Monday, 22 September 2014

View Road Wines Amelie 2011

View Road Wines Amelie 2011 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.6%, Cork, $37

According to View Road's Josh Tuckfield with this wine is 'looking for texture and something to challenge the senses'. 100% Chardonnay, this is fermented wild and spends 4.5 weeks on skins. Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay takes a step in an orange (or amber) direction.

Important to approach this without the technocrat hat on for you'll be disappointed. Deep straw orange in colour, the nose is cut with vanilla bean and creme caramel. There's no doubting the oxidation with gives this a nutty, slightly fusty edge, but mostly it smells promising.

The challenge is simply that the palate is too hard, dry and phenolic without any obvious sweetness, the acid high and the style unforgiving. Provocative, no doubt, but not quite a successful drink.

Source: Sample
Tasted: September 2014
Drink: 2014
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Cork Wine Cafe

The tasting of the year: Voyager Masterclass 2014

The tasting of the year: Voyager Masterclass 2014

Each year the team from Voyager Estate do a lap of the country, putting on masterclasses involving pitting their own wines against the best of the world in single blind brackets. It is, typically, the tasting of the year.

Seriously, the whole year. 

What makes this masterclass so good is threefold. Firstly, the wines are always top-class international examples. Secondly, the notes on each wine and the presentation is painstakingly detailed and accurate. Third, the Voyager Estate wines typically look good blind, which only makes it that much more rewarding for Voyager themselves.

This 2014 of the Voyager Masterclass iteration sees the range of 2011 Voyager Estate Chardonnays placed in a bracket with various 2011 Chardonnay from around the world, and the same with the 2010 Voyager Estate Cabernet wines paired with various 2010 Cabs and blends.

As you can see by the list of wines, there was no shortage of glory here, with differences often a case of personal preferences (and how individual bottles looked) rather than pure quality. In turn, my scores look rather conservative in the scheme of things and I think most of these I'd appreciate just by themselves.

Anyway, on with the show.

These were served in two single blind brackets in great glassware, under good conditions. Background info in italics and notes as written on the day.

Bracket 1 - Chardonnay

1. Moreau-Naudet Forets 1er Cru Chablis 2011 $76 12.5%
'The unmistakeable marmalade of botrytis' according to Steve James. Forets is a lieu-dit in the Montmains cru. Spends 24 months in a mix of 1/3 old barrels and 2/3 in tank. 
White peach. Very fine nose. Almost milky yeast and oak yet there is a white nectarine ripeness too. New world. Classy and long with a great balance between oak and yeast. Maybe a fraction warm to finish, with just a little figgy ripeness. Classy though. 18.1/20, 93/100

2. Voyager Estate Project 95 Chardonnay 2011 RRP $55 12.8%
From a single block of clone 95 vines planted in 2004. 11 months in 60% new, 40% one year old oak. pH 3.22, TA 6.95.
Banana and marshmallow sulphides on a palate that is very sleek and clean. Lovely length and that sulphide/acid contrast is excellent. Perhaps too lean? Quite warm finish. Oak juts out a fraction but can't ruin the overall effect. 18/20, 93/100

3. Hubert Lamy Saint-Aubin En Remilly 2011 $125 13%
From close planted vines planted in 1989. Fermentation in 20% new oak and lasts as long as 90 days. Bottled after 17 months.
Slightly overt spicy oak on nose and a big, powerful palate. Warming alcohol but retains its class in the face of big, almost pineapple oak and fruit power. Maybe a fraction rambunctious but super powerful. I think this is just a bit forward. Love the sulphide fattiness though. 17.8/20, 92/100

4. Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2011 $45 13.3%
Sourced from seven different blocks and a mix of different clones. Picked at 11.0-12.5 baume. Whole bunch pressed to 42% new oak, 38% wild ferment and just 45% went through malo. 10 months in barrique. pH 3.19. TA 7.1
Spicy and quite oak drawn nose. The palate looks quite lean, with an acid attenuation that suggests limited malo. Just a bit to sharp edged at present. Classy wine to come though. 17.7/20, 92/100

5. Kumeu River Matés Chardonnay 2011 $75 14%
Whole bunch pressed, barrel fermented, and all wild yeast. Full malo. 12 months in barrel. pH 3.23. TA 7.1. I normally love this wine and unusual to see it show up looking only good. Retaste required.
Biscuity. Much more developed than the wines around, almost golden nose. The palate looks raw, fatty and just a little stripped through the finish certainly big but lacks just a little class. American ? It's a bit warm for mine. 17.5/20, 91/100

6. Voyager Gin Gin Prioject Gin Gin Chardonnay 2011 $55 13%
From a block planted in 2003 to Gin Gin (also known as Mendoza) clone. Whole bunch pressed to tank and then fermented wild in 60% new, 40% one year old oak. No Malo but battonage every three weeks. 11 months in barrel. A good guess as to the wine! pH 3.27. TA 7.59.
Milky sulphides. Lots of funk and very much a composed and refreshing palate. Milk bottle sulphide character mirrors wine 2. Voyager project? Might be a little leaner than you'd like through the finish, but it build and builds. Classy wine. 18.5/20, 94/100

7. Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2011 $55 12.2%
20% botrytis in the fruit (which shows). Wild ferment in six year old plus oak. 12 months on full solids. pH 3.32. TA 7.4. 
Nutty and oaky nose. Spicy, lumpy palate with some orange cream fat and sweet fruit. Not classy just bold and tart. Botrytis? A bit short. 17/20, 90/100

8. Oakridge 864 Funder + Diamond Chardonnay 2011 $75 13.4%
From a very wet season, fruit was sorted and whole bunch pressed for wild ferment in 30% new oak. Minimal malo. Minimal malo and matured on lees for 10 months. pH 3.13. TA 6.3.  
Classy nose. Full but contained, with pineapple fruit richness on a creamy palate. A leap back to the top step and such a complete wine. Burgundian. Has excellent weight. though might be a bit OTT. Wine of the day. 18.7/20, 95/100

9. Peay Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2011 US$58 12.7%
From a very cold summer. Half the crop lost to rot and declassified barrels. Whole bunch pressed. Wild ferment with regular lees stirring and full malo. 11 months on full lees on 24% new oak. pH 3.37. TA 6.7.
Perhaps the most powerful with cream pineapple palate. Loads of sexy oak. Too much oak? Lacks delicacy. Has a place but largesse in spades. 17.5/20, 91/100

Cabernet + blends

1. Yeringberg 2010 $75 13%
62% Cab, 11% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot. Hand-picked into small open fermenters. Each days pick in separate batches. Hand plunged every 8 hours and when fermented was done left on skins. Basket pressed and went through malo in tank. 21 months in 35% new oak. pH 3.48. TA 6.0. I wouldn't mind owning some of this.
Succulent. A quite transparent and pretty nose with a fine, subdued palate. Straight Cabernet? Very linear but also has some warm season confection. Yeringberg? Has a Cab Franc like liveliness. This will make ethereal old bones. On second look this looked almost Pinot like. Long haul glory. 18.5/20, 94/100+

2. Voyager Estate North Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $90
94% Cabernet, 6% Petit Verdot. From a block planted in 1995 to the Houghton clone in a very gravelly patch. Hand-harvested in five passes. Fermented in open fermenters at sub 25C for 10 days, spending another 16 days on skins. 19 months in 50% new French oak. pH 3.65. TA 6.6.   
Gravelly notes. Overt leafy varietal character. For all that tobacco and mint, however, it's nicely ripe and doesn't look herbal or overripe. For a classic Cabernet style this is really quite beautiful, if somewhat of a caricature - big and bold. Maybe just a little raw and drying. Length is very impressive though. 18/20, 93/100+

3. Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2010 $90 14%
58% Cabernet. 36% Merlot. 6% Cab Franc. Warm ferment with extended maceration on skins. 19 months in predominantly new French oak. Herbal as always. But I'd drink it.
Light colour. Subdued nose and subdued palate, the overall interpretation just ripe, licoricey and a little herbal. Cab Mer blend? Certainly has intrigue and excellent length, but an oddity. There's a distracting herbalness here. Will be long lived but always drying. 17.7+

4. Voyager Estate Cabernet Merlot 2010 $70 13.6%
89% Cabernet. 7% Merlot. 4% Petit Verdot. Estate fruit plus a Wilyabrup component. Cool ferment below 25C for 10 days and 16 days on skins.19 months in barrel, 50% new oak. pH 3.62. TA 6.4. 'A hint of bay leaf' according to Travis Limm.
Closed, firm and classy. Graphite and leaf. Definitely new world and almost certainly Margs. Pointy acid suggests Coonawarra though? A little confection through the finish. Looks long but desperately needs to settle down. 17.7/20, 92/100

5. Voyager Estate Project Old Block Cabernet 2010 $90 14%
96% Cabernet. 4% Petit Verdot. From a block planted in 1978. pH 3.74 TA 6.56. I honestly thought this was Bordeaux.
Oh so closed. Compact. Superb tannins though - really lively and with a mouth coating shape. Long term wine. Sturdy. Superstar length. Bordeaux? The oak sticks out on the second taste but really delicious tannins. Perfectly shapely and so different! Lovely fine tannins and a gentlemanly finish. 18.7/20, 95/100

6. Chateau Lynch Bages 2010 $350 13.5%
79% Cabernet. 18% Merlot. 2% Cab Franc. 1% Petit Verdot. 15 months in 70% new French oak. This just looked a little lumpy, meaty and not yielding much. 
Dense colour. Rare roast beef. Serious, mouth coating tannins. Italian? Has an unusual look to it and a sense of accomplishment to those tannins. Classy and very long. Has perhaps a little confection to finish. 18.5/20, 94/100

7. Cullen Diana Madeline 2010 $115 13%
77% Cabernet. 10% Merlot. 6% Petit Verdot. 4% Malbec. 3% Cab Franc. Wild ferment. No acid addition. 19 months in French oak. 51% new. pH 3.61. TA 5.56.
Welcome back to Australia. This looks just a little dull in context, a bit broader through the middle and even a bit bacony. Nice but not superstar. Looks quite light in this context. A fraction short too. 17/20, 90/100

8. Wynns Messenger Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $50 13.5%
From a dry-grown block planted in 1975. Fermented in a static fermenter for eight days. Malo in tank. 17 months in 30% new oak. 
Margs again? That fern leaf meets blackberry richness. This looks like a single block wine, with quite a deal of oak sweetness and a broader finish. A bit simple. 17.5/20, 91/100

9. Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $140US 14.7%
97% Cabernet. 3% Petit Verdot. 16 months in 76% new and 24% one year old oak. pH 3.67. TA 6.5.  
Complex. Really chocolatey though, the cocoa powder oak is sexy. Beyond the oak this is very sexy and ultimately lavish and hedonistic. I rather like this. 18.5/20, 94/100

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Mayhem & Co Hipster Riesling 2013

Mayhem & Co Hipster Riesling 2013 (Eden Valley, SA)
12.4% Screwcap $28

Hipster is a bit tough for a wine like this. It's cool, but not shoes without socks and fixies Hipster-esque (which is a good thing). This wine is much cooler than this guy, for a start.

Hand-picked and whole bunch pressed, a portion of this saw older oak and wild ferments. There's certainly a 'difference' here that makes it stick out from the crowd, though it's also a little awkward. Long but also super compact, the weight of extract and acid weighs heavily on the fruit - all phenolic structure, and less upfront sexiness.

You'll need to give this at least a year, and then there could well be a little magic,

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2015-2026
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100+
Would I buy it? Only if you're patient.

Hungerford Hill Pinot Noir 2013

Hungerford Hill Tumbarumba Pinot Noir 2013 (Tumbarumba, NSW)
14.8%, Screwcap, $36

Tumbarumba - great place for Chardonnay and bubbles, still yet to hit its red wine straps. The accusation is often that the Pinot was planted for sparkling base, and is the wrong clone for table wine. Yet wines like this show there is some promise if the viti is right.

Bright red colours. Really bright. It smells of raspberry cherry cola, with none of the weediness of other Tumbarumba Pinots. Better still, there's no shortage of acidity, even despite the high acidity. In fact, the only downer is the slightly intrusive toasty oak.

Smart Pinot, just inches away from 'really good'.

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Buy online: Hungerford Hill website

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Xabregas Mt Barker Shiraz 2011

Xabregas Mt Barker Shiraz 2011 (Great Southern, WA)
14.2%, Screwcap, $25

It's not hard to appreciate the savoury, evolved styling of Xabregas' wines. Much more complexity in every mouthful. Even this wine, which sits at the entry point to the range.

Big, plummy and voluptuous, yet also cut with peppered beef and with a streak of black tarry thickness, finishing with drying, almost Italianate licoricey tannins that go on and on.

Excellent intensity and loads to get a hold of without excess of sweetness. Easy recommendation for the dollars.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2020
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle. Though it needs a good decant.

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon + fried chicken = shit yes

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon + fried chicken = shit yes

On Wednesday night a group of notable Hunter Valley winemakers came to town, bringing with them a swag of gold medal and trophy winning wines from this year's 2014 Hunter Valley Wine Show, all open over dinner at renowned Sydney den of boozy delights Fix St James.

Sadly I still can't drink, so for me the dinner was more like a 'watching people drink' affair, yet again the night rammed home how good the Hunter 2013 and 2014 vintages are looking.

On that note, Andrew 'Thommo' Thomas was amongst the throng of winemakers in the room and gave a very apt speech noting just how far Hunter Shiraz has come in the last fifteen years - from a period in the late 90s where the classic mid-weight style of Hunter Shiraz was all but abandoned, dropped in a bid for more ripeness and more extraction (which only brought more faults and shorter lived wines), to this years wine show, where beautiful, mid-weight 2013 Shiraz was the norm.

In turn, a closer look at filtration and winery hygiene, plus the wholesale move to screwcaps, has only made Hunter Shiraz more dependable, with the onerous 'sweaty saddle' brett issues now a real thing of the past.

It's not all beer and skittles for Hunter wines though. While you could argue the wine standard has never been higher, they're still 'hard sells' beyond NSW, with the quirks of Semillon not understood and the vitality of Hunter Shiraz often overruled by the bombastic richness of South Australian Shiraz.

Similarly, while the Hunter has now had two excellent years on the trot (2013 and 2014) there has been two seriously hard, seriously wet seasons in the last seven (2008 and 2012), just to reinforce that the Hunter is not a place for easy viticulture.

Still, the proof is in the booze and no doubting the glories of the best Hunter wines - as this duo attests too.

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2006
Stunning. Served with a crunchy, fancy fried chicken dish this looked near perfect. The key here is the contrast between firm, intense, green citrus fruit and buttered melon bottle age, lobbing a treat of complexity and refreshment. This still looks very young, but old enough to enjoy. I wanted to drink this. A great 'medium year' Vat 1. 18.7/20, 95/100

De Iuliis Shiraz Touriga 2013
Mike De Iuliis is the only producer in the Hunter with Touriga in production and, on this showing, not for long. That Touriga fragrance makes this all that more pretty and inviting, the polished palate capped off with fine grained tannins. Love the foil of lifted Touriga to the red dirt depths of Hunter Shiraz. Really smart. 18.5/20, 94/100

Soumah Viognier 2013

Soumah Viognier 2013 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
14.1%, Screwcap, $26

While I still can't drink (at least until next week), I can still stare longingly at a glass of wine after tasting. I didn't stare too long at this Soumah, but if I was a Viognier-fancier (which I'm not. It's a weed), then this would be worth a go.

According to the notes it's a 'peaches and cream' Viognier, produced with the inclusion of HTK clone planted at 9000 vines per hectare.

It's more pineapple rather than peaches initially, comfortably in Splice territory. The slick of oak and lees fullness on the palate only helps the Splice sensation, though thankfully no wooden stick in sight, and everything finishes with a warm - but not syrupy - richness to tie it all in.

A clever Viognier, that quite successfully ties in pine-lime fruit with just enough creamy richness to carry things along, this is recommendable at the very least.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2015
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? Not quite. I'd probably enjoy the glass though.

Tower Estate Watervale Riesling 2013

Tower Estate Watervale Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, SA)
11.8%, Screwcap, $32

Not exactly my favourite Tower Riesling to date.

Light green straw this is an open and fleshy style with quite a deal of sweetness, finishing broad and unfocused. Sure to win fans with its flesh but a blob of a wine.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? No.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The late postcard: Etna

The late postcard: Etna

Ever arrive home after a holiday and find that you beat your postcards home?

Well that's me, except this postcard I never quite got around to sending.

Now that I'm back - and under strict doctor's orders to avoid alcohol and fatty/spicy food (very confused about what to eat and drink now) - it's probably a great time to finish off this little note.

So anyway, this postcard comes the slopes of Mt Etna - the huge, steaming active volcano that dominates the eastern skylines of what is mainland Europe's largest island, Sicily.

I barely scratched the surface of what was going on during my brief visit, but its not hard to see the divergent personalities of what has to be one of the more interesting wine regions to visit in Italy.

What makes the divergence more pronounced is the terroir itself - the vineyards are planted on black volcanic rock that was spewed up, in some cases, only a century ago, the landscape changing whenever Etna decides to do some renovations with lava.

Etna has its own microclimates too, with the vineyards planted from basically the foothills at 450m altitude right up to the lower slopes of the volcano proper at 1100m. In turn there is a spectrum of styles explored, ranging from light and crisp Carricante and Catarratto based Etna Bianco right through to powerful and Pinot-like Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappuccio blends.

Of all the wines tried it was these two that illustrated the personalities best.

Tenuta delle Terra Nerre Cuvée Delle Vigne Niche Etna Bianco 2011 12.5%, Cork
100% Carricante from a range of old vines dotted all over the northern side of the mountain. This is fermented in old barrels for roughly 12 months and spends 6 months in bottle before release.

A delicate, lemon cream and waxy wine, the palate just touched with oak but otherwise fresh and crystal pure. There's a coolness here that defies the Sicily heat, the palate dry and clean and vital, with just a little waxy vanilla to suggest it had ever seen a barrel. Intriguing marzipan and wheat beer meets lemon flavours too.

Delicious long and quite pure, it's not ridiculously complex but the balance and intensity is seriously unquestioned. Reminds me a little of a good, waxy Chenin (and bloody good value at circa €15). 18/20, 93/100 

Benanti Nerello Mascalese 2002 14%, Cork
From one of more renowned names of Etna, this was interesting if purely for a window into how Nerello Mascelese ages,

If anything this reminds me of an older Hunter Pinot, the nose and palate heavy with that defining red earth character. There's some wonderful black cherry fruit through the middle and surprising tannins to finish, again giving it a sort of grunty Pinot expression. Really quite tertiary now, this is again much lighter and more fluid than the Sicilian mode - and about the best mid weight red meat wine on the island.  17.5/20, 91/100

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A top Hardys Shiraz that I stuffed up

Hardys Winemaker's Rare Release Shiraz 2008 (Multi Regional)
14.5%, Screwcap

I'm willing to admit it - I got this wine wrong.

Last night was the launch of the latest super premium wines from Hardy's, with new and old vintages of Eileen Hardy Chardonnay and Pinot, plus Thomas Hardy Cabernet, all flowing freely.

This Winemaker's Rare Release Shiraz, however, stole the show. It was the options wine, which means it was presented blind to the room and then we had to guess what it was via a game of elimination.

Stupidly, I played the man and not the wine, deciding that this was South Australian - because Hardys is South Australian - even though there was something in this that didn't taste quite like classical South Australian Shiraz (and Hardys are known for cross state blending).

Quite rightly I lost, as the wine was identified as a multi regional blend of McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Frankland River Shiraz fruit, coupled together in a 'best of the vintage' Shiraz blend.

To be honest, I didn't even pick this as a 2008, as it looked much younger than that with none of the cooked fruit obviousness that dogs so many 08 Clare and McLaren Vale reds.

Such youthfulness and vibrance makes this a very smart wine, with the black olive and earthy coolness of Frankland River fruit giving punctuation and structure to the more robust South Australian juice, making for a clever, ripe-yet-taught, 'best of both worlds' full bodied Shiraz of power and drive.

I don't even think this is available locally (or what the price is) but given that it comfortably outclassed all the collected Eileen Hardy and Thomas Hardy reds in the room, I'd be making a serious beeline if you find some. 

Oh and if you see any of the new 2013 Hardys Eileen Hardy Chardonnay then give it a whirl too - all Tassie fruit, it's one of the best Eileens in ages.

Source: Dinner
Tasted: September 2014
Drink: 2014-2030
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? If the price was right, absolutely.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Delicious pink: Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Rosé 2013

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Rosé 2013 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
12%, Screwcap, $24

After almost three weeks of holidays I've been struggling the last few nights to get back into the groove. This delectable pink could be the perfect jetlag antidote...

A light pink/partridge eye orange colour it looks every bit the classy Pinot rosé. Soft and gentle aromatic, there is a strawberry and pink marshmallow, gently leesy richness on both nose and palate that lifts this above the rosé humdrum, supported by a noticeable acid prick to finish. 

Structurally it's more white wine than full flavoured rosé but with lovely delicacy and balance between fruit and acid. Yes. Moreish too (as you can see by the empty bottle).

Source: Sample
Tasted: September 2014
Drink: 2014-2015
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? In a heartbeat. Well priced too.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Postcard: Sicilia

Postcard: Sicilia

Grapevines. Olive trees. Brown hills. Blue skies. The Med.

That about sums up the vista on the southern Sicily coast this week, where the relentlessly warm 'bluebird' days roll on as if they'll never end.

It's a contrasting landscape, ultimately, with the arid yellow, rolling collina dotted with almost unrealistic lurid green vegetation and set against a backdrop of brilliant, sparkling blue sea.

There's an oddity about where I'm staying, Planeta Estate's La Foresteria at Menfi, too, as the wines are rather bluntly commercial and samey for such a luxury resort (but more on that later).

What isn't hard to see is the beauty of this parched part of Italy, the experience topped off with beaches that are cleaner and less cluttered by Europe's summer tourist masses than so many other Mediterranean beachside locations (largely Italians here it seems).

Equally enticing is the local cuisine - heavy with clams, swordfish and sardine, the generosity and simplicity utterly addictive.

As for local wines - well, Marsala is not all that far from here and Pantelleria is a ferry ride away, marking sweet wines the most interesting in this part of Sicily. Nero d'Avola is what's being planted locally though, as the world's thirst for rich, good value, full flavoured Sicilian Nero only increases.

Again, the contradiction though- Nero doesn't work at all with local fish-heavy food, making it just as contradictory as the sight I saw yesterday - a farmer in his clapped out tractor, holding up a long line of traffic heading to the beach...

Monday, 25 August 2014

Postcard: London

Postcard: London

While the English summer has finished a few weeks early this year (damn), it is a pleasure to be back in the UK. 

Yesterday I fought the throngs of kids drinking long necks of Stella (en route to the Notting Hill carnival) to have lunch at the fabulous Launceston Place in Kensington, where the food and service was exemplary, everything capped off by a killer cheese trolley. 

I love cheese trolleys.

For drinks we had the linear and super fresh - if boringly neutral - Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2009, which could really have done with more lees/barrel work to build enough weight to compete with that sky-high natural acidity.

Following that was a delicious Daniel Rion Vosne Romanee 2010, which was just a silky mouthful of red fruit deliciousness - near perfect for a village level Vosne. I could have smashed a bottle (or three) on my own.

Today I'm off to the beautiful Val d'Elsa for 4 days of Tuscan sunshine *whistles it's a hard knock life*.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Polperro Landaviddy Lane Pinot Noir 2012

Polperro Landaviddy Lane Pinot Noir 2012 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic
13.6%, Diam, $65

Sam Coverdale dropped by yesterday, bringing with him a bag full of new release wines in tow. While the highlights were many (including an excellent canberra Shiraz. Review to come), this Pinot Noir stuck out like a beacon of Mornington Pinot goodness.

Sourced from a SW facing 20 year old vineyard at 160m altitude that yields less than 2t/acre, this is perhaps the most generous of Sam's Pinots, with that delicious Mornington red fruit and redcurrant juiciness on nose and palate that is ultra seductive.

For all that flashiness, however, this is no show pony, with firm acid and a back end is serious indeed, the tannins quite full and ensuring a seriously long finish.

The very model of a Mornington Pinot, without losing structure, this is a mighty fine wine. Detailed too. Big yes.

Source: Tasting
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2014-2019+
Score: 18.7/20, 95/100
Would I buy it? Oh yes.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Punt Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Punt Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $29

A great vintage in the Yarra for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Yet this feels muddled. It smells great, with green olive, black olive tapenade, mint and chocolate, the nose getting riper as it goes along. The varietal definition doesn't translate to the palate though, which looks warmer, riper and softer than expected, the profile just a little broad without the tannins to tighten the finish.

It's going to get better in bottle, but just a bit middling for now.

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100+
Would I buy it? Not quite.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wine lists - do they need to be local? Or just great?

Rockpool. Is the wine too fancy?

Wine lists - do they need to be local? Or just great?

The Australian wine industry has been alight today, the fires started by a brace of pot-stirring articles decrying the lack of Australian wine on Australian wine lists. 

Interestingly, the instigators were both judges on the Wine List of the Year awards, which undoubtedly gives them an edge of authority about Australian wine lists.

First we had Stu Gregor fuming at the phenomenon of the locavore with a non-local wine list and followed up by Huon Hooke complaining that restaurant wine lists are too trendy

After reading both, I thought that the core theme of these articles is an incredibly important issue - that Australian wine lists often fail to promote Australian wines as well as they could do.

Few would argue that Australian wine could do with more coverage really, particularly given just how strong (or beleaguered, depending on your approach) Aussie wine is.

What Huon's article (in particular) managed to do, however, was alienate some of the top producers who should be celebrated, with the likes of Sami-Odi (superb small volume Barossan reds) and Jamsheed (top Grampians and Yarra whites and reds) named and shamed as 'darlings of the sommeliers, and largely unknown to the public.'

The problem with such a swipe, which came across more as a grumpy snap than a reasoned thought, is that it is counterintuitive to the point of the article itself - celebrating the best in Australian wine on Australian wine lists.

That jab aside, Huon went on to note that some of Australia's best-known names - including the likes of Wolf Blass, Rosemount or Yalumba - fail to make an appearance on most of our top wine lists, while the most obscure oddities from the Jura, Etna or Greece get top billing instead.

The question then is whether such a bias is actually a bad thing? Surely when we go out we want to be challenged? We want to taste the world's most interesting wines and eat the most interesting foods?

Attica restaurant manager Banjo Harris Plane put it more succinctly on twitter:

What was also noted on twitter is that, whilst Huon's article swipes at the perceived imbalance of imports on top wine lists, it also fails to acknowledge an insidious issue that pervades Australian wine lists on the next level down - homogeneity.

Indeed venture beyond the land of hats and somms and you'll discover that the bulk of Australian wine lists are crying out for some diversity (imports or otherwise), with many lists often tied up by large wine companies strangling out anything beyond the aforementioned Rosemount, Wolf Blass or Yalumba.

Conversely, Huon is also right on with another point, noting that you can commonly find reams of old Sauternes and Burgundy on lists, yet comparatively little great old Australian wines beyond verticals of Grange or a very limited pool of Aussie icons (Moss Wood, Hill of Grace et al).

Ultimately, the question to be asked is what we want in wine lists, and I'd argue that we want the very best wines we can get, Australian or not.

By the same token, what these articles are trying to suggest is that there's much from Australia (and NZ) that is 'the best that we can get' and is overlooked simply because it is slightly more mainstream (like NZ Sauv Blanc). 

So what do you think? Is there enough local wine on local lists? Do you want to see more local wines on local lists, or is fine dining your excuse to try something different?

Starvedog Lane Clare Valley Shiraz 2012

Starvedog Lane Clare Valley Shiraz 2012 (Clare Valley, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $20

An entry level $20 Clare Shiraz from an Adelaide Hills maker.

A sadly boring wine too - there's some chocolate eclair oak, plummy fruit and a flash of Clare mint but beyond that not much. By the second day it had started oxidising into flab.

Not quite.

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 15.5/20, 85/100
Would I buy it? No.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Clever imports (and more) from Terroir Selections

Clever imports (and more) from Terroir Selections

While it's been brutally hard for our export focused winemakers, the record strength of our Aussie dollar has been useful for one thing - encouraging an ever expanding smorgasbord of imported goodies.

The following spread comes from Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser's Terroir Selections portfolio; the depths of which I can only dream about affording...

Sauvia Massi Fitti Trebbiano di Soave 2011 (Veneto, Italy)
100% Trebbiano grown in the Fittà hills.
Who said that Trebbiano can't be sexy? A great battle here between the sour, chalky, phenolic tang of Trebbiano with some of the salty texture of Soave. The Trebb wins on entry, the region through the middle and more Treb to finish. It's long, honey blossom edged and really quite impressive in the sheer concentration. Much to grasp. 18/20, 93/100

Chanson Chablis 2012 (Chablis, Burgundy, France)
All fermented in tank judging by the nose. Carries some of the 'wet clay' 2012 Chablis characters over a simple, acid driven palate that still retains some nice vanilla textural extras, if relies on fruit simplicity. More than reasonable length. A solid expression of Chablis fruit but true to style and variety. 16.5/20, 88/100

Terre á Terre Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Wrattonbully, SA)
Hand-picked, barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc from a close planted vineyard across the road from the Tapanappa Whalebone vineyard.
I've had this several times now and each month it gets better. Pine/passionfruit nose is super expressive, though the fruit is fighting with the oak at present, the palate flush with nectarine cream palate. Finishes much more tight than expected. An expressive and generous number this, but will need more time to integrate. Hold 17.7/20, 92/100+

Domaine Chanson Pere et Fils 'Le Bourgogne' Rouge 2012 (Burgundy, France)
The most new world Chanson Bourgogne yet. Redcurrant nose over a modern, super clean and open palate, presenting a deliciously fleshy and open expression of Pinot (though more Pinot than classic Burgundy). Light and bright palate is all about sweet fruit and less about structure, presenting an approachable and genuinely delightful expression, if not an especially serous one. Seriously impressive drinking Bourgogne nonetheless. 16.8/20, 89/100

Domaine Chanson Pere et Fils Monthélie Rouge 2012 (Monthelie, Burgundy, France)
Produced from a single vineyard sitting alongside premier cru sites.
Closed nose. Red and blackcurrant on a tightly bound palate of red/black fruit. Glacé fruit edges, supported by fine tannins. Closed but has promise. Rather impressive shape for the price and appellation, if just a little muddy to finish. 17/20, 90/100+

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot 2012 (Fleurieu Peninsula, SA)
All it needs is time...

Once the surprisingly sweet toasty oak integrates here this is going to be superb. It's easily the biggest boned Tapa Pinot yet, but that weight and volume enhances the appeal. The flesh and swagger underneath suggests plenty of greatness to come. 18/20, 93/100++

Ceretto Barbaresco 2011 (Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy)
Not my favourite vintage in Barbaresco (stop start with heat and rain) and this looks just a little confected. Still solidly authentic, the mid weight and pretty palate finished off with open, sticky tannins. A solid Barbaresco hit but it lacks the bite for stardom. In the same breath, however, every taste of this suggests pure class. Good, if in the same epic league as previous vintages. 17.5/20, 91/100

Domaine de la Grange des Pères Vin de Pays l'Herault Rouge 2011 (Languedoc, France)
40/40/20 Syrah, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon and some Counoise. Wild fermented, long macerations and up to 24 months in barrel.
Magnificent - and so clean for Grange Des Pères! A huge nose of purple fruit, garrique, fennel and plums that fills your nose and your brain with a richness of fruit and flavour. So plush and evocative! The palate is incredibly rich, with layer after layer of purple fruit, prune, steak, plum and a background clove and stalk intrusion. The length - extraordinary, the tannins a fine underline. This is delicious wine of absolute power, texture and richness. I want some of this... 19/20, 96/100

Domaine Mas Jullien Côteaux du Languedoc Terrasses du Larzac 2011 (Languedoc, France)
Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre.
After the plush purity of the Grange des Pères this looks wild, fatty and a fraction hard, the green olive and gamey edges very tertiary and just a little too forward and stemmy. There's character and flavour here but it just doesn't stack up in this lineup. 16.5/20, 88/100

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Top of the tree Clare Riesling: Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2014

Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2014 (Clare Valley, SA)
11.7%, Screwcap, $22

It's been a rough week. After a rough week what you really want is something nice to drink. Not thought provoking. Not weird. Just genuinely, utterly delicious.

This Riesling fits that description nicely. It's a beautiful, refreshing, long and shapely Clare Valley Riesling, the acid soft (all natural) but prominent, the lime and lemongrass fruit quite round yet without losing freshness. Perhaps a little more approachable at this stage than the 2013, with just a dash of lemonade through the middle. Balance looks better though.

Not a profound wine, but so perfectly shaped that every sip is a refreshing pleasure. Such a great advertisement for the joys of Clare Riesling.

Source: Sample
Tasted: August 2014
Drink: 2014-2030
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? In a heartbeat. I could drink cases of this over summer. Especially at that price.
Buy online: Jim Barry website

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Vale Jeremy Pringle

There's little joy in the glass tonight, for today we lost a friend. Jeremy Pringle, fellow blogger (; writer; 'dilettante wine punk' and mate was sadly, suddenly, found dead in his home.


JP and I first connected a little over five years ago. Back then I had just started this blog, and Jeremy and I were just each others fans. He would comment on my post, I'd ask him why he didn't start his own blog, and we'd all nod sagely about the joy of wine.

On a whim, JP sent me a bottle of his favourite wine - the 2006 Curly Flat Pinot. I didn't ask for it, he just sent it because he loved it. No desires, just keen to share the vinous joy. In turn, that started a chain of bottle swaps, often betting over the AFL (Jeremy was a Brisbane Lions fan) and any excuse really to trade wines we loved.

It didn't take long before Jeremy had his blog (I won't take any credit - a sheer weight of others pushed him to do it) and quickly we were more than just fans and now comrades - both pushing out the wine blogger boat and rowing furiously against the tide of 'old media' sniping.

THAT table. JP in picture, boor to my left...
That camaraderie was cemented at a wine media trip about three years ago, when Jeremy and I found ourselves on a table with one of the most obnoxious wine boors of the wine industry - both trying to defend the notions of what a good and bad wine entails in the face of someone who believed they knew everything. 

Brothers in arms, fighting the good fight.

The real joy, though, came from disagreeing with Jeremy - he loved a spirited discussion, had strong opinions that he didn't mind voicing and was willing to respect well formed responses. Not seeing eye-to-eye with Jeremy meant an enjoyable debate and I liked the stirring (even if he could be frustrating).

In more recent times, I think Jeremy overtook myself in the wine writing game, turning his skill of language, philosophy (he marked university papers for a while there) and music (he also taught a little music on the side) into well crafted prose both for his own website and in more traditional, long form print media articles.

Blog traffic was on the up, his writing skills were fully appreciated. He was kicking goals and on the rise.

For all that success, sadly Jeremy and I share one thing in common that I wish we didn't - we've both struggled with our personal demons. I was lucky to slay most of mine some years ago, yet JP had been dogged by the darkness only recently - to the point where he had withdrawn from social media and put his blog on hiatus in a bid to right everything again.

I conversed, in a staccato of overly short DMs, with JP only a week or so ago. He seemed clear in thought, acknowledging that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and keen to not let this dog-eat-dog wine industry (it's vicious. With the worst often coming from wine writers themselves) take him down. I only wish I had of pushed more and eked more out of him at the time.

Regrets, I've had a few...

Regardless, enough dark thoughts, let us praise the man who is gone. Gone, not forgotten, and with much in his wake.

See you mate.