Thursday, August 29, 2013

Glaetzer-Dixon New Releases

When I reported on the Glaetzer-Dixon Shiraz winning last year's Jimmy Watson trophy and not being too enthusiastic about the wine, I drew some flak from company representatives, and the post became one of my most read posts. This review will be less controversial, I think, although I will not be dishing out James Halliday level points (which is quite normal for me).

The first wine I tasted was the 2012 Glaetzer-Dixon Uberblanc Riesling. It has quite a crunchy citrus taste, there is lime and apple as well. The wine finishes dry and a little acidic (89 points). The 2012 Uberblanc Goldpunkt Riesling is a step up in fruit intensity. It is a more elegant wine, but still characterized by an acidic finish, which should give it a long life ahead. It is probably worth while to keep this wine for a number of years to see it develop and mellow (Goldpunkt?) (92 points).

The 2013 Glaetzer-Dixon 'Nouveau' Pinot Noir is  a Beaujolais-style wine. Obviously quite young, it is a dry wine lacking somewhat in mouthfeel (86 points). The 2012 'Avance' Pinot Noir has a strange animal fur smell on the bouquet, but loses this on the palate. The wine is dark coloured, with black cherry fruit dominant, medium bodied with a lifted acidic finish (91 points). The flagship is the 2010 'Reveur' Pinot Noir. This is a softer wine, no doubt partly due to bottle age. The flavours are complex: dark cherries mixed in with savoury forest floor. The finish is long, with quite firm tannins on the back palate. This is a well structured and interesting wine, which will further develop for the next four years and live quite a while longer (94 points).    

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma County

I mentioned in a couple of posts below in the review of AP Vin the development of Cult Pinot Noirs in California. I was curious how the 2007 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma County would compare to the AP Vin from the same area and year.

This trailblazer of full blown Pinot Noirs delivers pretty well. The full-bodied wine tastes of predominantly red cherry. The wine is smooth and elegant, and the tannins have softened. It is not what you would regard  a classic Burgundy, there is not much forest floor in the flavour profile, nor a lift on the finish. This is more a Shiraz drinker's Pinot Noir. This wine is a nice package and drinks well now, but I would not keep it much longer.

Score: 93/+

Monday, August 26, 2013

Two Hands Aphrodite Cabernet Sauvignon

When people think about Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, they think about Coonawarra and Margaret River. The trouble is that some of these wines can be a bit underdone and green (sometimes). There is another region, however, where this virtually never happens. It is the Barossa. The concern here is that often its Cabernets are not expressing varietal characteristics particularly well.

The 2003 Two Hands Aphrodite Cabernet Sauvignon, the pinnacle Barossa Cabernet from Two Hands, is a very pleasant surprise. This 10 year old wine is fresh (under cork), with typical currant flavours. It is full-bodied and delivers a great mouthfeel, not at all overripe. The wine is quite pungent, with firm and dry tannins, and a refreshing and lifted finish.

Score: 94/++

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2006 Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Coonawarra Cabernet. This medium-bodied wine tastes of red and black currant. The wine is a little bit on the lean side and not totally ripe. It has, however, a balanced structure and firm tannins.

Score: 90/0

Saturday, August 24, 2013

AP Vin Pinot Noir Kanzler Vineyard

Cult wines from California were synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon for a long time. But for a while now a handful of Pinot Noir producers have joined the club. Kosta Browne is probably the best known. Another one is AP Vin. The characteristics are: small production, sold out mailing lists, single vineyard wines, careful treatment, a lot by hand, and of course high prices.

How well do they live up to their reputation? AP Vin shares the Kanzler vineyard in Sonoma with Kosta Browne, which has achieved high ratings for its wine. The 2007 AP Vin Pinot Noir Kanzler Vineyard tastes of black cherry. I experienced big fruit volume in the mouth, but not overripe. The wine has a good structure and is holding up well. It finishes with firm tannins and slightly broad - no real lift on the finish, but a good quality wine.

Score: 92/+

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

KT Wines

Kerri Thompson is an interesting winemaker from the Claire, with access to a couple of great vineyards, and a special focus on Riesling. In 2013 she made five Rieslings.

The  2013 KT 5452 Riesling (it's the postcode) shows pretty citrus fruit, but is quite forward (86 points). The 2013 KT Peglidis Riesling is one of the flagship Rieslings. This one is a big wine for a Riesling. It displays floral flavours and fleshy citrus fruit on quite an acidic and dry backbone (92 points). The 2013 KT Churinga Riesling was my favorite. This vineyard is much rockier and as a result, the wine tastes quite slatey. Apple flavours move to minerality on the back palate before the wine finishes on an acidic note. This wine will be long lived (94 points).

The 2013 KT Melva Riesling is also from the Peglidis vineyard, but it is treated differently. It is fermented with indigenous yeast in old oak barriques. This wine is more rounded and softer than the "fresher" wines made in traditional style. It also has slightly higher sugar levels, not as bone dry as is typical for Claire. I found it very appealing (93 points). And finally, the  2013 KT Pazza Riesling. This is Kerri Thompson's take on natural wine. It is wild fermented and unfiltered. A found the wine interesting, but its profile a bit woolly. I don't think it will age well, either (89 points).

The red wine portfolio is also expanding. The 2012 KT Rosa Rose is made from Tempranillo and Grenache. This wine is simple and sweet, not recommended (82 points). The 2010 KT 5452 Shiraz/Grenache/Tempranillo/Mataro is quite enticing. The wine is soft and fruity - an easy drinking style with no pretenses (87 points). The more ambitious wines are the 2010 KT Churinga Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 KT Churinga Shiraz. The Cabernet Sauvignon is carefully hand picked and gently made.  The resulting wine is fresh and vibrant, with redcurrant fruit dominating. I taste some mint and spice as well. The wine has a firm grip on the finish (93 points). The Shiraz is made in the same way. It moves from plum and blackberry fruit on the front palate to earthy flavours on the back palate. The tannins are sneaking up on you on the finish (94 points).

The KT wines are well worth seeking out. The overall production is only 3000 cases, so they may be hard to find. The wines are quite refreshing, most have a good structure, and they bring out very good varietal character.    

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An awful Shiraz tasting

This post requires a couple of introductory remarks. Most professional wine writers do not post negative reviews. Why? Because they depend on sample submissions. If they do not like a wine, they simply won't review it. So you never know if the wine was negatively seen or not reviewed. I do not need to worry about this, because I do not rely on samples. You might say, "but you do not have many poor reviews". This is because most of the wines I review come from my cellar which essentially holds wines I enjoy, and even with new releases I pick those which I think I will like (although I sometimes leave out entry level wines - maybe I should not).

The tasting I am reporting on now was a Grange tasting - which is why I went - and included a number of other Shirazes, mostly below $30 per bottle. And it was ugly.

Let's start with McLaren Vale. The wines I tasted were 2008 Chapel Hill, 2008 Kay Brothers Basket Pressed,  2009 Oliver's Taranga HJ Reserve, 2010 Wirra Wirra RSW, 2009 Kay Brothers Amery Hillside, 2011 Chapel Hill The Vicar, 2009 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm and 2010 III Associates Giant Squid Ink Reserve. Some well known wines in this line-up. Some of these wines surprisingly lacked body weight, some were too oaky, added acidity was unpleasant, and generally the wines were not very harmonious. I would not score any of the wines at 90 points or above (other than The Dead arm at 90 points and the III Associates at 94 points). III Associates is three senior wine people from the Vale coming together and producing small quantities of hand crafted wine from old vines. This wine is fashioned in the intense and powerful style, but the fruit is first class, and the structure holds it together.

The Barossa wines were 2010 St. Hallett Blackwell, 2011 Gibson The Dirtman, 2012 Kalleske Pirathon, 2010 Glaetzer Bishop, 2009 Saltram No.1, 2006 Saltram Journal, 2010 Chris Ringland Reservation. Similarly, only the Saltram No.1 is a 90 point wine for me, even though it is a little sweet and unfocussed. The Blackwell is just in your face, and the Chris Ringland wine sweet and alcoholic. These are wines you only want to drink if they serve as a vehicle to consume alcohol.

Two cooler climate wines were much more pleasant. The 2010 Vasse Felix Shiraz showed vibrant red and black berry fruit. The wine is fresh and peppery. It has some sweetness as well, leading to an overall soft elegance (93 points). This winery is going from strength to strength. The 2010 Dalwhinnie Shiraz impresses with its beautiful blackberry fruit and its typical very silky and fine tannins (94 points).

Then there were a couple of Rhone wines. The 2010 Les Vins de Vienne l'Arzelle from Saint Joseph is quite a big wine, with intense fruit. The wine is not very complex, but pleasant to drink (90 points). The 2007 M. Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne Hermitage from the Northern Rhone is a food-friendly wine. It is not about the fruit, but the texture and drinkability of the wine. It is an elegant package, although you might say slightly bland (93 points).  

I did not enjoy this tasting. Most of these wines were not enjoyable to drink. They serve as a vehicle to consume alcohol, in my view, and lack elegance. The French and cold climate examples were much more pleasant than the South Australian wines.

I suggest if you were planning to drink two bottles of Shiraz in a week at $30/bottle, you may get more enjoyment out of only drinking one bottle at $60 per bottle (and it would be healthier, too). - This is a generalization, of course, I am not saying that a good bottle for $30 cannot be found, for example the Vasse Felix.

Friday, August 16, 2013

2008 Grange A 100 Pointer? - NO WAY!

The 2008 Penfolds Grange has been named a perfect wine by American critics Wine Spectator and Robert Parker and received 98 points, the highest score by James Halliday in his latest Wine Companion. It is therefore the most highly rated Australian table wine ever, I think.

Yesterday I had the chance to have a tiny taste of the new Grange. Obviously, top quality fruit has gone into it. The wine is made in the traditional way, finishing its fermentation in large American oak. The intensity of the fruit and the big body indicate it is a Grange from a strong year. What is amazing is the elegance this wine achieves already despite the power. The wine has perfect structure and the expected long and lasting finish.

Now comes my gripe: on the mid palate, I tasted a really sweet core which was not balanced by any savoury characteristics. This makes the wine too much in your face. Yes, it is meant to make a powerful statement, but for a perfect wine, I expect ripe fruit to be held in check. I did not find this on this occasion.

My taste was very small. I will have a chance to taste this wine again in a couple of weeks. I will report if my assessment will change as a result. If I could pay for these bottles, I would put my money for 2008s on Henschke's Hill of Grace.

Score: 96/++

Thursday, August 15, 2013

E. Pira Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi

Some posts ago I commented on my Barolo tastings in Piedmont. Barolo is a wine which really requires aging. I therefore was looking forward to opening a 2000 E Pira Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi.

This famous vineyard wine has quite an aromatic bouquet. On the palate, I tasted red and black cherry in a slightly smokey package. The wine is very focussed and goes down the palate with the same intensity finishing very long. The tannins are very silky and have softened beautifully. In many ways, this wine has quite a modern, new world feel. It is medium bodied, fruit focussed, not super complex, and elegant.

This wine will live another 5-10 years at current level, but might be drinking at its peak now.

Score: 96/+++

Monday, August 12, 2013

Torbreck (Relatively) New Releases

On the same day I tasted the Wynns wines, I tasted some relatively new releases from Torbreck.

The volume wine, the 2012 Woodcutters Shiraz delivers good plummy fruit on the palate, and a great mouthfeel, but it is not very harmonious and balanced (88 points).

The other wines are from the 2009 vintage, which according to Torbreck personnel beats 2010 with its elegance and the fact that these wines open up really well. 2010 wines in contrast will need a number of years cellaring.

The 2009 The Steading, a 60/20/20 GSM, as always, shows the bright fruit of the Grenache. The wine is vibrant and piercing, no lollipop flavours here (93 points).

The star of the tasting was the 2009 Descendent, a Shiraz/Viognier blend. The fruit flavours are deep and complex with a rich and elegant texture. The finish is surprisingly savoury and very long (96 points).

The 2009 Factor is fashioned in a traditional Barossa way: a big, rich wine, with concentrated blackberry fruit, chocolate and also some meaty notes. The fruit is not burnt, but the mouthfeel a bit rough (93 points).

It is actually interesting to compare Wynns and Torbreck on this occasion. At first blush, they seem to have little in common, however, as you look closer, both are relative high volume in their respective area, both have access to the best dirt in their region, and they focus on the varieties which do best in their regions. So how do the releases compare?

The accolade for the volume/value wine goes to the Wynns Shiraz, because it is the more harmonious wine. Comparing the classics - Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Torbreck The Steading - the gong goes to the Steading. This vintage is one of the best. I don't think the Wynns is. Then the specialty wines, if you like. Both the Messenger and the Descendent are terrific. Narrow win for Torbreck, as the wine is more complex. And finally comparing the premium classics: both the John Riddoch and the Factor are good wines, but not quite reaching a peak - a draw. (I enjoyed this exercise)

Saturday, August 10, 2013


It is time for the 2010 Wynns wines to shine - and shine they did.

The 2010 Wynns Black Label Shiraz is the first Shiraz bottled under the black label. This is no accident. The fruit for this high volume wine is excellent. The blackberry flavours are rich with good depth of fruit and a dry finish. This is a well made wine, not as big as a Barossa Shiraz, but with more weight than the classic cool climate Shirazes from Victoria (92 points).

The 2010 Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon was weaker by comparison. Maybe a lot of the best fruit went into the higher prices wines. The wine has the typical black- and redcurrant flavours, but is a bit coarse on the palate (89 points).

The real highlight is the 2010 Wynns Messenger Cabernet Sauvignon. This single vineyard wine comes from the Southern Coonawarra, where the famous terra rossa soil is especially deep. This is the first time since 1985 that this block has been bottled separately. The flavours are very vibrant and pristine. Mulberry and mint dominate, but the real highlight for me are the silky and very seductive tannins. Really good drinking now, but will also age well (95 points).

The 2010 Wynns Michael Shiraz is a step up in fruit intensity, but unfortunately also in oak treatment. The structure of the wine promises long aging potential and I would certainly put this wine down for at least seven years for the wine to mellow and show its potential (93 points).

The 2010 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon is a slight disappointment at the moment. It is rich on the palate, but very tight and closed. Underneath, there is good linearity on the palate, and I think this wine will come together, but it would have been better to have it released two years later (93 points).

Craggy Range New Premium Releases

Craggy Range is New Zealand's preeminent winery across a wide range of wines. Tasting the new releases demonstrates the high quality across the board, although lacking absolute high points.

The 2011 Te Muna Pinot Noir from Martinborough tastes of cherry and strawberry. The fruit is a bit simple and straight forward and the wine quite light-bodied. It has an ethereal texture and quite silky tannins (91 points).  

The 2010 Calvert Pinot Noir from Central Otago is bigger in fruit weight and more complex. The dark cherry flavours are augmented with forest floor, but the finish is not as smooth as I would have liked (92 points).

We are now moving to Hawkes Bay, the home of Craggy Range, and where the grapes for the fuller bodied reds are grown. The 2010 Gimblett Gravels Syrah is very spicy and the fruit is a bit lean with slightly metallic flavours. The finish is quite satisfying (90 points).

The 2011 Le Sol Syrah is the flagship wine. It is more generous and elegant, not as intense as in some other years, with a smooth finish (92 points).

The star of the tasting was the 2011 Sophia. This Bordeaux style blend is dominated by Merlot and therefore fashioned similar to right bank Bordeaux. This wine has great depth of blackberry fruit, a sweet core, and firm tannins to provide a solid structure which will allow the wine to develop more complexity with time. An excellent effort (94 points).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Penfolds 707 Cabernet Sauvignon

You know you can trust Penfolds to make lasting wines, but how do they achieve that a 1998 707 Cabernet Sauvignon is still youthful, and this under cork? The flavours have shifted from blackcurrant to mulberry, but the fruit is still very strong and deep. This wine is built like a powerhouse, with a tremendous mouthfeel. The tannins are firm, and the flavours go on and on.

This wine is more a Penfolds DNA wine than what you would expect as a drinker of Bordeaux or Coonawarra, but I cannot really hold this against the wine. It will still increase in complexity and go for 10 years plus.

Score: 97/++

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock

Jasper Hill's Shiraz wines are usually long lived. So I was optimistic when I opened a bottle of the 2001 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock. The redcurrant fruit, typical for this vineyard, dominated on the front palate. Then on the mid palate it started to feel quite hollow, before the wine finished a bit burnt  and harsh. This is a typical example of what happens to an overripe and alcoholic wine. In a number of other years, the fruit managed to carry the high alcohol, but not in 2001. Quite disappointing. This wine is nearing the end of its drinking window. If you have it in your cellar, drink it now. Maybe your bottle will be better.

Score: 87/--