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Tasting notes of New Zealand wines

(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.75. Date of tasting is indicated at the end of each note as month/year)

see also: 

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Marlborough, New Zealand
Thereís something magical about Cloudy Bay. An iconic wine, particularly here in the UK where it used to be almost impossible to find on shelves, and which some merchants sold for as much as £25 a bottle. People love it: the label, the name, the wine. Anyway, availability seems to have improved Ė I picked this up in Sainsburyís. Assertive, grassy nose with complex herbal flavours with some nice aromatics and a hint of tropical fruit. The palate is intense and herby with some grapefruit and citrus character, as well as high acidity. Not as rich and showy as the early Cloudy Bays, but still an attractive wine. 88/100 (£16.99 Sainsburyís, 13.5% alcohol) 04/09

Montana Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Marlborough, New Zealand
A classics: this is one of the wines that established Marlborough as a great place to grow Sauvignon Blanc. Itís also the wine that introduced me to Sauvignon Blanc back in the early 1990s. Made in reasonable quantities, itís totally reliable and a great ambassador for New Zealand wine. Fresh, lively nose with great balance between the grassy, herby aromas and the richer passion fruit characters. The palate is lively and intensely fruity with green grassy, grapefruity freshness allied with fuller tropical fruit notes. It has lots of personality. 88/100 (£7.93 Asda, 12.5% alcohol) 04/09

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Wairau Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand
Very attractive nose with herb, melon and grapefruit notes. The palate shows lovely rich flavours of passion fruit and melon, countered nicely by herb, citrus and green pepper notes. Thereís a subtle chalky edge, too, which works really well. I love the balance between the fruit richness and the fresh grassy characters that this wine shows. 89/100 (£8.99 Waitrose, 13% alcohol) 04/09  

Blind River Pinot Noir 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is a beautiful expression of New Zealand Pinot Noir. Relatively deep red in colour, it has a lively, aromatic nose showing fresh cherries, spice and herbs. The palate shows intense, vivid dark cherry and plum fruit with herby, spicy complexity and a degree of elegance. Really expressive and individual. 92/100 (£17.99 Oddbins, 14% alcohol) 04/09

Richardson Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
Open aromatic nose is evolved with sweet dark cherry fruit. The palate is dark, fresh and open with sweet fruit. An elegant ripe style with some earthy structure. Nice. 90/100 (£24 Genesis Wines) 02/08

Lindauer Special Reserve Brut Cuvťe NV New Zealand
Elegantly packaged, this is a very pale salmon pink colour. Itís tight and quite savoury with a lovely crisp, delicate toast and lemon character, as well as just a hint of raspberry and cranberry fruit. A delicate, fruity style of real appeal. 88/100 12/08

Montana Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuvťe NV New Zealand
12%. Fresh, herby, lemony and refreshing. A tight, crisp style with high acidity and a subtly grassy green character, keeping this bright, focused and savoury. 86/100 12/08

Lindauer Rosť NV, New Zealand
Pale salmon pink.
Really zippy with nice fresh fruit and a touch of savoury herbiness. Nice stuff. 87/100 (12%) 01/09

Lindauer Special Select NV, New Zealand
Very pale salmon pink. Interesting toasty edge to the nose and lovely subtly herby bright citrus fruits on the palate. Some nice complexity here Ė an interesting wine. 88/100 (12%) 01/09

Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lively aromatic nose with a nice combination of intense, grassy herby notes with restrained passion fruit character. It falls on the side of freshness rather than richness. The palate is concentrated, rich, vibrant and intense with lovely rich fruity characters combining with grassy, minerally freshness. Fantastic grown-up Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc of real interest. 91/100 (£12.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 11/08

Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is just fantastic. One of the very best New Zealand Pinot Noirs: complex, balanced, and every so slightly funky. The nose has a lovely subtly meaty, spicy, warm, herb tinged cherry fruit character, as well as some floral, almost northern RhŰne-like notes. The palate is textured and elegant with beautifully balanced savoury spiciness, just a touch of herbiness, and sweet berry fruits with just enough structure to keep things savoury. Beautifully poised and very easy to drink, this has seriousness, elegance and charm. 94/100 (13.5% alcohol, cork sealed) (£20.50 Berry Bros & Rudd) 11/08

Waipara Springs Pinot Noir 2006 Waipara, New Zealand
Brightly aromatic on the nose with warm spicy new oak meshing well with dark cherry and plum fruit. The palate shows good concentration of dense, spicy fruit with a hint of plummy bitterness, some subtle green, sappy notes and nice elegance. Plenty of flavour and impact, but avoids becoming jammy and sweet. The chocolately, spicy, vanillin oak is currently evident, and I reckon this needs a couple of years to show its best. Potentially quite serious. 91/100 (Hellion Wines) 10/08

Koru Sauvignon Blanc 2007 South Island, New Zealand
Sealed with natural cork. Made from a 1 hectare single vineyard by Jasper and Sarah Raats, this is an intense, concentrated Sauvignon Blanc with rich peach, pear and passion fruit character, together with a bit of grapefruit freshness. It's really intense and well balanced with ripeness and richness to the fore. It isn't grassy like so many Sauvignons, but tends to the more tropical end of the flavour spectrum, while still retaining freshness. This is certainly quite expensive, but it is one of the very best Kiwi Sauvignons out there. 93/100 (£22 Hellion Wines) 10/08

Blind River Pinot Noir 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely vibrant, fresh, sweet cherry fruit nose with some spiciness. The palate shows complex cherry and plum fruit with a subtle greenness as well as rich spicy character. It's fresh and fruity but there's more to it than just fruit: there's richness and depth, too. A brilliant effort: it's still quite primary but likely will develop well over the next five years. 92/100 (£17.99 Oddbins) 10/08

Ara Resolute Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
This isn't your typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It's a concentrated, mineralic style with less of the tropical flourishes you might expect from the region. Instead, the focus is on concentrated, tight, herby, citrussy fruit with a distinctly savoury green pepper character on the palate. Great concentration and minerality; this really needs food to show its best at the moment. 89/100 (£13.99 Majestic; 13.5% alcohol) 02/09

Bluff Hill Brut NV, New Zealand (M&S £8.99)
From Pernod Ricard. Rich, toasty and quite complex with a lovely savoury character, backed up by good acidity. Richly flavoured and quite serious: a good food wine. 89/100 01/09

Kaituna Hills Chardonnay Reserve 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand (M&S £9.99) From Pernod Ricard. Bold aromatics with toast, herbs, figs and some spicy vanilla notes. Broad, intense, richly textured palate has real richness, with ripe melon and pineapple fruit combining well with some new oak. A really stylish effort which justifies its £10 price-tag. 89/100 01/09

Kaituna Hills Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2006 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand (M&S £8.99)
From Pernod Ricard. Very fresh, bright blackcurrant fruit nose with a savoury, gravelly edge and some subtle grassy greenness hiding in the background. The palate shows a nice combination of sweet but just-ripe dark fruits with some more savoury, fresh herby notes. This is what you hope inexpensive Bordeaux could be like: generous yet savoury, and digestible and food friendly. 87/100 01/09

Clocktower Pinot Noir 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand (M&S £10.99)
From Wither Hills. A richly flavoured Marlborough Pinot with powerful dark cherry and raspberry fruit together with a strongly savoury herby, slightly green, earthy structure. Itís not as elegant as some top Pinots, but it is attractive and fresh. 88/100 01/09
Southbank Estate Syrah 2005 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This is a light, medium-bodied red with fresh cherry and red berry fruit, as well as some hints of white pepper and a bit of gravelly grip on the palate. It's a bright, quite savoury red, with more in common with red Burgundy than Australian Shiraz. It flirts with greenness, but there's enough ripeness here for it to work really well. At just 12.5% alcohol, this is a bright, vibrant, food-friendly Syrah that will age well, and which is dangerously drinkable. 89/100 (£13 Majestic, Blackrock Wines, Penistone Court Wines) 01/09

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is tight, crisp and minerally with some limey fruit and grassy notes, as well as a bit of residual sugar adding roundness. Real purity and focus here - it's almost like a Riesling. 90/100 12/08

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh, herby, grassy nose. The palate is lean with high acidity. This is an acidic Sauvignon with some minerality. An averagely good Marlborough Sauvignon, which is surprising considering its fame. 87/100 12/08

Dog Point Vineyard Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Remarkable stuff, vinified with a bit of oak, although it's not an oaky wine. Stongly herbal, aromatic nose with bright grassy fruit and some grapefruit and citrus pith notes. Pungent, intense palate with a tangerine peel edge to the grassy fruit. I had this down as a high-end Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc - quite unlike anything else I've had from New Zealand. 92/100 12/08

Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lively aromatic nose with a nice combination of intense, grassy herby notes with restrained passion fruit character. It falls on the side of freshness rather than richness. The palate is concentrated, rich, vibrant and intense with lovely rich fruity characters combining with grassy, minerally freshness. Fantastic grown-up Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc of real interest. 91/100 (£12.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 11/08

Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is just fantastic. One of the very best New Zealand Pinot Noirs: complex, balanced, and every so slightly funky. The nose has a lovely subtly meaty, spicy, warm, herb tinged cherry fruit character, as well as some floral, almost northern RhŰne-like notes. The palate is textured and elegant with beautifully balanced savoury spiciness, just a touch of herbiness, and sweet berry fruits with just enough structure to keep things savoury. Beautifully poised and very easy to drink, this has seriousness, elegance and charm. 94/100 (13.5% alcohol, cork sealed) (£20.50 Berry Bros & Rudd) 11/08

Brightwater Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Nelson, New Zealand
Remarkably forward, aromatic passion fruit nose that's quite tropical, and slightly 'sweaty'. The palate is broad and quite rich with tropical fruit and a grassy minerally freshness. A really intense, striking sort of Sauvignon that teeters on the edge of being unbalanced, but which I quite like. 90/100 (£10.79 Laithwaites)  10/08

Waipara Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Waipara, New Zealand
Part from ungrafted 20 year old vines; part from a new block of selected clones. Limestone-rich soils. This is a cracking Sauvignon with some Loire-like minerality and well as focused grassy, fruity, blackcurrant bud aromatics. The palate is concentrated with lovely bright grassy, herby fruit and lovely textural richness, finishing quite minerally with high acidity. Lively, intense and well balanced. 92/100 (£9.99 Hellion Wines, http://www.hellionwines.co.uk/ - this is the new vintage, just available, with the equally good 2007 vintage still available in a whole range of independent wine merchants, such as Stone Vine & Sun and Noel Young) 10/08

Ara Composite Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Quite light in colour for a new world Pinot, this has notes of red cherry, cranberry, rhubarb and sweet herbs. The palate is fresh and a bit sappy, with grassy, green herbal notes under the fresh cherry fruit. Itís quite tangy, with good acidity, and a bit of spiciness. Thereís a persistence here, and some nice textural elements, although thereís a bit of herby bitterness to the finish that clamps down on the fruit. Itís a really attractive, supple, savoury style of new world Pinot that will likely evolve interestingly over the next five years. 13% alcohol. 89/100 (£10.95 Berry Bros & Rudd, Majestic) 09/08

Ara Resolute Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Quite light in colour, this has a charming, beguiling nose of sweet red cherries with integrated warm spicy notes adding an appealing warmth. Still fresh, though. The palate has spicy complexity sitting nicely under the smooth sweet cherry fruit, with textural richness and a bit of tannic grip keeping things savoury. Thereís a hint of chocolate here, too, presumably from the oak (which is unobtrusive). Pretty serious stuff, with a distinctly European sheen. A complex, understated, elegant new world interpretation of Pinot Noir with the potential to develop well over the next few years. 13% alcohol. 91/100 (£19.99 Majestic, available from early November) 09/08

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 1998 Nelson, New Zealand
Yellow gold in colour, this is rich and intense with a lovely toasty depth to the herby, slightly citrussy fruit. It's pungent and dense on the palate with complex herb-tinged fruit complemented by sweet nutty, spicy oak and hints of oiliness. There's citrussy freshness on the finish. A delicious, bold Chardonnay that's evolving well. 92/100 09/08

Muddy Water Pinot Noir 2006 Waipara, New Zealand
Cherry and berry fruit nose with some herbiness. Bright but intense, with some attractive meaty depth on the palate. Fruit driven and nicely balanced with good acidity and texture. 91/100 (09/08)

Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is a Marlborough Sauvignon from an estate owned by Marchese Lodovico Antinori. Does it have a European feel to it? Yes, at least a bit. Itís crisp, fresh and minerally with a lovely grassy, gently herby edge to the vivid citrus fruit and grapefruit core. Very refreshing, with high acidity. Quite serious. 91/100 (£13.99 Bottle & Basket, Edencroft, NZ House of Wine, Portland Wine, Wimbledon Wine, Planet of the Grapes) 06/08

Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Amazing stuff, this Sauvignon made by Henri Bourgeois of Sancerre. It's beautifully textured with good balance between the sweet, ripe pear and peach notes and the green grassy herby, gooseberry character. Real intensity and complexity here, with lovely focus and just the right amount of greenness to confer savoury freshness. I love the packaging, too - this is one of the few (5%?) of New Zealand wines that is still cork sealed. 93/100 (UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene) 05/08

Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This tastes so much of the Gimblett Gravels - it reminds me of the Syrahs that I've had from here, even though it's a Merlot? Is that terroir? I still think Syrah is the best variety for this patch of ground, but there's no doubting that this is a lovely Merlot. Deep coloured, it has a lovely fresh, bright peppery, gravelly edge to the well defined blackberry and raspberry fruit. The palate has lovely definition with lovely freshness, concentration and ripeness. There's some nice tannic structure. Pretty serious, especially for a Merlot. 93/100 (£15.99 Waitrose, http://www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk/) 05/08

Waipara Springs Riesling 2006 Waipara, New Zealand
Weighing in at 10.5% alcohol and with 29 g/litre residual sugar, this Riesling is just gorgeous. Very fresh nose with some carbon dioxide spritz. The palate is off-dry and nicely delicate with good acidity, nice fruit and good balance. It's a Kabinett or perhaps even a Spatlese style that really works well. Interestingly, a quarter of the blend saw some partial ageing in old oak barrels to add a bit of complexity. I reckon you could stick this away for a few years and it would develop beautifully. 92/100 (http://www.hellionwines.com/) 04/08

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is deliciously concentrated and fresh, with a lively, assertive cut-grass and green pepper herbaceousness, as well as piercing lemony, grapefruit pith fruit. A wake-up call to the palate. Deliciously intense and well balanced, this is a versatile wine that would match up well with some of the strong flavours of modern fusion cuisine. 90/100 (£12, UK agent MMD Ltd) 04/08

The Aurora Vineyard Syrah 2006 Bendigo, Central Otago, New Zealand
A beautiful cool-climate expression of Syrah. It has a really lovely white pepper and spice definition to the raspberry and dark cherry fruit, with an almost Burgundian elegance and freshness. Thereís lovely purity to the fruit here, which is ripe and dark with great natural acidity. Real elegance here: it seems nicely poised between the new and old worlds in style. Not a big, dense, showy sort of wine, but utterly compelling Ė it reminds me of the best of the Gimblett Gravel Syrahs in style. Bendigo is a warm subdistrict of Central Otago, which explains why theyíve been able to make this wine from somewhere you wouldnít expect to excel with Syrah. 92/100 (£16.99 http://www.hellionwines.com/) 04/08

Kaituna Hills Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
A Marks & Spencer own brand, made by Montana. Attractive, intense nose is nettley and fresh, with some grapefruit and green pepper notes. The palate shows great balance, with some greener, fresher notes balanced with some ripe, tropical fruit. Itís a sophisticated, well balanced example of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that flirts with fatness (14% alcohol) but stays fresh. 89/100 (£8.99 Marks & Spencer)  01/08

Craggy Range Syrah Block 14 2005 Gimblett Gravells, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
New Zealand is well known for its whites; itís now developing quite a reputation for its reds, such as this fantastic European-styled Syrah from the Hawkes Bay region on North Island. Headed up by Steve Smith MW, Craggy Range is a relative newcomer, but itís a winery to watch. This deep coloured wine has a lovely aromatic nose that shows fresh, spicy, peppery dark fruits. The palate is expressive and bright with a lovely spicy freshness to the savoury blackberry and raspberry fruit. Itís a brilliantly vivid, peppery interpretation of the Syrah grape that would go very well with rare lamb or fillet steak. 93/100 (£18.95 winedirect.co.uk) 09/07

Ra Nui Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Wairau Valley, New Zealand
Lovely refined, fresh aromatic nose is lemony and subtly herby. Stylish, without overt grassiness. The palate has fresh acidity and concentrated, fresh, subtly green fruit. Fantastic balance here: a sophisticated, intellectual Sauvignon. 92/100 (Hellion Wines) 10/07

Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely nose: fresh, spicy meaty red fruits here, with nice perfume. Ripe but still very fresh and quite cherryish. The palate is complex and spicy. It's really expressive with lively acidity and an appealing meatiness. A delicious wine. 92/100 (£11.99 Tesco, Thresher, Booths) 08/07

Montana Terroir Series Corbettís Legacy Pinot Noir 2006 Waipara, New Zealand
One of the new terroir series from NZ giant Montana, this is a brilliant wine from the Waipara region, near Christchurch on South Island. Thereís a bit of spicy, earthy presence to the meaty dark fruits nose. The palate has a nice spicy, earthy depth to it with good acidity. Itís a really lovely complex, savoury wine. 93/100 (Not sure of stockists Ė imported by Pernod Ricard UK) 11/07

Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely dark cherry, spice and herb nose with a bit of chocolatey richness. Deliciously pure fruit. The plate shows red berry and cherry fruit with warm spicy richness and a light texture, despite the fact that it is full flavoured. Supple, balanced and quite textured, with some grippy tannin on the finish suggesting that this has further to go in terms of its evolution. Very good/excellent 91/100 (available from Hellion Wines in the UK at £16.95) 03/07

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is the ultimate new world Chardonnay. There's lots of everything, and if you are in the mood for it, it's a compelling glassfull. The nose shows rich tropical fruit combining with some spice, a bit of smoke and some vanilla oak. Indeed, there's a hint of malt whisky on the nose. The palate is bold and full, with tangy, herby tropical fruit, a bit of citrussy zest, spicy complexity and some sweetness from the alcohol. It's concentrated and powerful, with the oak playing a supporting role rather than grabbing central stage. With boldly flavoured food, this is a winner. Very good/excellent 92/100 03/07

Lowburn Ferry Skeleton Creek Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
This wine is all about the fruit. It's bursting with vibrant red berry and dark cherry fruit; sweet, but not overly so. There's an appealing spiciness under the fruit on the palate, with good acidity and a subtle herby tang. Quite primary at the moment, with a juicy sort of character and some tannic structure. There's also a touch of bitter plum character which makes it very food friendly. Very good/excellent 90/100 (UK availability Hellion Wines) 02/07

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Really nice: ripe, expressive nose showing a mix of tropical fruit characters balanced by an attractive green grassiness. Bold, full flavoured and quite complex. 90/100 (£7.99 Waitrose) 02/07  

Trinity Hill Pinot Gris 2004 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Fantastic stuff, but a little unusual. This has a full, fresh, herb-tinged, slightly spicy nose with lots of sweet fruit. The palate is richly textured with lovely fat fruit and a nice spicy freshness. Itís melony and broad, but well balanced. Serious and full flavoured. Just off-dry. (Wines4business) 03/07

Trinity Hill Pinot Noir 2004 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
A relatively pale colour, which isnít necessarily a bad thing with Pinot Noir. The open nose shows sweet cherry fruit with some herby, undergrowthy complexity. The palate is elegant and smooth, with cherry and berry fruit plus some herby complexity. Ripe, refined and restrained: a lovely expressive wine. 93/100 (Wines4business) 03/07

Trinity Hill Syrah 2004 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This deep coloured Syrah has a thrilling, meaty, spicy, intense dark fruits nose. The palate has great balance between the sweet dark fruits, the spiciness and the peppery freshness. World class. 94/100 (Wines4business) 03/07

Jackson Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Marlborough, New Zealand
Brilliantly crisp and precise with beautifully poised, minerally, grassy grapefruity fruit. Lots of flavour, but fresh too, as well as being intense. 91/100 (£9.99 Waitrose) 11/06

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Wonderfully bright, fresh, vivid and fruity, with piercing acidity. This is a deliciously fresh and full Sauvignon thatís really appealing. 88/100 (£7.79 Oddbins, Waitrose, Majestic) 11/06

Waipara Springs Premo Riesling 2005 Waipara, New Zealand
An off-dry Riesling in a Kabinett-sort of style, with just 10.5% alcohol. Smoky, minerally, citrussy nose. Palate shows concentrated, rich, melony fruit with a pronounced mineral streak and good acidity. Complex and balanced in an off-dry style. 88/100 (Hellion Wines) 02/07

Pisa Range Black Poplar Block Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely perfumed nose of ripe, assertive berry fruit with a bit of meatiness and some spice. The palate is smooth, sweet and elegant with soft red/black fruits. Taut and spicy with a hint of herbiness and nice structure. It's a wine that successfully combines ripeness with freshness and elegance. Yes, it's new world Pinot, but it is so well balanced. Very good/excellent 93/100 (UK availability: Hellion Wines, www.hellionwines.com) 02/07

Waipara Springs Premo Pinot Noir 2005 Waipara, New Zealand
Destemmed, cold soak, minimal plunging, wild fermentation and extended skin contact: the result is a lovely Pinot Noir. It has a powerful, aromatic nose showing ripe, sweet and smooth berry fruit with a touch of coffee-ish roasted oak and some sweet spices. The palate is smooth and elegant with a lovely texture to the sweet fruit, which is backed up by some spice and silky tannin. I think this is a baby that will need a little time to show its best, but there's real quality here and the oak will be absorbed nicely. Very good/excellent 93/100 (Hellion Wines) 02/07

Montana Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Marlborough, New Zealand
Sauvignon Blanc can be a bit samey, and most of them tend to be a bit one dimensional. But I was quite impressed by this affordable reserve offering from NZ giants Marlborough. It has that classic grassy, gooseberry, blackcurranty sort of character, but with the added dimension of richness, concentration and texture. Nothing too groundbreaking, but a well made, nicely balanced wine. Very good+ 89/100 (£7.99 Asda, Oddbins, Sainsbury, Thresher) 12/06

Framingham Pinot Gris 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
A really soft, richly textured white wine thatís just off-dry, with some grapy richness. Quite concentrated and would go well with spicy food. 88/100 (£10.99 Green and Blue, Les Caves de Pyrene, Bedales, Le Pont de la Tour) 06/06

Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005 New Zealand
Smooth, pure red fruits on the nose with some spicy, savoury structure. Nice balance here: the fruit is ripe but it is fresh and restrained, too. Thereís a pleasant cherryish tang. 88/100 (£7.99 Waitrose) 07/06

Ra Nui Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Wairau Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand
Hand picked and whole bunch pressed. Deliciously well balanced with rounded tropical fruiy together with a grassy edge. Delightful: plump but still fresh. A lovely rich but well balanced wine. 90/100 (£9.95 Hellion Wines) 07/06

Waipara Springs Pinot Noir 2004 Waipara, New Zealand
Hand harvested, destemmed, cold soaked, hand plunged, gently pressed and aged in French oak - a classic recipe for Pinot Noir, and here it has worked brilliantly well. This wine has a lovely perfumed nose of sweet, lush dark cherry and berry fruit, with a hint of spiciness. It is elegant, ripe and lush. The palate is dense and spicy with smooth, concentrated, rich fruit. Ripe and full with lovely weight: it's certainly a big style of Pinot, a bit like a modern-styled Grand Cru Burgundy. Delicious stuff. Very good/excellent 94/100 (£13.50 Hellion Wines) 07/06

Ra Nui Pinot Noir Wairau Valley 2005 Marlborough, New Zealand
Hand-picked and hand-plunged before ageing in French oak. Sweet rounded cherr and berry fruit nose with just a hint of stewed fruit. There's a sweet liqueur-like edge to the dark cherry and berry fruit. The palate is smooth with alluring dark cherry fruit. Not at all overdone: delicious stuff. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9.95 Hellion Wines) 07/06

Lowburn Ferry Skeleton Creek Pinot Noir 2004 Central Otago, New Zealand
Perfumed, fresh black cherry nose is quite subtle, and has a pleasant, subtly green character in the background. There's a nice, spicy tang to the sweet black cherry fruit on the palate. Quite a rich, juicy, vibrant style. Tasty. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£12.95 Hellion Wines) 07/06  

Mount Riley Pinot Noir 2004 Nelson, New Zealand
Light coloured. Open, quite perfumed nose of cherries and red fruits with a slightly herbal tang. Thereís some sweetness. The palate is fresh with good acid and bright fruit. A hint of complexity just about justifies the purchase price. Itís one of those Pinot Noirs that verges on being a bit simple and fruity. Very good+ 88/100 (£13.99 Wine Rack, Thresher, £9.99 if you buy three) 01/06

Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
A really striking example of this variety with pungent green pepper and herbs dominant. The palate is herby and fresh with some gooseberry character. An intense style. Rounded and concentrated. Very good+ 87/100 (£11.99 Wine Rack, £7.99 if you buy 3) 01/06

Two Paddocks The Last Chance Pinot Noir 2004 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is a celebrity wine, in that it comes from actor Sam Neillís vineyard in Central Otago. And itís a ripper, mate. A palish cherry red colour it has a smooth aromatic nose of cherries, herbs, a bit of spice and a subtle green character. The palate has some warmth to the ripe red fruit which is nicely defined by the grippy, spicy tannic structure lurking underneath the sweetness. A delicious balanced Pinot Noir that combines fruit and structure to good effect. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Haynes, Hanson & Clark £14.99) 06/06

Carrick Pinot Gris 2004 Central Otago, New Zealand
Nice bright fresh Pinot Gris with good acidity. Thereís a bit of weight to the melony grapefruity palate but it doesnít get heavy. Sophisticated. Very good+ 89/100 (£12.95 Great Western Wine) 07/06

Muddy Waters James Hardwick Riesling 2004 Wairapa, New Zealand
A thrilling Riesling with an open perfumed nose and a palate of melon and pear fruit, with a racy, citrussy edge. Itís dry but the little residual sugar present provides a nice texture. A really complete wine. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Corney & Barrow) 07/06

Framingham Pinot Noir 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
Cherry and herb nose is a little tangy with some coca cola notes. The palate is bright and fruity with a herbal note and some spice. Thereís a bit of sweet and sour fruit here. Nice but not elegant. Very good+ 86/100 (£12.49 Les Caves de Pyrene, Naked Grape, Wimbeldon Wine Cellar) 07/06

Framingham Classic Riesling 2005 Marlborough, New Zealand
Quite a tight complex nose of intense lime with a honeyed sweetness behind it. The palate is concentrated and rich with lovely citrussy Riesling flavours well backed up by some residual sugar, which fattens things up and is in nice tension with the acidity. Fairly serious and great with cheese. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£9.99 Carrington [Manchester], Ex-Cellar, Les Caves de Pyrene, Bedales, Le Pont de la Tour Wineshop, Wimbledon Wine Cellar) 07/06

Redmetal Vineyards Basket Press Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2004 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
A striking wine. Perfumed sweet dark cherry nose with a pronounced spicy character and some subtle tarry oak. The palate is richly fruited but has a savoury tang and good acid, together with some tannic structure and a bit of tarry supporting oak. A big wine kitted out for the long haul. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Hellion Wines) 07/06

Redmetal Vineyards Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2004 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Thereís a fruity brightness here, along with a subtle greenness, but overall this is a deliciously ripe mid-bodied red with vibrant red berry fruits and a hint of spice. Nicely proportioned and softly structured. Very good+ 88/100 (Hellion Wines) 07/06

Waipara Springs Riesling 2004 Waipara, New Zealand
Very pretty limey, flowery nose, which is fruity with just a hint of sweetness. The palate has bracing acidity and nicely concentrated lime-tinged fruit. Just a hint of sweetness adding weight, but itís dry in character. Very good+ 88/100 (Hellion Wines) 07/06

Waipara Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Waipara, Canterbury, New Zealand
A lovely bright, fresh peppery nose with a lovely expressive nature. Itís a bit like a GrŁner Veltliner. Ripe on the palate but very fresh without any heavy greenness to it. A delcious stylish Sauvignon with real balance. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Hellion Wines) 08/06

Montana Reserve Pinot Noir 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
Bright and fruity with sweet cherryish fruit underlain by some spicy structure, and accompanied by some fresh green herbal notes. It tastes like Pinot but itís a bit simple and fruity. Very good+ 87/100 08/06

Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is one of the most complex and enjoyable Sauvignons Iíve had in a long time. It has a forward nose thatís grassy and herby with some tropical fruit richness. Nice balance here. The palate is rich and full with lovely fresh fruit and a spicy herbal edge. Quite complex. One one hand we have the slightly sweet-edged tropical fruit, and on the other thereís fresh grassiness. A striking, complete wine. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£9.99 Oddbins) 02/06

Peacock Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec/Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2002 Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Intense dark nose of tar, green herbal notes and black fruits with a pungent, spicy, almost medicinal character. Thereís something wild about this. The palate is dense and tarry with a spicy, medicinal undercurrent to the herb-tinged black fruits. Thereís a tannic finish and an almost animal-like edge to this wine which makes me suspect brett. Unusual and not for the faint hearted. Very good+ 88/100 (Hellion Wines) 08/05

Three Miners Pinot Noir 2003 Earnscleugh Valley, Central Otago, New Zealand
Rounded berry fruit nose with a hint of tar and spice. The palate is rounded and quite elegant, showing a smooth, midweight character with a cola-like spicy tang on the finish and plenty of supple red berry fruit. Reasonably elegant and thoughtful. Enjoyable but could perhaps do with just a touch more complexity. Very good+ 89/100 (Hellion Wines) 08/05

Staete Landt Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
New Zealand Sauvignon can get a bit monotonous, so itís really nice to catch one like this that makes you take a step back, because itís just so good. Itís beautifully perfumed and sophisticated with great balance. Thereís gently herby, grassy, gooseberry fruit with lovely weight on the palate and sophisticated, complex fruit. A brilliant effort. Very good/excellent 93/100 (Lay & Wheeler) 04/06

Peacock Ridge Reserve Merlot 2002 Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Dark coloured. Ripe sweet blackcurrant fruit dominates with a nice, spicy, tarry, subtly gravelly character. Good concentration here and a smooth yet firm structure, coming in part from the noticeable (but reasonably integrated) oak. A good wine: rich, in a new world style, but still showing some sort of balance. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Hellion Wines) 06/06

Montana Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Marlborough, New Zealand
Thereís some nice richness here to the classic grassy, gooseberry fruit. Plenty of concentration of flavour with bright acidity keeping things fresh. A very successful interpretation of the classic Marlborough style. Very good+ 87/100 (£5.99 widely available) 11/05

Lowburn Ferry Skeleton Creek Pinot Noir 2004 Central Otago, New Zealand
Open, sweet red and black fruits nose with some spiciness and a hint of chocolate. The palate is sweetly fruited (dark cherry, blackberry) and spicy, but with nice smooth tannic structure. Thereís a hint of vanilla underneath the spiciness. A sophisticated Pinot showing elegance and balance. Very good/excellent 91/100  06/06

Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Marlborough, New Zealand
Yield 9.5 tons/hectare, Scott-Henry trellising, fermented in French oak, total acidity 6.2 g/l, pH 3.12. Incredible bold, herby grassy nose. The palate is rich and rounded with a lovely herbal edge to the sweet fruit. Very broad and plush. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£17.99 Waitrose) 04/05  

Lindauer Special Select Brut NV
This isnít a rosť, but it has a hint of pink Ė itís a pale salmon colour. Very fresh aromatic lemony edge to the nose which has intriguing notes of herbs and seaside (!). The palate is savoury and bright with good acid and some strawberry sweetness to the fruit. Delicious. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£7.99 Waitrose, Oddbins) 12/05

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Itís a bit easy to get bored with Sauvignon Blanc because itís sometimes a one-trick ponyóso many of them taste similar. I was pretty impressed with this, though: itís
a wonderfully bright, intense, fruity Sauvignon Blanc that is deliciously full-on, with piercing fresh acidity. Itís as if theyíve taken a regular Sauvignon and turned the volume knob up to 11. Very good+ 89/100 (£7.99 Waitrose) 11/06

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2002 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Dark coloured, this has a sweet, intense nose thatís well defined. The palate is ripe with supersmooth, concentrated supple dark fruits showing a spicy edge. Elegant and delicious. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£29.99 Waitrose) 10/05 

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2003 Marlborough, New Zealand
Open spicy, meaty nose with red fruits and a subtle undergrowthy edge. The palate is quite concentrated and dense with a chewy, spicy edge to the ripe red fruits. A nice wine that is quite savoury and restrained. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£15.99 Waitrose) 04/05

Cairnbrae ĎThe Stonesí Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
Really vivid, piercing, grassy Sauvignon, but the nose shows a bit of restraint, with a rounded grassy character that is half-way to Sancerre. On the palate thereís some rounded blackcurrant and gooseberry fruit. Itís a nice Sauvignon. Very good+ 88/100 (£7.99 H&H Bancroft Wines) 11/05

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2002 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
New Zealand is best known for its fabulous white wines, but in recent years the reds have been improving rapidly. This delicious Syrah is a striking, elegant red wine that will blow you away with its concentrated, super-smooth red fruits, backed up by nice spiciness. Itís a powerful wine, but it achieves its impact efforletlessly. Not at all over-the-top. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£29.99 Waitrose) 10/05

Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
New Zealand is better known for its exuberant Sauvignon Blancs, but it also makes some impressive Riesling. This is a bit fuller bodied than the Palandri, with quite rich melony fruit backing up Rieslingís trademark liminess. Perfect for sipping on its own and also a versatile partner for a wide range of dishes. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Waitrose £7.99) 10/05

Vidal Syrah 2003 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Beautifully packaged. This is an impressive new world Syrah, and at this price a cracking bargain. Thereís tight, dark savoury fruit on the nose, which is also a bit minerally. The palate has delicious savoury freshness to the fruit. Beautifully poised, expressive and minerally, with good acid. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£10.99 Sainsbury, www.sainsbury.co.uk) 09/05

Stonecroft Old Vines GewŁrztraminer 2004 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
A fantastic example of this variety: itís aromatic with lovely rich, fat grapey, lychee and floral aromas (rose petal), but it isnít cloying. The palate is quite viscous with good concentration and nice balance between the fat, rounded, slightly sweet fruit and the cleansing acidity. Finishes just off-dry. Very good/excellent 92/100 10/05

Stonecroft Syrah 2002 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Dark coloured. Quite a tight, intense dark fruits nose with some freshness and spicy, tarry notes in the background.Thereís a hint of minerality, too. The palate has wonderful acidity providing a savoury, tarry minerality to the dark fruits. A pretty serious effort with the bright dark fruits emphasized by the acidity. A really good food wine, and possibly one for the future. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£14.99 Oddbins) 05/05

Stonecroft Syrah 2003 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
2003 was a short vintage, with half the usual crop. Really appealing pefumed nose: predominantly red fruits with a subtle herby edge and distinctive pepperiness. Hints of tar. The Palate is savoury and fresh with lovely spiciness and structure. Quite old world and expressive in style. Fine, fresh and almost Burgundian! Very good/excellent 92/100 06/05

Stonecroft Chardonnay 2004 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This is a fantastic wine if you like the style: a big, powerful Chardonnay. Very intense, full direct nose of rich, spicy tropical fruits with some well-integrated oak. Both mesh well. The palate is concentrated and intense with powerful melon and tropical fruit, combined with a rich, spicy streak. Powerful and complex with fantastic concentration and class. Very good/excellent 92/100 06/05

Montana Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
Remarkably engaging fresh, in-yer-face grassy Sauvignon with benchmark nose of aromatic gooseberry fruit. The palate is savoury, acidic and has some green herbal notes. Itís delicious: how do they do this for £5? Very good+ 88/100 (On offer at Tesco for £4.99; normally £5.99)  12/04

Woollaston Estates Rosť 2004 Nelson, New Zealand
A light salmon pink colour, this has a bright fruity nose of lemon and blackcurrant, leading to a fresh fruity palate. Nice stuff with good acidity Ė a really good rosť. Very good+ 88/100 10/04

Woollaston Estates Riesling 2003 Nelson, New Zealand
Lovely nose: rounded with smooth limey fruit. The palate has great balance with savoury, crisp limey fruit and good acidity that is checked by the roundness contributed by the residual sugar (7g/l). A very refined food friendly Riesling. Very good/excellent 90/100 10/04

Wollaston Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Nelson, New Zealand
Really lively open nose of bright grapey blackcurrant-laced fruit. Intense and rounded. The palate is concentrated with powerful grassy fruit flavours. High acidity is mouthwatering: a big, impactful Sauvignon. Very good+ 89/100 10/04

Drystone Pinot Noir Berridge Vineyard Estates 2002 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely open nose with forward sweet cherry and red fruits and some deeper, slightly meaty spicy complexity. The palate shows forwardfruit: sweet cherries with some damson-like notes contributing a slightly sour tang. Great concentration and balance. Very good/excellent 91/100 09/04

Greenhough Hope Vineyard Chardonnay 2002 Nelson, New Zealand
This is a big old Chardonnay: massive aromatic nose with vanilla, coconut and coffee notes, together with some herby fruit and spice. The palate is structured and full with the oak currently dominating. Concentrated, with a savoury finish, this might work with the right foods. Very good+ 87/100 (Lay & Wheeler) 08/04

Greenhough Hope Vineyard Pinot Noir 2002 Nelson, New Zealand
Varietally true nose with some sweet red fruits, a touch of herbiness and some undergrowthy notes. The palate shows a nice balance between the ripe fruit and the spicy, herb-tinged, tannic structure. Pleasant, ripe and quite elegant. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Lay & Wheeler) 08/04

Carrick Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is pretty serious. Aromatic yet taut grassy, slightly herbal nose. Assertive, savoury and quite intense. The palate is concentrated and full. Itís not showy but intense and grassy. Subtly herbaceous with good acidity. Almost lean and even minerally; a very useful food wine. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.50 Hellion Wines, www.hellionwines.com - a small retailer specializing in boutique NZ wines) 10/04

Babich Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2000 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
A good quality new world Chardonnay with lots to offer. Very rich, opulent nose of tropical fruit with a bit of herbiness and some subtle oak. The palate shows some minerally acidity backing up the rich, figgy fruit, with some spicy oak, too. Full flavoured and quite classy. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£7.99 Unwins) 07/04

Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Marlborough, New Zealand
Very appealing rounded, rich nose with some tropical fruit notes accompanying the gooseberry and grassy Sauvignon character. The palate is rounded and quite full with good richness of fruit and the freshness typical of this variety. Very good+ 88/100 (£6.99 Booths, Budgens, £7.49 Unwins) 09/04

Greenhough Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Nelson, New Zealand
Marlborough is the New Zealand region most associated with Sauvignon, but this one from Nelson is worth checking out. Enticing, rich grassy nose with some sweetness, hints of tropical fruit and an appealing grassiness. The palate shows good complexity: it is crisp and herby with nice fruit. A textbook, concentrated rich style of Sauvignon with good balance. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Around £12 - I'll double check - Lay & Wheeler) 08/04

Babich Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Merlot 2000 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Brooding dark blackcurranty fruits on the nose with a tarry, spicy edge. The palate is deep and spicy with nice acidity. Quite a substantial wine: bold and ripe with prominent but classy oaking. New world in style. Very good+ 88/100 (£7.99 Unwins) 06/04

Fromm La Strada Pinot Noir 2001 Marlborough, New Zealand
Impressive balance. Thereís a hint of chocolatey richness to the ripe cherry and berry fruit nose, with some savoury complexity. The palate is midweight with a savoury, slightly spicy edge to the fruit. Smooth, ripe tannins add structure. Will no doubt develop over 5 years. Very good/excellent 91 (Lay & Wheeler) 11/03

Montana Reserve GewŁrztraminer 2002 East Coast, New Zealand
Pretty, grapey nose with a musky floral edge. The palate is rich textured and finishes almost medium dry with plenty of residual sugar. Nice balance and good varietal character. Very good+ 87/100 (£7.99 Waitrose) 04/03  

The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Marlborough, New Zealand
From Awatare Valley vineyards, this is a powerful, striking example of Marlborough Sauvignon. It has a full nose of leafy blackcurrant and gooseberry fruit with just a hint of tropical richness. Thereís a delicate slightly green leafy edge. The palate shows a good concentration of rich yet fresh fruit with a rounded texture and good acidity. A high quality effort and a useful food match with the good acidity. Very good+ 89/100 (Tesco £6.99) 04/04

Dry River Craighall ĎAmaranthí Riesling 1998 Marlborough, New Zealand
Named after the unfading flower of Greek mythology. Quite a deep yellow/gold colour. Intensely limey, toasty petrolly nose is quite evolved with some honey notes. The palate is concentrated, rich and quite minerally. A dry style Ė very savoury and whether you like this will depend on what you think of the petrolly character. Very good+ 04/03  

Wither Hills Chardonnay 2001 Marlborough, New Zealand
Screwcapped, this is an extremely impressive New Zealand Chardonnay. Lovely intense nose with ripe, tropical figgy fruit and some toasty, slightly coconutty oak influence. The palate is fruity and concentrated with some spicy, savoury oak. Brilliant balance and concentration of flavour is the key here. Very good/excellent 91 (£8.99 Oddbins)  05/03

Villa Maria Riesling Reserve 2000 Marlborough, New Zealand
Ripe, almost exotic citrussy nose, with floral hints and a touch of melon. The palate shows brilliant balance between the ripe concentrated citrus fruit with a rounded texture. Quite structured, with just a hint of residual sugar. Brilliantly intense and drinking well now. Superb balance. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Oddbins) 03/03

Montana Riesling 2000 Marlborough
Quite an appealing limey nose. Rounded palate with a touch of honey to the apple and lemon fruit. Just a touch of residual sugar? Attractive. Very good 02/03

Montana Merlot Reserve 2000 Marlborough, New Zealand
Interesting leafy, herby edge to the nose which shows red berry fruits and some delicacy. On the palate the herby fruit dominates with some firm mouth-drying tannins. Slight caramel edge. Good varietal character. Very good+ 10/02

Montana Lindauer Brut NV, New Zealand
This bottle-fermented fizz with a subtle slightly yeasty nose. The palate is clean and crisp, lean and savoury and not too much fruit. Fine mousse. I like it. Very good+ (£6.49 First Quench) 05/02

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Marlborough, New Zealand
Aromatic ripe, fruity nose is quite grassy and displays a blackcurranty, slightly honeyed edge. The palate is lean and quite acidic, on the grassy end of the Sauvignon spectrum. Good concentration, with lots of flavour, and finishes with crisp acidity. An impressive Sauvignon Blanc thatís good with food. Very good/excellent 05/02

Montana East Coast Pinotage 2000, New Zealand
Pinotage from New Zealand? Yes, and presumably in substantial quantities, if Montana are making it. This wine has a slightly bizarre sweet herby chemical-edged nose, which I guess you could call varietally true. The palate is mid weight with good acidity and a slightly cheesy, animal edge to the strawberry and cherry fruit on the palate. Spicy finish. Interesting and unusual, but perhaps a bit flawed? Donít blame the producer, though. Very good (£5.99 Tesco) 06/02

Mount Edward Pinot Noir 2001, Central Otago, New Zealand
A stunning New Zealand interpretation of Pinot Noir. Deep coloured. Lovely herbal nose is slightly medicinal with some almost animal-like complexity. The palate shows chunky, chewy fruit and good herbal complexity. Great balance. Very good/excellent (£21 Waitrose) 10/02  

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2001, Marlborough, New Zealand
Deep coloured sweet edge to the berry fruit nose. Chewy herby fruit on the palate is ripe and rich with a spicy, tarry edge. A bold interpretation of Pinot Noir. Very good+ (£9.99 Majestic) 10/02

Wither Hills Pinot Noir 2001, Marlborough, New Zealand
Quite lovely nose: smoky, herby complexity to the fruit, which shows good depth. Juicy fruit on the palate with a spicy edge and a hint of savoury medicinal character. Oak is there but not too prominent. Brilliant new world Pinot Noir. Very good/excellent (£13.99 Majestic) 10/02

Nautilus Pinot Noir 2000, Marlborough, New Zealand
Open sweet herby nose with vivid berry fruit. The palate shows good concentration and lovely herby complexity to the nicely balanced fruit. Good acidity. Harmonious and expressive. Very good/excellent (£14.99 Majestic) 10/02

Felton Road Chardonnay 2000, Central Otago, New Zealand
Winemaker Blair Walter has experience in Burgundy and Otago, and aims to produce wines of elegance and complexity. This wine is deep yellow in colour with very rich, complex herby fruit on the nose, a slight tinned pea character and some smokiness. The palate is very rich and complex with lots of herbal fruit and a caramel-like edge. Unusual and quite ambitious. Very good+ (£10.95 Berry Bros) 04/02

Alana Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Martinborough, New Zealand
A fruity, forward wine with a nose displaying sweet notes of boiled sweets, gooseberry and blackcurrant. The rich fruity palate is very approachable, with sweet berry flavours. Very good+ (£7.95 Berry Bros 04/02)

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Marlborough, New Zealand
(Tasted blind, note as written) Thereís quite an attractive sweetness to the fruit on the modern nose, which shows aromatic, slightly grassy fruit, a touch of elderflower and some boiled sweets character. The palate has a lovely texture: quite rounded, savoury, slightly waxy and grassy. Finishes dry. Itís almost certainly a full flavoured, new world Sauvignon Blanc. Very good/excellent (£14.99 Handford) 11/01

Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 1996 Martinborough, New Zealand
This is really expressive Pinot Noir that's ageing very well. The sweet herby nose has some spicy, undergrowthy complexity with a hint of 'animal' about it. The palate is lovely and savoury with some cherry fruit, herby complexity and a spicy finish. It's ripe, but carries the 14.5% alcohol very well. Wouldn't hold it much longer, but a delightful drop now. Very good/excellent (current release is c. £12) 12/01

Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 1996, Martinborough, New Zealand
Evolved, quite fragrant nose is sweetly herbal with lifted acidity. Palate is drying out a bit with some savoury herbal fruit and a firm spicy finish. There's quite a bit of acid and some alcoholic warmth. Nice stuff but it is drying out on the palate and needs to be drunk soon. Would have been nicer a couple of years ago when it had more fruit. Very good (current release is c. £14) 01/02

Lawson Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Marlborough
Sealed with a screwcap. Very lively aromatic nose of tropical fruit with a grassy, gooseberry edge -- very striking. The palate is bone dry, and if I'm going to be critical there's a bit of hollowness and alcoholic burn on the finish. High acidity. Very dramatic, but a bit manufactured. Very good (£7.99 Majestic) 11/01

Te Kairanga Pinot Noir 2000, Martinborough, New Zealand
Martinborough has established a reputation as one of New Zealand's best regions for Pinot Noir. Quite pale coloured, this has a nice herby nose with some toasty notes (from the oak?) and dark berry fruit. Primary berry fruit dominates the bright palate, which is underpinned with more oak. Quite 'square' now, but with the potential to develop. Very good (£10.77 Bibendum) 11/01

Wither Hills Vineyards Pinot Noir 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely open nose showing pungent, herbal cherry fruit with notes of undergrowth. Lovely palate is richly fruited with a savoury, herbal edge. Lovely stuff: expressive and complex. Excellent (c. £12) 08/01

Matariki Wines Pinot Noir 1999, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
There's a smoky, earthy edge to the distinctive nose, which has a spicy edge. Powerful, ripe, full spicy palate with some sweet, spicy oak notes and a long, savoury finish. Quite a full, ripe new-world-style Pinot Noir, but lovely nonetheless. Very good/excellent (c. £13) 08/01

Huia Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Marlborough, New Zealand
With an over-the-top aromatic nose of grassy, ripe fruit, this is a wine that shouts its varietal origins. The palate is intense with cutting acidity. Quite refreshing and a very modern, archetypally Marlborough style of Sauvignon. Very good (£9.01 Bibendum) 11/01

Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2001, New Zealand
The striking, modern nose is grassy, ripe and rounded, with a blackcurrant edge. Palate is fresh, tight and acidic: this is quite a lean wine. May open out a little more; a good food-compatible Sauvignon. Very good (£5.99 Tesco) 09/01

Montana Reserve Chardonnay 2000, Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely nose shows ripe peach and tropical fruit, combined well with toasty, nutty oak. The palate is deep, rich and nutty, with lots of fruit and quite a dash of oak influence. There's also a herbal edge and a bit of spice and coconut in the background. Great concentration of flavour. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Tesco) 09/01

Ngatarawa Glazebrook Chardonnay 2000, Gisborne, New Zealand
This has a full-on ripe, tropical fruit flavoured palate with a touch of herbaceousness. Impressive, unoaked style with lots of flavour. Very good+ 10/01

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 1995, Marlborough, New Zealand
I found it hard to make my mind up about this wine. I could have been fooled by the nose into thinking that this was a fairly serious Burgundy, but the intense, slightly harsh palate made this hard work to drink. A deep yellow colour, the pungent nose shows smoky, herby, burnt cabbage notes. The intense palate shows bitter papaya fruit, with firm acidity and complex, savoury bready and coffee notes. A powerful, interesting wine that is still very much alive, but one that certainly needs food to offset the bitterness on the palate. Very good 02/01

Isabel Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Marlborough, New Zealand
It's inevitable that the gold standard against which all Marlborough Sauvignon's are compared is Cloudy Bay, but this is one of the select NZ Sauvignons that has the reputation of being BTCB ('better than Cloudy Bay'). Is it? Well, it's certainly an excellent example of the genre, but I have to admit to being a tiny bit disappointed. It has an aromatic, herbaceous, gooseberry-laced nose, and the palate is slightly spritzy, with herby grapefruit notes and high acidity. The overall impression is of a wine that is intense and quite taut. Not as extreme and strongly flavoured as some Marlborough Sauvignons, but still Very good+ (Fortnum & Masons £10) 03/01

Babich Winemakers Reserve Syrah 1998, Cimblett Road Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, NZ
Deep red/black colour, this brightly flavoured medium-bodied wine shows prominent spicy oak on the nose, along with raspberry fruit and a nice smoky edge. The palate is quite light, but there's attractive berry fruit and more spicy oak. Itís a hard call: the oak is a little too prominent at present but the youthfulness of the wine suggests it may evolve nicely, with the oak integrating further. Very good (£7.49 Tesco) 03/01

Alana Estate Pinot Noir 1999, Martinborough, New Zealand
A restrained, classy new world Pinot Noir, from a region in New Zealand that specializes in this grape. Deep cherry colour, with a nose of sweet fruit, some herbs and a touch of smokiness. The palate shows sweet cherry fruit with a nice balance of tannin and acidity, and some spice and vanilla. Good varietal character here. Very good + (£14.95 Berry Bros) 2/01

Ngatarawa Stables Sauvignon Blanc 1996, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This is unusual in that it's an oaked Sauvignon. It shows a smoky, ripe, tropical fruit nose with a slight vegetal character. On the palate it is full flavoured with more tropical fruit and a slightly off-putting hint of tinned peas, together with firm acidity. As it warms up it develops pronounced grassy aromas. Unusual, but quite nice with food I suspect. Very good. 12/00

Goldwater Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
This is a well made, balanced Sauvignon Blanc, which just lacks some of the excitement and intensity for which examples of this grape from Marlborough have become so well known for. It has a ripe, intense nose with tropical fruit and a touch of elderflower character. On the palate it is ripe and herby, with a bit of the Marlborough gooseberry character but not too much. A nice wine, but not one to plump for if you are looking for that full-on NZ Sauvignon rush. Very good + (£7.99 Majestic) 1/01

Forrest Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Marlborough, New Zealand
Wild, exotic nose, grassy and aromatic. This is a huge Sauvignon with masses of ripe fruit, nice texture, and good balance of fruit and acid. Stunning stuff in the classic Cloudy Bay/Marlborough style. Very good/excellent (Adnams £7.95) 11/00

Millton Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 1998, Gisborne
From a New Zealand's best known biodynamic producer, this is quite restrained on the nose, but it has a great impact on the palate, showing flavours of rich, nutty, bready flavours. Complex and seamless, this is a very classy Chardonnay: subtle and restrained. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Tesco) 11/00

Villa Maria Private Bin Chardonnay 1998, East Coast
Very attractive full-flavoured and thick-textured Chardonnay. It's ripe and spicy, with toasty oak well integrated with the buttery tropical fruit flavours. Great balance. Very good+ (£6.99 Sainsbury) 11/00

Selaks Premium Selection Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
Lean, fresh and acidic, this is a rather disappointing New Zealand Sauvignon. It's quite austere, and while there's some of the characteristic gooseberry and grapefruit character, there's also an odd broccoli-like flavour. OK/good. (£6.99 Oddbins) 10/00

Fairleigh Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Marlborough, New Zealand
Familiarity does indeed breed contempt, and its easy to overlook just how remarkable Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs can be -- this was a wine style that didn't exist until the 1980s. This is another top-notch example, with a striking nose of gooseberry and citrus, a super savoury palate and knockout concentration and intensity. Very good/excellent (Majestic £6.99) 10/00

Delegats Reserve Chardonnay 1999, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Rich toasty, oaky nose leads into a soft, buttery palate. Good concentration, but very similar to many hundreds of other new world Chardonnays. Good/very good. (Majestic £8.99) 10/00

Hawkesbridge Willowbank Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 1999 Marlborough
Delicious rounded Marlborough Sauvignon, with good intensity, soft fruit and great balance. Aromatic, grassy, ripe gooseberry fruit dominates. A really super example. Very good/excellent. (Oddbins £6.00) 8/00

Shingle Peak Pinot Noir 1998, Marlborough, New Zealand
Sweet nose of cherries and herbs. On the palate it is quite simple and youthful, with some fruit and a touch of petillance on the tongue. A glugger; nothing to get excited about. OK (Sainsburys £6.99) 7/00

Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Martinborough, New Zealand
A cracking wine. Intense varietal nose of gooseberries, elderflower and green pepper, with a bit of cut grass thrown in for good measure. Huge wine of dramatic proportions. On the palate it is quite fat with herbal notes and good acidity. Top notch New Zealand Sauvignon, but this extreme style may be off-putting to traditionalists. Very good/excellent. Yes, it is as good as Cloudy Bay, if you must make that comparison. (£9.99, Thresher) 7/00

Montana Chardonnay 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
Nicely balanced Chardonnay with buttery, peachy fruit, good concentration and some oak character. This is backed up by reasonable citrus-like acidity. Not a groundbreaking wine, but one of the better examples of its genre. (£5.99, Safeway) 5/00

Canterbury House Show Reserve Chardonnay 1998, Waipara, New Zealand
Quite an unusual cool-climate, biscuitty Chardonnay with lean, honeyed, biscuitty, nutty and butterscotch character. There is a touch of oxidation to this wine, and it owes more to grapes than oak. Unusual; not a mainstream wine. It is a bit like a still Champagne. Faulty? (£5.49, Morrisons) 5/00

Cooks 1998 Chardonnay, Gisborne, New Zealand
Good, clean, commercial Chardonnay with some tropical fruit character and firm acidity. A touch of bitterness on the finish detracts slightly from what is otherwise a good example of its genre. (£4.99, Morrisons) 5/00

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
This wine has become a Ďcultí wine in the UK, and is now normally sold on allocation, very rarely reaching the retailers shelves. Part of this cult status is undoubtedly due to its quality Ė this was the wine that really launched New Zealand Sauvignon onto the world map Ė but I suspect it is also to do with the clever marketing of Veuve Clicqout, the parent company, who are rumoured to release it in tranches thus keeping up the impression of scarcity which is so important in securing cult status for a wine. The 1999 incarnation has a huge nose of gooseberries and elderflower, which on the palate are joined by grapefruit-like flavours. There is high acidity, and some notes of citrus (perhaps imparted by the undisclosed dollop of Semillon that is often included in this wine). Juicy and appealing, this is top notch stuff, and although it is now joined by many lesser known but equally good New Zealand Sauvignons, it probably deserves its reputation. (£11 Fortnum and Mason) 11/99

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
My second time with this vintage. It is deserving of its stellar reputation: crisp and intense, very well balanced. Notes of grapefruit, goosberries and elderflower combine with freshly cut green peppers to produce a mouthwatering and sophisticated wine of real impact. (£11.99 Fortnum & Mason, no longer any left, sadly) 1/00

Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Marlborough, NZ
This is the second label of Vavasour, made for early drinking, but don't be fooled into thinking that this is therefore not a worthy wine. It has an amazing nose of gooseberries and fresh-cut green peppers, with a slight herbaceousness and some tropical fruit thrown in. On the palate it is zingy and intense, with bright acidity. This is a tremendous effort, with good intensity and concentration at a very good price. Made from Wairau Valley and Awatare Valley grapes. Very good, but perhaps a little tart without food. (Oddbins £6.99) 1/00

Forrest Semillon 1996, Marlborough
From a small 16 ha estate. This is amazing: it is a Semillon that tastes for all the world like a Sauvignon blanc! Herbaceous nose and dry crisp citrus and grapefruit on the palate. The fresh fruit flavours, good concentration and bracing acidity make it a good match for modern cuisine. Good. (£7.75, Fortnum & Mason) 11/99

Lawsons Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 1998, Marlborough, NZ
Attractive, spicy wine in an Alsace style, with crisp, fresh fruit and a nice weight. However, there is a bit of bitterness on the finish. (Tesco £7.49) 6/99

Millton Chenin Blanc 1998, Te Arai Vineyard, Gisborne, New Zealand
Biodynamically produced wine from a 20 Ha estate established in 1981. This was barrel fermented in 600 litre barrels. Pale yellow/gold. Lfted, creamy nose with a touch of honey and a slight smokiness. On palate there is soft, smoky fruit with some fatness and spice from the oak. Creamy and toasty, this is a rich savoury wine with a lovely soft texture and good intensity. The firm acidity suggests that this wine may develop further. Well priced. (£7.99, Tesco) 2/00 

Montana Sauvignon Blanc 1998, Marlborough, New Zealand
Pale and fresh, with zippy acidity, but not as distinctively varietally flavoured as previous vintages, it seems. Disappointing for what is normally a very reliable wine.  (Thresher, £5.99) 5/99

Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand
Astonishing, piercing flavours of pure gooseberry fruit, with a touch of herbaceousness. This is very much at the lean and zippy end of the Sauvignon blanc spectrum, with taut, firm acidity and structure. Fine example -- almost Loire-like. Very good. (£9.99 Oddbins) 1/00

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 1997, Marlborough
Very good, fresh intense sauvignon. Gooseberries, blackcurrants (!) and a leafy edge, with high acidity.  (Oddbins £7.99) 5/99

Villa Maria Sauvingnon Blanc Reserve 1997, Wairau Valley, New Zealand
Huge rich nose with big flavours of elderflower, herbs, tinned litchees and tropical fruit. Not much gooseberry here: this is more of a full flavoured heavy weight style of Sauvignon. This is richly textured and delicious: one of the best. (Thresher, £9.99) 2/99