Sunday, August 30, 2015

John Duval Plexus

John Duval, the former chief winemaker at Penfolds, knows a thing or two about how to create wines which will age well. The 2005 John Duval Plexus certainly gets better with age. I am sorry that this is my last bottle, I just opened. This SGM is a full-bodied wine. The fruit is quite intense and big, but the wine is smooth and elegant at the same time. This wine certainly got better over 10 years. The black and red fruit flavours are now more complex. One of the things John Duval is doing differently now, is to apply oak more carefully and in the background. This is obvious in this fruit orientated wine. The different grape varieties blend together seamlessly. The dry, fine grained tannins support the satisfying finish.

Score: 94/+++

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A New Poll

I have not done any polls for a while. Recent tastings of Cabernet have intrigued me. So here is the question: Which is your favorite Cabernet. Please participate by voting on the right hand side.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mount Mary Quintet

It is quite interesting to drink another of the iconic Australian Cabernet blends not from Margaret River after the Lake's Folly. The difference here is age. I am drinking the 2000 Mount Mary Quintet. I have not had this wine before, but it was described as a wine of the (difficult) vintage.

This wine (under cork) is still amazingly vibrant, with beautiful pure red berry fruit coating the mouth. The acidity is quite noticeable, but not uncomfortable. Tannins are in the background. There are some forest floor flavours emerging, but the wine is still remarkably fresh. The wine is medium-bodied on a light frame and would appeal to all Pinot Noir drinkers. A wine of individuality and finesse with many years in front of it.

Score: 96/++

Monday, August 24, 2015

Casa Freschi Ragazzi Nebbiolo

This wine caused quite a stir when it came onto the market. This is a serious Nebbiolo at about a third of the price of the Italian producers. I am tasting the 2013 Casa Freschi Ragazzi Nebbiolo. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you would know that I have a soft spot for Nebbiolo, but have found Australian versions seriously lacking.

This wine is turning things around. If you characterize Nebbiolo as having three major components, rose petal aromatics and cherry fruit, savoury backbone, and  firm dry tannins, this wine has all of it. Mind you, it is an Australian version: the fruit is stronger, quite vibrant, the other components a bit less obvious than in a Piedmont version. Yet they all describe this wine. The colour is bright crimson, and there is a  balanced structure which will give the wine an extended life. No, it is not a Barolo yet, more similar to a young vine Nebbiolo, but a classy one at that.

If you have shied away from Nebbiolo in principle, or specifically from Australian versions, try this wine. You might be in for a surprise.

Score: 93/+++

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lake's Folly - Sneak Peek

Today, I had the good fortune of being shown two wines from Lake's Folly from the great 2014 vintage, which are yet to be released.

The 2014 Lake's Folly Hill Block Chardonnay comes from the hill side behind the winery. It is distinctive from the other blocks with volcanic soil over limestone, whereas the flatter blocks are quite sandy. It is a new wine for Lake's Folly. The wine shows quite strong peach, pineapple and tropical flavours. While the new oak percentage has been reduced in the standard Chardonnay, this one has 30+% new French oak. It is quite noticeable through the creamy flavours in the wine. The oak is of high quality and well matched by the fruit, but it is somewhat distinctive at this stage. There is no secondary malolactic fermentation in this wine. This high quality wine will be released in about two weeks, and, given its low volume, will sell out in days, according to winemaker Rodney Kempe.

Score: 94/++

The second wine was the standard 2014 Lake's Folly Cabernet, which will be released next year. It has only been in bottle three weeks. As always, Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape with about 80%, followed by Shiraz, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This wine is sensational. It is medium-bodied, but totally ripe, quite aromatic with a female feel to it. Red- and blackcurrant, and cassis flavours expand harmoneously in the mouth. This wine is very elegant, as the tannins are ripe and soft. The wine has great length and staying power.

Score: 97/+++

I must admit I had lost touch with Lake's Folly, maybe because it is such an oddity in the Hunter. Yet this makes the wines so attractive. They are a house style, quite unique and very recognizable. You add to that an excellent year, and you have wines that every serious wine enthusiast should try.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Best's Bin O Shiraz

Best's Shiraz is known for its longevity. Its premium Shiraz produced every year is the Bin O. I was not worried about age, when I opened a 2004 Best's Bin O Shiraz. 

The colour of the wine is a lively deep purple. Red cherry and plum aromas hit the nose. This continues on the palate. However, the palate is dominated by strong peppery flavours. This sure is a cool climate Victorian Shiraz! The fruit is clean and the wine still very vibrant. However, it lacks some intensity to match the firm acidity of this wine. Having said this, the wine is still quite balanced with a lively finish.

Score: 93/+

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Four 25 Year Old Wines

A special event provided the opportunity to pull out my best (and in some cases last) bottles from 1990.

They were a Penfolds Grange, a Wendouree Shiraz, the Chateau Haut-Brion, and the Masi Campolongo Amarone. The last one was a ring-in, as I was planning to open a Hill of Grace, but found that I had none left. The idea was to drink these wines over two days and see how they compare with each other and over time.

As you can see, they are all very high shoulder, which was a good sign. Then came the drama of unkorking the wines. They were all kept in a 14 degree cellar with reasonable humidity. No problem with the European wines. The Grange cork looked good for a while, but suddenly broke. However, I got the second part out in one piece. I was not so lucky with the Wendouree cork, which disintegrated, and many parts dropped into the bottle. I filtered the wine out, but small particles found their way into the glass. This proved my point again that Australia gets the raw end of the stick, or cork, in this case.

1990 was a great vintage, not just in Australia, but across Europe as well. Yet it is generally thought that 89 was a better year for Haut-Brion. However, I could not complain. The 1990 Chateau Haut-Brion showed very well. Obviously, when you drink 25 year old wines, your experiences are different from 7-10 year old wines. This wine was very elegant. Not much primary fruit to speak of, but ethereal earthy and musky flavours (95 points).

The 1990 Wendouree Shiraz had less finesse  by comparison. It still delivered some blackberry and plum fruit, and  a denser mouthfeel. Still a very much together wine, despite the cork chips, and still years ahead before the decline will set in (94 points).

The star was the 1990 Penfolds Grange. The  complexity of this wine is amazing. Dark cherry, blackberry and mulberry is still very present. There is also mocca and a lifted, aromatic feel - amazing for a wine this old. The mouthfeel is very balanced and lingers on over the very much softened tannins (98 points).

Being from 1990, these three wines have alcohol of 13.5% or less. The 1990 Masi Campolongo is different. Being an Amarone style, there is 16% alcohol in this wine. As the wine ages, and the fruit softens, the alcohol becomes more prominent, and it shows in this wine. It is more developed than the other three.  However, there is still good dried prunes intensity in this wine. Earthy flavours are strong. The wine is beautiful on the mid palate, before the alcohol takes over (94 points).

Conclusion: all four wines were very drinkable, none over the hill. Wow! All wines showed better on the second day. The experiences are different from what one normally experiences, but well worth it. And as far as Bordeaux is concerned, I recommend to keep the good wines very long for the tannins to disappear into the background.   

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rockford Basket Press Shiraz

The current Wine Spectator magazine reviews Australian wines. It starts off by saying there is not much vintage variation. Wow! Yesterday I openend the 2007 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz. What a difference this is to the 2009 which I reported on a few posts below.

2007 was a drought year and it shows in the wine. It is not as generous and lush in the mouth as the 2009. The mouthfeel is not as rounded. This is still a good wine, with intense plum and dark cherry characteristics. It is starting to age. The colour is mellowing and meat and charcoal flavours are emerging. The tannins are sharper.

All this is clearly a function of vintage variation.

Score: 91/+

Monday, August 10, 2015

Spinifex Taureau

The Taureau is quite a rare wine and has been abandoned by Peter Schell in 2010. He found the Tempranillo grape 'uninteresting'.

The 2008  Spinifex Taureau is a blend dominated by Tempranillo, with Graciano, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon added in. The colour of the wine is dark crimson. The lifted flavours are quite strong, with cherry and mulberry dominating. It is a fresh wine, but there is enough tannin to provide a solid structure. The finish is satisfying and balanced.

This is a perfect example of the master blender Peter Schell at work. The Graciano provides tannin and grip to the Tempranillo. This is often done in Spain. The Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon provide extra body. I find this an interesting  wine.

Score: 92/++

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bindi Composition Chardonnay

The Composition wines are the entry level wines of Bindi, but they are far more than the usual entry levels. The Chardonnay comes from the lower and middle part of the Macedon vineyard. This part is a little more fertile, but the conditions remain challenging at this cold high altitude site.

The 2012 Bindi Composition Chardonnay shows a pale straw green colour. The flavours are citrus and green apple, very well balanced by a good dose of acidity. The wine is perhaps not very complex, but the fruit is clean and quite focussed. One could say this is a Chablis style Chardonnay, but it has a bit more fruit intensity and less minerality than those French wines.

Score: 93/++

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Treasury Wine Estate Premium Wines

A little while ago, I had the opportunity to taste premium wines from the different brands of Treasury Wine Estate in Australia and New Zealand. Each brand could show up to a maximum of five different wines. Can you imagine the hard choices Penfolds had to make? In the end, they decided on Grange, RWT, the Bin A Chardonnay and two Cellar Reserve wines. The brands presented were Coldstream Hills, Devil's Lair, Leo Buring, Matua Valley, Penfolds, Saltram, Seppelt, St. Huberts, Wolf Blass, and Wynns. There were many absolute highlights. This showing would be tough to match from any combination of Australian wines.

Since I commented on Penfolds, let's start with them. The 2013 Chardonnay is a smart wine, with apricot flavours and a balanced structure. As you would expect, the oak is quite noticeable (94 points). The stars were the 2010 Grange and the 2012 RWT. But they were like chalk and cheese. The RWT is a stunning wine, the best I have ever tasted. The blackberry and plum fruit virtually jumps out of the glass. This wine is very approachable for such a young age. It is smooth, and the tannins provide a firm mouth coating. The new French oak is well integrated and the finish is very long (98 points). The 2010 Grange is not nearly as upfront and quite brooding. The flavours are very complex and developing. This is a bigger and stronger wine, but I think it will develop beautifully. I would not touch it for 10 years (98 points).

Another interesting contrast were the Cabernet Sauvignons on offer. The 2011 Devil's Lair 9th Chamber Cabernet Sauvignon is terrific. The redcurrant and dark cherry fruit is brilliant - a very elegant wine with super fine tannins. This is the first release of this single vineyard wine (96 points). Compare this with the Wynns offerings: 12 Black Label, 10 Messenger, 10 Alex 88, 12 John Riddoch. They were pedestrian by comparison, lacking charm and finesse (90-93 points). This was a big win for Margaret River, and not even one of the estates regarded as top tier.

On the Shiraz front, the Barossa dominated. But apart from Penfolds, it was the 2010 Saltram Moculta Road, which stole the show. This wine had cool climate characteristics with black cherry and white pepper notes (94 points). It was more impressive than the better known 2012 No1, and the 2009  Journal Centenarian, which were bigger, slightly sweet wines (90/91 points). The highly regarded 2012 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz impressed with its very elegant flavours. The plum fruit is quite concentrated and focussed (94 points). And then there was the 2010 Wolf Blass Platinum Shiraz. The colour of this wine is very inky, and the wine is quite overblown and unbalanced (89 points).

I found it disappointing that the two wineries who had made great improvements towards higher quality wines in the last ten years, Wolf Blass and Wynns, did not show any better.

A quick word about Coldstream Hills. Their Reserve Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs have become very good and predictable (in a positive sense) in recent years. The Deer Farm Pinot Noir, not shown here, may be the outstanding wine in its portfolio, but everything else has very high quality as well.