Saturday, January 31, 2009

Main Ridge Pinot Meuniere

Pinot Meuniere is to Pinot Noir what Merlot is to Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a softer, less tannic grape with fleshy flavours. I am drinking the 2006 Main Ridge Pinot Meuniere. This grape is rare in Australia, it is even rarer to find a dedicated bottling from it. Usually it is a small component in some bubblies.

This wine is well suited to be drunk in summer. It is delicious. Not as serious as the good Pinots from this estate, it smells of fresh red cherries, it is very clean and has enough forest floor in the flavour spectrum to avoid the 'fruit bomb' problem. Hard to stop after a glass or two.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Room Temperature

I can't believe when in the Australian context advice is given to serve red wine at room temperature. In summer, this means usually 25 degrees or more. This is particularly bad for South Australian wines many of which recently have been very ripe and high in alcohol.

If these wines are served at 18 degrees or so, the structure and texture of the wine becomes much more apparent, the wine tastes less cooked and the flavours are more differentiated.

Therefore, I suggest that if a Shiraz or Cabernet comes from a cooled cellar, it doesn't need too long on the kitchen bench before it is right (decanting and airing for an hour is even better). If the wine is room temperature to start with, half an hour in the fridge and then airing improves your red wine drinking pleasure significantly - and allows to drink full bodied wines in summer.

Henschke Mt. Edelstone

I was looking forward to settle into last night with an excellent steak and the Federer Roddick match. So I thought I needed to pick a special wine, too. I chose the 2002 Mt. Edelstone Shiraz. This is the first bottle of this wine I opened. It had had excellent reviews and after some disappointments of the late 90s I was looking forward to this.

I decanted the wine and couldn't believe the aroma. I was smelling the fruit from a metre away! There were a number of surprises in this wine. The first was how young it was. It felt I was drinking from barrel. The fruit was very young and raw. At 15%, the wine felt slightly alcoholic. I couldn't detect much of the usual mocca and chocolate flavours and oak was very much in the background.

Obviously, this is a big wine. It will need quite a bit more time before it comes together, but once it has mellowed a bit, it should be a very good drink. I will put my remaining bottles away for at least five years.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Petaluma Coonawarra

On the same night, I drank the 1999 Petaluma Coonawarra. This wine is less big than the Entity and has obviously mellowed by now. It has good length and a soft finish.

But a strange thing happened. The wine shows the famous hole in the mid palate, Cabernet is known for, and I started thinking why not more Cabernet producers blend their Cabernets with other Bordeaux varieties or Shiraz, particularly in the Coonawarra. Now the funny thing is, this is a blend of 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot. However, the Merlot component seems to have fallen by the wayside other than for the soft finish - quite weird.

Drinking this on the same night as the Entity demonstrates why wine lovers overseas go for our Shiraz: the power and fruit concentration is not normally matched by Cabernet. And if it is well done and not too ripe and alcoholic, a Barossa Shiraz is very satisfying.

John Duval Entity Shiraz

The 2005 John Duval Entity Shiraz has outstanding flavour. It consists of deep dark blackcurrant, luscious plum and black cherries and has tremendous vibrancy. The firm tannins are well integrated, as the wine comes to a long finish.

John Duval was the chief wine maker for Penfolds for about a couple of decades and he fashioned such iconic wines as 1990 Grange. There is the firm grip in the Entity Shiraz, which Duval is known for, but this wine is more about fruit than earthy undertones, as many Penfolds wines have been.

In contrast to the Dutschke wine I described before, this one seems more three dimensional. The Dutschke went from the front of the tongue to the finish in one go. A lot of sensations and taste changes happen with the Entity, as the wine moves through the mouth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dutschke St. Jakobi Shiraz

Dutschke is a winery which I discovered a number of years ago during a trip to the Barossa. It was virtually unknown then and the wine maker suggested to meet at Saltram over lunch. He brought 4 bottles of his wines, and I remember this occasion very fondly.

Since then, its profile has grown, although the name is somewhat unfortunate, given it is the same as the leader of the revolutionary Red Army Faction in Germany in the 70s.

As with a number of Barossa wineries, my favorite wine from Dutschke is the second tier Shiraz St. Jakobi, which is less extracted than the top shelf Oskar Semmler. Last night I had a bottle of the 2003 Dutschke St. Jakobi Shiraz. The wine consists of dark, ripe fruit, quite dry, bordering on some dead fruit, which is not surprising for this hot vintage. The wine has good length and strong tannins, but the mouthfeel is not quite right. It is lacking some interest and complexity on the palate. Overall a bit one-dimensional in contrast to the wine I am going to review next.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mauro Molino Vigna Gancia Barolo

While I mainly collect and drink Australian wines, my true love is Barolo. High prices and lack of availability limit my Barolo collection.

I brought the 1997 Mauro Molino Vigna Gancia Barolo back from a trip to Piedmont. Mauro Molino is a new kid on the block who produces a number of single vineyard Barolos. 1997 was a watershed in Piedmont. It was a warmer vintage than usual with a perfect ripening profile. As a result, the usually very savoury and dry wines had a much stronger fruit component than usual.

This wine has incredible complexity. I am lost for words to describe it. Blackcurrant and cherry fruit, forest floor and leathery flavours combine. Tim White would give you three lines of descriptors you have never heard of.

The fruit is balanced by substantial, but well integrated tannins. Despite all this going on, the finish is very clean and long. It is a heady wine, and the glass on its own, after having finished the pasta meal, is spinning me slightly out of control.

If you have an interest in wine, and don't know Barolo, I would urge you to get your hand on a 1997, or a Mauro Molino for that matter.

Leo Buring Leonay Eden Valley Riesling

Leo Buring has a proud history of producing some of Australia's greatest Rieslings. It owns outstanding vineyards in the Eden Valley and the best grapes are bottled under the Leonay label. These wines tend to age very well.

Today, I opened the 2003 Leo Buring Leonay Riesling. The wine displays fine citrus and lime flavours, backed by floral overtones and is backed up by quite gentle acidity.

I realise I am opening this bottle at a bad point in its development. I am starting to detect some mellowing, but it is currently dulling the wine, before more honeyed flavours will develop. Equally the crispness of the earlier years is no longer there.

It is clear that this wine should either be drunk in the first three years or after seven years. In other wines, this interim period where secondary flavours develop is often quite interesting and intriguing, but as far as this wine is concerned, and often in Pinot Noir, it is best to leave it alone during this development period. I haven't really worked out for which wines the 3-6 year period is attractive and for which it isn't. Any thoughts?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Isabel Sauvignon Blanc

I don't usually drink a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, but there is certainly a place for it in this hot weather.  Many Sauvignon Blancs are pretty average, so what characteristics does a good one have? 

As I ventured into the cellar, I found this 2005 Isabel Sauvignon Blanc. I was a bit worried about the age, as you are supposed to drink these straight away, more about this in a minute.

The Isabel has three features I like: the gooseberry flavour is ripe, not green. The wine tingles along the tongue to the back palate, and is not sharp. It has good length and the acidity is there, but not overwhelming everything else.

I only noticed a hint of mellowing in this wine, but it was still perfectly fresh. This wine has good structure and handles a bit of age very well.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spinifex Rose

As the temperature keeps climbing, Rose is often the wine of choice. One of my favorites is the Spinifex Rose. The 2007 Spinifex Rose is a blend based on Grenache. The colour is a light pink/orange, but the wine is actually quite big for a Rose. This is a serious wine.

The palate is quite savoury, very dry, smooth and long. It would go very well with seafood, salads and any chicken dish.

Torbreck Woodcutter's Shiraz

The Woodcutter's Shiraz is Torbreck's entry wine. It is interesting to compare it with the Struie I described in the last post. The 2006 Woodcutter's is not as big, but still a substantial and well crafted wine. It tastes predominantly of redcurrant fruit and is not as smooth as the Struie. However, it has excellent length for its price point and finishes with well integrated tannins.

Torbreck has the ability to produce Shiraz at vastly different price points which can all be satisfying, mainly due to the policy of buying a very high standard of grapes and David Powell's ability to combine power and elegance.  

Monday, January 19, 2009

Torbreck 'The Struie' Shiraz

The 2002 Struie is certainly a big, meaty wine.

Since David Powell of Torbreck appeared on the scene, he has split the wine world. He is loved in America, where they like our Shiraz big, alcoholic and sweet, and is criticised by some of our influencial wine writers for producing wine which will not age, lack structure and is not very grape specific.

The facts are that it is not that simple. He purchases top class fruit, and while the wines are big, they are elegant and carry velvet tannins. In this way, he has no doubt moved the Barossa forward.

This Struie has good mouthfeel and carries the significant fruit volume through to the back palate. It has good length and finishes with smooth tannins. To me, the wine combines great strength and fruit concentration with great elegance. You would want a substantial meal with this substantial wine.

For the record: this wine will last many more years

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Voyager Chardonnay

This 2006 Voyager Chardonnay, from a cooler vintage, is quite different from the previous years, which feature predominantly peach flavours. This one is quite pale, on the citrus end of the spectrum, quite austere, with a firm, acidic finish - a good food wine.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rolf Binder Halliwell

The old Veritas winery may get the title of the worst brand builder in Australian wine. There was Veritas, Magpie Estate, JJ Hahn. Then Veritas was challenged by a small company in the US over naming rights and changed to Rolf Binder.Similarly, wine names changed, depending on target markets.

Rolf Binder is a talented wine maker, with quite an array of price points and labels. Some are very good, some pretty average. His focus is on the Rhone varieties and the style similar to Rockford.

This 2005 Halliwell Shiraz/Grenache blend is excellent. The first impression is of sweet fruit, followed by more structured Shiraz components. The two grape varieties blend well together for a good mouthfeel and a satisfying finish. It would be a good barbeque wine, but is also good enough for the table or on its own.

I believe this wine is also sold as 'Heinrich' in Australia and it is one of the best value and quality GSM wines.

Meerea Park Hell Hole Semillon

The 2008 Meerea Park Hell Hole Semillon is a good example of what a Hunter Semillon should taste like: lemon flavours, very zesty and racy, low alcohol, quite dry and acidic finish. A very good food and summer wine.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock

Jasper Hill is the Heathcote's stalwart winery, with a history of a few decades now. I have bought Georgia's Paddock on and off and find its bright, but concentrated fruit quite unique.

The other day, I drank the 1998 Georgia's Paddock. The fruit had raspberry and blackcurrant character, still quite lively. At the same time, the wine has some savoury characteristics resulting in quite a complex palate. The tannins were long, if perhaps not as smooth as I would have liked.

The wine will still drink well in a few years time and, when you open a bottle, you pretty much know what it is going to be like. I appreciate that.

Scotchmans Hill Chardonnay

Scotchmans Hill has never quite reached the top, but, in my experience, their wines have mostly been quite satisfying. So it was with this 2006 Scotchmans Hill Chardonnay.

This Chardonnay is a bit different from the 'modern' style. It is not a big wine, but also not very lean and linear. The taste is mostly of stone fruit. It has a slight sweetness to it, but finishes dry. I found it a good match with the fish I had.

Bress Shiraz

Bress is based in Bendigo and collects fruit from different areas in Australia, depending on where they judge they can achieve premium results. I knew nothing about this winery before I tried this 2005 Bress Heathcote Shiraz.

The wine is medium to full bodied, and less full-on than some other Heathcote wines, but still has a good core of fruit. Our group judged it differently. I felt it hadn't come quite together with tannins being a bit harsh, but others liked the structure of the wine. It will be a matter of trying a couple more vintages before it is clear how good this is. The wine is attractively priced.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Petersons Semillon

I opened this bottle of 2001 Petersons Semillon with significant expectations. A mature Semillon from a leading producer should be a treat. I expected a golden colour, but the wine was still quite green.

The taste was still of citrus fruit, not so fresh, of course, but rather dull and not replaced by the honeyed flavours I had expected. There seemed to be more oak than fruit (is this wine oaked?) and not much length in the wine.

A strange outcome: the wine looked still young, but tasted past his best. What a pity. Not the Petersons I used to know from the 90s. The diversification really derailed this winery.

Kalleske Old Vine Grenache

This bottle of 2003 Kalleske Old Vine Grenache is terrific. Kalleske own some of the best vineyards in the Barossa, and it shows in this wine. The fruit is very sweet, quite dense, and incredibly pure. The Kalleskes run their vineyards by biodynamic principles. I am not sure this explains the purity of the fruit, but it is very special. The tannins are quite soft and subtle, and although this is a substantial wine, it will not fight the food.

One of the best Grenaches in the country.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Climbing Shiraz

Most of my comments in this blog are positive because I tend to drink the wine I like, but you have to try new things from time to time.

So here are my thoughts on the 2006 Climbing Shiraz. This wine had good write-ups and is plastered with plenty of medals. Since it comes from Orange, I was expecting typical cool climate characteristics.

Now the key elements of Shiraz are its fruit, spice and tannins. This wine surprises in the fruit department. It tastes of plum, even fruitcake. I would have tipped McLaren, not a high altitude location, but this profile probably explains the show success. The fruit hits you immediately and covers the spice, which is not very pronounced. The tannins are substantial, but not overly well integrated.

Overall, the wine is somewhat broad and lacks distinctiveness and structure. Having said this, it is also not expensive and a reasonable quaffer.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis

Chablis is the ultimate choice for a summer wine. My favourite producer from the area is Jean-Marc Brocard. In opening the 2006 Brocard Petit Chablis I was expecting the typical citrus and mineral profile from the area.

I was surprised to see a much more golden colour and a much fuller taste. Still, the wine is very linear and has great acidity to finish. This is Brocard's entry wine and I would recommend it over at least two thirds of Australia's serious Chardonnays.

Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Syrah

Clarendon Hills is an exciting winery. It produces very ripe wines, but also strives for elegance. It is also committed to single vineyard wines, which means there are probably about 10 serious releases each year, and the variability from year to year can be considerable.

A couple of months ago, I gave a very favourable review to an Astralis and I also had some fantastic Grenaches from this winery. Tonight I am drinking the 2002 Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Syrah.

Unfortunately, this one misses the mark. The bouquet displays a strong plum flavour, which carries through to the palate, but is soon overtaken by a taste of fruitcake, a really thick sensation, but no structure or length to it. As a result of this 'dense' flavour, the wine competes with the food and very little lingers on.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Second Tier Pinot Noirs

I just had a glass of the 2006 Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir. This made me think that there are now a number of excellent second tier Pinot Noirs on the market by leading producers, for less than $30 per bottle. Other examples would be Stoniers regular Pinot Noir or the Kooyong Massale.

This Crimson has a terrific balance of cherry fruit and savoury flavours. The fruit is not overly concentrated and would be from younger vines, but the wine making skills make this a very well balanced Pinot with reasonable length: better than a number of $40/bottle offerings.

Marcarini Moscato

Moscato is a low alcohol (5-6%) white wine which is ideal as an aperitif or after dinner/desert wine. My last bottle of the 2004 Marcarini Moscato d'Asti is delicious. It is slightly fizzy and slightly fruity, with favours or pear and lychee, and an uplifting finish. It is ideal with canapes, also a great palate cleanser. The wine is well balanced and it is difficult to stop at one glass, particularly during summer.