Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gaja Tori San Lorenzo Barbaresco

How do you approach one of your most expensive wine bottles, from a vineyard a book has been written about? - With trepidation and high expectations, of course. Will the cork from this 1998 Gaja San Lorenzo come out in one? It did, so the start was promising.

The allure of the Nebbiolo grape is it can deliver the aromas of Pinot Noir and the structure of Cabernet, and age incredibly well. I decided to decant the wine for an hour prior to drinking. I did not go longer because I feared the wine with this age might lose flavour. I need not have worried. It actually drank better after a further hour.

The flavours were of blackberry, quite savoury and earthy as well. The wine is very elegant, which is Gaja's hallmark, and expanded beautifully in the mouth, stimulating all taste buds. It has a plush texture and good length.

The drawback? The wine showed just one expression - which was a good one, but I expected more complexity. Unfortunately, no wow factor. This is an excellent wine, but does it justify the price of about $500/bottle? I think not.

Score: 95/++

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Poll Created

There is a lot of talk by winemakers about organic and biodynamic winemaking these days. But what does the consumer think? Do you believe it is beneficial to the final product?

I have listed a few statements and am interested to know which ones you agree with. You can use multiple answers.

Please vote!

Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon

From memory, the 2007 Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon, from Margaret River, was well received by the wine scribes on release. It certainly has vibrant redcurrant fruit, but lacks depth of flavour, which is the big drawback. The acidic finish dominates, which I find strange, given it was such a hot vintage in WA. Maybe the grapes were harvested very early to avoid the heat.

Score: 90/-

Monday, July 25, 2011

Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz

The release of the 2008 Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz is significant, as it is the first subregional wine Penfolds has ever released. Penfolds is not a fast mover, as far as trends are concerned, but it does move. When RWT was first released, about 10 years ago, it was the first clearly declared Barossa Shiraz, and today more information is released about the fruit comprising Grange.

I believe the grapes for this wine come from the old Seppeltsfield vineyards, which are contracted out to Fosters (now Treasury Wine Estates). No doubt, the new Seppeltsfield owners will take the grapes back as soon as they can, but Penfolds' thinking might be that the highly promising Waltons vineyard might be able to step in at the time.

The Bin 150 has an inky colour, almost black. In line, the bouquet is very dense, and the blackberry fruit is supported by aniseed and meat flavours. The wine is clearly built to last with firm tannins, but also more acidity than perhaps expected from the Marananga subregion. As a result, the wine does not feel overly heavy (obviously full-bodied). It is clearly too early to drink.

The style is not my favorite, but I think this wine will develop well and most likely surprise those who have been a bit critical on release.

Score: 93/+

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bindi Composition Pinot Noir

The Composition Pinot Noir is Bindi's entry level Pinot. The 2006 Bindi Composition Pinot Noir was sheer pleasure to drink. The colour of the wine was moorish, and it displayed a wonderful bouquet of strawberry and cherry.

The fruit flavours were black cherry, but the key to this wine is its great balance and linear delivery. The wine goes down the palate without changing, becoming increasingly silky towards the back palate. It is one of the few truly ethereal Pinot Noirs we have in this country (next to Main Ridge). Soft tannins lead to a lengthy finish. This wine is well made and would have scored higher if the mouthfeel had been a bit more rounded.

Score: 93/+++

Recent Shiraz Poll

It was a close race between the options until the very end, but finally the 'elegant, perfumed' style won out. This is reflected in the scramble for Eden Valley fruit amongst Barossa Valley producers which I observed during my last visit there.

Huon Hooke, the respected Sydney Morning Herald wine writer, has expressed an interesting view on this: 'Why do we try everything with Shiraz? If you want that perfumed style, why not drink Pinot Noir and keep making Shiraz in that uniquely powerful Australian style?' [quoted from recollection].

What do you think?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Voyager Cabernet/Merlot

I just reviewed the 2003 Voyager Shiraz and was not convinced. How does its flagship, the Cabernet/Merlot stack up?

The 2003 Voyager Cabernet/Merlot (under screwcap) is still very fresh. It tastes of redcurrant and raspberry and has good depth of flavour. The mouthfeel is satisfying, as a result. The wine has a good structure, but you would not call it overly elegant. The acidic frame overshadows the moderately silky tannins. I am wondering if the screwcap is really helping. Some mellowing of this wine at this point in time would have added pleasure.

Score: 93/+

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Current Poll

The results so far are neck to neck, but I was hoping for more votes. Which style of Shiraz is the most popular? Please vote, it is not hard. Only a few days left.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Voyager Shiraz

I must admit, I have always been a bit ambivalent towards Margaret River Shiraz: I do not know what it stands for. And drinking this 2003 Voyager Shiraz is not changing my position.

This is a wine from a good year and producer, it is a perfect eight years old. It tastes of black cherry and is quite spicy, but there is a confectionery flavour as well. This is a weird combination of flavours. The wine is starting to mellow a little, but still has a young feel and acidity on the back palate. The wine has good balance, but the mouthfeel is a little flat.

Overall, this is a wine well made, but unfortunately not that enjoyable to drink.

Score: 91/-

Sunday, July 10, 2011

By Farr and Farr Rising

When Gary Farr left Bannockburn, he started his own label by Farr with fruit from a vineyard nearby (Geelong area). The vineyard is on limestone soil, which the Farrs regard as crucial for making Burgundian style wines. A bit later, his son Nick started Farr Rising. Today, Gary Farr is retired, but both labels are continued by Nick Farr. The fruit comes from different blocks of the same vineyard, and the winemaking techniques are somewhat different. The main focus is on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wines are made in a European style.

In a tasting of newly released Chardonnay and Pinot Noir I could compare these wines. The result was anything but expected, namely slightly more forward fruit in the Farr Rising wines and very savoury and somewhat funky wines under the by Farr label.

The first wine was the 2009 Farr Rising Chardonnay. This wine comes from the difficult and very hot vintage in Victoria, and Farr picked only half the fruit. The western side of the bunches was not picked because of the shriveled nature of the grapes from the afternoon sun. This wine showed citrus, but also peach and gave quite a creamy mouthfeel despite the acidity which was clearly noticeable. I liked this wine a lot, as it is different from the current trend towards crispy Chardonnay, without being buttery at all. Having said this, the finish was a little plump.

Score: 94/+++

The 2008 By Farr Chardonnay was fresher and more linear, with a nice finish, but it lacked the unique character of the first wine.

Score: 92/+

The 2009 Farr Rising Geelong Pinot Noir was savoury as expected, with earthy and smoky (not from the fires) characteristics. There was tobacco, too. It tasted young, elegant and fresh, but fell off at the finish.

Score: 92/+

The outstanding feature of the 2008 By Farr Farrside Pinot Noir was the beautiful vibrancy of the fruit. Brilliant strawberry and raspberry flavours flow through the palate, with a bigger mouthfeel than the previous wine, and a good length, dry finish. This is quite exceptional.

Score: 95/++

Overall, these wines are highly individualistic. They are all attractive and I recommend you should try them. If 'length of finish' is important to you, you should go for the by Farr wines.

Friday, July 8, 2011

2nd Label Rhone Varieties

In a recent post, I commented on the benefit or otherwise of buying second labels of well respected winemakers. Following are three wines which offer really good value, in my view.

The 2009 Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz is, strictly speaking, not a second label, but it stands in the shadow of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Wynns has worked hard on improving its viticulture over the last few years, and this wine, from an excellent vintage, shows the continued Coonawarra revival. This wine has good depth of fruit, mainly in the plum and black cherry spectrum. The structure is good and the mouthfeel has an attractive velvety touch. You would not say this wine is overly elegant or complex, but for the price you get quite a lot. I am impressed with the quality of such a high volume wine.

Score: 90/++

The 2008 d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz is a true second label. This wine has good fruit as well, with earthy and minty characters. There are firm dry tannins, but the finish is a little harsh.

Score: 88/+

The 2007 Guigal Cotes du Rhone is quite an amazing achievement. This high volume wine is made from grapes bought from dozens of growers and quality control must be hard. Yet it displays great depth of fruit, with the Grenache and Shiraz components blending well together. The mouthfeel is very smooth, and while this wine is not very complex, it has quite silky tannins, unusual for a wine in the $20-25 per bottle bracket. The winemaking skills shine through in this wine. It will keep well for 3-5 years at least. If you have never drunk this wine or scoffed at the commercial nature of it, this is the vintage to try.

Score: 91/++

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Poll

It is winter in Australia and high season for Shiraz. Shiraz can have many different expressions. Which one do you prefer? Please vote.

Overseas visitors are encouraged to vote as well, applying the general description.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cullen Cabernet/Merlot

One of the popular theories of getting a good wine at a reasonable price is to go for a second or third tier wine of an icon winery/winemaker. This works only sometimes, as in many cases grapes are so young and yields so high that the best winemaking cannot overcome the watery nature of the wine. These wines are made because they need to pay for the more extravagant pursuits.

No such issues with the 2008 Cullen Cabernet/Merlot. This wine is full bodied and tastes of dark berries and olive. The mouthfeel of this seemless wine is terrific. It falls off a bit on the back palate, before it finishes dry and elegantly.

Score: 93/+++