Monday, January 16, 2017

Can You Tell If A Wine Will Taste Alcoholic Before You Drink It?

This question came to me after I tasted the last two wines reviewed, the Yalumba Octavius and the Penfolds Bin 169 Cabernet Sauvignon. The short answer is you can not. There are two reasons for this. The first has to do with the fruit in the wine, and the second with labelling.

Fruit intensity and vibrancy, in my experience, can compensate for high alcohol and even overcome it. I do not know what the chemical reaction is, but it seems to me both play a role in reigning alcohol in. Fruit intensity and vibrancy were high in the Penfolds Bin 169, and the alcohol at 14.5% was not noticeable. This is also true for white wine, look at Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay as example.

The other factor is labelling. You are allowed a band width of 1.5%ige points. The Octavius was labelled at 14%, the Penfolds Bin 169 at 14.5%. Let's just say they are both out by 1% point, but in the opposite direction. This would mean the Octavius could have been 15%, and the Penfolds 13.5%. This would tell a different story, wouldn't it? I have no basis for saying this is more accurate, but it certainly tasted this way, and it could have been.

The conclusion is, if you do not like an alcoholic after taste, but otherwise like full-bodied wines, you have to taste before you buy and develop an understanding of different producers' styles.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Penfolds Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

Penfolds, for a number of reasons, is primarily associated with the Barossa Valley. Yet is has significant holdings in Coonawarra. Its over 100ha are all located on the famous terra rossa limestone soil and are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit from these vineyards does not fit the regular portfolio too well, as it has cool climate characteristics, not so much the ripeness and generosity expected in Penfolds wines. Therefore, the source for the Bin 707 is mainly the Barossa Valley.

But then it was decided to produce a separate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon with different characteristics. And what a wine this 2008 Penfolds Bin 169 Cabernet Sauvignon is! 

The colour of the wine is deep purple, and the aroma is of strong blackcurrant. This leads on to the palate with concentrated blackcurrant fruit. Yet the wine is fresh, with abundant vibrancy. This wine, after eight years, is still characterized by very pure, strong primary fruit, accompanied by some mocca on the back palate. This is a great expression of cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon, near perfect. There is a bit of a gap on the mid palate, but it is quickly overcome by firm tannins and strong flavours on the finish.

A revelation! Where does this leave other Coonawarra producers?

Score: 96/+++  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Yalumba Octavius Shiraz

Octavius is the flagship wine of the large Yalumba family winery. Yalumba has the option to pick from many Barossa vineyards. And, as it happens with many flagship wines, it selects the most concentrated fruit for this wine. This can become somewhat problematic in dry years, such as 2005.

The 2005 Yalumba Octavius Shiraz has an deep ruby colour. The ripe blackberry and plum flavours are very intense , with a sweet core, a bit like concentrated jam. This is quite a monumental wine, with oak flavours present. This wine pushes the envelop of concentration and ripeness, just staying within acceptable limits. The structure is intact, and firm tannins lead to a lasting finish.

This wine will appeal to people enjoying big and powerful Shiraz.

Score: 94/+ 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bindi Kaye Pinot Noir

The Bindi Kaye Pinot Noir is a relatively recent addition to the Bindi Pinot Noirs. All their wines come from the estate vineyard. This block K was singled out because it has the highest elevation and special soil including quartz and volcanic rock.

The 2010 Bindi Kaye Pinot Noir is simply a lovely Pinot Noir. It is not big, not super complex, but very pure. It tastes of dark cherry and Asian spices. The tannins are light and the wine is very clean on the finish. There is just enough interest in the wine to make it very enjoyable to drink.

Score: 93/+++ 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Head Old Vine Grenache

Producing a high quality straight varietal Grenache is no easy task. This grape variety has to ripen well. Then the alcohol level shoots up, the grapes can get very sweet or fruit turns dead. So how did Head do in this great vintage of 2012?

The 2012 Head Old Vine Grenache has overcome these initial challenges. This wine is savoury, not sweet, it is not alcoholic, and the fruit is lively. The flavours of the wine are a raspberry/blackberry mix. There is mocca as well. The wine is quite elegant, with a long finish, built on fine grained tannins. What is not to like? On the mid-palate, the mouthfeel is a little flat. However, overall a very enjoyable wine.

Score: 93/+++ 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dutschke St. Jakobi Shiraz

Every time I come across a Dutschke wine, I can't help but be reminded of Rudi Dutschke, the leader of the RAF in Germany, which terrorized the German establishment in the 1970s. Of course, Wayne Dutschke has nothing to do with that. In fact, the 2004 Dutschke St. Jakobi Shiraz is not particularly revolutionary at all. This is classic Barossa Shiraz. It comes from the St. Jakobi vineyard in Lyndoch, which is situated right next to Grant Burge's Filsell vineyard, also the source of 75% of the Meshach. The soil is grey loam over dark clay.

This wine (tasted from Magnum) has a strong core of black cherry, plum and mulberry. It shows juicyness and sweetness on the mid-palate. The tannins are quite ripe and soft, but there is no dead fruit in this wine whatsoever. It is well balanced with a lasting finish - very attractive to drink right now (on cooler days, preferably).

Score: 94/++

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

The 2007 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay, at almost 10 years of age, under screw cap, still displays a remarkably medium green colour. It is also amazingly young on the palate. There is a bit of tropical flavour, think guava, but less than in previous years. Pear and apple are in the foreground. This is quite a steely, almost lean tasting wine, yet it has 14.5% (unnoticeable) alcohol. There is some vanilla from the new oak on the back palate, but this is a perfectly balanced wine between fruit, oak and a strong acidic backbone. This wine is typical for the shift in style towards a more linear structure.

This is my last bottle from 2007, but this could easily be a 20 year Chardonnay.

Score: 95/++

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Kusuda Pinot Noir

I decided to see out the old year with one of my favorite producers in the Southern Hemisphere, Kusuda-san. I am drinking the 2010 Kusuda Pinot Noir.

I reported briefly on the 2013 Pinot Noir a few posts ago. This wine is much more developed, but this makes this wine even more exciting. The colour is a medium intensity ruby, bordering on garnet. The aroma consists predominantly of forest berries. On the palate, the wine is quite complex. Small berry flavours of medium intensity join mushroom and five spice. Yet, this wine is quite precise and has great definition down the palate. Silky tannins are pleasant on the back palate. The overall impression is of a savoury wine in great harmony.

I have enjoyed Kusuda Pinot Noir at young age, but this, my first experience of this wine with age, is even more exciting.

Score: 97/+++

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What Did We Drink Over Christmas?

Strangely enough, my Christmas this year did not involve any Champagne nor Sparkling Shiraz. Christmas Day was whites with seafood.

The Batard-Montrachet was good, featuring tropical fruit, but a little bit on the fat/flat side. The Lovedale Semillon was just as good, with fresh and intense lime flavours, for a fifth of the price.

Boxing Day was the big one, wine wise.

The 2011 Grosset Polish Hill was excellent, given the wet vintage. The 1996 Penfolds Grange was astounding. Really fresh, with an intense aroma, and on the palate concentrated and intense blackberry with a deep core of mocca - classic Grange. Noble One is always liquid honey.

What was your favorite drink over Christmas? Please comment.   

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Last poll

While the number of responses has been small in relation to my readership, let alone the wine drinking world at large, it has been a little larger than on some occasions. And my life long experience with statistics is this: trends tend to emerge early and mostly do not change much.

Based on this, what do the results suggest:

1) The biggest trend is away from Shiraz to Pinot Noir. This reflects a couple of things: a shift towards lighter wines, and the fact that the quality of Pinot Noir has improved a lot in recent times, both in Australia and the US (where a lot of my readers come from), while Shiraz is suffering from sameness.

2) Cabernet Sauvignon may be staging a bit of a revival - again, quality is driving this.

3) The major surprise to me is the shift to white wines, both Chardonnay and Riesling, and there is also shifting between these two varieties. As I have a readership of interested and sophisticated wine consumers, the shift to Riesling is not too surprising, but the overall market is certainly not there yet.

4) Other varieties do not feature much. Maybe because I just called them 'other', but my impression is also that 'alternative varieties',hyped by wine critics, are not often the wine of choice.

Thank you for participating. I hope that some of you who have not, find the results interesting and are encouraged to take part next time.

Christmas Eve is fast approaching, so I would like to thank you all for following my blog and commenting. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas time, plenty of exciting drinks, and a healthy, happy and successful 2017.

I will now step into the cellar and work out what to drink over the next few days. This I will share with you, and hopefully some of you will tell me about your wines and champagnes of choice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Kusuda Pinot Noir

This is perhaps the most exciting wine to come out of the Southern Hemisphere in the last ten years. Have you ever shopped for fruit in Tokyo? Even something as simple as an apple is wrapped individually, looks immaculate, and they all look the same. This is what happens with Kusuda grapes. It is a small operation, every grape seems individually assessed and approved or not.

The wine comes from Martinborough, my favorite Pinot Noir region, home of Ata Rangi. The other day I drank the 2013 Kusuda Pinot Noir. I will leave this description very brief, because everything else would be fluff. The bouquet is extremely fragrant, on the palate, the red cherry flavours are intense. Yet the wine is light, and lifted. That's it.

Score: 97/+++

PS: I have other vintages of this wine and will report on some of them shortly.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep Woods from near Yallingup, Margaret River, shot to fame this year, when the 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon won the Jimmy Watson's Trophy for best young red wine in Australia. I came across it a bit earlier, and here are my notes on the 2012 Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted yesterday.

The colour of the wine is a bright purple. The bouquet is intense, full of blackcurrant aroma. On the palate, the blackcurrant flavours are intense. The concentration is not matched by finesse, but the depth of flavour is impressive. This is not a Cullen-type wine, rather a super Moss Wood. The assertive tannins provide a firm grip, as the wine finishes long.

This wine has personality. If it can dial up elegance (and I have not tried the 2014), it could be superb.

Score: 93/++