Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc

I have not reviewed many wines from South Africa. Chenin Blanc is an important white grape variety  there. The 2015 Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc is a refreshing wine, tasting of green apple and passionfruit. It is fruit forward, a pleasant drink, with good balance, but does not display much depth, complexity, line or length. Drink now.

Score: 88/0

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Rockbare Tideway Shiraz

The 2010 Rockbare Tideway Shiraz is a massive, masculine wine. Its colour is deep purple, and on the nose, vanilla from the American oak barrels strike you first. This continues onto the palate. I find this a bit unfortunate, as underneath hides an attractive flavour profile of dark berries, licorice, and meat. The wine is so big that its 15.5% alcohol is not separately noticeable. The tannins are firm, smooth and attractive, balancing the fruit well. The wine is 'front-loaded' getting weaker towards the finish.

I had this wine with barbecued meats, and this was a good combination. Others in the party enjoyed the wine quite a lot. I found it too big and overpowering, in particular the oak, which after six years should have integrated better.

Score: 90/0   

Friday, April 15, 2016

Clos Des Papes Chateauneuf-Du-Pape

I was really looking forward to this wine tonight. It was supposed to be a bit of a treat. The 2005 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape won the Wine Spectator 'wine of the year' some years back, and I was pleased to score a couple of bottles. Then this happens: corked - not massively, but enough to take the pleasure out of it entirely.

You cannot tell from the picture.

This is ironic, as I was planning to write a piece about the problems we have in the Southern Hemisphere with cork, which seems much more pronounced than in Europe. We are getting the second cut, being far away from the suppliers. I still think that a good cork is a superior closure for red wine (not white wine), and that it allows perfect ageing in a good cellar. I would also like to note that James Halliday, who fiercely argues against cork, has a non air-conditioned cellar. (I thought you wanted to know.) However, this is a big disappointment, and you don't want this to happen too often. I have not looked into this, but I find it hard to accept that quality control=chemical analysis cannot weed out the bad corks beforehand. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spinifex Indigene

From the master blender Peter Schell comes the 2006 Spinifex Indigene, a Shiraz/Mataro blend. In this year, the Shiraz component is high, at 69%. This is a full-bodied wine, yet it has retained some freshness. On the palate is an attractive mix of blueberry and blackberry fruit. Secondary flavours are mushroom, rather than oak. The wine is perfectly balanced between fruit, acidity and firm, but quite light tannins, before the wine moves to a lifted finish, as if it had a Viognier component. This is an excellent example of this blend from the Barossa.

The wine drinks well now, but has at least three to five years at this level ahead of itself.

Score: 94/++

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Oakridge 'Over the Shoulder' Chardonnay

It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that David Bicknell, the Oakridge winemaker, almost single-handedly smartened up and redefined the Chardonnay style of the Yarra Valley, with an emphasis on purity, precision, and steeliness, to a degree.

How good then is the entry level 2014 Oakridge 'Over the Shoulder' Chardonnay? The wine is sourced from a number of Yarra Valley vineyards, most likely higher yielding and younger fruit than for the premium wines.

In a nutshell, it is not quite the same as the premium wines, although this wine has some of those attributes. The colour is a brilliant yellow/green. Features on the palate are citrus, green apple and a strong component of minerality. The fruit is very pure, but the shape of the wine is a bit broader than for their expensive wines. The wine is nicely framed by refreshing acidity. Nevertheless, I would prefer to drink this wine young. It misses the delicious singing and soaring notes of the single vineyard wines, but represents excellent value for money. A great every day drinking wine.

Score: 90/++  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Masi Amarone Costasera

When wine writers are critical of alcohol levels of Australian Shiraz, they should also turn their attention to Amarone, the famous Valpolicella wine based on semi-dried grapes. Minimum alcohol level here is 15%.

I opened a bottle of the 1997 Masi Amarone Costasera. Masi is a famous producer of this style, with a number of different bottlings. However, this wine does not impress me much. The aroma is quite a pronounced raisin smell, which continues on to the palate. The wine is ripe and full-bodied, as it is supposed to be, but the alcohol overwhelms the fruit and makes this quite tough to drink. The wine might have been more lively 10 years ago.

Score: 87/--

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Saltram Moculta Rd. Single Vineyard Shiraz

Saltram, as a result of ownership and management changes, has been a bit of a brand salad: a lot of starts and stops. This is a shame, because the winery has access to the fruit from the Eastern Slopes of the Barossa Valley, which is higher in altitude and cooler, and should be quite attractive.

This 2010 Saltram Moculta Rd. Single Vineyard Shiraz is from the Eden Valley, though. I assume it is from the Fechner Vineyard, which has been the source of many excellent wines. However, there are different parts of this vineyard, not all of old vines.

The wine opens with an intense nose of red plum and spice. A deep purple colour engulfs the glass. On the palate, the wine is not as big and generous as the last two I reviewed. This is a more elegant wine, while it stills has considerably more weight than a cool climate Shiraz. Pepper is a strong element on the palate, as is alcohol, unfortunately. My main issue with this wine is that it has no personality. It tastes generic. It falls short of its potential, and a bit off the finish, too. Having said this, this is still quite an acceptable example of Barossa/Eden Valley Shiraz.

Score: 91/+

Friday, April 1, 2016

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz

There is no question about the longevity of the premium Penfolds wines. The 2001 Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz is a good example. This wine drinks very well at present. It exhibits the famous Penfolds DNA: a full-bodied wine, with plum and blackberry flavours and a strong vanilla backbone of American oak. The American oak influence is something you don't come across so much any more these days, but in this case the concentrated fruit can certainly take it. Also, the Cabernet and Shiraz components are well integrated. This is a ripe wine, with a well rounded mouthfeel all along the palate. Earthy and savoury flavours are starting to appear. The tannins are firm, providing a strong structure for this wine and a fairly long finish. The joy from this wine is much enhanced, if it is consumed with protein.

This wine drinks well now. Primary fruit is still slightly ahead of secondary flavours. The balance will shift over the next few years. Cellared well, this 389 will continue to drink well for 7 to 10 years.

Score: 94/++  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Torbreck RunRig

Back in Sydney, I decided to raid my cellar for a quintessential Australian red wine, the 2004 Torbreck RunRig. Torbreck has been facing a couple of headwinds, the departure of David Powell and the wine journalists drive against full-bodied Shiraz. And also, there has  been a question mark about the ageing ability of these wines.

Dealing with the last issue first, there is no problem with the age of this wine. It is not tired and drinking very well. This wine is a perfect example of a very ripe, yet lively wine. One element of this is the fact that Torbreck has access to the very best grapes in the Barossa. This wine is big, but the small Viognier component provides just the lift it needs. The blend is perfectly integrated and fills the mouth beautifully. Plum and blackberry flavours are integrated with new oak and smooth tannins. The finish is long and silky.

This is not a wine for everybody. However, it stands out as an example of a sun drenched, high quality Shiraz, which is a unique style not matched from any place in the Northern Hemisphere.

Score: 96/++ 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

My Readership

I thought you might be interested who is actually reading my blog. The overall readership is continuing to increase, but the mix has changed. Until the 3rd quarter of last year, most readers came from the US and Australia, other countries came and went. Since then, France has taken over as number one, and Australia is number two. The USA has dropped to third, sometimes fourth place and actually dropped in absolute numbers. The other contender for third place is Japan. This pattern has now been stable for quite a few weeks. For some reason, I have never attracted many readers from the UK, Italy or New Zealand on a consistent basis. And then there is the occasional spike from Russia, but I don't think they are looking for wine.

Nine Hills Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the second major white grape variety in India, next to Chenin Blanc. Nine Hills comes from the same area as the previously reviewed Big Banyan wine and is owned by Pernot Ricard.

The 2014 Nine Hills Sauvignon Blanc is a simple fruit forward wine, with citrus and grapefruit flavours on the palate. The wine is not as fruity or grassy as some New Zealand examples, which I could regard as a plus. However, there is nothing particularly interesting about this wine. It is reasonably well made and should be drunk early.

Score: 82/--

Friday, March 11, 2016

Big Banyan Wine

I find it quite hard to go for a week or even longer without wine, but when you travel to India, it is easier. For one, it is really too hot, and then maybe nothing special to look forward to?

But then, curiosity takes over. So, a couple of days ago I tried a Big Banyan Chenin Blanc. This wine comes from the centre of the Indian wine industry - which is quite new and small, the Nashik Valley. This is located at 700 meters altitude, at the foothills of the Western Ghats, 3-4 hours drive from Mumbai.

The wine has some good qualities. It is fresh, clean and dry. There is not much fruit flavour, just a little spice, and the wine is nicely balanced with a pleasant acidic finish. There are no major highlights on the palate, but this wine avoids potential downsides from a hot climate. It was a good companion to the spicy fish I had. I think I will have this again.

Score: 86/+