Thursday, 2 October 2014

Penfolds Collection 2014: The other releases inc. 2012 Cellar Reserve Cabernet Shiraz and a Penfolds Durif

Penfolds Collection 2014: The other releases inc. 2012 Cellar Reserve Cabernet Shiraz and a Penfolds Durif

The backdrop to the Penfolds masterclass - Melbourne at its prettiest
While the Bin range and Grange are hogging all of the Penfolds attention today, there was two additional wines presented at the recent Penfolds Collection masterclass that have yet to be written about - and really deserve some more attention.

I suspect that the reason this duo weren't written about is that details are still scarce, with release dates and prices still largely unknown. They both come from arguably the most innovative Penfolds line of all - the 'Cellar Reserve' range - which has yielded in recent years an 'iced' Viognier and an exceptional Merlot, not to mention Penfolds best Pinot Noir and Sangiovese.

If the 2012 Penfolds Cellar Reserve Cabernet Shiraz is anything to go by, expect some very exciting 'Special Bin' wines out of 2012...

Background notes are in italics.

Penfolds Cellar Reserve Durif 2013 (Barossa, SA) 13.5%
Sourced from a single grower out towards Koonunga Hill in the Barossa Valley. All French oak, less than 50% new. Total production circa 820 dozen.
Huge purple and boysenberry colour, so bright! Olives, boysenberry and black fruits. Still carries the tarriness and thickness of Durif, but really bright. Nice wine, if quite pithy and tart. 17.5/20, 91/100

Penfolds Cellar Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2012 (Coonawarra, SA & Barossa, SA) 14%
60% Coonawarra Cabernet and 40% Barossa Shiraz  100% new American oak. 850 cases produced.
Quite intoxicating nose - a classic American oak Penfolds nose. Intriguingly it feels rather more energetic than the 389 and the oak is swallowed up all that more than the 707. There's a real buxom deliciousness to this actually, a cosseted, sweet oak and fruit style with driving tannins to finish. Real ageless Aussie red - I wanted to drink this.18.8/20, 95/100

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Penfolds Collection 2014: Penfolds Grange 2010 (plus a look at the 2008, 2009 and a very special tawny)

Penfolds Collection 2014: Penfolds Grange 2010 (plus a look at the 2008, 2009 and a very special tawny)

Best to start here.

To say that there is some hype about this new 2010 Penfolds Grange is putting it mildly.

With the 2010 St Henri getting 99 point scores and the 2008 Grange famously scoring 100/100 it seems only natural that this new 2010 will get at least one perfect score.

After trying the wine, I'm wagering that there may be several...

What makes Grange so special is all about consistency - 60 years worth of wines, with even the lesser years typically looking pretty smart. Combine that with an excellent year (2010) that Peter Gago compares favourably with 1990 and you have a recipe for glory.

The Grange consistency was put under the microscope at the Penfolds Collection tasting, with not only the 2010 but also the 2008 and 2009 up for tasting.

Happily, the wines delivered even better than I expected, the 2009 looking notably more lively than I can remember, the 2008 a very different style to the 2010 but still of a very high standard (and really not far behind the 2010).

As a footnote we also had a sneak peak at the brand new 50 Year Old Rare Tawny - a super premium, amazingly packaged tawny drawn from some of the oldest stocks in the Penfolds cellar and bottled in tiny amounts.

Penfolds Grange 2008
98% Shiraz, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Magill Estate. 19 months in 100% new American oak hogsheads. 14.5%. pH 3.48. TA 7g/L. $785.
It's almost affronting how thick and rich this is - more like liquid choc coffee fruit cake than wine. Immensely rich though, carrying that consistent nose of Formic and mocha berry. That nose is just starting to look a little creaky and losing a little vibrancy but the palate intensity is off the charts! This will always be the hedonists grange, all glycerol and molasses and I can utterly appreciate its massiveness. It feels so sweet and yet not overwrought. Length goes on and on. Super impressive. 18.8/20, 95/100

Penfolds Grange 2009
98% Shiraz, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Magill Estate. 18 months in 100% new American oak hogsheads. 14.5%. pH 3.53. TA 6.6g/L. $785.
Curiously this feels more raisined and coffeed and flatter than the 08. While 08 Grange has this almost impossible flood of fruit, the 09 seems more conventional, more oak framed, more winey. Still utterly impressive in its intensity and blackness but it's also a little minty and frayed. Still a big coffeed beast and seriously that tannic length is right up there. 18.5/20, 94/100

Penfolds Grange 2010 
96% Shiraz, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Magill Estate. 17 months in 100% new American oak hogsheads. 14.5%. pH 3.57. TA 6.9g/L. $785.
Curious nose on this - it's immediately more kirschy and younger than the wines before it. Like it's from another world. Extraordinary chewy length, really choc mint fruit and youthful. Hard to believe it is just one year younger than the 09. This is an absolutely exceptional wine, the length is amongst the best Australian reds I can think of. What makes it brilliant is the texture - it's super plush, along with the persistence of red coffeed fruit, drying tannins, utter polish and that extra layer of intensity. Looks rather more balanced than any Grange in years. 19.1/20, 97/100

Penfolds 50 year old Rare Tawny Series 2
Several of the oldest components date back to 1915. Leather label and hand-blown bottle, the top created from an original cask. Predominantly Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro and Cabernet Sauvignon. 19.7%. pH 2.95. TA 10.1g/L. Be 11.0. Circa $3500
Ahh Pure toffee and caramel treacle. Impossibly concentrated yet still looks fresh. I'm guessing the sugar is bloody huge on this. The intensity is massively off the charts. Pretty incredible wine. 18.7/20, 95/100

Penfolds Collection 2014: The Bins

Penfolds Collection 2014: The Bins

So it begins...

As slated back in June, Treasury Wines are officially bringing the release date of the Penfolds Bin Series and the Icon & Luxury Collection forward to the 16th October this year, effectively combining what used to be two releases (in March and May respectively) into one super collection.

What that means is that, for the first time ever, the famed Penfoldstravaganza has happened twice this year.


Twice us scribes have experienced what Campbell Mattinson cheerfully calls the 'Gago show'*. Twice everyone will witness an avalanche of huge points heading in a Penfolds direction. Twice phrases like 'Grange allocation' and 'where can I buy more 707' will be uttered in liquor stores around the nation.

And you know what? Penfolds couldn't of picked a better release to be doing it...

To be honest, it makes absolute sense to move the Penfolds release date to October. For one, it doesn't interrupt harvest, so winemakers can actually get out and sell the wines. Two, it means that new Penfolds wines will hit stores in time for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year and the rest. Three, it means that the wines are released in the cooler spring (compared to March at least). Four, it means 8 months until the end of the financial year to sell everything and five, it's great for cash flow to sell two releases this year!

In all seriousness, there is much to like amongst this slightly unusual Penfolds Collection. Much of the release comes from the 2012 South Australian vintage, which Penfolds winemaker Steve Lienert believes shares much similarities with the even, near perfect 1996 vintage (which was an epic Penfolds year). Further, while some wines remains stuck in a style (like 707), the subtle evolutions of oak and tannin management seem very positive. Most importantly there are no price increases this year, which is probably a smart move.

I went through all of these new release Penfolds Collection wines in a huge, meticulously planned press masterclass last week. A masterclass that, interestingly, had less Gago and much more time for introspection, with most of the nations wine press all sat at individual tables in exam-like silence.

It's serious business tasting Penfolds.

Anyway, onto the wines. All of these were tasted non-blind, in good tasting conditions, but still rather quickly. Background notes are in italics, RRP in Australian dollars. All wines available 16th October (in Australia at least).

*(Peter Gago, Penfolds chief winemaker, is one of the the most engaging winemakers I know of, though the man can talk. The Gago show is good value regardless, particularly as he is surprisingly frank, honest and quite entertaining).

The wines

Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2014
Eden Valley. 12.5% alc. pH 3.13. TA 7.1g/L. $30.
Peach and melon fruit - there's that typical Penfolds ripeness kicking in here and definitely a full vintage. Almost candied in its lime and lemon grass/melon fullness with unquestioning bracing, almost bitter acidity. Ready to go and full of power. 17.7/20, 92/100

Penfolds Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2013 (Adelaide Hills)
Hand picked and whole bunch pressed to barrel before a wild ferment on solids with full malo. 9 months in French barriques. 40% new, 60% 1 year old oak. 13%. pH 3.15. TA 7.0g/L. $100.
Nutty and mealy, there is no escaping the classic Penfolds rambunctiousness, the flavours more ripe yellow peach this year, on a full and rounded palate. Despite the acidity this feels very full and ready to go immediately - it's going to fill out quite quickly. Good, if not quite superstar length or finesse. Looked lesser compared to the Yattarna. 17.5/20, 91/100

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2012
Derwent and Coal Valley, Henty, Adelaide Hills. 8 months in barrel with 45% new and the rest one year old. 13.2%. pH 3.21. TA 7.0g/L. $150.
Shows some sulphide funk on the nose - winemakers at play. There's real body underneath though and real layers of fruit. Starts off with cool white flowers, white peach and a distinct absence of obvious oak. The palate is excellent, successfully straddling the bracing acidity and milky lees and oak inferences. The acid is a little forceful perhaps, but there is shape there, I spent some time with this and think it's really impressive - one of the best Yattarna releases in many years. Yes please. 18.7/20, 95/100

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2012
McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully, Langhorne, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Upper Adelaide. 13 months in seasoned American oak hogsheads. 14.5%. pH 3.64. TA 6.5g/L. $40.
Classic Bin 28 - all mocha berry flavours, drying Penfolds tannins and thick richness. There's a whole lot oF plum choc richness in a very Penfolds style, if perhaps a little lifted up by oak and tannin richness. This will satisfy many Bin 28 fans with its richness of berry fruit and oak, tannic grip and texture, but perhaps not a superhero in quality - it's a bit short and 'made' for that. 17.5/20, 91/100

Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2012
Only wine in the portfolio to see puncheons. All from Maranga in the western Barossa. 14 months in 25% new French oak, 25% new American oak, 25% one year old French oak, 25% American oak. 14.5%. pH 3.67. TA 6.0g/L. $80.
A full, drenched purple red colour. There's a wonderful redcurrant vibrancy here which lifts it well above the Bin 28. It feels quite pretty and real with the licoricey concentration quite admirable. Sticky tannins and bitter red fruit to finish. I like this - I like the transparency and I like the pure red fruit. It feels the most terroir driven of these Penfolds 'Bins', and I like that it carries some of the Maranaga blue fruits about it. 18.5/20, 94/100

Hard at work at the Penfolds masterclass
Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Wrattonbully, Padthaway, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Langhorne Creek. 14 months in 22% new French oak and 78% American hogsheads (19% new, 16% 1yo, 43% seasoned). 14.5%. pH 3.56. TA 6.7g/L. $80.
Open and genuinely varietal. There's some spearmint and leaf about this, the tannins driving what is an utterly varietal Penfolds Cabernet style. The mintiness is divisive, but I like that this speaks in a Cabernet tongue first, Penfolds second. There's chocolatey richness that drives the middle too. The problem is the finish - it is abrasive, resinous and hard, looking astringent and brutal. Good start, but not the greatest of congruency to finish. I came back to this after the 707 and it looked genuinely awkward. 17/20, 90/100

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2012
Wrattonbully, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Robe. 12 months in American oak hogsheads (40% new, 60% 1yo). 14.5%, pH 3.57. TA 6.9g/L. $80 
A formidable wine - it's every bit the 389 classic, a huge wall of chocolate and tannins. licorice, blue fruits, even some mint, the oak really firm and full. It feels like a barrel sample with that sweetness of mid palate that Penfolds is known for. My only gripe is that its a firm and raw wine now, the oak and Penfolds brand tannins really protruding out. A hard wine to drink immediately, but will make exceptional old bones. 18.3/20, 93/100+

Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2011
McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills. 12 months in 50+ yo large oak casks. 14.5%, pH 3.65. TA 6.6g/L. $95. 
Very dark for an 11. Immediately it smells of the cool year, with leaf litter and black pepper in abundance. Already quite secondary, the flavours and gentle, supple and the acidity is really noticeable before a faintly bitter finish. You'd be hard pressed picking this as a typical St Henri, but it is distinctive in a leafy, mushrooms way. Decent tannins finish things off. By no means a bad wine, but such a departure from the normal St Henri mode! Much to chew on, but not a truly great wine. 17/20, 90/100

Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2012
Handpicked, open fermented and basket pressed to barrel. 12 months in 65% new French, 30% new American and 5% 1yo American oak. 14.5%. pH 3.62. TA 7.5. $130.
Sexy oak. The oak is just a little resinous but the fruit at the core is delicious! What a Magill! Stand up and applause for Magill. You can almost feel the sunny Adelaide sun and the heart of the wine is this beautiful black fruit pastille flavour, the oak rather well integrated on the finish. Really bloody good. 18.7/20, 95/100

Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2012
Barossa Valley. 16 months in French oak hogsheads (75% new and 25% 1yo). 14.5%. pH 3.71 TA 6.9g/L. $175
Very dark red colour. There's a quintessential Barossa valley-ness to this, the fruit and flavours quite gentle and open and inviting. There's a hint of confection in this though and some smoky over ripeness too, a raspberry ripple line through the middle which is pretty, the tannins excellent, but perhaps you want something more? A little more oomph. It seduces, but almost mid weight compared to some of the RWTs before it. Still a pretty special wine.18.5/20, 94/100

Penfolds 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Coonawarra, Padthaway, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills. 14 months in 100% new American oak hogsheads. 14.5%. pH 3.57. TA 7.0g/L. $350
Oakasaurus. Texturally this is a dynamo, ultra luscious and ultra seductive, the oak milkshake a big part of the wine. A wonderful smooth texture in there but hard to see much beyond milky oak and tannins. Tricky wine to rate, this needs loads of plus signs methinks as it is essentially undrinkable now. That texture really is remarkable though, which bumps the score up considerably. 18.4/20, 94/100++

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September Tasting Notes Roundup

September Tasting Notes Roundup

Some highlights (and lowlights) from the tasting bench this September, all in one easy roundup.

Dal Zotto L'Immigrante Prosecco 2013 (King Valley, Vic) $36
Pure and clean - really taps into the white flowers with a flash of gumball of top Prosecco. Vibrant palate with really fine bead for a Prosecco. Smart modern bubbles and easily the best Aussie Prosecco I've had. 17.8/20, 92/100

Waipara Wai Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Waipara, NZ) 13% $20
Loads of sweet sweaty terpenes on the nose - is this Waipara or Marlborough? Big passionfruit hit. Flat, slightly gritty palate. Ordinary. 14.5/20, 80/100

Tower Estate Coombe Rise Semillon 2013 (Hunter Valley, NSW) 11% $22
Produced from a vineyard on Pokolbin Creek. It's just straw green in colour with a tight, green and yellow apple nose. The flavours look a little washed out and the C02 is sky high - Like lemonade tinted water, the acid biting and dry. I kept waiting for the palate intensity to drop here - it never did. This has really retracted into an acidic hole. Don't drink for another 3 years at least. (it's going to improve markedly) 16/20, 87/100++

Fifth Leg Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013 (WA) 12.5%
Not Margaret River anymore - just 'WA'. Quite an obvious snappy tropical nose - all Sauv, with a dash of herbs to top it off. Palate is indifferent after the nose, starting with a tropical fruit punch but dissipating to aspirin and acid. Fair, simple, drinking wine. 15.5/20, 85/100

Plantagenet Chardonnay 2013 13.6% $33
This seems stuck, trying to be lean and fresh but also sacrificing intensity for it. Fine, lean, citrus nose with minimal oak over yellow apple fruit. Palate is lean, tight and a little subdued, the finish attenuated by alcohol. There is good length no doubt, but this still feels a little stunted and simple. Length bumps up the score 17/20, 90/100

Hungerford Hill Chardonnay 2011 (Tumbarumba, NSW) 12.4% $33
Love the raised lettering on the front of this label. Old school. The oak sticks out a fraction here. Sweet nutty oak over a palate that is both delicate and chubby. Surprisingly fat for Tumbarumba actually. It's quite full and São oakish but where is the drive and clean finish? Almost there, but not quite. 16.5/20, 88/100

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Pinot Noir 2013 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic) 13% $32
Deep blood red colour this vintage. Indeed the nose is fuller, less feminine and the fruit more glacé. Still, underneath that fullness lies more classic 10X, the initial fruit fullness filling out into a curranty, more obviously oaky form with a big alcohol drive through the finish. Long, a little raisined but genuinely long, with a dry and black finish. Seriously attractive Pinot. 17.8/20, 92/100

Rochford L'Enfant Unique Pinot Noir 2013 (Yarra Valley, Vic) 13.8% $54
50% whole bunch, 50% whole berry. Wild ferment, 30% new French. Light raspberry red colour. Lots of grape sweetness on this, the delicacy of the nose leading to a sugar sweet palate that is gentle and concentrated but looks just a little to too much about one dimensional raspberry lollies if cast in a gentle mode. Good but too sugar ripe and warmish to be great. 17.5/20, 91/100

Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Pinot Noir 2011 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic) 13% $46
Intriguingly, I found this more drinkable than its older brother the 2011 McCutcheon. Lovely delicate redcurrant nose and has a little of the raspberry red fruit of classic Mornington Pinot. Gee it looks brittle to finish though - a little meaty and punching acidity. Still a softer wine in context and actually pretty tasty. 17/20, 90/100

Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Pinot Noir 2012 (Marlborough, NZ) 14.5% $28.99
Curiously I find the cheaper win more tasty than this. Carries a big, ripe and oak fleshed nose - quite a full, old style red licorice Marlborough Pinot nose. Milk chocolate oak and loads of sweet fruit give this an easy edge but beyond the oak and sweet fruit it doesn't offer much. So sweet and oaky! Finishes warm too. Not a bad wine - commercially attractive - but somewhat short and fat and oaky. 16.5/20, 88/100

Blackbilly Tempranillo 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA) 14% $20
Meaty, mulchy with bitumen and an animal hide tone. Black pepper beef and soy. and slightly bretty palate has good penetration, a big dollop of earth and quite tangy acidity. Sure has plenty of flavour, largely older oak. Maybe a little bretty? Just a little oxidative at the edges. Not quite persuasive but great length. Nice grippy finish too. Surprisingly good depth of fruit at the pricepoint, but definitely a little wooly. 16.5/20, 88/100

Meerea Park Hell Hole Shiraz 2011 (Hunter Valley, NSW) 13.5% $56
Sourced from the Leonard vineyard. Thick plum fruit, cast ripe this vintage. Rippling, licoricey fruit - deep! Inky deep. Bitumen red fruit. Very thick and tannic style, the tannins thick cut and chewy with some black dirt thickness. Finishes warm, a fraction play and masculine. Loads of power! Long termer. Has some black earth grip to finish. Loads of power! Almost gruff. Hold - this is going to be a stunner. 18/20, 93/100+

Willow Bridge Gravel Pit Shiraz 2012 (Geographe, WA) 13.6%, $30
Bright purple boysenberry colour. Vanilla bean oak slick announces the palate, along with boysenberry ripple fruit and just a little guttural black chewiness, the finish carefully finessed but still a bit warm and spirituous. Quite pretty but reductive and warm and vanillan. Needs time to come together. 16.7/20, 89/100+

Tyrrell's Vat 8 Shiraz Cabernet 2011 (Hunter Valley, NSW) 13.8%
The first year in living memory that the Cabernet component is 100% Hunter Valley. Happily, this looks very Hunter 2011 too - bright red fruits, silky smooth and fruit sweet palate and a regional hint of sausage meat too. It's perhaps a little too overfined and the tannins are very soft, but the form is pretty good and mighty palatable stuff. 17.7/20, 92/100+

Snake + Herring Dirty Boots Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Margaret River, WA) 14%
Firm, dry and extractive, this has a black mulch and black pepper firmness to it that is hard and a bit uninviting. Really quite muddy, it smells so unsweet considering the alcohol. It tastes a little fresher than that but the just meaty, black earth palate has little fruit to give. Unfun. 15.5/20, 84/100

Super cool Pinot Gris from... Coonawarra! Raidis Estate Cheeky Goat Pinot Gris 2013

Raidis Estate Cheeky Goat Pinot Gris 2013 (Coonawarra, SA)
13.9%, Screwcap, $20

This is genuinely orange. 'Partridge eye', 'I can't believe it's not from Provence' orange. Fun wine it is too.

Produced from Orange Pinot Gris with a little judicious skin contact, this has an intensely floral and musky nose that really sticks out. In fact, the intensity is  excellent - really punches through.

Palate is quite generous palate in a mode that is more Alsace than Veneto, with lovely almost candied bath salt sweet fruit, plenty of acid to finish.

Simple packaging, simple intentions, but with a personality (and intensity) often missing in $20 Gris. Good value too.

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? A couple of glasses would do. Easy recommendation.
Buy online: Raidis website

Monday, 29 September 2014

Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon Pinot Noir 2011

Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon Pinot Noir 2011 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $75

A rare miss for Ten Minutes by Tractor.

The cool season is writ large here, the colour almost rosé red/orange, the wine black pepper and mulch on a dry and gruff palate that lacks the ripeness to carry it off.

There is the slightest sweet fruit on the back but it can't conquer the dry tannins and raw acidity of a very autumnal wine.

Not quite.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2019
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Not quite.
Buy online: Wine Searcher

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Chardonnay 2012

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Chardonnay 2012 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic) 
13%, Screwcap, $30

A mighty solid wine for the dollars from one of my favourite producers.

Nougat and white peach nose, the palate looking full, nutty and yeasty and solidsy, before a full and broad finish, tending towards butterscotch.

Generous, mouth filling and complex Chardonnay that I want to drink.

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Buy online: Ten Minutes by Tractor website

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Better than expected: Hungerford Hill Tumbarumba Pinot Gris 2011

Hungerford Hill Pinot Gris 2011 (Tumbarumba, NSW)
13.7%, Screwcap, $27

I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't expecting much from this. I mean, a 3 year old Pinot Gris from a region not known for Gris (at all) that I found in the tasting pile. Yet still, it surprised me. I've actually had it open for four days now to see what happens. Even after four days it is taut, driven by acid and very fresh, teetering between ripe fruit and crunchy acidity. At no stage has it been blinding, but the structure and length of this Riesling-esque Pinot Gris is admirable.

I'd drink this.

Source: Sample
Tasted: September 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink a glass or two.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Argentinian Pinot on the knife edge: Humberto Canale Seleccion De Familia Pinot Noir 2011

Humberto Canale Seleccion De Familia Pinot Noir 2011 (Patagonia, Argentina)
14%, Cork, £18

I'm still waiting for my Argentinian Pinot Noir moment. Thought this would be it...

Still, what makes this interesting is the context behind it. It comes from the Rio Negro in Patagonia, which lies in the southern tip of Argentina's winegrowing areas and is plumped as Argentina's home of Pinot. In turn, Humberto Canale were one of the first to produce Pinot from this part of Argentina.

What's intriguing is how unripe and awkward this is. For a vineyard where Malbec is also planted (and ripens), it seems incredibly odd that this is so ashen and marginal, cut with black pepper and rhubarb with the only sweetness coming from oak and alcohol, finishing thin and gangly.

The thought then is about what went wrong? It could be just a bad bottle, but it didn't look faulty. I'm guessing then it's a viti issue, with yields and canopy management all deserving scrutiny. But whenever a wine from a known producer lobs up looking so off key, I find myself asking that same question - who knowingly puts out a wine that is ordinary? Surely you benchmark you're wines, or at least keep an eye at what competitors are doing? Even based on my limited Argentinian Pinot experience I know that there are decent wines to be found, and 18 squid is hardly cheap either.

So what's the deal?

Source: Retail
Tasted: September 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 15.5/20, 83/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Wine Searcher

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Highlights from the 2014 Vin de Champagne Awards

Highlights from the 2014 Vin de Champagne Awards

Monday night I went to the 40th anniversary presentation dinner for the Vin de Champagne Awards - a biannual competition held by the CIVC that offers one local wine professional and one amateur a two week, all expenses paid Champagne 'trip of a lifetime'.

This years deserved winners were Tom Warrell (amateur) and Annette Lacey (professional), with Annette particularly stoked given that she also found out a week or so back that she passed the MW tasting exams.

Naturally, given such a context, the Champagne was flowing at speed on the night and, despite still being under doctor's orders to avoid alcohol (doctors - what do they know?), I couldn't help but drain a few glasses of restorative fizz.

As you can imagine writing decent tasting notes at a black tie dinner is not only hard but a bit naff, yet I still managed to get a decent look at these few wines over dinner.

The caveat, as ever with Champagne tasting notes, is all about variability. No disgorgement dates means the NVs are a lottery, and even the vintage wines were a guessing game, with some wines obviously spending some time under cork. Further, I thought certain bottles looked much fresher than others, which only confuses things more.

Regardless, this collection included more than enough glory to make for damn good drinking, plus the food was absolutely top shelf, with ex Becasse chef Justin North delivering an array of Champagne-friendly delights. One of the best wine dinners I've been to in ages.

Bollinger Rose NV
I've been critical of the balance in this newish wine from Bollinger previously, yet this particular bottle absolutely smashed it. There is an intriguing orange rind character to this, giving complexity and interest but it won me over simply on purity. Obviously a well treated bottle, there is that lift and dancing pretty sherbet and white flower lightness which I really look for in rose Champagne. Perfect balance and simply delicious aperitif style. Yes 18/20. 93/100

Billecart Salmon Rose NV
This, like so many pinks, is marred by obvious sweetness dulls what is a quite serious style. It has a sweet strawberry hit on the nose, but the palate looks to be playing catchup, finishing a fraction short. Still quality Champagne but outclassed here. 17.5/20, 91/100

Moet Rose 2004
More structure, more lees ageing and more weight but less vitality. This was darker in colour and tries hard, but the still wine gives this a slightly bitter note and I thought it lacked vitality, even though the complexity was there. Good, not great. 17/20, 90/100

Mumm Cramant Blanc de Blancs NV
Unbalanced. Candy floss dosage over a dry and vegetal, tart palate. Intensity is unquestioned but this looked phenolic and overly chewy. 16.5/20, 88/100

Ayala Blanc de Blancs 2007 
Ayala just gets better and better, all at a very fair price. This looks utterly classic on the nose with white flower perfume and a light whipped butter edge. It's pure and pretty to taste if just a fraction fleeting. Still, an awful lot of style for the dollars. 17.8/20, 92/100

Jacquart Blanc de Blancs 2006
About as close to a grower Champagne as the night would give and this looked really quite vinous. There's extra weight and length to this with an almost Pinot like grunt, finishing with extract and big acid. I liked this, the length impressive and persistence bringing you back. 18/20, 93/100

Louis Roederer Cristal 2006
This is the best Cristal I've had in ages. A swarthy, musky Aramis nose over a brooding and powerful palate. Deep and quite chewy, this is still a bit young to be a superstar but it feels every bit the grand marque. 18.5/20, 94/100+

Charles Heidsieck Brut 2000
Some question marks here - it just looked a little flabby. A lemon drop nose, this forward with a flash of mandarin. There's some creaks and cracks on the palate which looks advanced. Complexity drives this forward but just not the freshness. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pol Roger Winston Churchill 2000
From magnum and bloody glorious. Fully mature and driven by autolysis this is much fuller and more powerful than the Charles, carrying that 200 vintage toasty richness. It's fresh to finish though and that palate was oh so fresh you could be convinced this is much younger.. Delicious and the complete, powerful package. Loved it. 18.7/20, 95/100

Lanson Gold Label 2004
Searing acid. No Malo? Biting acid - just too much. Length is good but severe. I couldn't drink much of this. 17/20, 90/100

Veuve Clicquot 2004
Another dry and ballsy effort and certainly pure. Could do with more richness but nice lines. Needs time. 17.7/20, 92/100

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Hither & Yon Shiraz Cabernet 2013

Hither & Yon Shiraz Cabernet 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.9%, Screwcap, $35

This is a biggun.

Big, slick and ultra ripe with much of everything - black and blue fruit, sweet vanilla oak and raw tannins to finish.

It's a wine of impact, black fruit and alcohol, bult in a style that is unquestioning in its super smooth intensity, but also firm, boozy and anything but graceful, lacking some of the composure that the 2012 was blessed with.

I can appreciate the grandiose style, but don't think I could drink more than a glass of this.

Still, patience will be richly rewarded...

Source: Sample
Tasted: September 2014
Drink: 2016-2026+
Score: 17/20, 90/100+
Would I buy it? Not yet.
Buy online: Hither & Yon website

Monday, 22 September 2014

View Road Wines Amelie 2011

View Road Wines Amelie 2011 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.6%, Cork, $37

According to View Road's Josh Tuckfield with this wine is 'looking for texture and something to challenge the senses'. 100% Chardonnay, this is fermented wild and spends 4.5 weeks on skins. Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay takes a step in an orange (or amber) direction.

Important to approach this without the technocrat hat on for you'll be disappointed. Deep straw orange in colour, the nose is cut with vanilla bean and creme caramel. There's no doubting the oxidation with gives this a nutty, slightly fusty edge, but mostly it smells promising.

The challenge is simply that the palate is too hard, dry and phenolic without any obvious sweetness, the acid high and the style unforgiving. Provocative, no doubt, but not quite a successful drink.

Source: Sample
Tasted: September 2014
Drink: 2014
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Cork Wine Cafe

The tasting of the year: Voyager Masterclass 2014

The tasting of the year: Voyager Masterclass 2014

Each year the team from Voyager Estate do a lap of the country, putting on masterclasses involving pitting their own wines against the best of the world in single blind brackets. It is, typically, the tasting of the year.

Seriously, the whole year.

What makes this masterclass so good is threefold. Firstly, the wines are always top-class international examples. Secondly, the notes on each wine and the presentation is painstakingly detailed and accurate. Third, the Voyager Estate wines typically look good blind, which only makes it that much more rewarding for Voyager themselves.

This 2014 of the Voyager Masterclass iteration sees the range of 2011 Voyager Estate Chardonnays placed in a bracket with various 2011 Chardonnay from around the world, and the same with the 2010 Voyager Estate Cabernet wines paired with various 2010 Cabs and blends.

As you can see by the list of wines, there was no shortage of glory here, with differences often a case of personal preferences (and how individual bottles looked) rather than pure quality. In turn, my scores look rather conservative in the scheme of things and I think most of these I'd appreciate just by themselves.

Anyway, on with the show.

These were served in two single blind brackets in great glassware, under good conditions. Background info in italics and notes as written on the day.

Bracket 1 - Chardonnay

1. Moreau-Naudet Forets 1er Cru Chablis 2011 $76 12.5%
'The unmistakeable marmalade of botrytis' according to Steve James. Forets is a lieu-dit in the Montmains cru. Spends 24 months in a mix of 1/3 old barrels and 2/3 in tank. 
White peach. Very fine nose. Almost milky yeast and oak yet there is a white nectarine ripeness too. New world. Classy and long with a great balance between oak and yeast. Maybe a fraction warm to finish, with just a little figgy ripeness. Classy though. 18.1/20, 93/100

2. Voyager Estate Project 95 Chardonnay 2011 RRP $55 12.8%
From a single block of clone 95 vines planted in 2004. 11 months in 60% new, 40% one year old oak. pH 3.22, TA 6.95.
Banana and marshmallow sulphides on a palate that is very sleek and clean. Lovely length and that sulphide/acid contrast is excellent. Perhaps too lean? Quite warm finish. Oak juts out a fraction but can't ruin the overall effect. 18/20, 93/100

3. Hubert Lamy Saint-Aubin En Remilly 2011 $125 13%
From close planted vines planted in 1989. Fermentation in 20% new oak and lasts as long as 90 days. Bottled after 17 months.
Slightly overt spicy oak on nose and a big, powerful palate. Warming alcohol but retains its class in the face of big, almost pineapple oak and fruit power. Maybe a fraction rambunctious but super powerful. I think this is just a bit forward. Love the sulphide fattiness though. 17.8/20, 92/100

4. Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2011 $45 13.3%
Sourced from seven different blocks and a mix of different clones. Picked at 11.0-12.5 baume. Whole bunch pressed to 42% new oak, 38% wild ferment and just 45% went through malo. 10 months in barrique. pH 3.19. TA 7.1
Spicy and quite oak drawn nose. The palate looks quite lean, with an acid attenuation that suggests limited malo. Just a bit to sharp edged at present. Classy wine to come though. 17.7/20, 92/100

5. Kumeu River Matés Chardonnay 2011 $75 14%
Whole bunch pressed, barrel fermented, and all wild yeast. Full malo. 12 months in barrel. pH 3.23. TA 7.1. I normally love this wine and unusual to see it show up looking only good. Retaste required.
Biscuity. Much more developed than the wines around, almost golden nose. The palate looks raw, fatty and just a little stripped through the finish certainly big but lacks just a little class. American ? It's a bit warm for mine. 17.5/20, 91/100

6. Voyager Gin Gin Prioject Gin Gin Chardonnay 2011 $55 13%
From a block planted in 2003 to Gin Gin (also known as Mendoza) clone. Whole bunch pressed to tank and then fermented wild in 60% new, 40% one year old oak. No Malo but battonage every three weeks. 11 months in barrel. A good guess as to the wine! pH 3.27. TA 7.59.
Milky sulphides. Lots of funk and very much a composed and refreshing palate. Milk bottle sulphide character mirrors wine 2. Voyager project? Might be a little leaner than you'd like through the finish, but it build and builds. Classy wine. 18.5/20, 94/100

7. Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2011 $55 12.2%
20% botrytis in the fruit (which shows). Wild ferment in six year old plus oak. 12 months on full solids. pH 3.32. TA 7.4. 
Nutty and oaky nose. Spicy, lumpy palate with some orange cream fat and sweet fruit. Not classy just bold and tart. Botrytis? A bit short. 17/20, 90/100

8. Oakridge 864 Funder + Diamond Chardonnay 2011 $75 13.4%
From a very wet season, fruit was sorted and whole bunch pressed for wild ferment in 30% new oak. Minimal malo. Minimal malo and matured on lees for 10 months. pH 3.13. TA 6.3.  
Classy nose. Full but contained, with pineapple fruit richness on a creamy palate. A leap back to the top step and such a complete wine. Burgundian. Has excellent weight. though might be a bit OTT. Wine of the day. 18.7/20, 95/100

9. Peay Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2011 US$58 12.7%
From a very cold summer. Half the crop lost to rot and declassified barrels. Whole bunch pressed. Wild ferment with regular lees stirring and full malo. 11 months on full lees on 24% new oak. pH 3.37. TA 6.7.
Perhaps the most powerful with cream pineapple palate. Loads of sexy oak. Too much oak? Lacks delicacy. Has a place but largesse in spades. 17.5/20, 91/100

Cabernet + blends

1. Yeringberg 2010 $75 13%
62% Cab, 11% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot. Hand-picked into small open fermenters. Each days pick in separate batches. Hand plunged every 8 hours and when fermented was done left on skins. Basket pressed and went through malo in tank. 21 months in 35% new oak. pH 3.48. TA 6.0. I wouldn't mind owning some of this.
Succulent. A quite transparent and pretty nose with a fine, subdued palate. Straight Cabernet? Very linear but also has some warm season confection. Yeringberg? Has a Cab Franc like liveliness. This will make ethereal old bones. On second look this looked almost Pinot like. Long haul glory. 18.5/20, 94/100+

2. Voyager Estate North Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $90
94% Cabernet, 6% Petit Verdot. From a block planted in 1995 to the Houghton clone in a very gravelly patch. Hand-harvested in five passes. Fermented in open fermenters at sub 25C for 10 days, spending another 16 days on skins. 19 months in 50% new French oak. pH 3.65. TA 6.6.   
Gravelly notes. Overt leafy varietal character. For all that tobacco and mint, however, it's nicely ripe and doesn't look herbal or overripe. For a classic Cabernet style this is really quite beautiful, if somewhat of a caricature - big and bold. Maybe just a little raw and drying. Length is very impressive though. 18/20, 93/100+

3. Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2010 $90 14%
58% Cabernet. 36% Merlot. 6% Cab Franc. Warm ferment with extended maceration on skins. 19 months in predominantly new French oak. Herbal as always. But I'd drink it.
Light colour. Subdued nose and subdued palate, the overall interpretation just ripe, licoricey and a little herbal. Cab Mer blend? Certainly has intrigue and excellent length, but an oddity. There's a distracting herbalness here. Will be long lived but always drying. 17.7+

4. Voyager Estate Cabernet Merlot 2010 $70 13.6%
89% Cabernet. 7% Merlot. 4% Petit Verdot. Estate fruit plus a Wilyabrup component. Cool ferment below 25C for 10 days and 16 days on skins.19 months in barrel, 50% new oak. pH 3.62. TA 6.4. 'A hint of bay leaf' according to Travis Limm.
Closed, firm and classy. Graphite and leaf. Definitely new world and almost certainly Margs. Pointy acid suggests Coonawarra though? A little confection through the finish. Looks long but desperately needs to settle down. 17.7/20, 92/100

5. Voyager Estate Project Old Block Cabernet 2010 $90 14%
96% Cabernet. 4% Petit Verdot. From a block planted in 1978. pH 3.74 TA 6.56. I honestly thought this was Bordeaux.
Oh so closed. Compact. Superb tannins though - really lively and with a mouth coating shape. Long term wine. Sturdy. Superstar length. Bordeaux? The oak sticks out on the second taste but really delicious tannins. Perfectly shapely and so different! Lovely fine tannins and a gentlemanly finish. 18.7/20, 95/100

6. Chateau Lynch Bages 2010 $350 13.5%
79% Cabernet. 18% Merlot. 2% Cab Franc. 1% Petit Verdot. 15 months in 70% new French oak. This just looked a little lumpy, meaty and not yielding much. 
Dense colour. Rare roast beef. Serious, mouth coating tannins. Italian? Has an unusual look to it and a sense of accomplishment to those tannins. Classy and very long. Has perhaps a little confection to finish. 18.5/20, 94/100

7. Cullen Diana Madeline 2010 $115 13%
77% Cabernet. 10% Merlot. 6% Petit Verdot. 4% Malbec. 3% Cab Franc. Wild ferment. No acid addition. 19 months in French oak. 51% new. pH 3.61. TA 5.56.
Welcome back to Australia. This looks just a little dull in context, a bit broader through the middle and even a bit bacony. Nice but not superstar. Looks quite light in this context. A fraction short too. 17/20, 90/100

8. Wynns Messenger Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $50 13.5%
From a dry-grown block planted in 1975. Fermented in a static fermenter for eight days. Malo in tank. 17 months in 30% new oak. 
Margs again? That fern leaf meets blackberry richness. This looks like a single block wine, with quite a deal of oak sweetness and a broader finish. A bit simple. 17.5/20, 91/100

9. Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $140US 14.7%
97% Cabernet. 3% Petit Verdot. 16 months in 76% new and 24% one year old oak. pH 3.67. TA 6.5.  
Complex. Really chocolatey though, the cocoa powder oak is sexy. Beyond the oak this is very sexy and ultimately lavish and hedonistic. I rather like this. 18.5/20, 94/100

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Mayhem & Co Hipster Riesling 2013

Mayhem & Co Hipster Riesling 2013 (Eden Valley, SA)
12.4% Screwcap $28

Hipster is a bit tough for a wine like this. It's cool, but not shoes without socks and fixies Hipster-esque (which is a good thing). This wine is much cooler than this guy, for a start.

Hand-picked and whole bunch pressed, a portion of this saw older oak and wild ferments. There's certainly a 'difference' here that makes it stick out from the crowd, though it's also a little awkward. Long but also super compact, the weight of extract and acid weighs heavily on the fruit - all phenolic structure, and less upfront sexiness.

You'll need to give this at least a year, and then there could well be a little magic,

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2015-2026
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100+
Would I buy it? Only if you're patient.

Hungerford Hill Pinot Noir 2013

Hungerford Hill Tumbarumba Pinot Noir 2013 (Tumbarumba, NSW)
14.8%, Screwcap, $36

Tumbarumba - great place for Chardonnay and bubbles, still yet to hit its red wine straps. The accusation is often that the Pinot was planted for sparkling base, and is the wrong clone for table wine. Yet wines like this show there is some promise if the viti is right.

Bright red colours. Really bright. It smells of raspberry cherry cola, with none of the weediness of other Tumbarumba Pinots. Better still, there's no shortage of acidity, even despite the high acidity. In fact, the only downer is the slightly intrusive toasty oak.

Smart Pinot, just inches away from 'really good'.

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Buy online: Hungerford Hill website

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Xabregas Mt Barker Shiraz 2011

Xabregas Mt Barker Shiraz 2011 (Great Southern, WA)
14.2%, Screwcap, $25

It's not hard to appreciate the savoury, evolved styling of Xabregas' wines. Much more complexity in every mouthful. Even this wine, which sits at the entry point to the range.

Big, plummy and voluptuous, yet also cut with peppered beef and with a streak of black tarry thickness, finishing with drying, almost Italianate licoricey tannins that go on and on.

Excellent intensity and loads to get a hold of without excess of sweetness. Easy recommendation for the dollars.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2020
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle. Though it needs a good decant.

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon + fried chicken = shit yes

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon + fried chicken = shit yes

On Wednesday night a group of notable Hunter Valley winemakers came to town, bringing with them a swag of gold medal and trophy winning wines from this year's 2014 Hunter Valley Wine Show, all open over dinner at renowned Sydney den of boozy delights Fix St James.

Sadly I still can't drink, so for me the dinner was more like a 'watching people drink' affair, yet again the night rammed home how good the Hunter 2013 and 2014 vintages are looking.

On that note, Andrew 'Thommo' Thomas was amongst the throng of winemakers in the room and gave a very apt speech noting just how far Hunter Shiraz has come in the last fifteen years - from a period in the late 90s where the classic mid-weight style of Hunter Shiraz was all but abandoned, dropped in a bid for more ripeness and more extraction (which only brought more faults and shorter lived wines), to this years wine show, where beautiful, mid-weight 2013 Shiraz was the norm.

In turn, a closer look at filtration and winery hygiene, plus the wholesale move to screwcaps, has only made Hunter Shiraz more dependable, with the onerous 'sweaty saddle' brett issues now a real thing of the past.

It's not all beer and skittles for Hunter wines though. While you could argue the wine standard has never been higher, they're still 'hard sells' beyond NSW, with the quirks of Semillon not understood and the vitality of Hunter Shiraz often overruled by the bombastic richness of South Australian Shiraz.

Similarly, while the Hunter has now had two excellent years on the trot (2013 and 2014) there has been two seriously hard, seriously wet seasons in the last seven (2008 and 2012), just to reinforce that the Hunter is not a place for easy viticulture.

Still, the proof is in the booze and no doubting the glories of the best Hunter wines - as this duo attests too.

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2006
Stunning. Served with a crunchy, fancy fried chicken dish this looked near perfect. The key here is the contrast between firm, intense, green citrus fruit and buttered melon bottle age, lobbing a treat of complexity and refreshment. This still looks very young, but old enough to enjoy. I wanted to drink this. A great 'medium year' Vat 1. 18.7/20, 95/100

De Iuliis Shiraz Touriga 2013
Mike De Iuliis is the only producer in the Hunter with Touriga in production and, on this showing, not for long. That Touriga fragrance makes this all that more pretty and inviting, the polished palate capped off with fine grained tannins. Love the foil of lifted Touriga to the red dirt depths of Hunter Shiraz. Really smart. 18.5/20, 94/100

Soumah Viognier 2013

Soumah Viognier 2013 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
14.1%, Screwcap, $26

While I still can't drink (at least until next week), I can still stare longingly at a glass of wine after tasting. I didn't stare too long at this Soumah, but if I was a Viognier-fancier (which I'm not. It's a weed), then this would be worth a go.

According to the notes it's a 'peaches and cream' Viognier, produced with the inclusion of HTK clone planted at 9000 vines per hectare.

It's more pineapple rather than peaches initially, comfortably in Splice territory. The slick of oak and lees fullness on the palate only helps the Splice sensation, though thankfully no wooden stick in sight, and everything finishes with a warm - but not syrupy - richness to tie it all in.

A clever Viognier, that quite successfully ties in pine-lime fruit with just enough creamy richness to carry things along, this is recommendable at the very least.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2015
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? Not quite. I'd probably enjoy the glass though.

Tower Estate Watervale Riesling 2013

Tower Estate Watervale Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, SA)
11.8%, Screwcap, $32

Not exactly my favourite Tower Riesling to date.

Light green straw this is an open and fleshy style with quite a deal of sweetness, finishing broad and unfocused. Sure to win fans with its flesh but a blob of a wine.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? No.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The late postcard: Etna

The late postcard: Etna

Ever arrive home after a holiday and find that you beat your postcards home?

Well that's me, except this postcard I never quite got around to sending.

Now that I'm back - and under strict doctor's orders to avoid alcohol and fatty/spicy food (very confused about what to eat and drink now) - it's probably a great time to finish off this little note.

So anyway, this postcard comes the slopes of Mt Etna - the huge, steaming active volcano that dominates the eastern skylines of what is mainland Europe's largest island, Sicily.

I barely scratched the surface of what was going on during my brief visit, but its not hard to see the divergent personalities of what has to be one of the more interesting wine regions to visit in Italy.

What makes the divergence more pronounced is the terroir itself - the vineyards are planted on black volcanic rock that was spewed up, in some cases, only a century ago, the landscape changing whenever Etna decides to do some renovations with lava.

Etna has its own microclimates too, with the vineyards planted from basically the foothills at 450m altitude right up to the lower slopes of the volcano proper at 1100m. In turn there is a spectrum of styles explored, ranging from light and crisp Carricante and Catarratto based Etna Bianco right through to powerful and Pinot-like Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappuccio blends.

Of all the wines tried it was these two that illustrated the personalities best.

Tenuta delle Terra Nerre Cuvée Delle Vigne Niche Etna Bianco 2011 12.5%, Cork
100% Carricante from a range of old vines dotted all over the northern side of the mountain. This is fermented in old barrels for roughly 12 months and spends 6 months in bottle before release.

A delicate, lemon cream and waxy wine, the palate just touched with oak but otherwise fresh and crystal pure. There's a coolness here that defies the Sicily heat, the palate dry and clean and vital, with just a little waxy vanilla to suggest it had ever seen a barrel. Intriguing marzipan and wheat beer meets lemon flavours too.

Delicious long and quite pure, it's not ridiculously complex but the balance and intensity is seriously unquestioned. Reminds me a little of a good, waxy Chenin (and bloody good value at circa €15). 18/20, 93/100 

Benanti Nerello Mascalese 2002 14%, Cork
From one of more renowned names of Etna, this was interesting if purely for a window into how Nerello Mascelese ages,

If anything this reminds me of an older Hunter Pinot, the nose and palate heavy with that defining red earth character. There's some wonderful black cherry fruit through the middle and surprising tannins to finish, again giving it a sort of grunty Pinot expression. Really quite tertiary now, this is again much lighter and more fluid than the Sicilian mode - and about the best mid weight red meat wine on the island.  17.5/20, 91/100