Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tasmanian Pinot Noir

A couple of days ago, I tasted a significant number of Tasmanian Pinot Noirs during the 'Tasmania Unbottled' event. My overall conclusions are
- The quality in general continues to improve
- The wines are quite different to the ones from Victoria. They are generally lighter and made at lower alcohol levels due to the cooler climate
- There are differences between the wines from Northern Tasmania and the South East. The South East has less rainfall and more sunshine hours. This is reflected in the intensity of the best Pinot Noirs from this subregion.

Let's start with the Northern Tasmanian wines. Barringwood Vineyard produces two Pinot Noirs. The 2012 Estate Pinot Noir is quite fruity, well made, but a little simple (88 points). The 2012 Mill Block Pinot Noir is more savoury, with 50% whole bunches included, but lacks the intensity of the best wines (90 points). Very similar comments can be made on the Holm Oak Vineyards Pinot Noirs, the 2013 standard (88 points) and the 2012 'The Wizzard' Pinot Noir (90 points). I was impressed by the 2013 Josef Chromy Pinot Noir. This is a very pretty, smooth wine. Strawberry flavours dominate on the slightly lean frame. Silky tannins on the finish (92 points). I was not too impressed with the Tamar Ridge wines. The 2012 Pinot Noir has darker cherry flavours, but lacks mouthfeel (88 points). The 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir has more intensity, but lacks definition (90 points). Bay of Fires had great success with their Pinots over recent years. The 2012 Pinot Noir has black cherry as well as savoury characters. It is pretty and smooth, but not as intense as some other years (92 points). The 2012 Pipers Brook Pinot Noir has more depth, but the finish falls a little short - a no-no for top quality Pinot Noir (90 points). The 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir is remarkably fresh, despite an orange colour, there are savoury and barnyard notes as well, and the wine has good length (92 points).

Dalrymple makes a number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs. From the North East comes the 2012 Cottage Block Pinot Noir, a wine with quite complex flavours, dominated by strawberry fruit, but a lack of tannin structure (91 points). The 2012 Coal River Pinot Noir is darker in colour, with more intense cherry flavours, and a similarly weak tannin structure (91 points). The 2012 Stefano Lubiana Pinot Noir from the Derwent River shows also darker, relatively concentrated fruit. It is pretty, but a somewhat simple expression (89 points).

We now come to the best performers from the Coal River subregion. I tasted two wines from Glaetzer-Dixon. The 2013 Avance Pinot Noir is vibrant and fresh, with red cherry flavours, but the finish is short (89 points). The star of the day was the 2011 Reveur Pinot Noir, their flagship wine. This wine is more intense, with attractive earthy flavours in a European tradition, and a very long and expanding finish. Now we are talking (94 points). Almost as impressive was the 2012 Pinot Noir from the Tolpuddle Vineyard, now owned by Shaw & Smith. This is not a huge wine, but the red cherry intensity is building on the palate, reflecting the maturing of the vines, and again, the finish is long and expanding (93 points).

Overall, I found most wines pleasant to drink, but the knock-out factor, which some Victorian wines can deliver, is still missing, maybe with the exception of the last two wines.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier

The historic Tahbilk winery is modernizing its range of wines. One new addition is the 2013 Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier. Tahbilk is well placed to produce such a wine, as its Marsanne vines go back almost 90 years. The other varieties are from much younger vines, though.

It is good to see new wines coming onto the market which emphasize texture as opposed to overt fruit. But I am afraid they will suffer the same fate as Riesling: loved by the critics, but ignored by the wine drinking public.

This wine shows blossom, pear and green apple characteristics, but the impact of the 26% Viognier component is less than expected. There is some (slightly broad) minerality in the wine. The flavour components are well (if not too well) balanced by acidity. The wine's mouthfeel is not as elegant as a leading contender of such a blend. This wine would benefit from another year in the bottle and will then be a good food wine.It should not be aged for long.

Score: 89/+

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Australian Icon Wines - Post Script, James Halliday

I noticed by accident that some wines from the tasting reported on below received between 96 and 98 points in the 2015 James Halliday guide. These were the two Spinifex wines, St. Halletts Old Block and Peter Lehmann's Stonewell Shiraz (there are probably more, but this is just what I came across). They were good wines, as I mentioned, but 96-98 points? Is Mr. Halliday in such desperate need to get good wines submitted? He now uses a 5 point scale for good wines (94-98 points). Or is this the beginning of moving the scale up to 110 points (like adding five red stars to five black stars), the biggest scale in the world?

Also, you can now buy the 2015 guide at the beginning of August, earlier than tickets to Rolling-Stones concerts. The effect is that most of the better wines reviewed will be sold out at the beginning of 2015. How useful is that?

How silly can it get? We need better credibility from our most well known reviewer.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Australia's Iconic Reds Tasting

Last night I was a lucky man. These were the wines I tasted (in alphabetical order)

2012 Best's Bin 0 Shiraz
2010 Elderton Ashmead Cabernet
2010 Elderton Command Shiraz
2010 Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz
2010 Langmeil Orphan Bank Shiraz
2009 Penfolds Grange Shiraz
2010 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz
2012 Spinifex Bete Noir
2012 Spinifex La Mouline
2010 St. Hallets Old Block Shiraz
2009 Torbreck Descendant
2009 Torbreck Les Amis Grenache
2009 Torbreck RunRig Shiraz
2011 Tyrell's Vat 9 HV Shiraz
2013 Ulithorne Dona GSM
2012 Ulithorne Chi Grenache Shiraz
2011 Ulithorne Paternus Cabernet Shiraz
2011 Ulithorne Frux Frugis Shiraz
2012 Wynns V & A Cabernet Shiraz
2010 Wynns Alex 88 Shiraz

Western Australia was absent, and much of Victoria, but the tasting provided a good overview of the state of play of the major red varieties in Australia nonetheless. The wines were of excellent standard across the board. I will not focus on point scoring, but rather discuss my findings.

Ulithorne was a revelation to me. I was not familiar with this small winery from McLaren Vale, but mightily impressed with all their wines: great purity of fruit, precise winemaking and true varietal expression. Their Cabernet, with silky tannins and good ripeness was the wine of the night for me. The Grenache was dark fruited and elegant. No confectionery flavours there.

Henschke's Mount Edelstone was very complex and impressed me with exotic spice flavours, its smoothness and great balance.

Clearly, a number of Barossa makers have toned down alcohol and ripeness, with mixed success: Peter Lehmann's Stonewell Shiraz and St. Hallets Old Block were examples. I like the vibrancy and freshness of the Spinifex wines, but would I go for their wines if I wanted the 'Aussie Shiraz' feel? Some producers stick to their formula of  quite ripe wines, such as Elderton and Langmeil. The 2010 vintage helped with balance.

The Bests and Tyrell's examples were less full bodied, with some red fruit flavours coming through. I enjoyed the silky tannins and  balanced acidity in the Wynns V & A Cabernet Shiraz.

Now to the extremes: The 2009 Grange was the most heavily oaked wine of the night. No doubt it will come around over time, but the fruit is not of the quality of a number of years of the recent past. This is astonishing, given the strong vintage.

Robert Parker once described Torbreck wines built like skyscrapers - big in all dimensions. This has not changed. I found the floral impact of the Viognier in the Descendant as well as the alcoholic finish too strong. However, the Les Amis and the RunRig were impressive in their own way. The Les Amis was super smooth on the palate, despite the ripe black cherry fruit. And similarly, the RunRig was smooth, quite approachable with fantastic fruit intensity.

This was a great tasting, showcasing improved winemaking and different styles. Based on this, Australian wine should be able to refresh its image overseas sooner rather than later.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mauro Molino Barolos

2010 is hailed as a brilliant vintage in Piedmont. The Mauro Molino Barolos are certainly impressive. Home of the winery is in La Morra, in the north of the Barolo region. Mauro Molino applies shortish maceration periods, which means the wines are quite approachable in their youth.

The basic 2010 Mauro Molino Barolo is a blended wine from a number of vineyards. Aromatic rose and cherry aromas are supported by savoury undertones. The wine is coated by firm tannins and is very well balanced. It can be drunk now, but will be better in 3 years (92 points). The Barolo Gallinotto is similar, but with more fruit weight and moving from red to black cherry. It has an excellent long finish (93 points). The Barolo Bricco Luciani (formerly Gancia) steps it up more. Dark plum and raisin flavours dominate. The oak, resulting from 24 months maturation in oak barriques, is noticeable, but the fruit matches it well. The finish is long and arresting. This is the most attractive wine of the line-up right now (95 points). The Barolo La Serra is a new wine for Mauro Molino, from 40 year old vines. The wine is very complex, but also very closed now. Spices and earthy flavours dominate. This wine needs time (93-96 points).

These wines are excellent examples of modern, yet complex Barolos, which will age well for 20 years or more. They are reasonably priced (for Barolo) and well worth seeking out.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay

The 2013 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay is a great lunch wine, now that the sun is starting to warm up the days. This is a zesty wine, with lemon, lime and green apple flavours. The fruit flavours are matched with a good dose of acidity. There is a reasonable level of alcohol (13.2%), but the wine is not heavy at all. No malolactic fermentation in this wine, I think. Great value for money.

Score: 90/+++

Monday, July 21, 2014

William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir

William Downie's Gippsland Pinot Noir is perhaps the most difficult to 'classify'. The Yarra Valley Pinot Noir typically displays strawberry flavours and is quite ethereal. The one from the Mornington Peninsula tastes of black cherry. And the Gippsland one sits somewhere in-between. It is often the most complex, and most interesting, taking nothing away from the other two, though.

The 2008 William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir ticks all the right boxes. It has an outstanding texture. I am experiencing  a silky and  ultra smooth mouthfeel all the way. The fruit flavours are strawberry and red cherry. The wine has a long and persistent finish. This is one of the best Australian Pinot Noirs. It is world class.

Score: 96/+++

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chateau Fombrauge

In many ways, the 2009 Chateau Fombrauge is a similar wine to the Chateau Villars, reviewed before. It has the same grape variety mix, it is from the right bank, and the flavour profile is similar. However, this wine hails from St. Emilion, one of the two prestigious regions there. Therefore it is twice as expensive ($70 per bottle).  Black plum flavours come to the fore a bit more than in the Villars. Overall, the frame of the wine is bigger, with stronger oak and alcohol influences. This wine needs to settle down a bit more and requires further cellaring in order to soften on the palate.

Score: 93/+

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chateau Villars

I have reviewed the 2009 Chateau Villars in an overview on Bordeaux before, but as it is such a good find, and I drank it again last night, I thought it is worth while to write a separate note.

This Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend is from Fronsac, one of the less prestigious subregions on the right bank of Bordeaux. But in 2009, everybody could make a good wine, and this is certainly one. The wine has a deep ruby colour. It is medium to full-bodied with a medium fruit intensity. This means it is possible to enjoy the wine now. The blackcurrant and black cherry flavours are very expressive, supported by spice and vanilla flavours from oak. Firm tannins provide a good structure for this wine leading to a long finish. I enjoyed the mouthfeel of this wine, although it is not elegant-perfect. This is a great value buy from an expensive vintage.

Score: 93/++

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gatt Barossa Shiraz

I was born in Germany. So I must congratulate the German soccer team.They have started to change their style of football about 10 years ago and now play, in my humble opinion, the most entertaining and fluent style of football in Europe. The match against Brazil at this world cup will remain unforgettable.

However, this is a blog about wine. 20 years ago, I had the ambition of collection every 'good' wine made in Australia. This became more and more unrealistic, as the number of wineries exploded and quality rose across the board. So then you can either pick more or less randomly or try to hone in on special regions to understand them in more detail.. I did the latter, which is why you find that most of the Shirazes I collect (and review) come from the Barossa, Cabernet Sauvignon from Western Australia, and Pinot Noir from Victoria.

I came across the 2010 Gatt Barossa Shiraz at a wine show and got a bottle given. I tried the wine yesterday and must say I seriously disliked it. It had all the aspects of what Barossa wines often get criticised for. It is very alcoholic, the fruit is one-dimensional, as it is overripe, and the finish is harsh. No charm in this wine, just a bomb. Thank goodness, not all Barossa wines are like this. Now, this wine has collected a number of gold medals at wine shows, I believe in Australia as well as Europe. Simply because the wine has fruit intensity? I regard these wine shows as deeply flawed, and I can only hope you never pick a wine because of the number of medals on the bottle.

Score: 82/---

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

The 2008 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir opens up beautifully. The nose consists of intense red and black cherry flavours. These continue on the palate. The wine is quite soft and smooth, despite the deep cherry and plum flavours. They open up more and more towards the back palate. The expanding and long finish is held together by silky and velvety tannins. This wine has an excellent texture, fruit flavours and acids are well balanced. - A perfect example of a new world Pinot Noir.

Score: 96/+++

Yalumba Lyndoch Singe Vineyard Shiraz

Something very strange happened. I drank this 2005 Yalumba Fromm Vineyard Shiraz one day after the Sophia reported upon in my last post. The flavour and structure profiles were very similar despite different geographies and grape varieties. This wine comes from a vineyard on the border between Lyndoch and Gomersal in the Barossa Valley. The wine tastes of lush black fruits, cherry and plum.It is ripe, but not jammy. The tannins are very subtle now. The wine is balanced and well made, but needs to be drunk now.

Score: 91/+