Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mount Mary Quintet

Towards the end of the year, I often check what 'needs to be drunk' from the cellar. Last night I had my last bottle of 1991 Mount Mary Cabernet Quintet.

I have reviewed this wine a few months ago, but it is worth while to mention it again because of bottle variation. While I liked the wine then, I thought it was past its peak. This bottle yesterday was in perfect condition. The wine was fantastic. Harmonious, very elegant, still fresh - a very feminine wine, great complexity of fruit and earthy flavours.

The iconic status for this wine is truly deserved. Now I am out of the 1991s. My next set is from 2000. From this experience, I can still wait a while before I touch it. From how many Australian wines could you say this?

Score: 97/+++

Why not 100? It could have had a bigger mouthfeel and more length, but...see above

Yarra Yarra Cabernet

I mentioned the Cabernets from Margaret River and Coonawarra in the last post. Yet some of the most memorable Bordeaux style wines come from the Yarra Valley: think Mount Mary and Yarra Yering.

Yarra Yarra has had the ambition to join this elite group. Unfortunately, their vineyards and winery were destroyed in the Victorian bush fires. I am not sure where they are in the rebuilding process.

A couple of days ago, I drank their flagship wine, the 2001 Yarra Yarra. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend. The wine is very elegant and has nice oak and fruit integration. The problem is that the fruit is not quite ripe. There are definitely herbal aspects in the wine. I don't find this attractive, but some people don't mind. Vintage variation is a problem for Cabernet in the Yarra Valley. This wine can be superb in good years, but 2001 is not one of them.

Score: 91/-

Monday, December 28, 2009

The 2009 that was

Like for most of you, I suspect, my palate and interest changes over time. For a while, I was quite interested in fruit concentration. You may favour a particular variety. Remember the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) movement? Then I got excited about tannins. They had to be silky, not coarse.

In 2009, my main interest was in structure. Why? I drank too many big or ripe wines which after some years have become flat and really unpleasant to drink. I like wines with great mouthfeel and length.

To this end, I rediscovered Cabernet Sauvignons from Coonawarra and Margaret River, which have been holding up really well. Pinot Noirs from Macedon, Mornington and Gippsland have been really special. And if it is Shiraz, my favorites have probably come from Dalwhinnie, Henschke and Torbreck.

As to white wines, it was the year of the Chardonnay come-back. This variety can express so many different things and winemakers all over the country have done great things with it.

I probably left some things worth mentioning out, but again, let me know your thoughts.

My Christmas Drinks

Thank you for your comments. Good to see a bit of interaction.

Jansz seems to have had a good Christmas. My choice of Champagne was Cloudy Bay's Pelorus. I also had half a glass of a French Champagne, Champagne Gatinois, before, unfortunately, somebody knocked the bottle over. This Champagne seems to be based mainly on Pinot grapes and is quite yeasty. - A good drink.

My whites were Meerea Park Hell Hole Semillon, a 2002 Grosset Polish Hill and an Ocean Eight Chardonnay. Predictably, the Polish Hill was the standout, with some honeyed flavours coming through, while still quite refreshing and fruit strong. I noticed one of you had this on the table as well.

The reds were Pinot Noirs, as for Baz, around the 2005 mark. I had a Carrick Pinot Noir, and the Felton Road Block 3, both from Central Otago, and a Bindi Block 5 from 2004. The latter was the stand-out wine, with an amazing bouquet, a predominantly forest floor flavour, great mouthfeel, length and structure. The Block 3 was quite outstanding as well. It is the most fragrant of the Felton Road Pinots. I enjoy the slight fragility against the usual overwhelming fruit of the other wines. The Carrick is not a bad wine either, but does not quite have the sophistication of the others.

Keep the comments coming!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I am interested to know what you guys are drinking during the festive season. Let's make this a real flow of comments!

Otherwise, after the recession we did not have to have, I wish everyone a most successful and enjoyable start to the new decade. I will drink to that!

Yelland & Papps Grenache Rose

Yelland & Papps are a young couple with a virtual winery operation in the Barossa. Their wines are pretty well made, not over the top, and reasonably priced.

This 2008 Yelland & Papps Grenache Rose is a relatively straight forward drink, but with an attractive fruit/savoury flavour combination. This Rose has an elegant finish. The wine is ideal for summer, for someone who wants a bit more than a quaffer. You would have to order from the winery.

Score: 91/++

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Search Function

I have introduced a new search function for this site. Hopefully it works for you.

Rose

A couple of days ago I had a glass of Charlie Melton's 2009 Rose of Virginia. This reminded me how this was probably the first savoury pink wine many years ago. This is all the more astonishing, given this wine is based on Grenache, with its strong fruit flavour to start with. Drinking it now, it still has a savoury finish, but it would be one of the fruitier ones around.

Score: 91/+

I was also impressed by the 2009 Dominique Portet Fontaine Rose. This is based on Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot. It has an exotic flavour profile and tasted of raspberry and guava to me. Nonetheless it was a slightly lighter and more fragrant wine than the Melton, probably because of the grapes coming from Victoria.

Score: 92/++

If you want to go really pink, nothing beats the Spinifex Rose. I really liked this wine two years ago, and it remains well made, but maybe Peter Schell is going a bit overboard with the number of different grape varieties he has to cram in and the emulation of the French paleness.

Score: 92/-

Rose is an interesting drink, because it can be based on so many different varieties and be made in different ways. Be sure to taste until you find one you like.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay

I reviewed the 2005 vintage of this wine a little while ago. Tonight I had the 2008 Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay.

This has really become a smart and reliable wine. I feel that in its young edition it does not quite have the mouthfeel of a Leeuwin or Giaconda, but nor does it have their price tag. The wine tastes of citrus and grapefruit, it has a graceful structure with a lifting and fresh finish. The wine will improve with 3-4 year cellaring and develop more complex, in particular nutty characters, but it is a refreshing and complex enough drink now. It is versatile with a lot of white wine foods. If you can wait for a couple of years, you will be rewarded.

Score: 93/+

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bay of Fires Pinot Noir

I had the 2006 Bay of Fires Pinot Noir tonight. Nice to drink this now. Not very complex, but bright flavours of strawberry, not weak, quite polished, with reasonable length and a refreshing finish.

Score: 91/++

Monday, December 7, 2009

McLaren Vale Shiraz

I decided to drink a couple of bottles of McLaren Vale Shiraz to compare with the latest experiences. These may be the last big wines from the cellar before summer really hits. Not unexpectedly, they were the antithesis of the Henschke and Georgia's Paddock discussed before.

First up, a 2002 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz. This wine has a dark violet colour. It tastes of plum and fruitcake, really thick and not very differentiated. It is a wine to eat, not drink. It also finishes quite acidic. Given its ripeness, I am sure the acid has been added. As a result, the wine is not very expressive of anything in particular, despite its strong fruit flavours.

Score: 91/--

I then had the 2002 Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz. A while back, I wrote a critical review of the 2004. This wine is better. It is similarly big to the Fox Creek, but the flavours are more complex, including some chocolate. The wine is also not as acidic, although more than necessary. Some silky tannins on the finish compensate.

Score: 93/-

I have no doubt that in a few years time we will look at the 1998-2004 period as an absurd period with wines on steroids.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bindi Quartz Chardonnay

Bindi Chardonnays get as close to the Burgundian role model as any Australian Chardonnay. The 2008 Bindi Quartz Chardonnay is no exception. This wine comes from a special block which delivers exceptional fruit.

The wine has rich flavours, lime, grapefruit, but also pineapple and underlying minerality. Wild yeasts and I believe malolactic fermentation deliver the creaminess so typical for Burgundy. The wine does not lose its freshness as a result, though. It has a long finish. And while it may not have quite the complete perfection of a Leeuwin Chardonnay in a strong year, this wine is a significant achievement.

Score: 95/++

A Shiraz Revolution?

A recent tasting of two of Australia's iconic single vineyard Shirazes made me think that some significant change is under way.

The first wine was the 2006 Henschke Mt. Edelstone. While this wine has a long and distinguished history, its style has actually undergone numerous changes. Its hey days were the early 90s with concentrated fruit full of flavours and well integrated oak, although sometimes vanilla was a bit too obvious. I remember that in blind tastings I ran during this time, it beat Grange a couple of times. Then came 98, generally a great vintage in the Barossa, where the Mt. Edelstone fruit was overripe and dead - a shocker for this label. During the following years, the wine remained full bodied and its fruit ripe, but it avoided excesses.

Now comes the 2006. This seems like another departure. The wine is clearly leaner, more berry than chocolate, a fair amount of mint, maybe even a bit herbal. The wine has maintained its long attractive finish. This is clearly more food friendly, but at the expense of some lushness.

Score: 94/0

The second wine is the 2008 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock. This is a fantastic wine: zappy red and black berry fruit mixed with savoury flavours and some chocolate. The finish is also very long. This used to be a wine which battled against too high alcohol levels. The alcohol is still high, but the wine is fresh and easy to drink.

Score: 96/+++

We have single vineyard wines here, with leading edge biodynamic viticulture, and wine making which no longer follows the maxime 'bigger is always better'. The result are interesting wines, much more consumer friendly than they used to be. I will need to assess the Mt. Edelstone again. I hope it will retain the satisfying mouthfeel of the past, while slimming down somewhat. The Georgia's Paddock shows it can be done.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gralyn Shiraz/Cabernet

Gralyn sits in a plum position in Margaret River, right next to Cullen. Some people say it has the best fruit in the area. Yet, it is not well known in the Eastern States, because it is very small and the wines expensive.

I bought a little bit from the 2000 vintage. The 2000 Gralyn Shiraz/Cabernet demonstrates why this grape combination is so attractive. I have no doubt the French would do it in Bordeaux or the Rhone if it was allowed. The wine is full bodied, very clean, with attractive blackberry and raspberry flavours. The fruit hits you right upfront and stays, as the Shiraz flavours fill out the mid palate. There is a fair bit of textural complexity. The Cabernet provides the structure, although the finish is a little bit short. The wine is probably at its peak right now.

Score: 94/++

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brokenwood Rayner Vineyard Shiraz

The 2004 Brokenwood Rayner Vineyard Shiraz is a well crafted wine. From an outstanding year in McLaren Vale, the structure is seemless, with velvety fruit caressing the tongue. Unfortunately, the wine is also quite heavily oaked, covering some of the underlying fruit. The wine is still lively and fresh. I hope that over time the fruit will win out over the oak.

Score: 93/-

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kilikanoon Shiraz

When a group grows as prolificly as Kilikanoon, you may be worried that quality gets left behind. However, I was very impressed with their current Clare Valley Shirazes.

The 2006 Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz is the 'premium standard' product. It tastes of black and red berries, with a hint of mint. While the fruit hits you upfront, the wine does not quite fill the mouth like a good Barossa Shiraz would. The wine has good tannin structure and will age for 5-10 years.

Score: 92/0

The 2006 Kilikanoon Oracle Shiraz really impressed me. The best fruit parcels from the Clare find their way into this wine. This wine tastes of plum and berries. It is more concentrated and bigger than the Covenant. At the same time, the wine is elegant and has a long finish based on fine tannins.

Score: 96/++

If you are looking for benchmark Shiraz from this region (which appeals for long cellaring based on good structure), Kilikanoon is the one to go for (given that Wendouree is hard to get unless you are on the mailing list and the Armagh is overpriced).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Clare Valley 2009 Rieslings

The poll for your favorite summer wine is now closed, and Riesling won convincingly. I have to oblige and talk about Riesling then. Well, I had the good fortune to visit the Clare Valley today, so please read on.

First a confession, however. I like my Rieslings Chablis-style, i.e. very dry and linear, can have some minerality, but basically lime/citrus from beginning to end. As a result, I only enthuse about a small number of Rieslings. And so it was on this tour.

Two Rieslings of the ones I tried stood out for me. The 2009 Pike Traditionale Riesling is from Polish Hill. It is a very straight forward Riesling with citrus/lime pflavours, a zesty feel to it and a dry finish: a great summer seafood wine. The other was the 2009 Kilikanoon Mert's Reserve Watervale Riesling. This wine is a bit more complex and has slightly more weight, but also has a steely character with a linear structure and a lengthy dry finish.

In the next bracket fall the 2009 Paulett Antonina Riesling, a reserve bottling from Polish Hill, which has more floral flavours, also some slate and quite an acidic finish. The 2009 Wilson Vineyard Polish Hill Riesling is not as lean as the Pike, but in similar style. And finally I liked the 2009 Olssen Riesling from Watervale.

I was disappointed with the 2009 Mt. Horrocks and the Skillogalee Rieslings. I have sometimes enjoyed these in the past, but in 2009, the wines are too sweet for me, although they have an acidic finish. Worse was the 2009 Paulett Polish Hill Riesling, which lacked definition and structure and the same applies to the 2009 Wilson Vineyard DJW Riesling.

Overall, a mixed outcome, but if you try hard enough, you find something to like. As far as the 2009 vintage is concerned, it is not bad, but probably not quite up to 2008. I would probably find two or three Rieslings from Eden Valley I would put ahead of those reviewed and I missed out on the Grosset wines, but I think I will buy some Pike.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cullen Cabernet/Merlot

Time to give the liver something to do again. What could be better on a cool and miserable day like today than a 12 year old Cullen?

The 1997 Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot is a beautiful wine to drink. It actually seems very Bordeaux-like. The colour has transformed from purple to red/orange/brown, but the structure of the wine is holding up well. More secondary characteristics now, but still a pleasant core of fruit. The wine is very smooth and elegant, but its outstanding feature is the very long finish, supported by soft and supple tannins. It is superb with lamb fillets.

This wine would have scored even higher if it had shown more life in the bottle. As it is, it should be drunk during the next 2-3 years.

Score: 95/++

P.S.: I noticed today that the 2007 version of this wine is the Cabernet/Merlot of the year in the new Penguin Wine Guide and Vanya Cullen the winemaker of the year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Update

I have not been well for a little while. Therefore I have had no desire for wine, therefore no reviews lately. Hopefully, this will change soon.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Max Ferd. Richter Mosel Riesling

You guys are all Riesling fans, it seems to me. I wondered what I could impress you with. So I came up with this 8% alcohol wine from the Mosel. The mouthful is 2001 Max Ferd. Richter Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.

This is a very charming and well made wine. 'Kabinett' means the grapes are picked relatively early, yet the citrus and lime characteristics are strong. The wine shows beautiful elegance and a soft and silky finish. It is starting to mellow, but is still quite fresh.

I enjoyed this wine despite its off-dry character, although I still prefer my whites dry.

Score: 94/-

Elio Altare Barolo Brunate


When I looked for something hedonistic last night, I came across this 2000 Elio Altare Barolo Brunate. I am putting a picture on (it is only 'blackberry' quality), as there won't be many bottles of this wine in Australia . Now, going for Barolo is probably more serious than hedonistic, but anyway, I was looking forward to this special treat.

Altare is one of Piedmont's superstars. He is at the forefront of the 'modernists' who advocate shorter fermentation times, less oak and earlier drinkability.

The Brunate vineyard is perhaps the most famous in the whole district and shared by half a dozen producers (Burgundy-style). 2000 was an outstanding vintage. The wine scored 98 by Wine Spectator. So I am in for a treat. - Well, not quite.

The wine is based on cherry fruit, but it is very much in the background. The wine is very savoury, tasting of rose petals, tar, spice and earth. It is mouth pluckingly dry. The strong points are a tremendous structure, a huge mouthfeel and tasting of one complex flavour, rather than an agglomeration, and a wine that lasts and lasts in your mouth. On the other hand: the long finish is based on fairly coarse tannins and acidity and I would have expected more fruit. Barolo takes some getting used to, but I like this grape and have drunk it from time to time over the years. There is definitely better. But: a different experience. The wine will mellow with time.

Score: 94/--

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Carrick Pinot Noir

When I opened my first bottle of the 2005 Carrick Pinot Noir, shortly after its release, I got hit with this wall of fruit. It was just too much. So I decided to put the rest down for a few years.

Yesterday I had my second bottle. The wine tastes predominantly of black cherry. It is still big and bold upfront, but it has settled down somewhat and you can now experience this excellent fresh core of fruit, which still dominates the wine. Secondary characteristics are very much in the background. The wine has a good structure, though. It is not at all a fruit bomb. The acidity provides good length. Overall, this wine is a Shiraz drinker's Pinot. It will probably be excellent for another 3-5 years.

I do not really know anything about Carrick and have not seen more recent releases of this wine. I therefore do not know if this was a one-off, or if Carrick is in general a producer to seek out.

Score: 94/+

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wine Glasses according to Wine Spectator

The other day I read an editorial in the Wine Spectator, where James Laube made an extraordinary recommendation. He suggested we have all been taken for a ride by the producers of wine glasses who want us to buy a different glass for about every different grape variety and that in the times of the GFC we only need one glass, which in his case happens to be a $9 glass from which he drinks all his wine.

I agree, I hardly see the point why you need a different glass for Chianti or Tempranillo, but surely a different glass for white wines and serious reds improves the drinking experience. A glass with thinner walls improves the drinking experience. And Pinot improves with even more body in the glass than Cabernet or Shiraz.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pinot Noir

Australian winemakers, without doubt, have made more progress with Pinot Noir in the last couple of years than with any other variety. So I went to the Ultimo Wine Centre yesterday, which had an interesting line-up of those Pinots which would be closest to the French model (my interpretation). My problem with this direction is that it ignores the unique contribution Australia can make and instead is aiming for a weak copy.

The 2004 The Gate Pinot Noir from Stefani (89 points) is already showing a lot of age and finishes a little harsh. The 2006 Bellvale Gippsland Pinot Noir (88 points) is very dry and savoury and does not show much fruit. Hatherley (88), from southern NSW I believe, was similar with an earthy aftertaste. The much acclaimed 2007 Marchard & Burch (92) was a much more complete wine, with cherry, forest floor and truffle flavours and fine tannins. However, the wine is a little lean and went into its close down period. The 2007 Paringa Estate (93) was quite a contrast, with much brighter fruit, red cherry flavours, backed by savoury characteristics and integrated tannins. This is much more what we can do well in Australia. The 2005 Domaine A Pinot Noir (91/---) was much darker and brooding, very earthy and french. The turn-off for me was this cat piss finish I have tasted in this wine before. Finally, the 2006 Mount Mary (94 points) was the highlight, as it should be given its price ($160/bottle). It showed ripe strawberry and was very rounded and elegant, with very soft tannins and a smooth finish.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Craggy Range Syrah

In reviewing the Craggy Range Sophia in July, I argued that Craggy Range is now the number one red wine winery in New Zealand. A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to taste their two main current Shiraz releases, and to assess if they can back this up again.

The first wine was the 2007 Craggy Range Block 14 Syrah. This wine has a very peppery nose, followed by some smooth plummy fruit. This wine is not very concentrated, but a harmonious wine, a bit short on the finish. I was a bit disappointed, but it is a fairly satisfying early drinking style.

Score: 91/-

The 2007 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah is a completely different proposition. I doubt many would pick its New Zealand origin in a blind tasting. The fruit tastes of blackcurrant, has a fair bit of complexity and is quite concentrated. The wine is medium to full bodied, quite elegant, with smooth tannins and a long finish. This is a profound wine.

Score: 96/+++

New poll created

What is your favorite wine variety for the upcoming summer? Please vote, and I will see what I can review.

Giant Steps

The Yarra Valley is probably the place in Australia (as a region) which can produce the best copies of Burgundian wine. Giant Steps is an interesting winery, because it produces quite a number of single vineyard wines from the area. It takes terroir seriously.

The Tarraford vineyard is one of the warmest sites in the valley. It therefore comes as no surprise that the 2008 Tarraford Chardonnay tastes quite ripe, yet it has fresh citrus flavours and enough acidity to keep the wine together. It is a little bit straight forward, though.

Score: 92/+

The 2008 Tarraford Pinot Noir has a light colour and a mix of strawberry and raspberry flavours. The wine is fresh and lively, but lacks savoury characteristics. It is all about the fruit, and I would rate it an excellent early drinking summer wine.

Score: 93/+

The 2008 Arthur's Creek Chardonnay is quite different. It is a much finer, more elegant Chardonnay style from this cooler site. The wine is perhaps a little thin, but a good wine.

Score: 93/0

The 2008 Gladysdale Pinot Noir is also from a cool site. It is quite closed at present, has more cherry flavours, and is quite elegant as well. The mouthfeel is a bit on the light side and the finish a bit straight, but having said this, the wine has fine tannins and good length.

Score: 93/+

Overall, these wines do not disappoint those who like lighter style wines.

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir

Tapanappa is Brian Croser's private company wine label. The Pinot Noir effort has had quite mixed reviews and after drinking the 2007 Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir, I can understand why.

This wine tastes of red cherries. The fruit has some intensity, but at the same time is a little flat or shallow. This may be the result of young grapes. There is some length and soft tannins in the wine and you have to say it is well built. But the fruit is the problem, it did simply not fill out the glass or mouth. It is clearly not a top 5 Pinot Noir at this point, but new releases will be worth watching.

Score: 92/-

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Shiraz

I certainly got more than what I bargained for when I opened this bottle of the 2006 Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Shiraz. The bottle was filled right to the screw cap. However, I was not paying attention as I started to pour and so lost the extra booze, plus I created a mess on the table.

Peter Lehmann, like the other major family company in the Barossa, Yalumba, has started to pay much more attention to the different regions in the Barossa area, and released some sub-regional wines. This Shiraz, from the higher altitude Eden Valley, has quite a spicy bouquet. The flavours are of red and black berries. Unfortunately, the fruit is a little underripe. Still, the wine is quite smooth on the palate and has a fresh acidic finish - it tastes more Victorian than Barossan. It would have been a much better wine, though, if the fruit could have filled out the palate much more. Well, you can't have it all, it seems.

Score: 90/+

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Brokenwood Semillon

Over the last few years, the Hunter Valley producers seem to have increased the sweetness of their Semillons (in general). I believe this is not a desirable character in Semillon.

I was therefore very pleased to drink the 2007 Brokenwood Semillon today. This wine is bone dry, still very fresh, but now with pronounced lime flavour. It has good length and a pleasant acidity, not overdone. What else would you drink at 38 degrees celsius?

Score: 91/+++

Sunday, November 1, 2009

O'Leary Walker Polish Hill Riesling

There are not many Australian wines which are universally admired, but the Grosset Polish Hill Riesling is such a wine. Therefore no wonder that every Claire producer of Riesling is trying to emulate this wine.

The 2008 O'Leary Walker Polish Hill Riesling comes close in style, but not in other aspects. It has a slightly green colour and tastes of lime and stone fruit. It shows quite a lot of minerality, but there are also hints of unripe grapes. The wine has length, but is not filling the mouth out as much. It has a dry finish, but lacks the texture of the Grosset.

Score: 90/-

Clarendon Hills Romas Vineyard Grenache

A high quality Grenache can weave some magic in your mouth. This 2002 Clarendon Hills Romas Vineyard Old Vine Grenache comes from one of the top three Grenache vineyards in Australia. Its bouquet is strong, smelling of forest fruit, truffles, anise and licorice.

The flavour is dominated by deep and ripe raspberry fruit of an intensity seldom experienced. The wine is sweet, but after some seconds savoury as well. It has enough tannin to avoid any notion of a lollipop drink. There is not much acidity, yet the wine has a fairly long aftertaste and it will be good for at least another 3-5 years.

I find this is a wine best enjoyed by itself, but it would not overpower any food.

Score: 95/+++

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay

The Shaw & Smith Chardonnay has become one of the stars of Australian Chardonnay in recent years. Drinking the 2005 Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay demonstrates to me that this is justified.

This wine shows beautiful ripe stone fruit characteristics, it has quite a linear structure, but still good mouthfeel. The finish is gentle, but with enough acidity to give the wine a lift. At an age of four years, some complexity is starting to show, but the wine is still fresh.

It is important to not drink this wine at fridge temperature so that the richness of flavours can show.

Score: 93/+


Monday, October 26, 2009

Ben Glaetzer Godolphin Cabernet/Shiraz

The Godolphin is Ben Glaetzer's premium Cabernet/Shiraz release from the Barossa. The 2004 Godolphin hits you with a lot of fruit upfront. The wine is very rich, even a bit thick, but the tannins and acidity of the Cabernet manage to balance the big fruit of the Shiraz - just. This wine is an example why this blend should have a lot going for it. The mouthfeel is excellent from the front to the back of the palate. Yet on the other hand, the wine is too big in the end. I had trouble finishing my second glass, but I enjoyed drinking what I did.

Score: 92/0

Sunday, October 25, 2009

De Bortoli Vat 1 Durif

It seems to be that when people want to bring you a bottle of wine, they go for something unusual and so this 2007 De Bortoli Durif is the second bottle of Durif I received within a short period of time. It has four gold medals on the label, all from the same, not well recognized show.

The wine itself is very hearty, quite harsh and has no real depth of fruit. You can't really drink it on its own, but maybe with barbecued meat. It actually lost some of its sharpness on the second day, suggesting it may be useful to keep the wine a bit. However, it is not really a wine which will improve with cellaring - and it makes no sense for one bottle like this, anyway.

Score: 78/--

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cirillo 1850 Old Vine Grenache

This wine is made from low yielding old bush vines on the valley floor in the Barossa. The 2003 Cirillo 1850 Old Vine Grenache is a very ripe and full bodied wine. Yet it is not overly fruity or burnt.

It tastes of ripe cherries and has developed savoury characteristics as well. There are enough tannins to give this wine structure, but less than in your typical Shiraz or Cabernet, which makes this wine food friendly. Well, sort of, as it also is quite high in alcohol.

Drinking this wine feels like walking on a tightrope. Everything comes together in the end, but the wine pushes ripeness and alcohol. It is not an easy drinking Grenache, but rather one with a lot of expression. At six years, it may be close to its peak, but it will drink well for another couple of years.

Score: 92/++

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz

I have reviewed this wine before, but while drinking this bottle of the 2002 Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz, I feel I should make some more comments. I buy wine from McLaren Vale only in what I consider to be strong vintages, and Wirra Wirra has been a good representative of what McLaren Vale produces. The RSW is the winery's top Shiraz. This seems to justify lashings of new oak.

As this wine matures, the fruit moves into the background and the vanilla of what I gather is predominantly American oak takes over. You might as well jump into a barrel, sniff for a while and then inhale some alcohol for good measure. This is an absolute shame, as underlying this treatment is some yummy plummy fruit. This is poor wine making! I also have some of their 2004 RSW. If this is not a major improvement on the 2002, Wirra Wirra will be off my list.

Score: 86/---

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir

Felton Road is to Central Otago what Cullen or Moss Wood is to Margaret River: one of the early producers with very high quality year in, year out. I can attest to this, as I have been on Felton Road's mailing list for many years.

The Block 5 is one of the three Pinot's produced for many years now. It is the darkest in colour and the most brooding of the trio, which also includes Block 3 and the regular Estate wine.

Today, I opened a bottle of the 2002 Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir. The colour looks fresh and the wine is still very vibrant, helped by a srewcap closure. The black cherry flavours still dominate, but secondary savoury flavours, speaking of the vineyard, are also present. The flavours are well integrated, and oak is in the background. So far, so good.

But then comes the problem for which Central Otago Pinots' are well known for. They open beautifully, but lack in length, certainly don't produce the Burgundy fan. You could not say this wine has no structure, as it is holding up very well, but the lack of mouthfeel on the back palate and finish seriously compromises the quality and reduces the excitement from this bottle (measured against what should be the lightning rod of the district).

Score: 93/--

Friday, October 16, 2009

Teusner Avatar

Kym Teusner was one of the first 'young guns' in the Barossa. He learnt at Torbreck and his first two wines, the Joshua and the Avatar, were unashamedly copies of the Juveniles and the Steading. I have found these wines attractive and the 2005 Teusner Avatar I am reviewing today confirms this view.

The Avatar is a wooded GSM blend. It is quite rich, maybe a bit fruity as a result of the strong Grenache component, but there are enough tannins to give the wine sufficient backbone. This wine is certainly on the ripe side, and I would not age it for too long, but it will provide satisfying drinking for the next couple of years.

Teusner has grown dramatically during the last couple of years both in terms of volume of production and number of wines. Recent tastings make me wonder if he is doing too much too soon, but then it could also have been the recent difficult vintages in the Barossa.

Score: 92/+

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

De Bortoli Noble One

What happens when you drink Noble One after ten years? I just had a half bottle of the 1998 De Bortoli Noble One over two days.

The first thing to notice is the wine is strong, still on the second day, and probably has a decade to go at least. A pleasing aspect is that the overwhelming power of the sweet honeyed fruit is still there, but maybe slightly reduced from the release date - and the sweetness is a bit less as well. The length is good, although not matching the top Sauternes.

It is a wonderful desert wine, to drink in small doses, and it is worth while to put it away for some time. (I had the original 82 after 20 years and it was still great.)

Score: 95/0

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pipers Brook 'The Lyre' Pinot Noir

How often does it happen to you that you are totally excited about a wine you are drinking? Sip by sip, glass by glass? It does not happen very often to me, but it did happen last night, after I opened my only bottle of the 2000 Pipers Brook 'The Lyre'.

I don't normally hold back Pinot Noir this long, in fact this was my 2nd oldest bottle, but it was in perfect condition. The Lyre is a single vineyard Pinot Noir, the pinnacle of Pipers Brook red wines, only produced in the best years.

The wine is of medium weight, with predominantly raspberry flavours, but also some dark cherry. It has quite good concentration and mouthfeel for a Tasmanian Pinot. Surprisingly, the primary fruit was still very lively and there were not many forest floor characteristics on the palate.

The outstanding feature was the texture of the wine. A wonderful balance between fruit and oak, very smooth and silky tannins and the presence of the famous Burgundy 'funnel', as the wine opened up on the back palate to a long finish - fantastic. Should have bought more of it.

Score: 96/+++

Monday, October 5, 2009

Redesdale Shiraz

Redesdale Estate is an attractively located winery on the outskirts of the Heathcote district. When I drank the just released 2003 Redesdale Shiraz on its terrace, it was a pretty wine. It had a healthy core of strong blueberry and black cherry fruit and good length and a lively finish.

Now, the good thing about boutique wineries is that they care about their fruit, but the bad thing is they often lack experience to deal with difficult circumstances. 2003 was a drought year and the fruit was picked too late. This Shiraz was lively enough in year one, but as I revisited the wine today, its fruit was absolutely dead - gone. It tasted of shriveled berries and the finish was broad and somewhat harsh. Not good if a red wine does not last six years. Other vintages might be better, but I am not going to rush trying again.

Score: 84/--

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yering Station Single Vineyard Releases

Yering Station claims to be one of the pre-eminent wineries of the Yarra Valley. It certainly has a wide portfolio of vineyards and wines. The last few years have thrown incredible challenges of nature at the Yarra Valley. Let's see how they have been doing.

The single vineyard wines sit below the reserve wines in the hierarchy of the Yering Station wines. It can in fact be argued they are not really single vineyard wines. Basically, the company bottles each year wine from blocks which look 'interesting' separately. However, they are different from year to year. As a result, there is not much comparability over time. This is just a commercial exercise.

Anyway, the first wine is from the Upper Yarra, grown at 500m altitude, the 2007 Willow Lake Vineyard Chardonnay. This is very cool climate. The flavour is citrus and quite lean with good acidity and minerality, a bit Chablis-like. The finish is slightly plump, but this ends up being my favorite of the line up.

Score: 90/+

The second Chardonnay, the 2007 Coombe Farm Vineyard Chardonnay, comes from the valley floor. It has also citrus flavour, but is less expressive and terroir orientated than the first wine.

Score: 87/-

The 2006 Yarra Edge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a hot site. Therefore, Cabernet should ripen well here. However, the fruit is somewhat upfront and the wine dries out on the mid-palate.

Score:86/--

The 2006 Car C Block Shiraz Viognier is from the vineyard which forms the backbone of the well known Shiraz Viognier Reserve. In 2006, it came in at 15.5% alcohol, very unusual for the Yarra Valley. There is white pepper on the nose. The wine is generously proportioned and the fruit carries the 100% new oak well. It is velvety and soft (similar to the Reserve), but lacks some length on the finish. Not a bad wine, but not my style.

Score: 91/--

It is interesting to taste these wines next to Clonakilla. The Clonakilla wines express a certain style very consistently. The Yering Station wines are all different and have some shortcomings. The wine-making is just not in the same class, even accounting for the difficult vintages.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Clonakilla 2008 Range

Tim Kirk, owner and wine-maker of Clonakilla, presented his wines with a lot of passion,which is good to see. He spoke of capturing the beauty of his place in liquid form and his objective of celebrating the savoury, as they do in the Northern Rhone.

First up was the 2008 Viognier. This is a serious wine. It has predominantly apricot flavours, but also a fair bit of tannin and acidity. The taste falls off a bit at the end, but nonetheless I liked the mouthfeel of the wine.

Score: 90/+

The 2008 Hilltops Shiraz is quite fruity and forward, but has savoury aspects as well, which will better develop in a couple of years. It does not have much of a finish, but is very good value for a $25/bottle wine.

Score: 88/+

2008 is the second year of the O'Riada Shiraz. The wine includes about 6% Viognier and really is the baby brother of the flagship wine. The wine has predominantly red fruit character and is a bit fleshy, as a result of better ripening conditions than 2007 and larger berry sizes. There is spice and a silky feel to the wine. The mouthfeel is nice, although this is not a big wine. I liked it a lot.

Score: 93/++

In many ways, the 2008 Shiraz Viognier is similar, but a bit finer, more elegant, excellent structure and length on the palate. The flavour stays for a long time. The wine is very approachable now, but will improve in complexity over time. If I had a criticism, I would have liked a bit more fruit concentration, but it is a minor point.

Score 95/+

Overall, the line-up demonstrated excellent wine-making skills and an expression of medium bodied wines which has not many peers in Australia.

Devil's Lair Chardonnay

The 2007 Devils Lair Chardonnay shows the typical Margaret River peach and tropical fruit flavours. It is not as big as the Cape Mentelle, which is the only other 07 Chardonnay I have tried so far from Margaret River.This can be quite a desirable outcome. The wine has a nice freshness to it. I probably would have liked a bit more steeliness and acidity on the finish, but this is a good drop.

Score: 91/0

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Orlando St.Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon

The St. Hugo Coonawarra brand is a bit of an unsung hero. I thoroughly enjoyed the 1998 a couple of years ago.

The 2001 St. Hugo Coonawarra shows lively redcurrant and blackcurrant character. It is not as fleshy as, say, the 98, but there is enough fruit to carry the wine through the mid palate. The wine finishes with nice tannins and the wine is overall well balanced. The wine is starting to mellow, but has definitely 3-4 more years of freshness in it.

Score: 90/0

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Hands Samantha's Garden Shiraz

The Two Hands Garden series showcases Shiraz from the main different Shiraz growing regions in Australia. Bella's Garden from the Barossa is the most popular. Samantha's Garden is from the Claire Valley.

The best wines from the Claire have an amazing length of life and vitality. Unfortunately, this 2002 Two Hands Samantha's Garden is not such a wine. The fruit is predominantly plum, there is also some eucalypt, but the fruit tastes dried out. As a result, the tannins have taken over. And although they appear fairly soft, they produce a finish which is somewhat lean and harsh.

This wine does not live up to its premium wine price point.

Score: 88/--

Drinking Unfiltered Wine

Many wine-makers are now making wine without filtering. I have noticed over the years that these need more preparation before drinking than other wines and that the differences in taste are remarkable.

The key is to stand the bottle upright for at least a couple of days before drinking; longer does not hurt. While decanting the wine, be careful not to include the bottom part, which includes sediment. Be conservative in making this judgement. Then follow the normal process.

Sediment and other particles in these wines can add to the complexity of flavour and this makes these wines often very attractive. However, consuming these elements is not helping, and often unpleasant. I have noticed that the enjoyment of these wines improves dramatically if you follow the suggested approach.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Spinifex Esprit

Peter Schell is doing interesting things in the Barossa. He is making European-style wine there, picks his grapes early and blends a lot of different ones.

The Esprit is his GSM version. I have liked this wine in the past for its freshness and moorishness. The 2006 Spinifex Esprit is very perfumed and the aromas are too lifted for my taste. Good complexity in flavours is thus overwhelmed. As a result, the wine tends to fight the food instead of blending in.

I will continue to buy the Spinifex wines, but this one leaves me somewhat disappointed (against high expectations).

Score: 91/-

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bindi Rose

This 2006 Bindi Rose is as close to perfect as I could imagine: it has enough depth of fruit to taste like a serious wine; it has enough savoury characteristics to make it an excellent food wine; it has enough balance to make it pleasant; it has excellent structure to make it still fresh and seamless with a few years of age. And best of all: the wine is quite linear and flows through the palate to a satisfying finish. Why would you drink anything else with lunch?

Score: 93/+++

Friday, September 25, 2009

St. Hallett Old Block Shiraz

The Old Block's appeal is its combination of fruit concentration and lifting aromas. However, there are problems with this 1998 St. Hallett Old Block. The colour includes brownish tones and the flavours confirm that most of the fruit is gone. Given this is the appeal of the wine generally, this one falls short. Its structure still holds up, but the wine is past its peak. This is disappointing for a wine of this reputation from a good year. Maybe I am a victim of bottle variation here, but the cork was good and the levels still very high. I am not impressed.

Score: 87/--

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Torbreck Viognier Marsanne Rousanne

Getting the white Rhone varieties right is no easy task. If the wine is made in a fuller bodied style, the Viognier often tastes like an undefined fruit cocktail, and the others can be dull. The lighter styles often lack character.

The 2008 Torbreck Viognier Marsanne Rousanne hits the spot. It is quite full flavoured, with complex stone fruit characters, like pear and white peach, but also very nutty. The key is the mouthfeel. The wine fills the mouth beautifully without being heavy or overripe. This is certainly not a low percentage lunch drink, but it holds enough fruit and interest to carry the 14% alcohol well.

Score: 92/++

Monday, September 21, 2009

Swinging Bridge Chardonnay

I was in Cowra on Friday. I thought I better drink a local wine. The top bottle shop had no Pinot Noirs, so I settled for the 2008 Swinging Bridge Canowindra Chardonnay. The wine is well made, but shows already quite a yellow colour. The taste is of white peach and nutmeg. Generally, the flavour is a bit broad for my taste and the wine lacks some length.

Score: 88/--

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lehmann's Stonewell or Yalumba's Octavius?

Peter Lehmann and Yalumba are the two large family wineries in the Barossa Valley. They have access to many vineyards and produce flagship wines which showcase the best of Barossa Shiraz. I recently tasted both of them, the 2004 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz and the 2005 Yalumba Octavius.

The Stonewell has received very strong reviews and it is an excellent wine, certainly much more refined than in some previous years. The fruit is excellent, and the wine well balanced with oak being present, but not dominant, and a satisfying finish. Unfortunately, there is not that much happening in the glass. The wine is smooth and full bodied, but the fruit set lacks some complexity, in my opinion.

Score: 94/-

The Octavius blew me away. This wine has layers and layers of fruit, with many flavour nuances, concentrated, but not over the top. Excellent mouthfeel and fine and long tannins on the back palate, probably stemming from its share of Eden Valley fruit. This is the best Octavius I have ever had and an absolutely outstanding Australian Shiraz, which will live for a long time.

Score:96/++

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Barossa Valley New Vintages

This blog has been quiet, not because I have been off wine. Quite the opposite: I have spent the last two weeks in the Barossa on a special wine project - more about this in later posts. I have had many memorable moments, which I will report on in a little while.

I tried many wines, in particular from the drought affected 2007 vintage. The news is not good. Many wines, in particular Shiraz, display dead fruit and cooked characters. This is despite the fact that companies are reducing their alcohol levels in wine. This is also true for $100/bottle wines. I therefore recommend to only buy wine in volume you have tasted before. It appears 2008 is a little better, but it has also been a difficult vintage.

Then along comes 2009. I tasted many barrels and the fruit is outstanding: lively, profound, but also lifted, not too alcoholic and oak generally in the background. Most of the barrel samples were already very balanced. It might be the best vintage of the decade or at least on par with 2004.

If you have a cellar which still holds Barossa wine, you should be tempted to run your stocks down and fill up big when the 09s are released.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Torbreck Woodcutters Red

The 2008 Woodcutters Red Shiraz has very bright redcurrant fruit. It tastes young and fresh, but with quite a good mouthfeel. The wine is not complex, but is well made and its fruity character is supported by reasonable length of flavour. This is a good effort from another challenging vintage in the Barossa.

Score: 90/++

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mt. Langhi Billi Billi Shiraz

The quality of wine making is important when it comes to good value Shiraz. The Mt. Langhi Cliff Edge and Billi Billi Shiraz seldom disappoint. The 2006 Mt. Langhi Billi Billi Shiraz is made from quite young fruit, but it tastes of quite intense blackberry. The wine has good balance and is quite elegant. It includes white pepper spices, yet has a refined finish. Hard to beat at its price point.

Score: 90/+

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mr. Riggs The Gaffer Shiraz

Now back to earth with the 2007 Mr. Riggs The Gaffer Shiraz. This is a well made, straight forward Shiraz from McLaren Vale. The fruit is bright and fresh and the wine is harmoneous, although slightly high in alcohol (15%). The finish shows the right amount of tannin and reasonable length. Nothing pretentious in this wine, but a winter wine, good with hearty food (I am in Canberra at present).

Score: 88/+

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Guigal Dinner

To my knowledge, Guigal is the only other wine company apart from Penfolds which covers a range of quality wines from $15 per bottle to $500 or so.
So to attend a wine dinner showcasing these wines is somewhat daunting, but it was a great experience.

Guigal, mainly known for Cote du Rhone, makes some serious white wines. We tasted four, two based on Marsanne, two based on Viognier. These are very different wines from what we are used to in Australia. The wines have lashings of new oak and are really made like red wines. Nothing overly reserved here. The wines were from the 07 and 06 vintages and clearly need more time to integrate the flavours. I preferred the Marsanne based wines, the 2007 St. Joseph Lieu dit Saint-Joseph Blanc and the 2006 Ermitage Ex-Voto Blanc. The latter is a $350 per bottle wine. The flavours are complex, with pear and apricot dominant. The wines are rich and creamy, tannic and have a long finish.

Then on to the main game, the reds. Overall, the quality of the wines was awesome. The key characteristics of the premium wines are elegant fruit, soft grained tannins and a long finish. The best wines were the 2005 Cote Rotie Chateau d'Ampuis, 2005 Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde (this is the 'standard' premium wine), 2005 Ermitage Ex-Voto (very strong, overpriced), 2006 Saint-Joseph Rouge Vignes de l'Hospice, 2006 Saint Joseph-Rouge 'Lieu dit Saint-Joseph'. Non of these wines reaches 14% alcohol, by the way.

Then the highlight of the evening, the La La wines. These are, next to Grange, the most highly regarded Shiraz based wines in the world. They are single vineyard, and winemaking techniques vary between them. We are drinking the fabulous 2005 vintage, all wines were rated 99 points by Wine Spectator (a bit of a joke, really).

La Mouline (on the left in the picture) is the feminine wine: mulberry and chocolate, very opulent, elegant, with soft tannins and a long finish - a very distinctive wine. La Landonne (middle in the picture) is the masculine wine: plum and blackberry, also elegant, but quite tannic and dry with a long finish. This is much better drunk in a few years time. La Turque is a more recent wine and sits in-between. It is a leaner wine, not as lush, and quite acidic, again with a long finish. The vote for the best wine was split between all three. I particularly enjoyed the first two, for very different reasons.

This tasting was a memorable one. I have tasted the range of Guigal wines before. This set was a step up from what I had experienced before, and the La La wines are very special, indeed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

High Watermarks


At a special dinner recently, I opened two wines I am very fond of: The 2001 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay and the 1990 Henschke Hill of Grace. And they did not disappoint.

The Leeuwin Chardonnay has intensity of flavour, yet a lot of freshness and balance with a beautiful smooth finish and enough acidity to keep this wine alive for some time. I have reviewed this wine in more detail before.

Score: 97/+

The Hill of Grace is Australia's most famous single vineyard wine. While the 1990 had mixed reviews after release, it has certainly managed to live well for a long time. The fruit flavour is still intense, the tannins are very silky and the finish is long. Again, I have reviewed this wine before in more detail.

Score: 98/+

These two wines represent high watermarks of Australian wine making. It is disappointing to see so much overseas focus on our cheap wines, while we manage to produce world class.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bindi Composition Chardonnay

The 2004 Bindi Composition Chardonnay is an excellent wine. Hard to believe it is third in the hierarchy of Bindi's wines.

The colour is a glorious gold. The flavours are lush, yet refined, predominantly of melon and peach, but there is a lot of complexity and interest. The oak is well integrated and supports rather than dominates the fruit flavours. There is great mouthfeel and the finish is very smooth.

At five years this wine drinks very well now, but certainly has a few years ahead yet.

Score: 94/++

Henschke Mt. Edelstone

The 1994 Henschke Mt. Edelstone Shiraz has been a favorite of mine for many years. But it has to be said, it has now passed its development peak. The blackcurrant fruit is starting to be a little thinner, yet the wine still has excellent balance, the oak is well integrated and the tannins are soft and long. I still enjoy this wine, but I won't keep my last bottle from this year much longer.

Score: 93/+

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz

I am generally somewhat weary about McLaren Vale Shiraz. This is because the fruit is often very plummy, big and lacks complexity. This is not always the case, of course, but happens more often than not.

The 2002 Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz is such an example. In addition, the taste is quite meaty, a sign of quite ripe fruit. There is still some freshness in the wine, but it also has quite a lot of oak and a somewhat flat finish.

Score: 89/0

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Some changes to this blog

As this is my 25oth post, I thought I might introduce a couple of changes for the future

1) I have resisted ratings so far, because a lot of complexity is taken out of the wine if it is reduced to a point score. My main aim was to describe different characteristics and for people to focus on this. However, ratings are a fact of life, and I have now found a way of displaying them in a more satisfying way. I will use a 100 point scale (which is in reality a 20 point scale) to assess the wine in an objective manner (from my point of view). Then I will use up to three minuses or plusses to indicate how much I like the wine. For example:
- in Shiraz, I like fruit concentration, elegance and silky tannins
- in Cabernet, I like structure, seamless oak integration and long finish
- in Pinot Noir, I like mouthfeel, silky tannins and a long fan
- in Chardonnay, I do not like butterscotch nor too much oak
- in Riesling, I like them dry and not too floral

Let me know what you think of this, now or later

2) My posts are all written in a particular style. As a result, this blog is perhaps a bit monotonous. Therefore I will introduce content from other sites from time to time in the future.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tasmania Unbottled

The roadshow of Tasmanian wines was educational. Tasmania is hard to follow, as many wineries are very small and their distribution to the mainland is patchy. During this event, I had a good look at Riesling and in particular Pinot Noir.

Two Rieslings stood out for me: The 2008 Heemskerk Riversdale Coal River Valley Riesling was my pick. It showed attractive stone fruit and apple and appealing acidity. The wine is made in a dry style, but not as steely as some from the Claire. Almost as good, and probably a lot cheaper, is the 2008 Stoney Rise Riesling. It is quite similar in flavour with some savoury characters as well.

To date, I have not been a big fan of Tasmanian Pinot Noir. This show has not changed my view dramatically, although the quality was quite consistently good. And when I am a bit critical, I am using the top Pinots as benchmarks, such as Bindi, Bass Phillip, Bannockburn etc. There are two shortcomings across the board: the Tasmanian Pinots do not fan out enough on the finish and the mouthfeel tends to be a bit lacking or thin. On the other hand, fruit quality and wine making have improved a lot.

The best wine for me was the 2007 Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir. It had substantial cherry fruit, seamless oak integration and silky tannins (the only one).

Then followed a group, including 2007 Clarence House Estate Pinot Noir, 2008 Heemskerk Derwent Valley Pinot Noir (good length, but lacking mouthfeel), and 2008 Home Hill Pinot Noir (smooth finish).

Following were Pinots from Pirie, Stoney Rise, Sugarloaf Ridge, Derwent Estate and Moorilla.

Bay of Fires was a real outlyer, with its 2008 Pinot Noir. It had very soft strawberry flavours and quite a yummy texture. Nothing savoury here. Not to my taste, but popular with some.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bass Phillip Pinot Noir

Not often does one have a chance to taste several of Phillip Jones' Pinot Noirs accompanied by his always very interesting and insightful comments.

Several years ago, Bass Phillip branched out into a number of different labels from contractor fruit from the area. The wines did not reach the same quality, and last night I learnt that Phillip Jones has given up making wines from contractor fruit, probably because it was risking the brand image.

We drank the last wine made in this way, the 2007 Bass Phillip Old Cellar Pinot Noir. The wine had lovely flavour, but a fairly short finish. One for drinking now.

Then it was on to the levels 2-4 of the wines from his own vinyards. the 2008 Crown Prince Pinot Noir was only just bottled. It showed ripe and plummy flavours; not a very big wine and quite tannic and acidic.

Then it went a real step up and the burgundian flavours and texture started to show. First, the 2006 21 Pinot Noir. In 2006, no premium or reserve wines were bottled and it was the winery's 21st birthday, therefore the name and a wine comprising all of the Bass Phillip fruit. This wine was of medium weight, strawberry fruit flavours and secondary characteristics starting to show, like mushroom and spice, before fanning out to a steely finish. For me, the typical Bass Phillip characteristics, very soft texture, a big mouthfeel and super silky tannins started to show.

The 2007 Estate Pinot Noir again is not big, but has intense flavours and a very long fine finish. While Philip gave the 21 only a lifespan of 5-7 years, he predicted more than 10 years for this wine and was reporting that the early wines he made 20 years ago are drinking really well now. These are low alcohol wines, not overly tannic, but with a fair bit of acidity.

The 2007 Premium Pinot Noir was a similar wine, yet the fruit showed more concentration and the flavour spectrum goes from strawberry to more cherry flavours.

Phillip Jones' wines have always been very naturally made and he has followed biodynamic principles for a number of years. I believe it shows in the wines freshness and complexity. I am starting to warm to this approach, I must say. Phillip told me that in order to express 'terroir', biodynamic principles should be applied. He has noticed that in this way a lot more minerals and soil components are absorbed in the wine. Interesting.

It was a standout tasting by one of Australia's icon wine makers. If you can (it comes in very small volume) grab some of his wine, you will not regret it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Torbreck Dinner

Torbreck dinners are always great value and gregarious affairs. Last night was particularly good, as I came away with the lucky door prize (see the Steading Magnum on the left).

The range of wines included the following reds:
- 2002 Juveniles
-2003 The Steading
-2006 The Struie
-2007 The Gask
-2005 RunRig

The Steading showed very well, great complexity, texture and length. I think in some ways, this is David Powell's best wine. I will do a little vertical tasting in a couple of weeks.

The Struie was another highlight. A fullbodied Shiraz, yet elegant and interesting. The Gask was from the warm 2007 vintage and tasted more like a Barossa floor wine than from the Eden Valley, where the single vinyard is located - a bit broad and undifferentiated for my taste.

I am not sure I was at my tasting best, when the time came for the RunRig. Therefore I will not review the wine. It was big and sweet, as you would expect, a meal in itself. My sense was I had tasted better vintages of this wine, but still, this wine stands out from its many imitators through the elegance it has despite its big frame.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cullen Diana Madeline

August will be a month of good food and great wine and I am pleased to be able to kick it off with the 2001 Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet/Merlot. This is a very good, but slightly unusual wine.

The bouquet is very fresh and the colour of the wine very dark, almost inkish. The wine is full bodied and tastes of blackberry, loganberry and mulberry. You could swear there was a fair amount of Cabernet Franc and or Petit Verdot in the blend, but the label advises of a 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot mix.

The acids are still quite strong. This wine has a mighty grip. As most, this Cullen has a beautiful length in the finish. The structure of this wine is monumental and it needs another five years at least to soften. It will be a classic in 10 years time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kooyong Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is a grape variety which has never grabbed me, particularly not when made in Australia. Most of them lack definition and structure and, I guess, this grape variety is really not very interesting.

Then somebody suggested I should try the new Pinot Gris from Kooyong. Now I have a lot of time for the Kooyong wines and it is Mornington where most Pinot Gris experience resides. So I tried the 2008 Kooyong Beurrot Pinot Gris, a couple of times in fact.

I am disappointed. The wine is well made, no doubt, but the flavour spectrum is broad and somewhat flat, not very expressive. As a backdrop to Asian food, the wine is ok, but I prefer a Gruener Veltiner for a bit more character.

So, the search goes on.. or do we just dump this grape variety?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir

The title of most hedonistic wine in Australia clearly goes to Bass Phillip's Pinot Noirs. The odd years tend to be amazing (don't ask me why), the even years can be mediocre. Vintage variences are probably more pronounced than in any other premium wine in the country, yet what he gets from Gippsland ground in the right years is astonishing.

I am opening a 2001 Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir. This is essentially a reserve bottling and given it is an odd year, I have high expectations. I am not disappointed. The wine's fruit flavours are in the reddish spectrum of strawberry and cherry. The taste is incredibly smooth, silky and seductive, finishing with a classical Burgundy-like fan of fruit and slightly savoury flavours. The tannins are well in the background, the feature of the wine is its elegant texture. It seems the wine is at its peak right now and the only shortcoming is perhaps a slightly more intense fruit concentration.

Castagna Genesis Syrah

The Castagna Genesis Syrah has the potential to be one of Australia's outstanding Shirazes. It can have the weight of fruit, yet elegance and a complex texture. However, the 2002 Castagna Genesis Syrah does not quite make it.

The wine is medium to full bodied, with strong primary fruit flavours, mainly of red berries like raspberries, redcurrant and sour cherries. Definitely no plum here. The wine is not sweet, but features black pepper. It is elegant with oak taking a backroom seat. Unfortunately, the wine falls off at the finish and the fine dry tannins are somewhat short. As a result, the mouthfeel is not as satisfying as hoped. It may be a function of the cooler year and I will be interested to try the 2004 in a little while.

This wine is probably close to its peak, but will live for a number of more years.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Castagna

The latest newsletter from Castagna provides an interesting, if somewhat left field read. You can find it on castagna.com.au. Scroll half way down the page, the newsletter icon is on the left. I will open one of his premium wines later this week.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lindemans Pyrus

I have not reported much on this blog over the last couple of weeks as I have been drinking wine I have reviewed previously. Tonight, however, it is time for an oldie, but goddie.

The Pyrus tends to be the smoothest of the Coonawarra trio produced by Lindemans. This 1999 Lindemans Pyrus is very pretty: pretty to look at, sniff and taste. The blackberry and blueberry fruit, delivered by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is quite elegant and of medium weight. The oak is in the background and well integrated. However, there is nothing that stands out in this wine. I think this is the reason why Lindemans dropped the price of the Pyrus over the years. Having said this, the wine is well made and I enjoy drinking it with steak. As tonight has shown, the Pyrus also ages pretty well - a reliable and quite satisfying drink.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock

Having had so much pleasure with the last two 1998 wines, I reach for another, the 1998 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock. This single vineyard wine is usually very strong on fruit in comparison with Emily's Paddock, which shows more secondary, in particular leathery characters.

Elas! This wine is a shocker. It has very dark colour and starts off well enough with plum and blackberry flavours. It has some coffee, too. But all of this is overtaken by a very unpleasant earthy flavour, which dominates the finish and makes me shudder. The bottle is slightly corked as well. Apart from that, the wine shows a lot of alcohol and overripe fruit.

I need to try another bottle in a few days, when I have recovered from this, to have some comparison.

P.S.: I have now opened another bottle and this is much better. The colour of the wine is a brighter red, as I am used to seeing with this label, and the wine shows much better balance between fruit, oak and tannins. Still, the mouthfeel is linear and the finish is somewhat harsh. This wine certainly does not reach the highs of the Katnook or Yarra Yering.

Paringa Estate Pinot Noir

The Estate Pinot Noir sits in the middle of the three levels of Paringa's Pinot Noirs. I sometimes find the Paringa Pinot Noirs too big and fruity and upfront, but this is not the case with the 2005 Estate Pinot Noir.

This wine has more red berry flavours, mainly strawberry and redcurrant, it is quite tannic and dry. The flavours stay quite long, but there is a stringency, which is slightly unpleasant. I found the wine performed well with food, but when I had a glass on its own, it did not quite come together.

Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1

My wine cellar is what you would call a tasting cellar. I like to collect a lot of different wines, therefore I often buy only 4-6 bottles. This has the disadvantage that occasionally I drink wine a little early and when it is at its peak, I have very little left.

Encouraged by the Katnook experience, I am opening my last bottle of the 1998 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1, a Cabernet based blend. I have only bought this wine from the best vintages, because I find the fruit concentration sometimes lacking.

Now, this bottle is brilliant. The wine is so balanced and elegant that trying to report individual flavours would not do this wine justice. The body is quite big for a Yarra Valley Cabernet, yet it is still quite a feminine wine, very harmoneous with a soothing and caressing finish. Perfect texture, absolutely nothing missing in this wine.

My last bottle, arrgh!


Katnook Cabernet Sauvignon

Katnook occupies great land in the Coonawarra district and its Cabernets are usually very flavoursome, although often treated strongly with new oak. Therefore these wines need time.

I am trying the 1998 Katnook Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is full bodied with complex flavours, predominantly blackcurrant, with a bit of eucalypt, quite thick. The oak is soaked up by this massive fruit and as a result this Cabernet is very well balanced. This wine has excellent mouthfeel, very smooth. The finish is long, maybe slightly minty, but this does not detract from the elegance of this wine.

This wine has been most impressive and showing the benefits of aging. The fruit is still strong and the wine is likely to improve further and go well for another 10 years.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Petaluma Coonawarra

The 2001 Petaluma Coonawarra still displays a strong violet colour. It tastes mainly of blackcurrant and is a surprisingly full-bodied wine. The wine has an elegant structure, as you would expect from Brian Croser, and the oak is well integrated.The tannins are strong, but quite fine and the finish quite long.

What I like about this wine is that it has real character. Sometimes the Petaluma wines can be too smooth.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Curly Flat Williams Crossing Pinot Noir

The 2007 Williams Crossing Pinot Noir received very positive reviews and I can only add another one to this. It is the second label of Curly Flat, and the quality is astonishing for it. It would beat many Pinots twice the price.

The flavours are a cascade of forest berries, including wild strawberry and blueberry, as well as cherries. The wine has medium weight and moves through to more savoury flavours on the back palate. The texture is very balanced and refined, although the mouthfeel is slightly linear. A silky and dry finish makes this an excellent wine to accompany a variety of foods (it was chicken for me).
The wine drinks very well now, I would not cellar it longer term.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yarra Yarra Syrah

Yarra Yarra suffered more than any other winery from the Victorian bushfires. Vines and winery - all lost. I have not heard if they will start again.

I collected a few of their wines from the early 2000s. This is about the 2001 Yarra Yarra Syrah. The colour is still in the red/violet spectrum. Earthy aromas jump out of the glass. The wine is medium to full bodied, quite big for a Yarra Valley Shiraz. The fruit is plum, still quite fresh. There is also quite a bit of white pepper. The oak is well integrated. The tannins are quite firm, providing a solid structure for the wine, before the wine finishes quite dry. A very good food wine.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Joe Bastianich wines

Joe Bastianich is a famous New York chef. He was born in Friuli, North-Eastern Italy and he grows white wines there as well as Sangiovese based wines in Tuscany. I was lucky to be able to attend a dinner with him and Steve Manfredi where he showcased his wines.

These wines are very different from what we have here. They are not very acidic and crafted to accompany food, rather than dominate it. They can be quite fruity, but they are not sweet. Amazing how he achieves this.

From a range of wines, I just like to comment on two. The 2008 Sauvignon 'B' was nothing like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. No grassiness, no sharpness: a refreshing, somewhat fruity wine, but with a fresh finish, almost like a light Chardonnay - a great food wine.

The most serious of the wines of the night was the 2005 La Mozza Aragone, a Sangiovese based super Tuscan, which included 20% of Shiraz and a couple of other local varieties. This wine had cherry and plum flavours, was well balanced, not too heavy, but serious, with soft tannins on the finish.

These wines are not easy to find in Australia, but well worth checking out. I believe Five Ways Cellars in Sydney and the Prince Wine Store in Melbourne are stocking them.

The best 2007 Bordeaux style wine from the Southern Hemisphere

Over the last couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to drink three contenders for the crown of best Bordeaux blend wine in the Southern Hemisphere from the 2007 vintage, which was excellent in Western Australia and New Zealand. While the grape composition is different, the objectives and target market would be similar. So I thought I do a bit of a comparison.

Cullen Diana Madeline Craggy Range Sophia Te Mata Coleraine

Fruit intensity 3 3 1
Fruit complexity 3 2 1
Mouthfeel 3 3 2
Structure 3 2 3
Finish 3 3 3
Aging potential 3 2 3

Total 18 15 13

A couple of other high class Margaret River wines may yet emerge.

Any comments?

Craggy Range Sophia

A few posts ago, I disagreed with most reviewers about the merits of the 2007 Te Mata Coleraine and claimed that Craggy Range is now the pre-eminent red wine producer of New Zealand. Today, I had the opportunity to taste the 2007 Craggy Range Sophia, which is a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend, probably closest to the Coleraine in terms of grape composition.

This wine is grown on the famous Gimblett Gravels and it shows. This is a big wine with strong upfront red- and blackcurrant flavours. The wine has great mouthfeel and the smooth aspects of the Merlot get overtaken by the Cabernet Franc as the wine moves towards the back palate. The wine finishes with strong, but controlled tannins.

The wine is drinkable now, but will develop more complexity over time. This is a bold statement and I feel the wine incorporates all the ripeness the sun and special terroir can give it. The alcohol is 14.5% and might be too big for some, but I feel the fruit can carry it.

Cullen - 2007 Releases

When you are about to taste the wines of one of Australia's most highly acclaimed wineries from one of the best vintages recorded, expectations are very high. And the tasting did not disappoint, although it left me somewhat uneasy in some respects. Let us look at the individual wines first.

The 2007 Kevin John Chardonnay produced the weirdest Australian Chardonnay tasting experience I can remember. It had a very strong aroma and actually smelled of pot, I kid you not. Many flavours of grass, earth, dung etc. You could not help but sense that the biodynamics applied at Cullen have had a major influence here and that the soil components have jumped straight into the glass. The flavours were more traditional: citrus dominated, but also grapefruit. The wine seemed a bit easy and straight forward (somebody said: like lemon juice), but the wine had a very impressive and long finish. This wine clearly needs more time.

Then came the two mid-priced reds. The 2007 Cullen Mangan and the 2007 Cullen Cabernet Merlot. The Mangan is a predominant Malbec/Petit Verdot blend. The wine has violet colour, a blackcurrant flavour, and is quite spicy and tannic. There is strong varietal expression, but a slightly harsh mouthfeel. The Cabernet/Merlot is the smoother wine, good, but not exceptional fruit expression: a nice, easy drinking style.

On to the main event: The 2007 Cullen Diana Madeline. This wine is the biggest Cabernet/Merlot I can recall coming from Cullen ( it includes also small percentages of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot). The colour is very black and the tannins are strong, but fine grained. The flavours are very deep and complex: predominantly blackcurrant, but also mulberry and coffee. The wine fills out nicely through the Merlot component and has a very long, powerful finish. This wine is way too young to be enjoyed now, but I predict a very long life ahead, maybe 30 years. It is a sensational achievement.

Overall, the 2007 vintage may just deliver what it promised. Here is my issue: the biodynamics are increasingly showing an influence: the wines are more full flavoured than before, and in an effort to produce elegant wines, there is a risk that too much edgyness is shaved off the wines. Are they too polished? (I am talking about the reds here) . However, this is just a question. I remain very impressed with Vanya Cullen's wines.

Lethbridge Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Lethbridge is a relatively new winery in the Geelong region which I had not heard of until now. As it turns out, they produce highly individual and interesting single vineyard wines reflecting their specific terroir.

The 2008 Lethbridge Chardonnay is wild yeast fermented, undergoes malolactic fermentation and sees 100% new oak. Despite this, it does not feel heavily worked or dull. It has citrus flavours, an elegant texture, sufficient acidity for aging and a clean finish - a good example of a modern Chardonnay.

The 2007 Lethbridge Allegra Chardonnay comes from an older vineyard. The treatment is pretty much the same, but I taste a bit more fruit concentration and oak. This makes it a bigger wine, but I had a slight preference for the first.

The Pinot Noirs include more than 50% whole bunches. The 2008 Lethbridge Pinot Noir has a good structure, and is medium weight. It tastes predominantly of strawberry, but shows some forest floor characteristics as well, before it finishes with a tannic backbone. This was my favorite wine of the four reviewed.

The 2006 Lethbridge Mietta Pinot Noir is also of medium weight, but darker, with cherry flavours. There is a bit of a gap in the middle palate, the wine is more savoury overall, yet elegant with a dry finish.

I would be happy to drink any of these wines and I now understand why Maree Collis and Ray Nadeson, coming from relatively nowhere, have been nominated as winemaker of the year in this year's Australian Gourmet Traveller awards.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Seppelts Great Western Reserve Shiraz

I was looking forward to my last bottle of the 1998 Seppelts Great Western Reserve Shiraz. This wine is now called St. Peter's Shiraz and stems from the highly regarded St. Peter's vineyard.

The wine had excellent structure and smooth tannins and is probably drinking at its best now. The big surprise were three flavour elements being in perfect balance: the wine had the expected spice scents, but also really sweet fruit, almost Grenache-like, which I have never (!) experienced like this in a Victorian Shiraz, and finally charred-earth flavours.

A most satisfying drink. I wished I had some more.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Whistling Eagle Shiraz

Whistling Eagle is a boutique Heathcote producer, sitting on great soil in the northern part of the area. The Shiraz is called Bull's Blood, so you know what you are getting yourself into. The winery name is quite cute too, maybe aspiring to Screaming Eagle, the number one cult wine in the US.

I quite like this wine in cooler years, but the 2005 Whistling Eagle Shiraz is just too much. The fruit is very expressive, but too ripe, with blackberry flavours and a very tannic backbone. The wine is too alcoholic at 15.2% (it may be more) and overblown. One glass at the fireplace or with a steak can be satisfying, but that would be the limit.

Latest Poll - only two days to go!

Come on you guys out there, please vote. Poor showing so far!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Aurora Vineyard and Ocean Eight - 2008 releases

I attended two tastings of exciting new wineries in the last two days and there are interesting similarities and contrasts.

Aurora Vineyard is a new Central Otago producer which aims to produce wine which is not big and bold, but still captures the developed fruit which the sunshine of Central Otago can deliver. The 2008 Riesling is of excellent quality. It has predominantly lime and citrus flavours and shows nice minerality. The wine has fresh acidity, but is not sharp and well balanced. A good contrast to the very austere Rieslings from Australia.

2008 was a very warm vintage in Central Otago, and it shows in the reds. The 2008 Aurora Vineyard Pinot Noir is still very young, but all bright red cherry fruit. It hits you right upfront, even more than what is typical for the region. I loved the 2007 Pinot Noir for its length and soft tannins. It is not yet clear to me that this opulent and dense wine will develop in the same way. The 2008 Shiraz has lovely bright fruit as well with spices and earth rounding out the flavour. It is bigger than your typical cold climate Victorian Shiraz, but has a nice freshness on the finish.

Ocean Eight is a very exciting new producer from the Mornington Peninsula. It was founded by the previous owners of Kooyong in 2004, but the vineyards are 12 years old. Similarly to Central Otago, 2008 was a very warm vintage on the Mornington Peninsula. Ocean Eight's philosophy is to pick early and produce wines in the 12% alcohol range. They failed this year, but the 13%ers, with Pinot picked at the end of February, are still a refreshing departure from the 'riper and bigger is better' philosophy.

I was simply blown away by the quality and smoothness of these wines.

The 2008 Ocean Eight Pinot Gris has nice peach fruit flavours, it sits in the middle between the austere Italian and the rich French style. The wine is quite elegant and a good food wine. I am not a big fan of Pinot Gris in general, and the floral overtones which this wine showed, but it is a fine wine.

The first stunner was the 2008 Verve Chardonnay. The lime and grapefruit flavours are backed by nutty aromas. The wine was barrel fermented, but in used oak. This has the effect of some creaminess on the palate, but it is subtle. Apparently the wine was judged a Burgundy during a blind tasting over lunch, and so it tastes. The wine has nice minerality and a fresh finish. Everything is balanced here and nothing overblown.

The 2008 Ocean Eight Pinot Noir was a great wine as well. It has medium weight, quite strong fruit flavours in the strawberry spectrum and good length. The wine is very elegant with great texture and silky tannins. It reminded me a bit of a Bass Philip, although less extreme.

The second stunner was the 2008 Aylward Pinot Noir. This is a reserve wine made from the best four barrels. It has similar characteristics to the regular wine, but the fruit concentration is stronger, and the finish very long - quite a special wine, as it still achieves lightness on the palate.

I was most impressed by these wines.

We are beginning to see a new trend, where the focus is on balance, elegance and regional expression. How exciting!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wendouree Shiraz/Mataro

I have quite a few Wendouree bottles in my cellar, but have not a lot of experience in drinking them. This is because they are probably the most unyielding of all Australian wines at a young age.

However, last night felt like a Wendouree night, cold and miserable. I opened a 1999 Wendouree Shiraz/Mataro. Next to the straight Shiraz, this is probably the highest quality wine in the stable. Out of curiosity, I had a look at the suggested drinking window in Jeremy Oliver's book. Wow, he suggests 2019-2029. Obviously, I am sceptical. Only good after 20 years?

Now to the wine. After decanting it for a couple of hours, I was certainly amazed to find this ten year wine very fresh. I am having difficulty to describe the wine, though. The fruit, mainly plum, is overlayed by quite a strong eucalypt flavour. The wine has a good and balanced structure and a long, somewhat acidic finish. However it is quite linear, not as big as I expected, and a little harsh. Overall, it is not a very sympathetic wine. And... I probably opened it too early. It may come around more in years to come. It certainly has the structure to hold for a long time.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rolf Binder Halliwell

Recent reviews have been of quite exclusive and expensive wines. Time to come back to earth. And while a number of wineries are best known for their flagship wines (e.g. Rockwell or Brokenwood), other wineries provide best opportunities with their mid or lower range wines.

One such winery is Rolf Binder, the former Veritas in the Barossa. Brands and labels are pretty much a dog's breakfast, as different names are applied for US and UK exports. Then some are sold here etc.

The bottom line is Rolf Binder makes good GSMs in the $2o/bottle price range. Last night I had the 2005 Rolf Binder Halliwell. This is a 60% Shiraz/40% Grenache blend. The taste is very plummy and a little fat, not overly sophisticated, but the right sort of wine with a hearty meal on a miserable night (weather wise).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bindi Composition Pinot Noir

This producer cannot put a foot wrong. This wine is the 'entry' level Pinot Noir and a blend from a number of vineyards. Last night, I drank the 2004 Composition Pinot Noir.

It tastes of red cherry with a savoury backbone which has developed nicely during the last couple of years and integrates seamlessly into the overall flavour. The tannins are soft and the wine has an elegant long finish.

This wine reminds me very much of the Martinborough Pinots, in particular Ata Rangi. It has more red than black fruit and this ethereal feel and the long fanning finish. It is not as full bodied as the Curly Flat, for example, but probably more elegantly made. One would experience more fruit concentration with the single vinyard wines 'Original Vineyard' and 'Block 5'.

I have never been disappointed by a Bindi Pinot Noir. Now Australia's top producer?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The world's best BYO

I attended the above mentioned charity event. Everybody brings a bottle of excellent wine which is shared at the table. Our table had quite a European bend. As it was all about conversation and a light hearted affair, I did not pay close attention to the wines, but these were the highlights:

Dom Perignon 2000. A fantastic champagne, The very small bubbles seem to be dancing on your tongue.

1994 Tyrells Semillon (not sure which). Slightly honeyed flavour, but rather dull.

01 Leeuwin Chardonnay (from yours truely). Quite citrussy, but an amazing cocktail of fruit, minerality, even some smokyness, great balance, perfect time to drink.

06 Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet Champ Canet. Very floral, soft, but fresh.

06 Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir. Strawberry, mushroom, good length, a bit linear

06 Curly Flat Pinot Noir. Big, but not heavy, great mouthfeel, excellent

05 Numanthia Toro. A tempranillo with many flavours, licorice, chocolate, mocca, peat, big, but neither very tannic nor acidic: intriguing - a winery to watch.

04 Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot. Strawberry, cherry, etherial, good minerality and long finish.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Domaine Charvin Le Poutet Cotes-du-Rhone

This 2007 Domaine Charvin Le Poutet is definitely worth checking out. 2007 was another great vintage in the Southern Rhone. This means you don't have to shell out $100/bottle for a good Chateauneuf. Good Cote-du-Rhone producers, like Domaine Charvin, can deliver good wine for excellent value, in this case about $33 per bottle.

The wine consists predominantly of Grenache and Shiraz. The sweet character of the Grenache is quite prominent, but well balanced by the spice and grip of the Shiraz. What is most appealing is the velvety feel of the wine and its relative lightness, despite 14.5% alcohol. The finish is quite elegant.

This wine ticks many boxes and is a bit different from the Australian offers. I recommend you track this down.

Te Mata - New Releases - some further comments

The 2007 Te Mata Coleraine is highly regarded by pretty much everybody, but I remain a sceptic. The wine simply does not have enough volume. The structure may be great, but it needs to be good now to be good in the future.

I am starting to understand better what is happening. The vintage was rather cool, but the hang time for the grapes was quite long. Some people have the theory that this generates well balanced and long lasting wines. This reminds me of the 2002 vintage in the Barossa, which was described thus. I think it is becoming increasingly clear that that vintage was not so great, and many wines consist of underripe grapes.

I am not saying the Coleraine is green or leafy, but it is not a masterpiece, in my view.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Curly Flat Pinot Noir

I am having the 2006 Curly Flat Pinot Noir on the same day as the Te Matas. Now this is a wine to rave about. It has predominantly red cherry fruit, quite full, and very silky tannins. The wine has great balance, similar to the good Martinborough Pinots, with good length. Maybe a little too much fruit and not enough savoury character, but this may change over time.

Some months back, I pronounced Mornington the number one Pinot region in Australia and someone commented: What about Macedon? Well, I wasn't sure it is a great region if you have one great producer, namely Bindi. Now I am happy to admit we have two in this area, with Curly Flat joining the top ranks.

Te Mata - New Releases

I just don't get Te Mata. The closest comparison in Australia is probably Mt. Mary. But while Mt. Mary with its Quintet produces wonderful rounded wines, Te Mata is focussed on structure and longevity. While there is nothing wrong with this, when it is at the expense of other aspects, in particular mouthfeel, the result is less than satisfying.

The three 07s I tried were the 07 Awatea, the Bullnose and the Coleraine. There is clearly a house style with redcurrant fruit dominating, the wines have medium weight and an acidic finish. The Coleraine, a blend of the 5 major Bordeaux grapes, is the best of this line-up. It has more depth in the fruit and a very long finish. It will be good to drink in five years and then for probably another ten. But again, the wine is too linear for my palate.

This Coleraine has been hailed as the best red ever produced in New Zealand. To me Te Mata has been overtaken. The 1st generation with a claim of an outstanding red (apart from Pinot Noir) was Stoneyridge Larose, then it was Te Mata, but now the Craggy Range reds are clearly much more interesting wines.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poggerino Chianti Classico

The 2006 Poggerino Chianti Classico is the perfect wine for pizza. It is serious enough to be enjoyed, but not a stellar wine which would reward too much attention. From an outstanding vintage in Tuscany, this wine has bright red cherry flavours and plenty of acidity to cut through the food. It is probably best drunk in three to five years when the acid has mellowed somewhat, but I enjoyed it just the same right now.

Schubert Gosling Shiraz

For those who are looking for a big Barossa Shiraz at an affordable price, the 2007 Schubert Gosling Shiraz might be the ticket.

The flavour is bright, mainly redcurrant, and the fruit is ripe. I believe the fruit stems from fairly young wines and is of good quality. Notwithstanding the bigness of the wine, it has a good structure and is well balanced.

I really enjoyed the first glass, but was a bit reluctant for a second because of the wine's boldness. However, it is the right wine for the current temperatures.

The Gosling is the Schubert's second label, following the Goose-yard Shiraz, both from fruit grown near the famous Roennfeldt Road.