Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Occam's Razor Shiraz

Emily Laughton has to be one of the nicest and most generous wine makers alive. I was scheduled for a tasting at Jasper Hill several years ago, but at the last minute, Ron and his wife could not make it. They asked daughter Emily to do it in their place. She had to drive back from Melbourne to Heathcote after she had attended a pop festival and had two hours sleep. So there she was, on a Sunday, slightly hung over, going through the wines with great enthusiasm. She gave us all the opened bottles "nobody else coming today" and then asked where we would have dinner. This was not a silly question for Heathcote in those years and on a Sunday. We were not sure. She then offered us lamb chops from the freezer. This was too much, we had to decline, and yes we did manage to find some food. Also, I had to buy a few bottles of her own wine.

Occam's Razor is not such a bad name -  it means in layman terms: if in doubt keep it simple. The 2005 Occam's Razor Shiraz is a full bodied wine, showing concentrated plum and blackberry flavours. The fruit is not as pristine and concentrated as the Georgia's Paddock or as complex as Emily's Paddock (get it?), but it is an agreeable wine. Earthy flavours have developed, and the 15% alcohol are carried by fruit and firm tannins. The structure is good and while not overly elegant, the wine is not hot.

Score: 91/+

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rieslings from 2012

I have been impressed with eight Rieslings from the 2012 vintage I recently tasted. There were quite significant differences between the wines, though.

The 2012 Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Wallflower and the 2012 O'Leary Walker Polish Hill showed less fruit  and volume than the other Rieslings. They were both quite dry and not as linear as I would have liked. However, both wines would be good summer lunch drinking ( 89 and 88 points).

The 2012 Clos Clare Riesling from the famous Florita vineyard and the 2012 Grosset Springvale Riesling are  more floral than the first two wines. Both are based on citrus, but softer wines. I found the Grosset a bit fruity, but showing great purity (92 and 92 points). The KT Peglidis, also from Watervale, was tighter with a strong fruit core (92 points).

The 2012 Henschke Julius Riesling from Eden Valley had almost no colour. A light wine with quite an acidic aftertaste (90 points).

The 2012 Grosset Polish Hill is indeed a special wine, as a number of reviewers have pointed out. The citrus flavours are very clean, linear and focussed. The wine has incredible length for a Riesling. It drinks well now, but I would suggest to drink half of a case in one year, as a young wine, and half starting in 8-10 years (96 points).

An interesting wine is the 2012 Grosset Alea Off Dry. This wine is broader, with a complex flavour spectrum from citrus to orange peel. The wine is not sweet by any means and has a long finish. This is a very interesting wine, different from the 'dry Australian' mould, but not 'sweet Germanic' either (93 points).

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Value of Vintage Ratings

My recent experiences raise the question of the value of vintage ratings. My observations are that they are not very reliable, maybe even misleading.

For example, in my recent tastings, I found the 2001 wines quite good, whereas the 2002 Mount Edelstone was over the hill (pardon the pun). Initially, nobody talked about the quality of 2001, but wine writers raved about 2002. It is clear that warmer vintages, with more initial appeal and ripeness get higher ratings. This does not mean that they produce better wines.

A major example of this trend was the 2000 vintage in Piedmont. It initially received 100 points by Wine Spectator and was hailed the best vintage in Italy ever. At a tasting a little while ago, it was revised down to 93 points, as the wines were found a little forward and not so well structured as in other years.

For those who can remember, the same happened with 1990 in Australia. Later, many writers found wines from 1991 better structured (although it must be said that 1990 produced some excellent wines).

The other argument against vintage ratings, of course, is that there is a lot of variation between wineries and vineyards.

So why do we have vintage ratings and why do they seem to be influential? One reason, I suspect, is that winemakers often rate the last vintage the best ever and if the weather was hot, the grapes got in just before the heatwave and if the weather was cold, the grapes got extra hang time etc. You can't really blame the wineries, they need to market their product, but vintage ratings are probably not a good counter balance.

The best test is your own taste. Before you commit to a case, buy a bottle. And once you have gained some experience, you will be able to tell which characteristics might serve a wine well in the future.

Henschke Mount Edelstone 2001

After having experienced the quite rapid ripening of the 2002 Mount Edelstone, I decided to open a 2001 Henschke Mount Edelstone, the oldest vintage I still have.

The fruit in this wine is not as intense as in the 2002, but there is sufficient complexity with smoky and meaty flavours delivering a good balance. The structure of the wine is good, with firm tannins and underlying acidity. This wine is not super elegant, but expressive and well suited to slow cooked meat dishes.

Score: 91/+

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Torbreck Les Amis

Continuing my 2001 theme, I opened a bottle of the Torbreck Les Amis Grenache. Maybe I should not have, as this was my last bottle from 2001, the first vintage of this wine. This wine is rare in Australia, as it was originally made for and shipped to a restaurant in Singapore.

Dave Powell, Torbeck's owner and winemaker, specializes in Rhone varieties. While he is probably best known for his powerful Shirazes, I think his special skill is with Grenache. His other popular Grenache is the GSM blend 'The Steading'. He manages to make very profound wines from this variety. Les Amis is a single vineyard wine, made from old dry grown bush vines in Marananga/Seppeltsfield.

This 2001 Les Amis tastes of raspberry and earthy flavours.  The wine is big and quite ripe. Its main feature is its enormously full mouthfeel, and there is enough structure to give it a long finish. The wine has silky aspects, but is dominated by a fleshy finish. This wine is not for everybody, it can be overwhelming. You may wish to share a bottle with six others.

Score: 93/+

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon

Following on from the unusual Mount Edelstone experience, I decided to open a stalwart of the Australian wine industry, a  mature Wynns Cabernet. This 2001 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon delivered exactly what I expected.

The blackcurrant still dominates, but the wine has mellowed and shows savoury characteristics as well. The firm tannins have softened somewhat. This is never a wine which wins in the 'elegance' stakes or the 'most fruit concentration' stakes, but the wine has a good structure and a long finish. It is perfect with steak, and perfect to drink now.

Score: 91/++

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Henschke Mount Edelstone: How A Wine Can Change

In 2010, I posted a glowing review of the 2002 Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz. It had received very high scores on release by professional wine writers. A little while ago I read a note by someone (I cannot remember who) that this wine is aging fast and should be drunk immediately. I have three bottles of this wine left, so I thought I might see what it was like.

When I opened a bottle, the signs were mixed. The cork was firm and tight, but as I was pouring the wine, it showed quite a brown colour next to the traditional deep black. The wine obviously has aged quite quickly.  This was confirmed on the palate. There was still a complex flavour spectrum, now dominated by chocolaty flavours and dried prunes. The fruit is clearly overripe, not totally unpleasant, but far from perfect. This is quite unusual for the 2002 vintage which was quite cool. I am puzzled how this could have happened.

My advice to everybody owning this wine: drink it quickly. You may still enjoy it, but I am sure you will not in another two years time. What a shame!

Score: 88/--

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Madfish Grandstand Sauvignon Blanc

I usually review quite expensive wines, I must admit, but sometimes I come across a cheap wine which is quite reasonable in quality. The 2011 Madfish Grandstand Sauvignon Blanc is such a wine. Madfish generally provides good value for money wines.

This Sauvignon Blanc has typical gooseberry flavours. It has a strong acidic backbone, but the wine is not overly herbaceous. The wine is crisp on the palate without residual sweetness. I do not drink much Sauvignon Blanc, but I can recommend this wine as a good alternative to the New Zealand quaffers.

Score: 88/+

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir

Kosta Browne appeared on the California Pinot Noir scene as the new star a few years ago. You have to be sceptical when a new winery without track record suddenly gets elevated to such an extent. However, the 2007 Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir could easily justify such a position.

This blended wine tastes of red and black cherry, it is intense, but seductive at the same time with floral flavours sitting on top of the fruit. This wine is very smooth. Its silkiness follows the palate and ends with an expanding finish. This is really satisfying drinking, and at five years the wine hits the sweet spot.

Score: 96/+++  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon

One of the natural food and wine matches for me are seared tuna and aged Semillon.  Bruce Tyrell said not long ago that he owned four of the five best Semillon vineyards in the Hunter Valley, and one day he will own the 5th. It is relatively safe to speculate that the 5th vineyard he was referring to was the Braemore vineyard. The mature vines of this outstanding vineyard live on sandy alluvial flats near Hermitage Road.

Yesterday I had the 2005 Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon. Andrew Thomas has been the new bright star in the Hunter, so no wonder that the combination of outstanding fruit source and winemaker produces high quality wines. This now seven year old wine is still very fresh and even zesty. Complexity is not really what Semillon can deliver, but this wine has great purity and balance. Toasty characters are only just starting to come through. In terms of what I was looking for, I opened this wine 3 to 5 years too early. It showed in this slightly awkward window between fresh characteristics and mellowing. No doubt, it has the structure to live for a long time.

Score: 92/++