Thursday, March 29, 2018

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

Ivan Sutherland and James Healy were the driving force at Cloudy Bay, before they started Dog Point in 2004. They wanted to remain of a size where they could control all aspects of wine
making. And still today, they are a leading producer of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

The 2016 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc delivers intense lime and nectarine fruit on the palate. It avoids the grassiness and sweetness of many of the more industrially produced Sauvignon Blancs of the region. The mouthfeel is quite full and satisfying. What sets this wine apart other than the fruit profile is the drive and energy of the wine assisted by balanced acidity. There are leafy notes on the finish.

Score: 91/+

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cirillo The Vincent Grenache

Marco Cirillo has been focussed on Grenache for many years, one of the few Australian winemakers. He has a vineyard of very old bush vines on the sandy Barossa flats. His original 1850 Grenache is great, but, in small volumes, could not pay the bills. He has extended his portfolio, and The Vincent is the value for money proposition.

The 2015 Cirillo The Vincent is an excellent proposition for the price. It has a gorgeous intense raspberry nose. This continues onto the palate. The sweet raspberry is most prominent on the mid-palate, but it is not overly sweet. Savoury characters reign the fruit in. It is a refreshing wine with a slightly slim mouthfeel.

Score: 90/+

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mauro Molino Nebbiolo

I have quite a number of readers from Europe, in particular France, but also Germany, UK, Spain and Portugal. Surprisingly, only occasionally do I have readers from Italy, although I probably review more Italian wines than wines from any other European country. Be this as it may, I enjoy Italian wines, and this blog is about the wines in the first place.

In particular, I enjoy the best wines from Piedmont. The problem here is that Barolos and Barbarescos are expensive. One way to overcome this problem is to buy wines denominated Nebbiolo. These are usually from younger fruit and have not had the minimum maturation period required for Barolo. This can actually be an advantage, as these wines are more fruit forward and less tannic, and if well made, are still serious wines. One such wine is the 2012 Mauro Molino Langhe Nebbiolo, from an excellent vintage.

This wine is still fresh, with red cherry flavours dominant. This Nebbiolo is not a very complex wine, but it delivers a good,  not overly concentrated mouthfeel. The tannins are dry and control the finish. Therefore the wine is best suited as a wine with food, in particular protein dishes. In fact, it works exceptionally well, then.

Score: 92/+++

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Head The Brunette - A New Barossa Dawn

Alex Head is one of the new generation of winemakers in the Barossa who redefine the style of Barossa Shiraz. After the excesses of the drought years of the late 2000s and the Parker style wines, something different had to happen. Alex Head had been at it for a number of years, but then he hit the jackpot with the 2012 vintage. It was perfect: warm, but not extremely hot. He bottles his best wines from single vineyards, a relatively recent development in the Barossa (maybe even I had a bit to do with that).

The 2012 Head The Brunette (with reference to Guigal's Brune) comes from the Moppa subregion. Moppa is situated in the Barossa's north, the warmest area, but it is hilly, and the higher elevation gives cooler nights and more natural acidity in the wines. 

The wine is under screw-cap, and the primary fruit is still prominent after six years. There is a sweet core of blackberry and black cherry fruit, but the acidity keeps it lively. The wine has a big mouthfeel. It is distinctly Barossan, but the earlier picking keeps the wine fresh. Mocca notes add to the complexity on the palate. The tannins are big, but finely grained, and the finish is long and satisfying.

This is an excellent expression of Barossa Shiraz, with flavour explosion in the mouth and great drinkability at the same time (alcohol 13.9%).

Score: 96/+++ 

Monday, March 12, 2018

First look at the 2014 Barolo vintage

Chiara Boschis, long term winemaker at E.Pira, and Fabio Fantino of Conterno Fantino just visited Sydney to show their new Barolos from the 2014 vintage.

The cooler and wetter 2014 vintage posed  serious challenges after a string of very successful vintages. It was interesting to see how the Barolos would shape up. 

Clearly the wines are not as full bodied as in previous years. They are quite perfumed and aromatic showing some similarities to Pinot Noir, in fact. The E. Pira Via Nuova is the lightest of the wines, tasting of red cherry and orange peel. The dry tannins are only in the background. The E. Pira Cannubi, from this famous vineyard, has a more intense colour. It is a darker and richer wine, but still on the feminine and elegant side.

The Conterno Fantino Vigna de Gris is similar to the Via Nuova, fairly easy drinking, but slightly darker fruit and licorice. The south facing Sori Ginestra, from clay and calciferous soils, is bigger and more powerful and tannic, approaching a more typical Barolo profile.

Both wineries share the southern Mosconi vineyard. It typically delivers a more masculine wine. This is true for the E. Pira wine, with a profile of dark cherry and plum and a dry finish. The Conterno Fantino is bigger, with earthy flavours. This wine is a bit rough and tannic.

Overall, the wines are lighter than in previous years. The E. Pira wines are more elegant and perfumed, whereas the Conterno Fantino wines are a little bigger (still less so than the average 2013 Barolos) and require a protein dish. All these wines opened up nicely and can be drunk quite young. As such, they will appeal to people who do not wish to cellar wine for long periods of time.  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Chateau Pieuré-Lichine

Significant vintage variation is alive and well in Bordeaux. After the outstanding 2009 and 2010 vintages, collectors had to wait until 2015 to experience another good vintage. In all this discussion, previous good vintages seem to get forgotten. And they are the important ones now as far as drinking is concerned. As I have mentioned many times before, cellaring Bordeaux wines for a minimum of 10 years is really required to get the best from these wines. The last strong vintage before 2009 was 2005.

One of my favorite mid-tier producers, and flying somewhat under the radar, is Chateau Pieuré-Lichine. As I opened a bottle of the 2005 Chateau Pieuré-Lichine,  and after two hours of decanting, a beautiful bouquet rose from the glass. I smelled blackcurrant fruit, even a bit of peat.

On the palate, this is a medium bodied wine of a lot of complexity and harmony. Blackcurrants, forest berries, mushroom, pomegranate, smoky flavours, and in particular tamarillo combine to an elegant and smooth mouthfeel, which drops off a little bit on the mid palate, before soft tannins pick up the flavours for the finish.

Score: 95/+++ 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Jacob's Creek Steingarten Riesling

It was an unusual move, to say the least, to put the highly acclaimed single vineyard Steingarten Riesling under the Jacob's Creek brand, the best known Australian wine brand. This brand was so popular that UK consumers when asked about the most famous Australian wine region answered by majority "Jacob's Creek". Did this move change the positioning of the high volume, low price point Jacob's Creek brand? No, it did not. Did it hurt the Steingarten Riesling? People became skeptical, but the wine kept being made in the same way. And look at the label. Jacob's Creek is not easy to see next to the image.

The 2015 Jacob's Creek Steingarten Riesling has a light green colour. This is a lean wine, but with strong lime flavours. It is very precise with gripping acidity, yet matched by the concentration of the fruit. This wine is intense and full of energy: sinewy, not big and fat. The wine is very dry and has a piercing finish - a prime example of Australian Riesling. I love it.

Score: 95/+++ 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Riesling Riot

Riesling producers are still trying to win over the larger wine drinking public. For a number of years we had the ‘Summer of Riesling’. Now they have upped the game with the ‘Riesling Riot’. I attended two different tastings. Here are my impressions:

First of all: I know the German winemakers were tired after a long flight, but it does not help if they do not pay any attention to the tasting public. Here is Dr. Loosen working his iphone. You may as well stay home.

This first tasting featured mainly German wines from the 2016 vintage.. Each winemaker showed two wines, an entry level Riesling and mostly a single vineyard Riesling. The  Riesling standard  in Australia is high, so the entry level wines have little to offer. They are quaffers, often fruity and not well defined. This applied to the wines shown by Dr. Loosen, Heymann Loewenstein, Georg Breuer, Donnhoff, Christmann, Gunderloch, Wittmann, Paul Blanck.

I was not too impressed by the single vineyard wines either. Sure, the fruit intensity was higher, but, surprisingly, most lacked definition and acidity. Internationally, the wines from the Mosel are the most recognized. This is driven by the demand of the US market for off-dry and sweet wines. In particular the off-dry wines are neither fish nor fowl. I much prefer a wine without sugar residual or an Auslese style, which matches well with deserts.

Of the more expensive second wines, I liked the Gunderloch Nierstein Riesling from a red slate vineyard in the north of Hessen. It had good citrus, minerality, spice and elegance. The German wines were however upstaged by Brundlmayer from Austria. The entry level Kamptaler Terrassen showed attractive spice, and the Heiligenstein Lyra Reserve showed great energy and drive. This is a precise wine of citrus and minerality.

The second tasting was very international. Funnily enough, my favorite Riesling here was from Germany, by Dr. Burklin Wolf from the Pfalz, the warmest Riesling growing area in Germany. The 2015 Wachenheimer Altenburg was fresh and dynamic and very well balanced with good length.

Following this was the 2016 Kientzler 1er Kirchberg Grand Cru from Alsace. This is quite a full wine, yet elegant and refined. Holding its own is the 2017 Grosset Polish Hill, with good depth and length. This wine has not quite come together yet. It should be put down for at least two years. It could be drunk fresh then or cellared much longer to develop into a mature wine. 

In the next group were the 2008 Trimbach 'Cuvee Frederic Emille', a very dry wine with earthy notes, the 2015 Salomon Undhof Kogl, a crisp wine with good depth, the 2015 Bloodwood Riesling from Orange, with pure lime flavours and good energy,  the 2016 Frankland Isolation Ridge (balanced aromatics, long finish), and the 2016 Crawford River, with a clean and steely profile.

There was a 2012 Pewsey Vale 'Contours' from Eden Valley, but this fuller, fruity style is not my thing. I also found the 2017 Pikes 'Traditionale' too sweet. The 2017 Jim Barry wines, the 'Lodge Hill' (some talc and minerality) and the 'Florita'  (good fruit, but lacking definition) left me cold as well. 

I tasted more overseas wines, but they are not of special interest here.

Overall, if I draw conclusions by region, my favorite Rieslings came from Austria and Alsace. They offer extra complexity. The Austrian Rieslings often offer spice, which makes these wines well suited to accompany Asian spicy food. The Rieslings from Alsace deliver a big mouthfeel, but it is not fruity, rather of an earthy complexity. The best German Rieslings have great minerality and a steely backbone, but many wines are too fruity and broad in their definition.  The best Australian Rieslings are mostly fashioned dry, lean and precise, the fruitier styles do not appeal to me.