I’ve tended not to like cheap New Zealand Bordeaux-inspired reds – scrawny and charmless and with overenthusiastic oak-ageing. A bit like cheap Bordeaux, really, although perhaps not the oak thing. The good news is that the Kiwis seem to have realised that such wines aren’t their forte, and have virtually abandoned the sub-£7 bracket. At higher prices, there’s a chance to give the grapes a little more TLC, and as both the vines and the winemakers mature, the results are increasingly convincing. Just cracked open the Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot 2006 from Hawkes Bay (£9.99 Waitrose, www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk), and I’m enjoying it more than I anticipated. It has a peppery character reminiscent of Hawkes Bay Syrah, but there’s also a plump plush wad of blackberry flesh, along with some earthy tannins. It’s not the classiest of wines, but I like it’s honest, smiling nature, and its rich but dry finish.
PS While debate is strong – OK, perhaps not THAT strong – as to whether it is Hawkes Bay or Hawke’s Bay, what does seem beyond doubt is that there is a small hill in the south of the region with longest place name in New Zealand – Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamatea-turipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, which according to Wikipedia translates roughly as The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one. If you want to know what it sounds like, listen to this…Categorised in: Merlot, New Zealand, Recommendation