Tuesday, March 28, 2017

William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir

Gippsland is not a major wine region. It is dairy country, and often very wet. However, some of the most interesting and exciting Australian Pinot Noirs can come from here. They tend to be funky, with a lot of personality. Is this due to the region or the two winemakers, Phillip Jones and William Downie, who trained under Jones for a while?

William Downie makes three Pinot Noirs from different Victorian regions, and the Gippsland wine is often the best, largely due to the silky tannins.This is a review of the 2010 William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir.

The colour of the wine is still ruby, but the intensity has dropped over time and is now medium. This points to some ageing effect in the wine. Having said this, black cherry aromas are still strong.

Savoury characters dominate the palate, with mushroom characters and black olive. The phenolics of the wine are good. The tannins are firm; in fact the fruit is starting to lose out in weight against the strong structure. This is still an enticing wine, but I suggest to drink it now.

Score: 93/++

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Penfolds Bin 407 is in similar ways a baby to the Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, as the Bin 389 is to Grange. Winemaking is similar, the fruit not of quite the same quality. If we were in Bordeaux, it would be called a second wine of one of the major Chateau's. I have high hopes for the 2010 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon, as it comes from an outstanding vintage.

At seven years, the colour remains almost black. Black fruits frame the aroma. Blackcurrants dominate the palate. The fruit of this multi-district wine shows some of the sun-kissed characteristic of Coonawarra's Terra Rossa, but does not have the same intensity as the Bin 707. The mouthfeel is neither as round or deep as the big brother. On the plus side, there is not much of a hole on the mid-palate, as can be the case with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine finishes with firm tannins and a pleasant oak infused aftertaste.

Score: 89/+  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Domäne Wachau

Tasting the wines from the Domaene Wachau, in particular their Rieslings, is quite a different experience from tasting German Riesling. I will report on four wines from this large, high quality Austrian co-operative.

The two first Rieslings are from the 2015 vintage, which was warm in the Wachau, as in most parts of Europe. The white wines in the Wachau follow a three tiered system. The first is called Steinfeder. These are the lightest wines, early picked, with a maximum level of 11.5% alcohol. The second tier is called Federspiel, with 11.5-12.5% alcohol, and the third tier is the later picked Smaragd with >12.5% alcohol. These wines are still dry, but with bigger body and weight than the other two.

On to the tasting. The first wine is the 2015 Terassen Federspiel Riesling. The grapes come from the  highly regarded, higher elevation vineyards, which are situated on steep slopes leading to the Danube valley. This wine is very refreshing. The floral flavours are subdued, the fruit is not overt. The focus is on texture and minerality. This wine has benefitted from the warmer vintage. It has given the wine more body than normal. However, the wine is still quite linear, not complex, but rather delicate. I liked this wine a lot. In fact, it was my wine of the night (93/+++).

The 2015 Sinerriedel Smaragd Riesling is a single vineyard wine from the cooler western part of the Wachau. But as mentioned, 2015 was a warm year. This wine has a bigger body, and the wine is coating the mouth nicely. However, the wine is a bit broader and loses some definition before it comes to a smooth, prolonged finish. Again, texture is the main game for this good food wine (91/++).

Then there was the 2008 Kellerberg Smaragd Riesling, another single vineyard wine. This wine had aged quite a bit and showed toasted and quite earthy flavours on a fairly broad backbone. This wine did not do it for me (86/-).

Finally, a very rare mature Gruener Veltliner. Veltliner can age quite well, but it is mostly drunk young. Not many mature examples exist. The 2000 Kellerberg Smaragd Gruener Veltliner shows a lot of complexity. There are herbs, mint and truffle on the palate. This wine comes from a cool year. The wine is still fresh and elegant, with well integrated acidity - quite a revelation, and a great wine for many different foods (92/++).

Monday, March 6, 2017

Barossa vs. McLaren Vale Shiraz

This is actually an unfair comparison. The Coriole Lloyd Reserve is from Magnum and 2005, the Grant Burge Meshach is from a standard bottle and 2001. Both are the top wines of these respected wineries. You can predict the outcome and you would be right.

The 2005 Coriole Lloyd Reserve is in excellent condition. The dark cherry and plum flavours sit on a well balanced structure of good acidity and strong tannins. The finish of this full-bodied wine is long.

Score: 94/++

The Grant Burge Meshach tends to be a crowd favorite, as I have tested in blind tastings on a number of occasions. It is a full-bodied crowd pleaser, without going over the top. The 2001 Grant Burge Meshach is quite complex on the palate. There is the expected plum and blackberry, but also mocca and marzipan. But the drawback is that the wine is now a little tired. It would have been great five years ago.

Score: 93/+  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon Terroir

I tasted two mature Cabernet Sauvignons from different areas, and it was amazing how the different terroirs showed.

The first was the 2002 Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon (now Abercrombie) from Margaret River. This wine had dark berry, in particular blackberry flavour. It was savoury and had aged very gracefully. It was an elegant wine, with sufficient acidity and soft tannins to provide balance and complexity. The mouthfeel was delicious from the front palate to the finish.

Score: 95/+++

The second wine was the 2001 Elderton Ashmead Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a much bigger wine with plum and prune flavours. It was clear, this was a warmer climate style. The fruit had aged more and started to taste a little tired. The firmer tannins held the wine together.

Score: 92/+

Between regions, climate is the number one terroir factor. This was obvious in this comparison between two well made wines.