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.


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.