Sunday, June 13, 2021

Château Prieuré-Lichine

 Margaux is the largest subregion of the left bank of Bordeaux wines. It is quite diverse with many different soil profiles. The wines, still dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, have a higher percentage of Merlot in them than the other left bank wines. Margaux is known for more aromatic wines than any other wines from Bordeaux. This puts them in good stead as the climate warms.

This is a review of the 2010 Château Prieuré-Lichine. I once had a memorable lunch at this property and have enjoyed their wines.

Normally, there is a risk of drinking red wine too warm, but in this case, I opened it when it was too cold. It had not opened up too well. This review is of the wine on day two, when the temperature was much better.

The expected feminine aromas were on display from this wine of deep purple to black colour. This is a full-bodied wine delivering a complex palate of blackberry, black olive, mocca, and earthy notes. The wine has good balance. The elegant mouthfeel gets overtaken by firm, slightly coarse tannins, but then, the finish is long and almost lifted.

While not perfect, I enjoyed this wine. It delivered satisfying flavours and good length.

Score: 93/+++ 


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Hill Of Grace (again!)

 For a special occasion, I pulled my second last bottle of Hill of Grace from the cellar (I do not buy this wine at the current price point any more). It is a 2010 Henschke Hill of Grace.

I reviewed this wine five years ago and not much has changed. Interestingly, the Henschkes attribute this good vintage to the amount of light during the growing season. This is only rarely talked about, but can deliver flavour and colour, in particular.

In any case, this wine is very aromatic and vibrant. The palate is complex, with mulberry, blackberry, eucalypt, white pepper, and tender meat flavours. It is a very elegant and velvety wine. The oak is noticeable, but in contrast to the 90s wines previously tasted, this now has 40% French oak, which improves the balance and integration, in my view.

This is a full-bodied Shiraz, but more on the medium side. The fruit weight carries the 14.5% alcohol well. This wine hits some high notes and finishes long, but I did not find it totally remarkable.

Score: 96/+++ 

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Two Dilemmas of the Australian Wine Industry

 The first dilemma has to do with our professional wine writers and influencers. Many of them are Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers. In order to achieve these accolades, you have to taste widely, which means mainly northern hemisphere wines. There is nothing wrong with that, but it means these palates are geared towards such wines. As a result, they do not value higher alcohol, higher fruit weight wines as highly. As an example,they love Syrah, but not Shiraz - you know what I mean. However, the sun kissed South Australian wines are unique in the world. The low alcohol wines, by contrast, get lost in similar wines from all over the world. The issue here is drinkability. In the same way in which grand cru Burgundy is about power and elegance at the same time, South Australian wines need to aim for the same. But let's not give up on the unique positioning some of our wines can enjoy.

The second issue is about climate change. No doubt it happens. Cooler regions, such as Tasmania, the Macedon Ranges and the Southern Highlands in NSW are now attractive new locations. More controversial is the switch to varieties which can deal better with hot climate, for example Southern Italian varieties such as Montepulciano and Aglianico. They can produce decent wine, but there is no evidence in Europe that they can reach the heights of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. Touriga Nacional from Portugal would be my pick in this context So what about the adaptability of key varieties, such as Shiraz and Chardonnay? They grow in many different environments. Would earlier picking prevent overripeness and still deliver complex wines?

So let's hope people do not forget where our competitive advantage lies, and let's be open to different approaches to climate change.       

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Hill Of Grace Vertical Tasting

 I grew up during a time when the Beatles and the Rolling-Stones split the teenagers. The good kids loved the Beatles, the bad kids loved the Rolling-Stones. There was no crossover. I feel it is a bit like that with the two icons of Australian Shiraz, Hill of Grace and Grange. Who is the good guy here? Maybe it is a bit different: Hill of Grace is single vineyard, Grange is blended. Grange is about power and fruit weight, Hill of Grace more about grace? This post is about a rare opportunity to taste four Hill of Grace wines, all more than 20 years old.

There is a view the label has never changed. Not true, as seen here

We are tasting these wines from old to young. This is often done to capture the nuances of old wine, which may get lost when you taste them last. The 91 and 99 wines are from warm vintages, the 92 and 98 from relatively cool ones. This will be interesting.

The colour is a deep brown. The primary fruit of the 1991 Henschke Hill of Grace is largely gone, but the structure is holding up. The wine is still concentrated and rich in the mouth, maybe a little broad. The wine has an elegant and earthy texture with silky tannins and still a long finish. It will still drink well for a number of years.

Score: 94/++

The 1992 Hill of Grace has a similar colour. There are intriguing herbal, spice and honey aromas. This is a slightly fresher wine with plum, earthy and leathery flavours. This wine is very special and quite long in the mouth.

Score: 96/+++

The 1998 Hill of Grace has a brighter, crimson appearance. This is quite a big wine. Blackberry fruit, licorice, and spice. Some mocca on the back palate. Good focus in this wine, lithe tannins and a very long, silky finish.

Score: 96/+++

The 1999 Hill of Grace comes from one of the hottest vintages on record - and it shows. Plum, roasted meat, and tar are the main flavours. There is sweetness in the core and overall complexity. However, this wine is a bit fat and short. The tannins are very dry and dusty.

Score: 93/+

Temperature and rain were the two main variables across the vintages. Overall, the cool vintages showed much better. What are the commonalities, the signature of Hill of Grace? Aniseed is a common flavour, and the fine silky tannins typical. The other element which showed quite strongly was the American oak still prominent in these wines. In later years, more French oak was employed, which suits this wine much more. 


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Beechworth Gems

 Beechworth is not an Australian wine region which is top of mind. It also used to be equated with Giaconda, and that was it. However, a number of other wineries have delivered first class wines from there for many years. These days, it deserves to be called a region. I recently tasted two outstanding wines from there.

The first was the 2019 Savaterre Chardonnay. In contrast to Giaconda, which can sometimes come across as a little overworked, this wine was made with minimal impact. It starts with the granite soil, not so common in Australia. Natural yeast used for fermentation. Flavours include citrus, white and yellow peach, and pear. This wine has a great line and energy. There is balanced minerality on the back palate, before the long finish. This is a more complex Chardonnay than most in this country without compromising its elegant mouthfeel.

Score: 96/+++

The second was the 2006 Castagna Genesis Syrah

At 15 years of age, this wine opens with enticing floral and forest floor aromas. Black cherry flavours lead to an overall savoury mouthfeel of a cool climate Shiraz. This wine still has good drive, supported by peppery freshness. Lithe, but firm tannins lead to a long finish.

This is a wine I would happily drink a second glass of, if not more - great balance, interesting flavours, and a satisfying finish.

Score: 96/+++ 


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Mount Mary Quintet

The legendary Yarra Valley Cabernet Blend, how would it hold up against the Lafite-Rothschild, previously reviewed? A bit unfair, why? It is one of Australia's leading wines.

The 2004 Mount Mary Quintet shows the strengths and weaknesses of this label all in one. Firstly, the wine is still in good form, which is a relief, as it is under cork.

The wine is red fruited, very pretty and smooth. There are some earthy notes here as well. At first blush, it actually has similarities with the Lafite. But on the mid and back palate it starts to wear a little thin. The structure holds up to a decent finish, but the mouthfeel not as much. 

And this is the issue with Cabernet from the Yarra Valley. I am in the camp with those who say this region is Pinot Noir territory as far as red wine is concerned. Having said this, this Mount Mary Quintet does a pretty good job. 

Score: 94/++

Wednesday, May 26, 2021


This 2004 Lafite-Rothschild was a most unusual bottle. Please look at the label. The left part is clearly missing. The owner checked with the Château, and they confirmed they used a faulty label run. Tasting the wine, it was immediately clear this is not a fake bottle. How bizarre! Would this fault increase the bottle value, similar to some faulty stamps, or reduce it?

2004 is perhaps not a stellar Bordeaux vintage, but this wine showed extremely well. The nose was super aromatic and complex. On the palate, pure black and blue fruits, as well as black olive, lead to a harmonious mouthfeel. This is a soft, elegant, and velvety wine, in typical Lafiiite style. Earthy notes add interest. Most of all, this is a wine totally at peace with itself. Superb!  

Score: 97/+++

Monday, May 24, 2021

Hawke's Bay Premium Tasting

 Hawke's Bay is the oldest NZ wine region, yet it is not nearly as prominent as Central Otago, Marlborough or Martinborough. A recent tasting of some of its best wines demonstrated that it deserves much better. The region is best known for Chardonnay, Syrah, and Cabernet blends. The wines tasted are shown in the picture below.

The top three wines, in my and the other tasters opinion, were the 2010 Craggy Range 'Le Sol', the sensational 2018 Tony Bish Zen Chardonnay, and the 2014 Craggy Range 'Sophia'

The Tony Bish Zen is unusual in that it is matured in a French oak egg, or Ovum. This gives quite a lot of oak exposure. Not surprisingly, therefore, is the golden colour and the fuller bodied flavour of this wine. There was depth in the yellow peach fruit, and complex nutty flavours added to the rich texture. At the same time, there was a lightness on the finish - intriguing (96 points).

Le Sol is arguably the most credentialed Syrah from New Zealand.This 2010 Le Sol showed very layered red and black fruit flavours and was more generous than the other very peppery Syrahs (see below). This is a very balanced wine with a sweet core, and overall quite a big mouthfeel (96 points).

I reported on the Sophia a few posts back, so no notes here.

I rated the next set of wines all 94 points. The 2017 Blanc Canvas 'Element' Syrah is properly named. The elements must have rattled the vines a lot. This is probably the most peppery wine I have ever tasted. The cracked black pepper was so strong, it overshadowed everything else. It is a medium weight wine with dark fruit and bacon flavours and quite a tannic finish. It gets this good rating for personality.

The 2016 Bilancia La Collina Syrah, with part fruit coming from the Gimblett Gravels, and part from south of Hastings, is also quite peppery. This is a more balanced and elegant wine, partly due to the 2% Viognier. The musky notes are interesting; the finish is long.

The second Craggy Range 'Le Sol' was from 2014. The colour was very inky. This wine was quite closed, may have entered a dormant phase. It had a slightly eucalypt character, with peppery flavours and licorice also present.

Finally, the 2019 Te Mata Coleraine. Cassis was dominant, and we felt the wine had a bit of a vegetal character. The highlight were the very fine and dusty tannins. This wine had outstanding reviews by a number of professional reviewers. At this tasting, it suffered a bit from being last and a bit rushed. It was also quite young by comparison. But 100 points? No, it is not a perfect wine.

The final two wines were the 2014 Te Mata Awatea, Coleraine's little brother. It is a lighter wine, with mint and peppery notes and a bit of a gap on the mid palate. It was quite enjoyable, but was put up against outstanding opposition (93 points).

The first wine was the 2019 Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay. It comes from a coastal site. The nose was quite floral, and we were in fact not sure if we were looking at a Chardonnay here (all wines were tasted blind). The wine was quite light on the palate, with an attractive texture - a flinty wine with melon flavours and saline notes (92 points).  


Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Standish Wine Company Andelmonde

 Following on from the stunning 2010 Barolos I tasted a few days ago, I wanted to see if an Australian Shiraz could match it with them. From one of my favourite Australian producers, I found a 2012 Standish Wine Company Andelmonde in my cellar.

Andelmonde, ok?

The old vines are grown on sandy soil in Light Pass, near the winery. Given this, as you would expect, the wine has a beautiful aromatic bouquet, like walking through a steaming wet forest.

On the palate, the wine is mostly red fruited, showing blueberry as well. This wine is very intense, and the flavours are pure and deep. This is an elegant wine on a big frame. The aromatics engulf the mouth in a harmonious and full blooded manner. The firm and a little heavy tannins lead to a long finish.

This excellent wine does not quite sing like the Barolos from a few days ago; and in 2018, The Standish Wines are more layered. 

It was a good contest, and I am looking forward to a 2016 Barolo vs. 2018 Standish comparison in a few years time.

Score: 95/+++  

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Email Notifications

 Some of you are receiving email notifications when I post a new review. Google has decided to stop this service from either June or July. I am sorry, but I cannot do anything about this.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

2010 Barolos

 Currently, there is a lot of hype about the 2016 vintage in Barolo. And there seems no doubt it is a good vintage. But let us not forget there has been a string of great vintages there in the last 15 years. As I discovered last week, a couple of wines from 2010 provide sensational drinking right now. These wines were the 2010 Mauro Molino Bricco Luciani and the 2010 E. Pira Chiara Boschis Via Nuova.

The first fascinating fact was that these two wines were almost indistinguishable in aroma and flavour. This was very surprising to me, as the Mauro Molino wine is a single vineyard wine from La Morra, located in the North of Barolo and known for more fragrant wines, whereas the Via Nuova is a blend of seven vineyards from Barolo, Monforte and Serralunga in the South. This may speak to the fact that over time distinguishing features disappear to a degree.

To the wines: Both wines were floral and aromatic, with rose petal and cherry flavours, black olive and some earthy notes. They were super elegant and smooth, with excellent fine tannin management. You could describe these wines as feminine, but they had persistent power as well, with the Chiara Boschis wine delivering a slightly bigger mouthfeel, as one would expect. The finish of both wines was very long.

I was particularly surprised by the quality of the Mauro Molino wine, a producer who trades more at the value end (as far as Barolos are concerned). These wines will go for many years to come, but why wait, given the complex, yet refreshing and elegant, and complete drinking experience right now. 

Score (both wines): 97/+++

Monday, May 3, 2021

Hoddles Creek Estate Chardonnay

 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay is probably my favorite go-to Chardonnay for everyday drinking. I must not call it a quaffer. It is much better than that.

The 2020 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay is a little richer and broader than previous vintages. The citrus, white peach, and slight hazelnut flavours fill out the mouth a bit more. This is not a bad thing, as the presence of lively acidity balances the fruit out well.

This wine is terrific value for money, due to the excellent cost control of this winery. It has been suggested to age this wine a little bit, and it makes some sense, but unfortunately, I will not manage to do that.

Score: 92/+++