Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oakridge 864 Chardonnay

Oakridge is now a leading Yarra Valley wine producer. If you want to experience the best the Yarra Valley can do with Chardonnay, try the 2010 Oakridge 864 Chardonnay. This single vineyard wine shows great purity of fruit, with apple and grapefruit flavours. This medium bodied wine has excellent balance and an elegant finish.

Score: 95/++

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon

The top tier of wineries in Margaret River has been the same forever: Cullen, Moss Wood, Leeuwin. A number of wineries are trying to get up there: Cape Mentelle, Howard Park, Voyager, a couple of others. One that has improved a lot across the board lately is Vasse Felix. So I gave the 2009 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon a try.

This is a medium bodied wine with bright redcurrant fruit. I found the wine a bit angular, not elegant, although the wine has silky tannins which are not harsh, and good length.

I continued to drink the wine on day 2, when it was much better and more rounded. I should have decanted the wine for at least one hour before drinking it in the first place - definitely something you should do with a young Cabernet Sauvignon.

Still, it does not have the full mouthfeel for a top score.

Score: 90/92+

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wynns V&A Lane Shiraz

Coonawarra is mostly overlooked when it comes to Shiraz. Yet there are some excellent Shiraz blocks which can produce wines of good intensity, yet elegant and spicy.

Wynns has an unmatched access to great Coonawarra vineyards, and the 2008 Wynns V&A Lane Shiraz comes from blocks right in the middle of the famous Terra Rossa soil. This wine displays beautiful rich dark berry flavours leading to an elegant structure. Unfortunately, this core is covered by lashings of American (vanilla) oak, thereby masking the wine's quality. One can only hope that over time the oak will subside into the background, but I am not sure. This wine would have been fantastic, had it been matured in French and older oak.

Score: 92/-

Monday, October 15, 2012

Felton Road Chardonnay

New Zealand is not really known for outstanding Chardonnay, perhaps with the exception of Kumeu River. But then, Felton Road does not do anything by halves. I was curious to experience the 2011 Felton Road Chardonnay.

The wine is dominated by citrus flavours, with lime in the background. This makes for a nice flavour, and the healthy acidity produces a refreshing finish. These are the good points. On the downside, I find the wine also a bit watery and 'in the moment'. It does not really flow down the palate. Overall, it does not leave much of an impression, in the way Felton's Pinots do.

Score: 89/0

Friday, October 12, 2012

Craggy Range Le Sol

How does Craggy Range's Le Sol Syrah stand the test of time? The other day, I had the first vintage of the 'New Zealand Grange', the 2002 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah, which I had bought at a visit to Hawkes Bay. One would assume that the first vintage of a new top of the line wine is chosen carefully.

The colour of this wine is very dark plum, still quite solid. On the palate, this translates into a sweet plum core, quite ripe and a little bit hot (15% Alc.). This was the time when you made a Parker wine if you could. Craggy Range could. The structure stands up, though. The wine has still good acidity, but it is difficult to drink much of it (is this a plus?). So different from the Te Mata Coleraine, the grapes of which come from the same region.

This Le Sol is very similar to a premium Torbreck wine. There is no question this one ages well. The wine is still youthful and will definitely drink well for another 10 years. It is probably best to drink in 3-5 years.

Score: 94/0

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Picardy Pinot Noir

Picardy is not a well known winery in the Eastern parts of Australia. I suggest you ckeck it out. The other day I had the 2009 Picardy Pinot Noir. The berry flavours are hard to define, somewhere between strawberry and cherry. More importantly, this is quite a savoury wine with forest floor characteristics and an excellent texture. It finishes with silky tannins.

To achieve a higher score, the wine would have needed a bit more grip or an expanding finish, but I liked it anyhow.

Score: 92/++

Monday, October 8, 2012

Spinifex Premium Releases

Every now and then a quote sticks to a winery. So it is with Spinifex when James Halliday said it out-torbrecks Torbreck. What is Torbreck known for? Predominantly the incredible richness of its wines and how David Powell managed to jack up the prices for his Barossa Shiraz. Now Spinifex does none of this. Peter Schell picks the grapes early, the wines are not very ripe, and the prices are moderate by comparison. So what does this comment mean? Beats me, but it gets repeated time and time again.

I recently tasted three Spinifex wines from 2010. The 2010 Spinifex Bete Noir is perhaps its only wine not consisting of more than one grape variety. This 100% Shiraz comes 60% from Eden Valley and 40% from the Eastern slopes of the Barossa, i.e. grapes grown at higher altitudes. As a result, the wine has cooler climate characteristics: it is savoury and peppery. The wine is vibrant and fresh. It has medium weight and good length (93 points).

The 2010 Spinifex Indigene consists of 70% Mataro and 30% Shiraz. This has been my favorite in a number of years, but not in 2010. The Mataro is very strong and dominant and as a result, the wine is quite tannic and acidic with a slightly harsh finish. It may be that the wine will mellow nicely, as the underlying fruit is good, but at this point, I rate it 91 points.

The 2010 Spinifex La Mouline is the pick of the bunch. This wine used to be a Shiraz/Viognier, but in this year it is 97% Shiraz and 3% Roussanne. I think this has been a master stroke. Rather than adding floral notes, the Roussanne adds weight and complexity. This wine is very elegant, as the plum and red berry flavours roll down the palate.The wine has a dry finish and considerable length - very appealing (95 points).


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Clonakilla New Releases

Listening to Tim Kirk, Clonakilla's winemaker, is always very interesting. Not only is he a very intelligent person, but also a very good marketer. Yet in contrast to the spin employed by many of his colleagues, he prefers to 'under-promise and over-deliver'. So you listen to all the challenges that Clonakilla had to face in 2011 and 2012 and then get to a set of very good wines. Sure, he has done better, but these are very worth while wines.

The 2012 Clonakilla Canberra District Riesling comes from a wet year. The wine is citrussy and floral, quite zingy with acid covering the small amount of residual sugar. It is not is the class of a top Clare Riesling, but a refreshing wine with a clean finish (90 points).

The 2011 Clonakilla Canberra District Viognier is a welcome departure from other 'fatty' Viogniers. It shows the expected apricot flavours, but the wine is quite linear and not big. There are traces of oak in this wine and it finishes with a good round mouthfeel. I am not sure that it is Australia's best Viognier, as it is sometimes claimed, but it is certainly a good one (92 points).

The 2011 Clonakilla O'Riada Shiraz is made in the same way as the famous Shiraz/Viognier, but the fruit comes from other growers around Canberra. This wine is incredibly peppery and savoury and quite strong. Underneath sits beautiful red berry fruit. 2011 delivers a lighter style, but not a watery wine and the tannins deliver good length (93 points).

The 2011 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier is still peppery, but the flavours are rounder than in the O'Riada. The wine is very elegant and harmonious, dominated by red berry flavours. This wine will live a long, long time. This wine rates very high on clarity, grace, balance, deliciousness, modesty and paradox. The paradox is the lighter style, yet intensity of the wine. It would rate a bit lower on distinctiveness, persistence and complexity  (95 points).

In this tasting, I 'got' the Clonakilla wine style. The wines are about beauty. The French would call them feminine wines, but they are more than that (see above).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc has been the crown of creation of the Marlborough onslaught on the rest of the world. The 2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is special, too, although not quite in the same class as some previous years.

The flavours are herbaceous, but not overly so. Hay and asparagus rather than green grass. The fruit is lime and some guava, I think, rather than gooseberry. The best is the dry finish.

If you must drink Sauvignon Blanc, you could do worse than this Cloudy Bay, in fact you probably would.

Score: 89/+

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chateau Lynch-Bages

Chateau Lynch-Bages is one of those Estates which clearly punches above the weight of its classification (5th growth). Finding such wines is often a good opportunity, but in this case, the word is truly out, and it is reflected in the price.

The 2000 Lynch-Bages, at 12 years of age, is still youthful, but drinking well now. This is a full bodied Cabernet blend, classically proportioned. The blackcurrant flavours are intense, even dense, but not overripe. The wine is not heavy. The flavours go down the palate, unchanged from start to a lengthy finish. This is quite a linear wine despite its weight. Silky tannins engulf the fruit flavours elegantly.

Using the descriptors I have discussed a few weeks ago, this wine rates very high on clarity, distinctiveness, grace, balance, deliciousness and persistence, and a bit lower on complexity, modesty and low on paradox.

Score: 96/+++