Thursday, 23 October 2014

Seppeltsfield Barossa Shiraz 2012

Seppeltsfield Barossa Shiraz 2012 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $30

There's a softness to this Shiraz that is instantly appealing - a nod to the open fermented, gently pressed (and pressed off skins before dryness) rich style that the Barossa can do so well (and particularly the western Barossa).

The only challenge is such a style tends to just soften further in the cellar rather than actually improve. Still, the plum fruits, well integrated oak and late sweetness makes this mighty commercially attractive.

You just know this is going to be popular. The gripe is that is quite simple, juicy wine and a fraction light on the tannins for higher points.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2019
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Not quite. But would recommend.
Buy online: Seppeltsfield website

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Lethbridge Indra Shiraz 2012

Lethbridge Indra Shiraz 2012 (Geelong, Vic)
14%, Screwcap, $95

I'll never grow tired of the little thought piece on the front of the Lethbridge labels. The font is small, which may put off some with average eyesight (my eyes are slightly crap. Not bad enough to wear glasses all the time crap. Just slightly crap) but the words are typically thoughtful. I like.

Anyway, according to the label 2012 was 'a delight' in Geelong. I remember chatting to someone from southern Vic soon after the 2012 vintage was finished (it could have been Rory 'The Story' Lane) and the excitement was palpable. The only challenge was that yields were down a bit. Indeed there was just 2 barrels of this made from 2 acres.

From the get-go this is exciting wine. Blind you'd be forgiven for calling this a very good warm year Cornas (but I hate those old world comparisons. This is just really good spicy Geelong Shiraz) compared to the Cote Rotie style of 2010. Indeed this smells of mulberries, dry twigs, smoked meat and a deep thickness. It's a little volatile this year, but that can't hide a dry, long and extract driven wine of liquered red fruits, ham and drying tannins. It's just a little warm through the finish, but no doubting the Cornas like beef and black pepper spicy richness, fanning out nicely.

Another excellent instalment in the Indra line, perhaps a fraction warmer and less fragrant than the 2010 yet still has that 'specialness' and intensity of flavour that signals the absolute stand-out quality.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2022
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? It's expensive which means I may not buy it - but I'd drink it in a flash.
Buy online: Lethbridge website

Terre à Terre Down to Earth Cabernets Shiraz 2013

Terre à Terre Down to Earth Cabernets Shiraz 2013 (Wrattonbully, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $26

This is the entry level label for Terre à Terre, still sourced from Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser's close planted Wrattonbully vineyard. Intended to be more 'new world' in style, yet still very much a structured beast.

A blend of hand picked Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) Shiraz (28%) and Franc (17%) matured in old oak barriques and a 4000L foudre.

The only challenge here is that its too young. There is red, ironstone earth and a slightly baked red fruit character (very warm vintage) but otherwise this gives away little. Nice gravelly tannins and the length is good, but otherwise a little raw and lacking in the fruit joy that the price point demands.

Drink next year.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2015-2020+
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100+
Would I buy it? Not yet.
Buy online:

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A blind lineup of top 2012 McLaren Vale Shiraz (with an interloper)

A blind lineup of top 2012 McLaren Vale Shiraz (with an interloper)

While blind tastings are nothing new here at ozwinereview HQ, it's rare to have as narrow a focus as this.

Naturally, given the strength of the 2012 vintage in the Vale, I had high hopes - and this lineup largely delivered (much like these Scarce Earth wines did)

Oh and I slipped the Old Faithful in for good measure, largely as it fits the 'premium Vale Shiraz' brief. Didn't look out of place either.

All these wines were thus tasted single blind (I knew what was here but not the order) and over a good 12 hours. Extra thoughts and background information in italics.

Chapel Hill The Vicar Shiraz 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Sourced from the Inkwell Vineyard Block 1 + 2 plus the Road Block. Definitely a more approachable wine than previous Vicars (less oak too) but I prefer the exceptional Chapel House Block Shiraz which is line priced with this. 14.5% $65
Purple red colour. Soapy nose - fresh picked plum. A fruit driven, juicy, light to medium bodied style. Restrained oak and plenty of bright fruit, if a little light on. There is an initial attack of fruit but after that it just seems to peeter out. Waiting for the penny to drop here - it just doesn't. Swish but not the drive to finish things off, but the spit and polish of clever winemaking bumps the score up considerably. 17.7/20, 92/100

Inkwell I & I Shiraz 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Unusual in Vale terms as it is wild fermented (which is the regional exception). Produced from all four Inkwell blocks, this is an absolute bargain. 14.5% TA 6.1, pH 3.68. $30.
Thick, fruit cake ripeness to kick off, luscious red fruit ripple palate with good concentration and a mid weight balance. Definitely a more energetic style of Vale Shiraz (and tastes warmer than many in this lineup), if not quite a heavyweight in terms of extract. Lovely style though - feels really unforced and pure, the withering blackness keeps on and on. It's bold and fruitcakey to start but that finish and length keeps on and on. Top shelf. 18.5/20, 94/100

Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
This is an exceptional wine and the only one in the lineup that I picked from the outset. Polished, archetypal Vale red - I want some. 14.5%, $70
A very thick, complete nose - the quintessential package. The palate shows concentrated black fruits, carefully balanced oak (no obvious sweetness) and a lovely late lilt of flavour black jelly bean flavour and mouth closing tannins. Classy wine, with a superb, licoricey intensity. Drink this from 3 years. Excellent balance - real top tier Vale red. Score will go up as it integrates - seriously fine. RSW? 18.7/20, 95/100

The Old Faithful 'Top of the Hill' Shiraz 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
The only wine in this lineup sealed in cork. From an old block north of the Onkaparinga river. All French oak maturation. Doesn't look like a 2010, although in retrospect it's more forward and open than the 12s. pH 3.6. TA 6.2. 14.5%  $50.
Fig jam ripeness and a real lifted boysenberry nose - a big, ripe and open number. Thick, black fruited palate tending towards dried fruit, yet inescapable fruit concentration. Old school, thick grained oak tannins are a distraction. Still power is impressive. 18/20, 93/100

Coriole Shiraz 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Estate grown and in a good place. Buy with confidence (and well priced). 14% $30
Ultra rich and luscious red fruit style oozing red fruit prettiness. Quite old school in its sweet vanilla oak actually, condensed fruit concentration and a slight jammy edge to the finish. I love that red fruitiness, the choc milkshake oak the only distraction. Maybe a little simple? Delicious wine though. 17.9/20, 93/100

Battle of Bosworth Shiraz 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Nice wine but outgunned in this lineup. Probably look really good by itself. 14.5%, $25
Slightly more forward nose. Quite a pretty, raspberry fruited red finishing quite light and gentle. Perhaps a fraction skinny to finish but 100% McLaren Vale Shiraz in all its glory. Genuinely affable. 17.5/20, 91/100

Friday, 17 October 2014

The latest intriguing red from Between Five Bells

Between Five Bells Red 2013 (Geelong, Vic)
14.5%, Cork, $32

The Between Five Bells label is the only wine label that I've ever got lost in.

Like a Where's Wally of the wine world, nothing quite beats the intriguing infographic labels of Between Five Bells (B5B), which cover off leagues of production and wine information utilising graphics alone.

Beyond just data and cool labels, what makes this wine - and indeed everything from B5B - interesting is just how much experimentation goes into every bottle.

This 2013 red blend, for instance, is a mix of Shiraz with a little Sangiovese plus hatfuls of Negroamaro and Nero d'Avola. But it's not any old Shiraz blend - just have a read of this excerpt from the winemaking notes '...we filled a small steel tank with skins of other ferments, (Negro/Nero, some other stuff), and added one-third whole bunch Shiraz from the Mt Duneed B5B vineyard, (2.2ha). We topped the other two-thirds with the remaining de-stemmed Shiraz'.

Having spent numerous nights drinking with B5B chief David Fesq I can totally understand the reason his wines are so unconventional - a man not afraid to question the orthodoxy. Importantly, the B5B wines have a drinkability about them that belie the natural-leaning, 'alternative' production - and this 2013 Red is the best example yet.

Despite being Shiraz dominant, the whole fruit salad of red grapes in this is evident from nose alone, with balsamic, tea leaves and golden syrup. There's a blackness this year not seen in other B5B reds, the dominance of black pepper and luncheon meat Geelong Shiraz character defining this nicely.

It finishes perhaps a little warm and sweet fruited, but also quite complex and alive - no fiddling here with acid or tannin additions, just grape juice fermented in old puncheons.

Admittedly David is a mate, so there may well be bias about the quality in the bottle. Friend or not, I can't help but enjoy the provocative nature of this minimally handled, yet still conventionally juicy, 'Geelong-Shiraz-goes-to-southern-Italy' style.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2019 (it will probably drink for longer than that but it seems at its best sooner rather than later.
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? If I spotted this on a wine list I'd give it a whirl for sure.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Soumah Single Vineyard Pinot 2013

Soumah Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13.3%, Screwap, $30

This comes from Soumah's more premium range, although the prices aren't all that premium in Yarra terms. Great packaging too - cool 'duck egg' blue.

Sourced from the Butchers Block with three clones of Pinot. Just 809 dozen made, 30% new oak, 7 day cold soak. pH 3.65 TA 6.

Like many 2013 Yarra Pinots this is a much darker wine than the norm, especially for Soumah. It works here though, giving this an extra oomph of black/red berry fruits. The palate is rather dry and extractive, the red fruits struggling to escape from the alcohol and drying tannins a fraction, with a sweet and sour finish.

For all that burliness this has some impressive power and so much potential and I really like the dry, twiggy tannins. Will probably look great in another 12 months time.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2015-2019
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Not quite yet. In another year? More likely.
Buy online: Soumah website

Eldridge Estate Pinot Noir 2010

Eldridge Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap, $50

This was a gift from David Eldridge, Eldridge winemaker, on a recent visit to the Peninsula. It felt really very young (which surprised me greatly).
Rather full and plump for a Eldridge Pinot this feels infantile and full, the palate driven by powerful cherry fruit and loads of acid. A big and bold Mornington Pinot built more for the future.

Source: Gift
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2015-2020+
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100+
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle. Would need a few years in the cellar to drink now.
Buy online: Eldridge Estate website

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Label to watch: Ministry of Clouds

Label to watch: Ministry of Clouds

There are some wine producers who just 'get it' - producers who, quite simply, make great wines that have great commerical appeal.

Julian Forwood and Bernice Ong clearly get it.

Given their backgrounds, I'm not surprised that this McLaren Vale 'power couple' have it nailed. Julian was Sales Manager at the ever-clever Wirra Wirra for the best part of 9 years, and Bernice was the long time Sales and Manager at Woodstock (with a further decade before that selling wine for all manner of companies).

When they dropped into the Graham tasting facility a few weeks back, however, I didn't know much at all about them (I didn't do my homework, clearly).

What convinced me was not only the quality of their Ministry of Clouds wines, but the honesty of what they were presenting. For instance, they pulled one of the Shiraz as it didn't look right. Next came this quote from Julian, which he was almost apologetic about: 'we find the wines we love and then find where the fruit comes from. If we can't find the fruit we go and ask the neighbours'. 

They're small details but important, particularly when it comes to virtual wineries (who can be less than honest about fruit sources and production).

You can see such honesty in the styles too - they're aspirational wines, no doubt about it, yet the intensity and depth suggests minimal compromises.

Speaking of styles, like many virtual wineries Ministry of Clouds sells wine from multiple different regions. The focus is McLaren Vale, but as you can see below they source grapes from some well-known growers all over the countryside. Much of the wine is made at Tim Geddes winery in McLaren Vale (where Julian and Bernice swap labour for fermenter space) but some wine is processed elsewhere (such as the Chardonnay which is crushed and fermented at Bay of Fires).

The pair talk of a Ministry of Clouds cellar door and a vineyard purchase on the horizon, but there's no hurry given the initial quality from what is a very young label.

Much promise here...

Ministry of Clouds Riesling 2014 (Clare Valley, SA) 12.3%
From the Penwortham Hills above the Clare Valley plus some Watervale fruit. Made at Crabtree.
Bright and quite piercing aromatics - there's a Polish Hilll esque musk grapefruit nose that is piercing and intense, if deliciously floral. Rapacious acid even. Palate is long, angular and super dry, the acid cutting into your tongue but also backed by serious fruit power. The acid is just a fraction bracing, but no doubting the length or penetration. Top shelf quality. 18/20, 93/100

Ministry of Clouds Chardonnay 2013 (Tasmania) 12.9% $48
Tasmania. A combination of Panorama and Meadowbank fruit. Whole bunch pressed to barrel and fermented wild. Made at Bay of Fires and then transported back to the mainland in bladder.
Quite a delicate touch here. Lemon and oats with citrus and hay. It's a little indistinct which is surprising considering the low alcohol but still a delicate and refreshing style. 17.5/20, 91/100

Ministry of Clouds Grenache 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA) 14.5% $38
From a 66yo single vineyard at McLaren Flat. Handpicked, whole berries and 4 day cold soak. 
What an advertisement for Grenache! Jumps right out of the glass at you - all ripe red fruit with some carbonic tutti fruit. Light colours and an utterly juicy, red fruited Grenache style but punctuated by light sandy tannins and a little alcohol warmth. Mighty persistent red fruits to finish - that finish goes on and on, delivering real prettiness. Delicious style. 18.1/20, 93/100

Ministry of Clouds Mataro 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA) 14% $38
Cold soak, 11 months in old oak.
Looks like plenty of whole berries in here. Has a real lift not often seen in Mataro. Meaty core. I love the prettiness even though this isn't classically varietal - a bit too opulent for that. Attractive wine though. 17.7/20, 92/100

Ministry of Clouds Single Vineyard Blewitt Springs Shiraz 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA) 14.5% $58
Sourced from the Patritti family's renowned vineyard at Blewitt Springs. Mainly old oak. 
Deep purple black colour. Has that classic prosciutto edge of Blewitt Springs over a palate of black fruit and with a darker fruit finish. Real grip and persistence, there's a heroic firmness through the finish without oak. Like this. It feels withered and dark and wise. Delicious stuff. 18.5/20, 94/100

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Rochford Isabella's Vineyard Chardonnay 2012

Rochford Isabella's Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13.3%, Screwcap, $56

The older brother to the 'standard' Yarra Valley Chardonnay and in fine form. I'm on a real Chardonnay roll here at Graham HQ this past week and there have been relatively few disappointments. Premium Aussie Chardonnay in a good place.

Not a hair out of place here either. Nougat and melon, the oak and lees well integrated. It looks just a little ripe and broad through the middle, but the flavours are juicy and full and inviting and it finishes tightly. I like the contrast between peachy fruit and proper acidity. Nice contrast to the more oak tinged power of the Tapanappa too. I like both.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Half a bottle of this (at least) would disappear in no time.
Buy online: Rochford Wines

Classy Chardonnay from Tapanappa

Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $39

While some of the 2013 Adelaide Hills whites look just a little forward and flat, this Chardonnay seriously shines.

Much of that comes down to site - the Croser family's Tiers vineyard, planted to Chardonnay in 1979, has that resilience of old vineyards planted in the right place. Indeed I was there during the dry 2013 summer and the Tiers vines looked rudely healthy, even despite what was one of the warmest growing seasons on record (1317 degree days in 2013 vs the average of 1172).

Couple that perfect site with clever winemaking (I'd expect no less from Brian Croser and team) and it's of little wonder that this impresses.

The only sign of that growing season warmth I can see is a little heat on the back palate. Otherwise this is cast in a classic Tapa mode - fine grained vanilla bean oak, chewy acid and dry extract, the fruits largely in the white peach and white nectarine spectrum.

Super long for a $39 wine, the oak obvious but integrated with the whole package. A full tilt Chardonnay, no doubts about it, with everything as it should be.

Classy wine indeed.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2015
Drink: 2014-2020
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Absolutely.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Rochford Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2012

Rochford Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2012 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13.2%, $30

Fairly priced and easily recommended. Enjoyed this.

Hand picked, single vineyard Chardonnay from the Briarty Block. Wild ferment on full solids; 12 months on lees in oak then 6 in tank.

A1 production.

It looks backward too, with plenty of green. Bubblegum solids, white peach and a little hay oak on the nose, over a layered palate with lemony fruit, a flash of leesy fullness before a citrus finish. Balances oak/yeast and fruit nicely - good stuff.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2019
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink half a bottle of this at least.
Buy online: Rochford Wines website

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Silent Way Chardonnay 2013

Silent Way Chardonnay 2013 (Macedon, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $35

I'm not sure if it is Matt Harrop and his partner Tamara doing a nude walk on the front of the Silent Way website, but I like it nonetheless. Wine tastes better when in your birthday suit.

This Chardonnay comes from the western facing slopes of Mount Macedon at 575m altitude. Hand picked and whole bunch pressed, fermented wild in old oak and bottled without fining or filtration.

For all that hands-off winemaking this looks awfully delicate and pure, with melon and peach and a nose largely untouched by oak. It's perhaps a little lean for the moment, but that purity and freshness is excellent - it's almost a Pinot Gris like Chardonnay, such is the careful balance between peach skin, slightly phenolic flavour and acidity.

I shared this with a few friends who would never consider themselves Chardonnay fans and this went down very well. I like it too - a really vital wine.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2019
Score: 18/20, 93/100+
Would I buy it? Yes. Really enjoyed this.
Buy online: Silent Way website

Wirra Wirra the 12th Man Chardonnay 2013

Wirra Wirra the 12th Man Chardonnay 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $31.50

I think I've caught this too early - it just didn't seem together quite yet. Not like the 2012 at least. A precise wine still mind you.

This dances on the edge of ripeness - mainly grapefruit with just a dash of vanilla bean hessian oak. Palate is quite fruity given the nose, all peach and a little tropical fruits, the finish quite firmly acidic too.

Lacks the balance this year, though will get better - you get the impression that the acid and fruit ripeness just doesn't match, the product of a warm season.


Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2015-2018
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100+
Would I buy it? Not yet. That score will probably look mighty stingy in time.
Buy online: My Cellars, Cracka Wines

Patina Riesling 2013

Patina Riesling 2013 (Orange, NSW)
11.2%, Screwcap, $25

Acid hounds rejoice! This grapefruit juice driven style has loads of natural acid. Boatloads. even.

Delicate fruit, a twinkle of honeysuckle and smelling quite pretty, this is bright and youthful but gee it's dry. I'd like to see this as an older wine - awfully linear - but little joy right now, it just feels unripe.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2016-2026
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Patina website

Steels Gate Pinot Noir 2013

Steels Gate Pinot Noir 2013 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap

While there is some excitement about the 2013 vintage in the Yarra I'm yet to be convinced by the consistency - some good wines, sure, but that warmth has produced largesse without the usual delicacy.

This Pinot is a good case in point. The early Steels Gate wines have all been impressive (a label to watch), yet this just seems a bit big. Dark red colours (rather than the ruby of last year); ripe, rippling lush red fruit and some of the bacon bit and rare roast beef ripeness seen in Pinot from much warmer sites, complete with a little alcohol burn.

This is still a good Pinot, yet this is just not in the same league as the pretty 2012. Drink soonish.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? Not quite.
Buy online: Steels Gate website 

Tscharke Matching Socks Touriga Nacional 2013

Tscharke Matching Socks Touriga Nacional 2013 (Marananga, Barossa, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $25

Barossan Touriga is exciting. There isn't much planted, and it's largely used as a blending grape (St Hallett take quite a bit for their GST) but the Barossa seems a good place for it. This Tscharke only reinforces that.

Wonderful Touriga purple black colour - distinctive and inky. It smells curranty, plummy, and much riper than 12.5% alcohol. Tastes it too, with that tarry textural thickness that only comes from ripe grapes, finishing with a light, ironstone tannic grip.

Mid weight but excellent intensity, this is perhaps a little raisined (which is again odd given the alcohol) but great intensity.

So much promise here. Touriga!

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2022
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink two glasses.
Buy online: Tscharke website

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A mixed bag from Antinori

A mixed bag from Antinori

I've always thought of Antinori as being a little like Penfolds - ubiquitous in the local market (for Antinori that is Italy) and with a reputation for quality, if not always that much excitement, and both rooted in old world wine tradition (Antinori in Tuscany, Penfolds in Magill/Barossa).

Where Antinori and Penfolds split, however, is that the former is a network of individual wineries linked under common family rule, while the latter is one publically listed winery (or part of a publically listed wine business) drawing from vineyards all over the countryside.

In turn, while there is varied personalities (and vintage variation) within Antinori's different sites, there is homogeneity within Penfolds (for good or bad).

As a result I went into this Antinori masterclass looking for a little character, acknowledging that 'big company' constrictions might mean quite conventional wines, but also with a little personality.

To be honest, I was quite disappointed.

Not for a lack of character - there was plenty of that - but just some clumsy winemaking. Clumsy winemaking, at prices where clumsy winemaking is just not good enough. Obviously our draconian Australian wine taxation doesn't help those prices (40% tax is just the start), yet still these looked rather plain given the dollars.

In the same breath, that 2010 Solaia is a stunning wine, and this lineup included some average vintages (which didn't help anyone). Still, I was expecting more and indeed a cursory glance at a few Prunotto Barbaresco on the way out didn't help either (the '11 was particularly thin given the vintage acclaim).

Anyway, if there was one bright spot about this tasting it was Jacopo Pandolfini from Antinori, who (replete in coloured Italian jeans) threw out so many funny quotes that I couldn't keep up. Kicking off with this:

'The first thing we do is sell the wine in the area around the winery, then Italy, then we export. If you find a restaurant without our wines maybe they haven't paid the bill, or they hate us'.

Or this pearler:

'This year we had lots of rain in July and August and just last week some hail. I'm sure that in three years I'll still be coming out here and telling you it's great'

But back to the wines - these notes were written at speed, with a lingering smell of paint in the background. Extra bits and Jacopo quotes in italics. Prices are RRP in $AUD.

Castello Della Sala Bramito del Cervo Chardonnay IGT 2013 $35
'Traditionally Tuscany does not produce good white wines. That's why we go next door to Umbria. Umbria produces easy drinking white wines with very interesting texture. In our area we have no fish - they all have four legs, so we drink reds!' Used french oak. Partial malo. Some wine finished in barrel, the rest in tank.
Banana ferment notes still hanging around, this has a spiciness, though not quite from oak alone over a quite conventional, light if slightly spiky finish. Pleasant and texturally fresh, but unremarkable lightly oaked Chardonnay. 16.8/20, 89/100

Castello Della Sala Cervaro Della Salla IGT 2011 $75
90% Chardonnay, 10% Grechetto. Barrel fermented and spent 6 months in new French oak. Grechetto fermented in steel. Full malo.
Banana and melon. Cashew oak a big part of this wine, oak to finish. Just a bit stodgy and full through the middle but has persistence and length. 17.5/20, 91/100

Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 2008 $70
100% Sangiovese. 14 months in Hungarian and French oak.
Rustic and mulchy mature black olive Sangio style. There's a rusticity to the palate too, warm and sweet and sour, the furry tannins not tamed by barrel. Quite advanced. Archetypal rustic Sangio style and tannins (and alcohol) to burn, with serious extraction. Rough edged and awkward finish. A Sangiovese attack. 16.8/20, 89/100

Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2009 $80
Matured in largely old oak for two years. 100% Sangiovese.
Another meaty and old fashioned style (from a very ordinary vintage). Gruff tannins, but rescued by a degree of sophistication and some cherry fruit. The tannins are less raw and more fine and sophisticated here compared to the Chianti - it feels a more noble wine. The edges are rough, but the heart is classical. 17.5/20, 91/100+

Tignanello Toscana IGT 2011 $123
'IGT just means freestyle'. 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cab Franc. Challenging vintage with heatwave conditions after a very cool start. 12-14 months in barrel.
Rather pretty red colour. The oak sticks out here but the beauty of the flavour is distinctive. Really quite vibrant and pretty, the wine building through the gruff and meaty finish. Surprisingly gentle and gentil tannins for Tig. What a departure in style though - the oak throttled back, replaced with a hint of leaf and a prettiness. Perhaps not the longest living Tignanello but I didn't mind this. 18/20, 93/100+

Tenuta Guado Al Tasso 2005 Bolgheri DOC $120
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot. 5% Syah. 'Planted on the Pian rather than the hill, due to the amphitheatre shape of the hills creates a little microclimate'. A challenging vintage with consistent growing season rain. 18 months in new barriques.
Dense and much more new world, this feels like a Bolgheri red. That black, leafy pepper suggests syrah and the tannins are just a bit green. Quite complex now, though would have been an oaky beast once. Gruff and grumpy but has some real penetration through the finish. A blanching, drying finish at that with just an edge of greenness. Still feels substantial. 17.7/20, 92/100

Solaia Toscana IGT 2010 $350
Drawn from the upper part of the Tignanello vineyard. 'Place that catches the sun'. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Franc. Matured in new french and Hungarian barriques for 16-18 months.
A very different wine. There's the spit and polish of new oak and a black long heartiness in there too. Long and almost smoky with some drying black tannins. Really classy and firm. Penfolds meets Italian Cabernet and Sangio. Pretty damn good, if rather new world in its oak plumpness. The tannin length is utterly impressive though - a stark reminder of the best of what this site can do. Oh and I wish they'd change the label, it just looks cheap (compared to the Tignanello) for what is a superior wine. 18.7/20, 95/100

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Two superstar Priorat from Terroir Al Limit

Two superstar Priorat from Terroir Al Limit

They really don't get much coverage here in Australia, but for my money the stunning Carignan and Grenache (or Carinena and Garnacha) based reds of Priorat are right up there amongst the great wines of the world. What's more, the wines of Terroir Al Limit rate amongst the finest examples out there.

Undoubtedly what makes the wines of Terroir Al Limit special is the Priorat terroir. Think gnarled old bush vines; steep slopes at some altitude; minimal topsoil over low nutrient licorella slate/quartz; hot summers and cold winters.

Tough conditions, and genuinely terroir at the limit

Intriguingly, Terroir Al Limit was set up by outsiders, started by the famed South African dynamo Ebin Sabie and young German Dominik Huber, working alongside Spanish grower and co-owner Jaume Sabate.

The winemaking is real nouveau revivalist stuff too - concrete tanks (rather than barriques); biodynamic grapegrowing; mules in the vineyard and minimal filtrations or additions.

Little wonder that these wines get such ridiculously high scores. They're seriously big wines too. Big...

The real challenge with Terroir Al Limit though - and indeed the best from Priorat - is the price. Both of these reds sell for upwards of AUD $140 (over double that for the Les Manyes) if indeed you can get your hands on any. When compared with the best Chateauneuf - where these wines are naturally aligned - that's not ridiculous dollars. Still, it's a barrier to entry.

When the wines are this good though, does it really matter?

Terroir Al Limit Dits Del Tierra 2010
100% Carignan from three south facing sites, average age 80 yrs old. Some whole bunch and whole berry. Aged in a single 1800 litre French oak cask. No additions bar a little sulphur at bottling. RRP circa $180
Wow. There's a little of the roasted slope of dried fruit here, but also herbs and very fine, sandpaper dry tannins and an extra richness through the finish. That spicy red fruit, cut with licorice and explosive blackcurrants, is ridiculously intense, the sense of finesse quite palpable even despite sky high alcohol (I'm guessing 15% though I didn't see the bottle). Special. Special if just judged on depth and intensity alone. Swoon. 19/20, 96/100

Terroir Al Limit Les Manyes 2010 
Situated at 800m, the 1.4ha 50+ year old plot used for this wine is the highest vineyard in Priorat. Almost totally Garnacha. This vineyard has more limestone and clay than the usual licorella soils. RRP circa $460
While this is the more celebrated wine (especially given the price), it was just shaded on the day by the pure Carignan. Still, wildly aromatic, bitter and super long this is an immense Grenache with both high toned fruit and serious weight. A little drying and warm perhaps, but that middle has bittersweet curranty flavours that are quite addictive. Superstar, gob-smacking power through the finish. Individual. Large, yet not fat, just seriously warm and intense. Supreme. 18.7/20, 95/100

McGuigan The Shortlist Eden Riesling 2013

McGuigan The Shortlist Eden Riesling 2013 (Eden Valley, SA)
11.5%, Screwcap, $28.99

After getting enthusiastic about a big company wine earlier today, sadly this wine brings things back to earth...

I've liked some of the Shortlist Riesling previously, yet this is looks ordinary - just picked too early and more angular than ever.

Toasty terpenes and quite forward (which is surprising given the early picking - some exposed bunches/average canopies I suspect), there is loads of acid here but little in the way of flavour - it's super fresh but I just can't see anything to really grab hold of.

May make reasonable old bones, but no flavour at present.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2016-2024+
Score:16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: McGuigan website

Bargain Pinot: Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013 (Marlborough, NZ)
13%, Screwcap, $21.99

It's easy to take pot-shots at big wineries, sniping away at the tall poppies whenever the samples pop up above the parapet (I know I've been guilty of it). But on the value front, where economies of scale are king, it is usually the biggest wineries that make some of the best wines.

Here we see that ethos in full swing: Stoneleigh is a large production Marlborough label and part of the giant Pernod Ricard business - it's more a brand, not a winery, with a flashy website and global distribution.

Yet out of all that corporate-ness, all the price-point focus comes genuinely appealing, genuinely good wines like this Pinot.

What impresses here is that it is exactly what you want in a $20 odd Pinot, with an open, almost lolly red musky fruit nose that is vital and juicy. The palate, too, is generous, avoids obvious residual sweetness and even carries fine light tannins and meaty edges.

Sure it's more about fruit, and more about generosity than Pinosity, but it does drink really quite well given that a casual Google search reveals this can be had for $16/bottle.

You know what else? When you dig around the flashy Stoneleigh website, the technical notes on the wines are good too, a nod to some of the cleverness behind the wines.

I'll be first to admit that wines like this don't typically press my buttons, yet this Stoneleigh Pinot nails its value-for-money remit.

Source: Sample
Tasted: September 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink a glass.
Buy online: Wine Searcher, Cracka Wines