Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Soumah Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013

Soumah Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
12.7%, Screwcap, $35


The top Soumah Chardonnay and in resplendent form here. Handpicked, wild fermented, eight months on lees with some barrels allowed to go through malo. Careful balance.

Hay and some banana esters on the nose with popcorn - it looks quite forward as befitting the warm vintage. The carefully creamy palate looks much fresher than the nose -  cxcellent balance on with careful butter malo and sweet oak. It's definitely a richer, broader style this vintage but I can't hide the quality here - clean and clever.

Drink early methinks and revel in that tension between creamy winemaking influences and carefully defined fruit. Yes.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 18.2/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle. Probably drink 2/3rds of it thanks to the freshness.
Buy online: Soumah website

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Rosé 2012

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Rose 2012 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $28


Pretty wine this. A genuinely lovely pink.

More light Pinot Noir than dry Rosé, the nose softly pink pastel fresh but with a drawn dryness too. There's almost a pink lifesaver fruit character to the palate that carries everything forward. So gently musky and pretty! Dry finish brings things back. Very lively and fresh, if perhaps just a bit more acid driven than the genre expects.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? Yes. I'd share a bottle methinks.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

An ode to Riesling + 30 years of Pauletts finest Riesling

An ode to Riesling + 30 years of Pauletts finest Riesling

(I wrote a version of this at the beginning of the year for a lifestyle print article. The tasting notes are an addition).

It’s a question that every wine writer asks themselves. Asks other wine writers, retailers, drinkers - everyone really. Quite simply, why aren’t more people drinking Australian Riesling?

It’s not like we can’t make great Riesling here. Far from it. In fact, I’d argue that Australian dry Riesling is amongst the best in the world, with our top wines easily competing with the finest examples from Germany, Austria and France.

Regardless of how good I think it is, no one is drinking the stuff, with 2012 ABS statistics indicating that Riesling makes up less than 3% of the grape varieties planted in Australia, with the number of hectares planted declining by over 10% since 2006.

But why? Why is so little of this magical grape planted when we can do it so very well? Is it the stigma of a winegrape that was once known only as something sweet and sickly? Was it the bastardisation of the 70s and 80s, where just about any off-dry white wine was dumped into a 4 litre cask and labelled as Riesling? Or is it simply that Riesling isn't cool?

Whatever the issue, a recent tasting of 30 years of Paulett Clare Valley Riesling reminded me what everyone was missing out on. Here was a collection of wines that were drinkable even after spending 30 years in the Paulett family shed, yet sell for just $22/bottle at the cellar door. $22, for a white wine that should still be delicious in 30 years time! That’s incredible! Remarkable! Sensational! Something to be shouted from the rooftops!

More to the point, the Paulett experience is not an isolated one. All through South Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys the story is repeated. All through these beautiful regions we find delicious, low alcohol, food friendly Rieslings that are beautiful drinking now, will be beautiful drinking in ten years time and beautiful drinking another ten years after that. They're cheap too, with the bulk available for under $25/bottle, often sourced from dry-grown, 30 year old plus vineyards.

Yet still Australians drink Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc like it’s water, with a Marlborough Sauv both most popular white wine and the most popular wine of any type over $10/bottle.

Again, the question is why? Why do we abuse a world renowned resource like this?

I still don't have the complete answers, but do yourself a favour and check out the 2013 Paulett Clare Valley Riesling – it’s a beautifully floral, fresh, long and vivacious white wine, driven by both fresh acidity and wonderful fruit generosity. For $22/bottle you cannot go wrong.

The Wines

These were tasted non-blind in large lineup late last year. As Neil Paulett said dryly '30 years of procrastination led to a tasting of 31 Rieslings'. I like Neil, such a typically stoic Aussie man of the land, believing that this tasting is 'not meant to be a scholastic exercise - just have fun'. Good words those.

Some background points about the Pauletts Rieslings:

- The Pauletts have not irrigated since 1999, which drops yields but increases intensity.
- Pauletts typically add a small amount of acid to juice if need. As Neil says 'those who don't probably get other people to add it'.
- From 2010 onwards there is a small amount of Watervale fruit in the blend - typically no more than 10%.
- Screwcap experimentation began in the late 90s and was fully adapted by 2002. If ever there was a demonstration of why you should put Riesling in screwcap it was the late 90s/early noughties cork/screwcap comparison wines. We tasted them blind and the screwcap wines were obviously superior.

Notes below are as written on the day. Background points in italics. I was very rushed for the last couple of bits.

Pauletts Riesling 2013
Vintage started mid Feb.
Peachiness of youth, quite aromatic - feels rather buxom and juicy, if dropping into firm Limey acidity quite quickly. Pretty as a youngster, drink now for maximum joy. Maybe not the most acidic wine in this line but certainly an appealing and juicy Rizza. 18.1/20, 93/100

Pauletts Riesling 2012 
Heralded as a fantastic vintage. 'Flavours developed beautifully' according to Neil. 
LIght green straw. The primary peachiness has settled here, the palate just a little longer. There is still a warm year ripeness to this wine that comes through as a stone fruit edge to the lime juice palate. Will be a classic, and certainly outshines the 2013 in terms of length. Needs several more years to be wonderful though. Gold medal length carries this forward. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 2011
Acid. Colour looks very backwards but the acidity is not shy in coming forward. Furious acidity, but not quite the fruit to match? Unapproachable now, but may become a classic in time. 17.5/20, 91/100+

Pauletts Riesling 2010
Just a little more yellow in the colour here and the secondary characters have started to flesh out the palate, giving a very faint marmalade hint. In a transitional phase, but already the fullness of the year suggests this will be a tasty wine in years to come. Good wine, if not quite 'great' - maybe a little shorter than you'd like. 17.8/20, 92/100+

Pauletts Riesling 2009
Green yellow straw. For a warm year wine this has plenty of acidity, though seems a little creamy and fleshy through the middle. Approachable now but perhaps not a standout year. 17.5/20, 91/100

Pauletts Riesling 2008
Yellow straw, less green now. Quite forward and with a little terpene petrol. I don't quite love this, even though the winery claim it as classic - the terpenes are distracting. Certainly open and toasty with good length though. Definitely drier. 17/20, 90/100

Pauletts Riesling 2007
Fleshed out with no sharp edges - this feels almost Watervale like in its toasty freshness.  I like the open character of this wine - softly buttered lime in a softer mode. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 2006
Screwcap.
Odd corky character, More green than either the 2007 or 08, Terpene character has gone right over into turps on the nose of this, which I struggle with, although I think the palate has one of the best, most natural shapes of any in this line. This is a classic Riesling on the palate, with powerful green fruit and long Limey acidity. If the turps drops off the nose this will be wonderful. Hard to score. 18 for structure, 17.5 for terpene distraction. Split the difference. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 2006
Second bottle.
This looked much fresher on the nose, and this palate looks rather fresher too. Classic and less obvious terpene. Classic lime buzz through the finish. I think this is the best of the middle aged wines - certainly best integration of acidity and flavour, with that lime and lemon freshness underpinning extra richness. 18.6/20, 95/100

Pauletts Riesling 2005
Green yellow straw, still quite green. There is a Hunter Sem like toastiness on the nose of this with that 05 hunter Sem flesh too. Terpene on the front palate, but more of that buttered length to carry things through. Still looks quite primary. Again a pretty classic wine, if not quite the acid of the 06. Lovely generosity though and that's what carries through the flavours. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 2004
Screwcap.
Golden yellow in colour, yellow buttercup nose that looks quite secondary and marmaladey, the acidity is still there, but that fruit has a mothball edge that marks it as a lesser year. A surprise given the vintage reputation for other Clare makers. 16.8/20, 89/100+

Pauletts Riesling 2003
Screwcap.
Honey lime and quite yellow in colour, this looked a little broad and flat compared to the wines around it. Soapy even. Honey gold and sweet flavours but not quite the length. When tasted next to the 04 this seems more forward but has energy. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 2002
Screwcap.
Yellow straw. Delicious. Has a Creme caramel nose that defies the terpenes to have carry and flavour. Long and even palate has power and a long creamy finish. Excellent structure but I'd wait for the front palate terpene character to integrate more. Lemon lime tart through the finish is lovely. 18.2/20, 93/100+

Pauletts Riesling 2002
Cork.
Colour lacks the vibrance of the Screwcap version and components look less integrated. Interestingly terpene has been replaced by a corkiness, so at I least that terpene has been whisked away. Still pretty tidy, but not quite as great. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 2001
Screwcap.
Full yellow. Quite broad and a little dusty after the 2002 but fresh to finish. A little toffee on the end suggests warm year, but in an attractive golden syrup mode with lemon yellow fruit underneath. Good but maybe not great. 17.5/20, 91/100

Pauletts Riesling 2001
Cork.
Definite tawny hue and darker even than the cork sealed 2000. Madeirised palate has a big mouthful of fullness and a filip of acidity, but not enough vibrance. Flat 16/20, 87/100

Pauletts Riesling 2000
Cork.
A little corky? Has an odd white pepper nose. Certainly quit fleshy and generous underneath. Toasty flesh and honey but with lemon acid bite. Almost smoky in its mode. Not great or much fun to drink. 15/20, 83/100

Pauletts Riesling 1999
Cork.
This looks awfully classic, the nose showing a progression of layers of toast and cinnamon. Soft finish but with acidity. I like this - it has energy and acidity. Maybe a little underpowered? Still has a decade in it easily. Delicious regardless. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 1998
Cork.
Slightly more golden hue. A big wine and quite developed with toast and marmalade, the palate broad and full of flavour but lacks acid definition. 17/20, 90/100

Pauletts Riesling 1997
Screwcap.
Unsurprisingly the better looking wine of this pair. Quite honeyed but also deliciously fresh, a little flattening toast on the nose, but a very vibrant and delicious acid driven palate. Such intensity of flavour! Excellent wine. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 1997
Cork.
Grand and flattering palate, looks quite advanced next to the Screwcap version, love the palate length on this but gee the Screwcap version is a better wine. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 1996
Cork.
Tawny gold colour. Maderised palate though still has some toasty flavour. Drink now. 15.5/20, 86/100

Pauletts Riesling 1995
Cork.
More like the 97 in flavour, though with a minty edge. the palate with very smart creamy layers. Soft acidity in context and black currant flavours. Still with loads of acidity and in fine form. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 1994
Cork.
Lemon cream pie - it's almost botrytis Creme caramel. Makes for a fully integrated and lovely old wine though, the palate a little softly spoken but also classic too. Another smart wine from this unheralded vintage. 18.3/20, 93/100

Pauletts Riesling 1993
Has 10g/l RS. When asked about the picking dates for this, Neil Paulett just said 'Thursday'.
Lovely wine too. Tawny colour. Real pineapple splice character here, the sugar working in everything's favour. Not a profound wine but a nice drink. 17.5/20, 91/100

Pauletts Riesling 1992
Cork.
Slightly lumpy palate of marmalade and quite firm acidity. Suffers in the balance. 15.5/20, 86/100

Pauletts Riesling 1991
Cork.
Full yellow but little bronzing. Has a toasty, slightly decayed easy going profile that I think you could miss. Nicely structured and full of life though - you could drink this easily. 17.5/20, 91/100

Pauletts Riesling 1990
Two bottles poured.
Woah. Given just how big and powerfully toasty this is I never expected that acidity - huge flavours and surprisingly acidic too. In full flush of life, a showpiece of a wine with everything turned up a notch. Astonishing. Great. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 1989
Cork.
Bronze edge to the colour. Dull and slightly subdued with a mothball character. A bit flat. But not terrible. Rot? 15.5/20, 86/100

Pauletts Riesling 1988
Two bottles opened. Cork. 
2nd bottle is quite attractive - certainly a full wine, and lacks a little subtlety, but certainly an attractive easy drinker. Buttercup butter freshness helps this no end. I really quite like this! It's at the end of the plateau but I like that biscotti and acidity flavour. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 1987
Two bottles opened.
Pineapple and absolute freshness. Loads of acidity but maybe a little raw too. Not ready! But will it come around? 17.5/20, 91/100+

Pauletts Riesling 1986
Cork.
Nice shape for this. Maybe a little towards the end of its plateau, but has layers of flavour and really complex and vibrant. Pineapple juiciness apparent here - this would have been an attractive young wine but it's towards the back end of its tenure here. Still great length though. Deserves to be celebrated. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 1985
Wild fermented.
Odd. Black currant nose, short palate. All sorts of odd Formic and chalk going on here. Didn't enjoy this much. 14.5/20, 80/100

Pauletts Riesling 1984
Volatile and a little fatty, this starts quite promising, the palate falling away a fraction too quickly. Plenty of acidity still but not a complete wine. 16.5/20, 88/100

Pauletts Riesling 1983
Alarming smoke taint. Woah. Undrinkable. 12/20, 60/100

Pauletts Antonina Riesling 2013
Juicy and open yet with great acidity. Maybe a little disconnected at the moment but certainly affable. 18/20, 93/100

Pauletts Antonina Riesling 2012 
Retains it's fruit while the standard wine doesn't. We'll integrated acidity makes this a winner for sure - soft acidity even. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Antonina Riesling 2005
A beast. Huge acidity and extract. Lots of latent power and length to burn. Gold medal Riesling. 18.7/20, 95/100

Monday, 21 July 2014

A brilliant awkward wine: Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne 2004

Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne 2004 (Nagambie, Goulburn Valley, Vic)
11%, Screwcap, $46.50

This is the most brilliant awkward wine I know.

Brilliant on one hand, with a wondrous combination of fruit power and sprightly acidity, the edges honeyed just a fraction thanks to ten years in bottle, all making for a thoroughly intriguing, delightfully complex white wine of acid and just enough fruit.

That same brilliant acidity, however, also makes this an uncompromising drink - an esoteric wine of structure, not softness, length not breadth. Not an easy wine to understand, in other words.

Regardless, this 'Mexican Hunter Semillon' (from similar sandy soils too) is something to be celebrated. Kudos Tahbilk for persisting with this as an aged release, and thank heavens for the screwcap (as it finally brings consistency to this wine).

Anyway, this 2004 is a backward 1927 Vines release in the scheme of things, certainly much less forward than the 2003 or the 2005 and perhaps the most backward and tight since the 2002. Understandably, the flavours are still dominated by melon and pine/lime, the toasty creaminess still a way off. That trademark honeysuckly creeps in the closer you look, however, just balancing the acid crunch. Almost balancing it, for it is still a gangly wine through the finish.

All up this is a beautifully alive, beguiling wine to be admired. My score will look low and churlish in ten years time.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2016-2030+
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100+
Would I buy it? Yes, but only to stick in the cellar for another 3-5.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Kemenys

Soumah Skye Blox Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Soumah Skye Blox Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap, $20


Skye Blox is the entry-level range for Soumah, pitched at just $20 a bottle and designed for easy drinking. The range still carries the distinctive light blue packaging and is made in the typically refreshing Soumah style.

This Cabernet, however, isn't quite right. A light and fragrant nose with DMS and blackcurrant. The palate, however, is meaty and dry, a little rustic and even horsey, the edges just a little raw - quite a contrast to the other Soumah wines. The finish is clear and fresh but I can't quite shake the furry, meaty edges.

A bad bottle, perhaps, or just not this wine's day.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2018+
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Not on this showing.
Buy online: Soumah website

View Road Wines Sagrantino 2012

View Road Wines Sagrantino 2012 (McLaren Vale)
14.5%, Cork, $37

Now here is a new label to watch. Josh's 2012 Chardonnay impressed greatly and this Sagrantino follows closely behind. I only wish I could tell you where to buy the wines (Josh?)...

Did I mention how much I like Sagrantino? Sourced from the Oliver's Taranga vineyard at Seaview in McLaren Vale, the fruit for this example was wild fermented and spent 4.5 weeks on skins before being pressed into second use oak, finally bottled unfined and unfiltered with just a little sulphur. A huge (cough) 24 dozen.

Intriguingly, this is quite light coloured, yet it carries the intensity you'd more readily think of when talking about Sagrantino, with a big jellybean/raspberry and fennel nose. There's an odd fish oil character in here that seems unusual at first but dissipates quickly - interested to see if anyone else picks that up.

Underneath this has red and blackberry fruit, big extract and a real hearty edge - now we're back in classic Sagrantino territory. Those tannins really make this wine, delivering grunt and structure to what is a mid-weight and less overly sweet style.

Ultimately the more I looked the more I liked this. The extract is there, but the tannins feel well integrated and grunty and real. It's not a big black wine like some Montefalco styles, but it is mighty satisfying and almost refreshing.

Yes.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes. That structure is very appealing.
Buy online: A big question mark. TBA.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Patina Reserve Chardonnay 2008

Patina Reserve Chardonnay 2008 (Orange, NSW)
11.9%, Screwcap, $35


There is 'tight' Chardonnay and then there is 'sparkling base masquerading as table wine'. This is the latter.

A round of applause if you could pick this as 2008, for it looks like it was bottled a year ago. Very light straw in colour, it smells delicate and awfully backward for a 6 year old Chardonnay (from anywhere). It tastes light too, the acid tart, the flavours more of a whisper and overrun by very firm, even hard acidity. There's some melon fruit in there, which saves this from ignominy, but otherwise I struggled to see the fun with this style.

Fresh, but ultimately hard work. Not quite.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 16/20, 86/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Patina website

Rochford Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2013

Rochford Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2013 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
14%, Screwcap, $33


Handpicked, cold soaked, 20% whole bunches in the (wild) ferment, matured in 30% new oak, unfined and unfiltered. Quality Pinot treatment.

The warm vintage is writ large here, with a real fruit openness and plenty of heat. It helps this to be easy and approachable, but the definition and acidity seems a little lacking, finishing hot and a bit baked.

Still an affable Pinot and quite compact style. but not quite the high notes this vintage.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? Not quite.
Buy online: Rochford website

Plantagenet Omrah Pinot Noir 2012

Plantagenet Omrah Pinot Noir 2012 (Great Southern, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $18.99


Making Pinot Noir out of the Great Southern is tricky work. Actually, making Pinot Noir in the Great Southern isn't the tricky bit - it's getting it to taste good that is the hard part.

This Pinot presents a brave face for a cheapie. with plenty of bacon bits/cherry sweet red fruit on both nose and palate. The problem is that there is no delicacy, just gruff extract and drying tannins, the expression awkward and overly firm.

Not quite there.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 15/20, 83/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Grays Online


Pyrenees Shiraz finesse: Quartz Hill Syrah 2012

Quartz Hill Syrah 2012 (Pyrenees, Vic)
13.2%, Diam, $38


Intriguing wine this. A real slow-burner. Produced from a single vineyard high in the Pyrenees and has a real handmade feel to it.

Lots of pepper, a dash of pastrami and loads of blueberry on nose and palate of this mid-weight red, capped off with beautiful fine and grippy tannins. Not all that sweet but berried and lively - a real cool clime style, with plenty of fine acid to finish.

I tasted this over about 2 hours and it was only beginning to unfurl at the end, looking better every moment. Lovely balance between blueberry (some whole berry fermentation here?) and white pepper fruit characters, fine tannins and clean acidity.

Yes.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2015-2024
Score: 18/20, 93/100?
Would I buy it? I'd buy a bottle off a list in about two years time. Would need a good decant now otherwise.
Buy online: Quartz Hill Wines

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Quorom Shiraz 2011

Quorom Shiraz 2011 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14%, Cork, $50


The quorom here is Nick Haselgrove, David Watkins and Warren Randall, with the last two the new owners of the old Boars Rock winery in McLaren Vale (where Nick is the winemaker and this wine was made).

Given that both Boars Rock and Warren have no shortage of vineyard resources to draw on, its probably unsurprising that this looks seriously rich for the vintage. Still, when I first sniffed this blind I was convinced that this was a 2010 not 2011.

Part of what gives this wine its weight is oak - there's just no escaping that this is a Quercus driven wine, with cappuccino heavy toast wood on nose, palate and finish. Little wonder really given that it spent a huge 26 months in 60% new French demimuds.

Still, underneath all that oak there is real fruit weight, which saves this from just being an oaky husk. You've got to like wood though. Then again, this might not have much of a presence locally as the cork, oak richness and heavy bottle suggest this might be an export focused style..

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2016-2024
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? No. I just don't like the taste of oak enough for that.
Buy online: Adelaide Winemakers

Tscharke Shiraz Shiraz Shiraz 2012

Tscharke Shiraz Shiraz Shiraz 2012 (Barossa Valley, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $20


No, I'm not repeating myself, that's the label. I think it's fun. You? Sourced from three vineyards at the western edge of the Barossa.

Purple and very juicy to smell. I tasted this blind and thought there might be some Viognier in there, such was the lift. Dominated by purple gummy fruit in a slightly confected style, this tastes as juicy as it smells, with almost no tannins and a soft finish, just loads of plump fruit.

Pleasant and will win fans, but ultimately a little too much fruit and not enough action (to paraphrase Elvis).

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Not quite.
Buy online: Tscharke website, Wine Culture

Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Shiraz 2008

Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Shiraz 2008 (Nagambie Lakes, Goulburn Valley, Vic)
14.5%, Screwcap, $69.50


Interesting to see this in a (blind) lineup of younger wines. Looked more like a 10 year old red than six. Still, there is something quite ageless about these Tahbilk reds - they really do live forever.

Mid red. Some light bricking. Aged Shiraz nose - wet brick, leather, red plums, looks rather warm climate. Coffeed, very rich palate has lovely sweet fruit, highish alcohol and a soft finish with red earth and an oak punctuation. Warm year wine that is quite advanced, but also rather rich and dense - none of the awkwardness under/overripeness of the Cabernet. Nice soft finish helps, with the warmth of the year making this more caramelised and sweet.

Not without charm, but just a fraction soft and forward for big love.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2020
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Hard to justify at this price. Will live and live though.
Buy online: Tahbilk website

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Wonderfully clever Geelong Pinot: Lethbridge Pinot Noir 2012

Lethbridge Pinot Noir 2012 (Geelong, Vic)
12.5%, Screwcap, $42

This is a triumphant wine, from a winery doing very good things.

The eternal challenge with Pinot Noir is to balance ripeness with delicacy, and this Lethbridge nails it. Sure, it carries the meaty, bacon bit edged brawn of a warm vintage, yet it's still fresh, spicy, cherry/raspberry accented and utterly mid-weight.

That balance is structural too, with the plenty of fruit sugar ripeness giving generosity and fullness, even despite the low alcohol. It tastes warmer than 12.5% for that matter, though nothing looks out of place.

Ultimately this is deceptively powerful and quite complex, meaty Pinot Noir of some intrigue.
Seriously impressive.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2018 - I'd drink it sooner rather than later methinks.
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle. That would be enough.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Hither + Yon Muscat Blanc 2013

Hither + Yon Muscat Blanc 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $20


Despite how much Muscat we have planted in Australia - including some seriously old vines - it remains relegated either to moscato or fortified duties. That's a shame as, when channelled into dry wine form, it can make for delightfully grapey wine.

This is a suitably fragrant and bright little number - a basketful of white peach and honey in that classic juicy, 'this smells like grapes' form. After that brightly aromatic nose, the palate looks a little broad and simple, finishing clean but without a real snap.

Still, the joy here is that fruit purity, which makes for a simple, pleasant and affable white, if just a tad indistinct beyond the nose.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2015
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Not quite.
Buy online: Hither & Yon website

Monday, 14 July 2014

A big dollop of McLaren Vale richness: Dodgy Bros Cab Franc Cab SauvPetit Verdot 2012

Dodgy Bros Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.2%, Screwcap, $29

Hardly a traditional blend for McLaren Vale and you could argue that it's more of a representation of the warm and windy southern end of McLaren Vale than it is a notably varietal.

Still, what's joyous here is the texture - it's thickly packed, choc mint etched and sumptuous, with a purple inky full profile that is bold and full. For anyone who has tried Drew Noon's rich and silken wines you'll know the combo of black, choc bullet black fruit intensity in an unwavering rush of power (Drew's vineyard is nearby in a similar geography).

Perhaps a little syrupy and oaky, but otherwise deep and broody, this ballsy red finishes chunky and brutish and warming, finely tannic but still brutish.

Full tilt, black sweet fruit and sweet oak style that may not be everyone's cuppa tea (too big for that) but has admirable weight and concentration. Plenty of hedonistic joy here.

Source: Sample
Tasted: June 2014
Drink: 2014-2022+
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100+
Would I buy it? Not quite yet.
Buy online: Wine Cloud, Dodgy Bros website



Brancott Estate Letter Series T Pinot Noir 2012

Brancott Estate Letter Series T Pinot Noir 2012 (Marlborough, NZ)
13.5%, Screwcap, $27.99


I tasted this in a large lineup of blind Pinots for a National Liquor News magazine tasting panel about a month ago and completely forgot about it. Whaddya know and the magazine came out today quoting me saying something very similar to the tasting note below (which I wrote over the weekend). Hopefully that excuses me for calling a 5th growth Bordeaux a Cotes du Rhone the other week...

A bright, raspberry fruited wine that is lifted, juicy and pretty - easy to like. The vanillan oak edge tints the palate but also complements the real burst of sweet, glycerol and fruit chews palate, finishing warm and with minimal tannins. It's a pretty, light to mid weight 'fruity' Pinot that is affable and generous.

Little complexity but good drinkability and real fruit - call it a win. A quick internet search reveals that you can pick it up for sub $20 too.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Perhaps not buy it, but I'd happily drink this.
Buy online: Cracka Wines, Wine Searcher

Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Nagambie, Goulburn Valley, Vic)
14.5%, Screwcap, $69.50


Curiously, of all the Tahbilk wines this one seems the most wobbly - it just can't nail the balance between savoury rusticity and modern polish.

The vintage is the real issue here, the style showing baked forward, baked earth warmth and cooked plum fruit. Fruit sweet and concentrated, which will help this in the very long term, the tannins carrying the curranty, dried fruit air seen in warm years (which again can help in the long term).

Some will love the concentration of this, and no doubt it will last, but undoubtedly this looks much more secondary and cooked than you'd really like. Score gets a bump purely do the power.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2028+
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? No. However this would probably look alright as a twenty year old...
Buy online: Tahbilk website

Delicious Clare Cabernet: Skillogalee The Cabernets 2012

Skillogalee The Cabernets 2012 (Clare Valley, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $29.50

I've always thought of Skillogalee as a Riesling producer first with the odd old school red along the way. This Cabernet blend, however, manages to introduce plenty of new school polish to what is very solid base material.

How solid? Well this red comes from Skillogalee's low yielding (1.25 tonnes/acre or 26hl/ha - equivalent to Grand-Cru Burgundy yields) hand-pruned, dry-grown vineyard, off vines that date back to the early 80s for the Cabernet (the vineyard itself was planted in circa 1970).

Said grapes were hand-picked, basket-pressed and fermented in open vats before spending 24 months in French oak hogsheads, eventually bottled unfined.

It's a classic Clare Valley blend too, with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc. Wish more producers would use Malbec and Cabernet Franc instead of Merlot...

Anyways, the joy here is about the familiarity of good Clare Cabernet - there's no shortage of Mint Slice on the nose - polished with a layer of vanilla bean oak and driven by a luscious, yet drying texture and a little warmth. I think the Malbec makes its presence felt here, giving the rich and very full mid-palate a sense of more dark berry blackness without the fat/skinny/menthol rollercoaster of Merlot.

A well made, rich and sumptuous Clare red that carries it's choc minty regional stamp and backs it with thick fruit. It's a bit spirity and the palate is thickly cut, but the tannins are fine and the length is superb. Tasted bloody excellent out of a thermos at the SCG last night too - helped get through the cold and dour second quarter before Buddy swung into gear...

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2015-2024+ (give it another year. It will look even better).
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes. On the list, with ribs, it would look great.
Buy online: Skillogalee website

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Xabregas Mount Barker Riesling 2012

Xabregas Mount Barker Riesling 2012 (Mount Barker)
12.1%, Screwcap, $20


All about 'sweet fruit and natural acid balance'. Actually, if anyone can nail the sweetness balance of a Mount Barker Riesling it is Xabregas, who have shown a real penchant for clever off-dry styles.

A full and quite juicy style, this dances between a juicy entry and a crisp finish. Great balance between just sweet grapefruit and excellent acidity. Not a profound wine but the sugar/acid balance is excellent. Commendably drinkable.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle.