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.


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