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/---