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Featured Reviews

Mills Reef 2017 ‘Reserve’ Cabernet/Merlot and 2016 ‘Elspeth’ Syrah

29 August,2018

At the start of this month, Mills Reef launched a new super-premium icon label ‘Arthur Edmund’ in tribute of Paddy Preston and Tim Preston’s father and grandfather respectively. They are extremely limited bottlings of the very best 2013 Cabernet/Merlot and Syrah wine from their Gimblett Gravels vineyards from the outstanding 2013 vintage. They weigh-in at a mouth-watering – or should that be eye-watering - $350.00 per bottle. I phoned general manager Nick Aleksich about the wines on receiving the press release to discuss the bold pricing. Some interesting points emerged, among which were that these were not the most expensive New Zealand wines made, and that Mills Reef ‘Elspeth’ and other Gimblett Gravels wines from other companies had performed better, regularly and consistently in tastings with the best of Bordeaux and Rhone wines that could cost 15-20 times more than the New Zealand wines. Nick suggested that on a global viewpoint, the best New Zealand wines are vastly under-priced, this being something I agreed with. The pricing of the ‘Arthur Edmund’ wines is in step with the increases seen in a number of other highly visible, ultra-premium wines made in this country.

Here, I review the new releases of the more accessible and affordable versions of the ‘Arthur Edmund’ wines, the 2017 ‘Reserve’ Cabernet/Merlot, this ‘Reserve’ range designed to show ‘balance’, and the 2016 ‘Elspeth’ Syrah, the ‘Elspeth wines named after Tim Preston’s grandmother, this range being the former flagship, but now superseded. Both wines reviewed come from the company’s Gimblett Gravel vineyards.


Mills Reef ‘Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot 2017

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Dark, deep, ruby-red colour with light purple hues, a little paler on the edge and youthful in appearance. The nose is fresh with fragrant aromas of dark-red berryfruit with blackberries and boysenberries, along with black and redcurrants very finely and harmoniously entwined with subtle notes of dark herbs, unfolding a little cassis. The aromatics are a feature. Medium-bodied, the palate has a rich and juicy core with plush flavours of ripe blackberries, boysenberries, black plums and blackcurrants. The fruit is up-front and youthfully primary with fine-grained tannins in support, with balanced acidity. The flavours flow with good linearity to an elegant, fragrant, lingering finish. This is a fragrant and lusciously fruited Cabernet/Merlot with blackberry, boysenberry and blackcurrant flavours with fine-grained structure and plenty of vitality. Match with roasted red meats over the next 5-6+ years. A blend of 50.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34.8% Merlot and 14.6% Cabernet Franc from the Gimblett Gravels, fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 33% new oak, predominantly French 300 L hogsheads. 17.5+/20 Aug 2018 RRP $24.95

Mills Reef ‘Elspeth’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Full, even, dark ruby-red colour with youthful purple hues, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is shy in expression and tightly bound, but unfolds to show aromas of ripe blackberry and dark raspberry fruit along with subtle notes of black pepper and violet florals, and nuances of spice and liquorice. The fruit forms a concentrated core and positive line with excellent depth and fine-grained powdery tannin extraction in support. The acidity is integrated and the flavours carry to a sdoft, spicy, peppery finish. This is a taut and concentrated Syrah with blackberry and dark raspberry fruit with fine-grained powdery tannin structure. The wine needs a couple of years to open up. Match with lamb, beef and venison dishes, and Middle Eastern fare over the next 5-7+ years. Syrah fruit from the ‘Mere Road’ vineyard, destemmed but retaining whole berries and fermented, partially with indigenous yeasts, 66% of the wine in French integrale barrel, to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 17 months in 50% new French oak hogsheads. 18.5-/20 Aug 2018 RRP $49.95

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