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The wines of  Alpha Domus, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

1829 Maraekakaho Road, RD1 Hastings, New Zealand
E-mail: wine@alphadomus.co.nz Website: www.alphadomus.co.nz
UK agent: McKinley Vintners (info@mckinleyvintners.co.uk)

Some historical background to begin with. The Ham family emigrated to New Zealand from the Netherlands in the 1960s. In the 1980s they began to look at investing in a vineyard, and eventually purchased a 20 hectare (50 acres) block on the Ngatarawa plains west of Hastings (Hawkes Bay region), planted the first vines in 1991 and then added an extra 15 hectares a few years ago. First vintage was 1995. The soils are relatively infertile and free draining, consisting of silt loam overlaying river gravel. Itís also quite a warm region, with summer daytime temperatures often exceeding 40 ļC.

As you can see from my notes, I really liked these wines. The range includes some of New Zealandís most impressive reds, together with the wonderful AD Chardonnay, of which I tried four different vintages. Prices are very respectable considering the quality on offer here.

Alpha Domus Semillon 2000, Hawkes Bay
An interesting, full flavoured dry white wine. Slightly shy nose with a herbal edge and a bit of citrus character. Rich-textured, full flavoured palate with a nice richness and a herbal edge. Very good+ (£7.49 Harrods, Howells of Cardiff)

Alpha Domus Chardonnay 2001, Hawkes Bay
Unoaked. Quite deep coloured. Distinctive herbal quality to the fruit. The palate is quite full flavoured with herbal-edged citrussy fruit. Tasty stuff and very impressive. Very good/excellent (£7.99 Haslemere Cellar, Martinez Fine Wine)

Alpha Domus 'AD' Chardonnay 2000, Hawkes Bay
Complex creamy, bready toasty nose. The palate is rich and concentrated with good acidity and a spicy finish. Savoury and rich with lots of oak, but lots of fruit too. Needs time to settle down but lots of potential. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Harrods, The Haslemere Cellar, Martinez Fine Wine)

AD Chardonnay 1999, Hawkes Bay
Very deep yellow/gold colour. Intense, enticing nose shows very rich, complex herbal fruit intertwined with toasty, bready oak. The palate is deliciously full-on with concentrated herby fruit and lots of vanilla spice from the oak. Very good/excellent

AD Chardonnay 1998, Hawkes Bay
This is a brilliant interpretation of Chardonnay. Lovely spiciness to the intense nose,
which displays complex fruit and toasty, bready new oak. Huge concentration on the palate but still in great balance, with a spicy edge to the savoury complexity and high acidity. Excellent

AD Chardonnay 1997, Hawkes Bay
Quite a deep yellow/gold colour. Very rich, intense nose shows evolved savoury, bready, butterscotchy notes. Powerful, intense palate with savoury complexity to the fruit. Works quite well and not over the hill yet. Very good/excellent

Alpha Domus Pinot Noir 2000, Hawkes Bay
Deep red/purple colour. Slightly restrained cherry and berry fruit on the nose with some rich spicy oak. Fruity palate with a spicy edge: this is concentrated stuff, and although itís quite a classy wine itís probably a bit too rich for a Pinot Noir? Very good+ (£12.99 Amps Fine Wine, Clifton Cellars)

Alpha Domus Merlot Cabernet 2000, Hawkes Bay
Very deep purple/black colour. Wonderful striking leafy, mineral edge to the bright blackcurrant fruit on the nose. Attractive restrained berry fruit on the palate: ripe, but with a spicy, mineralic complexity. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Haslemere Cellar)

Alpha Domus The Navigator 1999, Hawkes Bay
Hand picked, basket pressed and aged in a mixture of French and American oak. Enticing nose of sweet ripe berry fruit backed with some classy spicy new oak. Rich, concentrated palate is beautifully in balance with sweet ripe berry fruit and spicy oak. Quite restrained despite the concentration. Very good/excellent (£12.99 The Haslemere Cellar, Richards and Richards Fine Wines, Stanton Wine Company)

Alpha Domus 'AD' The Aviator 1998, Hawkes Bay
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, aged in French oak barriques. Deep red/black colour. Lovely rich nose of spicy berry fruit. The palate shows a great concentration of complex, rich fruit with firm tannins. Rich yet balanced. Very good/excellent (£18.99 Harrods, The Haslemere Cellar, Noel Young Wines, G R Pickard and Son)

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wines tasted February 2002; article published October 2002