Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2004 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon still displays quite a bright deep red colour. On the nose, there are currants and herbs.

On the palate, redcurrants dominate. The fruit is lively, but tastes a little underripe. As a result, the mouthfeel lacks somewhat. On the plus side, there is good balance between fruit, acidity and tannins. Cape Mentelle used to have strong chocolate flavours in their Cabernet, and sometimes brett. This wine is quite a departure. Freshness seems to be a new objective, and this wine still shows it after 12 years. With it come capsicum flavours and some greenness. Unfortunately, it also has the famous hole on the mid palate. Altogether, this is not a convincing wine, if you want to be in the top tier of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.

Score: 90/-

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rockbare Coonawarra Cutie

Releasing new labels is increasingly difficult. How to stand out from the crowd? This wine tries it with a racy label, but then, it is on the back of the bottle.

So what about the actual wine? The 2013 Rockbare Coonawarra Cutie Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep dark red colour. The bouquet smells of ripe berry fruit. Flavours on the palate are intense, in a typical Coonawarra style. Blackcurrants, mulberry and black olive dominate. There is also vanilla from the oak, but in a supporting role. The tannins are subtle and soft. This is quite a seductive wine, with immediate appeal. I would not keep it longer than a couple of years, beyond which this wine might lose its attractive primary fruit flavours.

Score: 91/++

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Swimming Against The Mainstream

When a tasting of Cullen, Bindi, and Ata Rangi wines is announced, you can't be anything but excited. I certainly was, given I have wines of  these producers in my cellar. But it is interesting to note what happens when three things come together
- High expectations set you up for a fall
- The setting of the tasting, including glasses is poor
- Some of the wines are not outstanding

I was aware of the influence of the first two factors and tried to be objective (from my point of view), as much as I could. This is what I thought:

The Bindi wines tasted are new labels and  in part from new blocks of the home vineyard.
- The 2015 Kostas Rind Chardonnay (formerly Composition Chardonnay) was very floral and a bit broad (88 points)
- The 2015 Dixon Pinot Noir ( formerly Composition Pinot Noir), which includes fruit ftom a new block K), tasted of kirsch and was very young and fruity (89 points)
These wines are too expensive for what they offer

In some quarters, the 2014 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir has been described as even better than the sensational 2013. I tasted
- The 2014 Crimson Pinot Noir. This is not a bad wine for a second label. It is savoury, with mushroom and licorice flavours on the palate. The wine is a little light (91 points)
- The 2014 Pinot Noir. The bouquet smells of roses, quite intense and unusual. On the palate, the mouthfeel is balanced, but not huge. The wine is savoury with good length and dry tannins leading to an expanding finish. This wine will increase complexity over time (94 points)

With Cullen, I have a mixed relationship. I simply do not 'get' the Kevin John Chardonnay, and while I appreciate the increased delicacy of the Cabernet, I wonder if some depth has come out of the wine.
- The 2014 Kevin John Chardonnay shows peach flavours and good lashings of (high quality) oak. I find the wine a bit broad (92 points)
- I was impressed with the 2014 Diana Madeline Cabernet. It has good depth of blackberry and blueberry fruit. The flavours penetrate without being heavy. It is a very harmonious wine with firm dry tannins on the finish (95 points)   

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Michel Rolland Clos de los Siete Malbec

Argentinian Malbec has improved dramatically over the last 10 years. The hot spot is the Uco Valley, approximately 50 to 80 kilometres south of Mendoza. Many new projects have been started here, some architecturally spectacular wineries been built. The attraction is the altitude, 1000 to 1500 meters. Warm days are balanced by cool nights, leading to a long and even ripening period.

One of the most ambitious projects is the Clos de los Siete, a large compound with a huge vineyard as its centre piece, and seven wineries built around it. It was the idea of Michel Rolland, the famous French wine consultant. The project has run into problems, with a number of participants, among them the Taittinger family, withdrawing. A lot is shrowded in secrecy, but Michel Rolland is pushing on.

I am drinking the 2013 Michel Rolland Clos de los Siete Malbec blend. This is an outstanding wine.   Malbec dominates, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz grapes are included. The nose is an intense cocktail of red plum, cherry and pepper. This continues on the palate. This is a full-bodied wine with concentrated ripe fruit and a strong acidic backbone. The wine has a great line, as it moves smoothly to the back palate. It remains strong in the mouth along the way. There are smoky tones, but the oak treatment is restrained. The finish is silky, fresh and acidic at this point in time.

This wine combines the lushness of a sun-drenched vineyard with French winemaking to beautiful effect. The wine is too early to drink, but no doubt, the components will integrate perfectly. This wine is also attractively priced for the quality.

Score: 94/+++

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mount Langi Billi Billi Shiraz

The well-known Mount Langi winery produces a number of well priced Shiraz which can offer astonishing quality. One such wine is the 2012 Mount Langi Billi Billi Shiraz. The colour is a fairly dense purple. Black and red pepper, as well as berry fruit feature on the strong nose.

The first thing that comes to mind on the palate is complexity. Black and red berries, spice and earthy flavours battle for your attention. The next thing is harmony. This full-bodied wine is in fine balance. The fruit does not have the intensity of the premium wine, but oak is applied sensibly and the fine grained tannin profile rounds out this wine. On the finish, the signature note of Mount Langi takes over: black pepper!

This is an interesting and attractive wine, which can be drunk now or cellared for five years.

Score: 92/+++

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/+