Unison Classic Blend 2007

Though this is nice to drink, it’s in every way a lesser wine compared to its reserve-level sibling, the Selection (2005, 2006). I’d definitely spring for the mesmerising Selection for maximum satisfaction.

Having made that rather predictable point, it’s worth noting this wine shows some really attractive, regional characters that I enjoy very much. Principally, there’s a floral potpourri note on the nose that is a foil to noisy mocha oak, some (for me, questionable) vegetal notes, candied plums and brown spice. Though it’s quite piercing up top, and there’s dark fruit in the lower registers too, the aroma lacks a sense of continuity from top to bottom, and hence comes across as a little disjointed. No lack of volume, though.
The palate is equally robust. A similar array of flavours — plums, cough syrup, coffee grounds, spice — present quickly on entry, followed by a widening through the middle palate. The mouthfeel is notable, being roughly textural and quite bold. Despite the character of the flavours and texture, it’s not an overly intense wine, and there’s a slight sense of dilution to the softer fruit flavours. Grainy tannins emerge on the after palate, drying the tongue and giving the sweet fruit a nice edge. Those vegetal notes from the nose shoot through the finish as well.
Not sure I’m convinced by this on its own, though it improved markedly when taken with Bega tasty on crackers. Definitely drink this with assertive food to bring out the best of its flavour profile and soften its rather rustic mouthfeel. 
Update: markedly better on day two. Much rounder, more satisfying fruit (though quite sweet) and the rough mocha edge takes a step back. Perhaps I was feeling impatient last night.

Unison Vineyard
Price: $A30
Closure: Cork

Unison Selection 2006

Some wines are charismatic without being pretty; they make an entrance with the panache of the truly confident, and it takes a moment before you realise they’re really not that attractive in a conventional sense. But their confidence draws you in regardless, generating a visceral response that, perhaps, speaks to a different sort of beauty.

For example, I could describe the aroma of this wine as outré, inelegant, overanxious; it’s indeed all these things. But it’s absolutely magnetic too, exerting an attraction that is really compelling. It’s a bit volatile — indeed, not a clinical style at all — with lifted aromas of stalk, black pepper, dried flowers, and deep plum fruit. Despite the eagerness of each note, there’s a fluidity to their collective expression that unifies the aroma profile and generates a sense of coherence.

There’s coherence, too, from nose to palate, starting with an entry that tingles with delicately sweet, red fruit. The flavour profile quickly darkens towards the middle palate, and a few threads begin to emerge. There’s rich, fresh plum juice, tart plum skins, sweet mocha tannins, astringent stalk and cracked black pepper. It’s quite complex, with a beguiling mouthfeel that seems to be both liquid-smooth and velvet-tannic at the same time. Spices and red fruit rise through the after palate before a long, aromatic finish draws the wine to a satisfying close.

There’s definitely an “X factor” at work here and, perhaps because of this, I suspect the style will be divisive. But even if this wine doesn’t speak to one’s personal preference, it’s hard to deny the strength with which its stylistic argument is made.

Unison Vineyard
Price: $A50
Closure: Diam

Unison Rosé 2008

I have previously tasted the 2006 version of this wine and, swirling this more recent edition tonight, my earlier note remains relevant to a large extent. This is a savoury rosé style, quite full and somewhat angular; in other words, a more challenging wine than some. 

On the nose, a funky meatiness mixes with flowers, spice, red fruits and vegetation. It’s a serious aroma profile, not blowsy or even particularly expressive. But there’s a nice clean fruit character underlining the whole thing that I like very much. The palate has an unexpected thrust of fruit sweetness that is both sympathetic and a little surprising – the effect is akin to the North African habit of adding fruit to elaborately spiced, savoury dishes, in that it is organic but also creates tension in the flavour profile. Aside from this rounded, sweet red fruit, there are florals and peppery spice and a general masculinity (in the context of rosé style, anyway). It’s fresh and with a good slippery yet somewhat grainy texture. Nice medicinal finish.
Not your usual rosé, then, and perhaps a provocative drink to those who like more outré pink styles, sweet or dry. Personally, I like it a great deal.

Unison Vineyard
Price: $A20
Closure: Stelvin

Unison Reserve Merlot 2007

Yesterday’s 2008 Dowie Doole Merlot was the first of what I hope will be three quite different expressions of this grape (the third is a Blue Poles wine from Margaret River). The second, this Unison wine, is from the Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. Imported into Australia by Eurocentric Wine

A nose whose interest remains somewhat locked behind bars – it’s all there, though, you just need to look a bit harder for it. Mostly, this is just young; tight aromas of liver paté, rich potpourri, dried mixed peel and all manner of other things (including a wisp of nougat-like oak). The complexity here is quite impressive, though on initial pouring it really needs some swirling to draw out what’s on offer. As the evening wears on, the aroma is evolving a more fluid and generous expression.
The palate is also quite tight but blessed with an immediate gush of red berry fruit that creates good impact. On entry, tingly acidity that contributes both texture and sourness to this rush of fruit. Darker berries build towards the middle palate, as do flowers and spice and a medicinal note, quite dense and sombre in overall profile, though at the same time very detailed, indeed almost etched. Abundant tannins creep in at this point, drying the tongue and creating a good deal of textural interest. Although not an overwhelmingly full wine, its youth clearly evident, it nonetheless communicates a sense of plush richness that is quite seductive. A lift of lighter fruit on the after palate continues on and on through a lengthy finish.
This needs a couple of years in bottle, or a good spell in the decanter, to shed some of its structural aggressiveness. There’s real quality here, though; serious in intent without resorting to stylistic exaggeration.

Unison Vineyard
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin

Te Mata Woodthorpe Vineyard Viognier 2007

There’s something unpleasant about the way this wine smells, but what is it exactly? It doesn’t really smell like viognier, that’s for sure. To me, it smells more like powdered milk, inexpensive celebrity perfume that’d excite Humbert Humbert, and low-grade canned peaches. There’s also something like unventilated FEMA trailers duking it out with bitter phenolics in a disused corner of your high school chemistry lab. Oh man, this is fascinatingly bad. I mean, yeah, I don’t really want to taste it but if you’re gonna go off, you might as well do it in a really interesting way, right?Greasy and plastic in the mouth, it does nothing for a minute before surging up on a Bit-O-Honey wave of sugary fruit worthy of a trashy Serge Gainsborough song before making a quick right turn into an unpleasant, gritty, almost milky finish with flashes of peppery notes that’s just a touch hot as well, making sure that virtually everything that can go wrong with viognier has in fact gone wrong by the time you’ll finish the bottle. And that, by any objective observation, is no mean feat. Congratulations to Te Mata for a job well done! Te Mata
Price: NZ $22
Closure: Stelvin

Te Mata Estate Elston Chardonnay 2007

One of New Zealand’s higher profile Chardonnays.

Rich aromas that include yellow peach, matchstick, vanilla, toasted nuts and more. There’s certainly a lot going on here. Despite the aroma profile, it’s a little reticent in terms of expressiveness. Not so on the palate, where an impressive intensity of flavour is present almost immediately. Masses of peach and nougat flood the mouth, helped by a relatively viscous mouthfeel and tingly, yet subservient, acid. This is much more forward than my recollection of the 2006, and really quite complex. It’s also pretty worked and this, as with most things vinous, will be a matter of taste. From a full mid palate, the wine moves through an equally flavoursome after palate, more acid driven here, and on to a finish that tapers quite elegantly. Perhaps a little blousy for me, but there’s no denying the power of this fruit, nor the complexity and (relative) balance achieved through winemaking.

A fabulous wine if you’re in the mood for full-on New World Chardonnay.

Te Mata Estate
Price: $NZ40
Closure: Diam
Date tasted: December 2008

Te Mata Estate Woodthorpe Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2008

I’ve occasionally written up Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc wines on this site and have expressed some reservations about the style in light of its more famous cousin to the South. I’ve been waiting for a wine to change my mind and I may have found it in this Te Mata number.

Prickly, rich aromas of passionfruit with a bit of herbal astrigency. On its own terms, this is a very sniffable aroma, quite different from the Marlborough wines but no lesser for it. It’s a bright wine, but less aggressive in comparison and consequently more approachable. On entry, good impact both via structure and flavour intensity. There’s no shortage of fruit here, passionfruit jumping onto the tongue along with a nice line of fine acid and some other complexing flavours. Quite impressive. It reminds me a bit of Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc in its clean, bright and fruit-driven flavour profile. Not as rich as some Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blancs I’ve had, and I like this leaner profile, as it successfully avoids the laziness observed in some other wines. Not especially long.

Nice wine and, for me, a viable alternative to Marlborough.

Te Mata Estate
Price: $NZ20
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: December 2008

Mission Estate Gewürztraminer 2008

Hawkes Bay Gewürztraminer from a label that appears to have a considerable presence at the lower end of the market here in New Zealand. Varietal lychee on the nose is quite promising. Beyond this, however, the aroma profile becomes dull, lacking the character and assertiveness one might wish for in this variety. There’s some floral influence but otherwise it’s all a bit simple and blunt.

Things don’t get a lot better in the mouth, unfortunately. It’s thick and a bit flabby, owing to an acid structure that is overwhelmed by the wine’s viscosity and what appears to be some alcohol heat too. There doesn’t seem to be much intensity of flavour either, with wisps of lychee and spice disappearing into a vortex of blandness.

Disappointing, and overpriced too.

Mission Estate
Price: $NZ20
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: December 2008

Esk Valley Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2007

I confess I loved many of the Hawkes Bay reds tasted on my last visit to New Zealand, so I’ve been keen to try a few more this visit. Whilst Gimblett Gravels Syrah is a spectacular style and very appealing me, tonight I’m trying a Bordeaux blend, which is historically more typical to this region.

Lovely bright purple colour, not overly dense, almost garish in its purity. On the nose, sweet red fruit and a distinctively Gimblett Gravels spice that reminds me of pot pourri. There’s a nice savoury edge to the fruit too. The more I sniff the deeper the aroma profile becomes, adding layers of complexity as I swirl. Very nice. The palate is currently highly structured with ripe yet very assertive tannins emerging quite early in the line. On entry, more bright fruit that edges towards confectionary but is held in check by spice and savouriness. Then the tannins come, powdery and even, masking the flavour profile a bit. That’s ok though, all it takes it some energetic swirling and chewing for a rush of fruit to register on the tongue, along with a well-judged amount of vanilla oak. It’s medium bodied, consistent in line and coherent. Reasonable finish.

A lovely return to Hawkes Bay.

Esk Valley
Price: $NZ30
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: December 2008

Gunn Estate Pinot Gris 2007

Time for an experiment. I’m not afraid of wine made for the price conscious consumer, perhaps as much out of necessity as anything else. But I tend to stick with tried and true favourites; those acknowledged bargains that, in terms of quality, consistently sit above their price points. I also tend to shop in the $15-20 price range for my everyday wines. Habit can mask new opportunities, so this evening the other half and I decided to visit our local 1st Murphy and purchase one dozen bottles, the total of which was not to exceed $120.