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 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/++