Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Henty Pinot deliciousness: The Story Henty Pinot 2012

The Story Henty Pinot Noir 2012
13.5%, Screwcap, $40


Take a bow Rory 'Story' Lane (again).

Rory is making the sort of wines that I would want to be making, in the styles that I would want to make (if that makes any sense).

Here he uses fruit from the superstar Victorian Pinot Noir region in waiting (Henty) and gives it the full 100% whole bunch treatment, largely in a bid to really push the boundaries and create something magical.

It bloody works too, the whole bunch character showing loudly with its mulchy, roast beefy, garden clippings woodiness. Crucially, however, all that stem action is underpinned by a thick red cherry fruit, carrying the palate beyond just stems and into genuine wine territory.  

In some ways this is a marginal wine, made in a marginal style, from a marginal Pinot region. Yet that's also what is good about this wine; the character and dare only amplified by the unequivocal approach.

I drank plenty of this and even at the last glass it was divisive. Still that divisiveness, to my mind at least, is something to be celebrated...

Source: Sample
Drunk: April 2014
Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 18.1/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? This sort of innovation and pulsating cutting edge form, for such few dollars? Yes please. It's actually rather delicious, if a little confronting to be great.
Buy online: The Story website

On pricing and Adelaide Hills Chardonnay - Bird in Hand Nest Egg Chardonnay 2012

Bird in Hand Nest Egg Chardonnay 2012 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
13%, Screwcap, $75! 


I tasted this without looking at the price, completely ignorant. Best way to taste. Big dollars for this sort of wine in retrospect, particularly when you can get Shaw + Smith M3 for half that. Close to Tiers for that matter too (which I'd choose over this in a heartbeat).

Anyway, price is a subjective issue which we all know. I can't help but feel that it's me-too pricing regardless...

Gee this is worked wine (maybe that is why its expensive), with a nutty, golden honeycomb Gaytime nose. Expensive oak and careful malo/yeast for sure. Full tilt palate looks a bit rich and oak heavy, but finishes clean and spicy with excellent penetration.

As that oak calms down this is going to get better, though there remains a slight sense of hollowness that I couldn't shake - too much work, not enough love. Good, not great.

Source: Sample
Tasted: April 2014
Drink: 2014-2019
Score: 17.8/20, 92/100+
Would I buy it? No, but I'd drink it.
Buy online: Bird in Hand website

Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling 2013

Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $19.99


With Glen Barry at the Knappstein helm the wines really seem to have regained some composure of late, back to the generous, regional styles of yore.

This is direct and limey, unequivocal and pure - an utterly intense Clare style, with no shortage of fruit or acidity. Not profound but good lime and acid style. Perhaps a tad forward but still lots to like.

Source: Sample
Tasted: March 2014
Drink: 2014-2018+
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy this? A go-to on a shitty pub wine list. Good value too.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Wine List Australia

Taltarni Brut Tache 2010

Taltarni Brut Tache 2010 (Various)
12.5%, Diam, $26

Excuse my ignorance but I never knew Tache was French word for stained. I never quite made it beyond counting to dix...

This Tache is stained with red wine at disgorgement, which is one of the simplest (though perilous for good integration) ways of making what is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunièr pink. 

It's just lightly pink though, like a little pink highlighter has been dropped in the wine. Slightly sweet but correct and quite Pinoty palate is forward, a little sherbety and entirely pleasant. Not hard to drink a glass, though you'd probably tire of it after that (the sweetness dominates after a while). Fair enough (but you could do better).

Source: Sample
Tasted: April 2014
Drink: 2014
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Not really.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Taltarni website 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Delicious grower fizz: Champagne Lancelot-Pienne Cuvée Perceval 2006

Champagne Lancelot-Pienne Cuvée Perceval 2006
12%, Cork, $120


Wines like this illustrate just how magical fine grower Champagne can be.

Imported by Eurocentric Wine, a mere 800 bottles of this are produced each year (which means its not easy to get hold of some - try Nev at Eurocentric directly).

A 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Pinot from the Marne Valley and the Chardonnay from Cramant, with the wine made in concrete/stainless tanks where it complete malolactic fermentation and was then kept on lees for an extended period before secondary ferment.

I actually picked this as a blanc de blancs at first, largely due to the rather floral, white flower prettiness on the nose. That's not a bad thing, as it just emphasises the quality of the Chardonnay fruit. There's some gherkin, meringue and sherbet in their too, just to fill things out a bit. Initially quite delicate to taste, the pure and chalky palate very clean and effortlessly laid out, the Pinot giving late drive to finish.

A delightfully delicate Champagne, the emphasis here is on purity over any autolytic fullness, the sheer beauty of the base wine making this adelight to drink. Maybe not quite the rambunctious power of some other grower Champagne, but so keen and vibrant that you can't help but love it - a quite feminine wine (and all the better for it).

Delicious.

Source: Retail
Tasted Drunk: April 2014
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Absolutely.

Lark Hill Viognier 2013

Lark Hill Viognier 2013 (Canberra)
12%, Screwcap, $25

This is the best Lark Hill Viognier to date.

Lark Hill have clearly worked the V weed to show its best here, with the Carpenter's using a combination of mid season picking (to retain freshness) and a little wild fermentation in old wood to give that combination of both freshness and richness.

Clear and crisp, it's rather floral to smell (good), the palate a tussle between blistering grapefruit acidity to match the Viognier peach skin richness, the balance actually pretty good, helping making this more than drinkable.

A viable challenger to the more tropical Marlborough Sauv style, this is not profound but pretty clever wine.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Feb 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink a glass.

Taltarni Blanc de Blancs 2011

Taltarni Blanc de Blancs 2011 (Victoria)
12%, Diam, $26

All Victorian fruit in this Taltarni bubbly.

Has a tart green apple fruit nose and a hint of some nice Chard florals - pretty and lifted. Slightly too much green apple fruit and tart acidity but awfully serious for the price. I'd genuinely enjoy drinking this more than most $26 Aus bubbles really. Aching for more bottle and lees ageing though - just a bit more weight to soften the edges.

Easy value recommendation regardless, particularly as it can be picked up for under $20 in retail land.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Feb 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100
Would I buy it? Maybe. I'd recommend it in a heartbeat.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Taltarni website

Tinja No Added Preservative White 2013

Tinja No Added Preservative White 2013 (Mudgee, NSW)
11.1%, Screwcap, $22

David Lowe has been tinkering with preservative free wines since the 2009, with this white the latest carefully finessed release in the line. Note the wording here - 'no added preservative' vs 'preservative free'. An important delineation as the yeasts used to produce this white imparted a little SO2 during ferment.

A blend of Mudgee Chardonnay and Verdelho, the style unashamedly aimed at simple fruit juiciness, the wine driven by melon and peach Chard/Verdelho fruit and a lightly textural fruity palate with plenty of acidity. It's not all that intense, but it is varietal and clean (if a little like drinking Dispirin. Does what it says on the box, but I'd only drink this if you were allergic to sulphur.

Source: Sample
Tasted: March 2014
Drink: 2014
Score:15.5/20, 85/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Lowe Wines website

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mornington Pinot goodness: Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Pinot Noir 2012

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Pinot Noir 2012 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $32


If this multi-vineyard blend is anything to go by, the 2012 Ten Minutes by Tractor estate wines are going to be very, very exciting..

Despite being 100% destemmed, this carries a firmness that you would normally see in something more whole bunchy, the tannins quite sappy and carefully honed. It smells lovely too - red fruit and clove oak, backed by an effortless, mid-weight palate. All very promising.

Quintessential delicate Mornington Pinot really, needing just a little more concentration to be fabulous. What an entry level wine though! Many $50 Pinots would struggle to match this style...

Source: Sample
Tasted: April 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 17.8/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Buy online: Ten Minutes by Tractor website

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lerida Estate Pinot Grigio 2012

Lerida Estate Pinot Grigio 2012 (Canberra)
11.2%, Screwcap, $25

Prob silly to be reviewing an 18 month old Pinot Grigio. But hey, Lerida can make decent wines.

This is much better than expected too - rather clean and chalky, the cut green and red apple palate is really juicy, even despite the flabbiness of an extra year in bottle. Even some leesy cream too, finishing quite long. You'd drink this for sure (and it would have been even better a year ago).

Source: Sample
Tasted: March 2014
Drink: 2014
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100
Would I buy it? No. But I'd drink a glass.
Buy online: Kemenys, Lerida website, Wine Searcher

Eden Road Long Road Pinot Gris 2013

Eden Road Long Road Pinot Gris 2013 (Canberra)
13.5%, Screwcap, $27


Sourced from the Long Rail Gully vineyard, this was left in the press for 12 hours to get a skin contact hence the barest hint of orange. 6 months in barrel.

Texturally driven, slightly phenolic, with warm alcohol and a lingering finish. You get the impression that this will need some time in bottle to resolve, though the flavours are pretty handy. I didn't quite warm to it though - just a bit warm and bulky methinks. I want a bit more freshness. Sort of waiting for the penny to drop here. Revisit in 6 months.

Source: Sample
Tasted: March 2014
Drink: 2014 (later in the year) - 2017
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100
Buy online: World Wine, Eden Road website, Wine Searcher

Tahbilk Marsanne 2013

Tahbilk Marsanne 2013 (Goulburn Valley, Vic)
12.5%, Screwcap, $18.80

'As Tahbilk's fourth generation winemaker, I would love to share the Estate's story'

That's Alister Purbrick, in the release notes of this wine, Hard to tell a Tahbilk story without referencing Marsanne methinks - Marsanne and Shiraz. You know what the only problem is? This wine - the most famous Tahbilk Marsanne - is a boring wine young. It smells quite tropical this year (aromatic yeasts?) along with the trademark honeysuckle, but the palate, as usual, is simple, chalky and mono-dimensional. There is some grip there, but unless you'd tasted a Tahbilk Marsanne with some age on it you'd dismiss this as a non-descript white wine.

The caterpillar, desperately in need of 3-5 years to make the butterfly stage.

Source: Sample
Tasted: March 2014
Drink: 2016-2020+
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Only to forget about for five years.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Tahbilk website

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Two very different new Rieslings from Frankland Estate and Parish Vineyard

Two very different new Rieslings from Frankland Estate and Parish Vineyard

Riesling is a fragile beast.

For all of its acid driven structure, Riesling remains a very easy wine to disturb, the aromatics often lost due to poor storage and any sort of taint really dominating. Little wonder that it was Rizza that kicked off the Aussie screwcap rush and remains where dark coloured glass remains the norm (no Arctic Blue bottle for Clare Riesling).

On that note, I do wonder whether the first wine in this duo from Frankland Estate may have been a bad bottle, as it just didn't look as fresh as normal. Still, storage is a gamble, and ultimately I could just be an ungenerous scoring, grumpy bastard...

Regardless, it certainly stumbled versus the Parish Vineyard Rizza which, as you can see, comfortably outclassed it, despite the former's lofty reputation.

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2013 (Frankland River, WA)
11.6%, Screwcap, $35

Now certified organic. The 2013 vintage wasn't the greatest for many Great Southern Rieslings, the warmth leading to some overly broad wines. This carries what I think is a stamp of mixed ripeness, the nose really tangy and a little grassy, the palate tight and tart too, yet also with an edge of flab and tangerine toast premature development. The acid seems to fight the fruit tingle fruit, delivering a disjointed - if still quite long - wine that is all arms and legs, tart acid and forward fruit. Will it come good?
16.8/20, 89/100
Buy online: Frankland Estate website

Parish Vineyard Riesling 2013 (Tasmania)
11.5%, Screwcap, $28.95
A new project for Louisa Rose and Robert Hill Smith of Yalumba, this is sourced from a 3 hectare block in the Coal River Valley (which used to be the Frogmore Creek vineyard). It's made with no acid additions and time on lees, the winemaking less of the traditional reductive style and aimed more at texture. It's certainly a clean and well made white, with loads of grapefruit and natural acidity, the crunchiness really rather appealing, yet also with a green apple juiciness too. It's just a bit compact at the moment, the finish slightly stunted, yet all the promise is here for something special. Wine to watch. 17.7/20, 92/100

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five smart new 2012 Shiraz under $30

Five smart new 2012 Shiraz under $30

I actually picked this five out before noticing that they were all 2012, but that's of no surprise. It was a vintage that had many South Australian and Victorian Shiraz makers wetting themselves with excitement. The Eden Road is carried more on skillful winemaking than a superior vintage, marking another success for the Eden Road crew.

Eden Road Long Road Shiraz 2012 (Gundagai)
13%, Screwcap, $28

Unusual fruit sourcing for this re - 92% Gundagai, 5% Canberra and 3% Hilltops. The Eden Road boys aren't afraid of taking a different approach and it certainly works here, balancing up the open easy, grape Hubba Bubba fruit richness (lifted up thanks to a little Viognier) with a dash of whole bunch spiciness. That 15% whole bunch makes plenty difference actually, giving shape and twiggy tannic firmness to what is a quite juicy, lightish sort of a wine. Pretty smart drinking, all said and done.
17.5/20, 91/100
Buy online: Different Drop, Eden Road website

Soumah Shiraz 2012 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13.2%, Screwcap, $25

Attractive packaging, refreshing wines. That's the Soumah ethos, with this wine towing the light and fresh mode nicely. It smells of black pepper over black plum, the fruit and oak quite full considering the mid weight, cool clime style, the palate carrying plenty of acidity to keep everything quite vital, the tannins quite pithy. Too plummy and oaky to be confused with a Euro Syrah, yet carries the freshness to make it rather tasty. I liked. 17.7/20, 92/100+
Buy online: Soumah website

Veronique Foundation Shiraz 2012 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $22

A new name to me and very sharply priced. Sourced from vineyards in Greenock and Eden Valley, this spent 20 months in French and American oak with just 570 dozen produced. Gee it's impressively full flavoured too, perhaps verging on overripeness with a nose and palate heavy with the sort of boozy, choc bullet ultra concentration (low yields my guess) and sweet coffed oak. For many other Greenock sourced wines you'd expect to pay double this price, making the $22 ultra impressive. Full, decadent and heady, full tilt Barossan Shiraz. 17.5/20, 91/100
Buy online: Veronique website

Chapel Hill Parsons Shiraz 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $16

The Parsons Nose has become more and more of a Chapel Hill Shiraz in recent years, with the house style more evident than ever (which is a good thing). Full red berry richness on the nose, the palate grunty and rather grown up for this price point - big and round and inky. No finesse and less than perfect tannins, but gee this packs a helluva big black fruit punch for the dollars. 16.8/20, 89/100
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Auswine, Chapel Hill website

Taltarni Sparkling Shiraz 2012 (Victoria)
14%, Cork, $26

A new release from Taltarni and already looks the goods. I'm guessing that there is a fair bit of Pyrenees and Heathcote fruit in the blend given the mint and dark chocolate nose. The palate concentration is pretty impressive too, with full and ripe berried fruit before a surprisingly dry, tannic and spearminty finish (which points towards Pyrenees fruit for sure). Quality base wine methinks, with plenty of weight to really carry this forward. I'd drink it for sure.
17.5/20, 91/100
Buy online: Taltarni website

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

'Buttery' Chardonnay - the Hunter's secret weapon (feat. Scarborough's 2011)

Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay 2011 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
13.5%, Screwcap, $23CD

When I first entered the wine industry, 15 odd years ago, Chardonnay's popularity had already peaked. It was still the most consumed white wine mind you, but the change had begun, with tastes moving away from Chardy and into more aromatic/lighter bodied white wines.

Of course that shift did result in the (arguably misguided) Verdelho boom of the late 90s/early noughties (poor Verdelho. Always the chubby bridesmaid), but arguably we ended up with a much more diverse white wine drinking diet because of it (save for the overt dominance of Sauv Blanc).

The main casualty of this taste evolution, however, was the rich, oak (and more oak) driven Chardonnays of the 90s, with wines like Rosemounts Oakasaurus (aka Roxburgh) shuffled into an appropriately full bodied retirement.

While this was a good move in some ways (Chardonnay does not need 100% new oak), the swift abandonment of a mainstream full and 'buttery' Chardonnay style left a hole in the market. All those drinkers who prefer softer, more rounded wines were not going to be content drinking dry and sharply defined Sauvignon Blanc, with the Chardonnay styles themselves also becoming drier, leaner and less generous too.

Enter the Hunter Valley vignerons. Despite being regularly viewed more as tourism operators than winemakers, what some of the region's canny winemakers realised was that the full flavoured style of Hunter Valley Chardonnay had a place after all. Sure, it did require some tinkering (like careful oak treatment and MLF retardation), but what producers like Scarborough, Tyrrell's, Mistletoe, De Iuliis know is that many people, myself included, prefer Chardonnay to be rich and ripe, the leanings more towards Montrachet than unwooded Chardonnay.

The results of this regional realisation are plain to see. Mistletoe continues to pick up bags of silverware for their Reserve Chardonnay. Tyrrell's have an ever expanding range of single vineyard Chardonnay, all built full and proudly Hunteriffic. Lake's Folly Chardonnay now sells out as quick as it did back in the 90s.

If you had to pick just one wine to showcase the value of a 'buttery' (which is how such styles are often referred to as) Hunter Chardy, however, it would be this Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay.

Back in the late 90s, when the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement first gathered steam, it seemed to the Scarborough family that their Chardonnay would fall out of fashion. Indeed they started producing a 'Blue Label' Chardonnay that was built leaner with less oak and more delicacy in response.

But then a funny thing happened. Instead of ol' Yellow Label dropping away, sales increased. In fact, sales of full bodied Chardonnay went up so much that Scarborough's introduced a third, more premium full bodied Chardonnay into the range, tapping into that demand for full-bodied Chardonnay that wasn't being met elsewhere.

This new 2011 Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay is a perfect example of the 'house style' too. Produced from a warm vintage in the Hunter (more of a Shiraz vintage than Semillon) it has that 'buttery' richness that so many drinkers still love. - a combination of golden, 'peaches and cream' fruit and oak, over a palate that is full, low on acid and utterly mouthfilling with its honeyed richness, all without looking sweet or lifeless.

Sure, it's not minerally, it's not finely delineated, it's even a little bulky. But for anyone who can see the charm of Chardonnay with guts, it is a very natural go-to recommendation.

Tasted: March 2014
Source: Sample
Drink: 2014-2019
Score: 17.3/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Still lots of pleasure here.
Buy online: Scarborough website, Wine List Australia

Monday, April 14, 2014

The 40th anniversary Wirra Wirra Church Block + a great press release

Wirra Wirra Church Block Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $25

I love a good press release.

Nailing the balance between being informative as well as injecting a little character into a press release is a skill - a rare one at that.

The team at Wirra Wirra (and specifically MD Andrew Kay), however, seem to be able to turn out golden press releases time after time, channeling the wild creativity that founder (of the modern WIrra era) Greg Trott would be proud of.

For the perfect example of the typically offbeat Wirra press release approach, look no further than the one below that accompanied this new 40th anniversary edition of the famed Church Block red - inarguably Wirra Wirra's most well-known wine.



As you can see, the joy of such a written piece is the weaving of facts in with story, giving much more of a human context to the somewhat cut and dried world of wine production.

I dig it.

Better still, this new Church Block is an excellent budget wine too. 

Still a Cabernet Shiraz Merlot (the blend changing relatively little over the years) it carries the deep purple colours of 2012 McLaren Vale reds with the nose to match - all coffeed oak, super plush fruit and a slippery choc bullet palate. It's just a little warm to finish, which obscures the back palate a little, and more broad McLaren Vale red than defined Cabernet, yet the level of concentration and purple/black fruit lusciousness makes this easy to like and very easy to recommend. 

Unequivocally good rich red wine that will please many. 

Tasted: March 2014
Source: Sample
Drink: 2014- 2020
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? On your average pub wine list this would be a shining light of quality.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April tasting note folder clean-out (part deux)

April tasting note folder clean-out (part deux)

(Probably best to start here).

Tulloch Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Hunter Valley & Orange)
13.2%, Screwcap, $16


Clean, varietal and bright fruited - what an attractive little wine this is! All dark dusty blackberries and bright Ribena juice. Has lots of flavour, a clean finish and lots to like really - feels earthen and unforced. Really well made and altogether attractive for what is a simple wine. $16 well spent. 16.8/20 89/100

Lark Hill Pinot Noir 2012 (Canberra)
12.5%, Screwcap, $35

I've never been the biggest fan of Lark Hill's Pinots, preferring the aromatics and the (Murrumbateman sourced) Shiraz over this wine. In 2012, however, the stars aligned to provide a fleshier wine without the dry red overtones - a wine of delicacy even. It still has the meaty, smoking chips and dark berry density, but there is a nice cherry push through the middle. Particularly dry, sappy tannins and sharply focused acidity will see this still not everyone's ideal Pinot Noir, but the structure and lines are impressive. 17.5/20, 91/100+

Eden Road Long Road Pinot Noir 2012 (Tumbarumba, NSW)
12.5%, Screwcap, $30

In time, Tumbarumba may well be considered to be among our finest Pinot Noir regions (particularly with a little climate change in the mix), For now, however, it remains a marginal place for red table wine production, as wines like this show. Produced by the boys at Eden Road (who are really on a roll of late, particularly with Chardonnay), there's all the hallmarks of clever winemaking here, just desperately looking for a little more ripe fruit. You can see that in the colour alone, with more than a little orange, leading to fragrant, lightly stemmy nose stamped with the ferrous notes of very cool clime Pinot Noir (think Coteaux de Champenoise).The challenges come on the palate, which has stern acidity and slightly bitter tannins, finishing with a fine boned delicacy. In some ways this is a rather beautiful and fragrant wine, but still, you just can't shake that want for more grape ripeness. 16/20, 87/100

Hither & Yon Nero d'Avola 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $25

Light, fun and uncomplicated - the epitome of the Nero style I discussed last night. No thought, just slurpability. Light purple, plum colour. Plum nose and palate. Musky, young vine lack of varietal intensity on the palate which is short, tart and plump with light airy tannins. Needs more intensity to be convincing, but fair promise. 15.5/20, 85/100

De Bortoli La Boheme Act Two Dry Rose 2013 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $25

Still amongst the best dry rosé in the country, particularly since de Bortoli stopped making their 'Estate' rosé. Coppery coloured, the nose reticent at first but blossomed on day 2. Pink strawberry fruit but not sweet, the palate balancing lightness and acidity with just enough fruit sweetness, the pink fruit and acid warmth a soft but lively finish. Bloody composed and seriously good, serious and savoury pink. 17.8/20, 92/100

Woodstock The Stocks Shiraz 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.9%, Screwcap, $65

A big McLaren Vale Shiraz with the sort of flavour richness that wins trophies (or used to). Produced from 31 rows of Shiraz planted circa 1900, this is black black in colour - like ink. Super concentrated nose too smells coffeed and syrupy, a riper expression with very unctuous, rather oaky, black sweet coffeed caramel flavours. Inky, porty but not ugly palate is super smooth, incredibly sweet and muscat like in its slightly shrivelled fruit weight. Big boy Shiraz at a big boy price. Still, pulls it off mostly (and deserves the highish score because of it). 18/20, 93/100

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good drink or good wine? A drinkability discussion feat. a smart new Nero d'Avola

Good drink or good wine? A drinkability discussion feat. a smart new Nero d'Avola

'Nero (is) pretty much always a great drink first, a great wine rarely'

That's the typically cutting opinion of fellow scribe Gary Walsh, talking about Nero d'Avola on twitter yesterday.

Gary is right too (don't tell him I said that), as Nero based reds are typically about fruit, not structure - wines to be consumed, rather than to be consuming.

What's more, it's not just Nero d'Avola that falls into that camp - you could probably say the same thing about Moscato, or Dolcetto, or Soave or even AC Chablis. Simple wines, all of 'em, made in an uncomplicated fashion and loved for their drinkability.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule, with wines like Pra's Monte Grande or the Cos Syre perfect examples of how far such styles and varieties can be taken.

Still, when we exclude the outliers, the standard Soave or Nero is about simplicity, not complication.

On that note, I can't help but ask - is there anything actually wrong with straightforward, fruity wines? How do you score great wines that aren't actually all that complex (but delicious)? Do we need to go looking for complexity, when satisfying drinks will do just fine?

You can probably ask a similar question about beer actually, with plenty of wine people poo-pooing complex beers in favour of simple, 'sessionable', flavourless lagers (not me). Chocolate falls into a similar category; with some of the wildest single plantation dark chocolates much harder to enjoy than basic milk chocolate.

It's a muddy topic though, for there is genuinely a place for both simplicity and complexity.

All of which brings us back to Nero - to this Lethbridge Nero actually, which is the wine that Gary mentioned in the tweet above (and a red that doesn't quite fit the 'simple wine' paradigm).

Lethbridge Nero d'Avola 2012 (Heathcote, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $42

It's all about the detail. From the careful textures on the label to the 'further recommendations' list of likely suspects. It all points to an awareness of just what can be done - a knowing nod of what is required to make decent wine.

There's finesse in the winemaking too, with a cold soak, wild fermentation in older oak and old school pigeage all making for the perfect context for seriousness.

You know what? It almost gets there too. This isn't just trying to be a good drink, it's pitching for greatness, carrying the plum/blackberry jam fruit thickness and concentration that typifies traditional, 'grown under endless sunny skies' southern Italian Nero, yet also with the fine tannins and savouriness to make for something altogether more grown-up.

Ultimately this is still a bridging wine - too juicy to be a keeper, too tannic to be a quaff. But that's not doing this Lethbridge red justice, as it is genuinely delicious (and that's all that counts). 17.7/20, 92/100

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April tasting note folder clean-out (part 1)

April tasting note folder clean-out (part 1)

It's been ridiculously wet in Sydney today, with the sort of torrential rain that makes bed the place to be (I still went running in the downpour anyway. Idiot).

Besides sleeping, what such indoors-friendly weather is really good for is reorganising things - tidying, filing, reordering, compiling. That sort of thing.

This post then is a little tidy up of my tasting notes folder - a wrap up of wines tasted over the past few weeks that haven't quite made it to the 'publish' stage as yet. 

The notes are perhaps a little shorter than usual, but that's mainly as I've dropped some of the meandering intro bits and concentrated on the meaty wine stuff. Succinctness is an art form after all...
Just some of the tasting notes to be written up

Galafrey 'Savvy' Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Mt Barker, Great Southern, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $20
Dry grown - and all the more intense because of it. Water clear, if the bottle wasn't lightly tinted this would be almost water. Grassy nose and lightly grassy palate has good concentration and excellent penetration. Very firm acidity and a bit raw to finish. Pretty serviceable Savvy in the full and ripe, mega varietal grassy mode. 16.5/20, 88/100

Cirillo 1850 Old Vines Grenache 2009 (Barossa, SA)
14.2%, Screwcap, $50


Typically complex and deep old vine Grenache this, if looking big, quite forward and tarry this vintage. I think this is just a bit too compressed and concentrated to be great right now, but clearly an animal of power and weight. Going to need time to unravel though as it is broody and ultra savoury. Tough love for the moment. 18/20, 93/100+

Cirillo Vincent Grenache 2012 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $20


While the 1850s Vines is all about concentration, this is sheer Grenache prettiness - with lively cranberry red fruit flavours and fine tannins. It's a joyful little wine with some tarry wildness too. Barossa Burgundy in a bright and generous early drinking style with plenty of savouriness too. Not quite as serious as the Old Vines wine but more pleasant to drink now. 17.7/20, 92/100

Willow Bridge Solana Tempranillo 2012 (Great Southern, WA)
12.9%, Screwcap, $28
Tasted blind. Surprisingly ripe and liquered given the alcohol, though also vibrant and carries some half decent acidity. Intrigue.Rather juicy and red fruited, if sweetly oaked. Is that alcohol right? Looks much warmer than 12.9%. Could it have been better with more concentration? Certainly fresh and mid weight. 17/20, 90/100

Lark Hill Auslese Riesling 2013 (Canberra)
9.5%, Screwcap, $30 (375ml)

For all of its Auslese labelling this looks really quite dry. Not quite Auslese Trocken but certainly not as sweet as expected. Slightly volatile, concentrated and super citrussy nose - real mandarin concentration there. Dry and citrussy palate is rather crisp for an Auslese style, much more mid weight and looks rather less driven by botrytis than many German Auslese (clean too, save for a last minute botrytis hit). Airy finish - a little short maybe? Good without quite nailing it. 17.5/20, 91/100

Singlefile Porongurup Riesling 2013 (Great Southern, WA)
12%, Screwcap, $29

Harder than it should be.Sherbet and talc on the lean, grapefruit acid driven nose. Curiously, the palate is both slightly forward and also raw, the acidity bristling and jagged vs the quite demure and chubby fruit. Acid wins over balance. 16.2/20, 87/100

Alkoomi Chardonnay 2011 (Frankland River, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $21 

Always reliable wine this. Creamy, nutty, lightly buttered Sao yeast and barrel nose, the creamy palate topped off with crisp acidity. It's a little winemaking heavy - and that oak ain't for everyone - but otherwise impressive Chardonnay for bugger all dollars. Great length too. 17/20, 90/100

De Bortoli Deen Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Various)
$12.90 13.5%

Solid wine. Absurdly cheap. Dusty, genuinely varietal nose, the palate driven by pressings and added acid with some residual sugar sweetness. Raw to finish but plenty of flavour and clean and seriously varietal. Green tannins the only drawback. Fair. 15.5/20, 81/100

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The glorious 2010 Guigal La La's - totally unaffordable benchmark Syrah

Tasting the 2010 Guigal La La's - totally unaffordable benchmark Syrah

Boom! The 2010 Guigal La Landonne hits you like a freight train, all brutish tannins and huge flavours, the wine almost mocking you for daring to open it so young.

Still, although it is the least approachable Shiraz/Syrah I've had in some time, there remains enough magic about it that makes you want to drink it - not just stick it in the cellar. You're compelled to drink it even, just to revel in that massive structure and perfect lines.

But gee its expensive. Circa $700/bottle expensive. So expensive that you need to step back and have a rethink about what's in front of you in the glass - is it really that good, or is it simply a case of getting caught up in the emotion of tasting a famous wine, from a famous maker, in a famous vintage?

I say yes. Actually, if I had enough money I'd be stocking up on all three of these new 2010 La La's, for they're seriously brilliant wines.

Of course I can't afford any of them - I was only gifted the opportunity to try these three wines thanks to the Working With Wine Fellowship; a biannual education programme (run by renowned wine importer Negociants Australia) that famously offers Australian 'wine professionals' the chance to taste the great wines of the world in a set of seminars led by industry experts.

This Guigal trio was the centrepiece of Tuesday's first seminar of the 2014 Fellowship, the tasting including a spread of CNdP; a line up of Hermitage; plus a few great Australian Shiraz. Better still, Aussie wine luminaries including Tim Kirk (Clonakilla); Louisa Rose (Yalumba), Iain Riggs (Brokenwood) and John Duval, plus Phillipe Guigal (Guigal) on hand to talk us through the wines.

In other words, great wines and smart people to talk about it. An awesome day.

The wines


All of these were tasted non blind relatively quickly. Extra background bits in italics. Scoring proved more challenging than expected...

Guigal La Mouline 2010
89% Syrah, 11% Viognier. From what is the oldest vineyard in Cote Rotie, with a single hectare of vines, including some plantings dating back to the 1890s. 42 months in oak.
Is it wrong to call this pretty? Very fragrant, with ham, dandelion and some sort of expensive perfume on the nose, though with less force and much more openness than either of the other two, complete with just a hint of herbs. It's almost gentle on the palate, mouth filling and open and very pretty - such an unforced red. You could smash a bottle of this already! Such fragrance and beauty for what could be a monsterous wine unexpected really. Silky palate and quite grainy tannins let this flow beautifully. Near perfect. Actually, some warm alcohol is the only filip. Beautiful. 19/20, 96/100

Guigal La Turque 2010
93% Syrah, 7% Viognier, Sourced from the Cote Brune with circa 35 year old vines. 42 months in oak.
Certainly less fragrant and more masculine than the La Mouline. It seems a little more subdued, more tannins and more grip. Still, there is a long, rare roast beef chocolatey richness here. More mystery than the La Mouline yet without the fragrance - riper and fuller. Cocoa on the nose, the palate channels kidney and some meaty wildness, the Viognier giving late flesh. Maybe more masculine, less smashable than the La Mouline, but the tannins are more mature and longer. Exceptional depth and power but perhaps a little less sexy and perfect compared to the La Mouline. Bloody hard to choose between them. 18.9/20, 96/100

Guigal La Landonne 2010
100% Syrah. 100% whole bunch. 42 months in oak. 'A little more than normal produced in 2010' according to Phillipe. 2500 bottles produced. 
Massive wine. Has a huge nose of enveloping stems that is quite unlike the other Cote Roties - it's almost Australian in its brawniness. Such extract here - it almost laughs at you, a big beefy red with chocolate flavours and heroic, live-for-50-years tannins. In the longer term this will be the winner of this trio but untouchable now. Unbelievable tannins. Superstar tannins. Aggressive tannins perhaps. But woah. Magnificent wine. Benchmark resetting wine. 19.2/20, 97/100