Monday, December 30, 2019

Mega Trends Of The Last Decade

You may be a little tired of reading all these key moments, best of... etc. of the last decade. However, it is truly remarkable how the wine landscape has changed in just ten years. Here are my 10 mega trends of the last decade.

1) Fruit and freshness to the fore. This occurred in many ways; earlier picking, less alcohol, less new oak, larger barrels.

2) A more international landscape. Curiosity to discover new wines increased. Red wines from Sicily, white wines from Northern Spain and Italy, lesser regions from the US and France, wines from Greece and Uruguay, to name a few.

3) Adjustment to warmer climates. This occurred in a number of ways; search for heat tolerant varieties, planting at higher altitudes, changes to vineyard management

4) Confluence of old world and new world. French wines are getting bigger, US and Australian wines try to reduce body weight. 

5) The rise of biodynamic and orange wines. This includes new avant garde producers as well as established ones (e.g. Cullen in Australia).

6) Breaking with tradition. A deliberate attempt to do someting new or different in the process of making wine as well as the final product (check out Adelaide Hills producers).

7) The rise of lighter red wines. Rosé becomes a serious wine, as does Beaujolais and Pinot Noir at value price points.

8) Different wine values by millennials. Immediate consumption, fun, fashion and no interest in traditional measures of quality.

9) The closure battle hangs in the balance. Screw caps are gaining share, but cork producers employ technology successfully to eliminate faults.

10) Retail ubiquity. Consumers buy at chains, specialized stores, wineries and online. 

Would you have predicted these in 2008, 2009? Maybe some. What will the next decade have in store? Any thoughts?  

Friday, December 27, 2019

What Have You Been Drinking This Christmas?

Our Christmas was a relatively quiet affair. Food was focused on seafood, with a filet steak on the evening of Boxing Day. The wine selection matched this.


Kreglinger Sparkling is vastly underrated in Australia, maybe because this Belgian name is difficult to pronounce for many English speakers. The 2016 vintage,quite young, did the trick. The light wines, the French Rosé and the 2019Yangarra Blanc were both a bit bland and disappointing. 

The last three wines were all terrific. It is a treat to drink a Chardonnay where the fruit can take 100% new French oak, as was the case with the 2011 Leeuwin Estate. The 2010 Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir had fantastic balance, expression and poise, and the 2001 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon remains a star vintage from this producer. 

What have you been drinking this Christmas? What was good, what disappointed? 

Jim Barry Assyrtiko

The home of the Assyrtiko grape is the Greek island of Santorini. Santorini is basically a large caldera formed from a relatively recent volcanic eruption. The soil is volcanic, and the wines' strong characteristics are acidity and minerality. It is quite brave to assume this would go well in the Clare Valley. But this is what Jim Barry has done after having to take the variety through years of quarantine - and in search of varieties suited to ever increasing temperatures.

  

The 2017 Jim Barry Assyrtiko is good, but it is not the same as the Greek versions. It displays citrus character, a bit like Chablis, but broader on the palate.The acidity is not as pronounced, nor is the minerality. The wine is a bit middle of the road, but Rome was not invented in a day, either. This is an early effort and the wine shows potential to excite some more in the future.

Score: 90/+

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas

I wish my readers an excellent Christmas experience and some very good drinking next year!




Giant Steps Applejack Pinot Noir

Giant Steps recently changed from its old label in a similar way to what Bindi did prior. These are leading producers who focus on the character of the terroir where their grapes are grown. Giant Steps does so with a number of single vineyard wines in the Yarra Valley, which are distinguished by different elevation and soils.



The 2018 Giant Steps Applejack Pinot Noir comes from a vineyard in the Upper Yarra Valley with clay over volcanic soil. The vines are 22 years old. There is about 40% whole bunch in this wine, and the oak is 88% used.

The flavours on the palate are complex: cranberry, red cherry and strawberry fruit is supported by forest floor and mushroom notes. A spice mix is there as well. This is a pure, smooth and elegant,  medium-bodied wine with some minerality on the finish.

The mouthfeel is broader than expected from this site, probably a result of the warm 2018 vintage. I would have enjoyed a bit more grip on the finish, but the flavour components are very good.

Score: 94/++




Sunday, December 22, 2019

Colomé Malbec

When I visited Salta in Northern Argentina earlier this year, I was keen to go to the Colomé winery, which, among others, boasts a vineyard at over 3000 meters elevation, perhaps the highest vineyard in the world. Yet this winery, owned by the Hess Family, is so remote that I could not spend the time to get there and back. I was therefore excited when I found the 2017 Colomé Estate Malbec on a wine list a few days ago. This is a blend from four different vineyards from 1750 to 3111m.


This wine has an interesting profile. Rose petals and violets on the nose translate to the palate. Blueberry fruit takes over, joined by licorice flavours. On the back palate, a stony minerality dominates, not the steely or slaty types known from parts of Europe, but a stronger, rocky form.

This profile is miles away from the typical lush, sometimes fruity style of lower altitude Malbec. While the profile is interesting, the overall mouthfeel of this wine is a little harsh.

Score: 91/+



Thursday, December 19, 2019

Shaw & Smith Tolpuddle Chardonnay

The 2016 Tolpuddle Chardonnay has come together really well now. It has three distinctive flavours: white peach, grapefruit and almond. This is a sophisticated wine with an intense mouthfeel. 80% malolactic fermentation and new oak add cream to the palate. It all integrates well and does not feel heavy or overworked. The style is different from the citrus dominated Chardonnays on the market, more French. This wine is serious with great length.

Score: 96/+++

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Dominio De La Abadia

The 2016 Dominio de la Abadia is the cheapest wine I have ever reviewed; $9.99 at Aldi.


This medium-bodied Tempranillo is much better than your average quaffer, with its appealing red cherry, sour kirsch and blackcurrant fruit. There are some smoky undertones which give the wine some complexity. One of the strange things here is my recommendation to decant the wine for 2-3 hours. For a wine of $10? The wine improves to something very balanced, with the firm but fine grained tannins shining and its refreshing acidity.

If you need to be convinced to shop at Aldi, this wine might just do it.

Score: 89/+++  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Bordeaux And Climate Change

Bordeaux is one of the most conservative and regulated wine regions in the world. Appellation authorities decide which grapes can be used, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot being the most prominent ones at present.

But the prospect of warmer climate has even influences these authorities. Seven additional grape varieties are now permitted on an experimental basis to see if they can mitigate climate change. The red varieties are Touriga Nacional (Portugal's main variety), Marselan (a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache), Castets (a forgotten variety), and Arinarnoa (a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat).

The white varieties are Albariño (from northern Spain), Petit Manseng (from southwestern France), and Liliorila (a cross between Chardonnay and Baroque). The first two are meant as an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Experiments are allowed in most subregions, but not the esteemed appellations of St. Julian or Margaux - how very French.   

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Ocean Eight Aylward Pinot Noir

The Aylward Pinot Noir from the Mornington Peninsula impressed me when it first came onto the market. However, I somehow lost sight of this wine. Until I came across the 2015 Ocean Eight Aylward Pinot Noir a couple of days ago.

What stroke me first was the incredibly strong and aromatic bouquet of red fruit after opening the bottle. This translated into intense strawberry and red cherry flavours on the palate. This is quite concentrated for a Pinot Noir, yet what dominates is the elegance of the wine. Fruit is the story here, not savoury flavours. However, the wine is pure and precise, with a firm and quite long finish.

Score: 95/+++

Thursday, November 28, 2019

By Farr Farrside Pinot Noir

The 2012 By Farr Farrside Pinot Noir at first blush has everything an excellent Pinot Noir should have; black cherry fruit, quite intense; an overall savoury character with forest floor notes; smooth tannins, and acidity which cuts through on the finish. However, if we were talking clothes, I would describe this wine as a onesie. It comes in one on the palate, lacking layers which can add so much to Pinot Noir. Still, this is a good wine.

Score: 93/+

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Three Cabernets, Three Continents

Three very good Cabernets from Australia, France and the US were tasted blind, in this order, as it turned out.

The 2012 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon showed intense blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, cedary notes and spice. It has great purity and elegance. There is sufficient acidity to drive the flavours to a long finish, rounded out by silky tannins. A very good wine, which will unfold its complexity over time (96 points).

The 2015 Chateau Pichon Longueville Lalande is perhaps a bit out of character, reflecting the warm Bordeaux vintage. The primary fruit flavours are similar to the Moss Wood, but the mouthfeel of the wine is totally different. This is a bigger wine, ripe and round. It is a little sweet on the finish. Most thought this was the Napa wine (94 points).

A wine enthusiast said: That’s a juvenile Pichon Lalande there!  I didn’t know it was legal to drink one that young. I enjoyed this.

The 2013 Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain was the wine of the night for everybody. Apart from the black fruit flavours, blueberry and lavender add interest. The highlight is how the wine is framed. The flavours are intense and ripe, yet tight at the same time. The firm tannins create a well integrated package. Another unexpected highlight is the lift on the very long finish (97 points).

Cabernet Sauvignon has lately been a bit neglected as a variety. This tasting showed this should not be the case, when well made. Hail the king of grapes!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Kilikanoon Oracle Shiraz


The 2010 Kilikanoon Oracle Shiraz is not a pleasant wine to drink. The blackberry and plum flavoured fruit has good intensity, but there is a harshness accompanying this fruit. The wine feels industrial, made without love and care. On the back palate, the harshness finally takes over. This is not a well balanced wine. In a good vintage like 2010, it should not be this way.

After being open for some time, the balance is shifting somewhat to a gentler overall mouthfeel. Therefore the range in my score.

Score: 86-89/- 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A Range of Rhône

Rhône wines should really attract more interest in Australia, given the strong showing of Shiraz and Grenache in this country. Comparisons are interesting for many reasons; Grenache on its own is virtually not bottled in France, and the Shiraz styles vary in different Northern Rhône subregions. In a recent tasting, I could look at four quite different wines from the Rhône.


The 2014 Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille from St. Joseph has a fascinating flavour profile. This is a light and fresh wine, with red fruits, earth, leather, spice and herbs creating a lifted blend, almost like a Pinot Noir. It has length, too. The only disappointment after such a nice taste is the lack of tannins (94 points).

Quite different was the second wine, a 2016 Domaine Santa Duc Habemus Papam Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This is a much bigger wine with dark fruits on the palate and a lush texture. The tannins are firm, and the slightly confected finish gives the Grenache component, otherwise not so obvious, away (93 points).

The third wine was from Cornas, a 2009 Matthieu Barret Domaine du Coulet Billes Rotres. This was a dark fruited wine, 100% Shiraz. There was a lot of pepper on the nose and palate, lavender and sweet honey notes made for an intriguing taste. Overall, this wine was very intense and I thought it was slightly hot, although the quoted alcohol was not especially high (92 points). 

The final wine was the 2015 Bernard Faurie Hermitage (white cap). This is a rare wine, made in small volumes from arguably the best subregion, Hermitage, and a blend of two vineyards. This is quite a delicate wine at this stage whose complexity will only unfold over time.  Violets and delicate raspberry flavours show upfront, but one can detect licorice and meaty notes underneath. Finesse is the dominant theme (95 points).

Four Rhône wines, four completely different expressions. There is a lot of complexity in this long region. This tasting suggests it is worth unpacking. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Henschke Mt Edelstone

At a time when I could still run polls on this blog, Henschke Mt Edelstone was voted Australia's best Shiraz by my readers (I believe I excluded Grange and Hill of Grace at the time). It is an iconic wine, and I value the Henschkes have not changed the label in over 50 years.


Having said this, there is significant vintage variation in this wine. How does the 2009 Henschke Mt Edelstone shape up after 10 years? It was a transition vintage between the drought years of 2007 and 2008, and the near perfect vintages of 2010 and 2012.

The nose of the wine is very strong, with blackcurrant and forest and spice aromas. On the palate, the wine is a little different. Chocolate flavours lead to a sweet and slightly warm mouthfeel. I cannot detect the usual typical eucalypt flavours in this wine. This is still an elegant wine, with a structure intact, despite its ripeness, but the wine lacks detail and ultimately interest. It should drink well for a few more years.

Score: 93/+

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ruggabellus Timaeus

Ruggabellus is one of a few 'new wave' producers in the Barossa Valley. Abel Gibson, the son of Rob, started off in a garage and decided to produce a trio of Southern Rhone inspired wines, each leading with either Shiraz, Grenache or Mataro. The inclusion of whole bunches is a major signature of these wines.



I reviewed the 2010 Ruggabellus Timaeus, which is Grenache lead, with mixed feelings in 2012. Seven years later, I can report that this wine has matured well and is a much better wine today. The structural elements of the Mataro are much more prominent now. This wine is dark fruited on the front palate, and the  more confected flavours of the Grenache shine through a bit later. But to be clear, there is no sweetness in this wine; it is savoury. The firm tannins give a solid structure to the wine, and the alcohol is a pleasant 13.6%. I am happy to drink a second glass of this, even though the finish is a bit nondescript.

Drinking probably best right now and in the next two years with perfect cellaring.

Score: 93/++  

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Cirillo 1850 Grenache


Marco Cirillo is a Grenache specialist. This is no wonder, as he sits on this sandy plot of close to 170 year old Grenache bush vines in Vine Vale. The terroir is reflected in the 2012 Cirillo 1850 Grenache. There is a hint of raspberry fruit, but savoury notes dominate in this 7 year old wine. This is a fragrant, feminine wine. The texture is lush, but in a restraint sort of way. This wine is at peace with itself, and so was I as I was looking to a second glass of this harmonious wine.

This brand is my favorite Australian Shiraz and this tasting did nothing to change my mind.

Score: 96/+++ 



Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Oregon Pinot Noir

It is not easy to sell American wine in Australia. To start with, in many ways, the flavour profiles and structural characteristics are similar. Prices for these wines are high in the US, and much worse in Australia, obviously. As a result, US entry level wines compete with premium Australian wines. However, some Oregon producers are trying.

Elk Cove was one of the first ten wineries in Oregon. The 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is a fairly high volume production (12,000 cases). It offers strawberry and sweet raspberry flavours on the front palate. There are some earthy notes down the palate, but the wine lacks seamless integration of the different flavours and oak (88 points).

A to Z is a co-operative which sources fruit from many different vineyards in the valley. The 2015 Pinot Noir shows pretty cherry flavours, but the mouthfeel falls flat (88 points).

Cristom is a more upmarket producer. The  2017 Mount Jefferson Pinot Noir is the entry level wine, blended from three vineyards. The winery is biodynamic and it uses natural yeast. This shows on the palate with a smooth and well integrated texture. The wine is light to medium-bodied (91 points).

Eyrie Vineyards is another of the first ten wineries in Oregon. It is organic and uses no fining and no filtration. The colour of the 2015 Pinot Noir is already quite developed. The palate is savoury, with mushroom flavours dominating, but there is still some freshness in this wine (90 points).

Evesham Wood is another organic winery. The 2016 Le Puits Sec Pinot Noir comes from the same subregion as the Cristom wine. Flavours are in the dark cherry and savoury spectrum. Like all the other wines, it lacks tannin in its structure (90 points).

The wines reviewed here are entry level wines and will not benefit from further cellaring. There is an effort made to balance fruit and savoury flavours, but structurally, these wines leave a bit to be desired.

I had entered a single vineyard Cristom wine in my four nation eight Pinot Noirs challenge. It drank well, competed against top notch wines, and came in fifth. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Using My Blog

I have now published over 1400 blog posts, and would today like to discuss some aspects of this blog.

As I have reviewed so many wines here, you should not just read the latest post, but also look at the archive. You can do this in three ways. Firstly, enter the wine you are looking for into the search function. Secondly, you can find on the side bar grape varieties and regions listed, and you can search by them. Finally, you can click on different months and find the posts for that time period.

All posts are my original writings and cannot be found anywhere else. I am not seeking any sponsorships or other financial incentives. This blog has no commercial aspects and is therefore truly independent.

Sometimes I get wines sent for review, and this is fine. However, I make clear I review them as if they came out of my cellar. Some blogs, when they receive wine, they will only review wines they like and ignore others. I give no such guarantees.

The layout of this blog is quite serious; text and wine bottles. This can be a bit boring, but this is not an Instagram account. I want the reader to read, not just look.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please give me feedback. Thank you.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Tyrrell's Masterclass (Part 3) - The Red Icons

After the tastings at the winery, it is off to the Muse restaurant to taste the four Shiraz wines from single vineyards more than 100 years old. But before, we have time to taste the 2017 HVD Chardonnay, from perhaps the oldest Chardonnay vineyard in the world, planted in 1908. The second oldest is in South Africa, and France does not come near it.

There is flintiness in this wine, which saw no malolactic fermentation, but also some weight on the palate. White peach and passionfruit flavours complement the citrus. The wine is a bit like a Meursault, a little fat on the finish (94 points). 
  

The review of the reds starts with the 2018 8 Acres Shiraz. The production of these wines is only 200 cases each, so it is a rare privilege to taste them all side by side. Otherwise, they are only available to club members, and even there is a wait-list. The 8 acres vineyard was planted in 1892. The fruit flavours are in the blackberry and blueberry spectrum. This is an elegant wine, very young obviously, medium-bodied. The tannins are quite slight (94 points).


The second wine is from the even older 1879 4 acres vineyard, the mothership from which cuttings for other vineyards are taken. The 2014 4 Acres Shiraz has a similar flavour profile, with a bit more age to it. It is a very smooth wine with a silky texture and a 'quiet', steely penetration (96 points).

The other vineyards are based on red volcanic soil, whereas the 2014 Johnno's Shiraz was grown on sandy soil. This wine has a very fresh and lighter mouthfeel. It is a very lush and feminine wine. The structure does not have quite the backbone of the other three (94 points). 

Finally the 2014 Old Patch Shiraz, from a vineyard planted in 1867 - 150 year old vines. This wine is absolutely singing on the palate, with lifted flavours of blueberry and forest berries. The intensity of the flavours goes on and on, although the wine still feels tight. The mouthfeel is fantastic with silky tannins creating great harmony. The finish is long and lasting (98 points).

Participating in this tasting has been a rare treat. This was world class Shiraz at its best.  



Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tyrrell's Masterclass (Part 2)

Before I continue this review, let us briefly reflect on how many icon wines leading wineries produce: Cullen - 2; Leeuwin - 1-2; Mount Mary and Yarra Yering - maybe 3; Henschke - maybe 4-5; Wendouree - 4-5; Penfolds - 6-8; you get the picture: not too many.

Then there is Tyrrell's. We had 4 icon Semillons in the last post; there is perhaps 1 in this post, and there will be at least 5 in part 3. This is astonishing. You may say, many of these are very small volume wines, but this has not been an argument against Burgundy quality.


On to the second part of this Masterclass, which followed a similar format to the Semillon tasting for Hunter Valley Shiraz. First, a mini vertical of the Vat 9. The Vat 9 Shiraz is a blend of old blocks (at least 50 years) from the Weinkeller, 8 Acres and Short Flat vineyards. They all share red volcanic clay over limestone soils.

I tasted the 2017 Vat 9 Shiraz twice on this weekend, with similar results. It is a bright and elegant wine. The purity of cherry and forest berry fruit stands out. This is a medium-bodied wine with some fruit intensity. However, the hot vintage did not translate into any heat in the wine - a result of old vines knowing how to behave, I think. This wine is very smooth, with velvety tannins and a silky finish - a beauty (96 points)!

The 2014 Vat 9 Shiraz is even better. It is similarly built, but a bit more savoury now, with a fantastic silky and intense finish (97 points). 

The 2009 Vat 9 Shiraz could not match the former two. It was a bit firmer in fruit, and not as elegant. There was clearly more focus on extraction and the tannins were a bit coarser (93 points).



The single vineyard horizontal tasting consisted of the 2017 vintages of Mother's Shiraz, Old Hut Shiraz, and Stevens Shiraz. The fruit from these vineyards is quite young. The wines show good promise, but at this stage are not at the same level as the Semillon wines (91-93 points).
  

Friday, October 25, 2019

Tyrrell's Masterclass (Part 1)

As part of the Wine Media Conference in the Hunter Valley, a group of 20 participated in an extensive Masterclass with Chris Tyrrell. It started off in their cellars with a review of Semillon.


Yours truly, 3rd from right

This was a very exciting tasting, as Tyrrell's have four of the five best Semillon vineyards in the Hunter, which may mean in the world.

The first part was a vertical tasting of the famous VAT 1 Semillon. It is a blend of three vineyards, the Short Flat, Johnnos, and Debeyers, with vines up to 110 years old. The Short Flat is the key vineyard.

The 2019 VAT 1 Semillon has lifted and floral characteristics. The citrus flavous and acidity deliver a good linear drive to a balanced finish. The wine has been left on lees for 6 weeks and is inoculated by 'neutral' yeast (95 points).

The 2009 VAT 1 Semillon, 10 years on, still has a light colour, and is crisp on the front palate, but is starting to get some nutty flavours (95 points).

The colour has turned golden with the 1998 VAT 1 Semillon. Almond and toast flavours now dominate. This wine is broader on the palate, but not oily or heavy (94 points).

Drinking these wines next to each other shows the clear line which links them. Even more exciting to me was the comparison of the single vineyard semillons from the almost perfect 2014 vintage.

First up was the 2014 Stevens Semillon (12% alc.) from a vineyard planted in 1911. This vineyard has darker soil than the other Semillon vineyards, and the grapes ripen here first. The resulting wine is the most delicate, quite light, with minerality and some notes of slate, almost like a German Riesling. There is good energy in this wine (95 points).

The 2014 Semillon from the famous 1908 HVD vineyard (10.5% alc.) is grown on free draining sandy soil. This vineyard is cropped at a higher level (not sure what). The result is a broader wine with a bigger mouthfeel (93 points). 

And finally the 2014 Belford Semillon (10.5% alc.) from a secluded vineyard in the north, planted in 1933. This vineyard is based on broken-down sandy soil, which feels almost like talcum powder, according to Tyrrell's, and is cropped at 1.5-2t/acre. The vines here get minimal nutrition, and the grapes are picked last. The result is a more intense, slightly honeyed Semillon, a bit like a Chardonnay. I liked this Semillon the best (95 points).

So here were three Semillons from the same year, and different vineyards, with very different expressions and characteristics. This really only comes clear in such a comparative tasting.



Thursday, October 24, 2019

Root Cause

Quite a few films with wine as a main topic have been made over the last ten years or so. It is a difficult proposition. If the film gets too specific, it looses its broad appeal. As a result, most films have been comedies with very little serious wine content. One film which had wider appeal despite being clearly about wine was 'Red Obsession', but otherwise?

Now I have come across and read a book which is a thriller with wine as a main topic. Somebody is poisoning vineyards with a new type of phylloxera. American rootstocks are not resistant to this new 


pest. A chase around the world ensues to hunt the culprit(s) down, as the catastrophe develops rapidly from vineyard to vineyard. The story has enough twists to keep the reader interested, and the book finds a great balance between general plot development and some interesting details about the wine world. I learnt something new about Champagne cellar tunnels  (even though I have been there), as an example. It is obvious that the author has a good understanding of wine and knows the regions featured in the book, which are many. 

This book is easy to read, but not silly. It is entertaining, a bit educational, and turns into a page-turner in the second half. Minor annoyances, such as an obsession with scarfs and an overly simplistic 'Alison' character do not detract from this worth while entertainment for the wine enthusiast. I recommend this book, published this year.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Sake Award

 You can now find my WSET Sake Award in the right column of my blog. Level 1 is not hard, but this knowledge will allow me to drink sake better.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Mini Vertical

This mini vertical of Sassicaia was one of my most unusual and perplexing vertical tasting experiences. We tasted three wines: 2014, 2011 and 2004 Sassicaia. 


This was an informal tasting with friends, and I took no notes. Therefore, the descriptions are brief. The picture below shows the 2011  in the glass on the left side, and the 2014 on the right side. The 2014 has an almost pink colour like a Pinot Noir. Sassicaia is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The taste of the 2014 suggests almost the reverse. Cabernet Franc style flavours dominate. It is a fragrant wine, not much depth nor length (88 points). 


The 2011 has a more typical colour profile. Again the wine is medium-bodied, with blackcurrant flavours. This is an elegant wine with a decent structure, but not much complexity on the palate (92 points).

The 2004 was clearly the best of these three and what I had expected. The flavour profile of this full-bodied wine is profound: blackcurrant, black cherry, olive, mocca, some spices. The texture is elegant and the structure perfectly balanced. The tannins are smooth and lead to a long and satisfying finish (96 points).


Friday, October 18, 2019

Maude Pinot Noir

There will be another review from the Wine Media conference, but right now, it is a review of the 2014 Maude Mt. Maude Vineyard Pinot Noir.


When would you call a wine a gem? It has to be precious, and it has to be rare. This is one such wine. This wine comes from a small vineyard in the Maungawera Valley, outside of Wanaka, Central Otago. It is Maude's beautifully located home block.

Flavours of black cherry and forest floor move down the palate in an elegant, but also somewhat brooding fashion. This is interesting, not a Central Otago blockbuster, but not a lightweight either. The tannins are fine, and the oak well integrated. Savoury notes dominate on the elegant and satisfying finish.

Score: 95/+++

By the way, their standard 2017 Pinot Noir won New Zealand wine of the year, and it will be reviewed here shortly. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

9 Tips How To Drink Better And Cheaper

This was the topic of my ‘Lightning Talk’ at the conference. These are five minute talks, which are supported by 20 slides. They get moved forward every 15 seconds. These talks are half humorous, half serious. Mine was as follows:


I will share with you 9 tips how to drink better and cheaper. First to the whites.

1) You are bored with Sauvignon Blanc. You wonder why Pinot Grigio is more expensive than water. Other White varieties ending with ‘o’ are hit and miss. Try Grüner Veltliner - a more interesting palate at the same price point. Pair Grüner Veltliner with salad or white fish. The spices match lightly spiced Thai food really well, too.

2) You like dry German Riesling, but you are concerned about the sweetness in many wines. Try Silvaner from Franken instead. Interesting texture and minerality instead of fruit. It comes in a great Boxbeutel bottle. The only challenge for English speakers is the pronunciation. And Silvaner is a lot cheaper.

3) We are in the Hunter. I need to talk about Semillon. I am not a big fan of young Semillon, to be truthful. But I suggest you put a few bottles down - 10 years at least. Mature Semillon is a perfect match with tuna steak.

4) To the reds: You like Burgundy, but it is a bit expensive for most of us. Try serious cru Beaujolais. I suggest the M-subregions: Moulin-à-vent or Morgon. Wines from there can be deep coloured and silky. Don’t be fooled by the Beaujolais Nouveau craze and the fact the grape is Gamay. These wines can be as good as Burgundies.

5) And don’t be silly and buy Bordeaux. The Chinese have deeper pockets. Margaret River Cabernet is at least as good at 1/3rd to 1/10th of the price. From Cullen and Moss Wood at the top of the tree to the great value Domaine Naturaliste and anything in between.

6) And go for #2. The smart Americans in the audience know not to buy Napa Cabernet, of course, and instead look for beautiful Syrah or Rhône blends up and down California’s coast. I love Dumol, for example. If you like Australian Shiraz, mature some from the Hunter rather than South Australia. As these wines age, the tannins in South Australian Shiraz can get blocky and dull, whereas good Hunter Shiraz develops in their tannins a beautiful velvety character.

7) The craziest thing is that most wineries put their ripest grapes into their flagship wines turning them into alcoholic monsters. You can only drink one glass. And who can sit on that for a whole evening? So instead, buy mid-level wines. If you are thinking Torbreck, for example, for Shiraz, buy the Gask, not the Factor; for Grenache, buy The Steading, not Les Amis. This will save you a lot of money.

8) Even crazier is Rioja. The large wineries put their best grapes into the Reserva. Then they overwhelm them with oak, so you can't taste the fruit. Instead, buy the younger and cheaper Crianzas or wine outside the regulations. There is plenty to choose from, and these wines are actually enjoyable.

9) Be curious! There are fantastic red table wines to be had from Portugal and Uruguay. Quinta do Crasto and Bodega Garzon are examples.

If you follow these nine suggestions, you drink better and for a lot less money.

 The Opening Night at Brokenwood

Hunter Valley Shiraz Should Be Revisited

I was at the Wine Media Conference in the Hunter Valley for the last three days. This conference used to be called wine bloggers conference, and was held once a year in the US. This year it moved, for the first time, to Australia, the Hunter Valley, and with a new name.

Cooking up a Paella storm

Add caption
 It is a good time in the Hunter. Typically, a good vintage happens here every four years or so. Summer rains are a problem, as much as heat spikes. However, recently it has looked different. The 2014 vintage was great, and so are the 2017 to 2019 vintages.

This was on display during the Live Wine Social session, a kind of speed dating, where wineries move from table to table every five minutes and have the chance to present one of their top wines.



Some of the Shiraz were very big, as if to say, look we can do 15% alcohol, too. These included the 2018 Ivanhoe Pressings Shiraz, the only pressings wine in the Hunter, the 2017 Audrey Wilkinson The Lake Shiraz, the 2017 1813 The Governor Shiraz, and the 2009 Wombat Crossing Hermit’s Block Shiraz.

A very good wine was the 2017 First Creek Winemakers Reserve. This was a medium-bodied, soft Shiraz. Blackberry flavours and ripe tannins are well integrated. The wine has been matured in new and old 500l barrels, which is now the dominant storage barrel in the Hunter Valley(94 points).

The 2018 Briar Ridge Dairy Hill showed complex flavours of dark cherry, spices and mocca. This is an appealing fresh and soft wine (92 points).

Then there were a couple of different variety wines, which speak to the experimentation in the context of climate change. The 2018 De Iuliis Shiraz/Touriga, a 70/30 blend, is grown on heavy clay. The wine is spicy, earthy, but also lifted with medium length (92 points).

Glendore has made Tempranillo since 2004. The 2017 Glendore Tempranillo is red fruited, savoury, spicy, and an elegant wine. It is slightly short on the finish (93 points).

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Pinot Noir From Four Nations

I conducted a  blind tasting of Pinot Noirs to establish the winner between Australia, France, New Zealand, USA. Who makes the best?


The wines were:
From Australia:
- 2015 Bass Phillip Premium 
- 2013 Main Ridge Half Acre
From France:
- 2015 Chanson Le Bourgogne (a low cost ring in)
- 2015 Georges Noëllat Vosne-Romanée 1er cru Les Petits Monts
- 2015 Mongeard-Mugneret 1er cru Les Petits Monts
From New Zealand:
- 2013 Ata Rangi
- 2013 Kusuda
From the US:
- 2015 Cristom Jessie Vineyard
- 2013 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard

Guests were simply asked to rate the wines from 1 to 9. The joint winners were the Kosta Browne wine and the Mongeard-Mugneret. In third place came the Georges Noëllat. Overall, France won, ahead of the US, Australia, and New Zealand. The Bourgogne wine, which I once enjoyed at a Bistro, came in last.

I was disappointed that no Antipodean wine made it to the top three, despite one of the best Ata Rangis (came in 6th) and Bass Phillips (came in 4th) in the line-up.

The American wines, not unexpectedly, delivered the biggest, but well balanced mouthfeel. The French wines showed finesse and beautiful tannin structure. Against this, the Australian and New Zealand were more fruit forward.

It was an interesting result, and demonstrates that even the best Pinot Noirs in Australia and New Zealand still have some catching up to do.    



Monday, October 7, 2019

Irvine Grand Merlot

The story of Merlot in Australia is not a happy one. It is difficult to find a pure varietal wine of great quality and interest, while it is a perfect component in the Margaret River Cabernets. It is therefore brave to make Merlot the flagship wine. This is what Irvine has done for some time. And they are not shy in calling the wine Grand Merlot.


The 2012 Irvine Grand Merlot is too ripe and sugary sweet. The alcohol overwhelms the underlying attractive purity of fruit.

The search for very good Australian Merlot continues.

Score: 88/--

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Hoddles Creek Pinot Gris

You may have often wondered why Australian Pinot Gris (and certainly wine labelled Pinot Grigio) is more expensive than water. A new approach was needed. This is expertly performed by Hoddles Creek.

The 2019 Hoddles Creek Pinot Gris is not gris, but shows a rather rosé colour. This stems from an extended period on lees.



This wine is refreshing, with flavours of lemon rind and orange peel. This creates a very round and satisfying mouthfeel and a crisp finish.

This is the best Pinot Gris I have tried in ages - and attractively priced. Get some!

Score: 93/+++ 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Hoddles Creek New Releases

Hoddles Creek is an interesting winery in the Upper Yarra Valley. It has a strong cost focus, while at the same time having access to high quality fruit. As a result, the consumer wins.

The 2018 Hoddles Creek Estate Chardonnay is the winery's work horse. It is a pleasant wine of apple and pear flavours, with a good structure and underlying acidity. 2018 was a warm year. Therefore, this wine lacks some of the raciness of previous years (91 points).

The 2018 Hoddles Creek Estate 1er Chardonnay, from a vineyard at 500m elevation, has more depth and elegance, as citrus and grapefruit flavours are balanced with some spicy oak (93 points).

The 2016 Hoddles Creek Estate Road Block Chardonnay comes from a young vineyard. At 300m it is not the highest, but it is the coolest, as it is east facing. This new label is currently a bit broad on the palate, but it has some persistence and will be the one to watch in future vintages (92 points).

The best wine in the line-up is the 2018 Hoddles Creek Estate 1er Pinot Noir, probably a first, as Hoddles Creek is better known for its Chardonnay. This Pinot Noir tastes of red and black cherries, with mushroom flavours in the aftertaste. This is a fairly light, but complex and well balanced wine (94 points).

The 2018s should probably be drunk earlier than the previous two vintages, as a result of the warm vintage. 


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Rodda 2018 Chardonnays

Adrian Rodda makes three Chardonnays, and he likes elevation. The wines are all made the same way, no malolactic fermentation, but the juice spends time on lees to soften the acidity.

The 2018 Baxendale Vineyard Chardonnay Whitlands comes from the highest of the three vineyards, at 600m elevation off Beechworth. The vines are 24 years old. It is a fairly light wine with citrus and stone fruit flavours. This is a refreshing wine with fine acidity (92 points).

The 2018 Willow Lake Yarra Valley Chardonnay from the Upper Yarra is based on fruit planted in 1979. This wine is similar in style, but with more intensity and a longer finish (93 points).

The 2018 Smiths Vineyard Beechworth Chardonnay comes from vines planted in 1978 at 550m elevation. This is quite a soft style, but with some energy. Texture is more prominent than the citrus and stone fruit flavours (93 points).

Overall, these are gentle wines, with the Yarra Valley wine being the most intense. I am thinking that 2018 is perhaps not the best Chardonnay year. The vintage was too easy, and Chardonnay likes a challenge.

Monday, September 30, 2019

William Downie Pinot Noir


Opening a nine year old Australian Pinot Noir is a little risky. I was not sure how the 2010 William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir would perform after this time. On the other hand, the wax seal is a good closure.

As it turned out, this wine still had some vibrancy and had aged nicely. Dark cherry and savoury flavours were engulfed by silky tannins so special to Gippsland Pinot Noir. It finishes very dry. This wine is not quite as lush and oppulent as on release, but still a very satisfying drink.

Score: 93/++

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon

Moss Wood is my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia. Tasting the recently released 2016 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon did nothing to change my view. Apart from the dominant Cabernet Sauvignon, there is 4% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc in this wine. It seems to be a growing trend to add small components to Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz to increase complexity.

This 2016 Moss Wood is a thoroughly modern Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine spent 30 months in 70-80% new oak. It shows the usual dark colour, but despite this, it starts with a light touch on the palate. This is a bright young thing, with blueberry and blackberry notes and light spice. It runs beautifully down the palate, no hole in the middle. This is an elegant wine with great balance. The fine grained tannins lead to a long finish.

Score: 97/+++

(For a higher score, it would have needed a special X-factor)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Guigal Tasting (part 2)

This blog will include a contrarian view on the La La La wines, but first, I want to look at two more wines from the tasting.

The 2015 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde includes 5% Viognier and includes the grapes from the two famous steep vineyards facing each other in the Northern Rhône, one with darker, iron infused soil, the other more sandy. The Viognier component makes this a lighter, more open wine, which can be drunk young. The Shiraz component, however, shows rich and silky blackberry and cassis, with ripe tannins (93 points).

The 2015 Côte-Rôtie Chateau d'Ampuis is a blend of seven vineyards. The wine is matured for 36 months in new oak. This is a serious wine, more red fruited than the 'Hospice', and very complex. The black raspberry fruit is very concentrated and ripe. Mocca and meaty flavours appear on the back palate, and the oak is noticeable. This can be a bit much for some, but it is a very well made wine (95 points).


To the La La Las, the pinnacle of Guigal winemaking, the Grange of France if you will.

La Mouline is always the more feminine wine of the three, and this is true for the 2015 La Mouline. The grapes come from 100 year old vines with very low yields. This Shiraz includes 10% Viognier, and the wine is matured for two years in new oak. There is no whole bunch included. This wine without doubt was the wine of the night. Fragrant, opulent, fresh, elegant, velvety, pure, silky, spicy; this comes to mind rather than any fruit descriptors. This full-bodied wine has incredible length and stays with you for some time (98 points). 

The 2015 La Turque is quite a different proposition. This wine includes 7% Viognier and 20% whole bunches. This is an intense and brooding wine. Others have lauded this dense and powerful Shiraz, but for me, it lacks the layers of fruit and the differentiation one sees in the cooler vintages of this wine. The long finish compensates to a degree (95 points).

La Landonne is the counter piece to La Mouline, and this is largely because of the inclusion of 100% whole bunches and no Viognier included. The 2015 La Landonne is incredibly rich and concentrated, but the same comments I made for the La Turque apply here. The ripeness eliminates detail, and the mouthfeel is not as exciting as with La Mouline. Despite this, there is undoubtedly elegance in this wine, which is quite an achievement, and the finish is very long (95 points). 
  

Friday, September 27, 2019

Guigal Tasting (part 1)

I am very sorry about the lack of new posts lately. I have not had time for this, unfortunately. As the next Rioja post will be quite comprehensive, I will report on a Guigal tasting in the interim. In this first part, I will review a couple of whites from 2017, and a couple of reds from 2015.

The 2017 Guigal Condrieu La Doriane is a 100% Viognier wine (as required from Condrieu), matured in 100% new oak. It is a fresh wine with vibrant acidity, engulfing the flavours of pear, vanilla and light spices. The wine has an oily character with a long elegant finish. This is a good wine, but as always with Viognier, I never quite know what it stands for (92 points).

The 2017 St. Joseph Lieu-Dit Blanc is a single vineyard wine, 95% Marsanne, 5% Roussanne. This is a terrific wine with a bigger mouthfeel and richer character, such as ripe melon, toast and almond. Still, this is balanced with lively acidity before a very smooth finish (95 points).

The 2015 St. Joseph Lieu-Dit Rouge is a lighter wine from this warm vintage. It is dark fruited, with vanilla and spice adding complexity. I find it a bit upfront, yet it has an elegant texture (92 points).

The 2015 St. Joseph 'Vignes de l'Hospice' is a big step up. This Shiraz is aged for 30 months in new oak. The dark fruit is intense and ripe, but the palate has great shape, and is driven by underlying acidity. You can hardly notice the oak in this full-bodied wine. The smooth tannins deliver an attractive finish (96 points). 

More, including the La La La wines, in the next post.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Valenciso


Valenciso is a small, 21 year old winery in Rioja Alta. It produces 150,000 bottles per year from 19 plots of mainly calcareous soil. It is now in its first year of organic production. Like with many vineyards in Rioja, some are bush vines, some are trellised vines. There does not seem a pronounced preference of one over the other.

Valenciso stands out, because everything about these wines is about finesse. The very smart and reflective owner Luis Valentin took me through the wines shown above, except the 10 year old wine was the 2007. The 2018 Rioja Blanco was the best white wine I tasted on this trip - and what a wine this is! 70% Viura, 30% Grenache Blanc and fermented in Russian oak, creates a delicate wine with excellent depth. The acidity is firm, but does not distract from the harmonious citrus flavours.

The Rosé is produced in the saignée method. Melon and strawberry flavours are built on a solid foundation of minerality. This is a really smart wine.

The flagship is the Rioja Reserva, based on Tempranillo. But in contrast to many producers, this is not about how long the wine has spent in barrel, but reflecting where the wine comes from. The primary fruit in the 2002 wine is almost gone.  Exotic spices now characterize the wine, and the acidity gives it a good structure. Maturing took place in light and medium toasted French oak. The 2012 shows great purity, with red and black cherry character. The focus here is on the fruit, and the finish is very long and balanced. 

The top wine is the 2007 '10 years postres'. This wine was aged 50/50 in Russian oak and concrete vats. The ageing is about adding to the texture of the wine, not to impart flavour. According to Luis, the concrete stabilizes the colour of the wine. The fruit here is absolutely delicious, backed by firm tannins.

Try to get your hands on some of these wines. They are a revelation. Rioja never tasted this good.      

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Rioja

I am in La Rioja, Spain. Traditionally, red wine has been grouped in Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, according to the age profile in barrel and bottle. Other criteria, mainly maximum yield, are not particularly demanding. As a result, there is a huge investment in barrels, as Reservas are the most prominent wines for many wineries.

Over the last few years, this system has come under strong criticism from wineries who wish to show vineyard terroir on the basis that wine ageing does not say anything about quality nor origin. So from the 2017 vintage onwards, wineries are allowed to show individual vineyards within the Rioja classification on the label. Three soft criteria need to be fulfilled, and the wine needs to be approved by a committee. This system is neither objective nor does it guarantee quality, claim a number of leading wineries who have opted out of the system altogether.

So at first blush, it looks like a traditionalist vs. modernist scenario similar to what happened in Piedmont in the 1990s. However, it is much more complicated than that. What the argument is largely about is the dominance of fruit or oak. Yet, as I found out on day 1, there are many ways to skin the cat. These are the approaches of the wineries I visited.
- Rioja Alta: Traditional approach, but a second winery with single vineyard focus.
- Roda: French oak (American is traditional) to reduce oak impact, blended wines, but no crianza, reserva etc. labelling
- Marques de Riscal: traditional
- Lopez de Heredia: American oak, but fruit orientation by using 8-15 year old barrels

On day 2 I visited wineries which have opted out of the system altogether using mostly French oak and shorter maturation periods.

I will report on tastings in the next few posts.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Penfolds St Henri

The 2015 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz is an unusual wine for this label. It is usually the wine which people pick who prefer fruit over oak, as it is matured in larger used oak casks. However, 2015 was warm, and this is a dense and wiry wine. Blackberry and blood plum flavours are intense and concentrated leading to a big, slightly fat mouthfeel. The tannins are firm and the finish is long, but a bit hot.

This is the biggest St Henri I ever tried. You need to cellar this wine for at least 10 years to get the benefit of better integration of its components and some mellowing of the tannins.

Score: 93/+

Monday, August 26, 2019

Deutzerhof Spätburgunder

There are not many wine categories which are undervalued in total. Albariño from Northwestern Spain, as reviewed in the post below, may be one. Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Germany is definitely one. These wines are well made and have become attractive as the climate in Germany is warming.

The 2007 Deutzerhof Caspar C Spätburgunder, from the Ahr, from a very good vintage, tastes of black cherry and forest floor. As a 12 year old wine, the tannins have softened and deliver a well-rounded mouthfeel. This is a medium bodied wine with a silky texture. This wine is still fresh and dynamic, but the finish does not hold as long as the palate suggests at the start.

Score: 92/++

Friday, August 16, 2019

Castro Martin Sobre Lias Rias Baixas Albariño

Chardonnay has had its ups and downs (more ups lately), Pinot Gris is going down the commodity pass of Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling is loved by critics, but not consumers. There is room for more white varieties. Up steps Albariño, native to the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain. Rias Baixas is known as the subregion where major investments into quality have been made.

This 2016 Castro Martin Sobre Lias is a fresh and crisp wine, with citrus, peach and hazelnut flavours. While a light and refreshing wine, there is some complexity on the palate. Acidity is prominent here, and some minerality on the finish. A summer wine with interest

Score: 90/++


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Two Very Rare Australian Cult Wines

The first of these wines has the highest alcohol content of any wine I have ever drunk. The second comes from the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in the world. Both are Barossa wines. The first wine is the 2004 Chris Ringland Shiraz, the second the 2004 Penfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon.


Chris Ringland is the most meticulous winemaker I know; in the vineyard, in the winery and in record keeping. This wine used to be called Three Rivers and came from what is now Torbreck's Laird vineyard. Later it was simply called Shiraz, Dry Grown, and came from the home vineyard Stone Chimney Creek in the Flaxman (Eden) Valley, a 100 year old vineyard, which Chris Ringland  restored.

So here it is: this wine has 17.7% alcohol. Before you stop reading, hear me out: this wine has incredibly powerful pristine, pure fruit. It can match the alcohol. There is of course 100% new French oak as well. This is a wine on steroids. While many wines at 14-15% alcohol taste more alcoholic, I have a major gripe with this wine. It does not taste like Shiraz. It tastes like a dry red, not clear which variety. And ultimately the alcohol dominates the fruit on the finish. As an aside, the wine is still fresh and vibrant.

I find it difficult to rate this wine. It is extreme, well made at that, but is it typical or enjoyable?

Score: 94/++

The Penfolds Block 42 comes from a section of the famous Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley. The vines were planted in the 1880s. It is only released as a separate wine in exceptional years, otherwise the fruit goes into Grange and Bin 707. There is an incredible blackcurrant fruit intensity in this wine. It is very ripe and generous, with chocolate and licorice rounding out the profile. The wine has a big mouthfeel and no gap in the middle. The 100% new oak is noticeable, but well integrated. Alcohol is labelled at 13.3%, but this is clearly a lie. One is allowed to have a variance of 1.5%age points from the mentioned level, so lets add this to the 13.3%. The tannins are dry and have softened a bit. This wine leaves a lasting impression and will easily live well for another 15 years.

Score: 97/+++ 

Both these wines are characterized by big fruit, oak and alcohol, and are structured well. They almost form a different category of wine.   

Friday, August 9, 2019

Taste Champagne: The Major Houses Are Back

Taste Champagne is a very large tasting of Champagnes with over 40 Champagne houses pouring their bubblies.

It is a bit overwhelming. Champagne is the most manipulated wine in the world. You get a house style, mainly along the axis of Pinot vs. Chardonnay composition, ageing sur lies or not, and residual sugar. While there are premier cru and grand cru fruit going into Champagnes, terroir cannot easily be detected.

Over the last few years, so called Grower Champagnes made big inroads into the traditional leaders. Partly on the back of the fabulous 2008 vintage, the major houses have fought back.

Crowds gathering at Bollinger and Billecart-Salmon

My Champagne of the night was the Bollinger La Grande Année 2008. Great purity of fruit, caressing the mouth, very fine and fresh, with yeast underneath the fruit, delivering moderate bread and toast flavours - beautifully balanced (97 points). The Bollinger R.D. 2004 was finer and very delicate, and long on the finish (95 points).

Other Champagnes in the 94/95 point bracket were the Billecart-Salmon Vintage Extra Brut 2007, the Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2011, Pol Roger Vintage Brut 2012, Agrapart & Fils Grand Cru Terroirs Blanc de Blancs NV, Brimoncourt Extra Brut Grand Cru NV, Henriot Brut Millésimé 2008, Palmer & Co Amazone de Palmer NV, Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2009, Charles Heidsieck Millésimé Vintage Brut 2005. 

Krug and Dom Perignon were not present. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Four Vintages Of Penfolds Grange

The week of indulgence continued with a comparative tasting of some Grange vintages. Now, Grange is the opposite of what you would do if you were to design an ultra premium red wine today. You would pick a single vineyard; Grange is not only a blend of vineyards, but even regions. You would focus on one variety; Grange has some Cabernet blended with the Shiraz in most years. You would use French oak; Grange, of course, is matured in American oak. Your label would be more eye-catching. Yet, Grange is Australia's icon wine.


The tasted wines were 1990, 1996, 2001 and 2010 Penfolds Grange, with a 2002 Clarendon Hills Astralis thrown in for good measure. A lot has been written about these wines. Therefore I will just stick to my highlights. The best wines were the 1990 and 1996 Grange.

My wine of the night was the 1996 Grange. It was a little fresher than the 1990, the fruit a bit more generous now - a lot of complexity, smoke and spice and a firm grip (98 points). 

The legendary 1990 still shows this incredible layering of fruit. It has become more delicate, as the tannins have softened. The finish is very long and so is the life ahead (97 points).

The 2001 demonstrates what happens if the fruit is not powerful and weighty. Licorice takes over on the palate, there is a bit of heat, and the mouthfeel is not as round. This is still a good wine, but Grange has quite a lot of vintage variation (92 points).

The 2010 is back to form. This is an inky wine with dark fruit flavours (the 1990 has red fruit, also), firm, but silky tannins. The structure is balanced with a long finish. This wine is too early to drink and should develop more differentiated characteristics (95 points).

Grange is not everybody's favorite. Some find it too powerful and overwhelming. If you are aiming for a top shelf Australian Shiraz, the other choice would be Hill of Grace, for most. But an equally attractive choice could be Clarendon Hills' Astralis wine.

The 2002 Astralis is not as big and powerful as Grange, yet it is a full-bodied wine. The mouthfeel is very harmonious, with great balance and silky tannins. Next to its blackberry and plum fruit, it delivers attractive mocca flavours (96 points).

This was a great tasting and a rare opportunity to taste different Grange vintages side by side. Vertical tastings always deepen one's understanding of a particular wine.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Standish Wine Company The Schubert Theorem

A week of indulgence kicked off with the 2010 The Standish Wine Company The Schubert Theorem. This wine takes branding to another level. First, the label. You cannot actually read anything. If you use a magnifying glass, you will identify a mathematical formula ( The Schubert Theorem, which is about knot theory and states that every knot can be expressed as the sum of prime (indecomposable) knots).

  

When you look at the back label, it has the regulatory requirements on it, but again, it is very hard to read. I am surprised Dan Standish gets away with it. As to the name, well the fruit comes from a Marananga vineyard which was owned by the Schubert family.


Barossa Shiraz has come under a lot of fire lately because of the wines often being overripe and alcoholic (more by critics than consumers). Dan Standish has largely avoided this criticism, because his wines, while very big, seem balanced and controlled. And so it is with this wine.

As I pour this wine, it looks like I pour black ink. I am worried. On the palate, there is a huge mouthfeel, there is black fruit, mulberry, marmalade, olive, but also vibrant red currant. The fruit is layered, and the wine has drive and acidity. The tannins are firm, and the whole package covers the alcohol well. This is a big wine, no doubt, but it does not feel heavy. The finish is perhaps a little thick.

Those that are skeptical of Barossa Shiraz should try this wine (it is $100/bottle). It is a great example of a well crafted wine in a unique Australian style.

Score: 96/+++