Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mount Mary Quintet

Towards the end of the year, I often check what 'needs to be drunk' from the cellar. Last night I had my last bottle of 1991 Mount Mary Cabernet Quintet.

I have reviewed this wine a few months ago, but it is worth while to mention it again because of bottle variation. While I liked the wine then, I thought it was past its peak. This bottle yesterday was in perfect condition. The wine was fantastic. Harmonious, very elegant, still fresh - a very feminine wine, great complexity of fruit and earthy flavours.

The iconic status for this wine is truly deserved. Now I am out of the 1991s. My next set is from 2000. From this experience, I can still wait a while before I touch it. From how many Australian wines could you say this?

Score: 97/+++

Why not 100? It could have had a bigger mouthfeel and more length, but...see above

Yarra Yarra Cabernet

I mentioned the Cabernets from Margaret River and Coonawarra in the last post. Yet some of the most memorable Bordeaux style wines come from the Yarra Valley: think Mount Mary and Yarra Yering.

Yarra Yarra has had the ambition to join this elite group. Unfortunately, their vineyards and winery were destroyed in the Victorian bush fires. I am not sure where they are in the rebuilding process.

A couple of days ago, I drank their flagship wine, the 2001 Yarra Yarra. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend. The wine is very elegant and has nice oak and fruit integration. The problem is that the fruit is not quite ripe. There are definitely herbal aspects in the wine. I don't find this attractive, but some people don't mind. Vintage variation is a problem for Cabernet in the Yarra Valley. This wine can be superb in good years, but 2001 is not one of them.

Score: 91/-

Monday, December 28, 2009

The 2009 that was

Like for most of you, I suspect, my palate and interest changes over time. For a while, I was quite interested in fruit concentration. You may favour a particular variety. Remember the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) movement? Then I got excited about tannins. They had to be silky, not coarse.

In 2009, my main interest was in structure. Why? I drank too many big or ripe wines which after some years have become flat and really unpleasant to drink. I like wines with great mouthfeel and length.

To this end, I rediscovered Cabernet Sauvignons from Coonawarra and Margaret River, which have been holding up really well. Pinot Noirs from Macedon, Mornington and Gippsland have been really special. And if it is Shiraz, my favorites have probably come from Dalwhinnie, Henschke and Torbreck.

As to white wines, it was the year of the Chardonnay come-back. This variety can express so many different things and winemakers all over the country have done great things with it.

I probably left some things worth mentioning out, but again, let me know your thoughts.

My Christmas Drinks

Thank you for your comments. Good to see a bit of interaction.

Jansz seems to have had a good Christmas. My choice of Champagne was Cloudy Bay's Pelorus. I also had half a glass of a French Champagne, Champagne Gatinois, before, unfortunately, somebody knocked the bottle over. This Champagne seems to be based mainly on Pinot grapes and is quite yeasty. - A good drink.

My whites were Meerea Park Hell Hole Semillon, a 2002 Grosset Polish Hill and an Ocean Eight Chardonnay. Predictably, the Polish Hill was the standout, with some honeyed flavours coming through, while still quite refreshing and fruit strong. I noticed one of you had this on the table as well.

The reds were Pinot Noirs, as for Baz, around the 2005 mark. I had a Carrick Pinot Noir, and the Felton Road Block 3, both from Central Otago, and a Bindi Block 5 from 2004. The latter was the stand-out wine, with an amazing bouquet, a predominantly forest floor flavour, great mouthfeel, length and structure. The Block 3 was quite outstanding as well. It is the most fragrant of the Felton Road Pinots. I enjoy the slight fragility against the usual overwhelming fruit of the other wines. The Carrick is not a bad wine either, but does not quite have the sophistication of the others.

Keep the comments coming!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I am interested to know what you guys are drinking during the festive season. Let's make this a real flow of comments!

Otherwise, after the recession we did not have to have, I wish everyone a most successful and enjoyable start to the new decade. I will drink to that!

Yelland & Papps Grenache Rose

Yelland & Papps are a young couple with a virtual winery operation in the Barossa. Their wines are pretty well made, not over the top, and reasonably priced.

This 2008 Yelland & Papps Grenache Rose is a relatively straight forward drink, but with an attractive fruit/savoury flavour combination. This Rose has an elegant finish. The wine is ideal for summer, for someone who wants a bit more than a quaffer. You would have to order from the winery.

Score: 91/++

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Search Function

I have introduced a new search function for this site. Hopefully it works for you.


A couple of days ago I had a glass of Charlie Melton's 2009 Rose of Virginia. This reminded me how this was probably the first savoury pink wine many years ago. This is all the more astonishing, given this wine is based on Grenache, with its strong fruit flavour to start with. Drinking it now, it still has a savoury finish, but it would be one of the fruitier ones around.

Score: 91/+

I was also impressed by the 2009 Dominique Portet Fontaine Rose. This is based on Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot. It has an exotic flavour profile and tasted of raspberry and guava to me. Nonetheless it was a slightly lighter and more fragrant wine than the Melton, probably because of the grapes coming from Victoria.

Score: 92/++

If you want to go really pink, nothing beats the Spinifex Rose. I really liked this wine two years ago, and it remains well made, but maybe Peter Schell is going a bit overboard with the number of different grape varieties he has to cram in and the emulation of the French paleness.

Score: 92/-

Rose is an interesting drink, because it can be based on so many different varieties and be made in different ways. Be sure to taste until you find one you like.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay

I reviewed the 2005 vintage of this wine a little while ago. Tonight I had the 2008 Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay.

This has really become a smart and reliable wine. I feel that in its young edition it does not quite have the mouthfeel of a Leeuwin or Giaconda, but nor does it have their price tag. The wine tastes of citrus and grapefruit, it has a graceful structure with a lifting and fresh finish. The wine will improve with 3-4 year cellaring and develop more complex, in particular nutty characters, but it is a refreshing and complex enough drink now. It is versatile with a lot of white wine foods. If you can wait for a couple of years, you will be rewarded.

Score: 93/+

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bay of Fires Pinot Noir

I had the 2006 Bay of Fires Pinot Noir tonight. Nice to drink this now. Not very complex, but bright flavours of strawberry, not weak, quite polished, with reasonable length and a refreshing finish.

Score: 91/++

Monday, December 7, 2009

McLaren Vale Shiraz

I decided to drink a couple of bottles of McLaren Vale Shiraz to compare with the latest experiences. These may be the last big wines from the cellar before summer really hits. Not unexpectedly, they were the antithesis of the Henschke and Georgia's Paddock discussed before.

First up, a 2002 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz. This wine has a dark violet colour. It tastes of plum and fruitcake, really thick and not very differentiated. It is a wine to eat, not drink. It also finishes quite acidic. Given its ripeness, I am sure the acid has been added. As a result, the wine is not very expressive of anything in particular, despite its strong fruit flavours.

Score: 91/--

I then had the 2002 Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz. A while back, I wrote a critical review of the 2004. This wine is better. It is similarly big to the Fox Creek, but the flavours are more complex, including some chocolate. The wine is also not as acidic, although more than necessary. Some silky tannins on the finish compensate.

Score: 93/-

I have no doubt that in a few years time we will look at the 1998-2004 period as an absurd period with wines on steroids.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bindi Quartz Chardonnay

Bindi Chardonnays get as close to the Burgundian role model as any Australian Chardonnay. The 2008 Bindi Quartz Chardonnay is no exception. This wine comes from a special block which delivers exceptional fruit.

The wine has rich flavours, lime, grapefruit, but also pineapple and underlying minerality. Wild yeasts and I believe malolactic fermentation deliver the creaminess so typical for Burgundy. The wine does not lose its freshness as a result, though. It has a long finish. And while it may not have quite the complete perfection of a Leeuwin Chardonnay in a strong year, this wine is a significant achievement.

Score: 95/++

A Shiraz Revolution?

A recent tasting of two of Australia's iconic single vineyard Shirazes made me think that some significant change is under way.

The first wine was the 2006 Henschke Mt. Edelstone. While this wine has a long and distinguished history, its style has actually undergone numerous changes. Its hey days were the early 90s with concentrated fruit full of flavours and well integrated oak, although sometimes vanilla was a bit too obvious. I remember that in blind tastings I ran during this time, it beat Grange a couple of times. Then came 98, generally a great vintage in the Barossa, where the Mt. Edelstone fruit was overripe and dead - a shocker for this label. During the following years, the wine remained full bodied and its fruit ripe, but it avoided excesses.

Now comes the 2006. This seems like another departure. The wine is clearly leaner, more berry than chocolate, a fair amount of mint, maybe even a bit herbal. The wine has maintained its long attractive finish. This is clearly more food friendly, but at the expense of some lushness.

Score: 94/0

The second wine is the 2008 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock. This is a fantastic wine: zappy red and black berry fruit mixed with savoury flavours and some chocolate. The finish is also very long. This used to be a wine which battled against too high alcohol levels. The alcohol is still high, but the wine is fresh and easy to drink.

Score: 96/+++

We have single vineyard wines here, with leading edge biodynamic viticulture, and wine making which no longer follows the maxime 'bigger is always better'. The result are interesting wines, much more consumer friendly than they used to be. I will need to assess the Mt. Edelstone again. I hope it will retain the satisfying mouthfeel of the past, while slimming down somewhat. The Georgia's Paddock shows it can be done.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gralyn Shiraz/Cabernet

Gralyn sits in a plum position in Margaret River, right next to Cullen. Some people say it has the best fruit in the area. Yet, it is not well known in the Eastern States, because it is very small and the wines expensive.

I bought a little bit from the 2000 vintage. The 2000 Gralyn Shiraz/Cabernet demonstrates why this grape combination is so attractive. I have no doubt the French would do it in Bordeaux or the Rhone if it was allowed. The wine is full bodied, very clean, with attractive blackberry and raspberry flavours. The fruit hits you right upfront and stays, as the Shiraz flavours fill out the mid palate. There is a fair bit of textural complexity. The Cabernet provides the structure, although the finish is a little bit short. The wine is probably at its peak right now.

Score: 94/++

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brokenwood Rayner Vineyard Shiraz

The 2004 Brokenwood Rayner Vineyard Shiraz is a well crafted wine. From an outstanding year in McLaren Vale, the structure is seemless, with velvety fruit caressing the tongue. Unfortunately, the wine is also quite heavily oaked, covering some of the underlying fruit. The wine is still lively and fresh. I hope that over time the fruit will win out over the oak.

Score: 93/-