Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Handpicked Collection Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2013

Handpicked Collection Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2013 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)

Well packaged and smells great. A big, brooding, plummy Pinot with everything on the larger side - extract, oak, everything (like much of the Handpicked Collection). It's a bit grippy and the oak sticks out but for depth a flavour this is pretty handy. Warming finish and the background suggestion of bacon is a nod to a warm year, but it just adds to the impact. Pretty solid, if hardly delicate.

Details: 13.8%, Screwcap, $55
Source: Sample, tasted Dec 14
Drink: 2015-2019
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Not quite. Probably drink a glass, but just a bit pricey for a whole bottle.
Buy online: Handpicked website

MC By 3 Dark Horses Sauvignon Blanc 2014

MC By 3 Dark Horses Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 

75% carbonic maceration for 7 days. Basket pressed to old oak for full solids ferment. 25% on skins for 40 days. Less stirred. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Interesting treatment for Adelaide Hills Sauv Blanc eh? Tastes it too, all pips and pith and an intense grip. The driver here is the straw and hay of skin contact Sauv but underpinned with more classic gooseberry Sauv. Conventional meets un. There's power though, with excellent acidity to counter the broadness of the handling.

An odd wine that will probably look better in a years time. I like the first impressions though - there is character, if more like 'natural wine-lite'.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample, tasted Dec 14
Drink: 2015-2017
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? Not yet.

Balgownie's biggun - the $95 Old Vines Shiraz

Balgownie Estate Old Vines Shiraz 2009 (Bendigo, Vic)

I've not seen this wine before, but certainly the background story is solid.

Sourced from the best rows of Balgownie's original 1969 Bendigo plantings the fruit hand picked, hand plunged open fermented and 24 months in barrique.

Gee you can taste that oak too, the 24 months in wood giving a chocolatey richness to everything that is inescapable. There's kirsch and dense, red dirt tipped fruit too but you can't escape that smudgy density of thick toast oak in every cranny, the finish warm, the fruit vibrance long gone.

To be honest this will live forever (and in twenty years time might be lauded) as it has no shortage of tannic impact. Still this will never be more than just a dry red. Rioja Riserva meets Bendigo Shiraz.

Details: 14%, Screwcap, $95
Source: Sample, tasted Dec 14
Drink: 2015-2025+
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Balgownie website

Proper Margaret River Chardonnay: Clairault Estate Chardonnay 2012

Clairault Chardonnay 2012 (Margaret River, WA)

I miss full bodied Chardonnay. In the race for 'minerality' and 'freshness' it seems Australian Chard has pushed aside flavour all too often.

Not this wine though, Fitting with the Clairault style - which has always been (good) old school, authentic Margs - it manages to balance nutty, peachy fruit and vanilla oak with that modern grapefruit acidity. Old meets new.

It's a little toasty and the oak a fraction chippy but the impact and length are what you'd want in a $27 Margaret River Chard.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $27
Source: Sample, tasted Dec 14/
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink a glass or two.
Buy online: Clairault website

Monday, 22 December 2014

Clairault Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014

Clairault Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 (Margaret River, WA)

Our love affair with single varietals (and Sauvignon Blanc) has seen the 'Margaret River Classic Dry White' fall out of fashion in recent years, a move that continues to baffle me. Why ditch a perfectly good, symbiotic blend in favour of aromatics and acid?

Anyway, Sauv is the dominant force in this Clairault, all intense passionfruit and asparagus. It's almost too aggressively Savvy really, leading to a sweet and sour palate that is big on punch but also leaves a bruise. Still, you can see that the intention to compete with the boldness of the Kiwi caricature and intensity of flavour is unrivalled, complete with raw, unripe acidity and a long finish.

Not sure I could drink this, but many will appreciate the style.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $23
Source: Sample, tasted Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Clairault website

Friday, 19 December 2014

Brutally beautiful Barolo: Cavallotto Bricco Boschis Barolo 2001

Cavallotto Bricco Boschis Barolo 2001 (Barolo, Piedmont, Italy)

There is something very alluring about the uncompromising power of young Barolo. Especially in the classic style like this, where barriques are eskewed and the wines can look both beautiful and brutal. The black widow of wine.

Here there is the combination of producer, vintage and site, all combining to produce a little dash of 'specialness'.

From first whiff there's greatness here, with licorice, sand and anise, the palate shying away from the obvious confection of warm year Barolo and offering more vibrance and even juiciness. It smells sexy and coiled and yet available. Underneath it's a womping, uncompromising wine that sucks the liquid from your mouth, almost unbelievably fresh for a 13 year old wine, the finish 'proper' dry.

Strictly speaking this is just a little simple - and way too young - to be truly great, but gee its a thing to be admired. A wine that you stop at the end of the glass and say 'yep. Good shit'.

Big yes from me.

Source:  Tasting
Drink: 2014-206
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink a bottle no sweat. Wouldn't mind owning some either.
Buy online: Wine Searcher

MC by Three Dark Horses Grenache Touriga 2014

MC by Three Dark Horses Grenache Touriga 2014 (McLaren Vale, SA)

The most 'conventional' wine in the Three Dark Horses 'Sinners' Series, this is a blend of Vale Grenache and Touriga (75:25) with 50% whole bunches, wild yeast ferments, plenty of carbonic and minimal additions.

What a bright and vital number it is too, just loaded with jubey, bright redcurrant Grenache and some Touriga aromatics. There's some excellent whole bunch spiciness and bitter tannins, the combo of meat and fruit sweetness working a treat.

Unconventional but utterly alive.Yes.

Details: 14%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2020
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? A half bottle proposition, but would prefer to drink in a few months time.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A fine Aussie fizz after a pretty ordinary night

After a pretty fucked 24 hours in Sydney it seems a bit rude to be talking about booze today.

I've got too many friends who work around Martin Place, who were evacuated, who could have been in that cafe buying a hot chocolate on a Monday morning - It's all too close to home, especially as I walk past there several times a week. I feel sorry and sad for the families of those who lost loved ones overnight, especially so close to Christmas. Awful.

Anyway, I wanted to talk today about how good the new Clover Hill Vintage Cuvee 2009 is, but that just seems wrong. Then again, maybe today is a good day to bring your family together and open some really good booze, just because life is too short.

On the Clover Hill, it's perhaps the most serious release in years. I've always preferred the Blanc de Blancs from Clover (and ex-winemaker Karina Dambergs thinks the site is best suited to Chardonnay) but this '09 is fair up to the task; built in a quite masculine style with real extract and power, if just a little strict and serious for most wine drinkers.

For the $36 it can be found for around the traps this is really classy Australian bubbles, with the concentration and structure to match most NV Champagnes, if not quite the delicacy and acid balance perfection of the better house styles. In other words, it'll beat Piper, Pommery or Lanson, but not quite Bollinger/Taittinger level.

A natural choice for celebrating life itself.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Utterly delicious unserious wine: Soumah Al Fiori Rose 2014

Soumah Al Fiori Rose 2014 (Yarra Valley, Vic)

You know what's wrong with wine critique? The most simply delicious wines get proportionately less love.

Basically, there is just a big disconnect between pleasure and wine quality, with hard to drink - yet structured - wines landing critical admiration, while the utterly drinkable - yet straightforward - drink-young stuff gets pushed aside.

Take basic AC Chablis as an example. Technically, it's just inexpensive, delicate, unoaked white wine, with the emphasis on freshness, without any attempts at amazing length or complexity.

Yet wines like that are actually the most enjoyable drinks, purely because they achieve what they're intending to do - be delicious. I'd much rather, for example, drink a delicate young Chablis than a big and firm Langhorne Cabernet any day.

Rose, too, fits into that boat perfectly, driven more by fruit and texture without any pretensions whatsoever.

Indeed this Soumah is a perfect case in point. A blend of Shiraz and Pinot free run juice (with a dash of Savagnin), it is just a bright, open, sunny, and properly balanced juicy rose that I want to drink copious amounts of. There's some textural complexity thanks to some careful barrel ferment and battonage - and some tart acidity - but on the whole its just fruity wine, without extraordinary anything.

But that's the most charming thing about this. The brightness of strawberry and redcurrant fruit just jumps out the of glass, the mouthfeel faintly creamy and juicy and the whole package trim and taut without sweetness.

If ever there was a wine to score big on drink-a-case-ability rather than seriousness then this is it. I'm giving it decent points just because it is unseriously awesome.

Details: 12.6%, Screwcap, $24
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink half a case.
Buy online: Soumah website

Thursday, 11 December 2014

MC by Three Dark Horses Chardonnay 2014

MC by Three Dark Horses Chardonnay 2014 (Adelaide Hills, SA)

A new label to me and there's some fun to be had with these 'Sinners series' wines.

The sinner, in this case, is Matt Broomhead, who is doing things that you're not meant to do, particularly carbonic maceration for a white wine, which no one is 'supposed' to do.

This Chardonnay undergoes carbonic maceration for 7 days before being basket pressed to old oak for a full solids wild yeast ferment, then given some lees stirring and eventually bottled unfined and unfiltered.


Intriguingly, it doesn't taste all that wild. There's a nutty, wheat beer edge to the nose from carbonic and full solids, but the white nectarine Chardonnay fruit is clean and quite pure. Indeed the palate is clean and razor sharp, if edged with the straw of skin contact, the acid/yeasty/solids contrast all quite appealing.

The only challenge is that its just too young. Stick this back in barrel for another 6 plus months and it would probably be even more complex, the slightly raw edges and overly linear lines softening to provide even more textural joy. It's almost too clean now.

Regardless, this is pushing the boat out quite successfully.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2016-2018
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? One glass would be enough. Promise is there though.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Like old school rich Barossan Shiraz? Then this St Hugo is a no-brainer

St Hugo Barossa Shiraz 2012 (Barossa Valley, SA)

I'm not sure if the new St Hugo winery is opened for business yet (it was still being built early last year) but gee whiz they could do worse than making wines like this 2012 Shiraz.

What's great here is that it instantly takes you to the Barossa Valley floor. It smells, tastes, feels like Barossa Shiraz, oozing chocolates, plums and filled with the limitless richness of Shiraz from a good Barossa vintage, the tannins dry but soft, the oak filling some extra crannies, the sweet berry fruit irrepressible.

In every way this is what people want out of classic 'big company' Barossa Shiraz. Drinkers want that silky beautifully rich ripe fruit. They want that power and generosity. They expect flavours that linger. And you know what? I do too. There's a very important place for wines like this.

What's more interesting is just how much better this is than some other Barossan reds twice the price. Sure its oaky, and old school and the acid is a bit lemony, but for power and persistence and silkiness this really works - it's just classic Barossa Shiraz, cool or not.

If names like Blackwell, Stonewell, Filsell or Command pop up regularly in your cellar, then this wine is a no brainer.

Details: 14.5%, Screwcap, $52
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2024
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes, though I wouldn't drink it for 8-10 years yet.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, St Hugo website

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Coriole Fiano 2014

Coriole Fiano 2014 (McLaren Vale, SA)

It's getting to the point now where Coriole's Fiano is not just a token pitch at bringing a slice of Campania to McLaren Vale, but rather a solid regional expression in itself. 'This is how McLaren Vale Fiano tastes'.

This 2014 iteration is a cracker too. It's so varietal and crunchy and firm, complete with surprising florals, chalky acidity and lemon pith. It's perhaps a little hard and just a little simple, but the long and flavoursome palate is ultimately convincing, particularly with something fishy to match with it (green fish curry would be a winner).

It's a yes from me.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle for sure.
Buy online: Different Drop, Coriole website

Toppers Mountain Bricolage Blanc 2013

Toppers Mountain Bricolage Blanc 2013 (New England, NSW)

Toppers Mountain is, by a large measure, New England's hero winery. The tablelands Clonakilla. A hotbed of fine wine in northern NSW.

Part of the interest with Toppers is the varietal mix, as the headline spread includes Nebbiolo, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Viognier, Tempranillo, Tannat, Barbera and Gewurtz making for a real grape salad.

Better still, this 'garden' is already kicking goals, with the Gewurtz in particular right up there with Australia's best. It's that good.

I'm not as sure about this 2013 Bricolage Blanc, but at the very least it is provocative. A blend of Chardonnay (60%), Gewurtz (20%), Petit Manseng and Sauv Blanc it smells fantastic, driven by musk (Gewurtz) peach (Chard) and the rest, with aromatics running riot.

If that fragrance married up to the palate this would be a superstar, with the grippy, phenolic palate seems just a little too dry and lean to be really great. Still, its clean and quite pure, with plenty of interest still to be had here. I just wish there was a little bit more fullness to really carry things off.

Good, almost great.

Details: 13.1%, Screwcap ,$35
Source: Sample, tasted Dec 14
Drink: 2015-2019
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Hmm. I'd drink a few glasses of this no sweat.
Buy online: Toppers Mountain website

d'Arenberg The Sticks & Stones 2010

d'Arenberg The Sticks & Stones 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)

This blend of Tempranillo (41%), Grenache (41%), Souzao (15%) and Tinta Cao (3%) has always been an unknown in the 'core' d'Arenberg range, the blend hard to pin down.

This year it tastes more like a d'Arenberg McLaren Vale red than a Tempranillo blend, dominated by the tilled earthy meaty wildness of so many modern d'Arenbarg reds, cut with the chewy, earthen, sweet and sour dryness too. It's sweet and sour and less than clean, the earthiness awkward, drying and unpolished, with little fun to be had.

Details: 13.9% alc. $30RRP
Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2022
Score: 15/20, 83/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: d'arenberg website

Monday, 8 December 2014

Lark Hill's best Riesling yet

Lark Hill Riesling 2014 (Canberra district)
11.5%, Screwcap, $35

Each year the wines of Lark Hill get that little bit more distinctive.

Not that they weren't distinctive before, but over the last few vintages there seems to be a real coherence in everything with a Lark Hill label on it.

This Riesling is no exception. While there is no shortage of the brown limes and lifted florals of Canberra Riesling, this seems to be of a different shape. It's more floral, more limey and more fragrant than I can remember in previous vintages. It tastes softer, yet more intensely acidic, while also running with a pineapple juice tart/sweet combination that is genuinely delicious.

What's ultimately unique here is that it doesn't taste like yet another Canberra Riesling. It's fuller, longer and more textured than most other Rieslings from the district, the style leaning more towards Wachau than Watervale (and all the better for it).


Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2019 (I think I'd prefer to drink this young. Can see it getting very pineappley which I might not like as much).
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes.
Buy online: Lark Hill website

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay 2013

Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $45

Tasted a few times now and it looks better every taste. A much more rounder style for M3, in line with the vintage, though countered with some early picking (hence the low alcohol).

There's been a move towards a more delicate style of M3 in recent times, with less malo and an emphasis on minerality. Mostly it works, sometimes can be a bit lean - onwards and upwards regardless.
Despite the low alcohol this 2013 looks quite forward and ripe, the season's warmth giving more openness and expression. There's some sulphide funk fleshing things out too, which just makes this seems more sophisticated (given that cheap Chardonnay doesn't tend to feature sulphide driven complexity). The palate looks perhaps a little lumpy, without the effortlessness of the 2012, but packing in lots of flavour. That acid looks a bit tart though, a counter-punch to the fruit.

Overall this is less convincing and more broadly set than the storming 2012, but there's a sense of just how carefully made a wine this is. High quality Chardonnay from a mixed vintage for Hills whites.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2015-2020
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Not yet.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Shaw + Smith website

Friday, 5 December 2014

Clos Clare Riesling 2014

Clos Clare Riesling 2014 (Clare Valley, SA)
11.5%, Screwcap, $26

The Barry boys have delivered again. This year's Clos Clare Riesling is just a little lumpier than some vintages, though again shows that trademark acid freshness.

It all kicks off with a lovely nose - gooseberries meets fresh lime juice in a very intense style. Palate is juicy initially but then finishes tart - like a young Clare Riesling should. There's a great naturalness to the acid here which is welcome - it doesn't feel like a whole bag of tartaric acid was chucked in pre bottling. Maybe a bit firm? Regardless, this is a classical Watervale Riesling that is going to be special in time.

I enjoyed drinking this. Can imagine smashing a bottle with a Thai green curry easily.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2024+
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Distinctive, refreshing, real Riesling.
Buy online: Clos Clare website

Mayhem & Co Small Berries Blewitt Springs Syrah 2013

Mayhem & Co Small Berries Blewitt Springs Syrah 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA)
13.8%, Screwcap, $40

There's so much to like about these Mayhem & Co wines. The handling, for one, sounds exactly like how I'd want to make my wines. This Syrah (lets just call it a Shiraz really) is sourced from a 40yr old BD vineyard at Blewitt Springs, the fruit hand picked, fermented wild, matured in 30% new oak for 14 months.

For all that, however, this carries just a little too much of the 2013 vintage heat to be glorious. The colour has a beautiful purple edge and it looks deep and plump. Beyond that, however, its all slightly desicated berry flavours, the note of shrivelled berries backed up by the dry, raspy tannins of slightly cooked fruit.

It's not a bad wine, structurally, though I never enjoy such dried fruit flavours in a young Shiraz. Historically such reds become much more palatable as the tannins integrate more, but not much fun as young wines - as it is here.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink; 2017-2022
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100
Would I buy it? No. I'd prefer the '12
Buy online: www.mayhemandcowine.com.au

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Finally, an off-dry Australian Riesling that works - La Linea Vertigo Riesling 25GR 2013

La Linea Vertigo Riesling 25GR 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
10.5%, Screwcap, $25

Why is it that so few off-dry Australian Rieslings manage to taste properly balanced?

Sure, it's a rhetorical question, but one that is annoyingly hard to full answer.

On the one hand, you could say that we don't have the conditions for truly great off-dry styles, with many of our best Riesling vineyards planted in warm climes (especially compared to the Mosel or Wachau). You could also say that the lack of great off-dry Rieslings is a style thing, with our Riesling growers still hamstrung by the lingering bad taste of generations of bad sweet Rieslings from decades ago.

But there are rebuttals for both of those points. Tasvegas, for one, has sites that are as chilly as, say, vineyards in the Pfalz (though not the slate and slopes of Mosel), so the climate thing is more about what's currently planted (and where) than anything else. Similarly, the rash of sweeter styles on wine lists around the place suggests that the old mantra - that people talk dry and drink sweet - is still absolutely true.

Regardless, there is still a gaping hole where 'good off-dry Australian Riesling' should live. Some have tried to fill this hole - and special mention to Xabregas and Pressing Matters in passing - but generally, even the much lauded Prima from Pewsey Vale and Alea from Grosset remain slightly too sweet and harder to drink.

All of which makes me glad to find this La Linea Riesling.

Made by David LeMire MW (man of many hats who is often found spruiking the wares of Shaw + Smith) and Peter Leske (who's made wine just about everywhere), this white comes from Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills (hardly Riesling territory) and is crafted in an 'innovative weinstyle' (according to the label) that theoretically sits at circa feinherb or low kabinett level and carries 25g/L residual sugar.

Importantly, what it doesn't do is taste sweet. Not at all. Doesn't smell sweet either, for that matter. Instead, it smells of freshness - of lemon, grapefruit and straw, the handpicked fruit showing a just picked, snap chilled definition that suggests mighty healthy fruit and careful winemaking. It's just starting to get a little of the first dribbles of enrichening bottle maturity on the nose, but the florals and sprightly primary fruit is still on full display.

Underneath all that, there is more lemon, more grapefruit and more delicate fruit, the acid bracing but not about to shoot you in the mouth, that acid softened by the soothing effect of just enough sweetness with just a dash of tropicals like a shot in a bucket of punch.

Ultimately, why this works is that it doesn't try too hard. It's understated, delicate, fragrant and, well, forgiving. The sweetness here is a background influence. The whole is what keeps you coming back for more.


Source: Sample
Tasted: Dec 14
Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes. But forget me, the ultimate litmus test was giving this to my mum (mum's know best), who is particularly sceptical of sweeter Riesling. She liked it too.
Buy online: La Linea website

Tim Smith Mataro Grenache Shiraz 2013

Tim Smith Mataro Grenache Shiraz 2013 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $28

Tim Smith has a real knack for slippery reds, with his whole range easy to like. It only helps that he's a great bloke too.
This red is a blend of 45% Mataro, 33% Grenache, 22% Shiraz. Interesting to see the Mataro taking the lead here - its like a large bull trying to teach the other grapes how to tango. Still, clearly it works, and I'd actually say that its the Grenache that does the talking really.

As mentioned, this has silky red fruits aplenty. Besides a little boozy warmth to finish and just a little dehydrated fruit, this is effortlessly generous and smooth, heavy with fruit and proper concentration.

Not hard to like this at all. It's maybe too modern and slick (so no chance of mistaking this for a CndP) but its not sweet at all (and delicious because of it).

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Probably a 2 glass wine methinks.
Buy online: Aus Cellardoor, Tim Smith website