Monday, July 16, 2018

Barossa Be Consumed

This was the biggest show of Barossa wines in Sydney I can recall. The title 'Barossa. Be consumed' seemed a little dangerous, given there were over 100 wines to try. In any case, people turned up and seemed to enjoy themselves.

I decided to taste the premium offers from about half the wineries represented. I was not disappointed. The days of 15% alcohol plus and jammy wines seem truly gone, even as most wines presented were from the warm 2015 vintage.

Another interesting aspect was that blending is alive and well - and why not. Wineries such as John Duval, Spinifex and Sons of Eden have developed a certain style which is best maintained by blending. It is done much more smartly than say, 10 years ago. There is now a much better understanding of the different characteristics of the different subregions. As a basic example, many wines include grapes from Eden Valley and Barossa Valley to capture the freshness of the former and the richness of the latter.

My favorite wine was a single vineyard wine, though; the 2012 Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Vine Grenache. This is from a sandy vineyard on the valley floor. It shows intense savoury flavours and great length.

Other favorites for me were the 2016 Entity Shiraz (good depth) and the 2015 Eligo Shiraz (very elegant) by John Duval; the 2015 Rolf Binder Heysen (intense and elegant); the 2015 Sons of Eden Romulus Shiraz from the Barossa Valley (great balance); the 2015 Spinifex La Maline Shiraz (includes 1% Viognier; elegant and fresh); the 2014 St Hallett Old Block (subtle and soft; 30% Eden Valley fruit). 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Two Spanish Beauties

It is interesting that imports in the major wine producing countries are increasing. This is because wine consumers are looking for new experiences, and they are looking for wines with personality. This is where two amazing Spanish wines, I had the good fortune of tasting a few days ago, come in.

 The first wine is very rare, only 800 bottles were made. The label is pretty confusing. The winemakers are Barbier and Perez, and the wine is a 2013 Partida Bellvisos White from Priorat. The grape would have been Grenache Blanc. And look at the alcohol: 15%! The golden colour of the wine was amazing: clear and vibrant. Not like a wine you expect butterscotch flavours from - and we did not get them.

In fact, this was an elegant wine with beautiful texture. The richness of the fruit subsumed the alcohol, which was barely noticeable. The main flavours were walnut, chestnut, biscuit, but vibrant, not like a mature wine or a Rhone variety. I have never tasted a wine like this.

Score: 96/+++

The second beauty is better known: the 2012 Vega Sicilia Valbuena. This is the second wine from the Penfolds of Spain and its current release.

This Tempranillo tastes of black and blue fruits. The flavours are intense and penetrating. The wine is medium- to full-bodied and sits on an elegant frame. It has a great line, with soft tannins and a long finish - an excellent package.

Score: 95/+++ 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Kumeu Village Chardonnay

Kumeu River is known as one of the best Chardonnay producers of New Zealand, and is particularly known for its single vineyard wines. However, I just came across the 2016 Kumeu Village Chardonnay and was bowled over by the quality of this wine at a very attractive price.

Village is probably a reference to Burgundy and its system. The grapes would have come from a number of vineyards, not all estate owned. There are some attractive aspects to this entry level wine; it is hand harvested and fermented with wild yeast.

The wine shows very pure fruit flavours. Melon, white peach, and some nutty flavours deliver an attractive mouthfeel. The wine is of medium intensity in a rich, but elegant texture. This wine is more appealing than many Chardonnays twice the price. It offers fantastic value for money.

Score: 92/+++ 

PS: The Brajkovich family owners are probably celebrating with something a bit more special tonight, as Croatia reaches the world cup soccer final for the first time.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Zuccardi Malbec

The Zuccardi family started out as a bulk producer,and over the years moved into bottled wine, and from Maipu near Mendoza to the higher altitude Uco Valley.  A new winery was opened there in 2016. The third generation continues to experiment.

The 2016 Zuccardi Malbec Concreto is the result of such experimentation, as the wine has been matured in egg shaped concrete vats. The fruit is a mixture of the warmer Maipu district and the cooler Uco Valley. This is a full-bodied wine with intense Malbec fruit. Black cherry and blackberry fruit flavours express the typical character of this grape. I found the wine a bit jammy and lacking other elements of complexity.

Score: 88/0

The 2013 Zuccardi Malbec Valle de Uco shows dramatically the effect of the cooler sites. This wine is a blend of several high altitude sites. Apart from black fruits, blue fruits and violets are present as well. The wine has more energy and drive and is quite elegant. The tannins are firm, yet also silky. The finish is fresh.

Score: 93/++   

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Angel Rodriguez Martinsancho Rueda Verdejo

Continuing on my journey of international wines, here is a wine which suits people who
- basically enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, but got tired of it or
- who enjoy the texture of Sauvignon Blanc, but do not like the grassiness or
- who potentially enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, but do not want to be seen drinking it.

The 2016 Martinsancho Verdejo comes from the Rueda region, which is north west of Madrid, near Ribera del Duero. The Verdejo grape is not related to Verdello, but comes from North Africa.

This wine is fresh and zesty. It has a full mouthfeel, while moving down the palate with good drive and energy. Guava notes and a hint of citrus, grapefruit and minerality form a  complex flavour profile. Excellent acidity balances the fruit. It would also be interesting to drink this wine in a few years.

Score: 92/+++

Friday, July 6, 2018

Clerico Ciabot Barolo

Domenico Clerico was one of the most influencial and passionate 'modernists' in Piedmont. He died, aged 67, about a year ago. When I met him at his winery many years ago, one incident demonstrated his dedication to the art of making wine. I was visiting with a French couple, and at the end of the tour and explanation they wanted to buy some of his wine. He got furious: "I am here to explain my philosophy and show you my wines, if you want to buy, go to an Enoteca." 

His wines are not for the faint hearted: there is oak, acidity and firm tannins. I was interested to see how my 2000 Clerico Ciabot Barolo has mellowed. I decanted the wine, and the early aromas were not encouraging: volatile acidity was strong. The result is an unpleasant flavour of vinegar. If it is strong, the wine becomes undrinkable, if it is weak, it can add complexity to the wine. Volatile acidity is present in quite a few Italian wines, and is often linked to less than clean wineries. I thought Clerico was pretty clean, though.

In any event, after half an hour, the effect became quite small, and the wine started to show its powerful structure. Intense dark cherry fruit was somewhat dominated by high acidity and coarse tannins. They were certainly dialed up high. Despite all this, there was an underlying elegance, which made the wine quite attractive. This wine was not a shrinking violet and made for a very long life. 

I felt the balance was not quite there in this wine, and I was somewhat disturbed by the volatile acidity experience.

Score: 92/0

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Casa Fresci Ragazzi Nebbiolo

Casa Fresci is one of the leading Nebbiolo producers in Australia. The 2013 Casa Fresci Ragazzi Nebbiolo is a good example of its style.

This wine delivers a good expression of the typicality of Nebbiolo. This wine shows a bit more open fruit, and the tannins are less severe than its Italian counterparts. Yet the tannins are certainly there, and they are dry and firm. This wine was very approachable when young and will not last as long as good Italian Barolo, but at five years of age it is still lively and fresh.

Sour cherry is the dominant fruit flavour. This Nebbiolo is not super complex, but quite elegant. It offers an attractive mouthfeel from beginning to end. It is a pleasure to drink and very affordable.

Score: 93/+++ 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Australia vs. France Shiraz

Australia narrowly lost the soccer match, but it narrowly won this Shiraz comparison. Here are the wines by country and order of score:

2016 Giaconda Warner Shiraz: ripe plum fruit, not caked, depth and elegance, balanced, dry finish (95 pts)

2016 Bests Bin O Shiraz: lush, pretty and elegant, mixed berry fruit, some spice, medium weight (93 pts)

2015 Yeringberg Shiraz: blueberry and cherry, elegant and balanced, great structure, the lifted Viognier character detracts from the beautiful Shiraz fruit (93 pts)

2016 SC Pannell Adelaide Hills Syrah: superbly pretty blue fruits, soft, vibrant (92 pts)

2014 Craiglee Shiraz: blue fruit, some eucalypt, licorice, quite fruity, smooth finish (91 pts)

The French wines were from the Northern Rhone at more or less the same price points.

2015 Ogier Cote Rotie Village: dark fruit, licorice, energetic, good balance, firm finish (94 pts)

2015 Yann Chave Crozes Hermitage La Rouvre: well rounded, pretty, a bit fruity, straightforward finish (92 pts)

2015 Ogier La Rosine Syrah: balanced blackberry fruit and olive and smoky savoury notes, firm tannins (92 pts)

2015 Pierre Gaillard St Joseph: quite big, blue fruited, very spicy, very Victorian (91 pts)

2016 Maxime Graillot Domaine Des Lises Crozes Hermitage: good fruit and energy, but quite slim with a flat mouthfeel, smooth finish (90 pts)

There was as much difference between the Australian Shirazes as between the Australian and French wines.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo Brunello

The 2010 Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo Brunello has the appealing mix of black cherry, mocca and earth, typical of Brunello. However, the mouthfeel is a bit flat and the acidity level is too high in comparison to fruit and tannins (and I had it with Italian food). This is a somewhat disappointing effort for the esteemed 2010 vintage of Montalcino.

Score: 90/-

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Domaine Buisson-Battault

Meursault is one of the most famous and prestigious regions for Chardonnay in the world. Interestingly, this subregion of Burgundy does not include any grand cru vineyards; however, there are a number of 1er cru vineyards, as shown on the map below.The Chardonnays of Meursault are known for being big, sometimes buttery, and built predominantly with new oak. As such, they are geared to the American palate and Robert Parker reviews. Does this reflect the terroir, which the Burgundians are so obsessed about? It is questionable, given the wines from Puligny-Montrachet are totally different and not far away.

The wines of Domaine Buisson-Battault are made in a more traditional way, with only 20% new oak applied. They are not the most fashionable nor the most expensive, and I was looking forward to taste four of the wines from the warm 2015 vintage.

The 2015 Buisson-Battault Meursault Vielles Vignes is quite a light wine, in the apple spectrum, a bit juicy and not much drive. Having said this, the dry extract lingers attractively on the palate (90 pts). The 1er Cru Porusots (see map) has much more depth and fruit concentration. It is also in the apple spectrum. The wine is more complex with its toasty flavours and fleshiness. The finish is smooth (94 pts). The 1er Cru Gouttes dÓr is broader, with less definition and the fruit is more exotic (peach) (91 pts). The 1er Cru Genevrieres comes from a rockier vineyard, and this translates into the wine. It is fresh, not a big wine, with apple and pear flavours, and good energy. There is minerality and a sour edge on the finish (94 pts).

This tasting raises as many questions as it answers. The wines are much lighter and fresher than the vintage and location would suggest. The 1er cru wines are all different, but how well do they reflect the terroir? I think the Genevrieres does - not sure about the others. In all cases, the winemaker influence is significant.   

Monday, June 11, 2018

1990 Penfolds Grange - 100 points

Most Shiraz is best drunk at 7 years of age. The 1990 Penfolds Grange was great at 5 years, and won the Wine Spectator wine of the year. It was even better at 15 years, when most fine wine starts to deteriorate. I opened a bottle yesterday, and at 28 ears of age, it is even better now.

When the wine arrived on my table, in a decanter, the bouquet was overwhelming. Complex flavours of ripe squashed black fruits emanated from the decanter. The nose was incredibly intense, yet still very lively. This wine, which by the way had a very high shoulder in the bottle, has not yet reached its peak.

The layers and layers of fruit explode on the palate. This wine has power, but also finesse. A lot has been written about its flavours. I cannot add to it. What I should say is that the wine is as impactful on the front-, mid-, and back-palate, and the finish lasts and lasts. It is one of a handful of wines the taste of which I will remember for years to come.

Grange has its detractors and not everybody likes this style, but you have to be in awe of the uniqueness of this wine.

Score: 100/+++    

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Caillard Mataro

Andrew Caillard is a man of many talents: reviewer of fine wines, auctioneer, Master of Wine. He also paints the colourful labels for his side project, wines from the Barossa Valley.
Mataro in the Barossa is mainly used as a component of the GSM wines, but this 2012 Caillard Mataro is 100% Mataro or Mourvedre. The Mataro grape tends to be quite tannic, and is used as a counter-point in its savoury and earthy character to the often jammy Shiraz.

This wine is full-bodied, with ripe plum and cassis flavours. This is a big, concentrated wine, quite smooth and lush on the front palate with good energy; more savoury on the back palate. The finish is a bit thick and not very differentiated - the problem with this grape variety, because it needs to fully ripen. Having said this, the wine is well made and a good example of Mataro.

Score: 92/+