Friday, 17 April 2015

Angullong Orange Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Angullong Orange Sauvignon Blanc 2014

There's an extra level of quality about these '14 Angullong whites. Almost as if winemaker Jon Reynolds has gained a new grasp of how to use the fruit. 

Green straw in colour this is particularly aromatic juice - aromatic yeasts doing their stuff to give melon, guava and tropical fruit. The palate is sharp edged, but there's a smoky line too, almost as if this has seen some barrel time (which it hasn't to my knowledge).

A simple style but a refreshing one, this juicy wine is better-than-average stuff. 

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $19
Tasted: April 2015 (sample)
Best drinking: 2015-2016
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? A glass would do.
Buy online: Angullong website

Bargain Yarra Shiraz from Punt Road

Punt Road Yarra Valley Shiraz 2013

I've always thought of Punt Road as a Pinot and Chardonnay specialist largely.

Judging by this you can add Shiraz to that list.

Mid red with ruby edges, there's a fragrance here that suggests a quick run in with some Viognier. Might just be an impression though as not listed. Certainly some floral fragrance though, over quince paste fruit and a dash of smallgoods. What I like here is just how defined it is with fine, elegant red fruited flavours, gentle acidity and just a little white pepper spiciness. Vibrant and rather well balanced really.

I really didn't expect this to be so damn good. It's just a little light for really high scores, but gee this takes some beating in the mid weight Yarra Shiraz stakes.

Good stuff. Well priced too.

Details: 13%, Screwcap, $29
Tasted: April 2015 (sample)
Drink: 2015-2023
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd knock off half a bottle or more without even trying.
Buy online: Auscellardoor, Punt Road website

Thursday, 16 April 2015

De Bortoli Bella Riva King Valley Sangiovese 2012

De Bortoli Bella Riva King Valley Sangiovese 2012

Light ruby red. There's a weird, plasticy edge to the confected and thin nose. Over filtered? Thin, red fruit palate has a little spice but otherwise no flavour to speak of. Gee I hope this is a bad bottle as it tastes like a $10 wine.

Details: 13.5%, Screwcap, $20
Tasted: April 2015 (sample)
Best drinking: 2015-2018
Score: 14.5/20, 78/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: De Bortoli

The new and improved (?!) Lindemans St George Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Lindemans St George Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Like the new packaging? I put this picture out on twitter today and most of the feedback was negative. I think it's ok, though it doesn't actually improve anything - the label isn't the problem.

What do you think?

This release is all arms and legs too. Deep red, there's clearly warm year ripe fruit on the nose and palate, a thickness and warmth, topped off with sweet coconutty oak too. There's that classic St George tannic edge underneath, but there is almost a swing too far to something ripe and modern and meaty, away from the more leafy classic St George style.

Look, it's going to get better but little cohesion between warm, almost spirity alcohol, coconut oak and dry tannins at the moment. I couldn't drink it, but I'm cutting it some slack as there is promise underneath and its clearly way too young. Still...

Details: 14%, Screwcap
Tasted: April 2015, Tasting
Best drinking: 2017-2028+
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100+
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Not available as yet (that I can find)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014

Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014

There's now a photo of founder Michael Wright on the back of this Voyager Estate bottle, along with a nice vista of the estate. Good work.

This smells like classic WA SBS too. A green straw colour, the nose is full of grassy lemon Sauv aromatics that jump out of the glass. The palate starts off with grassy lemon juiciness too, slightly tart but very fresh, the sharp edged tempered with a hint of fatter ripeness too, clearly showing both ripe and underripe fruit.

Crisp, varietal and long, it's a classic WA SBS in its lines, if just too tart and jagged to be really enjoyable - I never quite got into its angular finish.

Details: 13%, Screwcap, $24
Tasted: April 2015 (sample)
Best drinking: Late 2015-2017
Score: 16.7/20, 89/100
Would I buy it? Not quite.
Buy online: Auscellardoor

Pizzini King Valley Pinot Grigio 2014

Pizzini King Valley Pinot Grigio 2014

Pizzini's white continue to impress, particularly the aromatics.

This is right in the groove. Lean, but not mean, driven by cleansing, real acidity and a little white flowers and white peach fruit. Love the delicate touch and really quite pure, alpine flavours.

Good, simple, delicately balanced, enjoyable drink. Recommended.

Details: 12.1%, Screwcap, $21
Tasted: April 2015 (sample bottle)
Best drinking: 2015-2016
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? If I saw this on a wine list I'd jump. It's just what you'd want in a simple Grigio.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, First Choice, Pizzini website

Shaw + Smith Pinot Workshop 2015 - 10 benchmark Pinots from around the world

Shaw + Smith Pinot Workshop 2015 - 10 benchmark Pinots from around the world

I'll always admire a winery that puts their wines up non-blind against the benchmarks of the world.

I mean, it's one thing to upstage with the subterfuge of a wine served blind, but it takes confidence to do the same with a sighted tasting. Even more confidence is required when your winery doesn't have the longest history with Pinot Noir, with Shaw & Smith's reputation more focused upon Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay rather than Pinot Noir.

Still, as the tasting below shows, the Shaw & Smith Pinot has come along in leaps and bounds in recent years, with 2013 easily the best vintage to date (even if it's still not quite 'there').

Couple that with the new Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir and it suddenly makes much more sense that Martin Shaw & Michael Hill-Smith have decided to focus on Pinot Noir for this Workshop.

As an aside, there is some serious generosity behind a tasting like this. Sure, it's a PR exercise, but the sales push is never on with Michael and Martin, and the expense involved would be hefty. Wineries like Shaw + Smith or Voyager (with their annual masterclass) ought to be commended for putting on annual comparative tastings like this, as I think we all benefit - winemakers, trade, media. Everyone.

More please.

The following wines then were tasted yesterday in a relaxed, masterclass style event at Prince Wine Store's new Sydney outpost. It was freezing in the backroom and I was just in a t-shirt (whoops), but I don't think it affected how the wines tasted. Just made me look like a cold idiot...


Notes are as written on the day. Extra bits in italics.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Gundog Estate Hunter's Shiraz 2014

Gundog Estate Hunter's Shiraz 2014

Gundog have one of my favourite Hunter Valley cellar doors. Small. Cosy. Good service. Smart wines. One of the three cellar doors I always recommend visitors to the Hunter not miss, along with Scarborough (best overall cellar door experience) and Tyrrell's (best wine range and sense of history).

This is billed as Gundog's modern Hunter Shiraz and it's a beauty. Bright purple/boysenberry purple red in colour it smells rather spicy, all smoky and sausagey varietal characters, sweet oak and a firm earthen edge. The fruit presents layers of purple fruit, an almost smoky edge, creamy oak and then a gentle, slightly tart finish.

Lovely purity. It's too young - and looks it - but this is promising and pure fruited. Good stuff.

Details: 14%, Screwcap, $35
Tasted: April 2015 (sample)
Best drinking: 2015-2030
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100+
Would I buy it? I'd probably wait a year to really wanting to buy some. Promising though.
Buy online: Gundog Estate

Pizzini's latest Italian varietal success - Verduzzo

Pizzini Verduzzo 2013

I opened this on Saturday night not expecting much. Yet it was delicious. Refreshing, but more than that. Clever wine.

This plays an interesting role really. It's almost like Pizzini's Chardonnay, with a little barrel work and clever lees action to give more weight than the rest of the, largely aromatic, Pizzini white range.

Green straw in colour, this has some cool white flower freshness as well as a dash of yeasty, sulphide funk. Combine that with a little vanilla bean oak and it complements the quite neutral, crunchy Verduzzo fruit nicely. Think the delicacy of Pinot Blanc, with more citrus, and then a fresh finish. It's still not wildly complex, but this is pure, balanced and textural.

Liked it muchly.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $22
Tasted: April 2015 (Sample)
Best drinking: 2015-2018
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Yes.
Buy online: Pizzini website

Monday, 13 April 2015

Kirrihill Vineyard Selection Riesling 2014

Kirrihill Vineyard Selection Riesling 2014

A wine of two halves. It starts so well - classic limey aromatics that bounce out of the glass with that Bickfords Watervale ripeness. But the explosive aromatics cover a sharply drawn, hard palate that lacks the flesh that the nose suggests, finishing coarse and angular.

So much promise, just let down in the delivery. It's going to get better, but no fun for now.

Details: 11%, Screwcap, $20
Tasted: April 2015 (sample)
Best drinking: 2016-2026+
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Kirrihill website

Sunday, 12 April 2015

G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2010

G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2010 (Piedmont, Italy)

The approachable face of Piedmont Nebbiolo, from a producer with a knack for getting it right lately. Plenty to like. Can't see the value at $125 on a Sydney wine list though...

Quite a full red colour for a Langhe Neb. It's a modern wine too - soft, cut with cranberry and red fruits, the suggestion of a shorter maceration evident in the gentle tannins. Quite silken, there is some Nebbiolo tar and jammy fruit, though the tannins are more mild than 'life-affirming'. Almost no oak to be seen.

Affable. Genuine. Perhaps a little warm and round. But recognisable of grape and region and enjoyable because of it.

Details: 14%, Cork
Tasted: March 2015 (wine list)
Best drinking: 2015-2025+
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? If this was $30, then yes....
Buy online: Wine Searcher

Les Chais du Vieux Bourg Jura Poulsard 2011

Les Chais du Vieux Bourg Jura Poulsard 2011

At what point does a fault become too much? Or to put it differently, what faults are an instant turnoff for you?

Personally, I think I can handle brett, volatility, or even light TCA. But mercaptans are an instant turn-off. And this Poulsard is blighted by it. A light ruby, rose red colour, this has that garlic edge on nose and palate - seriously distracting. Underneath there is red fruit and long tannins but gee, it's hard to find the joy. Any of it. Just mercaptan distraction.


Details: 11.2%, $65
Tasted: March 2015 (tasting)
Best drinking: 2015. Or not at all
Score: 11.5/20, 55/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: No. Not on this showing.

Friday, 10 April 2015

A beautiful self-epitaph from Bob McLean

The wine world lost another two leading lights this week, with Anne-Claude Leflaive and Bob McLean both departing this mortal coil, at the age of 59 and 67 respectively.

While I know Anne-Claude only by reputation, Bob I've had the pleasure of meeting a few times over the years and he was quite complementary of this little blog.

In person he was an absolute character, with a wisdom that comes from having seen just about everything in the wine industry. An inspired communicator he was too, absolutely bursting with anecdotes.

Fitting then that he came up with one of the most erudite and quite beautiful self epitaphs/exit interviews (of sorts) I've read. The sort of yarn that makes me wish I knew Bob better.

You can read the full story over at Philip White's (also brilliant) blog:

'Bob McLean - I am dead'

Punt Road Chemin Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013

Punt Road Chemin Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013

If there is one thing to be said about these latest Punt Road releases, it is that they're complex drinks. Clever winemaking for sure.

This Chardonnay is a suitable example. Golden straw yellow in colopur, there's a delicate balance between oatmeal yeasty sulphide characters, vanilla icecream oak and white nectarine fruit. Intriguingly, it looks much riper than 12.5%, with warm, caramel edges and soft acidity. Maybe a bit too worked?

I drank a glass of this well chilled and enjoyed it, but as it warmed up it looked just a little broad. Still, complexity and persistence of flavour ensured that this satisfied.

Drink soonish and enjoy the weight and length.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $36
Tasted: March 2015 (sample)
Best drinking: 2015-2016
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink a glass or two no sweat. That would probably be enough.
Buy online: Punt Road website

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Angullong Fossil Hill Vermentino 2014

Angullong Fossil Hill Vermentino 2014

Good to see Vermentino being planted in areas beyond our warmer bits (this is Central Ranges/Orange sourced). Unconventional for the grape, but good to see. There is promise here.

It's a fragrant number - all passionfruit and white peach. Surprising fragrant. Lightly phenolic palate is crisp, carries some nice tang and refreshes, even if it falls away after that. Nice initial hit of flavour though, complete with chalky acidity. If we could work on the length and intensity (which will come with vine age) this could be a winner.

Details: 12.5%, Screwcap, $22
Tasted: March 2015 (sample)
Best drinking: 2015-2017
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? Not yet. I'd drink a glass though
Buy online: Angullong website

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A Queenstown and Central Otago wrap-up (with wines)

I'm back at the desk today, successfully managing to make the second half of my Queenstown trip as much of a holiday as possible.

Mostly (sorry family if I went too far).

I've got to say, again, that Queenstown is an excellent place to visit. The combination of a dazzling array of ridiculous adventure activities plus superb local wines makes this a very unique tourist destination. I went from mountain bike (epic trails. AM bike essential) to winery in literally under an hour. Couple that with great food and you've got the sort of place that I want to visit (again). Maybe in ski season next time (though traffic was bad enough on easter weekend) and I'll take at least one bike with me.

On that topic, curious to see a distinct lack of road bikes. None. With all those excellent trails I'm not surprised that everyone rides MTB but still, with such epic, accessible hills I was surprised by how few roadies were around. Just not done.

Anyway, the whole purpose of this post is a quick wine wrap-up before I forget the details.

I covered some broad impressions here, but with some additions since I thought a little more insight on the wines might not go astray.

A final thought too - sub-regions (although there is no geographical indication system in NZ, so all unofficial) make a massive difference in Central Otago (CO). In fact, I'd say that the sub-regional difference in CO wines is underplayed. When you consider that Alexandra is classed as semi-arid with some of NZ's highest summer temperatures, whilst only a shortish drive away Gibbston experiences double the rainfall and can harvest a month later.

Big differences, that are still yet to be fully expressed in the wines, particularly when many are blending across the different districts/sub-regions.

Regardless, this short trip reminded (again) of just how superb a wine region this is. World class wines. World class destination.

Wines (in alphabetical order by winery)

The closest winery to Queenstown and apparently a great cellar door restaurant (was too full for us). The '14 Pinot Gris here was a highlight, and the '11 Pinot was delicious. The '12 Pinot looked moody and angular next to the '11 however. The sweetness was a bit overt on the '12 Lowburn Terrace Riesling but the '13 Dry Riesling was one of the better dry Rieslings around.

I've always liked Carrick, with their Pinot carrying a more savoury, tannic form giving an appeal beyond just immediate drinking. The '12 Pinot tying with the Mount Edward for '12 vintage Pinot Noir of choice. I couldn't get my head around the overly oaky '13 Excelsior Pinot, which spends a huge 24 months in wood. Looks it too. A long term prospect perhaps? A special mention to the '13 Crown & Cross Pinot Noir though, produced from the Desert Heart vineyard which has been sold to Sam Neil's Two Paddocks. For $36NZ this was easily the best value wine of the trip. The whole Carrick range was of a high standard really.

Misha's Vineyard
While much of the Pinot during my holiday was young, the mature '09 Misha's Vineyard 'The Highnote' Pinot was in a really good place. Gentle, evolved, with just a little mushroom to match its red fruit, this was satisfying and easy.

Mount Edward Pinot Noir 2012
The extra angles of the vintage made this a moodier wine than in some previous vintages, with more acidity and savoury character. Complex, cool and spicy, this was one of the better, more complete '12 Pinots tasted. I'd drink this over many other wines.

Mt Difficulty
The Pinots are now '13s at Mt Difficulty and they looked very youthful. Even the Roaring Meg is a seriously structured wine in '13 and has the power and weight comparable to more expensive wines. The only challenge here is a little raw extraction, with the '13 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir looking backward and a bit oaky. A top vintage for the winery though. I'd prefer the $46 '13 Pinot Noir to the $90 '12 Long Gully Pinot actually, with the younger/cheaper wine's extra ripeness and structure looking much more promising, though time is required. The Rieslings here lacked sweetness balance, and the '14 Pinot Rose, whilst serious, looked mighty dry and awkward.

Curiously, this range left me cold (and it doesn't normally). The '13 Saddleback Pinot was good value drinking, the '12 Peregrine Pinot not memorable. A notable exception was the '10 Rastaburn off-dry Riesling that, at five years, was actually in a good place.

In a quality world of its own. The beautifully moody image at the top of this post is from Rippon. The '13 Rippon Gewurtz was about the best non-Alsatian Gewurtz I've had in ages. I enjoyed a wonderful comparison of steely, bony and beautiful '12 Rippon Riesling vs the more flashy, riper and drier '11. Loved both. Intriguingly, the Pinots here are so much more purple compared to many other '12 Central Otago Pinots. Curious. Is it an acidity thing? Clonal? Nonetheless, the '12 Rippon Pinot was wonderfully delicate, yet ripe and alive. In fact, the only outlier here was the '11 Osteiner, an odd little white wine that had acidity but little else going for it.

Terra Sancta
Just the one Terra Sancta wine, and probably not representative. The '13 Mysterious Diggings Pinot is an entry-level wine in the scheme of things and looked rather simple and a bit jubey. Pleasant enough, but nothing more.

Two Paddocks
The delicacy of the Two Paddocks Pinots make this an easy go-to winery. Indeed the delicate, carefully gentle 'I've been to Volnay' '13 Pinot was supremely drinkable. Effortless even, if not the deepest or more profound wine.

Just two quick wines from Valli, but again a reminder of just how good Grant's wines can be. The new '13 Gibbston Pinot Noir was absolutely delicious, bursting out of its skin with ripe fruits without looking unbalanced. Needs 12 months in bottle, but gee I'd be lining up for it. Ditto the Valli Waitaki Late Harvest Riesling which was beautifully fragrant and full flavoured, yet delicate too. Great balance.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

On the wine trail in Central Otago

As mentioned yesterday, I'm trying my best to make this Queenstown trip holiday rather than a wine tour.

Today was all about wine, however, with visits to Amisfield, Peregrine, Gibbston Valley, Carrick and Mt Difficulty.

Given this was a holiday I took no notes, but plenty of broad impressions:

- Pinot Gris continues to put in a claim as Central Otago's premium white variety. If the alcohol doesn't stick out, and the acidity is well handled, good, ripe, textural Pinot Gris is a regional go-to. Special mention to Amisfield's full flavoured '14 Pinot Gris for nailing it.

- Some of the '12 Pinots look quite awkward. A late, mixed season (with November snow and late vintage heat) means that wines can look a little lumpy, especially next to the more open and juicy '13s. Carrick's structured 2012 Bannockburn Pinot Noir looked the pick of the '12s today, as did the pricey, but cleverly made, '12 Mt Difficulty Long Gully Pinot.

- Riesling looks like a hard slog. Just getting the sweetness balance right seems hard enough, with the driest wines underwhelmed the most. Many producers seem to be pouring older vintages, so looks like consumers don't seem to be buying them either.

Tomorrow will be almost wine free. Maybe...

Friday, 3 April 2015

Queenstown Friday

I'm in Queenstown this weekend, largely for a bit of R & R after a brutal couple of weeks.

The biggest challenge with holidaying in a wine region is just to avoid it becoming Another Wine Trip. A little wine is great, but it can quickly dominate proceedings. So I'm laying low and doing more touristy things as a result. Plus a few wines.

Tonight started with a Killarabbit IPA from Bannockburn Brewing Co., which was a particularly aromatic double IPA heavy with passionfruit hoppy characters. Maybe too much pineappley hops, but great intensity of flavour.

The wine of the night was the Amisfield Pinot Noir 2011, which was $84/ bottle on a local list. Seems quite fair all things considered. Ruby red in colour, it smells and tastes of raspberry liqueur with a lovely soft palate profile. The alcohol sticks out too much for it to be great, an edge of spirit to what is a lovely gentle raspberry fruited wine. Close enough to be enjoyable though. Great start.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Wirra Wirra scoops up Ashton Hills

Wirra Wirra scoops up Ashton Hills

In a move that a part of me is envious of, McLaren Vale's Wirra Wirra winery announced today that they have purchased iconic Adelaide Hills estate Ashton Hills.

Ashton Hills has been on the market for a short time, after owner Stephen George decided that now would be take a step back from the business.

Wirra Wirra thus pounced in what many would see as a deft, if bold, move for a McLaren Vale winery to take over what is a small boutique vineyard and winery.

The deal is further sweetened by the promise that Stephen George will continue to be involved with a hands-on role in the vineyard, whilst also offering to show how to make Pinot Noir 'Ashton Hills style'.

Given that Wirra Wirra were the most successful exhibitor at the recent Adelaide Hills wine show, it's not really that surprising that they might be expanding their Hills holdings.

At this stage Ashton Hills will continue to operate as a seperate brand for the foreseeable future. Andrew Kay, Wirra Wirra MD, in the press release says that 'Ashton Hill is obviously the benchmark for Pinot Noir, but also produces an exceptional Riesling and wonderful sparkling, so we will see where they can take us and what opportunities this presents, however for now it’s business as usual'. Kay said. 'We’ve spent the last decade fulfilling Trott’sdreams and visions and I hope we can do the same in the future for Stephen and Ashton Hills'.

That last bit is important, as Stephen apparently feels comfortable handing over the reigns to Wirra, as he 'believes the legacy of Ashton Hills is in safe and sensitive hands'.

Personally, I can understand exactly why you'd buy Ashton Hills - it's a beautiful, mature, perfectly sited vineyard in one of the best places to grow grapes in Australia, Adelaide Hill's Piccadilly Valley. The only question for Wirra is how they handle the transition and the brand into the future - would you continue to keep it as a stand-alone operation? Further, why make the wines in the (tiny) onsite winery, when you've got the Wirra winery just 50kms down the road?

Time will tell, but for the moment I must say that this is an excellent pickup for Wirra Wirra.

The Old Faithful Northern Exposure Grenache 2010

The Old Faithful Northern Exposure Grenache 2010

Why is Grenache so hard to sell? It's a variety that can provide so much drinking joy, is ideally suited to the sandy soils and hot summers that typify so many Australian wine regions and we have the oldest vines in the world. What can go wrong?

Wines like this certainly show what can be produced. Dark red coloured with ruby edges, this is a wine driven by fruit sweetness, the nose all soft, squishy, red raspberry fruit, the palate equally sweet if lumbered with just a dash of overripe fruit and some licorice to complement the light tannins..

A full style of Grenache, but genuine too in its jubey, sandy expression. Maybe a little sweet for some players, but no doubting the open Grenache joy here. So much to like. Drink nowish, as already soft and at its peak.

Details: 14.5%, Cork, $50
Tasted: March 2014 (sample)
Best drinking: 2015-2021
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I'd be tempted by a glass or so.
Buy online: Adelaide Winemakers website