Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Chateau Lagrange

 Buying an upper range value Bordeaux from the generous 2009 vintage; what can go wrong?

Drinking the 2009 Chateau Lagrange, I find out. The fruit flavours are concentrated. The wine is dark fruited, with blackberry and mulberry notes. Then it hits you. The wine is very developed already, with overripe and confected fruit. The mouthfeel is rustic, and the tannins coarse. The finish is quite long and the aftertaste actually more pleasant than the taste itself.

This wine is an example of how things can go wrong in Bordeaux when producers try to please the American 'Napa' market. I remember drinking this wine on release. It was fine then, but good Bordeaux should improve for 10 years at least, not deteriorate.

Score: 86/- 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

Not much of a label, the Ata Rangi, yet it is iconic by now. I have written about Ata Rangi a fair bit, so let us go straight to the wine. The 2013 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir has all the key elements of a perfect Pinot Noir. Forest berries, Asian spices and forest floor flavours provide a predominant savoury impression without losing the firm dark cherry fruit core. This is quite a rich and powerful, yet elegant wine. The structure is perfect. The silky tannins caress the mouth before an expanding finish delivers a long and delicious finish. This is one of the best Pinot Noirs from the Southern Hemisphere I have ever tasted.

What would make it perfect? A bit more precision, a bit more drive, even more of a peacock's tail. But this is splitting hairs. I love this wine. It drinks perfectly now and will continue to do so for the next three years.

Score: 97/+++   


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Lake's Folly Chardonnay

 The folly was to focus on Chardonnay and Cabernet in a region known for Semillon and Shiraz. It has worked well for Lake's Folly. The wines are not very visible, because they sell largely through the mailing list and the cellar door is closed most times. And it has gone off my radar a bit as a result. However, I have the 2015 Lake's Folly Chardonnay in my cellar. The bottle I opened gave me moderate pleasure.

This Lake's Folly Chardonnay is quite an intense wine. Lemon peel and yellow peach flavours are matched by good quality oak and resultant vanilla notes. This is a fuller bodied Chardonnay than most. It is not buttery, but delivers a full mouthfeel of the mentioned flavours. Acidity keeps the wine lively on the palate. While the 14.3% alcohol is not obvious in isolation, it is clear this is a big wine, maybe not ideal for lunch.

Score: 92/+ 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Soul Growers Mourvédre

 When three winemakers with experience from Penfolds, Barossa Valley Estate, Hentley Farm, and Murray Street get together to make wine, when the plot is some of the oldest Mataro grapes in the world, and when the vintage is 2012, my expectation is high.

Therefore I am slightly shocked when I taste the 2012 Soul Growers Mourvédre. Blackberry, mulberry fruit and black pepper could have delivered an attractive profile, but this full-bodied wine is overripe. Why would you, in a vintage which almost made itself, overextend the hang time of the fruit? Firm tannins bring this syrupy wine to an alcoholic finish.

Score: 86/--  


Saturday, February 6, 2021

Thévenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes

I remain interested in exploring the cru Beaujolais, in particular from Morgon. This is where wine is made for ageing and where one may be able to find a wine similar in quality to a good Burgundy at 25% of the price. I thought maybe the 2018 Thévenet Morgon Vielles Vignes could be such a wine.

Jean-Paul Thévenet was named one of the 'Gang of Four' in the 1980s. The aim was to produce meaningful and complex wines by farming old vines and apply organic and biodynamic principles. There is no fining and filtration, and possibly no sulphur treatment. His wines come close to what some people call 'natural' wine.

And this shows immediately after opening the bottle and pouring a glass. The colour of the wine is ruby, quite intense, and a little cloudy. Red cherry is the dominant flavour, added to by some spice, earth and saltiness. The winemaking approach delivers a big mouthfeel and quite a ripe wine for Gamay. The tannins are quite smooth, and the finish medium to long.

I find it hard to rate this wine. The last paragraph suggests this is a very good wine, but I did not enjoy it that much. The cloudiness made the wine a bit clunky, lacking finesse. I assume the purpose here was to make a serious Gamay with good fruit weight, but this came at a cost, in my view.

Score: 89/-       


Sunday, January 31, 2021

Kilikanoon Attunga 1865 Shiraz

 The Kilikanoon business has a strong commercial orientation, and while there is nothing wrong with it, in fact it is necessary to an extent, obviously, I have never been drawn to its wines. However, a few years ago, I was given its flagship Attunga 1865 Shiraz from Clare Valley.

The 2010 Kilikanoon Attunga 1865 Shiraz from a special plot of old vines is full-bodied, with a core of concentrated ripe plum flavours, lifted by some eucalypt, typical of Clare. I am generally not a big fan of eucalypt or minty notes, but in this case it is moderate and serves to lighten up the plum core. This Shiraz is a big wine, but the fruit is balanced by lively acidity. While this is a ripe wine, it is interesting to me that there is a certain poise which I find comes with very old vines. The finish is long, but a little harsh. Despite what the label says, this wine expresses more power than elegance, but not in an extreme way. It will appeal to some people more than to me.

Score: 95/+ 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Tyrrell's Belford Semillon

The 2014 Tyrrell’s Belford Semillon was the perfect wine  on a 38 degree Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) day. This Semillon comes from an isolated vineyard in the Hunter Valley with sandy soil and surrounded by trees. It is unusual in the stable of Tyrrell’s  Semillons. The flavours and texture are similar to Chablis, not the more common closeness to Riesling.

Thi wine, from a great vintage, has excellent energy and drive. Lime flavours and minerality dominate on the palate. This wine is still very fresh and will only mellow around year 12, I think. So far, there are only primary fruit characteristics on the palate. The wine is perhaps a little bit raw, but I liked it a lot, in particular the penetrating finish.

Score: 94/+++

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling

How refreshing is this 2012 Grosset Polish Hill. For those who are used to German Riesling, this is quite different. The style of this wine is austere. The acidity is high, and accentuates the piercing and intense citrus flavous of this wine. This wine is still young, but some almond and shy toasty flavours are starting to emerge. The energy of this wine is exemplary, with a medium to long finish.

I think the most interesting point to drink this wine at would be five years from now. It will easily go another ten years.

Score: 95/+++


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Giacomo Conterno Barolo Francia

 For a special occasion, I opened a bottle of the oldest Barolo in my cellar from the legendary Giacomo Conterno.

The 1997 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Francia had a high shoulder and look at the cork! Fresh like a daisy and came out like a two year old. 

1997 in Piedmont was similar to 1982 in Bordeaux. This warm vintage put Nebbiolo on the international map. At the time, new approaches were tried in Piedmont, but not by Conterno. His maceration period was 30 days or so, the barrels large.

In 2020, this is a mature wine. The wine still has some freshness on the nose, but on the palate, the primary fruit is almost gone. There are tea leaves, a bit of dark cherry, cedar and tobacco. But Conterno was never about the fruit, and the structure is still strong. The very long dry and silky finish gives this wine its quality.

Score: 94/++

Monday, January 18, 2021

Three Outstanding European White Wines

 In a recent tasting of examples of 8 different white wine varieties, three wines stood out. The move in Germany to designate some sites with GG (Grosses Gewächs), and imposing some regulations for these, has clearly been successful. The example in this tasting was the 2015 A. Christmann Koenigsbacher IDIG GG Riesling. 

From a warm vintage, this wine is now showing some age, but also complexity which has generally not been seen say, a decade ago. This is an aromatic and rich wine, with a blend of citrus and honey flavours. A little sweetness is kept in check by unobtrusive acidity. This is a very balanced wine from a producer who can't do wrong.

Score: 95/+++

The second wine was the 2013 Louis Jadot, 1er cru, Meursault Genevrières.

The tasting was blind, but it was immediately clear this was a Burgundy Chardonnay due to the obvious oak treatment of this wine. As a result, the wine was creamy with some toast on the palate, but at the same time, the wine showed pineapple fruit and minerality. This is quite an intense wine with a long and persistent finish.

Score: 94/+++

The third wine was a Chenin Blanc from the Loire. The Loire Valley is quite complex, with different subregions and varieties. This example came from Savennières, specifically the famous Coulée de Serrant vineyard of Nicolas Joly. This 17ha 'monopole' has been planted by Cistercian monks in the 12th century originally, and still includes old vines on ungrafted rootstock.

The 2011 Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant Chenin Blanc is based on biodynamic vineyard management. It is a dry version of Chenin Blanc and shows an array of flavours: lemon, apple, herbs, ginger, walnut, and perhaps sherry. I sometimes struggle with the 'salad' of flavours in Chenin, but this is a balanced wine of very good maturity.

Score: 94/++


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Two Spanish Beauties


Spanish wines have never received the accolades of Italian wines. However, they can be very delicious and unique. I recently tasted two impressive examples.

The 2004 Cune Gran Reserva Imperial would be difficult to source now, but if it is on offer somewhere, do not hesitate. This Rioja Tempranillo is intense on the nose. It is dark fruited, with some herbal overtones. This is a smooth and balanced wine, full bodied, yet with a certain lightness on the palate. This is an elegant wine, at peace with itself.

Score: 95/+++

The 2014 Clos Mogador Manyetes from Priorat is a blend of predominantly Grenache, Carignan and Shiraz. This is quite a different style from the Rioja. This wine is still quite fresh. The flavours are difficult to pin down. The palate is concentrated and tightly knit. There is raspberry, blackberry, licorice. It is complex. But the wine is not so much fruit orientated. Minerality and some saltiness are strong and wound up in balanced acidity. With all this, it is a polished wine.

Score: 94/+++

Friday, January 15, 2021

Highland Heritage Riesling

 Highland Heritage from Orange is new to me. The 2019 Highland Heritage Riesling has done quite well on the show circuit.

The colour of the wine is golden with a green tinge, medium intensity. The bouquet jumps from the glass with floral and citrus aromas, big for a cool climate Riesling.

There is quite a bit going on on the palate. Fruity citrus flavours, floral notes, a hint of sweetness. This is a well made wine with just enough acidity to deliver balance. However, the mouthfeel is round, bordering on flabby. Many people may like this. There is also a hint of alcohol (12.1%) on the finish. Personally, I would have preferred this wine to be 1% lower in alcohol.

Score: 90/0