Tuesday, July 28, 2009


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.