Thursday, December 31, 2020

Bass Phillip Reserve

 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.

And this is what this label actually looks like.

The wine is rare as hen's teeth, as only one barrel is made from the best berries of the home block. The 2010 is very pretty, more strawberry than cherry. In my (limited) experience, this wine is always more feminine than the Premium. It is very elegant, noble is perhaps the most fitting word. The other great attribute are the wine's extra fine tannins.

The structure is there, but to mix it with the best of Burgundy, I would have expected more power, more cut through and a peacock's tail on the finish. However, now that Australia's best Pinot Noir producer has been sold to Asian and French investors, there is no doubt, grand cru Burgundy will be the benchmark and price point. Soo Hoo, the Singaporean investor: "Becoming the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of the Southern Hemisphere eventually is our aim." 

Score: 95/++ 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Henschke Hill Of Grace

 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.

Any value in this? Not really. But onto the wine. Mulberry flavours dominate on the nose. This translates to the palate. Aniseed, exotic spices and a hint of mint add to the flavours, as well as earthy notes. This is quite an opulent and ripe, even brooding version of this wine. The mouthfeel is elegant and smooth, if slightly fat.

Hill of Grace, in a golden glow

So what is extra special in a wine like this, after you parted with hundreds of dollars? Three things for me: the tannins are extra silky; the finish is super long, and the wine, made from 150 year old vines, is at peace with itself. This is difficult to put into words. This is a special wine, but not perfect.

Score: 97/+++ 

Brokenwood Wade Block 2 Shiraz

 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.

This is a full-bodied single vineyard wine off sandy soils, quite typical in its flavour profile of good quality McLaren Vale Shiraz. It is black fruited with plum and blackberry fruit, as well as olive and some savoury notes. This wine is quite elegant, but the overall flavour is a bit forward. A well-balanced wine.

Score: 92/+


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Vigneti Massa Derthona (A Must Read)

 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.

My first exposure to this wine came over Christmas with the 2017 Vigneti Massa Derthona, after I was alerted to it by an article in Wine Spectator magazine. Now this wine is nothing you have tasted from Italy, or anywhere for that matter. It is the most unusual and intriguing wine.

The colour is deep golden. There are floral and yellow peach notes on the nose. The palate is very complex and paradox. There are fruity flavours, such as melon, yellow peach and baked apple. But there is also honey, beeswax and  phenolic oily flavours. The wine is quite rich without being heavy. The flavours are mouthcoating and full. But there is also decent acidity and minerality on the medium long finish. This wine has great structure and apparently 40 year old examples still drink well.  

I have to say I was slightly puzzled in the end, as there is so much happening in the glass. The closest I can think of is a comparison with a top level dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire. The Vietti family believes it can make a wine from this grape to rival White Hermitage. Derthona is certainly in a different league from the better known Arneis or Gavi. Finally a top white from Piedmont has arrived.

Score: 95/+++   

Monday, December 28, 2020

What Did We Drink This Christmas?

 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

Wendouree Shiraz

 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.

Christmas was cool in Sydney, so it was not inappropriate to open a mature bottle of Shiraz. I found a 2005 Wendouree Shiraz in my cellar. This seemed perfect. Historically, I have never warmed to Wendouree all that much. I felt it was all about power and extraction at the expense of elegance. But winemaking has changed, even at this most traditional winery.

The bouquet tells you immediately this is a serious wine. Deep fruited aromas of plum and blackberry leave the glass. On the palate, the same flavours are present, plus mint, a typical Clare Valley component. I am not a big fan of mint, but in this case it was not overwhelming, just enough to give the wine some lift. 

This wine is not as powerful as I had anticipated, medium- to full-bodied. And it is very drinkable, elegant with softened dry and dusty tannins. The flavours linger on.

Score : 94/++

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Cork vs. Twist Off: We Have Been Screwed

 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

David Moreau Santenay 1er cru

 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.

Yesterday, I tried the 2015 David Moreau Santenay 1er cru Clos des Mouches. Dark cherry flavours dominate the palate. This is quite a savoury wine with substantial minerality, a bit surprising. I expected more fruit weight, given the warm 2015 vintage. This is an elegant medium-bodied wine with good energy along the palate. It finishes with fine grained, medium intensity tannins.

This wine has less sunshine in the glass than a typical Australian Pinot Noir, but the drive and shape of the wine compares well.

Score: 93/++


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Duke's Vineyard Single Vineyard Riesling

 The Great Southern region of Western Australia is becoming a strong performer for Riesling.

The 2019 Duke's Single Vineyard Riesling is obviously still very young, but is starting to open up. Lime, green apple notes and a chalky feel provide attractive flavours, supported by fine acidity. The wine is very balanced, maybe a little predictable, maybe a little lean, but this is personal preference. This wine is very dry with good length on the back palate.

Very good value for money.

Score: 93/++


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Paolo Scavino Barolo


The 2010 Paolo Scavino Barolo is one for those who enjoy smelling a wine. The aromas are amazing. There is a festival of wildflowers and roses scents emerging from the glass - very enticing. On the palate, the wine is quite evolved, perfect to drink right now. 

Red and black cherry flavours, rose petal, herbal notes, mint and rosemary vie for your attention. The wine is very smooth, as the dry and dusty tannins of this full-bodied wine have softened. The structure is not for the very long haul, but supports the palate right now. 

Score: 93/++  

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Murdoch Hill Chardonnay

 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. 

This Chardonnay tastes of stone fruit and melon. It is quite pure and balanced. The wine is not overly complex, but delivers a pleasant mouthfeel and an elegant and dry finish.

Sure, this wine is not unique. So why would you buy it? First, the quality/value ratio is good, and then you support a winery which is quite new and tries to do things differently, but in a measured way. This works for me.

Score: 91/++


Saturday, December 5, 2020

St. Hallett Higher Earth Syrah

 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.

The Syrah labeling indicates this is cooler climate. Also, French oak is used instead of the more common American oak in the Barossa. So, does this wine deliver on its promises?

There is raspberry, red plum and white pepper on the palate. This is not your typical dark fruited Barossa Valley profile, yet the wine is still full-bodied and quite ripe (14.5% alc.). The shape is quite broad in the mouth, the firm tannins are harsh.

This experiment is not a success. This was supposed to be an elegant wine. I expected blue fruit and a driven wine. Instead it is quite ripe red fruit, without the lushness of an equivalent Barossa Valley Shiraz. Is this a case of a leopard not being able to change its spots? Compare this with Head, for example, which achieves the expected fresh and elegant results, even with Barossa Valley fruit.

Score: 89/-