Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fraser Gallop Parterre Chardonnay

The 2016 Fraser Gallop Parterre Chardonnay is a straight shooting, good quality wine. The colour is quite pale, but the lime flavours are intense. The wine has quite a fruity mouthfeel, but the acidity keeps it balanced. This is not a very complex wine, but it has good energy and drive towards a fresh finish.

Score: 93/++

Domaine Blain-Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Caillerets

This is a seven year old wine, but the colour is still light gold. Good complexity in the mouth, with citrus flavours, a hint of tropical fruit, walnuts and vanilla. The oak is quite noticeable, and more than I am used to, but the treatment is smart and adds to the mouthfeel. The wine is quite rich, but not heavy. Firm acidity drives the flavours down the palate to a fresh finish. A very good wine.

Score: 94/+++

Friday, January 26, 2018

Wine Fashion

The wine world (wineries, writers, restaurants and retail) looks as much at fashion as, well - fashion. Everybody wants to find the next big thing. This means that the 'latest thing' is invariably hyped up more than what it can deliver. In some cases, the delivery comes a few years later, for example Pinot Noir from Tasmania. In some cases, the delivery comes from a small percentage of the trumpeted next big thing, for example orange wines. And in some cases, maybe not at all.

This is the preamble to my tasting of the 2011 Passopisciaro Etna Rosso. This wine has been hyped: Sicily, volcanic soil, and a 'new' variety, Nero d'Avola.

Pouring this wine into the bottle makes me wonder. The colour is already a quite developed garnet. Tasting the wine confirms my concerns. It is quite rustic, ok to drink with pizza or in my case tacos. Cherry flavours are there, but not very elegant, and the finish is quite rough. In defense of the winery, this is their entry level wine and probably should be drunk young. However, pricing is not at an entry level, and the single vineyard wines from this winery are seriously expensive. Being fashionable has its price.

As a consumer being interested in fine wine, I do not care about fashion. It is interesting to try different things, but the quality must be there.

Score: 85/--

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Eden Road Tumbarumba Chardonnay

Chardonnay was the big winner in my recent poll, but not everybody likes Chardonnay. In fact, some people won't touch it. There are mainly two reasons for it. If you do not know the wine, it may be difficult to predict what you are going to get. For example, in Australia, the fruit expression can go from citrus to stone fruit to tropical fruit characteristics. Oak treatment can also vary dramatically. Which brings me to the second reason. Chardonnay is often manipulated in the winery, because in and of itself the grapes may not have a lot of character. And this takes us to today's wine, the 2013 Eden Road Tumbarumba Chardonnay.

This is Eden Road's premium Chardonnay. The wine has a very clean colour. There is not much happening on the nose, and this continues on the palate. There simply is not much fruit flavour. There is not much minerality either. This is quite a steely wine, well made, and the emphasis is on the balanced texture. But is this enough?

Score: 91/0

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Poll Results

When the first votes came in, I got really confused, but then a clear picture emerged: you are moving to lighter style wines. The big winner was Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir and Champagne also doing well. No wonder prices of the small volumes of Burgundy wines are reaching stratospheric heights.

Riesling quality is improving a lot, but you are still not convinced. In fact, you have turned of Riesling more than of any other variety.

Amongst the fuller bodied wines, Grenache has gained, and the losers were Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Who would have thought?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir

Those of you who read my blog regularly, may remember that I am a bit skeptical of Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir, as I find those wines often fruity and not very charming. And you may also know I am even more skeptical of Jimmy Watson Trophy winners. Nevertheless, when the 2012 Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir won the Jimmy Watson Trophy as the first Pinot Noir, I decided to put a couple of bottles in my cellar. 

It was now time to taste one. Yabby Lake makes a number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs, but it can be quite confusing. Those with good eyesight might be able to decipher the back label. It shows the different blocks of the vineyard. In the upper left is block 1, and this particular wine comes from the light shaded area, which is block 1.4. 3836 bottles were made from there. 

The colour of the wine is still purple and very clear. The wine is of medium weight. I taste black cherry and forest berries, as well as some licorice on the palate. The wine is very polished and long, with some smart acidity going along with the fruit. The mouthfeel is on the bigger side for Pinot Noir, but on the smaller side for Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir. The tannins are quite silky and the finish expands in the mouth, something rarely found in Australia. This is in fact a brilliant wine.

Tom Carson, the winemaker, recommends cellaring for 8-12 years, and I have no doubt this wine will go that distance.

Score: 96/+++ 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Turkey Flat Subregional Wines

The wines I am discussing today have never been released commercially. However, they are a good test to what extent the subregional differences I described in my book 'Barossa Shiraz' do in fact exist.

There is a theory which says that the terroir influence increases as the wines age and that the winemaker influence diminishes. Now these wines are all made by the same team and in the same way. They are from the very good 2009 vintage. All three wines show the typical concentrated Barossa Shiraz fruit and give the taster a full mouthfeel. 

The 2009 Turkey Flat Bethany Shiraz delivers ripe plum fruit, which I would expect from this area. The core of the wine is quite sweet and a little plump. This is the least appealing of the three wines (88 points).

The 2009 Turkey Flat Stonewell Shiraz comes from this transition area between the Central Valley and Marananga. This wine is still quite lively. It has more acidity than the others and the best balance. The fruit is red plum, and the wine is more delicate than the next one (92 points).

The 2009 Turkey Flat Ebenezer Shiraz expresses the typical features of the Northern Barossa. This is the biggest of the three wines. Apart from the dark fruit, there are meaty flavours and appealing dark chocolate on the palate. The wine is quite smooth and longer on the palate than the other two. But it is not as lively as the Stonewell (92 points).

Overall, the subregional characteristics are there, in particular in wines 1 and 3.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Holyman Pinot Noir

Tasmania as a region has the most marginal climate for grape growing in Australia. Vintage variations are significant. What's more, conditions vary significantly between Tasmania's subregions. As a result, it is very difficult to identify great producers over a longer timeline. This is just an introduction to say that not every Holyman Pinot Noir might be great, but this 2012 Holyman Pinot Noir certainly is.

This wine is very fragrant on the nose, with beautiful perfume. On the palate, black cherry and sour cherry deliver a great drive down the palate. The fruit has medium intensity, and the dry powdery tannins lead to a firm finish. This is a fruit dominant Pinot Noir, but it is not fruity, rather more mineral. The acidity and tannins create an excellent balance.

Source: 95/++

Thursday, January 11, 2018

New Poll

In this poll, I would like to find out about my readers' changing drinking habits. It is very simple to answer. Multiple answers are allowed, and it is anonymous, as usual.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Agathist Alchemy Grenache

The Barossa region has the longest history of wineries in Australia, but there are also many new and exciting developments such as Ruggabellus, Sami-Odi, Head, and others. A couple of ex Torbreck winemakers have also ventured out on their own: David Powell, of course, and then there is Chris Isbel, the long time Torbreck winemaker. Agathist is Greek and means all things move towards the greater good. Let's test this with his 2013 Agathist Alchemy Grenache.

This wine is made from grapes of the Seppeltsfield subregion, where many old Grenache vineyards flourish, and are used in the Seppeltsfield port wines.

Lets start with the positives. There was generous fruit in this wine, and the tannins are soft and smooth. However, this is overshadowed by the rapid ageing of this wine. Clearly, the grapes have been picked quite late. The wine has been made with minimal intervention, and in this case, this has lead to a mouthfeel of overripeness. Chris Isbel points out that this so called 'First Wine' is for early drinking, but I am surprised that it has developed so much by year four. This wine has not moved to 'good'. It is clearly past its best drinking window. If you have this wine in your cellar, you must drink it inow.

Score: 82/--