Monday, September 22, 2014

Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz

I wanted to test this Shiraz expression issue from the Hunter a bit more, but I must admit I do not have many examples in my cellar. But I found a 2003 Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz.

This wine was still under cork, but it came up with a bright colour and vibrant aromas of red plum, which continued on the palate. This is a big wine with spicy undertones. I enjoyed the balanced texture and the noticeable acidity in this wine. The tannins are firm, but the fruit flavours continue to dominate through to the back palate and the lifted finish.

This is not your classic Hunter Shiraz, but this wine will live for ten years plus without problems.

Score: 94/+++

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hunter Valley Shiraz Trophy and Gold Medal Winners 2014

Hunter Valley Shiraz used to be a unique wine: relatively low in alcohol (12.5-13%), very soft with velvety tannins. Then along came Robert Parker, and everybody felt they needed to beef up their red wines. This was not so easy in the Hunter, so a number of wine makers, in particular Brokenwood, started to source grapes from McLaren Vale, and even added McLaren Vale brands. You cannot blame them to go with the trends, but these unique wines almost disappeared.

So what is the play in 2014? I tasted the nine Shiraz Gold Medal winners and have to say that the overall standard was quite good. But I could detect the "Hunter classic" only in one wine. This was my top wine from this tasting; the 2011 Tyrell's  Vat 9 Shiraz. This wine showed blueberry flavours, with great depth of fruit, and the velvety characters will develop (93 points).

The two Brokenwood wines were good, too. The 2013 Brokenwood Verona Shiraz is very dark and quite intense, well balanced, and with dusty tannins on the finish (92 points). The 2013 Brokenwood Mistress Shiraz is not as big, showing more red fruit and elegance (91 points). At the same level is the 2011 Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz. This is an elegant, well balanced wine, but I found it a bit boring (91 points).

De Iuliis had two wines as well: The 2013 De Iuliis Steven Shiraz is quite fruity, and a little harsh (86 points), whereas the 2011 De Iuliis Limited Release Shiraz has more depth. This is a well rounded wine with a smooth finish (91 points).

Not quite at the same level were the 2013 Briar Ridge Signature Release Stockhausen Shiraz and the 2011 Pepper Tree Wines Tallavera Limited Release Shiraz (88 points). I did not try the 2013 David Hook Old Vines Belford Shiraz.

Red Wines from two other grape varieties won Gold Medals: the 2011 Margan White Label Barbera (soft and fruity, 88 points), and the 2013 De Iuliis Shiraz Touriga Nacional (a bit harsh, 88 points).

The Pepper Tree wine was the big trophy winner. This is why I am not a wine show judge.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Yarra Yering - The Full Line-up

It takes a long time to build up to an iconic wine brand status. It seems it takes an equally long time to lose it. I have not been familiar with Yarra Yering for many years, but yesterday I tried the following wines:

2013 Warramate Chardonnay
2011 Yarra Yering Chardonnay
2011 Warramate Pinot Noir
2012 Warramate Cabernets
2011 Yarra Yering Dry Red No 1
2008 Yarra Yering Dry Red No 1
2011 Yarra Yering Dry Red No 2
2007 Yarra Yering Dry Red No 2
2011 Yarra Yering Dry Red No 3
2010 Yarra Yering Underhill Shiraz
2007 Yarra Yering Underhill Shiraz

Underhill is a neighbouring vineyard bought many years ago, Warramate is also in the neighbourhood, bought more recently. The No 1 wine is the Bordeaux blend, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon I believe, No 2 is Shiraz, and No 3 is a blend of five Portuguese varieties, traditionally used to make Port.

I remember these wines having attractive fragrant feminine aromatics, built on a soft, but solid structure of fine tannins.

When I tasted the wines mentioned above, I found them thin, often underripe, without much shape, unattractive mouthfeel and length on the finish. I scored the wines 84 to 89 points. Only the 2011 Dry Red No 2 achieved 90 points, as it showed some good balance.

I remember some 15 years ago, I pulled a Dry Red No 1 from the 80s out of the cellar. It still had the price label on the bottle: $ 6.99. Today, all of these wines other than the Warramate cost $100 per bottle. Phew! As the saying goes: Money better spent elsewhere.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Two Excellent New Pinot Noirs

I recently drank two excellent Pinot Noirs side by side, grown about 200km apart, but they could not have been more different.

The 2012 Oakridge 864 Block 4 Guerin Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley has a bright red colour. The wine is light to medium, very smooth and elegant. The flavours are fragrant and of strawberry fruit. This is a feminine wine with excellent mouthfeel. Only the finish is a bit shorter than desirable for such a high quality wine.

Score: 93/+++

The 2012 Sangreal By Farr Pinot Noir from Geelong is much darker, and tastes of black cherry. As a result, it has a fuller mouthfeel. The finish expands beautifully. Like the wine above, this wine has a 'European' structure, but combined with sun-kissed fruit.

Score: 96/+++

It is not always that the bigger Pinot Noir wins out for me, but in this case it has.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

Over the years, or decades rather, Leeuwin Estate has oscillated in its Art Series Chardonnay between a rich and exotic fruit spectrum and a more restrained citrus based expression. In recent years, it has settled somewhere in the middle, with the 2011 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay an excellent example of this.

This wine shows quite a spectrum of fruit on the palate, with citrus, white peach and red apple dominant. There is melon as well. This complexity generates a full mouthfeel, yet the wine is precise and linear as well. I call this a paradox wine. This Chardonnay is perfectly balanced, with the right amount of acidity for freshness and excellent oak integration. The finish is very long. This wine drinks beautifully  now, but will age for a long time, too.

Score: 97/+++

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Three Granges

The other night I was fortunate to taste - actually, drink - three different vintages of Grange. They showed quite a lot of variation, but there are three things which Granges from different vintages have (more or less) in common, and which distinguish these wines from any other in Australia and the world, for that matter. The first is the depth of fruit. If you wanted to find an analogy, it is for taste as it would be for the eye when you dive over a reef and look down into the endless sea of increasingly blue and then black water. Many have tried to copy this, and ended up with overripe fruit. Grange fruit is not overripe, it is a very meticulous selection process to identify the ideal fruit. Secondly, it is the influence of oak, which is significant, but over time quite seamless. This has to do with the production method. I don't have enough space to describe this here. The third element is the structure, which is supported by very firm, sometimes coarse tannins, which allows the wine to age for decades.

On to the wines. The oldest was the 1991 Penfolds Grange. This is a big wine, with layered fruit flavours of plum, blackberry and blueberry. Cedar and dark chocolate add to the complexity. The strongly toasted oak is in good balance with the fruit. The finish is strong and tannic. This wine will live for a long time. I rate this highly based on the criteria outlined before, but it was not my favorite. Too brutish.

Score: 97/++

The 1992 Penfolds Grange was totally different. This wine showed also deep, dark berry fruit, but this wine is much more elegant, almost feminine. Others described it as sensual. It has great mouthfeel and a fleshy, long finish. This wine is perfect to drink now, and I would drink it in the next three years.

Score: 96/+++

I described the 2009 Penfolds Grange briefly in a previous post. On this night, the wine tasted big and oaky as previously, but the oak was not quite as dominant. I am now quite sure that the oak dominance will disappear over time. However, the second concern is likely to stay. The fruit is not as complex and layered as in the best years. As a result, the mouthfeel is not as satisfying. This is still a very good wine, but I am surprised, given the strength of the vintage, that the fruit does not come up better than this.

Score: 94/++

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Central Otago Pinot Noir

Central Otago has been in a bit of a quandary with its latest vintages. 2012 was cool, and many wines do not deliver the generosity of fruit associated with Central Otago. The following year was a warm, "easy" vintage, with many wines being quite open and broad. How do five well regarded wineries stack up?

Well, the wines of Domain Road, located near Felton Road, are actually from different vintages. The 2011 Domain Road Pinot Noir is attractive on the palate, open with interesting earthy undertones (91 points). The 2010 Paradise Pinot Noir is darker and quite intense, a little angular, but made for ageing (93 points).

Mt. Difficulty is one of Central Otago's most prominent wineries. The 2013 Roaring Meg Pinot Noir is made for every day drinking. It is a pleasant wine, soft and aromatic (90 points). The 2012 Bannockburn Pinot Noir (their estate wine) is more structured and quite tannic (92 points).

Mud House is a relatively high volume producer who manages to avoid the 'commercial wines' label. The 2012 Claim 431 Pinot Noir is still quite young in the glass, but with savoury characteristics and a slightly harsh mouthfeel (89 points). The 2013 version is broader, feels warmer and tastes more fruit orientated (90 points). The 2010 has a lighter mouthfeel, but lovely expressive fruit and soft tannins (93 points). Big vintage variation between these wines.

One of the bell weathers is Quartz Reef. the 2012 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir tastes of red cherry, with savoury notes and a very solid structure (93 points).

Rockburn, by comparison, is quite new. The winemaker is ex Felton Road. The 2012 Pinot Noir is a bit weak and lacks intensity (88 points). However, the 2012 Ten Barrels Pinot Noir (obviously a reserve wine) has more depth and is quite elegant with lifted aromas on the finish (93 points).