Monday, May 23, 2022

Frogmore Creek Chardonnay

 There is no doubt that Tasmania can deliver top shelf Chardonnay. Is the 2021 Frogmore Creek Chardonnay in the same league as Tolpuddle, Penfolds and a couple of others?

Floral notes will start you off, followed by pineapple and white peach. There is good purity of the fruit. The oak, through vanilla and nutty flavours, is quite present. The wine is a little sweet, which I did not find appealing, but might suit some. The wine has medium length and low acidity. This should be drunk young.

Clearly, this wine is not top shelf, but the attractive pricing reflects this.

Score: 89/0

Monday, May 16, 2022

Achaval Ferrer Malbec

 It was not until after I bought a bottle of 2019 Achaval Ferrer Malbec that I started to think about it. You see, this business is owned by Stolichnaya, a Russian vodka business. Are we, as individual consumers to boycott Russian goods? On one level, it makes sense, because it creates trouble for these companies, and hopefully creates pressure for the Russian regime. On the other hand, and in particular if the business resides elsewhere, it hurts local employment, and would it really achieve anything? Anyway, I had bought this bottle before those thoughts went through my mind.

Achaval Ferrer has done a lot for raising the quality of Argentina’ s Malbec. Following Catena Zapata, it became an advocate of single vineyard wines, based on old vines, and mostly from the Uco Valley. However, this wine is a blend from their vineyards, I guess from the declassified fruit for the single vineyard wines.

Blueberry and blackberry flavours dominate. The fruit is very pure and quite plush. Having said this, some savoury notes add to the overall pleasant  mouthfeel. Most of it is on the front palate. Still, the wine is balanced with a medium finish.

Score: 90/++

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Klaus Lentsch Bachgart Pinot Noir

 I came across this unusual (for me, at least) wine from Südtirol in Northern Italy and thought I must try this.

The 2017 Klaus Lentsch Bachgart Blauburgunder is quite a light wine with flavours of red cherry and raspberry as well as some earthy notes. The wine has some length. It ends up being dominated by somewhat firm, slightly coarse tannins and a harsh finish. Maybe this explains why Pinot Noir is not often found in Italy.

Score: 86/-

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Mayer Yarra Valley Syrah

 Timo Mayer is a charismatic winemaker, and his wines have personality, too. This is certainly true of the 2018 Mayer Yarra Valley Syrah. The Syrah labelling  indicates this wine is cool climate. Indeed, it comes from the upper part of his vineyard.

There is great purity of fruit on the palate; red currant, plum and blackberry. Black pepper supports the fruit flavours. The intensity of this bold wine focussed on primary fruit is quite high. I found the wine a little fruity, although the firm tannins and the spicy finish bring home a balanced wine.

This wine is 100% whole bunch, like the last wine I reviewed. However, it does not quite have the same impact.

Score: 93/+

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Giant Steps Nocton Vineyard Pinot Noir

 Giant Steps has been producing successful single vineyard wines from the Yarra Valley for a number of years. The 2018 Giant Steps Nocton Vineyard Pinot Noir is their first Pinot Noir from a different region, in this case from the Coal River Valley in Tasmania.

Rose and forest floor aromas rise from the glass. This is a medium-bodied wine with dark cherry fruit flavours, but more prominent savoury notes, mushroom and forest floor. The 100% whole bunch treatment is working its charm. This is a very seductive wine. The oak is noticeable and nicely integrated. The tannins are pretty, and the silky texture is more prominent than the intensity of this wine; a triumph.

Apart from typical food combinations, this wine also works well with white fish.

Score: 96/+++

Saturday, May 7, 2022

American Pinot Noir

 My understanding of US Pinot Noir is less than of Burgundy, and certainly a lot less than of Australian or New Zealand Pinot Noir. However, I recently developed a theory of these wines.

The first area to gain recognition for Pinot Noir was Sonoma and Russian River. Just north of Napa, these regions are still quite warm, and most Pinot Noirs reflect this. They are quite dark and full-bodied, Shiraz drinkers Pinot Noir, if you like, and comparable to Central Otago. There are exceptions with lighter bodied wines, but this is the main rule. Then along came Oregon, which set out to make Pinot Noirs much closer to Burgundy (this is the theory, but see below). And recently, the Sonoma Coast gained prominence. This subregion is close to the ocean and at higher elevation, perhaps combining the best of the two main regions mentioned above.   

I recently tasted a couple of  premium wines from these last two regions. Let's first talk about the 2015 Evening Land La Source Pinot Noir. It comes from the Seven Springs Estate at Eola-Amity Hills, a key area in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.

This wine has a light red colour translating into strawberry flavours. It is a very smooth and pretty wine, gentle, but not sweet. Acidity and tannins are light, with a medium finish. I liked this wine, but it certainly lacked the power or energy of good Burgundy.

Score: 93/++

The second wine was the 2016 Hirsch Vineyards West Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Hirsch is a very interesting winery. The owners have gone through a lot of trouble to identify different terroirs in their large holdings. The wines show remarkable variation from one site to another.

The West Ridge wine is very aromatic, with red cherry flavours and a medium plus intensity. It is quite a feminine wine with good fruit weight. It is fresh, with excellent balance of the underlying acidity and firm tannin structure. This wine gets closer to what one would expect as a classic Pinot Noir expression.

Score: 94/++


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Rockford Basket Press

 It is a blockbuster couple of days, with the Hill of Grace launch today. However, hardly anyone can afford it. I opened a Basket Press instead to see how it would compare with the Standish wines. It is not a totally fair comparison, as this is the 2009 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz.

Have you ever looked closely at the label? Quite
funky for such a traditionalist

This Basket Press, as most of them, is a ripe wine, but not overripe. Concentrated fruit flavours of blackberry and mulberry dominate, but there are meaty flavours and some subdued black pepper notes as well. The wine has a full mouthfeel and just enough acidity to drive to the long finish. The tannins are quite fine (for this label), and silky.

The wine is a bit fatter in the mouth than the Standish wines and has a bit less energy, but the flavours are beautiful: an excellent wine.

It is a good time to drink this wine now.

Score: 95/+++ 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Standish Wine Company - The 2020s Released Today

 Dan Standish, with his last two releases, has achieved the trifecta of power, elegance, and drive in his wines. The 2020 vintage threw up a particular challenge. It was the second drought year; even old vines start to struggle then. Yields are low, only a couple hundred kg/acre, as opposed to the standard low 1/2t/acre. The harvest was 80% below normal. As a result, the skin to pulp ratio of the grapes is high, and the risk of harvesting grapes with port-like flavours is real. Dan Standish told me a year ago, there would only be one wine. Things must have improved, because four wines will be released today. I decanted these wines 5 hours before tasting, assuming they would be big and concentrated, and tasted over two days.

Tasting these wines, two facts stand out: they have kept their specific brand profiles, but also, there is a wider quality difference, in my opinion, between the wines than in the last couple of years.

I started with the 2020 The Relic. This is the wine with the 1% Viognier component. It is hardly noticeable, much less than in the Clonakilla or the RunRig. The flavours of this wine jump out of the glass. It is red fruited, but darker on day two of tasting the wine. The wine is surprisingly fresh, but most flavour is on the front palate. It is an elegant wine, but it felt a little unsettled. This wine from the Krondorf vineyard is always first to be picked. But was this picked too early? There is a herbal character to the wine, and a bit of greenness. The tannins are not as fine and ripe as in the other wines. Maybe because there are less whole clusters in this wine? I did not warm to this wine as much, although it had drive and power and could do really well in a few years.

Score: 94/+

Next came the 2020 The Standish. The fruit is much darker; blackberry and mulberry flavours, violets, and shaved pencil. This wine has a lot of depth and purity, and is lively and energetic. Mocca flavours add to the complexity. The mouthfeel is brilliant. It is mellow, with silky tannins and a velvety finish. The wine glides down the palate in perfect harmony. It will age for a long time, but is already quite approachable.

Score: 99/+++

The 2020 The Schubert Theorem is the biggest of these wines, as expected. The colour is very dark, almost black, and the nose quite perfumed. The fruit weight is high and ripe. Blackcurrant, black liquorice, black olive, deeply layered - you get the picture. This is a broad shouldered, masculine wine with a huge structure, very tannic. It left my mouth quite dry. Still, the wine is not overripe and quite balanced.

Score: 96/++

The 2020 Lamella from the Hutton Farm vineyard at Eden Valley is very elegant. It is mostly blue fruited, very smooth and balanced. It is perhaps the antithesis to The Schubert Theorem in the context of Dan Standish's winemaking. The higher level of acidity is noticeable, but it gets caught by the firm tannin structure on the long finish. 

Score: 97/+++ 

Overall, this is another great set of Standish wines. If you are looking for more linear wines with drive, you go for The Relic or The Standish. If you enjoy a big, fat mouthfeel, you opt for The Schubert Theorem. If you enjoy more acidity, the Lamella is your wine. 


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Valenciso Tasting

 Valenciso is a favourite producer from Rioja Alta. In Rioja, most Tempranillo is doused in American oak. The thoughtful couple from Valenciso wants the fruit to shine, and when oak is used, it is French. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a rare tasting of a number of their wines. 

White wines from Rioja are underestimated. The 2020 Valenciso Blanco is a blend of 70% Viura and 30% Grenache Blanc. After a wild ferment, the wine is aged in untoasted Russian oak barrels for nine months. It is very fresh, but has depth in its balanced mouthfeel. There are subtle spices on the palate, and the zesty acidity leads to a focused finish. This is quite a serious and flavoured wine (93 points).

The first red is a new wine, the 2018 Valenciso Cemento. The fruit comes from 55 year old vines, grown at 550m altitude. As the name suggests, and the picture below shows, this wine is fermented and matured for 30 months in concrete tanks. It sees no oak. The wine is very fresh, with great purity, and red plum and blueberry flavours. It is a wine of medium intensity, with fine tannins and a medium finish (92 points).

I then tasted four Reserva wines. These are the Valenciso flagship wines. The vines come from a number of estate owned vineyards, with a minimum of 60 years old. They all are managed organically. The winery treatment is interesting: fermentation in concrete, then matured 18 months in low-toasted French oak (20% new). Then, the wine is transferred back to concrete tanks for 12 to 24 months. Because the wine clarifies so well in concrete, it is neither fined nor filtered before bottling.

I tasted from old to newer. The first wine is the 2001 Reserva. From a great vintage, this is now a beautiful mature and mellow wine. The concentrated fruit, mainly of dark plum, is still very present. Smoky flavours add to complexity. The mouthfeel is soft and silky, leading to a smooth and long finish. This is a beauty (96 points). 

The 2008 Reserva has a much younger feel. Cherry and subtle spice flavours are supported by fine tannins, but this wine does not have the depth or length of the earlier and later wines (92 points).

The 2011 Reserva from a warm year is a standout. Many Rioja wines from this year were very ripe, but this wine is perfectly balanced. It is deeply flavoured, with more volume than the 2008. Dark cherry and plum flavours are elegant and lead to a long and satisfying finish (95 points).

The 2014 Reserva does not have the same depth, but it delivers pure and beautiful fruit flavours of raspberry and black cherry. Minerality develops on the back palate, giving away the calcareous and limestone soils of the vineyards. The finish is not quite as penetrating as the 2011 (94 points).

If you are interested in drinking fresh and pure Tempranillo, Valenciso should be on your list.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Yering Station Chardonnay

 If you are looking for a high quality value Chardonnay, there is no better place in Australia than the Yarra Valley. This time, I am reviewing the 2020 Yering Station Chardonnay.

This is a pale and quite austere wine. Stone fruit flavours are added to by some earthy notes. This wine is quite dry, with a balanced mouthfeel and a fresh finish.

This wine is not overly complex, but the winemaking is excellent.

Score: 91/++

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

German Riesling Tasting

My taste buds are fine again, I think, but this is one from the vault: a tasting which happened two months ago. 

The tasting was structured in such a way that at first Kabinett-type wines were tasted, followed by GG (Grosses Gewaechs). All major German regions were represented. The first flight was young wines, the second was of five to six year old wines. Points were given for the favourite wines of the night.

The most highly rated wine ended up to be the 2015 Heymann-Loewenstein Uhlen Roth Ley, Mosel.
This wine impressed with a very complex palate, depth and its full mouthfeel. Despite richer characters, such as hazelnut, the wine had energy and minerality, reflecting the very special terroir of red slate on steep terraces. 

The second place was shared between the 2018 Robert Weil Kiedrich Turmberg, Rheingau and the 2015 Reichsrat von Buhl Jesuitengarten, Pfalz. Both wines shared notes of white flower, but were otherwise quite different from each other. The Robert Weil wine is quite austere, complex, yet linear, with a long finish. There was similarity to a top level Clare Riesling, in my view. The Jesuitengarten was a bigger wine, quite powerful, with citrus and stone fruit flavours, and a riper expression of a dry Riesling.

In third place, or fourth place if you like, came in the 2019 Egon Mueller Scharzhof Riesling. This is a remarkable winemaker with a remarkable property on a bend of the Saar (now labeled Mosel). The purity of the fruit of this slightly off-dry wine was amazing. It was already very complex for such a young wine, very fresh, with passion fruit standing out. The wine was slightly perplexing. It had great energy, even though the acidity seemed quite low.

This tasting demonstrated the rich landscape of German Riesling with quite different expressions depending on soil, winemaker, and region. It seems to me that Australian Riesling is pretty much cut from one cloth (with the exception of Frankland Estate perhaps), whereas this variety has so much to offer.

Monday, April 11, 2022


 It finally happened. The big C hit me on Saturday. Therefore, there will be a bit of a break with new reviews before I trust my taste buds again. 🥲