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/+++