Sunday, March 19, 2017

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Penfolds Bin 407 is in similar ways a baby to the Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, as the Bin 389 is to Grange. Winemaking is similar, the fruit not of quite the same quality. If we were in Bordeaux, it would be called a second wine of one of the major Chateau's. I have high hopes for the 2010 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon, as it comes from an outstanding vintage.

At seven years, the colour remains almost black. Black fruits frame the aroma. Blackcurrants dominate the palate. The fruit of this multi-district wine shows some of the sun-kissed characteristic of Coonawarra's Terra Rossa, but does not have the same intensity as the Bin 707. The mouthfeel is neither as round or deep as the big brother. On the plus side, there is not much of a hole on the mid-palate, as can be the case with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine finishes with firm tannins and a pleasant oak infused aftertaste.

Score: 89/+  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Domäne Wachau

Tasting the wines from the Domaene Wachau, in particular their Rieslings, is quite a different experience from tasting German Riesling. I will report on four wines from this large, high quality Austrian co-operative.

The two first Rieslings are from the 2015 vintage, which was warm in the Wachau, as in most parts of Europe. The white wines in the Wachau follow a three tiered system. The first is called Steinfeder. These are the lightest wines, early picked, with a maximum level of 11.5% alcohol. The second tier is called Federspiel, with 11.5-12.5% alcohol, and the third tier is the later picked Smaragd with >12.5% alcohol. These wines are still dry, but with bigger body and weight than the other two.

On to the tasting. The first wine is the 2015 Terassen Federspiel Riesling. The grapes come from the  highly regarded, higher elevation vineyards, which are situated on steep slopes leading to the Danube valley. This wine is very refreshing. The floral flavours are subdued, the fruit is not overt. The focus is on texture and minerality. This wine has benefitted from the warmer vintage. It has given the wine more body than normal. However, the wine is still quite linear, not complex, but rather delicate. I liked this wine a lot. In fact, it was my wine of the night (93/+++).

The 2015 Sinerriedel Smaragd Riesling is a single vineyard wine from the cooler western part of the Wachau. But as mentioned, 2015 was a warm year. This wine has a bigger body, and the wine is coating the mouth nicely. However, the wine is a bit broader and loses some definition before it comes to a smooth, prolonged finish. Again, texture is the main game for this good food wine (91/++).

Then there was the 2008 Kellerberg Smaragd Riesling, another single vineyard wine. This wine had aged quite a bit and showed toasted and quite earthy flavours on a fairly broad backbone. This wine did not do it for me (86/-).

Finally, a very rare mature Gruener Veltliner. Veltliner can age quite well, but it is mostly drunk young. Not many mature examples exist. The 2000 Kellerberg Smaragd Gruener Veltliner shows a lot of complexity. There are herbs, mint and truffle on the palate. This wine comes from a cool year. The wine is still fresh and elegant, with well integrated acidity - quite a revelation, and a great wine for many different foods (92/++).

Monday, March 6, 2017

Barossa vs. McLaren Vale Shiraz

This is actually an unfair comparison. The Coriole Lloyd Reserve is from Magnum and 2005, the Grant Burge Meshach is from a standard bottle and 2001. Both are the top wines of these respected wineries. You can predict the outcome and you would be right.

The 2005 Coriole Lloyd Reserve is in excellent condition. The dark cherry and plum flavours sit on a well balanced structure of good acidity and strong tannins. The finish of this full-bodied wine is long.

Score: 94/++

The Grant Burge Meshach tends to be a crowd favorite, as I have tested in blind tastings on a number of occasions. It is a full-bodied crowd pleaser, without going over the top. The 2001 Grant Burge Meshach is quite complex on the palate. There is the expected plum and blackberry, but also mocca and marzipan. But the drawback is that the wine is now a little tired. It would have been great five years ago.

Score: 93/+  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon Terroir

I tasted two mature Cabernet Sauvignons from different areas, and it was amazing how the different terroirs showed.

The first was the 2002 Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon (now Abercrombie) from Margaret River. This wine had dark berry, in particular blackberry flavour. It was savoury and had aged very gracefully. It was an elegant wine, with sufficient acidity and soft tannins to provide balance and complexity. The mouthfeel was delicious from the front palate to the finish.

Score: 95/+++

The second wine was the 2001 Elderton Ashmead Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a much bigger wine with plum and prune flavours. It was clear, this was a warmer climate style. The fruit had aged more and started to taste a little tired. The firmer tannins held the wine together.

Score: 92/+

Between regions, climate is the number one terroir factor. This was obvious in this comparison between two well made wines.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Four Aged Victorian Shirazes

There is still considerable concern about the ability to age Australian Shiraz. The general view is that cool climate Shiraz from Victoria is better suited for ageing due to generally higher levels of acidity than in Shiraz from South Australia. I wanted to put this to the test. Over the last few days, I drank four different Shirazes from Victoria, all 12 years old. This is what I found.

First cab of the rank was a 2005 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz. This wine was under screw cap, whereas the others were under cork. This wine is known for its black pepper expression, and this certainly came through strongly on the nose, as well as the palate. The wine was still fresh and vibrant, with good depth in plum and mulberry fruit. The structure is holding up strongly, and the tannins were fine grained, yet strong. The wine is probably at its peak now and for another two to three years.

Score: 94/++

The second wine was the 2005 Battely Syrah from Beechworth. This wine was very dry, and the fruit overripe. I remember that this wine had a big mouthfeel on release, but now it is dead, only the 15.5% alcohol coming through in an unpleasant finish. Clearly, this wine played to the 'Parker palate' initially and used 'Syrah' for fashion as well, although this term is usually reserved for lighter style wines. Why would you try to make such a wine at higher altitude Beechworth?

Score: <80 p="">
The third wine was again from Western Victoria, the 2004 Best's Bin 0 Shiraz. I was confident this would show well, as I had tasted excellent very old Best's wines before. The fruit for this wine comes from very old vines. The black fruits are concentrated, but sit on an elegant frame. The black peppers are equally strong to the Mount Langhi. The structure of this wine is perfect, and the underlying acidity points to a long future. I also enjoyed the firm, but fine tannins on the finish.

Score: 94/++

Finally, the 2004 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz. This famous Beechworth vineyard has clay soil and produces wine on the richer side. The colour of the wine shows some development - garnet taking over from purple. The wine is still quite rich, but now less fruit orientated. Savoury characters dominate. The finish is long. This is not an unpleasant wine, and the structure still holds, but the flavour profile is not very differentiated. It should be drunk within two years.

Score: 92/+

On this occasion, Western Victoria beats Beechworth quite decisively, and the typical cool climate wines aged well.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mount Horrocks Riesling

In the same way in which Penfolds Bin 389 is often called the poor man's Grange, is Mount Horrocks Riesling called the poor man's Grosset. Except in the former case, it is because Bin 389 uses Grange barrels,whereas in the latter case, Mount Horrocks winemaker, Stephanie Toole, is married to Jeffrey Grosset.

I am drinking the 2016 Mount Horrocks Riesling. The wine is from Watervale, Clare Valley. The wine is fruity, yet dry. It delivers a satisfying mouthfeel of citrus, nicely balanced by acidity. This is a rounder and richer wine than the often steely and linear Grossets and the Watervale subregion lends itself to this style of wine. The wine is well structured and will age well, but is also good to drink now. Would go perfectly with any kind of summer salads.

Score: 92/+

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Head Nouveau

The label suggests this is a Beaujolais. However, it is actually a blend of Touriga Nacional and Montepulciano. This sounds like a good idea in theory. The Montepulciano grape tends to be fruity, with a low skin to fruit ratio, while Touriga Nacional has small berries and a tannic structure. The wine is part of Alex Head's new take on the Barossa Valley. This is an experiment with grape varieties supposedly better suited to very hot weather than Shiraz.

This 2014 wine starts well on the front palate. The wine is fresh, with violet and black cherry flavours. However, then it dies, before slightly bitter tannins pick it up again. The integration between the grape varieties has not worked too well. However, this wine is an easy drinking style where one should not be too analytical about it.

Score: 87/0

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Keller Riesling Trocken

This is an entry level Riesling from the highly regarded Keller winery in Rheinhessen.

The 2015 Keller Riesling Trocken is a modern take on German Riesling. The wine is dry, but features mouthfilling fruit, mainly ripe lemon. This wine is not complicated, but fresh, and perfectly balanced.  It finishes clean. A great summer wine.

Score: 89/+

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ochota Barrels Gewürztraminer

Gewürztraminer is a real fringe variety. Is it the name? Well, you can order Gewurz or Traminer, everybody would understand. And yet, it is probably the perfect variety to match with Thai food, popular all over the world.

In Australia, the number of producers for Gewürztraminer has shrunk over the years, so I was interested to try the 2016 Ochota Barrels Gewürztraminer, a relatively new entrant. Ochota Barrels is a bit of a fashionable producer, judging by wine writers and restaurant interest. Therefore I was doubly curious.

The flavours are quite interesting: pear, lychee, ginger, lemongrass spices - a good expression of the variety. The wine is very fruity, yet dry. It would match stir fry food well, but I find the wine quite broad and not very precise. It is also a little pricey, at about $35 per bottle, with hardly any track record.

Score: 88/-

Friday, January 27, 2017

Henschke Croft Chardonnay

Henschke is of course best known for its famous single vineyard wines from the Eden Valley, based on the 100 year old Mt. Edelstone vineyard and the older Hill of Grace vineyard. What is perhaps less well known is that for a number of decades, Henschke has started to develop a significant planting in the Adelaide Hills, and that a significant part of this is dedicated to white wines, Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.

The 2012 Henschke Croft Chardonnay still displays a green/yellow colour. The flavours are attractive, white peach and honey melon. Despite some similarities in the flavour profile to many Margaret River Chardonnays, this wine is not as big as those. The wine is clean and nicely balanced. The mouthfeel is a little lean, the finish refreshing.

Score: 91/+ 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir

This is the fourth review of the five major Pinot Noir brands of Felton Road. I have been attracted to Felton Road Pinot Noirs from way back. The Block 3, from the Elms Vineyard, the home vineyard if you like, has always been my favorite. This part of the vineyard consists of deep sandy loam. In the past, Block 3 Pinot Noir has been feminine, a wine of finesse and ethereal character.

As I taste the 2010 Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir, I detect a shift. This wine is now darker and more masculine, although not as big as Block 5, which grows on gravelly schist. I believe the increased vine age has a lot to do with it. Flavours of dark cherry mix with herbs and dark spices. The wine has a firm structure and keeps its balance throughout. The overall impression is savoury, and some silkiness remains.

The Block 3 has put on some muscle. At the expense of charm?

Score: 94/++

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sami-Odi Shiraz


How can you differentiate yourself, when you start a new premium Shiraz winemaking business? This is what Fraser McKinley did: Start with an odd and mysterious, but catchy name. Change the winemaking. The "little wine" is a blend of three vintages, a bit like what happens with Champagne. (There is also a single vineyard wine.) Change the bottle dramatically. As can be seen, it looks like a port bottle. The label prominently displays the bottle number. The rest is hard to read, but includes all legally required information. Overall volume is small, less than a 1000 cases, to guarantee scarcity. But then you have to deliver. So the source of the fruit is the Hoffmann vineyard, one of the Barossa's best vineyards, from the Northern Barossa. A good start.

My tasting of the Sami-Odi  Little Wine #4 is my first exposure to these wines. It is an assemblage of 2012 (17%), 2013 (44%), 2014 (37%), and 2% unaccounted for or a rounding error?

As it turns out, this wine is a gentle giant, no mean feat, given other wines from this vineyard are anything but gentle. They tend to be massive. This wine is full-bodied, with concentrated blackberry and blueberry flavours. There is some freshness in the wine, and the tannins are silky. There is a bit of alcohol on the back palate.

This is not a sensational wine, but it is very good and individual. I would buy it again. By the way, Sami-Odi is now up to #6 with this wine.

Score: 93/++