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Wine of the Week for week ending 24th August 2003
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Mills Reef Elspeth One
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

It was a glitzy occasion, the who's-who of the NZ wine industry, celebrated wine scribes, publishers, key retailers and little old moi! It was the launch of 'Elspeth One' at the Mills Reef Winery in Tauranga and those who were invited gathered to drink Mills Reef Methode and nibble on hors d'ouvres. Then dinner was served. And eventually the wine we had all been waiting to try, 'Elspeth One', Mill's Reef Icon Bordeaux-style Blend, was unveiled.


I was expecting only the best from the top of the range wine from Mills Reef and I was not disappointed. After all it was from the outstanding vintage of 2000, the grapes were all sourced from the Mills Reef Gimblett Gravels vineyard in Mere Road and each of the five varieties, released as single wines, had won awards from the vintage. In fact, Mills Reef has collected a total of 5 trophies and 13 gold medals for the premium Elspeth red varietals and blends from the 2000 vintage - so far.

'Elspeth One' is a blend that was put aside when the barrels were being selected for the varietals and only the best were chosen. So the wine that was presented to us was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah.

It's a deep dark red that smells rich and spicy with mocha, chocolate, nutty oak, plums, currants and leather on the nose. A rich fulfilling wine in the palate with plenty of structure and power, concentrated dark fruits first up then red fruits emerging to mingle together with a touch of mint and new car leather on the lingering cedary finish. The wine opened up beautifully over the course of the evening and a refill or two didn't debilitate the palate.

It's a beautifully built wine, matured in French oak with extended cellaring and bottle maturation. It's a wine that's made for the long haul. I'd want to cellar it for at least a couple of years to let the tannins settle and integrate a little more with the fruit before I open my next bottle.

Mills Reef has an absolutely enviable reputation when it comes to premium red wines. Their 'Elspeth' range is outstanding across the board. Wines such as the Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah, the Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot, the Mills Reef Elspeth Malbec all gold medal winning wines. Now there's Elspeth One.

Is this an Icon wine? Yes, it is to the Mills Reef owners, the Preston Family, for the wine is named for the family icon, Elspeth, Paddy' Preston's mother (pictured above as a young girl), now in her 94th year.*

But it still has a way to go before it has proved itself as an Icon of New Zealand wine as a whole - an Icon in the sense that it will be that by which all other wines are judged. But it just might do it if the Mills Reef wine track record is anything to go by. Check back in 20 years time.

Right now I'd rate Elspeth One as one of New Zealand's super premiums wines. It's a wine to start collecting and I'd do so right now - it's release price of NZ$49.95 a bottle it is certainly affordable for an Icon in the making.

Find out more from the Mills Reef website.

© Sue Courtney
17 August 2003

*Footnote: It was with great sadness to hear the news that Elspeth passed away not long after the launching of Elspeth One. My condolences go out to her family and her friends.

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