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


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/+++