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Wine of the Week for week ending 3rd August 2003
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Black Barn Reserve Merlot 2001
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Black Barn is a name that's going to feature prominently in the Hawkes Bay wine scene in the years to come. The vineyard on the Te Mata - Havelock North Road is on the site where the Lombardi Winery was established in 1948 though the original vineyards where grapes were grown for eating and for fortified wines, have been replanted with classic varietals.

Owners Kim and Bronwyn Thorp and Andy and Sue Coltart have turned the Black Barn Vineyards into a destination in itself with the Vineyard Restaurant, Cellar Door, the outdoor Amphitheatre amidst the vines, the Sunday Growers' Market venue and the on site accommodation. The wines ain't half bad either.

I'm pretty much a fan of the Black Barn Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2001 that is drinking very nicely right now but the wine that took my fancy from the current release is the same vintage Black Barn Reserve Merlot, which has come along nicely since I previously tasted it in September 2002. Then I wrote 'Youthful colour. Youthful flavours. This is a spicy wine with hints of chocolate, plummy fruit and dry tannins. It's ripe and fairly juicy and has a way to go." Those tannins have integrated with the fruit and the wine is drinking vey well indeed.

It's a dark, dark ruby plummy coloured wine, with chocolate, liquorice, earthy and smoky scents in which fruit cake cherries and imported juicy Californian Black Friar plums (in the market right now) add to the fragrance.

It's savoury rather than sweet wine with a rich leathery, liquorice influence and just a hint of a barnyard character - just enough to add intrigue without overpowering. Dark and chocolatey with concentrated fruit, there's cherry, plum and a touch of blackberry that brings a juicy succulent to the finish. Tannins are firmly integrated and the wine is soft and velvety. Cigar box, tobacco and barnyard linger in this well-balanced wine that is of solid silver medal standard.

There is no doubt that Merlot is immensely suited to the Hawkes Bay wine region. Remember 2001, a frost affected year when the yields were low, the concentration is showing well in this Reserve wine.

To accompany the wine I cooked a rack of lamb, the skin softly penetrated by a sharp knife to make diamond shapes, then salted, oiled and sprinkled with dried herbs. Accompaniments were roasted potatoes, carrots, butternut, whole baked fennel and minted peas.

Next day I simply found the wine blood-warming, rich and velvety. It really hasn't changed much at all. Just a lot sweeter and seemingly more succulent on the finish as the fruit emerges from under the blanket.

Winemaker / viticulturist Dave McKee is no stranger to producing quality Hawkes Bay red wines for he had spent nine years at the Church Road Winery before joining Black Barn Vineyards in 2001. He's matured this hand-picked basket-pressed Merlot in new French oak and it's a very satisfactory 13% alcohol by volume.

You'll find the wine at the vineyard cellar door and of course on the vineyard restuarant wine list, at other discerning restaurants and at fine wine retailers. Expect to pay around NZ$36 a bottle.

For more about the Black Barn Vineyard Restaurant - click here to read my review.

© Sue Courtney
27 July 2003

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