Friday, 1 August 2014

Captial Wines Kyeema Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2011

Capital Wines Kyeema Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2011 (Canberra district)
13%, Screwcap, $48

I can't think of many eastern Australian vineyards where Shiraz and Merlot grow alongside each other and the Merlot is the stronger performer - it just doesn't happen.

Except at Kyeema.

This established vineyard on a granite hill to the east of the Barton Highway in Murrumbateman has a history of show-bling-attracting Merlot that dates back over 20 years. Andrew McEwin has a tidy knack with Merlot too, crafting smart wines even in cooler, more challenging vintages (like 2011).

Here we see a great example of that deft touch, delivering an acid driven, fresh and lively Merlot that manages to balance the dried herbs, black olive and mint of cool year Merlot with more than enough plum stuffing underneath. It's still just a little light and hardly a rich and cosseting wine, but it feels graceful and fits into its groove perfectly, finishing with fine tuned tannins.

I tasted this over about 4 days and it was only really hitting at straps on day 3. Personally I'd give it two years to fill out. After that this should be genuinely charming.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2015-2025
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Not quite yet. But love to share a bottle in 5 years time.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Capital Wines Gundaroo Vineyard Riesling 2013

Capital Wines Gundaroo Vineyard Riesling 2013 (Canberra district)
11.1%, Screwcap, $28


A new wine from a tricky vintage, this is sourced from a planting of Geisenheim clones planted in 1998 at Gundaroo (which is closer to the Capital Wines cellar door). It already has some show bling to its name and I'd expect more to come in future vintages. Much goodness lying in this styl.

Floral, chalky and almost gritty limey power drives this wine, the acid piercing and dry yet underpinning a palate that is rather forward too. Dispirin and lemon juice with good intensity but over firm acid. Length the winner here, though a slightly awkward wine.

Will reward the patient. Actually, just leave it in the cellar for 2-3 years and the chances of a butterfly look pretty good.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2016-2025
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Not yet.
Buy online: Capital Wines website

Working with Wine: The Nebbiolo Sessions

Working With Wine: The Nebbiolo Sessions

It's rare when you leave a large tasting and immediately start thinking about how much wine you can buy. Bu there I was, trawling through Wine Searcher doing the maths in my head.

Simply put, the wines were that good, reminding again that Nebbiolo is the king of grapes. 

Not that most of us didn't know that already...

Anyway, as with previous Working With Wine seminars, this was nothing if not a great tasting. A great tasting, featuring some very charismatic wines. Kudos Negociants (and their producers) who put on these series of events at great cost - no other distributor in Australia does the same.

(What is Working With Wine? Best start here, here or here).

The gracious (and rather honest) Franco Conterno was a welcome panellist too, giving credit for the highpoints and openly critiquing his own wines. Ditto Joe Grilli who was typically jovial and open. That frankness is more than welcome from both. Nice work Joe and come back any time Franco.

Enough love, time for the wines.

These notes all come from a seminar/masterclass last week, with notes are as written on the day with extra bits in italics. RRPs are approximates based on wholesale prices and the scribblings were done quickly.

Bracket 1 - The building blocks, Piedmont's supporting players


Prunotto Dolcetto d'Alba 2013 (Piedmont, Italy) $24
Bright purple fruits. Musky juicy and almost gamay like on a light and bright palate. Quite firm tannins for what is a light forest berry palate, acidity high, the finish fresh. Solid and quite brawny for an entry level Dolcetto if not especially serious. 16/20, 87/100

Aldo Conterno Masante Langhe Dolcetto 2011 (Langhe, Piedmont, Italy) $34
A much more ethereal perfume here - 'tar and roses' like pangs of something much more sophisticated. Cherry spice and meaty fragrance too. Not sweet but juicy. Really quite delicious with fine pretty tannins. Really enjoyable drink. 17.5/20, 91/100

Prunotto Barbera d'Alba 2012 (Barbera d'Aba, Piedmont, Italy) $24
Rather a deal of extract for this, befitting the maker. It's a little poey, the tannins rough edged and extractive. Still it's red fruited and shows its heart of pretty fruit. Good. 16/20, 87/100

Aldo Conterno 'Conca Tre Pile' Barbera d'Alba 2010 (Barbera d'Alba, Piedmont, Italy) $50
 'Barbera is good for drinking with pasta' Franco Conterno. 100% new oak looks out of place here.  'Barbera doesn't have a true identity' Says Franco, largely as the grape is made in so many different styles. Can't quite agree with him there. Barbera is 'a hard variety to grow' says Joe Grilli 'If you plant it anywhere cool you'll have a problem with acidity'..
Again the obvious oak makes a mark here, giving a little lead pencils and some tannic chew. 
Lovely fragrance though - high toned pretty red fruit. Fine tannins but where is the prettiness? Character is slightly obscured here behind oak tannin and extract. It will come out, but a slightly dull wine for now. 16.8/20, 89/100+

Sperino Uvaggio Coste della Sesia 2011 (Costa della Sessia, Piedmont, Italy) $51
A blend of 70% Nebbiolo with a nice little Vespolina and Croatina. I slightly preferred this over the 2008.
Ahh some extra complexity. Mint, bacon, blood and bones. Firm tannins and plenty of them gives this weight and a little wildness. A little Brett? Certainly some earth. Has charm too, but it's wild and a bit meaty style. Has drinkability though. 17/20, 90/100

Bracket 2 Nebbiolo in Australia



Fletcher Minion Nebbiolo 2012  (Pyrenees, King Valley and Yarra Valley) $38
Deli meat, sweet fruit and quite plump - lots of grape sugar here. The balance looks pretty good though, the alcohol integrated and some sappy meatiness at the edges. With more vine age this is going to be a star. Certainly the best balanced of this lot. 17.5/20, 91/100

SC Pannell Nebbiolo 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA) $49
Looks much older than 09. Varietally true though but feels more like an older Australian wine than a true Nebbiolo with brick dust and coffee beans. Just a little vintage touched up. Good tannins, great extract but just a little caramelised and sweet. Geez it's well made and respectful, the fruit just not quite up to the task. 16.7/20, 89/100

Primo Joseph Nebbiolo 2006 (McLaren Vale, SA) $75
Shirebbiolo. Dark red colours make more recognisable. Coffeed oak all over this, filling every cranny. Oak tannins too, mixing with meaty spice. Pleasant but not remarkable as a Nebbiolo. If you had this on its own I think this would look much better. Very Aussie and less Neb though. 16.8/20, 89/100

Pizzini Coronamento Nebbiolo 2005 (King Valley, Vic) $110
Looks awfully youthful for a 9 year old. Big and chunky palate, big tannins and quite caramel at the edges. Coffeed/Formic oak and a hint of medicinal edges, the power and tannins look much more flattering and varietal here. Refreshing finish too. Dry and long, it is not Langhe Nebb but such a powerful and genuine representation of Aus Neb. I've liked this more previously (an average bottle?), but certainly smart. 17.5/20, 91/100

Arrivo Nebbiolo 2008 (Adelaide Hills, SA) $48
A totally disparate wine from the rest, the vintage making this a little simpler than expected - there's some glacé fruit but it looks a bit muddled, the tannins the only respite. The winemaking looks very good here, but it looks quite blanched in context. Love to see this in a great vintage, as the winemaking is excellent. Good not great because of it. 17/20, 90/100

Some nice Conterno quotes:

'Many Australian Nebb more rough tannins like Roero when younger, after 5-6 years they're much closer to Barolo/barbaresco' Franco Conterno

'We drink Dolcetto and Barbera every day. Nebbiolo is for Sundays'
 Franco Conterno.

'Organic is a word that everyone likes. But to my grandfather it was the only way' 
Conterno

Bracket 3 Poderi Aldo Conterno 'Colonello' vertical

From a plot of vines that lies on the border of Monforte d'Alba and Barolo, with notably more sand than some of the other Aldo Conterno vineyards (and more like the Barolo village commune) with 50% clay and 50% sand.

Average age is 45 years old. The grapes are handpicked and then fermented in tank at 31-32C. Twice daily pump overs in tank, with. 1 month on skins 2 weeks of which are ferment and 2 weeks post ferment maceration. The wine then spends 2 years in 'clean oak' (as Franco calls it) which is shaved every 2 years. Barrels are 25 hectoliter Slovenian botte. This spends 28 months in oak.

Interestingly, the barrels are not toasted, just steamed. At Conterno, the cheaper 'Favot' is the only Nebbiolo in barriques. Favot spends 1 week in barrel and pressed off before the ferment is finished.

According to Franco '78 was a great vintage in Brolo. 58 was an amazing vintage, 27 too. 89 a great great vintage.' he said.

'96 is a great vintage but not exceptional as the tannins are too rich. In La morra maybe, but the 96 is so tannic, 01 is a great vintage. Only a few exceptional vintage'

'If I had to drink any of them tonight it would be the 05. The 06 I'd prefer to leave'

Aldo Conterno Bussia Colonnello Barolo 2008 (Barolo, Piedmont, Italy) $200
'Winter was very cold. Ripeness was late. We decided to wait 1 week more, picking in November which is not usual at all. This was a good idea as the eeolution of the grape was now perfect. The grapes were very well ripe(ned)' Franco Conterno
Dark and quite black. Vanilla bean oak and a lifted fullness - looks very ripe. Like 2008 in South Australia sugar ripe. Coffeed and loads of sweetness, the finish is remarkably fresh for what is a black wine. The tannins feel quite soft and gentle, if punctuated by alcohol. Feels almost flashy. Tasty, but overtly flashy and ripe. Approachable now. 18/20, 93/100

Aldo Conterno Bussia Colonnello Barolo 2007 (Barolo, Piedmont, Italy) $215
'The warmest wine of these. Very warm and 'not so classic'. Easier to sell but tannins are much softer. Less acidity and close to 15% alcohol' Franco Conterno
Caramel chews, dark tannins, a gruff and alcohol wine without the prettiness. still refreshing but it feels forward and quite caramelised. Feels dry and driven by tannins, not fruit, and alcohol. Still quite complete but lacks the grace. 17.7/20, 92/100

Aldo Conterno Bussia Colonnello Barolo 2006 (Barolo, Piedmont, Italy) $215
'Classic vintage. Winter snow, perfect spring, warm temperatures during summer and great weather in September. Longest life of the four' Franco Conterno
Very youthful. Surprised to see black currant here, but there is a seam running through the middle, tight, refreshing tannins. Such liveliness! Vital tannins are like a clean sweep. Delicious tannins and power. Looks 5 years younger. Lovely composure and a black wine to come. Yes! Yes! 18.7/20, 95/100+

Aldo Conterno Bussia Colonnello Barolo 2006 (Barolo, Piedmont, Italy) $210
'Comparable to the 08. More gentle. During the harvest we had to stop for 1 week because of rain. When we came back to harvest we  decided not to keep the rest. After the rain there was some mould' Franco Conterno
Creme caramel. Looks really open and forward and almost juicy. Already open and affable, rather like an older 08' though perhaps less overtly ripe. Creamy and delicious. 18.5/20, 94/100

Bracket 4 Great vineyards


Aldo Conterno Bussia Colonnello Barolo 2009 (Barolo, Piedmont, Italy) $210
A vineyard of two halves. Those who picked before the rain and those who picked after.
Caramel fudge/condensed milk. Quite open yet without the flashy ripeness of 08. Tannins are still quite soft, lingering though. Really excellent length. Quite delicious. 18.5/20, 94/100

Aldo Conterno Bussia Cicala Barolo 2009 (Barolo, Piedmont, Italy) $200
80% clay in the Cicala vineyard. Generally more powerful.
Rather more restrained and less powerful on the nose compared to 09 Colonnello. Quite grandiose through the middle and quite sticky tannins. Seems rather more black and darkly tannic and drying and serious though. But refreshing finish. How do they manage to keep it refreshing? Excellent wine. 18.7/20, 95/100

Aldo Conterno Bussia Romirasco Barolo 2009 (Barolo, Piedmont, Italy) $250
'More minerality'. More sand and higher too. Typically this only gets made in quantity in the years when no 'Gran Bussia' (which is effectively the Riserva) is made as Romirasco is the backbone.
It looks prettier and open, slighter and just a bit sullen after the bombastic palate of the Cicala. It's prettier and complex, long and actually quite svelte but the tannins are sneaky. Hard to separate the Cicala and the romirasco - the latter is deeper, darker, more mysterious, the romirasco prettier, more elegant. Gee hard to pip. Maybe drink the romirasco now, the Cicala later. Romirasco just gets it as it has the more lifted aromatics. What a wine though. Stunning. 18.9/20, 95/100

A Gaja caveat - I've never been a massive Gaja fan. A great man and a tireless Piedmont icon, yet I've never 'loved' the oak driven, super-polished and utterly 'made' Gaja style. Give me the quirks of one of the Conterno wines over this. Oh and the price? Madness.

Gaja Langhe Costa Russi 2006 (Langhe, Piedmont, Italy) $750
'You cannot compare Gaja Barbaresco with most other Barolo. You can only compare Gaja to other Gaja' Franco Conterno. I just wish this wine was less propped up by oak...
Oak. Tar and roses and oak. As usual, this tastes more like a heavy, slightly stewed aged red than a classic Barbaresco - a little, skinny. Perhaps the lesser wine in the Gaja lineup, Nice acid though and a definitely more elegant expression than the Barolos before. Still don't love the slickness of this wine. It will live forever though. 17.8/20, 92/100

Gaja Langhe Sori Tildin 2006 (Langhe, Piedmont, Italy) $750
Creamy texture is a real winner here - still looks really quite open and youthful, A wine for those who love silken wines and gee it's lush and drinkable. But exceptional? Hardly. A definitive step up on the Costa Russia though, much fresher and less oak drawn. Delicious tannins. Super textural and quite beautiful finish. But still the lingering impression is of homogeneity not terroir. 18/20, 93/100

Gaja Langhe Sori San Lorenzo 2006 (Langhe, Piedmont, Italy) 
Wonderful fragrance here. Black earth, a big grunty palate and some aged red earth and dark plum fruit. I just wish that this wasn't so smooth - it covers up the expression. Still, superb tannins and very good length means I can't help but admire this wine. Plus it keeps going and going and going... 18.5/20, 94/100+





Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Catch Cry of Tasmania Pinot Noir 2013

Catch Cry of Tasmania Pinot Noir 2013 (Tasmania)
13.5%, Screwcap, $28


Another new release from the Grant Burge backed Vignerons of the World. This was wild fermented and made with minimal intervention using whole berries. A 'muscular Pinot' apparently.

A bold and full flavoured Pinot, this smells diffuse, volatile and a little aimless, all red cherries in a muddy pond. The impressively masculine, brawny palate flexes its bacon bit extractive muscles but little generosity lies beneath.

A workhorse Pinot for old school Shiraz drinkers, looking more raw and chewy at every turn.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 15.8/20, 86/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Vignerons of the World website

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Special Rhone red: Jamet Cote-Rotie 2010

Jamet Cote-Rotie 2010 (Cote Rotie, Northern Rhone, France)
Cork, $180ish

Do know what the best thing about this wine is? It's genuinely not that expensive.

I mean, $200 odd is hardly cheap, but given that Guigal's La La trio are north of $650, this is actually quite affordable. Damn it's good too...

Intriguingly, this was made with 100% whole bunch. Yet thanks to the ripeness of the vintage, it doesn't look stemmy or herbal. Just Goldilocks-esque right.

Indeed it is classic Cote-Rotie with a wonderful violets and purple fruit perfume, with a liberal dose of rare pink lamb and a dash of cloves. Still very tight but long and lively with thick tannins. Not raw tannins, complementing a little just thick and still carries a juiciness too (the Viognier doing its thing).

Magnificent, sensual red. Going to live and live too.

Yes.

Source: Dinner
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2030
Score: 18.7/20, 95/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Yes. Yes. Love wines like this

Monday, 28 July 2014

Smart Hilltops Shiraz: Manners Shiraz 2013

Manners Shiraz 2013 (Hilltops, NSW)
14.5%, Screwcap, $45


I first met James Manners back in 2010 when he was a winemaker at Robert Oatley. At the time he was very proud to show off his latest Mudgee releases (including a very handy little Chardonnay project), though that was within the confines of the Oatley range.

Since then James has strung out on his own (or with Union Bank part-owner Nick Bacon more correctly), with this 'Manners' label the top of his 'Well Mannered Wines' tree. Like many Mudgee producers, he has ventured to somewhere a little easier to grow grapes (sorry Mudgee) as a fruit source, heading south to the Hilltops for this wine.

He's come up with a winner here too.

Boysenberry purple black in colour, there is a wonderful smudge of black earth here that wouldn't be out of place in a Mudgee red. Palate is mid-weight, and full of choc-cherry fruit, drying black tea tannin and sweet vanilla bean oak. The contrast between vanillin oak sweetness/black cherry fruit and the grippy tannins give this plenty of appeal, if still a little gruff and earthen to be seductive.

I gave this the ultimate test and put some in the thermos for Saturday night's Swans vs Hawks game at the MCG. It passed with flying colours. Extra points for thermos love.

Yes.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2022
Score: 18.1/20, 93/100+
Would I buy it? Yes. But I wouldn't drink it until next year.
Buy online: Well Mannered website


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Snake + Herring Perfect Day Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013

Snake + Herring Perfect Day Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013 (Margaret River, WA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $23

Handpicked and whole bunch pressed; 68% tank fermented with full solids, 32% barrel ferment with wild yeast; aged on lees for 6 months. Curious to say but this just looked a little young, all that texture still hidden behind acid and aromatics.

Sharply focused and grassy nose. Pure and clean, green nettle palate with just a twist of lemon and a little custard apple thanks to the barrel ferment and solids. Pleasant, citrussy and very cleanly delineated, if just a tad unremarkable - you can taste that there is more to come, but not giving much at present. Hold.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2015-2017
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? Not yet.
Buy online: Snake + Herring website

Spring Vale Louisa Sticky Gewurztraminer 2013

Spring Vale Louisa Sticky Gewurztraminer 2013 (East Coast, Tasmania)
9.1%, Screwcap, $22CD 375ml


The sweet wine for Spring Vale and it's cleverly, utilising a little skin contact (a week apparently) and a sweetness level that seems about right (circa 125h/L). Made largely in tank, though doesn't lack for interest.

Just the teensiest bit of pinky bronze in the colour - clearly the skin contact has given some colour. It smells and tastes of pineapple and blackcurrant juice cordial, like Golden Circle tropical juice, yet the sweetness is pretty nicely balanced. Not a complex style, but the sweetness isn't cloying (late picked rather than botrytised fruit). Perhaps a little phenolic to finish, but not offensive.

Ultimately a handy, juicy style that is simple but fresh enough that you could drink more than a glass of. Good.

Source: Sample
Tasted: June 2014
Drink: 2014-2017+
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink a few glasses. Can't imagine buying a whole bottle, but a very natural choice for a glass with dessert.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Spring Vale website


Friday, 25 July 2014

A flashback wine: Richmond Grove Limited Release Riesling 2012

Richmond Grove Limited Release Riesling 2012 (Watervale, Clare Valley, SA)
12.2%, Screwcap, $23


Ahh memories. I can happily remember drinking much of this back in the early noughties just because it was definitive Clare Riesling at a very fair price.

Flash forward a decade and what was a stalwart has been forgotten - to the point where, curiously, the 2012 is the current vintage. I'm not sure whether that is an intentional move, or simply a lag in demand, but it does this wine no favours.

Indeed this is stuck in the development hole, the primary fruit a little faded, the tertiary development yet to start. There's plenty of that buzzy, limey classic Watervale character, but it's in no-mans land for drinking.
Ultimately there is potential here, but I personally wouldn't be drinking it for another 2-3 years at least - which begs the question of why to release it now? Odd...

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2016-2025
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100+ now, though add several points on if you revisit in a few more years.
Would I buy it? Hmm. Not yet. But in a few more years? It may prove to be a bargain...
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Grays Online

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon Chardonnay 2011

Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon Chardonnay 2011 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $65


A top Chardonnay from the first whiff.

It's perhaps a little more forward than the other '11 Ten Minutes by Tractor single vineyard wines, but gee it smells special.

Quite yellow in colour, the nose has some sulphide funk, creamy oatmeal wild lees richness and just a little nectarine. Surprisingly warm and full flavoured for the label, it is medium to full bodied, yet driven by biting grapefruit acid.

The complexity alone here is commendable - that interplay between yeast funk and some quite serious richness, which is quite unsurprising for what was a very cold vintage. It's perhaps a little full and even slightly marmaladey, but seriously long and layered.

Superior wine.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes. More for drinking now than a cellaring option though.

Piccadilly Hills Chardonnay 2003

Piccadilly Hills Chardonnay 2003 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, SA)
14.3%, $28


The PIccadilly Valley is, for my money at least, one of the best places in Australia to grow Chardonnay. It's the sort of place that feels special and winey and a valley where everything looks a little greener and more lively.

This Chardonnay is a wonderful anomaly too - a ripe wine, from a hot year, that is still in quite good shape. Did I mention how good the Piccadilly is for Chardonnay?

Sourced from the elevated north eastern corner of the Piccadilly Valley it saw partial MLF and lees stirring.

It certainly smells like an 11 year old Chardonnay with quite a deal of toasty development. Underneath the leesy, buttered melon palate doesn't lack for substance, though the alcohol is starting to wade noisily into the back palate.

Still great length signals that this would be a promising wine in its youth, though it's just a bit too broadly developed to be delicious now (though not over the hill just yet - indeed it's still got some life). Length gives this an extra point and surprising drinkability when all is said and done.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I drink it? No. But I can appreciate how good it is looking for its age and station.
Buy online: Piccadilly Hills website

Soumah Skye Blox Chardonnay 2013

Soumah Skye Blox Chardonnay 2013 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $20


The Soumah wines are proudly pronounced as 'hand fashioned wines'. Nice words those, if a grammatical head-spin. This entry level wine is just a little too young and simple for big love, though certainly recommendable.

Very tight and minerally in style, this looks like it has seen the barest of (old) oak, the style really crisp and clean. Minimal malo given the shape of the acidity and an emphasis on freshness. Maybe a little one dimensional at present, but the palate helped along by nutty fullness.

Good, and will look even better in 12 months.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100+
Would I buy it? I'd drink a glass, but probably no more (until next year at least).
Buy online: Soumah website

Tower Estate Coombe Rise Chardonnay 2012

Tower Estate Coombe Rise Chardonnay 2012 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
13%, Screwcap, $38


Personally I prefer Tower Estate's cheaper Hillside Vineyard Chardonnay this vintage, largely as the oak seems more integrated and the acid a little softer. It's the small things that count...

70% of this was barrel fermented, the other 30% in tank.

Punctuated by grainy oak and white peach fruit, that creamy oak seems to sit over the very dry acidity, everything finishing hard and raw.

With a little more time this will integrate more - and the flavour penetration is great - but not much love at present.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2015-2019
Score:16.5/20, 88/100+
Would I buy it? Not at the moment.
Buy online: Tower Estate website

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Soumah Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013

Soumah Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
12.7%, Screwcap, $35


The top Soumah Chardonnay and in resplendent form here. Handpicked, wild fermented, eight months on lees with some barrels allowed to go through malo. Careful balance.

Hay and some banana esters on the nose with popcorn - it looks quite forward as befitting the warm vintage. The carefully creamy palate looks much fresher than the nose -  cxcellent balance on with careful butter malo and sweet oak. It's definitely a richer, broader style this vintage but I can't hide the quality here - clean and clever.

Drink early methinks and revel in that tension between creamy winemaking influences and carefully defined fruit. Yes.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 18.2/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd share a bottle. Probably drink 2/3rds of it thanks to the freshness.
Buy online: Soumah website

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Rosé 2012

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Rose 2012 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $28


Pretty wine this. A genuinely lovely pink.

More light Pinot Noir than dry Rosé, the nose softly pink pastel fresh but with a drawn dryness too. There's almost a pink lifesaver fruit character to the palate that carries everything forward. So gently musky and pretty! Dry finish brings things back. Very lively and fresh, if perhaps just a bit more acid driven than the genre expects.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? Yes. I'd share a bottle methinks.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

An ode to Riesling + 30 years of Pauletts finest Riesling

An ode to Riesling + 30 years of Pauletts finest Riesling

(I wrote a version of this at the beginning of the year for a lifestyle print article. The tasting notes are an addition).

It’s a question that every wine writer asks themselves. Asks other wine writers, retailers, drinkers - everyone really. Quite simply, why aren’t more people drinking Australian Riesling?

It’s not like we can’t make great Riesling here. Far from it. In fact, I’d argue that Australian dry Riesling is amongst the best in the world, with our top wines easily competing with the finest examples from Germany, Austria and France.

Regardless of how good I think it is, no one is drinking the stuff, with 2012 ABS statistics indicating that Riesling makes up less than 3% of the grape varieties planted in Australia, with the number of hectares planted declining by over 10% since 2006.

But why? Why is so little of this magical grape planted when we can do it so very well? Is it the stigma of a winegrape that was once known only as something sweet and sickly? Was it the bastardisation of the 70s and 80s, where just about any off-dry white wine was dumped into a 4 litre cask and labelled as Riesling? Or is it simply that Riesling isn't cool?

Whatever the issue, a recent tasting of 30 years of Paulett Clare Valley Riesling reminded me what everyone was missing out on. Here was a collection of wines that were drinkable even after spending 30 years in the Paulett family shed, yet sell for just $22/bottle at the cellar door. $22, for a white wine that should still be delicious in 30 years time! That’s incredible! Remarkable! Sensational! Something to be shouted from the rooftops!

More to the point, the Paulett experience is not an isolated one. All through South Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys the story is repeated. All through these beautiful regions we find delicious, low alcohol, food friendly Rieslings that are beautiful drinking now, will be beautiful drinking in ten years time and beautiful drinking another ten years after that. They're cheap too, with the bulk available for under $25/bottle, often sourced from dry-grown, 30 year old plus vineyards.

Yet still Australians drink Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc like it’s water, with a Marlborough Sauv both most popular white wine and the most popular wine of any type over $10/bottle.

Again, the question is why? Why do we abuse a world renowned resource like this?

I still don't have the complete answers, but do yourself a favour and check out the 2013 Paulett Clare Valley Riesling – it’s a beautifully floral, fresh, long and vivacious white wine, driven by both fresh acidity and wonderful fruit generosity. For $22/bottle you cannot go wrong.

The Wines

These were tasted non-blind in large lineup late last year. As Neil Paulett said dryly '30 years of procrastination led to a tasting of 31 Rieslings'. I like Neil, such a typically stoic Aussie man of the land, believing that this tasting is 'not meant to be a scholastic exercise - just have fun'. Good words those.

Some background points about the Pauletts Rieslings:

- The Pauletts have not irrigated since 1999, which drops yields but increases intensity.
- Pauletts typically add a small amount of acid to juice if need. As Neil says 'those who don't probably get other people to add it'.
- From 2010 onwards there is a small amount of Watervale fruit in the blend - typically no more than 10%.
- Screwcap experimentation began in the late 90s and was fully adapted by 2002. If ever there was a demonstration of why you should put Riesling in screwcap it was the late 90s/early noughties cork/screwcap comparison wines. We tasted them blind and the screwcap wines were obviously superior.

Notes below are as written on the day. Background points in italics. I was very rushed for the last couple of bits.

Pauletts Riesling 2013
Vintage started mid Feb.
Peachiness of youth, quite aromatic - feels rather buxom and juicy, if dropping into firm Limey acidity quite quickly. Pretty as a youngster, drink now for maximum joy. Maybe not the most acidic wine in this line but certainly an appealing and juicy Rizza. 18.1/20, 93/100

Pauletts Riesling 2012 
Heralded as a fantastic vintage. 'Flavours developed beautifully' according to Neil. 
LIght green straw. The primary peachiness has settled here, the palate just a little longer. There is still a warm year ripeness to this wine that comes through as a stone fruit edge to the lime juice palate. Will be a classic, and certainly outshines the 2013 in terms of length. Needs several more years to be wonderful though. Gold medal length carries this forward. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 2011
Acid. Colour looks very backwards but the acidity is not shy in coming forward. Furious acidity, but not quite the fruit to match? Unapproachable now, but may become a classic in time. 17.5/20, 91/100+

Pauletts Riesling 2010
Just a little more yellow in the colour here and the secondary characters have started to flesh out the palate, giving a very faint marmalade hint. In a transitional phase, but already the fullness of the year suggests this will be a tasty wine in years to come. Good wine, if not quite 'great' - maybe a little shorter than you'd like. 17.8/20, 92/100+

Pauletts Riesling 2009
Green yellow straw. For a warm year wine this has plenty of acidity, though seems a little creamy and fleshy through the middle. Approachable now but perhaps not a standout year. 17.5/20, 91/100

Pauletts Riesling 2008
Yellow straw, less green now. Quite forward and with a little terpene petrol. I don't quite love this, even though the winery claim it as classic - the terpenes are distracting. Certainly open and toasty with good length though. Definitely drier. 17/20, 90/100

Pauletts Riesling 2007
Fleshed out with no sharp edges - this feels almost Watervale like in its toasty freshness.  I like the open character of this wine - softly buttered lime in a softer mode. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 2006
Screwcap.
Odd corky character, More green than either the 2007 or 08, Terpene character has gone right over into turps on the nose of this, which I struggle with, although I think the palate has one of the best, most natural shapes of any in this line. This is a classic Riesling on the palate, with powerful green fruit and long Limey acidity. If the turps drops off the nose this will be wonderful. Hard to score. 18 for structure, 17.5 for terpene distraction. Split the difference. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 2006
Second bottle.
This looked much fresher on the nose, and this palate looks rather fresher too. Classic and less obvious terpene. Classic lime buzz through the finish. I think this is the best of the middle aged wines - certainly best integration of acidity and flavour, with that lime and lemon freshness underpinning extra richness. 18.6/20, 95/100

Pauletts Riesling 2005
Green yellow straw, still quite green. There is a Hunter Sem like toastiness on the nose of this with that 05 hunter Sem flesh too. Terpene on the front palate, but more of that buttered length to carry things through. Still looks quite primary. Again a pretty classic wine, if not quite the acid of the 06. Lovely generosity though and that's what carries through the flavours. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 2004
Screwcap.
Golden yellow in colour, yellow buttercup nose that looks quite secondary and marmaladey, the acidity is still there, but that fruit has a mothball edge that marks it as a lesser year. A surprise given the vintage reputation for other Clare makers. 16.8/20, 89/100+

Pauletts Riesling 2003
Screwcap.
Honey lime and quite yellow in colour, this looked a little broad and flat compared to the wines around it. Soapy even. Honey gold and sweet flavours but not quite the length. When tasted next to the 04 this seems more forward but has energy. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 2002
Screwcap.
Yellow straw. Delicious. Has a Creme caramel nose that defies the terpenes to have carry and flavour. Long and even palate has power and a long creamy finish. Excellent structure but I'd wait for the front palate terpene character to integrate more. Lemon lime tart through the finish is lovely. 18.2/20, 93/100+

Pauletts Riesling 2002
Cork.
Colour lacks the vibrance of the Screwcap version and components look less integrated. Interestingly terpene has been replaced by a corkiness, so at I least that terpene has been whisked away. Still pretty tidy, but not quite as great. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 2001
Screwcap.
Full yellow. Quite broad and a little dusty after the 2002 but fresh to finish. A little toffee on the end suggests warm year, but in an attractive golden syrup mode with lemon yellow fruit underneath. Good but maybe not great. 17.5/20, 91/100

Pauletts Riesling 2001
Cork.
Definite tawny hue and darker even than the cork sealed 2000. Madeirised palate has a big mouthful of fullness and a filip of acidity, but not enough vibrance. Flat 16/20, 87/100

Pauletts Riesling 2000
Cork.
A little corky? Has an odd white pepper nose. Certainly quit fleshy and generous underneath. Toasty flesh and honey but with lemon acid bite. Almost smoky in its mode. Not great or much fun to drink. 15/20, 83/100

Pauletts Riesling 1999
Cork.
This looks awfully classic, the nose showing a progression of layers of toast and cinnamon. Soft finish but with acidity. I like this - it has energy and acidity. Maybe a little underpowered? Still has a decade in it easily. Delicious regardless. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 1998
Cork.
Slightly more golden hue. A big wine and quite developed with toast and marmalade, the palate broad and full of flavour but lacks acid definition. 17/20, 90/100

Pauletts Riesling 1997
Screwcap.
Unsurprisingly the better looking wine of this pair. Quite honeyed but also deliciously fresh, a little flattening toast on the nose, but a very vibrant and delicious acid driven palate. Such intensity of flavour! Excellent wine. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 1997
Cork.
Grand and flattering palate, looks quite advanced next to the Screwcap version, love the palate length on this but gee the Screwcap version is a better wine. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 1996
Cork.
Tawny gold colour. Maderised palate though still has some toasty flavour. Drink now. 15.5/20, 86/100

Pauletts Riesling 1995
Cork.
More like the 97 in flavour, though with a minty edge. the palate with very smart creamy layers. Soft acidity in context and black currant flavours. Still with loads of acidity and in fine form. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 1994
Cork.
Lemon cream pie - it's almost botrytis Creme caramel. Makes for a fully integrated and lovely old wine though, the palate a little softly spoken but also classic too. Another smart wine from this unheralded vintage. 18.3/20, 93/100

Pauletts Riesling 1993
Has 10g/l RS. When asked about the picking dates for this, Neil Paulett just said 'Thursday'.
Lovely wine too. Tawny colour. Real pineapple splice character here, the sugar working in everything's favour. Not a profound wine but a nice drink. 17.5/20, 91/100

Pauletts Riesling 1992
Cork.
Slightly lumpy palate of marmalade and quite firm acidity. Suffers in the balance. 15.5/20, 86/100

Pauletts Riesling 1991
Cork.
Full yellow but little bronzing. Has a toasty, slightly decayed easy going profile that I think you could miss. Nicely structured and full of life though - you could drink this easily. 17.5/20, 91/100

Pauletts Riesling 1990
Two bottles poured.
Woah. Given just how big and powerfully toasty this is I never expected that acidity - huge flavours and surprisingly acidic too. In full flush of life, a showpiece of a wine with everything turned up a notch. Astonishing. Great. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 1989
Cork.
Bronze edge to the colour. Dull and slightly subdued with a mothball character. A bit flat. But not terrible. Rot? 15.5/20, 86/100

Pauletts Riesling 1988
Two bottles opened. Cork. 
2nd bottle is quite attractive - certainly a full wine, and lacks a little subtlety, but certainly an attractive easy drinker. Buttercup butter freshness helps this no end. I really quite like this! It's at the end of the plateau but I like that biscotti and acidity flavour. 17.7/20, 92/100

Pauletts Riesling 1987
Two bottles opened.
Pineapple and absolute freshness. Loads of acidity but maybe a little raw too. Not ready! But will it come around? 17.5/20, 91/100+

Pauletts Riesling 1986
Cork.
Nice shape for this. Maybe a little towards the end of its plateau, but has layers of flavour and really complex and vibrant. Pineapple juiciness apparent here - this would have been an attractive young wine but it's towards the back end of its tenure here. Still great length though. Deserves to be celebrated. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Riesling 1985
Wild fermented.
Odd. Black currant nose, short palate. All sorts of odd Formic and chalk going on here. Didn't enjoy this much. 14.5/20, 80/100

Pauletts Riesling 1984
Volatile and a little fatty, this starts quite promising, the palate falling away a fraction too quickly. Plenty of acidity still but not a complete wine. 16.5/20, 88/100

Pauletts Riesling 1983
Alarming smoke taint. Woah. Undrinkable. 12/20, 60/100

Pauletts Antonina Riesling 2013
Juicy and open yet with great acidity. Maybe a little disconnected at the moment but certainly affable. 18/20, 93/100

Pauletts Antonina Riesling 2012 
Retains it's fruit while the standard wine doesn't. We'll integrated acidity makes this a winner for sure - soft acidity even. 18.5/20, 94/100

Pauletts Antonina Riesling 2005
A beast. Huge acidity and extract. Lots of latent power and length to burn. Gold medal Riesling. 18.7/20, 95/100

Monday, 21 July 2014

A brilliant awkward wine: Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne 2004

Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne 2004 (Nagambie, Goulburn Valley, Vic)
11%, Screwcap, $46.50

This is the most brilliant awkward wine I know.

Brilliant on one hand, with a wondrous combination of fruit power and sprightly acidity, the edges honeyed just a fraction thanks to ten years in bottle, all making for a thoroughly intriguing, delightfully complex white wine of acid and just enough fruit.

That same brilliant acidity, however, also makes this an uncompromising drink - an esoteric wine of structure, not softness, length not breadth. Not an easy wine to understand, in other words.

Regardless, this 'Mexican Hunter Semillon' (from similar sandy soils too) is something to be celebrated. Kudos Tahbilk for persisting with this as an aged release, and thank heavens for the screwcap (as it finally brings consistency to this wine).

Anyway, this 2004 is a backward 1927 Vines release in the scheme of things, certainly much less forward than the 2003 or the 2005 and perhaps the most backward and tight since the 2002. Understandably, the flavours are still dominated by melon and pine/lime, the toasty creaminess still a way off. That trademark honeysuckly creeps in the closer you look, however, just balancing the acid crunch. Almost balancing it, for it is still a gangly wine through the finish.

All up this is a beautifully alive, beguiling wine to be admired. My score will look low and churlish in ten years time.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2016-2030+
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100+
Would I buy it? Yes, but only to stick in the cellar for another 3-5.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Kemenys

Soumah Skye Blox Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Soumah Skye Blox Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap, $20


Skye Blox is the entry-level range for Soumah, pitched at just $20 a bottle and designed for easy drinking. The range still carries the distinctive light blue packaging and is made in the typically refreshing Soumah style.

This Cabernet, however, isn't quite right. A light and fragrant nose with DMS and blackcurrant. The palate, however, is meaty and dry, a little rustic and even horsey, the edges just a little raw - quite a contrast to the other Soumah wines. The finish is clear and fresh but I can't quite shake the furry, meaty edges.

A bad bottle, perhaps, or just not this wine's day.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2018+
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Not on this showing.
Buy online: Soumah website

View Road Wines Sagrantino 2012

View Road Wines Sagrantino 2012 (McLaren Vale)
14.5%, Cork, $37

Now here is a new label to watch. Josh's 2012 Chardonnay impressed greatly and this Sagrantino follows closely behind. I only wish I could tell you where to buy the wines (Josh?)...

Did I mention how much I like Sagrantino? Sourced from the Oliver's Taranga vineyard at Seaview in McLaren Vale, the fruit for this example was wild fermented and spent 4.5 weeks on skins before being pressed into second use oak, finally bottled unfined and unfiltered with just a little sulphur. A huge (cough) 24 dozen.

Intriguingly, this is quite light coloured, yet it carries the intensity you'd more readily think of when talking about Sagrantino, with a big jellybean/raspberry and fennel nose. There's an odd fish oil character in here that seems unusual at first but dissipates quickly - interested to see if anyone else picks that up.

Underneath this has red and blackberry fruit, big extract and a real hearty edge - now we're back in classic Sagrantino territory. Those tannins really make this wine, delivering grunt and structure to what is a mid-weight and less overly sweet style.

Ultimately the more I looked the more I liked this. The extract is there, but the tannins feel well integrated and grunty and real. It's not a big black wine like some Montefalco styles, but it is mighty satisfying and almost refreshing.

Yes.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes. That structure is very appealing.
Buy online: A big question mark. TBA.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Patina Reserve Chardonnay 2008

Patina Reserve Chardonnay 2008 (Orange, NSW)
11.9%, Screwcap, $35


There is 'tight' Chardonnay and then there is 'sparkling base masquerading as table wine'. This is the latter.

A round of applause if you could pick this as 2008, for it looks like it was bottled a year ago. Very light straw in colour, it smells delicate and awfully backward for a 6 year old Chardonnay (from anywhere). It tastes light too, the acid tart, the flavours more of a whisper and overrun by very firm, even hard acidity. There's some melon fruit in there, which saves this from ignominy, but otherwise I struggled to see the fun with this style.

Fresh, but ultimately hard work. Not quite.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 16/20, 86/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Patina website