Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A fine Aussie fizz after a pretty ordinary night

After a pretty fucked 24 hours in Sydney it seems a bit rude to be talking about booze today.

I've got too many friends who work around Martin Place, who were evacuated, who could have been in that cafe buying a hot chocolate on a Monday morning - It's all too close to home, especially as I walk past there several times a week. I feel sorry and sad for the families of those who lost loved ones overnight, especially so close to Christmas. Awful.

Anyway, I wanted to talk today about how good the new Clover Hill Vintage Cuvee 2009 is, but that just seems wrong. Then again, maybe today is a good day to bring your family together and open some really good booze, just because life is too short.

On the Clover Hill, it's perhaps the most serious release in years. I've always preferred the Blanc de Blancs from Clover (and ex-winemaker Karina Dambergs thinks the site is best suited to Chardonnay) but this '09 is fair up to the task; built in a quite masculine style with real extract and power, if just a little strict and serious for most wine drinkers.

For the $36 it can be found for around the traps this is really classy Australian bubbles, with the concentration and structure to match most NV Champagnes, if not quite the delicacy and acid balance perfection of the better house styles. In other words, it'll beat Piper, Pommery or Lanson, but not quite Bollinger/Taittinger level.

A natural choice for celebrating life itself.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Utterly delicious unserious wine: Soumah Al Fiori Rose 2014

Soumah Al Fiori Rose 2014 (Yarra Valley, Vic)

You know what's wrong with wine critique? The most simply delicious wines get proportionately less love.

Basically, there is just a big disconnect between pleasure and wine quality, with hard to drink - yet structured - wines landing critical admiration, while the utterly drinkable - yet straightforward - drink-young stuff gets pushed aside.

Take basic AC Chablis as an example. Technically, it's just inexpensive, delicate, unoaked white wine, with the emphasis on freshness, without any attempts at amazing length or complexity.

Yet wines like that are actually the most enjoyable drinks, purely because they achieve what they're intending to do - be delicious. I'd much rather, for example, drink a delicate young Chablis than a big and firm Langhorne Cabernet any day.

Rose, too, fits into that boat perfectly, driven more by fruit and texture without any pretensions whatsoever.

Indeed this Soumah is a perfect case in point. A blend of Shiraz and Pinot free run juice (with a dash of Savagnin), it is just a bright, open, sunny, and properly balanced juicy rose that I want to drink copious amounts of. There's some textural complexity thanks to some careful barrel ferment and battonage - and some tart acidity - but on the whole its just fruity wine, without extraordinary anything.

But that's the most charming thing about this. The brightness of strawberry and redcurrant fruit just jumps out the of glass, the mouthfeel faintly creamy and juicy and the whole package trim and taut without sweetness.

If ever there was a wine to score big on drink-a-case-ability rather than seriousness then this is it. I'm giving it decent points just because it is unseriously awesome.

Details: 12.6%, Screwcap, $24
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink half a case.
Buy online: Soumah website

Thursday, 11 December 2014

MC by Three Dark Horses Chardonnay 2014

MC by Three Dark Horses Chardonnay 2014 (Adelaide Hills, SA)

A new label to me and there's some fun to be had with these 'Sinners series' wines.

The sinner, in this case, is Matt Broomhead, who is doing things that you're not meant to do, particularly carbonic maceration for a white wine, which no one is 'supposed' to do.

This Chardonnay undergoes carbonic maceration for 7 days before being basket pressed to old oak for a full solids wild yeast ferment, then given some lees stirring and eventually bottled unfined and unfiltered.


Intriguingly, it doesn't taste all that wild. There's a nutty, wheat beer edge to the nose from carbonic and full solids, but the white nectarine Chardonnay fruit is clean and quite pure. Indeed the palate is clean and razor sharp, if edged with the straw of skin contact, the acid/yeasty/solids contrast all quite appealing.

The only challenge is that its just too young. Stick this back in barrel for another 6 plus months and it would probably be even more complex, the slightly raw edges and overly linear lines softening to provide even more textural joy. It's almost too clean now.

Regardless, this is pushing the boat out quite successfully.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2016-2018
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? One glass would be enough. Promise is there though.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Like old school rich Barossan Shiraz? Then this St Hugo is a no-brainer

St Hugo Barossa Shiraz 2012 (Barossa Valley, SA)

I'm not sure if the new St Hugo winery is opened for business yet (it was still being built early last year) but gee whiz they could do worse than making wines like this 2012 Shiraz.

What's great here is that it instantly takes you to the Barossa Valley floor. It smells, tastes, feels like Barossa Shiraz, oozing chocolates, plums and filled with the limitless richness of Shiraz from a good Barossa vintage, the tannins dry but soft, the oak filling some extra crannies, the sweet berry fruit irrepressible.

In every way this is what people want out of classic 'big company' Barossa Shiraz. Drinkers want that silky beautifully rich ripe fruit. They want that power and generosity. They expect flavours that linger. And you know what? I do too. There's a very important place for wines like this.

What's more interesting is just how much better this is than some other Barossan reds twice the price. Sure its oaky, and old school and the acid is a bit lemony, but for power and persistence and silkiness this really works - it's just classic Barossa Shiraz, cool or not.

If names like Blackwell, Stonewell, Filsell or Command pop up regularly in your cellar, then this wine is a no brainer.

Details: 14.5%, Screwcap, $52
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2024
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes, though I wouldn't drink it for 8-10 years yet.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, St Hugo website

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Coriole Fiano 2014

Coriole Fiano 2014 (McLaren Vale, SA)

It's getting to the point now where Coriole's Fiano is not just a token pitch at bringing a slice of Campania to McLaren Vale, but rather a solid regional expression in itself. 'This is how McLaren Vale Fiano tastes'.

This 2014 iteration is a cracker too. It's so varietal and crunchy and firm, complete with surprising florals, chalky acidity and lemon pith. It's perhaps a little hard and just a little simple, but the long and flavoursome palate is ultimately convincing, particularly with something fishy to match with it (green fish curry would be a winner).

It's a yes from me.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle for sure.
Buy online: Different Drop, Coriole website

Toppers Mountain Bricolage Blanc 2013

Toppers Mountain Bricolage Blanc 2013 (New England, NSW)

Toppers Mountain is, by a large measure, New England's hero winery. The tablelands Clonakilla. A hotbed of fine wine in northern NSW.

Part of the interest with Toppers is the varietal mix, as the headline spread includes Nebbiolo, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Viognier, Tempranillo, Tannat, Barbera and Gewurtz making for a real grape salad.

Better still, this 'garden' is already kicking goals, with the Gewurtz in particular right up there with Australia's best. It's that good.

I'm not as sure about this 2013 Bricolage Blanc, but at the very least it is provocative. A blend of Chardonnay (60%), Gewurtz (20%), Petit Manseng and Sauv Blanc it smells fantastic, driven by musk (Gewurtz) peach (Chard) and the rest, with aromatics running riot.

If that fragrance married up to the palate this would be a superstar, with the grippy, phenolic palate seems just a little too dry and lean to be really great. Still, its clean and quite pure, with plenty of interest still to be had here. I just wish there was a little bit more fullness to really carry things off.

Good, almost great.

Details: 13.1%, Screwcap ,$35
Source: Sample, tasted Dec 14
Drink: 2015-2019
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Hmm. I'd drink a few glasses of this no sweat.
Buy online: Toppers Mountain website

d'Arenberg The Sticks & Stones 2010

d'Arenberg The Sticks & Stones 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)

This blend of Tempranillo (41%), Grenache (41%), Souzao (15%) and Tinta Cao (3%) has always been an unknown in the 'core' d'Arenberg range, the blend hard to pin down.

This year it tastes more like a d'Arenberg McLaren Vale red than a Tempranillo blend, dominated by the tilled earthy meaty wildness of so many modern d'Arenbarg reds, cut with the chewy, earthen, sweet and sour dryness too. It's sweet and sour and less than clean, the earthiness awkward, drying and unpolished, with little fun to be had.

Details: 13.9% alc. $30RRP
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2022
Score: 15/20, 83/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: d'arenberg website

Monday, 8 December 2014

Lark Hill's best Riesling yet

Lark Hill Riesling 2014 (Canberra district)
11.5%, Screwcap, $35

Each year the wines of Lark Hill get that little bit more distinctive.

Not that they weren't distinctive before, but over the last few vintages there seems to be a real coherence in everything with a Lark Hill label on it.

This Riesling is no exception. While there is no shortage of the brown limes and lifted florals of Canberra Riesling, this seems to be of a different shape. It's more floral, more limey and more fragrant than I can remember in previous vintages. It tastes softer, yet more intensely acidic, while also running with a pineapple juice tart/sweet combination that is genuinely delicious.

What's ultimately unique here is that it doesn't taste like yet another Canberra Riesling. It's fuller, longer and more textured than most other Rieslings from the district, the style leaning more towards Wachau than Watervale (and all the better for it).


Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2019 (I think I'd prefer to drink this young. Can see it getting very pineappley which I might not like as much).
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes.
Buy online: Lark Hill website

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay 2013

Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $45

Tasted a few times now and it looks better every taste. A much more rounder style for M3, in line with the vintage, though countered with some early picking (hence the low alcohol).

There's been a move towards a more delicate style of M3 in recent times, with less malo and an emphasis on minerality. Mostly it works, sometimes can be a bit lean - onwards and upwards regardless.
Despite the low alcohol this 2013 looks quite forward and ripe, the season's warmth giving more openness and expression. There's some sulphide funk fleshing things out too, which just makes this seems more sophisticated (given that cheap Chardonnay doesn't tend to feature sulphide driven complexity). The palate looks perhaps a little lumpy, without the effortlessness of the 2012, but packing in lots of flavour. That acid looks a bit tart though, a counter-punch to the fruit.

Overall this is less convincing and more broadly set than the storming 2012, but there's a sense of just how carefully made a wine this is. High quality Chardonnay from a mixed vintage for Hills whites.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2015-2020
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Not yet.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Shaw + Smith website

Friday, 5 December 2014

Clos Clare Riesling 2014

Clos Clare Riesling 2014 (Clare Valley, SA)
11.5%, Screwcap, $26

The Barry boys have delivered again. This year's Clos Clare Riesling is just a little lumpier than some vintages, though again shows that trademark acid freshness.

It all kicks off with a lovely nose - gooseberries meets fresh lime juice in a very intense style. Palate is juicy initially but then finishes tart - like a young Clare Riesling should. There's a great naturalness to the acid here which is welcome - it doesn't feel like a whole bag of tartaric acid was chucked in pre bottling. Maybe a bit firm? Regardless, this is a classical Watervale Riesling that is going to be special in time.

I enjoyed drinking this. Can imagine smashing a bottle with a Thai green curry easily.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2024+
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Distinctive, refreshing, real Riesling.
Buy online: Clos Clare website

Mayhem & Co Small Berries Blewitt Springs Syrah 2013

Mayhem & Co Small Berries Blewitt Springs Syrah 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA)
13.8%, Screwcap, $40

There's so much to like about these Mayhem & Co wines. The handling, for one, sounds exactly like how I'd want to make my wines. This Syrah (lets just call it a Shiraz really) is sourced from a 40yr old BD vineyard at Blewitt Springs, the fruit hand picked, fermented wild, matured in 30% new oak for 14 months.

For all that, however, this carries just a little too much of the 2013 vintage heat to be glorious. The colour has a beautiful purple edge and it looks deep and plump. Beyond that, however, its all slightly desicated berry flavours, the note of shrivelled berries backed up by the dry, raspy tannins of slightly cooked fruit.

It's not a bad wine, structurally, though I never enjoy such dried fruit flavours in a young Shiraz. Historically such reds become much more palatable as the tannins integrate more, but not much fun as young wines - as it is here.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink; 2017-2022
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100
Would I buy it? No. I'd prefer the '12
Buy online: www.mayhemandcowine.com.au

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Finally, an off-dry Australian Riesling that works - La Linea Vertigo Riesling 25GR 2013

La Linea Vertigo Riesling 25GR 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
10.5%, Screwcap, $25

Why is it that so few off-dry Australian Rieslings manage to taste properly balanced?

Sure, it's a rhetorical question, but one that is annoyingly hard to full answer.

On the one hand, you could say that we don't have the conditions for truly great off-dry styles, with many of our best Riesling vineyards planted in warm climes (especially compared to the Mosel or Wachau). You could also say that the lack of great off-dry Rieslings is a style thing, with our Riesling growers still hamstrung by the lingering bad taste of generations of bad sweet Rieslings from decades ago.

But there are rebuttals for both of those points. Tasvegas, for one, has sites that are as chilly as, say, vineyards in the Pfalz (though not the slate and slopes of Mosel), so the climate thing is more about what's currently planted (and where) than anything else. Similarly, the rash of sweeter styles on wine lists around the place suggests that the old mantra - that people talk dry and drink sweet - is still absolutely true.

Regardless, there is still a gaping hole where 'good off-dry Australian Riesling' should live. Some have tried to fill this hole - and special mention to Xabregas and Pressing Matters in passing - but generally, even the much lauded Prima from Pewsey Vale and Alea from Grosset remain slightly too sweet and harder to drink.

All of which makes me glad to find this La Linea Riesling.

Made by David LeMire MW (man of many hats who is often found spruiking the wares of Shaw + Smith) and Peter Leske (who's made wine just about everywhere), this white comes from Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills (hardly Riesling territory) and is crafted in an 'innovative weinstyle' (according to the label) that theoretically sits at circa feinherb or low kabinett level and carries 25g/L residual sugar.

Importantly, what it doesn't do is taste sweet. Not at all. Doesn't smell sweet either, for that matter. Instead, it smells of freshness - of lemon, grapefruit and straw, the handpicked fruit showing a just picked, snap chilled definition that suggests mighty healthy fruit and careful winemaking. It's just starting to get a little of the first dribbles of enrichening bottle maturity on the nose, but the florals and sprightly primary fruit is still on full display.

Underneath all that, there is more lemon, more grapefruit and more delicate fruit, the acid bracing but not about to shoot you in the mouth, that acid softened by the soothing effect of just enough sweetness with just a dash of tropicals like a shot in a bucket of punch.

Ultimately, why this works is that it doesn't try too hard. It's understated, delicate, fragrant and, well, forgiving. The sweetness here is a background influence. The whole is what keeps you coming back for more.


Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes. But forget me, the ultimate litmus test was giving this to my mum (mum's know best), who is particularly sceptical of sweeter Riesling. She liked it too.
Buy online: La Linea website

Tim Smith Mataro Grenache Shiraz 2013

Tim Smith Mataro Grenache Shiraz 2013 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $28

Tim Smith has a real knack for slippery reds, with his whole range easy to like. It only helps that he's a great bloke too.
This red is a blend of 45% Mataro, 33% Grenache, 22% Shiraz. Interesting to see the Mataro taking the lead here - its like a large bull trying to teach the other grapes how to tango. Still, clearly it works, and I'd actually say that its the Grenache that does the talking really.

As mentioned, this has silky red fruits aplenty. Besides a little boozy warmth to finish and just a little dehydrated fruit, this is effortlessly generous and smooth, heavy with fruit and proper concentration.

Not hard to like this at all. It's maybe too modern and slick (so no chance of mistaking this for a CndP) but its not sweet at all (and delicious because of it).

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Probably a 2 glass wine methinks.
Buy online: Aus Cellardoor, Tim Smith website

Wirra Wirra Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Wirra Wirra Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $70

Cabernet is always the ugly child in the Vale, nowhere near in vogue as Shiraz. The great wines - like the old Reynella Cabs for example - are shit-hot, so its not like the variety can't work in the region. What's more interesting is that the Barossa does Cab better than the Vale I reckon, while the Vale does better alternates (at this point in time).

Indeed this is a stayer, but nowhere near as sexy as its Grenache and Shiraz brethren. Clearly McLaren Vale from first whiff, the nose is stacked with concentrated black fruits and an overlay of varietal mint and eucalypt. The whole structure here is all about ageworthiness, the tannins dry and the whole palate just a bit severe. Still, everything is ripe and it doesn't feel overly brutish, just firm.

A firm red for the future - it will probably look great in 10 years time.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2015-2024+
Score: 17.8/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Not yet. Promise for the future though.
Buy online: Cracka Wines, Wirra Wirra website

Handpicked Collection Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012

Handpicked Collection Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012 (Central Otago, NZ)
14%, Screwcap, $60

This is part of the new 'Collection' range from Handpicked, utilising premium grower fruit from all over the countryside. The grapes for this were sourced from the Hawkesbury Estate vineyard near Wanaka. Nice packaging too.

What is appealing is the pinosity - it smells and tastes like Otago Pinot through and through. My only gripe - and its a continuing theme through these Handpicked Pinots is that its a bit warm, with bacony development, spirity alcohol and a quite forward style. The flipside is that this has some balls, with a chewy finish and some grip and thrust.

Not a bad wine, but would be even better if it had more delicacy.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100+
Would I buy it? Not yet.
Buy online: Handpicked website

Monday, 1 December 2014

Burgundy Inspired - a Sommeliers Australia tasting of 2010 Burgundy

Burgundy Inspired - a Sommeliers Australia tasting of 2010 Burgundy

With uni now comfortably finished for the year, it's time to get stuck into a job that I always mean to do (but never quite get the time) - transferring tasting notes from booklet to website.

Normally I'm a big fan of Evernote for organising/storing/collating my notes, but there are some tastings and events where typing into an iPad, phone or laptop just isn't doable.

This tasting, from last year, was put on by Sommeliers Australia, the event centered around trying a whole swagload of Burgundy. Given the quality on offer, I wasn't one to say no...

Notes are as written on the day. Wines tasted quickly and non-blind.

Bracket 1 - Chablis

Abbotts & Delaunay Boreas Faugeres 2012

Abbotts & Delaunay Boreas Faugeres 2012 (Languedoc, France)
13.5%, Cork, $40

Syrah Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre from Faugeres. Imported by Fourth Wave Wines.

While I was disappointed by the over polished and jammy straight Carignan, this blend doesn't miss a beat. I had it in a big glass and it smells exactly as you'd expect - ferrous, laden with game meats, red brick and a little chocolate on a dry and drying palate with meaty tannins. There's some wild, peppery whole bunch character in there which drive through to the tannins.

Languedoc to the core, this is perhaps a little baked and meaty, but that's just part of the appeal. Will only get better too.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2015-2022
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100+
Would I buy it? I'd drink a glass with something meaty
Buy online: Wine Searcher

Sunday, 30 November 2014

November Tasting Notes Roundup

November Tasting Notes Roundup

A few wines that passed the Australian Wine Review tasting bench during November - lots of 'almosts' this month, plus some real surprises from Taltarni.

Tenefeate Creek Merlot 2011 (Adelaide, SA) 14% $20
From One Tree Hill, which is sort of Adelaide Hills/Barossa but technically 'Adelaide'. Sweet oak dominates the nose. Textural oak though. Generous and slightly syrupy texture isn't all that varietal, but it is generous and pretty red fruited. Slightly raised acidity but nice gritty tannins. Solid and generous. 16.8/20, 89/100

Pyramids Road Mourvedre 2011 (Granite Belt, QLD) 14% $30
Super dark purple colour. Good colour! Has some lovely purple grapey-ness, lots of flesh, grape Hubba Bubba sweetness. A flash of rustic ironstone too. Smartly made. Just needs more concentration really as it looks a bit thin through the finish. 16.7/20, 89/100

Hidden Creek Tempranillo 2009 (Granite Belt, QLD) 13.5% $22
Cranberry and aged ham. Has a slightly feral nose. No flavours on the palate to carry off the less than pristine elements. Unconvincing. 15/20, 83/100

Bilgavia Estate Chardonnay 2012 (Hunter Valley, NSW) 12.5% $30
'Rich and generous' says the label, yet the style is anything but - a little peachy/straw Hunter fruit with ground coconut older oak. Lots of acidity and nice and clean, the buzzy acidity a feature point of the palate. Not enough beyond that acid, the wet season writ large. 16/20, 87/100

Taltarni Sangiovese 2009 (Pyrenees, Vic) 13.5% $25.99
87% Sangiovese 13% Cab. This is a bargain, every bit the authentic take on a Super Tuscan style, but in a Taltarni style (with Pyrenees mint). Dark ruby in colour, this smells like rustic Sangio, yet surprisingly fresh too. Everything is driven by thick, extractive tannins on a very dry, warm year palate. Those lingering tannins a great feature if dry and confronting. Drink now or in 20 years. Not unhappy at all for the dollars here. 17.5/20, 91/100

Taltarni Rosso Sangiovese Cabernet Merlot 2009 (Pyrenees, Vic) 14% $26
49% Sangiovese 44% Cabernet 7% Merlot. 32 months in older French oak! What a clever blend this is. Nowhere near as dry and curmudgeonly in its expression compared to the Sangiovese, the nose a little lifted by creamy oak. Underneath its quite juicy, oak creamy in its texture yet still quite bright. Lovely shape to the tannins in this. Red berry fruit over an utterly smooth, grainy, structured palate. Delicious. 17.8/20, 92/100

Bussell of Margaret River JG Cabernet Merlot 2011 (Margaret River, WA) 14.5% $26.95
From the Grant Burge empire. Sourced from Wilyabrup.Distinctly Margs red if a little roasted. Dusty dark berry fruits, fine tannins and dry extract. A bit squashed and could do with less ripeness. Nice coffeed oak but just a bit less ripeness would be a winner here. Regional though. Good smoky tannins. 16.8/20, 89/100

d'Arenberg The Ironstone Pressings GSM 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA) 14.5%, $70
Meaty, funky and just a bit feral. There is a certain Grenache driven wildness and drive of fruit, yet also a cranberry, beef stock meat too. More like a slightly old fashioned CNdP than a modern McLaren Vale GSM. Not without attractiveness but also a little fetid too. 16.5/20, 88/100

d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA) 14.5% $70
Dark and inky. Looks thick and slightly wild but alive with plum fruit juiciness. Looks very lively for the hot vintage actually. There's even a hint of undergrowth. Slightly hot to finish but I rather like the naturalness. Less than perfectly clean, but has character. 17.5/20, 91/100+

Longview Yakka Shiraz 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 14.5% $27
Purple tinge. Molten, grape sweet purple fruit and volatility. Overripe and very sweet, with a plum compote palate sweetened by oak. Generous and full with minimal spice - this could be Barossan with its boozy glycerol sweetness. Not without appeal, but also too big for love 16/20, 87/100

Summit Estate Ryan's Daughter Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 (Granite Belt, QLD) $50
Ambitious pricing. Evolved, warmer site wine with cherry and bacon bits evolution on the nose. Smoky and rather authentic Pinot palate with bacon bit fattiness and a rich mid palate, though its quite an oak derived richness. Pulls up short to finish but serious in its intent. 16.5/20, 88/100

Turners Crossing Picolit 2013 (Bendigo, Vic) 13.5%, $25 500ml bottle
Curious wine. Reminds of a dry Sauternes, just without the botrytis. It smells wonderful, with honeysuckle and orange. After such a floral nose the palate is quite disappointing - pithy, sour and very forward, with more grip than fruit. Can't help but feel this would be a better wine if done with some sweetness as not much fun in this form. 16/20, 87/100

Longhop Pinot Gris 2014 (Mt Lofty Ranges, SA) 13.5% $18
I'm going to admit defeat here - I just don't love it at all. Dom Torzi has infused this with admirable generosity and weight for a $18 Gris, but it's just too broad and full, without enough acid to clean things up. 16/20, 87/100

Lark Hill Shiraz Viognier 2013 (Canberra District) 13% $30
Just a little disappointed by this - a little too slippery, the style subdued and glossy without the palate weight to push it forwards. Light red fruit nose over a glossy, hammy palate. Too much Viognier? 16.5/20, 88/100

Waipara Wai Pinot Noir 2013 (Waipara, NZ) 13% $26.95
Waipara lite. The regional cherry and smoky edges are there, but it just feels underpowered and light. Light cherry colours. Light red fruit palate give a nice initial Pinot hit before filling out with light, vanilla edged fruit, then everything finishing lightly. If this was sub $20, it might be ok. 16.5/20, 88/100

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2013

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2013 (Margaret River, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $30

As the name suggests, this is the Prelude to the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay. Made in much the same way, if not quite as grandiose, it has followed a similar stylistic trajectory to its bigger brother, with generally less malolactic fermentation to emphasise freshness.

While I'm not convinced that less malo = better (plenty of Oz Chardonnay could do with more. Bring back the malo!), it at least shows that Leeuwin is keeping up with the Joneses.

I still wish the oak was less obvious here - it smells and tastes of barrels. It's proper oak, sure, but without the richness of MLF behind it, that oak looks increasingly bulky - like a middle aged guy who's lost a bit of weight and keeps wearing an old suit. There is some excellent peach and melon fruit power in there though, the slightly old school palate tightened back by citrussy acid before just a lick of oak tannins.

Every bit a Leeuwin Chardonnay, this Prelude needs at least another year to really settle down and impress. The palate intensity is there, so definitely much promise to be had if/when it gets there.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2015-2020
Would I buy it? Not yet.
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Buy online: Winestar, Leeuwin website

A decade of Dog Point

A decade of Dog Point

Wine tasting becomes that much more special when there's emotion involved - and there was a helluva lot of soul-baring at the recent Decade of Dog Point celebration.

Much of the emotive energy came because it was the first time ever the Dog Point team had tasted every wine they'd ever made, with absolutely no one quite sure how the wines would taste.

Even Ivan and James, the winery co-founders, looked fidgety about opening up their winemaking back catalogue.

But they needn't have worried - all this tasting illustrated was just how drinkable (and regularly bloody exciting) even the older 'standard' Sauvignon Blancs were.

Part of the secret to this label's success is the Dog Point Vineyard itself, which is one of the oldest privately owned vineyards in Marlborough. Planted by Ivan and Margaret Sutherland back in the late 1970s, it remains not only the backbone of the Dog Point label but also a key source of fruit for a whole swathe of premium Marlborough producers.

It wasn't until the 1990s that Ivan met James Healy, however, with the pair working at Cloudy Bay alongside Kevin Judd (Ivan in viticulture, James in winemaking) during a period when Cloudy Bay really put quality Marlborough wine (and particularly Sauvignon Blanc) on the map.

In 2002 Ivan and James finally decided to split from Cloudy Bay to start their own label, with Ivan providing fruit and James making the wine in one of those classic wine partnerships.

As a final twist of irony, Kevin also left Cloudy Bay in 2009 to start his own Greywacke label, also buying fruit from Ivan and in fact moving into the Dog Point winery too (Tim White cheekily calls it the 'Cloudy Bay retirement village').  

Needless to say with such a combination of winemaking skill and high quality fruit, no one should be surprised that the Dog Point wines are so good - and good from the very first vintage (as you'll see below).

Speaking of vintages, there are 2002 and 2003 Dog Point Vineyard wines in existence, but given that they were made at Cloudy Bay, the decision was made to not put them in this lineup.

The following wines were thus tasted in a large, slightly rushed session in Melbourne recently.

While all of the wines were checked initially for cork problems, the spectre of TCA claimed more than one scalp during the day, much to the chagrin of Ivan and James who then had to fence off the questions from an audience unconvinced by the continued decision to seal the Dog Point 'barrel wines' with a piece of bark.

Notes are as written on the day, Background information in italics.

Dog Point Vintages
2014: Good season. Some challenges with warmth, summer vigour and late rain. Early finish
2013: Very even vintage. Normal year in many ways. Moderate yields.
2012: Cool year with poor flowering and low yields. Tricky vintage
2011: Even and very favourable vintage
2010: Stop start vintage with a quite late dry summer.
2009: Warm and humid. Some disease risks but otherwise good.
2008: Very vigorous year with late rain. Mostly missed at Dog Point but tricky in Marlborough
2007: Average flowering. Warm year and good quality.
2006: Superb year. Earliest harvest on record.
2005: Very average flowering and fruit set. High disease risk over warm summer.
2004: Frosts. Average to cool summer but warm autumn. Low yields.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

Making up 60% of the Dog Point production, this is undoubtedly an important wine. The fruit for this initially just came from the original Dog Point 'Estate' Vineyard but now comes from eight different plantings in the Lower Brancott, Renwick, Fairhall, Omaka and Rapaura subregions in the Wairau Valley, with all this fruit under Dog Point control. The UCD1 clone is planted exclusively and is cropped at an average of 7.5t/ha.

At harvest, all fruit is hand-picked, transported to the winery in small bins where it is whole bunch pressed, chilled and cold settled for a minimum 48 hours before fermentation, with 20% allowed to ferment naturally. The wine is then kept on lees for 2-3 months and bottled later in the year.

Wild ferments were only introduced in 2006 and increased gradually to 20% from 2011 onwards. Some issues with this wild ferment meant a few vintages there with closer to 5g/l residual sugar in that period. All wines in the lineup were under screwcap.

Sauvignon Blanc 2014
pH 3.11, TA 6.9g/l, RS 2.9g/L. 13.5% alc.
Tropical. Herbs. A very lively nose and the most classically Marlborough Sauv in its gooseberry fruit. Juicy and vital style with a real tang. Soft acid. Tasty and open. Quite ripe in its form but still embryonic. 17.7/20, 92/100+

Sauvignon Blanc 2013
pH 3.17, TA 7.2g/L, RS 2.6g/L. 13.5% alc.
Some of the tropical fruit has been shelved here and more passionfruit - this feels much more complete and less simple after the '14, the concentration still there and more citrus through the finish. Complete Sauv and quite mouthwatering acidity. The archetype. 18.5/20, 94/100

Sauvignon Blanc 2012
pH 3.34, TA 7.5g/L, RS 3.3g/L 13.5% alc
Asparagus. Distinct cool year style. Asparagus on the chalky palate too, although the finish is quite stony and fine. Love the definition and acid etched finish - adds an extra dimension. Can you conquer the asparagus though? 17.5/20, 91/100

Sauvignon Blanc 2011
pH 3.15, TA 7.2g/L, RS 3.3g/L 13.5% alc.
Citrus. Quite delicate white flowers on the nose, almost Blanc de Blanc ish. I love the palate here too - there's some late herbs to announce the savviness, otherwise this could well be a textural Pinot Blanc such is that gentle white fruit. 17.7/20, 92/100

Sauvignon Blanc 2010
pH 3.16, TA 7.8g/L, RS 3.2g/L, 13.5% alc.
This looks the most developed on the nose so far - tinned asparagus and a hint of decay. Structurally a highly impressive and detailed wine, the acid and fruit power big and in your face. Maybe a fraction forward though. 17.5/20, 91/100

Sauvignon Blanc 2009
pH 3.16, TA 7.5g/L, RS 4.9g/L, 13.5% alc.
Quite mature. Citrus but also a little tart and some late awkwardness. This doesn't have the class through the finish either - a bit tinny. 16.5/20, 88/100

Sauvignon Blanc 2008
pH 3.13, TA 6.7g/L, RS 4.8g/L, 13% alc.
Less recognisable as a Sauv, the palate heading into into pineapple territory. Just a little flabby. 16

Sauvignon Blanc 2007
pH 3.14, TA 6.6g/L, RS 2.6g/L, 13.5% alc.
Toast and chalk over the top of Asparagus. This is a much more complex and full wine after the last too, the acid quite a deal more integrated. A step back to the classic Dog Point style. 17.7/20, 92/100

Sauvignon Blanc 2006
pH 3.14, TA 7.1g/L, RS 6g/L, 13.5% alc. 
Marzipan. Grassy edges too. I find the waxy edges here and mothballs a little distracting and decayed, but there is some complexity. 16/20, 87/100

Sauvignon Blanc 2005
pH 3.17, TA 8.5g/L, RS 3g/L, 13% alc.
Peach and mandarin. A broad sort of wine that lacks some of the charm of the younger Sauv. Probably more interesting than the 06 though - quite complete. 16.5/20, 88/100

Sauvignon Blanc 2004
pH 3.17, TA 8g/L, RS 5g/L, 13.5% alc.
Sweet and sour, lime and peach. Pine lime Splice without sweetness. Long, if a curio, and the fruit is starting to decay, 16.5/20, 88/100

Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc

Sourced from a block in the original Dog Point vineyard, which is cropped at 7.5t/ha (50hl/ha), the fruit handpicked and whole bunch pressed into older French oak barrels. Indigenous ferment is long and slow with occasional battonage to 'retain freshness'. No malo, the wine is racked from barrel to tank and bottled unfined after a light filtration only. Released the following year, approximately two years after harvest.

This wine, as with all the 'oaked' Dog Point wines, is bottled under cork. When pressed, James explains that 'we just use cork because we're old fashioned'.

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2013
This came over in a suitcase as its an unreleased bottling sample. Released in 2015.
Very much a work in progress. Showing a little sulphur on the nose and just bottled. Indeed the palate is still bound up in itself and cheesy. A work in progress. N/R.

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2012
pH 3.21, TA 7.6g/l, RS 1.7g/L, 13.5% alc.
Cool year stamped and really quite herbaceous. Yet for all the shrill herbs of the nose, the extra cream of lees and oak really fills this out nicely - layers of delight. Perhaps a little sharp buzzy acidity yet no doubting the length of this one - very fine. 18.1/20, 93/100+

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2011
pH 3.2, TA 7.2g/L, RS 1.5g/L, 14% alc.
Such a different wine! Herbs are gone, replaced with white flowers, icing sugar and white nectarine. This is gentler, a little toastier and yet also full and rich, the acid an undercurrent. Much more Chardonnay than fume and yet a quite brilliant wine, showing that wavering rich-yet-dry texture of classic-ness and some wild sulphide flavour, utterly delicious. 18.7/20, 95/100

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2010
pH 3.12, TA 7.9g/L, RS 1.6g/L, 14% alc.
After the 2011 this looks just a little flatter, without quite the swish and wildness. It's still mighty complex, the first hint of beeswax development giving weight and a little preserved lemon flavour.  Would be a very good wine by itself but overshadowed here. 18/20, 93/100

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2009
pH 3.16, TA 7.8g/L, RS 3.2g/L, 13.5% alc.
More new oak? (no new oak apparently) Certainly more vanilla. A quite rambunctious wine in context, big flavours and very full, lemon fruit and chalky, candied flavour. A real biggun, the length and weight rampaging through. Easy to write off due to its power and alcohol, but goes on and on. 18.5/20, 94/100

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2008
pH 3.24, TA 7.8g/L, RS 3.4g/L, 14% alc.
Vanilla slice. Creamy and open but just a fraction sweet and sour. Looks delightfully generous and full with a slight hint of Sauternes-esque Creme Caramel. Quite delicious, if as much a developed white wine style than a distinctive Sauvignon Blanc. 17.7/20, 92/100

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2007
pH 3.24, TA 7.8g/L, RS 3.4g/L, 14% alc.
Honeyed and looks quite dark. Recognisable as an oaked Sauv though, with a little passionfruit to give it away, the palate is quite fruity but looks rather more textured than the wines before it. Good but not the absolute drive. Quite conventional. 17.5/20, 91/100

(These three tasted quite quickly)

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2006
pH 3.17, TA 7.4g/L, RS 5.9g/L, 13.5% alc.
Mothballs. But despite the slightly sullen nose it's still texturally dynamic, if a little aldehydic. I need another (longer look at this). 17/20, 90/100

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2005
pH 3.32, TA 7.7g/L, RS 3.3g/L, 13.5% alc.
The only really toasty wine yet, the oak sticks out a bit here but it retains the lime cordial fruit. Limey and has a crinkly fruit joy too. Good, if not quite sublime. 17.5/20, 91/100

Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2004
pH 3.15, TA 7.2g/L, RS 2.5g/L, 13% alc.
A cool year wine and retains its acidity. A little fusty but in pretty good shape. 16.8/20, 89/100

Dog Point Chardonnay

Also sourced from the Dog Point 'home' vineyard, using a blend of two clones - 65% Mendoza and 35% B95. The Mendoza 'tends to be higher in acidity and confers strong citrus character', while the B95 has 'softer acid and contributes subtle meaty and mealy characters'.

Vineyard is cropped at 5 t/ha (30hl/ha), with all fruit handpicked and whole bunch pressed to French oak (15% new) and wild ferment and full malo. Small amount of battonage, then bottled without fining and a light filtration.

Interesting looking at these in a lineup - a real consistent nose of oatmeal and vanilla bean with increasing dollops of honey as it ages. From 2004 the new oak was 25%, all heavy toast, reduced to 15% from 2008. Notably all new oak is heavy toast as James believes 'heavy toast oak with grapefruity flavours is a winner'.

Chardonnay 2013
Just bottled and looked it.
Milky and showing a bit of sulphur. Banana ferment character. Looks good underneath. N/R

Chardonnay 2012
pH 3.28, TA 7.3g/L, RS 0.6g/L, 14% alc.
Nutty but also subdued and cool. Cool season dialling things back. Sulphide and banana. There is much to come here, but at the moment it feels so backward and a little raw. 17.8/20, 92/100+

Chardonnay 2011
pH 3.25, TA 7g/L, RS 0.8g/L, 14% alc.
The most classic Dog Point nose of the lot. It's almost like there is a little Sauv in here. Buzzy acidity (no malo?) and a little warm too. Milky, full tilt leery style of some complexity. Maybe a little lumpy finish but top weight and complexity. 18.5/20, 94/100

Chardonnay 2010
pH 3.27, TA 7g/L, RS 1.0g/L, 14% alc. 'This looks a bit oaky looking at it now' according to James. 
The most open and full Chardonnay nose yet, oatmeal leesy oak. The palate is the best yet, the acid quite soft and with a nectarine like filip through the finish. Delicious fruit and really lots of power and weight. Yes. 18.5

Chardonnay 2009
pH 3.34, TA 6.8g/L, RS 1.9g/L, 14% alc.
Just a little toasty decay on the nose. Oak looks a little sawdusty too. A flatter wine in this line and, whilst still long, suffers from a little awkwardness and cardboard. Average bottle? 16.8/20, 89/100

Chardonnay 2008
pH 3.26, TA 8.3g/L, RS 1.7g/L, 14.5% alc.
Back in business. Oatmeal and honey, banana cream pie richness. After that open and brilliant nose the palate looks a little bit left behind, if still a complex mealy beast. Fruit not quite up to the task? Good without being great. 17.5/20, 91/100

Chardonnay 2007
pH 3.32, TA 7.1g/L, RS 1.7g/L, 14% alc.
Biscotti laden and maybe a little volatile, more aldehydes too. A slightly flat and cheesy wine with acid rising up over the fruit. 16.5/20, 88/100

Chardonnay 2006
pH 3.30, TA 6.6g/L, RS 1.3g/L, 14% alc.
Banana cream pie getting richer by the second. In this case the palate weight can keep up with the winemaking giving a condensed milk, tangy and lightly aldehydic richness and alcohol warmth. Quite a complex beast with lots of flavours and power. Yes, 18/20, 93/100

Chardonnay 2005
pH 3.40, TA 7g/L, RS 4.8g/L, 14% alc.
Surprisingly the nose is fresher than the 06, but the palate fades quite quickly. There's still some flavour here but it falls away a little. 16.5/20, 88/100

Chardonnay 2004
pH 3.37, TA 7.1g/L, RS 2.6g/L, 14% alc.
Very rich and mealy - an oaky beast no doubt. But of this line its holding up the best. Custard and lime, fruit keeping up and acidity too. 17.7/20, 92/100

Dog Point Pinot Noir

Produced from six Pinot clones (B777, B667, B115, Pommard Clone 5, Abel and AM10/5) planted in the clay soils on the gentle slopes and plots around the winery. Small parcels of fruit included in 2013 from the new Dog Point Yarrum and Omaka Settlement vineyards. Average cropping is 5 t/ha.

Fruit is handpicked, spends a night in the chiller in picking bins before being put through the sorting table and destemmed (small amount of whole bunches) then transferred to small open fermenters via gravity.

After a cold soak fermentation is wild with twice daily manual punching down. 21-28 days of skin contact and 17 months in barrel. Bottled without fining or filtration.

Like the white wines oak has been reduced here, from 50% back to 40% in 2010 onwards and toast reduced in accordance. More Dijon clone influence from 2006 onwards and whole bunches increased to 10% from 2010.

While the white wines get all the attention it is this wine that has improved the most over the years, though it's still just a step behind in the completeness stakes. Watch this space...

Pinot Noir 2013
Just bottled
Red raspberries but lots of sulphur. Not much love yet. U/R

Pinot Noir 2012
pH 3.65, TA 5.2g/L, RS 0.3g/L, 14% alc.
There's a wonderful Marlborough pinosity here - that classic saturated red currant. Very fragrant. It's maybe a little drying and extractive this vintage, the hint of leaf and extra alcohol making this a certain sort of drying beast. There isn't quite the fruit power though - it's pretty but maybe not as age worthy. 17.5/20, 91/100+

Pinot Noir 2011
pH 3.56, TA 5.4g/L, RS 0.2g/L, 14% alc.
Volatile. Resinous edge to the palate too. But underneath it's a multi faceted beast - cherries and cherry stalks, raspberry, smoky bits and more. Warm finish with lots and lots of chew. Is it awkward or is it great? I came back to this and that palate blew my socks off. 18/20, 93/100

Pinot Noir 2010
pH 3.58, TA 5.4g/L, RS 0.3g/L, 14% alc.
Sexy. Sexy caramel oak on the nose and an open. Cherry palate. Probably the most approachable wine yet, pretty and spicy and fresh. Less tannin extraction too. Red fruits in a red bottle. Maybe a little warm? Nice though. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pinot Noir 2009
pH 3.72, TA 5.3g/L, RS 0.2g/L, 14% alc.
The most 'fruity' nose yet, from an obvious ripe year. Bacon bits, cherry and smoky, it feels ripe and generous and lavish. Alcoholic finish and just a bit heavy. It will live for ages though. Has to be admired. 17.7/20, 92/100+

Pinot Noir 2008
pH 3.69, TA 5.9g/L, RS 0.4g/L, 14% alc.
Dark colours. Fish oil nose and a palate that seems a little light on. Nice cranberry flavours and a more open wine but just not quite the carry. 17/20, 90/100

Pinot Noir 2007
pH 3.69, TA 5.5g/L, RS 0.0g/L, 13.5% alc.
Lots of oak. Seems very developed and bacony. Tomato leaf and awkward finish, 16/20, 87/100

Pinot Noir 2006
pH 3.64, TA 5.5g/L, RS 0.0g/L, 13.5% alc.Creamy oak. This is a much more complete effort, the red fruit not banging into extraction. Softly softly. Quite lithe even. Really quite delicious. 18/20, 93/100

(These last two were looked at very quickly).

Pinot Noir 2005
pH 3.55, TA 5.7g/L, RS 0.0g/L, 14% alc.
More structure than fruit. Gruff edges and quite bitter. Not much joy from me. 15.5/20, 86/100

Pinot Noir 2004
pH 3.55, TA 5.9g/L, RS 1.0g/L, 14% alc.
Some lovely tomato leaf and quite sappy. Really quite lively in the scheme of things. Not bad. 17/20, 90/100