Wednesday, December 31, 2014

William Downie

The William Downie wines have, like many, paintings on the label.What is unusual is that there is no associated information. It is all on the back. This fits the 'cult' image of this talented Pinot Noir specialist. He makes wines from three regions: Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, and Gippsland.

The 2008 William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir was my Christmas Eve wine, and I was not disappointed. This of course comes from an area close to Bass Philip vineyards. It opened with black cherry flavours on the front palate and is similar in texture to a top quality Burgundy, maybe not quite as dense. The complexity increases with savoury characteristics contributing along the palate.

This wine is perhaps a bit more developed than I was expecting and the grapes are on the ripe side, but the structure is holding up. As I expected, this wine shows silky tannins on the long, though not expanding finish.

Score: 95/+++

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Yering Station

Some very good wines here as well.

2012 Reserve Chardonnay: pure stone fruit and citrus, a linear wine, well balanced, showing minerality on the palate, and a very balanced structure (94 points)

2010 Pinot Noir: dark cherry and savoury flavours, mouthfeel not totally satisfying, finish slightly harsh (90 points).

2012 Reserve Pinot Noir: similar flavour profile, but much more intensity in this wine. The finish is long and expanding (94 points).

The go-to vintage is 2012. However, the Reserve wines are very expensive (about $100/bottle).

Friday, December 26, 2014

Coldstream Hills, revisited, part 2

The Pinot Noirs were of very high quality, too.

2013 Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir: this is a surprisingly complex Pinot Noir for a 'standard' Estate wine.It is quite savoury and earthy. Great flavours filling the mouth. The finish is a little short (92 points).

2013 Dear Farm Pinot Noir: I described the vineyard in part 1. The red cherry flavours of this wine jump out of the glass. This wine is very perfumed, yet bright and fresh - an elegant wine, just delicious (94 points).
[And I liked it more than in my first tasting, described in the top 20 wines, a couple of posts below]

2013 Esplanade Pinot Noir: this wine comes from the 1000 candles vineyard, which William Downie is trying to turn into a master piece. Coldstream Hills have sourced grapes from this vineyard for some time. This wine is richer than the Dear Farm, but a bit broad as a result. My least favourite wine of the line-up (91 points).

2012 Reserve Pinot Noir: this is a rich wine, too. The flavours are complex, with forest floor and savoury components dominating. The finish is satisfying, but not overly long (93 points).

These Pinot Noirs were good, but did not quite manage to get the density, definition, and expanding finish of a top Burgundy wine.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Coldstream Hills, revisited, part 1

Recently I spent a couple of days in the Yarra Valley, something I have not done for a number of years. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is quite clear now which style suits the area best, and with many vineyards 30 years old now, and great vintages from 2012 and 2013, it is all coming together nicely.

My first stop was Coldstream Hills. It was established in 1985 by James and Suzanne Halliday and acquired  by Treasury Wine Estates in 2005. In most cases, boutique wineries do not hold their quality and positioning when they are gobbled up by large multi-brand corporations, but in the case of Coldstream Hills, it may even have gotten better.

I tasted first the fleet of Chardonnays.

2013 Chardonnay: this is the standard Estate wine, a blend of various vineyards. The wine undergoes no malolactic fermentation. The fresh apple and citrus flavours are pleasant on the palate. The wine has good acidity on the finish (90 points).

2013 Dear Farm Chardonnay: Coldstream Hills now bottles some single vineyard Chardonnays, in line with other producers. This wine comes from a vineyard in the East of the valley, at higher altitude. It is a cool site. This wine saw 52% new oak. It has a similar flavour profile to the Estate wine, but it has much more definition. This is a lean, but elegant wine, with good acidity, and citrus and minerality on the finish. I loved this wine (94 points).

2013 Rising Chardonnay: this wine comes from a Northern vineyard. It has some elevation, but is a warmer site. 42% saw new oak. The stone fruit is more pronounced in this wine. It is a bit broader on the palate, but with a firm finish (92 points).

2012 Reserve Chardonnay: this is a 'best of' wine from the different vineyards. 44% new oak. This is a richer wine. Red apple fruit dominates. The wine has an excellent structure and an appealing lingering finish (93 points).

What impressed me most overall was that each wine tasted according to what it should, in line with its terroir and winemaking objective. Classy stuff. You will not be disappointed if you try these.

What are we drinking this Christmas?

Please let me know your Christmas drinking plans, and if from Northern or Southern Hemisphere.

I am not very organized this year, but I will let you know after the fact.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tasting Top Wines Of 2014, Part 2

The remaining five wines in this tasting were Shiraz or Shiraz based from Victoria and South Australia, as you would expect.

2013 Best's Bin 1 Shiraz: this is the little brother of Bin 0. It has experienced a significant lift in quality in recent years. The 2013 has a bright colour. Pretty berry flavours dominate, overlaid with peppery notes. This is a medium-bodied wine, well made, but a little simple (90 points).

2012 Seppelt St. Peters Shiraz: This wine impressed everybody. It has a lively palate, the blackberry flavours are delicious. The fruit is concentrated, yet the wine is elegant at the same time. This full-bodied wine  has excellent texture and finishes with silky tannins (95 points).

2013 SC Pannell Adelaide Hills Syrah: this is the Jimmy Watson Trophy winner which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. My view has not changed in this line-up. This is a vibrant wine with pretty blackberry fruit and good balance. It includes 2% Viognier.  I don't find this wine particularly interesting and the tasters did not have it in their top 4 wines from this tasting (92 points).

2013 Ruggabellus Archaeus: this is the Shiraz dominated wine from Abel Gibson's three premium blends. This is a darker wine, with plum and blackberry flavours. 22% whole bunches deliver a savoury palate with earthy flavours. The wine has good length and the oak is well balanced. In a way, the relationship between the SC Pannell and this wine is the same, as the one between the Coldstream Hills and the By Farr on the Pinot Noir front (94 points).

2012 Henschke Mt. Edelstone: is this the best Mt. Edelstone ever made in 60 years? It would be a candidate. The wine has a deep, crimson red, but not saturated colour. The fruit flavours are complex and intense: plum, blackberry and raspberry interplay. Dried herbs and cedar complete the picture. This medium bodied wine is elegant, and its silky tannins lead to a long finish (97 points).

The top rated wines, adding up the tasters votes, were the Seppelt St. Peters and the Mt Edelstone, strongly ahead of the 'whole bunched' Ruggabellus and By Farr. The pretty, fruit orientated wines, and the white wines hardly got a top 2 vote.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tasting Top Wines Of 2014, Part 1

Philip Rich, co-owner of the Prince Wine Store, publishes a list of his top 20 wines annually in the Financial Review. They are not necessarily his best wines of the year, but wines that stood out in his tastings. His list is designed to show diversity in wine varieties and styles. He does not attribute a point score. Last night, I participated in a tasting of 11 of these wines. There were two wines each of Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, showing quite different styles.

2013 Vickery Watervale Riesling: this wine is from the Clare Valley. It is a relatively lean style, showing off floral, citrus and lime characteristics of Riesling. The fruit is pure and the wine has quite good definition, but is a little broad on the mid-palate. Great value for money (92 points).

2013 Keller Riesling - von der Fels: this Riesling shows off a deeper colour. It is a richer wine, fuller bodied, basically dry, with a hint of sweetness. Acidity in this wine keeps it well balanced. Klaus Keller is one of the Riesling stars of Germany, from Rheinhessen (92 points).

2012 Oakridge 864 Funder & Diamond Chardonnay: this wine is one of a number of superb 2012 single vineyard Chardonnays from the Yarra Valley. The fruit is quite restrained, white peach, pear and grapefruit show on the palate. The oak is understated, but cashew flavours are noticeable. The wine has good form, leading to a refined finish (94 points).

2013 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay: the second wine had to come from Margaret River, the other major Chardonnay region in Australia. Being a reserve wine, this wine is bigger and richer. Yellow peach and mango flavours dominate in this well textured wine. It is maybe a bit fruit forward (92 points).

2013 Coldstream Hills Deer Farm Pinot Noir: this wine displays very bright colour. The red cherry flavours in this fruit dominated wine are well defined and carry through to the back palate. This wine split the tasters. Some enjoyed the brilliant fruit in this wine, others found it a bit simple. I belonged to the second group, in particular when this wine is compared with the next one. The wine did very well on the show circuit, impressing judges with its pure fruit and good definition (93 points).

2013 Farr Rising Pinot Noir: the colour in this wine the colour of this Pinot is much darker, almost a bit cloudy by comparison. This is a richer and denser  wine, a function of the 30 per cent whole bunches included. The wine is more savoury, with concentrated dark cherry and forest floor flavours. The wine has a good mouthfeel and finishes with firm tannins - very true to the 'Farr' style (94 points).

I would drink happily any of these wines, different as they are.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Domaine Dominique Cornin Pouilly-Fuisse

Pouilly-Fuisse, at the southern end of Burgundy, with its warmer climate, produces riper Chardonnay. In the right hands, these can be high quality wines at reasonable prices.

The 2011 Domain Dominique Cornin Pouilly-Fuisse Clos Reyssie is an example of this. This wine has a golden colour, and the flavours are of ripe red apple and yellow peach. New oak is quite noticeable. The mouthfeel is quite big, but not plump. This wine is quite focussed. Citrus flavours and acidity lead to a firm finish. This Pouilly-Fuisse is a harmonious wine and drinking well now, but will go on for many years.

Score: 93/++  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wendouree Malbec

Malbec is rising in popularity, as it is a variety which - while serious and ageing well - can be drunk early with a lot of enjoyment. The problem is, there are not many sources of first class Malbec. The Mendoza region of Argentina is the best known area, while most Malbec vines in France have been wiped out by various disasters, a major frost in 1956 being the last one. However, there is a pocket in Australia of maybe 100 year old Malbec vines. This is of course in the Wendouree vineyard.

I just opened a 2010 Wendouree Malbec, and it shows why it is so special. This is a big wine. Black cherry and ripe raspberry flavours dominate. There is a lot of acidity in his wine and the tannins are firm. The wine has a big mouthfeel, but at under 14% alcohol is not hot at all. It is said that Wendouree wines have become more approachable at young age, but this wine will certainly benefit from a lot more bottle age. At present, the acidity is too dominant. It needs to integrate into the other components, but this wine will be stunning when it has developed more complexity and mellowed with time.

Drink from 2020.

Score: 95/++

Monday, December 8, 2014

Robert Oatley Margaret River Chardonnay

Yes, the 2013 Robert Oatley  Margaret River Chardonnay is a dry white wine. It probably (by elimination) tastes like a Chardonnay, but it lacks definition. The stone fruit characteristics are fine, but it is broad on the palate. I don't know the production volume of this wine, but I doubt it is small. It reminds me of the higher volume Rosemount Chardonnays. The finish is relatively short.

Score: 86/-

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lerida Estate Shiraz/Viognier

There are a handful of wineries in the Canberra district who are getting closer in quality to the stellar Clonakilla. One such winery is Lerida Estate. The 2013 Lerida Estate Shiraz/Viognier just won the Chairman's trophy at the Canberra wine show. I had an opportunity to taste it a couple of days ago.

This wine has very profound aromas, very fragrant and feminine. On the palate, a surprise. The blackberry and plum fruit is quite concentrated. There is black pepper as well, but this is not your typical cool climate Shiraz. It has the elegance, but it also has the intensity of a full-bodied wine. If we talk feminine, it is more Dolly Parton than Cameron Diaz. Only Viognier skins have been co-fermented. This means there are no apricot flavours in this wine (good), but tannins have been added. The finish is quite long and the tannins fine and velvety. This is an excellent drop.

Score: 95/+++

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The All-Australian Shiraz

Tonight I am going to report on a unique Australian wine. In 1998, 90% of Bannockburn's Shiraz grapes got wiped out by hail. Close to 40 wineries offered help. The resulting wine included grapes from most corners of Australia: Margaret River (Cape Mentelle), Barossa and Eden Valley (Rockford, Yalumba, St. Halletts, Charlie Melton), McLaren Vale (BRL Hardy, Paxton), Clare Valley (Pikes), Coonawarra (Katnook), Heathcote (Jasper Hill), cool climate Victoria (Dalwhinnie, Mt. Langhi, Taltarni). This is like making a wine in Europe with grapes from Portugal via France and Italy to Greece.

The final wine, the 1998 Bannockburn Shiraz is astonishing. You would never guess that it is made from grapes from all over the country. This is a seamless wine, which ages very gracefully (I was drinking a Magnum). The palate is very complex. Blackberry and plum flavours are matched with mocca and smokey flavours. The wine has more intensity than a cool climate wine, but it is not a 'Big or overripe Barossa'. Heads up to the winemaking here (Gary Farr), who created such a harmonious wine from such diverse sources. The wine has mellowed beautifully. It reminds me of a top Northern Rhone wine. The wine still has great form and has velvety tannins on the back palate. This is not only a great wine, but also an excellent example of the camaraderie of the Australian wine industry. Would this be still possible today?

Score: 97/+++

Monday, December 1, 2014

William Fevre Chablis

Didier Seguier, William Fevre's winemaker, whizzed through Australia last week and held a number of wine tastings. It was interesting to try a number of different Chablis from the same year and maker, as there is a bit of a view out there suggesting all Chablis tastes the same.

William Fevre has the largest holdings in Chablis with vineyards in pretty much every grand cru and premier cru section. They make more than 10 wines each year. I tasted five from the 2012 vintage. The 2012 Petit Chablis is quite a simple wine, with fresh citrus flavours  and a short finish (86 points). The 2012 Chablis is a bit longer, with better form, the finish is quite acidic (89 points).

Then there were three premium wines. The 2012 Vaillons Premier Cru is a more elegant wine, with more depth of fruit. It is still quite lean with minerality dominating on the palate. Complexity is increased as 40% of the juice sees aged oak (92 points). The 2012 Fourchames Premier Cru is richer in mouthfeel, with citrus fruit coming to the fore. This is a very smart wine (94 points). The 2012 Vaudesir Grand Cru, from a warm location, is an outstanding wine.  Quite rich citrus and lime flavours are experienced on the front palate. Then underlying minerality comes through. The wine is beautifully balanced between flavours and acidity. It is fresh and elegant at the same time with a memorably harmonious finish (96 points).

These Chablis certainly did not taste alike. The Premier Crus showed more depth of fruit, while expressing minerality, and the Grand Cru was elegant and linear/long. The only drawback: these wines are not cheap.