Thursday, July 31, 2014

Australia's Iconic Reds Tasting

Last night I was a lucky man. These were the wines I tasted (in alphabetical order)

2012 Best's Bin 0 Shiraz
2010 Elderton Ashmead Cabernet
2010 Elderton Command Shiraz
2010 Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz
2010 Langmeil Orphan Bank Shiraz
2009 Penfolds Grange Shiraz
2010 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz
2012 Spinifex Bete Noir
2012 Spinifex La Mouline
2010 St. Hallets Old Block Shiraz
2009 Torbreck Descendant
2009 Torbreck Les Amis Grenache
2009 Torbreck RunRig Shiraz
2011 Tyrell's Vat 9 HV Shiraz
2013 Ulithorne Dona GSM
2012 Ulithorne Chi Grenache Shiraz
2011 Ulithorne Paternus Cabernet Shiraz
2011 Ulithorne Frux Frugis Shiraz
2012 Wynns V & A Cabernet Shiraz
2010 Wynns Alex 88 Shiraz

Western Australia was absent, and much of Victoria, but the tasting provided a good overview of the state of play of the major red varieties in Australia nonetheless. The wines were of excellent standard across the board. I will not focus on point scoring, but rather discuss my findings.

Ulithorne was a revelation to me. I was not familiar with this small winery from McLaren Vale, but mightily impressed with all their wines: great purity of fruit, precise winemaking and true varietal expression. Their Cabernet, with silky tannins and good ripeness was the wine of the night for me. The Grenache was dark fruited and elegant. No confectionery flavours there.

Henschke's Mount Edelstone was very complex and impressed me with exotic spice flavours, its smoothness and great balance.

Clearly, a number of Barossa makers have toned down alcohol and ripeness, with mixed success: Peter Lehmann's Stonewell Shiraz and St. Hallets Old Block were examples. I like the vibrancy and freshness of the Spinifex wines, but would I go for their wines if I wanted the 'Aussie Shiraz' feel? Some producers stick to their formula of  quite ripe wines, such as Elderton and Langmeil. The 2010 vintage helped with balance.

The Bests and Tyrell's examples were less full bodied, with some red fruit flavours coming through. I enjoyed the silky tannins and  balanced acidity in the Wynns V & A Cabernet Shiraz.

Now to the extremes: The 2009 Grange was the most heavily oaked wine of the night. No doubt it will come around over time, but the fruit is not of the quality of a number of years of the recent past. This is astonishing, given the strong vintage.

Robert Parker once described Torbreck wines built like skyscrapers - big in all dimensions. This has not changed. I found the floral impact of the Viognier in the Descendant as well as the alcoholic finish too strong. However, the Les Amis and the RunRig were impressive in their own way. The Les Amis was super smooth on the palate, despite the ripe black cherry fruit. And similarly, the RunRig was smooth, quite approachable with fantastic fruit intensity.

This was a great tasting, showcasing improved winemaking and different styles. Based on this, Australian wine should be able to refresh its image overseas sooner rather than later.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mauro Molino Barolos

2010 is hailed as a brilliant vintage in Piedmont. The Mauro Molino Barolos are certainly impressive. Home of the winery is in La Morra, in the north of the Barolo region. Mauro Molino applies shortish maceration periods, which means the wines are quite approachable in their youth.

The basic 2010 Mauro Molino Barolo is a blended wine from a number of vineyards. Aromatic rose and cherry aromas are supported by savoury undertones. The wine is coated by firm tannins and is very well balanced. It can be drunk now, but will be better in 3 years (92 points). The Barolo Gallinotto is similar, but with more fruit weight and moving from red to black cherry. It has an excellent long finish (93 points). The Barolo Bricco Luciani (formerly Gancia) steps it up more. Dark plum and raisin flavours dominate. The oak, resulting from 24 months maturation in oak barriques, is noticeable, but the fruit matches it well. The finish is long and arresting. This is the most attractive wine of the line-up right now (95 points). The Barolo La Serra is a new wine for Mauro Molino, from 40 year old vines. The wine is very complex, but also very closed now. Spices and earthy flavours dominate. This wine needs time (93-96 points).

These wines are excellent examples of modern, yet complex Barolos, which will age well for 20 years or more. They are reasonably priced (for Barolo) and well worth seeking out.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay

The 2013 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay is a great lunch wine, now that the sun is starting to warm up the days. This is a zesty wine, with lemon, lime and green apple flavours. The fruit flavours are matched with a good dose of acidity. There is a reasonable level of alcohol (13.2%), but the wine is not heavy at all. No malolactic fermentation in this wine, I think. Great value for money.

Score: 90/+++

Monday, July 21, 2014

William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir

William Downie's Gippsland Pinot Noir is perhaps the most difficult to 'classify'. The Yarra Valley Pinot Noir typically displays strawberry flavours and is quite ethereal. The one from the Mornington Peninsula tastes of black cherry. And the Gippsland one sits somewhere in-between. It is often the most complex, and most interesting, taking nothing away from the other two, though.

The 2008 William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir ticks all the right boxes. It has an outstanding texture. I am experiencing  a silky and  ultra smooth mouthfeel all the way. The fruit flavours are strawberry and red cherry. The wine has a long and persistent finish. This is one of the best Australian Pinot Noirs. It is world class.

Score: 96/+++

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chateau Fombrauge

In many ways, the 2009 Chateau Fombrauge is a similar wine to the Chateau Villars, reviewed before. It has the same grape variety mix, it is from the right bank, and the flavour profile is similar. However, this wine hails from St. Emilion, one of the two prestigious regions there. Therefore it is twice as expensive ($70 per bottle).  Black plum flavours come to the fore a bit more than in the Villars. Overall, the frame of the wine is bigger, with stronger oak and alcohol influences. This wine needs to settle down a bit more and requires further cellaring in order to soften on the palate.

Score: 93/+

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chateau Villars

I have reviewed the 2009 Chateau Villars in an overview on Bordeaux before, but as it is such a good find, and I drank it again last night, I thought it is worth while to write a separate note.

This Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend is from Fronsac, one of the less prestigious subregions on the right bank of Bordeaux. But in 2009, everybody could make a good wine, and this is certainly one. The wine has a deep ruby colour. It is medium to full-bodied with a medium fruit intensity. This means it is possible to enjoy the wine now. The blackcurrant and black cherry flavours are very expressive, supported by spice and vanilla flavours from oak. Firm tannins provide a good structure for this wine leading to a long finish. I enjoyed the mouthfeel of this wine, although it is not elegant-perfect. This is a great value buy from an expensive vintage.

Score: 93/++

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gatt Barossa Shiraz

I was born in Germany. So I must congratulate the German soccer team.They have started to change their style of football about 10 years ago and now play, in my humble opinion, the most entertaining and fluent style of football in Europe. The match against Brazil at this world cup will remain unforgettable.

However, this is a blog about wine. 20 years ago, I had the ambition of collection every 'good' wine made in Australia. This became more and more unrealistic, as the number of wineries exploded and quality rose across the board. So then you can either pick more or less randomly or try to hone in on special regions to understand them in more detail.. I did the latter, which is why you find that most of the Shirazes I collect (and review) come from the Barossa, Cabernet Sauvignon from Western Australia, and Pinot Noir from Victoria.

I came across the 2010 Gatt Barossa Shiraz at a wine show and got a bottle given. I tried the wine yesterday and must say I seriously disliked it. It had all the aspects of what Barossa wines often get criticised for. It is very alcoholic, the fruit is one-dimensional, as it is overripe, and the finish is harsh. No charm in this wine, just a bomb. Thank goodness, not all Barossa wines are like this. Now, this wine has collected a number of gold medals at wine shows, I believe in Australia as well as Europe. Simply because the wine has fruit intensity? I regard these wine shows as deeply flawed, and I can only hope you never pick a wine because of the number of medals on the bottle.

Score: 82/---

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

The 2008 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir opens up beautifully. The nose consists of intense red and black cherry flavours. These continue on the palate. The wine is quite soft and smooth, despite the deep cherry and plum flavours. They open up more and more towards the back palate. The expanding and long finish is held together by silky and velvety tannins. This wine has an excellent texture, fruit flavours and acids are well balanced. - A perfect example of a new world Pinot Noir.

Score: 96/+++

Yalumba Lyndoch Singe Vineyard Shiraz

Something very strange happened. I drank this 2005 Yalumba Fromm Vineyard Shiraz one day after the Sophia reported upon in my last post. The flavour and structure profiles were very similar despite different geographies and grape varieties. This wine comes from a vineyard on the border between Lyndoch and Gomersal in the Barossa Valley. The wine tastes of lush black fruits, cherry and plum.It is ripe, but not jammy. The tannins are very subtle now. The wine is balanced and well made, but needs to be drunk now.

Score: 91/+

Friday, July 11, 2014

Craggy Range Sophia

Sophia is a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend and therefore Craggy Range's take on the right bank Bordeaux wines.The 2007 Craggy Range Sophia still displays a ruby colour with deep intensity. This medium to full-bodied wine has attractive blueberry and blackberry notes on the nose and it starts like that on the palate. The wine has developed quite a lot since I tasted it in 2009. This is a wine that should be drunk now. It is nicely balanced, but the fruit intensity starts to drop off at the back palate.

Score: 92/++

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling

The Grosset Polish Hill Riesling is by many seen as Australia's best Riesling, certainly its most age-worthy. Today, I opened a 2006 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling to see and taste how it has developed. I was in for a surprise, but not a shock, really.

The colour of this wine (under screw cap) is still pale lemon. There is not much development noticeable at all. And on the palate, the wine is as steely as ever. It has lost the austereness of its early years, but the character is still lime and minerality. I detect no toasty notes at all. The structure is completely in tact, with acidity and fruit in perfect harmony. This is a well made wine in the dry Clare Valley style, and my only criticism is that there is not an awful lot going on in the glass.

Score: 94/++

Friday, July 4, 2014

Yalumba Single Vineyard Shiraz

Many producers in the Barossa Valley have experimented for ten years or so with single vineyard wines. Most of these are produced in small volumes, often only available at cellar door, and quite expensive.

Over the years, I picked up some of these to learn about the Barossa subregions. Today I opened a 2005 Yalumba Swingbridge Vineyard Shiraz from Craneford, Eden Valley. The Eden Valley is one half of the Barossa, with the neighbouring Baossa Valley being the other half. The 90 year old vines of this vinyard are planted at an altitude of 400m and are expected to deliver some cooler climate characteristics. The wine does not disappoint.

The bouquet delivers scents of higher altitude Shiraz: violets and fragrant aromas. On the palate, blueberry flavours dominate, but there are also blackberry fruits and sweetness on the mid-palate. The wine is finely structured with soft tannins, which are not very noticeable on the palate, but strong enough to hold up the wine for close to ten years. The mouthfeel drops a bit on the finish, but the vibrancy of the fruit wins out overall.

You will not be able to find this particular wine, I suggest, but it might be worth while to track down similar wines.

Score: 93/+++