Auckland’s “cool reds”

by Michael Cooper / 01 September, 2012
The memorable 2010 vintage produces some top Auckland wines.
Wine: merlot grapes before harvest


Hawke’s Bay promotes itself as a source of “hot reds”, based on its acclaimed mostly merlot-based blends and syrah, while pinot noir flourishes further south. So, how good are Auckland’s reds? A tasting of Auckland’s “cool reds” (as the growers dub them), based on traditional Bordeaux varieties – merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot – was staged recently to build awareness of “this unique region”. All were from the memorable 2010 vintage – low-cropping, sunny and dry. Only a few big names were missing. My top wines flowed from north of the city (Matakana and Stillwater), Waiheke Island and South Auckland (Clevedon and the Awhitu Peninsula). They were not overshadowed by three benchmark wines from Bordeaux included in the tasting, which was conducted “blind”. Here are several of my top picks. Prices are approximate and some are not yet released.

Brick Bay Pharos 2010
Refined Matakana red, blended mostly from malbec and petit verdot. Full-coloured and supple, with ripe plum, spice and nut flavours, finely textured and rich. $32. (5/5)

Cable Bay Vineyards Five Hills 2010
Powerful Waiheke Island red, blended from merlot, malbec and the two cabernets. Still a baby, it is a bold style, with rich, firm blackcurrant and plum flavours. $35. (5/5)

Messenger 2010
From Stillwater, south of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. This blend of cabernet franc, merlot and malbec is fragrant and fleshy, with blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, a hint of dark chocolate and lovely depth and harmony. $85. (5/5)

Obsidian 2010
A dark cabernet sauvignon and merlot-based blend from Waiheke Island. It has blackcurrant, spice and slight herb flavours, firm and highly concentrated. Obvious cellaring potential. $54. (5/5)

Puriri Hills Pope 2010
Lovely Clevedon blend, merlot-based. Finely structured, with beautifully ripe plum, spice and slight licorice flavours, concentrated, complex and built to last. $120. (5/5)

Takatu Matakana Merlot/Franc/Malbec 2010
Classy blend, sweet-fruited, savoury and supple, with impressive density and complexity. Built to last. $39. (5/5) 

WINE OF THE WEEK


Cliff Edge Awhitu Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2010
Rare, seductive Auckland red, powerful and fleshy, from mature vines. Deeply coloured, with rich, ripe blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, very silky and refined. ($195 for six bottles from the owner, Seager@orcon.net.nz) (5/5)

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