Friday, February 28, 2020

Pinot Noir: Australia vs. Burgundy

I tasted the wines shown above (a little hard to see) with a group of friends last night. It turned out they were all incredibly different from each other. Following are brief impressions focussing on those differences.

First up was a 2014 Tolpuddle from Tasmania. This wine had an incredibly light colour. The wine was very perfumed on the nose, and the red fruit on the palate very pure, open and feminine (93 points).

The 2010 By Farr Sangreal was the total opposite; dark, brooding and a lot of complexity. Black cherry flavours turned to mushroom and forest floor in a blend of fruit and secondary flavours. A lot of whole bunch in this one (95 points).

The 2009 Scorpo from Mornington was a real surprise. This masculine wine stood the test of time really well. Some tasters liked it a lot; I found the feel in the mouth a bit simple, but the structure was still balanced (93 points).

The first Burgundy was a 2014 1er cru from Domaine Faively's Nuits-Saint-Georges bottling. This wine had all the elements of a great Burgundy; dark cherry fruit in a beautiful frame, with balanced acidity and tannins generating a lot of energy down the palate. Saline notes and minerality came to the fore behind the fruit to complete the picture (96 points). 

Next came a 1997 Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru from Harmand-Geoffroy. This wine was quite muted. Stinky and slightly feral aromas overshadowed the fruit which was on the way out. The wine tasted leathery before closing with mellowed tannins. This wine was clearly past its best. This should not be the case for a Grand Cru of this age, but it happens when a poor vintage and an average producer come together (89 points). 

The 2012 Corton Grand Cru by Domaine Cornu was most unusual. Some thought it actually tasted like Grenache. It showed confectionary aroma and was not typical of red Burgundy. However, over time in the glass, other flavours came through; black cherry, orange peel, even licorice - very strange. Again this was a wine from a not so great vintage and an average producer (89 points).

Finally, we tasted the 2008 Thibaut Liger-Belair Les St. Georges (1er cru). This was the most powerful wine. The fruit was more in the red cherry spectrum. We also agreed on toasted sesame (!), and orange peel. This wine, despite its power, had a certain lightness. This was a slight problem for me. The acidity overwhelmed the fruit (not so great from 2008). As a result the wine lacked some balance. A high score is justified none the less because of the sheer drive and energy in this wine (95 points).

Overall, a couple of conclusions could be drawn. The Australian wines simply did not have the drive of the better Burgundies, although the fruit profiles were interesting and engaging. Within the Burgundies, this tasting demonstrated powerfully that looking at the classification only is too simplistic. Vintage and producer play a major role: taste before you buy. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Achaval Ferrer Malbec

Many of us have sentimental favorites in sport. Someone you admire, but has never quite reached the top, for example Gabriela Sabatini for her stylish tennis, or a technically brilliant football team which has trouble kicking goals. Well, I have sentimental favorites in wine. One of these is Achaval Ferrer from Mendoza. This is because next to Catena Zapata it made the most interesting wines in Argentina. Three single vineyard Malbecs from different locations and old vines, where the terroir influence really showed.

This is the 2011 Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira. It comes from the Uco Valley, where this vineyard is located at an altitude of 1300m. The sunshine here is intense. The grapes protect themselves with thick skins. As a result, the skin to pulp ratio is high. This produces intense and more savoury flavours. 

There is blackberry and mulberry fruit on the palate, but also fig and black olive. The sweet core on the mid palate adds chocolate to the complexity. The tannins are smooth, delivering an alluring elegance and a long finish, almost expanding like a top Burgundy wine.

This wine is a beauty and very alive at nine years of age. Sadly, the best days of the company are over, it seems. After the sale to the Russian SPI, maker of Stolychnaya vodka, the brilliant winemaking duo of Santiago Achaval and Roberto Cipresso left a few years ago and opened Matervini, virtually next door. This is a winery to watch, pushing the envelop with high altitude vineyards even further.  

Score: 95/+++

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Auld William Patrick Shiraz

The 2016 Auld William Patrick Shiraz is the flagship wine of Auld Family Wines, which I reviewed a few posts below. It shows typical Barossa Shiraz flavours of concentrated bramble, blood plum, and licorice. The new oak is not yet integrating too well. This is a full-bodied wine with savoury notes playing a role as well. The mouthfeel lacks some roundness, but this is a more elegant wine than found in the Wilberforce and Strawbridge ranges. The wine is pleasant to drink now, but will improve with age, as its components integrate some more.

Score: 91/0

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Altus/Rise Wines

To be honest, I do not know much about this winery, situated at the Northern end of Margaret River. I tasted the wines shown in the photo. Wildlight is the day-to-day drinking brand, Ascension the premium brand.

The 2019 Wildlight Chardonnay seems made in the modern style, cool fermentation, reductive. The citrus flavours deliver a fresh, pleasant mouthfeel, a little simple. There is a hint of sweetness on the backpalate.

Score: 90/0

The red wines in this range are a lot less pleasant. The 2018 Wildlight Cabernet Sauvignon consists of redcurrant, green tea and herbal notes on the palate. The firm tannins take over from the under-cooked fruit and lead to a harsh finish (84/-- points). The 2018 Wildlight Shiraz is a similar story; not balanced, the tannins overwhelming the fruit, and the flavours short. The added acidity does not integrate (82/--- points)

Thank goodness, the final wine, the 2018 Ascension Cabernet Sauvignon is in a different class. This is quite youthful right now, with the acidity driving the blackberry, mulberry and red currant fruit down the palate. The French oak is quite present, mocca notes add complexity. The tannins are firm, but a little silky as well. The components are all there in this big wine, but it tastes a little too worked.

Score: 92/+  

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Dry German Value Rieslings

This is a very brief report on some dry value Rieslings worth looking at from Germany and Austria.

2017 Wittmann 100 Huegel: green apple, fruity, but dry (89 points)

2018 Christmann Estate: citrus, attractive acidity and fresh finish (91 points)

2017 Heymann-Lowenstein Schieferterassen: attractive slate and earthy flavours, good acidity (93 points)

2017 Georg Breuer Ruedesheim: fuller mouthfeel, but good energy (93 points)

2016 FX Pichler Burgstall Federspiel: dry, flavour a bit non-descript, but good structure and long finish (92 points)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Auld Family Wines

From time to time, I will introduce new and less well known wineries. The Auld Family has been involved with wine for many generations, but the current brothers are taking a fresh approach. The Wilberforce and Strawbridge brands straddle the Barossa and Langhorne Creek. I am not quite sure what the point of two brands is, given they are new and the price points are similar.

The 2019 Wilberforce Riesling from the Eden Valley delivers attractive citrus and apple flavours on the front palate. The experience is a full mouthfeel with balanced acidity, but the finish is a bit sweet and plump (88 points).

The 2016 Strawbridge Cabernet Sauvignon from Langhorne Creek shows good varietal character with red and blackcurrant flavours. There is some smokiness as well (maybe not a good term to use right now?). The fruit is slightly overwhelming on the finish, but then dry tannins deliver a strong grip at the expense of elegance (89 points).

The 2015 Wilberforce Cabernet/Shiraz hits the palate with concentrated dark berry fruit. Eucalypt  and some earthy notes add to the complexity. There is some sweetness in the wine, and the coarse tannins lead to a firm finish (89 points). 

The 2017 Strawbridge Shiraz displays concentrated blood plum fruit and toasted oak. I find the tannins quite astringent. They lead to a long, but slightly alcoholic finish (86 points). 

Saturday, February 15, 2020


In the last month, my Australian readership has tripled - not sure how this happened. It has now overtaken my American readership, which has also doubled in this time. This is the good news.

However, I would like more comments. Thank you to those who contribute. I know we are all time poor, but varying views would make for more interesting reading, from which we would all benefit.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

De Salis Merlot Blend

Sometimes you come across something astonishing, unexpected, and utterly delightful. So it was with this wine.

The 2012 De Salis St. EM M is a wine I enjoyed when I visited Orange a few years back, and I took a few bottles home. The name is a bit tough, which is why I think this label has been discontinued. St. EM is meant to stand for St. Emilion, M for Merlot. This wine is in fact a blend with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, but it does not taste anything like a right bank blockbuster Bordeaux.

This is a light- to medium-bodied wine, but it fills the mouth nicely. The wine is still fresh and vibrant, brimming with redcurrant, raspberry fruit and white pepper. Fine tannins help with the balance. While this is a lighter wine, more like a Pinot Noir, it has good depth as well. This Merlot blend is intriguing and fabulous to drink.

Score: 95/+++   

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay

Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay has been one of the early benchmarks for quality Australian Chardonnay, and in particular for its ability to age. To put this to a challenging test, I recently tasted two aged Chardonnays from relatively poor Hunter Valley vintages.

The 2012 Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay is still in good health, but the apple and citrus flavours now taste a little simple. There is still good acidity and great balance in this wine. And the wine finishes long.

Score: 92/++

The 2009 Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay is the stronger of the two wines. The colour of this wine is still bright. The fruit flavours are complex; apple, passionfruit, some pineapple. The mouthfeel is quite layered. This Chardonnay is still energetic to the finish.

Score: 95/+++   

Friday, February 7, 2020

Burge Family Winemakers Draycott Shiraz

The pathways of the two Burge winemakers in the Barossa Valley could not be more different. Grant Burge's mantra since the 1980s was growth, growth, growth. Some of his wines are excellent, some are just plonk. In contrast, Rick Burge stuck to the home block in Lyndoch, from which he produces a couple of single vineyard wines, quite hard to find. Authenticity is perhaps his mantra.

The 2012 Burge Draycott Shiraz is full-bodied, with red and black plum flavours dominant. This is a generous wine from a good vintage, and a classic example of Barossa Shiraz except perhaps that the ageing took place in French oak as opposed to American more common in classical Barossa wine. 

The wine has a big mouthfeel, and is quite smooth. It takes the 14.5% alcohol well. But perhaps times have moved on, and we are demanding more. This wine lacks differentiation or layering, and the firm tannins dominate the finish. This is a good wine, no doubt, but a bit old fashioned.

Score: 92/+  

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Pyramid Valley Angel Flower Pinot Noir

Pyramid Valley is a special winery. When the vineyard was originally planted, it was meant to mirror Burgundy in the southern hemisphere. The vineyard is isolated in North Canterbury, on slopes and rocky limestone soil. The vine planting is dense; the principles are biodynamic. As a result of all this, the wines are expensive.

The 2012 Pyramid Valley Angel Flower Pinot Noir is certainly more Burgundy than Central Otago, and more Pommard than Vosne-Romanée, meaning it is a very savoury wine. Dark fruited sour cherry characteristics are added to by herbal and spicy flavours. It tasted like a cool climate wine. This Pinot Noir is more about drive than elegance. Firm, grippy tannins lead to a decent finish. 

Score: 94/++

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Liv Zak Wines

Liv Zak wines is the daughter label of Warramunda Estate, both relatively new ventures in the Yarra Valley. I tasted three of their new releases, a Malbec, Chardonnay and Syrah.

The labels are pretty, but a bit wild. The estate fruit for these wines is quite young, and for this, the quality of the wines is quite remarkable. The wines are matured in used French barriques and it is clear that the winemaking is quite detailed.

The 2018 Liv Zak Malbec has an appealing core of blackberry and plum fruit with some syrupy characteristics. The wine does not quite fill the mouth as acidity overtakes before dry tannins dominate on the finish. This wine needs to be tamed a bit, but has potential.

Score: 89/0

The 2019 Liv Zak Chardonnay delivers attractive flavours of stone fruit, white peach and nectarine, as well as green apple. The flavours are light and the texture is smooth. This is a dry, well balanced Chardonnay.

Score: 92/+

The best wine in this line-up is the 2018 Liv Zak Syrah. It is quite a typical cool climate Shiraz: medium-bodied, blue and black fruited and quite peppery. The alcohol is a modest 13.5%. This wine has an elegant mouthfeel. It does not have the greatest length, but I enjoyed the fresh finish. This wine drinks well now, but will improve in complexity over the next five years.

Score: 93/++