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 Rhône. 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 Rhône 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/++