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Wine of the Week for week ending 20 May 2001
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Matakana Estate Syrah 1999
Matakana, New Zealand

Proprietors, Kevin Fitzgerald and Pat Vegar-Fitzerald, with dog Isaac, inspecting the vines

I may have found the perfect region for growing Syrah in New Zealand - and its name is Matakana, about 45 minutes north of the country's largest city, Auckland.

Matakana is becoming recognised as one of New Zealand's newest fine wine regions. The first wine was produced from grapes harvested in 1985 but with a flurry of planting in the mid-1990's there are now about 10 wineries producing.

Matakana Estate, with 16.3 hectares of vines, is easily the biggest producer in the area but their planting's of Syrah account for just 0.9ha (2.2 acres). Based on the taste of this week's Wine of the Week, perhaps it should account for more.

The deep crimson-red Matakana Estate Syrah 1999 emanates fragrant aromas of pepper, cinnamon, cloves and sweet cherry fruit. In the mouth there's a burst of freshly cracked black pepper along with sweet cherry, plum and wild blackberry fruit. Smoky oak, meaty tannins, a hint of olive, dried roses and a dry finish all add to the complexity of this creamy-textured taste sensation. Sweet fruit lingers for ages.

The warmly concentrated wine, which was matured in predominantly new French oak barriques for 12 months, carries 12.8% alcohol by volume.

This is the first release of Syrah for this winery and the warm site in the Matakana Valley obviously provides ideal growing conditions for the grape, producing a wine in the style of the Rhone.

At NZ$30, ex-winery, this wine is a steal although just 56 cases were made so it will be hard to find. Seek and be rewarded.

The winery's e-mail address is

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