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Wine of the Week for week ending 16 June 2002
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CJ Pask Reserve Merlot 2000
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

If you are looking for consistency in the New Zealand merlot, then you cannot go past the CJ Pask Reserve Merlot from Hawkes Bay. CJ Pask has been producing one of the best, if not THE best, 100 per cent New Zealand merlot for quite some time and the latest release, the 2000 is right up there at the top of the tier in my opinion.

But would my friends agree? So I took a few bottles of wine to a dinner to share and to judge their reactions. Which of the reds would they like best? Would their preferences concur with mine? And of course they did for when you are drinking a well-made wine that's in balance in all facets, it's easy to recognise that it's a quality drop you're drinking.

The CJ Pask Reserve Merlot 2000 is a deeply coloured merlot that begs to be drunk from a decent-sized glass. Swirl and sniff to take in the heady perfume of creamy berries and sweet spicy oak then savour the complex full-bodied flavours in the mouth. It's sweet and juicy with creamy coconut-like oak, ripe plums, tobacco, smoked meat and went very well as a vinous accompaniment with our spicy beef casserole.

I rescued the bottle before the contents totally disappeared to see how it would develop over the next few days.

Two days on the wine seemed even better with its wonderfully fragrant fine and vinous red fruit aromas and hints of spice. The taste screamed quality with the fine, now cedary oak, the dark plum and blackcurrant fruit, the hint of mint, the fine licorice and chocolate nut complexities and the integrated firm tannins on the creamy vanillin oak finish. It was dark and mysterious, juicy yet sophisticated and a little dusky too. There's a lot going on in there and although absolutely delicious for drinking now but will still evolve more. The cork went back in.

Now a week after opening, the oak is rich, sweet and leathery and totally integrated with the creamy spice and the dark plum flavours. It smoothly ripples over the tongue. It's a powerfully flavoursome and beautifully balanced wine and gracefully decadent.

This was a wonderful way to indulge in one of the country's more expensive wines - treat yourself to the delights and developments over a week. It takes restraint to only pour a small glass a day to savour but if the wine is as good as this one, the rewards will delight.

The CJ Pask website (link below) has all the technical information on the wine but briefly it was made from well-managed fruit grown in excellent conditions with an extended ripening period from the first 'Indian Summer' of the new millennium. It was matured in new French and American barriques for 16 months - hence the hints of coconut I detected in the newly opened wine.

CJ Pask recommend cellaring for 6-8 years. I recommend either drinking as I did; opening now and indulging over several days otherwise wait at last two years before popping the cork and hope there is no deterioration from the closure.

CJ Pask Reserve Merlot costs NZ$45 at the cellar door in Hastings or NZ$47.95 in retail.

The wine is distributed in NZ by Montana. CJ Pask wines can also be found in Canada, the UK and parts of Europe and Asia.

Check out the CJ Pask website for further information.

© Sue Courtney

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