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.


 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 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.


 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


 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/+++ 



Saturday, July 10, 2021

Elderton Command Shiraz

 Elderton's flagship wine comes from the old vines of the home block next to the winery.

The 2012 Elderton Command Shiraz, at nine years of age, shows a purple colour with a slight orange tinge, indicating some development. This is a full-bodied wine, with blackberry, blueberry and black olive flavours still dominating. The wine has mellowed somewhat, and the mouthfeel is quite elegant, with fine grained tannins caressing the mouth.

This wine is a typical high quality Barossa Shiraz. It is not shy, nor over the top. This is quite satisfying, but it is also a bit middle of the road, like a comfy limousine.

Score: 93/++

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Oakridge Henk Chardonnay

 It is time to look at value, after quite a few reviews of pricey wines. This one is worth your while checking out, but let us first look at the label. You do not see this every day.

So the back label is partly covering the front label. This was not spotted as bottles were moved onto the pallets? Anyway, what is in the bottle is what counts.

White peach, passionfruit, and citrus deliver an attractive flavour mix of this 2019 Oakridge Henk Chardonnay. There is great purity and precision in this wine, backed by fine acidity. You do not normally find this at this price point. The crispness and minerality speak of the vineyard, which is on red volcanic soil at the higher altitude of Woori Yallock in the Yarra Valley. The finish is medium long.

Highly recommended.

Score: 93/+++ 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Kosta Browne Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir

 It is still Independence Day in the US. Therefore, I have decided to drink and review a US wine, even though it is not available in the rest of the world. I have been a collector of Kosta Browne wines for many years, as an example of excellent American Pinot Noir. I have stopped buying these wines, however, as since the takeover by Duckhorn, prices have been lifted by over 150%. (This is an unfortunate story we all face: we discover a good wine, enjoy it, and then prices get raised to 'crazy' levels, and we have to look for the next thing; Hill of Grace, Mt. Edelstone, anyone?)

This eight year old 2013 Kosta Browne Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir, from one of their key vineyards in the Russian River district, is still fruit driven, with a firm acidic backbone. The wine is fresh, with dark cherry, kirsch and raspberry flavours. Its elegance and smoothness delivers a near perfect new world example of Pinot Noir, with good minerality, saline notes, fine tannins and excellent high quality oak integration.

This Pinot Noir delivers the right mix of filling the mouth while providing enough drive and energy. Therefore, this is not really a Shiraz drinker's Pinot Noir despite the full mouthfeel. One aspect which is missing, however, are any significant savoury notes. I would have expected this after eight years - and this wine was under cork. Still, this should not detract from a very enjoyable experience.

Score: 95/+++  

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Benjamin Leroux 1er Cru Clos de la Cave des Ducs

 This is likely to be my last post on Burgundy for a little while. Monopoles (a vineyard completely owned or controlled by one producer) are rare in Burgundy. They are precious, because the producer can really influence the vineyard management. If you only own a couple of rows, your neighbour's decisions will have an influence on your own parcel.

This vineyard is a small plot right next to the village of Volnay. This is more obvious in the next picture. It is biodynamically farmed.

It is not often talked about, but many producers rip out older vines, say at 50 years of age, to increase yield. Well, Benjamin Leroux, the Wunderkind of Burgundy, has kept the old vines.

I must say, Volnay is not my favourite subregion for red Burgundy, as you often need to help the wine out of the glass, but the warm 2015 is different. So, on to the 2015 Benjamin Leroux 1er cru Clos de la Cave des Ducs. There is about 60% wholebunch in this wine.

This is a picture book Pinot Noir. It is medium-bodied, very pretty and perfumed. The wine is red fruited, elegant, silky, with great length. Forest floor and mushroom flavours add to complexity. The stars aligned.

If you are intrigued and would like to buy this wine, good luck to you!

Score: 95/+++

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay


Over the last 10 years, Leeuwin has embraced a slightly leaner, more precise style of Chardonnay. This 2015 Leeuwin Chardonnay, however, is quite big and powerful. The flavours are intense: citrus, pineapple, yellow peach, nectarine deliver a powerful mouthfeel. Biscuit and cashew flavours from the new French oak are well integrated. This is a precise wine despite the many flavour sensations. The fine acidity structure delivers a seamless texture. This Chardonnay has a long finish. It still feels fresh and will live for many years to come. A top Chardonnay

Score: 96/+++  

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Producer Selection In Terroir Orientated Wine Regions

 In my post on the white wines of Corton, I emphasized how important it is to look at the producer, not just the terroir in Burgundy. As an example, the Domaine Ponsot Corton Bressandes is about US $400 per bottle, the Domaine Poisot Corton Bressandes can be had for about US $100 (and there is only one letter difference in the name, haha).

Another terroir and vineyard focussed region is Piedmont. Yesterday, I came across a detailed analysis of the famous Rocche dell'Annunziata vineyard in La Morra. This vineyard is shared between 9 producers. Here are the prices of some of them for their bottles, from high to low.

Roberto Voerzio, US $280

Paolo Scavino $180

Renato Ratti $125

Mauro Veglio $80

Aurelio Settimo $53 (largest vineyard holdings)

Rocche Costamagna $45

The vineyard has special characteristics; attractive aromatics and elegance. But within this, there are significant differences between producers. And in the case of Piedmont, I suggest 75% of the price differences are explained by quality, 25% by positioning, marketing, and scarcity. In the case of Burgundy, it may be the reverse, as it would normally be by 'cult' producers, for example Screaming Eagle, Bryant Family, or Colgin in the US.    

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Jasper Hill Nebbiolo

 Those who have followed my blog for some time will know I am quite partial to Barolo. You would also know that I have been a bit sceptical about the enthusiastic embrace of so called ‘alternative varieties’ in Australia (mainly Italian varieties, white and red). This is not because I don’t think it is a worthwhile pursuit. It is just that it is likely that these efforts will take quite some time to reach the quality levels of the leading overseas examples. Enter the 2017 Jasper Hill Nebbiolo.

This wine opens up with floral and aromatic notes, as expected. It has more open fruit than a Piedmont Nebbiolo. Red cherries, raspberry, and attractive licorice flavours occupy the palate. There are smoky notes as well. The balanced mouthfeel is rounded out by dry, dusty and caressing tannins, before the long and lasting finish.

This Nebbiolo is a prettier wine than its Italian counterparts, but by no means forward. It has a Pinot Noir like finish. This wine is a revelation of what an 'alternative variety' can be in Australia. This wine has the same complex structure of Italian Nebbiolo, but it has an Australian element, which is the more overt fruit. The strength of this wine is that this 'fruitiness' does not come at the expense of varietal typicity. I really enjoy this wine.

Score: 94/+++  

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Hill of Corton, Red Wines

 The Pinot Noirs of Corton are grown in the mid to lower parts of the hill, mostly east facing, on red marl, limestone, and iron infused soils. These are the only grand cru wines of the Côte de Beaune. The pricing, generally speaking, is much more attractive than grand cru wines of the Côte  de Nuits. The larger vineyards, as shown in the map below, are the better known grand cru.

Six wines from different producers, age, and vineyards were tasted, discussed here in the order of tasting. If wines are sourced from a single vineyard, its name may be appended to the designation ' Corton'.

We started with the 2012 Domaine Poisot Corton-Bressandes. This wine showed a complex palate of black cherry and licorice, but also herbaceous and exotic spice flavours. The oak was noticeable in this powerful wine. This wine showed the expected muscularity of the largest lieu-dit of Corton really well (96 points).

This was followed by the 2017 Jane Eyre Corton-Maréchaudes. Jane Eyre, an Australian winemaker, has now been in Burgundy for some time, and is increasingly highly regarded. This wine has lifted aromas and is quite fruit forward. It is a pretty wine with velvety tannins. It could not be more different than the previous wine. The style suits the vineyard, which is at low altitude and warmer, quite well (94 points).

The next two wines were from two different sites and different years, both made by Thibault Liger-Belair. The first was the 2010 Thibault Liger-Belair "Les Renardes". This was quite an alluring wine, feminine, red cherry fruit, gamey flavours (for which this vineyard is known) as well. The wine had an ethereal feel, with silky tannins and an expanding finish (95/96 points).

But the wine of the night was the 2005 Thibault Liger-Belair "Les Rognets". Its full-bodied cherry flavours were concentrated and lush. This is a powerful wine, which is now in perfect balance, as the oak flavours have softened. The wine has a firm line leading to a long finish. This is an excellent example of a grand cru Pinot Noir (97 points).

The last two wines split the tasters. I found that the 1999 Chandon de Brialles Clos du Roi was past its best. Clos du Roi is perhaps the most highly regarded lieu-dit of Corton. The site is quite steep and pebbly, delivering wines which require ageing. But maybe not as much as in this case. Flavours of vegetables, roots and herbs dominated the palate. Fruit flavours were no longer very present. Having said this, the structure of this wine was well intact (92 points).

The last wine was the 2006 de Montille Clos du Roi. This was a tough wine, quite old school. Muscular and earthy, it tasted a bit like burnt rubber, with astringent tannins and oak quite present. Again, the structure still good (92 points).

This was a very enjoyable tasting of six grand cru. It showed a wide range of flavours. You need to know what you are looking for, and an old maxime is more true for Burgundy than anywhere else: "try before you buy". Of course, this is not always easy.

It was good to see when the interest of the wine maker is matches by the characteristics of the terroir, as was the case with Jane Eyre and Les Maréchaudes or Poisot and Bressandes, for example. 


Monday, June 21, 2021

Sami-Odi 'Mahé & Ribo' Syrah

 It is hard for wineries to differentiate themselves. There are so many competitors! However, I wish the differentiation would occur in the bottle, not with the bottle. The demijohns of Fraser McKinley are not easy to store, but let's get to the wine.

The 2015 Sami-Odi 'Mahé & Ribo' Syrah comes from old blocks of the Dallwitz vineyard in the Northern Barossa. Adrian Hoffmann, the vigneron, hopes to elevate his vineyard to similar provenance as the To Kalon vineyard in Napa Valley. He is on the way with fruit sales to all of Barossa royalty.

The vineyard is situated in the hottest part of the Barossa, and 2015 was a warm vintage, yet the bright purple colour of this wine suggests some freshness. There are intense red fruit aromas emanating from the glass.

Raspberry and boysenberry flavours dominate the palate. No black fruits here. The fruit is concentrated and lively while a bit rustic as well. there is an acidic backbone to this wine, before this Syrah finishes intense and long. Clearly, picking has been quite early, and pressing not too hard, but still, the alcohol raises its head, just a little bit.

Score: 94/++  

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Hill of Corton, White Wines

 Burgundy is widely regarded as the most complex wine region in the world. However, all you have to initially understand are three principles about its structure. One, it is vineyard based (as opposed to winery based). Two, there are distinct subregions, displaying quite distinct characteristics. Three, there is a hierarchy of wines, starting from grand cru and going down. What makes it complicated for non French people is the labelling, but let us just ignore this here.

However, within Burgundy, there is one region which is really complicated, and this is the Hill of Corton. The following map shows its terroir. As can be seen, vineyards can point in all directions other than North. There are also major differences in altitude.


Corton is the largest grand cru area in Burgundy. The white wines are mostly labelled Corton-Charlemagne. I will review three of those wines here. The first is the 2010 Louis Jadot Domaine des Héritiers Corton-Charlemagne.

Louis Jadot has a negociant business with varying quality. This wine, from a south facing owned vineyard, is excellent. It has the hallmarks of a white grand cru: good fruit weight, good length, and power. Yet it starts with a fragrant nose, but then builds on the palate via intense fruit flavours and minerality to a lasting finish.

Score: 95/+++

The second wine, the 2012 Henri Boillot Corton-Charlemagne, is vastly different.

This wine is two years younger, yet the colour is more advanced and golden. Primary fruit is not the prominent feature here any more. The flavours are creamy, with nougat and hazelnut on top of wet stone minerality. This wine has a big mouthfeel (like Meursault) and good intensity.

Score: 94/+++

The third wine is the 2015 Buisson-Charles Corton-Charlemagne. This wine is the total opposite to the last wine. This is a delicate wine, despite hailing from a very warm vintage. The colour is quite pale.
Pineapple and passion fruit flavours dance lightly on the palate. The wine has good drive, but is perhaps a little thin on the back palate.

Score: 93/++

Conclusion: We have three wines here from the same subregion, yet they are totally different: the Jadot a grand cru classic, the Henri-Boillot a big and ripe wine, and the Buisson-Charles delicate and light. 

Let me come back to my introduction. The Burgundy principles are not that hard, but the key to understand and appreciate it, is to understand the producer. If you had tasted one of these wines, and you thought you knew what Corton tastes like, you could not have been more wrong. And this is what makes the Hill of Corton particularly difficult. The range of expressions here is probably wider than anywhere else in Burgundy.  



Sunday, June 13, 2021

Château Prieuré-Lichine

 Margaux is the largest subregion of the left bank of Bordeaux wines. It is quite diverse with many different soil profiles. The wines, still dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, have a higher percentage of Merlot in them than the other left bank wines. Margaux is known for more aromatic wines than any other wines from Bordeaux. This puts them in good stead as the climate warms.

This is a review of the 2010 Château Prieuré-Lichine. I once had a memorable lunch at this property and have enjoyed their wines.

Normally, there is a risk of drinking red wine too warm, but in this case, I opened it when it was too cold. It had not opened up too well. This review is of the wine on day two, when the temperature was much better.

The expected feminine aromas were on display from this wine of deep purple to black colour. This is a full-bodied wine delivering a complex palate of blackberry, black olive, mocca, and earthy notes. The wine has good balance. The elegant mouthfeel gets overtaken by firm, slightly coarse tannins, but then, the finish is long and almost lifted.

While not perfect, I enjoyed this wine. It delivered satisfying flavours and good length.

Score: 93/+++ 


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Hill Of Grace (again!)

 For a special occasion, I pulled my second last bottle of Hill of Grace from the cellar (I do not buy this wine at the current price point any more). It is a 2010 Henschke Hill of Grace.

I reviewed this wine five years ago and not much has changed. Interestingly, the Henschkes attribute this good vintage to the amount of light during the growing season. This is only rarely talked about, but can deliver flavour and colour, in particular.

In any case, this wine is very aromatic and vibrant. The palate is complex, with mulberry, blackberry, eucalypt, white pepper, and tender meat flavours. It is a very elegant and velvety wine. The oak is noticeable, but in contrast to the 90s wines previously tasted, this now has 40% French oak, which improves the balance and integration, in my view.

This is a full-bodied Shiraz, but more on the medium side. The fruit weight carries the 14.5% alcohol well. This wine hits some high notes and finishes long, but I did not find it totally remarkable.

Score: 96/+++ 

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Two Dilemmas of the Australian Wine Industry

 The first dilemma has to do with our professional wine writers and influencers. Many of them are Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers. In order to achieve these accolades, you have to taste widely, which means mainly northern hemisphere wines. There is nothing wrong with that, but it means these palates are geared towards such wines. As a result, they do not value higher alcohol, higher fruit weight wines as highly. As an example,they love Syrah, but not Shiraz - you know what I mean. However, the sun kissed South Australian wines are unique in the world. The low alcohol wines, by contrast, get lost in similar wines from all over the world. The issue here is drinkability. In the same way in which grand cru Burgundy is about power and elegance at the same time, South Australian wines need to aim for the same. But let's not give up on the unique positioning some of our wines can enjoy.

The second issue is about climate change. No doubt it happens. Cooler regions, such as Tasmania, the Macedon Ranges and the Southern Highlands in NSW are now attractive new locations. More controversial is the switch to varieties which can deal better with hot climate, for example Southern Italian varieties such as Montepulciano and Aglianico. They can produce decent wine, but there is no evidence in Europe that they can reach the heights of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. Touriga Nacional from Portugal would be my pick in this context So what about the adaptability of key varieties, such as Shiraz and Chardonnay? They grow in many different environments. Would earlier picking prevent overripeness and still deliver complex wines?

So let's hope people do not forget where our competitive advantage lies, and let's be open to different approaches to climate change.       

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Hill Of Grace Vertical Tasting

 I grew up during a time when the Beatles and the Rolling-Stones split the teenagers. The good kids loved the Beatles, the bad kids loved the Rolling-Stones. There was no crossover. I feel it is a bit like that with the two icons of Australian Shiraz, Hill of Grace and Grange. Who is the good guy here? Maybe it is a bit different: Hill of Grace is single vineyard, Grange is blended. Grange is about power and fruit weight, Hill of Grace more about grace? This post is about a rare opportunity to taste four Hill of Grace wines, all more than 20 years old.

There is a view the label has never changed. Not true, as seen here

We are tasting these wines from old to young. This is often done to capture the nuances of old wine, which may get lost when you taste them last. The 91 and 99 wines are from warm vintages, the 92 and 98 from relatively cool ones. This will be interesting.

The colour is a deep brown. The primary fruit of the 1991 Henschke Hill of Grace is largely gone, but the structure is holding up. The wine is still concentrated and rich in the mouth, maybe a little broad. The wine has an elegant and earthy texture with silky tannins and still a long finish. It will still drink well for a number of years.

Score: 94/++

The 1992 Hill of Grace has a similar colour. There are intriguing herbal, spice and honey aromas. This is a slightly fresher wine with plum, earthy and leathery flavours. This wine is very special and quite long in the mouth.

Score: 96/+++

The 1998 Hill of Grace has a brighter, crimson appearance. This is quite a big wine. Blackberry fruit, licorice, and spice. Some mocca on the back palate. Good focus in this wine, lithe tannins and a very long, silky finish.

Score: 96/+++

The 1999 Hill of Grace comes from one of the hottest vintages on record - and it shows. Plum, roasted meat, and tar are the main flavours. There is sweetness in the core and overall complexity. However, this wine is a bit fat and short. The tannins are very dry and dusty.

Score: 93/+

Temperature and rain were the two main variables across the vintages. Overall, the cool vintages showed much better. What are the commonalities, the signature of Hill of Grace? Aniseed is a common flavour, and the fine silky tannins typical. The other element which showed quite strongly was the American oak still prominent in these wines. In later years, more French oak was employed, which suits this wine much more.