement for me. 13.2% alc. $25.90. 7Jul2011.

Matua Valley Single Vineyard Matheson Merlot 2009 – Hawkes Bay (sc) Dark red with a smoky cedar and plum fruit bouquet, the highlight of this wine is the mouthfeel and the fine silky seamless flow. A full-bodied wine with a firm structure in behind and flavours that are savoury with creamy oak, plums and succulent berries. A classy wine that’s still evolving. 14% alc. $69.99. 28Aug2013.

Messenger Le Menage a Trois 2009 (c) From Stillwater in Auckland, this smoky, savoury is a blend of 39% Merlot, 37 % Cabernet Franc and 23% Malbec. A purple-red colour, looking more youthful but nowhere near as dense as the blockbuster 2008. And it's quite a different wine to the taste. Lots of smoke, cedar and cigar box, red and black fruits with subtle florals on the finish. It has fine silky tannins and while it seems more savoury than fruity, there's a lovely sweet thread running through the dry finish and the perfume becomes more and more floral and berryish as the wine opens up. 13.1% alc. $NA. 6Apr2012.

Mills Reef Reserve Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2009 (sc) Sweet smoky oak scents infused with cherry and richly flavoured with juicy fruit and velvety tannins. Tasted alongside the Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2009, this is the softer, easier of the pair. It has a savoury, smoky backbone and a savoury inflection to the rounded finish. 14.5% alc. $24.95. 17May2011.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2009 (sc) Vivid purple red, dark and dense. Smoky oak scent, savoury, leathery. Savoury notes follow through to the palate. Rich fruit cake tones come through, with an underlying succulence. Currants, rosehips, cigar box, leather. Velvety textured with a warm cosy mouthfeel and a fruit gum chewiness. 14% alc. $24.95. 9Aug2011.

Mission Estate Jewelstone Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2009 (c) Dark red with tints of black and a perfumed berry and cedar scent to the concentrated full-bodied flavours that have a beautifully balanced fruit / oak / tannin regime. A savoury undercurrent underpins the fruit nicely. Very smooth with lingering leather, cigar box and plum. 14.5% alc. $40.99. 14Sep2011.

Newton Forrest Stony Corner Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2009 (sc) Dark red with aromas of cherry, creamy oak and dried minty herbs. Quite firm to the taste but there is an aura of succulence. Fine textured and concentrated with hints of cigar box, milk chocolate, cherry and well-balanced oak. Full-bodied, juicy and easy to like. For drinking now or cellaring. 14% alc. $25.99. 14Sep2011.

Omata Estate Russell Merlot 2009 (sc) Light blackcurrant red. Perfumed, a little flora and a delicate nuance of vanillin oak all add to the pleasing scent. Lovely flow across the palate, nice use of creamy vanillin oak with nutty notes, cherries and redcurrants. Medium bodied style with a hint of toboacco on the finish. 12.6% alc. $31.00. 17Sep2011.

Sacred Hill Halo Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2009 (sc) As dark as the Syrah - purple purple, purple. Gosh, what a gorgeous succulent wine, especially compared to the Merlot Cabernet 2010, this beauty is perfumed with violets and chocolate and the palate is layered with juicy red and black fruits and chocolate with firm tannins holding it all together. There's a subtle spicy infusion to the flavour and violets and lead pencils linger. A top wine and outstanding value for money. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 21Sep2011.

Sacred Hill Helmsman Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc Merlot 2009 (sc) Black purple coloured, shiny and dense. The tantalising perfume has a savoury depth with chocolate box, violet, earth and cassis. An opulent tasting red, it's juicy, biscuity, chocolatey and creamy, with a touch of chicory too. So much succulence, yet so much finesse. The tannins are fine and the finish is dry with a vanillin blackberry impression pushing through and excellent length. A long term proposition from an excellent vintage. 14% alc. $79.99. 21Sep2011.

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (sc) Dense inky purple red. The bouquet has sweet, smoky, vanilla and cedar with luscious red and black fruit and a chocolatey depth to the scent. Deep, rich and earthy with a hint of leather - the savouriness tempered by the juicy cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Full-bodied with silky tannins and a lasting finish. 5 stars. 13% alc. $20.95. 3Dec2010.

Soljans The Tribute Merlot Malbec 2009 (sc) A dark ruby colour, translucent in appearance. Smoky aromatics with dark fruit, leather, tobacco and violets. Smoky and savoury with a sappy generosity, juicy red fruit, chocolate, cigar, tobacco and hints of vanilla adding sweetness, which is a nice foil to the underlying acidity. Medium-bodied in style with silky tannins, blackcurrant on the finish and a floral nuance too with hints of liquorice as it lingers. 76% Merlot, 24% Malbec. 4 stars. 13% alc. $39.95. 17Apr2011.

Stoneleigh Marlborough Merlot 2009 (sc) Dense dark red. Earthy, savoury and with concentrated plum and berry fruit. Almost sumptuous, bright and clean - perhaps a hint of mint - and very appealing. But the palate confuses me. Earthy, savoury and even a little gamey and slightly stalky with plums, red berries, herbs, leather, tobacco and soft velvety tannins in a medium-bodied package. I like the nose, I like the finish, I just find it a little disjointed and bitter on entry to the palate. 3 stars. 14.5% alc. $23. 21Jun2010.

Te Awa Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2009 (D) Rich dark crimson red. Smoky oak on the nose with leather, dark berry fruits, floral nuances and a suggestion of acidity too. Sweet smoky oak and cigar box nuances come through in the palate with black jelly beans and red jelly babies. A ripe, tasty wine with red fruit brightness and a floral intrigue, firm velvety tannins becoming quite fine, vanilla, a touch of cinnamon and the acidity is very well balanced. 13.5% alc. $35.95. 28Apr2012.

Te Awa Left Field Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2009 (sc) Deep, dark and dense in hue. Cherry, vanilla, toast, beef, floral notes too – it has a more traditional, Bordeaux-like, French oak scent. In the mouth it's deep, rich and beefy with a black fruit concentration and red fruits coming through, well-balanced acidity, supple silky tannins, and a rounded finish where chocolate plays a game with leather. Excellent length. 79% Merlot, 11% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc. 5 stars. 14% alc. $24. 17Apr2011.

Ti Point Two Matakana Merlot Cabernet Franc 2009 (sc) Dark purple red, not quite inky. Juicy, succulent red fruit scents, savoury palate with tobacco and leather and firm tannins that have a little bit of grip. Concentrated redcurrant fruit, underlying acidity, toasty oak, mocha and liquorice. Quite sweet fruit yet overall it is dark, smoky and mysterious. 4 stars. 13% alc. 3Dec2010.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels 'The Gimblett' 2009 (c) Striking blackberry-red coloured, this Bordeaux-styled red is made from Merlot (38%), Cabernet Sauvignon (37%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Malbec (8%) and Petit Verdot (2%). Firmly structured yet succulent, it smoky, cedary and spicy with red and black fruits, earth, herbs, hints of chocolate and elusive floral nuances too. Outstanding. 14% alc. $30.99. 7Sep2011.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2009 (sc) Deep dark red with a crimson glow. Smoky sweet oak and redcurrant aromas and juicy plum and red berry flavours with vanillin oak, chocolate, cigar box and boot leather lie on a bed of thick-set tannins. Once the tannins dissolve the mouthfeel becomes velvety smooth succulence and the ripe, bright finish has a flourish of pepper and cake spice. A blend of 56% Merlot, 42% Cabernet and 2% Malbec. 13.5% alc. $14.99. 16May2012.
So harmonious and smooth, the tannins are exceptional in this wine. It's a violet red colour, and has a softness and fragrance to the succulent bramble berry scent. Firm in the palate with a touch of anise-like spice, it is classic blackcurrant Cabernet with cherry fruit Merlot and lovely cigar box smoky oak on the finish. Concentration adds to its appeal. 13.5% alc. $15.99. 14Nov2012.

Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009 (sc) Deep black red colour. Smoky aroma with succulent tannins and hints of mint and liquorice. Lifted palate - redcurrant fruit, smoky vanillin oak, mint-edged herbs, leather, very fine tannins ana a juicy succulent finish. An easy-going, approachable style with a touch of barnyard (Brett) adding complexity. Certified organic. 3 stars. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 3Dec2010.

2008 Vintage [top] [index]

Awa Valley Single Vineyard James Reserve Kumeu Merlot Malbec 2008 (sc) Medium dark red with vanillin tinged smoky oak, a brambly nuance, earth, leather, cigar box and a slight suggestion of fruitcake to the scent. From the evocative aroma it's fine textured and silky to start but the tannins build up to be firm and velvety at the end. Likewise the wine compounds in the palate to become a full, rich and creamy with an intriguing Bordeaux-like element and it finishes leathery and dry. The tannin build up is unexpended but sits in nicely with the black cherry and plum-like fruit. Nice. 13.7% alc. $22.00. 17Nov2011.

Church Road Cuve Series Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008 (sc) A deep rich densely-coloured wine with a rich, creamy, red and black fruit aroma, and sumptuous flavours caressed by supple sensuous tannins. Smoky oak is creamy and well-integrated, and hints of chocolate and liquorice linger with berries on the lasting finish. Delicious. 14% alc. $24.99. 30Mar2011.
Dark red-black coloured, with a leathery nuance to the rich winey scent and ripe plummy and currant fruit flavours with a succulent infusion to the savoury backbone, touches of vanilla and chocolate, a seam of acidity and a flourish of spice. A deep, rich wine with soft, pillowy tannins. A benchmark for the variety. 14% alc. $24.99. 28Sep2011.

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2008 (sc) Deep black red with a fragrant rose petal and biscuity oak aroma and earthy savoury flavours with red fruits and black berries, silky tannins, a plush mid-palate juiciness and a long savoury smoky finish. Very impressive!! 14% alc. $35.99. 12Jan2011.
Shiny black red, impenetrable and dense. The bouquet of fine French oak, chocolate and anise oozes finesse and the palate backs up the promise. With dark berry fruit, cassis and firm tannins, this is a deep rich wine with a long life ahead of it. 14% alc. $35.99. 1Feb2012.

Corazon Vineyard Selection Merlot Malbec 2008 (D) Made from grapes grown in several upper North Island sites, including West Auckland, this blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Malbec is deep, dark and rich in the glass. Alluring aromas of blackberries, plums and smoky vanillin oak and leather carry through to the juicy, medium to full-bodied palate characterised by smooth, fine tannins. Fruit and savoury flavours combine in harmony with Malbec adding a deep nuggetty earthiness and a lifted floral finish with a touch of rose petal and chocolate on the lasting aftertaste. 13.9% alc. $18.00. 17Jul2010.

Couper's Shed Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2008 (sc) Purple red, bright yet dense. Cedary aromatics infused with cassis and plums, then flavours crammed with bramble fruit, a hint of liquorice, some underlying acidity and perhaps a touch of stalkiness with nuances of dried herbs. But overall it's bright-fruited, rich and cedary with firm velvety tannins and a lifted finish. A good match to fillet steak a la Neil. 13% alc. $22.95. 11Jan2010.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008 (sc) Inky black purple-red. Rich nuggety oak and hints of chocolate on the nose and ripe blackcurrant and cherry fruit flavours. A clean, bright, ripe, juicy, mouthfilling wine with harmonious oak, firm velvet-edged tannins, hints of chocolate, underlying leather and a good long finish. Quality exudes in every direction. 14% alc. $28.99. 11Aug2010.

Goldridge Premium Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008 (S) Deep dark red. A big, earthy, savoury wine has salty herbs, leathery nuances and grippy tannins. I find the Brettanomyces character distracting. Rather disappointing after the sensational 2007's from this producer. 13.5% alc. $21.95. 30Nov2009.

Hyperion Zeus Matakana Merlot Cabernet 2008 (D) A thick textured wine with a chocolatey richness but there's a touch of Brett running through it and a sappy herbal streak too. Dark red fruits, a touch of blackcurrant and an earthy, leathery backbone. People will like this but it's not *my* style. 13% alc. $21.00. 29Apr2011.

Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki 2008(c) Intense deep purple black with vivid edges. There's a spicy brightness to the smoky cedary bouquet – very classic I think for Cabernet Sauvignon. A firm, velvet-coated tannin structured underlies the red and blackcurrant succulence, there's a smoky depth and a sappy woody herbaceousness with lingering liquorice and cherry. Very dry, but there is some beauty to the lingering taste which opens up after a while in the glass. A blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $55. 14May2013.

Main Divide Marlborough Merlot Cabernet 2008 (sc) This is a dark-coloured, dark–fruited red with succulent redcurrant and black Doris plums combining with polished savoury cedary oak. Tannins are fine-grained and supple and there's a sweet leather undercurrent with a meaty depth. Lovely concentration and richness. Red velvet, rose petals, and a touch of underlying acidity add brightness. Long and penetrating. Matched to bacon-wrapped meatloaf with herbs including Kaffir lime – intriguing. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 16Jul2011.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008 (sc)Dense rich dark crimson red. Smoky, savoury, meaty aromas infused with concentrated brambly fruit and leather. Moderately tannic with sweet spicy oak, confectionery/juicy red fruit, leather, cigar box, earth and dried herbs. From a full-bodied start it has moderate mid-palate weight and a more 'elegant' attack to the lingering meaty finish, perhaps a touch of barnyard too. Tannins are fine, which gives it some finesse. 3.5 stars. 14 alc. $24.95. 21Jun2010.

Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet NV A sweet smelling red with a dense red black hue and youthful crimson highlights. Cherry and vanillin oak on the nose with a hint of violet along with tobacco, smoky cedar and barnyard emerging from behind the sweet fruit. It is medium-bodied in palate weight with Merlot-dominant plum and cherry fruit. Smooth and soft with some grip to the dusty tannins, there's a touch of woody herbaceous that adds interest and a smoky character to the lingering savoury finish. A touch of liquorice emerges and underlying acidity ensure the finish last. The vinous sweet fruit character is the last memory. Gets better and better as it opens in the glass. 17/20. 14% alc. $16.95. 21Apr2009.

Mills Reef Gimblett Gravels Reserve Merlot Malbec 2008 (sc) A bright crimson red on the cusp of opaque in appearance. Savoury with a touch of barnyard and paintbox to the scent then blackcurrant, vanilla and pencil shavings are coerced out with deep inhaling. Thick textured with velvet-rubbed-the-wrong-way tannins, voluptuous fruit concentration, well balanced acidity, plums, raspberries, cherries, chocolate, liquorice and leather. Very deep and intense with a rose petal nuance to the finish. A blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Malbec. 5 stars. 13% alc. $25. 17Apr2011.

Sacred Hill Basket Press Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2008 (sc) Bright vivid purple red in colour, it brims with ripe brambles on the nose - a little reminiscent of fresh blackberries that you can pick from the side of the road at this time of year. Add a bit of dusty oak, tar and leather for interest. Berries dominate the juicy palate with charred oak providing balancing savouriness. Merlot asserts its presence with a rounded mid palate and a plum / chocolate richness while the Cabernet Sauvignon provides structure and a touch of herbaceousness - herbs that emit anise / liquorice type flavours. Dry tannins hit the front of the mouth on the finish but overall the impression is of a very smooth, robust drinkable red. 13.5% alc. $20.90. 19Mar2009.

Selaks Winemakers Favourite Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2008 (sc) Deep back red with a crimson glow. Vibrant toasty French oak, oak spice and a red berry aroma and full of plum and blackberry fruit in the palate with a layer of strawberry chocolate too. A lovely smooth, medium bodied style, oak enhances the savoury element without intruding and the tannin structure is velvety and fine. 14% alc. $19.99. 23Sep2009.
Dense, bright purple red. On the nose there's smoke, cedar, cassis, leather and herbs while the flavours are smooth and creamy with raspberry, plum and cassis fruit, savoury oak, hints of leather and cigarbox, and supple tannins. 14% alc. $19.99. 10Mar2010.

Sileni Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008 (sc)Fine in appearance with a ruby/crimson hue. Savoury and meaty on the nose with hints of spiced plums and a suggestion of dried herbs. Medium in palate weight, this has fine tannins, sweet red fruit, violets, plums, smoke and herbs and while the finish is savoury, the lingering aftertaste has juicy purple fruit connotations. Fine in texture, understated in stature. 3.5 stars. 13% alc. $18.95. 21Jun2010.

Te Mania Three Brothers Nelson Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc 2008 (D) Deep red, but not totally opaque. Leathery nuances on the nose, some cherry pushing through. Those smoky, savoury cherry characters carry through to the medium-bodied palate. Perhaps a touch of a medicinal character but not too distracting. 13% alc. $19.99. 30Nov2009.

Vidal Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (sc) A solid wine with a deep rich colour, velvety tannins and plenty of gutsy flavour - it's earthy and leathery with succulent prune and blueberry fruit that's flushed with a red currant brightness and hints of liquorice, and it signs off with a smoky oak finish. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 12Aug2010.
A deep purple red coloured wine with a seam of peppery spice that sits in well with the voluptuous fruit while the tannins are fine and smooth and there's a touch of Black Forest chocolate on the juicy finish. Malbec adds to the overall appeal. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. $14.99. 26Aug2010.

Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008 (sc) A deep crimson / purple red intense in the core, vibrant on the edges. Fragrant perfume of berries, leather, hints of Grandma's violets and tar. Loads of juicy ripe berry fruit flavours with underlying savoury winemaking complexities. Medium-bodied in palate weight with velvety tannins and a long finish. Delivers so much more than you would expect for the price. 85% Merlot, 6% CF, 5% Malbec and 4% CS. 12 months in seasoned oak. 13.5% alc. $17.99. 20May2009.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008 – Omahu Gravels (sc) Deep dark red-black in colour, this full-bodied, concentrated wine has a bouquet of plum, prune, cassis, pencil shavings, violets and fragrant herbs carrying through to the palate where lovely integrated cedary oak, leather, chocolate and chicory penetrate the flavour. With its beautiful tannin structure this seamless wine totally delivers. 14% alc. $44.99. 22Sep2010.
Deep black red with a seductive aroma of concentrated berries, oak spice, dried herbs and a hint of coconut and juicy succulent flavours with creamy oak, biscuity spice, concentrated brambly fruit, hints of liquorice and fine and beautifully balanced tannins. A blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Gimblett Gravels. 14% alc. Screwcap. $44.99. 26Aug2010.

Waimea Nelson Bolitho SV Merlot 2008 (sc) Dense black plummy red. Chocolatey oak on the nose with cigar box, dried herbs and fruit cake cherries. Immediately red fruit infiltrates the palate – redcurrants, raspberries and just ripe plums – but the acidity dissolved into the creamy oak and the meaty savouriness takes over. This is a roast lamb with redcurrant and mint type of wine as well as a warm the cockles of the heart wine. There's plushness to the texture, the tannins are firm yet fine, there's lots of creamy oak, the finish is full-bodied with a Black Forest chocolate flavours lingering and the aftertaste is fulfilling and satisfying. 13% alc. $26.90. 7Jul2011.

Waimea Nelson Merlot Malbec 2008 (sc) Deep, dark red, with a translucency to the appearance. Creamy oak, a touch of chocolate, perhaps some mocha, and leather. Floral, herbal and hits of pencil shavings. Meaty and savoury with firm tannins, a hint of anise, mocha and leather, underlying acidity, red fruit sweetness and Malbec's characteristic purples to then a floral lift to the finish with a nuance of mint. 70% Merlot, 30% Malbec. 5 stars. 13% alc. $22. 17Apr2011.

Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red Merlot Malbec 2008 (sc) Vivid black red. Smelling incredibly smooth and seamless, it tastes it too. Nicely seasoned smoky French oak, fruit cake spices, a touch of chocolate and succulent plums and black cherries. Tannins are smooth and velvety and the wine oozes class and finesse. 14% alc. $16.99. 23Sep2009.
Deep, dense black red, quite shiny too. Savoury aromas of French oak, leather and plum carry through to the palate to underpin the upfront plum and cassis fruit with fruitcake spices and hints of chocolate. A medium to full-bodied red with velvety tannins supporting the fruit. 14% alc. $18.99. 6Jan2010.
Inky purple red, quite shiny in hue. Leather and plum aromas lead into savoury flavours with concentrated plum and cake spices, an undercurrent of smoke, leather and tar, and chicory and anise on the long juicy finish. Full-bodied and rich with smooth velvety tannins, a year after release it's still very youthful. 14% alc. Screwcap. $17.99. 26Aug2010.

2007 Vintage [top] [index]

Alexia by Jane Cooper Merlot 2007 (sc) Deep saturated colour. Chocolatey and earthy with a herbal undercurrent that makes it seem little like a rich Pinot Noir- but then the rich ripe PN’s are sometimes reminiscent of Merlot. Smoky oak, a touch savoury on nose, spicy and savoury and just a little herbal in palate. Dry with moderate tannins and a medium length finish. A meaty wine, perhaps a hint of mint and should go well with lamb. However we had it with pork in a plum sauce. 14% alc. $19.95. 28Aug2008.

Brunton Road Gisborne Merlot 2007 (sc) Saturated deep black plummy red. Savoury with dried herb on the nose and succulent blackberry jam scents.Smooth and creamy to the taste - loads and loads of fruit make it a very appealing forward and juicy style. I’m thinking of those blackberries and raspberries gummy jelly lollies. There’s a smoky undercurrent, hints of liquorice and nicely integrated spicy oak to round out the finish. Classic cigar box notes linger on the aftertaste, which is long and savoury. 14% alc. $19.95. 24May2008.

Church Road Cuve Series Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 A dense, deep coloured red. Typical Merlot aroma - earth, leather, plums and cigar. Fruit is ripe and juicy with spicy oak adding opulence to the leathery backbone with a touch of anise and floral notes supporting the plum and blackberry fruit. A big wine for Merlot with firm but supple tannins and well-balanced savouriness. 14% $27.99. 12Aug2009.
This juicy, ripe, full-bodied Merlot has an inky black red colour, it's smoky and a little herbal on the nose and simply oozes with flavours of currants, creamy vanillin oak, plums, chocolate and leather. From the great 2007 vintage, this value-packed wine is a block-buster for the style and simply delicious. If you have a phobia about Merlot, this multi-gold medal winning wine will change your mind. 14% alc. $22.99 17Nov2010.

Church Road Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2007 (sc) Deep, dense, vivid purple red. Not really offering too much on the nose come concentrated jammy berries perhaps - yes blackberries and cherries. This wine give the notion of purple - purple plum, purple berries, purple flowers - surely it has some Malbec in it although it doesn't say so on the label. A savoury wine with spicy nuances, an earthy richness and sweet vanillin oak. Grunty is one way to describe this deliciously rich juicy wine with underlying acidity adding brightness. A beautiful wine that almost rivals the 'Reserve'. 13.5% alc. $25.95. 26Nov2009.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2007 (c) Deep black red with a shiny appearance. Earthy, almost peppery aromas with vanillin oak pushing through. In the palate it’s deep, smoky and savoury with a dried herb profile to the plummy fruit and a hint of chocolate too. More savoury than fruity with some grip to the tannins and underlying acidity to give it longevity, this is a good cellaring proposition. 14.5% alc. $29.99. 16Dec2009.

Craggy Range Sophia Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc 2007 (c) Intense dark purple black. Perfumed with French oak, hints of leather, plum and violet-like florals. Concentrated and powerful with a violet-like intensity to the juicy plum, blackberry and cassis fruit with an undercurrent of cedar, chocolate and liquorice. A sumptuous wine with a classic leafy character and mouth coating tannins - already stunning but some more time to integrate will take it to another level. 14.5% alc. $49.99. 1Jul2009.

Dolbel Estate Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2007 (sc) Dark saturated boysenberry red with crimson edges. Cedary aromatics infused with concentrated berries and vanilla. Full-bodied, firm and savoury with mocha-like oak and deep penetrating red fruit - cherries, plums and blackberries - and a herbal note to the finish. A wine that would benefit from cellaring - a little dry and grippy right now. Will soften with time. A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon matured for 14 months in French oak barriques. 13% alc. 16.5/20. 25May2010.

Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2007 (sc) Dark plummy red in colour, the aroma offers up cedar, red fruits, sweet leather, vanilla and later, liquorice. A surprisingly soft, smooth, rounded, velvety textured wine with underlying acidity, concentrated red and black fruits, chocolate biscuits and an earthy depth. Malbec adds floral nuances and the spicy flourish to the finish. It's actually a little tighter than first thought and becomes more aromatically complex with time. It begs decanting right now. 14% alc. $59.99. 8Jun2011.
Dark black red, with an aroma of herbal nuances, smoky, savoury French oak and cassis that immediately emanates class. Incredibly juicy, full-bodied and succulent with oak spice, concentrated blackcurrants and plums, rippling muscular tannins, a well-balanced savoury undercurrent and mellow vinous sweetness to the dry finish. Consummate and complete. 14% alc. $59.99. 15Aug2012.

Frizzell Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 (sc) Deep black red. Quite perfumed and floral with savoury oak adding to the scent and flavours that are succulent and sweet with juicy plum and blackberry fruit, cedar and spice. Tannins are fine textured and lightly grippy while crushed red peppercorns tickle the tongue on the finish. 14% alc. $19.99. 30Sep2009.
Deep black red colour with a plum and dark cherry aroma and intriguing savoury, gamey flavours with cherry, earth, tobacco and liquorice. A meaty wine with ballsy tannins, it was included in the tasting as a standup options wine. 14% alc. $21.99. 30Mar2011.

Frizzell Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc 2007 (sc) A soft, velvety, full flavoured number - it has a great colour - a vibrant red black brambly colour and attractive aromas of plums and blackberries with a backing of sweet savoury oak. A juicy savouriness brims through the palate with concentrated black berries and plums - ripe blueberry too. There's spicy oak providing a solid base for the fruit then Malbec's classic earthiness together with hints of rose petal and chocolate notes comes through on the succulent finish. Rounded, smooth, full of flavour, this is good. 14% alc. $21.99. 20Mar2009.

Huntaway Gisborne / Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2007 (sc) Dense purple red. Oaky, cedary with a hint of mint and other herbal nuances. This is a thick grainy textured wine in the mouth with sweet vanillin oak, bright cassis fruit, dried herbs and underlying acidity which adds a slightly metallic taste to this wine. Overall it is quite powerful and tasty with food, but for me the aromas let it down. 13.5% alc. $22.95. 26Nov2009.

Hyperion Zeus Matakana Merlot Cabernet 2007 (D) Deep red colour. Savoury, leathery and tarry scent with chocolate coated berries coming through. In the mouth the flavours are of cedary oak and brambles with the juicy sweetness balanced by the savouriness. A soft supple wine with a dry, savoury disposition, a creamy texture and underlying grip to the tannins. 13.5% alc. $20. 7 Nov 2009.

Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki 2007 (c) Intense deep purple black with vivid edges. Deep rich, concentrated bouquet of mocha, liquorice, cherry, vanilla, cigar box and leather. Divine on first tasting – a caress of red velvet as it flows across the palate with flavours of red fruits, chocolate, red liquorice and nutty oak underpinned by a deep, charred meat savouriness. There's fresh acidity in here too. This wine is still evolving, a long way to go for the tannins that capture the mouth on the finish need to soften. A blend of Merlot (85%) and Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $55. 14May2013.

Matakana Estate Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc 2007 (c) Deeply coloured red with hints of black. Beguiling concentrated cassis and plum scent with hints of liquorice and nutmeg. Spicy vanillin oak asserts it presence on entry to the palate. Juicy and succulent fruit harmonises with the savoury backbone and the tannins are silky and fine. A deep earthy nuance on the finish. A profound Hawkes Bay blend from Mareakakaho - as good as the best from the Bay. 13.5% alc. $29. 7Jul2009.

Matariki Hawkes Bay Quintology 2007 (sc) Deep ruby black. Aromatic, smoky, sweet oak, hints of mocha and spice. A flush of ripe fruit in the full-bodied succulent palate - cherries, redcurrant, black Doris plums together with creamy vanillin oak and cake spices, a cedary savoury backbone and mouthcoating velvety tannins. There's a brightness to the finish - is it acidity or a zing of pepper from the syrah? Could be both! Excellent cellaring potential still although it definitely hit the spot on the first winter night of 2013. A blend of 38% Merlot, 23% Syrah, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 8% Malbec it was a sublime match to my potato, leek and parmesan cheese casserole as well as the mushrooms and steak. 14% alc. $80. 1Jun2013.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 (sc) Deep dark red. Sweet, with polished oak, a hint of mint and a savoury depth. Meaty smelling yet sweet. A softer, juicier wine than the sibling Cab Merlot 07 tasted beside it, and not as complex in that respect. Classic Merlot with fruitcake cherries, cake spice, leather, blueberry, smoky oak, ripe fruit, soft velvety tannins, long finish. Easy going, medium-bodied style. Easy to enjoy. 50/50 French & American oak - 28% new. 17/20. 14% alc. $24.95. 21Apr2009.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2007 (sc) Concentrated deep plummy red coloured with purple-crimson edges, it has smoky oak, dried herb, concentrated berry and slightly liquorice scents that lead into a juicy palate full of sweet ripe red and black fruits. It's medium to full-bodied in palate weight and quite sensual in texture with plush firm tannins and savoury oak. Fruit is plummy and ripe, integrating to the meaty, leathery, chicory backbone and the Malbec earthiness and violet / rose petal-like florals come forth on the finish. It is very hard to think of a consistently good and better value red wine from New Zealand.14% alc. $24.95. 27Jan 2009

Mission Estate Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 (D) Dense black red with crimson edges. Deep and brooding on the nose with leather and a spiced berry scent, it is full-bodied and sumptuous in the palate with thick-textured velvety tannins, sweet dark plum and berry fruit, tobacco, cigar box, leather, a little bit of tar and a hint of bitter chocolate too. Delivers value for money and mouthfilling pleasure. 14% alc. $18.99. 15Apr2009.
This is a medium-to-full bodied wine with a moderately deep red colour, hints of cassis on the nose and concentrated flavours of juicy red fruits and bottled plums with a firm tannin underlay and creamy oak completing the package. A splash of Cabernet Franc adds perfume. A very smart wine with very good length. 14% alc. $17.99. 29Jul2009.
A deep, dark red. Quite savoury on the nose with smoky oak and a hint of tobacco, those characters carry through to the juicy palate that's full of plum and black berry fruit with a savoury, meaty undercurrent, moderate tannins and a hint of rose chocolate coming through on the creamy finish. 14% alc. $19.99. 28Oct2009.

Newton Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2007 (sc) Youthful purple red colour, seemingly bright for its age but reflective of this outstanding vintage. The bouquet is perfumed with red fruits, tar and vanillin oak and the flavours offer up plenty. There's raspberry, blackcurrants, liquorice, nut chocolate, cake spice and creamy oak and while the tannins are tightly bound at this stage, this is a stupendous Hawke's Bay red with many years of life ahead of it. 14% alc. $55.99. 12Oct2011.

Pask Declaration Merlot 2007 (sc) Deep rich dark plumy red coloured. There's harmony to the scent with vanilla, Christmas cake, rose petal and a kind of funky note too. Full flavoured and texturally plush in the palate, it's has a bottle-aged mellow meaty savouriness, a red currant-like fruit sweetness, a dry savoury backbone and a lingering finish where hints of nut chocolate come through. Still plenty of life in this wine, it spent over two years in French and American oak and was released after some further bottle age. 14% alc. $43.99. 19Apr2013.

Saint Clair Rapaura Reserve Merlot 2007 (sc) A little more transparent in colour than the Spy Valley, like a deep garnet but richer and more succulent in flavour. Smooth and creamy with juicy red plum and cherry fruit, yet a burst of underlying acidity keeping the fruit sweetness in check. There's a touch of vanilla and a suggestion of liquorice with a smoky finish and velvety tannins, with a solid mouthfeel as it lingers. 13.5% alc. $26.95. 17Feb2011.

Selaks Premium Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 (sc) Deep winey red black colour, quite vivid and bright. Smoky scents over concentrated berry fruit with a meaty depth and a subtle leathery accent. Medium to full-bodied palate with cedar, smoke, plums and concentrated black berry fruit. Tannins are svelte yet rich, there's some underlying acidity and brighter red berries emerge on the long, savoury finish becoming quite creamy as the aftertase lingers. Went very well with the lamb and after the food, fruit cake cherries emerge and the wine becomes quite chocolatey. 13.5% alc. $14.95. 6Dec2008.

Selaks The Favourite Merlot Cabernet 2007 - Gimblett Gravels (sc) Deep colour purple-flushed red. Gorgeous scent - beauitful oak, dried herbs, pipe tobacco, chicory, chocolate and bottled plums. A soft, generous wine in the palate - gentle not aggressive. Smoky, savoury, tarry with oak quite dominant at this stage of its life and the fruit coming forth on the finish. Ripe berry fruit, almost raisiny. Later oak seems integrated, tar has gone, lots of chocolate - very smooth. 14% alc. $19.99. 6Dec2008.

Sileni 'The Triangle' Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 (sc) Bright blackberry red. Earthy on the nose with dried herbs and leather, this juicy Merlot has teeth-coating velvety-textured tannins, masses of succulent red and black berry fruit, smoky oak, hints of chocolate, tar and leather. The fruit is all upfront and then the savoury richness of the wine comes through. Full-bodied and powerful with a lasting finish and underlying acidity hinting of its potential to age. A serious style. Hints of liquorice – and to me that's concentration.14% alc. $34.95. 7Jul2011.

Soho Revolver Fully Loaded 2007 (sc) This concentrated red is a deep dark colour with some ruby to the hue and displays it ripe red berry character both on the nose and in the palate where the tannins are silky and the oak has a spicy vibrancy. Yet there's also a strong herbal character which probably was its downfall in the blind tasting, yet was the element that made this wine such a star with the food. A blend of 39% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Malbec and 9% Cabernet Franc from a vineyard in Onetangi aged in French oak barriques of which just 20% was new.13% al.c $38. 26Nov2009.

Spy Valley Marlborough Merlot 2007 (sc) Dark red with purple flushed through it, it has quite concentrated red berries with chicory and woodsmoke on the nose. Seems quite youthful in the palate, or perhaps a bit herbal and green, a hint of menthol pushing through the black berry flavours. Creamy oak adds another dimension, perhaps even a hint of chocolate, and the meaty tannins are supple although a little drying on the finish. 94% Merlot, 6% Malbec. 13.5% alc. $19.90. 17Feb2011.

Stone Paddock Scarlet Hawkes Bay 2007 (sc) A blend of 37% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Franc and 12% Malbec, this is deep and dense in colour - deeper darker that 'scarlet' red - it's scarlet with purple staining. Ripe dusty blackberry on the nose and soft, smooth, harmonious flavours with a nice touch of savouriness and just a hint of spiciness to balance the ripe berry fruits and creamy vanillin oak. With is supple tannins and juicy disposition, it is immensely quaffable on its own and good with wine soaked meatloaf too. 14% alc. $25. 20Jul2009.

Te Awa Left Field Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 (sc) Dark red, still very youthful in appearance. Lovely smoky oak on the nose with an aura of polish and finesse. Super smooth in the palate, like caressing velvet with the grain. A full-bodied wine with flavours of sweet oak, vanilla, chocolate, cherry and plum. The fruit is ripe and succulent yet the wine still has that quintessential cedary savoury behind it with hints of nugget and leather and the finish persists in a pleasing way. 14.5% alc. $25.00. 1May2011.

Te Mania Nelson Three Brothers 2007 (D) Made from a blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, this is youthful purple red with crimson edges and has a spicy, cedary aroma with an attractive floral/herb overtone. A 'full-blooded" red - it has a meaty, leathery backbone with a thick, ripe tannin structure, a concentrated currant and red berry richness and an earthy depth. Vanillin oak adds sweetness while a hum of acidity adds lift to the spicy finish. This wine really improves with time in the bottle - or decant for best results now. 14% alc. $19.95. 15Apr2009.

Ti Point Two Matakana Merlot Cabernet Franc 2007 (sc) Deep purple coloured with gem-like ruby hues. A bright fruity aroma of concentrated blackberries and raspberries, a touch of leather, a hint of tobacco and smoky oak. Juicy and savoury to the taste with a lash of leather, concentrated red berry and plummy fruit, dried herbs, fruitcake spices, a touch of liquorice and silky tannins. It is medium-boded in style and with a fresh, lifted finish. 12% alc. $19.90. 6Jul2008.

Thornbury Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 (sc) From the Gimblett Gravels with 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, this is a shiny, dense black red. On the nose there are plums and leather with smoky oak while in the palate is it rich, dry and spicy with a fine texture. Crammed with juicy brambles and mulberry fruit with fruitcake spices and hints of cigar-like oak, it is a classic rendition of Merlot with all the typical descriptors and an absolute steal at the price. 14% alc. $14.99. 25Mar2009.
Vivid blackberry red colour. Earthy aromatics - quite leathery and plummy which is 'classic' for Merlot and juicy red and black fruit flavours with a spicy infusion. From the great 2007 vintage, this has concentration and beautifully fine tannins - simply amazing value for the price. 14% alc. $14.99. 21Oct2009.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2007 (sc) Deep dense purple black-red with bright pule-crimson rims. A supple textured wine with silk tannins, yet dense and concentrated with sumptuous red and black fruit, a meaty complexity, oak spice, violet and other florals and musky notes on the finish. A stand out wine - ready now but also with excellent potential to age. A star of the tasting. 47% Merlot, 40% Cab Sauv, 10% Malbec and 3% Cab Franc with 20 months in multi-region oak, 25% new. $24. 20May2009.

2006 Vintage [top] [index]

Askerne Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2006 (D) A blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, this deep dark red has smoky aromas with sweet oak pushing through the savoury, spicy, earthy flavours. There are herbal nuances and anise like spices that add character to the finish while the fruit has mellowed right out. 13% alc. $20.00. 30Nov2009.

Askerne Hawkes Bay Hawkes Bay Reserve Merlot 2006 (D) Deep dark red. Smoky oak and blackberry aroma. Rich and creamy in palate with red cherry fruit, sweet cedary oak, hints of mint and plush brushed-suede tannins. There are underlying nuances of dried herbs, perhaps tobacco, a hint of sweet leather and juicy red berry acidity. Medium to full-bodied in style with plenty of structure and a lingering finish. Hints of chocolate come through. Five years old and still a contender. I like this.13.5% alc. $29.95. 7Jul2011.

Bach 22 East Coast Merlot 2006 (sc) A smoky, juicy, ripe, tasty, medium-bodied red with its bright breezy wild blackberry fruit and a light impression of oak. If you like those slightly sweetish cheap Spanish reds, this is a good home grown alternative. 13% alc. $11.95. 7Dec2007.

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2006 (c) A deep coloured blackberry red, quite dense in the core. Lush fruit aromatics with violet, a hint of mint and a savoury oak backing lead into a savoury, spicy full-bodied palate that is a little peppery on entry. Deep and concentrated with red and black fruits, hints of bitter chocolate, a touch of leather, creamy oak and firm velvety tannins, there's a rustic dried herb character coming through to balance the fruit sweetness and the finish is lifted, toasty and long. 14% alc. $32.99. 18Mar2009.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2006 - Hawkes Bay (c) Deep dark red with flashes of purple. Rich and ripe with luscious black and red fruit that hints of boysenberry and cherry. Firm, grippy and robust despite the fine tannin structure, the concentrated fruit is infused with smoke and tobacco, or perhaps a touch of cigar and there's power to the long creamy finish, which becomes quite floral and lifted - no doubt because of the 15 % Cabernet Franc in the blend. There's loads of potential but the 2006 vintage is nowhere near as approachable as the 2005 was. This is a wine to decant or put in the cellar for a while. 13.5% alc. Cork. $26.99. 27Aug2008.
Dark red in colour, this has a stewed plum/prune aroma with hints of leather and toasty oak while the palate is earthy and savoury with barnyard and leather, plum, blackberries, liquorice and just a suggestion of mint. A concentrated red with smoky oak, velvety tannins and a lingering finish - still youthful for its age. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. $25.99. 7Jul2010.

Craggy Range Sophia 2006 - Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay (c) Deep black red with hints of purple. Shy on the nose with cedar, tar and a floral perfumed edge. Tasted immediately after the Newton Forrest, it lacks that up front voluptuousness but Sophia loses her coquettish veneer with twirling and swirling to reveal beautifully proportioned red fruits, oak and finely structured meaty tannins. Made from a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec, there are classic Merlot smoky, cigar box, leather and earthy notes while the Cabernet Franc and Malbec adds the perfumed floral lift to the creamy, lingering finish. Total class. 14% alc. $49.99. 27Aug2008.

Farmgate Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2006 (sc) A deep dark plummy red. Earth, concentrated fruit, violet and tar aromas with just a suggestion of leather. Spicy savoury oak and concentrated plum and berry fruit flavours with hints of violets, a silky texture and underlying acidity adding just enough bite to the soft merlot flavours. A beautiful wine that goes to another level with First Light venison and mushrooms. 14% alc. $25. 2May2008.

Hyperion 'Zeus' Matakana Merlot Cabernet 2006 (D) A deep bright, youthful rich red colour with smoky, concentrated cassis scents. Rich, ripe and full-bodied to the taste with succulent fruit, vanillin oak, a creamy texture and meaty tannins that become smooth and velvety with time. Quite savoury in the line-up but full of sweet cherry and cassis fruit with liquorice, smoke, fruit cake spices, jelly baby sweetness, just a hint of mint and very good length. An upfront, drinkable style and very appealing at the price. 18/20. 13.5% alc. $20. 24Jan2008.

Main Divide Marlborough Merlot Cabernet 2006 (S) Deep dark, red cherry hues. Cassis fruit dominates this full, concentrated red. It's deep, rich and savoury with smooth tannins, creamy oak and hints of mint coming through on the finish. Cabernet component includes both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. $19.95. 30Nov2009.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2006 (sc) Deep red black, opaque to the core. Smoky, sweet oak and concentrated berry and plum fruit on the nose, smooth in its flow with concentrated red berry fruits, velvety tannins, hints of tobacco and underlying acidity adding brightness and lift to the savoury finish. Medium-bodied in style, long and creamy with polished oak and deliciously approachable already. Perfect with lamb and mint sausages cooked on the Barbie while watch the sun set at Muriwau Beach. 14% alc. $22.95. 10Nov2007.
Deep red black, opaque to the core, there's smoky sweet oak and concentrated brambles and plums fruit on the nose and a berry fruit succulence to the medium to full-bodied cedary taste. Smooth in texture with velvety tannins, hints of tobacco and underlying acidity adding brightness and lift, the pleasing finish is long, spicy and savoury. 14% alc. $20.99. 21Nov2007.

Montana Reserve Hawke's Bay Merlot 2006 (sc) Sweet red fruits, a bit plummy in aroma. Juicy blackberry, plum jam, earthy. Firmish tannins. Two days later, and it has a cedary/cigar box aroma and taste. 13% alc. $23.95. 10Mar2011.

Newton Forrest Merlot 2006 - Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay (sc) Another huge wine, quite similar to the previous but with that extra edge of voluptuousness and finesse. Deep dark red, gorgeously perfumed oak and fruit, almost silky in its tannin structure, which makes it seem so smooth and creamy. Juicy cherry, plum and blackberry fruit, a touch of chocolate and smoky savoury oak finish. Delicious. 14% alc. $28.99. 27Aug2008.

Pegasus Bay 'Maestro' Waipara Merlot Malbec 2006 (sc) Dark black red, still bright & youthful, the blend of Merlot and Malbec is sumptuous from the outset. The aroma is smoky and savoury, yet concentrated and fruity with a nuance of sous bois and a hint of mocha. In the mouth it's seamless in attach and deep and sensuous in flavour with wineberries, creamy cedar, hints and anise and a rich savoury undercurrent. Complex and concentrated, a very striking and enjoyable, full-bodied red. 14.5% alc. $46.95. 1May2011.

Pegasus Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (sc) Inky purple red. Rich, deep, succulent aroma brimming with smoky cedar, toffee, blackcurrant. The smoky, savoury palate is underpinned with herbs and leather, plums, blackcurrants and cherries. Juicy with an earthy depth, floral notes, beautifully integrated oak and a long, succulent, velvety-textured finish. 4.5 stars. 14.5% alc. $28.95. 3Dec2010.

Saint Clair Rapaura Reserve Marlborough Merlot 2006 (sc) Deep red black, opaque with a crimson glow. A little herbal at first on the nose, but swirling reveals leather, vanilla, mocha and a red berry vinous sweetness. Cherries to the fore in the palate, cherries and redcurrants with sappy vanillin oak and plush velvety tannins. At first it's big and tight but it opens up beautifully - ripe and creamy with a fineness of tannins on the finish with concentrated sweet red fruits, hints of liquorice, underlying acidity and floral nuances. Merlot's earthiness and natural sweet leather linger with hints of tobacco. Nice. 13.5% alc. $23. 22Jun2007.

Sacred Hill Brokenstone Hawkes Bay Merlot 2006 (sc) Rustic red in the glass, almost opaque. Smoky oak on the nose is infused with predominantly red and more subtle black fruits as well as dried herbs and a hint of liquorice. A concentrated full-bodied red with a savoury, dark oak attack, becoming quite creamy and chocolatey. Laden with fruit - blackberry, blueberry, raspberry spring to mind - it is momentarily like blackberry ice cream (without the cold and the sugary sweetness) along with sweet vanillin oak, mocha and liquorice. Tannins are firm, acidity is poking it head out a bit and the finish seems well-balanced, rich and savoury. Overall the attack is smooth with the wine gently caressing the mouth and slowly, but surely, seducing the palate. 14% alc. $60. 16Mar2009.

Sandspit Cove Matakana Merlot 2006 (D) A light coloured, translucent red, the colour indicates it may have a lighter-bodied palate - but it's full of bright plum and cherry fruit with a touch of tobacco and warm but subtle cedary oak in the background adding richness and complexity. There's a touch of grip to the tannins and finishes with a savoury touch to balance the slight raspberry jube sweetness. There's a hint of liquorice too. A clean wine and the cheapest of the four from Saltings Estate wines, but by no means the least - and it's the overall best food match to both herb-crusted rack of lamb and medium-rare cooked beef fillet steak. 13% alc. $16. 23Mar2008.

Spy Valley Marlborough Merlot 2006 Vivid deep purple red. Bright, fresh berry and plum scents overlaid with smoky oak. A little dry and mouth puckery with upfront acidity on the first taste but it is lipsmackingly young with a concentrated red fruit lusciousness, hints of liquorice and roundness to finish A medium-bodied style with good persistence and a great aftertaste. 86% Merlot and 14% Malbec. 17/20. 14% alc. $19.90. 13% alc. $19.95. 24Jan2008.

Te Mania Three Brothers Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2006 (D) Deep purple plummy red with flashes of black. Fragrantly scented, delicately floral, spicy and vinously complex on the nose with a good attack of ripe, concentrated, cherry and black currant fruit in the mouth that lingers rather pleasantly long after the wine is swallowed. Smooth and silky in its tannin structure with a pleasing balance of creamy vanillin cedary oak to the fruit and spice components and a sweet earthy richness to the finish. Medium to full-bodied in style, it's immediately appealing - but it gains even more complexity in the bottle over a couple of days. The Malbec asserts itself to add a luscious savoury, almost rustic depth and a velvet-edged richness with hints of bitter cherry chocolate and liquorice emerging too. 18.5/20 and WOTW. 13% alc. $19.95. 24Jan2008.

Te Mata Coleraine 2006 – Hawkes Bay (c) A blend of 49% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Cabernet Franc - the purple has gone from the deep red colour of this wine. The aroma is sensationally fragrant, concentrated and deep. Oak is in the background and fruit is like cassis. In the palate it is texturally sublime with fine silky tannins and lovely fruit ripeness, spicy oak, chocolate, a persistent finish and an earthy depth. A harmonious wine that has improved magnificently in the bottle over the past year - you can drink it now or cellar 10-15 years. 13.5% alc. $68.99. 5Aug2009.

Te Mata Woodthorpe Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2006 (sc) Blackberry red but lighter than the syrahs, this savoury scented, smoky, Bordeaux-character red has hints of leather, dried rosemary and cassis on the nose and becomes more aromatic with time in the glass. The savouriness and dried herb rosemary carry through to the medium to full-bodied palate with fruitcake cherry, cassis, spice and hints of lavender. Well-balanced, supple, soft and approachable, it's a wine that evolves beautifully. Top value at its price point. 13.5% alc. $18.99.12Mar2008.

Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2006 - Hawkes Bay (D) Deep rich, concentrated purple red. On the nose there's bramble fruit, sweet spice and smoky oak then in the palate it is earthy and savoury with rich, ripe bramble fruit, leathery undertones, hints of tobacco, smoky notes and firm tannins - still tight and brooding at this stage of its life. A blend of 57% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec, this is a very good example of the blend. 14% alc. $34.99. 7Oct2009.
This deep dark red wine looks quite youthful, but the taste is quite mellow and mature. The bouquet is reminiscent of nuts and cherries with savoury oak, leather and a momentary suggestion of cocoa and the fruit is best described as dried red and black currants with an underlying milk chocolate note. Overall very dry, a little herbaceous and earthy with a firm tannic finish. A blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Malbec. 14% alc. Diam. $30.99. 23Jan2013.

Villa Maria PB Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2006 (sc) Quite a deep red, with its earthy, leather, rosemary herb and cassis fruit aromas, there's a definite Bordeaux-character to this wine. It's quite dry with slightly grippy tannins, a minty underlay, cassis and boysenberry fruit, a hint of barnyard and a leathery finish with well-balanced acidity carrying the length and cherry chocolate lingering on the soft, fruity aftertaste. 13.5% alc. $13.99.5Mar2008.

Waimarie Muriwai Valley Merlot Cabernet 2006 (c) Dark cherry red with crimson flashes and a moderate to deep hue. Appealing aroma of savoury cedary oak, cassis and a hint of bitter chocolate - the aroma is intense and full with perhaps a hint of leather too. Cabernet seems the forward component on the first taste but the juicy softness of the Merlot quickly takes over. Cake spice nuances penetrate the concentrated cassis, cherry and bramble fruit. A well-structured wine with a fine tannin backbone and savoury oak nicely proportioned to the rich, ripe flavours, it's a very good match to barbecued lamb back straps. The food complements the wine and makes it seem quite creamy with a rounded mouth feel. 13% alc. $28.50. 12Jan2009.

West Brook Waimauku Merlot Malbec 2006 (sc) Youthful deep berry red with a vibrant glow. A deep, rich, chocolate and cedar scent is followed by deep, rich flavours. A soft wine with fine tannins, concentrated red and black fruit, an underpinning of savoury oak and dried woody herbal - there's definitely a smattering of rosemary and thyme. My gosh, there is even a momentary cherryish pinot-like nuance on the finish but the red fruits are more of the Cabernet mould. Some Malbec perhaps with a hint of liquorice and violet on the sweet-fruited lingering finish. Fascinating, tasty wine. 12% alc. $19.95. 13Jan2009.

2005 Vintage [top] [index]

Alluviale Gimblett Road Hawkes Bay Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc 2005 (sc) Deep and dark in colour, an inky black red with purple highlights. Seductive on the nose with smoky vanillin oak, cassis, blackberry, dried herbs, violets and hints of leather and tar and sweet oak in the palate with cherries, chocolate and a dark, earthy, savoury undercurrent. Plums, blackberries, spice and mint emerge from the depth and the texture is like thick, lush, velvet with a silken slick finish to the tannin's caress. There's a touch of pepper too, to add a little zing to the finish as the concentrated plum and cassis well up. A lovely mouthful of wine. 13.5% alc. $27. 25Mar2007.

Askerne Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2005 Deep in its opaque colour, almost black. Barnyard, spice, leather and tar with a milky berry overlay to the concentrated scents. Full-bodied and very powerful to the taste, this juicy, fine-tannined wine is crammed with wild berry flavours with an underlying rustic savouriness, hints of chicory and fruit brightness to the lifted finish. It's succulent and long with a hint of 'bretty' character for added complexity. A blend of 66% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc with 10 months in French oak. 16.5/20. 13% alc. $20. 13% alc. $19.95. 24Jan2008.

Askerne Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec Franc 2005 (D) A deep redcurrant / cassis and savoury cedary aroma introduces this full-bodied powerful wine which is concentrated, rich and creamy to the taste with succulent plum and berry fruit, some underlying acidity, spicy oak, hints of chocolate and a dry Bordeaux character to the finish. This smooth, appealing, well-balanced and beautifully structured wine is a blend of 37% Merlot, 27% Malbec, 26% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon that has seen a total of 22 months in oak. 13% alc. $30. 25Jan2008.

Cable Bay Five Hills Merlot Cabernet Malbec 2005 (sc) A blend of 53% Merlot, 24% Cab Sauv, 16% Cab Franc and 7% Malbec, this is a deep plummy colour looking quite youthful for its almost four years of age. It has a savoury, earthy, leathery aroma and it's dry to the taste with juicy cassis and plum fruit pushing through the tight grained backbone and integrating with the smoky oak, cigar and leather-like characters. The finish is quite savoury and very dry with a hint of rose petal and freshly picked (rather than fallen) plum on the finish. Still developing and showing reasonably long term potential. 13.5% alc. $34. 5Feb2009.

Church Road Cuve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 (sc) Deep purple red. Lots of cedary oak on the nose together with a leathery nuance but it has a mellow sense as well. Rich, ripe and plummy to the taste with sweet oak and an infusion of mint with underlying acidity adding brightness to the finish. It has a creamy spicy veneer and still seems very youthful and looking exceptionally good right now. 13.5% alc. $27. 26Nov2009.

Church Road "Tom" Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2005 (c) A concentrated, shiny purple black, quite fine in appearance. Although quite restrained on the nose, the scents have ample vinosity and follow through in the mouth with powdery tannins, powerful cedary oak, opulent blackcurrant and plum fruit, earth and graphite. Now this definitely has Bordeaux character with its leafy, herbal notes but has wonderful structure and concentration and fine-grained tannins that need to evolve. It's a wine that despite being five years old already will still benefit from cellaring. The flagship wine from Church Road, it's a wine that's definitely made to last. 13.5% alc. Cork. $99.00. 26Aug2010.

Clearview Hawkes Bay Cape Kidnappers Merlot 2005 (sc) A blend of 57% Merlot, 21% Malbec, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc and matured in French and American oak for 14 months, this deep crimson-edged purple red wine has an earthy, leathery, slightly barnyard aroma. Brambly blackberry and raspberry fruit fill the palate that has an earthy backbone, hints of saddle and cedar and dry tannins. It seems a little one dimensional with acidity quite prominent on the finish by become more and more complex and integrated when a little bit has been taken out of the bottle and it tried again the next day. Heavy decanting recommended. 13% alc. $22.00. 21Jul2007.

Clearview Old Olive Block Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc Malbec 2005 (D) A deep, concentrated blackberry red , opaque with a brightness to the hue. Fragrant, cedary aromas with leather and wild berries and full-bodied, powerful flavours with a dark, earthy, savoury undercurrent; bright redcurrant, blackberry, cassis and plum fruit; ripe, smooth, plush velvety tannins; well worn car leather, hints of spice and sappy French oak. It's very tasty and very ripe with lifted acidity and cherries coming through on the warm, cuddly finish. This wine really grows on me with its seductive voluptuousness and smoky overlay - it's just perfect for these cold midwinter nights. 13% alc. $34. 22Jun2007.
Deep and dense in its black red colour, this full-bodied, complex blend of 44% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec with 18 months in French and American oak, is fragrant, concentrated, harmonious and integrated with an intensely savoury depth. There's a lovely balance of wild berry, blackcurrant and plum fruit to the sweet smoky oak and ripe tannins with chocolate, spice, just a touch of leather and a succulence to the lasting finish. 13% alc. $31.99. 3Oct2007.

Coopers Creek Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 (sc) Deep dark purple-hued ruby, the colour is quite appealing. It smells tarry and lightly oaked and tastes extracted and leathery with plum jam and cherry fruit, smoke, dry grippy tannins and a slightly peppery finish. Quite pleasant but fairly ordinary. I thought it was a new-wave European wine. 13.5% alc. $14.95.29Mar2006.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2005 Shiny, vibrant, inky black with purple edges, this wine imitates Australia with its ripeness and lusciousness, so it was a surprise to find out it was from Hawkes Bay. An opulent Merlot with ripe black fruits, creamy oak, fine silky tannins, vanilla, mocha, a touch of chocolate and a hint of mint - it's powerful, concentrated, juicy and delicious. 14% alc. $25.99. 23May2007.
Deep black purple/crimson, this inky coloured wine is delightfully fragrant, even a little floral with smoke, leather, tar and iodine. The fragrance carries through to the full-bodied, powerful and firm-tannined palate to be joined by bright black and red fruits, black forest chocolate, peppery spices and gorgeous sweet, smoky, cedary French oak with a fruit cake richness and hints of liquorice on the powerfully long finish. A stunning wine that is concentration and power. 14% alc. $25.99. Cork. 19Dec2008.

Craggy Range Sophia Hawkes Bay 2005 Intense, rich and ripe, beautiful fruit, red, dark and focussed. Smoky French oak, silky tannins, chocolate, oak spice and quite a strong cigar box finish with a savoury, slightly herbal aftertaste. The winemaker says a 20 year wine, but it is approachable already in a big glass with plenty of swirling. A blend of 62% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon matured in French oak, 80% new. 14% alc. $45. 10May2007.
Inky purple black, deep, dense and earthy with hints of violets and rose petal over perfumed, spicy cedary oak - the alluring aroma which leads into a deep, dark, savoury full-bodied palate with a beautifully fine tannin structure, smoky vanillin cedar, red and black fruits, tar, liquorice and oak spice. It's rich and ripe and perfectly balanced with a juicy creaminess and a violetty fragrance to the long, vanillin cedar finish. A blend of 62% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, it was matured in French oak, 80% new, for 19 months. A star! 14% alc. $44.99. 6Jun2007.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 (sc) Inky in its black red depth, chocolate and cedar on the nose and plummy fruit in the palate supported by a leathery backbone and fine tannins. Rich and concentrated with a long savoury finish. 13.5% alc. $23.99. 22Sep2006.
Dark red, almost opaque with cherry-red flushed rims, there's plum and vanillin oak on the nose and juicy, savoury, smoky, tarry, spicy, medium to full-bodied flavours with cherry fruit, firm ripe tannins, cigar box and chocolate. There's spicy oak on the finish and hints of tobacco as it lingers. 13.5% alc. $23.99. 4Oct2006.
Deep red with a bright red fruit aroma mingling with earthy, savoury, smoky oak. Bright in the palate with upfront red fruit, savoury oak, liquorice spice, integrated tannins, reasonably acidity, cigar on the finish and a savoury salty tang to the lingering aftertaste. Much softer in its tannin structure and seemingly lighter at this stage of its life than some of the merlots from this label in the past. 13.5% alc. $24. 14Aug2007.

Esk Valley Black Label Hawkes Bay Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec 2005 (sc) Deep dark red. Smoky bacon and cherry on the nose. Ripe, rich and rounded to the taste with a smooth, delicious delivery. Delicately smoky with opulent red and black fruits; a hint of smoky bacon and a touch of salty leather on the finish add intriguing complexities. This wine has a softness and voluptuousness to its full-bodied flavours. Excellent. 13.5% alc. $24. 14Aug2007.

Hawks Nest Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 (sc) An earthy, leathery, cedary style, dark and savoury and very much in the French mould to start, then the sweet oak kicks in with ripe plum and berry fruit, liquorice and spice and firm soft tannin. It has a good deep crimson colour, good length and the finish is dry. 16 months in oak. 14.2% alc. $17. 16Mar2007.

Hinchco Matakana Merlot 2005 (sc) Medium deep red, there are maraschino aromas with subtle spice and savoury sappy oak on the nose and it's soft and smooth to the taste with hints of leather, creamy vanillin oak and a clean savoury finish. With its light tannins it is easy drink and at its price, the most popular red at 'The Vintry' in Matakana. 13% alc. $20. 10Jul2007.

Hyperion Zeus Merlot Cabernet 2005 - Matakana (D) A blend of 90% merlot and 10% cabernet, this has creamy oak, ripe cherry, vanilla and a hint of spice on the nose. It’s soft and creamy in the palate with just a little bit of grip, hints of liquorice, rose petal and a peppery spiciness to the nuggety finish. Nice, approachable, medium-bodied style. 13% alc. $20. 26Feb2007.

Karikari Estate Northland Merlot CS Malbec 2005 (c) Ripe and rich, deep in colour, smelling of sappy oak with a hint of orange zest, it's sweet oaked, creamy and smooth in the palate with very ripe fruit, a hint of mint and a dark, smoky, toasty, mocha oak finish. Dry, with some complexity and grunt, leather and tar emerge with some time in the glass. A blend of 52% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Malbec fermented in stainless steel and matured in American and French oak for 11 months.12.6% alc. $27.00. 21Jul2007.

Matariki Hawkes Bay Quintology 2005 (c) A deep brooding concentrated yet succulent red made from a blend of 41% Merlot, 30% CS, 22.8% Malbec, 10% CF and 7.2% Syrah, It's dark crimson-black in colour with a creamy scent and a cedary veneer to the concentrated plum and red fruit flavours, mainly redcurrant and cassis, together with hints of chocolate and liquorice. Tannins are firm and velvety thick with a belt of suede and there's a spicy lift to the finish that's lingers very satisfyingly. Six years on from vintage, this is a stellar example of how a Hawkes Bay red can age and to me it's exciting that it is the current release. 13.6% alc. $50.00. 21Jun2011.

Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 Deep, dark, earthy, savoury and smoky with dark plummy fruit and berries, a hint of citrus, fine grained tannins and firm French oak backing, it's a little tight at this stage but the potential is there and the long, sultry aftertaste confirms this. 14% alc. $39.95. 29Jan2007.

Mills Reef Gimblett Gravels Merlot Malbec 2005 (sc) Opaque in its deep black-hued cherry/crimson colour, this smells concentrated and winey - full of macerated red fruits and smoky vanillin oak. Rich and luscious to the taste with thick velvety tannins, lush cherry and plum fruit, plenty of oak with vanilla and chocolate and a deep earthy finish. Underlying acidity adds brightness and there's a violet and floral prettiness to the finish. The merlot fruitiness is upfront while the Malbec exerts it earthy yet floral character on the finish. A totally drinkable medium to full-bodied juicy Hawkes Bay red with an earthy, savoury, almost gamey aftertaste. 51% Merlot / 49% Malbec. 13.5% alc. $22.95. 13Jun2008.

Mills Reef Reserve Merlot Malbec 2005 (sc) Deep dark red, it's full of Malbec funky earthy traits with a subtle sensual allure, a touch of spice, creamy oak, red and black berries and a long full savoury finish. A soft yet gutsy style with lots of appeal. 13.5%. 19Jan2007.

Montana Reserve Marlborough Merlot 2005 (sc) Deep purple red. Earthy, barnyard, dusty hay aromas. Sweet oaked with quite firm tannins, dried herbs and dusty blackberries. A savoury, meaty wine with mid palate juiciness, quite grippy tannins and a green astringency to the drying finish. Matured in French and American oak. 13% alc. $21.95. 21Jul2007.

Morton Estate 'The Mercure' Hawkes Bay 2005 (sc) A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grapes this is deep red and opaque in appearance. At first American oak and vanilla scents escape from the glass but later there are berries and tobacco too. Big, rich and powerful to the taste - spicy, full-bodied, floral and slightly musky with sweet cherry and redcurrant fruit, vanilla oak, hints of tobacco and an earthy note while moderate chunky tannins add just enough grip to the overall smooth delivery. Lots of drink now appeal. 13.5% alc. $19. 20May2008.

Mudbrick Waiheke Island Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (sc) Pinky-red of medium density with subtle cherry and vanilla oak scents, there's a touch of liquorice amongst the sweet bramble and plum fruit with soft dry tannins, polished oak, a hint of Black Forest chocolate, a nuance of mint and a smoky finish. Juicy and powerful with a firmly structured backbone, it's ready to drink but will also benefit from time in the cellar. 13.9% alc. $39.99. 13Sep2006.
Dense pinky red, with cigar box and berry aromas, the raspberry and plum-like fruit is sweet and juicy and supported by creamy oak with a tarry, herbaceous undercurrent and firm, dry tannins. Best enjoyed with food to cut through the tannins that seem more apparent than last time we tasted it. 13.9% alc. $35.99. 24Jan2007.

Mudbrick Waiheke Island Reserve Merlot Cabernets 2005 (sc) Deep dark red with soft berry fruit and spicy vanillin oak aromas, it is dry and tight to the taste but let the fruit emerge from behind its chunky tannin cloak and you’ll find it sweet and rich with chocolate, cherry, vanilla and meaty savoury oak. A wine of stellar breeding, it needs more time at this stage of its life. 13.8% alc. $44.99. 13Sep2006.
Deep dark red in colour, there's a chocolatey richness to the aroma and a creamy chocolatey character to the dense, rich, succulent palate. A big, rich wine with a savoury, earthy undercurrent, juicy brambly fruit, spicy oak and firm tannins. A fleshy style and developing nicely. 13.8% alc. $39.99. 6Feb2008.

Ngatarawa 'Alwyn' Glazebrook Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2005 Deep black red. Smoky and savoury with cigar box on the nose. Beautifully structured in the palate with smoky French oak spices, a savoury sweetness and dark fruit. Silky and long with firm tannins and a hint of chocolate emerging on the finish. 13.5% alc. $55. 9Oct2007.

Ngatarawa Glazebrook Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2005 (sc) Deep red with black hues. Smoky French oak on the nose, rich, ripe, deep blackcurrant plum fruit flavours with oak spice and a silky tannin structure. A nicely balanced Hawkes Bay blend. 13.5% alc. $28. 9Oct2007.

Pegasus Bay Maestro 2005 (sc) A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Malbec, this is a deep boysenberry red with a crimson purple hue. Full of concentrated brambles on the nose - ripe dusty blackberries spring to mind - it smells meaty and savoury too. Sweet cherry, plum and brambly fruit fill the succulent concentrated palate with tannins like velvet rubbed the wrong way, vanillin oak and a spicy, almost floral flourish to the finish. A massive wine with a delicious meaty richness with violets, most definitely and hints of chocolate too. 18/20. 14.5% alc. $44.95. 26Jun2009.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Merlot Cabernet 2005 (sc) Deep red, fine in textural appearance, some thinning on the edges. Dense aromas of wood and cedar with a hint of chocolate and fruit in the fruitcake cherry spectrum. The woodiness carries through to the fine textured, silky tannined palate. Medium bodied in style and savoury, meaty and spicy, lots of brambles - it's quite fresh with underlying acidity and dried herb and floral notes to the cherry/redcurrant and creamy vanillin oak finish. A blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon ad Cabernet Franc with tow years in oak barriques, 30% new. 17/20. 14.5% alc. $28.95. 26Jun2009.

Red Metal Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc 2005 (sc) Dense dark red with crimson hues, this fragrant red is a dark brooding beast with firm acidity, fine tannins, creamy oak, juicy black fruit, hints of chocolate and a nuggetty undercurrent. Well balanced and very tempting to drink. Red Metal have finally got it right. 13% alc. $20.99. 24Jan2007.

Redmetal Basket Press Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc 2005 (sc) Lightish red in colour with moderate depth, it smells earthy and brambly and tastes savoury and herbal with smoky oak, leather and grippy tannins. It's very dry and just a little stalky with plenty of underlying zesty acidity underpinning the currant-like fruit and creamy oak. 14% alc. $24.99. 31Oct2007.

Sacred Hill Broken Stone Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 (sc) A deep dark boysenberry red in colour, dense and opaque but just a little finer in appearance than the Helmsman. On first opening there's a mocha note to the deep tarry scent with a layering of chocolate that carries through to the palate of this powerfully fruity yet earthy funky wine. A few days later from the same tightly closed bottle there were savoury cedary aromas with a milk chocolate and cherry overtone and bright spicy flavours that tingle the tongue. It has opened up beautifully with what would be akin to decanting, with chocolate, plums, currants and cedar over a savoury backbone and a touch of leather and a sweet smoky finish. There's also fruitcake and a slight suggestion of mint to this juicy blockbuster and although it is still moderately earthy, the funky nuance has gone. 14% alc. $64. 6&10Jul2008.

Saint Clair Marlborough Rapaura Reserve Merlot 2005 (sc) Deep blueberry jam red. Smoky oak and cherries on the nose with hints of vanilla and tobacco. Juicy in the palate with spicy creamy oak, red fruits and underlying acidity with vanillin sweetness and hints of mint on the dark, savoury finish. Aged in American oak, 50% new, for 14 months. Immediately approachable. 13.5% alc. $24.95. 21Jul2007.

Southbank Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2004 (sc) On first opening, this seems like a lighter style with a Bordeaux-like cedary savouriness, a herbaceous edge and cherry fruit. It's lifted and spicy with dry tannins on the finish and a touch of mint. The next day the wine has opened up beautifully and seems a little richer with chocolate, spice, cedar and velvet-textured tannins. The age has added a pleasing mellow savouriness and the red currant fruit is juicy and jubey. 16.5/20. 13.5% alc. $20.99. 13% alc. $19.95. 24Jan2008.

Spy Valley Marlborough Merlot 2005 (sc) Deep dark red, opaque with a black red core. Wild berry aromas of blackberries and , raspberries with musk, violets and savoury oak and smoky, tarry, dark gamey flavours with dried herbs, a touch of mint, cherry and tamarillo fruit, hints of flower musk, a touch of leather and a dried herb soapiness. Tannins are thick and grainy, underlying acidity is pronounced on the finish and the oak is dark and savoury. Medium to full-bodied in weight, it is best with food and very good with lamb. Drink sooner than later. 16.5/20/ 13.5% alc. $19.95.

Te Awa Zone 6 Merlot Cabernet 2003 (c) Concentrated and deeply coloured 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. A blend of 61% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc - it was also sold as Boundary 2003 for a short time in 2010. 13% alc. $38. 27Feb2010.

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2005 - Hawkes Bay A dense rich, deep coloured, sweet-fruited succulent red with a classic cedary French oak aroma and hints of violets, there's a tarry, nuggetty, savoury, earthy undercurrent to the sweet plummy fruit with hints of chocolate, cake spice, vanillin oak. With firm dusty tannins and great length, there's a Bordeaux character wine to this blend of 43% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petite Verdot. 13.5% alc. $31.99. 6Feb2008.

Ti Point One Matakana Merlot 2005 (c) A deep garnet red with a black depth to the core. Complex aromatics - liquorice, cedary oak, vanilla, smoke, mocha and anise-like spice and concentrated black cherries make this wine extremely inviting, even before it has been tasted. Lovely bright fruit with complex oak spice, a beautiful plush yet fine tannin structure with just enough grip and a gorgeously long savoury finish with hints of tobacco balancing the fruit sweetness. Black cherries, purple plums, milky chocolate, anthracite and cedar. A gorgeous winter wine, it lights the fire and keeps it burning. 13.5% alc. $38. 6Jul2008.

Thornbury Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 (sc) Deep in colour and deep, dark and cedary on the nose. Full-bodied, well balanced, quite a serious drop. Savoury and cedary with a little hint of mint, juicy fruit and a meaty finish with a dry, chocolatey undercurrent, it's clean and tasty and shows moderate cellaring potential. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 21Jul2007.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay 'The Gimblett' 2005 (c) A multi-grape blend (Merlot 61%, Malbec 21%, Petit Verdot 11%, Cabernet Franc 5%, Cabernet Sauvignon 2%), this is full of rich, ripe creamy oak and lush cherry and blackcurrant fruit - it is not initially as gamey as I would have thought from the Malbec component, but the gaminess appears later. This is a monumental wine - full-bodied with well integrated cedar, big lusty tannins, violet connotations and a perfumed finish that is long, long, long. Clean, ripe and rich, with underlying savouriness and a touch of chocolate and spice on the finish. A stunning wine and quite delicious. 14% alc. 19/20. 31Aug2008.

Unison Hawkes Bay 2006 (c) A concentrated blackberry red. Cedary and meaty on the nose with red berries, vanilla and almost floral overlay. A little chocolatey in the palate with well balanced underlying acidity to the ripe cherry, plum and cassis fruit with cigarbox, violets, dried herbs and just a little tickle of peppery spice - actually its very dry on the finish and gives the impression it might just have some Syrah. However meaty, leathery Merlot seems the dominant component with a touch of Cabernet of some kind. Tannins are firm and structured and even though it's a 2006, the wine is still quite tight. Excellent value if the price is right. 13.5% alc. $26.60. 25Jun2009.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 (sc) Sweet oak on nose with herbal, cedary, paintbox scents. Similarly in palate with big grippy tannins- sweet oak, savoury oak, ripe fruits, smoke, cedar, cigar, dried herbs and violets with vinous sweetness to temper the dry grippy finish. Developing some secondary bottle age character but still an immense wine that needs time and definitely needs food. 86% Merlot, 6% Malbec and 8% CS - matured in French & American oak for 22 months. 14% alc. $49.99. 20May2009.

West Brook Blue Ridge Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (sc) A rich, robust leathery wine with concentration and depth to the colour and flavour. There's smoky savoury oak on the nose, berries and plums in the palate, with an earthy richness from the malbec and rose petals on the lingering finish. The potential is clearly there, but the wine will benefit from more cellaring. 13% alc. $24.95. 7Jan2007.

Wishart Legend Hawkes Bay 2005 (c) Densely coloured, rich juicy and savoury. Blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cab Franc with Syrah adding a spicy layer - an icing to the fruitcake body that's packed with plums and black fruit. Robust tannins and underlying hints of Brett. The Brett was more pronounced with some food - not so much with steak and mushrooms, but definitely with my Tamarillo Beef. It was distracting to me. 13.4% alc. $34.95. 10Jul2009.

Wishart Te Puriri Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005 (sc) Dark berry red, showing from fading synonymous with its age. Sweet yet savoury aromas with some vanillin oak intermingling with rich beef stock and a slight leathery barnyard note too. A reasonably sumptuous aroma but a bit of an anti-climax in the palate - it is quite herbaceous, salty and savoury with grainy textured tannins and fruit paying a very minor role. But then a vinous sweetness sets in to offset the savouriness. 18 months in oak. 13% alc. $20. 13Jan2009.

2004 Vintage [top] [index]

Allan Scott Marlborough Merlot 2004 (sc) Cherry-red of medium depth. Fruity to the taste with a toasty backbone and a hint of savoury on the finish, it develops a liquorice complexity after it's been open for a day or so. Initially a soft easy-going style that will appeal to the masses but becoming much more complex with time. 14% alc. $25.90. 28Aug2005.

Alpha Domus The Navigator 2004 - Hawkes Bay (sc) Very expressive aroma with a lovely purity of blackcurrant fruit with a subtle backing of vanillin oak and mint. The palate delivers what the nose promises. Ripe, juicy, full-bodied and flavoursome with firm tannins melting into the fruit and a dark savoury finish with blackberry, plums, a little flourish of spice and a hint of chocolate. A blend of 42% Merlot, 30% Cab Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 8% Malbec, matured in 70% French & 30% American oak (70% new) for 20 months. 13.5% alc. $27.00. 21Jul2007.

Black Barn Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Mature red, fading, with quite watery edges. There's barnyard on the stinky nose, it smells faulty and the palate is not much better with barnyard, stewed berry fruits, dry tannins and alcoholic heat on the finish. Unbalanced and hot, green and stalky - and evidently all four bottles opened were the same. 65% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec with two years in mature oak. 13.5% alc. $25.99. 21Mar2007.

Black Barn Vineyard Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc 2004 (D) Savoury and smoky with a silky tannin structure, a 'sweet leather' undercurrent and hints of dried herbs while lifted acidity adds brightness. It has a Bordeaux character with currant-like fruit while smoky oak adds a lovely note to the finish which is long in its subtle attack. Later chocolate emerges on the nose and in the palate. Great value at $25. 13.5% alc. 9Oct2007.

C J Pask "Declaration" Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (c) A deep rustic red, dense in the core with some bricking on the edges. Fragrant with sweet oak, leather and barnyard on the nose and a sweet, spicy, meaty palate with fine tannins and flavours reminiscent of chocolate biscuits, cassis, cedar and mint with lots of smoke and leather on the expansive mouthfilling finish. A generous wine from a very good vintage but seems ready now and unlikely to improve with further cellaring. 14% alc. $53.99. 15Apr2009.

Cable Bay Five Hills Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2004 - Waiheke Island Made from a blend of 64% Merlot, 18% Malbec, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Cabernet Franc this bright crimsoned coloured red has spicy, savoury French oak and plum fruit on the nose, although a little restrained. A very elegant style with structure and depth defined by the fine tannins and cedary oak with cassis and berry fruit that concentrates on the balanced finish. The blend of grapes is adding complexity and earthy notes with a touch of rose petal on the lingering finish. 13% alc. $32. 7Jul2006.

Capricorn Wines One Tree Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (sc) Dense red black with an opaque centre. Sweet oak and leather aromas, firm tannins, a dry, Bordeaux-like style with a long succulent, plummy finish. It is also musky in its fragrant scent - the fruit is sweet and the palate is firm, while the aftertaste is warm and plummy. 13.5% alc. $16.95. 9Nov2005.

Capricorn Wines Red Rock Gravel Pit Red 2004 (sc) A blend of Merlot and Malbec from the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay, this warm, richly-coloured, full-bodied red is ripe and rounded with spicy oak, concentrated plumy fruit, hints of leather and a long lifted savoury finish. Very smart, lovely oak balance and spice with a touch of liquorice on the finish. Sweet oak lingers. 14% alc. $19.95. 9Nov2005.
As described above with a touch of chocolate. A young wine with big tannins and plenty of life ahead of it. 14% alc. $19.95. 7Dec2005.
Shiny black red with a vibrancy to the lustre and deep crimson/purple rims. Violet, coconut and vanillin oak aromas and succulent juicy flavours with an earthy richness. There's ripe red- and black-currants, sweet oak, grunty tannins and peppery spice building to a rich, savoury, toasty finish with a lovely floral nuance to the aftertaste. A robust, mouthfilling wine. 14% alc. $19.95. 1Mar2006.

Clearview 'Enigma' 2004 - Hawkes Bay Deeply coloured with biscuity aromas, a hint of pepper, damp wool and jelly jubes. In the palate it's concentrated and rich, oaky and leathery with grippy tannins, pepper, and cigar box. It's more savoury than fruity with a touch of herb, a musky red grape richness to the finish and polished vanillin oak as it lingers. A blend of 80% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 5% Cabernet France & 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Clearview's reserve label. 14% alc. $40. 17Mar2006.

Corbans PB Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (sc) Deep plummy red in colour. Spicy, meaty, slightly leathery, earthy aromas are underpinned by sweet oak and hints of cherry. In the palate it's a big, ripe savoury wine with concentrated berry and plum fruit, spicy oak, firm gravelly tannins, a meaty finish and a dry savoury aftertaste. The leathery tannins are a little distracting at this stage, but they improve with decanting. Needs food at this stage of its life. 13.5% alc. $20.95. 27Jul2006.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (c) Inky black-black-red. Smoky, spicy oak aromas lead into a rich, full palate that is very tightly structured at this stage with powerful tannins, warming alcohol, rich plum and currant fruit, a touch of chocolate and a smoky, cedary finish. It's a huge wine concentrated wine that definitely should be cellared at this stage. 14% alc. $23.95. 29Mar2006.
Deep, dense, boysenberry-red in colour with a fragrant leather and mocha/spice aroma that leads into a massive palate with seriously big tannins, biscuity oak, boysenberry, cherry and plum fruit, leather, liquorice and a powerful spice-influenced, almost peppery finish. With excellent cellaring potential, it needs a rare juicy steak or a creamy cheese to cut through the tannins right now. 14% alc. $23.95. 7Jun2006.
Deep black red with toasty, sweet vanillin oak on the nose and rich, ripe mouthfilling flavours of plum, Christmas cake fruit, fruit cake spices and toasty oak. It’s a powerful wine with oak playing a dominant role, big grunty tannins, a meaty richness and a lifted 'chicory' character to lingering finish. Miles in Sideways would never believe this was Merlot because it's rich and structured, powerful and long. 14% alc. $24.99. 11Oct2006.

Craggy Range Sophia 2004 - Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay Purple-red, dense and bright, there's a nuance of freshly poured bitumen amongst the sweet vanillin oak on the nose that leads into a palate that is pure concentration and class. With rich powerful flavours of succulent dark plum and cherry fruit, cigar box, violets, hints of chocolate and beautifully polished cedar oak, this is wine that will easily cellar for 10 years, but with its powerful meaty tannins it should be decanted now for utmost enjoyment. Made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. $44.95.5Jul2006.

Drylands Marlborough Merlot 2004 (sc) Spicy oak on the nose and ripe cherry fruit in the palate, not overly complex but soft, fruity and juicy with a well-balanced finish. Plenty of non-geeky user-appeal. 13.5% alc. $19. 28Aug2005.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (sc) Deep red black with rich, intense, concentrated plum aromas and rich, fruity flavours with soft tannins for its very youthful age, with a voluptuous mid-palate, a creamy oak finish and a fragrant, full-bodied aftertaste with leather and tar emerging as it lingers. 14.5% alc. $22.95. 6Sep2005.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2004 (sc) Richly coloured and fragrantly scented with a rich, full-bodied flavour of blackcurrant, cherry and tobacco (cigar box) oak with finely structured tannins, the fragrance carries through to the finish with hints of cigar and old roses on the lifted, spicy oak finish. 14.5% alc. $22.95. 6Sep2005.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Reserve Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2004 (sc) Deep, dense purple-red. Cedar, nutmeg and blackberry aromas and a concentrated, rich, plush-textured palate with delicious juicy plum and blackberry fruit, biscuity oak, liquorice, spice box, vanilla, toast, an earthy depth and a floral nuance. Silky and seamless with tannins you can wrap your tongue around, this stunning wine is already a pleasure to drink, but will bring extra rewards with cellaring. 52% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Malbec. 14.5% alc. $53.99. 6Sep2006.
Inky red with a red black core, bright with no hint of fading. Powerful aromas have a floral nuance and a hint of black nugget and it's full-bodied and spicy to the taste with creamy oak, liquorice, fruit cake spices, plums and juicy dark red and purple berries. Lots of oak, but harmonious and succulent, long and dry with a serious tannin structure but ample fruit to balance the tannins and oak beautifully. So young but oh so drinkable with excellent cellaring potential. 14.5% alc. $53.99. 30Nov2006.
Deep dark red. Deep, spicy, complex, concentrated red and black fruit aromas with sappy, cedary oak open up nicely with time in the glass revealing more savoury, leathery traits. Full-bodied, rich and robust to the taste with a silkiness to the creamy texture, plum and fleshy black peach fruit and an aromatic lift and vibrancy to the finish and aftertaste. From a blend of two vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels, this wine is developing beautifully and is a stunning match to a braised lamb fillet with a minted pea mash. 14.5% alc. $60. 14Aug2007.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay The Terraces 2004 (sc) Deep blueberry red with black in the core of the glass, the aroma is deep, complex and spicy with voluptuous smoky oak, creamy integrated red fruits and hints of vanilla and cherry. Oak is still quite dominant in the palate but it's creamy, spicy and integrated with a lovely velvety plushness to the slightly grainy texture, hints of anise and mocha, predominantly black fruits with a touch of spiced cherry and chocolate emerging on the lasting finish. A blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc from the same vineyard picked on the same day and co-fermented together in a true 'field blend' style, then matured for 21 months in 100% new oak, this delicious wine with wonderful potential for the future. 14.5% alc. $125. 14Aug2007.

Gladstone 12,000 Miles Wairarapa Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet 2004 (sc) A light coloured red, translucent with a rosy hue. Wild berries on the nose, wild strawberries, earth, herbs, little influence of oak with cherries and strawberries over an earthy backbone, a sweet fruit finish and a savoury aftertaste. Soft, smooth, fresh, fruity and tangy. 13% alc. $16.95. 4Apr2007.

Hatton Estate Gimblett Road Merlot 2004 Great depth of blackberry colour and rich in the palate for its medium weight. There's plenty of upfront fruit and spice with smoky oak, firm ripe tannins and a juicy finish. A very appealing, 'drink this winter' style. $19.95. 25Mar2005.

Hinchco 'The Hinch' Matakana Merlot 2004 (sc) Dark cherry red in colour, the creamy spicy aromas have a whisper of the cherry fruit within. Spicy and lifted with well structured tannins, concentrated ripe cherry and plum fruit and spicy, creamy oak, there are hints of florals and dried herbs on the long savoury, cedary finish. Smooth and satisfying. Aged in 75% French and 25% American oak for 18 months. 13% alc. $30. 10Jul2007.

Huntaway Reserve Gisborne/Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2004 (sc) Vibrant deep dark red with purple tones. Concentrated savoury oak and plummy fruit on the nose. There's an baked tomato and balsamic character at first in palate with grainy tannins and a touch of mint but this is quickly surpassed by juicy, chocolatey flavours with rich red berry fruit, smoky vanillin oak, form, suave tannins and a dark, cedary, finish. There's a touch of leather and tar, too, and just the slightest suggestion of herbs on the long, savoury aftertaste. A dry, sophisticated style. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 27Jul2006.

Hyperion Gaia Merlot 2004 - Matakana Deep, translucent, dark cherry red. Vanilla and cedar aromas, with clean plum and cherry fruit. A full-bodied style with slightly grippy tannins, and a sappy, smoky bacon character on the finish. The fruit is bright and fresh and the finish is lingering. 14% alc. $34. 19Mar2006.

Karikari Estate Northland Merlot Malbec 2004 (sc) Milk powder and wild blackberries on the nose and spicy to the taste with a plush, grainy, crushed velvet texture, plenty of tannin and power with a creamy oak backbone, ripe currant and cherry fruit and more spice to titillate the finish. A blend of 58% Merlot, 23% Malbec and 19% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13% alc. $26.90. 28Aug2005.
Wild berry aromas - this interesting 'wild' character transfers to the palate. Earthy, perhaps a touch of barnyard with a big tannin structure, lots of coal embers in the dark toasty oak. 9Nov2004.

Kathy Lynskey 15 Rows Reserve Marlborough Merlot 2004 Vibrant, violet tinged plummy red. Concentrated in colour and powerful in its attack with cigar box and violets on the nose and sweet spicy oak and concentrated fruit in the palate with smooth meaty tannins and well-balanced oak. It's rich and weighty with cherry, plum and a floral nuance on the long smoky finish. 14% alc. $47.99. 6Sep2006.
Dark red with fading edges, on the nose there's perfumed sweet sappy oak, berries and tobacco. Cherry and red plum fruit fill the grainy textured palate supported by vanillin oak, nugget and tar. Matured in American and French oak for 15 months, it's ripe, round and very approachable despite the tannins. 14% alc. $47.99. 25Apr2007.

Lincoln Reserve Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2004 (sc) Deep red, though not opaque. Lovely ripe fruit and cedary vanillin oak on the nose, rich, ripe and creamy in the palate with silky tannins and sweet oak with coconut-like nuances, like a Cherry Ripe (cherry, coconut and chocolate) bar. A very appealing style with lots of natural fruit sweetness and an intriguing savouriness to the lingering finish - and beautiful with a rare roast of sirloin. 14% alc. $32.00. 7Jul2006.

Matahiwi 'Holly' Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 A deeply coloured, smoky, savoury wine with an earthy richness, firm tannins, cigar box, blackberry and spiced plum fruit and a spiciness to the full-bodied, cedary oak finish. Quite robust with a juicy aftertaste. 14% alc. $23. 17Oct2005.

Matariki Quintology 2004 - Hawkes Bay (c) A deep but bright colour with a red-black core and crimson edges. Deep, concentrated, winey aromas with a touch of cedar, a hint of spice and a cherry sweetness - it seems quite Merlot dominant on the nose yet it is beautifully fragrant. And it's generous to the taste too, with juicy ripe cherry, plum and blackcurrant fruit, spice and a complex, sweet smoky oak undercurrent. The velvety tannins have a grainy edge while a touch of acidity adds a bright disposition to the finish while a long, savoury cedary aftertaste balances the fruit sweetness. Already seductive and one you want to drink. A blend of 32.3% Merlot, 24.34% Cabernet Franc, 20.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.4% Syrah and 10.2% Malbec. 13.4% alc. $45. 21Jun2008.

Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (sc) Deep plummy red in colour, very appealing to the eye, with spiced berry fruits and creamy oak on the nose and ripe plum and berry fruit in the palate, succulent vanillin oak, a nuance of cigar box and a long, juicy finish. With its soft, juicy tannins it is very much a quaffer, but a good fruity quaffer at that. 13% alc. $15.95. 31Oct2005.

Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2004 (sc) A rich red colour with medium depth, this is a light, fruity style with fruitcake cherry aromas and crisp red berry flavours supported by soft tannins and creamy oak with a long, juicy, darker fruit, savoury finish. 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13% alc. $15.95. 8Jul2006.

Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (c) Inky red black coloured with fragrant cedar aromas and creamy oak flavours. A big, rich juicy wine with vanilla, blackberry and plum fruit, firm velvety tannins and a rich, succulent, earthy finish. 14% alc. $36. 11Nov2005.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2004 (sc) Dense black-red in colour. Very fragrant with musk, violet and creamy chocolate scents. Succulent to the taste with juicy fruit, over a sweet, cedary backbone, velvet tannins. A lovely wine with vanilla coming through to linger with black peach, plum and a rich earthiness to the still succulent finish. 14% alc. $19. 9Nov2005.
Creamy oak, though subtle, with milky berries and cherries. Lots of fragrant juicy fruit with nicely integrated oak, spiced blackberries, plums, cedar, ripe tannins and a smokiness to the finish. Good acidity to carry the finish and nicely balanced throughout. Golf medal quality and top wine of the Malbec and Malbec blends tasting. 14% alc. $19.95. 17Mar2006.

Morton Estate Hawkes Bay The Mercure 2004 (sc) A medium-weight garnet red with flashes of ruby, this is a fragrant wine with plummy fruit, hints of liquorice, savoury oak and floral nuances. It's medium-bodied with soft tannins and ripe, creamy flavours, silky smooth tannins, a touch of spice and juicy red fruit. American oak adds sweetness, there is a pinot noir-like savoury complexity and the finish is long. A very appealing food-friendly wine made from a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grapes with 12 months maturation in French and American oak and bottle aged before release. 13.5% alc. $18.95. 22Jun2007.

Morton Estate White Label Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (sc) Light in colour, but not in flavour. Cherries and smoky oak on the nose. Slightly peppery in the savoury palate with bitter cherry fruit and perhaps a hint of chocolate underpinned with firm, velvety tannins and crisp berry fruit. A fine-textured, medium to full-bodied wine with ripe fruit and a little bit of grunt. Fermented in stainless steel and matured in oak for 12 months. 13% alc. $16.95. 21Jul2007.

Mount Riley Marlborough Merlot Malbec 2004 (sc) Crimson red with violet hues. Plums and smoky oak on the nose. Grainy textured with vanillin oak, red berries and a meaty, savoury nuance. The fruit becomes juicy and rich, reminiscent of blackcurrants and blackberry with soft tannins and a long lifted finish. 14% alc. $18.95. 4Jun2005.
Deep plummy red with a black hued core. Rich and fruity smelling with smoky oak and a vibrantly spicy palate with a hint of chocolate raisin on the strongly flavoured, savoury earthy finish. 14% alc. $15.95. 19Oct2005.

Mudbrick Shepherds Point Waiheke Island Merlot 2004 (sc) Deep plummy red. Smoky cedary oak with hints of vanilla , liquorice, spice, stewed berry fruit and a nuance of herb and a toasty influence throughout the palate, firm tannins add robustness while blackberry and plums add fruity sweetness to the lingering, smoky finish. 13% alc. $39.99. 6Sep2006.

Nobilo Icon Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (c) Concentrated in colour with expressive aromas of robust vanillin oak, cherry and a touch of mint-like herb, it's smooth and silky in the palate with succulent fruit, loads of vanillin oak, a touch of peppermint and a savoury finish with good grip and length. With medium acidity, this is well-balanced and very drinkable. 13.5% alc. $22.95. 27Jul2006.

Ngatarawa Glazebrook Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 Deep dark red, meaty vanillin oak on the nose, sweet-fruited plums and cherries in the palate with creamy vanillin oak and a chocolatey undercurrent. Good structure and concentration with a dry finish. 14.5% alc. $24.00. 7Jul2006.

Ngatarawa Glazebrook Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2004 A rich, deep velvety red with a gentle attack. it's deep, rich and powerful with lovely integration of all the components. Lovely purple, blue and red fruit and a touch of spice with a hint of liquorices. Bright mess from the underlying acidity and gorgeous sweet oak make this a voluptuous sumptuous wine. Neil picked this up a couple of years ago, so while five years old at the time of drinking, it's absolutely beautiful to drink at this time. While the wine seems quite sweet on it own, a food match of fillet mignon makes it seem quite savoury. 14.5% alc. $8Aug2009.

Obsidian Weeping Sands Waiheke Island Merlot 2004 (sc) Deep ruby-edged, plummy red. Smoky cedar on the nose and juicy flavours of plum that sit well with the sweet leather, supple tannins and smoky vanillin oak. Well-balanced acidity carries the finish with a touch of cigar box and a fruity aftertaste. 13.5% alc. $22.99. 6Sep2006.

Okahu Northland Merlot 2004 (sc) Tamarillo red with a ruby edge. Quite savoury, leathery, smoky and cedary with a deep sense of berries when inhaling deeply. Edgy and acidic at first to the taste, some hint of the controversial Brett character coming through then sweet plum and roadside blackberries welling up on the finish lingering like fruit cake. Medium to full bodied with fleshy tannins that still have a little bit of grip and a gamey character to the lingering finish. Needs to accompany some bloody meat. 14% alc. 28May2013.

Rose Tree Cottage Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (sc) Deep red-black garnet in colour, this is a little closed on the nose at first but cedary vanillin oak and stewed plum notes emerge. Concentrated in the palate with spicy oak, plums and cassis, a touch of anise adding an exotic layer, firm grainy tannins, cedary French oak, mocha, cinnamon, cloves and oranges zest. A full-bodied, rounded, nicely balanced wine with a dry finish. 13.5% alc. $27.95. 27Jul2006.

Sacred Hill Basket Press Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2004 (sc) A big oaked, tarry, savoury wine with quite grippy tannins and an earthy mid-palate with plum and black fruits, savoury oak and a juicy long finish. 13.5% alc. $17.95. 29Jun2005.
A deep dense red with lighter red rims. Smoky herbal aromas and savoury flavours with dry tannins that have an underlying succulence, fleshy plum and berry fruit and an earthiness to the long savoury aftertaste that builds in power and lingers with a spicy fruity richness. 13.5% alc. $17.95. 19Oct2005.

Saint Clair Marlborough Merlot 2004 (sc) When I first smelt this wine, it reminded me of lamb shanks roasted in mint, red wine, mushrooms and citrus and it's a little tarry as well. A light to medium-bodied style, with soft grainy tannins, very little influence of oak, stewed fruit, leather boots and a sweet/savoury finish with hints of oxo. 12.5% alc. $19.95. 27Jul2006.

Saint Clair Rapaura Reserve Marlborough Merlot 2004 (sc) Vibrant dark red with purple tones. Expressive aromas of spicy cedary oak and rich berry fruits lead into a big, sweet-oaked wine with tea-like tannins, boysenberry and plum fruit, loads of cinnamon, anise and clove-like spices, a touch of orange zest and plenty of cedary oak. Full-bodied, robust and flavoursome, it's very drinkable if you like a chunky, oaky style but I'd like the oak toned down to let the fruit sing. 13% alc. $24.95. 27Jul2006.

Sacred Hill Brokenstone Merlot 2004 - Hawkes Bay (sc) Reddish-black boysenberry coloured, deep and dark. The aroma is smoky, sweet and jammy with hints of forest floor, and the flavour is opulent and seductive with ripe, Merlot-driven fruit, succulent, silky, cherry biscuit tannins, and a dark, smoky, black fruit finish. There's a touch of allspice as the beautifully rounded flavours linger and even a hint of chocolate. 14% alc. $59.95. 11Jun2006.

Sacred Hill Helmsman Cabernet Merlot 2004 - Hawkes Bay (sc) Similar to the Brokenstone in colour with perhaps a little more red. Sweet creamy oak and juicy red berry aromas fill the nose while the taste is full of ripe currant-like fruit and plums and tobacco with a hint of leather and firm ribena-like acidity supporting the fruit. The tannins are surprisingly smooth and rounded, surprising because when I tasted this at the Hawkes Bay Hot Red Roadshow a few weeks before I found this wine's tannins quite overpowering. Today they seem so integrated and smooth in comparison, while the finish is long and creamy with a surge of crisp red berry fruit as it lingers. 14% alc. $59.95. 11Jun2006.

Selaks Premium Selection Marlborough Merlot 2004 (sc) Deep crimson colour. Lollyish, purple fruits aroma with a meaty nuance. The lollyish flavour continues into the palate - quite a fruit driven style but with creamy savoury smoky oak in the background. Soft tannins, medium bodied and a spicy aftertaste but just a little short. 13.5% alc. $15. 4Jun2005.

Shipwreck Bay Merlot Cabernet 2004 (sc) Deep ruby with a savoury, earthy scent that has a hint of farmyard and perhaps a hint of chocolate. Medium-bodied and spicy to the taste with earth, cherry, cassis, plum and vanillin cedar imparted by the sweet oak, and fruit cake nuances. Wonderfully smooth and creamy with amazing concentration and richness, this juicy little number is holding out extremely well for a 4 year-old wine. Wine of New Zealand from various regions made by Okahu Estate. 14% alc. $14.99. 19Jul2008.

Te Awa Boundary 2004 (c) A blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, it is deep crimson black in colour with bright 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 the 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. 14% alc. $40. 27Feb2010.

Te Awa Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (c) Deep dark red, almost opaque. Creamy vanillin oak aromas with red-fruits-baking-in-pastry scents, cherries and hints of spice. Smoky and savoury to the taste with tight fine-textured tannins, cedary French oak, tobacco, smoky bacon, liquorice, juicy red fruit and a very dry, savoury, earthy, slightly bitter finish. Complex with layers of flavour, this is well-made with potential to improve over the next couple of years. 13.5% alc. $22.90. 22Jun2007.

Thornbury Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 Deep plummy red with a blackish core and ruby rims. Full of plush sweet oak, it smells of polished cedar and cigar box and tastes creamy and spicy with juicy, concentrated plum and berry fruit, smooth tannins and a spiciness to the lingering finish. Robust and tasty, full of flavour, fruit is the winner on the day. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 6Sep2006,

Te Whau The Point Double-Barrel Waiheke Island Merlot 2004 Vinous-rich aromas of plum and cedar. Savoury red fruit fills the full-bodied palate that's awash with big tannins that are quite grainy, just a little chunky and also quite oak-cedary. Rich and earthy with hints of chocolate, a touch of herb and a long smoky finish. give this wine a year - it will be fantastic. $45. Feb2006.

Ti Point Two Merlot Cabernet 2004 - Matakana (sc) Deep garnet red. Boysenberry and polished vanillin oak on the nose with a touch of citrus, and creamy oak in the palate with firm acidity that adds a citrussy twang, soft grainy tannins and a medium-bodied plummy finish. There's a herbal note running through the wine that adds savouriness and the finish is dry with cedary vanillin oak lingering. Multi-layered and developing nicely. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 27Jul2006.

Unison 2004 - Hawkes Bay (D) Intensely coloured, opaque deep blackberry red in the centre of the bowl gradating to a vivid pinky crimson on the edges. On the nose it is full of polished smoky cedar with concentrated black fruit emanating from its depth. It's very tight in the palate, very tight and very dry but very powerful with its complex cedary flavours, plum and cherry fruit, a creamy backbone, firm acidity and a hint of tobacco as it lingers. The tannins are big, but beautifully fine grained and integrated. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels wine growing district in Hawkes Bay. 14% alc. $28.00. 11Jun2006.

Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (sc) A soft, medium-bodied wine with plummy fruit and spicy oak and nice grippy tannins. 14% alc. $16.95. 6Sep2005.
Deep plummy red with fragrant oak aromas and spicy, red fruit flavours with soft meaty tannins, a touch of chocolate and spice. A juicy, succulent, easy drinking wine with plenty of structure for the price. 9Nov2005.
Burgundy plum-red with a youthful crimson rim. Savoury, smoky aroma and savoury, spicy flavours with a juicy richness to the juicy bright plum and red berry fruit, soft velvety tannins, a touch of Black Forest chocolate and a long dry mouthfilling finish. Incredible value. 14% alc. $13.95. 1Feb2006.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2004 (sc) Deep dark red. On the nose blackberries infuse into smoky oak then in the palate it is full of chocolate and juicy plums with vanillin oak, smooth succulent tannins, and a long dry finish with a touch of musk as it lingers. 14% alc. $23.95. 22Mar2006.
Deep, dark, blackberry red with delicious aromas of rich creamy oak, chocolate, cherry and spice, it's a young wine with ripe plum and cassis fruit, chocolatey oak, slightly grippy tannins and a tarry undercurrent. Powerful, full-bodied and long, the main course wine, it will continue developing for some years yet. Gorgeous and a bargain at the price. I rate it 5 stars. 14% alc. $18.99. 25Apr2007.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2004 (sc) Deep dark red, finely dense in its appearance. Rich, concentrated aromas of cedar, vanilla, plums and leather and a fruity, spicy flavour with a lick of pepper to tip of tongue, cherry and plum fruit, chocolate, an underpinning of tobacco and mint and supple succulent tannins and creamy oak. A massive wine with a spicy richness to its depth. 14% alc. $42.99. 11Oct2006.

Waimarie Muriwai Valley 'The Testament' Merlot Cabernet Franc 2004 First release of this wine from the home vineyard's fruit, it's a deep ruby red with smoky cedar aromas and a creamy. Smooth, velvety textured, spicy palate full of red cherry and plum fruits with hints of blackcurrants, a touch of tobacco and beautifully integrated cedary oak. Underlying acidity adds vibrancy to the wine without overpowering. It's ripe, luscious and creamy - a very good wine. 13% alc. $21. 11Jun2007.

2003 Vintage [top] [index]

Alpha Domus House Merlot 2003 – Hawkes Bay Garnet red, earthy smelly, slightly tarry with plenty of dirty barnyard-like aromas, this wine is dry and tannic, even a little musty while slightly unripe plum flavours give a bitey finish. A rough red in the truest sense. 13% alc. $12.95. 5Jan2005.

Black Barn Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2003 Deep pinky red. Sweet cherry fruit and spicy vanillin oak on the nose. Ripe and juicy in the palate with plum and cherry fruit, creamy textured spicy oak and fairly substantial tannins. A complex and intriguing wine with purple fruits and violets coming through together with a hint of mint and tobacco. The finish becomes quite savoury and then the cassis of the cabernet with a chocolatey undercurrent builds on the lingering aftertaste. The blend is 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. 13% alc. $24.95. 7Jul2006.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2003 Black! Sweet vanillin oak, cherry, chocolate and leather on the nose. Big, rich and chocolatey in the palate with bright red fruits, Christmas cake spices, a touch of mint, firm grippy tannins and a long dry finish. A powerful meaty wine, it really needs to evolve in the cellar for a couple of years. 13% alc. $26.95. 11May2005.
Deep plummy red with ripe berry and currant scents leading into a very dry, richly tannic palate with plum, tobacco and cigar box flavours, quite high acidity and a smoky touch to the leathery finish. 13% alc. $23.95 special. 2Nov2005.

Crossroads Hawkes Bay Destination Series Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (c) Vibrant boysenberry red. Savoury, cedary, herbal aromas with a touch of blackberry and a nuance of mint lead into a dry wine with soft acidity, a fine silky tannin structure, beautifully integrated French oak and dark plum and black berry fruits. It flows across the palate to linger with a meaty, savoury finish where rosemary comes into to play with the berry fruit and smoky sweet oak. With everything in balance this wine delivers. 13% alc. $19.95. 27Jul2006.

Fencepost Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2003 (sc) A light to medium weight wine with a ruby red colour, cherry and leather on the nose and more in the palate with smoky cedary oak, firm tannins, cherry and plums and leathery flavours lingering. 12.5% alc. $16. 1Feb2005.

Framingham Marlborough Merlot Malbec 2003 (sc) Deep garnet-ruby red, not quite opaque. Meaty aromas at first then fragrant vanillin oak and hints of cherries. In the medium to full-bodied palate it's creamy with hints of coconut, cigar and ripe juicy cherry and blackberry fruit with lovely vinosity, smooth tannins and a little flash of acidity in the form of citrus peel emerging on the dark, earthy, smoky finish. It's quite drinkable and voluptuous, could be from across the ditch rather than across the Strait. Very appealing. Drinking beautifully now. Hard to believe it is four years old. 13.5% alc. $25. 22Jun2007.

Karikari Estate Northland Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2003 (sc) Deeply hued, almost opaque. Bright cherry fruit, creamy oak and an earthiness typical of malbec with a violet/herbal note, cassis/plum fruit, firm tannins, reasonable acidity and lingering cedary oak. I'd like to see this develop in the bottle for a little while longer. A blend of 53% Merlot, 36% Malbec and 11% Cab Sauv. 13.2% alc. $26. 21Sep2004.
Dark, earthy, tarry and medicinal, almost pooey, through the fruit is sweet. Medicinal in the palate too with rough, chunky tannins, but get past this, way past this and you find concentrated black fruit and dark tarry oak with a creaminess as it lingers. I find it hard to get past the initial assault of flavours, though. 13.2% alc. $25.95. 17Mar2006.

Kathy Lynskey 15 Rows Marlborough Merlot 2003 A rich, concentrated, full-bodied red - it's a surprise to find that it's from Marlborough. A powerful wine with fine tannins, plum and blackberry fruit, a hint of chocolate, spicy cedary oak and a vanillin sweetness to the long, long finish. It is a very polished wine and definitely needs a big glass. 13.5% alc. $45. 30Mar2006.

Main Divide Marlborough Merlot Cabernet 2003 A crimson-red coloured, earthy smelling wine with cherry and plum fruits, fruit cake spices, a touch of anise and polished cedary oak with flavours like throaties lollies lingering on the finish. A reasonably complex style with smooth, dryish tannins and good mouthfeel. $17.50. 28Aug2005.

Matua Valley Matheson Merlot Cabernet 2003 (sc) Deep red, almost inky. Meaty smelling chocolatey oak and rich, juicy, succulent, mouthfilling flavours with leather, cedar, mint, liquorice, cassis and chocolate. A crowd pleaser with lots going on. 13% alc. $20.95. 4Jun2005.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2003 (sc) Deep red. Spicy vanillin oak with cassis and a hint of mint and pepper. Appealing sweet vanillin oak aromas. Quite firm, dry leathery tannins, sweet creamy oak, juicy cherry, plum and cassis fruit that lingers with a finish that grabs you, makes you think, wow, that wasn't bad. Lovely marriage of fruit and oak and a smidgen of mint on the aftertaste. 12.5% alc. $19.95. 4Jun2005.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2003 (sc) Crimson red with violet flashes. Sweet vanillin oak on the nose and spicy oak in the palate with liquorice, nutmeg, ripe -plumy fruit and a sweet oak finish with just a hint of mint. A well structured wine with a juicy drinkability and a dry, savoury aftertaste. 13% alc. $19.95. 4Jun2005.

Okahu Shipwreck Merlot Cabernet 2003 (sc) A lighter, translucent coloured wine with savoury oak, sweet plummy fruit, peppermint, a silky texture and a juiciness to the aftertaste. Just a little light and short. 12.5% alc. $16.95. 4Jun2005.

Pegasus Bay Maestro Merlot Malbec 2003 (sc) Deep, plummy red black and almost opaque in appearance with sweetly fragrant nutty oak aromatics, this is a succulent mouthfilling, rich, savoury, full-bodied, 'robust' red with ripe plummy fruit, creamy oak, sweet mulled wine spices, velvety tannins and a chocolatey richness. In fact the creamy chocolate with its berry infusion just overtakes the aftertaste in the most appealing way. There's a hint of spiced dried orange peel and perhaps a hint of pepper or something adding a brightness to the whole. A stunning Waipara red made from a blend of 75% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alc. $43.95. 25Jan2008.

Saint Clair Marlborough Merlot 2003 (sc) Cherry pink-red. Savoury smelling - leather and berries, a hint of cigar. Sweet fruit, cassis, strawberry, violets, lots of creamy oak and a hint of liquorice. Nicely structured suave tannins and a long juicy finish with a little bit of a spicy suede-like kick. 13% alc. $19.95. 4Jun2005.

Saint Clair Rapara Reserve Merlot 2003 (sc) Deep red. Blackberry and liquorice on the nose, crisp and juicy cracked fruit first up in the palate, the blackberry and plum fruit becomes quite intense, almost liquerish. Ripe and round with smooth velvety tannins, a depth to the full-bodied flavour - liquorice, sweet concentrated fruit - blackberries, boysenberries, plum and cherry, creamy vanillin oak and a sultry savouriness to the lingering finish. A well-structured, opulent wine. 13% alc. $23.95. 4Jun2005.

Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Marlborough Merlot 2003 (sc) Smelling a little rubbery on opening, like tyres in the hot sun, and a bit thin in the plate with spices, a touch of green pepper and cherry fruit. A very simple style. 13% alc. 28Aug2005.

Selaks Premium Selection Merlot 2003 (sc) made from 'East Coast' fruit, this is a light to medium-bodied wine, Burgundy red in colour, fruity and soft, perhaps a little sweetish and is quite appealing on entry but the fnish lets it down. Overall it is little out of balanced with slightly drying furry tannins and a sharp, bitter finish with clove-like oak. Liked it better a couple of days later when fruit cake richness becomes more apparent. **(*) 13% alc. $15. 10May2004.

Stonecroft Ruhanui 2003 - Hawkes Bay 63% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah. Rich and concentrated with a deep translucent red colour, leathery aromas and plum, leather and cigar flavours with firm grainy tannins and a cedary backbone peeling back to reveal the fruit concentration and weight. A youthful wine, still developing, but opens up beautifully in the glass to let some violets, rose petals, a touch of cedary chocolate and tobacco come through. A with structure, power and length, at this stage really needs food. Try BBQ fillet of lamb or Confit of Duck. Diam closure. 13.5% alc. $30. 24Feb2005.

Te Mata Awatea 2003 - Hawkes Bay 47% Merlot, 37% Cab Sauv, 11% Cab Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. An appealing crimson red with purple hues. Warmly textured with dry tannins, cigar, and hints of chocolate. Lovely fruit, savoury smoky oak, very suave, almost seamless as it seduces the palate. Aromatic throughout with a lovely expression of liquorice and fruit on the finish. Opens up beautifully in the glass and leaves a smoky, cedary aftertaste with lingering hints of musk, liquorice, cigar, leather and cassis/cherry fruit. 13.5% alc. $29.95. 12Apr2005.
Youthful coloured, reasonably opaque burgundy red (like a young pinot), with slightly smoky, earthy, berry aromas and black plum and berry flavours, savoury French oak, tight grippy tannins, a hint of pepper, some tobacco leafy characters and a long, vinous finish. 13.5% alc. $33.95.28Dec2005.

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Index to Varietal Tastings
Chardonnay Gewurztraminer
Pinot Gris Sauvignon Blanc Other Whites
Bubblies Sweeties Pinks
Cabernet dominant Merlot dominant Pinotage
Pinot Noir Shiraz Other Reds

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