Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Garagiste Current Wines

Garagiste is a relatively new project on the Mornington Peninsula (less than 10 years). I am amazed the EU intellectual property nazis have not come down hard on this name, given it characterizes the right bank of Bordeaux movement, meant as an antithesis to the large chateaus on the left bank. In any event, it relates to small scale low budget winemaking, which it is for this Victorian winery.

I am tasting current releases. The first wine is the 2016 Stagiaire Chardonnay. This is the entry level label with fruit from several vineyards. The wine is made using wild yeast, no fining and filtration, I think. The wine is citrus driven, quite fresh, a bit simple, but well made (89 points). The 2016 Merricks Chardonnay, from 20 years old vines is from the home block. It straddles the two dominant Australian Chardonnay styles, the fresh and crispy and the fuller more oak influenced style. Not sure that this works, but I like the minerality in this wine and the more intense fruit. 50% new oak in this wine (92 points).

The 2016 Stagiaire Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir fruit. It comes from a block where the skins of the grapes are quite thin, well suited to this wine. The wine is clean and crisp, but a bit fruity (89 points). 

There are three Pinot Noirs in the range. The 2016 Balnarring Pinot Noir is from the warmer flats of the Peninsula. The fruit includes 50% whole bunch. The fruit is good, but the wine is a bit broad with a soft bland finish (89 points). The 2016 Merricks Pinot Noir is a more impressive wine, with darker cherry fruit and more driven on the palate. It is balanced with solid acidity, but overall, the wine is a bit fruity (91 points).

The flagship wine is the 2015 Terre de Feu Pinot Noir. The name 'land of fire' relates to the ironstone in the soil of this single block wine. Smaller grapes deliver more fruit intensity, and 100% whole bunch provides more savoury complexity. This wine is quite stalky on the nose. I find this wine still a bit soft and lacking some energy (92 points).

I noticed that Campbell Mattinson and Gary Walsh of the Winefront, who I respect a lot, give these wines much higher scores. Does the catchy name have a supple influence here? I find these wines average to good, but there are much better producers on the Mornington Peninsula.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Powell & Son Red Wines

It was always clear that David Powell would not disappear from the scene after he lost control of Torbreck. While the 2014 wines of his new venture with his son Callum were a bit uneven, I am pleased to be able to report that the 2015 and 2016 red wines are very strong indeed. This tasting came just after the release of the Wine Spectator Top 100 for the year, where his US entry wine was one of five Australian wines or so to feature.

The 2015 Powell & Son Grenache Blend is very similar to Torbreck's Steading, which was always Powell's favorite wine. Grenache dominates in this GSM. Raspberry, strawberry and cherry fruit engulf the palate with fresh flavours. The components are seemless, and the wine finishes with soft tannins (93 points).

The 2016 Mataro 'Kleinig' for me was the highlight of the tasting. This is because this wine has a very distinct personality. Again, there is a Torbreck analog, the Pict. Fruit is not the key to this wine. This wine is rustic, spicy, meaty and with great weight on the palate. The image I had was to sit on an old, rusty truck driving over a potholed dirt road (95 points).

The 2016 Shiraz 'Loechel' consists of the Eden Valley component of the Torbreck Struie. The vineyard is near the Eden Valley township. From a more balanced vintage than the warm 2015, this wine is fresh and lively. There is the typical Eden Valley spice and the mouthfeel is very satisfying (95 points).

The 2015 Shiraz 'Steinert' comes from an Eden Valley vineyard at Flaxman's Valley, at an altitude of 480m. David Powell believes this to be an amazing wine, and it is certainly priced that way. There is blackberry and blueberry on the palate. The flavour is weighty and juicy. I find the wine a bit big and fat, but it has a lot of depth. Alcohol is noticeable on the finish (92 points).

Overall, the wines are seductive and quite delicious. David Powell is back.

PS: Callum has just had his last exam in Oenology. Let's see what influence he will have in the future.   

Friday, November 24, 2017


I have enjoyed Dalwhinnie wines from way back. But I lost interest about 10 years ago, when the winemaking shifted, in my view, and an attempt was made to make these wines bigger, more South Australian like. As a result, the Shiraz lost its charm.

I can now report that the wines are back to great form. The 2014 Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz shows clean blackberry fruit and is quite peppery. The tannins are fine and silky (94 points). The 2013 South West Rocks Shiraz is more concentrated and a bit ripe (91 points). The absolute star of the tasting is the 2013 Eagle Shiraz, the super premium wine. What bowled me over, were the amazing fruit flavours of this wine. Blue fruit dominates here. Often you have a hint of blue fruit, but this wine has blueberry and mulberry flavours in spades. This is quite a unique palate sensation, and it is backed up by light touch, but persistent tannins. Superb, but also very pricey (97 points).


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Shaw and Smith and Tolpuddle Premium Releases

I was looking forward to this tasting. Shaw and Smith is royalty in the Adelaide Hills, and the purchase of the Tolpuddle Vineyard in the Coal River region, Tasmania certainly proved to be a very astute one, certainly from a wine quality point of view.

First up is the 2015 Shaw and Smith M3 Chardonnay. Citrus dominates the palate. This is a very fresh wine with good acidity, but certainly not the best year for this wine (92 points). The 2015 Tolpuddle Chardonnay is a revelation. I felt that in the past, Pinot Noir from this vineyard was more impressive, but this wine turned out to be the wine of the tasting. Again, citrus dominates on the palate. What impresses, is the drive on the palate. This wine is tightly wound with beautiful fruit and acidity integration (95 points). 

The 2016 Tolpuddle Pinot Noir is more similar to the 2014 than the outstanding 2015. The fruit is strawberry and red cherry, beautiful fruit in a wider, somewhat looser expression on the palate. For that, it is not quite big enough in its mouthfeel. The finish is long (93 points). The 2016 Shaw and Smith Pinot Noir is the more traditional wine, in the cherry spectrum, with savoury mushroom characters adding to its complexity (93 points).

Shaw and Smith do some experimenting under the 'The Other Wine Co.' label. You have to in the Adelaide Hills, don't you? I tasted the 2017 Grenache. It shows typical raspberry flavours. It is meant as a fresh wine, but I found it too fruity (88 points).

Shaw and Smith shows it is a top quality producer. Some wines are better than others, but the quality bar sits high here.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Two Interesting Articles

I do not normally publish third party content, but yesterday I came across two good articles you may be interested in.

The first is about earliest winemaking

The second is about natural wines

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Torbreck The Sporran

When Torbreck analysed the wet 2011 vintage, it assessed that most grapes were not good enough for their high priced branded wines. So a new brand was created, The Sporran.

The 2011 Torbreck The Sporran shows the typical Torbreck style: plum and blackberry fruit, quite a big mouthfeel, and very ripe. This wine does not have the concentration or length normally associated with Torbreck wines, and the tannins are quite harsh, leading to a rough finish.

Score: 86/-

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Jane Eyre Volnay

Jane Eyre, an Australian winemaker, has been working in Burgundy since 2004 - mostly as assistant winemaker at Domaine Newman, but increasingly also building her own portfolio of wines. Low yielding fruit, minimum intervention, and the use of one and two year old oak characterizes her approach.

This 2015 Jane Eyre Volnay bottle, which is quite heavy, by the way, did not fit where I wanted to store it, so I decided to open it last night. This turned out to be a mistake. Despite decanting, the wine was very closed. It clearly has entered its dormant stage. It tasted more like a dry red than a Pinot Noir. Unusual for Pinot Noir, the fruit, such as it was detectable, tasted of raspberry. The structure and balance of the wine is good, and after a while, the fruit flavours opened up a little. Some depth was coming through, but the wine lacked the generosity associated with the 2015 vintage. There was good length on the palate, before the lean finish. It would not be fair to score the wine based on this tasting. I highly recommend not to open this wine for another three years.

By the way, if you want to learn more about the 2015 Burgundy vintage, you can read my article 'Touring Burgundy' in the Gourmet Traveller Wine (for Australian readers) in the October/November edition.    

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dinner with Jancis Robinson

At this dinner a couple of days ago, Mrs. Robinson showed eight wines from grape varieties not grown in Australia. The wines were from Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece and Switzerland. Given her reputation and access to wine, I had expected quite sensational wines, but these were mostly quite modestly priced wines. Well, she has reviewed wines sold by Tesco. Any real discoveries or bargains here?

I found six of the eight wines quite unspectacular, and as they are real rarities, it is not worth while to mention them here. Two wines, both white, were interesting, however. The first was from the isle of Crete, a 2016 Lyrarakis Dafni. Jancis mentioned that this wine had one of the most distinctive aromas she has ever encountered. I had to agree. It had a strong smell of fennel and herbs, which continued on the palate. It would go really well with Chinese food. Not an outstanding, but very interesting wine (89 points).

The wine of the night was the 2015 Rafael Palacios As Sortes Godello from Galicia, Northern Spain. Godello is gaining some interest, but many wines are quite ordinary and industrial. This wine was top notch. It had great fruit weight, but a certain flintiness as well. I tasted citrus, grapefruit and white peach. This was perfectly balanced by fine acidity (94 points). Apparently it is as rare as hen's teeth.

It was an interesting evening topped by a story about wine tasting at the Palace with the Queen (she is an adviser), which we promised not to share - sorry.

Two Hands Zippy's Block Shiraz

Two Hands is best known for its Garden Series of Shiraz which showcases Shiraz from different wine regions. Building on this reputation, Michael Twelftree then bottled some single vineyard wines from special locations - and Roennfeldt Road in Marananga is certainly one. There is quite a lot of quartz in the soil here, which makes the conditions in this warm area even hotter. If grapes are picked at the right time, they contribute very silky and attractive tannins.

Two Hands has always aimed its production at the US market first of all. This meant pleasing Robert Parker with big and ripe wines. So here we have a special bottling and that from a drought year. What can one expect?

The 2007 Two Hands Zippy's Block Shiraz is certainly a great example of the excesses of the 2000s. This wine is high in alcohol, overripe, maybe 200% new oak. This is a shame, because the blackcurrant flavour in this wine is (theoretically) superbly intense, pure, and deep. The fruit weight makes an early impact and stays long on the palate, but I could only just manage to finish the first glass.

Score: 87/- 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Domaine Dominique Mugneret “Alliance des Terroirs”

When drinking a well priced red Burgundy (well priced for Burgundy standards), you have to worry, even more so, when the vintage is cool like 2012. So my expectations were not high when opening a 2012 Domaine Dominique Mugneret “Alliance des Terroirs”. On the other hand, this blend of village vines is all from Vosne-Romanée where the wines tend to be more full-bodied than other parts of Burgundy.

And yes, this wine needed a bit of help out of the glass. It was certainly fairly lean. However, the cherry flavours were very pleasant and the wine was not overoaked, but rather well balanced on an acidic frame. This is not an amazing drink, but a good food wine.

Score: 88/0

Friday, November 3, 2017

Disappointing Cloudy Bay

Cloudy Bay certainly was the poster child of good quality, high volume Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in the earlier years. As the standard Sauvignon Blanc was getting under fire from wine critics (not the public), Cloudy Bay upped the ante with a Sauvignon Blanc matured in oak. This was the Te Koko, and there were examples I quite liked, but I have not tried this wine for years. So I was interested to taste it again.

This time it was the 2013 Cloudy Bay Te Koko. Yes, this wine is meant to age for some time. Wow! The fruit is intense: peach, peach, and more peach. There is also marshmallow and  the inevitable grass. This wine is really in your face, and not the anticipated refinement. I did not like it.

Score: 85/--

Then there was the 2014 Coudy Bay Te Wahi. This is the first vintage of a blended Pinot Noir from Central Otago. The first bottle was corked. Yes, this is one of the few New Zealand offerings under cork. Probably not a good idea, as the Portuguese can take revenge on New Zealand's move to twist tops!!

I found this wine quite strange. It is quite ripe, with black cherry and plum flavours, but the fruit flavours are not overt nor fresh. There is five spice from the oak, which did not add much. I enjoyed the silky tannins. This is not a badly made wine, but what does it stand for? Not the mighty fruit from Central Otago, not an ethereal character found in great Pinot Noir. It is probably best consumed with food, such as duck.

Score: 89/-