Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spinifex La Maline Shiraz

After some disappointments with Shiraz from the supposedly great 2010 vintage, I have been rewarded with the 2010 Spinifex La Maline Shiraz.




This wine is smooth and simply delicious. It is medium weight and elegant. Blueberry and blackberry flavours sit on top of silky and dry tannins, well integrated. This wine used to be a Shiraz/Viognier, and the flavour profile suggests a small component of Viognier is still in this wine. The mouthfeel is perhaps a little lean, but preferable to the overblown and overripe wines I tasted lately from this vintage. This wine has an excellent balance and a very satisfying finish.

Peter Schell has a knack of finding great fruit at reasonable prices for his wines. Vineyard location is important to him (often the higher slopes on the Eastern ridge), but the sources can vary from year to year. He is not wedded to a single vineyard terroir, but prefers to blend to his style of wine. By the way, 'maline' means 'clever'.

Score: 95/+++ 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Vieux Télégraphe Piedlong

As I am waiting for the apparently amazing 2015 Rhône wines, I thought I might wet my appetite with a wine from one of my favorite producers, Vieux Télégraphe. The 2012 vintage was generally not great in France, with the exception of the Rhône. Therefore I was looking forward to the 2012 Vieux Télégraphe Piedlong.



Daniel Brunier, the half owner and winemaker, is a serious and intelligent man. He is modest and not interested in wine fashion trends. His objective is to make authentic wines speaking of the soil the grapes are grown on (I know this sounds like a platitude these days, but it is true in his case.)

The Piedlong comes from the heart of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, just north of the village, from a vineyard with heavy clay and many rocks or pebbles. This wine is full-bodied, with raspberry and blackberry flavours. It is basically dark fruited. Despite the Grenache dominance,  it is a savoury wine showing a lot of minerality and some leanness. The wine is fresh and elegant and has good length.

I liked this wine a lot.

Score: 92/+++

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ariel Dealcoholized Chardonnay

The other day I went into a large liquor store to try to find a low alcohol (5-6%) dry wine. This of course is difficult, as low alcohol means not all sugar has been fermented. The search was unsuccessful. I then saw the isle with non-alcohol wine. I had never tried one, so I thought it is time to select such a 'wine'.

Most attractive seemed to be this Chardonnay from Ariel, based in California. If you look carefully at the picture, you notice that the bottle is still half full. But alas! I did not drink the other half. This wine is disgusting! I expected to taste perhaps grape juice, but this 'wine' tastes of apple juice, a bad slightly overripe one, and is full of sugar. If I had had a magnifying glass, I could have found this out from the back label, but it was hard to read and also to interpret.

There is no point drinking this. Buy a good fruit juice for a third of the price instead.

Score: <70 p="">



Monday, August 14, 2017

Hewitson The Mad Hatter Shiraz

Let me start this review with a sweeping statement: Generally speaking I prefer Barossa Shiraz to McLaren Vale Shiraz. Why? I think the Barossa fruit flavour profile is more complex. McLaren Vale is often pure plum (can be beautiful), whereas Barossa can be plum, blackberry, blueberry, mulberry. I thought I put this out there.

I was reminded of this when I tasted the 2006 Hewitson Mad Hatter Shiraz. This wine shows intense

plum flavours. It is quite a ripe and dense wine. It has been matured for 21 months in new French oak, and you notice the generous lashings of oak on the palate. It is distracting. The tannins are soft and the finish somewhat short.

This wine could have been structured much better.

Score: 86/-

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hoddles Creek 1er Yarra Valley Chardonnay


The '1er' in the name is supposed to create an association with Burgundy, I guess. After drinking the 2014 Hoddles Creek 1er Yarra Valley Chardonnay, I would say this is well justified.

Citrus, grapefruit and orange peel flavours create complexity on the palate. Oak is there, but lightly handled. Acidity weaves through the palate. This wine has drive and is long rather than broad, but it is not a lean wine.

This wine is a great, thoroughly modern packaged Chardonnay.

Score: 95/++

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Aurora Vineyard Syrah

The Aurora Vineyard sits in a great spot in Bendigo, Central Otago. It has been a bit of a side project for its owners, and despite good success and medals, they decided to sell the grapes to Woolworths for a little while. However, wine is available at retail again, according to the website.



The wine I am reviewing today is from the earlier period, the 2007 Aurora Vineyard Syrah. As the name suggests, this is a Shiraz made in the cool climate style. The wine is medium-bodied and still quite fresh. Flavours of blackberry, forest berries and green peppercorn hit the palate, but fan out a bit towards the back palate. Fine grained tannins are strong enough to maintain a balanced structure.

Score: 92/++

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Chiara Boschis E Pira Via Nuova

Chiara Boschis has been an important personality in Piedmont, since she became the winemaker at E. Pira in 1990. Via Nuova is one of her two single vineyard Barolos, made from the Terlo vineyard south of the village of Barolo.

The 2008 Chiara Boschis Via Nuova is quite austere, with dried flowers and red and black cherry flavours. It is an elegant wine, quite long on the back palate, but a little lean, which is accentuated by the dry tannins of this wine.

Score: 93/++   

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Points Festival

Wednesday night, James Halliday released his 2018 Australian Wine Companion, yes 2018! I have written about this before, but I cannot help myself to address this again. As expected, the points awarded have been higher than ever before. 94 points is now a bad result.

Mr. Halliday defends himself by saying Australian wine is now of better quality and relativity has been maintained. The wine of the year is Henschke's Hill of Grace at 99 points (no guts for 100?), and many unexceptional wines have received 96 and 97 points. What kind of relativity is this?

Over the last 48 hours, I have received many emails from different wineries, listing the high points they have been awarded. So this is how it works: wineries are happy because of their high points, they provide free advertising for Mr. Halliday, he sells more books. Bingo! I find this point-less, and very dis-appointing, because Mr. Halliday and his tasters write some good notes, which will remain un-noticed.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock

I have recently been disappointed with high alcohol wines from the Barossa. It seems that Jasper Hill gets full-bodied wines right.

The 2008 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock is a full-bodied, powerful wine. The concentrated redcurrant and earthy flavours are still fresh and have drive down the palate with a bit of lift towards the finish. The tannins are firm and the finish is long. This is a solid winter wine.

Score: 93/+++

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chateau Clerc Milon


There are a number of lessons in drinking the 2003 Chateau Clerc Milon. The first is about the vintage. When it came out, it was hailed as a top vintage for the last ten years, then the 2005s arrived, and when the 2009s and 2010s were released, 2003 was almost forgotten. Yet, there were many generous and elegant wines produced from this vintage, and this is one of them.

The second issue is about ageing Bordeaux wines. I remember drinking this wine some years ago. The tannins seemed harsh, and the wine not well balanced. Now at 14 years, this is a very harmonious wine. A decent Bordeaux should be cellared for at least 10 years, a top wine for 15 to 20 years minimum. To be frank, it is a waste of money if you don't do this. Also decanting is important. I did not do this on this occasion, but the wine was better on the second day after opening.

Blackberry flavours dominate above a mocca background. The wine is not overly complex, but smooth and elegant, with soft tannins providing a rounded finish.

Score: 93/+++



Sunday, July 30, 2017

Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay

So I open a bottle of the 2011 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay. This brand is the most consistent high quality Chardonnay in Australia. But, you know what? I was bored. It was the typical combo of mango and cream. In some years, the fruit is more tropical, in other years more citrus. You know basically what you get. But isn't this what winemakers try to achieve? A typical signature for their wine? It is a conundrum: meeting expectations while keeping it interesting.

This wine has good fruit weight and balance, backed by just the right amount of acidity. However, for me, it was too predictable.

Score: 95/0 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Barossa Shiraz

My award winning book about Barossa Shiraz is now available in Mandarin. To my Hong Kong and Chinese readers: go and get it, if you want to learn about Barossa Shiraz in-depth.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Benjamin Leroux 2015s

Benjamin Leroux, the Wunderkind Burgundian winemaker, who started to get interested in winemaking at age 12 and was appointed as chief winemaker at Domaine Comte Armand at age 24, is now well established on his own. He began with his own label in 2007. These days, he produces more than 35 different bottlings, mostly at minuscule volumes. They come from all over Burgundy, but the core is at Volnay. He is keen to expand his estate wines, which at present come from 8ha of owned vineyards.

I had an opportunity to taste 11 of his wines from the great 2015 vintage, five whites and six reds. The general theme is about fruit freshness. Leroux seeks out vineyards at higher elevation and has reduced the use of new oak to 10-20% in most wines. Many are now matured in large barrels.

The whites were
Bourgogne Blanc: pineapple, hazelnut, a little plump in shape (91 points)
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Baudines: white flower, apple,quite delicate, creamy, excellent wine (94 points)
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Embazées: bigger fruit, a bit bolder, well balanced (93 points)
Meursault 1er Cru Les Porusots: earthy, almonds, not as fat as typical for Meursault, lingering on the palate, enough acidity? (93 points)
Corton-Charlemagne: rich, honey, hazelnut, very elegant, very long, excellent (95 points)

These wines express their respective terroirs very well. I have a slight concern about the levels of acidity in these wines.



The reds were
Bourgogne Rouge: fruity, red cherry, smooth, soft finish (91 points)
Savigny-les-Beaune: dark cherry, a bit sour, drive, well balanced, length (93 points)
Vosne-Romanee: dark cherry, a bit lean, silky finish (93 points)
Gevrey-Chambertin: better mouthfeel, a bit broad, smooth (93 points)
Volnay 1er Cru Les Mitans: 100% destemmed, beautiful perfumed nose, good fruit depth, very silky and elegant with expanding finish, wine of the night (95 points)
Pommard 1er Cru Rugiens Hauts: deeply flavoured, underbrush, very structured, 50% whole clusters (94 points)

The red wines were strong. My only reservation is that Leroux's focus on freshness has perhaps prohibited him to take full advantage of the richness the 2015 vintage can offer (based on my visit and Burgundy tastings of two months ago). 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Torbreck The Struie

Continuing on with Shiraz reviews. The Struie is usually a blend of Barossa and Eden Valley grapes, with the Barossa grapes providing the richness, and the Eden Valley grapes the freshness for the wine. In the excellent 2010 vintage, Torbreck decided to use only Barossa Valley grapes, as they felt there was enough freshness in them. I remember tasting the 2010 Torbreck The Struie on release, and it seemed like an excellent wine then.

What is this wine like today, seven years after picking? The news is not so good. The wine has maintained its dark purple colour, but the freshness - not unexpectedly - has gone. The fruit is dense, with blackberry and fruitcake flavours. The main issue is that the wine is now dominated by alcohol, with a sharp, hot finish. The fruit could take it in 2012, it can't take it now.

Score: 86/-- 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Felton Road Chardonnay

Drinking Chardonnay at three years of age is perhaps not a good idea. You miss the early freshness, and the mature structure has not yet developed. These were my thoughts when I tasted the 2014 Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay.

The wine has a golden colour. There is not much of a bouquet on the nose. On the palate, this wine is quite full and fruity. Flavours of yellow peach, mango and in particular starfruit are matched by the vanilla of new oak.

This is a well structured wine, but I am not sure what it stands for. It is not refreshing, it is not strictly a food wine like the white Rhône wines, it is not a big and mouthfilling fruit drop. Maybe the three year hitch.

Score: 90/-

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz

It is a cold winter in Sydney this year. This means it is Shiraz time. Today's review is of a mature 2002 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz from McLaren Vale. Fox Creek made an immediate impression in the 1990s with its full-bodied, yet often elegant Shiraz.

This 15 year old wine still shows a fresh deep purple colour. On the palate, plum flavours dominate. There is also some underbrush coming through. It is a harmonious wine, in the Parker style. There is a sweet, slightly syrupy core. The finish is not long and slightly alcoholic.

I suggest to drink this wine now.

Score: 89/0 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Spinifex Bête Noir

If wines were athletes, the previously reviewed Kalleske Eduard would be a shot putter or hammer thrower. This 2010 Spinifex Bête Noir would be a middle distance runner. This wine is lean, but sinewy. Blueberry notes dominate the palate. This wine is still fresh, with considerable acidity (some added?). The shape is long, rather than round, but I find the mouthfeel a bit rambling.

Peter Schell said he would never make a typical Barossa Shiraz. And for a while, he did not make a 100% Shiraz at all. Then came this wine, based on fruit from higher altitude vineyards, picked early. This is an interesting wine. It has not fully delivered, in my view, but the freshness and drinkability which Peter Schell is after, is certainly there.  

Score: 93/++

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Kalleske Eduard Shiraz

From a very old organic vineyard comes the 2008 Kalleske 'Eduard' Shiraz. This wine is a great example of the 'big Barossa'. It takes many dimensions close to the limit, but not over the top.

The colour of the wine is an impenetrable dark purple. This is a full-bodied wine of intense plum flavours. The fruit is pure, not overripe, and the oak is well integrated. There is  sweetness at the core, but not too much. The tannins are ample, but fine grained.

This is the perfect wine sitting next to the fire place. And you may even want to drink a second glass.

Score: 94/++   

Friday, July 7, 2017

Can You Criticise Wendouree?

There are some people or businesses in life that by strategy or luck seem to be beyond criticism. In music, Radiohead comes to mind, as they have not produced anything decent in the last 15 years, yet have maintained their reputation. Could this apply to Wendouree in wine? This thought occurred to me as I was tasting the 2002 Wendouree Shiraz/Mataro. Wendouree has this cult status, as its wines are not easy to buy and because of their apparent legendary longevity.

Therefore I was not worried about opening this 15 year old wine. The cork was perfect and the colour still deep purple. The bouquet did not give too much away. On the palate, however, I was disappointed. The plum and mulberry fruit flavours are accompanied by eucalypt (which happens at Wendouree a fair bit and I do not like too much) and some spice. However, the fruit is overtaken by licorice and plenty of it. The structure stands up, but the flavours are not well balanced. The finish is medium with firm tannins. On day two, the wine is better balanced, but licorice still dominates.

Wendouree wines need a lot of airing, but against high expectations, this wine did not deliver.

Score: 88/--

Monday, July 3, 2017

Dormilona Clayface Chardonnay

You probably have not heard of this Margaret River winery. However, Jo Perry won the prestigious 'Young Gun Of Wine' in 2016. She sources fruit from organic or biodynamic vineyards and only adds minute sulphur at the end of the winemaking process. Volumes are low: only 600 or so bottles are made of this 2016 Dormilona Clayface Chardonnay. The label is striking. Is it a face? Actually, it is a tree and a number of old fashioned and natural elements around it.
There is no information on the front label, there is no back label. Instead, the required data, such as alcohol content and address, is written on a tag dangling on the neck of the bottle. The wine is matured in clay amphora. These vessels are slightly porous. There is some exchange with the environment. As an aside: is it not curious that people want to eliminate any breathing with screwcaps, but then clay amphoras are fashionable? This bottle's closure is cork, sealed by wax, as you can see.

The colour of the wine is pale green. This is a very clean, and slightly understated, fresh wine. The palate is complex, with pear, apple and white peach flavours, as well as ginger and lemongrass. The wine starts quite wide on the palate, but gets leaner towards the back. It is an enjoyable wine, but you pay for its quirkiness.  

Score: 93/++

Saturday, July 1, 2017

August Kesseler Cuvee Max Pinot Noir

Global warming is threatening traditional wine growing practices, but it is opening up new opportunities as well. One of these is the growing of red wine grapes in Germany. This has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years.

The 2012 August Kesseler Cuvee Max Pinot Noir consists of grapes from two Rheingau grand cru vineyards; Ruedesheimer Berg Schlossberg and Assmannshausen. The nose is very harmoneous and aromatic with a black cherry and forest berries bouquet.

On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied. The berry flavours are not overly complex, but this wine delights with its seamless blend of fruit and savoury characteristics. The tannins are fine grained and silky. The wine is a bit light on the back palate.

Score: 93/++

Monday, June 26, 2017

Quinta Do Vesuvio

Some facts are hard to comprehend. The Symington family owns 27 wineries in the Douro Valley. The focus is Port, of course, with its famous Graham's and Dow's brands. But there is also a serious table wine effort under way. The leading winery for it is Quinta do Vesuvio, and the leading red carries the same name.

The 2015 Quinta do Vesuvio, from a great vintage, is a multi variety wine, with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca being the main contributors. The colour of the wine is deep purple. Blackberry aroma jumps from the glass.

Concentrated blackberry and bramble flavours hit the palate. This is a pretty full-on, full-bodied wine, yet the wine is quite elegant: a modern version of the Douro red. Acidity gives the wine freshness, despite the fruit weight. The wine is balanced, with firm tannins, and needs time to mellow.  For me, it is a bit too much of everything. I suggest drinking from 2020.

Score: 93/+

Monday, June 19, 2017

Conceito Bastardo Red

I am pursuing more intriguing wines and varieties from Portugal. The Bastardo (not a great name?) grape variety is known in the Jura of France as Trousseau. Apparently there is some in the Barossa Valley, named Cabernet Gros (another bad name), but I have never come across it.

The 2014 Conceito Bastardo has a pale pink colour. It comes from a high altitude vineyard in the Douro Superior and therefore a slightly cooler plot in this hot area. The grapes are picked early. The flavour profile is a bit like Pinot Noir, with red berry fruit, but more towards raspberry than strawberry or cherry. There is also some spice, and a lot of acidity. The alcohol level is 13%. This wine did not see any oak. I find this a fresh and attractive, though slightly unbalanced wine for the hot Portuguese inland summer climate.

Score: 91/+

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Passagem Reserva

The 2013 Passagem Reserva from the Douro Valley  superior region in Portugal has a dark purple, inky colour. It is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinto Cao. It is a full-bodied wine. Blackberry and cassis are joined by mocca flavours on the mid-palate. The wine is not overripe, but quite dense, and the tannins are a little coarse.

Score: 89/-

Monday, June 12, 2017

Marcel Lapierre Morgon

I am currently in Burgundy, researching and wine tasting for an upcoming artice in Gourmet Traveller Wine. Therefore, I cannot share my tasting results on this blog right now. However last night, I tasted a wine outside of this effort. It was the 2015 Marcel Lapierre Morgon.

Beaujolais has come a long way since it created the marketing success of Beaujolais Nouveau. This is now fading somewhat, but serious wines from the Gamay grape are emerging right now. There are ten crus in Beaujolais: Brouilly, Regnie, Chirubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Chenas, Julienas, Morgon and Moulin a Vent. The last two have the best fruit weight and tannin structure.

This wine from Marcel Lapierre is from Morgon. It has a medium deep crimson colour and a beautiful sour kirsch/redcurrant bouquet. This is a medium bodied wine, coming in at a solid 14% alcohol. It tastes of redcurrant and cranberry, and fills the mouth nicely, with an emphasis on the mid-palate. This is a serious wine, quite savoury, with a strong acidic structure. Tannins are not so noticeable. This Gamay wine is about filling the mouth nicely and in a round way, while Pinot Noir is all about line and length.

Score: 91/++

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Pio Cesare Il Nebbio

For a long time, Piedmont producers made a Dolcetto, a Barbera, and one or more Barolo or Barbaresco wines. Only the latter are made from the Nebbiolo grape and cost four times or more than the Barbera wines. Therefore, tasting wines from Nebbiolo was only possible for a lucky few. Yet, it is an exciting and very unique grape. In the last few years, increasingly, wine producers have also made Nebbiolo wines, which do not follow the strict requirements of Barolo production.

One excellent example is the 2015 Pio Cesare Il Nebbio. The grapes were picked early. This wine does not see any oak, has a short maceration and maturation period. The wine has a beautiful nose, with lifted cherry aromas jumping out of the glass. It is fresh and vibrant, with red cherry flavours, some green leaf and peppers. The freshness and fruit upfront determines the character of the wine, but down the palate savoury flavours and light dry powdery tannins take over. Overall, the mouthfeel is a bit shallow, but very harmonious. And the price is less than the Barbera.

Score: 92/+++

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico

The Peppoli wine brand is high volume, yet a cut above industrially made wines.

The 2014 Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico tastes of red cherry and warm spices. The wine is well balanced, and the acidity creates a line through the palate. The wine is medium in concentration and mouthfeel. It is quite elegant, with firm, but not coarse tannins, as it comes to a harmonious finish.

Score: 91/++

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Frescobaldi Pomino Pinot Noir

This is the first of a few posts on Italian wines. Italy produces red wines of all kinds and with high quality, but it is not known for Pinot Noir. I was curious to experience what a Pinot Noir from Tuscany would be like.

The 2013 Frescobaldi Pomino has a medium intensity crimson colour. The aroma is fruity and lifted.  This is a light-bodied wine with red cherry flavours on the palate. There are savoury notes as well. There is not much depth in this wine, nor complexity. The mouthfeel is pretty, but a little weak. The finish falls short.

Score: 86/0

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Tolpuddle Pinot Noir

When Shaw & Smith purchased the Tolpuddle vineyard in Tasmania, it was one of the biggest wine news to come from there in the last 10 years. Expectations were high. With the 2015 vintage, they are starting to be met.

The 2015 Tolpuddle Pinot Noir shows a dark crimson colour. This wine is complex on the palate. The black cherry fruit is concentrated. You can taste the stalks and cedar of this moreish wine. There is some fruit sweetness at the core before it turns savoury on the back palate. The tannins are firm and the finish is long. My only gripe: what is gained by intensity is somewhat lost in definition. The wine is a little broad for perfect varietal expression, but not too much.

Score: 94/++

Sunday, May 28, 2017

International Chardonnay Tasting

In the recent international Cabernet tasting, the French wines were the clear winners. In this Chardonnay tasting, organised by a different group, the Australian top wines held their ground.

The top wines were
-  2007 Domaine des Comtes Lapon, Meursault-Perrières, tasting of green apple, with great length and beautifully integrated acidity (96/+++)
- 2014 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay, white flower, apricot, weight and power (95/+++)
- 1998 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay, earthy with truffles, still some acidity, but a bit tired (95/++)
- 2014 Benjamin Leroux Meursault 'Les Vireuils', great village wine on the high slopes. Very elegant, linear, but mouthfilling as well (94/+++)
-2015 Savaterre Chardonnay, citrus, stone fruit, orange peel, minerality, good line and length with lingering finish (94/+++)

The next group was good, too
-  2015 Chavy Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres, quite intense, a bit broad and oaky, good acidity (93/+)
- 2014 Felton Road Chardonnay, natural fermentation, grapefruit, marzipan, quite tight (92/++)
- 2015 Curly Flat Williams Crossing Chardonnay, lime, honey, stone fruit, quite rich, but lively acidity, great value for money (91/++)
- 2014 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 1er Cru 'Vau de Vey', from an almost unknown site, not as refined as other 1er cru Chablis, but typical character, lime and minerality, finish a bit short (91/+)
- 2014 Giaconda Chardonnay, very golden, citrus up front, almond, caramelized, powerful (91/0)

Still quite good, but not in the same league
- 2016 Montalto Pennon Hill Chardonnay, citrus, fairly light, easy drinking (88/0)
- 2016 Woodlands Wilyabrup Chardonnay, citrus and white peach, a bit tight, but will open (89/+)
- 2015 Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis, grean melon, salty, lean, minerality (88/0)
- 2014 Bruno Colin Bourgogne, flavours a bit plump, nutty, good mouthfeel (89/+) 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Brimoncourt Champagne

18 months ago I reviewed the brut Champagnes of Brimoncourt, a relatively new entrant to the Australian market, which has established itself well, in particular at leading restaurants. This time I am reviewing the remaining two Champagnes.

The Brimoncourt Brut Rosé is composed of the three Champagne grapes. It has quite a deep salmon pink colour. On the palate, strawberry and raspberry notes are prominant, but this is not a sweet wine. On the back palate mushroom flavours add to the savoury component. This is an elegant Champagne of substance, not a pink party drink.

Score : 94/+++

The Brimoncourt Blanc de Blancs opens to a finely structured effervescence. The emphasis of this Champagne is on the fruit, with refreshing grapefruit and citrus flavours. At the same time, there is depth in this wine, with nutty characters and mineral notes, leading in a fine line to a complex and dry finish. This wine is nicely balanced between fruit and creamy features of excellent quality.

Score: 94/+++

Brimoncourt is a valuable addition to the booming Australian Champagne market. For a little extra money, you can experience much more interest and personality than with many of the large Champagne houses.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

International Cabernet Tasting

Top Australian Cabernets were put against some pretty smart Bordeaux from excellent vintages and a few Napa wines. Two French wines came out on top (not just in my opinion) against Australian wines, which many 'independent' wine critics have given 98 points plus. Does this mean the French were 102 points? It goes to show how ridiculous the rating system has become in Australia. It seems only the www.winefront.com.au keeps to a sensible scoring system.

The best wines were the 2000 Chateau Palmer, Margaux and the 2005 Chateau Prieuré-Lichine, Margaux. Both wines had plenty of rich and lush blackberry fruit and cassis. The fruit is concentrated, yet elegant on the palate. These wines had silky tannins and a long finish. The Palmer was a bit more reserved, with the Prieuré-Lichine offering a full-bodied mouthfeel.

My favorite Australians were the 2015 Cullen Diana Madeline, which I reviewed in a recent post below, and the 2014 Lake's Folly Cabernets, from a 100 year vintage in the Hunter Valley. This is the first time I tasted this wine. The palate is complex, with dark fruits, cedar, and a hint of Christmas cake. Impressive is the stylish long finish.

In the next category would be the 2015 Te Mata Coleraine with its soft, feminine features: an elegant wine with good length. The 2005 Chateau Montrose is elegant, but with a strong tannic backbone. I also liked the 2012 Matthiasson Oak Knoll District Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It is very aromatic with beautiful fruit on the palate, and a slightly uneven finish. The 2014 Yeringberg Cabernet is impressive. This is an elegant wine, with good depth and some grip. I preferred it to the Mount Mary.

The next group was still very good, but my choices would obviously be the wines above. It included the 2014 Mount Mary Quintet, the 2010 Chateau Latour le Pauillac de Latour (3rd level wine), 2012 Mount Eden Cabernet (Santa Cruz Mountains), 2013 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley).

I was less impressed with the ??SC Pannell Cabernet/Shiraz (too fruity), the 2011 Man O War Ironclad Bordeaux Blend (a bit simple), the 2008 Puriri Hills Reserve (fruity and alcoholic), the 2014 Rockford 'Rifle Range' Cabernet Sauvignon (sweet), and the 2012 Mount Brave Cabernet (alcoholic).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache

A few days ago, I walked into a large liquor store to buy a straight Grenache. They offered a choice of two (!) - out of hundreds of bottles. I opted for the 2016 Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache. This is obviously very young, but I wanted an easy drink, and I trust Yalumba and its very capable winemaker Louisa Rose.

The wine smells of raspberry fruit, which is also dominant on the palate. The wine is clean, and there is quite good fruit intensity, but it is quite sweet, which the slight spices cannot overcome. There is this lolly-water flavour in this wine, which I thought we had outgrown. I was surprised. With vine age of 35-80 years, I expected more savoury components, and I would have liked more line and length.

Score: 84/--

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz

The Meshach is Grant Burge's flagship wine. In a recent blind tasting I participated in, it beat all other premium Shirazes. It tends to be juicy and full-bodied, quite a crowd-pleaser.

A few days ago, I tasted the 2002 Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz. The colour of the wine is still lively. On the palate, there is very ripe blackberry and dried plum. This wine is fat, maybe even obese, and does not have much shape. There are lashings of oak. The structure is still holding up, due to the firm tannins and a good lengthy finish.

One glass is ok.

Score: 90/0

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cullen - New Flagship Wines

What a day Tuesday was for the wine enthusiast in Sydney. There was the Hill of Grace release dinner, and separate tastings of Xanadu, Cape Mentelle, and Cullens: a Maragret River invasion. Spoilt for choice. I went to the Cullen tasting of its flagship wines with the remarkable, but quite shy Vanya Cullen.

The opening act were the current release of the Mangan Vineyard Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc and the Amber wine (reviewed in this blog previously). The Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc was impressive. It was fresh as expected, but also seamless and elegant.

Then came the 2015 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay. I have in the past not warmed to this wine as a leading Australian Chardonnay brand. However, I enjoyed this vintage. The flavours are complex: citrus, grapefruit, white peach, and almonds. The wine was matured in 73% new oak, which is quite noticeable, but smartly treated. The wine has a precise line, and is penetrating with a long finish.

Is it at Leeuwin's level? Not quite.

Score: 95/++

The 2015 Cullen Diana Madeline has been reviewed a lot already. The points-master and other reviewers have gone to the top drawer as usual. I won't dwell on general descriptors too much. The wine has hints of vibrancy, but is a little closed at present. The bouquet of red and black berries flows onto the palate. The main point I want to make is that this is a more concentrated wine than recent releases with more ripeness and depth of fruit, supported by fine tannins.

I think in a number of years, the power and intensity of the wine will blend with the finesse and elegance in a potentially amazing way. This wine needs to be put away for at least five years. I will not drink it before 10 years.

Score: 96/+++ 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery

The Margaux sub-region is known for the softest and most fragrant wines in Bordeaux. And Chateau Malescot has been described as making the most Pinot Noir like wines in Bordeaux. This might just be the right thing for the hot 2005 vintage.

The 2005 Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot has a big, beautiful bouquet of bramble. Actually, I have less of a flavour association with this wine, than an image. It smells like walking through a thick forest after the rain, with the dampness of complex aromas rising through the air.

On the palate, this is an elegant and smooth wine. The wine is quite ripe, with blackcurrant and secondary earthy flavours blending well together. The mouthfeel is big, with a good balance between filling out and length. The tannins are fine and in a support role.

This is clearly an old world wine, but with new world generosity. I like it a lot.

Score: 95/+++

Monday, May 8, 2017

Best's Bin 1 Shiraz

Best's of Great Western is a remarkable winery, with very old and traditional underground cellars and beautiful old vine vineyards, the home block comprising many varieties. The main game is Shiraz.

I am tasting the 2011 Best's Bin 1 Shiraz, the second (or third, depending on your point of view) label if you will. This could be challenging: a cool climate Shiraz from a cool and wet vintage. The bouquet is intense, smelling of pepper and berries. This is a peppery wine, no doubt, on a fairly light frame. But the wine is vibrant and smooth. The fruit orientated flavours are mainly red plum. The mouthfeel is a bit weak, but the structure of the wine is good, with acidity prominent.

This wine is perhaps not so satisfying on its own, but would be great with pasta and pizza dishes. It is a great winemaking effort in this tough year. Great value for money, too.

Score: 91/+++

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New Zealand Pinot Noirs With Personality

Over the last 10 years, the quality of Australian and New Zealand Pinot Noirs has gone up in leaps and bounds. One even does not encounter lolly water in value for money Pinot Noirs any more, and the good ones can take on Burgundy premier cru. Unfortunately, there seems to be an almost formulaic approach by most producers, and it is not often that individual wines stand out.

At a recent tasting, however, I found that three Pinot Noirs from New Zealand had great 'personality'. As I tasted these wines very quickly, no scores were given, but they would have been in the 90-95 points range.

The first was the 2013 Charteris The Winter Vineyard Pinot Noir. The vineyard is on Felton Road in Central Otago, opposite Mt. Difficulty. This Pinot Noir does not taste anything like a Central Otago Pinot Noir. This wine is much leaner than your typical example.While there is good fruit intensity, there is also bay leaf, and the tannins are dry, but soft. This is partly due to the location near the water, partly due to long maceration.

The 2015 Schubert Marion's Vineyard Pinot Noir comes from Wairarapa (the larger Martinborough region). This location was searched out by a German winemaking couple after a world-wide search. The fruit here is bigger. Earthy notes and fragrance remind me of Nebbiolo.

The cult Pyramid Valley winery is owned by an American and is currently being sold (to another American, I believe). It is located in the Canterbury district and quite unique in many ways. The 2014 Pyramid Valley Angel Flower Pinot Noir has an almost orange colour. The wine is soft and smooth, and almost Burgundian in its character (and price).  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Joseph Phelps Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon

This post should be read in conjunction with the previous one.

The other wine I took home from that Napa Valley trip was the 2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia. This is one of the famous and very consistent Cabernet Sauvignons from the Napa Valley, in its chunky, standing out bottle.

This wine has more depth than the Stags Leap SLV, and a big mouthfeel. The blueberry and blackberry flavours are quite clean and elegant. Paradoxically, this wine is less complex than the SLV, with a focus on fruit intensity and concentration. The tannins are firm and well integrated. The finish is quite dry. This wine needs protein.

Score: 94/++

Friday, April 28, 2017

Two Exciting Cabernets To Compare: Achaval-Ferrer and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

I missed World Malbec Day, which was 10 days ago. However, it is a good marketing idea. Therefore, belatedly, I pulled the best Malbec out of my cellar.


Strictly speaking, the 2011 Achaval Ferrer Quimera is not a Malbec, but a Malbec blend, with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a bit of Petit Verdot making up the remaining 50%.

This wine is utterly modern, with freshness and superb elegance. It is clean, crisp and very defined, with a shape which runs down the palate, rather than engulfing every possible taste bud. Blackcurrant flavours, black cherry, blackberry and white pepper blend in with fine grained tannins. The finish is very elegant. 

The different grape contributions are seamless. What is surprising is that only the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes come from high altitude, but there is no sweetness, thickness or over-ripeness in this well made wine.

Score: 95/+++

One of the exciting, and still affordable wines I brought back from a trip to Napa Valley around 2010 was the 2007 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. (Stag's Leap Vineyards) Cabernet Sauvignon. This is of course the winery which won the legendary 1976 tasting challenge against Bordeaux wines (with the Cask 23). The 1973 vintage of this wine was named an 'Object that made America' by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Like with Australian Shiraz, there is always some doubt how well Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can age. And in 10 year old tastings, the scores are mostly lower than on release. However, on opening the bottle, the signs are good. The colour is dark and looks fresh.

This wine comes from a warmer climate than the Quimera, and it shows. The wine is darker, richer, and broader. The flavours are quite complex. Red- and blackcurrant, plum, and cedar mix with earthy notes, cinnamon and chocolate. The structure is holding up, and the balance is good. Coarser tannins lead to a full-bodied finish.

Score: 93/++

Choosing between these two wines really comes down to preferences. The freshness and raciness of the Quimera vs. the richness and full mouthfeel of the S.L.V.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

Year after year after year.... this wine delivers. It starts with the annually changing attractive label. As at Mouton-Rothschild, the originals hang in the winery's gallery.

The 2006 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay, now over 10 years old, shows a bright golden colour with still a hint of green. On the palate, the fruit is less pronounced and obvious than in other years, the style more restraint than, say, the wines of the 90s. Citrus and apricot flavours are almost background to almond, marzipan, and white chocolate. The mouthfeel is creamy and balanced. This wine is more about texture than anything else. It will drink well for many years.

Score: 95/+++

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Ulithorne Chi Grenache Shiraz


When the fruit of the 2012 Ulithorne Chi Grenache Shiraz hits the front palate, the sensation is attractive. The fruit has depth, the plum and blackberry flavours are very pure. This small scale operation certainly is quite meticulous about the grape treatment. The mouthfeel initially is very satisfying with good fruit concentration,  sweet flavour and fine tannins. The Shiraz component of the wine manages to hold on to this impression on the mid palate, but on the back palate, the wine drops off. The tannins do not quite stand up to the ripe fruit.

Score: 92/+

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

E. Pira Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi

The warm 2000 vintage was hailed by the Americans as one of the best in Barolo, as the fruit was ripe and concentrated, whereas the Italians saw it as atypical. The charismatic Chiara Boschis, who became winemaker in 1990, uses modern methods, with shortened maceration periods and maturation in French barriques. This may have been the right thing in this vintage. So I was quite excited to open this bottle of 2000 E. Pira Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi, from one of the legendary vineyards in the heart of Barolo. As an aside, this vineyard is shared by 17 producers.

The wine is  typical of the variety. Tar and roses feature strongly. The colour is darker than is typical of Barolo, pointing to quite concentrated dark cherry fruit. However, the fruit has now faded somewhat. Savoury flavours dominate, and in particular the firm and very dry tannins. The finish is long.

This is an outstanding wine, suited to those who like Barolo. It needs food, in particular protein, and is best drunk now.

Score: 95/++

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Price Vs. Quality Of Diverse Pinot Noirs

Recently, I tasted a number of quite diverse Pinot Noirs.  I tried to work out how to compare them. Sometimes, a graph can say as much as 1000 words. In this case, I plotted price vs. assessed quality on the following chart.
1 Kooyong Massale 2016
2 Home Hill Estate 2015
3 Bass Phillip Estate 2014
4 Kooyong Meres 2014
5 Valli Gibbston 2014
6 Bruno Colin Bourgogne 2014
7 Benjamin Leroux Savigny-les-Beaune 2014
8 Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Les Petit Monts 2013
9 Domaine de la Vougeraie Corton Grand Cru 2014
10 Williams Selyem Central Coast 2010

What is immediately obvious is that the 1er Cru and Grand Cru Burgundies are a multiple in prices of the Australian wines, yet in quality, there is not much difference. The Mongeard-Mugneret was the best wine of the night, but the Grand Cru disappointed, relatively. So, buyer beware! The California wine was also twice in price of the Australian wines, without added quality rating.

Of the Australian Pinot Noirs, Kooyong did very well. The Massale was the value for money wine, and the Meres was the second best wine of the night. It is 100% whole bunch, and has feminine qualities, with strawberry fruit and a very silky finish.

Any questions?  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A. Christmann Riesling

This 2015 A. Christmann Riesling from the Pfalz shows a wonderful bright golden colour, hinting at a bigger wine than common from the more northern and western parts of Germany. This continues on the nose with a bouquet of apricot and peach.

This is a fairly full-bodied Riesling, but it is not sweet, nor overly fruity on the palate. The fruit is apricot and white peach, but the highlight is the texture of the wine. The mouthfeel is complete and full-filling. The wine is well balanced, although the acidity is certainly low. The wine goes down the palate in a very even manner, leading to a slightly creamy finish.

This is a classy wine. I suggest to drink it in the next 1-2 years, while it still has refreshing characteristics.

Score: 93/+++  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lucy Margaux Wines

Lucy Margaux is one of the new breed of natural wine producers. Nothing gets added, no fining, no filtration. If wines were scored on the old 20 point scale, where 3 points are reserved for colour, these wines would not get out of the starting blocks. The colour of the wines is cloudy. Is this a fault? Not necessarily. The proof is really in the drinking.

The first wine I taste is the 2016 Lucy Margaux Vino Rosso Sangiovese Pinot Gris. You now know already that conventions do not count for much here. This wine is a 50/50 blend. Maybe the Pinot Gris is supposed to do to the Sangiovese the same as the Viognier to Shiraz. But do you need 50%? The wine is very fruity and sweet and bares little resemblance to the kind of wines I normally drink (82 points).

The main game is Pinot Noir. The first of four is the 2016 Village of Tiers Pinot Noir. This is quite an accomplished effort. Forest berries dominate on the palate, before some elegant tannins kick in (89 points). Then come the single vineyard wines. The 2016 Little Creek Pinot Noir is much darker, with black cherry fruit and fresh acidity - a well structured wine (92 points). The 2016 Monomeith Pinot Noir is quite different. It is red fruited and very feminine with an open and gentle texture (91 points). The 2016 Estate Pinot Noir is from the home vineyard. Its profile sits in the middle between the last two. It is the most complex wine with quite an intriguing fruit mix on the palate (92 points).

The Pinot Noirs are certainly an interesting set of wines. I have been worried about the age-ability of natural wines, but apparently a six year old Monomeith was drinking well, according to a friend. One concern is that Anton van Klopper, the winemaker has now stopped to add any sulphur. He added a small amount in the past.

The types of wines tasted here find an enthusiastic following with young wine drinkers. I am still a little puzzled: normally, what you look for in wine is intensity and/or elegance, freshness or finesse. I am not sure what I am supposed to look for in natural wines, because they are not particularly strong on those dimensions. There is a strong philosophical bend in these wines, not to be a 'chemist', but an artist, says Anton van Klopper. Hmm.

If you look for something funky and different, and a natural wine made with some skill, then these Pinot Noirs could be for you.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Castagna Genesis Syrah

Julian Castagna is not known for modesty, but he is known for his convictions about bio-dynamics, including the moon cycles, and a desire to produce impressive, but only medium bodied wines.

These convictions are manifest in the 2004 Castagna Genesis Syrah. The nose is vibrant and perfumed. The aromatic violets come through on the palate, together with a complex set of berry fruits, blackberry, raspberry, red cherry. A thin layer of chocolate blends into the fruit. This is a female, medium bodied wine, very balanced, with enticing tannins and acidity in support. The wine expands on the finish, like a good Burgundy.

This wine drinks beautifully now. I loved it.

Score: 96/+++

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spinifex Le Chemin

Drinking this 2009 Spinifex Le Chemin a day after the Duval just reviewed, it is astonishing how different these two wines, both from the Barossa, similar age, and Rhône varieties, are. I will give both wines the same score, but for totally different reasons. This is a good illustration that the descriptions say a lot more than points.

The Spinifex has a bright ruby colour as opposed to the Duval's almost black colour. This blend of five common Rhône varieties is vibrant and fresh at eight years of age. This is clearly due to the wine's high acidic backbone and the grapes' early picking. The wine is very spicy, with white pepper in particular. Herbaceous flavours are stronger than the raspberry fruit. Grenache is the dominant grape here, but the wine is not fruity. This wine is almost anti Barossan in style, and while I understand the sentiment, I would have enjoyed more harmony in the mouth.

Score: 92/++     

Saturday, April 1, 2017

John Duval Entity Shiraz

When John Duval, Penfolds' former highly regarded winemaker, branched out on his own, he was keen to make wine with more vitality, and therefore he sourced a lot of fruit from Eden Valley.

This 2010 John Duval Entity Shiraz has a sweet plum and mulberry core. This wine is more about depth and intensity. The firm tannins match the fruit, but elegance suffers as a result. This is a big, juicy wine with significant alcoholic content and feel. This wine can still be regarded as balanced (and attractive as such), but only just. One for lovers of Barossa Shiraz.

Score: 92/+

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir

Gippsland is not a major wine region. It is dairy country, and often very wet. However, some of the most interesting and exciting Australian Pinot Noirs can come from here. They tend to be funky, with a lot of personality. Is this due to the region or the two winemakers, Phillip Jones and William Downie, who trained under Jones for a while?

William Downie makes three Pinot Noirs from different Victorian regions, and the Gippsland wine is often the best, largely due to the silky tannins.This is a review of the 2010 William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir.

The colour of the wine is still ruby, but the intensity has dropped over time and is now medium. This points to some ageing effect in the wine. Having said this, black cherry aromas are still strong.

Savoury characters dominate the palate, with mushroom characters and black olive. The phenolics of the wine are good. The tannins are firm; in fact the fruit is starting to lose out in weight against the strong structure. This is still an enticing wine, but I suggest to drink it now.

Score: 93/++


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Penfolds Bin 407 is in similar ways a baby to the Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, as the Bin 389 is to Grange. Winemaking is similar, the fruit not of quite the same quality. If we were in Bordeaux, it would be called a second wine of one of the major Chateau's. I have high hopes for the 2010 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon, as it comes from an outstanding vintage.

At seven years, the colour remains almost black. Black fruits frame the aroma. Blackcurrants dominate the palate. The fruit of this multi-district wine shows some of the sun-kissed characteristic of Coonawarra's Terra Rossa, but does not have the same intensity as the Bin 707. The mouthfeel is neither as round or deep as the big brother. On the plus side, there is not much of a hole on the mid-palate, as can be the case with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine finishes with firm tannins and a pleasant oak infused aftertaste.

Score: 89/+  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Domäne Wachau

Tasting the wines from the Domaene Wachau, in particular their Rieslings, is quite a different experience from tasting German Riesling. I will report on four wines from this large, high quality Austrian co-operative.

The two first Rieslings are from the 2015 vintage, which was warm in the Wachau, as in most parts of Europe. The white wines in the Wachau follow a three tiered system. The first is called Steinfeder. These are the lightest wines, early picked, with a maximum level of 11.5% alcohol. The second tier is called Federspiel, with 11.5-12.5% alcohol, and the third tier is the later picked Smaragd with >12.5% alcohol. These wines are still dry, but with bigger body and weight than the other two.

On to the tasting. The first wine is the 2015 Terassen Federspiel Riesling. The grapes come from the  highly regarded, higher elevation vineyards, which are situated on steep slopes leading to the Danube valley. This wine is very refreshing. The floral flavours are subdued, the fruit is not overt. The focus is on texture and minerality. This wine has benefitted from the warmer vintage. It has given the wine more body than normal. However, the wine is still quite linear, not complex, but rather delicate. I liked this wine a lot. In fact, it was my wine of the night (93/+++).

The 2015 Sinerriedel Smaragd Riesling is a single vineyard wine from the cooler western part of the Wachau. But as mentioned, 2015 was a warm year. This wine has a bigger body, and the wine is coating the mouth nicely. However, the wine is a bit broader and loses some definition before it comes to a smooth, prolonged finish. Again, texture is the main game for this good food wine (91/++).

Then there was the 2008 Kellerberg Smaragd Riesling, another single vineyard wine. This wine had aged quite a bit and showed toasted and quite earthy flavours on a fairly broad backbone. This wine did not do it for me (86/-).

Finally, a very rare mature Gruener Veltliner. Veltliner can age quite well, but it is mostly drunk young. Not many mature examples exist. The 2000 Kellerberg Smaragd Gruener Veltliner shows a lot of complexity. There are herbs, mint and truffle on the palate. This wine comes from a cool year. The wine is still fresh and elegant, with well integrated acidity - quite a revelation, and a great wine for many different foods (92/++).

Monday, March 6, 2017

Barossa vs. McLaren Vale Shiraz

This is actually an unfair comparison. The Coriole Lloyd Reserve is from Magnum and 2005, the Grant Burge Meshach is from a standard bottle and 2001. Both are the top wines of these respected wineries. You can predict the outcome and you would be right.

The 2005 Coriole Lloyd Reserve is in excellent condition. The dark cherry and plum flavours sit on a well balanced structure of good acidity and strong tannins. The finish of this full-bodied wine is long.

Score: 94/++

The Grant Burge Meshach tends to be a crowd favorite, as I have tested in blind tastings on a number of occasions. It is a full-bodied crowd pleaser, without going over the top. The 2001 Grant Burge Meshach is quite complex on the palate. There is the expected plum and blackberry, but also mocca and marzipan. But the drawback is that the wine is now a little tired. It would have been great five years ago.

Score: 93/+  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon Terroir

I tasted two mature Cabernet Sauvignons from different areas, and it was amazing how the different terroirs showed.

The first was the 2002 Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon (now Abercrombie) from Margaret River. This wine had dark berry, in particular blackberry flavour. It was savoury and had aged very gracefully. It was an elegant wine, with sufficient acidity and soft tannins to provide balance and complexity. The mouthfeel was delicious from the front palate to the finish.

Score: 95/+++

The second wine was the 2001 Elderton Ashmead Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a much bigger wine with plum and prune flavours. It was clear, this was a warmer climate style. The fruit had aged more and started to taste a little tired. The firmer tannins held the wine together.

Score: 92/+

Between regions, climate is the number one terroir factor. This was obvious in this comparison between two well made wines.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Four Aged Victorian Shirazes

There is still considerable concern about the ability to age Australian Shiraz. The general view is that cool climate Shiraz from Victoria is better suited for ageing due to generally higher levels of acidity than in Shiraz from South Australia. I wanted to put this to the test. Over the last few days, I drank four different Shirazes from Victoria, all 12 years old. This is what I found.

First cab of the rank was a 2005 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz. This wine was under screw cap, whereas the others were under cork. This wine is known for its black pepper expression, and this certainly came through strongly on the nose, as well as the palate. The wine was still fresh and vibrant, with good depth in plum and mulberry fruit. The structure is holding up strongly, and the tannins were fine grained, yet strong. The wine is probably at its peak now and for another two to three years.

Score: 94/++

The second wine was the 2005 Battely Syrah from Beechworth. This wine was very dry, and the fruit overripe. I remember that this wine had a big mouthfeel on release, but now it is dead, only the 15.5% alcohol coming through in an unpleasant finish. Clearly, this wine played to the 'Parker palate' initially and used 'Syrah' for fashion as well, although this term is usually reserved for lighter style wines. Why would you try to make such a wine at higher altitude Beechworth?

Score: <80 p="">
The third wine was again from Western Victoria, the 2004 Best's Bin 0 Shiraz. I was confident this would show well, as I had tasted excellent very old Best's wines before. The fruit for this wine comes from very old vines. The black fruits are concentrated, but sit on an elegant frame. The black peppers are equally strong to the Mount Langhi. The structure of this wine is perfect, and the underlying acidity points to a long future. I also enjoyed the firm, but fine tannins on the finish.

Score: 94/++

Finally, the 2004 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz. This famous Beechworth vineyard has clay soil and produces wine on the richer side. The colour of the wine shows some development - garnet taking over from purple. The wine is still quite rich, but now less fruit orientated. Savoury characters dominate. The finish is long. This is not an unpleasant wine, and the structure still holds, but the flavour profile is not very differentiated. It should be drunk within two years.

Score: 92/+

On this occasion, Western Victoria beats Beechworth quite decisively, and the typical cool climate wines aged well.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mount Horrocks Riesling

In the same way in which Penfolds Bin 389 is often called the poor man's Grange, is Mount Horrocks Riesling called the poor man's Grosset. Except in the former case, it is because Bin 389 uses Grange barrels,whereas in the latter case, Mount Horrocks winemaker, Stephanie Toole, is married to Jeffrey Grosset.

I am drinking the 2016 Mount Horrocks Riesling. The wine is from Watervale, Clare Valley. The wine is fruity, yet dry. It delivers a satisfying mouthfeel of citrus, nicely balanced by acidity. This is a rounder and richer wine than the often steely and linear Grossets and the Watervale subregion lends itself to this style of wine. The wine is well structured and will age well, but is also good to drink now. Would go perfectly with any kind of summer salads.

Score: 92/+

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Head Nouveau

The label suggests this is a Beaujolais. However, it is actually a blend of Touriga Nacional and Montepulciano. This sounds like a good idea in theory. The Montepulciano grape tends to be fruity, with a low skin to fruit ratio, while Touriga Nacional has small berries and a tannic structure. The wine is part of Alex Head's new take on the Barossa Valley. This is an experiment with grape varieties supposedly better suited to very hot weather than Shiraz.

This 2014 wine starts well on the front palate. The wine is fresh, with violet and black cherry flavours. However, then it dies, before slightly bitter tannins pick it up again. The integration between the grape varieties has not worked too well. However, this wine is an easy drinking style where one should not be too analytical about it.

Score: 87/0

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Keller Riesling Trocken

This is an entry level Riesling from the highly regarded Keller winery in Rheinhessen.

The 2015 Keller Riesling Trocken is a modern take on German Riesling. The wine is dry, but features mouthfilling fruit, mainly ripe lemon. This wine is not complicated, but fresh, and perfectly balanced.  It finishes clean. A great summer wine.

Score: 89/+

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ochota Barrels Gewürztraminer

Gewürztraminer is a real fringe variety. Is it the name? Well, you can order Gewurz or Traminer, everybody would understand. And yet, it is probably the perfect variety to match with Thai food, popular all over the world.

In Australia, the number of producers for Gewürztraminer has shrunk over the years, so I was interested to try the 2016 Ochota Barrels Gewürztraminer, a relatively new entrant. Ochota Barrels is a bit of a fashionable producer, judging by wine writers and restaurant interest. Therefore I was doubly curious.

The flavours are quite interesting: pear, lychee, ginger, lemongrass spices - a good expression of the variety. The wine is very fruity, yet dry. It would match stir fry food well, but I find the wine quite broad and not very precise. It is also a little pricey, at about $35 per bottle, with hardly any track record.

Score: 88/-

Friday, January 27, 2017

Henschke Croft Chardonnay

Henschke is of course best known for its famous single vineyard wines from the Eden Valley, based on the 100 year old Mt. Edelstone vineyard and the older Hill of Grace vineyard. What is perhaps less well known is that for a number of decades, Henschke has started to develop a significant planting in the Adelaide Hills, and that a significant part of this is dedicated to white wines, Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.

The 2012 Henschke Croft Chardonnay still displays a green/yellow colour. The flavours are attractive, white peach and honey melon. Despite some similarities in the flavour profile to many Margaret River Chardonnays, this wine is not as big as those. The wine is clean and nicely balanced. The mouthfeel is a little lean, the finish refreshing.

Score: 91/+ 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir

This is the fourth review of the five major Pinot Noir brands of Felton Road. I have been attracted to Felton Road Pinot Noirs from way back. The Block 3, from the Elms Vineyard, the home vineyard if you like, has always been my favorite. This part of the vineyard consists of deep sandy loam. In the past, Block 3 Pinot Noir has been feminine, a wine of finesse and ethereal character.

As I taste the 2010 Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir, I detect a shift. This wine is now darker and more masculine, although not as big as Block 5, which grows on gravelly schist. I believe the increased vine age has a lot to do with it. Flavours of dark cherry mix with herbs and dark spices. The wine has a firm structure and keeps its balance throughout. The overall impression is savoury, and some silkiness remains.

The Block 3 has put on some muscle. At the expense of charm?

Score: 94/++

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sami-Odi Shiraz


How can you differentiate yourself, when you start a new premium Shiraz winemaking business? This is what Fraser McKinley did: Start with an odd and mysterious, but catchy name. Change the winemaking. The "little wine" is a blend of three vintages, a bit like what happens with Champagne. (There is also a single vineyard wine.) Change the bottle dramatically. As can be seen, it looks like a port bottle. The label prominently displays the bottle number. The rest is hard to read, but includes all legally required information. Overall volume is small, less than a 1000 cases, to guarantee scarcity. But then you have to deliver. So the source of the fruit is the Hoffmann vineyard, one of the Barossa's best vineyards, from the Northern Barossa. A good start.

My tasting of the Sami-Odi  Little Wine #4 is my first exposure to these wines. It is an assemblage of 2012 (17%), 2013 (44%), 2014 (37%), and 2% unaccounted for or a rounding error?

As it turns out, this wine is a gentle giant, no mean feat, given other wines from this vineyard are anything but gentle. They tend to be massive. This wine is full-bodied, with concentrated blackberry and blueberry flavours. There is some freshness in the wine, and the tannins are silky. There is a bit of alcohol on the back palate.

This is not a sensational wine, but it is very good and individual. I would buy it again. By the way, Sami-Odi is now up to #6 with this wine.

Score: 93/++   

Monday, January 16, 2017

Can You Tell If A Wine Will Taste Alcoholic Before You Drink It?

This question came to me after I tasted the last two wines reviewed, the Yalumba Octavius and the Penfolds Bin 169 Cabernet Sauvignon. The short answer is you can not. There are two reasons for this. The first has to do with the fruit in the wine, and the second with labelling.

Fruit intensity and vibrancy, in my experience, can compensate for high alcohol and even overcome it. I do not know what the chemical reaction is, but it seems to me both play a role in reigning alcohol in. Fruit intensity and vibrancy were high in the Penfolds Bin 169, and the alcohol at 14.5% was not noticeable. This is also true for white wine, look at Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay as example.

The other factor is labelling. You are allowed a band width of 1.5%ige points. The Octavius was labelled at 14%, the Penfolds Bin 169 at 14.5%. Let's just say they are both out by 1% point, but in the opposite direction. This would mean the Octavius could have been 15%, and the Penfolds 13.5%. This would tell a different story, wouldn't it? I have no basis for saying this is more accurate, but it certainly tasted this way, and it could have been.

The conclusion is, if you do not like an alcoholic after taste, but otherwise like full-bodied wines, you have to taste before you buy and develop an understanding of different producers' styles.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Penfolds Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon


Penfolds, for a number of reasons, is primarily associated with the Barossa Valley. Yet is has significant holdings in Coonawarra. Its over 100ha are all located on the famous terra rossa limestone soil and are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit from these vineyards does not fit the regular portfolio too well, as it has cool climate characteristics, not so much the ripeness and generosity expected in Penfolds wines. Therefore, the source for the Bin 707 is mainly the Barossa Valley.

But then it was decided to produce a separate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon with different characteristics. And what a wine this 2008 Penfolds Bin 169 Cabernet Sauvignon is! 

The colour of the wine is deep purple, and the aroma is of strong blackcurrant. This leads on to the palate with concentrated blackcurrant fruit. Yet the wine is fresh, with abundant vibrancy. This wine, after eight years, is still characterized by very pure, strong primary fruit, accompanied by some mocca on the back palate. This is a great expression of cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon, near perfect. There is a bit of a gap on the mid palate, but it is quickly overcome by firm tannins and strong flavours on the finish.

A revelation! Where does this leave other Coonawarra producers?

Score: 96/+++  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Yalumba Octavius Shiraz


Octavius is the flagship wine of the large Yalumba family winery. Yalumba has the option to pick from many Barossa vineyards. And, as it happens with many flagship wines, it selects the most concentrated fruit for this wine. This can become somewhat problematic in dry years, such as 2005.

The 2005 Yalumba Octavius Shiraz has an deep ruby colour. The ripe blackberry and plum flavours are very intense , with a sweet core, a bit like concentrated jam. This is quite a monumental wine, with oak flavours present. This wine pushes the envelop of concentration and ripeness, just staying within acceptable limits. The structure is intact, and firm tannins lead to a lasting finish.

This wine will appeal to people enjoying big and powerful Shiraz.

Score: 94/+ 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bindi Kaye Pinot Noir


The Bindi Kaye Pinot Noir is a relatively recent addition to the Bindi Pinot Noirs. All their wines come from the estate vineyard. This block K was singled out because it has the highest elevation and special soil including quartz and volcanic rock.

The 2010 Bindi Kaye Pinot Noir is simply a lovely Pinot Noir. It is not big, not super complex, but very pure. It tastes of dark cherry and Asian spices. The tannins are light and the wine is very clean on the finish. There is just enough interest in the wine to make it very enjoyable to drink.

Score: 93/+++ 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Head Old Vine Grenache

Producing a high quality straight varietal Grenache is no easy task. This grape variety has to ripen well. Then the alcohol level shoots up, the grapes can get very sweet or fruit turns dead. So how did Head do in this great vintage of 2012?

The 2012 Head Old Vine Grenache has overcome these initial challenges. This wine is savoury, not sweet, it is not alcoholic, and the fruit is lively. The flavours of the wine are a raspberry/blackberry mix. There is mocca as well. The wine is quite elegant, with a long finish, built on fine grained tannins. What is not to like? On the mid-palate, the mouthfeel is a little flat. However, overall a very enjoyable wine.

Score: 93/+++ 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dutschke St. Jakobi Shiraz

Every time I come across a Dutschke wine, I can't help but be reminded of Rudi Dutschke, the leader of the RAF in Germany, which terrorized the German establishment in the 1970s. Of course, Wayne Dutschke has nothing to do with that. In fact, the 2004 Dutschke St. Jakobi Shiraz is not particularly revolutionary at all. This is classic Barossa Shiraz. It comes from the St. Jakobi vineyard in Lyndoch, which is situated right next to Grant Burge's Filsell vineyard, also the source of 75% of the Meshach. The soil is grey loam over dark clay.

This wine (tasted from Magnum) has a strong core of black cherry, plum and mulberry. It shows juicyness and sweetness on the mid-palate. The tannins are quite ripe and soft, but there is no dead fruit in this wine whatsoever. It is well balanced with a lasting finish - very attractive to drink right now (on cooler days, preferably).

Score: 94/++

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

The 2007 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay, at almost 10 years of age, under screw cap, still displays a remarkably medium green colour. It is also amazingly young on the palate. There is a bit of tropical flavour, think guava, but less than in previous years. Pear and apple are in the foreground. This is quite a steely, almost lean tasting wine, yet it has 14.5% (unnoticeable) alcohol. There is some vanilla from the new oak on the back palate, but this is a perfectly balanced wine between fruit, oak and a strong acidic backbone. This wine is typical for the shift in style towards a more linear structure.

This is my last bottle from 2007, but this could easily be a 20 year Chardonnay.

Score: 95/++