Sunday, March 27, 2016

Torbreck RunRig

Back in Sydney, I decided to raid my cellar for a quintessential Australian red wine, the 2004 Torbreck RunRig. Torbreck has been facing a couple of headwinds, the departure of David Powell and the wine journalists drive against full-bodied Shiraz. And also, there has  been a question mark about the ageing ability of these wines.

Dealing with the last issue first, there is no problem with the age of this wine. It is not tired and drinking very well. This wine is a perfect example of a very ripe, yet lively wine. One element of this is the fact that Torbreck has access to the very best grapes in the Barossa. This wine is big, but the small Viognier component provides just the lift it needs. The blend is perfectly integrated and fills the mouth beautifully. Plum and blackberry flavours are integrated with new oak and smooth tannins. The finish is long and silky.

This is not a wine for everybody. However, it stands out as an example of a sun drenched, high quality Shiraz, which is a unique style not matched from any place in the Northern Hemisphere.

Score: 96/++ 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

My Readership

I thought you might be interested who is actually reading my blog. The overall readership is continuing to increase, but the mix has changed. Until the 3rd quarter of last year, most readers came from the US and Australia, other countries came and went. Since then, France has taken over as number one, and Australia is number two. The USA has dropped to third, sometimes fourth place and actually dropped in absolute numbers. The other contender for third place is Japan. This pattern has now been stable for quite a few weeks. For some reason, I have never attracted many readers from the UK, Italy or New Zealand on a consistent basis. And then there is the occasional spike from Russia, but I don't think they are looking for wine.

Nine Hills Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the second major white grape variety in India, next to Chenin Blanc. Nine Hills comes from the same area as the previously reviewed Big Banyan wine and is owned by Pernot Ricard.

The 2014 Nine Hills Sauvignon Blanc is a simple fruit forward wine, with citrus and grapefruit flavours on the palate. The wine is not as fruity or grassy as some New Zealand examples, which I could regard as a plus. However, there is nothing particularly interesting about this wine. It is reasonably well made and should be drunk early.

Score: 82/--

Friday, March 11, 2016

Big Banyan Wine

I find it quite hard to go for a week or even longer without wine, but when you travel to India, it is easier. For one, it is really too hot, and then maybe nothing special to look forward to?

But then, curiosity takes over. So, a couple of days ago I tried a Big Banyan Chenin Blanc. This wine comes from the centre of the Indian wine industry - which is quite new and small, the Nashik Valley. This is located at 700 meters altitude, at the foothills of the Western Ghats, 3-4 hours drive from Mumbai.

The wine has some good qualities. It is fresh, clean and dry. There is not much fruit flavour, just a little spice, and the wine is nicely balanced with a pleasant acidic finish. There are no major highlights on the palate, but this wine avoids potential downsides from a hot climate. It was a good companion to the spicy fish I had. I think I will have this again.

Score: 86/+

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Vieux Telegraphe Current Releases

My tasting at Vieux Telegraphe was one of the highlights of my 'Tour de France' last year. Now Daniel Brunier, one of the two owner brothers, has come to Sydney to show his latest releases.

This tasting confirms why I like these wines so much. Half the wines were from 2013, which was not a great vintage due to the cold conditions. Yet there is a style to these wines which cuts across the different terroir, as well as different years. All red wines are Grenache dominated, yet the emphasis is not on fruit. It is on earth, minerality, vibrancy, balance, and a line leading to a smooth and satisfying finish. These wines have a personal signature.

The two Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines from 2013 are the Telegramme and the Vieux Telegraphe, the flagship wine. They both come from the famous stony plateau of Le Crau, where they own about 70 hectares, a huge holding for the area. The Telegramme is of young vines, on average 20 years old. It is a fresh and savoury wine (92 points), which beat its famous sibling this year. It seems the grapes of the old vines did not fully ripen, which can be a problem for Grenache. The Vieux Telegraphe is earthy, and a bit rough, not fully rounded (91 points).

The star of the tasting was the 2012 Domaine La Roquete Piedlong Chateuneuf-du-Pape, from a property further west. This wine was fragrant, very fine, savoury and very, very elegant. The wine was long on the palate, floating along with vibrancy and sheer drinkability (95 points).

Danielle Brunier makes two wines from the Gigondas. The 2013 Terrasse du Diable comes from a vineyard at 300-400 meters altitude. It had cherry and raspberry flavours, but suffered in a similar way to the Vieux Telegraphe (90 points). In contrast, the 2013 Les Racines is based on old vines. It is more intense and delivered a savoury, yet elegant profile with a long finish. A remarkable wine for this vintage (94 points).

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Patrick Piuse Chablis

This photo shows 11 of the 15 Chablis I tasted from Patrick Piuse. He is a Canadian who gained his experience overseas before opening his winery in Chablis in 2008. You can see he is a traditionalist, opting for cork and wax as the closure, but he also did something revolutionary, as he separated the standard Chablis in a number of single vineyards. This makes a lot of sense, as the soil on the eastern side of the river is limestone, which brings out herbal character and minerality in the Chardonnay, whereas the 'left bank' is clay, and the Chardonnay expresses more fruit here, in particular apple and apricot. This distinction gets lost in a mixed wine.

The 2014 vintage is regarded as 'classic'. It was quite cool, and the wines show the steeliness and acidity many associate with Chablis. I was impressed with the 2014 Terroir de Chichee and the 2014 Terroir Decouverte, which expressed this particularly well. These wines are perfect as aperitif or with oysters. All the wines see oak, but the vessels are quite old and did not depart any noticeable oak flavours.

I will not go through all the wines, as they are hard to get. In general, I felt the quality increase in the premium and grand cru wines, if any, does not justify the price jumps. The standard wines are very good indeed. Amongst the grand crus, the 2014 Blanchots stood out with its elegance, balance and length on the palate.

Overall, this is an interesting producer, worth searching out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Grace Wine

This is the first time I experienced wine (other than Sake) from Japan. Grace Wine is perhaps the most reputable of the over 200 Japanese wineries. It started in 1923 and is now fronted by young 5th generation winemaker Ayana Misana.

The signature indigenous grape is Koshu. The 2014 Grace Kayagatake wine is the 100% free run entry wine. It is transparent, light, relatively low alcohol, very pure and delicate, tasting of white flower and a little citrus (90 points).

The most serious wine in the line-up of about seven wines is the 2012 Grace Toriibira Vineyard Koshu. It is a single 1.6 ha vineyard wine from a high altitude property (450 metres)  with clay and volcanic soils. The wine is clear and very pure, with flower aromas and minerality on the palate. There is some length on the finish. If you wanted to make a comparison, this would have some similarity to a good Pinot Grigio (92 points).

If you have ever seen the fruit displays in Japanese stores, you will appreciate the care that would be taken in the sorting process. Not one bad berry would ever enter the tanks.

I find it interesting how local wines often are the perfect fit for the local cuisine, think Sangiovese and pizza, or Bordeaux and red meat. Koshu is absolutely ideal with sushi.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Eden Road Long Road Shiraz

Eden Road made a splash on the market some years ago with well made and well priced wines. How are they holding up?

I opened a bottle of the 2008 Eden Road Long Road Shiraz. It delivers intense plum fruit on the palate and a big mouthfeel. The fruit is not very fresh, however. It comes from a hot year. The initial impression is, this is not a typical Canberra wine. Then the spice hits you. This wine is loaded with white pepper, stronger than I have ever tasted. This goes along the palate, and on the finish is joined by some heat from the alcohol - an acquired taste, this one. I don't find this wine properly balanced.

Score: 87/-