Sunday, April 29, 2018

Vosne-Romanée Burgundy

The warm 2015 Burgundy vintage is hailed as a great one, but there is some concern that typical characteristics of the Pinot Noirs have been lost due to the warm weather. I decided to buy a small amount from probably the premier Burgundy area these days, Vosne-Romanée. The concern here is even greater, as wines from this terroir tend to be bigger in any case. Studying the terroir helps in this situation.

When I was in Burgundy in 2016, I tasted and was impressed with wine from the 1er cru vineyard Les Petits Monts. It sits above the famous Romanée and Richebourg vineyards. At higher altitude, it is a little cooler - an advantage in 2015.

So the moment has come to taste the two wines I have from this vineyard: the 2015 Mongeard-Mugneret Les Petits Monts and the 2015 Georges Noellat Les Petits Monts.

The two wines have a lot in common; a brilliant red colour of medium density, a great mouthfeel with flavours lingering on the palate, a silky overall package, and a very long and expanding finish.

Then some subtle differences emerge; the Mongeard-Mugneret has a slightly lighter colour. It is a bit more perfumed and elegant in a feminine way. There is slightly more acidity.

The Georges Noellat is slightly darker, slightly riper and firmer. Apart from the red and black berry flavours, olive notes and savoury underbrush flavours emerge.

These differences are quite small. The main point is that fruit flavours and tannins of both wines are exceptional and of grand cru quality. There is one conundrum, in particular with the Georges Noellat. The acidity is relatively low. Ageing the wines would increase complexity, no doubt. But there is a risk that these wines become a little dull with too much bottle age. What is wrong with drinking an outstanding wine right now?

Score for both: 97/+++  

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wines by KT Churinga Watervale Shiraz

Kerri Thompson is a very talented winemaker who is best known for her distinctive single vineyard Clare Valley Rieslings. However, she also makes excellent Shiraz. This 2010 KT Churinga Vineyard Shiraz opens up with florals and violets on the nose. This is a vibrant wine with red plum and spicy flavours. It is in perfect balance with velvety tannins based on a firm structure. The wine is ideal to drink now.

If you want a bit 'more' than a cool climate Victorian Shiraz, but not a 'big Barossa', this wine would be perfect for you.

Score: 95/+++

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mac Forbes Wesburn Pinot Noir

Mac Forbes has done a lot to emphasize the terroir of the Yarra Valley. His single vineyard wines come from different altitudes and soils, and this is highlighted. I also like the labeling

; only basic on the front, but a lot of detail on the back, displayed in an easy to read format.

The 2012 Mac Forbes Wesburn Pinot Noir is from a cool site in the Upper Yarra Valley. It is very floral on the nose. It needs a lot of time to open up. I thought I did not need to decant it as a six year old Australian Pinot Noir. How it changed in the glass was astonishing.

Initially it felt lean. The dark cherry flavours  were dominated by minerality and mouth plucking acidity. An hour later, the dark sour cherry flavours were fully developed. Now the wine was full-bodied and elegant, and the tannins had softened.

Score: 93/++

Sunday, April 22, 2018


There is a bewildering choice of Rosés out there, as they have grown rapidly in popularity. They can come from many different countries, for example France, Italy, Australia, Spain. They are made from different grapes, such as Grenache, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Shiraz, Cabernet or even Pinot Gris. They can be made as a by-product to red wine production or as a focus. They spring up from many otherwise unknown wineries and often have unusual brand names.

When I look for a Rosé, I am after a dry summer wine, but with a good structure. I like the colour to be pale and have a preference for the Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo grape. Grenache can be attractive, too, but is often too sweet. Shiraz and Cabernet deliver a wine too big for my preferred profile in most cases.

At a recent tasting of 10 French and 10 Australian Rosés, I liked the 2016 Perle by Roseline for its dry finish, and the 2016 Verget Rosé de la Terre for its slightly fuller mouthfeel. Both wines are from Provence, Grenache based and not expensive.

From Australia, the 2017 By Farr Saignée sets a benchmark. This is a serious wine with penetrating citrus and orange peel flavours. Different, and contrary to the profile I described as desirable, is the 2017 Torbreck Woodcutter's Rosé. This is Barossa Valley and obviously Shiraz based. The colour is deeper, and the wine has more body. It has an attractive savoury finish, reminding me of some Spanish Rosés. In contrast, the 2017 Bird in Hand from the Adelaide Hills is more typical of the profile I usually try to seek out: pale, light and dry.

There are few (no) rules when it comes to Rosés. Its best to try a few out, almost randomly. I am sure you will find something you enjoy. Any favorites you can recommend?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Caelum Malbec

17 April was world Malbec day. Not that this sets the world on fire, but I thought I celebrate by opening one of the only two Argentinian Malbecs I have in my cellar, a 2012 Caelum Malbec. The label depicts the Caelum constellation which can be observed in the Southern hemisphere.

The Caelum winery is a small family business in Mendoza producing very well priced wines, including a number of attractive whites. 

This Malbec is a fresh, full-bodied wine. The cherry fruit almost leaps out of the glass. The wine is fruity and juicy, but also firm. It is not very complex on the palate, but has  a good tannin structure and a lively round finish.

Score: 92/++

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Chapoutier Tasting

One of my most memorable tastings of my 2015 tour de France was the tasting at Chapoutier at Tain- l'Hermitage. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to participate in another exciting Chapoutier tasting.

There are a number of key principles of Marcel Chapoutier. The winery is biodynamic since 1997, and is the largest biodynamic winery in France, and I think the world. Chapoutier does not blend varieties. It is always one (owned) vineyard, one grape variety. This is unusual for the Rhone. There are some wines blended from vineyard blocks near to each other.

The photo shows the line-up.

The three whites are all 100% Marsanne. The 2016 Saint-Peray Les Tanneurs is an entry level wine from a terroir not well known. The wine has a pale golden colour and is light-bodied. This is a vibrant wine with apple flavours and minerality, quite well focussed (89 points). The 2015 Saint-Joseph Les Granilites is a big step up. It has a darker colour, more intensity and body. This wine sees 25% oak. This is quite a ripe, yet elegant wine, with  exotic rhubarb flavours dominating. I loved this wine (94 points). The 2015 Hermitage Chante-Alouette certainly has the pedigree (and the yellow wax). It is a concentrated wine with pineapple, pear and marzipan flavours. There are honey and toasty flavours on the long finish. While impressive, I found the wine a bit chewy and heavy (93 points). 

On to the reds. The 2015 Crozes Hermitage Les Meysonniers is a blend from different plots. The wine is matured for 12 months in concrete tanks and sees no oak. It is of course 100% Shiraz and black fruited. There are some meaty and game flavours as well. The finish is a bit chewy and sharp (88 points). The 2014 Saint-Joseph Les Granilites suffered from the wet vintage and is a bit lean. It has a perfumed aroma, quite feminine. This is an elegant wine. The black and blue berries open up on the back palate (93 points). The 2014 Cornas Les Arenes is  different. This is quite a big and rich wine. Dark berry, meaty and smoky flavours deliver complexity on the palate, but in contrast to other years, the mouthfeel is soft (93 points).

We finish with wines from the famous Hermitage hill. The 2011 Monier de la Sizeranne is a blend of different blocks from the hill. They are from the lower parts of the hill. The flavours of this wine are a mixture of red and black fruits. The wine is feminine, very elegant and finishes with soft tannins and good length (95 points). The star of the evening, as expected, was the 2007 Hermitage Le Pavillion. The wine is matured in oak for 18 months, 25% new. The vines are 65 to 85 years old. It was quite a privilege to drink this wine after 10 years, as only 500-900 bottles are made each year. The wine is still quite energetic, with complex flavours of blackberry, boysenberry, olive, meat, and smoky spices. This is an intense wine you can almost cut with a knife (images of Grange come up). The finish is very long (96 points). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling

The 2002 vintage has been hailed as one of the great vintages of this wine, and the 2002 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling does not disappoint. The colour is clean and a transparent golden. The fruit flavours are still there; citrus and pear, and the wine has gained some volume in the mouth. There is additional complexity with light toast and almond flavours. This wine has great intensity and drive, and there is enough acidity to give it a balanced structure. The wine is silky and finishes long and satisfying.

This is definitely one of the best dry Rieslings ever made in Australia. Unfortunately, this was my last bottle from 2002.

Score: 96/+++ 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Bourgogne Pinot Noir

So 2015 and 2016 are great back to back vintages in Burgundy, although for different reasons. 2015 was a goldilocks vintage, quite warm, whereas 2016 was difficult, with frost destroying many vines, thereby leading to more significant yield reduction than most vintners would have done deliberately. The remaining grapes are small and most show good concentration.

In such a situation, one is tempted to go for the lower level wines, as everything should be good. Recently I tasted two such wines from the large Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits appelation.

The producer is Jean-Luc and Paul Aegerter. These wines are now available in Australia and not expensive (less than $40 per bottle).

The 2016 Belle Canaille displays a bright red colour. It is a clear, fresh wine with expressive red cherry flavours. The wine is not complex, but the mouthfeel is fine and the wine is nicely balanced. Dry tannins lead to a satisfying finish. If you have never tried Burgundy, try this. It works.

Score: 88/++

The 2015 Vielles Vignes is very similar in style. The wine is slightly darker, maybe due to bottle age. It is quite soft and more elegant than the first wine. Having said this, one should not assume there is a lot of finesse on the palate.

Score: 90/++

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Australian Grenache Tasting

Grenache is a difficult variety to get right. It ripens late and needs a hot climate. Picked too late, and it is overly alcoholic, picked too early, and it is green. The best picking window is small. Doing a straight Grenache is particularly hard, as this variety predominantly expresses fruit, mainly raspberry, whereas acidity and tannins are lacking. Then there is the issue of balancing the fruit with savoury flavours through appropriate treatment in the winery.

This  blind tasting involved seven Grenaches, four of them straight, three as the dominant variety in blends. They all came from the two main growing areas, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. They were
- 2014 Henschke Johann's Garden GMS, BV
- 2014 Teusner Avatar GMS, BV
- 2016 Kay Brothers Griffons Key Grenache, MLV
- 2015 John Duval Annexus Grenache, BV
- 2005 Torbreck Les Amis Grenache, BV
- 2016 SC Pannell GSTouriga, MLV
- 2015 Toby Bekkers Grenache, MLV

The format was that a number of wine enthusiasts had to rank the wines from 1 to 7. The wine with the lowest score was the winner. These were the outcomes:

1) The three McLaren Vale wines came out on top. It is often said that the best Grenache comes from there, but the Barossa has quite a number of very old Grenache vineyards.

2) Everybody scored the Torbreck Les Amis last. Too alcoholic and a bit herbal at the same time.

3) The winner was the Kay Brothers Griffons Key Grenache, a highly acclaimed wine. I did not score it quite so high, as I thought the tannins were a bit sharp. However, it certainly has the fruit/savoury mix right.

4) I thought the Henschke deserved a better rating than fourth. I enjoyed the elegance, mouthfeel and finish of this wine.

Overall, it was an interesting tasting, where all wines had something slightly different to offer. However, the quality would not have matched a similarly put together Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz tasting (which we have done in the past).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Giant Steps

Giant Steps promotes the single vineyard concept in the Yarra Valley. The Sexton vineyard is well known, whereas the Wombat vineyard is a new addition. The 2017 Giant Steps Wombat Vineyard Chardonnay is a cracker. This vineyard is situated 120 meters higher than the Sexton, and it shows. The wine is quite tight and restrained at present, with excellent definition and minerality (94 points). The 2017 Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay, on the other hand, is fruitier, more generous and broader (91 points).

My preference of the Pinot Noirs goes the other way. The 2017 Wombat Vineyard Pinot Noir delivers strawberry notes. It is finely woven, but lacks some volume, and the tannins are a bit harsh for this light-bodied wine (90 points). The 2017 Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir is more generous again, but with good acidity and fine tannins. The mouthfeel is not fully satisfying (92 points).

All wines are quite well made, and it would be totally legitimate to come up with a different order of preference depending on your taste.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Quinta Nova Mirabilis Grande Reserva

I thought I might drink the only bottle of Portuguese red wine I have in my cellar, to celebrate the publication of my detailed article on the Douro Valley, published in this month's Gourmet Traveller Wine. This is the 2013 Quinta Nova Mirabilis Grande Reserva Tinto. It comes in an unusual bottle shape, similar to wine bottles from the 18th century - or maybe it is hard to get away from Port. Serious red table wine production in the Douro Valley is just over 20 years old. However, the grapes going into this wine can be up to 100 years old. They come from many indigenous varieties. Interestingly, this wine does not include any Touriga Nacional, which is Portugal's most famous grape variety. You can learn more about the different grape varieties from my article.

This wine is full-bodied and quite ripe, but manages to be quite elegant all the same. The flavours are black cherry and dark chocolate, but the wine surprisingly is not very expressive. There is enough acidity to keep the wine alive for a number of years. The finish falls a little flat.

Score: 90/0