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/+++