Friday, December 31, 2010

Kooyong Farrago Chardonnay

The 2005 Kooyong Farrago Chardonnay is an austere wine - and it is brilliant for that. This wine is not about fruit, but texture. Fruit flavours, oak and acidity are in perfect balance. Nothing stands out in particular, except perhaps the long finish, but this perfect harmony makes this wine very satisfying. This wine is not a sum of its parts, but a well integrated, dry composition.

Score: 95/+++

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rockford Moppa Springs

Coming back to earth, I am going to review the 2005 Rockford Moppa Springs Grenache Mouvedre Shiraz. This wine is different from many other GSMs, in that it has a large share of Mouvedre and only 12% Shiraz. As a result, the profile of this wine is different as well.

On the front palate, one tastes immediately the confectionery sweetness of the Grenache. The wine then moves on to raspberry flavours and earthy characteristics. It finishes with high acidity.

The objective of this blend is obviously to balance the Grenache, but the resulting wine is not all that balanced and the high acidity plus 14.5% alcohol makes it actually difficult to drink more than one glass.

Score: 89/-

Sunday, December 26, 2010

1990 Shiraz comparison: Grange, Hill of Grace, Wendouree

This tasting should provide a good insight into the differences of these three iconic wines, and so it turned out to be.

Day 1:

The wines were tasted after one hour of being decanted.

First came the 1990 Hill of Grace. The colour was brown-orange, a little bit disconcerting, but similar to Barolo, and we know what that can deliver.

The wine is very feminine, smelling of garden flowers, roses in particular. Drinking it is an amazing experience: multi-layered berry flavours, orange peel, a bit of chocolate and sweet spices. The wine is very pure, with a supple texture, very elegant and a long, long finish. Superb. Drinking at its peak. It conveys the specifics of the vineyard and old vines very well.

Score: 98/+++

Second was the 1990 Grange. This wine had a denser red-brown colour. It was clearly going to be a bigger wine. And so it was. The fruit flavours were dark cherry, blackberry and plum. The wine had a thicker mouthfeel than the Hill of Grace, quite satisfying. It did not have quite the same complexity, but was also well balanced with a long finish and slightly bigger tannins.

Score: 97/+++

Then came the 1990 Wendouree Shiraz. I put this last, because I thought this would be the biggest wine. However, it turned out to be similar to the Grange in this respect. The wine tasted of dark plum and blackberry, and a fair bit of eucalypt, often found in the Clare Valley. The wine was a bit rustic in comparison with the other two, but its structure is standing up well. The wine did not have the same complexity as the other two, but delivered a long fine finish with dry tannins.

Score: 94/+

Day 2:

The Hill of Grace tasted similarly. The key features being its smooth mouthfeel and the silky tannins. However, the flavours were not as differentiated as on day 1. The extra day was not a plus for this wine.

Score: 96/+++

The Grange impressed with its intensity of fruit flavours. This Grange has quite concentrated elements, but is not at all heavy. A great drinking pleasure on the second day.

Score: 97/+++

The Wendouree was slightly smoother on this day, but fell apart on the back palate. The alcohol was separated from the fruit flavours and quite prominent.

Score: 91/-

Day 3: The Hill of Grace is still very elegant, but is starting to weaken (95 points). I had the Wendouree next and surprisingly, it was much more together today (93 points). The Grange was still strong, but lost a bit of the fruit flavours (95 points).

Overall, it was amazing how well these 20 year old wines held up. The Wendouree came across as a bit old fashioned. While the other two brands have clearly developed their style over time, Wendouree appeared a bit same old, same old. Its rarity is clearly supporting the cult status, though.

Postscript 1: The flavours and structures of the wines changed significantly during these days. It makes you wonder how much hit and miss is in tasting reviews, depending on how long a bottle has been opened, what has been tasted beforehand, the kind of food etc. Not much is talked about changing flavours over time.

Postscript2: I just checked how much these wines would sell for at auction: Hill of Grace: $450, Grange $600, Wendouree maybe $200. Would I pay this? I don't think so. At these price levels, the wines have to deliver an absolutely memorable wow effect. The Hill of Grace came close ( and did so many years ago, as did the Grange), but unless this is achieved, you can get plenty of pretty outstanding wines for $50-100 per bottle. And the problem is, you never know beforehand.

I enjoyed the experience, hopefully I managed to share some of this with you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

1990: Grange, Hill of Grace, Wendouree

Today, I am starting a process I have been looking forward to for many, many years: I opened three bottles of the best Shirazes at their 20th anniversary. I will drink and compare these over three nights: a glass each on each night.

They are looking good, the levels are high in all wines.

But then the first major obstacle. Only the Grange cork, which I pull
ed first, comes out cleanly. The others break. It is not a disaster, as I will capture the cork which fell in (it was not much) in the decanting process. But is my cellar too dry?

Results will follow after the three day event.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wolf Blass Black Label

A colleague winemaker once said to me: "Chris Hatcher (Wolf Blass winemaker) should get an extra medal for the quality of wine he makes from the crappiest vineyards". Be that as it may, the Black Label Cabernet Shiraz is an iconic Australian wine. I have not had it in 10 years, but I put some of the 2002 vintage down, and I had my first experience of it yesterday.

This is not a bad wine. It tastes predominantly of blackberries, is quite well balanced and has a smooth finish with silky tannins. It carries the eight years without problem.

Yet it somehow tastes industrial. Do I say this because I know it? To me, this wine has not much personal character. There is nothing really wrong with it, in fact it ticks quite a few boxes (see above), but it is simply not that interesting.

Score: 93/0

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Drinks

I would like to know what we are all drinking over Christmas. Champagne, I suspect, maybe from a specialist producer this year? Or that special red you have been keeping for a while or Sparkling Red? Or are you planning for a hot, seafood orientated day with Riesling or Chablis? Or a turkey with Pinot or Chardonnay? Or will it be a beer festival?

Let's hear it!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Brokenwood Mistress Block Shiraz

After the Glenguin disappointment, I am back to one of my old favorites, Brokenwood. The Mistress Block grows mature, 40 year old vines. I tried the 2005 Brokenwood Mistress Block Shiraz. This wine impresses with its seductiveness, like only a Hunter Valley Shiraz can.

The wine is medium bodied and has mulberry and blackberry flavours, also earthy tones, soft spice and chocolate. The tannins are soft and velvety. The only drawback is the somewhat nondescript finish. A good wine.

Score: 92/++

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Glenguin Pokolbin Vineyard Shiraz

Several years ago, I was on the lookout for other Hunter Valley wineries which produce serious Hunter Valley Shiraz (besides Tyrells and Brokenwood).

The two wineries which impressed me were Meerea Park and Glenguin. The winemaker for both is Rhys Eather, as it happens. After eight years, I thought the 2002 Glenguin Pokolbin Vineyard Shiraz should drink at its peak.

Alas, it was way past it. The core plum fruit was basically gone, leaving behind a bit of tannin and alcohol. This should not have happened.

Score: 75-80/---

Saturday, December 11, 2010

O'Leary Walker Polish Hill Riesling

The 2010 O'Leary Walker Polish Hill River Riesling is the perfect summer drink. It has crisp lemon lime flavours and is similar to the Grosset. In fact, I would call it the poor man's Grosset.

It is perhaps not quite as pure or steely as the best Grosset years (2002, 2005, 2008), but I actually like it more than the 2010 Grosset. The O'Leary Walker is not as flavoured or perfumed as many Rieslings. It is fairly straight forward, but with a good acid base and structure.

Score: 94/++

New Zealand Pinot Gris

After the excellent experience with the Ata Rangi Pinot Gris (reported a few posts below), I tried a couple of other ones, the 2009 Takatu Pinot Gris and the Man 'o War Pinot Gris.

These were pleasant enough wines, but they were not as focussed and slightly dull. The Takatu in particular, lacked acidity.

Takatu Score: 87/--

Man 'o War Score: 89/-

This is it from me on New Zealand wines for a while (thank God I hear you say).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Waiheke Island Reds

Many new wineries have sprung up in the last 15 years on Waiheke Island, in the wake of the Stonyridge Larose success. How do they stack up and compare?

As a general impression, most wineries are very small. As a result, vineyards can be - and generally are - looked after very well, and the winemaking is characterised by attention to detail. Therefore the quality of wines tends to be good.

The Te Whau winery is spectacularly located on a cliff top, with amazing views and sunsets. Like for a number of other wineries, the restaurant is open for dinner as well. The 2006 Te Whau The Point is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. The fruit flavours are complex, mainly redcurrant, but also blackcurrant and some savoury and earthy undertones. The wine has quite a dry finish (91 points). The 2007 The Point is a similar blend, but livelier and more acidic. This wine is likely to live longer (92 points).

Passage Rock is another winery worth a visit. The 2008 Passage Rock Cabernet/Merlot shows ripe fruit, but is savoury in character. The fruit profile is a bit weak and the mouthfeel slightly flat (89 points).

Over the last few years, Shiraz has become a major factor as well, like in so many other parts of the world. The 2008 Passage Rock Reserve Shiraz tastes very Northern Rhone like, with a plum core, but quite savoury and smoky, with dry tannins (92 points).

A strong performer is Kennedy Point. Its wines are slightly riper and more elegant. The 2009 Kennedy Point Shiraz is a terrific savoury wine, with good depth (93 points). The 2005 Kennedy Point Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is made in the same mould (91 points). I was tempted to take some of these wines with me, as unfortunately they are not available in Australia.

The issue with all these wines, as a generalisation, is that they are good quality wines, but not compelling enough to absolutely stand out.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I spent quite a bit of time working in New Zealand in the early 90s. This was when the 1987 Stonyridge Larose upstaged the French Bordeaux winemakers at their own game. I drank the wine several times. It was wonderfully complex and elegant.

A couple of weeks ago was my first stay on Waiheke Island, so my first winery stop had to be Stonyridge. It has reached legendary status in New Zealand, although it seems to have gone quiet for a while, when Craggy Range came out of the blocks with their Hawke's Bay red wines.

But it seems Stonyridge is back to form. The first wine I tried was the 2009 Stonyridge Luna Negra, a Malbec. The flavours were of dark blueberry fruit. The wine was quite tannic and finished dusty (91 points).

This was followed by the 2009 Stonyridge Pilgrim, their version of GSM. It is really a Shiraz, with 15% Mouvedre and 4% Grenache thrown in. The wine is quite light, with a soft feel and smoky overtones. A well balanced and quite easy to drink wine (93 points).

Finally the flagship, the 2008 Stonyridge Larose. It is a blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Malbec, 16% Merlot, 16% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. The percentages change every year. The major contributions of Malbec and Petit Verdot are slightly unusual for an Australian or French palate.

The colour of the wine is almost violet. What stands out is the purity of the fruit, while it is also a very complex wine. Apart from fruit flavours, there is licorice, tar and spice. The oak influence is quite noticeable, but the wine is still very young. This Larose has pleasant length and finishes dry. Overall, the Larose is an unusual wine. It would not be my favourite, but it is a worth while, though pricey experience.

Score: 95/+

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir

The 2007 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir has been around for a little while. It has nice up-front fruit flavours, mainly black cherry. Then savoury flavours start to dominate. The wine is earthy and spicy, but also a bit stinky. There is almost too much going on. Overall, good concentration and complexity.

Score: 92/+

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Alternative Varieties Poll Results

You appreciate Nebbiolo by a clear majority as a noble grape - and drinking Italian Barolo is definitely one of the great wine drinking pleasures. Interesting that Gruener Veltiner also gets a good mention. I have had excellent wines from this grape variety.

Translating this into the Australian experience reveals a different picture, though. Nebbiolo is no longer the favorite, partly, I suspect, because it is rare here, but also because it is not yet mastered in Australia (and these two reasons are related). We do better with Sangiovese and Tempranillo and both varieties might succeed as 'lighter' full bodied reds. The fact that less have voted on the Australian poll might also show that some of you are not yet convinced about the success of any of these varieties in Australia.

I am quite comfortable with these results, even though the sample size is pretty small.

Andrew Thomas 'Two Of A Kind' SSB

The 2009 Andrew Thomas 'Two Of A Kind' is an attractive Semillon Sauvignon Blanc. It is different from the WA versions, with a stronger Hunter Semillon feel. The blend is 59% Hunter Valley Semillon and 41% Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc. The wine has a good lemon and lime core and is not as pungent as other wines of this variety. The wine is softer, but has sufficient acidity and finishes dry.

Score: 91/+

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ata Rangi 'Lismore' Pinot Gris

I spent a few days in New Zealand and tried some interesting wines there.

The 2009 Ata Rangi 'Lismore' Pinot Gris is an illustration of how good the wine makers at Ata Rangi are. This wine impresses with its purity and linear texture. In terms of weight, it sits between Pinot Gris from Alsace and Italian Pinot Grigio, a bit more towards the Italian style.

The fruit is predominantly pear, but the wine is all about purity and balance. It flows perfectly down the palate and finishes with just the right amount of acidity. This is an outstanding example of Southern Hemisphere Pinot Gris.

Score: 93/+++

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Two from 2001

Accidentally, I happened to drink two nine year old wines over the last couple of days. How did they scrape up?

By way of introduction, if we look at a group of Australian red wines which ages best, I would nominate Margaret River Cabernet. There are possibly wines from other regions which are equally age worthy, but Margaret River Cabernet gets remarkably better with age, not just different, but a lot better.

Last night, I drank the 2001 Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a wine from a good vintage and it showed the characteristics I was hoping for. The fruit tasted of forest berries, rolling along the palate, with savory characteristics underneath. Still fresh, but also mellow. The tannins were silky smooth.

Score: 94/++

I was hoping the 2001 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot could match it. It is from a cool climate growing area which achieves good ripeness. It turned out to be a decent drop (certainly for a Southern Hemisphere Merlot), but did not generate quite the same interest. The fruit is cherry and plum, quite pretty, and the structure is holding up reasonably well. The finish has dried up a bit, and the flavour profile is a bit one-dimensional. It was a good wine with food, but less so when I had the second glass on its own.

Score: 91/+

Overall, these two wines were good experiences of drinking aged wine.

Farr Rising Chardonnay

I tried the Farr Rising range shortly after Nick Farr established it and moved out on his own. I thought it was alright, but not the real McCoy. I now accidentally tried the 2008 Farr Rising Chardonnay and must say I have been most impressed.

The colour is a vibrant bright sunshine gold. The dominating flavour is white peach or nectarine, there is some minerality, and the new oak is quite apparent as well. This wine is not about the fruit, however. It has a wonderful seemless texture, with oak, fruit and acidity beautifully balanced. The finish is very smooth.

This is one of these wines which will probably age gracefully, but I am not sure it will improve with age. It drinks so beautifully now, there is no reason to keep it. Aging would have more downside than upside.

Score: 95/+++

Monday, November 22, 2010

Curly Flat vs. Felton Road Pinot Noir

I describe the Felton Road Pinot Noir as Shiraz drinkers' Pinot. It is usually dark and with big flavours. It occurred to me that one of my favorite Australian Pinots, the 2006 Curly Flat Pinot Noir, is a bit similar. So I decided to put it right next to the 2006 Felton Road Pinot Noir (this is the 'standard' version) .

The colour of both wines is similar: a full-bodied, strong red.

The Curly Flat tastes of cherry and apricot, with some savoury characters creeping in. The high point of this wine is the big mouthfeel it generates. The tannins are soft and the finish is long, although it does not provide the Burgundian 'fan'.

The Felton Road tastes a bit darker, mainly of black cherries. This wine is a bit more developed and the mouthfeel falls off against the Curly Flat. The tannins are a bit finer grained, the finish has similar length, but is a bit drier.

Both wines are excellent examples of full bodied Pinots. The Curly Flat is slightly sweeter, but more vibrant. It would be interesting to include Felton's Block 5 in this comparison. I should have some in the cellar. I may try it in a few days.

Curly Flat. Score: 95/++

Felton Road. Score: 94/++

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kalleske Clarry's

Drinking the 2009 Kalleske Clarry's, you can immediately taste why GSMs work so well. This one hits you with big and fruity sweet cherry flavours upfront - Grenache. Over the mid-palate, the fruit flavours become darker - Shiraz, and the wine has good backbone on the finish - Mouvedre.

The Mouvedre component is small and as a result, the wine is quite soft. It has probably too much fruit flavours and tastes slightly alcoholic. Having said this, the Clarry's is an amazingly serious wine for the price.

Score: 92/0

Friday, November 19, 2010

Best's Bin No 1 Shiraz

The Bin 1 is Best's bread-and-butter Shiraz. The 2006 Best's Bin No 1 is surprisingly concentrated for a wine from Victoria and at this price point. The flavours are plum and black cherry and spice as well. It has firm tannins on the finish.

This wine is not overly complex or elegant, but provides satisfying drinking at four years. It has plenty of body to go another six.

Score: 92/++

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two New Polls Created

There is a lot of talk about alternative varieties in Australia. Personally, I find some get closer in quality to their originals than others. Therefore I thought it would be interesting to see which of these varieties you like to drink in Australia, and which ones overseas.

Please vote on both polls!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pinot Noir - New Releases

Having tasted 10 new quality Pinot Noirs yesterday, it is clear to me that something is happening in Pinot-land. The skill in making these tricky wines is clearly improving, but there is also a style change towards lighter and earlier picked wines. The result is very pretty wines, increased elegance, but maybe also less to remember: style over substance?

My top two wines were the 2008 Hurley Garamond, an unknown producer to me from Mornington Peninsula, (94pts.), and the 2008 MacForbes Gruyere (93pts.). Both wines showed strawberry fruit and more intensity and length on the finish than the other wines. Then came the 2008 Waipara Hills Central Otago, which impressed by its balance between primary fruit and secondary flavours (92pts.). This wine is also good value for money.

The 2008 MacForbes Woori Yallock is preferred by the winemaker. It is very light and elegant, with smooth tannins (91pts.). In a similar mould is the raspberry flavoured 2009 Holyman from Tasmania (91pts.).

The 2008 Marchand & Burch Bourgogne tasted much more European with earthy flavours dominating, but had a weak finish (91pts.).

The 2008 Hurley Hommage lacked acidity (90pts.), and the 2009 MacForbes Yarra Valley was just pretty, lacking structure (90pts.).

The weakest wines were the 2009 Ten Minutes By Tractor Ten X, which was very forward tasting (88pts.), and the 2008 Denton View Hill, made by William Downie (88pts.).

Overall, a good line-up. I would have been happy to drink a bottle of most of these wines.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir

When you think of New Zealand Pinot Noir, you probably think Central Otago or Martinborough. Marlborough is Sauvignon Blanc country. Cloudy Bay, however, is a classy wine company and everything they do, they do pretty well.

This 2008 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir tastes of raspberry fruit, but savoury characters dominate. There is a lot going on: smoky flavours as well as forest floor. The wine has good structure with integrated tannins and just the right amount of acidity on the finish. The only shortcoming was the mouthfeel which could have been a bit more rounded and displaying the Burgundian fan.

Score: 93/+

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

McIvor Estate Selection Shiraz

So many wineries have sprung up in the Heathcote region, it is difficult to get your bearings. McIvor Estate is situated a bit outside the main district and has been around for a while. The 2004 McIvor Selection Shiraz is a Reserve wine, made from the best fruit of the year.

The fruit is quite plummy, and still fresh. The fruit has a good level of concentration, but is perhaps a bit one-dimensional. There is also some liquorice and spice, though. What I don't like about this wine is that it seems overworked with oak and while the finish is long, it is somewhat alcoholic and hot. Not a wine you can drink a lot of.

Score: 90/--

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wendouree Cabernet/Malbec

Cabernet/Malbec is not a common blend in Australia, nor elsewhere. Therefore I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I opened a 2003 Wendouree Cabernet/Malbec. The myth is that Wendouree wines cannot be drunk before at least 10 years of age. Well, this wine was definitely drinkable, although it will certainly go for double the distance.

The flavours of this wine are unusual: dark cherry and mulberry fruit is dominated by very strong earthy flavours. The wine is complex, but I can't say that the resulting mouthfeel is particularly pleasant. The wine feels somewhat unbalanced. The Malbec component does not fix the somewhat hollow feel on the mid palate. The tannins are firm, but not overpowering, and the finish is dry - not an elegant wine.

Score: 90/--

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Torbreck RunRig

I wanted to give myself a treat last night and opened a 2002 Torbreck RunRig. Elas! My disappointments continue. 2002 was a great year for many Barossa wines, but it seems not for this one.

As expected, the wine is very big and masculine, with intense concentration of plummy fruit. In addition, the wine tastes of barbecued meat and confectionery, which is not a great combination. On the plus side, the structure stands up after eight years, and there is some silkiness in the tannins. However, this is overwhelmed by the syrupy and broad flavours on the palate.

Score: 92/--

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yarra Yarra - The Yarra Yarra

Many years ago, there was a debate raging about the suitability of the Yarra Valley for either Cabernet or Pinot Noir, with James Halliday as Coldstream Hills proprietor propagating Pinot Noir and many others pointing to Mount Mary and Yarra Yering as examples of successful Cabernet.
Somehow this debate has died down, but I was reminded of it, while I had a 2004 Yarra Yarra, The Yarra Yarra (how many 'Yarras' can you have in a name?) last night.

This wine has aged very quickly. The fruit flavours are almost all gone, and even secondary characteristics are hard to detect in this wine which is now dominated by oak and some alcohol (it is not a high alcohol wine). I looked up my previous notes on this wine, and they were similar. It is not bottle variation. I remember drinking it when young, and then it was very appealing, balanced and elegant: astonishing.

Ian MacLean has gone through a lot after losing the winery and half the vineyards in the Victorian bushfires. Everything is pretty much restored now, and I wish him well, but I still have to judge the wine by what is in the glass.

Score: 80/---

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Margaret River - Cabernet and Blends

A number of newer wineries were showing their Cabernets, some of which collected a fair bit of acclaim for their 2007 wines, including the Jimmy Watson winner Flametree Cabernet Merlot. Three such wineries are Juniper Estate, Flametree and Fraser Gallop. One interesting aspect here is that their Cabernets cost half or even less than those from the leading wineries. So how good are they?

The 2007 Juniper Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has good depth, ripeness and concentration, but I found the eucalypt flavours a bit too strong (90 points). The 2007 Higher Plane Cabernet, from young wines, was quite pleasant, but did not have the same depth (88 points). The 2008 Fraser Gallop Cabernet shows pretty varietal flavours, but the vines are quite young, and the wine lacks some mouthfeel (91 points). This could be very good once the grapes are more mature. The 2009 Cabernet Merlot is lighter, but with interesting earthy flavours (89 points).

The 2008 Flametree Reserve Cabernet is similar to the Fraser Gallop (90 points). The 2009 Cabernet Merlot shows shades of greenness (87 points).

I thought the 2008 Lenton Brae Willyabrup Cabernet was a shocker. It tasted sugary and sweet (82 points). The 2008 Redgate Cabernet was better, but the palate not well rounded (87 points).

The most interesting Cabernets came from Woodlands, Brookland Valley and Cape Mentelle. I always find the Woodlands brand hierarchy and prize points puzzling, and so it was again. The 2007 Woodlands Margaret Reserve Cabernet Merlot was quite polished, a well made wine, although lacking the depth of the best wines of that year (92 points). The flagship 2007 Woodlands Cabernet Sauvignon was dark, mainly tasting of blackcurrant. It had earthy flavours, too (92 points). I scored it the same as the Margaret, but at more than twice the price ($100/bottle), it is simply too expensive.

Cape Mentelle showed the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was the best wine I tasted, by a whisker. It displayed typical red- and blackcurrant flavours, and had good fruit concentration. The mouthfeel lacked a little on the mid-palate, and while the finish was long, it lacked complexity or lift (93 points). The 2004 Brookland Valley Reserve Cabernet was an interesting contrast because of bottle age. The fruit was concentrated, with mulberry and minty flavours and a dry, still quite stringent finish (90 points).

I do not feel compelled to add any of these wines to my cellar. A second label Moss Wood or Cullen would have given these wines a run for their money.

Margaret River - Chardonnay

I attended a tasting of a number of Margaret River wineries. I tasted Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnays left me somewhat underwhelmed.

I found the 2009 Brookland Valley Reserve Chardonnay quite woody, and lacking fruit and freshness (87 points). The 2009 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay was fresher, with lemon flavours, but not very intense. This wine had a nice acidity balance (90 points). The 2007 Voyager Estate Chardonnay was my favorite, with good core lime fruit, some length on the palate, but lacking a bit of acidity on the finish (91 points). The standard 2009 Woodlands Chardonnay is a fairly simple wine, but is fresh and goes down easy (88 points).

Has 2009 been a bad year in Margaret River for whites?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz

Regular readers may have noticed that I have posted less often lately and on other matters than tasting wine. Well, I am doing a detox now, and apart from losing weight, I lost all my yeast on my tongue, hopefully revitalizing a few taste buds.

However, I am allowed a 'cheat meal' every now and then. Tonight involved opening a 2005 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz. One of the major surprises to me and others was the recent elevation of this wine to the top category in the Langton's Classification. I have never drunk a lot of this wine, but I have a few bottles. So tonight it was a 2005.

I have to say the wine impressed me. It delivers the holy grail of depth of flavour, elegance and silky smooth, long finish. It does not come first in any of these dimensions alone, but delivers a great combination. A serious wine, but also a good food companion.

The wine was fresh, but had developed complex flavours. It is rewarding to drink now, but will live well for another five years at least.

Score: 95/++

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wine-shopping Online

Many wine enthusiasts get frustrated that they cannot find the desired wine in the shops they go to or they are not sure how competitive the pricing is. Alternatively, you could go on the internet first. In the early days, online wine-shopping came and went. Transport was often expensive and unreliable. Online companies went bust.

A new generation of sites works with a large number of retailers. The most relevant of those with a global orientation is probably, based in New Zealand. It lists over 4 million offers from more than 19,000 retailers across the globe. It is fairly simple to use and the pricing information is transparent. Typing in 'Moss Wood 2008', as an example, lists 63 entries. An annoying factor is that only the pro version for US$30 will list them all.

An alternative is, which is based in Canada. It is of similar size and operates in a similar manner. You click on the wine you want to buy and get switched to the online site of the retailer.

This method can be efficient, but does, in my view, not fully replace the personal service a specialist retailer or the winery direct can provide. No doubt, it will work for some.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Langton's Classification, Mark V

A number of reviewers have commented on the latest Langton's Classification, however, based on statistical analysis, a number of points can be made which I have not yet seen.

First of all, what does the Classification measure or reflect? It is a statistical analysis of the performance of wine at the Langton's auctions, the premier auction house in Australia. This means it is measured by wine consumers who like aged wine and by investors. As a result, it is inherently conservative, as both groups tend to favour proven names. The measure itself is performance against release price. It is therefore not an absolute measure of quality, and age-worthy wines which are not expensive can get in, as has happened with a number of cheaper Penfolds wines.

What are the trends against the last Classification, published in 2005? Let us look at three categories: which wines have dropped out, which are new and which have been upgraded (only two wines have been downgraded). Let us first look at grape varieties: Shiraz, which dominated the list in 2005, is the prime mover. Over half the new wines are Shiraz (18.5*), half of the upgrades are Shiraz (13.5*), and they also dominate the eliminated wines (6 out of 11). Cabernet Sauvignon has done well, with 8.5* new wines and 6.5* upgrades, and no elimination. Other varieties play minor roles: Pinot Noir (5 new, 3 out), Riesling (1 new, 3 upgrades), Chardonnay (1 new, 2 out), Semillon (2 upgrades). The result is clear, no major shift in grape varieties preference, except for a strong showing of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is contrary to the retail trade, where the focus is on immediate consumption.

What about regions? In the past, the Classification was dominated by wines from South Australia and Victoria. This has not changed, but the relative weight has shifted to South Australia. Victoria saw 7 out of 11 wines dropped, 4 Victorian wines were upgraded and 11 new wines added. South Australia saw 3 wines dropped, 13 upgraded and 19 added. The dominant region was the Barossa, with no wine dropped, 5.5* upgraded and 10.5* new wines. Coonawarra did pretty well, with no wine dropped, 2.5* upgraded and 5.5* new. McLaren Vale was almost as good. The other point to note is that NSW wines did better than Western Australia, thanks to Tyrells, McWilliams, Clonakilla and De Bortoli.

I find the regional results interesting. The most influential reviewers of newly released Australian wine, James Halliday and Jeremy Oliver, have a Victorian bias, and despising Robert Parker has become a bloodsport. However, in the secondary market, it is the big South Australian Shirazes which are valued most, even increasingly so. I must admit I like these wines, because they are uniquely Australian, although I am not keen on the excesses, for example Greenock Creek. Striving to make European wines here has always struck me as slightly odd. Having said this, I think we make some wonderful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

By the way, wines which have done well in my polls have scored well, with e.g. Clonakilla and Grosset Polish Hill being upgraded to the top 'exceptional' category.

Langton's does not publish the exact methodology, and I have no doubt a fudge factor is applied. What would be nice to have, though, is an auction barometer, say based on the top category, or a timeline of price realisation for Grange and Hill of Grace.

Some people who clearly did not like the outcome of this Classification have said it is irrelevant. Do we have some evidence here that maybe the most quoted review compendiums are irrelevant?

I am interested in your comments.

*the 0.5 results from a split with Coonawarra in Penfolds blended wines.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Henschke Mt. Edelstone

I reviewed the 2002 Mt. Edelstone a few posts ago and one of my readers suggested a comparison with the 2004. As I have it in my cellar, here it is.

The 2004 Henschke Mount Edelstone is an intriguing wine. It tastes of plum and mulberry, quite brooding flavours, yet very fresh and lively. There is also quite a lot of mint and some bacon on the palate. The fruit is nicely balanced with acidity, but you would not call this wine especially elegant. The wine has a firm structure and its significant tannins provide a long finish. The wine is perhaps not as big as one would expect for the 2004, and while there is a lot going on, it feels more like a hilly road along the tongue than a smooth highway.

Which is the better Mt. Edelstone, the 2002 or 2004? They are both very interesting wines and still too early to drink, but my vote goes to the 2002, which seems better balanced and destined for a very long life.

As an aside, I am slightly worried about the screw cap on these wines. Yes, they are very fresh, but where is the mellowing which can be so terrific with the Mt. Edelstone? Is anyone else worried?

Score: 94/+ (the minty flavour took one + off the wine for me)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

John Duval Entity Shiraz

When John Duval branched out on his own after his long reign at Penfolds, there was a lot of interest what kind of wine he would produce. Focus on Shiraz? Big, powerful? A lot of oak?

The 2005 John Duval Entity Shiraz is my first taste of his 'standard' Shiraz. The wine is deeply concentrated, with good linear fruit purity and predominantly plummy flavours. Oak, I think French, is present, but the fruit comes through nicely. The overall impression is a bit one-dimensional, but the wine has good length and finishes on fine grained tannins.

Compared to Penfolds, this wine is more fruit dominated and a bit more forward, yet has good depth. This is not a bad effort for a 2005 Barossa wine. I will be interested to taste future vintages.


Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay

I read with interest yesterday that the 2008 Heytesbury Chardonnay had won a trophy in the Tri Nations challenge with New Zealand and South Africa, as I had the 2006 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay the day before.

I formed the view that Vasse Felix has made big progress in the last few years after having mainly drunk some of their reds.

This 2006 Chardonnay is already quite developed. It is a bigger style, with some butterscotch next to the pear and citrus flavours. The new oak is quite present, and the fruit flavours do not quite match the creamy overtones.

There is certainly complexity in this wine, but it is not the style I typically enjoy.

Score: 92/--

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Napa/Sonoma Valley, part 3

The third day became the highlight, not so much because of the visit to the Robert Mondavi winery, but for the other heavyweights. The tour at Mondavi was interesting, but the wines very ordinary. It seems the focus is on volume now, not quality.

The second stop was the Napa Wine Company. There are a number of tasting rooms which showcase smaller wineries, and this is one of the best (Ma(i)sonry is another one well worth a visit). This is in fact a contract winemaker, where you can taste all the wine he makes. Their own label is Blackbird, and the 2007 Ghost Block SV is an excellent Cabernet. It has beautiful cherry fruit, very elegant, and nicely integrated soft tannins (94 points).

I also tasted the range of the Pahlmeyer wines, one of the best family wine companies in the valley. Their 2006 Pinot Noir was a lighter style, but lush and velvety (94 points). The 2006 Cabernet (includes 18% Merlot) tasted of black- and redcurrant and had depth and an elegant structure (95 points). The Pahlmeyer wines are beautifully crafted.

The first absolute highlight was the tasting at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars (see picture below left). This is one of the American companies which beat the French in the famous 1976 tasting. I managed to taste the three top wines from the hyped-up 2007 vintage, which are all rated in the top 50 American Cabernets. The Fay tasted of sweet cherry, with earthy undertones and dry tannins. It most the most approachable of the three (93 points). The SLV comes from the next block, but with different, more volcanic soil. Its colour was deep, and the blackcurrant flavours dominated. There was also a lot of smoked bacon on the palate. The wine was very complex and powerful, with great depth and a lengthy finish - almost the wine of the tastings (96 points). The Cask 23 is their flagship wine, a best barrels blend of the two vineyards. It tasted of black- and blueberry and was softer and more elegant than the SLV. The wine was not as big and I felt it had a hole on the mid-palate (94 points).

The other highlight was the short tasting at Joseph Phelps. The only American Cabernet I currently have in my cellar is their 1997 Insignia, an excellent wine. The Insignia, their flagship wine, is a blend from six different Napa vineyards. They had just released the 2007 to great acclaim, and I could taste it next to the 2006 (picture below right). The 2006 is 95% Cabernet and 5% Petit Verdot, which contributes to the very inky colour. It tastes of red- and blackcurrant with good length and soft, dry tannins. I just felt it lacked a bit of mouthfeel (94 points). The 2007 is 88% Cabernet, 8% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. It tasted very complex, with black cherry and meaty flavours dominating. The wine is very elegant, with great integration of flavours and structure, and it has a very long finish - my wine of the tastings (97 points). Joseph Phelps is clearly back to their very best and remains probably my favorite Napa winery, for consistency of very high performance and for wines which are not overblown and can go the distance.

Napa/Sonoma Valley, part 2

The Sonoma Wine Festival was on for my second day. I thought this would be a good opportunity to capture a lot of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, without having to go to the wineries in this larger area.

In principle it worked similar to when the Hunter comes to Balmoral etc., except it was 10 times larger, with maybe 250 wineries participating. There were four big tents for the big appelations of Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, Russian River and Sonoma. One of the great things was that many wineries offered a snack which went well with their wine, and they were quite sophisticated.

My overall theory did not work so well, though, because like here, the best wineries were not represented. The other complication was that there was a special area where, for a premium ticket, special wines were poured. They were better in quality, but often very unusual bottlings you could never hope to find.

Overall, the quality level was disappointing, in particular for white wine, but also for Pinot Noir. I found some good ones, though, from Scribe, Garry Farrell and Willowbrook. The best Pinots came from Russian River. They tended to be quite ethereal in nature, only medium bodied, and more in the strawberry and forest floor flavour spectrum, rather than cherry.

The top wine for me was a 2004 Pinot Noir from Clouds Rest, a fairly unknown producer with very densely planted vineyards, similar to William Downie here.

My conclusion was that as far as new world Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is concerned, Australia can hold its head high, and certainly match what I found in Sonoma.

However, day 3 is still to come.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Napa/Sonoma Valley, part 1

Pride Mountain Vineyards

American wines were virtually non existent in Australia until recently - simply too expensive. As the Australian dollar is heading towards parity, some wines start to trickle in. Hopefully my notes over the next few days will stimulate some interest to try Californian wines - you should find it worth your while.

I was recently in Napa for tastings after an absence of nine years. Then I was tasting the 1997 vintage, a classic vintage for Cabernet. This report is about day 1.

I wanted to start with the core: Cabernet Sauvignon. But before, we kicked off with a bit of Champagne at Domaine Chandon. Early in the morning, the guys behind the counter had the music on full blast and the sales pitch was pretty direct. We headed for the outside terrace straight away, and managed to settle down a bit.

For the rest of the day, we visited Groth, Pride, Revana, Hall and Whitehall Lane. I must say I found it quite difficult to get my bearings after such a long time. The wines are really different from what we are used to. There is limited value for my readership, I think, to go into detailed wine reviews (I will in part 3), so let us focus on some general observations.

1) The main white varieties on offer are Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Well, you can forget all of that in Napa proper. The Sauvignons I tried are nothing special, and the Chardonnays are one confused lot. Napa is trying to get away from heavily worked Chardonnays, oaked and butterscotch, but it is like in the car industry: they simply cannot do it. Unoaked wines are whimsical and the rest remains too heavy for our palate. Hail to the Chardonnay improvements in Australia.

2) The Cabernets and Cabernet blends (you do not have to declare other varieties if they are not exceeding 25%) are very masculine wines. They are really more comparable to South Australian Shiraz than Coonawarra or Margaret River Cabernets. They are ripe and alcoholic, although the excesses seem to have disappeared. 14.5% alcohol seems to be the norm.

3) These wines have much more acidity than what we are used to. At the same time, there is a big focus on elegance, mostly successful.

4) I enjoyed the wines on this day, but you have to go to the Reserve level for special wine experience, which tends to be a 'best barrels' approach and the pricing is US$60-150.

On this first day, there was no wine with a 'wow' factor, but generally good quality Cabernet. Pride Mountain is an interesting winery to visit. It is a beautiful property in the Howell Mountains with beautiful natural caves (all the rage in Napa) for storage. Revana may be the next big cult winery with Heidi Peterson Barrett, ex Screaming Eagle, as the winemaker.

Overall, a good day, but I was hoping for more.

Poll Results

The Toolangi Chardonnay is probably not well known outside Victoria, but in my opinion a good value proposition. Very comfortable with the winners of this poll being the Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir and Torbreck's Woodcutters Red. Both are good examples of larger volume wines benefiting from good winemaking practises. They definitely punch above their weight. And as the competition has a look, this will hopefully improve the quality and aspirations for the $15 to $30 per bottle segment.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Henschke Mt. Edelstone

What does it say about spring if you crave a Mt. Edelstone Shiraz? This 2002 Henschke Mt. Edelstone is incredibly fresh, bright and brimming with fruit. I taste raspberry in particular. The wine is not sweet and does not taste as much of chocolate as in other years. Instead, it displays a beautiful balance between fruit, acidity and tannins. It is profound and has great length. I am happy to put this away for another 10 years for the wine to mellow and develop more secondary characteristics.

Score: 96/+++

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Poll Created

Recently, a number of premium wineries have created a tiered structure for their most famous wines. The bottom tier benefits from strong quality control, viticulture and winemaking skills of these successful companies. They often deliver excellent value for money.

I have selected a few, where the company has at least three tiers, and the bottom one does not cost more than $25 per bottle [Penfolds is a little higher]. Which of these wines do you like best?

Please vote and let me know which good examples I have left out.

Monte da Cal Reserva, Portugal

Portugal has recently made huge progress with their table wines. The 2006 Monte da Cal Reserva from the Alentejo region is a good example of this. It consists of a blend of [to me] obscure grape varieties, Aragonze and Alforcheiro, plus the French Alicante Bouchet.

The wine is medium to full bodied, with a sweet core, backed by some minerality, and nicely balanced with sufficient acidity. The fine tannins deliver a velvety finish.

Score 92/++

German Riesling

The international image of German Riesling is very much driven by the Moselle wines which the Americans love and by the marketing genius of Dr. Loosen who promotes them so well. They are sweeter wines -although not the old sweetness of adding sugar- than those from other districts.

German experts often prefer wines from the Rheingau, Nahe or Pfalz. In particular the dry Rhine wines are of a similar style to Clare wines, in my view. Maybe this is why they are less sought, because they are less different, but their purity and length make them quite unique.

One such example are wines from August Eser. I recently drank the 2007 Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spaetlese -trocken-. Spaetlese means the grapes are picked late. The wine is fuller and riper, but not necessarily sweet. This one had a very balanced palate of citrus and more tropical fruit from a warm year, and a long, clean finish. On its own, this was a satisfying drink. I am just not sure what food to pair it with. Asian or maybe rich salads?

Score 92/+

Santorini Viticulture

The curious Santorini viticulture sees pre-phylloxera vines planted straight into the ground. Little baskets protect the grapes when young from winds and sandstorms. The vines are planted very wide apart from each other.

The effect, it seems to me, is good individual grape quality, but diluted, as there are many grapes per bunch. The overall yield is not high, though, because of the wide planting. The whole system is quite labour intensive. Not to be emulated.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Greek Wines - Reds

As with the white wines, there are quite a number of indigenous red varieties in Greece. Unfortunately, the quality of the wines does not compare as well.

The most interesting grape I came across is the Mavrotragano grape, native to Santorini. Both the Hatzidakis and the Sigalas Mavrotragano wines are interesting. The wines have good weight, a sweet core, and quite a tannic finish. The grapes can be over 50 years old, and the wines have aging potential. The Sigalas was the more profound and elegant of the two. (Scores:88-90)

The viticulture for these wines is interesting. The vines grow near the ground and are protected by baskets. This protects the young grapes against vulcanic dust from the spring storms. The problem seems to be that the yield per hectare is quite low, but fairly high per grapevine. This means not the best for fruit concentration and poor economics at the same time. I will post some pictures when I have a chance.

I also had my worst red wine ever, made by the Koutsogiannopoulos winery. It was a five year old wine, not sure which indigenous variety it was. The wine tasted of foul apple and raspberry, I have never tasted anything like this. There may have been faults, but I could not tell what. This was worse than the worst corked wine I ever had.

I guess this is part of every new experience.

P.S.: Napa appointments are coming along nicely.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Greek Wines - Whites

There are a few things to like about Greek white wines at present.

1) They come from unique grape varieties with a long history

2) They are cheap

3) The flavours are quite different from what we are used to, and modern techniques achieve high quality.

In particular, the Athiri grape is interesting. It grows predominantly (I think) in Rhodos. There is a valley style and a mountain style available. The flavour has floral and earthy notes with nice acidity on the finish.

The star variety is probably Assyrtiko, grown in Santorini with a 2500 year history. A similar flavour profile to the Athiri, but more elegant. Fruit (pear) is very much in the background, which make these wines great food wines. I tasted the line-up of leading winery Domaine Sigalas and would happily drink their whites at any time. There are three on offer: an Assyrtiko-Athiri blend, very light and refreshing, the Santorini, 100% Assyrtiko, and the Santorini Barrel, which has more complexity.

I find these wines more interesting than their Spanish or Italian counterparts. The grapes are grown on heavy vulcanic soil, and have a lot of minerality in their character.

Score: around 90/++

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hill Of Grace is your favorite Australian wine!

I am pleased with this outcome. There are a number of things which stand out about Hill of Grace:

1) The Gnadenfrei vineyard is a special place. It has a similar soil profile to the Northern Barossa, but higher elevation, eliminating shut-down times for the grapes
2) The vineyard management, in particular the care for the grandfather vines and the replanting program are exemplary for Australia.
3) The flavour profile is very special: a full bodied Shiraz, but elegant, with not just pepper, but very exotic spices.

The one drawback is that being a single vineyard wine, maybe one in three vintages is outstanding, one pretty good, and one somewhat disappointing. However, if you look at other great wines of the world, e.g. Bordeaux, you would get a similar result.

Which brings me to one point which is different: the pricing remains the same (high), irrespective of quality. In France, you have the choice, if you want to pay medium, to pick a 1st growth from a weaker year, or a 2nd or 3rd growth from a good year for a similar price. Something to think about.

Overall a very worthy, very Australian winner.

Well done, and thank you, voters, sorry for the drawn-out process.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Who would have thought? The more elegant Shirazes are winning, but which will be your favorite Australian wine? We need to do a quick tie breaker between Clonakilla and Hill of Grace. I will run it for 5 days, so be quick to vote.

If I would guess where the Grange, Rockford and Bass Phillip votes would go, I could predict the winner, but you never know.

This allows me to get to Europe before the end of voting. No Australian wine reviews in the next few weeks, but maybe an occasional report from the battlefronts in Greece, Italy and Germany, and more detail from Napa and Sonoma Valley, where the tastings will be intense (any particular questions or interests?).

Thank you for your participation and your final voting efforts.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One More Day To Vote

Do you really want Clonakilla to win? Or maybe you want to put it beyond doubt. Please vote, we should get over 20.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Audrey Wilkinson Dessert Semillon

I am not a very experienced dessert wine drinker, but this 2006 Audrey Wilkinson Dessert Semillon impresses. It is not as rich as a Noble One and therefore easier to drink. Yet the wine has a typical sweet core, which makes it a satisfying drink on its own or with dessert.

Score: 92/+

Penfolds 389 Cabernet Shiraz

The 2001 Penfolds 389 Cabernet Shiraz is ok, but it is not a standout. The fruit does not match the firm tannins. As a result, the wine starts softly, pleasant enough, but then the palate gets hit with oak and tannin. As a result, the wine is somewhat rough and not well balanced. It comes across as old fashioned.

Score: 90/-

What A Tasting

A few days ago, I attended a pretty amazing tasting. These were the wines I tried:

Kumeu River Chardonnay 2007
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2006
Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2006
Marchand&Burch Chardonnay 2009

Marchand&Burch Mt. Barrow Pinot Noir 2009
Marchand&Burch Shiraz 2007
Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet 2008

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2008
Te Mata Coleraine Cabernet Merlot 2008
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2008
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels The Gimblett 2007

Jasper Hill Cornella Vineyard Grenache 2008
Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock Shiraz 2008
Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock Shiraz 2008
Jasper Hill La Pleiade 2008

Kalleske Old Vine Grenache 2008
Kalleske Eduard Shiraz 2008
Elderton Command Shiraz 2006
Huntington Estate Block 3 Cabernet 2004

Interestingly, despite good standard, the Chardonnays could not match the red wines, which showed more complexity and were simply more interesting.

Three stand-outs for me: The 2009 Marchand & Burch Mt. Barrow Pinot Noir was brilliant. The wine has great finesse, and the sour kirsch flavours carry through to a fine finish backed by silky tannins. The 2008 La Pleiade stood out because it had good fruit concentration, but was not heavy (French influence?). And finally the new 2008 Kalleske Eduard Shiraz is quite a profound wine. Maybe a bit sweet for some, but great texture and elegance, and a long finish. Having said this, I would have happily drunk any of the tasted wines, if you had brought a bottle along.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lawson's Dry Hills Gewuerztraminer

Gewuerztraminer must be the least fashionable variety in Australia. Only a few producers are left. Yet a good bottle, say from Pipers Brook or Delatite is the perfect companion to a Thai dish. Anyway, on this occasion I wanted to try something else and ended up with a bottle of 2008 Lawson's Dry Hills Gewuerztraminer from Marlborough.

The Lychee flavour is there, but it comes down to the fact that the wine is simply too sweet, despite its name. There is no noticeable acidity and the wine simply does not cut through the food, it sits unpleasantly next to it. Avoid!

Score: 83/---

Katnook Prodigy Shiraz

I have not had Coonawarra Shiraz for some time. Then I found this bottle of 1998 Katnook Prodigy in my cellar. It turns out to be a very big wine for Coonawarra, with good fruit concentration. Unfortunately it is one blob of undifferentiated plum flavour. The wine is also overoaked and lacks structure. The wine is maturing, therefore drink now, I mean: don't drink.

Score: 88/--

Monday, July 12, 2010

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon

I just opened a bottle of the 2001 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought I would like to compare it to the recently tasted 2007. This bottle was closed under screw cap, the oldest premium red under screw cap I have, I think.

Now this was interesting. After nine years, this bottle was incredibly fresh. Too fresh? Did I want to store this bottle for six years to taste the same as just released? There is no doubt, this bottle is in great condition and it has matured a little bit, but it is missing any suggestion of mellowing.

This wine is also very different from the 2007 release, which has concentrated black fruit character. The 2001 Moss Wood tastes of redcurrant and kirsch, it is impeccably balanced, quite elegant with tannins in the background and a fresh acidic finish. Slightly bigger mouthfeel would have lifted the score higher.

Score: 95/++

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Favorite Australian Wine, Final Poll

The challengers are putting up a good fight against the established two icons. This raises the question about which criteria to use in this poll. I left this entirely open. Some people may include value for money, others may judge simply the perceived quality of the wine. And then, do you take consistency, the best expression or the wine which did best in weak years. Does fashion of taste or variety come into it?

It is your choice, it is your favorite, but I need more voting to decide the winner.

Torbreck Les Amis

If you are looking for a heated debate about wine, this could be a good place to start. No doubt the 2002 Torbreck Les Amis is quite extreme.

It comes from a single plot of very old vines in the Marananga/Seppeltsfield sub-region. The wine has extremely rich fruit and pushes the boundaries of ripeness. The heady cocktail tastes predominantly of raspberry and black cherries. If this wine wanted to prove that Grenache can be a serious wine, it certainly does that.

The tannins are ripe, yet quite finely grained. The finish has good length, but is slightly hot.

This is not a wine for those who do not like 'Big Barossa'. On the other hand, this ripe wine has a remarkably good structure. It is certainly holding up well and should drink at its peak over the next couple of years.

Score: 94/+

Does wild fermentation bring out the terroir? Humbug!

A friend sent me an interesting article from Germany about the relationship of wild fermentation and terroir. Research at Geisenheim, based on Riesling, has surprisingly shown that the cellar flora had more influence on the wine than the vineyard flora. In addition, wine fermented with bought yeasts showed better fruit characteristics than those fermented wild. Apparently this is because during a wild fermentation process many types of yeasts, related to fungi, bacteria and other external matters get involved. The article then quotes a number of contradictory findings. It then points to the additional risks of natural fermentation at no demonstrable benefit and that bought yeasts also come from vineyards and are not artificial. The article concludes that wild fermentation is a style element, but does not make the wine more 'natural' nor does it bring out the vineyard better.

Another case of the more we know, the more we know we know little, it seems to me.

Yarra Yering 2008 Releases

I must say I have lost touch with Yarra Yering during the last 10 years. Not quite sure why, maybe price. Anyway, I was keen to see how the new wines would show.

The first was the 2008 Yarra Yering Dry Red No 3, which is a relatively new addition to the stable, based on a number of Portuguese varieties. The wine had a nice smooth fruit set and well integrated acidity. The disappointment was the relatively short finish.

Score: 92/0

The 2008 Yarra Yering Dry Red No 2 is the Shiraz based wine. It includes some Viognier and Marsanne to create a complex Northern Rhone equivalent. This was my wine of the night. The wine has medium weight, with red fruit and plum dominating. The wine has great purity and a silky texture and is well balanced.

Score: 94/++

The 2008 Yarra Yering Dry Red No1 is the Bordeaux blend on which the winery's fame is based, I suppose. It tasted of red currant and black cherries, perhaps a little fruity, but a good structure is backing up the wine. This elegant Bordeaux finishes on a soft note.

Score: 93/+

The 2001 Yarra Yering Underhill Shiraz was shown to illustrate the aging of the wines. This wine had an unusual fruit set. I could not quite get my head around it. Again, the wine has medium body weight, with minty and earthy flavours. It tends to be the bigger and more masculine of the two Shirazes, and is certainly aging well.

Score: 92/-

Overall, the wines were quite impressive. They were very young to taste and did not show their full potential on the night, I am sure. Good texture and elegant structure will ensure they live for a long time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

William Fevre Fourchaume Chablis

I was not sure if drinking the 2004 William Fevre Fourchaume at this time would be a good idea. Maybe this is right at transition to maturity.

It turned out drinking beautifully. This premier cru is a step up from the standard Chablis. The main difference appears to be the stronger fruit concentration, while maintaining intense minerality and a very linear form. The wine is still fresh, with restrained acidity on the finish.

Chablis is my favorite white wine, I make no bones about it. I sometimes wonder why I drink anything else. I like the steeliness and form and nothing accompanies oysters as well as a Chablis. The standard one is good for lunch. This one is quite special and would leave all but three or so Australian whites for dead.

Score: 96/+++

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Your Favorite Wine - The Final

The last poll provided a close result as I expected, but there were a few surprises. While Rockford had some strong followers for its Black Shiraz, Cullen's Cabernet/Merlot got no vote. Clonakilla is continuing its rise, which no doubt will be reflected in the next Langtons classification. In the end four wines, drew for first spot. They will therefore go through to face off with our two icon wines. The Grosset Polish Hill will fly the flag for white wine, and the wizard Phillip Jones for Pinot Noir.

A word on statistics. I used to run quite a few in my previous life, and in my experience low numbers are sufficient to predict an outcome. Therefore I am not too worried about the relatively low numbers in these polls. However, if the results are as close as in the last one, obviously a couple of votes can change the picture. Well, nothing I can do about it.

Finally Grange and Hill of Grace enter the picture. How will they go against each other? How will the challengers fare? -- Over to you.

Moss Wood New Red Wine Releases

The new red wine releases of Moss Wood are a mixed bag.

The 2007 Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Merlot tastes of red cherry. It is a pleasant wine, although it lacks mouthfeel. There is good acidity in this wine and a lengthy finish.

Score: 90/0

The 2008 Moss Wood Amy's Cabernet Sauvignon is not very balanced. The fruit appears a bit simple and sweet, and the oak quite prominent. The finish is a bit harsh.

Score: 87/--

The 2007 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon will probably split people's opinion. The wine tastes of dark cherry and mulberry. The fruit is soft and the wine has a velvety feel. This 'yummy' flavour appears perhaps a little forward, and obviously influenced by the hot vintage. I find however, that behind this front, length on the palate is building and the tannins, while soft, are quite strong all the same. While the wine provides easy drinking now, I expect it to last just as long as previous vintages.

Score: 94/++

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

This wine is in the current poll, but I don't think my comments will have any bearing on it.

I drank the 2002 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay yesterday and I would recommend that anyone who has this wine in the cellar should get on to it. It is probably drinking at its peak right now.

The colour of the wine is not yet golden, more a ripe champagne-type colour. This is one of the bigger and riper styles of this decade. The wine is still well balanced, with tropical fruit, new oak and acidity all in good harmony - a bit of an ask for a lunch wine, though. I enjoyed it, but probably expected a bit more delicate flavours. Overall, this is still a good example of how a top Australian Chardonnay can taste and age.

Score: 93/+

Torbreck The Steading - vertical tasting

I decided to open a few of The Steadings over the last couple of days, the 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004.

The first observation is that one should not be guided by general vintage descriptions too much. In this line-up, the outstanding wine was the 2001. Who would have thought?The second observation is that The Steading is a mighty fine GSM, maybe the most appealing of Torbreck's wines for the average punter, and not overpriced like some of the other wines. And finally, these wines clearly have staying power, which is something people question of Torbreck's wines from time to time.

The Torbreck The Steading is a beautifully crafted blend, medium to full-bodied, but quite elegant, with fine tannins on the finish.

The 2001 The Steading expressed this the best. The balance of this wine is excellent, with fruit still dominant and silky tannins. It has a number of years ahead.

Score: 95/+++

The 2000 The Steading is now dominated by earthy characters. Cherry and redcurrant flavours are still there. It still stands up well, but should be drunk now.

Score: 94/++

The 2002 The Steading is a weaker wine. Its fruit is less penetrating, tannins are disappearing, and the finish falls a little short. Still a decent wine, but should be drunk now.

Score: 90/+

The 2004 The Steading was different from the other three, not just because it is younger. This was a much bigger and riper wine. As a result, it did not have some of the delicate fruit flavours of the others and instead had a meatier profile. I was having duck with it, and it overpowered the meal, which I was not expecting from a GSM. Plenty of life still in the wine.

Score: 91/0

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery

I made a second attempt to identify candidates for 2009 Bordeaux en primeur by drinking a bottle of the 2005 Chateau Malescot St. Exupery. This wine was brilliant.

The nose is quite floral, and the wine feminine, as you would expect from the Margaux area. The wine impresses with its purity. It is not at all whimsical, but has a beautiful mouthfeel with its precision.

This wine is not as big as the Pontet-Canet I had a few days ago, but more approachable and more interesting at this stage. The texture is beautiful and the wine finishes with silky tannins. It will improve its complexity for a number of years.

Score: 96/++

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Only three days left in close poll

It is far from clear which two wines will move into the final poll. Please vote if you have not already done so.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Can Barossa Shiraz Express Terroir?

The Grape Observer had an interesting post and discussion a couple of weeks ago on the topic of 'Barossa Valley Unsuitable For Shiraz?'. Andrew Jefford, the British wine writer, was quoted with his view that Barossa Shiraz cannot express terroir, because basically the added acidity would nullify the specifics of a particular place. There has been a good discussion with the main views being that you can identify Barossa Shiraz in blind tastings, but that the suppression of natural acidity might not be a good thing.

In this context, I enjoyed reading an article by one of the most intelligent columnists of the Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer, who argued that one should visit the places of the wines one drinks, because the wine makers inject their set of values and reflect their civilization. This reflects their approach to winemaking and how he or she wants the wine to behave. This is why, as we've seen in California, Australia, Chile, Oregon and elsewhere, French winemakers often create different wines than the locals. They bring another set of values, which may not always be appropriate to the grapes they're working with...Wines aren't great simply because of good dirt. Expression of place doesn't just happen spontaneously. A profound wine civilization, which is to say an articulated and insightful set of values, is also required.

This gelled with me, because I found Australian wines made by French winemakers different, but not overly remarkable.

Another interesting guy is Manfred Krankl, the winemaker of cult winery Sine Qua Non, who has this to say: If you wanted to be taken seriously 15 years ago you had to make wines that were kind of French. That's why you have a lot of phony chateaus on California wine labels even though nobody had a chateau... If you want to be true to terroir you have to look at what you've got. We'll never make a Cote-Rotie here. But you try to make the best Central Coast or Napa wine.. Within that context I want to make wines that are inevitably riper and larger scale than their European counterparts, but not obscene.

Well, maybe some of our Barossa Shiraz is obscene, but not all of it. Barossa Shiraz is distinctive, it is big (Australian culture likes 'big'), and I am also convinced that within the Barossa, it can express different sub-regions.

Dry River new releases

The quantities of Dry River wines which come to Australia are absolutely minuscule, the fact that I could taste them probably a sign that it is more difficult for this producer to sell these expensive wines to his traditional customer base.

The whites were a 2009 Riesling, 2009 Gewuerztraminer and 2008 Chardonnay. These wines are very European in flavour and structure. They are not about fruit, but texture and minerality. I must say, I did not find them my cup of tea. The Riesling was a little sweet, the Gewuerz very closed (in a blind tasting I would not have picked this normally easy to identify variety), and the Chardonnay lacked expression, somewhat dulled by 100% malo, I think. Maybe over time, these wines come out of their shells.

Scores: 88-90/-

The 2007 Dry River Lovat Syrah was very vibrant and bright. It was quite peppery, and did not have much weight. Not a bad wine, but again, not my style.

Score: 90/-

Dry River's reputation is built on Pinot Noir. The 2008 Dry River Pinot Noir has a bright crimson colour with little blue tones mixed in. It tastes of red cherries, is quite fragrant. The wine has quite a lush mouthfeel and a savoury note on the back palate. It has excellent clarity, but lacks perhaps some complexity at this point. It finishes quite dry (pun not intended). More than $120 per bottle is too expensive for this wine, unless you want to impress with a bottle which nobody else can produce.

Score: 93/+

MacForbes Pinot Noir

I missed the recent MacForbes tastings in Sydney, but had a taste on the weekend in Melbourne. This guy worked at Mount Mary and takes terroir quite seriously. I only had the entry level 2008 MacForbes Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, but I was impressed.

This is a light bodied wine (how often would you say this about an Australian red wine?) with excellent texture. The colour is a little cloudy, probably from lack of filtration and natural fermentation, but the flavours are delicate, tasting of strawberries and forest floor. The vines are probably quite young and the finish a little short, but I enjoyed the style.

Score: 90/++

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This vote is very close - please vote in record numbers - don't be shy!

Chateau Pontet-Canet

I am not a big collector of Bordeaux wines, but I buy occasionally from the warmer vintages. The 2009 vintage is being hiped up a lot, as you would expect, but I am a bit sceptical.

Chateau Pontet-Canet has received glowing reviews, next to the first growth wines. As I have some 2005 Chateau Pontet-Canet, I thought I try it as a test.

This wine is still very closed, after five years. It is powerful, nonetheless. The colour is dark, with red currant and blackberry flavours. The mid-palate delivers a full Merlot-like feel, although the wine is predominantly Cabernet, and the finish is polished with quite fine tannins.

Clearly nothing wrong with this wine, but it did not grab me. The flavours are not as complex as I expected at this stage and it is still quite reserved.

I will hold off on the 2009 purchase, because if I can drink the wine only in 20-30 years, I may not be around any more.

Score: 95/0

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Poll: Semi-Final

I could go on and go through more varieties, but we have probably covered the most important ones. This is how it is going to work from here: out of the list of winners, please vote for your favourite wine (only one vote allowed). I will then take the top two wines, and put them against Grange and Hill of Grace to determine your favorite overall wine. Happy voting!

Donny Goodmac Chardonnay

Donny Goodmac is a side project of Donny Gregor, Kate Goodman, and Cameron MacKenzie. Only 250 dozen of this 2008 Donny Goodmac Chardonnay, sourced from the Yarra Valley, were made. I think the Yarra Valley does Chardonnay better than any other variety, and this is a good example.

The wine has citrus and white peach flavours as well as minerality, but there is also softness and creaminess as a result of natural yeast fermentation and French oak treatment. As a result, the palate is quite complex and elegant, although the finish is a little plump.

The wine is only mid $20s and could sit well in a line-up twice the price. Get your hands on it if you can.

Score: 91/+++

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Giaconda Aeolia

The Aeolia is Kitzbrunner's white Rhone wine, as it is 100% Roussanne. There are not many examples of this in Australia and therefore we do not really have a framework for assessing these wines.

On its own, I find this 2005 Giaconda Aeolia quite developed and riper than I would have liked.
The fruit flavours are complex, and there is good oak treatment and a creamy flavour to the wine. But as the wine rolls down the palate, it becomes a little plump, like an increasing snowball rolling downhill (how is this for a comparison?). The flavours are big, but the finish, unfortunately, short.

Score: 90/0

St. Hallett Old Block Shiraz

The St. Hallett Old Block Shiraz belongs to the group of premium wines which started the renaissance of old vine Shiraz in the Barossa during the 1980s. The 2002 Old Block is perhaps not the best example of this usually high quality wine.

From a vintage which produced stellar and mediocre wines, this falls into the second category, when measured against a high standard. The flavours are of sour cherries and black cherries, and there are perfumed and violet notes. The impact on the palate is complex enough, but there are some herbal and underripe flavours, which are not so pleasant.

There is some depth in the fruit profile, but the structure of the wine is a bit simple. The tannins are slight and the wine ends on an overly fruity finish.

Score: 90/-

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gralyn 2000

There is not much wine from Gralyn which finds its way to the east coast of Australia, but I bought some many years ago from the cellar door. Gralyn sits in a plum position in Margaret River, right next to Cullen and has access to some of the best grapes. As I said, the wines are not well known, partly because of the low volume, partly because they are quite expensive.

The 2000 Gralyn Cabernet Sauvignon is very varietal in its expression. It is a medium to full bodied wine, with blackcurrent flavours, very pretty and elegant. Unfortunately, as the wine moves down the palate, it develops this hole in the middle, sometimes seen in Cabernet. The tannins are still quite strong and noticeable on a satisfying finish.

The wine is probably at its peak now, but will remain good for another five years.

Score: 93/+

Because of the comments above, I was interested to also try the 2000 Gralyn Cabernet/Shiraz. It had a similar flavour profile, quite opulent, and yes, the Shiraz component delivered better overall mouthfeel. Unfortunately, the wine was a little less well balanced and slightly harsh on the finish. A good effort as well, though.

Score: 93/+

Monday, June 7, 2010

Grenache tasting for my followers

It appears we are going to have a clear winner in the Grenache and blends poll, but this may be because the Charlie Melton wine is much better known than the others.

Baz suggested to taste the wines and experience first hand the differences between Barossa and McLaren Vale Grenache (if it turns out that way).

I think this is a great idea, and I would be quite pleased to host such a tasting in Sydney. I am happy to contribute a Les Amis, which otherwise could be a stumbling block. Chris, I don't know if you come to Sydney from time to time, but if yes, I would like to include you.

I reckon we need at least five people to participate, and at this stage, I would only open it to my followers. Everybody would have to contribute a bottle on the list.

What do you all think? Please let me know if you are in, and availability in the first half of July.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

McIvor Estate Shiraz

The 2004 McIvor Estate Shiraz, from a good year, is fruity and fat. The palate of plum and fruitcake lacks structure and thins towards the end when the alcohol kicks in. Not my style.

Score: 87/--

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Poll Opened - This time Grenache and blends

The Grenache and Grenache blends will be a shoot out between the Barossa and McLaren Vale. I found it difficult to come up with the final list. I could have easily included some others and dropped a couple from the list, but I hope you find a favorite in it. Please vote!

Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir

If every Australian Pinot Noir was as good as this entry level 2008 Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir, I would be happy.

This wine is obviously from fairly young fruit and does not have a huge amount of weight, but the flavours are terrific. This is predominantly a savoury Pinot, but not at the expense of elegant red cherry fruit. The wine is well balanced and a great food wine.

Score: 91/+++

Monday, May 31, 2010

Poll closed and I need your help

The Pinot Noir poll was close as I expected. We have not yet an icon Pinot. Every Pinot Noir got a vote, which is good to see, but it was finally the flamboyant and sometimes amazing Bass Phillip Premium which one the day. Bindi Block 5 was a deserving second.

Now I need your help with the Grenache and Grenache blend poll. My candidates so far are Clarendon Hills Romas Vineyard, SC Pannell Grenache, Torbreck Les Amis, Charles Melton Nine Popes. There are a number of others I can think of, but I would not see them as deserving a win. However, there are a lot of them in South Australia, and I am not familiar with all of them. I would like to add one or two wines to the list. Please come forward and suggest some candidates.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pipers Brook Gewuerztraminer

Gewuerztraminer is definitely an unfashionable grape variety. So what does everyone drink with Thai food? Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Grenache? To me, Gewuerz is the perfect compliment to Thai food.

There are not many producers of this variety left in Australia. Pipers Brook tends to be my choice. The 2008 Pipers Brook Gewuerztraminer has the typical flavours of lemon and lime, there obviously is spice, but a bit of sweetness, too. It really is a wine to accompany food. You would want to drink this young, to experience the freshness of the wine and the crisp finish.

Score: 89/++

Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz

The Mount Langi flagship wine has had its ups and downs over the years, but the 2000 Mt. Langi Ghiran Shiraz is pure class. The fruit, tasting of reddish plums, is fresh and vibrant, and the wine perfumed and lifted. I detect less spice than in other years. Fruit and acidity are perfectly balanced in this medium bodied wine leading to a very elegant feel on the palate. The good mouthfeel leads to a fresh, although not very long finish. This wine has many years ahead. I don't even taste any secondary characters yet.

I rate the Mount Langi Shiraz as one of the best Australian wines from 2000, which was a difficult vintage everywhere. If you want to collect a millenium wine, you won't go wrong with this one.

Score: 94/++

Thursday, May 27, 2010

La Pleiade

La Pleiade is the joint venture between Ron Laughton from Jasper Hill and Michel Chapoutier of Rhone fame. This is appealing, because you can expect the power of the Jasper Hill influence and the elegance from Chapoutier.

The fruit for this Shiraz comes from a newly planted vineyard in Heathcote in the late 90s, which is biodynamically managed. I have collected these wines for a number of years, but I must say they have not yet delivered their potential, although they are quite good.

This 2006 La Pleiade is a big wine. It tastes of plum, blueberry and licorice. While the previously reviewed Kalleske adds chocolate flavours to the fruit, this wine shows more savoury and earthy characters, including peppers. On the mid palate, the flavours get a little harsh, as a result of strong dry tannins. The finish has good length.

This wine will develop for a number of years and last a long time. James Halliday calls it the prototype for a 100-year wine. I will not live to know.

Score: 93/+

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kalleske Greenock Creek Shiraz

Sometimes you experience a wine which is close to perfect. The 2002 Kalleske Greenock Creek Shiraz is such a wine. The colour is very dark and inky. The bouquet smells of black fruit which the palate picks up as blackberry and mulberry. There is a lot of toffee and chocolate, often found in wines from the Northern Barossa. However, here it is very smooth and elegant. It shows similarity to the Rockford Basket Press in a strong year. The wine has good mouthfeel, and while it is ripe and full-bodied, the fruit is not dead or overbearing. It still has a few years left in it. The finish is soft, backed by silky tannins. My only gripe is that the alcohol is a bit high, and while it is not obvious on the palate initially, the wine gets a bit heavy with the third glass. Overall, a great example of ripe Barossa Shiraz, where excellent winemaking skills have been applied to outstanding fruit in a strong vintage.

Score: 96/++

Monday, May 24, 2010

Domaine Chantemerle Chablis

Now that Australian white wine producers have pretty much done away with cork closures, why not go the whole way? I had the 2008 Domaine Chantemerle Chablis with lunch today, and this wine is absolutely delicious and quite complex, without it seeing any oak at all (apart from the cork, of course).

The 2008 vintage in Chablis is very appealing to me. It is not as broad as 2006 and not as steely as 2007: a good mix between acidity and fruit flavour. The Chantemerle vines are manually harvested and no commercial yeast is used in the wine making process.

The wine has lemon/citrus flavours, there is good minerality on the palate. The wine fills the mouth nicely, but maintains its linear approach to the ripe acidic finish. I have not had a better pairing with Sydney Rock Oysters than this.

While some Sauvignons add oak to make the wine more 'interesting', this wine is proof that with good fruit and natural treatment in the vineyard and winery, highly complex flavours can be achieved without oak.

Score: 94/+++

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pinot Noir Poll Wide Open

On the first few votes, five different Pinots were picked. I am not surprised. This is wide open, therefore please vote.

Pinot Noir Poll Opened

To establish the Pinot Noir list created a number of problems. Some cost more than $100/bottle, which was my limit for Shiraz, but maybe not much more. I therefore allowed the Bass Phillip Premium and the Mount Mary. Some are produced in very small quantities. I excluded Bass Phillip Reserve, which is one barrel, but I allowed Bindi Block 5. Some have a couple of good vintages, but are uneven. This lead to the exclusion of most Tasmanian Pinots. Some have no history, for example William Downie.

I hope the list is fair, but welcome your comments. I would like you all to vote. This is a category everybody should have an opinion upon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thomas Wines

Not many get excited about Hunter Valley wines these days, and some reviewers virtually ignore them altogether. This is not so surprising given many winemakers focus on the tourist trade. However, some wineries are serious producers and they can deliver truly unique wine styles. One such winery is Thomas Wines. Andrew Thomas focuses on Semillon and Shiraz. Not all wines are pure Hunter, some are blends with South Australian grapes.

The other day, I tasted the current line-up. The 2009 'Two of a kind' Semillon Sauvignon Blanc consists of Hunter Valley Semillon and Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is fresh and zesty, with lime flavours and aromatic fleshiness. It is quite elegant, really different from NZ Sauvignon Blanc, has good mouthfeel and some length. Excellent lunch wine and value for money (92 points). The 2009 Braemore Semillon is the winery's showcase white wine. It has traditional citrus flavours and is quite delicate and smooth. The wine has excellent texture and some acidity on the finish, which signals good aging ability (94 points).

The parallel entry wine of the red wines is the 2008 'Two of a kind' Shiraz, a blend of Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale fruit. It shows lively and fruity plum flavours and is a little bit broad on the palate (89 points). The big Hunter Shiraz is the 2007 'Kiss' Shiraz. This wine is quite rich and concentrated, with big plum and fruitcake flavours. The texture is a bit syrupy, but the mouthfeel is round. The tannins are bigger than a traditional Hunter Burgundy style (91 points).

Thomas is a winery to watch with particular strength in the white wines, based on this tasting.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pierro New Releases

I was impressed by the new Pierro wines.

The 2008 Pierro Chardonnay is quite a delicate wine, mainly tasting of white peach, quite removed from the bigger fruit salad Chardonnays of ten years ago. The wine is very smooth and has great balance, moving to a lengthy finish.

Score: 94/++

The 2007 LTCF Cabernet Merlot is an easy drinking style red, with nice berry flavours and a balanced structure. Good value.

Score: 91/++

The 2005 Pierro Reserve Cabernet Merlot was the real surprise for me. I always classified Pierro as a white wine company, but this is an outstanding red. The predominant flavour of this medium to full bodied wine are the redcurrants, which have quite a bit of depth and fill the palate. The Merlot component is elegant, and the wine finishes with silky tannins. This is a real step up for Pierro with this variety. What would move it into the absolute top tier would be more flavour complexity.

Score: 94/++

The portfolio of these wines delivers a common theme: European heritage and elegance combined with sun-drenched Aussie fruit concentration, without being too ripe. Well done!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Craiglee Shiraz

Craiglee tends to be not a hyped up, but quite dependable producer of cool climate Shiraz. However, the 2000 Craiglee Shiraz was a disappointment the other day.

The wine tasted of sour cherries and game, and the grapes seemed to have been either somewhat green or very ripe. The mouthfeel was not very round. The unattractive flavour lasted through to the acidic finish.

Score: 86/--