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/+++ 

 

  

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. 

   


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Beechworth Gems

 Beechworth is not an Australian wine region which is top of mind. It also used to be equated with Giaconda, and that was it. However, a number of other wineries have delivered first class wines from there for many years. These days, it deserves to be called a region. I recently tasted two outstanding wines from there.

The first was the 2019 Savaterre Chardonnay. In contrast to Giaconda, which can sometimes come across as a little overworked, this wine was made with minimal impact. It starts with the granite soil, not so common in Australia. Natural yeast used for fermentation. Flavours include citrus, white and yellow peach, and pear. This wine has a great line and energy. There is balanced minerality on the back palate, before the long finish. This is a more complex Chardonnay than most in this country without compromising its elegant mouthfeel.

Score: 96/+++

The second was the 2006 Castagna Genesis Syrah


At 15 years of age, this wine opens with enticing floral and forest floor aromas. Black cherry flavours lead to an overall savoury mouthfeel of a cool climate Shiraz. This wine still has good drive, supported by peppery freshness. Lithe, but firm tannins lead to a long finish.

This is a wine I would happily drink a second glass of, if not more - great balance, interesting flavours, and a satisfying finish.

Score: 96/+++ 

  

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Mount Mary Quintet

The legendary Yarra Valley Cabernet Blend, how would it hold up against the Lafite-Rothschild, previously reviewed? A bit unfair, why? It is one of Australia's leading wines.


The 2004 Mount Mary Quintet shows the strengths and weaknesses of this label all in one. Firstly, the wine is still in good form, which is a relief, as it is under cork.

The wine is red fruited, very pretty and smooth. There are some earthy notes here as well. At first blush, it actually has similarities with the Lafite. But on the mid and back palate it starts to wear a little thin. The structure holds up to a decent finish, but the mouthfeel not as much. 

And this is the issue with Cabernet from the Yarra Valley. I am in the camp with those who say this region is Pinot Noir territory as far as red wine is concerned. Having said this, this Mount Mary Quintet does a pretty good job. 

Score: 94/++


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Lafite-Rothschild

This 2004 Lafite-Rothschild was a most unusual bottle. Please look at the label. The left part is clearly missing. The owner checked with the Château, and they confirmed they used a faulty label run. Tasting the wine, it was immediately clear this is not a fake bottle. How bizarre! Would this fault increase the bottle value, similar to some faulty stamps, or reduce it?


2004 is perhaps not a stellar Bordeaux vintage, but this wine showed extremely well. The nose was super aromatic and complex. On the palate, pure black and blue fruits, as well as black olive, lead to a harmonious mouthfeel. This is a soft, elegant, and velvety wine, in typical Lafiiite style. Earthy notes add interest. Most of all, this is a wine totally at peace with itself. Superb!  

Score: 97/+++


Monday, May 24, 2021

Hawke's Bay Premium Tasting

 Hawke's Bay is the oldest NZ wine region, yet it is not nearly as prominent as Central Otago, Marlborough or Martinborough. A recent tasting of some of its best wines demonstrated that it deserves much better. The region is best known for Chardonnay, Syrah, and Cabernet blends. The wines tasted are shown in the picture below.


The top three wines, in my and the other tasters opinion, were the 2010 Craggy Range 'Le Sol', the sensational 2018 Tony Bish Zen Chardonnay, and the 2014 Craggy Range 'Sophia'

The Tony Bish Zen is unusual in that it is matured in a French oak egg, or Ovum. This gives quite a lot of oak exposure. Not surprisingly, therefore, is the golden colour and the fuller bodied flavour of this wine. There was depth in the yellow peach fruit, and complex nutty flavours added to the rich texture. At the same time, there was a lightness on the finish - intriguing (96 points).

Le Sol is arguably the most credentialed Syrah from New Zealand.This 2010 Le Sol showed very layered red and black fruit flavours and was more generous than the other very peppery Syrahs (see below). This is a very balanced wine with a sweet core, and overall quite a big mouthfeel (96 points).

I reported on the Sophia a few posts back, so no notes here.

I rated the next set of wines all 94 points. The 2017 Blanc Canvas 'Element' Syrah is properly named. The elements must have rattled the vines a lot. This is probably the most peppery wine I have ever tasted. The cracked black pepper was so strong, it overshadowed everything else. It is a medium weight wine with dark fruit and bacon flavours and quite a tannic finish. It gets this good rating for personality.

The 2016 Bilancia La Collina Syrah, with part fruit coming from the Gimblett Gravels, and part from south of Hastings, is also quite peppery. This is a more balanced and elegant wine, partly due to the 2% Viognier. The musky notes are interesting; the finish is long.

The second Craggy Range 'Le Sol' was from 2014. The colour was very inky. This wine was quite closed, may have entered a dormant phase. It had a slightly eucalypt character, with peppery flavours and licorice also present.

Finally, the 2019 Te Mata Coleraine. Cassis was dominant, and we felt the wine had a bit of a vegetal character. The highlight were the very fine and dusty tannins. This wine had outstanding reviews by a number of professional reviewers. At this tasting, it suffered a bit from being last and a bit rushed. It was also quite young by comparison. But 100 points? No, it is not a perfect wine.

The final two wines were the 2014 Te Mata Awatea, Coleraine's little brother. It is a lighter wine, with mint and peppery notes and a bit of a gap on the mid palate. It was quite enjoyable, but was put up against outstanding opposition (93 points).

The first wine was the 2019 Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay. It comes from a coastal site. The nose was quite floral, and we were in fact not sure if we were looking at a Chardonnay here (all wines were tasted blind). The wine was quite light on the palate, with an attractive texture - a flinty wine with melon flavours and saline notes (92 points).  

 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Standish Wine Company Andelmonde

 Following on from the stunning 2010 Barolos I tasted a few days ago, I wanted to see if an Australian Shiraz could match it with them. From one of my favourite Australian producers, I found a 2012 Standish Wine Company Andelmonde in my cellar.

Andelmonde, ok?

The old vines are grown on sandy soil in Light Pass, near the winery. Given this, as you would expect, the wine has a beautiful aromatic bouquet, like walking through a steaming wet forest.

On the palate, the wine is mostly red fruited, showing blueberry as well. This wine is very intense, and the flavours are pure and deep. This is an elegant wine on a big frame. The aromatics engulf the mouth in a harmonious and full blooded manner. The firm and a little heavy tannins lead to a long finish.

This excellent wine does not quite sing like the Barolos from a few days ago; and in 2018, The Standish Wines are more layered. 

It was a good contest, and I am looking forward to a 2016 Barolo vs. 2018 Standish comparison in a few years time.

Score: 95/+++  

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Email Notifications

 Some of you are receiving email notifications when I post a new review. Google has decided to stop this service from either June or July. I am sorry, but I cannot do anything about this.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

2010 Barolos

 Currently, there is a lot of hype about the 2016 vintage in Barolo. And there seems no doubt it is a good vintage. But let us not forget there has been a string of great vintages there in the last 15 years. As I discovered last week, a couple of wines from 2010 provide sensational drinking right now. These wines were the 2010 Mauro Molino Bricco Luciani and the 2010 E. Pira Chiara Boschis Via Nuova.


The first fascinating fact was that these two wines were almost indistinguishable in aroma and flavour. This was very surprising to me, as the Mauro Molino wine is a single vineyard wine from La Morra, located in the North of Barolo and known for more fragrant wines, whereas the Via Nuova is a blend of seven vineyards from Barolo, Monforte and Serralunga in the South. This may speak to the fact that over time distinguishing features disappear to a degree.

To the wines: Both wines were floral and aromatic, with rose petal and cherry flavours, black olive and some earthy notes. They were super elegant and smooth, with excellent fine tannin management. You could describe these wines as feminine, but they had persistent power as well, with the Chiara Boschis wine delivering a slightly bigger mouthfeel, as one would expect. The finish of both wines was very long.

I was particularly surprised by the quality of the Mauro Molino wine, a producer who trades more at the value end (as far as Barolos are concerned). These wines will go for many years to come, but why wait, given the complex, yet refreshing and elegant, and complete drinking experience right now. 

Score (both wines): 97/+++


Monday, May 3, 2021

Hoddles Creek Estate Chardonnay

 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay is probably my favorite go-to Chardonnay for everyday drinking. I must not call it a quaffer. It is much better than that.



The 2020 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay is a little richer and broader than previous vintages. The citrus, white peach, and slight hazelnut flavours fill out the mouth a bit more. This is not a bad thing, as the presence of lively acidity balances the fruit out well.

This wine is terrific value for money, due to the excellent cost control of this winery. It has been suggested to age this wine a little bit, and it makes some sense, but unfortunately, I will not manage to do that.

Score: 92/+++

 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Cornas and Hermitage

In a recent tasting of red wines from the Northern Rhône, two high quality wines each from Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, and Cornas were pitted against each other. The assumption was that Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage would be the superior appellations. However, this is not how it turned out. Cornas provided very high quality and matched it with Hermitage.

                                              

The top Cornas wine was the 2010 Domaine Vincent Paris 60 Granit. This Syrah comes from 90 year old vines on steep granite slopes. It is matured in 100% old oak. This is a feminine, but powerful wine with elegant blue fruit flavours (95 points).

The 2013 Auguste Clape Cornas was almost as good. The flavour profile was interesting, although not very pure. Orange peel, musky notes, vegetable, and black pepper deliver a complex mouthfeel. There is some minerality on the back palate, too, before this wine finishes very dry (94 points). 


The top wine, however, came from Hermitage. It was the 2005 Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage. It is a blend from 14 parcels of on average 50 year old vines. This is a full-bodied beast. Smoky flavours add to the blackberries. There is a bit of barnyard here, too. The tannins are impressive and the finish very long (96 points).

 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Chateau Oumsiyat Jaspe Red

 Chateau Musar is the leading wine company of Lebanon. The other day, I had the opportunity to try another red wine from Lebanon at an Arabian dinner. This was the 2014 Chateau Oumsiyat Jaspe Red. I know no background of this wine.


Cab Sauv Syrah Carignan Cinsault

This medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon blend tastes of blackberry, olive, and red plum. The fruit concentration is medium, as is the acidity. The wine delivers a smooth mouthfeel on the mid-palate with dry dusty tannins. The finish is slightly harsh.

This is not a bad wine, particularly with food, and when wine is not the focus. However, it is not good enough to really seek it out, unless you are curious.

Score: 87/0

Friday, April 23, 2021

Chapoutier de L'Orée Ermitage

 The second astonishing Hermitage Blanc wine I tasted on the night mentioned a few posts below was the 1991 Chapoutier de L’Orée Ermitage. It was the first year this Marsanne was made. It comes from the lower parts of the famous hill, with the vines grown on alluvial soil.



This 30 year old wine was not as alive as the Chave reviewed previously, but it was still in very good shape. The colour was a medium intensity golden. Apple flavours and walnut made for an enticing flavour mix. The wine was smooth with a slightly oxidative bent.

Score: 93/++



Thursday, April 22, 2021

Kosta Browne Rosella's Vineyard

 I drink a fair bit of Kosta Browne Pinot Noir from California, but normally do not report on it, as it is mailing list only, and not many would have a chance to try it. But this wine was really quite special.


The 2013 Kosta Browne Rosella's Vineyard from the Santa Lucia Highlands is very layered, with red and black cherry, and raspberry flavours building on top of each other. The oak is smartly integrated. The mid palate shows the sweet core (a must for American wine). Acidity and dry tannins pick up the wine again, leading to a silky finish. This is a full-bodied Pinot Noir, and why not, if it is done well.

Score: 95/+++


Monday, April 19, 2021

Craggy Range Te Kahu

 


The 2016 Craggy Range Te Kahu, a single vineyard wine from the home block, yet a blend of five Bordeaux varieties, with Merlot taking the lead at 63%, received rave reviews on release. I did not taste it at the time, bought it on spec. Tonight, I opened my first bottle. 

Blackberry, mulberry, and black olive flavours blend well together. The fruit intensity is medium in this elegant and smooth wine. The tannins are soft and dry, well integrated. The finish is long, but a little lean.

This wine lacks some power and complexity which I would have expected from the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay, but it is a lovely wine. It will continue to evolve for a few years.

Score: 92/++ 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Jean-Louis Chave Sélection


It is not very often one has an opportunity to drink Hermitage White, in particular from the top of the famous hill. This 2011 Jean-Louis Chave Sélection Blanche is 100% Marsanne. The 50-60 year old vines grow on iron-rich clay soils. The wine has been matured in used oak.

This wine drinks deliciously right now. The colour is still light. This wine is superbly elegant with flavours of white peach, apple seed, quince, hazelnut and a splash of marzipan. The mouthfeel is harmonious from beginning to end. The slightly waxy finish is very satisfying.

Score: 96/+++ 

 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon

 There is no need to show the label. It is as boring as all Penfolds labels. But I did not expect the disappointment this 2010 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon was providing on taste.

There is good fruit concentration in this wine, but the blackcurrant flavours are quite dried out. What remains very present are the vanilla notes from the American oak. As a result, the mouthfeel is really dull. The tannins are firm and dry leading to quite a piercing finish. If you are looking for a graceful Cabernet, look elsewhere.

Score: 88/--

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Clarendon Hills Domaine Clarendon

 


Domaine Clarendon is one of the less expensive wines in the Clarendon Hills stable, yet it still comes from the desirable Clarendon subregion of McLaren Vale.

The 2012 Clarendon Hills Domaine Clarendon is a full-bodied wine tasting of ripe plum and blackberry. The tannins are a little rough and extracted, and overall the wine is not too balanced. Much of the Shiraz from South Australia is very ripe. The good wines stay on the side of what is pleasantly drinkable. This wine is just on the other side for my taste. 

It is often instructive to experience the wine on the second day. A couple of posts below I commented how a Scavino Barolo excelled on day two. This wine developed quite a harsh mouthfeel on the second day.

Score: 89/- 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock

 I remember 15 years ago or so I attended a vertical tasting of Emily's Paddock, going back a further 20 years. The old wines were beautiful with their noses of leather and savoury flavours. I have not had this brand for a long time, so I was curious when I pulled this 2012 Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock from the cellar, how it would compare to my memories.


The first impression on taste is this is a full-bodied wine, quite ripe. Blackcurrant flavours hit the front palate, then secondary and tertiary notes take over. There is a hint of leather, but more prominent are barnyard notes. This wine has aged quite quickly, but there is still some elegance to this wine, largely due to the fine tannins and the long finish.

If you own this wine, drink it now.

Score: 92/+ 


Friday, April 2, 2021

Jane Eyre Volnay


The weight of this bottle suggests this is a serious Burgundy. The Australian outpost in Burgundy, Jane Eyre, has managed access to good fruit. It shows in this bottle.

This 2015 Jane Eyre Volnay is a medium-bodied wine. It is red fruited, with some black cherry notes as well. This wine, from a warm vintage, is well balanced and not overdone. The tannins are finely grained, and the wine goes on for a while on the finish. 

So what is the difference between this wine and a grand cru? Fruit intensity, tannins and acidity are in synch, and reach a 6 or 7 out of 10. They are not dialled up as high as a grand cru at 9 or 10. Having said this, this profile works well in this warm vintage: recommended.

Score: 92/++    

 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Paolo Scavino Barolo


On the second day, everything came together beautifully for the 2010 Paolo Scavino Barolo. If you cannot wait this long. make sure you decant the wine a while before drinking.

Plum, raspberry, cranberry, forest floor creates an enticing blend on the palate. This wine does not have the typical tar & roses flavour. The tannins are dry, finely grained and long in the mouth. The acidity is well integrated. This wine delivers a beautiful balance before it finishes super long.

You would call this a full-bodied wine, but there is actually more energy than fruit weight. Wow! This is the entry level Barolo. However, it comes from an excellent vintage. I am looking forward to the 2016 when it lands here, soon.

Score: 96/+++

 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Colonial Estate Exile Shiraz

 I normally review wines from my cellar or new releases I chose to taste. But sometimes I receive samples or people bring a bottle. This is such an instance. 


The 2017 Colonial Estate Exile Shiraz is a classic 'Big Barossa'. It is bold and ripe. If the sun kissed black fruit had been treated differently, maybe this could have been good. But this is industrially produced, probably the only company to do so in the Barossa. The alcohol is high (15%) and hurting, and the wine is harsh in the mouth, due to a rough tannin structure.

Score: 84/--- 


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Wendouree Malbec

 


The profile of Malbec is largely formed by the impressions of Argentinian wine; ripe and lush. It is not so well known that there are old Malbec vines in Australia, in particular on the Wendouree property. How does this 2012 Wendouree Malbec compare? It is quickly clear this tastes nothing like the Argentinian version. This is a Wendouree!

Black sour cherry is accompanied by smoky and meaty flavours, not too much, though. There is the typical eucalypt as well. The fruit weight feels right in the mouth. As would be expected, this wine is more about power than elegance, but it is smoother than a Wendouree Shiraz. The tannins are firm, and the finish is long. This wine does not have the generosity of fruit like the Argentinian Malbec, in some ways it is simply a good quality dry red. 

Score: 94/++ 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Craggy Range 'Sophia'


The 2014 Craggy Range 'Sophia' is a Bordeaux varieties blend. It is Merlot dominant (61%), with additional components of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. In this way, it is fashioned similar to the Right Bank of Bordeaux. It is grown on the famous Gimblett Gravels of Hawke's Bay, and this ground is sometimes compared to the soil of Pauillac on the Left Bank. At the end of the day, it is a serious New Zealand red.

This wine is quite perfumed on the nose. On the palate, it is a full-bodied, rich wine. I taste black, blue, and red fruits, good complexity. White pepper is quite prominent. Overall, the wine is a bit thick in the mouth, yet it keeps an elegant feel. It stays full-bodied to the end with a medium finish.

This wine is still young, and will peak in 3-5 years, in my view, with a much longer life ahead.

Score: 95/++ 

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Swinney Grenache

 It is not often you come across a new winery in Australia which is outstanding. It just happened to me. This winery is Swinney. Maybe because it is located at Frankland River, WA, it took a while for me to notice.


The 2019 Swinney Grenache is terrific. They just avoided to name it Grenache/Mourvedre as it contains 14% of the latter (at 15% it needs to be labeled). There is a small amount of whole bunches in this wine, which is not fined and minimally filtered, with low sulphur levels.

The first thing that strikes you is the purity of fruit, which is a raspberry/cranberry/blackberry blend. This is quite a savoury wine, with smoky notes and a little spice. This is an elegant wine, with super fine grained tannins, perhaps a little linear in the mouth. The finish is extremely long. Wow! 

Score: 95/+++


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Logan Weemala Pinot Gris

 Pinot Gris/Grigio has gone the way of Sauvignon Blanc to some extent: large scale production, not much focus on typicity or special quality attributes. It is positioned as a summer wine, not many questions will be asked.


It is therefore good to see, when a positive surprise, and from an unexpected corner, comes along. The 2020 Logan Weemala Pinot Gris comes from Mudgee and includes some fruit from Orange. The wine has a pale orange/grey colour. 

This is a light and refreshing wine with lemon peel and pear flavours, and a pleasant mouthfeel, as the wine has good energy. It is still enjoyable on the back palate, where many others fall short. The wine finishes dry. It is excellent value for money.

Score: 91/++ 


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Vieux Télégraphe 'La Crau' Chateauneuf-du-Pape

 How do you photograph a label with writing around almost half the bottle? I tried something a little different. Not very professional, but quite psychedelic, don't you think?

 


The 2010 Vieux Télégraphe 'La Crau' is already quite developed. The colour is a blend of purple, brown, and orange.

This full-bodied wine still has primary fruit tasting of raspberry and plum. As always, savoury characteristics are strong in this wine, with earthy notes and spice adding complexity on the palate. The structure of this wine is still quite balanced, but it feels like it may not hold together that much longer. The tannins are firm and grainy, and the wine finishes long.

I recommend to drink this wine now.

Score: 93/++