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/++