Monday, December 30, 2013

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon

Whenever I eat  lamb back-strap, Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon is not far away. This time it was the 2003 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is screw-capped, and the cherry flavoured nose quite fresh on opening. The fruit flavours are the more typical black- and redcurrant expressions. The wine is quite ripe and plummy, with fruit flavours still dominating. The wine fills the mouth very well, and it is not overly sweet. The tannins are quite soft and silky. This is a very smooth expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Score: 94/++

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon

The 2013 Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon is getting the highest point score I have ever given to a Semillon. The colour of this wine is a pale straw colour. The wine is very crisp on the palate, with an intense citrus and lime flavour. The wine is very precise and linear, leading to a clean finish. This is a step up from the very good previous years. This wine is perfectly balanced and will last for at least 15 years, obviously changing its character to more honeyed flavours over time.

I could not think of a better expression of this grape. Why don't I score it 100 points? Because Semillon cannot deliver the complexity of some other grapes. But as a summer wine, with oysters, fish or salads, this is perfect.

Score: 95/+++

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Craggy Range Le Sol - First Vintage

When Craggy Range embarked on a project to produce a New Zealand Shiraz to rival Penfolds' Grange, the wine world reacted very sceptically. When the first vintage, the 2002 Craggy Range Le Sol was released, wine critics and drinkers alike were gob-smacked by the power and intensity of the wine. Certainly, something like this has never come out of New Zealand before. How does this wine stack up in perspective and after eleven years?

The 2002 Le Sol is still a big, full-bodied wine. The blackberry and blueberry fruit is very pure. Pepper spices add to the complexity of the palate. This is a very masculine wine with firm tannins. The mouthfeel gets slightly impacted by the high alcohol (15%). The wine can take it, but it is noticeable, and detracts from the otherwise elegant flavours. The wine is close to the end of its optimum drinking range.

Is it like Grange? Not really. For starters, it won't last as long. The palate is big, but not as big as Grange in most years. Pepper is not very obvious in Grange. On the other hand, this wine is as unique in New Zealand, as Grange is in Australia. I enjoyed this wine on a cool Christmas day evening.

Score: 94/++

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How To Buy Outstanding Red Burgundy For A Reasonable Price

Traditional wisdom is that you have to spend a fortune to experience excellent red Burgundy. My strategy to get there with a value for money approach is to combine two things. One, you need to aim for an excellent vintage. Second, look for a producer with excellent skills who is not known for his Pinot Noir (most probably because he does not have the perfect site).

One such example is the 2005 Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru "Boudriotte", my wine of choice for Christmas eve. Ramonet is known as a world class Chardonnay producer. He knows how to create something extra special. This Pinot Noir has a very enticing nose of rose petals and mushroom. Red and black cherry flavours and forest floor are beautifully integrated on the palate. The finish is dry and firm. While the finish is not as expansive as in the best wines, it is lingering on for some time. Most impressively, the wine has the 'paradox', which is a key to wines with personality. In this case, the wine is light on the tongue, while the fruit is quite intense and the mouthfeel very round. Also, at eight years of age, the wine is still very fresh and vibrant.

Score: 95/+++  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Poll Results

You  are quite sophisticated wine drinkers, aren't you? If I had done this questionnaire standing in front of Dan Murphy's, I doubt Riesling would have gotten the most votes. It is a great choice for the Southern hemisphere, in particular with seafood and salads, which will be favourite Christmas foods. Unfortunately, the general public does not warm to it. Not surprisingly, Cabernet and Shiraz, probably special bottles, will also play a prominent role. Champagne is there, but not as much as I expected, as are the Burgundy varieties.

I am disappointed with the participation in this poll, in particular from the Northern hemisphere. My readership has greatly increased this year, yet fewer people have voted than in polls I did some time ago. Why? I think they can produce interesting snapshots.

I have not yet decided what I will drink over Christmas. It will depend less on the food than the temperature. At the moment it is too hot for me to contemplate Cabernet or Shiraz, but the weather is likely to turn. I will let you know after the event what my mix will have been.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pipers Brook Riesling

Given the interest in Riesling this Christmas, as evidenced by my poll, let us look at a fairly recently released one, from one of the leading Riesling producers.

The 2013 Pipers Brook Riesling has a pale yellow-green straw colour. On the palate, it tastes of citrus and is clearly in the dry spectrum - signs of a cool climate Riesling. The strength of the wine is its wonderful balance and its crisp acidic finish. This is a good wine for summer. On the downside, for me, this wine lacks body and fruit expression. This is surprising, given its 13% alcohol level. This is a lot for Riesling, but not noticeable in this wine. I suggest to put it aside for a number of years.

Score: 92/0

Friday, December 20, 2013

Felton Road Chardonnay

We know the Pinot Noir is top notch, but what about Felton Road's Chardonnay? Yesterday, I tried the 2011 Felton Road Bannockburn Chardonnay, their main Chardonnay. The wine is quite crisp and austere and in many ways reminded me of the Leeuwin I had a couple of days earlier. It is not as sharp, but quite an accomplished and balanced wine. Grapefruit and white peach are the main fruit characteristics for me. The wine is quite linear across the palate, although not as precise as the Leeuwin. It has a well balanced and acidic finish. It would be interesting to see how this wine develops over 3-4 years

Score: 91/++

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon

The Leston wines come from the Margaret River vineyard, Howard Park's most northern and warmest site. This 2007 Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon is a clean wine, tasting of red- and blackcurrant fruit, true to the expected varietal characteristics. Fruit flavours dominate, as oak remains in the background. Surprisingly, however, the fruit is a bit lean and green, from this warm vintage. Is the yield too high?

Score: 89/-

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

Yesterday, I sacrificed my last bottle of  2005 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay. 10,12 years ago, Leeuwin moved to a more austere style in their Chardonnay: not the citrus/lime spectrum of cooler climates, but away from the very tropical fruit, some would say fruit salad at times.

This wine is still quite austere, tasting of white peach and melon. What I love about it and what is the signature of this premium Chardonnay, is the piercing and linear structure of the wine from the front to the back palate. I would have liked this particular example to have been a bit more generous, but it is still an exceptional wine, with quite a few years life ahead.

Score: 94/+  


Now guys, I am publishing wine reviews for your benefit, and I know a lot of you are looking at them, many on a regular basis. Is it asking too much to click a couple of boxes on my latest poll? These polls only make sense with a reasonable number of answers. So please, just do it, in particular my American readers who actually outnumber Australians at present.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Olivier Tricon Montee De Tonnerre Chablis

Montee de Tonnerre is a small, highly regarded 1er cru vineyard sitting between grand crus. It can deliver outstanding wines with typical Chablis character.

This 2010 Olivier Tricon Montee de Tonnerre, unfortunately, does not stand up to this reputation. The fruit flavours are rather bland. Minerality dominates. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the wine is not charming on the palate, not intriguing, and a little dull. On the plus side, the acidity in this wine is in nice balance with the fruit.

Score: 88/-

Saturday, December 14, 2013

New poll

I have not done a poll for a while. Please participate and make sure you answer either the southern or the northern hemisphere question, depending on where you live.

Australian Pinot Noir 2012

This is not a review, but a purchase suggestion. I have never done this before, but it seems the 2012 Pinot Noirs from the half moon around Melbourne and from Tasmania are absolutely exceptional. I bought some Main Ridge, William Downie, Yabby Lake, Mac Forbes and Holyman. There are many other exceptional ones around. This is probably a once in a decade opportunity. I will also be looking for the second and third tier wines from Bass Phillip, which should be great in such a year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tscharke Tempranillo/Graciano

Damien Tscharke is making a name for himself with so called 'alternative' varieties in the Barossa Valley. The 2008 Tscharke Only Son is a Tempranillo/Graciano blend. This is a pretty full-bodied Son, I must say. The dark cherry fruit flavours are quite ripe. The Graciano element adds some tannin structure to the Tempranillo, and it works well in this wine. The tannins are fine grained and lead to a satisfying finish. Overall, however, the mouthfeel is not of a very refined wine - a bit in your face.

Score: 91/0

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Penfolds 389 Cabernet Shiraz

This unique Australian blend often works well, can be better than Cabernet Merlot in many cases. One of the classics is Penfolds 389.

I open the 2006 Penfolds 389 Cabernet Shiraz at seven years, my average cellaring time for Shiraz. This wine is full bodied and quite masculine, as you would expect. The flavours are of black fruit, blackberry and mulberry in particular. There is considerable depth of flavour, but not over the top. I remember the wine was quite harsh on release, but the tannins have now mellowed significantly. The wine has a very long and satisfying finish.

There are good elements in this wine, the fruit, the structure. But it is not a perfect wine. It is not as harmonious or elegant as it should be. This wine presents good drinking now, but should improve for another 2-3 years.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Wynns Coonawarra Black Label

Wynns has made great strides during the last 10 years to improve its wines across the range. The 2009 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is loaded with dark blackcurrant fruit. It needs time to unfold in the glass and would benefit from decanting. There is a lack of fruit and mouthfeel on the mid palate.  The wine is still quite taut at this point and the tannins are coarse. This wine would definitely have benefitted from some more generosity.

I would recommend to keep this wine a few years longer, but the risk will be that the tannins will mellow, while the fruit weakens also.

This is not what I had hoped for from this good vintage.

Score: 88/-

Friday, December 6, 2013

Albino Rocca Duemilasette

The 2007 Albino Rocca Duemilasette Barbaresco is an elegant wine. Floral aromas start you off, before the depth of dark cherry fruit kicks in. The tannins are firm, but have mellowed. They lead to a sustained finish.

This is a serious and enjoyable wine, but slightly out of balance, as the tannins are too strong for the fruit.

Score: 92/+

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kirrihill Italian Varieties

Kirrihill is a fairly new, quite large winery in the Clare Valley. The range of Italian wines is produced in small volumes, though. Hamish Seabrook is its experienced winemaker.

When I tasted the range of the 2012 wines, I was confronted with a number of strange and unfortunate choices.

The 2012 Kirrihill Sangiovese tastes hot and alcoholic, not surprising given an alcohol content of 14.9%. This also masks the characteristics of Sangiovese flavour and is very unusual for this variety.

Score: 85/--

Montepulciano is a grape variety  originally from the Abruzzo region in Italy - not to be confused with the Sangiovese called Montepulciano, based on the Tuscan village -. It can handle heat well and is being talked about as a replacement of Shiraz should temperatures in hot regions like the Barossa or Clare raise further. However, the 2012 Kirrihill Montepulciano comes from the Adelaide Hills, a weird choice. The wine is clean and fleshy, but a bit harsh and not very forgiving in the mouth.

Score: 87/-

The 2012 Kirrihill Nebbiolo follows the unfortunate Australian trend of releasing this variety after one year. Nebbiolo is a small grape, with a high pulp-to-flesh ratio and intense tannins. This variety needs time to soften. This wine is very dry and dusty, and the fruit too thin for the tannins. The wine falls off somewhat at the finish.

Score: 86/-

Overall, an underwhelming experience, largely based on unexpected winemaking choices.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

6 Mac Forbes Pinot Noirs

Sorry for being absent for a while. Opportunities for reviewing wine while trekking in Nepal do not really arise. I am now back, and I thought I start with a review of the 2012 releases of perhaps the currently "hottest" winemaker in Australia. The problem is, I was struck with a cold. Therefore the descriptions are not going to be detailed, but hopefully you will get an idea.

Mac Forbes explores the terroir in the Yarra Valley and apart from the entry wine, all wines are single vineyard, some owned, some contracted.

The 2012 Mac Forbes Yarra Valley Pinot Noir from declassified single vineyard fruit is not your typical fruit driven Australian version, but more European in style. Mushroom flavours dominate in this very dry wine, yet it is quite accessible now. Terrific value.

Score: 92/++

The 2012 Mac Forbes Coldstream Pinot Noir comes from the valley floor and is Mac Forbes' warmest site. The wine has appealing aromatics, quite feminine in the strawberry spectrum, well rounded and elegant.

Score: 93/++

The 2012 Mac Forbes Gruyere Pinot Noir, also from the valley floor, is one I struggled with. It has great texture and balance. At one point it is quite soft, then savoury mushroom flavours take over. There is a good tannin structure in the wine, but it may take a couple of years for everything to come together.

Score: 93/++

The 2012 Mac Forbes Woori Yallock Pinot Noir is the most celebrated wine of this line-up. Phillip Rich of the Financial Review called it his wine of the year. The wine is quite complex, with black cherry, floral and spice flavours and its main feature, the silky tannins, which lead to a long finish.

Score: 94/++

The 2012 Mac Forbes Wesburn Pinot Noir was my favorite. It is from an even colder site than Woori Yallock, in the hills of the eastern part of the valley. The palate is very complex, with more intense cherry flavours and a very steely structure. This wine needs to soften a bit, but the aromatics are beautiful.

Score 95/+++

The 2012 Mac Forbes Yarra Junction Pinot Noir was harvested last and caught a couple of heavy rain days. As a result, it is remarkably different from the previous wines. It is more forward and a little sweeter, yet displays beautiful aromatics, a bit similar to the Coldstream.

Score: 92/+

This is a terrific line-up. Over time, the different personalities of these wines, from different altitudes and soil types, will become more pronounced. I would love to do a vertical tasting of these wines to see these differences more clearly.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bottega Gold

Many companies try to sway people with their labels or bottle designs. Only a few succeed. But look at this bottle! Eye-catching, but still classy.

The Bottega Gold is a high-end, but not so expensive Prosecco. It is attractive in the glass, quite pale, and with a lot of tiny lively bubbles. This is not a yeasty French Champagne, but a refreshing aperitif. This sparkling wine is on the fruity side and quite feminine, with a vibrant finish.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tahbilk White Rhone Varieties

 Tahbilk has bottled Marsanne long before it became more fashionable to drink white Rhone varieties. There are three such wines in the current offering.

The 2013 Tahbilk Marsanne is refreshing on the front palate. It has pear flavours, and some sweetness on the back, but the wine is more about its balanced texture. This is a very clean wine. I would drink it well chilled and have it with Thai food or even desert.

Score: 90/++

The 2013 Viognier is equally clean, but I find the flavour profile a little nondescript. The acidity on the finish is pleasant, but otherwise there is not much of anything, really.

Score: 88/-

The single vineyard 2004 Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne uses some of the oldest Marsanne vines in the world. The style of this wine is different from typical Rhone wines of this variety. The wine is picked early and has more acidity than is common for Marsanne. The 2004 shows pear fruit, blended with toasty characters. The wine carries quite a bit of fruit characters, but finishes dry.

Score: 92/+

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dutschke Oscar Semmler Shiraz

I still remember when I first met Wayne Dutschke. We had to go to a restaurant to taste his wines, as he had no facility to do so. Dutschke is a somewhat unfortunate name, as the former leader of the Red Army Faction in Germany in the 70s was called Dutschke, but not many will remember, and he is a very charming man anyway.

He has come a long way since then with a range of wines from the Lyndoch subregion. The Oscar Semmler is his premium wine, coming from a block of the oldest vines of his St. Jakobi vineyard.

The 2010 Dutschke Oscar Semmler Shiraz is full-bodied, yet a lively wine. Blackberry flavours stand out in this well balanced wine. The fruit stays strong to the back palate, until finely grained, but firm tannins take over on a long, long finish. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, modern Barossa Shiraz, not light, but fresh and delicious. Best drinking time: 2015-2017.

Score: 94/++  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Barossa Shiraz

This blog does not engage in promotion nor advertising, but I must make an exception, given I just published a wine book.

Barossa Shiraz: Discovering the tastes of the Barossa's regions is the first book in Australia to systematically investigate the relationship between the flavour and structure of a wine and its origin. Barossa Shiraz divides the Barossa into eleven sub-regions, each with its own terroir. Major differences between terroirs are identified, and a tasting profile for each sub-region is provided. Major wineries and benchmark vineyards are discussed. Their locations are shown on detailed maps, and the book includes profiles of leading Barossa winemakers.

Reading Barossa Shiraz will enable enthusiasts to appreciate the differences in flavour and structure of Shiraz - and to enjoy their wine even more.

Andrew Caillard, MW: Thomas Girgensohn's observations and intuitive tastings, based on extensive personal experience and systematic review are topical, sagacious and prescient... Barossa Shiraz is a remarkable and enlightened achievement.

For more details visit the publisher's website You can order the book there or from any good bookstore.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I have spent the last 10 days in Japan and tried to come to terms with sake (not the major objective of this trip). I thought I might share some basics with you. The two major dimensions by which sake is distinguished are the amount of rice grain which is used and the brewing method.

Junmai is the basic variety, based on rice, water, yeast and koji (mold). Honjozo has 30% or less of the rice grain milled off. This gives the sake more intensity of flavour. The next level is Ginjo, where up to 40% is shaved off, and the most intense sake is Daiginjo (Dai-ginjoshu), where up to 50% of the rice kernel is taken off.

The previous sakes usually have about 15% alcohol. Then there is Gensyu, which is not diluted with water and has a 17-20% alcohol content. It has deeper and richer flavour. There are some other, less important variations.

Within each category, you can have higher and lower quality. This is also subjective, and depends on at least five dimensions: dry-sweet, acidity, savouriness, flavour notes (apple and banana are often dominant), and fragrance. Most highly regarded sakes are those, which have these dimensions in harmony and have a quick disappearing finish (very different from wine assessment).

I found it quite difficult to assess sake in this brief period of time. It is as complex as our wine, but maybe this note helps as an initial introduction.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grosset New Rieslings

At a recent larger gathering of people tasting the 2013 Rieslings of Jeffrey Grosset, I was astounded to find that half the group favoured the Alea off-dry Riesling over the Polish Hill.

The 2013 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling starts with citrus flavours, but I taste mainly apple rind in this wine. The wine is quite lean and astringent at this point (maybe this put some people off), but I loved the minerality, preciseness and linearity in this wine. This feature is unmatched in Australia.

Score: 96/+++

The 2013 Grosset Alea Riesling is regarded as an off-dry wine with 9 grams of residual sugar. This is right borderline to the 'trocken' definition in Germany, and Jeffrey Grosset calls it no longer off-dry. The wine has a bigger mouthfeel and some sweetness throughout, but with a fresh finish. What makes this wine less good than the Polish Hill is the fact that it is less precise on the palate and delivers less minerality, a key feature of a top Riesling, in my view.

Score: 92/-

Sunday, October 13, 2013

4 Icon Wines, over 10 years old

As it happened, I drank four highly regarded wines over the last few days (a little while ago):

-2002 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling
-2001 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon
-2002 Torbreck RunRig
-2002 Barossa Valley Estate E&E Shiraz

Most of the time, wines are compared in the same class, but what about comparing what you might have drunk? The criterion in this case is really the enjoyment factor, and I am not going into a detailed analysis here.

Needless to say, all the wines were quite outstanding. I am more of a red wine drinker, but I got most enjoyment out of the Grosset Riesling. This wine is simply fantastic. Age has added  toast and lemongrass flavours, but the wine is still fresh and beautifully balanced. The Moss Wood Cabernet was also excellent. Still vibrant, the Cabernet fruit is beautifully polished and runs seamlessly over the palate towards a velvety finish. No heaviness here. The RunRig is a different story, of course. This wine is big with a capital B. The first glass is the best - and it is quite exceptional. It is a rare skill to incorporate such ripe and alcoholic fruit into a drink which clearly tastes like wine, and not port. This is a uniquely sun-kissed, Australian wine. The E&E is not quite as big, but combines concentrated fruit with intense chocolate flavours - an attractive match.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier

The 2012 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier is quite a special wine, like many before. The vineyard is at high altitude and the grapes grow on deep granite soil. But it is not just the terroir that makes this wine special. It has a lot to do with Tim Kirk's skill, who very deservedly was crowned Winemaker of the year this year by Gourmet Traveler Wine magazine. 2012 produced a low yield and thick skinned grapes, which produced quite intense flavours.

In a blog-post in the past, I discussed some of the less often cited criteria which make wines great. One was 'paradox'. And this is what I find in this wine. The wine is savoury, with a lot of depth, but there is also some sweeter fruit on the back palate and floral aspects throughout. The wine appears quite linear, but also has a satisfying mouthfeel. - This complexity delivers the wine's unique personality.

Score: 96/+++

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Macedon Ranges

As I mentioned before, I wanted to find out if Macedon can be a region producing exceptional wines, or if Bindi and Curly Flat are outliers and for what reason. Macedon is quite different from what I expected. It is less than an hour north of Melbourne, but feels very remote. You can (and I did) actually get lost in the hills, and the Hanging Rock mistery feels quite real.

Hanging Rock was actually the first winery I visited. It is best known for its Sparkling wine, but I wanted to taste the still wines. The 2009 Jim Jim Chardonnay was what I expected from the area: a citrus tasting wine, quite closed and austere. I liked the style (92 points). The 2012 Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir was less convincing. It was a focussed and very spicy wine (90 points). The 2011 Members Reserve Shiraz had a strong fruit core, but a slightly rough structure (89 points). I also tried their 2009 Heathcote Shiraz. The colour of this wine was a strong purple, with attractive dark cherry and redcurrant flavours on the palate. Spices added complexity to this well rounded wine (92 points). Overall, I thought this was not a bad portfolio of wines.

Like Hanging Rock, Curly Flat is located 500 meters above sea level. The 2011 Lacuna Chardonnay is made in a Chablis style, unwooded, where citrus and minerality dominate (90 points). The 2010 Curly Flat Chardonnay shows more complexity and depth of fruit, but is quite heavily oaked (92 points). Williams Crossing is the attractively priced second label Pinot Noir. The 2011 Williams Crossing has a beautiful strawberry/cherry fragrance. The wine is relatively light, with silky tannins and well structured (92 points). The 2010 Curly Flat Pinot Noir, grown on rich red volcanic soil, has the expected fruit intensity and delivers a good mouthfeel with silky tannins and a long finish. It does not have an x-factor like the 2006, but is recommended (94 points).

Cope Williams is even higher at 650 meters above sea level. Again, it is best known for Sparkling wine, but I wanted to try the still wines. On tasting were fairly old Chardonnays. The 2006 Chardonnay tasted of citrus, with a fine fruit focus. The wine was still crispy after seven years (92 points). The other Chardonnay was the 2000 Chardonnay. Wow, who would dare to open a thirteen year old Chardonnay? This wine had more toffee flavours, and the structure was still holding. The cold climate here obviously adds acidity and aging potential. This was an unusual wine, of which I bought a few bottles (94 points).The 2001 Pinot Noir, in contrast, was a shocker. It tasted of licorice and was over the hill (less than 80 points). The 2006 Shiraz did not ripen properly and was no good, either (80 points).

So what about the Macedon as a region? Why is it that only a small number of wineries shine? I think I found the answer. Many wineries are run more as a hobby, being so close to Melbourne. Some are a side show to function centres and similar. In addition, the extreme climate means that some vintages can be very difficult and require constant attention and a focus on detail. As a result, only the most focused operations will succeed consistently, but then they can produce extraordinary flavoured and long lived wines.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Penfolds RWT Shiraz

The hallmark of Penfolds is the longevity of its wines. I was therefore looking forward to open a bottle of the 1998 Penfolds RWT Shiraz. This was a great vintage, but I found this RWT quite disappointing. It is supposed to be quite different from Grange, full-bodied, but a little gentler

This wine was quite thick on the palate, with a wall of blackcurrant attacking the mouth. The French oak was  also quite prominent. This is a big, alcoholic wine with some burnt fruit and tough tannins. I give it a reasonable score, because the structure will deliver a long living wine, but the flavour profile was not to my liking.

Score: 90/--

Monday, September 30, 2013

Kumeu River Chardonnay

Kumeu River is probably New Zealand's best known Chardonnay producer. I have not drunk their wines for a number of years, but the other day I picked up a couple of bottles from the cellar.

Kumeu River produces a number of different Chardonnays from different blocks of their vineyard. The 2007 Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay shows the typical flavour profile of this producer. The fruit is quite tropical, melon and pappaya, but it is overwhelmed by oaky flavours and some butterscotch. This feels oddly out of place now if you mainly drink Chardonnays from Australia, although this wine is not nearly as big as some Californian Chardonnays. This wine was a relatively recent addition to Kumeu River's portfolio at the time, and I wonder what it adds. The palate is quite harmonious and the structure of this wine is balanced (well, too much oak for me).

Score: 90/-

The 2007 Kumeu River Mate's Vineyard is their 'Reserve' Chardonnay. The flavour profile is similar to the wine above, but a little creamier and more elegant, with malolactic fermentation playing a major part. This is a good wine, although it lacks some preciseness or linearity on the palate.

Score: 93/+

At six years, these wines have held up quite well. They are not dull, as many aged Chardonnays can be, but I would have preferred to drink them younger.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013


The second area I wanted to explore on my Victoria trip was the Macedon Ranges. Is this a potentially outstanding region or are there exceptional circumstances about Bindi and Curly Flat?

Bindi is the yardstick, but the property is not so easy to find. It is clear that Michael Dhillon (the best winemaker of Indian descent?) likes it that way. His vineyard, shown above, does not look like much, but the soil is quite special. Quartz and volcanic soil is mixed in with siltstone, sand and clay, with the upper part of the vineyard very rocky. Its elevation is over 500 metres. Michael is an interesting guy to talk to. He comes across as quite unassuming, but the whole positioning of Bindi is very strategic. It is clear that his prime focus is the vineyard, though. The property has been in the family for over 50 years, and his understanding of the site is quite deep.

Tasting became almost a sideshow, as we discussed the impact of the soil, organic principles, and the Bindi labelling. It was surprising though, to taste the high quality of his 2011 Chardonnays. This from a very wet year and a high altitude vineyard. The 2011 Bindi Composition Chardonnay comes from the middle and lower part of the vineyard. The citrus flavours are elegant and the wine is simply delicious (93 points). The 2011 Bindi Quartz Chardonnay has to be in the top three in Australia. The flavour profile is similar, but the wine is much more persistent. You need to be quite skilled to not judge this as a top Burgundy in a blind tasting. Lightness, yet length in the wine is astounding. Low yields and the temperature holding and sun reflecting qualities of the quartz are key to this wine (96 points). I also tasted the 2010 Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir, which impresses with its fragrant and cherry flavours. These wines compare well against the best Australia has to offer, as demonstrated by the Block 5 in the recent Langtons Classification tasting.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mount Langi Ghiran

On the way back to Melbourne, it made sense to stop at Mount Langi Ghiran. I tasted their two best known red wines.

The flagship 2010 Mount Langi Shiraz is a disappointment to me. The peppery notes, not too overt, are attractive, but the red fruit in this medium bodied wine lacks the intensity of the better years. The wine is harmonious and balanced, but the finish falls a little flat.

Score: 91/0

In contrast, the 2010 Mount Langi Cliff Edge Shiraz, at a third of the price, delivers. This wine, from younger, but no longer young wines, is vibrant and full-bodied. It may be a little sweet for some, and it is not as piercing on the palate as a top Shiraz, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable, modern Shiraz.

Score: 92/++

Interestingly, I was told that the winery is likely to introduce a new wine at a price point between those two. This is not surprising, given the large gap, and the fact that the Cliff Edge always over delivers for the price. So what will happen is that the better grapes, which would normally go into the Cliff Edge, will go into a new wine. Let us watch out what this will do to the quality of the Cliff Edge.    

Thursday, September 26, 2013


The second winery I visited on my trip to Great Western was of course the historic Seppelt. It certainly has had a checkered history, but now seems settled with a range of very impressive wines centered on Victoria. I tasted three of the Shirazes.

The 2010 Chalambar Shiraz includes 60% fruit from Great Western and 40% from Bendigo. It shows pretty berry flavours with a sweet core. The wine is elegant, with savoury complexity on the back palate - an attractive package.

Score: 91/+

The 2008 Silverband Shiraz includes only Great Western fruit. The wine opens with the peppery bouquet typical for the region. The rich berry fruit is complemented by  peppery flavours all the way down the palate until the wine finishes on an acidic note.

Score: 91/++

The 2008 St. Peters Shiraz is sourced from the old vines below the winery. This wine shows interesting cherry flavours and stands out because of the depth of its fruit, as a result of the low yielding vines. The spice is more complex here and beautifully woven into the flavour profile.

Score: 94/++

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thomas Braemore Semillon

Only two Semillons make the Langton's clissification. Andrew Thomas belongs there, too, in my opinion. In the meantime, you can enjoy his wine for much less than the others.

The 2010 Thomas Braemore Semillon comes in the typical lime and citrus spectrum. What impresses about this wine is the piercing linearity of the palate profile. It has a combination of fruit intensity and minerality not dissimilar to a Chablis premier cru. The finish is bone dry without plucking your mouth.

There is still a lot of primary fruit on the palate. This wine will live for a long, long time.

Score: 93/+++

Monday, September 16, 2013

Best's Wines

I took a trip to Great Western a few weeks ago and visited Best's (the website name is great, isn't it: The winery is one of the most historic in Australia. You can visit the original cellars, including the big vat where in the early days all grapes were thrown together: red, white, everything. The picture  shows the original vines from the Concongella block. The oldest vines are over 140 years old. The fruit goes into the exclusive Thompson Family Reserve Shiraz.

I tasted two interesting wines. The 2011 Best's White Gravel Hill Shiraz is a new single vineyard bottling from their second vineyard at 'Rhymney, 13km up the road. Normally this is blended into the Bin 0 wine, but in this difficult year, the company felt it was worth bottling this separately. The wine is bright and fresh, with red fruit flavours, but what stands out is how peppery the wine is. I have maybe never tasted a wine with so much white pepper flavour. The wine clearly stands out, maybe too much (89 points).

The 2010 Best's Bin 0 Shiraz is much more traditional. The colour is darker and the wine tastes of juicy plums. There is some pepper as well, but more in the background of this balanced wine. The tannins are fine, leading to a good length finish. This is a typical example of a premium cool climate Shiraz from Great Western (93 points).    

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pinot Noir Australia at Moncur Cellars

Most leading Pinot Noir producers show their new releases at this tasting, which happened a few weeks ago. I reported on this last year as well. Unfortunately, it was very crowded this year and not very enjoyable as a result. But it gives an opportunity to get across most wineries in one evening.

I felt that the styles are converging, which is a bit disappointing. The bigger Pinot Noirs, for example from the Mornington Peninsula, were toned down, the lighter wines were made more intense. Thankfully, the days of fruity Pinot Noirs are truly over in the better wines. And 2011 is really watery and disappointing as a general rule.

I will report in order of my rating:

The 2012 Coldstream Hills Deer Farm shows complex cherry dominated flavours on the palate with a nice mouthfeel and good length (93 points).
The 2010 Marchand & Burch "Mt. Barrow" from Great Southern is dominated by forest floor flavours, very savoury and European in style, with good length (93 points).
The 2010 Mount Mary is a very elegant and subtle style, with a weaker finish than desirable (93 points).
The 2011 Wantirna "Lilly" is quite an achievement for the vintage. The fruit is strawberry, with penetrating intensity, silky tannins and good length (93 points).
The 2008 Paringa Estate "The Paringa" has bigger and darker fruit - quite an intense and tannic wine (93 points)
The 2011 By Farr "Sangreal" is the other quite savoury and European style Pinot Noir. It has good depth for the vintage (93 points). The 2011 By Farr "Farrside" is lighter, softer and more feminine (92 points).

Close behind on 92 points were the 2010 Giaconda (savoury and penetrating, but not big); the 2011 Grosset (strawberry flavours, a bit bland, but good length); 2010 Glaetzer-Dixon "Reveur" (dark, big, complex flavours, balanced); 2010 Stonier Windmill (dark, fruit orientated, but not too big, good structure); 2011 Moorilla "Muse" (complex palate, fruit and mushroom, silky tannins) 2011 MacForbes "Woori Yallock" (light, strawberry flavours, silky tannins, good length); 2010 Bannockburn and Bannockburn Stuart (orange peel, quite smooth, lacks mouthfeel).

The weakest wines on 86 points were 2008 Savaterre (brown colour, quite aged and mellow); 2011 Yabby Lake (light, harsh); 2011 Tarrawarra (light); 2011 Stefano Lubiana Primavera (lolly flavours); 2010 Yarraloch Stephanies Dream (plump, not much depth)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How David Powell Lost Torbreck

It is with great sadness to see that David Powell lost control of his Torbreck winery. David has always divided opinion, but there is no argument that he produced exceptional wines, maybe not to everybody's taste, but exceptional nonetheless. I loved the 'Australianness' in these substantial wines. He has also been a great advocate for high quality growers and been a mentor to many in the Barossa.

I am copying below his email where he describes the events from his point of view.

Not from Roennfeldt road, as you may have heard by now. It’s a pretty sad story and one I want you to hear directly from me. Rumours are already flying out there and I want to set the record straight. It’s a bit of an essay but bear with me, we have seven years of history to cover here. Here goes…
Seven years ago, on a Friday night in Atlanta, Georgia, I met US businessman Pete Kight and his wife Terry who had come to meet me as fans of Torbreck wines. Discovering that they were heading to Oz that coming Christmas with their two children, I invited them over for a BBQ if they made it to the Barossa.
Come December the Kights did indeed make it to the Valley and joined my then wife and I with my two boys for a great summers night. Over an old bottle of RunRig the conversation turned to business and I was telling Pete how I had to somehow raise the money to buy out my then fellow shareholder Jack Cowin. 
Pete surprised me by offering to help, and although I needed a substantial amount of money, he said if it stacked up he would love to help me get my business back for my boys and me – I’d told him I’d always seen Torbreck as a legacy for my sons.
I could not believe my luck, I’d had no idea he was a billionaire. At the time I also remember thinking of the old saying that if it seems too good to be true it usually is, however I had my back to the wall so we proceeded with the deal.
That mistake cost me everything.
My lawyer advised me not to sign the deal that was presented to me, as there was a clause that would see me lose Torbreck if ever enforced. I told Pete my lawyer told me not to sign as it stood and needed to be amended. He responded by saying his lawyers were being over zealous and not to worry, we needed to get it done and could sort it out later. That he was only doing the deal to help me get Tobreck back for my family. 
Fast forward five years and the time has come as per the contracts for me to provide Pete an exit from the business. I was given six months to execute the buyout. And this is where the problem in the contract came into play – if I could not complete the deal in time my option would expire and he would own Torbreck. Despite my many protestations during the five years, that problem clause never was amended. One could take the view that that was intentional…
The deadline was the 27th of July this year and I was close to getting one of many suitors to sign up. At this stage I believed I only needed another couple of months to get the deal done – time I believed in good faith that I had. I’d also spent $250,000 and become deeper in debt to Pete trying to get the deal done, and was financially very vulnerable. There may have been significance in that. 
So imagine my surprise when working in Sydney, I was told Pete was at Torbreck. I was summoned home to attend a meeting with him and Torbreck Chairman Colin Ryan. 
When Pete invested in Torbreck I had taken on several million dollars of the debt personally, including the 1.14 million Colin had made out of the original deal with Jack Cowin. In my naivety I did not understand the significance of this. I was about to find out.
I walked in, sat down with Pete and Colin. No pleasantries were exchanged before Pete told me that my time was up, his shares in Torbreck were no longer for sale, and the company now belonged to him.
I was told that I was no longer employed by Torbreck directly, but could have my own company working for Torbreck as a consultant roaming the world selling wine on commission, and that that commission would be directed back to Torbreck to resolve the debt I had taken on in signing the deal. If I didn’t take the ‘job’ on offer, my debt would be called in and I’d be bankrupt.
I asked about my equity in Torbreck and was told that, as per the deal I’d signed, my equity was gone. I turned to Colin, who I've said publicly was like a father to me, and asked, ‘What about all the times we spoke about changing that clause?’ He just shrugged. I have to say that was one of the greatest betrayals of my life.
20 years of my life, all the backbreaking work of the early days bringing those beautiful old vineyards back to life. All the heart and soul poured into my wines, each with their own special character and story. Two decades of literal sweat, blood and tears, gone. The inheritance I’d built from nothing for my sons, and the staff who’d become like family. Gone. Just like that.
I’ve seen the article in Wine Spectator Pete claiming that I haven’t been responsible for hands-on winemaking since 2006. That’s just complete bullshit. I’ve been in the Barossa alongside the troops every single harvest since I founded Torbreck in 1994, and I take full personal responsibility for the quality of every wine with a Torbreck label on it. Turns out, that was going to be a problem for me too.
You see, everyone in that meeting knew there was a serious problem with the next vintage of The Laird – the 2009. Whilst I was away doing the job of selling wine, something happened in the particular barrel store where the wine is kept. For the first time in five years the volatile acidity in the wine had gone through the roof and left unchecked. I took responsibility for it and we tried to remedy it, but it couldn’t be done. I believe the ’09 wine is unsaleable at the high price we command for it.
I’ve always maintained that I have no problems selling wines for high prices and that my benchmark is would I purchase the wine myself. In this case the answer was no. Pretty easy to offer me a job selling wine on commission when The Laird is unsaleable, and The Laird is the difference between Torbreck being profitable or not.
To conclude the meeting I was ordered to take a month’s leave and think about the new role I was to play. I was also told not to come on company property other than my house, or talk to the other members of staff, who’d been told not to talk to me. Neither man shook my hand as I left the room.
The next day my company credit cards were revoked and the following day my company email was blocked. I found out all the other employees were told that Pete had bought me out of the company, in the presence of Colin and the company CFO David Adams. I was astounded that even though they both knew the truth, they remained silent.
I felt like I was cornered so I packed up my belongings from the house I had called home for 14 years and moved to a friends’ vacant house on the banks of the Para River which they are letting me have rent free. I had to leave my company car and another mate lent me a vehicle. You certainly find out who your friends are at times like these.
Then I removed all my stuff from the office and Cellar Door. I have been accused by the new management of pilfering my own property, including the painting you see on all the Torbreck labels which was painted by my own mother.
I’ve always tried immensely hard to be good to my team, and many of them have become dear personal friends. In the Wine Spectator article this week, it was stated that my management style was ‘volatile’. I’m particularly hurt by that because I treat my team like family, always have. I hope the new bosses can say the same. Pete’s company took over our sales in the US some time ago. I still keenly remember writing a sizeable cheque from my own pocket for one of our salespeople who’d been let go a week before Christmas, after seven years, with no severance pay. Bankrupt as I am likely to be, I won’t be able to do that this time around if anything should happen to my Torbreck people and it breaks my heart to think of it.
The day after I lost everything I received a letter from Colin. It contained my “resignation” which I was expected to sign. As per my employment contract, signing that letter would have left me with no severance pay and completely penniless. That battle is ongoing, but luckily one of Australia’s top employment lawyers is a big fan of my wines and is helping out free of charge. I’m incredibly grateful to him and the many friends who’ve rallied round me at this dark time.
The hardest thing in all of this mess has been telling my two sons their inheritance is gone. My eldest, Callum, is in France at the moment working for my great friends Erin and Jean Louis Chave. He expressed maturity beyond his 19 years by telling me, “Fuck that rich bastard, don't worry Dad, when I get home we will start something up together!”
So it has been great ride, if turbulent at times. Many of you will be thinking what an idiot to trust someone that much. I agree! I have been accused of playing the victim, of being dishonest, of being reckless with company money. If I’m a victim it’s of my own stupidity in signing that deal in the first place and I'm the first to admit it. The rest though, I strenuously deny. Money can buy a lot of silence but in the end the truth will always out.
As I sit here looking out over the river in the Valley I love so much, I’m determined that this will not be the last you have heard from me. Give me a few years and my son and I will have many great wines for you to enjoy, from some very surprising vineyard sources. 
Thank you sincerely for all for your support over the years. I am grateful first and foremost for the friends around the world I’ve made as I built Torbreck from nothing. They can take the company I built but they can’t take my passion. Torbreck’s just a label now – the future holds better things.
Cheers ,

Dave Powell

Friday, September 6, 2013

Langtons Classification Tasting

Langtons Classification is Australia's most authoritative categorization of its best wines. Langtons uses auction results to group the top wines into exceptional, outstanding, excellent and distinguished. Overall,123 wines are currently classified. How exactly this is done is shrouded in mystery.

For the second time, Langtons just organized a tasting of all these wines. Most wineries poured their current releases. Some were a bit sneaky, such as Bass Phillip and Wendouree, who only showed one of their wines listed - but their production levels are small -, some showed up to three years. All in all, it was an amazing tasting. If you wanted to taste all wines, you had roughly one minute per wine.

This was obviously not practical. I left out those wines that I either knew well or was not particularly interested in tasting (in this context). Given this format, I could not take decent tasting notes. So what I will represent here is my own classification into three levels, one being the best. What I was looking for at that level was a wine which had intensity or depth, balance and elegance and silky tannins (in reds). It also needed to stand out in terms of 'personality' or character. Following are my results:

Level 1: 2010 Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir, 2010 Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir, 2008 Henschke Hill of Grace, 2012 Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock Shiraz Cabernet Franc, 2010 Wantirna Amelia Cabernet Merlot, 2010 Torbreck RunRig Shiraz/Viognier.

Close to level 1 were: 2010 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Dalwhinnie Eagle Shiraz, 2010 Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz, 2010 Mount Mary Pinot Noir

Level 2:
2007 Penfolds Grange
2011 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz
2005 Chris Ringland Shiraz
2008 Clarendon Hills Astralis
2010 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier
2011 Cullen Diana Madeline
2011 Giaconda Chardonnay
2010 Mount Mary Quintet
2010 (I think) Best's Thomson Family Shiraz
2008 Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz
2012 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock Shiraz
2009 Kaesler, Old Bastard Shiraz
2009 Elderton Command Shiraz
2010 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz
2010 Seppelt St. Peters Shiraz
2009 Torbreck Descendant Shiraz/Viognier
2010 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet Blend
2010 Yeringberg Cabernet Blend
2010 Castagna Genesis Syrah (also 2005)
2008 Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling
2010 Rolf Binder Hanisch Shiraz
2009 Tyrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay

Level 3:
2007 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon
2010 Noon Reserve Shiraz
2011 Pierro Chardonnay
2011 Lake's Folly Cabernet
2013 Leo Buring Leonay Riesling
2010 Mount Mary Chardonnay
2005 Wendouree Shiraz/Mataro
2012 Crawford River Riesling
2010 Savaterre Chardonnay

As you can tell, not a great night for white wines. Big bodied Shirazes did not dominate the top level, it was more subtlety which provided the highlights. A lot more could be said, but this post is already pretty long.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kooyong Estate Pinot Noir

Sandro Mosele is a very meticulous winemaker. He has established a very logical three tiered system for his wines, with the Estate wine sitting in the middle of the hierarchy. This wine is a blend from the different blocks surrounding the winery.

The 2008 Kooyong Estate Pinot Noir has a bright ruby colour and it tastes of red and black cherry. The wine has great intensity and penetration and quite a big mouthfeel. It is elegant and balanced and finishes with velvety tannins. It actually reminds me of the Kosta Browne I had a few days ago: not too many secondary characteristics (as the single-vineyard wines have), but an appealing flavour and structure profile nonetheless.

Kooyong Pinot Noir has never disappointed me and delivers at each price point. It might be the benchmark against which Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir could be measured.

Score: 94/++  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon

After the disappointment with Pahlmeyer, I opened a bottle of the second wine I brought back from the Napa a few years ago, the legendary S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon. Legendary because it was this wine which won the famous 1976 Paris tasting against French Bordeaux.

The 2007 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a vineyard now up to 40 years old, with quite varied soil, from alluvial to volcanic. This is a full-bodied wine, but not overblown. Blackcurrant flavours dominate on the front palate. The mid-palate is a bit flat, as is often the case with Cabernet Sauvignon. On the back-palate, there are savoury and mineral notes, matched with balanced tannins.

There is nothing striking about this wine, but it is well made and enjoyable to drink right now.

Score: 93/++

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Glaetzer-Dixon New Releases

When I reported on the Glaetzer-Dixon Shiraz winning last year's Jimmy Watson trophy and not being too enthusiastic about the wine, I drew some flak from company representatives, and the post became one of my most read posts. This review will be less controversial, I think, although I will not be dishing out James Halliday level points (which is quite normal for me).

The first wine I tasted was the 2012 Glaetzer-Dixon Uberblanc Riesling. It has quite a crunchy citrus taste, there is lime and apple as well. The wine finishes dry and a little acidic (89 points). The 2012 Uberblanc Goldpunkt Riesling is a step up in fruit intensity. It is a more elegant wine, but still characterized by an acidic finish, which should give it a long life ahead. It is probably worth while to keep this wine for a number of years to see it develop and mellow (Goldpunkt?) (92 points).

The 2013 Glaetzer-Dixon 'Nouveau' Pinot Noir is  a Beaujolais-style wine. Obviously quite young, it is a dry wine lacking somewhat in mouthfeel (86 points). The 2012 'Avance' Pinot Noir has a strange animal fur smell on the bouquet, but loses this on the palate. The wine is dark coloured, with black cherry fruit dominant, medium bodied with a lifted acidic finish (91 points). The flagship is the 2010 'Reveur' Pinot Noir. This is a softer wine, no doubt partly due to bottle age. The flavours are complex: dark cherries mixed in with savoury forest floor. The finish is long, with quite firm tannins on the back palate. This is a well structured and interesting wine, which will further develop for the next four years and live quite a while longer (94 points).    

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma County

I mentioned in a couple of posts below in the review of AP Vin the development of Cult Pinot Noirs in California. I was curious how the 2007 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma County would compare to the AP Vin from the same area and year.

This trailblazer of full blown Pinot Noirs delivers pretty well. The full-bodied wine tastes of predominantly red cherry. The wine is smooth and elegant, and the tannins have softened. It is not what you would regard  a classic Burgundy, there is not much forest floor in the flavour profile, nor a lift on the finish. This is more a Shiraz drinker's Pinot Noir. This wine is a nice package and drinks well now, but I would not keep it much longer.

Score: 93/+

Monday, August 26, 2013

Two Hands Aphrodite Cabernet Sauvignon

When people think about Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, they think about Coonawarra and Margaret River. The trouble is that some of these wines can be a bit underdone and green (sometimes). There is another region, however, where this virtually never happens. It is the Barossa. The concern here is that often its Cabernets are not expressing varietal characteristics particularly well.

The 2003 Two Hands Aphrodite Cabernet Sauvignon, the pinnacle Barossa Cabernet from Two Hands, is a very pleasant surprise. This 10 year old wine is fresh (under cork), with typical currant flavours. It is full-bodied and delivers a great mouthfeel, not at all overripe. The wine is quite pungent, with firm and dry tannins, and a refreshing and lifted finish.

Score: 94/++

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2006 Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Coonawarra Cabernet. This medium-bodied wine tastes of red and black currant. The wine is a little bit on the lean side and not totally ripe. It has, however, a balanced structure and firm tannins.

Score: 90/0

Saturday, August 24, 2013

AP Vin Pinot Noir Kanzler Vineyard

Cult wines from California were synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon for a long time. But for a while now a handful of Pinot Noir producers have joined the club. Kosta Browne is probably the best known. Another one is AP Vin. The characteristics are: small production, sold out mailing lists, single vineyard wines, careful treatment, a lot by hand, and of course high prices.

How well do they live up to their reputation? AP Vin shares the Kanzler vineyard in Sonoma with Kosta Browne, which has achieved high ratings for its wine. The 2007 AP Vin Pinot Noir Kanzler Vineyard tastes of black cherry. I experienced big fruit volume in the mouth, but not overripe. The wine has a good structure and is holding up well. It finishes with firm tannins and slightly broad - no real lift on the finish, but a good quality wine.

Score: 92/+

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

KT Wines

Kerri Thompson is an interesting winemaker from the Claire, with access to a couple of great vineyards, and a special focus on Riesling. In 2013 she made five Rieslings.

The  2013 KT 5452 Riesling (it's the postcode) shows pretty citrus fruit, but is quite forward (86 points). The 2013 KT Peglidis Riesling is one of the flagship Rieslings. This one is a big wine for a Riesling. It displays floral flavours and fleshy citrus fruit on quite an acidic and dry backbone (92 points). The 2013 KT Churinga Riesling was my favorite. This vineyard is much rockier and as a result, the wine tastes quite slatey. Apple flavours move to minerality on the back palate before the wine finishes on an acidic note. This wine will be long lived (94 points).

The 2013 KT Melva Riesling is also from the Peglidis vineyard, but it is treated differently. It is fermented with indigenous yeast in old oak barriques. This wine is more rounded and softer than the "fresher" wines made in traditional style. It also has slightly higher sugar levels, not as bone dry as is typical for Claire. I found it very appealing (93 points). And finally, the  2013 KT Pazza Riesling. This is Kerri Thompson's take on natural wine. It is wild fermented and unfiltered. A found the wine interesting, but its profile a bit woolly. I don't think it will age well, either (89 points).

The red wine portfolio is also expanding. The 2012 KT Rosa Rose is made from Tempranillo and Grenache. This wine is simple and sweet, not recommended (82 points). The 2010 KT 5452 Shiraz/Grenache/Tempranillo/Mataro is quite enticing. The wine is soft and fruity - an easy drinking style with no pretenses (87 points). The more ambitious wines are the 2010 KT Churinga Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 KT Churinga Shiraz. The Cabernet Sauvignon is carefully hand picked and gently made.  The resulting wine is fresh and vibrant, with redcurrant fruit dominating. I taste some mint and spice as well. The wine has a firm grip on the finish (93 points). The Shiraz is made in the same way. It moves from plum and blackberry fruit on the front palate to earthy flavours on the back palate. The tannins are sneaking up on you on the finish (94 points).

The KT wines are well worth seeking out. The overall production is only 3000 cases, so they may be hard to find. The wines are quite refreshing, most have a good structure, and they bring out very good varietal character.    

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An awful Shiraz tasting

This post requires a couple of introductory remarks. Most professional wine writers do not post negative reviews. Why? Because they depend on sample submissions. If they do not like a wine, they simply won't review it. So you never know if the wine was negatively seen or not reviewed. I do not need to worry about this, because I do not rely on samples. You might say, "but you do not have many poor reviews". This is because most of the wines I review come from my cellar which essentially holds wines I enjoy, and even with new releases I pick those which I think I will like (although I sometimes leave out entry level wines - maybe I should not).

The tasting I am reporting on now was a Grange tasting - which is why I went - and included a number of other Shirazes, mostly below $30 per bottle. And it was ugly.

Let's start with McLaren Vale. The wines I tasted were 2008 Chapel Hill, 2008 Kay Brothers Basket Pressed,  2009 Oliver's Taranga HJ Reserve, 2010 Wirra Wirra RSW, 2009 Kay Brothers Amery Hillside, 2011 Chapel Hill The Vicar, 2009 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm and 2010 III Associates Giant Squid Ink Reserve. Some well known wines in this line-up. Some of these wines surprisingly lacked body weight, some were too oaky, added acidity was unpleasant, and generally the wines were not very harmonious. I would not score any of the wines at 90 points or above (other than The Dead arm at 90 points and the III Associates at 94 points). III Associates is three senior wine people from the Vale coming together and producing small quantities of hand crafted wine from old vines. This wine is fashioned in the intense and powerful style, but the fruit is first class, and the structure holds it together.

The Barossa wines were 2010 St. Hallett Blackwell, 2011 Gibson The Dirtman, 2012 Kalleske Pirathon, 2010 Glaetzer Bishop, 2009 Saltram No.1, 2006 Saltram Journal, 2010 Chris Ringland Reservation. Similarly, only the Saltram No.1 is a 90 point wine for me, even though it is a little sweet and unfocussed. The Blackwell is just in your face, and the Chris Ringland wine sweet and alcoholic. These are wines you only want to drink if they serve as a vehicle to consume alcohol.

Two cooler climate wines were much more pleasant. The 2010 Vasse Felix Shiraz showed vibrant red and black berry fruit. The wine is fresh and peppery. It has some sweetness as well, leading to an overall soft elegance (93 points). This winery is going from strength to strength. The 2010 Dalwhinnie Shiraz impresses with its beautiful blackberry fruit and its typical very silky and fine tannins (94 points).

Then there were a couple of Rhone wines. The 2010 Les Vins de Vienne l'Arzelle from Saint Joseph is quite a big wine, with intense fruit. The wine is not very complex, but pleasant to drink (90 points). The 2007 M. Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne Hermitage from the Northern Rhone is a food-friendly wine. It is not about the fruit, but the texture and drinkability of the wine. It is an elegant package, although you might say slightly bland (93 points).  

I did not enjoy this tasting. Most of these wines were not enjoyable to drink. They serve as a vehicle to consume alcohol, in my view, and lack elegance. The French and cold climate examples were much more pleasant than the South Australian wines.

I suggest if you were planning to drink two bottles of Shiraz in a week at $30/bottle, you may get more enjoyment out of only drinking one bottle at $60 per bottle (and it would be healthier, too). - This is a generalization, of course, I am not saying that a good bottle for $30 cannot be found, for example the Vasse Felix.

Friday, August 16, 2013

2008 Grange A 100 Pointer? - NO WAY!

The 2008 Penfolds Grange has been named a perfect wine by American critics Wine Spectator and Robert Parker and received 98 points, the highest score by James Halliday in his latest Wine Companion. It is therefore the most highly rated Australian table wine ever, I think.

Yesterday I had the chance to have a tiny taste of the new Grange. Obviously, top quality fruit has gone into it. The wine is made in the traditional way, finishing its fermentation in large American oak. The intensity of the fruit and the big body indicate it is a Grange from a strong year. What is amazing is the elegance this wine achieves already despite the power. The wine has perfect structure and the expected long and lasting finish.

Now comes my gripe: on the mid palate, I tasted a really sweet core which was not balanced by any savoury characteristics. This makes the wine too much in your face. Yes, it is meant to make a powerful statement, but for a perfect wine, I expect ripe fruit to be held in check. I did not find this on this occasion.

My taste was very small. I will have a chance to taste this wine again in a couple of weeks. I will report if my assessment will change as a result. If I could pay for these bottles, I would put my money for 2008s on Henschke's Hill of Grace.

Score: 96/++

Thursday, August 15, 2013

E. Pira Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi

Some posts ago I commented on my Barolo tastings in Piedmont. Barolo is a wine which really requires aging. I therefore was looking forward to opening a 2000 E Pira Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi.

This famous vineyard wine has quite an aromatic bouquet. On the palate, I tasted red and black cherry in a slightly smokey package. The wine is very focussed and goes down the palate with the same intensity finishing very long. The tannins are very silky and have softened beautifully. In many ways, this wine has quite a modern, new world feel. It is medium bodied, fruit focussed, not super complex, and elegant.

This wine will live another 5-10 years at current level, but might be drinking at its peak now.

Score: 96/+++

Monday, August 12, 2013

Torbreck (Relatively) New Releases

On the same day I tasted the Wynns wines, I tasted some relatively new releases from Torbreck.

The volume wine, the 2012 Woodcutters Shiraz delivers good plummy fruit on the palate, and a great mouthfeel, but it is not very harmonious and balanced (88 points).

The other wines are from the 2009 vintage, which according to Torbreck personnel beats 2010 with its elegance and the fact that these wines open up really well. 2010 wines in contrast will need a number of years cellaring.

The 2009 The Steading, a 60/20/20 GSM, as always, shows the bright fruit of the Grenache. The wine is vibrant and piercing, no lollipop flavours here (93 points).

The star of the tasting was the 2009 Descendent, a Shiraz/Viognier blend. The fruit flavours are deep and complex with a rich and elegant texture. The finish is surprisingly savoury and very long (96 points).

The 2009 Factor is fashioned in a traditional Barossa way: a big, rich wine, with concentrated blackberry fruit, chocolate and also some meaty notes. The fruit is not burnt, but the mouthfeel a bit rough (93 points).

It is actually interesting to compare Wynns and Torbreck on this occasion. At first blush, they seem to have little in common, however, as you look closer, both are relative high volume in their respective area, both have access to the best dirt in their region, and they focus on the varieties which do best in their regions. So how do the releases compare?

The accolade for the volume/value wine goes to the Wynns Shiraz, because it is the more harmonious wine. Comparing the classics - Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Torbreck The Steading - the gong goes to the Steading. This vintage is one of the best. I don't think the Wynns is. Then the specialty wines, if you like. Both the Messenger and the Descendent are terrific. Narrow win for Torbreck, as the wine is more complex. And finally comparing the premium classics: both the John Riddoch and the Factor are good wines, but not quite reaching a peak - a draw. (I enjoyed this exercise)

Saturday, August 10, 2013


It is time for the 2010 Wynns wines to shine - and shine they did.

The 2010 Wynns Black Label Shiraz is the first Shiraz bottled under the black label. This is no accident. The fruit for this high volume wine is excellent. The blackberry flavours are rich with good depth of fruit and a dry finish. This is a well made wine, not as big as a Barossa Shiraz, but with more weight than the classic cool climate Shirazes from Victoria (92 points).

The 2010 Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon was weaker by comparison. Maybe a lot of the best fruit went into the higher prices wines. The wine has the typical black- and redcurrant flavours, but is a bit coarse on the palate (89 points).

The real highlight is the 2010 Wynns Messenger Cabernet Sauvignon. This single vineyard wine comes from the Southern Coonawarra, where the famous terra rossa soil is especially deep. This is the first time since 1985 that this block has been bottled separately. The flavours are very vibrant and pristine. Mulberry and mint dominate, but the real highlight for me are the silky and very seductive tannins. Really good drinking now, but will also age well (95 points).

The 2010 Wynns Michael Shiraz is a step up in fruit intensity, but unfortunately also in oak treatment. The structure of the wine promises long aging potential and I would certainly put this wine down for at least seven years for the wine to mellow and show its potential (93 points).

The 2010 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon is a slight disappointment at the moment. It is rich on the palate, but very tight and closed. Underneath, there is good linearity on the palate, and I think this wine will come together, but it would have been better to have it released two years later (93 points).

Craggy Range New Premium Releases

Craggy Range is New Zealand's preeminent winery across a wide range of wines. Tasting the new releases demonstrates the high quality across the board, although lacking absolute high points.

The 2011 Te Muna Pinot Noir from Martinborough tastes of cherry and strawberry. The fruit is a bit simple and straight forward and the wine quite light-bodied. It has an ethereal texture and quite silky tannins (91 points).  

The 2010 Calvert Pinot Noir from Central Otago is bigger in fruit weight and more complex. The dark cherry flavours are augmented with forest floor, but the finish is not as smooth as I would have liked (92 points).

We are now moving to Hawkes Bay, the home of Craggy Range, and where the grapes for the fuller bodied reds are grown. The 2010 Gimblett Gravels Syrah is very spicy and the fruit is a bit lean with slightly metallic flavours. The finish is quite satisfying (90 points).

The 2011 Le Sol Syrah is the flagship wine. It is more generous and elegant, not as intense as in some other years, with a smooth finish (92 points).

The star of the tasting was the 2011 Sophia. This Bordeaux style blend is dominated by Merlot and therefore fashioned similar to right bank Bordeaux. This wine has great depth of blackberry fruit, a sweet core, and firm tannins to provide a solid structure which will allow the wine to develop more complexity with time. An excellent effort (94 points).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Penfolds 707 Cabernet Sauvignon

You know you can trust Penfolds to make lasting wines, but how do they achieve that a 1998 707 Cabernet Sauvignon is still youthful, and this under cork? The flavours have shifted from blackcurrant to mulberry, but the fruit is still very strong and deep. This wine is built like a powerhouse, with a tremendous mouthfeel. The tannins are firm, and the flavours go on and on.

This wine is more a Penfolds DNA wine than what you would expect as a drinker of Bordeaux or Coonawarra, but I cannot really hold this against the wine. It will still increase in complexity and go for 10 years plus.

Score: 97/++

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock

Jasper Hill's Shiraz wines are usually long lived. So I was optimistic when I opened a bottle of the 2001 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock. The redcurrant fruit, typical for this vineyard, dominated on the front palate. Then on the mid palate it started to feel quite hollow, before the wine finished a bit burnt  and harsh. This is a typical example of what happens to an overripe and alcoholic wine. In a number of other years, the fruit managed to carry the high alcohol, but not in 2001. Quite disappointing. This wine is nearing the end of its drinking window. If you have it in your cellar, drink it now. Maybe your bottle will be better.

Score: 87/--

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

S.C. Pannell Grenache

SC Pannell currently sits in the sweetspot of many wine reviewers. I tried the 2006 SC Pannell Grenache to find out for myself.

This wine is fresh, clean and quite elegant, but ultimately does not leave a lasting impression. It lacks structure and substance which the light tannins do not improve. Young vines, high yields or picked too early? I am not sure.

Score: 90/0

Monday, July 29, 2013

Barolo (2)

Today is spent in the village of Barolo, where I visit three cellar doors, very close to each other. The first is an appointment with the irrepressible Chiara Boschis, who took over the leader-less E. Pira e  Figli in 1990. She became the trailblazer for female winemakers in this traditional area of wine. She also adopted the modernist approach. The 2011 Barbera d'Alba is nothing out of the ordinary. The wine has some complexity, but not a great mouthfeel (90 points). But it is a different story with the Barolos. The 2009 Barolo Cannubi comes from Piedmont's most famous vineyard, shared between quite a few producers. The soil of this vineyard is quite sandy. The wine sees only 30% new oak, and is matured in mostly large barrels. As a result, not surprisingly, cherry flavours dominate. There are also violets and rose petals. The wine is creamy, with very fine and silky tannins.  This is a thoroughly modern wine, which can be drunk young, but will age very gracefully as well (96 points). The 2009 Barolo Via Nuova is a blended Barolo from Barolo, Monforte and Serralunga. This wine is darker than the Cannubi, still elegant and balanced, with good length (93 points). A new addition is the 2009 Barolo Mosconi. It is not easy to get access to more high quality vineyards and often takes a decade of building relationships and talking. This vineyard in Monforte is now shared with Domenico Clerico and Giovanni Rocca. The wine has quite straight forward plum flavours, there is espresso and meat as well.Firm tannins anchor the structure of this promising and approachable wine (95 points). Finally, I tasted the Barolo Cannubi from 2005. It was very similar to the 2009, even more elegant at 8 years, with a silky finish (96 points). Chiara Boschis is thoroughly engaging and a great talent for Barolo.

On to something totally different. The next winery is Bartolo Mascarello. Until his death in 2005, Bartolo Mascarello was a towering figure in Piedmontese winemaking. Since then, his daughter Maria Teresa has continued to make the wines in exactly the same style. The winery has access to the amazing vineyards of Cannubi, San Lorenzo, Rue and Rocche, but only makes one blended Barolo from these sites. Maceration is for more than 30 days. At first, I am tasting the 2010 Barbera d'Alba, which is a bit thin on the palate (88 points). The 2010 Freisa is an old, almost forgotten grape. I must say, it is an acquired taste. The wine has a slight fizz and is quite rustic (85 points). The 2010 Langhe Nebbiolo is more agreeable. The cherry flavours are fresh and lead to an acidic and dry finish (90 points). Then to the main game. The 2009 Barolo Mascarello has only medium weight, but it is a harmonious wine with soft tannins, which is the result of very long hang-time (92 points). In comparison, the 2008 Barolo shows much more intense fruit, with aromatic depth and a long dry finish (94 points). Bartolo used to draw his own labels. My favorite: No Barrique, No Berlusconi. What a hoot!

The third visit was to Guiseppe Rinaldi. This is another traditionalist.I tasted the 2009 and 2010 Barolos from barrel. His philosophy is peculiar. His two Barolos, the Brunate-Le Coste, and Cannubi-Ravera, are blended wines, mixing different soil types together. The 2010 Brunate-Le Coste is quite dark and a bit rough. This is a powerful wine (91 points). The 2010 Cannubi-Ravera shows also big fruit, but the mouthfeel is not great. The grapes don't seem to be totally ripe and the astringent tannins are a bit green (89 points). The 2009 version has quite big fruit as well, and is tannic, but a more forward drinking style than the Brunate (91 points). The 2009 Brunate-Le Coste is the pick of these four.It is quite floral, with strawberry flavours and good length, supported by firm tannins (94 points).

Overall, this was a most interesting day with very contrasting wine styles. The Chiara Boschis wines deliver great drinkability and elegance, without compromising longevity. The 2008 Mascarello showed how a profound Barolo is made, whereas the Rinaldi wines lacked some refinement, in my opinion.    

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Barolo (1)

On my second day of touring Piedmont, it was time to get to the Barolo area. Barolo can be quite confusing, initially, but at a basic level, the distinctions are as follows. There are modernists and traditionalists. I found this emphasized a little less this time, but in principal, traditionalists have long fermentation periods, 20 days plus, and they mature the Nebbiolo in large, mostly Slovenian casks. Modernists have short fermentation periods, 6 to 12 days, and mature the wine in French barriques. These latter wines are more easily approachable, whereas the tradionalist wines need many years to soften the tannins. The other distinction is soil. In the Northern part, in particular around La Morra, the soil is quite sandy, and the wines aromatic and perfumed as a result. In the Southern part, most pronounced in Serralunga, the soils are clay, and the wines bigger, darker, and more brooding.

I am spending this day in the Northern part. First visit is to Elio Altare. He lead the revolution of the modernists in the 1980s and is today one of the superstars of the region. I tasted first the 2009 Larigi Langhe Barbera, which  was quite intense (strawberry fruit, oak and structure - 92 points) and the 2008 La Villa Langhe, a 60% Barbera, 40% Nebbiolo blend - elegant, 93 points. Then came the 2006 Barolo Regular. This is a typical Altare Barolo: quite aromatic and floral, not huge, elegant with dry tannins and a long finish (95 points). The 2005 Barolo Cerretta is not your typical Altare wine. It comes from Serralunga, from marna, clay and limestone soils, and it shows. This wine is quite masculine, with leather and meat overtones. The tannins are long and strong, but quite rounded. I found this to be an excellent wine (96 points). I also tasted the 2008 L'Insieme, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Nebbiolo and others. This wine tastes of blackcurrant and is quite spicy, overall a more international flavour profile. It is fashioned for a charity project Altare supports together with a number of producers from the area (92 points). Overall, the wines were distinctive, very clean and polished and of outstanding quality.

The second winery was Vietti. You cannot really assign Vietti to a particular area. This family winery has expanded a lot and now claims to have access to 15 out of the 20 grand cru vineyards of Barolo. I had visited this winery previously, and based on that experience had high expectations. I left disappointed. The 2011 Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne was quite masculine, acidic and rough (88 points). The 2010 Barbera d'Alba Scarrone was quite the opposite, female, floral and aromatic (90 points). The 2010 Nebbiolo Perbacco was equally floral, with a slightly flat mouthfeel and a dry finish (90 points). The first Barolo was the 2009 Barolo Castiglione. This is the blended Barolo, from five different vineyards across the region. It suffered similarly from a somewhat flat mouthfeel, although it was a bigger wine than the previous Nebbiolo. By comparison, this wine was not as elegant as Altare (91 points). The 2009 Barolo Lazzarito is the single vineyard wine from Serralunga. It is a big wine, as expected, with strong tannins and a dry finish (92 points). I left with the impression that the individual wines receive perhaps less care than in prior years and that the pressure of higher volume production without increases in staff showed.

The last winery of the day was Mauro Molino in La Morra. This winery is a quiet achiever. The brochures are less glossy, but the wines get better all the time. The 2012 Barbera d'Alba tastes of dark cherry, is fresh, round and easy drinking (90 points).The 2010 Barbera d'Alba Vigna Gattere, from 40 year old vines, is more concentrated, with noticeable oak, good length and silky tannins - a great Barbera (93 points). The 2009 Barolo classic, a blended wine with 70% La Morra and 30% Monforte fruit and matured in large French casks, is concentrated, yet elegant with good length (93 points). I then tasted the three single-vineyard Barolos, from different years. The 2009 Barolo Gallinotto, matured in 50% new and 50% old barriques, tastes of red cherry and spice. The tannins are soft and silky. This is a very attractive wine (94 points). The 2008 Barolo Vigna Gancia shows the aromatic flavours typical for La Morra. It has great length and a structure made to last (95 points). The 2006 Barolo Vigna Conca, perhaps the flagship wine, is grown in a lower part of the valley. As a result, the conditions are warmer, the wine is full bodied and concentrated. The tannins are dry, but surprisingly soft (94 points). I just felt it was just edged out by the Gancia on this occasion. I was very impressed with these wines. They also provide (relatively) good value for money.        


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ruggabellus Archaeus

It would have been an option to review an icon wine to celebrate the 50,000 views milestone, but I decided to have a look into the future, or what many say is the future. Ruggabellus is viewed by many as the most exciting newer winery in Australia, and by some as the new face of the Barossa. It specializes in a number of different GSMs.

The 2012 Ruggabellus Archaeus is my first ever taste from this winery. This wine is a Shiraz dominated GSM. Its colour is dark purple. Blackberry flavours jump out of the glass. The fruit flavours are very intense on the palate, and this at a moderate 13.7% alcohol. This wine is different, alright. There are very strong briary flavours in this wine so that despite the strong fruit core, the wine is actually quite savoury in the end. This might be the Mataro at work. Sufficient acidity makes the wine quite balanced. This wine is very slick, yet quite profound at the same time, built on the famous Barossa Shiraz flavours. My only concern, the structure is a little compact, rather than linear.

The future of the Barossa? This takes it a bit far, but certainly a great and different addition. I highly recommend to everybody to try this wine.

Score: 94/++

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A question

In the next couple of days, this blog will receive its 50,000th page view. To mark the occasion, I would like to taste and review a special wine. Which wine would you like to see reviewed?

Pahlmeyer Red Wine

And this is of special interest to my US readers.

The Pahlmeyer Red is the flagship wine of this highly regarded Napa Valley winery. It is a Cabernet Sauvignon based Bordeaux blend. The 2007 Pahlmeyer Red achieved very high ratings on its release for its fruit intensity and elegance.

Alas, six years in only, and the fruit flavours have largely gone. What remains is a highly alcoholic wine, the blackberry fruit tastes burnt and dead. I do not find this a pleasant drink and had trouble finishing one glass. On the second day, the sharpness had gone somewhat, and the wine became more drinkable, but the sense of over-ripeness remained. I have seen the vineyard, which is immaculate. The problem is clearly with too much of an extended hang-time of the grapes and possibly too heavy handed winemaking. This wine tasted good to me on release, but it is one of many examples that Napa Valley Cabernets are not built to last.

Score: 83/---  

Monday, July 22, 2013

William Downie Pinot Noir

Just breaking the Italian reviews up a bit...

As the new William Downie Pinot Noirs have just been released, I thought it might be interesting to see how the wine matures in the bottle. I opened a 2008 William Downie Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir, from the region which received the highest accolades for the 2012 releases.

The bouquet on opening the wine is very aromatic and fragrant. The fruit on the palate tastes of red cherry - not as big and as fruity as some Pinot Noirs from the Mornington Peninsula, and this is meant as a compliment. The wine is refined rather than intense, but it fills the mouth beautifully with its elegant and well balanced flavours. The tannins are soft and quite present leading to a long and satisfying finish.

My only concern is that as the wine opens up in the glass, at only five years of age, it becomes quite soft. I would have liked it to have a bit more bite, but this is a minor quibble about this very satisfying wine.

Score: 94/++

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I did not take any notes on this day, which I now regret, but I just wasn't quite ready for it. The wineries I visited in the Barbaresco area were Bruno Rocca, Punset, and Moccagatta.

As it turned out, the most impressive wines were from Bruno Rocca. Most wineries produce one Dolcetto, a couple of Barberas and then Nebbiolo wines. The Dolcetto is an early drinking variety, often regarded as a quaffer, but the quality improvements have been significant. I enjoyed most of them, and certainly the Bruno Rocca Dolcetto d'Alba. They represent extraordinary value for money at between 7 and 8 Euros per bottle ex winery. The Barberas are from the region d'Alba or further northeast, d'Asti. The d'Alba Barberas tend to be more elegant, the d'Asti wines more intense. The Rocca Barbera d'Alba is from Barbaresco, with complex blackberry, mulberry and cherry, as well as savoury flavours - an excellent expression of the grape variety. The Barbaresco I tried was the Bruno Rocca Coparossa Barbaresco. This wine was matured in barrique, 60% new wood. This is a full bodied wine with black cherry and tobacco flavours and an elegant finish.

Punset was a new winery to me. This co-operative focusses on organic and bio-dynamic principles. Organic farming is quite common in the region, but Punset is probably stricter about its principles than most. The wines, unfortunately, did not measure up. Both Barbera and Barbaresco had green and leafy flavours. I did not enjoy these wines, and I doubt that further cellaring would change this outcome.

Moccagatta is well known for its trio of Barbarescos, Basarin, Cole and Bric Balin. They are single vineyard wines, showing their different terroir. The Bric Balin was elegant with silky tannins, but did not rise to some of the best vintages.

The Barbaresco day was good, put paled in comparison with the Barolo tastings coming up. My preference for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages is clearly Barolo.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is Piedmont like Burgundy?

I am sorry for the long period of silence. It had nothing to do with dry July, but I was not able to taste wine for a few weeks. Then I toured Piedmont (or Piermont or pie monte if you like) for three days. It is a highly original wine growing area, focussed on the red grapes Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo.

Winemakers there like to compare themselves to Burgundy. This would be flattering, of course, given Burgundy prices and wine quality at times. But does it really make sense?

There are clearly some similarities. The map on the left shows the crus of Barolo. It is too detailed for you to read any specifics. The main point here is that vineyard blocks are very small, and so are the quantities of wine. There is also a lot of detail available on soils, and the focus on terroir and single vineyard wines is evident.

But there are also significant differences, quite relevant to the consumer. The Nebbiolo grape is not a Pinot Noir. Nebbiolo dominates the region, with its two main expressions of Barbaresco in the north east, and Barolo west and south. There are floral and aromatic expressions of Nebbiolo, but the structure is different from Pinot Noir, which in its great expression is elegant with an expanding finish. Nebbiolo has bigger weight and a strong tannic structure with a very dry finish in its youth. The Nebbiolo structure is closer to Cabernet Sauvignon, while the flavour can have similarities with Burgundy.

I have reviewed Barolo here from time to time, but the next three posts will cover the region in more details. I spent the first day in Barbaresco, the second in La Morra and the third in and around the village of Barolo.