Friday, June 29, 2012

Mac Forbes Gruener Veltiner

Gruener Veltiner is becoming a much sought after variety. To date, very little is grown in Australia. The variety is native to Austria, where Mac Forbes has worked  since 2004. As a result, we see some of his Austrian Veltiner in Australia. The 2010 Mac Forbes Gruener Veltiner is a vibrant wine, tasting of pear, mild spices and minerality. It has quite a full mouthfeel, and the texture is very balanced.  The wine finishes dry and fresh. It is delicious.

This wine is well suited to a variety of foods, in particular salads and Thai/Vietnamese dishes. I would not cellar the wine to take advantage of its current vibrancy.

Score: 92/+++

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Craggy Range New Releases

The first wine was the 2010 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay. Now this is strange, as this soil is really well suited for red wines. I was informed that only 3 out of the 104ha vineyard are planted to Chardonnay, however. The wine has a floral nose, and a light to medium body. The wine is a little sweet and not very differentiated in its flavour, but there is some length on the finish. Maybe 3ha too many? (86 points).

The 2010 Craggy Range Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir comes from Central Otago, where Craggy Range shares this vineyard with Felton Road. Alas! This wine is nowhere near as good as the Felton Road. It tastes of red cherry, but is flat, with a metallic aftertaste. (86 points). Craggy Range has the Te Muna property in Martinborough, which produces a much better Pinot Noir.

The 2010 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot was also disappointing. It tastes like lollipops, is quite flat and alcoholic (84 points).

The final wine was the highly acclaimed 2009 Craggy Range Le Sol. This is a very agreeable Shiraz, which ticks all the boxes. It tastes of dark berries (blue and black) and peppery spice. The soft texture is achieved through the velvety dry tannins. The wine is elegant and has excellent length. This wine is sometimes called a cool climate Shiraz, but it has more weight and mouthfeel than many Victorian Shirazes. (96 points).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bindi Pinot Noir

I drank the 2004 Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir the other night. Was I at peace with myself? I probably was, but so was this Bindi flagship wine. This wine is so harmonious, with excellent balance between dark cherry fruit, savoury charcteristics, oak and dry and dusty tannins. While this wine is at the bigger end of the Pinot Noir spectrum, there are no extremes here. The wine has some ethereal quality to it, rare of an Australian wine. Very satisfying.

Score: 95/+++

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cullen vs. Moss Wood

By chance, I had an opportunity to taste recent releases by Cullen and Moss Wood within three days. As it happened, these wines were a very similar line-up, so I thought I might put short reviews side by side. One thing to point out is that in a couple of cases, the Cullen wines are released a year younger, but all the vintages represented are pretty good.

1) Semillon

The 2011 Cullen Sauvignon Blanc Semillon was no doubt picked very young. It tastes almost like grape juice. The wine is very fresh and clean (86 points). The 2011 Moss Wood Semillon is richer, with a focus on texture and a mineral finish. This style is more Barossa than Hunter Valley (88 points). Both wines would not be my picks of this variety.

2) Chardonnay

The 2010 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay tastes of a complex set of fruits: citrus, peach and passion fruit are prominent. The wine is quite fruity and I am missing the structure of earlier vintages (89 points). The 2009 Moss Wood Chardonnay is a step up in the Chardonnay stakes for this producer. The flavour is similar to the Cullen, but with more weight. 40% new oak adds creaminess to the wine, but it is well balanced with sufficient acidity on the finish (92 points).

3) Cabernet/Merlot

The second Cabernet label of both producers is disappointing. In previous years, some provided great value for money. The  2010 Cullen Cabernet Merlot is fruity, with a short finish (85 points). The 2010 Moss Wood Amy's Cabernet Blend includes 20% of Petit Verdot. As a result, the wine is quite inky, fruit forward, with a flat mouthfeel and a short finish (86 points).

4) Cabernet Sauvignon

I reviewed the 2010 Cullen Diana Madeline in detail on 11 June, no need to repeat this here. For the 2009 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, it is early days yet. Blackcurrant flavours dominate. There is mulberry and some attractive spice. This wine is much more extracted than the Cullen. Some reviewers may find this too much, but I like the rich fruit and ripe tannins in this wine. Will it be an all time great, as claimed by Keith Mugford? I am not going there, yet, but I will enjoy reviewing the wine again in a few years time (94 points).

Cullen and Moss Wood are the pinnacle of Margaret River wines (add Leeuwin Chardonnay). On this basis, these tastings were a little disappointing. Only the flagship wines were really good, without being classics, in my view. You make a clear choice between producers. Cullen is about freshness and linearity, Moss Wood about fruit concentration and weight.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Barossa Valley Estate E&E Shiraz

Barossa Valley Estate, the large co-operative in the Barossa, has gone through ownership changes in the last 10 years, and a number of winemakers. However, it has access to some of the best fruit in the valley, and this shines through in their flagship wine.

The 2002 Barossa Valley Estate E&E Shiraz is a full bodied Shiraz, mainly sourced from the Northern Barossa, in particular the Ebenezer area. This wine is still quite vibrant, with dark berry flavours, in particular blackberry and mulberry, hitting the palate first up. Mocca flavours are prominent on the mid-palate, where earthy flavours start to develop as well. Alcohol is noticeable without being hot. The wine has sweetness, but the fruit does not taste burnt. This wine is complex, yet quite harmonious, with firm tannins. The finish is somewhat fruity, but also silky.

The 2002 E&E is an excellent example of a well made wine from ripe fruit. At 10 years, it still has a number of years ahead of it.

Score: 95/+

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

I had great hopes for this 2004 Bowen Cabernet Sauvignon. I drank this wine shortly after it was released, and it showed terrific, terra rossa infused fruit, and also, I have experienced excellent aged Bowen wines. However, this wine does not quite deliver.

The  blackcurrant fruit is still quite prominent, but secondary, earthy characters have developed as well. The wine has lost some of its elegance, and is not very harmonious on the palate. There is a certain sharpness on the finish. The result: it tastes like a typical Aussie red, before modern winemaking skills were applied: a bit rough and unrefined.

Score: 89/-

Monday, June 11, 2012

Has Vanya Cullen gone too far this time?

We like people with character or personality. By this we mean people who stand out a bit, be it with their features, points of view or other personality traits. For me, it is similar with wine. I like my wine to stand out, to be different.

Vanya Cullen has been a prominent spokesperson for the organic and biodynamic movement. I reported in an earlier post that I felt the vibrancy of fruit in the flagship Diana Madeline wine has increased during the last 10 years. She has also been very focussed on reducing alcohol levels with an objective to get them under 13%. The highly acclaimed 2009 had 12.5% alcohol. With these objectives, she is right in the trend of all the major wine critics. It is therefore no surprise that the 2010 wine achieved very good reviews as well.

Leaving all trendiness aside, how attractive is the 2010 Cullen Diana Madeline? It is instructive to start with the vintage. 2010 continues the run of good vintages at Margaret River. It is reported as another warm vintage. However, in reality, spring and autumn were relatively cool, interrupted by a heat spike in February.

Now on to the wine. It has a lovely, quite floral nose. On the palate, the flavour is predominantly redcurrant. It is the first Australian Cabernet I would describe as light bodied, and the result is that the mouthfeel is somewhat lacking. The tannins are very soft for a Cabernet, and while there is some length on the finish, it seems to fizzle out. This is clearly a wine of great purity, but I ask myself: if the grapes had been picked a little later, would the wine have had more flavour or personality? I think, yes. No doubt, the fruit is good and the wine is well made. It is therefore a matter of preference. I think potential greatness has been left on the table here.

Another matter: Cullen releases its wines very early. I find it almost impossible to appreciate a Cabernet at less than two years of age. Given the success of the winery, could the red wines not be held back for another couple of years?

Score: 93/0     

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shaw + Smith Tasting

Shaw + Smith is a classy winery, and if you have not tried any of their wines, I encourage you to do so. I visited the modern winery in the Adelaide Hills for the first time a couple of weeks ago. The tasting is a seated affair, with their four wines and some cheese. (Cheese numbs the palate. Why does it get served at tastings? Not everything the French do is sensible.)

The Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc is probably regarded as the best from Australia. On tasting was the 2011 Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc. I am not a great fan of this variety, and I could not warm to this wine, either.  It tastes of lime and passionfruit. It does not have the grassiness of the New Zealand counterparts, but is rather fruity and a little sweet. The wine is vibrant and crisp, though (88/- points).

The 2010 Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay is a terrific expression of the variety. The peach flavours are fresh and clean, and the wine is quite complex as a result of the oak treatment, wild yeast fermentation, and the application of malolactic fermentation to 33% of the wine. The wine does not taste overworked at all, but shows great purity and seamlessness. This is one of my favorite Chardonnays (94/+++ points).

The 2010 Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir is quite a small production. It is a light to medium bodied expression of cool climate fruit, mainly in the strawberry spectrum. The wine is quite savoury and fruit friendly. Again,  the purity of flavours stands out (92/++ points).

The 2009 Shaw + Smith Shiraz has won a lot of friends lately. It is a cool climate style, more cherry than dark  fruits, with white pepper coming through. The wine finishes with firm, dry tannins (93/++ points).

The portfolio of these wines is most impressive. Shaw + Smith only make four wines. Great skill and focus is applied to each of them. Cleanliness and purity of  fruit flavour is a key aspect of their style. They stand well on their own, but are also great food wines. I would drink these wines fairly young to experience the vibrancy, but they have good acid balance and should mature fairly well.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rockford Cabernet Sauvignon

Following the Rockford luncheon (see last post), I went on to the cruise on the Murray on the PS Marion, the Rockford restored paddle steamer. Needless t say, there was plenty more food and drink.

We tried a very rare 2005 Rockford Home Block Cabernet Sauvignon. You are unlikely to be able to track this wine down, but I am reviewing it here, as it displayed typical Barossa Cabernet characteristics (as opposed to Margaret River or Coonawarra). It comes from a little block of vines next to the winery.

This wine showed the expected black- and redcurrant flavours, but it was also quite floral on the nose. These flavours expanded on the palate, delivering a big mouthfeel. While Margaret River tend to move from front to back palate, this wine, typical for Barossa, seemed to touch the tongue receptors all at once. There are capsicum flavours as well, before the wine finishes on firm tannins with good length. The wine is elegant, but has a bigger feel than Cabernet from Margaret River and Coonawarra. This was certainly a muscular, yet varietal wine.

Score: 93/++