Sunday, May 26, 2019

Chateauneuf du Pape 2016

This is a report on a brief tasting of only four wines from the region. I regard the first two at entry level wines, but I was curious how they would look in a vintage such as the great 2016.

The  2016 Font du Vent CDP shows pretty fruit, raspberry and red cherry flavours. There is also some licorice. This is an easy, medium-bodied wine to drink, with a slightly harsh finish (88 points).

The 2016 Pierre Usseglio CDP has a similar fruit profile, but more intensity. There are also some chocolate flavours. This is a fresh wine with a relatively simple finish (91 points).

Frankly, I would prefer to go for a Cote du Rhone blend at a third of the price.

The third wine was the 2016 Vieux Telegraphe CDP. I must admit, I am a big fan of this estate. There is great integrity in the wines, savoury flavours are always prominent, and the wines are never overblown. This wine tastes of red and black cherries, and it is savoury as expected. The wine is very silky and elegant, but the power is evident on the long finish. I rate this wine 95 points now, but it could go higher in a couple of years.

Then there was one wine from the Gigondas, the 2016 Domaine le Pallieres Terrasse du Diable. This wine has quite a different flavour profile. Red and black fruits are wound up in earthy notes, and the acidity is considerable (91 points).

Friday, May 24, 2019

Torbreck, The New And The Trusted

Torbreck, under new winemaking management, has taken some steps to broaden its offering. I am comparing here two newbies and two oldies from a recent tasting. Nothing has changed on the labels. It is still plain writing on white. Nothing wrong with that.

The first new wine is the 2016 Hillside Grenache, from a very old vineyard in Lyndoch with sandy soils. It is a few special rows which used to go into the Steading. The wine is fragrant, medium-bodied, raspberry fruit of some intensity, also some black fruits. The wine is appealing on the front palate, but then falls off (92 points).

Compare this to the 2017 Steading GSM. This wine offers more intensity and complexity. Raspberry, plum, black cherry and spices compete for your attention. The wine components are well integrated, but lack a bit of mouthfeel. The tannins are silky, but do not have much impact (93 points).  

The first wine is the more expensive wine because of its scarcity, the Steading is the better wine.

Another new wine from the Hillside vineyard is the 2017 Hillside Shiraz Roussanne. This is a typical Torbreck wine of old: big, fat, plum profile with good fruit depth, and an alcoholic finish (90 points).

Compare this to the 2017 Struie. In this vintage, the Eden Valley component is 22%. It may be the junior partner to the Barossa Valley fruit, but it has quite an impact. Next to the intense plum fruit, there are blueberry notes and a perfumed aspect to the flavour. The mouthfeel is big, and the firm tannins are well integrated. This fruit dominant wine is too early to drink, and will come together well with time (94 points).

In this comparison, old wins over new. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Torbreck RunRig

The 2016 Torbreck RunRig is creating plenty of waves, even before its world-wide release on 1 June. This is due to its 100 point rating by Robert Parker, only the second time this has occurred in the 20 year life of this brand. I had an opportunity to taste this wine yesterday.

The first impression is; this wine has beautiful balance. It is lingering in the mouth and goes on and on. The colour of the wine is the usual impenetrable deep purple. Back to the flavour; this wine is delicious, great depth of fruit, unfolding in layers, not too heavy, with a rounded mouthfeel and silky tannins. The Viognier component does not stand out, but gives the wine a lift on the very long finish.

Make no mistake, this is a typical Torbreck wine with 15% alcohol, but the fruit can take it. It goes against the trend of lighter wines, but has probably shifted slightly to a fresher profile.

Score: 98/++

Am I swayed by the Parker rating? I hope not. Torbreck has access to the best and oldest Shiraz grapes in the Barossa Valley and in this release has fashioned a special wine. There is a word of caution, though, as I was able to compare this wine with the release from 10 years earlier, the 2006 Torbreck RunRig.

This wine had the 'advantage' of being poured from Magnum. And there was still some freshness in the wine. The flavour and structural profile was very similar to the 2016, but the fruit flavours were beginning to decline. The wine is now more savoury, the tannins are still silky, but the high alcohol (15.5%) is now starting to show, leading to a slightly hot finish.

Score: 94/0

The lesson from this comparison is to pick the drinking window of the 2016 RunRig carefully. It will definitely benefit from some maturity, but I would suggest to drink this wine earlier than what would be normal for a wine of this pedigree, maybe at 5 years of age. The fruit needs to still be strong to keep the alcohol in check.  

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Lucien Le Moine 2016 Releases

Lucien Le Moine is a small negociant in Burgundy, yet he releases over 50 1er Cru and Grand Cru each year. I had a rare opportunity to taste 11 of them from the 2016 vintage.

There are a number of things which set Lucien Le Moine apart from most other Burgundy producers; most significantly his long élevage period of 18-24 months. He lets the wine sit on lees and does no racking. With this method, he requires no sulphur. All wines undergo malolactic fermentation and are aged in 90-100% new oak of low toast.

The first bracket of four wines are Chardonnays from Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault. The quality of these wines is very high. Apart from the first wine, I rate them 94-95 points. Charmes was my favorite from this bracket. As expected from a 1er cru of Meursault, this is quite an opulent wine, but it is elegant as well, with good drive. The Chassagne-Montrachet wines and the Porusot are leaner, showing attractive minerality.  


In the first red bracket, there is a difference between the first two wines, and the next two. The first two wines are a little lean, reflecting the cooler condition of the 2016 vintage, with acidity being a strong feature. The Les Cazetiers is a complex wine from almost 100 year old vines. It is expressive , with spiciness and earthy flavours, and a long finish (94 points). The first Grand Cru from Latricières is even more elegant, with silky tannins (95 points). 


The two Grand Crus in the last bracket really shine. Clos de Vougeot is the largest Grand Cru in the Côte-de-Nuits and can be quite variable. Lucien Le Moine has access to fruit from the lower, middle, and upper part in order to achieve a balance between the different influences of fruit weight and elegance. The 2016 wine has good depth of fruit, silky tannins and a long lasting finish (96 points). The top wine is the Bonnes Mares Grand Cru. A similar profile to the Clos de Vougeot, it has additional smoothness, and therefore an outstanding texture. This wine has been described as the signature wine of Lucien Le Moine, but you have to pay about $A800/bottle for it (97 points). The Feusselottes was sandwiched between these two, and could not match them in fruit depth and mouthfeel. 


Monday, May 13, 2019

Bindi Dixon Pinot Noir

Bindi is currently releasing its new 'entry level' wines, so I thought it would be good to see how one of them has developed over time.

The Dixon used to be the Composition Vineyard Pinot Noir. How is the 2014 Bindi Dixon Pinot Noir drinking now? In short, extremely well.

The colour of the wine is still red, with medium depth. A beautiful aroma of forest fruits lifts out of the glass. This is sophisticated!

Dark cherry fruit flavours kick off the tasting experience, but then savoury and mushroom notes take over. This is a medium-bodied wine, still quite delicate and very elegant. The fruit profile is not too complex, but the texture is very balanced and subtle. There is enough intensity in this wine, and the finish is smooth.

This wine is clearly better now than on release, and has many good years in front of it.

Score: 94/+++ 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Super Premium Spanish Wines, Including A $2500 Bottle

I recently attended a tasting of outstanding Spanish wines, where the emphasis was on 'delicacy', not something automatically associated with Spanish wines. I will report here on the Mencia wines, and the wines from Priorat and Rioja. The tasting was set up in such a way that a top-level blended wine was shown first, followed by some single vineyard wines, which the Spanish only recently started to emphasize.

Mencia is a grape variety grown in the northwestern part of Spain. It derives from Portuguese varieties. It has a reputation for light and diluted wines, but more serious wines have recently been made, with great success. The 2016 DJP 'Petalos' from Bierzo is one of the leading blends. It is very attractive wine, based on red cherry flavours with good intensity, great length and a dry finish (93 points). The two single vineyard wines were from Valdeorras. The 2015 Telmo Rodriguez 'As Caborcas' Vineyard wine is a bit lighter and delicate, with enticing sea-spray and spice flavours (93 points). The 2015 Telmo Rodriguez 'Falcoeira' Vineyard wine is more generous, with a bigger mouthfeel, sea-spray again on an elegant texture, and a balanced finish (94 points).

The blended Grenache from Priorat is the 2017 Blai Ferre Just 'Billo'. This is a medium-bodied wine, raspberry the dominant  up-front fruit flavour, but not overpowering, delivering an elegant and balanced structure with a dry finish (93 points). Next is the 2015 Blai Ferre Just 'Desnivell' Vineyard Grenache. Apart from raspberry fruit, there are also blue fruits here - a very drinkable wine (92 points).

The highlight of the tasting arguably were the two wines of Alvaro Palacios. The 2015 'Finca Dofi' shows quite a light colour, which translates onto the palate, but the intensity grows quickly, a bit like an iron fist in a velvet glove. The raspberry flavours are matched by savoury notes (94 points). The famous 2015 L'Ermita is quite a fascinating wine. The colour is light as well. This is a very smooth wine, dancing on your tongue. It has been described as liquid poetry. The subdued fruit lays bare the complexity of this wine, from orange rind to slate minerality. A little sweetness completes the satisfying mouthfeel (96 points). 

Is this wine worth $2500 per bottle? First, why does it cost so much? Yes, the yield is low, and the handling is very detailed and specific, but the main reason is that the fruit comes from a 1ha property. So scarcity drives the price. For a case of 12 bottles, you get a decent car. The wine is gone in 12 nights, but the car lasts years. Ok, I am comparing luxury with utility, but it is hard to make a rational case for it. As there is very little going around, the winery is not relying on rational decision-making; so it all works out.

The Rioja blend is the 2016 Alegre & Valganon Tempranillo-Garnacha. This is an odd blend. The wine has some depth, but is not complex; an easy drinking style with a little sweetness (90 points). The 2016 Alegre & Valganon 'La Calleja' Vineyard Tempranillo is a light to medium-bodied wine. The wine has good drive on the back of its red cherry fruit, but is a little harsh on the finish (90 points). A more interesting wine is the 2016 Alegre & Valganon 'Bahiarra' Field Blend. Field blends are all the rage in Portugal, but this is good, too. The wine has a darker colour, which translates into darker fruit, mainly black cherry, on the palate. The texture is very harmonious (93 points). 

The two best Rioja wines were the 2016 Sinodo Viticultors 'Los Tollos' Tempranillo, and the 2015 Telmo Rodriguez 'Tabuerniga' Tempranillo. The former impressed with its complex fruit flavours and superb elegance, before finishing light (95 points), the latter was a bigger wine with complex fruit and earthy flavours, wound together for a satisfying mouthfeel (94 points).     


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Coldstream Hills Chardonnay

A well proven strategy when you try to find a good quality bottle for a value price, is to go for a producer who can make excellent wine and look at their entry levels; mostly younger vines, purchased fruit or higher yields, but made with the same methods and attention to detail.

One such wine is the 2018 'The Hills' Coldstream Hills Chardonnay. The fruit flavours are a nice mix of stone fruit and citrus. The wine is a little broad and not as defined as the more premium wines, but there is well balanced acidity in the texture.

I would call this a high-end quaffer.

Score: 89/+

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Thomas Wines 2017 Shirazes

The range of the Andrew Thomas wines is forever increasing. Not that long ago there were three Shirazes, now there are nine. But it has to be said there is a good logic with this portfolio. There are four levels in the quality pyramid. The entry level includes two blended wines. The next level up has three single vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz wines. Level three is a similar portfolio of three wines, but they are more expressive, and then there is 'Kiss', the Thomas 'grand cru'. Within each level, the differences relate to different terroir. So here it goes for 2017, which is about to be released.

Synergy is a blended Shiraz from the Hunter Valley. This medium-bodied wine is fruit forward, with quite a bit of spice (89 points). Two of a Kind is a 50/50 blend of Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale. The McLaren Vale component makes this a bigger, fleshier and sweeter wine. The tannins are more pronounced and the finish quite dry (91 points).

DJY depicts an old fashioned Hunter Valley style. This is a perfumed and aromatic style, with pretty red fruit and light tannins; think Hunter Burgundy (90 points). The Cote is a new wine from 45 year old vines, planted on friable dark brown soil on a steep slope. It is relatively lean, and quite racy with a lot of drive. This is a savoury wine with dusty tannins and great length on the finish (93 points). Sweetwater is the popular favorite in this portfolio. It is a bigger wine and typical Shiraz with blackberry and sweet plum flavours on the palate (92 points).

The Dam Block is another new wine. I believe the 30 year old plantings are right next to the Kiss vineyard. The intense blackberry aroma leads to an opulent and elegant mouthfeel with beautiful fruit depth, based on a structure of lively, velvety tannins. This was my wine of the night (94 points). Belford is also dark fruited, but leaner. The wine is quite long, but lacks the mouthfeel of the Dam Block (91 points). Elenay is a blend across all single vineyards. The wine has a high new oak component (50%), which is a bit too obvious at present, but will move to the background with time (hopefully) (92 points).

Kiss, from 50 year old vines, is the biggest wine of the line-up. It is full-bodied with blackberry fruit and spice on the palate. The wine has a big mouthfeel, yet is mainly elegant and smooth, but slightly fat on the back palate on the back of some coarse tannins. It should develop really well with some years in the cellar (94 points).

All these wines are well made by someone with enormous experience in the Hunter Valley. There should be a very attractive wine for everybody in this line-up from a very good Hunter Valley vintage.