Monday, July 24, 2017

Benjamin Leroux 2015s

Benjamin Leroux, the Wunderkind Burgundian winemaker, who started to get interested in winemaking at age 12 and was appointed as chief winemaker at Domaine Comte Armand at age 24, is now well established on his own. He began with his own label in 2007. These days, he produces more than 35 different bottlings, mostly at minuscule volumes. They come from all over Burgundy, but the core is at Volnay. He is keen to expand his estate wines, which at present come from 8ha of owned vineyards.

I had an opportunity to taste 11 of his wines from the great 2015 vintage, five whites and six reds. The general theme is about fruit freshness. Leroux seeks out vineyards at higher elevation and has reduced the use of new oak to 10-20% in most wines. Many are now matured in large barrels.

The whites were
Bourgogne Blanc: pineapple, hazelnut, a little plump in shape (91 points)
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Baudines: white flower, apple,quite delicate, creamy, excellent wine (94 points)
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Embazées: bigger fruit, a bit bolder, well balanced (93 points)
Meursault 1er Cru Les Porusots: earthy, almonds, not as fat as typical for Meursault, lingering on the palate, enough acidity? (93 points)
Corton-Charlemagne: rich, honey, hazelnut, very elegant, very long, excellent (95 points)

These wines express their respective terroirs very well. I have a slight concern about the levels of acidity in these wines.



The reds were
Bourgogne Rouge: fruity, red cherry, smooth, soft finish (91 points)
Savigny-les-Beaune: dark cherry, a bit sour, drive, well balanced, length (93 points)
Vosne-Romanee: dark cherry, a bit lean, silky finish (93 points)
Gevrey-Chambertin: better mouthfeel, a bit broad, smooth (93 points)
Volnay 1er Cru Les Mitans: 100% destemmed, beautiful perfumed nose, good fruit depth, very silky and elegant with expanding finish, wine of the night (95 points)
Pommard 1er Cru Rugiens Hauts: deeply flavoured, underbrush, very structured, 50% whole clusters (94 points)

The red wines were strong. My only reservation is that Leroux's focus on freshness has perhaps prohibited him to take full advantage of the richness the 2015 vintage can offer (based on my visit and Burgundy tastings of two months ago). 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Torbreck The Struie

Continuing on with Shiraz reviews. The Struie is usually a blend of Barossa and Eden Valley grapes, with the Barossa grapes providing the richness, and the Eden Valley grapes the freshness for the wine. In the excellent 2010 vintage, Torbreck decided to use only Barossa Valley grapes, as they felt there was enough freshness in them. I remember tasting the 2010 Torbreck The Struie on release, and it seemed like an excellent wine then.

What is this wine like today, seven years after picking? The news is not so good. The wine has maintained its dark purple colour, but the freshness - not unexpectedly - has gone. The fruit is dense, with blackberry and fruitcake flavours. The main issue is that the wine is now dominated by alcohol, with a sharp, hot finish. The fruit could take it in 2012, it can't take it now.

Score: 86/-- 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Felton Road Chardonnay

Drinking Chardonnay at three years of age is perhaps not a good idea. You miss the early freshness, and the mature structure has not yet developed. These were my thoughts when I tasted the 2014 Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay.

The wine has a golden colour. There is not much of a bouquet on the nose. On the palate, this wine is quite full and fruity. Flavours of yellow peach, mango and in particular starfruit are matched by the vanilla of new oak.

This is a well structured wine, but I am not sure what it stands for. It is not refreshing, it is not strictly a food wine like the white Rhône wines, it is not a big and mouthfilling fruit drop. Maybe the three year hitch.

Score: 90/-

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz

It is a cold winter in Sydney this year. This means it is Shiraz time. Today's review is of a mature 2002 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz from McLaren Vale. Fox Creek made an immediate impression in the 1990s with its full-bodied, yet often elegant Shiraz.

This 15 year old wine still shows a fresh deep purple colour. On the palate, plum flavours dominate. There is also some underbrush coming through. It is a harmonious wine, in the Parker style. There is a sweet, slightly syrupy core. The finish is not long and slightly alcoholic.

I suggest to drink this wine now.

Score: 89/0 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Spinifex Bête Noir

If wines were athletes, the previously reviewed Kalleske Eduard would be a shot putter or hammer thrower. This 2010 Spinifex Bête Noir would be a middle distance runner. This wine is lean, but sinewy. Blueberry notes dominate the palate. This wine is still fresh, with considerable acidity (some added?). The shape is long, rather than round, but I find the mouthfeel a bit rambling.

Peter Schell said he would never make a typical Barossa Shiraz. And for a while, he did not make a 100% Shiraz at all. Then came this wine, based on fruit from higher altitude vineyards, picked early. This is an interesting wine. It has not fully delivered, in my view, but the freshness and drinkability which Peter Schell is after, is certainly there.  

Score: 93/++

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Kalleske Eduard Shiraz

From a very old organic vineyard comes the 2008 Kalleske 'Eduard' Shiraz. This wine is a great example of the 'big Barossa'. It takes many dimensions close to the limit, but not over the top.

The colour of the wine is an impenetrable dark purple. This is a full-bodied wine of intense plum flavours. The fruit is pure, not overripe, and the oak is well integrated. There is  sweetness at the core, but not too much. The tannins are ample, but fine grained.

This is the perfect wine sitting next to the fire place. And you may even want to drink a second glass.

Score: 94/++   

Friday, July 7, 2017

Can You Criticise Wendouree?

There are some people or businesses in life that by strategy or luck seem to be beyond criticism. In music, Radiohead comes to mind, as they have not produced anything decent in the last 15 years, yet have maintained their reputation. Could this apply to Wendouree in wine? This thought occurred to me as I was tasting the 2002 Wendouree Shiraz/Mataro. Wendouree has this cult status, as its wines are not easy to buy and because of their apparent legendary longevity.

Therefore I was not worried about opening this 15 year old wine. The cork was perfect and the colour still deep purple. The bouquet did not give too much away. On the palate, however, I was disappointed. The plum and mulberry fruit flavours are accompanied by eucalypt (which happens at Wendouree a fair bit and I do not like too much) and some spice. However, the fruit is overtaken by licorice and plenty of it. The structure stands up, but the flavours are not well balanced. The finish is medium with firm tannins. On day two, the wine is better balanced, but licorice still dominates.

Wendouree wines need a lot of airing, but against high expectations, this wine did not deliver.

Score: 88/--

Monday, July 3, 2017

Dormilona Clayface Chardonnay

You probably have not heard of this Margaret River winery. However, Jo Perry won the prestigious 'Young Gun Of Wine' in 2016. She sources fruit from organic or biodynamic vineyards and only adds minute sulphur at the end of the winemaking process. Volumes are low: only 600 or so bottles are made of this 2016 Dormilona Clayface Chardonnay. The label is striking. Is it a face? Actually, it is a tree and a number of old fashioned and natural elements around it.
There is no information on the front label, there is no back label. Instead, the required data, such as alcohol content and address, is written on a tag dangling on the neck of the bottle. The wine is matured in clay amphora. These vessels are slightly porous. There is some exchange with the environment. As an aside: is it not curious that people want to eliminate any breathing with screwcaps, but then clay amphoras are fashionable? This bottle's closure is cork, sealed by wax, as you can see.

The colour of the wine is pale green. This is a very clean, and slightly understated, fresh wine. The palate is complex, with pear, apple and white peach flavours, as well as ginger and lemongrass. The wine starts quite wide on the palate, but gets leaner towards the back. It is an enjoyable wine, but you pay for its quirkiness.  

Score: 93/++

Saturday, July 1, 2017

August Kesseler Cuvee Max Pinot Noir

Global warming is threatening traditional wine growing practices, but it is opening up new opportunities as well. One of these is the growing of red wine grapes in Germany. This has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years.

The 2012 August Kesseler Cuvee Max Pinot Noir consists of grapes from two Rheingau grand cru vineyards; Ruedesheimer Berg Schlossberg and Assmannshausen. The nose is very harmoneous and aromatic with a black cherry and forest berries bouquet.

On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied. The berry flavours are not overly complex, but this wine delights with its seamless blend of fruit and savoury characteristics. The tannins are fine grained and silky. The wine is a bit light on the back palate.

Score: 93/++

Monday, June 26, 2017

Quinta Do Vesuvio

Some facts are hard to comprehend. The Symington family owns 27 wineries in the Douro Valley. The focus is Port, of course, with its famous Graham's and Dow's brands. But there is also a serious table wine effort under way. The leading winery for it is Quinta do Vesuvio, and the leading red carries the same name.

The 2015 Quinta do Vesuvio, from a great vintage, is a multi variety wine, with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca being the main contributors. The colour of the wine is deep purple. Blackberry aroma jumps from the glass.

Concentrated blackberry and bramble flavours hit the palate. This is a pretty full-on, full-bodied wine, yet the wine is quite elegant: a modern version of the Douro red. Acidity gives the wine freshness, despite the fruit weight. The wine is balanced, with firm tannins, and needs time to mellow.  For me, it is a bit too much of everything. I suggest drinking from 2020.

Score: 93/+

Monday, June 19, 2017

Conceito Bastardo Red

I am pursuing more intriguing wines and varieties from Portugal. The Bastardo (not a great name?) grape variety is known in the Jura of France as Trousseau. Apparently there is some in the Barossa Valley, named Cabernet Gros (another bad name), but I have never come across it.

The 2014 Conceito Bastardo has a pale pink colour. It comes from a high altitude vineyard in the Douro Superior and therefore a slightly cooler plot in this hot area. The grapes are picked early. The flavour profile is a bit like Pinot Noir, with red berry fruit, but more towards raspberry than strawberry or cherry. There is also some spice, and a lot of acidity. The alcohol level is 13%. This wine did not see any oak. I find this a fresh and attractive, though slightly unbalanced wine for the hot Portuguese inland summer climate.

Score: 91/+

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Passagem Reserva

The 2013 Passagem Reserva from the Douro Valley  superior region in Portugal has a dark purple, inky colour. It is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinto Cao. It is a full-bodied wine. Blackberry and cassis are joined by mocca flavours on the mid-palate. The wine is not overripe, but quite dense, and the tannins are a little coarse.

Score: 89/-