Friday, December 31, 2021

Quinta Do Crasto Vinha Da Ponte - A Unique Wine

 Quinta do Crasto is among the best, if not the best Portuguese winery. The Vinha da Ponte wine will be legendary over time and is unique for a couple of reasons. The first is the vineyard. It is situated on the steep slopes of the Douro Valley in schisty soil. There are probably over 30 varieties in this very low yielding, terraced vineyard of more than 100 year old vines. The best known are Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tempranillo, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Dao. There are some white varieties here as well. All is put together in a true field blend.


The second is the winemaking. As I understand it, the grapes are picked at the same time. Some may have an alcohol level of 16%, some of 11%. Obviously, most will be around the 14% mark. The grapes are then foot trodden in traditional lagares. After fermentation, the wine is matured for 20 months in new French oak barrels. This wine is only made in exceptional years, seven times this century so far.



I am drinking the 2015 Quinta do Crasto Vinha da Ponte. I managed to get two bottles to Australia, with great difficulty. The bouquet has lifted aromatics. I smell red and blue forest berries on the nose.

The flavours of this full-bodied wine are unusual. It is very blue fruited. There are red berries as well and some spice. I decanted the wine, as suggested on the back label, but the wine still felt very young with a lot of energy. It was a warm vintage, but the acidity in this wine is high - maybe because some varieties are harvested early for them. Tannins have medium intensity. The oak is smartly integrated and hides behind the strong fruit, which carries through to the long finish.

This is quite a unique wine with a lot of personality. I also have two bottles of the sister wine, the Maria Teresa, but based on this experience, I will leave them in the cellar a little longer.

Score: 96/+++  



 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Georges Noëllat Les Petits Monts

 The Les Petits Monts is a relatively high altitude 1er cru vineyard in Vosne-Romanée, situated just above the famous Richebourg. This was a good place to be for the warm vintage of 2015. The following year, when I visited Burgundy, I met Maxime Cheurlin, the young winemaker of Georges Noëllat. He is perhaps most famous for having stood up Jancis Robinson at a prestigious lunch in London, but I digress. The wine which impressed me was the 2015 Georges Noëllat 1er cru Les Petits Monts. It was not easy to get some of this wine to Australia, but I managed via a friend in Switzerland. Hopefully this effort was worth it.


The colour is a brilliant crimson. The nose is a little closed, with red cherry notes emerging slowly.

The flavours explode on the palate. This wine is vibrant! Red cherry, strawberry, and some smoky savoury notes dance on the tongue. This wine is upbeat all the way. Silky tannins deliver an exquisite mouthfeel, and the elusive peacock's tail emerges a bit shyly on the finish.

This is an elegant and delicious wine, quite generous. A bit more cut-through would have delivered an even higher assessment. Will reach peak in 3-5 years.

Score: 96/+++


Monday, December 27, 2021

What Have We Been Drinking This Christmas?

 Christmas gatherings this year have been much smaller in many countries, as we are still in the grip of covid-19. However, I am sure this community has still been enjoying their wine. My drinkings are shown below.



The Arras Sparkling was sadly disappointing. It was fresh, but had little complexity and no biscuit flavours. The Nimbostratus Chardonnay is an unusual wine, which I will report on separately. I enjoyed the Derthona again, which I have reviewed previously. It is a bigger white wine without having buttery flavours. It went well with the prawns. But the wine of the day was the Georges Noëllat Burgundy. Again, I will review it separately.

What have you been drinking? Please comment. I am also interested in comments from the Northern Hemisphere, where different temperatures no doubt lead to different choices. 


Friday, December 24, 2021

The Standish Wine Company Lamella Shiraz

 I am quite excited about this wine. Therefore I am writing this up, as I drink it on Christmas Eve. It is the 2015 The Standish Wine Company Lamella from Eden Valley.


I am drawn straight to the palate. Flavours of red cherry, cranberry, mocca, and some secondary earthy notes create interest. The key here, however, is the combination of energy, power and elegance. This wine absolutely nails it. The tannins are fine for a full-bodied wine. The super long finish is smooth and lifted, and very impactful.

This wine is superb drinking now. It will not last as long as a very good Bordeaux, but should drink really well for the next 3-5 years.

Score: 97/+++

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir

 When it comes to Pinot Noir from the Mornington Peninsula, I tend to be quite selective. Many of the wines are bold and fruity and lack Pinot Noir typicity. Yabby Lake is a producer I am happy to try. Yesterday it was the 2015 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir. This is a mid-level wine from this company.


Surprisingly, for a 6 year old wine, the colour included some orange-brown tinges. The wine did not give away much on the nose.

On the palate, there was red cherry, but savoury notes dominated, in particular mushroom. Some spice added a nice contrast, but otherwise, this wine was not very complex. On the positive side, the tannins were fine and the finish quite long. Overall, a somewhat perplexing, drink now wine.

Score: 91/+  


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

E. Pira Chiara Boschis Via Nuova

 In general, I do not take much notice when people describe a vintage as great or poor. Hot or cool, yes, because this can be objectively verified. But in terms of quality, there is so much variation that you can find great wines in so called poor vintages, and poor wines in great vintages. The odds are perhaps against it, but I prefer to look at the individual wine.

2012 was regarded as a pretty good vintage in Piedmont, although dwarfed by 2010 and 2013. So when I opened the 2012 E. Pira Chiara Boschis Via Nuova I was pretty confident this should be a good wine at a good time to drink. The Via Nuova is a blended Barolo. The number of vineyards varies between vintages. In 2012, it is a blend of six vineyards, two each from Barolo, Monforte, and Serralunga.


When I opened the bottle, I got a bit concerned. The colour was a quite developed blend of red and brown. I inspected the cork, which was firm and hardly penetrated by wine. Dried flowers and prune notes emerged from the glass.

Being from the southern areas of Piedmont, this is always a full-bodied wine. Unfortunately, this wine lacked energy. The flavours were very earthy with some dried fruit characteristics. The wine still has a good structure with mellowed dry tannins. The finish is long.

This wine is much more developed than it should be at 9 years of age, and is past its best. It could of course be the bottle, but if you have this wine, I suggest you drink it now.

Score: 89/0






Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Yeringberg Pinot Noir

 The Yeringberg winery has famous neighbours in Yarra Yering and Coldstream Hills. Like the generations before, the fourth generation of the founding family is focussed on quality. The low production allows it to eschew all forms of publicity, hype and marketing. Therefore, it is not often talked about. Yesterday, I drank the 2015 Yeringberg Pinot Noir.


On the nose, I experienced wet forest floor or even the opening of a can of wet tennis balls.

This is a very savoury wine, not unlike by Farr. Mushroom, red capsicum, tomato, and earthy flavours emerge on the palate of this smooth wine. The structure is solid, even though acidity and tannins are quite light. The only drawback: this subtle wine can be overwhelmed by food.

Score: 93/++

  

Monday, December 13, 2021

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay

 For 30 years, from about 1980, the answer to which wine was Australia's best Chardonnay, was relatively simple. It was either Giaconda's Chardonnay or the Leeuwin Art Series, with Pierro challenging in some years. During this time, Penfolds embarked on the 'white Grange' project, the ambition very clear.

A few weeks ago, I tasted the highly acclaimed 2018 Yattarna. It is a very good wine, and as I have a couple of bottles in my cellar I will report on it in the future. However, the wine would not have made me change my view expressed in the previous paragraph.



Then I tasted the 2012 Penfolds Yattarna a few days ago. This wine blew me away. It started with the pungent nose of exotic fruit. The wine is sourced, I believe, from three regions, Adelaide Hills, Henty (Victoria) and Tasmania. As a cool climate wine, you expect citrus the dominant, maybe only flavour. However, this wine shows peach, grapefruit, even some tropical fruits. Biscotti notes round out the palate.  This is complex! It remains focused and precise. The overall mouthfeel has some ageing Semillon characteristics as well. Smoothed out acidity, and a gentleness, which is very appealing.

This is the greatest Australian Chardonnay since the 1987 Leeuwin Chardonnay (with apologies to the younger readers).

Score: 97/+++

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Chateau Rauzan-Ségla

 The high quality Chateau Rauzan-Ségla from the Margaux subregion swims somewhat under the radar in Australia. The 2005 Chateau Rauzan-Ségla is testament to the winery's quality. 


2005 was a warm vintage, and after opening the wine, it is already clear this is a big wine. The nose is highly aromatic, with blackcurrant and earthy notes emerging from the glass.

On the palate, a complex flavour, a blend of blackcurrant, charcoal meat, cigarbox, and smoky and slightly saline elements emerges. The oak is noticeable, but well integrated by now. This is a dense and powerful wine at 'only' 13.5% alcohol. The Merlot component delivers on the mid-palate, no problem. Firm and dry tannins lead to a full-flavoured finish. This wine demands beef. 

This Margaux will live much longer, as secondary notes will completely take over in time. Decanting is highly recommended.

Score: 95/++    


Monday, November 29, 2021

Penfolds Grange

I am not one who advocates to keep bottles for special occasions. Often, they never come, and bottles become undrinkable. But conversely, if a special occasion happens, it is good to be able to open a special bottle. This happened to me a couple of days ago, and the special bottle was a 1998 Penfolds Grange

Excellent cork, medium to high shoulder

The colour of this wine was still dark purple. This was encouraging. The nose was a bit subdued, smells of cranberry rising slowly.

But on the palate, it all happened. Primary fruit was still there; cranberry, red- and blackcurrant paste, forest berry jam . There were mocca flavours and a whiff of eucalypt, but overall, secondary notes dominated; cedar, tobacco, cigarbox, charcoaled meat. All these flavours evolved in a layered fashion in this big wine. 

This Grange was still quite lively and fresh in the mouth - quite remarkable. The structure is monumental and still strong. This is unmistakably Grange. Muscular dry tannins lead to a very long finish.

It is a good time to drink the 1998. At 23 years, it probably delivers maximum complexity. No doubt, it will drink well for another 10 years if stored correctly. This wine needs protein.

Score: 98/+++






Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Wines Of Jura

 Jura wines are relatively rare, representing only 0.2% of French wine production with its 2000ha under vine. They also represent quite unique wine styles, as described below, and they are all the rage in the bars of New York and Tokyo. The authorized grape varieties are Savagnin and Chardonnay for white wine, and Poulsard, Pinot Noir and Trousseau (Bastardo) for red. Two third of the plantings are for white wine, and this is where most of the interest lies.

One of the unique styles is vin jaune (yellow wine), only made from Savagnin. The wine juice is matured for six years in neutral casks. It is not allowed to be topped up for five years. As a result, ullage develops, which results in an oxidized wine. The impact is somewhat reduced by the yeast which develops as a thin cover, similar to sherry production. A second group of wines is called sous voile, which means the wine matures under yeast as well, but not for the duration of vin jaune. This can be Savagnin or Chardonnay. Macvin are wines with the addition of a neutral spirit. This wine can be made from all five varieties. And then there is the desert wine vin de paille. This wine is made from air dried grapes. Conventional wines are made as well, red and white. In contrast to other regions, red wines are meant to be drunk young, whereas white wines are mostly aged.

Tasting these wines can be challenging and does not necessarily correspond with expected varietal character, as the production method dominates. I will report briefly on the outstanding four wines from a recent tasting.


The wine on the left is the 2016 Jean Francois Ganevat Les Chamois du Paradis. The flavours in this sous voile wine are exotic. Pear and orange peel and some flintiness capture the palate. This wine has been matured in neutral oak for four years and topped up occasionally. The wine is elegant and balanced (95 points). 

The 2010 Lucien Aviet Savagnin has also been matured sous voile. It is quite an aggressive wine, very yeasty, similar to sherry, with lime and hazelnut flavours dominating. It is long, but I found it a bit one-dimensional (93 points).

The 2010 Lucien Aviet Vin Jeune takes it a step further. This wine is very oxidized, yet still lively and fresh. It is quite salty with a very long finish (94 points).

The absolute highlight was the 1996 Tissot Arbois Vin de Paille. This very rare (not that the others are common) desert wine is oily and melts in your mouth. It is lively and dances on the palate. Caramel, raisin and pepper stand out. The finish is very long (98 points). 



  

Monday, November 22, 2021

Maude Pinot Noir

 Maude has been a favorite of mine since I visited this boutique winery, located in a small side valley off Wanaka Lake in Central Otago quite a few years ago, and not well known. This changed, when the 2017 Maude Pinot Noir was voted New Zealand's best Pinot Noir of the year. Today, I am tasting this wine.


The Maude Pinot Noir is a blended wine from different sites in Central Otago, and not even the top wine, which, by price, is the single vineyard from the home block. This is quite often the case, and a purchasing opportunity, as the focus is on single vineyard wines and terroir.

The bouquet of this wine does not give too much away, but on the palate, a beautiful red and black cherry flavoured wine unfolds. This wine is bright and very pure. It is lighter and more elegant than the typical Central Otago wine. It has an ethereal and captivating mouthfeel. Fine and silky tannins wave around the fruit. The finish is medium to long.

Score: 95/+++

    

Monday, November 15, 2021

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery

 The most aromatic wines in Bordeaux come from the subregion of Margaux. The 2009 Chateau Malescot St. Exupery is a very good example. It is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot (rounding).


The nose is intense and perfumed, with forest berry notes. On the palate, blackcurrant, black cherry, graphite and cedar flavours deliver a typical Cabernet Sauvignon sensation. The mouthfeel is elegant with gentle spice.The wine delivers quite a regal experience. There is a bit of a hole on the mid palate, but it is minor, before the wine finishes very smooth. It lingers on the palate with well integrated tannins.

This is a classy wine which deserves more recognition. It drinks well now, and will stay at this level for another 5-10 years for sure.

Score: 94/++ 


Friday, November 12, 2021

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc

 As you would probably expect from a blog like this, there are not many reviews of Sauvignon Blanc. But let us not forget that blends with Semillon produce great results in Bordeaux and Margaret River. In New Zealand, a number of companies have released more complex Sauvignon Blancs by maturing them in oak, for example. There are, however, some 'standard' Sauvignon Blancs which should not be overlooked. One such wine is the 2020 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc. This producer has delivered quality for many years.


Yes, there are gooseberry and some herbaceous flavours, but there is more. Peach, mango and lemon curd add complexity to the palate - and there is fresh acidity on the finish, as you would expect.

The wine will benefit from another year in the bottle in order for the somewhat aggressive acidity to settle down.

Score: 90/+



Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Top 5 Wine Trends 2021

 As I was reflecting on the major wine trends this year, I came to the conclusion nothing will change them in the next few weeks, so I might as well share them now. This is written from an Australian perspective.

1) The rise of Grenache. 

Grenache has been with us for a long time, of course, first as an input into port, then as a key component of GSMs. But now, high quality varietal wine is made, and the consumers are lapping it up. Grenache suits warming climate, and its flavours and freshness are also well suited to our palates. Key growing areas are the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, and some high quality is coming from the Great Southern Region in Western Australia.

2) Value Chardonnay

Value Chardonnay has always been around, but never in the numbers and quality as now. These wines are really narrowing the gap to the ultra premium wines. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic will further develop. Best examples come from the Yarra Valley and Margaret River.

3) Elegance over power

Producing powerful elegant wines can be regarded as the holy grail, but in reality, this is seldom achieved. Powerful wines are often high alcohol, tannic, and a little harsh. Well now, many producers give up some of this power for elegance. Grapes are picked earlier, less new oak is used. This trend applies to many wines, but in particular Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, not all winemakers follow this trend, but it is undeniable.

4) Zero Alcohol, wine in cans

This trend is still emerging, but in quite a powerful way. There are a number of factors at work. The major one is to appeal to young drinkers, many of whom find the wine traditions unappealing. And in general, many consumers want to reduce alcohol intake without giving up wine. Quality remains an issue, but major improvements are likely.

5) More and more varied Rosé

Rosé has become an acceptable drink - it took a while. Now it comes in many styles, from many countries, made from many different grapes and blends.


So there it is for 2021.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Bass Phillip Issan Vineyard Pinot Noir

 The Issan Vineyard is situated 15km from the famous Bass Phillip home block. It was densely planted in 93 and 94 according to Burgundy principles. The Pinot Noir from it is Bass Phillip's cheapy, well, it is all relative.


The 2015 Bass Phillip Issan Vineyard Pinot Noir shows some development in the glass, as an orange tinge envelops the red colour. On the nose, beautiful rose aromas rise from the glass.

On the palate, red cherry and red and black forest berry flavours emerge. There are some earthy notes, but fruit dominates, leading to a soft mid-palate. The flavours are not that complex, but the wine is fresh and energetic. This wine is not as intense as the Estate wine. The tannins are fine and firm, and the finish is medium in length.

Overall, this is a balanced wine, but not in the league of the original vineyard. Perhaps this is a little disappointing, given this vineyard was constructed with high ambition. It will be interesting to see what the new owner will do with it.

Score: 92/++ 


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Yes Said The Seal Pinot Noir

 


The name is unusual, but this was not the only thing creating interest when this wine was released. It beat all famous entries in some show. There was some concern raised how the 2016 Yes said the seal Pinot Noir would age, so let's have a look.

This wine is quite delicate on the nose, with an appealing strawberry bouquet. On the palate, the strawberry notes continue, but there are also black cherry flavours. More pronounced are savoury flavours, such as mushroom, earth, and wet stone. This wine has good Pinot Noir typicity. The palate is quite elegant and delicate. This is why people were concerned about ageability. However, the wine has a firm acidic backbone and silky tannins.

This wine is beautiful now. The structure is perhaps a little fragile. I suggest to drink this wine now to two years. 

Score: 94/+++

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Classification Turmoil At St.-Emilion

 The classification of St.-Emilion needs to be renewed every 10 years. Wineries need to submit an application and supply their credentials. Cheval-Blanc and Chateau Ausone, who are in the highest classification, have decided not to make a submission for the 2022 renewal. Their reasoning? There is now some emphasis placed on the treatment of visitors and social media activities. They believe it should remain based on terroir, wine, and history alone. It is therefore likely they will drop out of the classification, and they do not mind.

Is this another stepping stone towards making these classifications irrelevant? The other being that some lower rated wineries on the left bank outperform higher rated wineries on a consistent basis.

PS: I visited Chateau Ausone some years ago, and was treated very well. 

A Premium Merlot Tasting

 Merlot is a fickle grape. If the wine is not from Pomerol or St. Emilion, it is a disappointment, most of the time. Merlot is a good blender with Cabernet, fleshing out the mid-palate, but on its own, it often lacks structure. A group of us got together to find out if there are excellent Merlot examples outside the famous Right Bank areas. And indeed, we found an outstanding wine, and several good examples.


The outstanding wine was the 2016 Henri Milan 'Le Jardin'. This wine comes from Provence, and the winemaker has the understated goal of achieving Petrus quality on this special plot of blue clay. The winery is biodynamic. Therefore, the beautiful perfume on the nose is perhaps no surprise. This is a complex wine with blackcurrant, truffle, dark chocolate and horse saddle flavours. The wine is quite tannic and has a huge amount of energy. Sadly, production is minuscule (96 points). He is on his way, I think.

The second wine was the 2010 Villa Maria Gimblett Gravels Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release. This is perhaps not an entirely fair inclusion, as this wine is only 67% Merlot, but still, Merlot dominates. Villa Maria produces wines of varying quality, this wine impressed.


This is a complex wine. Floral notes rise invitingly from the glass. The palate is very elegant and focussed. Herbal flavours reminded me of Italian origin. The wine is not underripe, in fact the core is sweet, and the tannins are silky (94 points).

The third wine is another small production wine. It is the 2015 Chateau Picoron. It comes from a right bank vineyard, if you will, which is situated 10-15km south-east of Saint-Emilion.


From a warm vintage, this is a powerhouse. It is a bit in your face and aggressive. Black and red cherry fruit dominates, and there are savoury notes as well. The tannins are high, as is the alcohol (15.2%). The structure is sound, and the finish long (91 points). I preferred the 2016, which was also tasted. It was similar in style, but gentler (92 points).

The last wine I would like to report on is the 2018 Hickinbotham The Revivalist Merlot. It comes from the cool northern part of McLaren Vale. In fact the Merlot is grown from the highest altitude plots of this outstanding vineyard. 


The wine was not rated as highly as the last two, probably because of its strong fruit component on the palate. This wine makes a big statement. It is lush, but not just fruity. Mushroom flavours add to the very balanced mouthfeel (94 points). I liked it a lot, and a very experienced taster thought it was from Pomerol.

The Merlot grape is a very 'open' grape, which means it is influenced a lot by terroir. The 'Le Jardin' is grown on blue clay, and the Hickinbotham is also grown on very old silty loam and brown clay. I came to the conclusion that soil is a key factor for this variety, more so than for any other major grape variety. 

A number of older Merlots (more than 10 years) were also presented at the tasting. They had lost their fruit and were over the hill. Another lesson: do not age Merlot for too long.





   


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tertini Lagrein

 On to the second exotic. It is perhaps less exotic, as Lagrein is a Northern Italian variety. The name is Austrian, and it originates from Tyrol. I call it exotic, because it is not well known, even in Italy, and much less in Australia. This wine is produced by Tertini, an Italian family wine company in the Southern Highlands. The Southern Highlands themselves are not well known for premium wines, but Tertini stands out, and I encourage people to try their wines.


The 2018 Tertini Lagrein tastes of black cherry, sour cherry and herbs (not because of unripe). This is a medium-bodied wine with quite an attractive flavour profile. The acidity is very high, and would not be everybody's cup of tea. Tannins are medium, and the finish is very soft.

This wine needs time to mellow, and the ageing potential is good.

Score: 91/0 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Zorah Karasì

 Today is the first report on two exotics. Over the last couple of years, wines from Georgia have become more popular, in particular the natural wines. In a tasting some time ago, I found most wines sub-standard, I have to say. Today, however, the reviewed wine is from Armenia, the likely birth place of wine growing. 


The 2018 Zorah Karasì is grown close to Mount Ararat, at an elevation of 1400 meters. It is near the Areni cave, considered the oldest winery at 6100 years of age. The grape variety is the indigenous Areni Noir. It has a very thick skin and is well suited to the diurnal temperature variation of this continental climate. In 2012, an Areni Noir wine made it into Bloomberg's top 10 wines world-wide.

Zorah is the preeminent winery in Armenia today. I am not sure of the winemaking process, other than the wine is aged in amphorae. Karasì means 'from amphorae'.

Now to the wine. The colour is deep purple. It is medium- to full-bodied, with flavours of dark cherry and mulberry. Not a very detailed expression, but it tastes elegant in the mouth. Dry and coarse tannins cut through the fruit. 

This wine has some complexity, and the slightly harsh finish is quite long. It is a distinctive style, maybe closest to Malbec in its fruit orientation. Further refinement can make this an excellent wine.

Score: 90/+  

  

Monday, October 4, 2021

Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo

 Gianfranco Alessandria is not a division 1 producer in Barolo and 2011, while part of a string of decent vintages, was not a great one. How good can the 2011 Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo really be? It comes from the San Giovanni vineyard of the Monforte subregion.


The colour of the wine is a rustic red. It looks quite developed.

Cranberry fruit opens up on the palate, followed by savoury characteristics, such as leather, cigarbox and earthy notes. It is a complex and attractive profile. Overall, the mouthfeel is a little rustic, but the wine still has good energy. It is balanced despite the robust tannins, typical for a traditional wine from  Monforte. 

Overall, the wine has an interesting profile and personality. I recommend to drink this now.

Score: 93/+++


Thursday, September 30, 2021

San Filippo Le Lucére Brunello

 When it comes to Italian wines, my favorites are Barolos from Piedmont. I love the aromatics, complex flavours, and tannin structures. The other star performers are the Sangioveses from Montalcino, known as Brunellos. While they are generally highly regarded, I find them less interesting and enjoyable. However, every now and then I should put this to the test. Last night I tried the 2013 San Filippo Le Lucére Brunello.


From a good year and a single vineyard, this wine delivers fruity and savoury flavours, with red and black cherry, espresso notes, leather and spice. It is a medium- to full-bodied wine with high acidity, typical of Sangiovese. I find it a bit flat on the mid-palate. The firm tannins play in the background. But then, it comes together well on a harmonious, slightly salty finish.

This is a good wine, no doubt, but it is also very expensive. My opening paragraph still stands.

Score: 93/+


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz

 The 2012 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz is a powerhouse. Intense aromas of blackberry and mocca rise from the glass.

On the palate, blackcurrant, plum and blackberry flavours blend the typicity of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz together in a seamless way. This wine is full-bodied, as you would expect, and quite dense, almost impenetrable, more than in other vintages. The tannins are firm and match the fruit weight. The wine is in balance and very long on the finish.

At 9 years, this wine still is a baby. It has at least a couple of decades to go.

Score: 95/++

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Casal Figueira António Vital

 When I visited the Douro Valley in Portugal four years ago, I was also impressed with a number of white wines, in particular from vineyards at more than 500m elevation. Having access to these wines is close to impossible in Australia. So when I had a chance to buy some Portuguese white wine, I went for it. The 2019 Casal Figueira António is, however, from vineyards near Lisbon, 200-450m in altitude.


António Carvalho saved the Vital variety there. The limestone plots carry bush wines of 70-100+ years of age. The viticulture is biodynamic.

Tasting the wine, the first thing that you notice is the freshness and cleanness of the wine. Passionfruit and melon are detectable on the palate, but this wine is more textural. Really, the flavour is quite subdued and forward. The acidity makes this wine very refreshing. This is a summer wine quaffer.

Score: 87/0


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Four In Hand Barossa Shiraz

 


The 2015 Four In Hand Barossa Shiraz, from a warm vintage, tastes of plum, plum, plum with a bit of mocca in the background. It is quite smooth to begin with, with an overwhelming sweet core. Then it turns into a hot and alcoholic finish. 

I was contemplating if I simply did not like this wine or if it was not well made. Well, it is not well made, in my view; not in balance, overripe. Robert Parker has retired a little while ago.

Score: 86/-- 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay

 It is not easy, and also not necessary, to say something new about the iconic Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay. That is, unless one opens an older bottle. This is not often talked about. Chardonnay in general does not age well beyond 7 years in Australia. This is a review of the 2011 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay. 2011 was a poor vintage for red wines in most of Australia. White wines fared a little better. However in Western Australia, vintage conditions were excellent.


The painting for this wine is a little whimsical, but there is nothing whimsical about the content. Citrus and grapefruit still dominate, the vanilla from the new oak is woven in well. There is a hint of honey now, but the wine is still fresh and fruit focused. The fresh acidity drives the great line in this wine. It is perhaps not the most complex Leeuwin, but the long finish is very satisfying.

Score: 95/+++


Monday, September 13, 2021

Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon

 When an upstart won best Cabernet Sauvignon and best red wine at the Margaret River wine show in 2013, it created quite a stir. And eyebrows were really raised when this wine was released at three times the price of the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon or Cullen Diana Madeline. This was of course Cloudburst. It certainly had 'bursted' on the scene. Maybe Will Berliner, the American owner, thought this was still cheap by Napa Valley standards. It has since become clear that something very special was happening here. The vines are still young, but they are grown on an unspoiled piece of land near the ocean. It has never seen any pesticides. Instead the care by Will Berliner is exceptional. This is a review of the 2011 Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon.

Only the name on the front, and the back rather translucent

The nose is very intense and perfumed with pure dark fruit aromas. 

On the palate, blackberry rather than blackcurrant opens up, mulberry and black olive flavours take over. The flavours of this elegant and smooth wine are quite layered, revealing new nuances as one ponders the wine. The wine is full-bodied, but not at all fat, with 13.2% alc. There is good fruit weight and great purity. The wine to me feels more like a first class Merlot. It is powerful, but also light-footed. The tannins are very silky. This wine is still a baby, with a beautiful long finish on fine tannins.

So what about the price? Well, it is actually cheaper that Cullen's Vanya or equal to the Tom Cullity by Vasse Felix. Another way to look at it: would you rather drink a bottle of this or two/three bottles of the Cullen Diana Madeline or the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon? Not sure on an ongoing basis, but I suggest you try a bottle once. Why? This wine is different. It feels very complex and accomplished, yet as the vines are young, it has a different vibrancy to the other wines. 

Score: 96/+++
   

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Huber Vision

 


The 2020 Huber Vision Grüner Veltliner comes from an organic vineyard in the small Traisental, near the Danube, maybe 100km west of Vienna. This is Grüner Veltliner country.

The colour of the wine is surprisingly intense, golden green. On the nose, apple and peach flavours rise from the glass.

On the palate, green apple, and citrus flavours hit the front with some spice, not pepper, quite mild. Yellow peach flavours take over down the palate. This wine has a fairly big mouthfeel. It is a little fruity and surprisingly rich for this variety. There is a hint of minerality on the finish. Overall, the wine is well made, but lacks some definition. 

It is interesting what is happening here. 2020 was a warm vintage. As a result, the wine is broader and lacks some acidity. A very knowledgeable friend of mine remarked that Grüner Veltliner has more trouble coping with warm weather than Riesling, which can still deliver balanced acidity in these conditions.

Score: 89/0 



Thursday, September 9, 2021

Domaine des Croix Beaune Les Cents Vignes

 It is not easy to buy a high quality red Burgundy at a reasonable price. As I mentioned a number of times before, producer selection is just as or even more critical than terroir. The 2015 Domaine des Croix Beaune 1er cru Les Cents Vignes was attractive to me for a number of reasons: good vintage, 1er cru, 50 to 70 year old vines. The vineyard is close to Beaune, below the well known Les Bressandes,  on the valley floor.

Note: No alcohol level on the label, neither on the back

Red and black cherry, some blue fruits attack the palate. The fruit is quite fresh and pure, but is quickly overwhelmed by quite sharp tannins, leaving the mid-palate a bit hollow. As a result, the wine is not totally balanced and the finish a little harsh. It is surprising, as the year and location should have developed generous fruit. This is not a bad wine by any means, but not quite what I had hoped for.

Score: 90/+



 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

What To (Eventually) Do With Your Wine Cellar

 There comes a time when you need to decide what to do with your wine cellar. It is easy if your child or children are interested. They will be delighted to inherit your bottles. But what if you have no children or they express no interest in your wine?

There are then essentially two options. Option 1 is to at some point sell the cellar to an auction house or retailer who acquires wine cellars. It is a little sad though, if you move from 100 to 0, or say 5, in one foul swoop.

Option 2 is to reduce the cellar while still buying wine. This is how you do it. Say, you consume on average 20 bottles per month. If you are then disciplined enough to buy just one case per month, you reduce your cellar by 100 bottles per year. Instead of buying one case, you may decide to buy 2 6-packs or 3 bottles of four different wines. This still allows you to keep up with a lot of variety if you wish. And you may decide to buy better quality.

In this way, I have reduced my wine cellar from 1500 to 700 bottles in the last eight years. When I get to 200 or 300 bottles, I need to work out how to still have aged wine. Maybe buy at auction from time to time.

Any thoughts?

 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

What Is An Ethereal Wine?

 The definition of 'ethereal' is 'extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world'. This does not quite capture when a wine is spoken of as ethereal. When applied to wine, ethereal means light and delicate, often silky, but also intense. It is a descriptor of the texture of the wine. A long lifting finish (peacock's tail) also adds to a wine being ethereal, as the flavours seem to sail into a very pleasant oblivion. The grape variety which can express this best is Pinot Noir. Barolo is sometimes described as etherial, but strong tannins often break the spell.

I was reflecting on this as I drank a bottle of the 2013 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir. It expresses this texture and finish perfectly (97 points).   

Friday, August 27, 2021

Wendouree Shiraz

 Every serious drinker of Australian wine should drink a bottle of Wendouree Shiraz at least once. It is a true icon of the rise of Australian still wine production during the last 50 years. In some ways, it is an old fashioned wine, with power rated higher than elegance, but subtle changes have been made over the last 15 years, in particular to make the wine more attractive for earlier consumption. The 2010 Wendouree Shiraz, reviewed here, even comes screw capped.


This wine opens up with concentrated fruit, blackberry and dark plum flavours. It is a full-bodied wine, of course. What stands out on the palate, is the purity of fruit from this excellent vintage. Then the palate gets hit by a wall of firm and coarse tannins. On the finish, they are mashed with the intensity of the fruit.

Score: 94/0


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Seppeltsfield Great Terraced Vineyard Grenache

 When I did my field research in the Barossa close to 10 years ago, I marveled at the old Shiraz and Grenache vineyards of Seppeltsfield. At the time, the Shiraz vineyards were leased to Fosters, later Treasury Wine Estates, I believe. The Grenache went into fortified wines, still. A few years later, a series of still wines of Shiraz were launched, with moderate success. The business changed ownership, and now Seppeltsfield has released a series of premium Shiraz and Grenache. I have not tried the Shirazes yet. They seem quite full-bodied and ripe. However, a few days ago I tasted the 2020 Seppeltsfield Great Terraced Vineyard Grenache.


The vineyard is very close to the Torbreck Les Amis vineyard. It was originally planted in 1855, and replanted from 100 years later. I am not sure what you make of the label. Blue does not work for me on wine bottles.

The first thing to say is that if you plan to drink this wine soon (which I would not recommend), decant the wine for at least two hours, and leave some for day two.

The wine presents many different fruit flavours on the palate; raspberry, but mostly dark fruits like blackberry and mulberry. There are savoury notes, in particular licorice and graphite, as well as spice. This is a moorish, full-bodied wine with a lot of complexity. At the same time, it has the typical brightness and vibrancy of Grenache. The tannins are dry and hold a firm grip on the wine's structure.

This is an attractive ripe and powerful Grenache with a long finish. The components have not quite come together just yet, but I have no doubt they will in two to three years.

Score: 95/++ 


  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

5 Underrated Red Wine Varieties of Australia

 

To create a bit of variety, I am publishing a guest post by Natasha K of Just Wines  

 Over the years, Australia has established itself as a wine-producing country around the world. Without any doubt, it produces tonnes of wine on a daily basis which has made people of the country consume it in a similar way. However, this has made some categories of wines quite popular over others. Wine varieties like Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc have been recognised as the ‘Superstars of the Wine industry’. They certainly have those qualities but there are some other great grape varieties too which are equally flavourful yet less recognised.

 Today, let’s know about five underrated red wine varieties of Australia that deserve their due.

 Mourvèdre

 Australia’s interpretation of this wine that is thought to have originated in Spain is by its blueberry and plum characteristics. A meaty, rustic and full-bodied red variety, it has many different names. This earthy and rustic wine grew popular in Australia in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale region after a decline in the 1980s. The grape’s natural, full-bodied character grows well in Australia’s warm climate and rich soil.

 Tempranillo

 Tempranillo found a second home in Australia after hailing from Spain. It became a great match with the diet and climate of the country. A medium to full-bodied wine that quite conveniently balances earthy and fruity flavours like cherry, leather, plum and cedar. When oaked, one can expect to get some spicy and vanilla flavours too. If you like Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, you will find Tempranillo as a great option.

 Malbec

 Grown in warm and cool regions in Australia like Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Rutherglen, Hunter Valley, Orange, Mudgee, and Swan Hill, Malbec can be your favourite wine if you are fond of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. This medium to full-bodied wine boasts of bold fruit characters and has an easy-drinking style. Flaunting an intense purple colour with deep mulberry tones and a magenta-tinged colour around the rim, it emanates lifted dark berry and raspberry aromas along with subtle spice and mocha overtones.

 Nerello Mascalese

 Originally from Sicily, Nerello Mascalese was brought to Australia by the Chalmers family in the late 90s. Ever since then, it has been seen as a very promising grape for Australian vineyards. Wines made from Nerello Mascalese are usually quite structured with high acidity and fairly grippy tannins features.

Often characterised by red berry fruits, wild strawberries and cherries in a sour spectrum along with woodsy herbs, dried florals and minerals. Nerello Mascalese is a late-ripening variety, and most vines are trained in the traditional bush-vine training method.

 Petit Verdot

 The potential for this grape variety has been recognised by Australian winemakers. Famous regions like  Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek are excelling in this style. On the other hand, wine regions such as Perricoota, Murray Darling and Hunter Valley have their location characteristics to offer to the Australian Petit Verdot. A late-ripening bold grape variety, it is rich in dark fruits. Black cherry, violet, plum, sage and lilac notes are common. A full-bodied structure wine, it has strong and firm tannins and spices that emerge due to the small berries and thick skin of this variety. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Zinfandel, you will love this style.

 Give these intriguing and flavourful wines a try from the comfort of your home, for example by looking up Just Wines. 

 

 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Kumeu Village Chardonnay

 Drinkers of Australian Chardonnay never had it so good. I do not review many value wines, because I do not find them satisfying, but with Chardonnay it is different. Flametree and Hoddles Creek featured on my blog as great value Chardonnays. Perhaps the most exciting actually comes from New Zealand's best Chardonnay producer: Kumeu.


The 2020 Kumeu Village Chardonnay is an excellent wine. It is delicious on the palate, richer than others, but not overly so. Citrus, white peach, and passionfruit flavours vie for your attention. But what is really attractive in this wine is balance. The fruit is perfectly matched by fine acidity, and there is also balance between richness/roundness in the mouth and linearity/drive down the palate. Highly recommended.

Score: 93/+++ 


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Grace Kayagatake Koshu

 When it comes to alternative varieties, most people think of wines from the Mediterranean; Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece even. Close to the top of my list is Koshu, Japan's indigenous grape variety. The Grace Winery is one of Japan's best with a variety of wines. This review is of a single vineyard wine, the 2019 Grace Kayagatake Koshu.



The wine has a light and bright colour. Citrus and minerality dominate, but the main impression is the purity of the fruit. Medium acidity delivers good energy of this balanced wine. The closest would be a light Chablis. This relatively low alcohol wine (11.5%) is delightful to drink.

Isn't it interesting how indigenous wine often matches the food in the country perfectly, for example Chianti and Pizza or northern Italian food and Nebbiolo. This wine is perfect with raw fish, sashimi or sushi.

Score: 93/+++

 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

by Farr Farrside Pinot Noir

 This will be a more radical review of this highly acclaimed wine - a perspective you may not find on commercial review sites. The review is for the 2014 by Farr Farrside Pinot Noir.


The colour of this wine is purple with a brown-orange overlay. It looks like this wine is quite developed already.

But what is more significant is the flavour of this wine, whose grapes are grown on a vineyard of dark volcanic soils. On the palate, this is a very savoury wine, not in a forest floor way, but in a uncharacteristically masculine and powerful way for a Pinot Noir. The flavours are of black olive, licorice, smoke and charcoal meat. There are saline notes on the back palate. There is nothing wrong with this profile in principle, but is this what a Pinot Noir should taste like? It is certainly quite extreme and would split consumers of fine Pinot Noir.

Score: 94/0




Sunday, August 1, 2021

Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon

 I commented on the impact of Magnum bottles under cork in my last post. But what about when the closure is a screw cap? To find out, I opened a 2007 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon Magnum.


This wine is still very aromatic, with blackberry, blackcurrant, and mulberry flavours. Mocca notes on the mid palate. The flavours have dried a little, but this Cabernet is fresh for a 13 year old wine. The wine has a balanced and elegant mouthfeel. The tannins are firm, and have mellowed a little. This Abercrombie is drinking beautifully right now. 

What is the Magnum impact? Probably not much. I have certainly had 13 year old Margaret River Cabernet in a standard bottle and under screw cap with similar characteristics. My view is the benefit of the Magnum is not present here. The attraction would be restricted to a dinner party or similar.

Score: 94/+++  



Thursday, July 29, 2021

Coriole Lloyd Reserve Shiraz

 We do not drink enough wines from Magnum. Somehow the reduced ratio of cork exposure to wine volume, when compared with the standard bottle, can deliver magic. It is clear that wines age longer in Magnums. I guess there are two reasons for the relative unpopularity. One is that a couple would not normally finish a Magnum bottle in one session. It is therefore seen as a party drink. However, wine in Magnums will keep for two to three days minimum without problems, even with a simple stopper. The other reason is that Magnums in Australia cost more than double the standard bottle, largely because of low scale and high glass bottle prices. However, European Magnums are often priced just double the standard bottle. I am not sure how the taste comparison goes with Magnums under screw cap.


Today's Magnum is the 2005 Coriole Lloyd Reserve Shiraz, one of their flagship wines. This is a full-bodied, quite ripe wine. Plum flavours are accompanied by light leather and smoke, but the dominant sensation is black pepper. The texture of the wine is a bit rustic. This is a traditional South Australian Shiraz. The structure is still balanced after 16 years, with firm tannins leading to a smoky finish.

Score: 91/+

   

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz

 I have been told today is Shiraz day. One website says it is domestic Shiraz day, another it is international Shiraz day. Who cares? What does it even mean? In any case, I tasted the 2015 Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz with the objective to identify what happens, when you 'downgrade' from Mt. Edelstone for price reasons.


The grapes of this wine are sourced from three vineyards in Tappa Pass and Light Pass. They are reasonably mature, up to 70 years old. Light Pass vineyards are on sandy soil, Tappa Pass likely clay and red brown earth, but at higher altitude, like a semi-Eden Valley.

These attributes are present in this wine. The fruit is very pure and aromatic. The palate is a bit overwhelmed by fruitiness with flavours of blackberry and mulberry. This is a full-bodied wine, but it has good energy. The wine is a bit forward. The tannins are firm, and the wine has a medium length finish.

I guess you get what you pay for, which in Henschke's case, is always a premium price.

Score: 92/+ 


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Why (Almost) Everybody Loves Wine

 Wine or grapes are the most complex agricultural product on earth. The variety of flavours based on chemical compounds is not matched by any other product. The impact of climate, altitude, rainfall, soil and other environmental factors, as well as the human factor is profound. This means that many interests of wine consumers can be satisfied by some kind of wine. Here is a list for red wine drinkers.

1) Red wine is for consumers who enjoy berry flavours. Many different fruits can be tasted in red wine, from red fruits such as strawberry, red cherry, raspberry, boysenberry to dark fruits, such as blueberry, black cherry, mulberry, blackberry. People who enjoy these elements like to drink young wine.

2) Then there are people who enjoy the secondary flavours, such as tobacco, leather, nuts, earthy notes, and meat. These are more pronounced in aged wines.

3) Another group of consumers enjoy big and ripe reds, often with high alcohol levels. Typical examples would be Barossa Shiraz or Napa Valley Cabernet.

4) A further group is less focused on the flavours of wine, but more how it feels in the mouth. Is this a 'wide' wine or a wine with a more precise, linear feel. For these consumers, the structure of the wine is most important.

5) The last group I want to mention look for hedonistic or 'emotional' wines. By definition, it is hard to say what characterizes these wines. They are simply delicious and evoke pleasure in the consumer. 

All these differences can be had in red wine. It is an exciting world to explore.

Monday, July 19, 2021

500,000 Views

 My blog just passed 500,000 views. This is pretty amazing and was never expected. I would like to use this milestone to thank everybody for showing an interest in my posts, many over a long period of time. I would like to thank those particularly who have posted comments, such as Colin and kr1. This makes the blog more lively and interesting. I know it takes time, but I would encourage all readers to write back if you feel like it.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Giovanni Rosso Serra Barolo

 As I opened the 2012 Giovanni Rosso Serra Barolo last night, I had moderate expectations. The producer is not thought to be in the top echelon of Piedmont; 2012, while a good vintage, is overshadowed by 2010 and 2013; and the Serra vineyard is not a top terroir. In fact of the seven producers who take fruit from there, only Giovanni Rosso makes a single vineyard wine. This is somewhat perplexing. The vineyard is situated about 1km south of Serralunga, south-east facing, at good altitude, with limestone soil.

The limestone shines through on the pathways

Anyway, this wine was sheer delight. In my mind, the best Barolo shows the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the aromatics of Pinot Noir. This wine did just that. It was very aromatic on the nose, with rose petal, red cherry, and mushroom aromas.




On the palate, the wine was very lifted, with red cherry fruit dominant. This is quite a light-footed wine, yet complex, with great minerality - unusual for Serralunga. You could almost take the flavours and energy for a Pinot Noir, except for the very dry and chalky tannins. Beauty in the glass!

Score: 96/+++   


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Two Hunter Valley Beauties

The top echelon of red wine producers in the Hunter Valley consists of Tyrrell's, Mount Pleasant, and Brokenwood. But they do not have it all their own way. Some newer wineries are issuing a challenge. I recently tasted two outstanding examples from the excellent 2014 vintage.


The 2014 Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz is the lead Shiraz by Andrew Thomas, and the 2014 Silkman Reserve Shiraz is of the same caliber. If you drink these wines side by side, you are first struck by the similarities. These are typical Hunter Valley wines: not South Australian blockbusters, nor spicy cool climate wines. The wines are full-bodied, yet fresh and elegant, with silky tannins. Now to the (subtle) differences. 

The Silkman Shiraz is slightly more aromatic on the nose. Blood plum flavours develop with poise. This is a more female expression of Shiraz, with fine acidity, some pepper, and a long finish.

Score: 95/+++

The Thomas 'Kiss' is a little bigger, ripe plum, a bit more masculine, with sweeter chocolate flavours from the core, but not like a South Australian wine on these dimensions. A very round wine, still energetic, with a bigger mouthfeel and finish.

Score: 95/+++