Saturday, January 31, 2015

Chateau Lynch-Bages

The millennium vintage was anything but memorable in Australia, but produced great wines in Europe, in particular in Bordeaux. The 2000 Chateau Lynch-Bages shows a surprisingly developed colour, but on the palate, the wine shows off its fruit in perfect ripeness. Blackcurrant and black cherry flavours are added to by strong  dark chocolate and tobacco notes. Secondary flavours have developed and add earthy undertones to the complex palate. The main aspect of this wine is its elegance and smoothness. The tannins have softened leading to a harmonious finish. The wine is good drinking now, but it is quite developed. Will the structure hold another 10 years?

Score: 94/++

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brokenwood Semillon

The 2007 Brokenwood Semillon still has a lime green colour. This translates to lime and citrus on the palate. The wine is very clean and frankly delicious. It has great balance between fruit and acidity and after seven years, does not show much development (under screwcap, stored 12 to 14 degrees).

We all wonder why Semillon is not more popular. One reason could be that there is no obvious best food match. However, this one went extremely well with an acidic green salad a la Ottolenghi, involving quite a bit of lemon curd. Perfect and straight forward.

Score: 92/++

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bass Phillip Crown Prince Pinot Noir

The Crown Prince Pinot Noir is only number four in the Bass Phillip hierarchy (although from the number two or three vineyard), and then I am looking at the 2011 vintage, which was a very wet year, the worst in 10 years. How good can this be?

The 2011 Bass Phillip Crown Prince Pinot Noir shows a light pink colour. It is fairly light on the palate, too, with strawberry flavours and appealing aromatics.This wine is fairly straight forward, but has a caressing mouthfeel and the silkiness typical for Bass Phillip wines. It is an astonishing wine, given the vintage.

It speaks to Phillip Jones' point that great Pinot Noir needs rainfall, not stressed vines. This theory will get played out in Tasmania, where many are planting in the dry parts (the coal river, I think), yet some vineyards, e.g. in the Tamar River are in wet regions. Otherwise the climate is similar. We shall see.

Score: 91/+++

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon

Cape Mentelle has been riding the ups and downs of a winery more than most. First, Jimmy Watson Trophy winner in consecutive years in the 80s (I don't think they enter this wine any more), then problems with green wines and brettanomyces for many years. This is all in the past.

The 2004 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon is still quite dark in colour, and black fruits show on the palate: blackcurrant, black cherry and bramble. This is an interesting wine, as it tastes quite ripe, but it has a lean and pungent streak with an acidic backbone as well. The wine has a good structure, but lacks generosity.

Score: 94/+  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Kirrihill Riesling - Great Value

It is amazing how winemakers, winewriters and sommeliers together fail to create significant consumer interest in Riesling, despite their greatest efforts. On the other side of the coin, simple Pinot Gris, despised by them, is all the rage on Sydney lunch tables. The 'summer of Riesling' is in great swing again, and again without much impact, I suspect.

Kirrihill produces two Rieslings from the Clare Valley. The Regional Range is a blend from a number of vineyards across the Valley, whereas the Vineyard Selection Series is sourced from two specific vineyards in Watervale.

The 2014 Kirrihill Regional Range Clare Valley Riesling is a well made wine. It is aromatic and floral, but not overly so. Citrus and apple dominate the palate, balanced with lively acidity. The wine is a little broad down the palate, a little simple, but very agreeable (even to Pinot Gris drinkers, I think). The finish is quite refreshing.

Score: 90/++

The 2014 Kirrihill Vineyard Selection Series Clare Valley Riesling is very similar. The fruit is a bit more intense, the shape of the wine a bit more linear. This is a dry wine and the alcohol level is attractive at 11%.

Score: 91/++

The first wine is less than $15 per bottle, the second less than $20.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rolf Binder Hanisch Shiraz

The Hanisch is Rolf Binder's flagship wine. It comes from the vineyard behind the winery. The unusual features are that four different soil types run through this block, which tends to give this wine a lot of complexity.

The 2005 Rolf Binder Hanisch is a full-bodied, if not full-blooded wine. It is quite dense on the palate, yet lush and smooth at the same time. A wall of black fruit hits the palate immediately, with plum, blackberry and cherry characteristics. This is a ripe wine, but not overripe. Some alcohol is noticeable on the finish, which itself is not very distinctive. This wine is about the mouthfeel on the front- and mid-palate. It is a wine which for a European focussed wine drinker would be right on the boundary in relation to its richness and ripeness, but for an Australian Shiraz or American Cabernet drinker would sit nicely in the middle of their experiences. It is well crafted.

The wine, at 10 years, is still fresh and fruit focussed. It will easily drink very well for another five years.

Score: 94/++

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Gaja Barbaresco

It is hard to go past Gaja for a benchmark for elegance in wine. I was looking forward to opening the 2000 Gaja Barbaresco. Should be good drinking at 14 years.

The wine displays a surprising blue colour. The flavours are complex: there is blueberry, black cherry, boysenberry and mulberry fruit. The fruit is concentrated, but has mellowed a bit, allowing forest berry flavours to develop. This wine is more linear than big, but still offers a very satisfying mouthfeel. There is some mystery and smoky flavours in this wine, which develop on an elegant and balanced frame. There is noticeable acidity on the finish, but this is moved to the background by beautiful dry and dusty tannins and a long finish. Think about this wine as a lady in a long velvet dress with a cigarillo in her hand.

Score: 95/+++

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PHI and De Bortoli

This is my last post from the Yarra Valley tour. I have been impressed with PHI Pinot Noir in the past, and I was keen to seek this wine out again. PHI is a very small production joint venture between the De Bortoli and Shelmerdine families, and I tasted the wines (unfortunately only current releases) at the De Bortoli cellar door. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir come from the highly regarded Lusatia Park vineyard in Woori Yallock, Upper Hunter.

2012 PHI Chardonnay: Not too impressed with this wine. The flavour spectrum is apple and citrus, but the wine finishes short (90 points).

2012 PHI Pinot Noir: A fruit orientated wine, with strawberry and red cherry flavours. The wine is elegant with attractive silky tannins (93 points).

The wines were fine, but they certainly did not stand out versus my tastings at Coldstream Hills, Tarrawarra or Giant Steps. So I tasted a couple of premium De Bortoli wines as well.

2012 De Bortoli Section A5 Chardonnay: A restrained and well defined wine. White peach flavours are there, but citrus dominates, which is surprising, given the wine underwent 100% malolactic fermentation (92 points).

2011 De Bortoli Reserve Pinot Noir: A fairly light and earthy wine with a savoury mouthfeel. The cold and wet vintage marks this wine (89 points).

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tarrawarra, part 2

The Chardonnays were impressive. What about the reds?

2012 Estate Pinot Noir: This wine has a very bright colour, with red cherry flavours on the palate. A fresh wine, with 50% new oak, and a nice finish (92 points).

2012 Reserve Pinot Noir: This is a darker wine, with more depth of fruit. This time black cherry flavours. The wine is quite aromatic and has a long finish. It will age well (94 points).

2010 Reserve Pinot Noir: This is a lighter style than 2012, but it is smooth, elegant and long. Oak is well integrated and savoury characters complement the red berry fruit. A harmonious package (94 points).

2008 Reserve Pinot Noir: This wine is much more developed, showing garnet colour. Savoury flavours take over from cherry fruit. The wine is well balanced (92 points).

2012 Merlot: Fruity plum flavours dominate this wine, which has seen 25% new oak. Tannins are firm and strong. Not much subtlety in this wine (90 points).

2012 Shiraz: A small percentage of Roussane skin is added to the Shiraz. This gives the wine lifted aromas and a slightly perfumed character. On the palate, plum and blackberry flavours dominate before we come to a silky finish (92 points).

Tarrawarra is very experienced in making Pinot Noir. Many vines are now mature and the team knows how the different blocks behave. The 2012 and 2010s show very assured winemaking.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tarrawarra, part 1

Back to the Yarra Valley. Tarrawarra is a winery  I was very impressed with when it showed its first vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Later, it fell off my radar. I was therefore pleased to be able to do quite a comprehensive tasting there to reacquaint myself with its wines. In this first part, I look at four Chardonnays.

The 2012 Estate Chardonnay shows an array of fruit flavours, with apple and pineapple dominant. It is quite a lean wine, with impressive purity of fruit. There is cream on the palate as well, which comes from the 50% oak treatment (10% new). All elements are well integrated. - A modern Chardonnay, which has been worked to achieve an outcome, but not overly so (94 points).

The 2012 Reserve Chardonnay is a much bigger and richer wine, with 25% new oak treatment. An example where richer is not necessarily better. It is well made, but lacks the subtleness and finesse of the Estate (93 points).

The 2008 Reserve Chardonnay tastes of ripe peach. It is a little broad on the palate, but quite balanced and still fresh. 10% of all these wines undergo malolactic fermentation, by the way (93 points).

The 2005 Reserve Chardonnay is a terrific wine at 9 years of age. The primary fruit is stone fruit, but some oily characteristics are now showing. The wine has great complexity and texture. It is still a fresh wine (95 points).  

I was quite impressed with this line-up. It showed assured winemaking, with 30 years experience now. These are cool climate Chardonnays, but with considerable complexity, balance and interest.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wynns John Riddoch Magnum

There is still a lot of the dense blackcurrant fruit in this 1996 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a pity that Magnums are priced at a premium in this country, and as a result are not overly popular. The cork on this wine was in great condition and the wine at very high shoulder. Well stored, Magnums mature at a slower pace, and primary fruit can still be present at close to 20 years, while secondary characters are well developed.

This wine is dominated by its firm, dusty and dry tannins. The structure of this wine is still excellent, but it needs red meat to go with it. The tannins are actually very similar to an aged Barolo, and so is the colour of this wine. The mouthfeel is reasonable, but falls off at the finish a little bit.

This is a classic Coonawarra wine, holding up well, and still showing the terra rossa infused vibrant fruit.

Score: 93/+++

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Kosta Browne Pinot Noir

It is timely to write a Kosta Browne review today, as news hit my desk that the private equity firm holding the majority of shares of this highly regarded and highly successful producer  has sold out. However, it seems business as usual, as the equity got flipped to another private equity firm. The risk is that pressure to produce more volume will dilute quality .We will have to see.

The 2009 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir certainly did very well, as it became the Wine Spectator's wine of the year in 2011. How does it stack up in 2014?

As expected, this is a full-bodied Pinot Noir. It is very soft and smooth and has initial appeal. However, the wine does not quite hold it. Dark cherry flavours dominate, alcohol becomes noticeable on the back palate and edges out the otherwise attractive silky tannins.

This wine is juicy, and a little ripe and sweet for me. It is, however, well made and not outside typical expectations for Pinot Noir.

Score: 93/0  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yalumba Single Vineyard Shiraz

Compare the Gatt wine with this single vineyard Shiraz by Yalumba. It is clearly marked as coming from the Swingbridge Vineyard near Craneford in the Eden Valley region of the Barossa. A little card gives some detail about this experimental wine from 90 year old vines.

This 2009 Yalumba Swingbridge Vineyard Shiraz is quite unusual. It has an extremely intense blueberry flavour, more so than I have probably ever come across. It is a fragrant wine with considerable white pepper on the palate. This should be a great wine, but unfortunately there is not much complexity to hold the initial interest, and the finish remains quite fruity. On the other hand, the wine is a good terroir expression of Eden Valley Shiraz, not heavy and more peppery than Shiraz from the Barossa Valley.

Score: 91/+

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Gatt Shiraz

The 2010 Gatt Barossa Valley Shiraz was given to me. I had misgivings about this wine, just by looking at the label. It said 'single vineyard, hand picked', but no information about the vineyard, not on the back label either. Just using a couple of fashionable terms.

Once in the glass, the wine is of inky colour and turns out to be a caricature of traditional Barossa Shiraz. Dried prune flavours hit the palate, followed by meat and charcoal. Yes, the wine is intense, but the fruit is overripe and alcohol starts to dominate the back palate. It finishes hot. This wine has power, but no elegance or finesse.

Score: 82/---  

Friday, January 2, 2015

Giant Steps

Continuing on with my Yarra Valley tastings: Giant Steps is part of Innocent Bystander, a producer which has been thriving during the last few years. The Giant Steps wines are the single vineyard wines, and this was my first opportunity to taste a range of them

2013 Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay: this vineyard is located near Yarra Yering and Coldstream Hills. The wine has seen 20% new oak, and 10% has undergone malolactic fermentation. Apple flavours dominate, but the new oak and malo has provided some complexity and nice texture. The wine has a pleasant acidic finish (92 points).

2013 Tarraford Vineyard Chardonnay: this vineyard is warmer, and the wine has more aromatic, some would say female characteristics. The finish is quite tight (91 points).

2013 Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir: an appealing Pinot Noir. Dark cherry flavours, soft tannins and a long finish (94 points).

2013 Applejack Vineyard Pinot Noir: the previous year was a highly acclaimed wine. The vineyard is in the Upper Yarra Valley, with cooler conditions. This is a darker wine than the Sexton with a good grip and firm finish. Nevertheless, I found this wine a little fruity on the palate (93 points).

2012 Mea Culpa Shiraz: the Mea Culpa series of wines is made with no intervention or additions in the vineyard or the winery. This wine comes from the Tarraford vineyard. It shows intense fruit and a lot of white pepper. It is quite a smooth wine, but I am not sure about its ability to age (92 points).

Overall, I found the wines were well made, although maybe not as precise in their profile as at Coldstream Hills.