Saturday, October 23, 2021
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
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.
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.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
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.
Saturday, October 9, 2021
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.
Monday, October 4, 2021
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.
Thursday, September 30, 2021
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.
Thursday, September 23, 2021
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.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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.
Saturday, September 18, 2021
Thursday, September 16, 2021
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.
Monday, September 13, 2021
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.
Sunday, September 12, 2021
Thursday, September 9, 2021
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.
Saturday, September 4, 2021
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.
Thursday, September 2, 2021
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
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.
Saturday, August 21, 2021
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.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
To create a bit of variety, I am publishing a guest post by Natasha K of Just Wines
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.
Sunday, August 15, 2021
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.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
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.
Sunday, August 8, 2021
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.
Sunday, August 1, 2021
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.
Thursday, July 29, 2021
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.
Thursday, July 22, 2021
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.
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
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
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.
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Elderton's flagship wine comes from the old vines of the home block next to the winery.
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
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.
Monday, July 5, 2021
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?)
Thursday, July 1, 2021
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.
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
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
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.
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
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'.
Monday, June 21, 2021
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.
Sunday, June 20, 2021
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.
Sunday, June 13, 2021
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.
Thursday, June 10, 2021
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.
Friday, June 4, 2021
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
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.