Sunday, October 30, 2011

Moorooduc McIntyre Vineyard Pinot Noir

The 2009 Moorooduc McIntyre Vineyard Pinot Noir is typical Mornington Peninsula. The fruit is quite prominent, in this case red cherry, with a darker colour in the glass. The flavours are not very deep, but the blend of fruit and savoury flavours delivers a harmonious wine with a silky finish.

Score: 92/++

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NSW Award Winners

There is a buzz about NSW wines at present. A few years ago, such an event would basically be about the Hunter, and only a few serious wineries. Now, there are a number of interesting new Hunter Valley wineries emerging, Orange and the Canberra District are firing up, and we may even find the odd great wine from another emerging district. And while Semillon and Shiraz still rule, Chardonnay and new varieties create interest as well. I was therefore not surprised to find a generally high standard at the Citibank NSW Wine Awards.

I did not get around to taste everything, but these were my impressions:

The wine of the event for me was the 2006 Thomas Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon. It showed beautiful lime fruit, elegant and smooth, with a long and precise finish. There is still good acidity left in this wine. If you are a Semillon sceptic, try this wine (94/+++ points).

The other winery from the Hunter which impressed was First Creek. The 2010 First Creek Winemakers Reserve Shiraz, from a difficult year for reds in the Hunter, is very soft and velvety, typical Hunter Shiraz, with a smooth finish. This wine has personality (93/++). The 2010 First Creek Winemakers Reserve Chardonnay was also excellent, with a complex blend of citrus and peach flavours (92/++).

The 2009 Mistletoe Reserve Chardonnay won the overall trophy. It is an elegant wine, but does not have the same depth of flavour as the First Creek, and the finish is a bit short, in my view (89/0).

The value wine is the 2011 Two Rivers Stones Throw Semillon at $16 from the winery (89/+).

Of the Orange Chardonnays, I preferred the 2010 Philip Shaw No11 Chardonnay (89) over the 2010 Printhie Mt. Canobolas Collection (86).  

The 2008 Tyrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay lived up to its lofty reputation. It is in the citrus/lime fruit spectrum, smooth, but crisp with good length. The mouthfeel was slightly thin, though (92/0).

Of the Shirazes, the 2010 Eden Road Gundagai Shiraz was very spicy and fresh, but the mouthfeel left wanting (89/0). The 2010 Nick O'Leary Shiraz from Canberra ticked the boxes, but had little character (88/-). I am a bit tired of general purpose Shiraz, I must say. It needs to be outstanding or different.

The 2009 Lowe Zinfandel is from Mudgee. He claims to be a Zinfandel specialist. The wine is quite alcoholic and the high price more driven by scarcity than quality (88/-).

Much more interesting and a real find was the 2010 Mount Majura Tempranillo from the Canberra district. It had a nice cherry core and a soft mouthfeel (91/++).

A NSW tasting has to finish with Noble One. The 2008 De Bortoli Noble One showed the rich 'honey in a glass' to perfection. This is a big wine, but smooth and round as only the botrytis affected grapes from De Bortoli seem to be able to deliver (94/+).

Overall, this was an interesting and satisfying tasting. It is pretty safe to assume that the next few years will deliver a further improvement in standard and an even wider net of interesting wineries.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cloudy Bay New Releases

The new Cloudy Bay wines are a major disappointment to me.

The 2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc has been praised by others, but I found the fruit too overwhelming. With it came an unpleasant sweetness and a broad and undefined (unusual for Cloudy Bay) feel in the mouth. Maybe to counteract the often grassy flavours of Sauvignon Blanc?

Score: 86/--

The 2008 Cloudy Bay Chardonnay was the best of the trio. It had good fruit concentration in the citrus and stone fruit spectrum, but I found the oak too prominent.

Score: 90/0

The 2009 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir was bland and had no personality.

Score: 88/-

There is one caveat to these comments. I tasted the wines from plastic cups.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My favorite Pinot Noir producers from Australia and New Zealand

Given I have written quite a bit about Pinot Noir lately, I thought I might share with you my favorite producers.

Top 10 in Australia (in ranking order)

1) Bass Phillip                     Gippsland                 funky
2) Bindi                               Macedon                 ethereal
3) Main Ridge                     Mornington              ethereal
4) William Downie              Morn/Gipps/Yarra   ethereal/dark fruit
5) By Farr                          Geelong                   ethereal
6) Kooyong                        Mornington              dark fruit
7) Bannockburn                  Geelong                   ethereal
8) Giaconda                        Beechworth             ethereal
9) Freycinet                        Tasmania                  dark fruit
10) Curly Flat                      Macedon                rich/bold

Knocking on the door: Marchant & Burch, Heemskerk, maybe Yabby Lake, Ocean Eight
Falling off: Mount Mary, Stoniers

If  I include New Zealand, the list would be

1) Ata Rangi                        Martinborough        ethereal
2) Bass Phillip                      Gippsland               funky
3) Felton Road                    Central Otago         dark fruit
4) Bindi                               Macedon                ethereal
5) Main Ridge                     Mornington              ethereal
6) Martinborough V            Martinborough         dark fruit
7) William Downie              Morn/Gipps/Yarra   ethereal/dark fruit
8) By Farr                          Geelong                   ethereal
9) Craggy Range                Martinborough         ethereal
10) Kooyong                      Mornington             dark fruit

Any comments?

Cono Sur Pinot Noir

Cono Sur is a Chilean Pinot Noir specialist. The name refers to the shape of South America, a southern cone. I am sure it is also a play on 'connoisseur'. Apparently it is taking the US by storm. And why wouldn't it? It is currently offering its 2010 Cono Sur Pinot Noir for about $10/bottle in Australia. $9.50 of this must be freight. This is actually a good wine, comparable to a good local $25/bottle Pinot Noir: well made, fruit and savoury characteristics, but obviously fairly simple.

The 2008 Cono Sur Vision Pinot Noir is my pick. This wine has earthy and quite smoky characteristics unlike anything from  Australia. It is priced in the high twenties per bottle.

The top two Pinot Noirs are the 20 Barrels and the Ocio. These wines are quite soft and fruity and the Ocio shows some silkiness. They are quite elegant, but you get much better complexity from local wines.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kooyong Pinot Noir

At a recent dinner, I had the opportunity to compare different Kooyong Pinot Noirs across different vintages. It was an interesting illustration of how vintage variation on the Mornington Peninsula is more important than the assumed 'quality' of wine.

Kooyong has a hierarchy of three in Pinot Noirs. At the bottom is the Massale Pinot Noir, which, I believe, includes some bought-in grapes. One level up is the Estate, and at the top are the three single vineyard wines, the Ferrous, the Haven and the Meres. They are distinguished by the amount of ironstone in the soil, with the              Ferrous having the most and the Meres the least.

2008 was a warm vintage and according to Sandro Mosele it was difficult to create linearity in the wine. This was apparent in the two single vineyard wines I tasted. The 2008 Meres tasted of black cherries. The wine was a bit floral and the mouthfeel not totally rounded. The 2008 Haven had more fruit concentration and stronger, yet still silky tannins. Both wines were eclipsed by the 2009 Estate. 2009 was a very difficult vintage in most parts of Victoria, but the Mornington Peninsula escaped the worst. The 2009 Estate Pinot Noir was excellent: concentrated, elegant, and a long linear finish. The 2010 Massale, from a terrific vintage on the Peninsula, was also very good. This wine is more forward, but showed excellent vibrancy of fruit and a nicely integrated finish.

The morale of the story is: save yourself some money and go for the cheaper 2009 and 2010 wines, rather than the expensive single vineyard wines from 2008.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ata Rangi Latest Releases

Ata Rangi would be in my list of top 10 producers in the Southern Hemisphere, and this is not just of Pinot Noir producers. Therefore I highly anticipate a tasting of their new releases. I will comment on three of their key releases here.

The 2009 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay is Ata Rangi's premium Chardonnay. It has stone fruit flavours, but the wine is mainly about its complex texture as a result of wild yeast application and 40% going through malolactic fermentation. The acidity is hinted at, 40% new oak is more noticeable. I don't think this has quite come off, but it is an interesting wine to drink.

Score: 92/+

The 2010 Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir, the second label, is coming of age with this vintage from increasingly old vines. The wine is medium bodied, tasting predominantly of strawberry fruit, but also forest floor in a more serious and complex way than previous vintages. It has softly and slowly melting tannins on the back palate and is fantastic value.

Score: 93/++

The 2010 vintage belonged to the cooler bracket in Martinborough. When this happens, Ata Rangi put stalks and whole bunches into their Pinot Noir to give it more weight. The 2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir is a classic. Red and black cherry flavours hit the palate upfront. The wine is not big, but very elegant, and the 10% stalks and whole bunches give it a solid structure. The wine has soft tannins and incredible length - an exceptional wine that lasts and lasts.

Score: 96/+++

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Latest Poll Results

Only a few people participated in this one - not surprising given only a fraction of readers ever participates and from those not everybody would have changed his taste.

I found the results interesting. A lot more movement in red wine preferences than in whites and a big move away from Shiraz. The resurgence of Cabernet is minor, Grenache does not pick up a lot. Lighter wine styles do much better. Pinot Noir benefits, and the mediterranean varieties, mainly Tempranillo and Sangiovese I suspect, are the big winners.

What I would like to know: Did the wine writers, many of whom propagate this move, influence the consumers or did they follow consumers' preferences?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Yarra Yarra Merlot

For a long time, there has been an at times furious debate if theYarra Valley is best suited to Pinot Noir or Bordeaux varieties, as far as red wines are concerned. With the strong leadership of James Halliday, then at Coldstream Hills, firmly pushing the Pinot Noir cause, this viewpoint is dominant. Yet one can hardly ignore the successes of Yarra Yering and Mount Mary with Bordeaux varieties.

Another winery in the Bordeaux camp is Yarra Yarra. This winery was very unlucky in the 2009 fires when the winery and half the vineyards were destroyed. However, owner and winemaker Ian MacLean has been rebuilding and the winery is back on track, as far as I know.

The 2001 Yarra Yarra Reserve Merlot is a beautifully crafted wine. It is medium bodied, but with weighty black cherry fruit and excellent texture. The tannins are soft and silky, leading to a long finish. This is a serious and elegant Merlot, an example that this can be done in Australia.

Score: 94/+++

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tscharke Girl Talk

Remember the uproar when it was found out that the vines brought into Australia and thought to be Albarino were actually Savagnin? This was because it is regarded as a somewhat inferior variety.

I suggest you try the 2011 Tscharke Girl Talk to judge for yourself. Young Damien Tscharke uses catchy names for his wines, but 'Savagnin' is mentioned on the label.

The wine is full flavoured, but very clean. Flavours are predominantly pear, almond and citrus. The wine has acidity, but there is also some sweetness.

I think this wine is a perfect match with Thai food and I recommend it. It is not dissimilar to Gruener Veltiner which also goes well with Thai.

Score: 91/++

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Clonakilla New Releases

The three wines I am going to review here are being released on 17 October as far as I know. As usual, you will have to be quick to get them.

The 2010 Clonakilla Canberra District Viognier is an interestingly made wine. Half the fruit is whole bunch pressed. This is a gentle process and delivers soft, pure fruit. The other half is crushed and left on skin for some time to extract the flavours close to the skin where they are most intense. The final wine is seamless and elegant. It tastes predominantly of apricot with a bit of ginger in the background. This amounts to a very stylish Viognier (it is just that I don't like the Viognier flavour profile).

Score: 93/0

The 2010 Clonakilla O'Riada Shiraz is made from vines in the Murrambatemen area. Like its famous cousin, the Shiraz Viognier, it includes 5% co-fermented Viognier, and it is made in the same way. The wine is medium bodied, tasting of redcurrant and red cherries. There are earthy and savoury flavours as well. This wine is very fresh and vibrant and has a strong tannic and acidic backbone. The wine is feminine, yet strong with great length. This wine has great character and in a few years, with tannins mellowing a bit, will be a well balanced, expressive red wine. Outstanding value for money it is, too.

Score: 95/+++

The 2010 Clonokilla Shiraz Viognier, from the Estate, has a similar flavour profile, slightly darker fruit, and  a softer and silkier texture. This is a classy wine no doubt, but I felt the O'Riada was more expressive, had more personality. An unexpected outcome, but I score them on par.

Score 95/++

Saturday, October 8, 2011

New Poll

We all experience a shift in our tastes over time. One of the more dramatic shifts occurs when you suddenly favour a different grape variety. I would like to know if this has happened to you. The choices are pretty much endless. I have listed some which I think are the most obvious at this time.

Please vote.

Some perplexing observations drinking Felton Road Pinot Noir

Those who follow my blog will know that I have collected Felton Road Pinot Noir for quite some time.  I tend to order a variety of their releases. Their higher volume 'base' wine is now called Bannockburn and the rarer premium wines are Block 3 and Block 5. In the last few years, a couple of other single vineyard Pinots have been added to the portfolio.

A few days ago, I drank two of those wines on consecutive nights, the 2005 Felton Road Pinot Noir and the 2006 Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir. The 2005 showed amazingly well. It was full flavoured and it had a silky finish which expanded on the back palate (96/+++ points). The 2006 Block 3 was good, too. A softer wine, as it often is, with a smooth finish, but not the Burgundian fan as the 2005 (94/++points).

The story here is: the vintage is more significant than the particular wine. The Block wines are quite a bit more expensive, but you mainly pay for the rarity factor. It seems the great Central Otago vintages come in odd years like 05, 07 and 09 (as Gippsland used to be). The cooler vintages are preferable, there is always enough sun.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

How to drink Pinot Noir at the right temperature

Most wine reviews focus on the type of wine, the vintage, etc. Just as important, in particular with Pinot Noir, is the glass one is using and the temperature of the wine. There is plenty of information on glasses, therefore this post is about temperature.

Temperature is so important for Pinot Noir, because the wine has to be warm enough to unfold its flavours and mouthfeel, but not too warm, which would eliminate flavour nuances. Pinot Noir from the fridge is too cold, directly from a temperature controlled wine cellar is too cold as well. Room temperature is too warm.

My preference is to take a bottle from my (quite cold - 13 degrees) cellar and leave the bottle 1 to 2 hours at room temperature. This time could also be used for decanting. The opposite approach is to have a room temperature bottle and put it in the fridge for some minutes. The disadvantage here is somewhat uneven cooling, in particular if decanted.

Any thoughts?  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How well do premium Torbreck wines age?

There has been a question mark about the ageability of Torbreck wines because of their richness and ripeness of fruit and their relatively low level of natural acidity.

I like to drink Shiraz when it has developed complexity, but still shows levels of freshness and fruit. My usual drinking window for good Australian Shiraz is 6 to 9 years, with 7 the sweet spot. I prefer the leading wines more mature: Grange 20 years (depending on vintage), Hill of Grace 15 years.

Recently I drank a number of mature Torbreck wines: 2002 RunRig, 2001 Les Amis, 2002 Struie. How did they shape up? In summary, pretty well. The concentrated fruit was still there, although a bit drier than I would have liked. The tannins had lost some silkiness, but the structure of these wines was holding up well. The RunRig still had its sweet core, the Struie was quite smoky, whereas the Les Amis had lost some of its richness and was on the downhill slope.

Where does this put these wines? I think they are middle distance runners. Drinking them at 7 years is probably better than at 15.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Yabby Lake Chardonnay

Just typing this in before the Grand Final kick-off. The 2009 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay is quite a complex wine. It is more about texture than fruit, which is where most serious Victorian Chardonnay producers are heading, it seems to me. There is a lot going on: savoury flavours, some creaminess (wood), but also minerality and acidity, but it is packaged in a solid structure. The wine has a dry finish.

This wine is good with food, less so on its own. It is perhaps a bit full-on and heavily worked, but also shows some restraint. (I am not sure what you can take away from this review).

I think the wine will benefit from a couple of years cellaring. Some mellowing should bring the different flavour components together.

Score: 91/+