Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Torbreck RunRig

 Torbreck is known for its full-bodied, ripe wines. As a result, there has always been a question about the ageability of its wines. I am not talking about 20 years here, but maybe just 8 years. I am putting this to the test with the 2016 Torbreck RunRig.

There are divided views on Torbreck's winemaking style, but there is no doubt that Torbreck has access to some of the best vineyards in the Barossa, as they pay well above market for grapes. The top fruit shines through in this wine.

The wine is full-bodied and delivers a complex palate. Dark plum and ripe blackberry feature as the fruit component. Vanilla from the oak and Viognier influence, mocca, tobacco, smoked meat flavours add to it, but these elements play a secondary role to the fruit in this wine. I still feel good energy in the mouth. The tannins are firm and silky. The finish is very long, expansive, and complex. I think this wine is in its prime now.

Score: 96/++  


Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Domaine Castagnier Clos Saint Denis Grand Cru

 There are essentially two strategies for the wine enthusiast wanting to experience good, but not exorbitantly expensive Burgundy. 1) To buy a village wine from a good producer or subregion;                2) To buy a Grand Cru from a lesser vineyard and/or producer. Both strategies have obvious limitations, but then the market and pricing basically works, although not perfectly.

The wine I reviewed last followed the first strategy. Today we look at a wine from the second strategy. It is the 2018 Domaine Castagnier Saint Denis Grand Cru.

Morey-Saint-Denis is perhaps one of the lesser appellations of the Cote de Nuits, the Clos Saint Denis a lesser grand cru there, and Domaine Castagnier is certainly not one of the top Burgundy names. However, the plot is in the historical and original part of Clos Saint Denis, and the winery has made great progress according to Jasper Morris.

Let's look at the wine. The colour is a darker purple, and the aromas on the nose are fruity, rich, and ripe.

On the palate, this is a more concentrated wine than the one reviewed in my last post. Ripe raspberry and dark cherry flavours deliver a pleasant and energetic mouthfeel, which is not too demanding or complex. The silky tannins lead to a medium finish with firm blackberry flavours. For the right price, this is an attractive wine.

Score: 94/++ 



Monday, June 10, 2024

Domaine Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanée Burgundy

 The 2016 Domaine Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanée shows a pretty purple colour. The wine is perfumed and fruity on the nose.

On the palate, generous black cherry and plum flavours are very clean. This is an almost voluptuous wine, but the mouthfeel is a little simple. There is a great entry, but then the wine falls off a bit. A show pony? But then, on the finish, tannins are persistent and lengthen the finish.

Overall, this is a good village wine, with a typical Vosne-Romanée profile of fleshy fruit.

Score: 92/++

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Luciano Sandrone Tasting

 The one winery I wanted to visit but did not manage to, when I was in Piedmont last year, was Luciano Sandrone. I therefore jumped on the opportunity when Barbara Sandrone was in Sydney this week.

Most wines carry the famous coloured squares on the bottle

The tasting was very crowded and it was not a good space for contemplation. Therefore, I will not allocate points and only make general observations. 

Piedmont wineries always start with Dolcetto and Barbera, and one mostly goes quickly to the main game, Nebbiolo. So it was here. The Barolos on tasting were the 2021 Nebbiolo d'Alba, the 2019 Barolo Le Vigne (the blended wine from five villages), the 2019 Aleste Barolo from the Cannubi Boschis vineyard, and the 2017 Vite Talin Barolo. From left to right, the fruit concentration increases, but only slightly so. The Vite Talin is a very special wine. It is made from a separate Nebbiolo clone. The berries are only half the size of a typical Nebbiolo grape. At first it was thought to be diseased fruit. Luciano Sandrone identified this clone in 1987 and made the first special wine in 2013.

All the Barolos share a typical Sandrone signature. They are very perfumed, very Pinot Noir like. They are finessed, with a firm, mouth plucking tannin structure. In my humble opinion, this creates an imbalance. The entry on the palate is quite beautiful, but then the fruit cannot stand up to the tannins. Maybe long term cellaring overcomes this issue. But still this imbalance  existed in the 2017 wine.

The Aleste and the Vite Talin typically receive high ratings. Maybe I did not get these wines. In the evening I had a 12 year old Cannubi from Chiara Boschis. Now this was a balanced and beautiful wine.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Domaine Jaeger-Defaix

 Vineyards in Rully in the northern part of the Côte Chalonnaise are the second interest of Hélène Jaeger-Defaix. Wines from the Côte Chalonnaise create interest, because one tries to find the same quality of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir as in Burgundy 'proper', but at a fraction of the price.

Two whites and two reds are available for tasting. The 2022 Jaeger-Defaix Rully 1er cru Le Cloux is light and fresh, with an elegant mouthfeel. This is a pleasant, well made Chardonnay without a lot of impact (91 points). The 2022 Jaeger-Defaix 1er cru Rabourcé Blanc sits right above the Le Coux vineyard. There is less of the white clay soil here. This is a fuller and more powerful wine with a longer finish (93 points).

The first red is the 2022 Jaeger-Defaix Rully Rouge. This is a village wine. It is light, well made, but not complex (91 points). The best wine of these is the 2022 Jaeger-Defaix Rully Rouge 1er cru Clos du Chapitre. The soil is clay. This wine is 100% barrel fermented, with 10% new oak. Strawberry flavours dominate. This is a bigger wine, but still energetic, with quite a tannic finish (94 points).

Overall, the Jaeger-Defaix wines are well made: balanced, with delicate flavours, and an elegant mouthfeel.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Tyrrell's Old Patch Shiraz


Tyrrell's Sacred Sites vineyards are mostly located between the road and the winery (4 Acres, 8 Acres, Johnno's). However, the most famous of this quartet, the Old Patch comes from a vineyard about 2km further south. The vines are over 150 years old.

I am tasting the 2018 Tyrrell's Old Patch Shiraz. The fruit in this wine shows incredible purity, tasting of red plum, cranberry, and blueberry. The flavours are deep, but lifted at the same time. The wine delivers a very elegant, even majestic mouthfeel. Silky tannins lead to a long, lingering finish. This is a superb wine. It stands out among the Secret Sites wines.

Score: 97/+++

At this point the wine is fruit dominant thanks to a screw top closure. The wine has the structure to grow in complexity when secondary characteristics emerge, and achieve an even higher score, but we will have to wait another 5-10 years for this to happen.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Domaine Berrnard Defaix Chablis

 This estate is currently run by Bernard's son Didier and his wife Hélène. The Domaine is small but punches above its weight because of its terroir and astute winemaking. 

Hélène Defaix

I tasted the three main Chablis from the 2022 vintage. All wines are organic since 2009. Petit Chablis often includes material from the outer regions, where the soil is clay. However, the 2022 Domaine Bernard Defaix Petit Chablis is only sourced from flat vineyards close to the village center, where the soil is kimmeridgian, including marine fossils. This gives the wine Chablis' famous minerality. This wine is citrus based, clean and linear. A bit of almond flavour appears on the finish built around fine acidity. Despite 2022 being a warm year, and the wine undergoing 100% malolactic fermentation, it is fresh and energetic. The skill here is to pick as early as possible, but the fruit needs to be ripe, according to Mrs. Defaix.

Score: 93/+++

The second wine is the 2022 Bernard Defaix Chablis. The fruit comes from similar vineyards to the Petit Chablis, but the vines are older. The wine also spends more time on lees. The result is a similar wine, with good dynamic on the palate and more fruit concentration - a very harmonious wine.

Score: 94/+++

The third wine is the jewel in the crown, the 2022 Bernard Defaix 1er cru Côte de Léchet. Bernard Defaix is the largest single holder of this vineyard. This vineyard has a perfect exposure to south-east. As a result, the fruit ripens early. 25% of the fruit sees old oak. This is a more complex wine with again more concentration, but still maintains a saline character. White fruit flavours deliver a delicate palate, with an excellent finish.

Score: 95/+++ 



Sunday, May 26, 2024

Bindi New Releases

 There are some wineries with exceptional wines which manage to deliver high quality at reasonable prices as well (think Penfolds Bin 28, for example, or Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir). Bindi, unfortunately, is not one of them. However, there are specific reasons for this. As Bindi became better known, wines from their exceptional Estate Vineyard in Macedon sell out in an instant. It was an opportunity too good to pass up, to expand with wines from bought-in fruit. The recent release of these wines (and some estate wines) allows us to assess their quality.

Let's start with the 2023 Bindi Dhillon Macedon Ranges Chardonnay. This wine is made from fruit sourced from the Macedon Ranges. Citrus and white peach are the dominant flavours. The focussed acidity is high, giving the wine a very refreshing finish (88 points). The second wine from the current release is the 2023 Bindi Kostas Rind Chardonnay. This is the standard wine from the Estate. The immediate observation is that this wine is much more concentrated. Otherwise there are similarities to the previous wine in terms of flavour and acidity. In addition, the wine has more energy and drive (92 points).

Then we come to the red wines. The 2023 Bindi Dixon Pinot Noir is the entry level Pinot Noir from the Estate. The colour is pale, but there is a lot going on in the mouth. Strawberry and raspberry flavours reveal themselves first, savoury notes follow, balanced by fine tannins. This wine tastes very young and must be aged to experience better harmony. The Dixon is my pick from the wines reviewed here (92 points).

The second area of focus for Michael Dhillon is Heathcote. The 2023 Bindi Col Mountain Grenache comes from there. This is quite a light red, soft, with typical raspberry flavours - a basic expression of Grenache, somewhat unusual from Heathcote (88 points). The Pyrette Shiraz has been around for longer. This release is the 2022 Bindi Pyrette Shiraz. This is a lighter style, very different from the typical expression from Heathcote. Blackberry, earthy and peppery notes deliver a typical cooler climate style. The wine finishes quite tannic (90 points). 

I was not able to taste the premium wines of this release. They were the 2017 and 2018 Darshan Pinot Noir and the 2019 Block 8 Pinot Noir. I tasted the 2017 Darshan at a visit to the winery last year (see previous blog post), as well as the 2021 Block 8. These wines come from new high density plantings on the Estate. They are exciting wines of small volume, the scarcity matched by high prices. 


Friday, May 17, 2024


 Of the many so called alternative or new varieties, not all are equally appealing to the Australian market. Do we really need to promote Primitivo or Aglianico? These are full-bodied red wine varieties, often with high alcohol content. In my opinion, we grow enough Shiraz and Shiraz blends to cover this market very well.

However, other varieties really add to our wine drinking experience. One such variety is Assyrtiko, the national Greek white wine variety, most popular on the island of Santorini. I yesterday drank a well priced version, which expresses the features of Assyrtiko well.

The 2020 Gaia Monograph Assyrtiko is widely available in Australia (Gaia is a well regarded Greek winery, not to be confused with Gaja in Piedmont). This wine is very fresh with lively acidity. Lemon zest is the dominant flavour. It is most suited as a summer and lunch wine. It has a more interesting mouthfeel than most Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, and I see no reason why Assyrtiko could not take significant share from these varieties.

Score: 90/++

Monday, May 13, 2024

Underestimate or Overestimate

 Growing grapes and making wine is obviously a challenging business and developments can be quite dynamic. Part of this dynamic is the 'discovery' of new wine making areas or regions. Over the last couple of days I tasted two wines from very different regions which both are not necessarily new, but have grown in significance over the last few years. The two wines were a 2020 Chacra Pinot Noir from Patagonia, Argentina, and a 2019 Tertini Pinot Noir from the Southern Highlands, New South Wales.  

Chacra has taken a very serious approach, including bio-dynamics and organics, since starting their journey in 2004. Obviously, they impressed the wine world and have achieved glowing reviews. My first experience has been with the 2020 Chacra Cincuenta Y Cinco Pinot Noir, obviously from a vineyard started in 1955. The palate shows strawberry and red and black cherry flavours, as well as licorice and herbal flavours. The wine is quite elegant and balanced, but it lacks a bit of interest in its texture. The tannins are mild, and the finish is medium.

While this wine is certainly a good Pinot Noir, it is not outstanding, and certainly not as exciting as the reputation preceding it. While the climate is quite suitable for Pinot Noir, the soil composition of pebbles and clay may not deliver the drive and intensity I had hoped for.

Score: 92/+

The Southern Highlands south of Sydney do not really rate as a premium wine growing region among most wine enthusiasts. Its preeminent winery is Tertini. I recently tried the 2019 Tertini Yaraandoo Vineyard Pinot Noir. The vines are still quite young, planted in 2000, but the vineyard, sitting at an altitude of over 700 meters, is highly regarded.

The wine is quite perfumed on the nose. Dark cherry flavours dominate the palate. This is a light to medium, clearly cool climate Pinot Noir. What this wine has, a bit in contrast to the Chacra, is drive, a great texture, and a long finish. This is not the most complex of wines, but it drinks beautifully with an excellent Pinot Noir typicity. 

Score: 94/+++ 

P.S.: A reader has pointed out to me that the winery has closed. A Canberra article mentioned the winery is closed since 2023 due to a lack of succession. This is a real shame. I am wondering what is happening to the vineyard shown in the picture.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Ata Rangi Mini Vertical

 Mini Verticals are great to see the impact of vintages, as well as identifying a winery's style.

In the last couple of days, I experienced the Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2016, 2017 and 2020.

The 2020 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir shows a bright crimson colour. The nose is quite perfumed. Red and black cherry fruit, cranberry, licorice and five spice deliver complexity on the palate. There is a good balance between fruit and savoury characteristics. The tannins are fine and the finish is very long. The wine is quite tight at the moment. On the second day, it opened up a bit more, but the wine is probably in its sleeping window, typical for some Pinot Noirs. It is too early to drink. If you do, you must decant the wine for at least three hours.

Score: 96/+++

The 2017 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir is quite different. This is a brooding wine, darker, with forest floor and forest berries. There is a lot going on here. Black cherry and spice are significant flavours, but it is a very savoury wine with some game on the palate. This wine is big and mouth-filling (not as concentrated as the Place of Changing Winds Pinot Noir I recently reviewed). The wine has great personality. The silky tannins lead to a long finish.

Score: 97/+++

The 2016 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir is more fruit orientated, still very fresh, more open, not brooding. Black cherry, pomegranate and licorice are the main flavours. This is an elegant wine, very silky, very long. Interestingly, on day 2, it was much weightier than on the first day. 

Score: 95/+++ 

Overall, the Ata Rangi impresses with flavour complexity, a very satisfying mouthfeel, silky tannins and a long finish.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Spinifex Rostein Shiraz

 Spinifex has now entered its third phase. Let me explain. When Peter Schell came to the Barossa Valley, he embarked on a very clever strategy. He identified parcels of less well known Rhone varieties, for example Cinsault, which he could buy cheaply, and through clever blending managed to offer attractive wines at good prices. He became the blending wizard of the Barossa. He famously said: I would never do a 100% Shiraz, only over my dead body. Now this is exactly what he did next. La Bete Noir was born, Moppa, and La Maline (includes some Viognier). This was phase two. And then in the last 6 years, he added extra premium red wines with the Indigene and the Rostein.

The Rostein, from an old vineyard in the Eden Valley, is Peter Schell's most expensive wine. Yesterday, I tasted the 2018 Spinifex Rostein Shiraz. It seems this has been the only release so far.

Brooding dense fruit flavours rise from the glass. It is clear, this is an intense wine. It delivers the typical higher altitude Eden Valley blue fruit. There are dried plum flavours and licorice. Despite this fruit weight, the wine delivers good energy. It is both round and driven in the mouth. The bright acidity makes this wine still fresh after six years. The wine has a balanced structure with fine tannins and a lively finish.

Score: 95/+++