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
Saturday, July 17, 2010
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
Monday, July 12, 2010
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.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Friday, July 2, 2010
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.