Monday, May 23, 2022

Frogmore Creek Chardonnay

 There is no doubt that Tasmania can deliver top shelf Chardonnay. Is the 2021 Frogmore Creek Chardonnay in the same league as Tolpuddle, Penfolds and a couple of others?

Floral notes will start you off, followed by pineapple and white peach. There is good purity of the fruit. The oak, through vanilla and nutty flavours, is quite present. The wine is a little sweet, which I did not find appealing, but might suit some. The wine has medium length and low acidity. This should be drunk young.

Clearly, this wine is not top shelf, but the attractive pricing reflects this.

Score: 89/0

Monday, May 16, 2022

Achaval Ferrer Malbec

 It was not until after I bought a bottle of 2019 Achaval Ferrer Malbec that I started to think about it. You see, this business is owned by Stolichnaya, a Russian vodka business. Are we, as individual consumers to boycott Russian goods? On one level, it makes sense, because it creates trouble for these companies, and hopefully creates pressure for the Russian regime. On the other hand, and in particular if the business resides elsewhere, it hurts local employment, and would it really achieve anything? Anyway, I had bought this bottle before those thoughts went through my mind.

Achaval Ferrer has done a lot for raising the quality of Argentina’ s Malbec. Following Catena Zapata, it became an advocate of single vineyard wines, based on old vines, and mostly from the Uco Valley. However, this wine is a blend from their vineyards, I guess from the declassified fruit for the single vineyard wines.

Blueberry and blackberry flavours dominate. The fruit is very pure and quite plush. Having said this, some savoury notes add to the overall pleasant  mouthfeel. Most of it is on the front palate. Still, the wine is balanced with a medium finish.

Score: 90/++

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Klaus Lentsch Bachgart Pinot Noir

 I came across this unusual (for me, at least) wine from SĂĽdtirol in Northern Italy and thought I must try this.

The 2017 Klaus Lentsch Bachgart Blauburgunder is quite a light wine with flavours of red cherry and raspberry as well as some earthy notes. The wine has some length. It ends up being dominated by somewhat firm, slightly coarse tannins and a harsh finish. Maybe this explains why Pinot Noir is not often found in Italy.

Score: 86/-

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Mayer Yarra Valley Syrah

 Timo Mayer is a charismatic winemaker, and his wines have personality, too. This is certainly true of the 2018 Mayer Yarra Valley Syrah. The Syrah labelling  indicates this wine is cool climate. Indeed, it comes from the upper part of his vineyard.

There is great purity of fruit on the palate; red currant, plum and blackberry. Black pepper supports the fruit flavours. The intensity of this bold wine focussed on primary fruit is quite high. I found the wine a little fruity, although the firm tannins and the spicy finish bring home a balanced wine.

This wine is 100% whole bunch, like the last wine I reviewed. However, it does not quite have the same impact.

Score: 93/+

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Giant Steps Nocton Vineyard Pinot Noir

 Giant Steps has been producing successful single vineyard wines from the Yarra Valley for a number of years. The 2018 Giant Steps Nocton Vineyard Pinot Noir is their first Pinot Noir from a different region, in this case from the Coal River Valley in Tasmania.

Rose and forest floor aromas rise from the glass. This is a medium-bodied wine with dark cherry fruit flavours, but more prominent savoury notes, mushroom and forest floor. The 100% whole bunch treatment is working its charm. This is a very seductive wine. The oak is noticeable and nicely integrated. The tannins are pretty, and the silky texture is more prominent than the intensity of this wine; a triumph.

Apart from typical food combinations, this wine also works well with white fish.

Score: 96/+++

Saturday, May 7, 2022

American Pinot Noir

 My understanding of US Pinot Noir is less than of Burgundy, and certainly a lot less than of Australian or New Zealand Pinot Noir. However, I recently developed a theory of these wines.

The first area to gain recognition for Pinot Noir was Sonoma and Russian River. Just north of Napa, these regions are still quite warm, and most Pinot Noirs reflect this. They are quite dark and full-bodied, Shiraz drinkers Pinot Noir, if you like, and comparable to Central Otago. There are exceptions with lighter bodied wines, but this is the main rule. Then along came Oregon, which set out to make Pinot Noirs much closer to Burgundy (this is the theory, but see below). And recently, the Sonoma Coast gained prominence. This subregion is close to the ocean and at higher elevation, perhaps combining the best of the two main regions mentioned above.   

I recently tasted a couple of  premium wines from these last two regions. Let's first talk about the 2015 Evening Land La Source Pinot Noir. It comes from the Seven Springs Estate at Eola-Amity Hills, a key area in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.

This wine has a light red colour translating into strawberry flavours. It is a very smooth and pretty wine, gentle, but not sweet. Acidity and tannins are light, with a medium finish. I liked this wine, but it certainly lacked the power or energy of good Burgundy.

Score: 93/++

The second wine was the 2016 Hirsch Vineyards West Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Hirsch is a very interesting winery. The owners have gone through a lot of trouble to identify different terroirs in their large holdings. The wines show remarkable variation from one site to another.

The West Ridge wine is very aromatic, with red cherry flavours and a medium plus intensity. It is quite a feminine wine with good fruit weight. It is fresh, with excellent balance of the underlying acidity and firm tannin structure. This wine gets closer to what one would expect as a classic Pinot Noir expression.

Score: 94/++


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Rockford Basket Press

 It is a blockbuster couple of days, with the Hill of Grace launch today. However, hardly anyone can afford it. I opened a Basket Press instead to see how it would compare with the Standish wines. It is not a totally fair comparison, as this is the 2009 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz.

Have you ever looked closely at the label? Quite
funky for such a traditionalist

This Basket Press, as most of them, is a ripe wine, but not overripe. Concentrated fruit flavours of blackberry and mulberry dominate, but there are meaty flavours and some subdued black pepper notes as well. The wine has a full mouthfeel and just enough acidity to drive to the long finish. The tannins are quite fine (for this label), and silky.

The wine is a bit fatter in the mouth than the Standish wines and has a bit less energy, but the flavours are beautiful: an excellent wine.

It is a good time to drink this wine now.

Score: 95/+++ 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Standish Wine Company - The 2020s Released Today

 Dan Standish, with his last two releases, has achieved the trifecta of power, elegance, and drive in his wines. The 2020 vintage threw up a particular challenge. It was the second drought year; even old vines start to struggle then. Yields are low, only a couple hundred kg/acre, as opposed to the standard low 1/2t/acre. The harvest was 80% below normal. As a result, the skin to pulp ratio of the grapes is high, and the risk of harvesting grapes with port-like flavours is real. Dan Standish told me a year ago, there would only be one wine. Things must have improved, because four wines will be released today. I decanted these wines 5 hours before tasting, assuming they would be big and concentrated, and tasted over two days.

Tasting these wines, two facts stand out: they have kept their specific brand profiles, but also, there is a wider quality difference, in my opinion, between the wines than in the last couple of years.

I started with the 2020 The Relic. This is the wine with the 1% Viognier component. It is hardly noticeable, much less than in the Clonakilla or the RunRig. The flavours of this wine jump out of the glass. It is red fruited, but darker on day two of tasting the wine. The wine is surprisingly fresh, but most flavour is on the front palate. It is an elegant wine, but it felt a little unsettled. This wine from the Krondorf vineyard is always first to be picked. But was this picked too early? There is a herbal character to the wine, and a bit of greenness. The tannins are not as fine and ripe as in the other wines. Maybe because there are less whole clusters in this wine? I did not warm to this wine as much, although it had drive and power and could do really well in a few years.

Score: 94/+

Next came the 2020 The Standish. The fruit is much darker; blackberry and mulberry flavours, violets, and shaved pencil. This wine has a lot of depth and purity, and is lively and energetic. Mocca flavours add to the complexity. The mouthfeel is brilliant. It is mellow, with silky tannins and a velvety finish. The wine glides down the palate in perfect harmony. It will age for a long time, but is already quite approachable.

Score: 99/+++

The 2020 The Schubert Theorem is the biggest of these wines, as expected. The colour is very dark, almost black, and the nose quite perfumed. The fruit weight is high and ripe. Blackcurrant, black liquorice, black olive, deeply layered - you get the picture. This is a broad shouldered, masculine wine with a huge structure, very tannic. It left my mouth quite dry. Still, the wine is not overripe and quite balanced.

Score: 96/++

The 2020 Lamella from the Hutton Farm vineyard at Eden Valley is very elegant. It is mostly blue fruited, very smooth and balanced. It is perhaps the antithesis to The Schubert Theorem in the context of Dan Standish's winemaking. The higher level of acidity is noticeable, but it gets caught by the firm tannin structure on the long finish. 

Score: 97/+++ 

Overall, this is another great set of Standish wines. If you are looking for more linear wines with drive, you go for The Relic or The Standish. If you enjoy a big, fat mouthfeel, you opt for The Schubert Theorem. If you enjoy more acidity, the Lamella is your wine. 


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Valenciso Tasting

 Valenciso is a favourite producer from Rioja Alta. In Rioja, most Tempranillo is doused in American oak. The thoughtful couple from Valenciso wants the fruit to shine, and when oak is used, it is French. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a rare tasting of a number of their wines. 

White wines from Rioja are underestimated. The 2020 Valenciso Blanco is a blend of 70% Viura and 30% Grenache Blanc. After a wild ferment, the wine is aged in untoasted Russian oak barrels for nine months. It is very fresh, but has depth in its balanced mouthfeel. There are subtle spices on the palate, and the zesty acidity leads to a focused finish. This is quite a serious and flavoured wine (93 points).

The first red is a new wine, the 2018 Valenciso Cemento. The fruit comes from 55 year old vines, grown at 550m altitude. As the name suggests, and the picture below shows, this wine is fermented and matured for 30 months in concrete tanks. It sees no oak. The wine is very fresh, with great purity, and red plum and blueberry flavours. It is a wine of medium intensity, with fine tannins and a medium finish (92 points).

I then tasted four Reserva wines. These are the Valenciso flagship wines. The vines come from a number of estate owned vineyards, with a minimum of 60 years old. They all are managed organically. The winery treatment is interesting: fermentation in concrete, then matured 18 months in low-toasted French oak (20% new). Then, the wine is transferred back to concrete tanks for 12 to 24 months. Because the wine clarifies so well in concrete, it is neither fined nor filtered before bottling.

I tasted from old to newer. The first wine is the 2001 Reserva. From a great vintage, this is now a beautiful mature and mellow wine. The concentrated fruit, mainly of dark plum, is still very present. Smoky flavours add to complexity. The mouthfeel is soft and silky, leading to a smooth and long finish. This is a beauty (96 points). 

The 2008 Reserva has a much younger feel. Cherry and subtle spice flavours are supported by fine tannins, but this wine does not have the depth or length of the earlier and later wines (92 points).

The 2011 Reserva from a warm year is a standout. Many Rioja wines from this year were very ripe, but this wine is perfectly balanced. It is deeply flavoured, with more volume than the 2008. Dark cherry and plum flavours are elegant and lead to a long and satisfying finish (95 points).

The 2014 Reserva does not have the same depth, but it delivers pure and beautiful fruit flavours of raspberry and black cherry. Minerality develops on the back palate, giving away the calcareous and limestone soils of the vineyards. The finish is not quite as penetrating as the 2011 (94 points).

If you are interested in drinking fresh and pure Tempranillo, Valenciso should be on your list.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Yering Station Chardonnay

 If you are looking for a high quality value Chardonnay, there is no better place in Australia than the Yarra Valley. This time, I am reviewing the 2020 Yering Station Chardonnay.

This is a pale and quite austere wine. Stone fruit flavours are added to by some earthy notes. This wine is quite dry, with a balanced mouthfeel and a fresh finish.

This wine is not overly complex, but the winemaking is excellent.

Score: 91/++

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

German Riesling Tasting

My taste buds are fine again, I think, but this is one from the vault: a tasting which happened two months ago. 

The tasting was structured in such a way that at first Kabinett-type wines were tasted, followed by GG (Grosses Gewaechs). All major German regions were represented. The first flight was young wines, the second was of five to six year old wines. Points were given for the favourite wines of the night.

The most highly rated wine ended up to be the 2015 Heymann-Loewenstein Uhlen Roth Ley, Mosel.
This wine impressed with a very complex palate, depth and its full mouthfeel. Despite richer characters, such as hazelnut, the wine had energy and minerality, reflecting the very special terroir of red slate on steep terraces. 

The second place was shared between the 2018 Robert Weil Kiedrich Turmberg, Rheingau and the 2015 Reichsrat von Buhl Jesuitengarten, Pfalz. Both wines shared notes of white flower, but were otherwise quite different from each other. The Robert Weil wine is quite austere, complex, yet linear, with a long finish. There was similarity to a top level Clare Riesling, in my view. The Jesuitengarten was a bigger wine, quite powerful, with citrus and stone fruit flavours, and a riper expression of a dry Riesling.

In third place, or fourth place if you like, came in the 2019 Egon Mueller Scharzhof Riesling. This is a remarkable winemaker with a remarkable property on a bend of the Saar (now labeled Mosel). The purity of the fruit of this slightly off-dry wine was amazing. It was already very complex for such a young wine, very fresh, with passion fruit standing out. The wine was slightly perplexing. It had great energy, even though the acidity seemed quite low.

This tasting demonstrated the rich landscape of German Riesling with quite different expressions depending on soil, winemaker, and region. It seems to me that Australian Riesling is pretty much cut from one cloth (with the exception of Frankland Estate perhaps), whereas this variety has so much to offer.

Monday, April 11, 2022


 It finally happened. The big C hit me on Saturday. Therefore, there will be a bit of a break with new reviews before I trust my taste buds again. 🥲

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Giant Steps Chardonnay

 In the last ten years, Giant Steps have made - I have to say it - giant steps towards outstanding quality, in particular with its single vineyard wines. This, however, is a review of the 2021 Giant Steps Chardonnay, the entry level wine. The grapes are sourced from five vineyards in the Yarra Valley, some declassified from the single vineyard wines.

This is a vibrant wine from a great vintage in the Yarra Valley. Green apple and citrus flavours are interwoven with fresh acidity leading to a balanced finish. This is a very pleasant wine. The mouthfeel is a little simple, not too deep, but refreshing with a medium finish. 

Score: 91/++ 

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Domenica Range

 Domenica is the business of Peter Graham. He was a long-term winemaker at next door Giaconda, and also worked briefly with Chapoutier in the Northern RhĂ´ne. They then formed the joint venture Ergo Sum. In the end, Peter Graham bought out the other partners and formed Domenica in 2012. Today I am reviewing the current releases of the so called Domenica Range.

The 2019 Roussanne/Marsanne is an attractive wine. Apple and pear flavours develop on the palate of this textured wine. There is no new oak applied. The wine is not too broad, which can sometimes happen with this blend, and this is an achievement, given the warm vintage. This wine has good drive and acidity.

Score: 92/++ 

The 2021 Chardonnay, from a cooler vintage, is quite different. Given his time at Giaconda, there is a special interest in the Chardonnay. However, this is fairly different from the bigger and bolder Giaconda. Citrus and apple flavours deliver a reserved, yet somewhat fruity style. The wine is balanced and the small amount of new oak not very noticeable. This is a well-made wine, but I found it less convincing than the Roussanne/Marsanne.

Score: 92/+

The 2018 Shiraz is built in the cold climate style or the Northern RhĂ´ne style. It is fresh, red fruited, with a lot of pepper and earthy flavours on the palate. The tannins are very dry. This is a good wine, but I think the freshness is overplayed at the expense of fruit intensity.

Score: 93/+ 

The Nebbiolo is getting a lot of attention lately. This 2019 Nebbiolo is floral and elegant with rose petal notes dominant - a very pretty wine. It could be mistaken for a Langhe wine from one of the better producers, something that cannot be said of many Australian Nebbiolos. This is a balanced wine with a lot of typicity.

Score: 92/++  



Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Craggy Range and Torbreck

 I am drinking the 2016 Craggy Range Te Kahu Merlot blend. This wine hits me with its concentrated fruit. It is intense and powerful, but also elegant and quite smooth. I am reminded of Torbreck.

There is a lot of primary fruit here, blackberry and plum. The structure is firm, with a dry tannic backbone. There is great fruit in this wine; it is well made. However, the mouthfeel is of a thick and blocky wine. It is not layered.

Score: 94/0

As it happens, the first wine I grab after is the 2017 Torbreck Factor. This is Torbreck's most concentrated 100% Shiraz. In comparison to the Craggy Range, it is darker, riper, almost Port like, and the oak shows more. In my view, this is not like wine should be, and the dry year did not help. I do not think the winemaking has been great here. Interestingly, David Powell's favorite during his Torbreck reign has always been the Steading, not the more powerful wines with the best and ripest fruit, selling for three times the price.

Score: 89/-

PS: So in hindsight, the Craggy Range was nothing like a Torbreck (I just had forgotten) 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Gentle Folk Village Grenache

 The Adelaide Hills has become the major playing field for Australian wine: Barossa vintners and others make cool climate Shiraz here. The Piccadilly Valley is known for top notch Chardonnay. Many new varieties are planted. The most significant, though, is the natural wine movement emanating from Basket Range. I have tried a number of these wines, but found it difficult to get excited. This is perhaps, because many wineries here are hobby pursuits, and others are too hung up on philosophical principles. But then I found Gentle Folk. I came across their 'vin de sofa' (what a great name) in a wine bar. This team has considerable experience in other wine regions, and can therefore merge a natural wine making approach with solid traditional winemaking.

As you can see from the label, they are pretty modest. However, this 2021 Gentle Folk Village Grenache is a delight to drink. The purity of the fruit is fantastic. The raspberry flavours are reigned in by minerality and lively acidity. Being made naturally, there is not too much complexity, but I love this wine. And I think it will age well for 2-4 years at least.

Score: 93/+++ 


Friday, March 18, 2022

Wine Education

 Most of my readers have a deep interest in wine. Some of you may want to further your knowledge with some education. I was recently made aware of an excellent guide on wine education from around the world. Some of you may find this interesting.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Massolino Barolo

 Massolino calls the subregion of Serralunga home. It is perhaps the most heralded area in the Barolo region. The wines here are darker in colour and most intense, yet lifted and very drinkable due to the silky tannins. Massolino owns plots in the famous vineyards of Vigna Rionda, Parafada, and Margheria. The 'Barolo' labeled wine consists of fruit from these and additional vineyards which does not go into the single vineyard wines.

This 2010 Massolino Barolo is an absolute delight. The thought crossed my mind, why would I drink anything else?

The bouquet consists of fresh floral and perfumed notes, and is a little smoky.

On the palate, intense red fruits deliver a layered mouthfeel, perfectly balanced with vivid acidity. The wine dances on the palate. Silky tannins round out the beautiful texture. At 12 years old and under cork, this wine is a baby, and will further develop complex secondary flavours in the years to come.

Score: 96/+++ 


Saturday, March 12, 2022

Wendouree Malbec

 Wendouree has this special aura of mystery. It mainly relates to the Shiraz and various blends. However, there are other astonishing wines to explore. Today it is Malbec.

The 2012 Wendouree Malbec is a full-bodied wine, as you would expect. It is under Stelvin and still fresh on the front palate. The dark cherry fruit is quite concentrated and a little thick, but still quite elegant. The tannins are coarse and start to take over from the pretty fruit on the back palate, maybe a bit much for my liking. Still, a very good example of mature Australian Malbec. 

This wine still has a decade in front of it without problems.

Score: 94/+

Monday, March 7, 2022

Special Tasting At Penfolds

 A few days ago, I was hosted at Magill Estate to a tasting of some special wines. 

The whites were the 2021 Cellar Reserve Polish Hill Riesling and the 2020 Bin 20A Chardonnay. The white wines have always lived in the shadow of the red wines, maybe until now. Cellar Reserve are one-off wines. They do not create restrictions which the major labels can do. This Riesling shows the expected lime and lemon flavours of Polish Hill. In comparison with Grosset, this wine has a wider mouthfeel, not quite as steely (this is a matter of personal preference). Having said this, it has a beautiful line of acid (94 points). 

The Bin 20A Chardonnay is the little brother of Yattarna. A stands for Adelaide Hills, where always 100% of the fruit comes from. This wine is nothing like any other Chardonnay I have tasted from Adelaide Hills. It is a much more powerful and quite funky wine.Whereas Yattarna seems carefully crafted, this wine lets loose. It comes from the Piccadilly area, and has been matured in 60% new French oak. The wine can clearly take it. Ripe melon flavours and a flinty minerality dominate the palate. This wine has personality (95 points).

The next section was a comparison of cork and stelvin closure, based on the 2013 Bin138 SGM. The wine is composed of 75% Shiraz, 15% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre. As expected, the wine under cork showed more development, with a slightly garnet colour. The stelvin wine showed red and purple. The wine under cork felt big in the mouth, with raspberry flavours. It had a sweet, somewhat fat core (92 points). The screw-capped wine was much fresher, with a more interesting flavour profile, including aniseed and some vegetable notes, such as fennel (94 points).

The result was not what I expected. For red wine, I prefer cork because of the more natural development (in my mind), whereas I have had a number of 10 year old red wines under screw-cap which showed frustratingly little development at all. However, in this comparison, the wine under cork was further developed than I would have liked, and ‘reduced’ to a sweet core. The wine under stelvin showed some development, and kept an interesting flavour profile.

I will skip over the Bin 28 wines. The comparison here was difficult because of the significant difference in age.

Finally, I tasted two wines from the new California Collection. The 2018 Bin 704 is the Penfolds Napa Cabernet. Sourced predominantly from Oakville and Rutherford i.e. the valley floor, and matured in 100% new French oak, this wine is positioned, if you will, against the premium Napa Valley Cabernets (and priced attractively by comparison). It has the boysenberry flavour I associate with Napa Cabernet, but it is not as open as the American wines. I feel it is tighter. The different fermentation style with Penfolds typical punch-downs, may explain this. The wine is quite long and has an elegant mouthfeel, which makes it quite approachable now, maybe because of the maturing in hogsheads (95 points).

Penfolds legacy is founded by risky experiments. The Max Schubert story of Grange is well known where Shiraz was used instead of  the Cabernet Sauvignon of Bordeaux. RWT was aged in French oak against all Penfolds tradition. Do we have another example here, when red wine maker Steph Dutton ‘threw’ 13% of ultra premium Shiraz fruit from Australia into the best Napa Cabernet fruit they had to create Quantum? This 2018 Quantum is called wine of the world, maybe a bit presumptuous, but no large wine company had ever done this before. This wine is matured in 100% French barriques. Is this a Napa Cabernet? Is this a Penfolds wine? What I would say is that it is a very high quality wine, with layers and layers of fruit, with blackcurrant dominant. It is much too early to drink now, but will unfold very well, I have no doubt. It will be longer lasting than most Napa Cabernet. It is Penfolds’ best Cabernet, but a Grange equivalent? Not sure (97 points).

 The reception by Penfolds was most enjoyable, and the expert comments by Zoe Warrington very much appreciated. This tasting was a real treat.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Fattori Soave

I must admit I have shied away from Soave wines. Most of it is industrially produced wine for the quaffer market. Fattori is said to be a serious producer, focussed on quality, so I gave this a try.

Soave wines, from the Veneto region, are based on the Garganega grape. The Fattori vineyards are on basaltic soil of an extinct volcano, and on gentle slopes.

This 2020 Fattori Soave delivers green apple, and stonefruits over underlying citrus flavours. There is a slightly sweet mouthfeel, possibly due to some late harvest grapes included. This is balanced with some minerality on the backpalate. The finish is short. Overall, I found this wine well made, but a little simple.

Score: 88/-


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Lake's Folly Cabernets - Must Read

 Lake's Folly is an enigma. In a region specializing in Semillon and Shiraz, Max Lake planted Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. And I do not know if it was folly, luck or amazing insight, but the vineyard he bought turned out to be very special. The soil of the Cabernet part is red clay with some limestone mixed in. It suits the Cabernet extremely well. 

Traditionally, vintages have been quite varied, but the variability has reduced over time, as most vines are now over 50 years old and used to adjust. Then the highly acclaimed 2014 vintage comes along - well, let's see.

The 2014 Lake's Folly Cabernets has quite a typical grape composition for this label with 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, and then 18% Shiraz, 11% Merlot, and 10% Petit Verdot. Strong aromatics of black fruits and violets emerge when the bottle is opened. And I am delighted to be able to pull a perfect cork.

On the palate, blackcurrant and mulberry flavours are added to by olive, tobacco, and an attractive whiff of earthy smoke. The mouthfeel of this medium bodied wine is supremely elegant. There is a superb balance in this wine. The wine is fresh and ripe at the same time, the wine is at peace with itself. The tannins are very fine and silky and the finish meanders in your mouth for some time. This is an amazing wine.

This Lake's Folly is great to drink now, and will continue to develop complexity. I drank from two bottles, one at relatively warm room temperature, one from the cooled cellar, 30 minutes or so out. When cold, the fruits on the palate are more blueberries. I must say, I actually preferred the warmer version, which goes to show how well this wine is structured.

Score: 98/+++


Sunday, February 27, 2022

Tertini Wines

 Tertini is located in the Southern Highlands, NSW, and it deserves more recognition. I visited 18 months ago, and have now come back for a second look. Last time, I reported that the strength of this winery is in Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. This turned out to be the case in this tasting as well. 

The 2019 Tertini Riesling has 8g of residual sugar. It delivers a bit of sweetness, but essentially adds more interest to the palate, which delivers citrus and some honey flavours. The wine remains crisp, with well balanced acidity and a dry finish (93 points).

The 2019 Pinot Blanc is a clean wine, texture orientated, and a good food wine. The finish is a little flat (90 points).

I tasted their two Chardonnays, which provide an interesting contrast in styles. The 2018 Tasmanian Chardonnay is very fresh, citrus focussed, and very dry. This is a typical modern Australian cool climate Chardonnay. I found it a bit lean, but well made (92 points). The 2019 Southern Highlands Chardonnay in contrast goes through 100% malolactic fermentation and sees 40% new oak. This is a  wine with a rounder mouthfeel. Citrus, melon, and pineapple flavours deliver complexity on the palate (93 points). 

The 2019 Southern Highlands Pinot Noir is an attractive wine with a light touch. There is a small amount of whole bunch (12%) in this wine. Red cherry, five spice, mushroom, and forest floor flavours deliver a typical good quality Pinot Noir flavour, on a light frame in this case, defying the 13.1% alcohol (94 points).

The other red varieties I tasted, a Nebbiolo from Hilltops (very Pinot Noir like), a Corbena Amarone, and a Lagrein (Northern Italian variety) create some curiosity value, but do not reach the quality of the other reviewed wines. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Taste Champagne

 Today, I participated for the first time since the start of the pandemic in a larger public tasting. It felt good to be back. It was Tyson Stelzer's juggernaut Taste Champagne. A few interesting grower Champagnes were missing, but Tyson managed to get about 40 houses to exhibit.

I found a comparison between Bollinger, Pol Roger, and Taittinger interesting. Bollinger has the brilliant fruit, Pol Roger showed more fruit weight and lees character. Taittinger was the most elegant of the three, with very fine mousse. I also enjoyed the mouthfeel of the Louis Roederer Vintage Brut 2013. But the best wine was the Millésime Vintage Brut 2012 from Charles Heidsieck; very fine, with great depth and some toast, yet refreshing.


Friday, February 18, 2022

Chateau LĂ©oville-Barton

 There was a concern that the warm 2003 vintage in Bordeaux would deliver overripe wines with limited ageing potential. A few posts ago I reviewed the gorgeous Lafite-Rothschild from that year, and now it is the turn of the 2003 Chateau-LĂ©oville Barton. This is another enticing wine.

This wine is super aromatic and perfumed on the nose.

There is a huge depth of flavour on the palate; blackberry and dark cherry in particular, some tobacco as well. This is a very intense wine, but also elegant. The firm tannins deliver a nice counterpoint. There is an x factor all the way, including a long finish. I loved this wine.

Score: 97/+++

Friday, February 11, 2022

Rochford 400 Gradi Chardonnay

 Upping the ante with a sub $15/bottle wine from the Yarra Valley. The Gradi wine is a special Rochford release for the joint venture restaurant in the Yarra Valley with Melbourne's pizza king. And a pizza wine it is!

The 2019 Rochford 400 Gradi Chardonnay tastes of citrus and green apple. The flavours are light and a bit metallic. The acid tastes added. Overall, this is an acceptable quaffer, but not very harmonious.

Score: 84/--


Thursday, February 10, 2022

Domenica Nebbiolo Rosé

 It has been many years since I visited the Beechworth region. In those days, it was Giaconda, Sorrenberg, Savaterre, and Castagnia. It has always been a high quality region, but now, a number of newer wineries have joined in. One of them is Domenica - well, the winemaker is ex Giaconda.

Rosé is not a wine style I often report on, but when it is based on Nebbiolo, it attracts my interest. This is because the rose petal notes so suit Rosé.

The 2020 Domenica Nebbiolo Rosé displays an attractive salmon pink colour, as shown above. There is an attractive mix of orange peel, red cherry and musk on the palate. The attractive acidity leads to a dry and refreshing finish. This Rosé delivers a good balance of lightness and seriousness.

Score: 88/+

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Tyrrell's Hunter Valley Chardonnay

 Most people would look to the Yarra Valley when it comes to value for money Chardonnay. And it is unlikely you would think of the Hunter Valley. However, Tyrrell's is one of the great Chardonnay producers of Australia.

A couple of days ago, I drank the 2020 Tyrrell's Hunter Valley Chardonnay. Now there is a red flag going up. This is the year of the terrible bush fires, and they were close to the Hunter. Bruce Tyrrell was very vocal of not picking quite a few vineyards because of smoke taint. The good news: there is absolutely no smoke taint in this wine.

The wine was matured for six months in old and new barriques. This Chardonnay generates a very pleasant mouthfeel with citrus, pineapple, and a mild vanilla influence. The wine is not overly complex, but has some persistence. It has more body than a Yarra wine of similar price point, and a little less acidity.

I highly recommend this wine, which can be found for close to $20 per bottle. It should be drunk in the next couple of years.

Score: 90/++ 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon

 The Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon lives in the shadow of Cullen and Moss Wood, but in some years it soars to significant heights. The 2014 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon is such a wine.

There is a typical style to this wine, which makes it immediately recognizable as Cape Mentelle. It is blackcurrant and mocca. These flavours are beautifully integrated. The wine has elegance, but also grit, with fine grained tannins. The slightly 'dirty' finish does not detract from the overall impression.

At eight years, this wine drinks well now and has many years of satisfying drinking ahead.

Score: 96/+++ 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Bottle Shock and Air Flow

 This article is about chemistry, and I easily admit I understand nothing about it.

Normally, when I buy wine or get it delivered, I would not drink the wine for some time. It goes into the cellar. But a little while ago, I tried this white wine immediately, and it was not like I expected it. It felt unbalanced and unsettled. When I drank another bottle some time later, it was balanced, with excellent texture. You sometimes hear wine merchants saying, let the wine settle before you open it. Apparently the molecules of the wine get disturbed in transport (science people, help me out here), get mashed up, and need time to regroup.

Something similar happens when you decant wine. Most of the time, I see people simply dumping a bottle of wine into a decanter. Yes, the wine gets aerated, but again, the molecules get disturbed. Please use a funnel when you decant, and make sure the wine flows along the glass into the decanter. This is also why Riedel has come up with these strangely twisted decanters. It helps air flow without shocking the wine.

Sometimes you might open a bottle and do not have time to decant, but you wished you should have. There are devices which help in this situation. As you pour the wine, it gets exposed to some aggressive

airflow. I have used this device from time to time, but not on expensive bottles. Stephen Henschke advises strongly against using this, again because of the disturbance which occurs in the wine.

I would appreciate, if somebody could shed some light on this topic with more of a scientific background.


Friday, January 28, 2022

Chateau Lafite Rothschild

 Great producers do well in difficult vintages. An example is the 2003 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. It was a hot year,  and the risk was to make overripe wine. Enter this excellent drop.

This wine is velvety on the nose, very inviting. On the palate feminine flavours of loganberry and mulberry engulf the mouth. This wine is super smooth. It is delicate and fragrant. There is a significant vanilla/oak influence, but it does not detract from the fruit where black currants rule on the back palate. The finish is very long and balanced. This is a complete wine.

Score: 98/+++

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Can Sauvignon Blanc Age?

 A few days ago, I had an opportunity to taste a couple of older Sauvignon Blancs. They were not pure, but the 2010 Mount Mary Triolet included at least 75% Sauvignon Blanc, barrel-fermented, and the 2016 Blanc de Lynch-Bages had 52% Sauvignon Blanc. The other varieties in both cases are Semillon, and Muscadelle.

In terms of the question asked in the headline, the Lynch-Bages has the advantage. The Semillon component is larger, and the wine less old. And it showed.

The Lynch-Bages had good energy. There was a tropical expression on the palate, with pineapple and guava flavours. I tasted cinnamon spice as well. The wine delivered an attractive velvety mouthfeel. It was still fresh (92 points).

The Triolet had an attractive entry on the palate. The flavours were more in the citrus spectrum, but I detected a bit of guava as well. However, it fell off on the back palate and the wine finished quite flat. The second taste was a bit more satisfying (89 points).

Has the question been answered? Not really. The Triolet made you question the ageing potential, and the Lynch-Bages had too much Semillon in the wine to answer in the positive.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Chateau Magdelaine

 Collecting Bordeaux is not that easy. It takes 10 years for a wine to show its true colours (flavours), and then you can no longer stock up. You can collect well known wines without tasting, but that will cost you. Or you base decisions on an early tasting, if you get the opportunity.

I decided to buy a number of different wines at attractive prices from the highly regarded 2009 vintage. The results were mixed, but I am in luck today, as I taste the 2009 Chateau Magdelaine.

In Australia, left bank wines are much more common than right bank, partly a result of relative volumes, but also partly because of the mixed reputation of Merlot, which is the dominant right bank grape.

This Merlot blend opens with huge aromas of blackcurrant and forest berries, some raspberry even.

On the palate, black fruited flavours come to the fore; there are earthy notes and mild spice as well. This is a ripe wine, but very balanced, with oak in the background. There is some development in this wine. At this point, it delivers a satisfying sweet/savoury mouthfeel. The tannins are firm and ripe, well integrated. And the finish lasts and lasts.

I think I am drinking this wine at its sweet spot. It is ripe, but has a decent structure. While it delivers a good package now, it may fall apart sooner than other wines from this vintage.

Score: 94/++ 


Monday, January 10, 2022

Nimbostratus Chardonnay

 I have never heard of this wine before I bought the 2019 Nimbostratus Chardonnay. This is a pity, because apparently this is the last vintage. Nimbostratus is the name for unattractive, thick dark clouds, apparently the kind you get from where the wine is from. The vineyard is located in the Victorian highlands, about 50km southwest of Beechworth, at an altitude of 868 meters.

The wine is wild fermented in French oak and matured on lees for nine months. Only 180 cases with this attractive label were made.

You can immediately tell this is a high altitude wine. Citrus flavours and acidity dominate the palate. This wine has a nice zing to it and is quite harmonious in its dryness. There is a subtle power and concentration underlying it all. I certainly enjoyed this wine. The small production may have made it uneconomical.

Score: 93/++  

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Penfolds The Max Schubert Cabernet/Shiraz

 The overall Penfolds offering is not that easy to understand. Sure, there are the well established brands such as Bin 389, Bin 28, Bin 707, St. Henri. But then, there are other offerings. First, the cellar reserve wines. These are experimental wines, with grapes not common in the key brands, such as Pinot Noir and Sangiovese. They are offered on an irregular basis. Then there are wines which are special one offs in years where there is an abundance of great fruit, not all required for the traditional blends. This has been taken to an obscene level lately, where extreme scarcity has driven prices to  the stratosphere. And then we have the Napa wines, and white wines, of course.

The wine I am reviewing today is the 2012 Penfolds The Max Schubert Cabernet/Shiraz. This is a new creation before the frivolity set in, although it is quite pricey as well. The idea here is to honour Max Schubert with a blend which tries to copy the 1962 Bin 60A, Max Schubert's and probably Australia's greatest wine. 2012 was the inaugural release, with less than 500 cases made. This wine should not be confused with the Max series, a cheap quaffer, which should never have carried Max Schubert's name.

The blend in this wine is 48% Coonawarra Cabernet, 13% Barossa Cabernet, 39% Barossa Shiraz. This compares with a 66/34 split of the 1962 wine. The Max Schubert was matured for 15 months in 100% new American hogsheads.

Pouring the wine, a dark purple colour emerges, slightly 'dirty' - a bit surprising. I experience blackcurrants and vanilla oak are on the nose.

On the palate, there is blackcurrant, ripe plum, mocca, charcoaled meat, and vanilla. Coarse tannins hit the palate early, then concentrated, sweet fruit hits like a bomb. This is quite a chewy wine, yet the acidity is quite high, too. No doubt, this wine has high quality fruit, but it has not come together for me at this point. It definitely needs protein, and is basically too early to drink. But will it be harmonious, ever? The wine opens up in the glass with increased elegance, but it feels only half the race is done at this point, and a 1962 Bin 60A it is not (says me who has never tasted the 62). 

Unmistakably Australian, typical Penfolds!

Score: 96/+  


Monday, January 3, 2022

The Most Read Blog Posts In The Last 6 Months

 The top 5 blog posts in order were

1) What to do with your wine cellar

2) Top 5 wine trends

3) by Farr Farrside Pinot Noir

4) Penfolds 389 Cabernet/Shiraz

5) Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay

This demonstrates there is an interest in general topics. I will continue to write some of these when I can think of  interesting content. Clearly, people want to hear about premium mainstream Australian wine. But close behind were the posts on wines from the Jura and Chateau Malescot St. Exupery showing interest in international wine as well.  

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea Shiraz

 To ring in the new year in style, I drank an iconic wine from the Hunter Valley, the 2014 Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea Shiraz. 

The thing that strikes you immediately is the great purity of this wine, and its depth of flavour. This full-bodied wine is red fruited. It does not give away much at the moment. The mouthfeel is smooth, and the velvety nature of the tannins is emerging. This will more fully develop in time. There is great harmony on the palate.

This wine comes across as very aristocratic, and at peace with itself. It was way too early to drink and will probably still be good in 50 years.

Score: 95/+++