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.