Saturday, June 27, 2020

Three Taste Expanding Wines

During a blind tasting, I encountered three wines, two wines, one Champagne, actually, which delivered an unusual and very exciting flavour profile. The Champagne was a dry blanc de blanc from the grower Ulysse Collin 'Les Enfers'. In my simplistic way of thinking, I would normally characterize Champagne along a freshness/acidic/yeast spectrum. This one was quite floral with delicate pear and apple notes - very unusual. The wine was delicate, but with piercing intensity. There was a lot of complexity on the palate. Small and slow rising bubbles confirmed the quality of this drink.

Score: 95/+++

The wine of the night was a 2014 Keller Abts Erde GG from Rheinhessen. This area is flat to undulating as opposed to the river facing vineyards of the Rheingau and Moselle. It comes from a small block of the Westhofer Brunnenhaeuschen vineyard. The history of this esteemed limestone and ironstone vineyard goes back to the 14th century. When the highly regarded Kellers purchased this vineyard in 2001, the stars aligned. The texture of this wine is aristocratic Riesling, and the nose and palate is quite unique. Quince and yellow fruits on the nose are enticing. On the palate, there is peach, apple, grapefruit, passionfruit, and tight minerality. This complex flavour is hardly that of a typical Riesling. There is a good drive on the palate, without the wine being linear. Superb! The quality of this wine is only matched by its price.

Score: 97/+++

The third wine's story is altogether different. The 2013 Bressan Schioppettino frum Friuli tastes like nothing I have ever tasted before. This is a special wine, to start with, due to its history. The Schioppettino grape, also known as Ribolla Nera, was nearly extinct. Bressan collected the last vines, and established a new vineyard of this indigenous variety. Strong peppery notes and a cherry and wild berry bouquet jump out of the glass. On the palate, pepper and exotic spices are the main game. Underneath, raspberry, plum, candied fruit, and mossy flavours deliver an unusual sensation. I will not forget this for some time.

Score: 93/+++    


Southern Highlands Wines

The wineries of the Southern Highlands are the closest to Sydney. Yet I must admit I had not visited there before. I am sure the same is true for many Sydney wine lovers. And there are some valid reasons. It is a relatively new region, started in the 1990s, I think. Many original vineyards were managed by hobby farmers with a focus on selling as many grapes as possible. And the volumes are small. Yet, the attraction is cool climate and an elevation of 500m plus. In the meantime, some wineries have become serious about quality. I visited two; Artemis and Tertini.

The focus of Artemis is on Pinot Noir with a sloped 3ha home vineyard started in 1996 on sandstone and clay soil. However, there are many different wines on offer, based on purchased fruit. The Sparkling Riesling, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc were all quite attractive with typical varietal character. These wines had good drive and well-known acidity for the area. The 20% oak fermented portion in the Sauvignon Blanc added additional interest.

The 2018 Pinot Noir from purchased fruit had a slightly brown tinge. It is fruit forward with licorice and earthy notes being quite prominent - a strange, I would say slightly faulty wine. The tasting highlight was the 2016 Artemis Close Vine Pinot Noir from the home vineyard, planted from 760 to 710m elevation. The yield is 800g per vine, half of the other Pinot Noir. There are pretty red cherry flavours, some creaminess and excellent acidity in this wine. It was matured in used 350 l french barrels (92 points).  

Artemis produces a number of full bodied reds. The 2017 Petit Verdot is blue fruited and quite tannic. The Southern Highlands are not ideally suited for these varieties. Maybe in 2100?

Tertini produces an even wider range of wines, but some are from Tasmania and Tumbarumba.

The 2015 Riesling from the Southern Highlands is excellent. The citrus flavours are flanked by subtle acidity. There is enticing minerality on the back palate, overall a complex mouthfeel (93 points). The 2018 Chardonnay is equally good. This wine is fresh and pure, with  white peach the dominant flavour. It delivers a well-rounded mouthfeel (93 points). 

The highlight was the comparison of the Southern Highland Pinot Noir and the Tasmanian Pinot Noir. The 2018 Southern Highlands Pinot Noir has a surprisingly dark colour. It includes 20% whole bunch. It is a fruit driven wine with red and black cherry flavours, and quite a firm structure (92 points). The wine of the day (maybe unfortunate?) goes to the 2017 Tertini Tasmanian Pinot Noir. It won a trophy there against Tolpuddle and all others. It is a very elegant wine, with a slightly orange colour. On the palate, cherry, strawberry and raspberry flavours seek your attention. Some creaminess rounds out the complex flavour profile (94 points).  

Overall, there is great potential, already partly realized, in the Southern Highlands for Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The production of full-bodied reds is a distraction. It is part insurance policy, part to satisfy stranded Shiraz drinkers, but in the end, these wineries need to focus on those varieties that do best in the region.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Rippon Sauvignon Blanc

I do not review many Sauvignon Blancs here, but then, this is a New Zealand one with a cork closure. This is making a statement. Let us investigate.

The cork may suggest this 2018 Rippon Sauvignon Blanc is closer to a French example - and 40% of the juice has been matured in used French barrels. But on the palate, this is unmistakably New Zealand. Gooseberry hits the front palate. There is more to it, though. Passionfruit, citrus, and green apple add to complexity. This wine is not as grassy as some. 

However, as I drink a couple of glasses, I get very confused. I encounter some green elements, but also some sweetness. There is an element of creaminess on the finish, but also some harshness. I do not get this wine. What does it stand for?

Score: 89/-

Friday, June 19, 2020

Turkey Flat Grenache

There are two challenges with Grenache. The first is about flavour. To make this variety interesting, it needs to have some savoury characteristics, not just a sweet raspberry or lollipop flavour. The second has to do with ripening. Grenache has to be fully ripe, but when the grapes get there, the alcohol shoots up really fast. Picking at just the right moment is crucial.

The 2016 Turkey Flat Grenache won the Jimmy Watson Trophy for the best one year old wine in Australia. It is the most prestigious trophy in the country. This was the first for Turkey Flat and, I believe, the first for Grenache. A few years on, I am keen to find out if the judges got it right.

This wine is made from nearly 100 year old vines from the home block of Turkey Flat. The flavour profile is complex. Raspberry fruit is there, but also dark berry notes, mocca and smoky flavours. There is good concentration in this full-bodied wine.  ✔️ on the first requirement.

The wine feels round and fills the mouth well, balanced by firm tannins. But then on the back palate it happens. A slight alcoholic hotness. I look at the label: 15% alcohol. Some Grenache can take this, but it is a bit much in this wine. As a result the finish of this otherwise interesting wine is somewhat out of balance.

Score: 92/+

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Erin Eyes Emerald Isle Riesling

Erin Eyes is a relatively new label from the Clare Valley. The Emerald Isle label is the second Riesling label, and it overdelivers. The 2019 Erin Eyes Emerald Isle Riesling is bone dry in a typical Clare Valley style. The citrus, mainly lime flavours are intense, and the acidity gives the wine a lot of energy. The mouthfeel is linear and driven, and the wine finishes with attractive minerality. There is enough complexity here, and great value for money.

Score: 93/++

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Albino Rocca Nebbiolo d'Alba

The wines of Piedmont are often compared to Burgundy. Yes, Barolos are often single vineyard wines and the nose is aromatic, but on the palate it is very different, much more tannic. When you look at Barbaresco, the similarities are closer. But they get really close, when young Nebbiolo vines from the Barbaresco area are bottled, as in this 2018 Albino Rocca Nebbiolo.

This is a very aromatic wine, with rose petals and other floral notes on the nose. The red cherry flavours on the palate are pure and delicious, delivering an appealing ‘finish me now’ mouthfeel. This is an elegant wine, but it cannot quite sustain the initial sensations along the palate. The tannins are fine grained, the finish a bit short. In all, this wine delivers great drinkability for such a young Nebbiolo.

Score: 92/+++

Monday, June 15, 2020

New Feature

You can now get notification to your email inbox once I have written a new post. You have to type in your email and press submit.

Australia's Top 52 Wineries

This was the title of a list published in Sydney's largest newspaper on the weekend. It was published by the well regarded wine critic Huon Hooke based on his recent tastings. Now lists are always there to be debated, and there is obviously no definite answer, but I feel compelled to write this note, as there are some amazing and frankly inexplicable inclusions and omissions.

Starting with Western Australia, there is no Leeuwin Estate and no Moss Wood. Instead included are Swinney, Sittella and Duke's Vineyard, among others. Really?

In Victoria, we have Handpicked, Stonier and Crittenden from the Mornington Peninsula. What about Main Ridge, the pioneer, Paringa, Kooyong or Yabby Lake? In Beechworth, there is Fighting Gully Road and Eldorado Rd, but no Castagna or Sorrenberg. Macedon with leaders Bindi and Curley Flat is not represented. Bass Phillip is not there. The Yarra Valley list has the key producers.

The Hunter is well represented, but Pepper Tree, Silkman and Vinden are picked over Brokenwood. And Robert Stein and Hoosegg are top 52?

The only Clare Valley representative is Taylors. What about Grosset, Wendouree, Jim Barry? From Coonawarra we have Wynn's, but what about Balnaves? Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale have strong producers listed.

Many regard the top producers for four key varieties as follows:
-Chardonnay: Leeuwin Estate
-Riesling: Grosset
-Pinot Noir: Bass Phillip
-Cabernet Sauvignon: Moss Wood (maybe just me)

None of these are in the list. Is this a crazy and misleading list and headline or are there massive changes on foot, all of which I have missed?     

Friday, June 12, 2020

Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock

Jasper Hill and its two flagship wines, Emily's Paddock and Georgia's Paddock, named after the two daughters of winemaker Ron Laughton, are real icons of Australian Shiraz. Jasper Hill is the pre-eminent winery in the Heathcote area, and these two vineyards sit on this strip of red gravelly clay, formed from 500 million year old basaltic rock. These two vineyards of 45 year old vines, planted on their own roots, have never seen any chemicals, are not irrigated, and have very low yields, three tonnes per hectare in the case of Georgia's Paddock. Emily's Paddock is the more expensive of the two, which is simply a function of its lower volume. It tends to have a very savoury, leathery character, whereas Georgia's Paddock is driven by its red fruit character.

Is this the old Cambrian soil on the back of the bottle?

The 2010 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock shows the trademark redcurrant fruit, added to by cranberry, black olive flavours, and a hint of eucalypt. As a 10 year old wine, secondary flavours of wet earth are strong. This is a full-bodied wine, powerful, but with some elegance and purity on the palate. The tannins are firm. The wine is slightly hot on the back palate. The finish is smooth and long.

This wine still has a balanced structure. It is drinking at its peak now and is a good example of a well-made full-bodied Australian Shiraz.

Score: 94/++

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Tenuta di Fessina Etna Rosso 'Erse'

The 2015 Fessina Etna Rosso 'Erse' is grown on volcanic soil on the northern slopes of Mt. Etna. It is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel.

The colour of the wine is an attractive bright ruby. It suggests a very pure wine, which is born out on the vibrant palate. Red cherry and raspberry fruit is augmented by minerality, smoke and salinity leading to an attractive, finely textured mouthfeel. The wine is medium-bodied, with medium acidity and fine, but firm tannins. The finish is medium at best. The flavour profile is the strength of this wine, more so than its structure. I liked this wine a lot.

Score: 92/+++