Monday, September 28, 2015

Torbreck Les Amis

The Les Amis vineyard is a 100 year old bush vine Grenache vineyard in the Marananga/Seppeltsfield subregion of the Barossa Valley. As a young wine, the Les Amis is very seductive and no doubt one of the leading Grenache wines of Australia. How will it shape up when it ages?

Tonight, I am reviewing the 2006 Torbreck Les Amis. The typical raspberry fruit is still there, but the wine is now quite complex on the palate. There are a number of darker flavours, bramble, mulberry, even mocca. The wine has lightened up somewhat with age, which is a good thing. The tannins are still silky, leading to a long lingering finish. It is the right time to drink this wine.

Score: 94/+++

Friday, September 18, 2015

An Extraordinary Pinot Noir Tasting

I attended an amazing Pinot Noir tasting with a cross section of the best producers from Australia and New Zealand, and a smattering of good Burgundies. As often is the case in such comparisons, the Southern Hemisphere does very well because of the higher fruit intensity in its wines. Having said this, there were a number of Burgundies I would only be too happy to drink on their own with a meal.

Essentially, I would group the wines into one of four categories. The best wines would show incredible finesse and super silky tannins. The next group would show predominantly savoury and earthy characteristics. Group three would include fruit dominated wines, and group four would consist of less intense wines with a less than perfect structure. (This has to be seen in the context of a very high standard to start with.)

I put into the first group the 2014 Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2013 Mount Mary Pinot Noir, 2013 Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir,  2012 William Selyem Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River), and the 2008 Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot Grand Cru from the Clos de Vougeot site. The stand out wine was the 2013 Mount Mary. This is a sensational wine with the often experienced finesse, but more intensity then usual. The wine is precise, very elegant and silky with super fine tannins and a long finish (97 points). The Bindi is in a similar style, but not quite the same quality. The Bass Phillip is bigger than the Bindi, not quite as elegant and refined as the Mount Mary. The William Selyem is super smooth, whereas the Clos de Vougeot showed the biggest aroma and some attractive minerality.

Some of the French wines, not surprisingly, would fall into the second group. I am not reviewing them in detail here because of their small volumes. Also in this group is the 2013 By Farr 'Farrside' Pinot Noir. This is quite a powerful wine, only partly destemmed, quite perfumed, savoury, with a good structure and silky finish.

All the New Zealand wines fell into the third category. Beautiful fruit, but some Central Otago wines almost showed Shiraz-like characteristics. These were 2014 Burn Cottage 'Moonlight Race', 2013 Fromm 'Clayvin Vineyard', 2013 Escarpment, which was a bit more restrained,  2014 Felton Road 'Cornish Point' (quite sweet), 2012 Rippon 'Tinker's Field' and 'Emma's Block'. The 2013 Curly Flat and the 2013 Giant Steps 'Sexton Vineyard' also belonged to this group.

There were a couple of Burgundies and the 2014 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2013 Dog Point in this final group. Against the others, the Yabby Lake was disappointing, with a weaker structure and little intensity on the palate.

An interesting wine was the 2008 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche. This wine retails for $900 per bottle. It had intense fruit and a long finish, but a strong brett character. To me, this wine was faulty.

This hopefully gives a bit of an idea of the tasting. I will now be off for 10 days, most likely.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tahbilk GSM

Part of the rejuvenation of Tahbilk is the introduction of Rhone varieties blends. I reviewed the white wine version a few posts ago. Today I look at the 2014 Tahbilk GSM. The bouquet has a confectionary aroma, which means Grenache is dominating.

This is a pretty wine on the palate, thoroughly modern, not pretentious, and a little simple, but well made. Grenache is very obvious, but Shiraz and Mourvedre play their part and are well integrated. There is quite good length on the finish. Good value.

Score: 89/0

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mac Forbes New Releases

Mac Forbes must be credited with emphesizing terroir more than anyone else in the Yarra Valley, despite his young age. The new releases are from the 2014 vintage, which was hot and low yielding due to a poor fruit set, often leading to fruity and ripe wines. Following are brief statements of the single vineyard wines.

- Hoddles Creek Chardonnay: nice fruit, but not very precise (92 points)
- Woori Yallock Chardonnay: very citrussy, quite acidic, a bit lean (92 points)
- Coldstream Pinot Noir: warm site, some whole bunch for complexity and fragrance (92 points)
- Yarra Junction Pinot Noir: red cherry, a bit bland, good acidity, opening well on finish (92 points)
- Woori Yallock Pinot Noir: red cherry, quite savoury, great balance and mouthfeel (94 points)
- Wesburn Yallock Pinot Noir: dark cherry, good acidity, not insipid (94 points)

The Pinot Noirs are all vibrant and start to show real site-specific characteristics. Wesburn is brooding, Woori Yallock the complex 'classic', Coldstream a bit broader and fruitier. These are very good wines for this difficult vintage

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Rebirth Of David Powell

The legendary ex-winemaker of Torbreck is back, now with his son, Callum. This is his first wine, the 2014 Powell & Son Barossa Valley Shiraz. There is also a Riesling from Eden Valley.

There are some Powell trademarks in this wine: there is the dark, inky colour, relatively high alcohol (14.5%), dark plum and blackberry flavours. The label is simple. However, there are also some differences. The fruit is not superripe or built like a skyscraper (Robert Parker's imagery), there is a screw cap.

The wine is full-bodied, but not very well rounded. It is obviously very young and was more settled on day two, but there are slightly sharp edges. The wine has firm tannins and good length. It is probably closest to the Woodcutters of the Torbreck range.

My sense is that the grape quality is not quite the same as what he had access to at Torbreck. I am also certain there are more wines to be released. I think I will meet him in a month time, then I will know more.

Score: 89/0

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Wendouree Shiraz/Mataro

Wendouree is next to the ultra premium wines of Penfolds the producer of wines with the best age-ability record in Australia. This 2002 Wendouree Shiraz/Mataro needed a day to open, can you believe it. The wine was more rounded on day two.

Having said this, this wine is starting to show aging in colour and on the palate. The plum and blackberry fruit flavours are intense. There are meat and burnt coal notes as well. The wine is peppery with good density and softened tannins on the finish.

Score: 94/++

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tasmanian Pinot Noir

Wine from Tasmania is fashionable right now, in particular Pinot Noir. But I think the island needs a bit more climate change to make these wines outstanding. Wine Tasmania does an annual road show, which gives us from the mainland an opportunity to taste and compare these wines all in one place.

This year, I focused on Pinot Noir, next to Sparkling Tasmania's most important wine. Overall, the wines are very delicate and floral, but often lacking the structure to provide good length and an expanding finish.

Several wines came from Northern Tasmania. The 2013 Barringwood Estate Pinot Noir is quite simple, but shows pretty fruit with a peppery character (88 points). The more serious 2013 Mill Block Pinot Noir is fruity as well, but with some complexity and savoury undertones (92 points). Holm Oak, from the Tamar Valley, showed the 2014 Pinot Noir, a slightly minty wine (89 points), and the 2013 'The Wizard'. This is a delicate wine, which has some intensity as well (92 points). The 2014 Joseph Chromy Pinot Noir is very juicy, with a solid structure (90 points). I was disappointed with the 2013 Tamar Ridge Pinot Noir (86 points). The Reserve showed pretty cherry fruit and was better balanced (90 points). The 2013 Bay of Fires Pinot Noir has a similar flavour profile, with a bit more intensity (92 points).

The 2011 Bream Creek Pinot Noir from the East Coast has raspberry flavours and is very light (88 points). The 2012 Devil's Corner Mt Amos Pinot Noir's fruit is more concentrated (90 points). The well funded Moorilla has two Pinot Noirs. The 2013 Praxis from the Tamar River is quite dark (comparatively) with some decent structure (90 points). The 2013 Muse from the Derwent Valley has more complexity, although it is quite light-bodied, with cherry flavours, mint and savoury characteristics. The tannins do not blend in that well (92 points). I found the 2013 Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir  a disappointingly simple wine, which lacked structure (89 points).

Many regard the Coal River as the area with the greatest potential. It is much dryer than other parts of Tasmania. This is seen as an advantage, although in Phillip Jones' view, Pinot Noir needs a healthy dose of rain. The 2014 Glaetzer-Dixon Avance Pinot Noir, meant for early drinking, is light, with an uninspiring mouthfeel (88 points). The 2012 Reveur has more intensity and shows quite a bit of acidity (90 points). My wine of the night was the 2012 Heemskerk Derwent Valley Pinot Noir. This wine had more body and more complexity, with forest floor flavours being very present.It approached the profile of a good Victorian Pinot Noir (94 points). Finally, the 2014 Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir was not as impressive as in previous years. Delicate strawberry flavours dominate on the palate. This is a soft wine, which lacks tannin backbone, but no doubt will appeal to some (91 points).

I realize these notes are ultra short, but I did not want to run into a second post, and hopefully they give you some idea.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dirupi Valtellina Superiore

This is a wine most of you would never have heard of, let alone have tried. It is a Nebbiolo, but not from Piedmont, rather from further north, in fact east of Lake Como. Dirupi has many vineyards, and this wine is a blend of the best fruit from them.

The 2012 Dirupi Valtellina Superiore displays a light colour, but not the typical garnet of Piedmont Nebbiolo. It is fresher, more pink in colour. Lifted aromas of rose petal and cherry emerge from the glass. The wine is very vibrant and smooth on the palate, not intense, but with an expanding mouthfeel, not unlike good Pinot Noir. Cherry flavours dominate on the palate, before the wine finishes with soft and smooth tannins. For those who find Barolo too brooding and tough, this is for you. This wine has personality and is a lot of fun, but coming from a serious wine. Apparently, it was the talk of the latest Vinitaly show.

This wine costs half of the entry level Barolos of good makers and can easily match it with them. I encourage you to hunt it down (which may not be easy). It can be kept for at least seven years, but my preference would be to drink this wine in the next 1-2 years.

Score: 93/+++

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Hunter Valley Visit

Recently I spent a day in the Hunter Valley and visited a number of wineries on a quick tour.

I started at Mistletoe, where I tasted their white wines, specifically the 2014 Reserve Semillon and Reserve Chardonnay. These were disappointing, in what was an excellent year. I found the winemaking skills lacking, as the wines were not very well structured. (88 points). The 2013 Keith Tulloch Semillon was only marginally better, with nice fruit, but lacking focus and finesse (89 points).

De Iuliis is mainly known for Shiraz, but the 2014 Sunshine Vineyard Semillon was quite a rounded wine, although not of particular character (90 points). The 2013 Shiraz is bright, red fruited and of medium body. The oak is noticeable, the mouthfeel not particularly fulfilling (90 points). The 2011 Limited Release Shiraz is bright red also, but with more fruit intensity and some silky tannins on the finish (92 points). The day is starting to look up (a little).

At Tyrell's, the 2015 Semillon has typical citrus  flavours, but the wine falls over the cliff on the back palate (89 points). The 2010 HVD Semillon, from a vineyard on Hermitage Road, is remarkably fresh for its age, the citrus flavours are quite focussed and deliver length on the palate (92 points). The 2010 Vat 1 Semillon, their premium Semillon, delivers. The wine is very crisp, yet elegant. The wine has good depth and is well balanced, while a bit soft on the finish (94 points). I was not so impressed with the premium 2011 Vat 47 Chardonnay. While this is a good quality wine, oak should not be so dominant after four years (92 points). The sometimes quite impressive Vat 9 Shiraz was less so on this occasion. I thought the 2011 was underripe (88 points).

A very strong wine was the Thomas Wines 2015 Braemore Semillon, a worthy successor to the 2014. This is a bigger Semillon, with lime fruit dominating. The wine has a beautiful line and balance and a long finish (94 points).

My final stop was at Brokenwood. I felt the 2014 Semillon lacked focus, but the 2009 ILR Semillon was impressive. There was a strong core of lemon flavours and a long finish (94 points). The 2013 Hunter Valley Shiraz was a typical wine for the region, with red plum flavours and reasonable depth, but it was a little harsh (90 points). The 2013 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz had more intensity, with plum fruit, but also red berries. The tannins are silky on a long finish. The wine is not as lush as in some other years (93 points).

If you want to bring the issue of Hunter Valley wines to a point, it is this: The Semillon, the Hunter's claim to fame, suffers from sameness, a bit like Chablis does in France. It is difficult to carve out a personal style. And with Shiraz, it is often underripe and needs to be helped out of the glass.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier

Following the - somewhat surprising - announcement of Tahbilk being James Halliday's winery of the year, I am interested to taste some of their new wines. Tahbilk has revamped its portfolio and added blends to its traditional stable of varietal wines.

The 2014 Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier is a wine which has a certain appeal. It is not close to a Rhone white, which tends to be very texture dominated, often quite heavy. This Tahbilk wine is fresh and feels lighter, despite the 13% alcohol. Only the Roussanne component was aged in oak, the other components saw stainless steel. Despite being a blend, this is not a complex wine. Apple and pear fruit comes to the fore, and this wine is good with food. There is not much acidity. This wine should be drunk young. There is a residual sweetness on the finish, which I found unpleasant, but some may find attractive. To me, this wine has some similarity to Australian Pinot Gris, with a bit more weight.

Score: 88/0

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Poll Results

I used to do a bit of statistics, and from that I know that when you have a small sample, results don't change much as the sample increases. This is why political polls are usually quite accurate. However, having 13 answers is really a bit low. I estimate I have about 600-700 people who look at my blog regularly. So you can do better than that. I appreciate that people overseas may not be too familiar with these wines, and other may find them quite expensive, but still...

Taken the results as they are, there are two big surprises. I did not expect the Balnarves 'The Tally' to get the most votes, nor did I expect for the Cullen and Mount Mary to get none - interesting.