Blimey – I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to type up these notes. Way back last September on a balmy late summer’s day above Smithfield’s meat market in London, Stokes Fine Wines introduced a new estate that they now represent – Man O’ War Vineyards – a quite extraordinary new Kiwi property from Waiheke Island down in the south. It has some of the most picturesque vineyards in all their fine lands [see photo above, courtsey of them]. Wine maker Duncan McTavish, who looks like he may have been a useful Rugby prop forward, introduced the wines in a direct and engaging manner which spoke volumes for his passion and enthusiasm. French wines were his reference points, specifically the Rhone and Burgundy – and this came through in the wines.
The Syrah’s especially were absolutely tremendous – in my book straight out of Cote Rotie and Hermitage. The ‘08 Dreadnought Syrah was quite extraordinary [95/100] and the less concentrated, but wonderfully spicy ‘08 Waiheke Island Syrah [91/100] not a million miles behind. For those who like their Chardonnay’s Burgundian, Man o’ War, the ‘08 Valhalla Chardonnay [88/100] was all butterscotch and honey made in a refreshingly – for New Zealand – old-fashioned oxidative style.
This is a winery most definitely to watch with obviously fascinating terroir – ninety different vineyard parcels in a patchwork all across the island. Alcohols are high but the wines still seem to retain balance and freshness.
Man O’ War, Valhalla Chardonnay 2008
Straw; legs; butter, quite Burgundian on the nose; attractive, round and ripe; butterscotch; palate broad; honey, toast; alcohol on the finish but with a twist of acid. Fraction short at end. 88/100 Sept ‘09
Man O’ War Merlot [42%] Cabernet Franc [27%] 2008
Deep, earthy purple, tight to the rim; legs, big savoury ripe nose; attractive; intense lots of fruit here; very ripe palate – big alcohol but full or flavour and richness and not at all hollow. Falls away a bit on the finish – but this is upfront fun. 88+/100 September ‘09
Man O’ War, Syrah 2008
Deep black purple; beetrooty at edge; wonderful nose; real N Rhone qualities here – pepper, spice; big and savour; very attractive; palate big and extracted but remains fine; lots of extract and pepper and spice but tannins wonderfully ripe. Good intensity on the finish. Really excellent wine. 91+/100 Sept ‘09
Man O’ War, Ironclad [Merlot 52%, Cab Franc 27% 10% Malbec, 9% Petite Verdot 1% Cab Sauv]
Less vibrant than the Syrah but dark and black; legs; attractive ripe Merlot nose with some lifted notes; rich and ripe; lots of mocha and chocolate flavours here also iron and minerals; impressive; also alcoholic. Real extract here but balance but with ripe tannic twist at the end. Excellent 90-92+/100 Sept ‘09
Man O’ War, Dreadnought, Syrah 2008
This is it! A terrific glass of pretty yet bold Syrah. Deep black red; some purple; wonderfully floral nose with violets followed by savoury characters at the edge; later more of the pepper and spice to the fore. Really attractive wine. Tighter and more intense than the straight Syrah – this is extremely well done. Great concentration and flavour. Blind I’d be in Cote Rotie and Hermitage. Fantastic stuff. 95+/100 Sept ‘09