Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Poll Created

This poll has many options. You can tick more than one answer. Come on, for this to be meaningful, you all have to vote.

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Zealand in a Glass

I always thought the best thing about New Zealand wines is that their worst wines are better than the worst from pretty much any other country. And so it was at this general tasting. The overall standard of winemaking is very high.

I am not a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc, but it seems there is a bit of change happening here. My sense is New Zealanders are getting nervous about the 'industrial' output of this wine. Also, new wineries need to do something different to differentiate themselves. Following on from my positive view of the Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc (see post below), I particularly was impressed by the Sauvignon Blancs from Saint Clair. Their 2009 SB is very balanced with lime and some restrained tropical flavours. The acidity is very much in the background, delivering an elegant finish. The 2009 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 SB is a more concentrated wine, quite full on, with the tropical flavours more prominent. The two SBs from Blind River were also interesting. There is no aggressiveness , nor any gooseberry in these flavours. The Sisters Single Vineyard wine was a bit sweet for me, but I enjoyed the blend, a more complex wine, which also sees a bit of oak.

I did not taste any Rieslings or Pinot Gris, which people seemed to be keen on, and the Chardonnays from Villa Maria did not impress me. On to the reds.

As to be expected, the Pinot Noirs were interesting. Unfortunately, the best producers were not represented. Therefore I did not find any real stand-outs. Generally, there seems to be a trend towards less fruit and more length on the palate. I consider this a good development. Typical for this would be Carrick from Central Otago. I had some of their 2005 Pinot Noir in my cellar, which was very rich, dark and fruity. The 2007 and 2008 Pinots I tasted yesterday were lighter, and the 2008 had a long finish. They also showed the 2006 Excelsior, their reserve wine, which was quite outstanding: very dry, with fine grained tannins, and a super long finish.

The 2008 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir is a bigger style, with good length and a silky finish, but a bit uneven mouthfeel. In contrast, the Muddy Water wines, from the Waipara Valley also, were softer and prettier. The Hares Breath showed good fruit concentration.

Mt. Difficulty disappointed with the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. This winery has lost its focus, in my opinion. Other interesting Pinots came from Seresin and Wooing Tree, the latter overpriced.

The wines I tried from Hawkes Bay, a 2007 Stonecroft Syrah, the 2007 Unison Classic Blend, and the 2007 Te Mata Awatea left me somewhat cold. I have been critical of Te Mata before, and the Unison, which I enjoyed many years ago, was very sweet and lacked complexity.

Finally, an interesting discovery were the Man o' War wines from the Waiheke Island in the North. They have extensive vineyard holdings, and I particularly enjoyed the 2008 Ironclad Bordeaux blend.

By the way, most of the wines mentioned here are available for purchase at

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dog Point 2008/09 Releases

Next to Cloudy Bay, Dog Point is probably my favorite producer from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. The 2008/09 releases are excellent and further cement this winery as one of the stars.

The 2009 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc has fresh citrus and some tropical flavours and is much less grassy than most NZ SBs. The fruit is finely balanced by the wine's acidity.

Score: 92/+

The star of the tasting is the 2008 Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine sees some old oak which adds considerable complexity to the bouquet. Again, the wine is very well balanced, light, yet with great length and a long finish for a Sauvignon Blanc. The focus here is not so much the fruit, but the texture of the wine. This is an outstanding summer drink, which you can also enjoy on its own.

Score: 95/+++

The 2008 Dog Point Chardonnay is also excellent, but falls a bit behind the wine above. It tastes of citrus and apricot, but again, there is more focus on the texture of the wine. It has nutty elements and some minerality. This wine is more restrained than Chardonnay of the earlier years from this producer.

Score: 94/+

The 2008 Dog Point Pinot Noir is very savoury, very French. The wine has some complexity, but not quite the mouthfeel of the leading New Zealand producers.

Score: 92/0

Friday, February 19, 2010

Kalleske Old Vine Grenache

Kalleske is one of the Australian wineries I truly admire. It has grown from a grower to an estate winery, with beautifully maintained old vineyards and an expression very true to grape variety and the Greenock/Moppa location. The Old Vine Grenache is one of the outstanding Grenaches in Australia.

Tonight I had the 2005 Kalleske Old Vine Grenache. This wine is quite sweet, true to the Grenache variety. It is very lively, you would not think it is five years old. I admire the texture of the wine, the silky tannins and long finish. This is so smooth...

Score: 95/++

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Royal Sydney Wine Show

It is not surprising that the judges get it wrong when they need to taste 2300 wines (well, individually they only taste a few hundred). A pleasant enough wine, the 2008 Collector Reserve Shiraz picked up a couple of trophies. It won its class, which had 3 wines in total, and then had to win a taste off against other gold medal winners. This contrasted with other gold medal winners who may have had to compete against 40 other wines in their class and have only come second. No chance for a trophy here. - This is the Australian Show system for you.

Wine of the Show was the 2008 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, a good wine, but with its oak influence and creamy taste hardly typical for recent improvements in Australia.

Some general observations:

-I liked only very few wines, which demonstrated more than anything else the difficulty with the 2007 and 2008 vintages
-Most of Victoria and Tasmania was absent (as usual)
-85% of the wines were left unopened on the tables. Unless you won a gold medal or had a big brand name you did not stand a chance - shows the reality of wine competition today.

The Chardonnays were the most exciting wines by far. My favorite was the 2008 Bay of Fires Chardonnay. Very fresh, beautiful fruit and long finish. It picked up a Gold. I also liked the 2008 Shadowfax Chardonnay.

The Semillons were mostly dull and had too much sweetness, as did the Rieslings. Shirazes and Cabernets lacked individual character, with the Cabernets often green (even 2007 Margaret Rivers disappointed) and the Shirazes cooked.

Enough said.

Friday, February 12, 2010

First Drop Wines

First Drop Wines is a relatively new virtual winery with interests in the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Barossa. I had a chance to taste eight of their wines.

The first four were relatively fruit forward wines, an Arneis, a Rose, a Nebbiolo/Barbera and a Montepulciano, all but the Rose from the Adelaide Hills. None of these wines would have scored 90 points. They were simple and often sweet, the best of them being the 2007 'Minchia' Montepulciano. I must say I cringe most of the time at the attempts with new varieties. Having quite a few Piedmont wines in my cellar, I have to say, the First Drop wines don't even come close.

Then on to the Barossa Shirazes. The entry wine is the unfortunately named 2008 Mother's Milk Shiraz. It is fruity and soft with a dry finish, but I would rather drink a Woodcutters, or a Laughing Jack or a Kalleske or a Best's Bin 1 at this price point.

The 2007 '2%' Shiraz is called a reserve wine. It is quite big, tasting of sweet plum and has a reasonable, but quite tannic finish.

The 'Fat of the Land' wines come from single vineyards. I tasted the 06 from Seppeltsfield and from Ebenezer. The Seppeltsfield wine has a very inky colour, is rich, tasting of blueberry and blackberry with a bit of eucalypt. It is a muscular wine, but also quite soft and silky: The best wine of the night. The Ebenezer is big as well, with black fruit and chocolate, and big strong tannins. These two wines tasted quite good on the night, but were a bit uneven, and I am not sure of their aging potential. Scores: 93/0 and 92/0

First Drop is an attempt to differentiate, whatever the cost: they make many wines (a lot more than shown), they have unusual names, and every wine has a different label. While I don't doubt the talents of the team, I would suggest that focus could lead to better quality and thereby differentiation in the long run than their scattergun approach.

La Pleiade

La Pleiade is one of the most interesting full bodied red wines made in Australia. It is a joint venture between Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill fame and Michael Chapoutier from the Northern Rhone. The vines come from a 1998 planted vineyard in Heathcote.

Yesterday I opened a 2004 La Pleiade Shiraz. The wine tastes of black cherries, plum and blackcurrant. It has savoury flavours as well. There is great complexity on the palate. The wine is full bodied and ripe, but not too big. It has length and quite firm tannins with a drying finish.

You get what you would have expected: Australian fruit, but some restraint through a focus on the structure of the wine. It is a good wine, although the mouthfeel is a bit uneven. Maybe there is actually too much going on.

This wine is not easy to find, but well worth it. Probably only from the Jasper Hill mailing list.

Score: 93/++

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Derwent Estate Chardonnay

The 2007 Derwent Estate Chardonnay is a light bodied wine (when was the last time I said that?) with beautiful fruit and texture. It tastes of white peach and melon, is crisp, but not overly so, with a velvety backbone and a well integrated finish.

This excellent lunch wine won a trophy at the recent Tasmanian show. While I pay no attention to red wine trophy winners, they tend to be more indicative of quality in white wine. This one is decently priced and highly recommended.

Score: 93/+

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kooyong Ferrous Pinot Noir

The Ferrous is one of Kooyong's premium Pinot Noirs, so I had high expectations when I opened the 2003 Kooyong Ferrous Pinot Noir.

The wine is very savoury, with reasonably good length, but not the fanning out on the back palate I had hoped for. The structure is supported by firm tannins, and the seven years of age are no problem. I am just wondering where the special extra is which would let this wine stand out from the increasing number of good Pinot Noirs in Australia? I could not find it.

Score: 92/+

Trinity Hill Merlot

It is a pity that it is so difficult to find good Merlot in Australia. Nothing matches a decent piece of beef as well.

I always keep a few Merlot bottles in my cellar, for above reasons, but not many. I came across the 1999 Trinity Hill Merlot Gimblett Road on one of my trips to New Zealand and liked it then. I still do.

This wine is medium bodied. The redcurrant fruit has mellowed and the well integrated oak sits in the background. As a result, secondary characters now dominate, tasting of forest floor, yet quite elegant. The wine has beautiful texture with some acidity left.

This Merlot is not overly concentrated, and the mouthfeel a little thin, but the wine supports food really well.

The gravels of Hawkes Bay seem to work for Merlot, as my other New Zealand Merlot favorites come from this area, Craggy Range and the Unison blend. Brian Croser makes good Merlot in Australia, but who else?

Score: 92/+++

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Torbreck The Struie Shiraz

I thought this would be an interesting comparison with the just reviewed Glaetzer wine. The 2005 Torbreck Struie Shiraz is obviously younger, and it tastes much fresher and livelier. The fruit is plum and mulberry and there is a satisfying mouthfeel. The wine is quite juicy, maybe too much so, but the tannins counterbalance the potential heaviness of the wine. There is quite a lot of interest and complexity in this wine. It is also very ripe, probably a little too much, but at this stage, the wine remains lively.

Score: 91/0

Glaetzer Nefertiti Shiraz

Ben Glaetzer's wines are as smooth on release as he is on the promotion circuit. But how well do they keep?

The 2002 Glaetzer Nefertiti Shiraz should be peaking now. However, it tastes very ripe, of dried prunes and meat. No doubt, the fruit was good, but has not gained in complexity. The tannins are there, but it tastes as if everything is in one spot. There is no structure which takes the wine all the way to the back palate.

Now, it can be argued most wine is drunk on release, and this wine would have been agreeable then. But if it claims to be a premium wine, it needs to last. Not good enough, Mr. Glaetzer.

Score: 89/--