Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Marcel Servin Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses

Let me start with a sweeping statement: most Chablis tastes the same or very similar. While I enjoy the clean and lean citrus flavours, it would be nice to see some personality in the wine.

When you get to Grand Cru level, it is a bit different, though. There is more depth in these wines, and more individuality. Therefore, I was looking forward to the relatively rare 2010 Marcel Servin Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses. This wine is quite developed and complex. The colour is almost golden, and the flavours range from citrus to hazelnut and honey. The wine is quite intense, not flinty. Yet, the wine is still quite precise and offers a clean firm finish. This is a  white wine well worth drinking on its own.

Score: 92/+

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Castagna La Chiave

Julian Castagna is not shy when he talks about his wines, calling them world class. This sets the expectations pretty high. Tonight is pizza night, so I opened a bottle of the 2008 Castagna La Chiave. This is his Sangiovese, his most serious wine next to the Genesis Syrah, Being a Sangiovese, you expect the wine to have plenty of acidity and bite.

What evolves in the glass, is a bit surprising. The colour of the wine is crimson, still quite bright. The bouquet is red cherry, and this continues on the palate. The flavour is not very complex, however. This is a surprisingly big, almost fat wine. It is quite well balanced, and there is just enough acidity to keep the wine together and counterbalance the sweetness which appears on the back palate. But bite? No.

This is an unusual wine, not like a Chianti, certainly quite Australian, and not as intriguing or unfolding as I would have liked.

Score: 92/+

Friday, October 23, 2015

My Favorite White Wine Quaffers

I normally don't play favorites, but I thought I share with you my current day-to-day white wine preferences. These are wines of excellent quality at $20/bottle or less prices.

When it comes to Riesling, Polish Hill in Clare Valley is an exceptional subregion, mainly due to Grosset. But if you don't want to fork out that kind of money, there is O'Leary Walker Polish Hill Riesling. This is an excellent wine for less than half price.

If your choice is Semillon, an easy to drink wine is the Mount Pleasant Elizabeth. I would not drink this from every vintage, but the current wine comes from the excellent 2014 vintage.

Finding a sub $20 bargain for Chardonnay is harder, but I experienced two excellent wines in this category. Both are difficult to find, though. The first is the Pfitzner Chardonnay. It is a grower wine from the Adelaide Hills. Its fruit has gone into the Petaluma Chardonnay, and its style is similar, maybe a little fuller. The second is the le Versant Chardonnay from Southern France, outstanding for its price.

All these wines are in the citrus spectrum and basically dry, with maybe a tiny sugar residual. I recommend them highly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bird in Hand Pinot Rose

It is a warm evening in Sydney, seafood is on the menu, and I felt like having a Rose (I don't know how to put the accent tegue on the e, sorry). Now, the problem in Australia is that most Roses are Grenache or Shiraz based. The risk is they are too big and too sweet. So I opted for a Pinot Noir based wine from the Adelaide Hills, the 2015 Bird in Hand Pinot Rose,my first wine from this year.

The wine has a pale pink colour, which is promising. The strawberry flavour is surprisingly strong. It is a predominantly dry wine, as I had hoped, but it is a bit broad and not very precise on the palate. As a result, this wine is a bit bland, but finishes dry. Can you expect more from a $20/bottle wine?

Score: 89/+

Monday, October 19, 2015

Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas

The wines of Chateau de Saint Cosme are widely available around the world. They are based in the Gigondas, but also produce a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and have a negotiants business with wines from the Northern Rhone.

The 2010 Saint Cosme Gigondas comes from their core vineyard holdings. This is a rich, full-bodied wine, more in the style of a New World wine, rather than French. The main grape component is Grenache, followed by Mourvedre, than Shiraz and Cinsault. There is the expected hint of raspberry on the palate, but the wine is more black-fruited, with blackcurrant and plum flavours. The wine is dense, rather than lifted. The components are well integrated, with Mourvedre making its mark. The tannins are firm, leading to a long finish.

This is a quality wine, but at 14.5% (maybe more?) alcohol not for the faint hearted. It needs protein.

Score: 94/+  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Perfect Drinking Window For Full-Bodied Reds (From Around The World)

Yesterday, I drank a bottle of the 2007 Stag's Leap SLV Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has a famous pedigree, as the 1972 won the famous Paris tasting against leading Bordeaux competition (as a four year old wine, in 1976). I reviewed this wine a couple of years ago, when I thought it was balanced and harmonious, a nice drink. This time, two years later, the wine seemed tired, the ripe fruit quite dead, and the wine certainly not balanced, but rather over the hill.

I was then reminded of an article by James Laube, a well respected reviewer of Napa wines, who declared he does not age wines much anymore. They are so drinkable when young, they only go downhill from there. I was shocked at the time, how somebody with a sophisticated palate can give up on the complexity of aged red wines. But over the last few years I started to understand.

There are major differences in the way premium red wines are made around the world. I don't pretend to understand all the subtleties, but for starters the acid and tannin profiles vary a lot between countries. This is what I now believe makes sense.

Leading French Bordeaux wines need to be cellared. They come into their own only after many years. A typical drinking window would be 7-25 years, with 12-15 years the sweet spot. This is for good wines in good vintages. What do I mean by sweet spot? It is the time when primary fruit is still quite present, but secondary characteristics have emerged, leading to increased complexity on the palate. In top vintages, these numbers go out further.

Napa Cabernet is fruit focussed, with less acidity, and tannins often quite silky. These wines need a bit of time to settle, but they are most exciting when they are young. My drinking window is 3-8 years, with 5 years being the sweet spot.

Australian Shiraz is a curious case. Acidity is often quite low as well, but the best drinking time is later than for Napa Cabernet. 5-12 years would be a typical drinking window, with 7 years the sweet spot. Premium Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River is best around 10 years, in my experience.

Italian Barolo varies a lot, depending on the maceration period and tannin profile. The traditional wines are similar to Bordeaux, the modern ones, with short maceration periods, more like Australian Shiraz.

The caveats to this are; at the end of the day, it is a matter of taste; some wines are made to be drunk early, some last a long time; and my definition of the sweet spot is for those who like primary and secondary characteristics in their wine.    

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock

One of the interesting facts I have noticed is that old vines tend to also allow longer term cellaring in the bottle. The 2002 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock is a case in point. The wine comes from mature, organically grown vines, and it gets better with age.

This wine stands out to me, because as a full-bodied Shiraz, it is not dominated by black fruit, but rather redcurrant and red plum. This tends to be the case year by year. The 2002 is now very complex on the palate, with white pepper, mocca and earthy flavours adding to the fruit. The wine is still lively and not overly heavy. It is well balanced with firm tannins and a long finish. Well worth the wait.

Score: 95/+++

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Rebirth Of David Powell, part 2

I now had a chance to taste the range of wines of David's new business, Powell & Son. I  will not review the individual wines here, as the volumes are very small (400 cases, 150 cases for the single vineyard wines). Rather I will comment on my general impressions. I posted a review of his Shiraz a few blogposts below.

All the red wines are from 2014, which means they are extremely young. There is a GSM (similar to the Steading, with a bit less Mataro, which will increase), a Barossa Valley Shiraz, a Barossa and Eden Valley Shiraz (from the same vineyards as the Struie), and two single vineyard wines from Eden Valley, the Loechel and the Steinert, (named after the families owning the vineyards). Pricing is high. The Steinert is $700 per bottle. 85% of the production was pre-sold in Hong Kong.This actually underwrote the new business.

From the description of the wines you can already see that a tiger does not change his spots. These are full-bodied wines, not quite as big as Torbreck. There is a goal on elegance, but these wines have not quite achieved this yet with perhaps the exception of the single vineyard wines. The Loechel is powerful, but well balanced. Not much acidity in this wine. The Steinert, tasted from barrel, is more closed at this stage, with blueberry fruit and great length and silkiness. It comes from a vineyard in Flaxman's Valley, at 480m altitude. Overall, the wines are overpriced.

These wines have not totally convinced me, but there is no doubt some beauties will appear with time.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mudgee Wineries

During a fleeting visit, I checked in at Huntington Estate, Robert Stein and Robert Oatley.

At Huntington, I tasted their leading reds. The 2011 Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is varietal, but not very intense and the tannins are a touch harsh (88 points). The 2009 Tim Stevens Shiraz is sweet and fruity, with a soft finish (89 points). The 2011 Special Reserve Shiraz is red fruited, a bit more elegant, but not totally balanced (90 points).

Robert Stein is best known for its Rieslings, but I skipped those and tried the 2013 Reserve Chardonnay instead. This is a richer style, flavours are citrus, apple, and cream, with quite noticeable oak on the finish (91 points). The 2011 Reserve Shiraz tastes of red plum, but suffers like many 2011s from a lack of concentration. The finish is firm, and not very charming (90 points). I marginally preferred it to the Huntington reds. The 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz uses the best barrels of both varieties. It is plummy and has some spice. The Cabernet adds good structure. This wine has a pleasant mouthfeel (92 points).

The irrepressible Robert Oatley is building a sizable wine business again. Their location is the oldest winery in Mudgee, but the first tier wines, called Finistere, come from Margaret River. This is partly because their chief winemaker is Larry Cherubino, based in Margaret River, of course, but also because the Mudgee fruit is simply not as good. The 2014 Finistere Chardonnay, made with wild yeast, tastes of tropical fruit, with oak vanilla also present. This is not a complex wine, but it is well made (92 points). The 2012 Finistere Cabernet Sauvignon is ripe and a little minty. The structure is a little harsh (90 points).

These days, the red wines from Mudgee don't match the leading Australian wine regions. I heard it said that the future might be in alternative varieties. I fear this is only a hope, because Australia has not yet identified where the best locations for these are. I doubt they are in the Mudgee region. What will the future hold for the Mudgee wineries?