Sunday, April 29, 2012

McIvor Petit Verdot

It is not often that Petit Verdot is bottled separately as a varietal wine. This 2004 McIvor Petit Verdot is from Heathcote. It displays the typical inky, deep purple colour. The palate is dominated by plum and blackberry flavours. This is quite a full bodied wine with a big mouthfeel, yet it is elegant at the same time. It is a pleasant wine, with underlying soft tannins. It certainly justifies a separate bottling. The only drawback is its plump finish.
Score: 92/+

Friday, April 27, 2012

William Fevre Chablis

What is the difference between an 'ordinary' Chablis and a premier cru? It mainly is the depth of flavour (lower yields) and sometimes the length on the palate. This 2004 William Fevre Fourchaume Premier Cru delivers a typical citrus palate, which is quite intense. The wine has mellowed a little and the  colour of the wine is now a firmer yellow. This wine is now in its transitional phase to a mature white wine.

William Fevre is a modern winemaker who subjects part of the Chardonnay grape to oak maturation, whereas traditionalists in the Chablis area only use stainless steel. The oak is noticeable and produces a more complex texture, added by chalky and mineral flavours. The wine is beautifully balanced, but the disappointment is that it lacks some linearity and length.

Score: 91/+

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Leeuwin Cabernet Sauvignon

Leeuwin Estate is sometimes described as a one trick pony, with its world-class Chardonnay. The winery is trying very hard to bring the other Art Series wines to a similar standard. In a recent tasting (I gave my impressions of the Chardonnay a few posts below) it did not start well. I found the 2011 Riesling as well as the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc too sweet. Some would say they were aromatic (87/86 points).

The main attempt, though, has been made with the Cabernet Sauvignon. It has been said that they turned the corner with the 05. The 2005 was at this tasting, as well as the 2007 and the 2008, which will be released in September.

The 2005 Leeuwin Cabernet Sauvignon did not disappoint. It had generous blackcurrant and quite lifted flavours. The wine is quite intense, yet elegant, with a big mouthfeel. No Margaret River greenness in this wine at all (93 points).

The 2007 Leeuwin Cabernet Sauvignon is slightly leaner, which is interesting, given the warm vintage. The tannins are silky. This equally elegant wine finishes with more acidity on the backbone (93 points).

The 2008 Leeuwin Cabernet Sauvignon is lighter than the other two, yet the elegance is impressive. Blackcurrants dominate, but the palate drifts slightly into leafy territory. The wine is still very young and needs to settle a bit (92 points).

These Cabernets are certainly a cut above earlier years. The 'dirty' earthiness of those wines has disappeared. The flavour profile is more in the Moss Wood than Cullen style. If you rate those wines AAA, then Leeuwin, with these Cabernets, is achieving AA or AA+.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yering Station Shiraz/Viognier Reserve

This was a big surprise. I drank the 2003 Yering Station Shiraz/Viognier Reserve a day after the Cullen, and wow! it tasted very similar. This wine was a little bigger, displayed more dark plum, but aromatics, helped by the Viognier, mouthfeel and elegance were comparable. The tannins of the Yering Station are a bit firmer and I am rating this wine a point less, as the finish is not quite as polished.

I drank this wine relatively soon after release and did not like it much then. However now, the different elements have integrated well resulting in an excellent wine.

Score: 94/++

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cullen Cabernet/Merlot

Not long ago I reviewed a Moss Wood Cabernet, now it is Cullen's turn. The 1998 Cullen Cabernet/Merlot was still called just that, before it became the Diana Madeline a couple of years later. This wine opens up with quite an aromatic bouquet. Blueberry and mulberry fruit flavours are elegant, and the wine provides a big mouthfeel, even after 14 years. The tannins are fine, and the finish smooth. An excellent wine, which still has quite a bit of life in it.

Moss Wood Cabernets are often deep in colour and brooding, masculine wines, whereas Cullen is more feminine. The yin and yan of Margaret River.

Score: 95/++

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sneak Peek: 2009 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

I had an opportunity to taste the 2009 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay before its official release on 1 May, and compare it with the 2005 and 2007. I published a post on the 2005 only a couple of weeks ago and my impressions from then were the same as in this tasting. The 2007 is from a very warm vintage, resulting in a broader palate. It was the least favourite of mine of the three.

The 2009 Chardonnay shows the typical mix of tropical fruit flavours: peach, mango, pineapple and passionfruit. As with the 2005 though, it does not end up as fruit salad, but rather a complex wine, supported by 100% new oak. The wine has good length and the finish stays with you for some time.

The Leeuwin Chardonnay always has pure and complex fruit, the oak is well integrated and there is sufficient acidity for aging. The question is how lean or large the palate is. I favour without doubt a more linear sensation on the palate. The 2009 is similar to the 2005, obviously less advanced, but the palate is more linear. As a result, this is the best Leeuwin Chardonnay of the last five years. It is not as good as the 2001, but I rate it as a buy for Leeuwin Chardonnay lovers.

Score: 95/+++

Thursday, April 19, 2012


This is a bit of an introductory post. The Piedmont area in north-western Italy  is a unique wine experience largely due to the fickle, but utterly amazing Nebbiolo grape. The two main appellations are Barbaresco and Barolo. They are distinguished by the area the vineyards are located in and the aging time required before market release. Barbaresco is centred around the town by the same name, and the nebbiolo has to be matured for two years before release. The Barolo area is situated a bit further south and the nebbiolo requires three years of maturation.

There are 480ha of vineyards in Barbaresco and 370 producers. From this you can deduct how small each producer is. The situation is very comparable to Burgundy. The lack of scale makes the wine expensive, but also ensures very focussed quality treatment of the grapes etc.

At a recent tasting, a couple of things stood out. The length of fermentation is a key driver of the wine's characteristics. The traditionalists have long fermentation periods of 15 days plus, which results in wines which age well, but are tough and very tannic when young. The modernists, which ferment 3-7 days make wine which is accessible much earlier. It is often matured in small barriques, which gives these wines a more international feel. Traditional wines are matured in large oak vats.

I tasted a few wines from the 2007 vintage, which was warm and produced earlier drinking style wines (in the context of Barbaresco). The best wine came from a very small modernist producer, the 2007 Traversa Barbaresco Starderi. It had good depth of fruit, but still elegance and firm tannins.

The second key point is about terroir. Individual vineyards may have different soils, aspect and elevation. This was brought home by four wines from Produttori del Barbaresco, all single vineyard wines from vineyards in close proximity. They were all from 2001. This is a traditional producer, and these wines were still taught and not ready to drink after 10 years! I tasted the wines blind and the two best wines were from the Rabaja and Asili vineyards. Phew, they have the reputation. The Asili wine was actually quite stunning. The flavours and aromatics went very strongly to the back palate. It went on and on. The wines from Ovello and Montestefano did not have the same depth and balance. One a bit short, the other too tannic.

Wine drinkers who have not had Nebbiolo before find it often difficult to relate to these wines. However, they are excellent food wines, which do not dominate, but are strong nonetheless. And the best wines (think Gaja or Moccagatta in Barbaresco) are unique and utterly delicious.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Montalcino Rosso and Brunello

The next few reviews might be of Italian wines. In Montalcino, a hilltop town in Tuscany, Sangiovese reigns supreme. The two main styles produced are the Rosso, an early drinking style, and Brunello, which requires significant maturation before release. The wine has to be 100% Sangiovese. The area is just recovering from a blending scandal, where a number of producers were accused and taken to court because of using other grapes as well. I don't believe the case is closed at this point in time.

Of a number of Rossos tried, the 2006 and 2007 Querce Bettina Rosso di Montalcino from a small family winery were the most impressive. They are quite similar. The 2007 in particular shows vibrant cherry fruit. The wine is balanced with a firm acidic finish.

Score: 90/+

The 2006 Villa Le Prata Brunello di Montalcino, also from a small producer, displays clean and pure raspberry and cherry fruit with more depth than the Rossos above. This is an elegant wine with some length and good minerality. It is more about structure than fruit and has a somewhat sinewy and taut finish.

Score: 91/+

Overall, these wines are very different from Australian wines. They are not as fruity and are made to accompany food, playing second fiddle to what is on the plate. However, there are other Brunellos with more character.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Domaine de la Janesse GSM

A well known and smart strategy is to buy 'cheaper' wines from great vintages. This is particularly popular with respect to Bordeaux and Burgundy wines where the top wines are beyond reach for most people. It also works well with Rhone wines.

Some time back, I sung the praises of the mass market Guigal Cote du Rhone from the outstanding 2007 vintage. There are other, smaller volume 'table'  wines worth seeking out from this year. One such wine is the 2007 Domaine de la Janesse Terre de Bussiere Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre.

This medium bodied wine displays very pretty fruit, tasting of plum, blackberry and raspberry. The wine is quite smooth and the different grape varieties are well integrated, showing some depth. The wine is more savoury than sweet and has fine tannins. The finish is a bit unbalanced, but overall a very satisfying wine.

Score: 90/++

Friday, April 13, 2012

Scorpo Pinot Noir

This 2010 Scorpo Pinot Noir is a well made wine. It tastes of dark cherry, as is typical for the Mornington Peninsula, with savoury undertones. The structure is balanced, and the finish pleasant.

But does this wine stand out? Where is the personality?

Score: 91/+

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An 18 year old Henschke

I am not talking about the next Henschke generation, but rather the 1994 Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz. I opened my last bottle, in fact my last bottle from the 90s, last night. This has been my favorite Mount Edelstone for some time, and this bottle did not disappoint.

The 1994 achieved only moderate acclaim when released, but what a wine it has become. The cork came out perfectly, and I was immediately engulfed by the bouquet of the deep, concentrated fruit. The flavours of rich blackberry fruit are incredibly pure. There is some mellowing in this wine, but not much. As the wine rolls down my palate, the image that comes up is of the swell building off the coasts of Tahiti, then rolling smoothly, but powerfully to the shore.

There is great harmony in this wine, firm, but very silky tannins, and an incredible length of finish. This will stay in my memory for a long time - almost perfect.

Score: 98/+++  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon

When I open a bottle of Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, I am looking forward to its mocca flavours. How does the 2004 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon stack up?

This is a strange wine, actually. It seems half pregnant on a number of dimensions: there are pretty red currant flavours, but not enough to fill the mouth; there is elegance, but not enough to carry through to the back palate; the mocca flavours are there, but pretty much in the background. What I would wish is that this wine had a bit more grip, as you would expect from a Cabernet Sauvignon. It is not a bad wine, it has quite silky tannins, but they get a bit lost next to a hearty meal.

In terms of maturity, the wine is still quite fresh and not yet mellowing (under screw cap). Therefore it would certainly hold up for another five years and possibly improve its allure during this time.

Score: 92/0

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

I make no secret of it, Leeuwin is my favorite Australian Chardonnay. On the eve of the release of the 2009 Chardonnay, I thought I might try a more mature one.

The 2005 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay displays a dazzling array of tropical fruits: Peach, melon, guava, papaya, mango and pineapple. It is not a fruit salad though, rather the flavours are finely layered on the palate. One of the amazing things about this wine in general is that the fruit is able to absorb the 100% new oak without trouble.This is not quite the case with the 2005. The oak is quite noticeable here, but it is not unpleasant. It adds to the complexity of the wine. The wine is soft and melts on the palate - maybe a bit too much. This year, the wine is riper and sweeter than in the best years, but the citrussy acidity on the finish provides some balance. As usual the wine has a smooth and lengthy finish.

This wine drinks well at seven years, but I would not keep it for more than a couple of extra years. Overall, the 2005 is a very good wine, although it does not quite reach the pinnacle of some of the earlier years.

Score: 94/+++

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis

In this perfect Chablis weather in Sydney, the 2009 Domaine Bernhard Defaix Chablis is a good choice. The wine has typical lime and mineral characteristics. The 2009 vintage has made some Chablis a little broad, but this one is just right. Good flavour, not as steely as from a 'classical' vintage, but utterly enjoyable.

Score: 89/+++

Monday, April 2, 2012

Three Mature Australian Premium Pinot Noirs - And A Burgundy

These days, there are at least 10 Australian producers, whose Pinot Noirs can be cellared with benefit for quite some time. Over the last few days, I tried wines from three of them. They all come from the wine growing belt around Melbourne, in this case Gippsland, Macedon Ranges and Mornington.

The 2006 Bass Phillip 21 Pinot Noir is an unusual labelling. During this year, Phillip Jones did not produce his premium labels. When this happens, winemakers claim it enhances the base wine, but one has to assume that the grapes for the base wine have also suffered, so maybe the premium grapes just create a counter force. In any event, this wine drinks well after six years. It is made with wild ferment yeast and tastes quite funky. In contrast to the other wines, it has a lighter colour and strawberry flavours. It has an ethereal character and a smooth finish. It drinks well at this age, but will go on well for a few years.

The 2005 Kooyong Ferrous Pinot Noir is different. The colour is darker, and the taste is of black cherry. I find the flavour a bit metallic (am I influenced by the name?), and the mouthfeel is not as good as with the Bass Phillip. On the other hand, the wine has good length.

The 2006 Curly Flat Pinot Noir is still a big wine (a Shiraz drinker's Pinot Noir?). It's flavour profile is similar to the Kooyong, but the mouthfeel is more rounded. On the other hand, this wine is maybe less defined than the Kooyong.

In conclusion, all these wines perform well after six to seven years. They have maintained their characteristics displayed early on. The Kooyong and Curly Flat perform similar to top Central Otago wines, whereas Bass Phillip is more Martinborough, if these reference points mean anything to you.

Score: 93-94/++

I also compared these wines with a 2005 Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru 'Boudriotte'. Ramonet is predominantly known for Chardonnay, but this Pinot Noir from a superb vintage is impressive. Its flavour is dark cherry, and the structure not dissimilar to the Kooyong. The fruit is not as concentrated as in the Australian wines, but it has a strong structure and an impressive long finish, displaying the Burgundian fan, an expanding mouthfeel on the finish.

Score: 94/++

Chapoutier Tournon

Michael Chapoutier, the doyen of terroir in the Rhone, has been making wine in Australia for 14 years. He is focussed on Shiraz, of course, and picked Victoria as his region. He now has a number of vineyards in the Pyrenees area and Heathcote.

I tried three of his wines, my first experience with his Australian production.

The 2010 Chapoutier Mathilda Victorian Shiraz is a fruit forward wine. They call it vin gourmande, which is similar to table wine, I think. It has an interesting bouquet of red currant and some smokiness which translates nicely onto the palate. This is not a complex wine, but it has some length and is quite harmonious. At under $20 per bottle, this must be the value for money wine of the year.

Score: 88/+++

While the previous wine is sourced from three vineyards in the Pyrenees, the 2010 Chapoutier Shays Flat Pyrenees Shiraz is a single vineyard wine. The fruit is darker and more concentrated. Plum and spice dominate. The acidity is noticeable and will give the wine aging potential, but overall, I find this wine not particularly special.

Source: 89/+

The 2008 Chapoutier Lady's Lane Heathcote Shiraz was clearly the best of the three.Bottle age helped, but it was more the fruit and structure which stood out. The dark berry fruits give the wine a very smooth feel in the mouth. The wine is well balanced, something which cannot be said of all Heathcote wines, with good acidity and palate length. This is an excellent example of a full bodied wine, which is not overbearing and heavy.

Score: 94/+++