Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2003 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon drinks beautifully now, but has many years ahead of it (screw capped). It opens up with beautiful dark berry flavours and tastes in typical fashion of mulberry and blackberry. The wine is ripe, yet has a great structure. It is soft, but intense. In this way it straddles what many would regard as opposite characteristics. It has a silky mouthfeel and great length.

If you look for a mature Australian Cabernet, there is none better, I think. The Cullen would be a candidate, but often does not have the fruit intensity which carries the Moss Wood into the 2nd and 3rd decade. No Coonawarra wine comes close, in my view.

Score: 96/+++

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Barossa Tastings, Day 2

Today, I wanted to taste from some of the small and relatively new wineries.

Kalleske is not really new and not so small anymore, but it is still very much a family operation. I always have high expectations when I taste their wines because of the exceptional fruit quality and their rich, yet not overripe style.This tasting was slightly disappointing in relation to the high end wines. The 2010 Tempranillo was interesting. It was quite savoury and had grip on the back palate - not your standard innocent Tempranillo (91 points). Equally, the 2010 Moppa Shiraz was attractive. It is the higher volume Estate Shiraz and includes some younger vines. The fruit was not overly concentrated, but the wine well balanced, with some good acidity to finish (92 points). The 2010 Greenock Shiraz showed the usual black colour, but I expected more from this vintage. There was simply nothing special about this wine (92 points).The 2009 Eduard Shiraz, from a special block which used to go into Grange, showed much more fruit concentration and depth, but the meaty, fat flavours were a bit undifferentiated (92 points).

Murray Street Vineyard is relatively nearby, with an attractive cellar door and a quickly expanding range of wines. The higher end Shiraz wines express the terroir of their single vineyard origins. The 2008 Gomersal Shiraz is made from grapes grown on clay and is treated in American oak. It attacks the mouth with big fruit and vanilla flavours, but lacks in the follow through (90 points). The 2008 Greenock Shiraz is grown on sandy soil. It has lifted blackberry flavours, is concentrated, but finishes elegantly with soft and silky tannins (93 points). The 2008 Benno is a 50/50 Shiraz/Mataro. It shows red fruit and some confectionery flavours. It is a softer wine, nice to drink (92 points). The 2008 Sophia is from a special block of the Gomersal vineyard. It is purple in colour, quite concentrated, with an attractive fruit and spice mix (93 points). Overall, this was an impressive line-up.

My third stop was at the show room of the Artisans of the Barossa, a lose alignment of a number of newer and serious wineries who have not yet invested in their own cellar door.

I started with three GSM wines. The 2009 Massena Moonlight Run was the weakest . It was a bit sweet and not very harmonious (88 points). The 2009 John Duval Plexus was terrific. Crimson in colour, with spice balancing the complex fruit flavours. It had length and very polished tannins (93 points). I preferred it to the 2008 Spinifex Indigene. This wine was darker and had the expected freshness, but I found the wine less balanced and a little rough (91 points). I later heard that John Duval thought this was his best Plexus so far.

The Shirazes were from the 2009 vintage. The Schwarz Nitschke Block from Bethany showed upfront plummy fruit, but lacked structure (86 points). The John Duval Entity, which includes 18% fruit from Eden Valley, was a great wine. It showed typical plum and blackberry flavour, some spice and mocca. The wine had grip, rather than fat, and a lengthy finish (94 points).

Then there were three wines from Hobbs. His vineyard is right next to Chris Ringland, and he tries to produce a similar big style wine and market off his reputation, I think. As a result, the 2009 Shiraz/Viognier is very big and a bit hot and alcoholic (90 points). The 2009 Shiraz was much better. A big wine, but elegant , and a wine which could be drunk now or in 20 years, although the finish was a little undefined (94 points). The 2009 Gregor is a Shiraz made in the Amarone style, quite dry with strong tannins (92 points). I rated these wines in an absolute sense, but at $100+ per bottle, they are too expensive.

Overall, I was most impressed with the John Duval wines. They demonstrate a clear departure from his Grange days, with an emphasis on length and structure, not so much on fruit weight. These are wines which will cellar well and are good food wines as well as drinks in their own right.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Barossa Tastings, Day 1, Part 2

A new star: Torbreck

Visiting the Torbreck tasting room is always exciting, because the Torbreck policy is to open pretty much all wines, other than the Laird - a cheap way to taste very expensive wines.

My favorite of the small list of white wines is the Roussanne/Marsanne/Viognier with its toasty flavours. the 09 is attractive, but possibly a bit leaner than in previous years. It has a firm and satisfying finish (90 points).

But now onto the reds. The wines are all based on Rhone varieties and can be grouped into Shiraz based and other. I started with 'other'. The 2008 Steading is a classic GSM. The Mataro is prominent in this year, delivering vibrant fruit, a firm tannic structure, and a lifted finish (92 points). The 2007 Pict is the 100% Mataro from an old single-vineyard in Moppa. I liked this wine a lot. The redcurrant is not fruit forward, but quite savoury, as only old vines can deliver. At the same it is quite elegant and generous - a very well made wine (94 points). I have reviewed the 2009 Les Amis before. This is a very special Grenache, the best I have tasted. The raspberry fruit delivers a sweet core, but goes on and on. The silky tannins lead to a big and lasting finish (96 points).

The first of the Shirazes was the cheapest and probably the best. The 2010 Struie has quite a dark colour. The blackberry flavours are elegantly structured. The wine is spicy and a shining example of a well made Barossa Shiraz. Only 16% of its fruit is from Eden Valley this year (probably because the milder vintage delivered enough grape freshness and elegance in the Barossa Valley). The wine has good length and a silky finish (95 points).

The 2009 Celt is from a small block near the winery. The high price is more driven by its rarity than quality, I suggest. The wine is dark and big, and a bit unbalanced. It tastes as if this is not quite a finished product (92 points).

The 2008 Descendent is another outstanding wine. The Viognier component has softened the big Shiraz flavours. The grapes are well integrated. And although this wine is quite sweet, it is elegant with a silky finish (95 points).

The 2007 RunRig is disappointing. It is quite earthy and bitter (dead fruit?). The wine has good length and is obviously a substantial wine, but I wonder if it should have been made in 2007 (91 points).

Overall, the wines were impressive, as always. They tend to be big and ripe (although maybe less than 5 years ago) and not to everyone's taste, but one cannot deny that Torbreck uses excellent fruit and produces very special wines from it, which only the Barossa can deliver.

A forgotten winery: Sieber

This family winery is located at the Southern end of Seppeltsfield. I have never had these wines before and it is pretty clear that I did not miss much. It is actually surprising how bad these wines are, given the grapes grow on terra rossa soil over limestone.

I tried a couple of blends, GSM and Shiraz/Mataro from the 07 and 08 vintages. These wines were quite earthy and harsh. The very dry vintages sure did not help. I would score these wines 86/87 points. The 08 Ernest Shiraz is their standard Shiraz. It was earthy and minty, the fruit not very concentrated (82 points). The 2008 Special Release Shiraz was a bit more concentrated, but still harsh (85 points).

Should Sieber look for a different winemaker? But maybe it is just a hobby for this mixed farm.

Overall, a great day - not surprising if Henschke and Torbreck is on the program.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Barossa Tastings, Day 1, part 1

Following on from a trip to Adelaide, I decided to spend a couple of days in the Barossa and do some quite selective tastings. The following notes are from the first day.

An established star: Henschke

To clear something up for people not too familiar with the area. Henschke is situated in the Eden Valley. This plus the Barossa Valley form the Barossa. Therefore, Henschke wines are from the Barossa - well, the original ones. They now have quite significant plantings in the Adelaide Hills as well.

My overall impression was very positive. It seems the wines move more towards European style wines, in particular the white wines with more emphasis on texture than fruit. The red wines from the hot 2008 year have come out really well, given the grapes come from the cooler Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills.

The Henschke wine portfolio is now quite large, certainly for a family company, with over 20 new wines and 5 museum releases on offer. Of the white wines on offer I tried three, the 2011 Julius Riesling, the 2009 Louis Semillon, and the 2010 Innes Vineyard Pinot Gris.  The Riesling is another strong showing from the difficult 2011 vintage. Its grapes come from a grower near Springton.The wine is quite green, with good acidity and typical lime characteristics. The Louis comes from the Hill of Grace vineyard. Yes, not many people know that other grapes than Shiraz grow on this famous vineyard. The vines are 35-40 years old. This wine is very dry and incredibly backward. One to put away for many years. It will be amazing in 30! The Pinot Gris is also quite dry. It has beautiful pear flavours and has quite a linear texture. I would rate these wines 90/91 points, but maybe more in a few years.

Of the red wines, I tasted the 2009 Giles Vineyard Pinot Noir, and from 2008 the Abbotts Prayer, Tappa Pass and Mount Edelstone. The Pinot Noir is quite lean and savoury, with earthy flavours , well made, but lacking some of the fruit concentration which Australia can offer (90 points). The Abbotts Prayer is a Bordeaux blend from the Adelaide Hills. Sometimes, this wine is not quite ripe enough, but this year is excellent. The wine is dominated by blackberry flavours, and has a lot of complexity. An elegant wine with a long finish (93/+++ points). The Tappa Pass comes from the Fechner vineyard near Moculta. Made from 70 to 80 year old vines, this wine hits you upfront with a lot of plum and blackcurrant and has well structured tannins. Overall, the wine is perhaps not that well balanced (92 points/+).

The Mount Edelstone was the star of the tasting. This year, the vineyard turns 100, and the wine 60, making it possibly the oldest single vineyard wine in Australia. The 2008 is big and vibrant, with blackcurrant flavours dominating. Eucalypt is present, as always, and there is complexity with anise, mocca and spice on the palate. The wine has a terrific mouthfeel, with a strong tannin structure and great length. This is one of the best Mount Edelstone's of the last 20 years (96/+++ points).

Everybody visiting the Barossa should visit the Henschke cellar door. There is a lot of variety on offer. And although the top two or three wines are rarely opened, you may get lucky.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Domaine Huet Vouvrey

The 2010 Domaine Huet 'Le Mont Sec' Vouvrey is a racy number. It is a dry Chenin Blanc with pear and figs flavours dominant. A beautifully harmonious composition, very elegant with a smooth finish. This is a serious wine and will accompany high quality salads and fish extremely well. I enjoyed drinking it now, but it will hold for a number of years.

Score: 94/+++

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pizzini Arneis

The 2010 Pizzini Arneis, is nothing like a Piedmont Arneis. It lacks its spritzig character, but it is a pleasant summer drink nonetheless. The soft lime flavour has similarity with Sauvignon Blanc without it being grassy or sweet.

This Arneis is a bit of a non-event wine, really, but if you want the wine to stay in the background, this one is a good candidate.

Score: 87/0

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kalleske Greenock Shiraz

Tonight's 2002 Kalleske Greenock Shiraz was CORKED. Screw cap is an option, but another one, favoured by me for red wine, is to develop very close ties to cork suppliers and understand their strategies for faultless cork production.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My audience

I find it interesting I now get slightly more hits from the US than from Australia and the third block of countries are the larger Western European countries, but the Netherlands are also very prominent. There are also some Russian readers, but virtually nothing from Asia other than Hong Kong. The other surprise is the small number of New Zealand readers. Maybe because I have been a little critical of New Zealand wine lately.

I thought you wanted to know.

Thomas DJV Shiraz

From the rising star of the Hunter comes the DJV (some say deja vu) Shiraz. It is an entry style Thomas wine, a blend from a number of vineyards, but all with some vine age.

The 2007 Thomas DJV Shiraz is a medium to full bodied wine. It tastes of vibrant plum and boysenberry and has the velvety characteristics of a typical Hunter Shiraz. The wine is quite fruity, yet also elegant. There is not much length on the finish, but it does not matter, as the wine is so pretty. It will live for quite a few years, but not necessarily improve.

Incidentally, I drank some 2007 Guigal Cote du Rhone (the high volume wine) on the same night, which made for an interesting comparison. Usually, you get the big Australian flavour vs. the more structured French wines, but given that 2007 was a warm vintage in the Rhone valley, the Guigal has more flavour than usual, and the Thomas wine is not as overblown as some South Australian Shiraz. There was still more fruit character in the Aussie wine and more length in the French, but it was actually relatively close.

Score: 90/++

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kumeu River Mate's Vineyard Chardonnay

The 2007 Kumeu River Mate's Vineyard Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine with quite a big mouthfeel for a Chardonnay. It tastes of peach fruit and floral components, but cashew nut and toasty flavours are also quite prominent. It is a fairly complex wine, but the malolactic fermentation it would have gone through probably dulled the wine somewhat. Possibly drinking it at four years of age has not helped, either. There is good acidity on the finish which lifts the wine, but overall it is a bit overworked for me.

This Mate is typical of the style. I actually prefer the 'regular' bottling to this single vineyard wine. It is fresher and more vibrant.

Score: 91/0

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bass Phillip 21

Phillip Jones, winemaker and owner of Bass Phillip, is a former management consultant. So how difficult can it be to produce world class Pinot Noir? Apparently and obviously very difficult. Many have tried to copy him in South Gippsland, but nobody has come close to achieving his results.

2006 was a difficult vintage, and Phillip Jones abandoned the typical quality pyramid of his best wines: Estate, Premium and Reserve (the famous wine with the stamp size label). It was also his 21st vintage. All these grapes (still a tiny amount) were therefore put in a wine called '21'.

The 2006 Bass Phillip 21 Pinot Noir has many qualities of a top Burgundian wine: it is a feminine wine, very harmonious. Strawberry flavours dominate, but there are earthy elements and this overall silkiness typical for Bass Phillip Pinot Noir. The wine is very smooth, perhaps lacking the fruit concentration or funkiness of better years, but the texture is excellent and it will live for a number of years to come.

I could drink this wine any day.

Score: 94/+++

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2005 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon is quite a departure from its Cabernets I used to know: they had rich chocolaty flavours, in some years influenced by brett. Some were very good, some less enjoyable.

This 2005 Cabernet is much fresher, tasting of blackcurrant fruit, with an acidic backbone. The fruit is a little underripe, while meaty flavours hint at some overripe grapes as well. It is very typical of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, also displaying one of its inherent problems, a hole on the mid palate.

This is a pleasant, yet somewhat uneven food wine.

Score: 90/0   

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2007 Californian Pinot Noir

The phenomenon of the cult wine started in California. The recipe seemed simple: The wine had to be low volume. As volume increases, distribute it over many different wines with terroir being the theme. Produce a 'Parker' wine i. e. highly concentrated, ripe and alcoholic.Sell only through the mailing list and a few restaurants, create a waitlist. Charge a high price.

Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa was the wine this was first done with, and with some justification, as these wines compared well to Bordeaux wines in blind tastings.In the last ten years, people have started to try this with Pinot Noir as well. How good are these difficult to get wines?

Over the last few days I tasted two difficult to get Pinot Noirs from the much heralded 2007 vintage from Sonoma, the heart of Californian Pinot Noir.

The first wine is the 2007 A.P. Vin Kanzler Vineyard Pinot Noir. This wine has some of the traits described above, and in a negative way. It is overly ripe, sugary and plump. Yes, there are concentrated cherry flavours, but they are not very varietal. The ethereal characteristic, found in exciting Pinot Noirs, is totally absent and the finish is not long.

Score: 89/--  (I could have scored this less, but my personal view is in the second measure)

The second wine is the 2007 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. This is a blended wine from Sonoma vineyards. There is a lot of hype about this wine at present, as the 2009 vintage just won the prestigeous 'Wine of the Year' against all comers by the Wine Spectator Magazine. - This is the better wine of the two. It displays dark cherry flavours, there is silkiness on the palate and some length in the finish. However, the emphasis is all on fruit, rather than savoury characteristics. This wine is pretty, but lacks the complexity and underlying secondary flavours of top Pinot Noirs.

Score: 92/+

I will drink more American Pinot Noir this year, and yes, I have a bottle of the 2009 Kosta Browne winner. I am interested to see if I come across a wine as good as some Australian ones. - This seems an outrageous statement, but it just shows the power of good marketing.