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/--

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon

Wynnsday does not create quite the excitement it used to, but for me, the Black Label Cabernet remains an iconic wine for a couple of reasons. I like the fact the label has been around pretty much unchanged for 50 odd years. I also like the fact that this wine at its price point is made for long term cellaring. Not many wines can do this at that level.

Last night I had the 1998 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. 1998 was a stellar vintage in South Australia and this wine has certainly gone the distance. It displays the classic redcurrant blackberry cassis profile of Cabernet, with earthy flavours now coming into the picture. Its mouthfeel is not as full as I would have liked, and the wine has dried out a bit, but it still shows good length and fruit on the finish. Good value for money.

Score: 92/+

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Greenock Creek Alices Shiraz

A little while back I decided to buy a selection of Greenock Creek wines. Those who have visited the property will know that the vineyards are absolutely stunning. I think the winery has more Robert Parker 100 pointers to its credit than any other Australian winery and the average score of all wines reviewed is likely to be higher than any other winery.

The 2005 Greenock Creek Alices Shiraz is the entry level wine, but you would not know it. With a whopping 17.5% alcohol, this is the most alcoholic wine I have ever tasted. Interestingly, the first sip is pretty good. The concentrated fruit covers the alcohol. However, by the end of the first glass, the alcohol dominates. The finish of the wine is sharp, and just not pleasant. It does not invite you for more, unless your aim is to get smashed. You get no varietal characteristics with this wine. It is not a port, but a wine dominated by alcohol.

Greenock Creek does not supply wines to the major Australian wine reviewers, and it is not hard to see why. Best to keep the mystique by keeping things secret.

Score: 84/---

Latest Poll Results

It is no surprise that Tyrell's VAT 1 won the Semillon category. The Sparkling Red was a closer contest. In the end, the one with the name, Rockford's Black Shiraz, won the category. The Joseph came a close second which I found interesting. Seppelt, who originally developed the category, was not really in the running.

The next will be Pinot Noir. It will be hard to develop the choices. How to treat minuscule production? Exclude the very expensive ones?

Henschke 2007 Premium Eden Valley Releases

This heading refers to the Cyril Henschke and the Mount Edelstone, of course. I was interested to see how these wines fared, given the drought vintage in the Barossa.

The 2007 Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon has a strong redcurrant bouquet. The flavours are lively, based on cherries and redcurrant - no dead fruit here. Tannins blend in nicely. The wine included some Cabernet Franc, which may be responsible for the slightly perfumed lift in this wine. The wine should age nicely and increase in complexity. A good effort.

Score: 94/++

The 2007 Henschke Mount Edelstone is a worthy follow-up to the outstanding 2006. The wine is full bodied with quite concentrated fruit. The flavours are typical for a low yielding Shiraz: ripe plum and blackcurrant, a bit of chocolate in the background . Yet at the same time, this wine is quite elegant. The oak is well integrated, and the strong tannins lead to a very long finish. This is a profound Edelstone, and while it is grown near the warmer Moculta, the higher altitude of the Eden Valley provides the freshness and acidity needed for this wine to be lively and long lasting.

Score: 96/+++

These wines are a superb effort by Prue and Stephen Henschke in what must have been a difficult vintage.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Henschke Hill of Grace

I had the privilege of tasting the new, not yet released 2006 Henschke Hill of Grace last night. It is tempting to go quickly into describing the complex flavours of this stunning wine, but the key is probably to step back and look at the true uniqueness of this wine.

Hill of Grace is arguably Australia's most outstanding single vineyard wine. It certainly is a very special expression of the place it is grown. The vines, individually looked after, are on average over 110 years old, the vineyard is still surrounded by general farming, at a higher elevation in the northern and warmer part of the Eden Valley. Its expression is unique. The Hill of Grace is a feminine wine, very well balanced, with a lot of subtle complexity.

The 2006 opens up beautifully (in this quite inadequate tasting glass). There are many berry flavours, redcurrants and many spices, in particular cinnamon. It seems the soil profile is transported into the glass through these old vines. The wine is very elegant, the new oak cleverly woven into the structure. This Hill of Graces lingers on lightly on the back palate before closing on a silky finish. This wine is quite approachable now, but will gain more expression over time. Perhaps the best wine I ever had under screwcap.

Score: 98/+++

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Torbreck - The Struie

On the first cold night, it was time to crack a big Shiraz. Initially, I opened a 2002 Charles Melton Nine Popes, but it was badly corked. The other wine I had at room temperature was a 2003 Torbreck Struie. I was not too confident, as this was a hot vintage in the Barossa and I expected slightly dead fruit.

The wine opened nicely, with substantial and pure plum flavours on the palate. As always, Torbreck wines produce good mouthfeel, and some of the cooler climate flavours and white pepper from the Eden Valley component was shining through as well. But on the finish I did get the dried and dead fruit character.

I like the concept of this wine, but there are better years than 2003.

Score: 90/+