Monday, February 28, 2011

NSW Wine Festival, part 2

Another winery in the Canberra district which has impressed me over the years is Lerida Estate. The 2008 'Josephine' Pinot Noir is their best barrel selection. The wine has strawberry fruit and gamey and earthy flavours. The wine is quite powerful, but not fruit driven (92 points). Their flagship 2008 Shiraz/Viognier is fashioned in a more powerful style than a number of others in the district. The wine has concentrated plum and mulberry flavours with some eucalypt as well. It is well structured with a firm finish (93 points).

Back to Orange, where Logan has made a bit of noise. The 2009 Pinot Noir is a bit disappointing. It starts with some plummy flavours, and then turns quite savoury backed by pleasant dry tannins. The downfall is the flat mouthfeel of the wine (which is what Pinot should be all about)(89 points). Their current success is the 2008 Cabernet/Merlot. This is a medium bodied wine, tasting of plum and blackberry. It is very smooth with a firm (and slightly hot - alc. 14.5%) finish - an appealing wine (91 points).

Now over to Mudgee, where Thistle Hill is creating interest with preservative free wines. However, I tasted the more traditional wines. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is medium bodied, very middle of the road. Not sure why I would be interested to drink it (88 points). The 2009 Shiraz/Cabernet Erudgere is much more interesting. This is my wine of the day. Its flavours are blackberry and mulberry. The fruit is concentrated, but soft and elegant. I believe it comes from the old Rosemount Mountain Blue vineyard (remember this?), which Fosters let go (93 points).

My next stop was Robert Stein. The reds were disappointing. The 2008 Shiraz showed insufficient tannin structure (87 points), and the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon had insufficient mouthfeel and, again, backbone (87 points).

I finished up with Huntington, one of the few wineries which consistently delivers good value for money with full bodied reds. My pick was the 2006 Block 3 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine tastes of ripe blackberry. It is very soft, with velvety tannins, almost like a traditional Hunter Valley Shiraz. I liked the flavour profile, but the wine finished too soft for me (92 points).

Overall, I was encouraged by my tastings. There is a lot of variety, established NSW wineries are finding form again, and some new ones are worth watching closely.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

NSW Wine Festival, part 1

I am not a big fan when it comes to public wine festivals where you taste wine from different wine company booths. The glasses are bad and the pricing is a rip-off, but it has the advantage of not having to travel across a pretty large area, in this case NSW.

The tasting this weekend was quite interesting, actually. On the plus side, there is an enormous range of wines in NSW, and there is new energy to produce good wine. On the minus side, the tasting experiences are still hit and miss and while some wineries produce good individual wines, they have not yet managed to carry this across the range.

Following are my notes from quite selective tastings. First up was First Creek from the Hunter Valley. This new winery is one to watch. The 2009 First Creek Reserve Semillon is very good. It has an excellent lemon fruit and acidity balance and a very linear finish (91 points). On the other hand, I found the 09 Chardonnay too broad (88 points).

Then came Brangayne from Orange. The 2009 Brangayne Reserve Chardonnay was to my liking. The flavour is an attractive mix of stone fruit, mainly apple and peach. The wine is well balanced with a satisfying finish (91 points). The Pinot Noir was not as good. Its red and black cherry fruit was a little thin and the finish not too smooth (87 points).

Eden Road from the Canberra District has had plenty of attention since it won the Jimmy Watson Trophy last year. The 2009 Long Road Chardonnay from Tumbarumba, a well established Chardonnay area, is a cracker. There is concentrated lemon fruit in this wine, balanced by moderate acidity and a fresh finish (92 points). The 2009 Long Road Shiraz is disappointing. This wine is light to medium bodied with broad raspberry flavours, not a typical Australian Shiraz, and probably tasted too warm (86 points).

to be continued...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tapanappa Wines (2)

The Petaluma Merlot was one of the serious Merlots in Australia. It comes from the same vineyard 20km north of Coonawarra as the Tapanappa Merlot does. We tasted two vintages, the 2003 Tapanappa Merlot and the 2006 Tapanappa Merlot. These were two very impressive wines. The 2003 has a very moorish flavour, with eucalypt and muscat spices prominent. The wine has depth, good acidity and structure. It is miles apart from some of the fruit driven examples in Australia. The 2006 is fresher, as you would expect, a bit more fruit dominant, but with a similar structure and a long life ahead. I would rate the 03 96 points and the 06 95 points.

The two Cabernet/Shiraz offers were from 2004 and 2006. Interesting that Brian Croser chooses to blend the Cabernet with Shiraz rather than Merlot, given his French orientation. The 2004 Tapanappa Cabernet/Shiraz has dark fruit concentration and depth, but is not heavy. The flesh of the Shiraz is well integrated into the Cabernet structure. The wine is very smooth with fine and lengthy tannins. The 2006 Cabernet/Shiraz is similar in style, but not as concentrated. 2004 again proves to be an outstanding vintage.

The Tapanappa wines are very impressive. There is a clear 'Croser' style here, with European influences as far as the structure is concerned, but typical Australian fruit flavours. All the wines are single vineyard, and the careful choice of vineyard location allows good wine to be made most years. I highly recommend these wines.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tapanappa Wines (1)

I have a small number of Tapanappa wines in my cellar, but never tasted the full range until last night. I cannot think of another small Australian winery which produces four different wines at such an outstanding level. I much prefer these wines to Brian Croser's old Petaluma range. Every wine I tried I would rate in the 95/96 point range.

The 2008 Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay is brilliant. Made in the style of a leading Montrachet, it undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation. Despite this, there is enough acidity to balance the ripe lemon and creamy flavours. The wine is matured in 50% new oak, and it shows, but it is not overwhelming. Not many Chardonnay vines in Australia benefit from the full French treatment, but this wine is outstanding and justifies its hefty price tag.

I also liked the 2009 Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir. It is a very savoury wine, tasting of spiced raspberry, with fine grained tannins leading to a long and well balanced finish.

(to be continued...)

Changyu Cabernet Germischt

I now managed to drink this leading Chinese wine which I described a few posts below.

The wine has a solid red/purple colour. It tastes quite European, with redcurrant flavours and earthy characters. It is not overly complex, but actually has a nice structure and balance. I can see this winery producing quite attractive wines in the future.

Score: 88/+

Thursday, February 17, 2011

McIvor Estate Cabernet/Merlot

The McIvor Estate from the Heathcote region has had its ups and downs over the vintages, but this 2004 McIvor Estate Cabernet/Merlot works pretty well. It is full bodied, but quite a soft wine with the Merlot fruit influential in this near 50/50 blend. Blueberry and Blackberry fruit dominates and there is a good balance with acidity. The backbone is not very pronounced, but the wine is still drinking very well and will continue to do so for a few more years.

Score: 90/+

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wine Industry Flood Relief

Based on Tyson Stelzer's initiative, the wine industry has contributed to a raffle with incredible prizes of wine. You can buy raffle tickets at $30 per ticket. The money raised will go to the Queensland flood relief effort. To purchase tickets, go to

Monday, February 14, 2011

Schulz 'Marcus' Old Shiraz

If you want to help the wine industry, help the growers. For those who enjoy drinking a big Barossa Shiraz, the 'Marcus' might be a great option. I drank the 2005 Schulz 'Marcus' Old Shiraz last night and was impressed. Like a number of other growers, Marcus Schulz has made the step to build his own brand, but is probably finding it quite tough.

The wine tastes of black plum. It shows some mocca and earthiness, too. The tannins are firm, but not bitter, and this balanced wine finishes with nice acidity. The wine is a bit heavy with 15.5% alcohol, but not hot.

The Schulz' old vine vineyard is near the legendary Penfold's Kalimna vineyard, and its fruit finds its way into Torbreck's RunRig and Factor. If you want a similar wine, maybe slightly less complex, for one quarter of the price, try the Schulz 'Marcus' (made by Torbreck).

Score: 95/+

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Riesling Tasting

I attended a Riesling tasting on Saturday night. I must say, after having tasted 15 Rieslings or so, it would have been nice to have had a red wine. They simply ofter more opportunities for differentiation, I think. Having said this, the quality on offer was good. These were Rieslings from many parts of Australia, and some from Germany and Alsace, mostly from the 09 and 10 vintages.

Almost all wines displayed well balanced acidity, perhaps the most important aspect of Riesling. While the Australian Rieslings were good, my two favorites came from Europe. Because the tasting was a somewhat rambunctious affair, I made only very few notes, so the comments will be brief. The 2010 Donnhoff Estate Riesling from the Nahe offered a complex palate, dry yet slightly perfumed. The 2008 Trimbach Riesling from Alsace was full bodied, yet zesty. I would rate the 2010 O'Leary Walker 'Dry Cut' Polish River Riesling just behind. This wine is as pure and dry as it gets, with a long finish.

In the next group, I would have the 2010 Seppelt Drumborg Riesling, the 2009 Leo Buring 'Leonay', the 2010 O'Leary Walker Polish Hill and the 2010 Cardinham Estate 'Braeburn' Riesling. These wines all have good balance, but lack that little bit extra I found in the first group. I also rated the 2009 Albert Mann Schlossberg Riesling with this group. This wine showed more minerality than the other wines, in which lemon or lime flavours dominate.

The disappointments for me were the 2010 Frankland Estate wines, the 'Netley Road' and the 'Poison Hill', the 2010 Lethbridge 'Dr. Nadeson', the 2010 Petaluma 'Hanlin Hill', the 2008 Tim Adams Reserve and the 2009 Olssens Dry Riesling from Central Otago. Some of this is a personal bias against fruitiness in Riesling, but some of these also showed a broad palate and a flat finish, and lacked acidity.

Overall, a good time was had by all. Needless to say, there were another 25 Rieslings I did not manage to taste.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Red Wine from China

Now that China has taken on cricket, it won't be long before it produces good wine. I got this Changyu Dry Red Wine given last night, of course packaged in a red box. It is the leading Chinese brand with a more than 100 year history. The grape of this wine is Cabernet Germischt, which was imported from France in 1892. It no longer exists there, but the variety may be identical to Cabernet Franc.

This producer follows European winemaking rules, wines get releases at significant age. I cannot detect a year on the label, but the wine will be 5-10 years old.

The bottle has been on numerous flights, so I will let it settle for a few days. Google reveals that these wines taste very earthy (dirty). I will let you know...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Barossa Discoveries

I am currently travelling in the Barossa, looking for new and interesting developments. A couple of winemakers have caught my interest.

The first one is Damien Tscharke. He is a young winemaker who has old vines in the plum Seppeltsfield sub-region at his disposal. He produces the traditional varieties under the Glaymond label, but his eyes really light up when he talks about the Tscharke wines. The red varieties include a Tempranillo/Graciano, a Grenache, a Montepulciano and a Zinfandel. The Graciano gives backbone to the pretty Tempranillo component (similar to what Mourvedre does to Grenache), and the Grenache is very savoury, in the Spanish style. The highlight for me was the Montepulciano, which is an Italian grape variety, grown a lot in Abruzzo in the south and not to be confused with the Montepulciano area in Tuscany. The Zinfandel is better than most. All these wines share an impressive purity of fruit. They are intense, but have sufficient acidity to be lively. Damien believes these wine will suit the hot climate of the Barossa particularly well. I would rate these wines between 91-95 points, and they are attractively priced.

The second winery is Fernfield Wines in the south of Eden Valley. It is still owned by the Lillecrapp family. The first Australian Lillecrapp built the first house in Eden Valley, which is the cellar door today. They make more traditional Barossa wines. The unusual aspect is that the four current family members do absolutely everything and this specific care seems to come through in the wines. They seem to have a lot of integrity and be very true to their place. The wines are (you have to say) really cheap. As I am writing this, I am drinking the 2007 Pridmore Shiraz. It is a big wine, with plum and mint flavours. Despite the 15% alcohol, the wine is quite elegant and not a meal by itself (91 points).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Yelland & Papps Grenache Rose

What else would you drink but Rose in these conditions? This young 2010 Yelland & Papps Grenache Rose tastes attractively of raspberry, quite fruity, but not too sweet. It is an easy drinking style, fairly lean and with a dry finish.

Score: 89/+