The second wine in my trifecta, drunk last night, was the 2010 Bass Phillip Reserve. This wine created a stir when it was first launched as much for the stamp sized front label as for the bottle content.
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
A year like no other - you would have read this 100 times. I feel it is reason enough to raid the cellar and get out three of the best wines Australia has to offer for three consecutive nights. You only go around once. Last night it was the 2010 Henschke Hill Of Grace. I do not buy these wines anymore, as prices have gone through the roof, but I used to buy a couple of bottles from the great vintages, and 2010 was one. To start with, the wine comes in a nice wooden box.
Brokenwood is an unusual winery. It is one of the most highly regarded wineries in the Hunter Valley, yet quite a bit of its wines actually come from McLaren Vale. I believe this impacts on its style of Hunter Valley red wines, which are fuller bodied than one would normally find. Today, I am briefly reviewing the 2014 Brokenwood Wade Block 2 Shiraz from McLaren Vale.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
I decided to use the 'a must read' notion, when I come across something extraordinary. It will be rarely used. So far, I only applied it to The Standish Wine Company 2018 releases last March. Today is the second time.
The Timorasso grape was almost extinguished, but the Massa family continued to farm it through the generations. Now the planting has grown from 5ha to about 180ha near Tortona, 100km east of Alba, in the eastern corner of Piedmont. Major Barolo producers, such as Vietti and Podero have started projects there. Prior to phylloxera, the Timorasso production was larger than Nebbiolo. The labelling is similar; Timorasso is the grape, Derthona (after Tortona) is the wine, like Nebbiolo and Barolo.
Monday, December 28, 2020
The family gatherings this Christmas have been much smaller for most. It probably meant the variety of wine was less than in previous years, but hopefully just as enjoyable.
In my case, it started with a beautiful grower Champagne from André Clouet, called Silver. It showed a beautiful balance between citrus and yeast flavours. This was followed by a sensational white wine called Timorasso, which I will write up separately tomorrow. There was also a Valenciso Rosé from Rioja, and a 2005 Wendouree Shiraz and a 2013 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon.
What did you drink for Christmas? Let the comments come in, also from Europe and the US, please.
Saturday, December 26, 2020
There are legendary wines in Australia, like Penfolds Grange or Hill of Grace; there are cult wines like Greenock Creek or Cloudburst, and then there is one legendary cult wine. This is Wendouree - a cult wine for over 50 years.
Thursday, December 24, 2020
I have on occasion voiced the opinion I prefer cork as a closure for red wine. Screw caps have done one good thing. They made the Portuguese take notice and dramatically improve cork performance. Also, because there are now only a few Australian wineries who use cork, they are being noticed and no longer at the end of the queue receiving the worst product. So the question now is, if you have a perfect cork, why would you use screw cap? The answer is, it is easy and 95% of wine is drunk within 24 hours of purchase. But what about the other 5%?
I assume most of my readers anywhere in the world store some wine in one form or another. The other day screw cap did it for me. I opened a bottle of Felton Road Block 5 and served it blind to a group of experienced tasters. People picked Central Otago straight away, and the age was estimated between 2014 and 2017. The wine was from 2008. The wine just had not aged much. Central Otago produces powerful Pinot Noir, but we can never experience it in the way we can an older Burgundy wine, matured by minimal oxygen exchange under cork.
Bring back cork for red wine!
Sunday, December 20, 2020
It is impossible to find 'cheap' 1er cru Burgundy, but if you are prepared to spend money on the best Australian Pinot Noirs, you can make 1er cru comparisons from less fancied regions in Burgundy. One such region is Santenay, at the southern end of the Côte de Beaune.
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
The Great Southern region of Western Australia is becoming a strong performer for Riesling.
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
As a consumer of fine wine, I have not been too impressed by many of the new, and often natural wines from the Adelaide Hills. Having said this, the Adelaide Hills are a hub of innovation, and this should be applauded. The feedback cycles in making wine are very long. It therefore will take decades to get some of these new approaches right. And I have to apply the same quality measuring stick to new wines as to established ones.
This 2018 Murdoch Hill Chardonnay is not made in a radical way, but it comes from a relatively new winery, only 20! years old. The winery also makes a more hand-made artisan range, which I have yet to try.
Saturday, December 5, 2020
St. Hallett is one of the stalwart wineries in the Barossa. Its wines are competently made and reliable. However like others, St Hallett has felt the pressure to if not move away from ripe Shiraz, at least offer an alternative. Along comes the 2018 St. Hallett Higher Earth Syrah from Eden Valley.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Vietti used to be a family business of mid-prized, high quality wines, in particular Barbera and Barolo. It was equally famous for its bright fruit and flower labels. Elena Vietti was very proud of them. Then, in 2016, the American Krause Holdings bought the business, while the family stayed involved. It very successfully lifted the prices of the single vineyard Barolos dramatically, while at the same time pricing the blended entry level Castiglione attractively. So now the winery is regarded as an absolute top producer. I am not sure if this is because of a quality or price lift.
In any case, I am reviewing an older wine here, the 2010 Vietti Barolo Castiglione. Like many producers with a number of great vineyards, Vietti produces single vineyard wines, and then uses 'surplus' fruit for a blend. The Castiglione is a blend of five vineyards, mainly from villages in the middle of the Barolo region. In 2010, the quality difference to the single vineyard wines was not large, and the attraction was to capture different terroir elements, such as elegance and power in one wine.
This wine shows some ageing, both in the colour, as well as on the nose, where tar and dried herb notes rise from the glass. On the palate, red berry flavours, dried cut flowers, mushroom, and anise build an intriguing flavour mix. More prominent, though, is the texture in this wine, soft and silky, building an elegant wine with typical firm and dry tannins on the finish.
This wine is good drinking now, but will show well for another five years.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
A few years ago, Mount Mary did something bold. Mount Mary is one of a few Australian wineries which only wants to produce super premium quality at super premium prices. Then it was decided to bring out a new wine, a seldom done straight Cabernet Franc, and at half or less the usual price point. Risky, trashing the brand? Let's find out.
Friday, November 13, 2020
When you think about Riesling, you think about Germany, of course. You may also think about Austria and Australia, but New Zealand? And if the producer is Felton Road, you think about their Pinot Noir. Yet it can produce world-class Riesling as well.
The 2017 Felton Road Dry Riesling is such an example. Lemon citrus, green apple, five spice, and oyster shell create a great flavour mix, supported by pronounced minerality. The key is how precise and steely this wine is, before it leads to a long, long finish.
This wine is still young, and will easily live for 10 years or more from now - for those who prefer some brioche and toasty flavours.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
It took me a while to like this label, but I do now. It so starkly depicts the hard work in the vineyard. Why not?
Saturday, November 7, 2020
Saturday, October 31, 2020
It is nice to drink a Chardonnay different from the many crispy Yarra Valley Chardonnays which seem to dominate the market. Not that do not like them, on the contrary, but Chardonnay can be much more than that. Enter the 2019 Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Brokenwood is one of the Hunter Valley's leading wineries. It branched out to McLaren Vale to craft different types of Shiraz quite some time ago. And then it thought about Beechworth. Why? Well, no bad wines come from Beechworth. Enter the Brokenwood Pinot Noir.
Friday, October 23, 2020
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Bodegas Bilbainas control 250ha in 50 plots in Rioja Alta. This points to a typical Rioja blending operation. Two aspects stand out. Bilbainas is organic, and it has vineyards in limestone soil.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Artadi is a young winery based in Rioja Altavesa, founded in 1985. It is not steeped in tradition. It left the Rioja Appelation in 2015. Today, it is one of Rioja's, in fact Spain's icon producers. The man behind this is winemaker Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle.
Monday, October 19, 2020
Are you serious, I hear you say. Well, this question arose in my mind after a tasting of high quality wines of less prominent grape varieties recently.
The most famous regions in France do not feature grape varieties. The argument there is between terroir and producers. Burgundy features terroir, but there is no doubt, producers make a difference. The famous example is the vineyard of Clos de Vougeot, where different producers produce wines of vastly different quality. In Bordeaux, the chateau reigns supreme, but are the differences between Mouton and Lafite all due to winemaking? In any case, grape varieties may not feature, because it is well known that red wine in Burgundy means Pinot Noir, and on the left bank of Bordeaux it is a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend, while on the right bank it is Merlot led.
Two varieties which were presented at this tasting were Malbec and Blaufraenkisch. The Malbec I want to talk about here was the 2016 Cloudburst Malbec from Margaret River.
Sunday, October 18, 2020
From Haro I drive east to Marques de Riscal. The Frank Gehry designed building is perhaps the most famous winery building in the world. The colour scheme is supposed to represent a wine bottle, with the beige cork above a red wine bottle. In contrast to this modernity stands the history and tradition of this winery, founded in 1858.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
My first stop in Haro was at Rioja Alta. This winery was established in 1890 to fulfill the requirements of Bordeaux merchants. There is a lot of tradition here, but also modernity, demonstrated, as an example, by this flashy showroom.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
1) Penfolds Grange
2) Henschke Hill Of Grace
3) Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir
4) Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay
5) Clarendon Hills Astralis Syrah
6) Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon
7) The Standish Wine Company The Relic
8) Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz
9) The Standish Wine Company The Standish
10) Grosset Polish Hill Riesling
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Today, Rioja is the most exciting of the traditional wine regions in the world. Why? A lot is going on. In the past, almost all wines were blended, but today, a number of single vineyard wines with a terroir focus have sprung up. Traditionally, wines were matured for long periods in oak, often more than five years. Strict regulations supported this approach. Oaky flavours were the hallmark of Rioja wines. Today, a number of wineries emphasize the Tempranillo fruit. The scene reminds me of Piedmont in the 1990s, with traditionalists and modernists fighting it out.
I visited Rioja a bit over a year ago and had planned to publish an article about it, but the wine magazine I used to write for had difficulties, and it never happened. I just came across my notes, and will now write this up here. The blog will have less wine specific tasting notes than normal, as the tastings took place more than 12 months ago, but there will be some.
The geography of Rioja is quite fascinating. On the one hand, warm winds are funneled up north from the Mediterranean, moving from Zaragoza into Rioja. On the other hand, cold winds from the Atlantic hit the Basque mountain range and descend into Rioja. Near Bilbao is a gap in the mountains which delivers wind and rain.
Friday, October 9, 2020
This year, I have not reported on new releases often, as tastings were mostly cancelled. I receive some tasting packages, but it is not something I have focused on. However today I can report on the new Shiraz releases by Alex Head from the excellent 2018 Barossa vintage.
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
There is no denying that there is a trend towards lighter style red wines. Many Shiraz and Cabernet producers try to accommodate this by picking earlier, reducing extraction and using less new oak. Nevertheless, 'lighter' styles are gaining share. The first wave was Pinot Noir. The second wave is Rosé or Rosado or Rosato. The third wave is more subtle, but gaining traction. It is Beaujolais.
The current Beaujolais story is a little complicated. Beaujolais is made from Gamay, a variety which is associated with fruity and easy drinking styles. Beaujolais Nouveau, released in the same year as harvested, was a big marketing success a few decades ago, but is not regarded as a serious wine by passionate wine drinkers.
However, the Beaujolais region has also created 10 cru areas, similar to the system in Burgundy. In contrast, they relate to entire village areas here rather than single vineyards as in Burgundy. If you want to get away from Beaujolais Nouveau as far as possible, you look for the 'M' villages, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. Wines from here tend to be darker and more tannic than the other areas. Today, I am reviewing two wines from Morgon.