Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon

Take-away pizza and Moss Wood Cabernet, what's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing! In his latest newsletter, Keith Mugford, Moss Wood's long standing wine maker, compares the newly released 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon to the 2003, one of the wines he really enjoys. As I happen to have the 2003 in my cellar, I thought I better find out about this comparison and if I might like the 2009.

The 2003 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon is a very concentrated wine. It almost tastes as if some water reduction has been applied. I know this is not the case, but the fruit flavours are so intense. In typical fashion, the wine tastes of dark berries, blackberry and mulberry in particular - very attractive. And the structure stands up to this flavour attack. Oak and tannins are well integrated. The wine runs down the palate in equal intensity from front to back.

This will be a balanced wine, which is just at the beginning of its drinking window. The Moss Wood Cabernet is one of maybe half a dozen Australian red wines, which not only increases complexity over time, but actually gets a lot better. I reported on the 1991 a few months ago, which was drinking beautifully. This 2003 wine will increase elegance dramatically from now on. The intensity will remain, as the wine mellows. This wine should be cellared another 3 years at a minimum. It will drink very well for another 20 years if cellared well.

So I am inclined to buy the 2009, but will I live long enough to see it at its peak?

Score: 96/+++

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Craggy Range Syrah

Without doubt, Craggy Range has been a large part of the increasing reputation of New Zealand Shiraz. The Gimblett Gravels at Hawkes Bay is the best Shiraz growing area in New Zealand. While the stones keep the daytime temperatures longer into the night, thereby creating a great ripening environment, the wines would still be classified as cool climate Shiraz.

Therefore I was confident to open the 2002 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Block 14 Shiraz after ten years. The bouquet smells beautifully of forest berries, and this carries onto the palate. This is a medium bodied wine, full of blackberry and blueberry flavours.There are savoury and earthy tones as well. The oak is well integrated, and the tannins are fine grained. However, on the back palate, the wine falls off a bit.

Overall, this is an excellent wine, great with meat dishes, and not even Craggy Range's best Shiraz. The wine is more complex, yet still fresh, than a number of years ago. I think it will stay at this level for at least 3-5 years.

Score: 93/++

Poll Results

I have been involved with statistics for decades in one form or another, and one of the things that has always amazed me is how results based on small numbers remain unchanged when the sample size is increased. I am a bit disappointed with the response rate re my last poll, given the numbers of viewers I now have, but the results are remarkably consistent with national statistics.

Most of you drink some imported wine, and 40% of you have been drinking more imported wine. It is interesting to see why. Basically, you are looking for new experiences and new varieties, I suspect mainly Italian and Spanish varieties. This explains why local producers have started to plant these as well. It will take many years, before the local quality will match the European wines. However, in some cases, this is achieved today.

Luckily for the local industry, quality concerns or price concerns are not major driving factors, although imported wines to Australia have become cheaper as a result of the strong Australian dollar.What we are looking for is variety and new experiences.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz

If a winery is reliably reported to not treat suppliers and customers very well, should it influence my wine reviews? Of course, it should not. I only assess what is in the glass. However, I am glad I mentioned it.

Bella's Garden is part of the Two Hands 'garden' series. Premium wines are produced from the major Shiraz areas in Australia, such as McLaren Vale, Heathcote etc. This one is from the Barossa. The different wines are a good basis for comparing key characteristics of each region, and the wines can be tasted at cellar door.

Last night I had the 2004 Two Hands Bella's Garden Barossa Shiraz. From a good  vintage, this wine shows impeccable fruit. The solid blackberry flavours fill the mouth nicely. The wine is a little sweet, but not too sweet for my palate (Pinot Noir drinkers be warned!). The wine is drinking well now, but the structure is a bit suspect. The tannins are soft, there is not much acidity. I would not recommend to cellar this wine much longer. This is no doubt a big Barossa Shiraz, but it can carry the 15% alcohol, and it is not overblown.

Score: 93/0

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Poll Reminder

Guys, there are a lot more people reading my posts than responding to the poll. It only takes 1(!) minute to do. It is useful for me to know the type of readership I have, and the outcome might be interesting to you, too. How similar or dissimilar is your wine drinking experience to others?

Please participate.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New polls

These polls are for non European readers only, i.e. Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, South Americans and others.

I would like to know how much you drink wines from the 'cradle' of wine: Europe. Are you drinking more from there or less and why?

Please vote and answer all three polls. You can only tick one box in each section.

Thank you for participating.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Penfolds RWT Shiraz

What's good enough for the Noble Price dinner guests in Stockholm, is good enough for me. Last night I had a 1998 Penfolds RWT Shiraz. This brand is positioned as the little brother to Grange, with the same winemaking, I believe, but maturation in French as opposed to American oak.

There was no visible wine evaporation, and the cork came out fine.

I am scoring this wine relatively high because of the sweet, but not overripe core, which only South Australian Shiraz can deliver, in my view. The wine is still youthful, with vibrant blackberry fruit. The tannins are firm and lead to a long finish. The problem is, overall, the wine is not very harmonious. I did not decant the wine, but used the nuance wine finer, which aerates the wine as you pour. It also has a filter to keep the solids in the bottle. For the first time ever, the filter got blocked in the process, so much gunk was in the bottle.

This wine still has many years ahead, but fruit, tannins and oak have not quite come together, and I doubt they will. This is a top wine for those who enjoy a big bold Barossa Shiraz. I would have liked a bit more refinement.

Score: 94/+

Thursday, March 8, 2012

MacForbes Blaufraenkisch

I bet not too many of you have had Blaufraenkisch. This is a red grape variety, mainly grown in Austria and southwestern Germany. It has delivered fantastic wines over there in the last few years with the warm vintages Europe has had. There is a bit grown in Australia, for example in the Adelaide Hills. I noticed James Halliday highlighted it quite enthusiastically in his last newsletter. Basically the wine is similar to Pinot Noir, but it has  more weight.

The 2009 MacForbes Blaufraenkisch has a violet colour, with a fragrant bouquet. Forest berries dominate the palate. The wine is quite spicy and has some herbal (but not green) characteristics as well. This is an elegant wine with a terrific mouthfeel and just the right balance of tannins and acidity on the finish. Mac Forbes actually makes this wine in Austria, southeast of Vienna, where he worked several vintages some five years ago.

If you have never had such a wine, I would encourage you to track it down, or at least try another Blaufraenkisch. I find many of the 'newer' red varieties lack in one way or another, but this one has legs.

Score: 92/+++

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pierro Chardonnay

Pierro and Leeuwin are the two wineries who battle it out in the west for the best Chardonnay producer. More interesting is the fact that these two make very different Chardonnays. The 2010 Pierro Chardonnay shows predominantly citrus fruit on the Palate ( in Leeuwin's case it is mostly tropical fruit). There is some creaminess as a result of the malolactic fermentation (Leeuwin: no malo at all), yet the mouthfeel is not as round as I would have expected it. The oak is noticeable (50% new vs. 100% at Leeuwin), but well integrated. The wine has good length and finishes with fresh acidity.

This is a well made Chardonnay, but somehow, the wine does not grab me. It lacks a certain spark.

Score: 93/0

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Penfolds 2012 Collection - New Releases

I thought I be early this year and avoid any other influences.

In a nutshell, I was bowled over by these wines. They are very different from the wines of the past years: The fruit is fresh and dominant, oak is much more in the background than before, and elegance dominates tannin strength. Yet the structures in the wines made for aging are still there. This is pretty much true across the board. I think this is both as a result of more 'normal' vintages as well as a shift in winemaking.

The 2009 Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz is a very complete wine. It is the most robust of the range, with a lot of complexity on the palate. Black fruits, chocolate, some meaty flavours (not burnt). The tannins are firm, but much finer than in previous years. This is a very good value proposition and the wine of choice for Barossa Shiraz drinkers. It drinks well now, but will improve with age for many years (93/+++).

The 2010 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz is not as big. The fruit is plum, very clean, with eucalypt flavours as well. The wine is delicate and lifted. The wine is elegant, whereas the emphasis of the Bin 28 is power. Yin to the yan (92/+++).

The 2010 Bin 138 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre is dominated by Grenache this year (50%). Penfolds always lists the grapes in order of their percentage contribution. In previous years, Shiraz and Mourvedre have both been dominant. This is quite a complex wine, with raspberry, blueberry and praline characters, probably courtesy of the Grenache. However, I find the follow through on the palate a bit thin and not as refined as in the other wines of this line-up (91/0). Penfolds has not got the GSM quite right yet, in my view.

The 2009 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon cannot hide its Coonawarra component - the eucalypt is  immediately noticeable on the nose, but not dominant on the palate. The wine is medium weight with blackberry fruit characteristics. It has, unfortunately, a weakness on the mid-palate before it leads to a smooth finish (92/+).

The 2009 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz showcases a perfect integration of Cabernet and Shiraz. If you wanted to demonstrate what this blend can do, use this wine: the Shiraz component fills out the middle, the Cabernet Sauvignon carries the taste to a satisfying end. Yet, the two components are perfectly integrated, indistinguishable. This wine has a beautiful structure, it is elegant, actually a little sweet, and the fine tannins linger for long. While the blackberry flavours dominate now, this wine will gain complexity over time and mellow beautifully (95/+++).

You have been quiet on this blog for some time. Let me know what you think.