Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pinot Noir Australia, part 2

I focussed on premium wines from Victoria. In no particular order:

Farr Rising, 2011: A pretty wine from a challenging vintage. The wine is light bodied, in the strawberry flavour spectrum. Maintains savoury characteristics (90 points)

By Farr 'Sangreal', 2010: A refined wine with raspberry flavours. This wine has depth and a long finish (93)

Ocean Eight, 2010: A wine with good weight, red cherry flavours, the finish is a bit abrupt (91)
Ocean Eight, Aylward, 2009: A more elegant wine with good length (92)

Yarraloch, Stephanies Dream, 2010: Strawberry and red cherry flavours. Structure a bit suspect with a drop of impact on the back palate (90)

Curly Flat, 2007: After the stellar 2006, I was quite critical of this wine on release, given the colour of this unfiltered wine was very cloudy. The clarity in the colour has improved somewhat, but it is still not transparent. A funky wine in the strawberry spectrum, quite long (91)

Savaterre, 2009: Strawberry flavours, but an unappealing texture in this wine. Some length (90)

Narkoojee Reserve, 2009: A stinky wine (86)

Willow Creek Benedictus, 2008: What you would have expected from earlier Mornington Peninsula wines. A little sweet (90)

Giaconda, 2010: Cherry and savoury flavours, silky tannins, but lacks mouthfeel (92)

William Downie, Gippsland, 2011: Light wine, silky aspects, a brave effort for the year (90)
William Downie, Yarra Valley, 2011: A light wine with savoury notes and some definition (90)

Kooyong Massale, 2011: A light wine, bright, strawberry flavours (88)
Kooyong Estate, 2008: More concentrated, of course. Good length in this wine and an expanding finish (93)

Coldstream Hill, Deer Farm, 2010: A smooth wine, a bit shallow and fruity (90)
Coldstream Hill Reserve, 2010: Cherry flavours, good solid structure, a bit fruity, but nice acidity (92)

Stonier Reserve, 2010: Disappointing: light strawberry flavours (91)

Port Phillip Estate, 2010: A smart wine with cherry flavours and savoury characteristics. Dry tannins on the finish (93)
Port Phillip Estate, Morillon, 2009: very minty (90)

Medhurst, 2011: light, quite minty also (88)

Paringa Estate, 2009: black cherry (not as big as in some previous years), good depth and length (93)
Paringa Estate 'The Paringa', 2008: this is the wine previously named Reserve. This cherry flavoured wine is elegant and silky with some length and good structure, but it is edging towards $100/bottle (94)
Overall impressed with the Paringa wines.

Tyrrell's Vat6, 2009: A positive surprise. Focus on structure, not fruit. Silky, burgundian style with good length (94)

Mount Mary, 2010: Most expensive wine of the tasting. Red cherry flavours. An elegant wine, beautiful in the mouth, finishes a bit short (93)

Wantirna, 2010: Disappointing. Pretty, but light (90)

Toolangi, Estate, 2008: Cherry flavours, quite fruity and somewhat broad. Good complexity with savoury elements and some length (91)

Bannockburn, 2009: A real departure from the past. Used to be quite burgundian, whereas this wine tastes of black cherries and is quite intense. It is elegant at the same time with good length (93)
Bannockburn, Stuart, 2010: A reserve wine. More in the strawberry/savoury spectrum. It lacks acidity (92)



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pinot Noir Australia, part 1

In my town, in Sydney, you could go to wine tastings three or four times a week However, you could count really good comparative tastings on one hand in a year. One of those is Pinot Noir Australia by The Woollahra Hotel. Current releases from almost all the major Pinot Noir producers are available for tasting. Notable absentees this year were Bindi and Bass Phillip.

In this post, I will give some general impressions, part 2 will have individual reviews.

1) The 2011 vintage is really not good. The wines from it are light and watery (this is Pinot Noir, and probably all reds). Sure, you may find the odd well structured wine, but wouldn't a producer who is capable of doing this, produce a much better wine in 2010 or 2012?

2) The Mornington Peninsula wines, which I have always regarded as Shiraz drinkers' Pinot Noirs because of their deep colour and cherry/plum flavours, are generally lighter and more structured now and more varied, depending on producer and location.

3) There is no particular trend. We seem to be still in an experimentation phase. Tasting profiles of brands change. Australian Pinot Noir has overcome its 'fruity' phase, but I would like to see more expanding finishes of the wines - which is the whole reason for the wide Pinot Noir glasses.

4) The more expensive reserve style or single block wines are often not better. They tend to be more elegant, but often less expressive. Character or personality in the wine is shaved off. Price is a function of volume in this case.

So there you have it. Reviews to follow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

German Pinot Noir

The second surprise I had on my travels was to discover the emergence of excellent German Pinot Noir at a fraction of the cost of its French counterparts. This is largely due to the warm summers in Germany in recent years, which have allowed full flavour development. Many of the vines are quite old and can deliver excellent flavour profiles and structure.

Pinot Noir in German is called Spaetburgunder or Blauburgunder. A variant of this is Fruehburgunder, which is a mutation of Pinot Noir, called Pinot Noir Precoce in France. This is an interesting grape, as it ripens earlier ('frueh'), yet has arguably fuller flavour development than regular Pinot Noir.

An excellent example of this is Weingut Beck Hedesheimer Hof from the Rheinhessen region. I drank the 2007 Fruehburgunder. This is an excellent wine. It is quite full-flavoured, and  tastes of black cherry, blackberry and cranberry. The wine is vibrant, clean and elegant, and it expands along the palate.This early ripening wine comes in at 14% alcohol, but it is not obvious. Give this type of wine a try when in Germany. It is not exported, as far as I know.

Score: 94/+++

South African Pinotage

Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, not a blend, but an actual crossing of these two French varieties which somehow happened in South Africa some decades ago. As a result, it has become South Africa's signature grape. While South African Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz have come to the fore in the ever increasing trend of wine internationalisation, it is actually Pinotage which is much more interesting.

When I visited South Africa some ten years ago, its red wines were rustic and earthy most of the time, and not very refined. On this visit, I was pleasantly surprised about the general quality improvement. I did not taste expensive wines there, mainly bottles in the $15 to $25 per bottle range. There is no point to individually review them for this audience, but my impression of the Pinotages was generally this: The wines were well structured and elegant. They showed generous fruit flavours and often had floral and lifted characteristics. The Cinsault makes this wine weightier than a  Pinot Noir, delivering a very satisfying mouthfeel. Lighter than Cabernet or Shiraz, they accompanied food really well. The better ones had satisfying lasting finishes.

When you have a chance, try a Pinotage. I found it intriguing and worth while.