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/++

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Penfolds - The California Collection

 I am having laughs about this. Depending on what you read, these four wines rate from 84 to 98 points or so. It is like a boxing match. Some are in the Penfolds corner, some are not, and lashing out. Where is the objectivity of tasting? And then there are the ridiculous Peter Gago statements of world domination with a Penfolds house style. I have to disappoint you, I have not tasted these wines yet. I bought the 704, the 100% Penfolds Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. I am interested to see what the contrast of Penfolds winemaking and Napa fruit will bring. I will report in a little while.


 Ruggabellus was one of the first new wineries in the Barossa in the 'post-Parker' world where deliciousness and vitality became the buzz words. This meant  earlier picking and in Ruggabellus' case, wholebunch. The fact that Abel Gibson's approach was not initially approved by his father, Rob Gibson, the 'dirtman' and grape grader for Penfolds, added to the buzz. The initial concept was simple, but intriguing. Make the southern Rhone blends, make three different wines, where the lead changes from Shiraz to Grenache to Mataro. Interestingly, it seems that in current years, there is a move to 100% Shiraz again, as there is with his spiritual father, Peter Schell at Spinifex.

I recently tasted two wines from the different times, the 2013 Ruggabellus Timeus, a Mataro dominated wine, and the 2018 Ruggabellus Archaeus, a 100% Shiraz.

Sorry about the poor quality, could not fix a problem

The Efferus tastes of blackberry and raspberry. It is a seamless wine, smooth and elegant, quite soft (wholebunch?). A feature are the velvety, long grained tannins. The wine finishes slightly hot, although alcohol is lower than typical for the Barossa.

Score: 94/++

The Archaeus is a lifted Shiraz. Blackberry, forest berries and red plum deliver a satisfying fruit profile. This is an energetic wine, but the mouthfeel was not totally round. I found the wine slightly rough on opening, but much better on day 2 and day 3. Still, it was dropping off at the finish. This wine is clearly too early to drink.

Score: 92/+

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Day Three: Adelaide Hills, part 2

 When I (like others) review wine, I look at criteria such as clarity and depth of colour, purity and intensity of fruit, complexity, power, elegance, texture, drive, tannin structure, balance, finish. But when I look at  'alternative' winemakers, I realize this is not the way they think. They have strong ethical convictions which come first. The wines are a consequence of these convictions, and for them the classical criteria are less important - not irrelevant, but less important. I will still rate the wines along the classical criteria in order to use the same benchmarks, but I will point out the ethical convictions as the cornerstone. The two wineries I visited have two different approaches.

The first is Unico Zelo. I meet with Chief Thinker Brendan Carter. The title sounds overbearing, but during the discussion I started to find it appropriate. His two convictions are sustainability and sharing the spoils. Part of the business is a cooperative, where profits are shared with growers. He identified that in the Riverland, while traditional varieties need a lot of irrigation, Fiano does not. So this is one of his key varieties next to Nero d'Avola. Terroir plays an important role. My tasting consists of three Fianos from different regions, and three Nero d'Avolas.

The Fianos

The 2019 River Sand Fiano comes from sandy soil in the Riverland. It is a textural wine, fresh, with earthy flavours (91 points). The 2020 Slate Farm comes from the Polish River region in Clare Valley. The soils consists mainly of red clay and shale. This wine is quite light and fresh, with good energy. Tropical fruit on the palate starts us off, before minerality takes over. This was my favorite of this trio (92 points). I found the 2020 Alluvium from the Adelaide Hills a bit broad and earthy (88 points).  

No controls are applied to the fermentation process. Therefore it can be hot, which moves the dial from fruit to texture.

The Nero d'Avolas

The 2020 Halcyon Days is the Nero d'Avola from the Riverland. Raspberry flavours dominate in this high acid red. I found the wine a bit too juicy (88 points). The 2020 Mallee Gambit from Clare is similar, but more intense. The sour cherry makes this very typical for Nero. The fruit is very pure, again with high acidity (90 points). The 2020 Pipe Dream from Adelaide Hills has the biggest fruit weight, and also earthy notes to add complexity, but the balance did not quite work for me (88 points).

Overall, these are good wines, quite fresh, slurp-able, and expressing their respective terroirs.

The centre of the natural wine making movement in Australia is the area around Basket Range in the Adelaide Hills. I define 'natural' as not adding any sulfur, apart from no fining and no filtration. Not adding sulfur has two implications. There is a challenge of making these wines stable, and they are for early consumption, generally. The driver of this movement was Taras Ochota, whose untimely death last year rocked the community. I decided not to visit Ochota Barrels, because there was a run on the wines, and the winery is mostly sold out. Also, it did not feel right. In addition, on the one occasion I tasted the wines, I was not too impressed.

Instead, I headed to the Summertown Aristologist. This is a restaurant, natural wine bottle shop and tasting area. The main wines featured are those of Lucy Margaux. This slightly trippy lady showed me some wines.

The first wine was the 2020 Samone, made by Anton von Klopper and a kindred spirit from Portugal, Oriol Artigas. It is a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gamay, and Pinot Noir. The wine was slightly fizzy, as you can see in the picture, and did not have much flavour (84 points).

This was followed by the 2020 Lucy Margaux Gamay Sauvage from Hahndorf. This is a fresh and juicy wine with red cherry flavours. The wine is a little cloudy and has undergone carbonic maceration. It is refreshing, but lacking depth (88 points).

The last two wines were two Chardonnays from the Commune of Buttons. They come from different parts of the same vineyard at Basket Range, as I understand it. The yield was only 2t/acre. The 2019 Clover delivers pineapple fruit. It is quite smooth and nicely balanced with acidity (91 points). The 2019 ABC (I guess this is ironically named?) has a similar flavour, but more intensity. I found it slightly broader (91 points). I found these two wines quite agreeable.

What a whirlwind tour this has been. Old favorites have come through again, but I made some interesting discoveries as well. The wine world never ends to being fascinating.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Day Three: Adelaide Hills, part 1

 There is now a plethora of wineries in the Adelaide Hills. It is cooler than McLaren Vale or the Barossa and it attracts also some innovative approaches, mainly in the northern part. I have never visited there before. So I decided to split the day between more conventional wineries and some more adventurous ones. The first winery is The Lane Vineyard. It wants to be especially known for its Champagne.

The bottles are sweating. I had not noticed.

The first is the Lois. This is quite a find; a very refreshing, forward champagne, yet with very fine beads. I liked this a lot. It compares favorably with Croser or Chandon, in my view, for less cost (91 points). The second is the Estate Blanc de Blanc which has been on lees for five years. It is darker in colour and more textural, but I did not find it entirely convincing for this kind of approach (90 points). The third champagne is very rare; the Heritage, a champagne 2010 late disgorged. This wine is darker again, with brioche notes, and very long in the mouth (95 points).

I then participated in the Gathering tasting. This is a tasting of four wines, matched with canapés. This was very well done, and is supported by detailed information.

Skipping the Sauvignon/Semillon (you have to have some principles), let us start with the 2019 Beginning Chardonnay. There is flinty citrus and pineapple on the palate. The oak influence (30% new) is noticeable, but the wine is balanced - a good food wine (92 points). The 2016 Reunion Shiraz is quite a delight. This is a lighter style, very pretty. Red berries feature on the palate, lightly peppered. This is an elegant wine, finishing with soft tannins (93 points). I found the 2017 19th Meeting Cabernet Sauvignon a bit herbaceous. It is a clean wine, but the fruit weight is too light (89 points).

My second stop is at Murdoch Hill, increasingly known for its Chardonnay. The first wine I taste is the 2019 Sulky Riesling. The wine is fruity, a little sweet, with not much definition (88 points). Then come three Chardonnays. The 2020 standard Chardonnay delivers intense apple and pineapple flavours. 35% new oak adds vanilla on the palate. Overall, the wine is a little broad (90 points). the 2019 Tilbury Chardonnay is the premium wine. It consists of 100% Piccadilly fruit (think Petaluma). The flavours are quite intense and powerful. There is good length in this wine (93 points). The 2020 Tilbury Chardonnay has less new oak (15%), but more drive and intensity, as the apple and pineapple flavours are well supported by acidity (94 points).

The red wines are also worth a try. The 2018 Phaeton Pinot Noir comes from higher altitude at Piccadilly. The wine has a slightly earthy colour.  It is strawberry based with earthy undertones. There is 40% wholebunch in this wine, and the tannins are soft and silky - not your standard Pinot, but I quite liked it (93 points). The 2018 Landau Syrah is also a bit unusual. It is medium-bodied. Game and savoury notes dominate the palate. The wine is elegant, but slightly herbaceous (92 points).

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Day Two: McLaren Vale, part 2

 What on earth is happening at SC Pannell? Apparently, Stephen Pannell is over Shiraz (I did not have a chance to talk to him). A Shiraz vineyard next to the tasting room has been ripped out, and is being replaced by Grenache. Ok. In front of the winery, alternative varieties have been planted, and the resulting wines come from very young vines. I was interested to try some of these. 

The 2019 Nero d'Avola is very broad and fruity, tasting of dark cherry (86 points). The 2018 Aglianico delivers plum fruit and earthy notes on the back of strong acidity(87 points). The 2019 Touriga from Langhorne has a more interesting profile, with violets on opening, moving to dark fruit and plum pudding. There are spices and licorice (88 points).

The two best wines from the 'new breed' were the 2019 Montepulciano, a fruit forward and juicy wine, boysenberry flavours sit on the front palate of this not very tannic wine. The balance is good (90 points). The 2018 Nebbiolo shows restrained cherry character and some leather. Again the structure is good (91 points).

On to the Grenaches. The 2018 Old McDonald Grenache includes whole bunch and is matured in large oak barrells. The wine has a rusty colour. There is fruit confectionary on the palate and earthy notes (89 points). The star of the tasting is the 2018 Smart Grenache from the highly regarded sandy Smart vineyard. The colour of this wine is much darker. The purity of the fruit stands out. Aromatic and lifted characters linger on (93 points).

The jewel in the crown of SC Pannell is the Koomilya vineyard. The labels of these wines are very different. These are more serious wines suitable for ageing.

Tempranillo(also Tinta Roriz)/Touriga is a common blend in Portugal, the 2017 version from Koomilya is attractive. Black cherry and plum flavours sit on firm tannins. The wine finishes dry (93 points). This blend may become a larger part of the vineyard output. The 2017 Shiraz is surprisingly red fruited, a bit confected, with firm dry tannins and a long finish (91 points). The 2015 Cabernet/Shiraz delivers the typical Cabernet capsicum. There are also eucalypt flavours on the palate, and yes, the vineyard is surrounded by eucalypt trees. There is a strange mix of freshness and development in the mouth (92 points). The most exclusive wine is the 2015 DC Block Shiraz. This wine is still fresh. Eucalypt flavours are here as well, the fruit core has sweetness, and the wine finishes dry. I found this pleasant to drink (93 points).

Overall, I am not sure what to make of this tasting. It felt like 'tired' winemaking, but maybe it is a new beginning. In any case, maybe not the winery to focus on in the next few years. Some of the new wines are attractively priced, but I would rather drink similarly priced wines from Yangarra any day.

The final stop was at super boutique winery Bekkers. It only makes three McLaren Vale wines in small volume. They were all superb. The 2018 Grenache is a bit riper and broader than the 2017. Still the fruit is elegant. The wine runs down the palate seamlessly (95 points). The 2018 Shiraz/Grenache, a 65/35 blend, has more backbone. Forest berries and blackberry deliver an elegant mouthfeel and good intensity (96 points). The 2018 Shiraz is the star. It is very pure, with layered flavours of dark fruit, forest berries, also raspberry and some leafy notes. This wine is so harmonious, while also complex (97 points).

The other exciting news is that Toby and Emmanuelle Bekkers bought the Clarendon vineyard. It was originally established in the 1840s, and became the most important vineyard in McLaren Vale

This vineyard is a large steep hill, consisting of rocky soil. It fell into disrepair. The Bekkers family, with a strong viticulture background, is now restoring it.

I will be very interested to follow this development. According to Toby Bekkers, wine from this hill will already be available in a couple of years.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Day Two: McLaren Vale, part 1

 Yangarra is a very fortunate winery. It has great terroir, its winemaker, Peter Fraser, is very talented, and the owner, the Jackson Family, has very deep pockets. It is a curious ownership situation. The mothership, Kendall-Jackson, is a mass producer, in particular of Chardonnay. But then, the family has many other winery projects around the world where the pursuit of top quality is the number one priority. Some examples of the deep pockets can be seen here.

Concrete amphorae, made in Australia 

                                                      Terracotta amphorae from Italy

New foudre barrels

Another advantage of deep pockets is that Yangarra managed to hold back quite a bit as museum stock. In order to balance demand with the low yields of 2019 and 2020, some of it will be released over the next couple of years. My tasting reflects this strategy.

A straight Roussane can sometimes be a bit fat, but the 2016 Roussane is a clean and very fresh wine. True to the variety, it is not fruit oriented, but textural. The 2019 Noir is the absolute value for money wine. Rather than a standard GSM, this Grenache dominated blend includes also Cinsault and Carignan. It is a fairly light wine, juicy, round, and soft, with fine tannins. This is a delicious blend (92 points).

The hero variety of Yangarra is Grenache. The 2019 Old Vine Grenache is fragrant, with dark fruit and savoury notes. The tannins are quite firm - another very attractive wine and a step up from previous vintages (94 points). I could compare this with the 2011 Old Vine Grenache. The colour of this wine is still good, and the flavours quite intense. The wine has developed some earthy flavours (93 points).

The 2016 Ovitelli Grenache, from a special block of 75 year old vines, saw cool fermentation and maturation in amphora. As a result, there has been no oxygen exposure (the newer terracotta ones allow for some oxygen exchange). This is an elegant and very polished wine. It is savoury and fresh, and at peace with itself. The finish is very long (96 points).

On to the Shiraz. The 2018 Estate Shiraz is quite ripe, with dark fruit and mocca flavours. Peat and iodine add complexity to the elegant palate. The 2019 Kings Wood Shiraz, in its third vintage, has been matured in 2500 litre foudres, 50% new. It includes 20% wholebunch. Plum and blueberry flavours dominate. The tannins are fine, but also grippy. 

The 2017 Ironheart Shiraz comes from a north facing block, and according to Peter works really well in a cooler vintage.  The intensity of the blackberry fruit delivers a powerful wine, which is not sweet, quite an achievement. Again, the tannins are firm, and the finish very long (97 points).

There are some characteristics which cut across all these wines. Elegance is present in all of them. There is an emphasis on savoury flavours, without overdoing this, and as one moves up the 'pyramid', elegance is paired with power. 


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Standish Wine Company (Another Must Read)

 The drought vintage of 2019 followed 'the 'normal' 2018 vintage. In the case of Standish, it meant that low yields of 500kg/acre dropped to 250kg/acre. For those who prefer hectare, this is less than 1t/ha! It is then very tempting to press hard, to get as much juice out of the berries as possible. In a drought year, the berries are small, and the skin to pulp ratio is high. The tannins are pronounced. Hard pressing accentuates this outcome. This is what I found in some of the 2019 wines described during this trip. Dan Standish did the opposite. He pressed gently - a tough thing to do, as it further reduces output, but the results are astonishing.

You may remember this picture from last year. This year, I am the first to review the four 2019 wines.

The 2019 Relic (2nd from left) from a 100 year old rocky vineyard was the first cab of the rank. This is a beautiful wine. The blackberry fruit is elegant and the overall impression is of layered fruit on a mocca base. The tannins are strong, but the small Viognier component (1-2%), lifts the wine and delivers a velvety finish. This is a masculine wine which will mature beautifully (98 points).

The 2019 Standish from an ironstone vineyard in Greenock has a very attractive profile of blue fruits, blueberry and plum. The tannins are deep and long. The wine is quite linear despite the big mouthfeel. It moves along the palate with elegance and poise. It finishes long. Power and elegance: perfect (98 points).

The 2019 Schubert Theorem is perhaps the most complex wine. This Marananga vineyard is divided into six parcels, as the conditions, in particular aspect and elevation vary so much. As a consequence, this is a very layered wine, with fruits moving from black to blue to red - very interesting. It attacks the palate on a broad front. This is no doubt the biggest of the wines (97 points).

Then we have the 2019 Lamella from Eden Valley. This wine is lifted, with a very pretty fruit feel. The fruit is concentrated, maybe a little singular in comparison with the other three wines. There is some eucalypt on the palate, common in this area. The vineyard is located between the Mt. Edelstone and Hill of Grace vineyards, more or less as the crow flies. The tannins lead to a dry and long finish (97 points).

Overall, these wines share the profile of the previous year, each wine in its own way. The different terroirs deliver these distinctive features. Sophisticated wine making has meant that elegance, power, and persistence of these wines has been maintained, while the harsher tannins, often found in 2019, have been avoided.

These are most likely the wines of the vintage. They filled the big shoes of 2018. I cannot recommend them highly enough.