Saturday, December 27, 2008

Emerging conclusions from drinking in 2008

What have been the major themes? Without paying attention to the order, my major points would be

1. Convergence. This is a term usually reserved for technology, but it seems fitting. Because of the string of warm vintages in France, Italy and Germany, European wines have much more ripe fruit than they used to. Australian wines have been attacked for being too ripe and alcoholic and have recently emphesized more elegance. As a result, they have come together: well developed wines with good structure and harmony.

2. Cabernet renaissance. We are discovering how well Australian Cabernet can age and how interesting these wines become. 1998 in Coonawarra and many vintages from Margaret River give great examples. The good 2004/05 vintages allow for attractive re-stocking.

3. Pinot Noir is coming of age. Suddenly we have 10 or so producers who deliver excellent Pinot year in, year out, such as Bass Philip, Bannockburn, Bindi, Main Ridge, Paringa, Stoniers, Yabby Lake and others. These are first class Pinot Noirs.

4. Not much excitement with whites. White wines generally do not excite. There is no wow factor. Yes, we now have quite a few lean and mineral Chardonnays which are good, yet have not a lot of individuality. Grosset Riesling, Leeuwin Chardonnay - we have had these leaders for many years.

5. New varietals produce only average wines. Despite of what the wine scribes want you to believe, new varietal wines are largely disappointing. This is not surprising, given most come from grapes less than 10 years old and wine makers have little experience with them. Why the hype? (The one exception in my book is Castagna's Sangiovese, a world class wine).

6. Avoid wines with medals. Wine shows are really no good indicator of wine quality. This is disappointing, but too often these wines stand out because of upfront fruit, rather than good harmony, structure or longevity.

7. Tasmania is still not there. Tasmanian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir gets often hyped up, but no winery produces outstanding wine on a consistent basis. Pipers Brook sometimes has excellent wine, but more often just average. Domaine A wines are, frankly, odd. Bay of Fires and Tamar Ridge are good, but not outstanding. I have not yet tried the new Heemskerk range, maybe this will be it.

Any thoughts?

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