Thursday, 26 November 2015

Two new Leeuwin whites for the faithful inc. 2012 LEAS Chardonnay

It's an interesting time for Leeuwin Estate, as the wine style from this venerable Margaret River icon have been slowly brought into the 21st century. That's not to say that the wines have necessarily changed that much, but definitely an obvious evolution towards a more modern form.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Art Series Chardonnay, which has seen a gradual tweaking over the last few vintages to take it from a full, oaky, beast of a Chardonnay to a more taut, if still intense, full bodied Chardonnay.

Now if only the Leeuwin website could show details about how the wines are made rather than just a token tasting note...

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

11 Victorian reds that aren't Pinot Noir feat. Taltarni, Tahbilk,Virago, Sunshine Creek, Balgownie & more

On the back of a week of Victorian Shiraz (including top wines from Lethbridge and Willow Creek), I thought it only natural that we carry on the theme this week, with a collection of Victorian wines other than Pinot Noir (I'm doing Pinot seperately).

With this tasting I basically dived into the sample pile and pulled out everything Victorian, uncovering plenty of diversity in the wash. A particular nod to the Sunshine Creek Cabernet and the potential for future Virago releases...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The old world of new world Cabernet - Cape Mentelle, Balnaves Tally and new Yarra Yering Carrodus

It's always fun benchmarking wines against the classics. Always. Even when the comparison 'contender' wine is shit, the tasting at least can be a good quality calibration exercise.

Thankfully, the host of this Cabernet extravaganza - Xavier Bizot - makes wines that are not shit. Rather, his Terre à Terre releases continue to look good, even when put up against some real contenders (even Mouton second labels).

The inspiration of what to pitch his wines against this year came while pressing off the 2013. Enthused by how good it was, he went on a mission to compare it not against wines from the old world, but the best established wines of the new world.

The old of the new.

Xavier picked a few absolute classics in this lineup too, covering off wines that I'd naturally consider classics - like the Yeringberg - right through to a few intriguing new agitators (like the Twinwoods), in one high quality tasting. 

The only qualms here lie in the underperformance - and questionable oak maturation - of the Coonawarra wines. Heavy handed added acid and overt oak make for awkward drinks, no matter what the wine...

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Flashback Thursday: Rioja musings + a visit to Bodegas Muriel

Rioja. Not as flat as expected

It seems like ages ago that I was in Rioja. Ages. A quick look at the calendar, however, and it was just over two and a half months back. Time flies when you've escaped to Europe in the middle of a cold Sydney winter…

Anyway, Rioja. While I ticked off plenty of the big names in this Spanish super-region (including Roda, La Rioja Alta and Lopez Heredia) my Rioja highlight was a visit to Bodegas Muriel.

Now this probably isn't the first super-premium estate you’d normally stop at, but it was shitloads more interesting for one reason – I finally got to see some of the top vineyard land.

That’s important because there's a historical disconnect between vineyard and winery in Rioja, with many renowned bodegas owning little vineyard land, instead relying on a network of small growers from throughout the region. Rioja is almost Champagne-esque in structure really, with much of the prestige associated with blending (and oak maturation) rather than site expression, the wineries, in turn, located closer to good transport rather than near a vineyard.

In an increasingly terroir-focused modern wine world, that structure does look rather old-fashioned, and there is loads of debate about whether it is doing Rioja justice. Indeed Adam Lechmere wrote a good wrap up in the September Decanter, detailing opinions from both sides. Suffice to say many big producers don't want to change in a hurry either...

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

More new Lethbridge Shiraz

On the back of last night's Malakoff-off, tonight I'm venturing into the rest of the new release Lethbridge range - which this year has a distinctly different (Shiraz) flavour.

In 2014, yields at Lethbridge were just 20% of normal (in Pinot and Chardonnay particularly), leading to more winery capacity and a serendipitous opportunity to play around with Shiraz from other vineyards.

These two first wines (and the Malakoff Shiraz from last night) are quite natural extensions to the range too, crafted in a style that I'd call classical Lethbridge, just with a different flavour.

Great to see.

Lethbridge Great Western Shiraz 2014
Sourced from the Hyde Park vineyard in Great Western and made without 'extraneous artefacts'. Deep purple in the glass, this lively, pulpy Shiraz captures the juiciness of Great Western Shiraz perfectly, with that real plum essence purple fruit, before a dash of tobacco and some sweet oak and a slightly liquered finish. Perhaps a little warm and simple, but high quality and a proper Great Western terroir piece. Best drinking: 2015-2024. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? I'd splurge on the Serendipity instead.

Lethbridge Serendipity Great Western Shiraz 2014
Also from the Hyde Park vineyard, just a more serious style. There is the same purple fruit of the Great Western Shiraz, but this is inkier, more lavish, more purple fruit red and expansive. There is that same lovely purple fruit, that same mid palate round fruit, the same plum essence. It just feels more concentrated, the oak more lavish and the flavours more comprehensive. Lovely wine this in a laidback, live-forever style. Wonderully Great Western it is too. Perhaps a little skinny on the finish, but you get the sense that will resolve with more time in bottle. Lovely wine. Best drinking: 2016-2030. 18.5/20+, 94/100. 14.5%, $42. Would I buy it? Absolutely.

Lethbridge Indra Geelong Shiraz 2013
I love the front label/back label/tasting note of the Lethbridge label, even if the font isn't easy to read. Here, Ray muses about whole bunches, as this sees only 20% of the fruit destemmed. Sourced from the Indra block, this is the top Lethbridge Shiraz (and priced accordingly). A beast it is too - dark purple red, there is a wonderful lift of boiled lollies and glacé fruit on the nose, followed by a typically complex, tour-de-force of a wine. There's tomato leaf and beefiness to accompany the juicy-yet-sour tomato fruit, the extractive palate showing  layers of spicy, meaty fruit. A bold, even slightly confronting wine, it is structurally sublime, if still tightly contained and awkward, with jutting angles. Important plus signs, with the tannin breadth suggesting it will be very long lived. Best drinking: 2018-2035. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $95. Would I buy it? Not unless I was feeling very patient.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Two non-identical twin Shiraz from the Malakoff vineyard

It seems like every Victorian producer is trying their hand with fruit from the Malakoff vineyard, with this highly respected plot just outside of Landsborough in the Pyrenees now supplying the likes of (just for starters) Between 5 Bells, Quealy, Out of Step, Fletcher Wines, Ben Haines and Mount Avoca.

While most of the attention has been on the celebrated Malakoff Nebbiolo, it was a pleasure tonight to try two different wines made from Malakoff Shiraz fruit, with the only difference really being picking dates and each winery's handling of the grapes.

What made it even more pleasurable was just how clearly the terroir shone through on both of these wines - unmistakeably the same source, despite the stylistic differences. I tasted them as a pair and switched between the glasses constantly in a sort of wine geek-out. Fun times, if just for me.

Lethbridge Malakoff Vineyard Pyrenees Shiraz 2014
Dark, inky purple black. Serious concentration from the outset; a wine of dark fruits, extraction and thick power, the finish just a bit heavy, but lifted up by refreshing, long tannins. While it's black and rich, there is the unmistakeable hint of mint and a lack of glycerol sweetness that marks it as cool, rather than 'warm' climate Shiraz, the edges tempered by sausagey savouriness and the oak a supporting, coffee background. High quality, deep and dark red with silkiness to match that punch. My only negative is that it's a bit warm and drying through the finish, with clearly some time in bottle needed for ideal results. Best drinking: 2017-2028. 17.8/20, 92/100+. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle. Buy online: Lethbridge website

Willow Creek Vineyard Malakoff Vineyard Pyrenees Shiraz 2014
Picked earlier, half the fruit whole bunch fermented. 21 days of maceration in total. 11 months in 25% new oak. Purple, but lighter edged than the Lethbridge. The whole bunches are immediately noticeable, with a sprinkling of clove and stem to give this a spicy herbal edge. Medium bodied, compact and with defined, mouth coating tannins and some deepset, cocoa oak to fill out the palate, it feels a bit herbal and more red than black fruited at first, but the palate picks up speed as it goes along, and the extra acidity through the finish ultimately makes this a very satisfying, cool-but-rich Victorian Shiraz. The only question mark is if the whole bunch character might be a bit overpowering. Lovely wine regardless. Best drinking: 2016-2028. 18.2/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes. I'd also share a bottle. Buy online: Willow Creek Vineyard website

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Riesling with the slightest twist from Jim Barry, Xabregas, Pipers Brook and more

It feels like anything but Riesling weather in Sydney this weekend and I can only feel for the producers at the Wine Island festival who would have endured three days pouring in the wet. Unfun. Anyway, here are a few slightly different Australian Rieslings for your drinking pleasure.

Xabregas Artisan Mt Barker Riesling 2011
A worked style kept on lees in old barrels. Xabregas are one of the better makers of off-dry Aussie Riesling, but their dry wines are even better. This smells of lemon, grapefruit and just a hint of the hessian of old oak, the palate dry, concentrated and quite extractive - indeed it's a firm, compact, fully textured style with excellent penetration and utterly natural, firm acidity. 4 years old but could be one with the depth here. It's maybe a little coarse on the finish, but that's the only distraction. Best drinking: 2015-2030+. 18/20, 93/100. 11.9%, $35. Would I buy it? Sure would. That structure makes it moreish too.

Pipers Brook Tasmania Riesling 2014
Price has crept up on this wine. Inch by inch. The best years are well worth it, but this year it looks very odd. Indeed it carries a green straw nose with quite a deal of development, even some terpenes too. Unexpected for Tasvegas. Underneath it's really taut, grapefruit pithy and firm, all acid and a really compact structure. There's excellent shape and intensity here but, for mine, this is just a little raw and yet also forward. You get the feeling this will live for a long time, so might well be worth another visit in 5 years time, though for the moment it's confusingly sitting in a halfway development phase. Best drinking: 2020-?. 16.8/20, 89/100+. 13%, $34. Would I buy it? Not quite.

Jim Barry Veto Clare Valley Riesling 2015
Something of a project wine for next generation Barry boys Tom & Sam Barry, this Riesling started as an exceptional parcel from the Lodge Hill vineyard, with the grapes picked and then pressed without filtration and 10% barrel fermented. All was then left on gross lees for six weeks before bottling. Light and lemony, it's a surprisingly delicate wine in context, balance of limey fruit and
acidity is excellent. Less chubby than some of the other Jim Barry Rieslings, but not quite as perfumed. Still has a healthy dash of lemongrass a little ginger though. Tight and long, the palate is where all the fun is, with grip and textural weight. Good stuff. Best drinking: 2015-2025+. 18/20, 93/100. 12.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Worth a punt on a bottle of this for sure.

Wirra Wirra The Lost Watch Adelaide Hills Riesling 2015
The twist with this Wirra rizza is where its from - the Adelaide Hills is hardly your first Riesling port of call. In the best vintages it's also a worthy contender. This '15 is in a funny place though, with the first whispers of hay and straw bottle development creeping in already. Curious. It's otherwise juicy and primary as ever, if just a bit flat and gun-shy through the middle. Taut, precocious finish is on the money though and begs the score.   Juicy and primary as ever, hit definitely flatter and
more forward. Acid is typically precocious though and really lifts the score. Best drinking: 2018-. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $24. Would I buy it? A glass would be enough for now.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Eldridge new releases including 2014 Gamay

So the port over to Wordpress is taking a little longer than expected (I'm doing it myself and a developer I am not), so here is a little story about a great Mornington producer.

You always know when a wine is made in small quantities as there is no barcode in sight. That's certainly the case with David Lloyd's Eldridge Estate wines, most of which have packaging that hasn't changed in the last ten years.

That could be interpreted as a bad thing, but I can see that it's more a result of a producer who cares more about what's in the bottle than anything else (and I'm totally okay with that).

On a side topic, if you ever find yourself on the Mornington Peninsula do stop by the Eldridge Estate cellar door. It's small, often manned by David himself and has an excellent deck with a great view (that's the picture above). Well worth a visit. The clone work in the vineyard is very interesting too - doubly worth the drive.

The following wines have been tasted over the past night or so. Extra bits in italics...

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

I'm moving!!!

So I've decided to take the plunge and move this site over to Wordpress, largely because Blogger lacks the functionality I really want. Hopefully the transition will be a smooth one and all will be ok, however if feeds don't work, or things go awry I apologise. Hopefully should just be a short break in transmission!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

More pre-release 2014 Hunter Valley Shiraz and 2015 Semillon

I'm just cleaning up the Evernote folder today (love Evernote, helps keep my notes together on all devices) and discovered a few more tidbits from the big Hunter pre-release tasting back in May, plus a few other odds and ends tasted recently that I haven't published yet.

While this was a rather hurried tasting of some embryonic wines, the quality of the '14 reds were already on show. Conversely, the '15 vintage is trickier (especially for Semillon) which shows in the Sems.

A special shout-out from all this lot to the quality of the '14 Bimbadgen Shiraz. As a group, they stood out for their consistency and style. Worth hunting down.

Sadly I've only got basic notes on some of these wines as they were tasted without background info - just about what's in the glass. I've only scored the finished, bottled wines too (and wines tasted more recently as indicated).

Oh and the photo above is of the pre-release tasting. Stu Hordern (Brokenwood) is on the right in the very blue Brokenwood shirt, newly crowned winemaker of the year Mike De Iuliis in black shirt on the left.

Monday, 9 November 2015

A brand new iconic Barossa Shiraz has landed, this time from a quite different source

It's hard to avoid scepticism when a winery launches a brand new wine for $175. Really hard. The only producers who can get away with it probably already have even more expensive wines in their portfolio (like Penfolds). But when you're talking about a Riverina winery known for cheap and cheerful, that scepticism is unavoidable.

Suffice to say that my sceptometer was turned up to max strength today for the launch of the Calabria Family Wines The Iconic Grand Reserve Barossa Shiraz. While I respect Bill Calabria - who is a genuinely honest, no bullshit winemaker with a reputation for hard work and charity - and family, it really is a struggle to make the connection between honest, value-for-money wine and something called The Iconic Grand Reserve.

However, even I was surprised by how impressive this wine tasted. It might have been helped by the fact that Bill gave me half his lunch (he offered as wasn't hungry. I was starving), or the excellent stories that Bill comes out with. But neither of them can account for when you pick up a wine and are distracted by how well it tastes. I sat there at lunch, consuming an excellent steak (at Sydney's Bentley Restaurant & Bar) and tried to poke holes in the wine, convinced the superb food and banter was just a source of bias.

But the wine just didn't fall over. Sure it's a massive jump from the typically Calabria Wines range (which is satisfying and well priced, yet rarely hits high notes), but it didn't feel like your usual overoaked, overdone, sloppy attempt at a flagship.

Ultimately I can just dip my lid. The price is still crazy, the bottle huge, heavy and with a punt so large you could lose a hand in there. Yet the juice inside is well worth drinking...

Friday, 6 November 2015

Musing on Grenache + blends feat Head Wines, Chateau Tanunda and Cirillo

Is Grenache on the up?

Tony Keys wrote recently about this just recently, noting that Grenache and Grenache-based reds were enjoying increased popularity in the states. Is this the start of a Grenachaissance?

If it does, no doubt a few Barossa growers/winemakers will be happy, and so should they be - Australia has an amazing, unappreciated old vine Grenache resource, with the best wines about as close to Barossa (or McLaren Vale/the Clare Valley for that matter) Pinot as you'll get.

Sadly we've still got a way to go, as dry-grown, 100 year old Barossa Grenache fruit still sells for circa $900 a tonne and finds relatively few buyers. A long way to go.

Anyway, here are a few Grenache/blends that I've enjoyed in recent tastings. Extra background bits in italics.

The photo above is from the 1850 Cirillo Grenache vineyard - it really does look like a beach.

Three Dark Horses McLaren Vale Grenache 2013
Sourced from the 70 year Romano vineyard at Seaview in McLaren Vale. Wild yeast fermented with  25% whole bunches. Unfined and unfiltered.

Dark rub coloured, this has a dark berry, slightly candied red fruit nose. Carbonic red fruit juiciness but with a dash of whole bunch pepper and clove. Spicy, slightly bitter palate is a riot of purple and red fruits, the oak a distant last, meaty characters writ large. Really juicy cranberry style with soft tannins and a juiciness, layered with spice. Maybe a little simple, but genuinely tasty and has welcome spice. Best drinking: 2015-2023. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $24.

Wirra Wirra Original Blend 2014
Grenache from McLaren Flat and Shiraz from Seaview. 9 months in older oak.

Bright red ruby colour. Light red juicy red currant nose with minimal oak, lots of juicy red lolly fruit and a soft finish with minimal tannins. Easy and primary, a simple. solid light red. What's missing here is something to take it beyond simple fruit. Best drinking: 2015-2020. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $25.

Cirillo The Vincent Barossa Valley Grenache 2014
Sourced from several vineyards, all 70 years old or more. Produced in a combination of closed and open fermenters with a decent pre ferment maceration. A combination of barrel and tank maturation.

I'm biased as I was helping at Cirillo when this was bottled - hence I'm not going to score this. I really like this wine and Marco Cirillo takes Grenache very seriously and it shows. Genuinely Grenachey, this has lifted, sandy red fruit and raspberry jam, the gentle red fruit palate full of slurpable fruit and an out and out generous palate, a tight finish and some late raspberry fruit. Softly softly, gentle but it has concentration and a real vibrancy. Drink: 2015-2025+. 14%, $25.

Head Ancestor Vine Eden Valley Grenache 2014
Sourced from 155yr old vines at Springton in the Eden Valley. 30% whole bunches, fermented wild in an open wooden vat. 12 months in older oak.

Dark ruby, the nose is really closed and compact. Underneath the palate it tightly packed, an array of dense red fruits and just a little mint. Even with time in the glass this looks long but a little closed and lean, briary and tannic with fine sandy tannins. High quality wine, just desperate for time - the tannins notably good for thin-skinned Grenache, and length spot on. Best drinking: 2016-2030. 18.1/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $100.

Chateau Tanunda Everest Grenache 2012

From the Matchschoss vineyard at Greenock. Sees much more new oak than other wines here.

A very different beast in this lineup. Purple black, the nose is purple fruit, every bit the dark berry Greenock style, the palate with deep berry flavours and dominant chocolate oak. Big and bold, it's no Barossa Pinot, more like a Shiraz Grenache. But you can't help but marvel at the style - it's a rippling, muscular Grenache, with oak and fruit filling every pore. Definitely has a place and high quality, this will please the hedonists, even if I couldn't finish a bottle. Best drinking: 2015-2026. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $195.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Austins fascinating new sliding door Pinots

Now this is a fun concept.

Austins & Co. have decided to explore just how much impact the 'hand of man' can be, have by inviting two winemakers to do what they want with two identical parcels of Geelong Pinot Noir.

Here, Scott Ireland (winemaker at Austin's in Geelong) and Michael Kyberd (from Tucks Ridge and previously Red Hill Estate) were each given two tonnes of fruit from the Austin family's Moorabool Valley vineyard and given a brief to do what they wanted and make a wine their own way.

In other words, same grapes, different makers, two different wines.

Critically, the grapes were almost identical, with each winemaker given 1 tonne of MV6 clone Pinot Noir fruit and 1 tonne of D2V6 clone, all picked on the same day and delivered at the same time.

Where things diverge is the handling, with each winemaker taking a slightly different path (which does help to differentiate them) with their grapes.

Both of these wines still ended up at 13% alcohol, so no bizarre sweet styles, and both sell $50.

Austins & Co. Custom Collection 'Ireland' Pinot Noir 2012
30% whole bunches, 70% whole berries. Nine months in 30% new oak. Two clones matured separately and then spent 1 month in tank before bottling in 2013.

Juicy and cherry-fruited, this is much more lifted than the Kyberd. Dusty cherry, a little meaty hammy Geelong goodness, its initial juicier but there is that more savoury, slightly more dry edge to the tannins. It's perhaps a little more volatile but also carries more firmness. Delicious though. It's just a little brawny and beefy, but nice wine all the same. 18/20, 93/100

Austins & Co. Custom Collection 'Kyberd' Pinot Noir 2012
De stemmed but all whole berries. Pre ferment soak for 4 days. 33% new oak for one year.

In contrast this has less obvious fruit, more hammy complexity. It's definitely got more layers, though I think I like the tannins a little more on the Ireland. Again a dark cherry, slightly meaty style that straddles the edge of that bacony, Geelong Pinot style. This, for mine, just has the completeness of the two. A close run thing though. Both very good. 18.1/20, 93/100

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Does the wine industry alienate consumers with its language?

While I'm always sceptical when I read articles that attack the language of wine writing - particularly in the 'lifestyle' media - sometimes there is an element of truth in amongst the (typically lame) generalisations.

Today, it's an article in The Conversation (a publication I generally respect) that takes some lowbrow potshots, but also makes an important point - that perhaps the wine industry spends more time catering for the wine connoisseur and misses the mark (particularly with labelling) for the bulk of wine drinkers.

This section, in particular, is worth considering:

'Previous studies.. have suggested there are three to four types of wine consumer:

Connoisseurs or enthusiasts – those who know a lot about wine 

Enjoyment-based or casual wine consumers – those who enjoy quaffing their wine and are not too fussed on impressing anyone with it 

Risk averse or value seeking wine consumers – those who do not know a lot about wine and look for special offers 

Image conscious or aspirational wine consumers – those who are not experts in wine and are insecure about their lack of knowledge.

While there is limited evidence on the proportions of the population that make up each of the above groups, the limited evidence available suggests that fewer than one in five wine drinkers are connoisseurs. It is clear that most wine drinkers are not particularly sophisticated, suggesting that overly complex wine labels are irrelevant to most of the market'

Are they really irrelevant, or do some of those aspirational and casual wine consumers actually appreciate that there may be more than just a tasty drink in that wine bottle?

I'll be the first to admit that the language of wine can be awfully exclusive at times, with elements like phenolics, reduction or extraction almost like a foreign language for anyone new to wine. But surely we need such phrases to explain what is such a complex beverage? Surely that is the whole point about getting into such specifics - that it breaks down the technicalities into something consumable.

I'm interested to hear what other people think though - is wine language so esoteric that it alienates most wine consumers, or is that just a simplistic view?

Monday, 2 November 2015

A stunning Burgundy from Jean-Marc Pillot

Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet Les Champs-Gain 2013
I'm a sucker for white Burgundy. I really am. When it's good, it is the best wine in the world. Or at least the wine I want to drink the most of (along with its Chablis brethren). If only they were more reliable...

Anyway, this Jean-Marc Pillot is just delicious. Embryonic and almost aggressively acidic (thanks 2013) but so bloody refreshing because of it. Like fizz refreshment. Then you get all the lemon curd, white peach and vanilla bean of Chardonnay fruit, bounding off that nervy, grapefruit acidity? Wow. It bristles with power and acid, long and tantalising with a fight between deliciousness and rawness, all at once.

I'd easily pay the $150+ asking price for this. Best drinking: 2016-2025?. 18.7/20, 95/100+. Would I buy it? Please buy some for me.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Jim Barry The Armagh vertical - An evolution in Shiraz styles 1985 -2015

In cycling, they call an individual time trial (ITT) the 'race of truth'.

It's a great description because in an ITT you have nowhere to hide. No teammates to take the brunt of the wind. No team car to draft behind if you crash. Just you, and your ability to ride through the pain against the clock.

That idea carries over to the vinous world too, as I think a thirty-year vertical be a wine's race of truth. Sure, a producer can decide to show only the good years, but if the full vertical is cracked there is similarly nowhere to hide. No way to take back the overoaked vintages. No chance to forget that winemaker who decided that if a little Viognier was good then a lot of Viognier must be better.

Wines, in that way, are also like photographs - time capsules of a moment and a season, never to be identically replicated, forever beautifully flawed.

A few weeks back it was Jim Barry Wines opening up their own picture book of wine history, via a thirty-year vertical tasting of their renowned 'The Armagh' Shiraz at the winery.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

De Iuliis 2014 Shiraz range - more Hunter lovin'

Another day, another lineup of great 2014 Hunter Shiraz. It's becoming a bit of a theme (you can start here, then here, then here), and I'm not complaining. Go on, go buy some.

Today's lineup is proudly brought to you by Mike de Iuliis, the man with the most vowels in the wine industry (sorry, old joke). I think these 2014 Shiraz are his best work to date, with a vibrancy and berry freshness without losing concentration, making for some very satisfying, classic wines.

Nice work.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The pointy end of Australian Chardonnay feat. Shaw & Smith M3, Castelli Il Liris, Willow Creek, Bay of Fires + more

Hot on the heels of my ranty response to a rant on Australian Chardonnay styles, and Jancis' very complementary piece on modern Australian Chardonnay, let me present to you a collection of what I'd call a representative selection of 'Aussie Chardy'.

And gee it's a good-looking bunch of wines.

For this lineup, I pulled from the sample pile a few likely wines from all over the country. The intention was for it to be representative of the modern style first and foremost, with the odd standard bearer for good measure.

I tasted most of these together, with the Castelli tasted in a separate lineup on Friday along with the Leeuwin (which I retasted again from a different bottle to see if it looked better).

As a group, I'd call this one of the more enjoyable lineups around - so many genuinely drinkable wines. I had in the back of my mind the rant that started this discussion and thus had the 'struck match'/reductive and lean radar switched on. I didn't find any of these wines (expect maybe the Grace Farm) fell into that category at all, though the odd sulphide funk was apparent. Perhaps that is a subjective, Australia-centric viewpoint though? I'll leave that for you to decide.

Regardless, I enjoyed this lot...

Sunday, 25 October 2015

More 2014 Hunter Shiraz (and other goodies) from Gundog Estate

A great small cellar door (with decent beer), distinct branding and interesting wines - Gundog Estate are on a roll.

Winemaker Matt Burton has a bit of a bi-regional focus with this label, the wines sourced from both the Hunter Valley and Canberra. Matt also has another brand called Burton McMahon from the Yarra (made with Dylan McMahon) that is pretty handy too (particularly the Chardonnay).

The Gundog core though is Shiraz and Semillon, with the range of both varieites expanding quite a bit over the last few years to include more from both the Hunter and Canberra. Plenty of winemaking tinkering too, with more whole bunch inclusions for the reds and some clear tweaks with the Wild Semillon

Onwards and upwards.

I've reviewed several different wines in this post, some from a pre-release tasting in the Hunter several months ago and a few more from a tasting this week. The pre-release bottles were labelled and finished but I've got scant information on where they sit price-wise, just a very quick tasting impression.

Tasted Monday 20th October

Gundog Estate Rare Game Hunter Valley Shiraz 2014
Ruby red with a little purple, there's a quite old school Hunter earth to this, but tempered with purple fruit. Old and new. It's still a modern purple fruit wine, but with a savoury and quite grippy core and acidity that tastes, well, not like it has come from a bag. You could probably pass over this at first without realising its glory. But the closer you look, the more this looks like a real classic red for the long term. Drink 2016-2035. 18.5/20+, 94/100. 13.5%, $50. Would I buy it? Absolutely.

Gundog Estate Canberra Shiraz 2014
From the Dahlberg vineyard in Murrumbateman. 30% new French puncheons for 12 months. Deep red. Spicy but also very ripe, almost to the point where it's too ripe, the dark red fruit quite dense and even a bit jammy and squat with a flick of pepper. Big and dark flavours, it's perhaps a little warm but has flavour and flair, if a little warm to be great. Drink: 2016-2030. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5% $40. Would I buy it? I'd prefer the Hunter reds.

Gundog Estate Marksman's Canberra Shiraz 2014
Also from the Dahlberg vineyard. Spends 15 months in oak. 2% Viognier and 20% whole bunches. Noticeably more oak touched than the standard Shiraz, but deeper and riper too. Black pepper, tobacco and red meets black berry. I like the extra concentration here, but the alcohol is again distracting. Quality, but going to need some space and time to come together. Drink: 2016-2030+. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $60. Would I buy it? A glass or two.

Tasted 29th May. I've got less info on these but woah such quality! Standout wines.

Gundog Estate Wild Semillon 2015
Admittedly I saw this when it was just bottled and it looked a bit weird - I'll retaste in time. Full of tropicals. Passionfruit ahoy! Generous and full, yeasty and quite round/slightly sweaty. I can't get past the passionfruit though! Ugh. Definitely a retaste required. Drink: 2016?. 16.5/20, 88/100. Would I buy it? Not yet.

Gundog Estate Old Road Shiraz 2014
I don't know the story of this wine but gee I like. Purple fruit and earth. Loads of earth. Great tannins. Rhone meets the purple juice of Hunter - definitely some whole bunch spiciness here and it shows. Really meaty and even a little wild, this is excellent, earthy, exciting wine in very much an old school earthy style with a twist. 18.7/20, 95/100

Gundog Estate The '48 Block Shiraz 2014
Again scant details, but this looked that little bit more classical after the raucous spice of the Old Road. Of all the wines this looked perhaps the most oak drawn for now, but gee there is presence underneath. Vibrant fruit a joy, if in very much an old school style. Length is superior though - it really sneaks up on you. High, high quality. Needs time though. 18.5/20, 94/100+

Gundog Estate Somerset Vineyard 2014
Just a little lesser than the other Gundog reds but only just. If anything, this looks a little plump but with a viscosity too. Still all arms and legs, if with potential to come. 18/20, 93/100+

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Seppelt Great Western to close by mid 2016 with vineyards sold

Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) have announced today that, as part of some 'supply chain optimisation' moves, that it will be closing the Seppelt Great Western cellar door plus selling off vineyards in Great Western and the Yarra.

The move is expected to be finalised by July 2016, with the Great Western site considered for sale once operations have ceased. Seppelt, the brand, will be kept by TWE.

You can find the full press release here, though details are reasonably scant.

It's certainly sad news for Seppelt and the town of Great Western, with the only hope being that a willing buyer of the historic site is found. Fingers crossed.

You'd have to guess that the production of this wine will be transferred back to the Wolf Blass super facility in the Barossa, to fit in with most of the rest of the TWE wines now made at that site (including other brands where the winery has been closed/scaled back like Annie's Lane and Wynns).

Sad indeed, and not helped by being simply termed as 'supply chain optimisations'. Spin at its worst...