Friday, May 30, 2014

Tahbilk Shiraz

When it comes to fashionable brands, Tahbilk would definitely not be on the list. But as the oldest winery in Victoria, it certainly has tradition. And how good is what's in the bottle?

The Tahbilk Shiraz is the standard label. It is an attractively priced everyday wine. The 2010 Tahbilk Shiraz has beautiful clean red plum flavours. There are some sweet spices as well. The tannins are surprisingly fine, and make this a smooth wine to drink.

This is not a complex wine, straight down the line, but it has great purity of fruit and enjoyable flavours. If you have not had the urge to buy a Tahbilk, try this wine from a great vintage. It does not cost the earth ($17 per bottle).

Score: 90/+++

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chateau du Tertre Cabernet

The 2006 Chateau du Tertre from Margaux now shows a garnet colour. The palate of this savoury wine is quite complex, with redcurrant and mulberry flavours. Mushroom flavours are dominant, supported by vanilla.

This is quite a smooth wine, with a good balance, fine tannins and good length. The wine is still developing and will hit its peak in 2-3 years.

Score: 92/++  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Craggy Range Le Sol

My guess is not many would pick the 2007 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah as a wine from New Zealand. The wine has a dark purple colour and is full-bodied. Blackberry and plum notes dominate. Some blueberry flavours perhaps give away that this wine is from a cooler climate. This wine is quite intense. It has freshness, generosity (the paradox), and a great mouthfeel. This Le Sol is well rounded, profound and deep. The tannins are fine, and fruit dominates the medium-length finish.

This wine represents great drinking now, and should do so for another five years.

Score: 96/+++

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon

I found another super-premium red wine from 2004, this time a Cabernet Sauvignon, to compare with  the three Shirazes commented on before.

The 2004 Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Barossa, which is a region which is often criticised for producing Cabernet not so typical for the variety. Yet a number of famous Cabernets come from this region.

This 2004 Cyril Henschke opens with strong blackcurrant flavours. They are certainly typical for the variety. Eucalypt flavours, often associated with Henschke wines, are only slight and rather pleasant. The wine seems to have good balance in the beginning. Unfortunately, the tannins have softened so much that the wine seems to fall off on the finish, like falling off a cliff. This really wipes out a lot of the favourable impressions on the front palate. Having said this, I still quite like the purity of the flavours in this wine. Drink this wine now.

Score: 91/+

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jasper Hill/Chapoutier La Pleiade

I noticed I haven't uploaded many images lately. I thought this one was worth while. It is unusual, and not many would have seen this label. It depicts the star cluster Pleiades from which this wine gets his name. Must have something to do with the biodynamic regime of the owners.

The 2004 Jasper Hill/Chapoutier La Pleiade is the third in a trilogy of big Australian wines from the 2004 vintage I am reviewing. The colour of this wine is deep purple. It is impenetrable. This is a full-bodied wine with a big mouthfeel and predominantly dark plum flavours. I find the flavour profile a bit one-dimensional. This wine has a good structure. It is balanced, as the fruit stands up to the significant tannins and the 15% alcohol.

This is a big wine, but it is not overripe or alcoholic in comparison with the Torbreck The Descendent. I recommend this wine to people who like the big Australian Shiraz. It will go well for at least another decade.

Score: 93/++

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wendouree Shiraz/Malbec

Wendouree was perhaps the first Australian cult wine, if the term had existed at the time. The wine is not sold in shops, nor in restaurants, to my knowledge. The mailing list is hopelessly oversubscribed. Four brands are listed in the first two categories of Langton's Classification. The Shiraz/Malbec is one of them. I came across the 2004 Wendouree Shiraz/Malbec by accident in my cellar and thought this would be a good comparison with the Torbreck from yesterday.

Nick Stock describes the Wendouree vineyard as the best or most unique terroir in Australia by far. I guess Henschke, Leeuwin, or Bass Phillip would beg to differ. However, it is pretty special. This old Clare Valley vineyard follows the tradition of a 'garden vineyard' with a significant number of varieties in one vineyard. The result is a number of blends seldom seen. Shiraz/Malbec is one of them. Is there another Australian producer of this blend?

Anyway, on to the wine, which surprised me a lot. The wine looks quite fresh, with a ruby colour. The flavours are initially dominated by red and black cherries (thanks to the Malbec), but become more savoury on the back palate. The wine is quite acidic, with a dry finish. The tannins are noticeable, but do not dominate. It is often said you cannot approach a Wendouree wine before 15 years or so. This is certainly not true in this case. This wine is ready to drink and not heavy. The structure is good, but I found the acidity not integrating  too well. No doubt, acid had been added in the process.

Score: 93/+

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Torbeck The Descendant

As I drink the 2004 Torbreck The Descendant, I am amazed to reflect that two other of Torbreck's brands, RunRig and The Factor, are bigger wines than this.

The colour of this wine is deep purple, still quite fresh. The fruit flavours carry on from the bouquet. Black berries and dark plum dominate, dried prunes take over on the mid palate. There is dark chocolate as well. This is a ripe wine with a big mouthfeel. The Viognier component in this Shiraz/Viognier blend is supposed to give this wine a lift, but it is not noticeable in my glass. The fruit concentration dominates.  The finish is quite smooth. This wine has a solid structure, otherwise it would not have survived ten years. However, the wine is more broad than precise, which makes it harder to drink and less pleasant. The tannins are fairly soft on the finish. As a result, the alcohol shines through.

I managed to drink half a bottle during an evening, but this wine is not everybody's 'cup of tea'.

Score: 92/+

Friday, May 16, 2014

Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova

Brunello di Montalcino is the most satisfying expression of Sangiovese, largely due to the strict rules and long maturation period in this appellation. Casanova di Neri is one of its famous names.

The 2004 Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova tastes of black cherry. The fruit is very pure, but it only just stands up to the acidity and tannins in this wine. Your mouth is left quite dry on the finish. This is a classy wine, but the balance is not perfect.

Score: 93/+

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Greywacke Pinot Noir

Behind Greywacke is Kevin Judd, the founding winemaker of Cloudy Bay, and a hugely influential figure of  the Marlborough region. The wines are made at Dog Point, another successful spin-off from Cloudy Bay.

Marlborough  is generally thought of as producing lighter and quite fragrant Pinot Noirs. Well, the 2011 Greywacke Pinot Noir is not made in this style. The grapes come from hilly sites of the Southern Valley, a terroir which produces bigger wines.

This wine has a dark garnet colour. The fruit flavours are black cherry and blue plum, but the palate is dominated by savoury flavours, as a result of whole-bunch fermentation. Vanilla and dried herbs complete the complex flavour profile. The wine is quite tannic and the alcohol is noticeable as well.

I find the wine attractive to a degree, but it feels Judd wants to outdo Central Otago with this wine in terms of mouthfeel and richness, and as a result the wine seems a little overworked. Having said this, it has a solid structure and should improve for a two to three years and be good drinking for several more.

Score: 92/+

Sunday, May 11, 2014

John Duval Entity

The 2012 John Duval Entity was one of the four Barossa wines I especially recommended from the fabulous 2012 vintage. Following are my notes.

The wine has a deep ruby colour. The aroma is intense, with riper red berries, raspberry and plum on the bouquet. There is also some vanilla present. On the palate, baked plums and cinnamon are dominant. The wine has good intensity, and an excellent structure with sufficient acidity and tannins to give this wine a 15+ years life.

This is a full-bodied wine, yet it is lively and fresh. The wine is elegant, yet intense. It displays what I call 'paradox'. This makes this wine interesting and qualified for a high score.

Score: 95/+++

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chateau La Conseillante

This Chateau in Pomerol is perhaps not all that fashionable. It has been under the ownership of the Nicolas family for five generations who have been committed to make the best wine they can.

The 2000 Chateau La Conseillante has a drinking window of 2014-2044 according to Robert Parker. 44 years, right? The wine shows a deep ruby colour. The strong bouquet is of red fruits, and this follows through to the palate. Red cherry and raspberry flavours deliver an attractive mouthfeel. Primary characteristics are still dominant. The key feature of this wine is the elegance combined with purity of fruit and an intense linearity, underwritten by silky tannins, before it finishes quite long. This is not a blockbuster, rather a somewhat understated wine which opens up beautifully. The wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

Score: 95/+++

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Giaconda Shiraz

The other night I drank the 2005 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz. Rick Kitzbrunner recently pushed his Shiraz from the newer Estate Vineyard, but this Warner Vineyard Shiraz is hard to beat.

Redcurrent and red cherry flavours dominate. Spicy and fragrant notes are on the front of the palate as well. Primary fruit is still dominant, but the wine has aged beautifully. It has good intensity without being broad. The wine is well balanced and the tannins very fine.This wine has a good mouthfeel and a long satisfying finish.

This is an outstanding wine. It has many of the characteristics of a cold climate Shiraz, but is quite intense at the same time. It would give any premium Northern Rhone wine a run for their money. There are easily 10 more good years in this wine (under cork).

Score: 97/+++

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tertini Pinot Noir Reserve

The 2009 Tertini Pinot Noir Reserve is the first ever wine I tasted from the Southern Highlands (snob!). I approached this very skeptically despite a recommendation from a trusted friend - in fact, he gave me the bottle. I was in for a surprise.

This wine is medium-bodied, with red cherry flavours and attractive underlying secondary forest floor contributions. The tannins are quite fine, providing a lengthy finish. While the structure seems solid, the wine (and its colour) is quite developed. Better drink now, while it is so attractive.

This Pinot Noir can hold its own in any serious line-up. I never expected this from a Southern Highlands wine. I know nothing about this winery, but I think a visit is on the cards.

Score: 92/++

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Wines of Dean Hewitson

Where do Hewitson wines fit in in the crowded space of Australian wine? They are probably best known for their 160 year old Mourvedre vineyard near Rowland Flat, from which the Old Garden Mourvedre is made, the oldest Mourvedre in Australia. Otherwise, there is a focus on Rhone varieties and the Barossa and McLaren Vale regions. Here is a review of their current red wines.

The 2012 Hewitson Miss Harry is an attractively priced GSM, which tastes very fresh, with red fruit and interesting herb flavours. Great value for money (92 points). The 2012 Hewitson Ned and Henry's Shiraz is darker, with savoury characters and a rustic finish (90 points). The 2012 Hewitson Baby Bush Mourvedre is made from cuttings from the old vines, but they are quite young at this point, and the wine is not well balanced (88 points). In contrast, the 2009 Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre has the balance of old vines, which often seems to come naturally. The wine is savoury, with attractive spice and good length. It does not match an old vine Shiraz in complexity and expression, though (93 points).

Then there are three other single vineyard wines. The 2012 Hewitson Basham's Beach Tempranillo comes from the Fleurieu  Peninsula. It is the first vintage from there since 2006. The wine is quite fruit forward and does not match the quality of the other wines (86 points). The 2012 Hewitson Mad Hatter Shiraz from Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale is a lighter style of Shiraz, with red fruit flavours dominant. There is spice in this wine and you could take it for a cooler climate Shiraz (91 points). I found the 2012 Hewitson Mother Vine Shiraz more satisfying. This wine originates from a single old Shiraz vine, which was found in the Mourvedre vineyard. New buds were then grafted onto other rootstocks. This wine tastes of black fruit, it has deeper flavours, yet is fresh (92 points).

Overall, this was quite a consistent line-up. The wines showed good varietal characteristics and are well made. They did not hit a particular high note, however.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Penfolds St. Henri

This time everybody sings from the same hymn sheet. The 2010 Penfolds St. Henri is a stunner. It opens up with intense fruit flavours. They are quite a cocktail: blackberry, blueberry, plum and mulberry. While these flavours are intense, the wine is not super big, as a result of the maturing in large used oak vats. The palate is well defined, the tannins are fine and the finish just does not stop. It stayed in my mouth for at least two minutes. This is a superb wine, which  can only be achieved with exceptional fruit, which Penfolds can source from pretty much anywhere in South Australia. Where I differ from some reviewers is the drinking window. Sure, this wine will live for a long time, but you do not have to put it away for at least 10 years. This wine is quite approachable now, and would be outstanding drinking with great complexity in three years. Highly recommended.

Score: 97/+++