Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Poll Added

I am interested to understand at what level of maturity you drink Shiraz, as I often review older wines. Please vote.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bindi Pyrette Shiraz

I was looking forward to trying this wine. How would fantastic Bindi do outside their home territory?

On the positive side, the 2007 Pyrette Shiraz has what I would call the hallmark of Bindi: superfine, silky tannins. The wine is elegant and a beautiful drink.

On the other hand, the fruit is very young and a bit shallow, obviously from quite young vines. And most surprisingly, this wine doesn't really taste like a Shiraz. Clearly the Bindi folk did not want to make a blockbuster and that's fine, but it actually has this light cherry taste and good acidity. It must be a Sangiovese? Has me somewhat puzzled.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A different take on the cork debate

Yesterday I opened a bottle of 1996 Howard Park Cabernet. As I was pulling out the cork it broke in half. Now I operate a cool wine cellar with recommended humidity, i.e. perfect cellaring conditions. As it turned out, the wine was not corked, but I had to decant - which I wanted to do anyway -, and some pieces still end up in the wine.

For those of you who drink premium wines from Europe from time to time, say Bordeaux or Piedmont, has it ever occured to you that this never happens with a European wine? I think what happens here is that Australia gets the raw end of the stick - or the foul end of the cork. We are far away, many producers are small - so who cares. Also, the better European wines seem to have longer corks and of better consistency. Even a layman can tell. I think if you pay peanuts you get monkeys - or bad corks in this case. Wineries that have established long relationships with their suppliers and buy premium product, like Giaconda, for example, don't seem to have a problem.

Therefore, if you don't want to pay, go for the screw cap. Good cork seems to be available, though, on a pretty reliable basis.

What do you think?

Giaconda Nantua Les Deux

Is this the poor man's Giaconda? Well, the price has gone up a bit, so I don't know about that. However, if you don't want to shell out $100 plus for the Chardonnay, this could be an attractive alternative.

Yesterday I had the 2005 Nantua Les Deux. It means it is made up of the two varieties of Chardonnay and Colombard. The wine expresses complex and exotic fruit flavours, in particular Guava, it is of the 'fatter' style, tasting of honey and sweets and has a nice finish, although I would have liked a bit more acidity at the end.

The wine drinks well right now, but would go for 2-3 more years.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Taylors Eighty Acres

I had this wine during a night out: a Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz blend. I have never been a fan of Taylors, but I thought I might give it another try.

Well, stay right away from this one: no varietal character, harsh palate, unpleasant finish. Yuk!

Whistling Eagle Shiraz

On one of the most miserable and coldest October nights in living memory in Sydney, it is the ideal time to pull out a full blooded Aussie Shiraz. Heathcote is a young region, but attracted many wineries during the last 15 years. It will take some time to sort out the men from the boys, but Whistling Eagle is likely to be in the top producers group from this region. I had the 2003 Eagles Blood Shiraz. It has a "Parker profile" of full and sweet dark fruit, combined with 15.5% alcohol.

In contrast to some other contenders, this wine is well structured, it can carry the alcohol alright, and even has some elegance about it. The wine has a slightly tannic and dry finish as a result of the drought, and is a very good wine for nights when you don't want to step outside. Another plus: the wine maker is an Essendon supporter.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

South African Cabernet Sauvignon

A few years ago, I brought a few bottles back from a trip to South Africa. I enjoyed a couple of those last night. They were the 2000 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2000 Rust En Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon. These two wineries would be regarded as amongst the leading ones over there.

Both wines taste of blueberry and blackberry fruit, cassis, and a bit of mint. The fruit is still lively and the wines are well structured. Probably the major characteristic is the earthy finish - not everybody's cup of tea. But this gives them away as South African.

The fruit of the Rust En Vrede is perhaps not quite as rich and the wine is quite tannic, perhaps a bit harsh. Overall, I would probably place their quality as middle of the road Coonawarra or second tier Margaret River. If you want to try South African wines, I remember Kemeny's in Sydney used to sell them.

Heavenly food and wine matches

There are some food and wine matches that stand out above all others. I was thinking about this today, as I was sipping some bone dry William Fevre Chablis accompanying fresh Patonga Creek Oysters - heavenly. What other matches come to mind?

- Tuna fillet and aged semillon
- Pasta and Sangiovese
- Duck and Pinot Noir (of course)
- Mushroom Risotto and Pinot Noir
- Lobster and rich WA Chardonnay
- Green curry and Gewuerztraminer
- Fillet steak and aged Cabernet

Any you would like to add (or disagree with)?

Pricing Poll Closed

I am not sure why so few voted in this poll. It was an interesting question for me, as I tend to buy more expensive wines, and certainly those that come out of the cellar would be worth a fair bit.

With prices going up so much lately, it is increasingly hard to find interesting wines below $30/bottle, although I will keep looking, and possibly the recent financial crisis will impact on wine prices, as premium buyers dry up.

Picardy, Kooyong, Elderton

A couple of days later I went to another wine-ark tasting with an interesting line-up of Picardy, from Pemberton, W.A., Kooyong, Mornington Peninsula, and Elderton from the Barossa.

The Picardy wines are cooler climate and quite light. They have the reputation of being well crafted, but to me there is simply not enough fruit expression and depth to the wine. The 2006 Pinot Noir would have been my pick, because it had a good combination of light berry and forest floor flavour, but it lacked some length, in my view. The other wines were an 07 Chardonnay, 05 Shiraz and 05 Merlot/Cabernet/Cabernet Franc.

Kooyong specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It uses only estate grown grapes and has a three tiered structure with the Chardonnay Clonale and the Pinot Noir Massale at the bottom, then the Estate wines, and then a few single vineyard wines using the best grapes from designated blocks.

The entry level wines tend to be great value for money, as they essentially are made in the same way as the other wines, but with lesser, but still pretty good grapes. The 07 Clonale Chardonnay proved this point It had lovely citrus and peach fruit flavours. The Estate wines are neither fish nor fowl. They are more expensive, and more subtle wines, but do not reach the expression of the single vineyard wines. And so it was on this night with both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

On tasting was also the 06 Farrago Chardonnay and the 06 Haven Pinot Noir. The Farrago had predominantly citrus flavours, relatively light, but well structured and good length. The Haven displayed plush, dark fruit characteristics, good complexity with quite serious tannins and a long finish. This was a very attractive wine and my wine of the night. It proved that Kooyong is one of the elite producers from Mornington Peninsula, next to Main Ridge, Paringa, Stoniers and a couple of others.

Elderton showed its 06 range of red wines, the Merlot, the Shiraz and the Cabernet Sauvignon. These are wines with generous fruit, fairly forward, but well priced at $25/bottle. Then came the 06 Ashmead Cabernet Sauvignon, their flagship Cabernet. This wine sees French oak in addition to American. It has darker fruit, with good intensity, but is not overdone. It has good length and medium tannin strength. My criticism for a wine in this price bracket would be that it does not have as much finesse as the best in this league.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Aurora Vineyard

A few days ago I went to a wine tasting hosted by the Aurora Vineyard. It was quite a gregarious affair. The structure was interesting. There were three flights, in which essentially they penned their wines in a blind tasting against three others in each flight.

The Aurora Vineyard is a new producer from Central Otago. You might say, what is new about that? Well, the vineyard is large and situated in a plum position in Bendigo. The vines are now about 10 years old and only marketed under their own label for a couple of years. They have had significant show success in New Zealand and England with their first wines. Now back to the tasting.

First were the 2008 Rieslings. I am not a big fan of Riesling. I don't like floral flavours in whites, but I drink some of the steelier examples from time to time. The 2008 Aurora Riesling was compared with a couple of Claire wines, the Grosset Watervale amongst them. We thought that one stood out clearly because of its crispness, linear structure and clean finish. It turned out to be the Aurora. Wow!

Then on to the main game; the Pinots. They were from 2007 and included Felton Road, Mt. Difficulty and Peregrine. One wine was a dud, one stood out because of its length and silky finish. This must have been the Felton Road. It turned out to be the 2007 Aurora Pinot Noir. Wow! The dud was Mt. Difficulty which, in my experience, produces quite variable wine. Felton Road came second; the wine had not opened up much, maybe in 6 months it would have been different. I was amazed about the upfront flavour, structure and finish of the Aurora wine. It probably isn't the most elegant wine at this stage, maybe an Aussie in disguise.

It finished with three shirazes, two were the 2006 and 2007 Aurora Shiraz, one was French. The Aurora wines displayed more elegance and some well integrated spicyness, what we would call cool climate characteristics. The fruit was beautiful, particularly in the 07, and overall these are very good wines for their price point, although the top Victorian wines, like Dalwhinnie, would still have the edge.

Overall, a very impressive showing. Check these wines out on their website

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Paringa Estate Pinot Noir

I have commented on this wine before, but I had another bottle of the 2005 Paringa Estate Pinot Noir last night and feel it deserves another comment. This is a wine that is really helped by a good Pinot glass with big body. The beautiful fruit aroma fills the glass easily. The flavours are strawberry and cherry. The wine has a good structure, and fine grained tannins lead to a very satisfying finish. The wine has clearly improved in complexity from when I first tasted it and will be peak drinking for the next 2-3 years.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Comments, please

I know this blog is followed by a number of people, but I do not receive many comments. Please share what you are thinking as you are reading this blog. It will make it a lot more lively and interesting.

Chateau Langoa Barton

During the last year, I have rediscovered Cabernet based wines. It is educational to drink a European Cabernet from time to time to compare with our Southern Hemisphere wines. Tonight I had the 2002 Chateau Langoa Barton. 2002 is a lesser year in Bordeaux, this Chateau is a good one, but not in the first row.

The first glass was quite closed, the berry flavours followed quickly by savoury characteristics and long tannins - a bit dull. But after half an hour, the wine opened up nicely. The berries developed fuller flavours, the tannins became very silky. Quite an elegant wine, and a perfect food wine, which would not dominate the meal.

In an interesting way, it shared many features with the Unison I had a couple of days ago, although that one had more depth of fruit. Both wines were quite elegant with a long finish.

Cullen Chardonnay

One of the good things of having a wine cellar is that you can go down, on Black Friday, when the stocks are down, pick up one of your best bottles, and it is free.

I looked past Leeuwin and Giaconda and thought maybe I grab a bottle of the 2002 Cullen Chardonnay. It has always been in the shadow of Leeuwin or Pierro. Is it deserved?

The wine is not as tight or linear as some of the better recent Chardonnays. It has mainly peach flavours, quite a bit of oak, a good mouthfeel and length. Is it as good as Leeuwin? - No. It doesn't have quite the complexity or the lightness of it. But then, it is also not as expensive and it is a fine drink. It would match well with a richer fish dish, and will certainly hold a few more years.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Unison Selection

Not many would know about the Unison vineyard. I stumbled across it at a visit to Hawkes Bay, New Zealand a few years ago. The vineyard sits right on top of the Gimblett Gravels, the district where the bigger red varieties ripen well. It is truely a boutique operation, everything done by hand with the aspiration to produce world-class wines following European tradition.

The 2002 Selection is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Now this is something the French can't do (by law), yet it is an exciting blend of varieties. It provides the structure of the Cabernet, the strength and fruit concentration of the Shiraz, and the upfront fleshiness of Merlot. This wine does exactly this, but all in moderation and a gentle way. It tastes of redcurrant and loganberries, and has silky tannins, well integrated to a satisfying dry finish. The wine is still fresh at 6 years. The fruit is not as concentrated as an Aussie style wine would be, but has enough strength to be very satisfying.

Check out this winery. It is different and well worth it.

Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay

Not all of Coldstream Hills' Chardonnays would be on my list of favorites. However, the 2005 Reserve Chardonnay is very good. Made in the 'modern' style, it shows complex fruit flavours of citrus, pear and apple. It is crisp with excellent structure and length. It is still fresh and will go for many years. It would accompany many different styles of food. Just a bit pricey.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Castellare Chianti Classico

The first Chiantis of the acclaimed 2006 vintage in Tuscany have arrived. Last night I tried the 2006 Castellare Chianti Classico. It is certainly quite a substantial wine for a Chianti. The flavours are of black cherries, but not very differentiated. The wine is quite savoury, a little bit tart. It will benefit from a year or two cellaring to soften the tannins. I will be interested to try other Chiantis from this vintage, which might be a bit more 'user friendly' and interesting.

Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay

During the last 10 years, Penfolds increased their access to white wine vineyards significantly. However, the number of brands remains fairly limited. As a result, a lot of good grapes end up in the lowly priced ( around$15 per bottle) Thomas Hyland Chardonnay. It is terrific value for money and a genuinely good drink. The 2007 Thomas Hyland Chardonnay does not have quite the same strength of fruit which the 06 had, reflecting a generally weaker vintage for whites, but it is made in the 'modern' style, with pleasant citrus flavour, dry, zingy and very clean. It is as good or better than most Chardonnays at twice the price.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Brokenwood Semillon

The Semillon from Brokenwood is a reliable drink. The 2007 Semillon has a citrus and lime taste, it is crisp and clean, not very complex, quite dry. It is very suitable for lunch, because of its lower alcohol content and goes well with sushi. I suggest to drink it young.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Roberto Voerzio Cerequio

The Schild was the warm-up act for the 1997 Roberto Voerzio Cerequio Barolo. There is a bit of a parallel story to it. The 1997 vintage is widely hailed as the vintage of the century in Piedmont. Wine Spectator gave it a 100 point rating, I think a first for any vintage anywhere. They crowned Roberto Voerzio as the king of the vintage and gave its Brunate 100 points. This wine, from an adjacent vinyard, scored 95. I was in Piedmont after the releases to taste a range of these wines. To buy them, after the acclaim, was another story. I succeeded to take one bottle of the Brunate home. I finally managed to get a couple of bottles of the Cerequio in Australia. There probably is not more than one case in the country.

I decanted the wine during the rugby match and then served it with a rib-eye fillet. The bouquet in the glass was fantastic. Aromas of flowers and many fruits combined to enormous intensity and complexity. The taste continued this theme. I mainly tasted strawberry and lively red cherry fruit. Roberto Voerzio belongs to the 'modernists' in Piedmont. This means that the fermentation period is short, and his focus is on meticulous treatment of the vineyards. As a result, the fruit stand out, the tannins which are often so dominant in Nebbiolo, play second fiddle. The wine is medium bodied, very lively, and elegant and balanced. It will go on for many years. If I am asked what was missing, probably from an Australian perspective, a bit more depth in the fruit without losing finesse would have made this perfect. Beats me how this scored less points than the Schild (but see below).

Schild Shiraz

The 2004 Schild Barossa Shiraz caused a sensation during the Wine Australia show, I think in 2005, when it became known it scored 96 points from the Wine Spectator, the leading US wine magazine. This was for a A$24 bottle, quite unheard of. A huge crowd tended to gather around the Schild stand, everybody wanting this wine, not the Reserve. The power of the wine press! It sold out within a week.

The wine starts with a core of sweet fruit, plum and berries, and follows through with serious tannins. It tastes actually similar to the high scoring Napa Cabernets, with good fruit concentration and a lot of ripeness (sweetness). This explains the high score. I had the wine during today's fairly cold afternoon, and while watching on TV the rugby grand final, a sport I am not overly fond of.

The tannins save the wine from a lollywater taste, but in the end, it is a bit rough and tumble - a wine better suited to a barbeque meal than on its own.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Charles Melton Nine Popes

The 'Nine Popes' is pretty much the original serious 'GSM' in Australia. Nine Popes is of course a play on Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Tonight I opened the 2002 Nine Popes. This is a great wine. It starts with a sweet, fruity core (the Grenache), but then develops into a savoury profile with mulberry flavours hanging on. The wine has great mouthfeel and length, finishing off with well structured tannins. This wine will go for many more years (and I have 11 bottles left).

Many vines had trouble to fully ripen in the cooler 2002 season, but those that did have a terrific flavour profile and structure. Clearly, Charles Melton managed to ripen the fruit for this wine. It is a top example of a Southern Hemisphere take on the Southern Rhone blend.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz

Dalwhinnie is without doubt one of my favourite producers and the maker of probably the best cooler climate Shiraz. For those who like visiting wineries, this is a must. The winery is situated in a cul-de-sac location at the end of a valley, probably the most picturesque vineyard site in Australia, with vines covering the steeper and flatter parts of this amphitheatre. The tasting room is pretty good, too.

The Dalwhinnie Shiraz is always very refined and elegant. This 1998 is no exception. The fruit tastes of blackcurrant and plum with white pepper and spice. The tannins are soft and the aftertaste is long and very satisfying. A top wine.

Pipers Brook Gewuerztraminer

Gewuerztraminer is not a popular variety in Australia, I know only about half a dozen producers of this variety. But when it comes to accompanying Thai food, this is the wine of my choice. I find Pinot Gris and Viognier too complicated in the flavour profile (which gets lost) and reds mostly too tannic.

This 2004 Gewuerztraminer is not shy, though. It displays strong citrus flavours and a strong spice flavour, which for people not used to it may take some time to get accustomed to. This wine is a perfect match for curries, in particular green curries. The similar flavour profiles don't fight, but actually blend into each other pretty well.

And if you don't like this, there is always Singha Beer.

Umani Ronchi 'Villa Bianchi' Verdicchio 2006

The Villa Bianchi has been recommended in a number of newspapers as good value for money white at about $14/bottle. It is quite widely available.

I really enjoyed this clean, crisp and dry drink. It reminds me a bit of a Pinot Grigio in a light style, but I am not sure what grape varieties are involved. If you belong to the ABC club (Anything But Chardonnay), but want something a bit more interesting than your standard Sauvignon Blanc, try this wine.