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/+++