Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021
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.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Saturday, March 20, 2021
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.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
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.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
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?
Sunday, March 14, 2021
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.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
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.
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
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.
Sunday, March 7, 2021
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.
Thursday, March 4, 2021
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.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
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.