Monday, August 27, 2018

Grenache Blends

Ýou get what you pay for' sometimes works in the wine world, sometimes it doesn't. In this line-up of attractively to medium priced Grenache Blends it worked, although not perfectly. 

Here are my results for three price groups with very brief comments:

1) $20-$30 per bottle

- 2017 Kalleske Clarry's: a light wine, a little sweet with a soft finish (87 points)
- 2017 Teusner Joshua: unoaked, fruity, but good fruit (88 points)
- 2016 Torbreck Juveniles: unoaked, raspberry, earthy, more complex, one year older, barnyard flavours (86 points)

2) $30-$35 per bottle

- 2015 John Duval Plexus: medium weight, good varietal integration, good length (92 points)
- 2015 Teusner Avatar: excellent fruit, good intensity, vanilla flavours, but will integrate well (92 points)

3) $40-$45 per bottle

- 2015 Penfolds Bin 138: raspberry fruit and firm tannins (90 points)
- 2015 Marius Michaud Chateauneuf-du-Pape: fragrant, smooth, fine grained tannins (90 points)
- 2014 Torbreck The Steading: medium body, darker fruited, well balanced with smooth and dry finish (94 points)

The middle group excelled, largely because of the skill of two outstanding winemakers; John Duval and Kym Teusner.   

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Kooyong Meres Pinot Noir

The Meres Pinot Noir is the most fragrant and feminine of the Kooyong single vineyard Pinot Noirs, maybe because the vineyard is surrounded by water. I reviewed the 2012 Kooyong Meres Pinot Noir some years ago, and on trying my last bottle, I still like it a lot.

The fragrant bouquet is still strong. It has the smell of spring flowers on the nose. Red and black cherry flavours offer an attractive mix on the palate. This is an elegant wine in an ethereal style, not overly concentrated. The flavours are long on the palate. Smooth tannins coat the tongue before a persisting finish leaves you very satisfied.

Score: 95/+++ 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon

Wynns is one of those producers who make wine for the long term. I was therefore not too concerned to open a 2006 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon. John Riddoch gets the best fruit from Wynns' substantial Coonawarra holdings. It also means big and concentrated.

As it turns out, this wine is very dry, and 80% of the primary fruit is gone. I can still taste the concentration, but the wine is now quite meaty and vanilla flavours from the oak are strong. This wine is 12 years old, but should be fresher and more balanced.

For my money, I prefer the latest Black Label offerings, which are terrific drinking styles.

Score: 89/- 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Two Classic Tasmanian Chardonnays

Chardonnay from Tasmania does not grab the headlines quite as much as Pinot Noir, but recently I tasted two Chardonnays which are very good, indeed. They are made in quite different ways.

Derwent Estate make quite a big deal of their Chardonnay release dates, and the 2016 Derwent Estate Chardonnay deserves this. This wine is made in a fresh style, with lime and pear flavours. There is malolactic fermentation, but you would not know it. Lemony acidity glides down the palate, not aggressive, but always present. This wine has power and elegance at the same time (94+ points).

The 2016 Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay is made in quite a different style. There is more new oak, more cream (80% malolactic fermentation), and more complexity on the palate. There is grapefruit and white peach, hazelnut and spicy oak. Acidity is strong, and the flavours are very long. Everything comes together in a balanced fashion (94+ points).

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tasmanian Pinot Noir

I recently tasted a number of leading Tasmanian Pinot Noirs. A number of conclusions stood out:

1) There is now a lot more consistency in these wines
2) Prices have crept up a lot. We are now talking $50-$100 per bottle, driven by small volumes and increased demand.
3) Vintage variations are significant. 2016 produced light and perfumed wines across the board, whereas 2015 and 2017 Pinot Noirs are much more intense.
4) Almost all producers have settled on a regime of 10-30% whole bunch inclusion, and 20-40% new French oak for the premium wines.

Two Pinot Noirs stood out for their barnyard flavours: the 2016 Barringwood Mill Block (89 points), and the 2015 Delamere Block 8 (90 points).

Other brief notes:
- 2017 Holm Oak 'The Wizzard': dark cherry, savoury, dry (93 points)
- 2015 Tamar Ridge Reserve: medium-bodied, red cherry focussed on front palate (91 points)
- 2015 Tamar Ridge Single Block: more intense and tannic (93 points)
- 2016 Bay of Fires: light, pretty and delicious, red fruited (90 points)
- 2014 Dalrymple Cottage Block: smooth, earthy and spicy, lacks structure (91 points)
- 2014 Dalrymple Coal River Valley: bigger fruited and quite fruity, soft tannins, lacks structure (89 points)
- 2017 Pipers Brook 'New Certan': pretty fruit, savoury, dry,  lacks finish (92 points)
- 2015 Derwent Estate Çalcaire': dark fruited, intense and savoury (94 points)
- 2016 Glaetzer Dixon Mon Père: black cherry, savoury, great for the year (93 points)
- 2016 Tolpuddle Vineyard: quite light, strawberry flavours, elegant (92 points)  

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Dappled Wines

New offerings from the Yarra Valley are arriving all the time. There is a renaissance on the one hand, but a real threat of phylloxera on the other. The Dappled wines shot to fame a year ago, when they were crowned best new winery by James Halliday.

The 2017 Dappled Áppelation' Chardonnay is the entry level Chardonnay with fruit from lower and upper Yarra Valley vineyards. This is a crisp and fresh wine with excellent balance (92 points).

The 2017 Dappled Çhamps de Cerises' Upper Yarra Macclesfield Chardonnay is a bit of a mouthful (pardon the pun) of a name, but should not detract from the quality of the wine. The fruit comes from a cool single vineyard. Citrus and apple flavours show restraint, but good intensity at the same time. The wine has a lasting finish (94 points).

The 2017 Dappled Çhamps de Cerises' Upper Yarra Macclesfield Pinot Noir shows strawberry flavours, typical of the cooler Yarra Valley sites. This wine is interesting, because it has a certain smokiness, smooth tannins, and good persistence (93 points).

The 2017 Dappled 'Fin de la Terre' Steels Creek Syrah is the weakest wine in this line-up. It comes from a warmer site, and includes 100% whole bunch. This is a pretty wine, a bit fruity, though. The finish is balanced (89 points).

Overall, this tasting reveals very careful winemaking. The  wine names obviously link to French winemaking and an interest in terroir. I found the wines very truthful to grape varieties and location. A winery to watch!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Jim Barry Tasting

Jim Barry is an unusual family wine business, maybe only comparable to Yalumba. It produces wine in large commercial quantities, like more than 100,000 cases, as well as high quality specialty wines. Based in the Clare Valley, the focus is on Riesling and Shiraz. The other day, I tasted most of the line-up.

The 2017 Assyrtiko is a welcome addition to the portfolio. It is the first Assyrtiko (native to Santorini, Greece)  commercially available in Australia, planted as recently as 2012. This is actually an excellent summer wine: crisp citrus, acidic, dry (90 points).

The 2018 Watervale Riesling is the high volume product, and it shows. This wine is straight forward and quite fruity, but not unpleasant (86 points).

The Clos Clare Riesling is a side project by third generation Tom and Sam Berry. It is actually a little block at a corner of the famous Florita vineyard. The 2017 has reasonable fruit weight, but is a little broad (89 points). The 2012 is quite different, maybe due to the ageing. Earthy flavours dominate this wine (89 points).

The 2012 Lodge Hill Riesling has more power. It is on the fruity side, but dry (90 points).

The game changes with the 2017 Florita Riesling from this exceptional vineyard, established by Leo Buring in 1962. This is a world-class dry Riesling. The colour is straw green. On the palate, the wine is delicate, but powerful at the same time. Citrus flavours dominate, but the key here is the steeliness and linearity of the wine delivered on the back of firm acidity. This wine will live for a long time, but is excellent to drink now as well (96 points).

Of the reds, I tried the 2014 McRae Wood Shiraz. The fruit is covered in  American oak. At four years of age, this is too much and unlikely to lift (89 points).

Then we come to the Armagh, one of Australia's most highly regarded Shiraz. The 2013 Armagh has some trouble to live up to that lofty expectation. This wine is still young and quite closed. It needs decanting. Blackberry and plum flavours are concentrated. Vanilla oak flavours hit on the front palate, cream and mocha on the back. The structure is impressive and not alcoholic, but will it all come together? (93 points).


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Taste Champagne - The Biggest Champagne Showcase In The World

79 Champagne Estates have come together to showcase their products in Australia. This is because Australia is the seventh largest Champagne market in the world and growing strongly in unit imports as well as value. A tasting of this kind is a bit different from your average wine tasting. The atmosphere is a bit more hushed and serious.
 The trade tasting. Bollinger was the most popular stand

What was I looking for when the choice was between over 200 different Champagnes to taste? I have a lot less experience in tasting bubbles compared with still wine, but I know what I like: freshness, complexity of flavour, and some toastiness, all in balance. These were my findings:

Overall, the quality was very good, but there was not much wow!, I must say.

Vintage vs. Non-Vintage: The proportion of vintage Champagne sold in Australia is very small, smaller than in most other countries. This, no doubt, is due to the high pricing for these wines, particularly in Australia. And this tasting did not convince me. Freshness was lacking in many vintage wines, in particular the Bollinger La Grande Année 2007. But then, the Charles Heidsieck Brut Vintage 2005 was my Champagne of the day. Still fresh, with great depth, balance and elegance. 

The second debate is between the quality and distinctiveness of the large Champagne houses versus the increasingly popular grower Champagnes. I would call this a draw. I was impressed by Ruinart, Billecart-Salmon, Charles Heidsieck, Larmandier-Bernier, De Sousa, André Clouet and Jacquesson.

Then there is the question of Rosé. A number of Champagnes in this category were a little sweet, but I can recommend as dry Rosés the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV and the Bollinger Rosé Brut NV.     

Friday, August 3, 2018

Felton Road Riesling

Felton Road is mainly known as one of New Zealand's leading Pinot Noir producers. However, Felton Road also makes very good Chardonnay and Riesling.

The 2017 Felton Road Dry Riesling delivers a round and quite intense mouthfeel, more like a modern German Riesling than, say, a dry Clare Valley wine. This wine gives you a fruity impression, yet it is dry.

The main flavours on the palate are apple and jasmine. There is enough acidity to drive the flavours down the palate to a finish which is a bit of a non-event. This is a smart wine,  but not quite my preference for more steeliness.

Score: 93/0