Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Bass Phillip Issan Vineyard Pinot Noir

 The Issan Vineyard is situated 15km from the famous Bass Phillip home block. It was densely planted in 93 and 94 according to Burgundy principles. The Pinot Noir from it is Bass Phillip's cheapy, well, it is all relative.

The 2015 Bass Phillip Issan Vineyard Pinot Noir shows some development in the glass, as an orange tinge envelops the red colour. On the nose, beautiful rose aromas rise from the glass.

On the palate, red cherry and red and black forest berry flavours emerge. There are some earthy notes, but fruit dominates, leading to a soft mid-palate. The flavours are not that complex, but the wine is fresh and energetic. This wine is not as intense as the Estate wine. The tannins are fine and firm, and the finish is medium in length.

Overall, this is a balanced wine, but not in the league of the original vineyard. Perhaps this is a little disappointing, given this vineyard was constructed with high ambition. It will be interesting to see what the new owner will do with it.

Score: 92/++ 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Yes Said The Seal Pinot Noir


The name is unusual, but this was not the only thing creating interest when this wine was released. It beat all famous entries in some show. There was some concern raised how the 2016 Yes said the seal Pinot Noir would age, so let's have a look.

This wine is quite delicate on the nose, with an appealing strawberry bouquet. On the palate, the strawberry notes continue, but there are also black cherry flavours. More pronounced are savoury flavours, such as mushroom, earth, and wet stone. This wine has good Pinot Noir typicity. The palate is quite elegant and delicate. This is why people were concerned about ageability. However, the wine has a firm acidic backbone and silky tannins.

This wine is beautiful now. The structure is perhaps a little fragile. I suggest to drink this wine now to two years. 

Score: 94/+++

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Classification Turmoil At St.-Emilion

 The classification of St.-Emilion needs to be renewed every 10 years. Wineries need to submit an application and supply their credentials. Cheval-Blanc and Chateau Ausone, who are in the highest classification, have decided not to make a submission for the 2022 renewal. Their reasoning? There is now some emphasis placed on the treatment of visitors and social media activities. They believe it should remain based on terroir, wine, and history alone. It is therefore likely they will drop out of the classification, and they do not mind.

Is this another stepping stone towards making these classifications irrelevant? The other being that some lower rated wineries on the left bank outperform higher rated wineries on a consistent basis.

PS: I visited Chateau Ausone some years ago, and was treated very well. 

A Premium Merlot Tasting

 Merlot is a fickle grape. If the wine is not from Pomerol or St. Emilion, it is a disappointment, most of the time. Merlot is a good blender with Cabernet, fleshing out the mid-palate, but on its own, it often lacks structure. A group of us got together to find out if there are excellent Merlot examples outside the famous Right Bank areas. And indeed, we found an outstanding wine, and several good examples.

The outstanding wine was the 2016 Henri Milan 'Le Jardin'. This wine comes from Provence, and the winemaker has the understated goal of achieving Petrus quality on this special plot of blue clay. The winery is biodynamic. Therefore, the beautiful perfume on the nose is perhaps no surprise. This is a complex wine with blackcurrant, truffle, dark chocolate and horse saddle flavours. The wine is quite tannic and has a huge amount of energy. Sadly, production is minuscule (96 points). He is on his way, I think.

The second wine was the 2010 Villa Maria Gimblett Gravels Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release. This is perhaps not an entirely fair inclusion, as this wine is only 67% Merlot, but still, Merlot dominates. Villa Maria produces wines of varying quality, this wine impressed.

This is a complex wine. Floral notes rise invitingly from the glass. The palate is very elegant and focussed. Herbal flavours reminded me of Italian origin. The wine is not underripe, in fact the core is sweet, and the tannins are silky (94 points).

The third wine is another small production wine. It is the 2015 Chateau Picoron. It comes from a right bank vineyard, if you will, which is situated 10-15km south-east of Saint-Emilion.

From a warm vintage, this is a powerhouse. It is a bit in your face and aggressive. Black and red cherry fruit dominates, and there are savoury notes as well. The tannins are high, as is the alcohol (15.2%). The structure is sound, and the finish long (91 points). I preferred the 2016, which was also tasted. It was similar in style, but gentler (92 points).

The last wine I would like to report on is the 2018 Hickinbotham The Revivalist Merlot. It comes from the cool northern part of McLaren Vale. In fact the Merlot is grown from the highest altitude plots of this outstanding vineyard. 

The wine was not rated as highly as the last two, probably because of its strong fruit component on the palate. This wine makes a big statement. It is lush, but not just fruity. Mushroom flavours add to the very balanced mouthfeel (94 points). I liked it a lot, and a very experienced taster thought it was from Pomerol.

The Merlot grape is a very 'open' grape, which means it is influenced a lot by terroir. The 'Le Jardin' is grown on blue clay, and the Hickinbotham is also grown on very old silty loam and brown clay. I came to the conclusion that soil is a key factor for this variety, more so than for any other major grape variety. 

A number of older Merlots (more than 10 years) were also presented at the tasting. They had lost their fruit and were over the hill. Another lesson: do not age Merlot for too long.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tertini Lagrein

 On to the second exotic. It is perhaps less exotic, as Lagrein is a Northern Italian variety. The name is Austrian, and it originates from Tyrol. I call it exotic, because it is not well known, even in Italy, and much less in Australia. This wine is produced by Tertini, an Italian family wine company in the Southern Highlands. The Southern Highlands themselves are not well known for premium wines, but Tertini stands out, and I encourage people to try their wines.

The 2018 Tertini Lagrein tastes of black cherry, sour cherry and herbs (not because of unripe). This is a medium-bodied wine with quite an attractive flavour profile. The acidity is very high, and would not be everybody's cup of tea. Tannins are medium, and the finish is very soft.

This wine needs time to mellow, and the ageing potential is good.

Score: 91/0 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Zorah Karasì

 Today is the first report on two exotics. Over the last couple of years, wines from Georgia have become more popular, in particular the natural wines. In a tasting some time ago, I found most wines sub-standard, I have to say. Today, however, the reviewed wine is from Armenia, the likely birth place of wine growing. 

The 2018 Zorah Karasì is grown close to Mount Ararat, at an elevation of 1400 meters. It is near the Areni cave, considered the oldest winery at 6100 years of age. The grape variety is the indigenous Areni Noir. It has a very thick skin and is well suited to the diurnal temperature variation of this continental climate. In 2012, an Areni Noir wine made it into Bloomberg's top 10 wines world-wide.

Zorah is the preeminent winery in Armenia today. I am not sure of the winemaking process, other than the wine is aged in amphorae. Karasì means 'from amphorae'.

Now to the wine. The colour is deep purple. It is medium- to full-bodied, with flavours of dark cherry and mulberry. Not a very detailed expression, but it tastes elegant in the mouth. Dry and coarse tannins cut through the fruit. 

This wine has some complexity, and the slightly harsh finish is quite long. It is a distinctive style, maybe closest to Malbec in its fruit orientation. Further refinement can make this an excellent wine.

Score: 90/+  


Monday, October 4, 2021

Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo

 Gianfranco Alessandria is not a division 1 producer in Barolo and 2011, while part of a string of decent vintages, was not a great one. How good can the 2011 Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo really be? It comes from the San Giovanni vineyard of the Monforte subregion.

The colour of the wine is a rustic red. It looks quite developed.

Cranberry fruit opens up on the palate, followed by savoury characteristics, such as leather, cigarbox and earthy notes. It is a complex and attractive profile. Overall, the mouthfeel is a little rustic, but the wine still has good energy. It is balanced despite the robust tannins, typical for a traditional wine from  Monforte. 

Overall, the wine has an interesting profile and personality. I recommend to drink this now.

Score: 93/+++