Friday, 31 October 2014

October tasting notes roundup

October tasting notes roundup

These are some of the odd hits and misses from the ozwinereview tasting bench this month, all coupled together in a collection of tidbits.

Tscharke The Master Montepulciano 2012 (Marananga, Barossa Valley, Barossa, SA) 14%, $25
More about Marananga than it is Montepulciano, with a chocolate red fruit looks almost Grenachey, though finishes drier and more savoury back end. It's certainly brightly coloured with a pretty redcurrant nose, vanilla bean oak sweetness on nose and palate, along with jellybean fruit and sandy, oak tipped tannins. Once that oak settles in this should be pretty handy, though it looks just a bit simple and lacks some real length. Pleasant though. 16.5/20, 88/100+

Hither & Yon Tannat Grenache 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA) 15.5% $30
Reductive, red cherry and slightly confected fruit on the nose - red and black cherry cordial. Sweet red fruit on the palate, finishing with nice grippy tannins but just lacks the penetration to really convince. That lollied red fruit gives a great initial hot though ultimately pulls up quite short and suggests too much ripeness and a lack of structure. 16.5/20, 88/100

Oakvale Ablington Vineyard Semillon 2014 (Hunter Valley, NSW) 10.5%, $30
An odd wine this one. Neutral, lemon and melon nose with a real sweaty edge. Still really very tight. Zippy, green apple palate has chalky acidity and medium intensity. Lots of promise here, though not particularly well defined and the lees ageing has given this a real roundness. Solid mid tier wine, but going to need a while to settle down. 17.5/20, 91/100

Bimbadgen Vermentino 2014 (Hunter Valley, NSW) 12.4%
Lots of full and fleshy, Verdelho like Vermentino flesh. Tart and pineappley with a big fruit punch, full and fleshy palate is pleasant and juicy. Verdelho like in its phenolics and crunch, but good persistence. Varietal and clear - not a bad wine. 17/20, 90/100

Bremerton Special Release Vermentino 2014 (Langhorne Creek, SA) 12%, $24
Tart and a bit hard this has some of that sappy Vermentino character but gee its a pointed and raw. Verdelho esque. A simple white wine. 15.5/20, 85/100

Willow Bridge Estate Dragonfly Shiraz 2013 (Geographe, WA) 13.1%, $18
Made for immediate enjoyment - what a smart wine it is too. Bright purple red. Soft and fleshy palate, lifted up by a little caramel oak sweetness on a surprisingly long palate. It even comes with tannins! Sweet finish makes this mighty appealing and very well priced. 17.5/20, 91/100

Chapel Hill The Chosen Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA) 14.5%, $65
A bruiser. Thick and inky, this is bruising and deeply tannic with lots of oak tannins and aggressive choc mint. The alcohol, acid and oak a fight with your mouth, the tannins and flavour huge and flooding. A monster of a wine, but all arms and legs for the moment. Will be seriously long lived but hard going for now. 17.7/20, 92/100+

Ten Minutes By Tractor 10X Chardonnay 2013 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic) 13.6%, $30
Golden yellow colour. Retains the trademark buttermilk/Golden Gaytime and white peach 10X style, if perhaps a little fuller and more candied than usual. Indeed the palate is warmer, the palate leaning towards hay and white peach with a spirity finish. Not quite the elegance through the finish this year, just a little warm. Lovely nose but perhaps a little warming and indistinct to finish. 17/20, 90/100

Tower Estate Reserve Hunter Valley Shiraz 2011 (Hunter Valley, NSW) 13%, $45
A big lift of purple blackberry fruit, tilled earth and bitter acidity, it's tight, dry and lightly tannic, a little gruff but wonderously powerful. Just a little acid stunted but will be very long lived. Good. 17.8/20, 92/100+

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2013 (Margaret River, WA) 13.5%
Definitely more solidsy wild funk this year, still backed by the grapefruit intensity and briny, crystalline acid. Surprising acid given the alcohol really, the finish punctuated by leesy fullness. Perhaps a little too dry, but the shape is ultra fresh and clear. Long. I'd like it perhaps to be a little softer, but that should come with time. Good stuff. 18.5/20, 94/100

A classic Clare Valley Shiraz from Skillogalee

Skillogalee Trevarrick Shiraz 2012
13.5%, Screwcap, $70


On the back of the excellent Riesling and Cabernets comes another classic Skillogalee release. A winery hitting boundaries.

I really appreciate this sort of Clare Shiraz, largely as its what I cut my teeth on. 90s Leasingham reds where once the most represented wine in my cellar (along with Wynns Cabernet), so this feels like coming home.

What I most like is the Clare signature - there's a distinctive Mint Slice regional nose in a compact form. Palate is deliberately structure driven and really quite moderate compared to the modern, oak sweet, pressed off Shiraz. Indeed there is quite a chew to this, lingering with dark chocolate and real tea leaf tannins.

The oak is still present and the acid a fraction raw, but gee the power and form here is classic, all at just 13.5% alcohol.

Oh and that alcohol is correct too - I'm working on a project at the moment studying alcohol labelling and thus sent a sample of this wine (along with a host of others) off for a lab analysis. 13.5% on the dial it came back at.

So yes for me. Yes for the cellar too - wines like this actually improve in the cellar. Touch and go for even higher points.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2030+
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Absolutely. Every Australian Shiraz lover needs wines like this in their cellar.
Buy online: Skillogalee website

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Nouveau Hills Sauv done good: Guthrie Obtenu Bois Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Guthrie Obtenu Bois Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $27

Obtenu Bois means 'with wood' in French but it sounds like one of those word games where if you put the letters in a different way you spell something naughty...

This comes from Hugh Guthrie, who quit his day job making wine at The Lane to craft wines like this. Good move Hugh.

What an interesting number to kick off with too - produced from a single Vineyard near Aldgate in the Hills, this was hand-picked, whole bunch pressed and wild fermented in barrel before spending 12 months on lees with minimal sulphur at bottling.

For all that winemaking this looks fresh as a daisy, ultra-clear and bright, the nose snappy and intense if ultra tight, showing just the barest hints of barrel. Minimalist. A tight and tangy palate too that I mistakenly drank too cool, its lemony, mealy and straddling fruit and acid to finish.

Despite the backward nature this is clearly a pretty fine Savvy - more like a good fumé than a Bordeaux Blanc, needing just more time in bottle to fill out.

Promise.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2015-2018+
Score: 18/20, 93/100+
Would I buy it? Only if I could wait a year before drinking.
Buy online: Guthrie Wines website

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Tim Smith Eden Valley Viognier 2014

Tim Smith Eden Valley Viognier 2014 (Eden Valley, SA)
13%, Screwcap, $28

Wild ferment. Aged on lees in barrel. Still a Viognier.

Light apricot nose and lightly juicy Riesling-esque palate with just a light oak lick. It's juicy and varietal but not much oomph or complexity. Pleasant dry white but doesn't move the earth much beyond that.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Dynamic Wines, Tim Smith website

Scarborough Shiraz 2011

Scarborough Shiraz 2011 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
13%, Screwcap, $27



Ah black earth Hunter Shiraz.

It's such an esoteric style this, so far from  the plums and chocolate 'Aussie' Shiraz form that we could almost be talking about a different variety.

Yet for anyone who appreciates fruit richness without sweetness this is smart wine. 

A real slow-burner, I opened it and hours later it was still unfurling. Despite the savoury talk this Scarborough Shiraz seems a more substantial, more modern wine this vintage, the fruit glossier if still carrying the black earth edge and firm grip. 

Lots to like. 

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2015-2025+
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? For the cellar. This would look great in a decade.

Monday, 27 October 2014

An exceptional Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay from Ten Minutes by Tractor

Ten Minutes by Tractor Wallis Chardonnay 2012 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap, $65

Wow. Now this is a textural dynamo.

The Wallis vineyard may be Ten Minutes by Tractor's earliest maturing Chardonnay plot, yet the wines retain a delicacy that defies belief. And this 2012 is another superstar.

What makes this special is it (again) shows that you can have a wine that is picked from ripe fruit, completes a full malolactic fermentation and yet still manages to retain acidity and vitality.

Admittedly you'll never accuse it of being lean and light, but that is sort of missing the point of what Mornington Chardonnay is meant to be - that is full flavoured and unapologetically curvy.

This smells sexy from first whiff too - a nose of custard and apple pie with white peach, chalk and white flowers. You can smell fruit, lees and oak, all having a say and adding to the layers, without dominating. Those inputs follow through to a palate layered with whipped cream oak/lees and white nectarine fruit, before finishing with surprising acidity.

It's not quite as nervy as the 2011 but a more settled and complete wine than the 2010.
No surprises then I drank most of a bottle of this. And I'd do the same again in a flash.

Source: Sample
Drank: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2019
Score: 18.7/20, 95/100
Would I buy it? In a heartbeat.
Buy online: Ten Minutes by Tractor website

Hither & Yon Cabernet Petit Verdot 2012

Hither & Yon Cabernet Petit Verdot 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
13.7%, $35

They make 'em big at Hither & Yon (with mighty cool labels), with this red no different, even despite the lowish (in context) alcohol.

From the get-go this offer a big black ouzo and aniseed richness, pumped up with thick, oak grain infused, cedar and currant fruit.

Heady, oak spiced and just a bit cooked it has power, concentration and alcohol weight but ultimately a clobbering wine.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2020
Score: 16.8/89
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Hither & Yon website

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Coriole Barbera 2013

Coriole Barbera 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $25

From one of the first wineries in Australia to really push Italian varieties comes a Barbera that captures much of the grapey Barbera delight. Barberalicious.

Red lollies, redcurrants, plenty of acid and some light powdery tannins. It's just a little warm and carries the syrupy texture seen in a few Vale 13s, but the juiciness is utterly authentic and quite delicious. A fraction more savouriness would be welcome, but love the grapy delight delight.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2015
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Not quite. But I don't think I'm a massive Barbera fan anyway. More Nebbiolo instead.
Buy online: Cracka Wines, Coriole website

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Wine Shows: Are the 100 point score totals useful or just confusing?

Wine Shows: Are the 100 point score totals useful or just confusing?

The Winemakers Federation of Australia (WFA) have announced this week that they're reviewing the Code of Practice for the Display of Awards, examining whether the guidelines for wine show medal stickers on bottles are still accurate.

Given that most wineries seem to abide by the code it seems a pretty straight-forward review. However, I'd argue there is a thornier issue now apparent - how the 100 point scoring system is being used for wine show results and reporting.

Over the last few years we've seen several major Australian wine shows (notably Sydney and Melbourne) move from the 20 point score system to instead mark out of 100, reflecting a movement with wine critics around the world to adopt this scoring system (based chiefly on the American critics who popularised it).

Personally, I can see why the 100 point score system is being used for the actual judging. It's much more relevant than the old '3, 7, 10' scoring model I learnt on and many critics feel more comfortable using it (I don't and instead adapt from 20. But that's me).

The issue however is more about the way the scores are being used - no longer is it just about ascertaining gold medals, trophies etc, but also to arrive at a score out of 100 for each wine, using a scale that seems just as hyper-inflated as the one used by many an Australian wine critic.

I don't want to delve too far into the relative weaknesses and the recent inflation of the 100 point system (explored nicely over at Red to Brown Wine only last week) for the moment (see further down the page for that). But that notion of 'everyone gets a prize, maybe two' irks - and seems rather out of step with how the judging process traditionally works.

To step back a bit, lets talk about wine show judging itself.
In a typical major (or good regional) Australian wine show, each panel is made up of three judges and several associates. Each panel member gives every wine a score (whether out of 20 or 100), and then the panel comes together and counts up the cumulative scores. If a certain wine gets enough points to get a medal, it gets a medal, if not, it gets nothing. There is always plenty of discussion about each wines merits, and frequent retastes are the norm. The best wines then get pushed forward for trophy assessment (if applicable) and then everyone retires to eat sandwiches and drink beer.

From there, the winners are decided and the results are published, sometimes with a cumulative score included, other times just with a list of medals etc.

Case closed, winners are grinners, cue more beer and sandwiches.

Importantly, the cumulative score didn't matter to anyone but the producer - it was just a mark that told you how much the judges liked your wine. It served as the real results for anyone who didn't win a medal.

But now, that cumulative score is shelved and instead each wine is given an equivalent score out of 100, with that number then published in the show results as the final score for the wine.

In this fashion, wineries get a second win for free. Suddenly wines that would have received a silver get 94 points (the minimum score for a gold at the 2014 Melbourne Wine Awards was 95 points), a score which in most critics and consumer eyes marks it as a top tier world beating wine - even though it it didn't even take home the shiniest silverware in the show.

What that also means is that wine show medals mean nothing. It's all about that (inflated) score, amidst a cheapening of the whole process. Further, you'll now see wines that win big at a wine show - say, the Jimmy Watson winning 2013 S.C. Pannell Adelaide Hills Syrah - with not only a trophy but a stupendous score, almost intimating that not only did a small group of wine judges really like it, but some other critic independently gave it big points too (98/100 in the S.C. Pannell's case).

The caveat here is that I am probably a little tighter in my scoring than many other critics, and I'd only ever give even 94+ to a wine I really really like. But still, I don't think I'm alone in staring mouth agape at some of the results of this scoring...



Importantly, I'd like to reiterate that I think the opening up of wine show scoring via the usage of the 100 point system has merit. Indeed I was on the Sydney Wine Show Consultative Committee this year where the topic was a focal point of discussion and viewed positively.

Further, I've judged at a few shows myself and totally appreciate the process and its intentions - in other words, this is not an attack on wine shows. Indeed the trophy winners from the aforementioned 2014 Royal Melbourne Wine Awards as a group are one very handy set of wines, perhaps the best group of trophy winners I've seen in some time. Better still, the Jimmy Watson winner harks back to what 'the Jimmy' was intended to be - a delicious one year old wine - which is a massive win.

Further still, I know why shows are moving to scores - they want to retain relevancy in an environment where wine show results often seem to be more of a lottery than an actual quality indication. It's a solid move from wine show promoters.

Still, just seeing those catalogues full of what I know are 'nice, entry level wines' with huge points really grinds my gears.

The answer? Personally, I'd like to see a move back to cumulative scores for wine show results, which takes out the sting immediately. That's probably not going to happen, however, so in the meantime, how about we just slightly revise the scores down a bit? Start the gold medals at 94, top golds at 96-97? It is only a small change but would also help bring scores back to reality (maybe).

Then again, who am I kidding? We all know that scoring is somewhat arbitrary, blind tasting or not, and we could debate the merits or otherwise ad infinitum.

Pass me a beer. And a sandwich...

Friday, 24 October 2014

Ferngrove Orchid Majestic Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Ferngrove Orchid Majestic Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Frankland River, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $32


I've had this before hurriedly without taking a close look at it. My bad. Tastes rather good this week, especially if you like the odd late night Mint Slice (I do).

The best part about this is that slightly herbal, choc cedar line through the middle and finish.  It seems initially minty and hinting at unripeness, but it doesn't taste or feel unripe, cleverly balancing the sappy, firm tannins and cedary fruit.

One of those mid-weight Aussie Cabernets that sneaks up on you with its charm.

Source: Sample
Tasted: October 2014
Drink: 2014-2024
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? With a couple of years on it I'd nab this off a list for sure.
Buy online: Cracka Wines

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A new $150 Barossa icon? Seppeltsfield Uber Shiraz 2012

Seppeltsfield Über Shiraz 2012 (Barossa, SA)
14.7%, Screwcap, $150


It's been a long time coming, but the Seppeltsfield winery and estate is finally getting back to where it deserves to be.

With McLaren Vale's glorious Fino restaurant moving in soon, the Seppeltsfield fortifieds still glorious, and the table wine range growing by the day (produced in the impressively revamped old gravity fed winery), there's much to look forward to from this forgotten Barossan icon.

Fittingly, this Über Shiraz is intended to the winery's new icon wine - produced from the oldest estate plantings and built in an ultra-plush, open style that oozes gentle sexiness.

There's mocha oak, red berry fruits and a slightly figgy, mega-ripe edge of licorice and those little choc liqueur wine bottles, the palate smooth and silky, all fruit and minimal tannins with mid-weight concentration and good length.

All of that sounds great. Sexiness in abundance and much to like.

Yet I can't help but gripe about the price - despite the appeal, this isn't a huge step up in quality over the basic Barossa Shiraz, especially when tasted side by side.

Still, value is in the eye of the beholder and this is pretty tasty stuff. Lets call it a half win?

Source: Sample
Tasted: October
Drink: 2014-2022
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? No. I'd drink it though.
Buy online:Seppeltsfield website

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: terreaterre.com.au


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