Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Schubert Estate Goose-yard Shiraz

The Goose-yard Shiraz from Schubert Estate is one of those full bodied Shirazes from the Barossa which does not age well. Last night, I had the 2004 Schubert Estate Goose-yard Shiraz. It is a full bodied wine from the Marananga area, in fact based on a vineyard in an absolute plum position in the Barossa. The vines get a lot of sun there, and experienced vineyard management is critical.

The wine tastes of blackberry and plum, but the fruit is overripe and somewhat dried out. There is still some silkiness in the tannins, but overall, the experience is not too pleasing. I remember having drunk this wine a few years ago, and it was quite attractive then. However, the lack of acidity and overripe fruit lead to a short life. A few days ago, I tried the 2002 Schubert Estate Goose-yard Shiraz, and the mouthfeel for that wine was even less pleasing.

Score: 89/-

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hunter Valley postscript

I enjoyed the wines last night, but couldn't you do better with the labels?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hunter Valley Showcase

Hunter Valley wines play at the fringes at present. A small number of producers, for example Tyrells and Brokenwood have kept up the outstanding tradition which this wine region established decades ago, in particular with Shiraz and Semillon, but if you ask wine experts in Victoria or South Australia, they tend to ignore the Hunter Valley.

However, a quiet revolution has occurred in the last ten years. A number of new wine makers have again focused on the unique wine flavours this region can offer. I have always kept a small collection of Hunter Valley wines in my cellar, and tonight they will be put to the test.

Two Semillons, one young, one mature are matched with tuna, and then two Shirazes from the excellent 2003 vintage are matched with eye fillet.

The 2010 Thomas Braemore Semillon has a very pale green colour. The nose is clean, smelling of fresh citrus. On the palate, the wine is pure lime. It is elegant, quite restrained, with a linear, long and dry finish.This is a classic Hunter Valley Semillon.

Score: 93/+

In contrast, the 2002 Keith Tulloch Semillon impresses with a bright golden colour, not unexpected given its age. This wine has lost considerable fruit flavour. Earthy and wooden flavours dominate and overpower the tuna somewhat. The wine has a broader structure than the Braemore and is probably a couple of years past its best.

Score: 90/-

To be honest, both did not match perfectly with the tuna, the Braemore being a bit too young, and the Tulloch too developed.

The highlight of the evening were the Shiraz wines. Both surpassed my expectations.

The 2003 Thomas Kiss Shiraz, the winery's flagship wine, showed beautifully. It was fresh, smooth, full bodied without being sweet, with soft mulberry flavours and a bit of pepper in the background. The highlight were the velvety tannins, so unique to the Hunter, which blended in beautifully with the eye fillet.

Score: 96/++

The 2003 Meerea Park Alexander Munro was equally good. This wine had almost an identical ruby colour to the Kiss, but on the palate it had a bit more grip or crunch. The fruit flavours were of black cherry and mulberry - very attractive. This wine is a bit more a generic Shiraz, perhaps due to the higher alcohol levels, although it showed the soft fruit flavours as well.

Score: 95/++

Both wines matched perfectly with the food. They will live, and possibly improve, for many years.

Joseph Phelps Insignia

The allure of Napa Valley Cabernet is to a significant extent based on hype: a clever approach to produce very low volume single vineyard wines, which one can only buy when on the mailing list, which is oversubscribed. Some of these wines are outstanding, but there are significant variances from year to year and it is unclear how long they can be cellared successfully.

I have been on the lookout for wines which have great consistency and cellar well. I took two wines back to Sydney from the outstanding 1997 vintage. One of them was the 1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia. This is a blended wine with a good track record.

Yesterday, I opened my second last bottle. As expected, this is a big wine. This Cabernet based Bordeaux blend tastes of red cherry, plum and fruitcake. It has quite a fat, but attractive mouthfeel. The wine is well balanced with firm, but not coarse tannins and acidity providing some backbone. This wine is still drinking well. My gripes are: the wine displays virtually no savoury characteristics and has not mellowed much (it is under cork!). As such, it is not very differentiated.

The Insignia (as other Napa Cabernets) is closer to a South Australian Shiraz than a Margaret River or Coonawarra Cabernet. From this perspective, it is understandable that Americans find Australian Cabernets green and thin. Incidentally, I had a 1996 Henschke Mt. Edelstone the night before. While it had matured faster, it displayed more berry flavours and overall complexity.

This may all sound a little negative, but I quite liked the Insignia. I went very well with the lamb tenderloins.

Score: 93/++  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Midday Quaffers

Ok, I admit it, I enjoy a glass of wine over lunch. It needs to be light (<13% Alc.), not too complex, but a fine wine, not more than $20/22 per bottle. So what are the choices?

Riesling is an obvious one. My current favorite is the O'Leary Walker Polish Hill Riesling from Clare - a well made wine, fresh and great with salads or seafood. Gruener Veltiner would be good, too, but difficult in this price bracket. Chardonnay tends to have too much alcohol for this time of day, but Hunter Semillon works well with Tuna. However, prices are creeping up for the good ones. Imports have become competitive. A recent favorite is Antinori's Campogrande from Orvieto - a well made, high volume wine. And then there is Rose of course, probably 10-15 Australian producers worth looking at. For a lunch time drink, I prefer those made from Pinot Noir, whereas the fuller Grenache based wines are great sundowners.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

153 Pinot Noirs

The mammoth Pinot Noir Australia was on again at The Woollahra Hotel in Sydney last night. You cannot hope to taste half the wines, but I gave it a good shot. Prior to the tasting, I made a list of 15 producers whose wines I wanted to taste, and most of them were there except for boutique producers Bass Phillip, William Downie and Main Ridge.

As I tried to get through a lot of wine, I only made a few notes. Therefore, this post will summarize my general impressions.

1) There is very little bad Pinot produced these days. Mind you, I selected experienced producers. They were (in no particular order) Shelmerdine, Giant Steps, Yabby Lake, By Farr, Ocean Eight, Yarraloch, Narkoojee, Dalrymple, Kooyong, Freycinet, TarraWarra, Coldstream Hill, Penfolds, Heemskerk, Curly Flat, Giaconda, Lethbridge, Moss Wood, Stefano Lubiana, Stonier, Lerida, Port Phillip, Yering Station, Tyrells, Scotchmans Hill, Paringa, Toolangi, Salitage, Bay of Fires, Marchand & Burch, Scorpo, Domaine A, Bindi, MacForbes, Bannockburn. Not a bad list.

2) Most Pinots now have savoury characteristics. Sometimes they match the fruit, sometimes they dominate, but the time for fruit bombs is gone, it seems.

3) The fruit flavours are pared back, in particular on the Mornington Peninsula where Pinot often tasted like young Shiraz. Good examples are Paringa and Yabby Lake who used to make full-on Pinot, but now produce more differentiated wines (vintages 07-09).

4) There were not many wines I would classify as outstanding, which would require the 'Burgundian fan' expanding on the back palate. Australian producers have difficulty with this. Close came 09 By Farr 'Sangreal', 07 Giaconda (a very positive surprise), 10 Marchand & Burch 'Mount Barrow', 09 Bindi Block 5, and 08 Heemskerk

5) The gap between Tasmania and Victoria (which until now I thought was still significant) is narrowing. Wines from Heemskerk, Domaine A and Freycinet impressed.

6) The excellent value for money wine was the 2010 Lethbridge Pinot Noir Menage a Noir with good length and $23 per bottle.

If you have any questions, please ask.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Katnook Cabernet Sauvignon

Katnook has access to excellent terra rossa fruit. This, combined with an excellent vintage, should make the 2004 Katnook Cabernet Sauvignon a good proposition. It did not disappoint.

The wine starts with a strong blackcurrant bouquet continuing on to the palate. This Cabernet offers a big mouthfeel. It is elegant and fruit dominant. The acidity provides a good balance. It is fair to say that the wine is stronger upfront than on the finish, but it is a rich, yet sappy and satisfying drink. This wine shows the terra rossa fruit well. It is not overoaked as some of Katnook's wines in the past.

I think this wine is at the beginning of its drinking window. It will go on (and possibly gain complexity) for many years to come.

Score: 93/++

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thomas Shiraz Wines

Andrew Thomas has moved to the top echelon of Hunter Valley producers in the last few years, and a review of three single vineyard Shirazes from 2009 suggests he might join the ranks of Clonakilla as a leading Shiraz producer from greater NSW - yes, they are that good.

The 2009 Thomas Sweetwater Shiraz comes from vines which are only 13 years old, but aggressive pruning gives the fruit enough concentrated flavour. This wine is very pretty and aromatic with fresh violets flavours. The fruit tastes of raspberry, and this medium bodied Shiraz finishes with fine tannins. This wine was the most successful at the 2011 Hunter Wine Show, and it certainly has immediate appeal.

Score: 93/++

The 2009 Thomas Motel Block Shiraz is a new addition to the line-up. It is a bigger wine, a bit more muscular, but still of a medium body frame despite the relatively high 14.5% alcohol . The wine, from over 40 year old vines, is quite peppery and well balanced. It will develop for many years and develop into a classic Hunter Valley Shiraz.

Score: 94/++

The 2009 Thomas Kiss Shiraz is the flagship wine, and deservedly so. It shows a darker palate, of blackberry and plum, and more density and depth than the Motel Block. It has only 13.5% alcohol and is very well balanced. This is a very profound, yet elegant wine, which will improve in complexity over the next 5-7 years.

Score: 96/+++

I have been most impressed with these wines. They are well balanced, taste fresh and modern, while retaining Hunter Valley texture. They are not as big as South Australian Shiraz in general, but have a full and elegant mouthfeel, and will be great with the usual meat dishes.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kaesler Wines

Kaesler is one of those traditional family companies in the Barossa, based on an old vineyard and with a focus on Rhone variety wines. Somehow, I have never tasted their wines. Well, yesterday I had the opportunity. I sometimes defend the Barossa against the current popular criticism of making overly big and ripe wines, but here it would be truly justified. This was not a great experience.

The first wine was the 2008 Kaesler Avignon, a GSM blend. The wine is full bodied, with quite concentrated fruit, a bit harsh and alcoholic, rather than elegant.

Score: 87/--

The 2008 Kaesler Alte Reben Mataro was a wine I was looking for, as not many old straight Mataros are made in Australia. It tasted of sweet raspberry, was very ripe and actually difficult to digest.

Score: 88/--

The 2008 Kaesler Old Vine Shiraz comes predominantly from 50 to 60 year old vines, I think. The flavour is straight forward plum, almost brandy like with its 15.5% alcohol. There is no subtlety in this wine. Fruit from old vines should taste much more measured and elegant.

Score: 85/---

The 2009 Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz was the wine I was particularly looking forward to. The fruit comes from the oldest block of the vineyard (100 years +) and it was a better vintage. This is a better wine, but again, the fruit flavour of plum and black cherry does not show a lot of complexity. The wine is more measured at 14% alcohol, and the fine tannins lead to a lasting finish.

Score: 90/-

Overall, my view is that a lack of winemaking skills is applied to these wines. This is particularly so if it is true that the 2008 fruit was harvested before the big heatwave hit (as they all claim - this spin is getting on my nerves: a gold medal to the one who comes forward and says 'the fruit we got in was real crap this year, but look what we turned out'. Wait for the 2011 announcements!) I am afraid I will restrict my Kaesler experience to last night only.