Saturday, 4 July 2015

Another smart Frost Dodger from Dom Torzi

Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz

Maybe it's the winemaking nerd in me, but I do love learning about the 'details' behind a wine. There is just much to be learnt from how different people handle the varied processes behind wine production, and all of it is interesting (or maybe that's just me).

Anyway, the reason why I mention this is that the Torzi Matthews website is loaded with info. Exact yields, precise oak mixes and certain detail on the maturation. All of it there to see, which is refreshing for an industry known for bullshit and generally rubbish websites.

The Frost Dodger is so named as Dom Torzi and Tracy Matthews vineyard is at Mt McKenzie on the edge of the Eden Valley, their plot known for its frosty reputation and generally marginal-ness.

This wine, their flagship, is made using a portion of fruit dried in an apassimento method. When this rack-dehydrated fruit is coupled with the cool, slightly minty vineyard character you end up with something really quite unique. Stir in Dom's restless winemaker experimentation (there's that nod to differing processes again) and you end up with what is, typically, a wine of some complexity.

Indeed this '13 fits that comfortably. Purple maroon coloured, this has a nose of molten purple fruit, chocolate and a little mint. Love the mint. Despite the alcohol, the only note of dried fruit is on the nose, the palate inky and purple jubey but quite pretty and balanced. Maybe even elegant (for a rich and full red).

Ultimately this is real wine. It doesn't feel fucked with, or overworked or anything. Just rich, and layered and minty and finely tannic.

Quality, commendable, big rich wine. Drink: 2015-2028. 18.5/20, 94/100

Details: 14.5%, Screwcap, $40, Sample
Would I buy it? I'd certainly consider it. Will be a very healthy wine in five years time. Good price too.
Buy online: Torzi Matthews website

Friday, 3 July 2015

Tim Smith Barossa Shiraz 2013

Tim Smith Barossa Shiraz 2013

This sort of style is sure to find fans - it's just so generous and thick/rich. Perhaps too much, but no doubting the appeal.

Very dark purple, this has a dark, thick, almost molasses-rich nose, with ultra sweet liquid chocolate oak. It's not necessarily overoaked or indeed hot, but that ultra slick palate is heavy with oak and sweet ultra rich, oil slick like black fruit in a pure liquid flow.

A caricature but a loveable one, big and mouthfilling. Cleverness there, just a bit big for mine. 17.7/20, 92/100.

Details: 14.5%, Screwcap, $36, Sample
Would I buy it? I'd drink two glasses.
Buy online: Mycellars, Tim Smith website

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Best's new 2013 Bin 0 Shiraz

Best's Great Western Bin O Shiraz 2013

Best's, also known as The Most Frequently Misspelt Name in Australian Wine (along with Tyrrell's). Curse that cheeky apostrophe.

Anyway, Bin 0 is the most classic of all the Best's wines. Thomson family has the icon level complexity and Bin 1 is the value favourite, but Bin 0 is the most Great Western-ish. This '13 is another solid release, if really backward.

Purple fruit aplenty. Grampians to the core. Lovely. There's a hint of confection on the nose - a little purple Hubba Bubba in amongst the licorice and vanilla oak. It's tight and savoury underneath though, a quite medium Bin 0, despite the alcohol and length and intensity is spot on.

Quality here, just needing patience. I'd still prefer the '12 right now. Drink: 2018-2030. 18/20, 93/100+

Details: 14%, Screwcap. $85, Sample
Would I buy it? Not sure I'd buy it, but I'd definitely happily drink in 5-8 years time.
Buy online: Winehouse, Best's website

Brash Higgins' brilliant Vale Nero

Brash Higgins NDV Nero d'Avola Amphora 2014

Benchmark Mediterranean 'alternative' (whatever that means anymore) variety from the thoughtful American big man Brad 'Brash' Hickey.

Sourced from the Omensetter vineyard in McLaren Vale, this was handpicked and wild fermented in 200 litre clay amphora, where it then spent 180 days on skins. No oak, no worries - not missed in any way.

It's the evenness and deep generosity, though, which makes this so very good. It tastes so lively and vital for Nero (which can often look taste pruney and scorched, even in it's Sicilian homeland). There's ginger, cola, black jubes and black fruit here over a beautifully round, ultra fine flow of black fruit in a stylish soft form. Immediately mouthfilling, with that blackness of Nero and lovely fine grained tannins. Thick textured, but lively through the tail, finishing gently warm and slippery. Sometimes it looks a little too rich, though it's forgivable.

Supremely stylish. Overflowing with heart. A glorious big hug of thick black fruit, without any bullshit or excess. More. Drink: 2015-2025?. 18.5/20, 94/100

Details: 13.6%, Screwcap, $42
Would I buy it? Yes. Satisfying wine it is too.
Buy online: Different Drop, Brash Higgins website

Monday, 29 June 2015

Head Nouveau Touriga Montepulciano 2014

Head Nouveau Touriga Montepulciano 2014

The only new Head wine that didn't move me. I get the drift - joven Barossan red. But it's not for me. Bright purple mauve, it's both juicy and furry all at once, fruit sweet but also bitter, with a little undergrowth and furriness. Not quite. Drink: 2015-2019. 15.5/20, 85/100

Hanging Rock Jim Jim Chardonnay 2012

Hanging Rock Jim Jim Chardonnay 2012

This is sourced from the original Jim Jim vineyard in the Macedon Ranges. 100 dozen produced.

Straw yellow in colour, it is thick, mealy and old-school-dense with quite a bit of hessian oak to go with some sulphide funk and some lactic creaminess. A big mouthful of a wine indeed. Yet the finish is raw and very firm, with absolute shedloads of acidity and some oak tannins to finish.

This seems to be caught on the fence - too big and buxom to be super cool, yet also so firm that it jars. Length and power mark this as quality though. Interesting to see where it goes from here... Drink: 2015-2021. 17/20, 90/100

Details: 13%, Diam, $40, Sample
Would I buy it? A glass would be about enough,
Buy online: From the Producer, Hanging Rock website

NZ's best Sauvignon Blanc: Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2013

This is NZ's finest Sauvignon Blanc. Period. When I tried it back in November it was still coming together, but now, six months later, it has settled down to be one of the best Dog Point Section 94's to date, up there with the '11 and '09 vintages.

What makes this so good is the balance of fruit and winemaking derived complexity - the nose a flow of creamy, mealy, oak and yeast characters, stirred in with a dash of dill, white pepper and gooseberry varietal Savvy characters. The palate, too, is both creamy and rich, without ever losing sight of its herbal, angular and firmly acidic Marlborough Sauv form, backed by some late creamed asparagus for good measure.

Clever, long and delicious, this is first rate stuff. It's Sauvignon Blanc for Burgundy drinkers, and I'd drink this over loads of other wines. Big yes. Drink: 2015-2022. 18.7/20, 95/100

Details: 14%, Cork, $40ish, Sample
Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Buy online: Dog Point website

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Tscharke Project Savagnin 2014

Tscharke Project Savagnin 2014

Damie Tscharke's oxidative, Jura style Savagnin. Fun! Harvested at night, given a full solids wild ferment, hand and foot plunged, then aged in old French hogsheads for 7 months. No acidification, fining or filtration and just 1300 bottles produced. Fun!!

No surprises to see a hazy, yellow wine in the glass. It's a tangy wine too, all yellow apples, grapefruit and a little honeycomb. Sour palate has woolly edges and quite severe acidity. Grungy palate has some textural smudginess and an excellent tang but it's sour and the oxidation is just a fraction awkward.

A valid project wine, but falls down in the drinkability. Drink:2016-2022. 16.5/20, 88/100

Details: 12.5%, Cork, $40, Sample
Would I buy it? A glass would be enough.
Buy online: Tscharke website

Domaine de la Pinte Savagnin 2007

Domaine de la Pinte Savagnin 2007

Old school Jura Savagnin style, this spent 5 years in oak. It's every bit the fusty oxidative style, with mothball and a hint of decay, if still firm to finish. Briney and salty. It's nutty and long but it's in a pretty odd place - neither rich enough to carry things and not in a primary fruit phase. It's clean for the style though. Will probably live forever and not a bad single glass drink. Drink: 2015-2020. 16.5/20, 88/100+

Friday, 26 June 2015

Punt Road Chemin Yarra Valley Syrah 2013

Punt Road Chemin Yarra Valley Syrah 2013

I got a little excited by the standard Punt Road Shiraz, and this is better again. 2013 shaping up very nicely for Yarra Shiraz (or Syrah as it may be) rather than Pinot or Chardonnay. 100% whole bunch ferment, and minimal inputs all round.

Nails it. Dark maroon, the nose has hedgerow and black pepper whole bunchiness the palate balances out the bitter black clove stemminess with dark fruit and a very even extract. It's a fraction bitter, but the palate covers that with a near perfect mix of pan juice meatiness and an elegance through the finish. Not ready and less easy than the standard Shiraz, but all class, finishing with moreish, real tannins.

Yes. I drank this readily. Drink: 2015-2026. 18.5/20, 94/100.

Details: 13%, Screwcap, $36, Sample
Would I buy it? Yes.
Buy online: Punt Road website

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Chateau des Quarts Pouilly-Fuisse 'Clos des Quarts' 2012

Chateau des Quarts Pouilly-Fuisse 'Clos des Quarts' 2012

This is outstanding. Great value compared to white Burgundy too. Lots of oak and sulphide banana funk, there's some lovely fruit underneath all that winemaking though - a real clean mineral streak. Long and fine, with a real refreshing finish. Yes. Drink: 2015-2023. 18/20, 93/100

Piedlong Chateauneuf du Pape 2012

Piedlong Chateauneuf du Pape 2012

I've never quite warmed to this Brunier Chateauneuf du Pape, with variability and rusticity leading to some disappointments. A bitter, black fruited style, there's definitely an edge of mixed ripeness, with tilled earth and then candied Grenache fruit. At first I wrote this off as a dull wine but that Turkish delight complexity brings you back for more. There is real character here, even despite the green edges. Good, not truly great. Drink: 2015-2026. 17.7/20, 92/100

X by Xabregas Figtree Riesling 2014

X by Xabregas Figtree Riesling 2014

The drier of the two X by Xabregas '14 Rieslings and, for mine, the better balanced wine. pH 3.22 Ta 7.35 RS 11g/L.

Water green. Slightly mute nose with just a little melon escaping, juicy palate has better sugar balance than its brother and presents as a genuine fruity white with a nice buzz, if still just a little sweet and chubby to be life changing. Long though, which bumps up the score. Drink: 2015-2023. 17/20, 90/100

Details: 12.2%, Screwcap, $40, Sample
Would I buy this? Not quite.
Buy online: Xabregas website

Pipers Brook Estate Pinot Noir 2013

Pipers Brook Estate Pinot Noir 2013

It's curious how Pipers Brook has faded from the mainstream in recent years, slipping from a position as one of Tasmania's better known producers to now something of a forgotten force.

This Pinot is seriously good though. A reminder of the good ol' days, when Jeremy Oliver praised this wine and I thought his books were gospel. Don't hear much from Jeremy these days either, come to think of it...

Red/ruby, this is all cherry spice and with a fruitcake edge - much more ripe fruit than the 13.5% alcohol suggests, and backed by a really quite substantial palate.Long, firm, dark cherry edged finish lingers too. Substantial. Satisfying. Quality Pinot in the ripe and full Tamar mode. Drink: 2015-2022. 18/20, 93/100

Details: 13.5%, Screwcap, $35, Sample
Would I buy it? Yes. I'd probably share a bottle, but end up drinking plenty of it.
Buy online: Pipers Brook website

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Mitchell Harris Pyrenees Mataro 2012

Mitchell Harris Pyrenees Mataro 2012

Mataro - a tricky grape to get perfectly ripe, even from old bushvines in warm Barossa. Seems even trickier in cooler western Victoria.

10% whole bunches used in the ferment, the wine matured for 18 months in old oak.

Meaty! Deep, licoricey, black jube fruit. Very deep but rustic, backwards and a little hard, the fruit not quite translating onto the palate. Limitless depth, but without the generosity. Drink: 2018-2026. 16.5/20, 88/100

Details: 13%, $28, Screwcap, Sample
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Mitchell Harris website

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2013

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2013

The vines in the Foggy Hill vineyard turn twelve this year, a which surprised me a bit. That long already? Anyway, this 2013 comes from a 'warm and very dry vintage' and it shows.

Cloudy dark ruby red; the aromatics a mix of sweet vanilla oak and redcurrant in a surprisingly oaky form. Dry and bold palate is much more dry-reddish this vintage. Sappy, bitter red fruit core is still classy, as are the fine tannins, though the alcohol warmth and slightly confected blackberry cordial fruit is a distraction.

Great structure and typical detail, this is quality wine but lacks the delicacy for real glory. Drink: 2016-2025, 17.7/20, 92/100.

Details: 13.9%, Cork, $49, Sample
Would I buy it? I'd go a glass or so, but that's about it.
Buy online: Tapanappa website

Tscharke The Master Barossa Montepulciano 2013

Tscharke The Master Barossa Montepulciano 2013

This wine is dedicated to Damien Tscharke's father, who persuaded him to plant Montepulciano. Lots of potential here methinks. Monte has a nice Aussie ring to it. Oh and a closer look reveals a giant hand on the label. Cool.

There's so much to grab hold of here. Mid red with purple edges, the nose feels old school; leather hiding below the surface. Ditto the palate which is only sweetened by the faint pull of a little milk chocolate oak, otherwise it's serious, meaty, yet also with a juicy edge too. I love the savoury but berried, drying expression here - much more grown-up than expected.

The only thing missing is some carry and punch through the finish. More vine age is going to make this a hero. Big recommendation from me. Drink: 2015-2025. 17.5/20, 91/00

Details: 14%, Screwcap, $25, Sample
Would I buy it? I'd certainly be tempted by a few glasses.
Buy online: Tschake website

Chateau Tanunda - rare verticals of some well priced Barossans

Chateau Tanunda - rare verticals of some well priced Barossans

'I needed a chateau'
John Geber

Who doesn't need a chateau really? I do love that John Geber bought Chateau Tanunda on something of a whim (though it was probably more than that), just one day after first 'discovering it' by bicycle.

But it almost never happened.

Indeed this famous Barossa landmark - which was home to some of the first vines planted in the Barossa and one of the first wineries - was only weeks away from becoming a hotel.

Some hotel.

There's plenty more history that I didn't know about this historical property. For instance, the 'main' Chateau was built in the midst of the depression in record time, once claiming the mantle as the biggest building in South Australia and the largest winery in the southern hemisphere.

Beyond the backstory, there's definitely an air of rescue and revival about Chateau Tanunda. When I first landed in the wine industry, fifteen odd years ago, it was a bit of a forgotten relic, known more for the building and the brandy than anything to do with table wine. But since then the reputation of 'The Chateau' has definitely hit an upswing, even though it's probably not at 'top tier' level quite yet.


This lineup then looked at four wines from the Chateau, covering off some of their most important styles (except for Grenache. Which I would've loved to see).

What was interesting to see was how the three modestly priced Grand Barossa wines fared. For a $25 RRP range, these age rather nicely indeed, if a fraction variable.Good value to be had for sure...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Schwarz Wine Co. Meta Grenache 2014

Schwarz Wine Co. Meta Grenache 2014

Another smart release under the Meta label, this is a genuinely exciting Grenache. Go Grenache!
Hand picked, wild fermented with 70% whole bunch and bottled unfined and unfiltered - ie Rolls Royce modern winemaking. A blend of Bethany & Marananga fruit, there was just 1450 bottles produced. Kermit green label? Fun too.

Dark ruby with a purple-red edges, the nose here is all spicy, red cherry and rhubarb fruit with lifted juiciness. That whole bunch spiciness is excellent, matching the red cherry Grenache fruit very nicely, though the stem tannins are just a fraction on the bitter and gangly side. Still, this should resolve very well with a little more bottle age, leaving a clever wine indeed.

Yes. Drink: 2016-2025. 18/20, 93/100+

Details: 14%, Screwcap, $35, Sample
Would I buy it? Yes. Just don't drink too much yet - it's going to be even better next year.
Buy online:  Schwarz Wine Co. website

Monday, 22 June 2015

Tscharke Only Son Marananga Tempranillo 2014

Tscharke Only Son Marananga Tempranillo 2014

A nod to the fact Damien Tscharke was the only son after 4 sisters. Interesting to see the lighter alcohol this year.

Dark mauve red; the nose is utterly western Barossa, all fleshy dark bold red fruits and sweet chocolate oak. Berried palate is more about milky sweetness too, stir in some berries and you're there. A pleasant red but doesn't quite hit go deeper than that. Drink: 2016-2022. 16.5/20, 88/100

Details: 13.5%, Screwcap, $25, Sample
Would I buy it? Not quite.
Buy online: Tscharke website