Thursday, May 31, 2018

Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz

Henschke was one of the first wineries to support a glass closure. The argument was: tight seal, no chemicals involved. However, it never took off. The 2006 Henschke Tappa Pass uses this closure, and the wine is perfect after 12 years.

Tappa Pass is a premium offering from Henschke, just across the ridge from their famous Eden Valley vineyards. Soil and climatic conditions are similar, but the vineyards are grower owned and not as old.

The wine has a core of blackberry and aniseed flavour, with a hint of eucalypt. It is more forward and not as complex as the Mount Edelstone, but the flavours are similar. The main difference is on the back palate, where the wine is not as differentiated, and a little fat. There are also no noticeable spice flavours in this wine. Having said this, the wine has good depth and intensity and a lasting finish.

It is in the perfect drinking window now.

Score: 93/++

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Vinosphere, Part 3 - Other Red Varieties

In this bracket, I tasted all red varieties, other than Pinot Noir. Many wines were international, but I also tried some Australian icons. Here are my brief notes.

- Quinta do Crasto: 2015 Superior Tinto, Douro Valley: intense flavours, blackberry, forest fruit, elegant (94 p)
- Escondido: 2015 Meio e Meio, Langhorne Creek: well made, but a bit basic (90 p)
- Balnaves: 2012 The Tally, Cabernet Sauvignon: black, black, deep and concentrated and elegant, wine of the night (96 p)
- Casa Fresci: 2015 Nebbiolo, Langhorne Creek: a light version of Nebbiolo (88 p)
- Jasper Hill: 2016 Georgia's Paddock Nebbiolo: good fruit, lacks typical backbone (91 p)
- Elvio Cogno: 2013 Barbera d'Alba: plum, a bit simple, good length (91 p)
- Elvio Cogno: 2013 Barbaresco Bordini: quite light, clean, pretty fruit, good length and silky tannins (94 p)
- Ferdinando Principiano: 2013 Barolo Serralunga: fragrant, savoury (93 p)
- Ferdinando Principiano: 2013 Barolo Ravera: more intense, more elegant, long finish (95 p)
- Girolamo Russo: 2015 Etna Rosso Cru San Lorenzo: made from Nerello Mascalese, lively red fruit, strong tannins (93 p)
- Santa Maria la Nave: 2015 Etna Rosso Calmarossa: light and lifted, red fruited, elegant (93 p)
- Talenti: 2012 Brunello: earthen, not well balanced (89 p)
- Gianni Brunelli Chiuse di Sotto: 2012 Brunello: black cherry, mocca (92 p)
[ there are outstanding 2012 Brunellos; the last two are not amongst them]
- Antiyal: 2011 Vinedo Escorial Carmenere, Chile: strong barnyard flavours (86 p)
- Mont-Redon: 2015 Chateauneuf-du-Pape: red fruit, medium intensity (92 p)
- La Barroche: 2015 Chateauneuf-du-Pape: sweet fruit, smooth, good balance (93 p)
- Clonakilla: 2016 Shiraz/Viognier: deep plum, blackberry, lifted on medium weight, elegant and long (95 p)
- Thomas Wines: 2016 Kiss Shiraz: Plum fruit hits the palate, elegant, soft tannins (94/95 p)
- Castagna: 2015 La Chiave: fresh, quite soft, balanced, soft tannins (95 p)
- Castagna: 2015 Genesis Syrah: red and black fruited, quite lifted and elegant (95 p)

The Australian wines were the clear winners in this bracket. It is a little unfair, as these were all icon wines, whereas some overseas wines from great vintages, such as 2013 in Piedmont, 2012 for Brunello, and 2015 Chateauneuf-du-Pape are not from leading suppliers.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Kilikanoon Green's Vineyard Shiraz

Most winery start-ups are a labour of love. Passion is the driver, commercial success the hope. I always felt Kilikanoon was different. Commercial success with premium wines was always the number one objective. This has now been achieved with a sale to one of China's leading wine businesses, Changyu (incidentally, a Changyu wine bottle is the only Chinese wine bottle on my empty bottle shelves). Hopefully, this will not diminish the quality of the Kilikanoon operation in Clare and Barossa Valley.

I was not always impressed with their wines, but the 2013 Kilikanoon Green's Vineyard Shiraz from the Barossa Valley is excellent. It is a full-bodied wine, with a sweet core of plum and black cherry. However, the wine is not heavy and has good energy. This elegant wine, with silky tannins, presents a great balanced package. This is a great example of a typical Australian wine, unlike anything to be found in Europe, without the excesses sometimes found in South Australian Shiraz.

Score: 95/+++

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Vinosphere, Part 2 - Pinot Noir

The second round of my tastings focussed on Pinot Noir. Here are brief descriptions

- Dawson James, 2016 Pinot Noir: As with the Chardonnay, a big wine, a bit fruity and overwhelming, but well made with fine tannins (93 p)
- Bindi, 2016 Original Vineyard Pinot Noir: I believe this was a difficult year for Pinot Noir here, very light, below delicate (90 p)
- Bindi, 2016 Block 5 Pinot Noir: a bit more depth, excellent balance, lacks excitement of other years (93 p)
- Curly Flat, 2015 Pinot Noir: bigger than Bindi, strawberry, vanilla, interesting (93 p)
- Picardy, 2013 Tete de Cuvée: 35% whole bunch, mushroom floor, good structure (92 p)
- Lucien Muzard, 2015 Santenay 1er cru Clos Faubard: smooth, linguering, lacks energy (92 p)
- David Duband, 2015Nuits-Saint-Georges: well made, a bit lean for the year (92 p)
- Lignier-Michelot, 2016 Morey-Saint-Denis En la Rue de Vergy: beautiful clean fruit, elegant, drive and length (95 p)
- Timo Mayer, 2017 Pinot Noir Granit: very young, fruity, more juice than wine, but good quality (91 p)
- Escarpment, 2014 Kupe Pinot Noir: earthy, penetrating, makes a statement (not my style) (92 p)
- Akarua, 2015 The Siren Pinot Noir: lighter than previous years and the better for it, very pretty and elegant in difficult vintage, expensive (94 p)

No Australian Pinot Noir stood out, but only a small selection tasted, really.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Vinosphere, Part 1 - White Wines

At Vinosphere, a number of importers and distributors come together with a few prestigious wineries to showcase their premium wines. It is a big event, with over 200 wines to taste. I selected a bit more than 40. Here are my brief comments on the white wines I tried.

- Thomas Wines, 2017 Braemore Semillon: disappointing, less precision and drive than usual (90 p)
- Schaller, 2016 1er cru Vaucoupin Chablis: delicate, balanced, lacks impact (92 p)
- Dawson James, 2015 Chardonnay: a big wine, citrus, tropical, oak noticeable (92 p)
- Bindi, 2016 Quartz Chardonnay: fresh, very elegant, pear, apple, great length (95 p)
- Curly Flat, 2015 Chardonnay: big wine, grapefruit, good mouthfeel and length (not my style) (95 p)
- Bass Phillip, 2016 Estate Chardonnay: citrus, delicate, a bit broad (92 p)
- Bass Phillip, 2015 Premium Chardonnay: a bit closed, jasmin, flowers, citrus, minerality, complex, acidity (94 p)
- Quinta Do Crasto,  2016 Superior Branco: similar to Chablis, minerality, a bit broad (92 p)
- Lucien Muzard, 2016 Chassagne-Montrachet: elegant, lingering, lacks acidity (93 p)
- Serge Dagueneau, 2015 Pouilly-Fumé: apple, a bit flabby (90 p)
- Scorpo, 2016 Pinot Gris: bigger style, citrus, spicy, good balance, perfect acidity (93 p)
- Dr Buerklin-Wolf, 2016 Altenburg Riesling: citrus, apple, fruity but dry, clean finish (93 p)
-Mader, 2015 Pinot Gris GC Schlossberg: big, fruity, spicy (92 p)
-Mader, 2016 Gewuerz GC Rosacker: big, sweetness, a bit of spice (92 p)

Overall, a strong showing without absolute standouts.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Bass Phillip New Red Wine Releases

A tasting with winemaker Phillip Jones is always a memorable event. You always come away with something you had not heard before. This time the new insights bordered on the bizarre, but they are worth reporting.

In a discussion of cork versus screw cap (his wines are all under cork), Phillip insisted that there is no air exchange through the cork, but rather that little air bubbles sit in what looks like the smooth surface of the inside of the glass bottle, thereby implying there is no difference in this regard between the two different closures. I must say, the reality does not support this view.

The second, more interesting insight related to a phenomenon he termed 'bunchus erectus'. In a discussion about what distinguished the few rows of his Reserve Pinot Noir from the Premium, he mentioned that a large proportion of the bunches of grapes do not hang down, but grow upright. In his experience, the flavours of each grape are more homogeneous in an upright bunch than in a bunch hanging down, presumably because the sun reaches them more evenly. So there you have it!

Now on to the wines: the 2016 vintage was quite wet, and as a general rule, the fruit is gentle rather than very intense. This is certainly true for the 2016 Bass Phillip Rosé. I loved the 2015, but this wine, while having nice cherry flavours, is actually quite thin (86 points). It is not all that different for the 2016 Gamay, a fruity straight forward wine (88 points). The 2016 Crown Prince Pinot Noir is definitely a step up. The fruit has more depth. The wine is quite soft and fairly easy to drink (91 points). These wines come from the second estate vineyard, which is now 23 years old. No wines were made from the high density vineyard which produces the Issan wine in other years.

The 2016 Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir comes partly from the 23 year old vineyard, and partly from the 39 year old home vineyard. The yields here are extremely low. In this year, the wine has quite a pale colour. The wine is delicate and elegant, but sits on a structure of firm tannins (92 points).

The 2016 Premium and Reserve Pinot Noirs come exclusively from the old home vineyard and are matured in 100% new oak. But the oak is lightly toasted and not noticeable in the tasting. The Premium wine has more depth than the Estate. There is complexity in the flavour with forest undergrowth supporting the red and black cherry fruit. The tannins are silky, and the wine has a long finish. This is already an attractive wine (94 points). The Reserve is more backward, or should I say 'reserved'. It is similar, but with more intensity, a stronger acidity and a very long finish. This will develop into an outstanding Pinot Noir in a few years time (95 points).

Overall, this was a strong showing from a difficult vintage, but if you can still find them, I would go for the 2015s. On another point, the Pemium now costs as much as a 1er cru Burgundy. From what I reviewed a few posts before, I certainly preferred the  2015 Vosne-Romanées to the 2016 Bass Phillip - but we are comparing excellent wines here all the same. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Oakridge Willowlake Chardonnay

Another Yarra Valley Chardonnay that can be found for less than $30 per bottle is the 2016 Oakridge Willowlake Chardonnay. I have found the highly acclaimed Oakridge Chardonnays well made, but often lacking personality. This is, however, not the key concern for a $30 bottle.

This Chardonnay is a light and lifted wine, with smooth citrus flavours and some complexity added by almond notes as well. There is just enough acidity to keep the wine going nicely to the back palate.

A well crafted, modern Chardonnay for an attractive price.

Score: 92/++

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Toolangi Chardonnay

There are many excellent Chardonnays these days in the $25-$30 per bottle price bracket, many from the Yarra Valley. The 2016 Toolangi Chardonnay is one such wine.

Toolangi has an interesting model, with a focus on its Dixon Vineyard and an objective to produce the best quality grapes it can. Winemaking is outsourced to high quality winemakers, at Yering Station for this wine and the more expensive Estate wine, and to Rick Kinzbrunner of Giaconda fame for the top wine. But you sometimes have to wonder if they would chose to make a wine equal in quality to their own. The other challenge is that Gary Hounsell, the Toolangi owner, is also Executive Chairman of Myer, and would have his hands full there at the moment. But I digress.

What is actually in the glass? This wine is clean, a little fuller in the mouth than the very lean Chardonnay versions, with pear and white peach flavours. The wine is nicely balanced, with a bias to fruit flavour rather than acidity. This Chardonnay moves well through the palate. It is best upfront, but produces a satisfying finish as well.

This is a good wine for the price bracket. It would work well with salads and chicken dishes.

Score: 90/++