Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Australian Shiraz tasting

A wine connoisseur friend needs to take an Australian Shiraz to an international conference in Shanghai, where it will compete with  Shirazes other participants will 'throw into the ring'. In order to improve his chances to win, he decided to invite a number of wine drinkers to rank eight different wines, from different parts of Australia and different vintages. He would then trust their judgement and take the winning wine. To cut a long story short, these were the wines and the final ranking:

1) 2009 Grant Burge Meshach, Barossa
2) 2010 Bird in the Hand Nest Egg, Adelaide Hills
    2012 Elderton Command, Barossa
4) 2003 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier, Canberra District
5) 2008 Yalumba, The Octavius, Barossa
6) 2003 Voyager Estate, Margaret River
7) 2010 Giaconda, Estate, Beechworth
8) 1990 Penfolds Grange, South Australia (this wine was corked)

Surprising to me was the poor performance of the Giaconda Estate. I did not rate the wine very highly either. It was a bit weak on the mid palate and musty.

I picked the Grant Burge Meshach as the winner as well. It won clearly. This wine impressed with its silky tannins and long finish. In a month's time, I will know how it will have fared against wines from the Rhone, California, New Zealand. I rate the chances as quite good. It is a full-bodied wine, with a solid fruit core, but not overripe. It should also appeal to European palates. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2004 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon still displays quite a bright deep red colour. On the nose, there are currants and herbs.

On the palate, redcurrants dominate. The fruit is lively, but tastes a little underripe. As a result, the mouthfeel lacks somewhat. On the plus side, there is good balance between fruit, acidity and tannins. Cape Mentelle used to have strong chocolate flavours in their Cabernet, and sometimes brett. This wine is quite a departure. Freshness seems to be a new objective, and this wine still shows it after 12 years. With it come capsicum flavours and some greenness. Unfortunately, it also has the famous hole on the mid palate. Altogether, this is not a convincing wine, if you want to be in the top tier of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.

Score: 90/-

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rockbare Coonawarra Cutie

Releasing new labels is increasingly difficult. How to stand out from the crowd? This wine tries it with a racy label, but then, it is on the back of the bottle.

So what about the actual wine? The 2013 Rockbare Coonawarra Cutie Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep dark red colour. The bouquet smells of ripe berry fruit. Flavours on the palate are intense, in a typical Coonawarra style. Blackcurrants, mulberry and black olive dominate. There is also vanilla from the oak, but in a supporting role. The tannins are subtle and soft. This is quite a seductive wine, with immediate appeal. I would not keep it longer than a couple of years, beyond which this wine might lose its attractive primary fruit flavours.

Score: 91/++

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Swimming Against The Mainstream

When a tasting of Cullen, Bindi, and Ata Rangi wines is announced, you can't be anything but excited. I certainly was, given I have wines of  these producers in my cellar. But it is interesting to note what happens when three things come together
- High expectations set you up for a fall
- The setting of the tasting, including glasses is poor
- Some of the wines are not outstanding

I was aware of the influence of the first two factors and tried to be objective (from my point of view), as much as I could. This is what I thought:

The Bindi wines tasted are new labels and  in part from new blocks of the home vineyard.
- The 2015 Kostas Rind Chardonnay (formerly Composition Chardonnay) was very floral and a bit broad (88 points)
- The 2015 Dixon Pinot Noir ( formerly Composition Pinot Noir), which includes fruit ftom a new block K), tasted of kirsch and was very young and fruity (89 points)
These wines are too expensive for what they offer

In some quarters, the 2014 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir has been described as even better than the sensational 2013. I tasted
- The 2014 Crimson Pinot Noir. This is not a bad wine for a second label. It is savoury, with mushroom and licorice flavours on the palate. The wine is a little light (91 points)
- The 2014 Pinot Noir. The bouquet smells of roses, quite intense and unusual. On the palate, the mouthfeel is balanced, but not huge. The wine is savoury with good length and dry tannins leading to an expanding finish. This wine will increase complexity over time (94 points)

With Cullen, I have a mixed relationship. I simply do not 'get' the Kevin John Chardonnay, and while I appreciate the increased delicacy of the Cabernet, I wonder if some depth has come out of the wine.
- The 2014 Kevin John Chardonnay shows peach flavours and good lashings of (high quality) oak. I find the wine a bit broad (92 points)
- I was impressed with the 2014 Diana Madeline Cabernet. It has good depth of blackberry and blueberry fruit. The flavours penetrate without being heavy. It is a very harmonious wine with firm dry tannins on the finish (95 points)   

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Michel Rolland Clos de los Siete Malbec

Argentinian Malbec has improved dramatically over the last 10 years. The hot spot is the Uco Valley, approximately 50 to 80 kilometres south of Mendoza. Many new projects have been started here, some architecturally spectacular wineries been built. The attraction is the altitude, 1000 to 1500 meters. Warm days are balanced by cool nights, leading to a long and even ripening period.

One of the most ambitious projects is the Clos de los Siete, a large compound with a huge vineyard as its centre piece, and seven wineries built around it. It was the idea of Michel Rolland, the famous French wine consultant. The project has run into problems, with a number of participants, among them the Taittinger family, withdrawing. A lot is shrowded in secrecy, but Michel Rolland is pushing on.

I am drinking the 2013 Michel Rolland Clos de los Siete Malbec blend. This is an outstanding wine.   Malbec dominates, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz grapes are included. The nose is an intense cocktail of red plum, cherry and pepper. This continues on the palate. This is a full-bodied wine with concentrated ripe fruit and a strong acidic backbone. The wine has a great line, as it moves smoothly to the back palate. It remains strong in the mouth along the way. There are smoky tones, but the oak treatment is restrained. The finish is silky, fresh and acidic at this point in time.

This wine combines the lushness of a sun-drenched vineyard with French winemaking to beautiful effect. The wine is too early to drink, but no doubt, the components will integrate perfectly. This wine is also attractively priced for the quality.

Score: 94/+++

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mount Langi Billi Billi Shiraz

The well-known Mount Langi winery produces a number of well priced Shiraz which can offer astonishing quality. One such wine is the 2012 Mount Langi Billi Billi Shiraz. The colour is a fairly dense purple. Black and red pepper, as well as berry fruit feature on the strong nose.

The first thing that comes to mind on the palate is complexity. Black and red berries, spice and earthy flavours battle for your attention. The next thing is harmony. This full-bodied wine is in fine balance. The fruit does not have the intensity of the premium wine, but oak is applied sensibly and the fine grained tannin profile rounds out this wine. On the finish, the signature note of Mount Langi takes over: black pepper!

This is an interesting and attractive wine, which can be drunk now or cellared for five years.

Score: 92/+++