Saturday, 31 January 2015

Hoddles Creek 1er Cru Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2013

Hoddles Creek 1er Cru Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2013

Plenty of enthusiasm for the 2013 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir vintage so far. Plenty. This dry, early (largely done and dusted by Easter), warm and low yielding vintage seems to be gaining plenty of fans (like Jancis).

Still, in some cases the extra tannic drive and power of '13 has been more than welcome, yet I can't help but think that the extra heartiness of many of the wines means less elegance, especially compared to the near perfect 2012 equivalents. It's a bit like the 09 vs 10 Burgundian vintage, with the fleshiness of the 09s often attractive, but paling in the beauty stakes compared to the 10s.

Of course they're wild generalisations, with loads of exceptions (and I'm only thinking about Pinot). The reason for the intro though is that, despite this Hoddles being very good, it's not as sensational as the '12.

There's an extra purpleness and fullness of colour this vintage, befitting the smaller berry weights of the year. It smells awesome, all lifted raspberry, redcurrant and stewed rhubarb in an open and inviting form, backed by a notably silky, fruit pulp palate, finishing with tannins that carry a little desiccation. Texturally it's a beautiful wine, with masterful palate flow, but I just found myself a little offset by the edge of warmth and late rawness.

Clearly top tier wine, if clearly marked by the vintage.

Details: 13.2%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Retail, Tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2022
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it: Still be tempted by a bottle
Buy online: Hoddles Creek website

Angullong Fossil Hill Shiraz Viognier 2013

Angullong Fossil Hill Orange Shiraz Viognier 2013

The biggest challenge with Orange Shiraz, from where I sit at least, is nailing the ripeness balance. Too ripe and it can look weirdly confected, underripe and its horrible peppery shit.

This Angullong, thankfully, is neither. Yet still it's not quite right. Initially quite fragrant, it looks rounder and less defined the more you look at it, the acid and tight tannins a welcome punch to what is an oddly flashy, noticeably round and vanilla oaky palate. That split personality is quite unusual, almost like it's trying too hard to be appealing.

Not a bad wine, but the sweetness/acid interplay isn't quite on the money.

Details: 13.5%, Screwcap, $24
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2021
Score; 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Angullong website

Wirra Wirra The Lost Watch Adelaide Hills Riesling 2014

Wirra Wirra The Lost Watch Adelaide Hills Riesling 2014

I drank a bottle of this largely on my own a few weeks back. It went seriously well with old school honey sesame king prawns on a warm Sydney evening. Big tick.

The appeal here is pretty simple really - detailed, well balanced Riesling, driven by acidity, the fruit in the grapefruit and celery spectrum initially but fanning out to more citrus too. There's an exacting nature to this which suggests super clean fruit and attentive winemaking and the acidity feels soft and natural.

Enjoyed this greatly. Perhaps not overly complex or ultra-intense, but otherwise hard to fault.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $22
Source: Sample, tasted January '15
Drink: 2015-2025
Score: 17.9/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? If I saw this on a winelist I'd buy without hesitation.
Buy online:

Friday, 30 January 2015

Well priced Canberra fizz: Capital Wines Press Gallery Sparkling NV

Capital Wines Press Gallery Sparkling NV

Cheap sparkling is a minefield, with so many flabby and dull wines. We have the big National Liquor News bubbly tastings later in the year and, historically, the sub $20 price bracket is both boring and painful.

Not this bubbly, which is dry, tart and surprisingly serious, with well handled dosage that looks largely Chardonnay based and definitely quite long. Lemony fruit, this has minimal lees richness and all tart lemon fruit, yet not harsh, just clean.

Very crisp and refreshing with quality fruit. A bit simple, but for the price its pretty clever.

Details: 12.5%, Crown Seal, $21
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2017
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? I'd probably drink a few glasses. Not quite a bottle proposition.
Buy online: Capital Wines

Zema Coonawarra Shiraz 2010

Zema Estate Coonawarra Shiraz 2010

Zema seems to have taken a backward step in recent years, the apparent move to a riper style not yielding much enjoyment.

Indeed this is both dusty, slightly roasted, treacly and forward, the acid sappy but the style decidedly underwhelming in its alcohol dominance and lack of freshness.


Details: 14%, Screwcap, $24.95
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2025
Score: 15.5/20, 85/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Zema Estate, Wine Searcher

Thursday, 29 January 2015

2015 Hunter red wine vintage on a knife edge

2015 Hunter red wine vintage on a knife edge

As suggested in this ABC article today, it's a very tricky time in the Hunter Valley, with a serious downpour (some areas received over 100mm of rain in 3 days) threatening the 2015 red wine harvest.

While much of the Chardonnay, Verdelho and a little Sem has already hit the winery (and looking very good judging by reports. Just check out these healthy Tyrrell's Chardonnay bunches), the important stuff - the Semillon and Shiraz - is still ripening (though Brokenwood has brought in some Shiraz already).

As Andrew Margan pointed out, this is the worst possible time for heavy rain, as grapes that are soft and ripe are particularly prone to splitting, which in turn leads to bortrytis (amongst other things) while also potentially diluting flavour (and pushing back harvest). Plus you can't spray this close to harvest due to withholding periods, so it is very much a case of watch and wait. 

Thankfully it has stopped raining and a cool breeze and sunshine greeted vignerons this morning, so all is not lost:
Further, Hunter viticulturists are particularly on the ball when it comes to coping with rain during harvests (it's not an uncommon challenge historically) and the famous sandy soils that much of the Semillon is planted on has excellent drainage.

Still, eyes will be literally on the skies over the next week or two, and here's hoping that this forecast for the next 3 days is accurate.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Lino Ramble Treadlie McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2013

Lino Ramble Treadlie McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2013

I was banging on yesterday about how much more enjoyable unfined/unfiltered reds can be. This isn't as cloudy as the Woodlands, but again shows the 'naturalness' of a light touch. More wines with minimal additions/subtraction in this vein please.

Andy Coppard, Lino Ramble winemaker, has had a big few months, leaving his full-time winemaking gig at Kay Brothers, moving house and then kicking everything up a gear for a big 2015. With wines like this in the stable his probably making a good choice.

Produced from Don Oliver's (Oliver's Taranga) vineyard at Seaview, this was made fermented naturally, basket pressed and bottled unfined. It's a breezy, utterly Grenache dominated wine (though it makes up just 57% of the blend), with slick, raspberry juiciness, a whisp of softly caramel oak, and then sandy Grenache tannins on a gentle, slightly smoky warm-hearted palate.

Unforced and even, this just feels right. It's perhaps a little light and slick (I'd like a fraction more mongrel), but unquestionable attractive.

Details: 14%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2020+
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle for sure
Buy online: Best Cellars, Wine Direct

Battle of Bosworth Puritan No Added Preservative Shiraz 2014

Battle of Bosworth Puritan No Added Preservative Shiraz 2014

No preservatives, no worries.

I explored the preservative free context of this wine last vintage, so best to start there for an intro. Regardless, this is another smart wine (though I think I marginally preferred the 13).

Again, this is bright purple coloured and bright purple flavoured juice. I can't see any oak here, just loads of purple, ultra juicy Shiraz flavour, with more black jubes than you can poke a stick at.

Every bit the joven unoaked style, yet with enough oomph and depth of flavour, I really warmed to this. It's all fruit, but also all McLaren Vale Shiraz. One of the best 'no preservatives added' conventional reds out there - you get the feeling this is just one of the typically honest and full flavoured Battle of Bosworth reds just produced a little more reductively and sans sulphur.


Details: 14.5%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2017
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? If I was looking for a 'NAP' style Aussie red this would be a natural choice.
Buy online: Battle of Bosworth website

Very tidy $16 McLaren Vale Shiraz: Chapel Hill Parsons Nose Shiraz 2013

Chapel Hill Parsons Nose Shiraz 2013

 For $16 this is a no-brainer.

Purple mauve/inky purple in colour, its only mid-weight but still drenched with purple fruit. Quite sweet and a little tart, it showcases sunny McLaren Vale Shiraz in a juicy mode, without looking overtly confected. Importantly, there's a thickness to this that puts it above most similar $16 wines.

Good value indeed. Not complex or long, but bang on for price and style.

Details: 14.5%, Screwcap, $16
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2013-2015
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? Not quite. But I'd recommend it.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Chapel Hill website

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014

This is excellent Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (and looking better now than it did just a few months ago).

It's such a stirringly aromatic wine, singing 'Marlborough Sauv' with a big, full and slightly sweaty nose of ripe fruit. Importantly, there a herbal edge too, a nod to what Marlborough Sauv should taste like, ie not all tropical fruit. Actually, there's no tropicals at all, which makes this (arguably) even more enjoyable. A long palate, prominent acid and yet still with plenty to come.

Personally I'd prefer to drink this in another 6 months (and the 2013 is still a fraction better in my opinion), though no doubting that this is another supremely good Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from one of the benchmark wineries.

Details: 13.5%, Screwcap, $27
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2018
Score: 18/20, 93/100+
Would I buy it? Absolutely. The go-to Marlborough Sauv
Buy online: Winestar, Dan Murphys,

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The best Margaret River Pinot I've had: Woodlands Reserve de La Cave Pinot Noir 2013

Woodlands Margaret River Pinot Noir 2013

This shouldn't work. Actually, Margaret River Pinot normally doesn't, so its probably more of an outlier than the start of something. Still, this Woodlands Pinot Noir is impressive stuff.

The key here, arguably, is the vineyard itself, with the Woodlands 'Estate' Vineyard straddling a south facing slope in the middle of the Wilyabrup dress-circle. Like the estates around it (Brookland Valley abuts it to the south), the vines here are typically old, with some plantings dating back to 1973 ('74 for the Pinot). The soil profile here shows a shallow topsoil over gravel and clay too, which is considered to be one of the more desirable soil types in Wilyabrup.

It's a vineyard that looks and feels special, and, when coupled with the attention of new generation Watson brothers Andrew and Stuart, can produce some of the best wines in Margaret River.

But that's not the whole reason why this Pinot impresses. Like how this is not fined or filtered at all, which serves to make this seriously cloudy and carrying the thick, grainy texture that you normally see largely in barrel samples.

Such unfined and unfiltered wildness is par for the Pinot course in the Yarra, or the Adelaide Hills. Yet in Margaret River, where Pinots (and most wines) are polished and cross-flowed to perfection, this has a pinosity and red sappy fruit fleshiness that successfully wards off the dry-reddish lack of delicacy that marks Pinot from regions (like Margaret River) that get a little warm.

Admittedly this doesn't have the velvety beauty of a delicate Mornington Pinot, but for Margs (and in a warm vintage) this is a triumph. Mid weight, yet powerful, sappy red fruited and full of life.

The only challenge? It's basically sold out. And the price? At $75 its mighty steep. Still, this deserves attention and serious kudos.

Source: Cellar Door.
Drink: 2015-2019
Score: 18.3/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I did, though not sure it would be a regular purchase.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Where have all the Australian wine bloggers gone?

Where have all the Australian wine bloggers gone?

Anthony Madigan, Editor of Australian Wine Business Magazine (WBM), posted this in the The Week That Was (TWTW) on Jan 9th.

'Whatever happened to all the wine bloggers out there? Remember a few years ago when wine blogging was the next big thing and everyone was predicting some serious competition for the likes of James Halliday, Max Allen and Tim White? Ha, ha, ha, those old blokes seem to have more power and influence now than ever before because, apart from Philip White, no one seems to be making any headway. Sure, there are a couple of bloggers that are attracting a dozen or so loyal friends, family and pets to their posts, but as for serious readership numbers, well, no, it just ain't happening. Mass media still rules supreme. Young Jeremy Pringle was doing great things with his blog, Wine Will Eat Itself, before his tragic death last year, leaving a gaping hole in the wine blogging community. Dave Brookes seems to have given Vinofreakism away, and Patrick Haddock 'The Wining Pom' is focusing on his Newcastle wine bar; reckons there's more money in selling the stuff than writing about it. Fair dinkum? Who is your favourite wine blogger and why? Who is starting to make waves? Anyone out there looking like following in the footsteps of young Pringle? Anyone we should know about? Tip us off'

Naturally I couldn't let a cheeky statement like that slide, so I responded straight away. Mads published it in full too (and important to note that he's a good supporter of bloggers, so no malice):

'Just read TWTW and noticed the bit about wine blogs – you're missing a trick there! While Jeremy (Pringle) is sadly departed, and Patrick (Haddock) is not writing much anymore there are plenty of good wine bloggers still out there. Stu Robinson (Vinsomniac), Steve (QWine), Sean (Grape Observer) and Daniel (the Wine Idealist) are all doing very good things, not to mention the brilliance of Ed (Wino Sapien) with even Yalumba recently kickstarting their blog after an extended hiatus. Oh and Australian Wine Review? Well, my little blog is turning seven this year and I'm definitely not slowing down. Nor is traffic for that matter – the "small circle of friends" is a bit facetious given my blog had almost half a million page views last year...' 

My response highlights just a few of the people doing good things in Australian wine blogging right now (and I missed plenty). Yet it doesn't address the key question - so what has happened? Where have the Australian wine bloggers gone?

To answer that, however, I need to make an important distinction.

What Anthony didn't realise in that TWTW stir is that his question itself is wrong. It shouldn't be 'what has happened to all the bloggers' and instead 'what has happened to all the wine writers'. Not only is it a false assumption that bloggers and professional wine writers are mutually exclusive (many are paid wine writers too, like me), the problem is not just bloggers who are MIA, but wine writers in general.

Want some examples? Well look only at the rate at which even our top wine writers columns are shrinking (like Huon Hooke's), being propped up by questionable retailer relationship (also like Huon's) or just disappearing altogether (like Ken Gargett's) leading to a whole swag who have left all together (like Paddy Kendler).

We can pretend all we want that 'mass media still rules supreme', however the stark reality is that wine writing is now anything but mainstream, and definitely not supported by the mass media. Instead, it's a niche, dominated by a few main players (James Halliday mainly) and small publishers (though we still don't know who GT Wine has been sold to), with actual writers scattered thinly, living on diets where wine writing is complemented with other non-writing work like running bars/restaurants, doing PR for wineries, writing content, or holding events. Pure wine writers are an almost non existent species.

Ultimately bloggers are just the thin end of the wedge - the (perceived) easy target. Instead, the purported demise of bloggers should be the canary in the coalmine, hinting of what is a broader malaise - the shaky future of wine writing as a profession in the country.

Sadly I don't have the answers on how to make wine writing more viable as yet, and even less answers on how to make critical wine blogging a lucrative business, so all I can ask is that you stop by a few Australian bloggers who are still doing good things, and let them know that you give a shit.

Here are a few places to start (in no particular order):

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Another excellent $20 Shiraz from Dom Torzi

Torzi Matthews Schist Rock Eden Valley Shiraz 2013

Wines like this make you reassess just what can be achieved for $20.

This is a new label for Dom Torzi's Schist Shiraz but the same price. Again sourced from a rocky, schisty vineyard at Mt McKenzie in the Eden Valley, again the second label wine for Dom Torzi's more fancied Frost Dodger (though sans dried fruit).

What makes this compelling is the texture - it has that slick, smoothness of carefully barrel aged modern Shiraz, but through the back end it picks up grunt and some of that trademark 'wine gum' black/purple Eden Valley density. The tannins are real, the savoury back end an excellent fullstop, with none of the heat of  other 2013 Barossan reds.

I had this in a group of $20-$30 Shiraz and it shone. Maybe a little simple, yet such impressive wine for the dollars. If it had a Henschke label it would be double the price...

Details: 14.5%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2022
Score: 18.1/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? If I wanted a sub $20, genuine Shiraz this would be it.
Buy online: Torzi Matthews website

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Symphonia Petit Manseng 2013

Symphonia King Valley Petit Manseng 2013 

I do wonder why we see few attempts at a more richly textured Jurançon style of Aussie Petit Manseng, as this naturally tart grape seems to look at its best when done a little riper. Bill Downie's wine is the only one I can think of that comes close locally. Any others?

Anyway, this Symphonia smells as tart as it tastes, the style a bit too clean and angular to be really delicious. There's a solid intensity of ginger and pear fruit, but this could do with some lees and barrel work as it could be just about any tank produced, reductively made white wine really.

Extra point for the length.

Details: 13%, Screwcap, $24
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2017
Score: 16.3/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Not really
Buy online: Symphonia website

Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Rose 2014

Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Grenache Rose 2014

Wirra have the packing nailed here - clear bottle and lurid red coloured juice makes for a visually striking wine. What's inside is spot on for the style and price too, all generous Grenache raspberry fruit, yet offset with tart acidity. It's just a bit sweet and sour but the
intensity of flavour is solid, all making for a good, juicy, full flavoured, unserious, South Australian rosè. 

Details: 13.5%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample, tasted Jan '15
Drink: 2015-2016
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100

Would I buy it? I'd drink a glass or two on a hot night.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Cracka Wines, Wirra website

Katnook Estate Cabernet vertical: 1981 - 2011

Katnook Estate Cabernet vertical: 1981 - 2011

This tasting was from 18 months ago, yet given the age-worthiness of the Katnook Cabernets I'm not worried about these wines falling over...

But let's start at the beginning.

Katnook's winemaking history dates back to 1896, with Coonawarra's 2nd ever vintage made in the Katnook woolshed by John Riddoch. That building then became the Coonawarra fruit colony, with vines not planted until 1971 when the Yunghanns bought Katnook and the first Katnook wines made in 1980.

Wayne Stehbens was the first Katnook winemaker and, in a rare circumstance given he doesn't own the joint, Wayne is still the winemaker nearing 40 vintages later.

Over the years Katnook has picked up two Jimmy Watsons and established itself as Coonawarra name, the estate eventually bought by the multi-national Freixenet group (the Cava makers) in 1998. The commemorative 30th release 2011 Katnook Cabernet Sauvignon is reviewed below.

For all Katnook's history, however, I can't help but feel that the modern wines can look a little dated. The oak, for one, is typically overt (Wayne 'loves the flavour of oak maturation'), to the point where it occasionally ruins the joy of the Prodigy and Odyssey wines. Ditto the ripeness, with many of the wines looking just a little desiccated and porty, even in the cooler vintages.

Still, what Katnook does have is some seriously top wines in the back catalogue. Now if only they can find that consistency again...

The following wines were tasted in a large lineup mid 2013. Notes are as written on the day. Extra bits in italics.

Segura Viudas Aria NV 
A ring in and a good one. 15 months on lees. Fresh and tart. Has a nice simple refreshment to it. Not complex, just refreshing. Lovely really 17.5/20, 91/100

Katnook Estate Sauvignon Blanc 1981
Heavy toast. Buttered toast with marmalade. A little corky. Looks very much a honeyed beast. The second ever Katnook Sauv. Honeyed decay but alive and quite sweet fruited. Lots of acidity. 7g/l residual and looks quite generous. Has probably helped to make this generous. Dry Sauternes-esque. 15.5/20, 85/100

Katnook Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2003
Sauvignon Blanc post 1982 saw a little skin contact. This looks like herbal and tart, phenolic and firm without any of the generosity of the previous wine. Sweet and sour and phenolic. Not a fan but shows the path. 15/20, 83/100

Katnook Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Apparently Katnook produced the first labelled Sauvignon Blanc in Australia! Anyway this is dry, citrussy and varietal with a nice punch of passionfruit. It's a quite linear yet ripe style without the tropical fruit of Kiwi. Slightly disconnected wine though, with quite pretty nose, textural fullness through the finish and then phenolics. Almost hnails it, but falls just short in the washup. 16.5/20, 88/100

Cabernet Sauvignon

The 1991 easily the best wine in this lineup. 2000 next, then 90, 10 etc. There's some contention, but 2004 'apparently' the first Cab in screwcap. Most of these wines saw 2 years in small French oak.

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1980

Coffeed with something of a tawny edge. Coffeed and briary of also quite gentle, the palate losing out to acidity and alcohol but still with a certain berried ripeness through the middle. Good. 16.5/20, 88/100

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1981
Dusty and liquered with a little maderised characters. Obviously a warm vintage and rather ripe and gently sweet. Hanging on to its caramel fudge richness but also somewhat oxidised. 15.5/20, 85/100

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1990
Big and brooding nose. Nice to see some hedgerow and cedar varietal stamp, but still lots of quite warm fruit. That firm, 'just ripe' edge to the tannins makes this much tastier than expected. Big tannins, big fruit. A wall of ripe Coonawarra sound. Perhaps too ripe and caramelised if not without appeal. Kinda charming, if full. 18/20, 93/100
Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1991
Wine of the tasting. Cohesive. Spot on ripeness, the frame much more medium weight and the style less about a whack of everything. A Coonawarra classicists dream in the prime of its life. Tannins will keep you coming. 18.7/20, 95/100

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
Perhaps not a perfectly defined Coonawarra red - a little warm for that. But still a very good mix of cedar and spice with chocolate oak. Finishes a little short in context - a front palate red, yet punctuated by at least drying tannins. Perhaps a little desiccated? Lovely wine though. 18/20, 93/100

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
Rather oak drawn and warm. Looks forward and juicy, a bit clumsy and lumpy but has a firm boldness to it that is attractive. Alcoholic and a bit heavy and black. Good not great. Alcohol rising up fast. Beats you around the head this. But the core Coonawarra black fruit and cedar is unquestioned. 17.7/20, 92/100+

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Quite smoky and deep but not leafy. There is some bay leaf and chocolate but otherwise a dry and acidic sort of a beast. There is an intensity here though which suggests much potential. If it resolves. Maybe not classic though but an intriguing wine. 17.8/20, 92/100

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Flashy. Hot summers and dry vines. Has a sweetness of oak that tries to lift what is a dried palate of firmness. Mint lifts this back into classic Coona terms Already drying out and heading in the direction of the 01 but not without structure or heart. 17.5/91, 91/100

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
An odd wine. I don't this is a great bottle as it looks a little raisined and fusty. NR

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Rather slathered in oak. A very firm and raisined edge wine that looks so much more flattering than the older wines but without much appeal. Didn't like this much in context. 16/20, 87/100

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Berried and very luscious and oaky. Sweet and generous and plump. But where is the leafiness? Generous and affable. It gets deeper and more tannic the closer you look. Closed. Perhaps a little homogeneous? Has much to give methinks. 18/20, 93/100+

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Light and berried. Early drinking and generous, the palate pulling up short and driven by tannins. But I like tannins. Definitely not the impact of the wine before it but quite pretty. A little weedy but quite attractive still. Maybe too much oak? Not unattractive, but hardly blinding. 17/20, 90/100

Two super-premium 'dessert' wines:

Katnook Estate Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 1991
Very youthful. Still quite red. So very oaky. It's an oak wine first, with grainy oak tannins and so much sweet oak. Oak oak oak oak oak. The problem is that the oak obscures everything. As a made wine it is exceptionally youthful and impressive. But not a terroir wine by any stretch. 17.5/20, 91/100

Katnook Estate Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
120-130% new oak for 3 years! Richness and warmth liquid oak. Liquid oak. It's so tight and warm that you can't see much. But there is power and weight here. Behind the oak. A colossally rich red though that's going to live forever. Has a sense of mightiness. 18/20, 93/100

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Like Riesling? In Melbourne in early February? Read on

I don't normally do event plugs here on Australian Wine Review, but this non-profit celebration of Riesling deserves a shout-out.

It's called Riesling Downunder and takes up the mantle of what was once the Frankland Estate International Riesling tastings, stretching the event into a 3 day Rieslingfest backed by Frankland Estate, Jim Barry, Pikes and Framingham.

Sadly I'm not going to the event (bring it to Sydney next year guys!), but if I was, this 'Riesling through the ages' masterclass in particular would be worth the punt alone.

Oh and if you can't make it to Melbourne for Riesling Downunder, the Summer of Riesling continues in Sydney with a big Rieslingfest on Sunday 15th Feb (I'll be at that).

Get along.

This has been a Riesling service announcement.

(I have no commercial interests in any of these events. I do like Riesling though).

Friday, 16 January 2015

Why aren't there more McLaren Vale GSMs like this one?

Dodgy Bros McLaren Vale GSM 2013

I've always wondered why it is, but blends seem to play second fiddle in McLaren Vale, sitting even further behind straight varietals than in many other South Australian regions.

Such a single varietal focus is even more unusual given that there's such a range of grapes planted in the Vale, including old plantings of Cabernet and Grenache going begging, let alone newer goodies like Sangiovese and Nero (which should enable more blending).

There's a veritable fruit salad of white grapes to boot, with everything from Fiano and Vermentino to surprising amounts of Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay still in the ground (don't forget McLaren Vale was once the home of the hugely popular Seaview sparklings).

In some ways this 'blend blindness' could be as an end result of one style being just too hard to ignore (like straight Shiraz), which just encourages even more of a mono-varietal movement. Such a movement is also perpetuated by things like the (brilliant, I don't want to besmirch it) Scarce Earth program or a proliferation of new alternates that need explanations of their own without blends muddying things further.

Yet it also seems like the lack of blends might be a 'McLaren Vale thing', much like how wild fermentation is still a rarity in Vale Shiraz production.

Still, if you need an example of what can be done with a little judicious blending, this GSM is it.

Made by Wes Pearson, who has a day job as a scientist at the AWRI, this is drawn from a vintage that looks to be a winner for Grenache and Mourvèdre (and less so for Shiraz), this blend of 70% Grenache, 18% Shiraz, 12% Mourvèdre comes from the warm Sellicks foothills - also a great place for growing Grenache.

It follows that the appeal is all about Grenache. Well handled, minimally oak influenced, spicy Grenache, the palate a riot of redcurrant fruit that floods your mouth, backed by the deeper grunt of Shiraz and Mourvedre. It's an essay in concentration and yet energy too, the texture and tannins almost spot on.

I served this to a room full of people confused by the upside down label and they were mighty impressed. I was too...

Details: 14.5%, Screwcap, $28
Source: Sample, tasted Jan 15
Drink: 2015-2025
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Would finish a bottle of this no sweat. Well priced too.
Buy online: Dodgy Brothers website

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir 2013

Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2013

I've been critical previously of a tendency for the Shaw + Smith Pinot to look a little too 'dry reddish' and lacking some delicacy.

Not this 2013 though.

Adam Wadewitz mentioned last year that Shaw + Smith were picking earlier now and the benefits are on display here. A lovely pinosity - anything but a big and ripe style, though there is just the faintest whiff of bacon from a warm year. Still, this is framed by its acidity, the fruit in the rhubarb, cherry and cinnamon end of the spectrum too.

I liked this more every sip, the vibrancy unexpected for what initially seems ripe and overwrought. There's still a sensation that this isn't an unforced wine - though few Adelaide Hills Pinots are - but a vast improvement compared to previous vintages.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample, tasted Jan 15
Drink: 2015-2019
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Not quite. One and a half glasses.
Buy online: Cracka Wines, Shaw + Smith website

Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Chardonnay 2012

Ten Minutes by Tractor Mornington Peninsula Estate Chardonnay 2012

The price hasn't changed and the quality continues. No doubting the joy of this wine, even in a vintage more favourable for reds than whites.

Importantly, this is recognisable as a 10X Chardonnay from first whiff, the Golden Gaytime yeast/oak amalgam and full fruit punching from the start. After the acid driven '11 this is a much more open and nutty wine this year, perhaps a little broad but also with impressive depth and complexity.

Ultimately I love this sort of fully worked, full tilt Chardonnay (yet with enough acidity to keep things tight) as its what Mornington Chardonnay should taste like. 

Details: 13.5%, Screwcap, $42
Source: Sample, tasted Jan 15
Drink: 2015-2018
Score: 18.1/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Absolutely. I'd drink the best part of a bottle over dinner no sweat. Needs a full flavoured food to match though.
Buy online: Ten Minutes By Tractor website