Saturday, December 31, 2016

Kusuda Pinot Noir

I decided to see out the old year with one of my favorite producers in the Southern Hemisphere, Kusuda-san. I am drinking the 2010 Kusuda Pinot Noir.

I reported briefly on the 2013 Pinot Noir a few posts ago. This wine is much more developed, but this makes this wine even more exciting. The colour is a medium intensity ruby, bordering on garnet. The aroma consists predominantly of forest berries. On the palate, the wine is quite complex. Small berry flavours of medium intensity join mushroom and five spice. Yet, this wine is quite precise and has great definition down the palate. Silky tannins are pleasant on the back palate. The overall impression is of a savoury wine in great harmony.

I have enjoyed Kusuda Pinot Noir at young age, but this, my first experience of this wine with age, is even more exciting.

Score: 97/+++

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What Did We Drink Over Christmas?

Strangely enough, my Christmas this year did not involve any Champagne nor Sparkling Shiraz. Christmas Day was whites with seafood.

The Batard-Montrachet was good, featuring tropical fruit, but a little bit on the fat/flat side. The Lovedale Semillon was just as good, with fresh and intense lime flavours, for a fifth of the price.

Boxing Day was the big one, wine wise.

The 2011 Grosset Polish Hill was excellent, given the wet vintage. The 1996 Penfolds Grange was astounding. Really fresh, with an intense aroma, and on the palate concentrated and intense blackberry with a deep core of mocca - classic Grange. Noble One is always liquid honey.

What was your favorite drink over Christmas? Please comment.   

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Last poll

While the number of responses has been small in relation to my readership, let alone the wine drinking world at large, it has been a little larger than on some occasions. And my life long experience with statistics is this: trends tend to emerge early and mostly do not change much.

Based on this, what do the results suggest:

1) The biggest trend is away from Shiraz to Pinot Noir. This reflects a couple of things: a shift towards lighter wines, and the fact that the quality of Pinot Noir has improved a lot in recent times, both in Australia and the US (where a lot of my readers come from), while Shiraz is suffering from sameness.

2) Cabernet Sauvignon may be staging a bit of a revival - again, quality is driving this.

3) The major surprise to me is the shift to white wines, both Chardonnay and Riesling, and there is also shifting between these two varieties. As I have a readership of interested and sophisticated wine consumers, the shift to Riesling is not too surprising, but the overall market is certainly not there yet.

4) Other varieties do not feature much. Maybe because I just called them 'other', but my impression is also that 'alternative varieties',hyped by wine critics, are not often the wine of choice.

Thank you for participating. I hope that some of you who have not, find the results interesting and are encouraged to take part next time.

Christmas Eve is fast approaching, so I would like to thank you all for following my blog and commenting. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas time, plenty of exciting drinks, and a healthy, happy and successful 2017.

I will now step into the cellar and work out what to drink over the next few days. This I will share with you, and hopefully some of you will tell me about your wines and champagnes of choice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Kusuda Pinot Noir

This is perhaps the most exciting wine to come out of the Southern Hemisphere in the last ten years. Have you ever shopped for fruit in Tokyo? Even something as simple as an apple is wrapped individually, looks immaculate, and they all look the same. This is what happens with Kusuda grapes. It is a small operation, every grape seems individually assessed and approved or not.

The wine comes from Martinborough, my favorite Pinot Noir region, home of Ata Rangi. The other day I drank the 2013 Kusuda Pinot Noir. I will leave this description very brief, because everything else would be fluff. The bouquet is extremely fragrant, on the palate, the red cherry flavours are intense. Yet the wine is light, and lifted. That's it.

Score: 97/+++

PS: I have other vintages of this wine and will report on some of them shortly.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep Woods from near Yallingup, Margaret River, shot to fame this year, when the 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon won the Jimmy Watson's Trophy for best young red wine in Australia. I came across it a bit earlier, and here are my notes on the 2012 Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted yesterday.

The colour of the wine is a bright purple. The bouquet is intense, full of blackcurrant aroma. On the palate, the blackcurrant flavours are intense. The concentration is not matched by finesse, but the depth of flavour is impressive. This is not a Cullen-type wine, rather a super Moss Wood. The assertive tannins provide a firm grip, as the wine finishes long.

This wine has personality. If it can dial up elegance (and I have not tried the 2014), it could be superb.

Score: 93/++

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Raggabellus Timaeus.

A full page advertisement in a recent edition of Wine Spectator by Wine Barossa spoke to the diversity from the region and featured Raggubellus and Sami-Odi as examples of different wines from the 'Big Barossa'.

Last night I tried the 2010 Raggabellus Timaeus. The three premium wines of Raggabellus are different takes on the Shiraz, Mourvedre, Grenache blends. There is a different lead variety in each of the three wines. The dominant grape in the Timaeus is Grenache. It is 61% in 2010. The two key features of this wine are early picking/lower alcohol and whole bunches in the wine - a tricky combination as we shall see.

There are plum and raspberry flavours in this wine, as expected, but this is not a fruity wine. Savoury notes dominate. I expected more vibrancy, but the wine is rather brooding. It is a dark wine, but not big, more medium bodied. Unfortunately, what is coming through on the palate is some green character, I think from the early picked whole bunches. The finish is quite assertive.

This wine needs food.

Score: 91/0

New Poll

Official statistics can give a trend in wine consumption. I am interested what my readers drink more of, and what they drink less of. Please participate in this poll. It is very simple, you just have to tick the answer to the two questions on the right. Traditionally, poll participation has been low, although my readership is quite large. Please be active, it takes less than one minute.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Marko's Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

I don't review Sauvignon Blanc often. I have no interest in the industrial production of New Zealand's Marlborough district and its grassy, gooseberry and often sweet flavours of its Sauvignon Blanc. Many winemakers have become weary of this profile. Two major departures are the blending with Semillon, as it is common in Western Australia, and the introduction of oak treatment by a number of producers.

But what I have in front of me is different in other ways: small production, hand-picked fruit, wild ferment and left on lees for three months. In this way, the 2016 Marko's Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is trying to show more delicate flavours. And in the most part, it succeeds. This wine is not overly aggressive, but a blend of aromatic tropical and citrus flavours, with citrus dominating. There is considerable acidity in the wine. It will be interesting to see what a bit of age will do to the wine. Will it become bland or complex like Riesling?

Score: 88/0

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Marko's Vineyard Point Eight Shiraz

Perhaps the greatest advance in winemaking in the last ten years, has been the production of serious red wines which can be drunk young. A great example of this is the first vintage of the 2015 Marko's Vineyard Point Eight Shiraz. Point Eight refers to hectares. So it is a very small and handcrafted production from the Adelaide Hills. The owner is Matthew Hill Smith, the brother of Michael Hill Smith of Shaw + Smith fame. This vineyard used to supply Shaw + Smith. The Shiraz vines from this cool climate location are 24 years old.

On the nose, there is plum and pepper, but on the palate, the flavours are much more complex. Dark plum and rhubarb is accompanied by mocca and coffee, and very peppery notes. It has the feel of a cool climate Shiraz, with great harmony in the mouth, but the flavours are also quite intense and deep. The pepper carries through to the long, smooth finish. This is a very well made wine straddling sun-kissed Australian Shiraz with freshness and elegance. Seek it out!

Score: 94/+++  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Barolo - 2012 Vintage Examples

If I could only drink one type of wine for the rest of my life, I would pick Barolo. The Nebbiolo grape, in the hands of the right winemakers of Piedmont, produces astonishing fragrance and tannic structure at the same time; the best of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, one might say.

The 2012 vintage, the latest on the market, started with cool and wet weather, but turned very hot in August, before cooling down again. 2010 was a classic vintage, with a focus on structure, while 2011 was hot, with fruitier wines for earlier drinking. 2012 probably sits a bit in between, showing good Barolo character.

In this tasting, nine  2012 wines were shown and compared with three classic wines from earlier vintages. The first six wines were from younger vines, typically 15 years old, but some older vines as well. My favorite here was the 2012 Ferdinando Principiano Serralunga Barolo. This is a medium- to full-bodied wine with good cherry fruit intensity, freshness and dusty tannins (93 points). It offers terrific value. The 2012 Massolino Barolo from the same area is not as elegant, with strong tannins (91 points). The 2012 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is quite elegant, with a firm structure as well, but a bit of a gap on the mid palate (92 points). The two wines from La Morra show expectedly more floral and fragrant character: 2012 Trediberri Barolo (91 points) and 2012 Brezza Barolo Sarmassa (90 points). The one Barbaresco thrown in, the 2012 Cascina della Rose is extremely pretty on the nose, but a little light on the palate (92 points).

The three wines from older fruit were very impressive. All of them were made in the traditional way: with long maceration periods and aged in larger barrels.
- 2012 Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera: very pretty cherry fruit, elegant, balanced, soft tannins (93 points)
- 2012 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera: stronger tannins, less well balanced (92 points)
-2012 Giovanni Rosso 'La Serra' Barolo: smooth, with silky tannins and good length (94 points)

These wines were compared with three classics: the 2006 Aldo Conterno 'Romirasco' Barolo comes from the original vineyard in Bussia in the village of Monforte d'Alba. It was made in the traditional way. The fruit of this wine was quite ripe. The wine had some barnyard character with soft tannins. I did not warm to it (92 points).

The 2004 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda, released after 10 years, was my wine of the night. It showed a complex forest floor bouquet on the nose. The firm structure somewhat dominates the tar, leather and spice character of the wine. It is quite long and a classic Barolo, but would not have been everybody's favorite (94 points).

Quite a contrast was the 2001 Gaja 'Costa Russi'. This wine was aged in French barriques. It is smooth on the nose and has a very elegant mouthfeel, but there is a lot of oak from the barrique, overshadowing the fruit tannins of this wine (93 points).

None of the wines disappointed. This is typical for Barolo. 2012 showed elegance as well as strong tannins, depending on the producer. The wines tasted were not the pinnacle of the vintage, but are well worth seeking out. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Portuguese Red Wine

For the last 10 years, many Portuguese wineries have started to make serious table wines. With more than 300 varieties in current usage, a bewildering range of styles can be expected. The Douro Valley, one of the oldest, if not the oldest demarkated wine regions in the world (since 1756), and the variety Touriga Nacional lead the charge.

As an introduction, I tried three very different wines. The first was the 2013 Adega Regional de Colares Chao Rijo. This wine comes from the western most wine region in Europe, just west of Lisbon. The Atlantic brings cool winds to the vineyards. 80% of this blend are the Castelão and Tinta Roriz grapes. This wine was generally pleasant, but not very refined in its mouthfeel and quite broad (88 points).

From the Douro Valley comes the 2013 Quinta dos Murcas Assobio Tinto Douro. This is an entry level wine for this highly regarded winery. The grape varieties are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz. The wine is quite dark, but shows freshness rather than concentration (89 points).

The third wine is the 2012 Vadio Tinto. It comes from the Bairrada region, almost half way between Lisbon and Porto, a bit inland. The grape variety is Baga. The wine is a blend of older, up to 75 year old bush vines and ten year old vines. This grape variety is regarded as the perfect match for suckling pig, and I can see why. The wine is more elegant than the other two, but not very intense (90 points).

This tasting was my first exposure to Portuguese table wines. I will deepen my understanding with a visit to the Douro Valley next year, and then hopefully be able to report with much more knowledge.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Deviation Road Pinot Gris

Deviation Road from the Adelaide Hills, not far from Lenswood, is a winery to watch. Kate Laurie, who was a finalist GTWine Winemaker of the Year this year, is the winemaker. When it comes to generating cash-flow, aromatic white wines are the way to go. This 2016 Deviation Road Pinot Gris is the first wine I review from the current vintage.

I am always a bit worried when I open a bottle of Pinot Gris. Many wineries make it as a quaffer, just in case Sauvignon Blanc finally gets out of fashion. The Deviation Road Pinot Gris is a cut above that. Made in the Italian style, but with more fruit at its core, this wine has a lovely texture. Intense pear flavours dominate The wine is clean and refreshing. The flavours move along the palate without broadening out despite their intensity. It would have been nice to see a bit more complexity, but I enjoyed this well made wine.

Score: 90/++

Friday, December 2, 2016

Two Astonishing Barolos

Massolino is a traditional Piedmont producer. This means he uses long maceration times for his Barolos, with an emphasis on tannic structure. This was born out in the two Barolos I recently drank from 2005: the 2005 Massolino Barolo and the 2005 Massolino Barolo Margheria. The first is a blended wine, the second the single vineyard wine from the famous Serralunga vineyard.

Both wines were full-bodied. I did not taste much fruit. The wines were very dry, with earthy and tar flavours. The structure was good and dominated by dusty tannins. The Margheria showed a bit more intensity. I only drank one glass on the first night.

Scores: 90/0 and 92/0

I skip over night two to night three. Something astonishing is happening. The strong tannins have been raised like a curtain and the wines are now showing cherry and raspberry flavours, as well as minerality. The Margheria has benefited the most. The wine is now elegant, with good intensity and a lovely balanced texture. The tannins have softened, and the finish is now long and smooth.

Scores: 92/+ and 95/++

The lesson here: Barolo, inparticular when traditionally made, must be decanted.