Sunday, April 25, 2010

Howard Park Tasting

Hot on the heels of Leeuwin Estate came Howard Park with a dinner to showcase their new wines, including a first look at the 2007 Abercrombie Cabernet Merlot. The evening was hosted by Jeff Burch, the owner. Now, irrespective of if you like the Howard Park wines or not, if you have a chance to go to an event where Jeff Burch speaks, do not miss it. He tells some of the most amazing wine stories, and in a style which makes you laugh for the rest of the night.

On to the wines. The 2008 Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc was the first white. While Jeff Burch made a big plea to buy Aussie Savvys, instead of those from New Zealand, I am not sure that this is the wine I would turn to. It has some Semillon in it, to help with the mid palate, but the overall effect is a fairly bland wine, however, it will be complimentary to many food dishes (89 points). Then came, as it turned out, the star of the evening, the 2009 Howard Park Riesling. It shows typical citrus and lime flavours, it is dry and finishes with well balanced acidity. The wine has a strong linear profile, going beautifully down the palate, it is very harmonious, with a lengthy finish. While the wine is dry, it is not quite as restrained as some Clare Valley wines (94 points). The 2007 Howard Park Chardonnay was a bit of a disappointment. The fruit appeared quite concentrated, but quickly leaves a hole on the mid palate. This is unusual for this vintage. They take only free run juice for this wine, and maybe stop it too early. As a result, the oak (1/3 new) tends to dominate. The wine does have a decent finish in terms of length and freshness (90 points).

The two Shirazes to taste were the 2007 Leston Shiraz from Margaret River and the 2007 Scotsdale Shiraz from Great Southern. The Leston hits you with an upfront wall of sweet plum and licorice, followed by vanilla oak. This wine does not seem well balance, but is also too early to drink (89 points). The Scotsdale is a much leaner wine, with cherry and peppery flavours. There is too much acidity on the palate and not much length in the finish (88 points).
These wines did nothing to convert me to WA Shiraz.

The 2008 Leston Cabernet Sauvignon was a much better wine. Red berry flavours dominate and there is good vitality in the wine. While the mouthfeel is not as full as a top Cabernet would have it (a bit of Merlot would have been nice), this is a well balanced wine with a lengthy finish (93 points). The 2007 Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, in contrast, is a much bigger wine, although 70% come from Mt. Barker and only 30% from Margaret River. The flavour profile was unusual: I expected ripe currants, but instead, it tasted more of cassis, tomatoes, cigarbox and indeed some chemical components I could not name. In a nutshell, this wine seemed more an industrial product than an artisan result, which is what you would expect from Western Australia. Still, the wine has a big flavour profile and will satisfy some, but it is certainly not in the top league for the 2007 year (92 points).

Overall, the wines were mixed and a tad disappointing. With so many vineyards to chose from, I expected a better result from vines harvested in these good years in WA.

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