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/++   

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/+++