Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Craggy Range 2009 Releases

Luckily there is some correlation between investment dollars and quality of wine, otherwise people would not do it. Voyager Estate is a good example in Australia and Craggy Range is the prime New Zealand example. When I visited there a few years ago, I was impressed with the immaculate viticulture and the attention to detail in the winemaking.

The 2009 releases are impressive, although not across the board, in my view. The 2009 Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay is a wine from the Gimblett Gravels, as are their reds. The wine shows citrus flavours over a nutty base and has quite an acidic finish. I found the oak quite strong and I am not sure the fruit can take it as the wine settles down and matures (91 points).

The 2009 Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir tastes of red cherry, but is overall quite savoury. It fans out nicely with the finish, which is more gripping than elegant (93 points).

The 2009 Te Kahu Merlot Blend is made from younger fruit and it shows. The wine is lacking depth (89 points).

The 2009 Craggy Range Sophia can be thought of like a right bank Bordeaux. It is predominantly Merlot, with some Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a medium bodied wine with beautiful blackcurrant fruit. The wine is well rounded, with fruit and oak seamlessly integrated, and a lengthy finish - a cracker, and cheaper than 2nd growth Bordeaux (95 points).

The 2009 Craggy Range The Quarry is a Cabernet Sauvignon. It is also well rounded and quite elegant for a young Cabernet, but not as complex and beautiful as the Sophia (94 points).

The Sol Shiraz is the self declared challenger to Grange as the number 1 Shiraz of the southern hemisphere. The 2009 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah has a deep purple colour. It tastes of blackberry and is quite peppery like a cool climate Australian Shiraz, but with a lot of intensity and a silken texture. The wine is quite acidic with dry tannins and good length on the finish . The 2009 is an excellent example of this style (95 points).

Overall, a strong portfolio, but the wines are not cheap.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Eden Road The Seedling

Eden Road is quite a new Canberra district winery which arrived on the scene with well made and inexpensive Shiraz and by winning a Jimmy Watson last year for one of them.

The 2010 Eden Road The Seedling Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is the first white wine I tried from them and I reckon it is equally good. The freshness of the Sauvignon Blanc and the weight of the Semillon are both quite present in this wine. Lime fruit dominates, but it is not an overly fruity wine. This wine has great texture and length for such a young wine. A trifle more acidity would balance it perfectly. Highly recommended!

Score: 92/++

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chateau Pontet-Canet

I am not a huge Bordeaux fan across the board, but I like a good one. Currently, the 2010 futures are offered from apparently a good vintage, and the prices are high despite the improvement of the Australian dollar. I am lukewarm towards it, but tried a 2005 Chateau Pontet-Canet tonight to see if I can increase my enthusiasm.

Pontet-Canet has been a success story for the last ten years and I was lucky enough to buy some 05's at reasonable prices. Many say that if the Bordeaux classification was redone today, Pontet-Canet would be a first growth. So this should be a good benchmark from a great year.

I decanted the wine only an hour before consumption, so this opens up slowly. The colour is deep red, and the flavour a thick blackcurrant. This is also the impression on the front palate. The wine really comes to its own on the back palate with a very long finish and firm, but elegant tannins.

This wine is still way too early to drink. It is a well structured, full bodied wine. I would have liked the tannins to be silkier and more caressing, and the flavour a bit more differentiated.

The verdict: I am very happy to drink this wine, but it is not a must have or one that bowls me over. This confirms my general assessment of Bordeaux wine. Therefore, at current prices, I will stay on the sidelines for 2010 despite the raving reviews some of the wines have collected.

Score: 95/+

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rockburn Pinot Noir

Rockburn is the personal project of Felton Road's winemaker (who's name escapes me at the moment). Therefore, expectations are pretty high on opening this bottle.

The 2009 Rockburn Pinot Noir is full flavoured, with upfront raspberry fruit. The wine is quite lifted and aromatic, a bit on the fruity side, but it is a harmonious wine with a medium length finish.

The Rockburn does not quite reach the quality of Felton Road, probably because the vines are quite young, but it is still a satisfying drink at the (lower) price.

Score: 91/+

Leo Buring Leopold Riesling

Does anybody remember the Leo Buring Rieslings of the 1970s? Some years were wines of absolute magic and drank well after 25 years.

This 2008 Leo Buring Leopold Riesling is a far cry from it. The wine is from the Tamar River. It has a spritzy lime fruit taste. The wine arrives on the palate broad and bland and I am not sure if it is supposed to be dry or sweet.

This wine further destroys the Leo Buring brand.

Score: 82/--

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Casa Fresci Profondo

When I tried the 1999 Casa Fresci Profondo three years ago, I thought it was not ready. It is unusual to say this about a 9 year old wine in the mid price range. Now it is ready, and in fact quite interesting.

This wine comes from Langhorne Creek and is a blend of more or less equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec. It gives you very much a Bordeaux type result. The fruit is not dominant, there area lot of savoury characteristics and a dry tannin finish. The wine has good complexity, but is not as harmonious as I would have liked with the different grape varieties quite noticeable.

This wine is best enjoyed with food.

Score: 92/++

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Some Interesting New Pinot Noirs

A week ago, I tasted four interesting Pinot Noirs. They were all serious and good, but not without flaws.

Two came from Tomboy Hill, in the Bendigo district. This is a new producer to me and it is unusual to see Pinot Noir from this area. The 2008 Tomboy Hill 'Smythes Creek' is a savoury, yet quite elegant Pinot Noir. I liked it, although it lacked a bit of weight (91 points). The more expensive 2009 Tomboy Hill 'Ruby's Picking' has this additional weight and similar characteristics, but it has a disappointing short finish (90 points). 2009 was of course the disastrous fire year in Victoria.

The 2010 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir (their standard offering) has the typical vibrant cherry fruit. It is not a very big wine and still quite closed. The finish is a little harsh at this stage. This wine will need time (91 points).

Pinot Noirs from Paringa Estate tend to have this huge fruit sensation on the front palate, but I find the 2008 Paringa Estate Pinot Noir better balanced. The dark cherry fruit is well backed by fine tannins and the wine has some length, but it is still a bit of a bomb (90 points).

Pinot Noir has come a long way in our region. You don't find too many terrible offerings any more. Yet to make a brilliant one remains a difficult task.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Torbreck New Premium Shiraz Releases

The latest Torbreck Shiraz releases are from difficult hot years in the Barossa. Given this, they perform pretty well, but the prices are high. It might be better to wait for the 2009 wines.

The 2008 Torbreck The Struie is a Shiraz with fruit from the Barossa Valley as well as Eden Valley. The wine is quite smooth and shows the lifted flavours typical for Eden Valley. The fruit concentration is not as good as in other years (92 points).

The Factor has never been a favorite of mine. I find this Shiraz too ripe and concentrated to drink more than a glass of. And what for the rest of the evening? The 2007 Torbreck The Factor shows overripe fruit, the flavour is very meaty and the finish dull (90 points).

The 2007 Torbreck Descendant is much livelier, partly due to the Viognier component. This is a serious and also elegant wine with a lasting finish (94 points).

The 2007 Torbreck RunRig is a good wine, but will no doubt split the tasters. The wine is quite sweet, with plenty of chocolate besides the dark plum and blackcurrant fruit. The finish is good, but lacks the complexity of previous years (93 points).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Torbreck Les Amis Grenache

The 2009 Torbreck Les Amis is probably the best pure Grenache I have ever tasted. This is a big statement, but this is a very special wine.

This wine bursts out with big cherry flavours. It is a heady wine with a huge mouthfeel, length and depth of fruit, yet amazing balance. The finish goes on and on, creating a real 'wow' factor.

I have drunk Les Amis from its inception in 2001, but this vintage takes this label to a new level, and uncharted territory, I think.

Score: 97/+++

Brokenwood Semillon

Sometimes, the 'standard' wine is almost as good as the specialised, limited release wines, at a fraction of the price. The 2005 Brokenwood Semillon is such an example. The wine still shows a pale green colour, no sign of any honey colour yet for this wine under screw cap.

The pleasant flavour is pure lime and the wine has a crisp clean finish. While the wine is dry, it is not overly acidic, but enough to support a long life. There is not a lot of complexity in this wine, but such is the nature of Semillon. This wine will live for many years to come.

Score: 91/+

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio

For me, the Nebbiolo grape is the king of grapes. Good Barolo made from it combines the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon with the flavours of Pinot Noir - very exciting. The problem is, it is also the most thick skinned grape and this, combined with long maceration periods applied in Piedmont lead to very tannic wines, impossible to drink when young and a bit dull when matured.

Then along came the 1997 vintage. It was very warm in Piedmont and it produced generous wines with great fruit concentration. Young winemakers such as Roberto Voerzio reduced the maceration time and the result were wines which were internationally appealing while still maintaining their local specificity. This changed the world in Piedmont and great vintages which followed put Barolo firmly on the international map.

I happened to travel in Piedmont when the 1997 vintage was released and still have some bottles I brought back at home. The 1997 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio - a single vineyard wine, as most of them are - was one of the stars of the vintage. It is still a glorious wine.

The bouquet of a flower garden jumps out of the glass. It is followed by still fresh cherry and complex floral flavours. The wine has a big mouthfeel with a lot of depth and length. The great structure of this wine will allow it to last at least another ten years. The flavours lead to a piercing finish with dry, but not course tannins. The wine displays perfect balance, while perhaps not quite as elegant as yesterday's Cullen.

Score: 96/+++

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cullen Cabernet/Merlot

One of the nice things for me after coming back from less developed regions of the world is to resume drinking good quality wine. I thought I kick it off with Cullen, which is such a reliable producer.

The 1998 Cullen Cabernet/Merlot (the predecessor of the Diane Madeline) was such a joy to drink. It has a beautiful complex fruit set, which is just starting to mellow, some earthy characters, and lengthy silky tannins. The wine is seamless, and the individual contributions of Cabernet and Merlot are not detectable.

The wine has medium weight, perhaps a little more than more recent releases. It may not be quite as elegant and refined as the latest wines, but this is splitting hairs. This wine is a very fine example of a Bordeaux blend from Australia.

It really pays to cellar the premium red from Cullen. More complexity unfolds while the wine's structure remains strong. This wine will drink well for another 3-5 years.

Score: 96/+++