Thursday, November 16, 2017

Two Interesting Articles

I do not normally publish third party content, but yesterday I came across two good articles you may be interested in.

The first is about earliest winemaking


The second is about natural wines

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Torbreck The Sporran

When Torbreck analysed the wet 2011 vintage, it assessed that most grapes were not good enough for their high priced branded wines. So a new brand was created, The Sporran.

The 2011 Torbreck The Sporran shows the typical Torbreck style: plum and blackberry fruit, quite a big mouthfeel, and very ripe. This wine does not have the concentration or length normally associated with Torbreck wines, and the tannins are quite harsh, leading to a rough finish.

Score: 86/-

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Jane Eyre Volnay


Jane Eyre, an Australian winemaker, has been working in Burgundy since 2004 - mostly as assistant winemaker at Domaine Newman, but increasingly also building her own portfolio of wines. Low yielding fruit, minimum intervention, and the use of one and two year old oak characterizes her approach.

This 2015 Jane Eyre Volnay bottle, which is quite heavy, by the way, did not fit where I wanted to store it, so I decided to open it last night. This turned out to be a mistake. Despite decanting, the wine was very closed. It clearly has entered its dormant stage. It tasted more like a dry red than a Pinot Noir. Unusual for Pinot Noir, the fruit, such as it was detectable, tasted of raspberry. The structure and balance of the wine is good, and after a while, the fruit flavours opened up a little. Some depth was coming through, but the wine lacked the generosity associated with the 2015 vintage. There was good length on the palate, before the lean finish. It would not be fair to score the wine based on this tasting. I highly recommend not to open this wine for another three years.

By the way, if you want to learn more about the 2015 Burgundy vintage, you can read my article 'Touring Burgundy' in the Gourmet Traveler Wine (for Australian readers) in the October/November edition.    

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dinner with Jancis Robinson


At this dinner a couple of days ago, Mrs. Robinson showed eight wines from grape varieties not grown in Australia. The wines were from Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece and Switzerland. Given her reputation and access to wine, I had expected quite sensational wines, but these were mostly quite modestly priced wines. Well, she has reviewed wines sold by Tesco. Any real discoveries or bargains here?

I found six of the eight wines quite unspectacular, and as they are real rarities, it is not worth while to mention them here. Two wines, both white, were interesting, however. The first was from the isle of Crete, a 2016 Lyrarakis Dafni. Jancis mentioned that this wine had one of the most distinctive aromas she has ever encountered. I had to agree. It had a strong smell of fennel and herbs, which continued on the palate. It would go really well with Chinese food. Not an outstanding, but very interesting wine (89 points).

The wine of the night was the 2015 Rafael Palacios As Sortes Godello from Galicia, Northern Spain. Godello is gaining some interest, but many wines are quite ordinary and industrial. This wine was top notch. It had great fruit weight, but a certain flintiness as well. I tasted citrus, grapefruit and white peach. This was perfectly balanced by fine acidity (94 points). Apparently it is as rare as hen's teeth.

It was an interesting evening topped by a story about wine tasting at the Palace with the Queen (she is an adviser), which we promised not to share - sorry.

Two Hands Zippy's Block Shiraz


Two Hands is best known for its Garden Series of Shiraz which showcases Shiraz from different wine regions. Building on this reputation, Michael Twelftree then bottled some single vineyard wines from special locations - and Roennfeldt Road in Marananga is certainly one. There is quite a lot of quartz in the soil here, which makes the conditions in this warm area even hotter. If grapes are picked at the right time, they contribute very silky and attractive tannins.

Two Hands has always aimed its production at the US market first of all. This meant pleasing Robert Parker with big and ripe wines. So here we have a special bottling and that from a drought year. What can one expect?

The 2007 Two Hands Zippy's Block Shiraz is certainly a great example of the excesses of the 2000s. This wine is high in alcohol, overripe, maybe 200% new oak. This is a shame, because the blackcurrant flavour in this wine is (theoretically) superbly intense, pure, and deep. The fruit weight makes an early impact and stays long on the palate, but I could only just manage to finish the first glass.

Score: 87/- 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Domaine Dominique Mugneret “Alliance des Terroirs”


When drinking a well priced red Burgundy (well priced for Burgundy standards), you have to worry, even more so, when the vintage is cool like 2012. So my expectations were not high when opening a 2012 Domaine Dominique Mugneret “Alliance des Terroirs”. On the other hand, this blend of village vines is all from Vosne-Romanée where the wines tend to be more full-bodied than other parts of Burgundy.

And yes, this wine needed a bit of help out of the glass. It was certainly fairly lean. However, the cherry flavours were very pleasant and the wine was not overoaked, but rather well balanced on an acidic frame. This is not an amazing drink, but a good food wine.

Score: 88/0

Friday, November 3, 2017

Disappointing Cloudy Bay

Cloudy Bay certainly was the poster child of good quality, high volume Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in the earlier years. As the standard Sauvignon Blanc was getting under fire from wine critics (not the public), Cloudy Bay upped the ante with a Sauvignon Blanc matured in oak. This was the Te Koko, and there were examples I quite liked, but I have not tried this wine for years. So I was interested to taste it again.

This time it was the 2013 Cloudy Bay Te Koko. Yes, this wine is meant to age for some time. Wow! The fruit is intense: peach, peach, and more peach. There is also marshmallow and  the inevitable grass. This wine is really in your face, and not the anticipated refinement. I did not like it.

Score: 85/--

Then there was the 2014 Coudy Bay Te Wahi. This is the first vintage of a blended Pinot Noir from Central Otago. The first bottle was corked. Yes, this is one of the few New Zealand offerings under cork. Probably not a good idea, as the Portuguese can take revenge on New Zealand's move to twist tops!!

I found this wine quite strange. It is quite ripe, with black cherry and plum flavours, but the fruit flavours are not overt nor fresh. There is five spice from the oak, which did not add much. I enjoyed the silky tannins. This is not a badly made wine, but what does it stand for? Not the mighty fruit from Central Otago, not an ethereal character found in great Pinot Noir. It is probably best consumed with food, such as duck.

Score: 89/- 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Marquis La Feuille Taru Kai Noir

I have not posted for a while, not because I follow Ocsober, but because I am in Japan and mainly drink Sake here. But there is, of course, a significant still wine industry here as well. The 2015 Marquis La Feuille Taru Kai Noir took my fancy, because I did not understand anything about the label.

When it comes to food and drink, the Japanese like to use French terms, as it is associated with quality. The winery is also known as Maruki Winery and is Japan's oldest, founded in 1891. La Feuille is a label. I have no idea what Taru stands for. Kai Noir is a Japanese grape variety, a crossing between Black Queen and Cabernet Sauvignon. Black Queen is a crossing itself, and it gets too complicated here for this blog. The grapes are quite large, with a thick skin and a low tannin structure. Quite the opposite to Cabernet Sauvignon, obviously.

This is a light to medium bodied wine , with a light Pinot Noir like colour 🍷 . The fragrant aromas are quite appealing and the wine is finely crafted. However, there is not much happening on the front palate. Black cherry describes it best. This wine does not have much body nor mouthfeel. It is growing towards the back palate with an attractive smooth finish. This wine goes well in support of many Japanese foods, even sushi or sashimi.

Score: 87/+

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bass Phillip Ultra Premium Pinot Noir

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to taste the three 2015 premium Pinot Noirs which stand at the top of the Bass Phillip tree. They were extraordinary.

The 2015 Bass Phillip Issan Pinot Noir comes from a relatively new vineyard not far from the estate vineyard. I think it was planted in the early 1990s. It is very densely planted and cropped at low yields. Phillip Jones links its characteristics to Chambertin in Burgundy. This vintage is by far the best of this wine and moves it beyond the standard Estate wine. The dark cherry fruit is intense, but the key feature is the minerality on the back palate. This wine has great texture, enticing tannins and a very long finish.

Score: 95/+++

The 2015 Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir, matured in 100% new oak (as is the reserve), is simply sensational. The wine has a beautiful aromatic nose, very intense rose aroma. The flavours are multi-layered. There is cherry, spice, cinnamon, even black olive. The oak is hardly noticeable. This wine sings on the palate. It is powerful and has great drive. The tannins are as silky as and the flavours expand on the finish. This wine is already approachable, but will reveal its full potential in 5-7 years. One of the best Pinot Noirs ever made in Australia.

Score: 98/+++

The 2015 Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir is a strange beast. It is a high quality wine, no doubt, with intense and multi-layered flavours. It is more closed at this point than the Premium. The shape of the wine is quite round, as opposed to driving down the palate. Phillip Jones says this wine will need a lot of time, but will ultimately outshine the Premium. I am not so sure. I went back to taste the Premium after the Reserve, and normally when you taste backwards, the 'lower' wine will fall short. That was not the case this time. Having said this, the Reserve is an excellent wine, with velvety tannins and a long finish. But then, it is $650-700 per bottle - not for me.

Score: 96/++

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Margaret River 50th Anniversary Tasting

Let me get my frustrations out of the way first. I do not attend many region tastings anymore: too crowded, too many ordinary wines. I thought this would be a bit special, given the title, however, it was just a new releases tasting with leading players Leeuwin, Moss Wood, Cullen missing. Also, the small tasting glasses were a joke. Anyhow, once there, you persist. I tasted the two signature varieties from Margaret River, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and blends.

Amongst the Chardonnays, the 2014 Clairault Estate Chardonnay and the 2015 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay were the favorites (94 points). These Chardonnays had the best drive or line on the palate. The 2015 Flametree SRS Wallcliffe (flinty, smoky), the 2016 Vasse Felix (yeasty, Burgundian) and the 2015 Hohnen Burnside Vineyard (tropical fruit) were also good (92 points). I thought the 2013 Devil's Lair 9th Chamber Chardonnay had a dull finish. In general, new oak took a back seat, with mainly between 20 to 40%.

On the Cabernet front I enjoyed four quite different wines (all 94 points). The 2014 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon displayed a very dark and dense blue colour with pure and intense blackcurrant and mulberry fruit and a long finish. Woodlands continues on its road to excellence. The 2014 'Margaret' Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Malbec is an elegant wine, at peace with itself and quite approachable now. In contrast the 2014 'Matthew' Cabernet Sauvignon is more reserved and closed, but the fruit is excellent and the well integrated oak will deliver a very elegant wine in due course. Even more restrained was the 2013 Vasse Felix 'Tom Cullity' Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec, the newly labelled flagship wine. It is quite a savoury wine, very long. It needs decanting.

There were a number of other strong wines, the 2013 Fraser Gallop Parterre (fragrant, violets), the 2014 Fraser Gallop Palladian, the 2014 Howard Park Leston (easy drinking, a bit sweet), the 2013 Voyager Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, the 2014 Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon.

I was not so impressed with the 2015 Flametree Cabernet/Merlot, the 2014 Devil's Lair Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014 Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2013 Clairault Cabernet Sauvignon.

Overall, nothing particularly new in these wines. Only top producers succeed with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Blends tend to work better, and I note the enhanced role Malbec seems to be taking.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bass Phillip Rosé


I was interested to taste this new offering from Bass Phillip, the 2016 Bass Phillip Pinot Rosé. I was expecting the unexpected, and I was not disappointed.

This Rosé is a funky wine. The colour is slightly cloudy, which distinguishes this wine immediately from the many others. The fruit is high quality, all estate grown. Flavours of raspberry and strawberry attack on the front palate. This wine has a great mouthfeel. The texture may be volatile, but there is sufficient acidity to hold up the wine.

This wine is delicious, with a great fruit feel, but it is also surprisingly strong and long for a Rosé.

Highly recommended.

Score: 94/+++ 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Silkman Reserve Semillon


Very few new wineries in the Hunter Valley have managed to reach the top echelon occupied by Brokenwood, Tyrells and Mount Pleasant for a long time. The last winery was Thomas Wines. Silkman, however, may get there. The very talented Liz Silkman, who was the successful winemaker at First Creek for a number of years, continues to craft excellent Shiraz, Chardonnay and Semillon.

This is a review of the 2015 Silkman Reserve Semillon. This wine is a bigger style than some others from the Hunter Valley. The wine has good drive, despite the bigger, lime fruited mouthfeel. There is enough acidity to give the wine a solid structure, and the finish is quite long for Semillon.

I suggest to drink this wine while young.

Score: 93/++