Thursday, September 14, 2017

Margaret River 50th Anniversary Tasting

Let me get my frustrations out of the way first. I do not attend many region tastings anymore: too crowded, too many ordinary wines. I thought this would be a bit special, given the title, however, it was just a new releases tasting with leading players Leeuwin, Moss Wood, Cullen missing. Also, the small tasting glasses were a joke. Anyhow, once there, you persist. I tasted the two signature varieties from Margaret River, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and blends.

Amongst the Chardonnays, the 2014 Clairault Estate Chardonnay and the 2015 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay were the favorites (94 points). These Chardonnays had the best drive or line on the palate. The 2015 Flametree SRS Wallcliffe (flinty, smoky), the 2016 Vasse Felix (yeasty, Burgundian) and the 2015 Hohnen Burnside Vineyard (tropical fruit) were also good (92 points). I thought the 2013 Devil's Lair 9th Chamber Chardonnay had a dull finish. In general, new oak took a back seat, with mainly between 20 to 40%.

On the Cabernet front I enjoyed four quite different wines (all 94 points). The 2014 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon displayed a very dark and dense blue colour with pure and intense blackcurrant and mulberry fruit and a long finish. Woodlands continues on its road to excellence. The 2014 'Margaret' Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Malbec is an elegant wine, at peace with itself and quite approachable now. In contrast the 2014 'Matthew' Cabernet Sauvignon is more reserved and closed, but the fruit is excellent and the well integrated oak will deliver a very elegant wine in due course. Even more restrained was the 2013 Vasse Felix 'Tom Cullity' Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec, the newly labelled flagship wine. It is quite a savoury wine, very long. It needs decanting.

There were a number of other strong wines, the 2013 Fraser Gallop Parterre (fragrant, violets), the 2014 Fraser Gallop Palladian, the 2014 Howard Park Leston (easy drinking, a bit sweet), the 2013 Voyager Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, the 2014 Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon.

I was not so impressed with the 2015 Flametree Cabernet/Merlot, the 2014 Devil's Lair Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014 Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2013 Clairault Cabernet Sauvignon.

Overall, nothing particularly new in these wines. Only top producers succeed with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Blends tend to work better, and I note the enhanced role Malbec seems to be taking.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bass Phillip Rosé

I was interested to taste this new offering from Bass Phillip, the 2016 Bass Phillip Pinot Rosé. I was expecting the unexpected, and I was not disappointed.

This Rosé is a funky wine. The colour is slightly cloudy, which distinguishes this wine immediately from the many others. The fruit is high quality, all estate grown. Flavours of raspberry and strawberry attack on the front palate. This wine has a great mouthfeel. The texture may be volatile, but there is sufficient acidity to hold up the wine.

This wine is delicious, with a great fruit feel, but it is also surprisingly strong and long for a Rosé.

Highly recommended.

Score: 94/+++ 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Silkman Reserve Semillon

Very few new wineries in the Hunter Valley have managed to reach the top echelon occupied by Brokenwood, Tyrells and Mount Pleasant for a long time. The last winery was Thomas Wines. Silkman, however, may get there. The very talented Liz Silkman, who was the successful winemaker at First Creek for a number of years, continues to craft excellent Shiraz, Chardonnay and Semillon.

This is a review of the 2015 Silkman Reserve Semillon. This wine is a bigger style than some others from the Hunter Valley. The wine has good drive, despite the bigger, lime fruited mouthfeel. There is enough acidity to give the wine a solid structure, and the finish is quite long for Semillon.

I suggest to drink this wine while young.

Score: 93/++ 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz

When Penfolds first released the Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz, it created quite a stir. Not so much because of the quality of the wine, but because this master blender released, for the first time, a wine if not from a single vineyard (although it may have been), from a single sub-region of the Barossa. Of course, I had to buy this first release, the 2008. I believe the wine comes from vines owned by Seppeltsfield and leased to Fosters, but I cannot be sure of this.

A few days ago, I opened my last bottle of the 2008 Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz. It is an impressive wine. The concentrated blackberry fruit delivers a big mouthfeel. Vanilla flavours from the new American oak are also prominent, but fairly well integrated. I am normally not too keen on prominent sweetness in Shiraz, but the blackberry/vanilla combination works quite well in this wine. The firm tannins have mellowed and lead to a persistent finish.

While this is no doubt an impressive wine, still I cannot warm to the strong American oak influence. The wine has clearly improved over the last few years, and I would recommend to hold it 2-4 years longer. This wine has the structure to carry itself further for quite some time.

Score: 94/0

Friday, September 1, 2017

Moorooduc Estate Wines

Moorooduc has been a dependable wine producer of the Mornington Peninsula for many years. They would probably just scrape into my top 5 from this region. The latest releases confirm this view.

Interestingly, the Chardonnays are matured longer than the Pinot Noirs. The 2014 Estate Chardonnay shows a deep yellow colour and is quite a big and open wine. Stone fruit and mango are accompanied by biscuit flavours. The acid manages to cut through it and delivers balance (92 points). In contrast, the 2014 McIntyre 'The Duck' Chardonnay is much tighter, while of a similar flavour profile. I would have enjoyed a bit more definition in this wine, but it will open up well in the next couple of years (92 points).

Something unusual is the 2016 'Pink' Pinot Gris - On Skins. This wine has a beautiful bright pink colour, and on the front palate is similar to a Pinot Noir based Rosé. Unfortunately, the finish is disappointingly short (88 points).

The stars are the Pinot Noirs. The 2015 Robinson Vineyard Pinot Noir has flavours of red cherry and strawberry and is a very smooth wine (93 points). The 2015 McIntyre 'The Duck' Pinot Noir is more profound, with a bigger mouthfeel. It is pretty and open, and quite complex on the palate, with mushroom flavours as well. The tannins are silky, and the taster experiences a wonderful expanding finish (95 points).

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Henschke Mt Edelstone

It is always a pleasure to drink this iconic wine. This 2004 Henschke Mt Edelstone Shiraz has developed an interesting profile at 13 years of age.

The flavour of this medium to full-bodied wine is quite complex. Blackberry and mulberry fruit is matched by aniseed, exotic spices, earth, eucalypt, licorice and bitter chocolate. The wine has mellowed and is elegant with firm, but silky tannins, and the finish is long.

The 100 year old ungrafted vines produce this unique profile, usually bolder than Hill of Grace. For an experienced taster, it can be easily recognized in a blind tasting of various Shiraz wines.

The wine is probably at its peak now, supported by a screw cap closure, and has a number ofgood years ahead.

Score: 95/++   

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Wynns Black Label Shiraz

Shiraz has always played second fiddle to Cabernet Sauvignon in Coonawarra, and most of the famous Terra Rossa is planted to Cabernet. Yet, there are some sizable Shiraz plantings as well. It is not generally a go to area for me for Shiraz, but I thought I make an exception for the excellent 2010 vintage. I am not a fan of the Michael (too much new oak), so this a review of the  2010 Wynns Black Label Shiraz. As it turned out, it was no coincidence that this was the first vintage of the 'ordinary' Shiraz which was given the black label status.

The bouquet is strong and beautiful, with an aroma of forest berries rising from the glass. This is a medium to full bodied wine with concentrated blackberry and plum flavours. The wine is nicely balanced, as the firm tannins have softened and are in great harmony with the fruit. The result is an elegant and deeply flavoured wine. Wow! At this price and high volume! The slightly metallic tinge on the finish does not distract too much from the overall impression.

This is a serious wine for a low price. The other thing to note is that more than most others, Wynns wines need to be cellared for a few years before they are ready to drink due to their firm tannin structures. This is a beauty now. If you come across this wine at auctions, go for it.

Score: 92/++

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spinifex La Maline Shiraz

After some disappointments with Shiraz from the supposedly great 2010 vintage, I have been rewarded with the 2010 Spinifex La Maline Shiraz.

This wine is smooth and simply delicious. It is medium weight and elegant. Blueberry and blackberry flavours sit on top of silky and dry tannins, well integrated. This wine used to be a Shiraz/Viognier, and the flavour profile suggests a small component of Viognier is still in this wine. The mouthfeel is perhaps a little lean, but preferable to the overblown and overripe wines I tasted lately from this vintage. This wine has an excellent balance and a very satisfying finish.

Peter Schell has a knack of finding great fruit at reasonable prices for his wines. Vineyard location is important to him (often the higher slopes on the Eastern ridge), but the sources can vary from year to year. He is not wedded to a single vineyard terroir, but prefers to blend to his style of wine. By the way, 'maline' means 'clever'.

Score: 95/+++ 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Vieux Télégraphe Piedlong

As I am waiting for the apparently amazing 2015 Rhône wines, I thought I might wet my appetite with a wine from one of my favorite producers, Vieux Télégraphe. The 2012 vintage was generally not great in France, with the exception of the Rhône. Therefore I was looking forward to the 2012 Vieux Télégraphe Piedlong.

Daniel Brunier, the half owner and winemaker, is a serious and intelligent man. He is modest and not interested in wine fashion trends. His objective is to make authentic wines speaking of the soil the grapes are grown on (I know this sounds like a platitude these days, but it is true in his case.)

The Piedlong comes from the heart of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, just north of the village, from a vineyard with heavy clay and many rocks or pebbles. This wine is full-bodied, with raspberry and blackberry flavours. It is basically dark fruited. Despite the Grenache dominance,  it is a savoury wine showing a lot of minerality and some leanness. The wine is fresh and elegant and has good length.

I liked this wine a lot.

Score: 92/+++

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ariel Dealcoholized Chardonnay

The other day I went into a large liquor store to try to find a low alcohol (5-6%) dry wine. This of course is difficult, as low alcohol means not all sugar has been fermented. The search was unsuccessful. I then saw the isle with non-alcohol wine. I had never tried one, so I thought it is time to select such a 'wine'.

Most attractive seemed to be this Chardonnay from Ariel, based in California. If you look carefully at the picture, you notice that the bottle is still half full. But alas! I did not drink the other half. This wine is disgusting! I expected to taste perhaps grape juice, but this 'wine' tastes of apple juice, a bad slightly overripe one, and is full of sugar. If I had had a magnifying glass, I could have found this out from the back label, but it was hard to read and also to interpret.

There is no point drinking this. Buy a good fruit juice for a third of the price instead.

Score: <70 p="">

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hewitson The Mad Hatter Shiraz

Let me start this review with a sweeping statement: Generally speaking I prefer Barossa Shiraz to McLaren Vale Shiraz. Why? I think the Barossa fruit flavour profile is more complex. McLaren Vale is often pure plum (can be beautiful), whereas Barossa can be plum, blackberry, blueberry, mulberry. I thought I put this out there.

I was reminded of this when I tasted the 2006 Hewitson Mad Hatter Shiraz. This wine shows intense

plum flavours. It is quite a ripe and dense wine. It has been matured for 21 months in new French oak, and you notice the generous lashings of oak on the palate. It is distracting. The tannins are soft and the finish somewhat short.

This wine could have been structured much better.

Score: 86/-

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hoddles Creek 1er Yarra Valley Chardonnay

The '1er' in the name is supposed to create an association with Burgundy, I guess. After drinking the 2014 Hoddles Creek 1er Yarra Valley Chardonnay, I would say this is well justified.

Citrus, grapefruit and orange peel flavours create complexity on the palate. Oak is there, but lightly handled. Acidity weaves through the palate. This wine has drive and is long rather than broad, but it is not a lean wine.

This wine is a great, thoroughly modern packaged Chardonnay.

Score: 95/++