Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Coonawarra Roadshow

I have not been to one of these for a number of years. I found it interesting to taste the wines (I tasted Cabernet and their blends) in such a focused comparison. My notes were short, as I tried quite a few wines and had limited time.

What did I like in general?
- the room was great. Finally some space between winery booths, and well lit.
- the vibrancy of the fruit. It seems the days of watery Cabernet from there are over
- varietal expression. Blackcurrant and redcurrant flavours stood out in most wines

What did not impress me?
- there are still quite a number of green and underripe Cabernets
- the finish of many wines was not distinct and short
- 2009 is clearly not as good a vintage as 2008

The two wineries which impressed me most were Balnarves and Wynns. The Tally is a world class wine. Its fruit is ripe, but delicate, the wine is well balanced and has a fine, silky finish. I slightly preferred the 2006 Tally (94 points) over the 2008 Tally (93 points). This may also be a function of the wine only coming into its own after a number of years. The regular 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon was also attractive, although the finish was light (91 points).

The winemaking at Wynns is strong these days. The high volume 2009 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon is full bodied and ripe, with a good mouthfeel - a bit unbalanced at this time (92 points). I preferred it to the 2009 V&A Lane Cabernet/Shiraz, which was smoother, but quite oaky (91 points). Wynns has about 25 great vineyard blocks from which it selects a different single vineyard wine each year. In 2008 it was the Davis Block, planted in 1957, the 2nd oldest planting at Coonawarra. The 2008 Davis Cabernet Sauvignon is quite different from the Black Label. It is very elegant, with a soft finish and hopefully enough acidity to last the distance. I liked this wine, as it clearly stood out from the crowd (93 points). I also tried a 1988 John Riddoch. It has obviously mellowed, but had great texture and a soft lengthy finish (94 points). Good Coonawarra should be cellared this long, but how many bottles survive 20 years?

The next bracket was Petaluma, Majella, Parker and Yalumba. The 2008 Petaluma Coonawarra, a Cabernet/Merlot blend, was typically elegant, with ripe fruit and a good mouthfeel (92 points). The Majella 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon showed pretty and ripe fruit with soft tannins - a dependable wine (90 points). Parker is no longer the star it perhaps once was, but the 2006 First Growth was quite a well balanced wine (91 points). Yalumba's main wine from the Coonawarra is the Menzies. The 2008 Menzies is elegant with ripe tannins, but lacks some fruit concentration (90 points).

Now we come to the wines that did not impress me. These include Bowen. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit thin and not quite ripe (88 points). Brand's Laira with the 2006 Patron, a single vineyard Cabernet with elegant fruit, but also prominent oak and a flat finish (89 points). Highbank showed a strong 2005 Coonawarra blend, with good blackcurrant depth, but a harsh and acidic finish (91 points), and a weaker 2006, which was quite light and short (89 points). The Penley wines, an 09 Phoenix, the 2006 Chertsey blend and the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve scored between 88 and 90 points, generally lacked structure, with the Reserve being the best wine. The 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Punters Corner and the 2005 Zema Family Selection Cabernet Sauvignon were very minty (89 and 88 points).

The big disappointments were two larger wineries which produced stellar wines in the past: Lindemans and Orlando. Orlando's 2005 Jacaranda Ridge was minty, but had a bit more depth than the Zema (89 points). The 2007 St. Hugo was dry and harsh (87 points). Lindeman's 2009 Limestone Ridge had a pleasant fruity flavour, but neither much depth nor length (88 points). The 2009 St. George was harsh and green (85 points).

So there you have it. A night with plenty of wine, some good, some not so good. Did any other reader attend?


Chris Plummer said...

Thanks for the wise words of wisdom Alontin :)

Ours isn't until monday, and it sounds like we enjoy much the same labels when it comes to Coonawarra cabernet.

This year however, I've decided I'll try to focus more on Coonawarra shiraz, which is an Australian variety lurking in the shadows if ever there was one in my opinion. :)

My recent enthusiasm for the style was partially inspired by a chat I had last year with Sue Hodder. We were talking about the upcoming 2008 John Riddoch, when Sue told me the 08 Michael was the one to look out for. I recall Wynns making a wonderful 'standard' shiraz that year, and Sue spoke very highly of the 08 vintage for Wynns shiraz as a whole.

I actually got to try the 08 Michael the other week - I didn't mind it - but I thought I'd wait till next week for another 'try before you buy', if you know what I mean.... ;)

Did you get to sample the 08 Michael Alontin?

Chris P

Alontin said...

We may agree on Cabernet, but Michael Shiraz? The last I drank was the 1998. I found this wine always overworked and overoaked. No doubt, the style would have changed in the last 10 years. Another company which has good Shiraz fruit is Katnook, but again, too much oak for me.

I am interested to hear what you think. My Shiraz choices are usually simple: Barossa and McLaren for the full bodied style, Victoria for spice and the occasional Hunter for softness and leather.

Good to hear from you,