Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pesquera Millenium Reserva

To get in the mood of Ribera del Duero, which I will be visiting for the next three days, I tasted the 2002 Pesquera Millenium Reserva, only the second release of this wine since 1996.

This wine is very attractive on the palate, with black cherry, bramble, smoky bacon and spices from French oak coming together very well. The wine is quite intense and brooding, yet elegant and harmoneous. I liked the French oak treatment and the velvety texture of this wine. This Tempranillo is pure and penetrating with fine tannins on the lasting finish.

This wine is still youthful revealing a very balanced structure. If this is the standard I will be getting for the next three days, I will be in for a treat.

Score: 95/+++

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kalleske Old Vine Grenache

Grenache is still fighting to be taken seriously. Does it need to be blended? Look at Garnacha from Priorat. Can it improve with age? Sure, just look at Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

This 2007 Kalleske Old Vine Grenache is now 9 years old. It is quite a savoury wine, with an earthy elegance, like a wise old man. Raspberry and strawberry flavours are still coming through. The wine is ripe and full-bodied, with good depth of fruit. There is no dead fruit here, and the wine is not overpowering. The tannins are smooth and silky on the finish.

This is a top flight Grenache. Highly recommended.

Score: 95/+++

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Farnese Edizione Cinque Autoctoni

The 2012 Farnese Edizione Cinque Autoctoni has been bestowed with  extraordinary acclaim: best Italian red wine 2015 and 99 points (and not even by the points master James Halliday). It is an unusual wine, in that it blends Montepulciano and Sangiovese grapes from Abruzzi with Primitivo (Zinfandel), Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera from Puglia. Therefore the name Cinque Autoctoni. Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and Primitivo are the dominant grapes of the blend. This signals acidity and tannins.

Lifted aromas emerge on opening the bottle, blackberry and cocoa. On the palate, there is plum and sour cherry to start with. The wine is quite dense and meaty, filling the mouth well. It is an elegant wine on the front and mid palate, with the acidity cutting through the concentrated fruit. The tannins are a little coarse, and detract from an otherwise fine finish.

This is an unusual and serious wine. But almost perfect (99 points)? Not close.

Score: 94/++

Monday, July 11, 2016

Torbreck Woodcutter's Semillon

Australian Semillon is typically associated with the Hunter Valley, where it is a signature grape. Not many know that the highest volume Semillon in the country is bottled by Peter Lehmann, from Barossa fruit. There is a fair bit of Semillon in the Barossa Valley.

Torbreck's entry level is the Woodcutter's range. Today, I am reviewing the 2014 Torbreck Woodcutter's Semillon from the Barossa Valley. The colour is a deeper golden than Hunter Valley Semillon. There is more flavour complexity on the palate. Next to citrus, pineapple and grapefruit flavours emerge. This is a fuller, richer Semillon (it is Torbreck after all), yet it has retained some freshness. The wine does not have much acidity, yet is well balanced at present. The finish is relatively short, but I enjoyed the wine.

Whereas Hunter Valley Semillon is best enjoyed with fish, in particular sashimi, I would suggest this wine to go particularly well with salads. Best to drink now, while fresh.

Score: 89/++ 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir

The 2008 William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir was the first Gippsland release for William Downie. And what a release it was. Today, this wine still shows a ruby colour. It still looks and smells like a younger wine.

There is red cherry and a hint of strawberry on the palate, and a slightly sour taste. This is still a vibrant wine with depth and minerality. The texture of this wine is excellent. The palate is engulfed by the wine's acidity and its subdued silky tannins. This is a very smart Pinot Noir, very varietal, like a Burgundy from a very good year.

Score: 96/+++ 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

William Downie Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir

William Downie is one of Australia's leading Pinot Noir winemakers. He trained under Phillip Jones of Bass Phillip for a while. William Downie makes three different Victorian Pinot Noirs from the Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley and Gippsland.

This is the 2008 William Downie Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir. The colour of the wine is between red and garnet, showing some development. The colour is still deep. The complex flavours of red and black cherry, as well as savoury notes have good intensity, but also some ethereal qualities on the back palate. Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir is sometimes accused of being too plummy or one dimensional, a Shiraz drinker's Pinot Noir. This wine is not like that. It is well balanced between fruit, oak, acids, and tannins. This wine is pleasingly long on the finish, expressing excellent varietal character.

This Downie is a smart and sophisticated wine, good to drink now.

Score: 95/+++  

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Standish Wine Company 'The Schubert Theorem'

I thought a special wine was in order on election night in Australia. The Schubert Theorem states that every knot can be uniquely expressed as a sum of prime knots. Well, didn't the election turn out to be a knotty affair. Translated into the wine world, the vineyard from which the grapes come is the Schubert vineyard on Roennfeldt Road, Marananga, Barossa Valley. The analogy to the Theorem is that the vineyard has been deconstructed to take the best parcels of fruit from different sections and then assembled to hopefully more than the sum of the parts. I was really looking forward to this.
 Now, the label is probably the weirdest I have ever come across. It is totally black, and the mathematical formula of the Theorem is on the front. If you enlarge the picture, you may identify some scribbles. The back label looks the same, with minimal, by law required information. Clearly not made for marketing, but for mystique.

I am drinking the 2010 Standish 'The Schubert Theorem'. When I pour the wine, another first happens. This wine is black. I have never described a wine colour thus. On the palate, there is a lot of complexity. Fruit flavours are blackberry, and very intense, but also blueberry with freshness. There are also earthy and mineral notes. This is clearly a massive wine. It is not overripe, but like jam without any liquidity. The alcohol is noticeable, although notionally 'only' 14.5%.

This wine is made in the tradition of big Barossa Robert Parker wines, but it is a bit smarter. I found the first glass absolutely great, but the second a bit of a struggle. If you enjoy wines from Greenock Creek or premium Torbreck wines, you must give this wine a try. It will live for 20 years.

Score: 95/++

Friday, July 1, 2016

Amazing Australian Shiraz Tasting (180 Current Releases)

A full house at this tasting

As you can imagine, this was a pretty comprehensive tasting. Still, some significant producers were missing, most notably Penfolds. However there were a lot of interesting wines to try. I managed about 30, mostly ultra premium.

The overall impression? A move to elegance, elegance, elegance, with elegance and power being the holy grail. 

The two most impressive wines for me were the 2013 Langmeil Orphan Bank, and the 2012 Clarendon Hills 'Astralis'. These were quite different wines, though. The Langmeil Orphan Bank has an interesting history. It consists of individual very old vines (100 years plus), which have been moved and put together into a vineyard near the winery. Thus the name. The vineyard is near the Para River on alluvial soil, which is quite rich. The wine is elegant, with significant, but not overpowering fruit depth. This is a well balanced wine with a lasting smooth finish. The Astralis is a bigger, full-bodied wine, yet elegant as well. The tannins are silky, and so is the finish. The second Clarendon Hills wine on tasting, the 2013 Domaine Clarendon shared some of these characteristics. It is not as intense, but excellent value at a fraction of the price.

Six other wines stood out for me:
- 2012 Head Redhead, from a high altitude vineyard in Eden Valley (very elegant)
- 2014 Glaetzer Amon-Ra, with beautiful blackberry fruit and a similar profile to the Langmeil wine, but not as precise and penetrating
- 2013 Anstead & Co No 1 from Bendigo, a well balanced wine from a producer I know nothing about and cheap as chips
-2013 Mount Langi Ghiran, with its usual pepper flavours, a smooth wine with good length
-2014 Spinifex Bete Noir, black fruited, smooth, and feminine
-2013 Spinifex La Mouline, a more masculine wine with grip, but still elegant. 

The next group of wines were good, but not outstanding: 2013 Sidewood Mappinga, 2014 SC Pannell, 2014 Andrew Thomas 'Sweetwater', 2012 Elderton 'Command', 2012 KT 'Churinga Vineyard', 2013 Two Cells, 2012 Craiglee, 2014 Head 'Brunette', 2014 Teusner 'Big Jim, 2013 Teusner 'Albert', 2012 Teusner 'Righteous' FG

Then there was a group of highly regarded wines, which were generally good, but lacked in one aspect. This I will mention. If this does not bother you, these may be for you
- 2012 St. Hallett Old Block - a bit light
- 2012 Henschke Mt. Edelstone - minty, quite ripe
-2009 Jim Barry 'The Armagh' - oak quite pronounced
- 2013 Brokenwood 'Graveyard' - an element of harshness
-2014 Head 'Blonde' - a bit light

The disappointments were
- 2014 Best's Bin O - very minty, not balanced
- 2014 Heathcote Slaughterhouse - faulty?
- 2014 Tyrell's Stevens - basic, but almost made the 'good' group
- 2012 Kay Brothers Block 6 - traditional, in your face
- 2012 Smidge 'The Smitch' - plastic taste, brett

Overall, an impressive showing, with many different expressions of Shiraz. South Australia still dominates. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Torbreck RunRig Components Tasting

Torbreck was the first winery in the Barossa to emphasize the subregional differences in the flavour and structure of the grapes which are supplied to them. This emphasis was actually a key factor in my analysis of the Barossa subregions, and the subsequent book Barossa Shiraz.

RunRig uses supply from typically eight different vineyards. In this tasting, we tried six components of the 2012 Torbreck RunRig. The two vineyards from the Southern part of the Barossa, Lyndoch and Rowland Flat, were lighter in colour and fruit weight than the others, and showed vibrancy, acidity, some red fruit, graphite and pepper. The Renshaw vineyard fruit (Seppeltsfield) is much richer, and delivers a fuller mouthfeel. There is a vanilla flavour, although the juice has only seen old oak. The Materne vineyard fruit (Greenock) tastes also big in the mouth, but its firm tannins provide lasting structure.

The last two were from the Northern Barossa. The Moppa vineyard produces big and ripe fruit, but  is also refreshing, probably due to the higher altitude. The sweet and ripe component comes from the Hoffmann vineyard at Ebenezer. This vineyard has a significant influence on the overall flavour and structure of RunRig. Only very little Viognier needs to be added (1.5%), to give the final wine a lifted character.

The tasting very much aligned with my understanding of the Barossa subregions. Unfortunately, we did not get to taste the finished 2012 product, but tried the 2013 Torbreck RunRig instead. I was not too impressed by this wine. It was quite sweet and plump, and the Viognier influence was too strong. I thought the Materne vineyard component and the Hoffmann component from 2012 were better than the 2013 finished product.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tscharke Marananga Shiraz

A little while ago, I was offered the wine pictured above for an incredible price of significantly less than $20 per bottle. Damien Tscharke is a young, promising winemaker, and Marananga is arguably the sweet spot of the Barossa. I know that his vineyards in the area are mature. 2011 was a very wet vintage, so I thought maybe the wine will be a little bit thin, but it should do for a quaffer.

I should have done more homework. What I got was a total surprise. This is a 15% alcohol wine. The only way, in my opinion, this could have been achieved in this year is by reverse osmosis, where water is reduced from the liquid to improve must concentration, which also increases the alcohol level. It appears the fruit was also picked very late, as it tastes burnt and dead. The wine is very oaky, fruit and oak are not well integrated. This wine is badly made, trying to turn a poor natural outcome into something else, to then only resulting in something worse. It goes without saying that the wine tastes hot on the back palate and leaves an alcoholic after taste.

It is a shame that the label mentions Barossa Grounds, as this is the name of the worth while terroir project in the Barossa. I know a bit about terroir in the Barossa, and this wine has none of it.

Score: 80 or less/--- 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rhone Rangers

The term Rhone Rangers was coined for Californian wine makers producing wines from Rhone varieties, in particular Shiraz and Grenache. It should really be a term for Australian winemakers, as Shiraz, Grenache and blends are much more prominent in Australia than in the US.

At this particular tasting, 14 wines were presented, 2 whites and 12 reds. The whites were nothing special, so I will focus on the red wines. I will describe them in three tiers of quality

The wine of the night was a real surprise. It was the 2014 Tellurian Heathcote GSM.  This wine was lively with lifted and spicy aromas, and a good intensity of plum, raspberry and strawberry flavours. The fine tannins lead to a smooth finish. The other wine at this level was the 2014 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. This wine showed the typically fragrant bouquet. On the palate, dark berry flavours stood out, leading to a very long and silky finish. I just found the lifted element of the Viognier a bit too much.

In the second tier were the 2012 Chapel Hill Bush Vine Grenache with rich raspberry flavours and some earthy notes, but a slightly alcoholic finish. The 2014 Sons of Eden Kennedy GMS has a focus on ripe red fruit, cherries and wild berries, and was well balanced. The 2012 Spinifex Esprit, also a GSM with some Cinsault and Carignan thrown in, was fresher and more elegant, with good complexity, but lacking mouthfeel a bit.

The best in the third tier was the 2014 Tahbilk GSM. Grenache flavours dominate in this wine, but oak is more prominent than fruit. Having said this, the wine is quite harmonious and elegant. The wines I liked less were the 2012 Evans & Tate Redbrook Shiraz (harsh tannins), the 2014 McWilliam's Appelation Canberra Syrah (lacks mouthfeel), the 2015 Purple Hands MSG (not balanced), the 2013 John Duval Annexus Grenache (big and plump), and the 2014 Schild Barossa GMS (raspberry bomb).         

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Two Hands 'Zippy's Block' Shiraz

I have been looking forward to taste the 2007 Two Hands 'Zippy's Block' Shiraz. Two Hands is mainly known for its Garden series, a range of Shirazes from different regions of Australia. This is the first time it made a single vineyard wine, to my knowledge. I thought this is a major challenge for three reasons
- Two Hands likes to make ripe wines, focussed on the US market
- 2007 was a hot, drought vintage
- Zippy's vineyard is on Roennfeldt Rd, Marananga, the golden mile of super charged Australian Shiraz

Will this wine be overripe and dead after eight years?

What a surprise I got! The bottle is very dark, so you cannot see any colour of the wine. And after opening, it is the bouquet which hits you first. Strong aromas of blackberry and plum, as well as oak flavours dominate. On the palate, this is of course a full-bodied wine, but it is balanced, with some charme. This wine is a perfect example of the 'Big Barossa', a wine style quite unique in the world. This Shiraz fires on all cylinders, it may be too much for someone used to a four cylinder car, but everything seems to be in proportion. The 14.7% alcohol is taken well by the fruit, as is the oak. The intensity and depth of the fruit is exceptional, a bit like a first class jam. Drinking a second glass could be a challenge, but I could not resist this exciting package. This wine will go well for another 7-10 years easily.

Score: 97/++