Friday, 29 August 2008

47 Wines from around the world

Some cracking wines here from a Mega Tasting organised by two leading wine distributors: Domaine Wine Shippers & Q.E.D

Billecart Salmon NV - creamy yeasty nose, there seems to be a good balance between freshness and reserve wine in this blend, palate is dry, slightly bitter, but well balanced. Very good and a welcome return to form for this label. 18
Billecart Salmon Blanc de Blancs - Soft creamy style,with nice acidity, but surprisingly falls away at the finish. Preferred the NV brut myself. 17.9
Billecart Salmon Rose NV - Stemmy nose, intensely dry palate. Very serious style, but with no generosity. 17

Vincent D'Astree Brut NV - No nose, dry, interesting yeasty palate with pronounced yeasty development. Quite a simple style in the end. Ok only 16.9
Vincent D'Astree Brut Reserve NV - A richer creamier take than the standard Brut, this has an unusual marzipan edge to the palate, but with great length and balance. Smart & tasty, this just nudged out the Billecart mainly due to its richer, more complex palate. 18.1 (Disclosure - I am a fan of the more rich and long styles of Champagne).

Josmeyer 'Le Kottabe' Riesling 2006 - An excellent introduction to the long and textural style of Alsatian Riesling. Good value & quite fresh (something that Alsace whites sometime lack) Talc, citrus and just a fleck of butter. Yum. 17.5

Rieschsgraf von Kesselstatt
German Riesling. The very best are amazing things that successfully match Sweetness and acidity in a beautiful match. The worst are overly sweet sickly things. These two are glorious examples of the former.

Rieschsgraf von Kesselstatt Peisporter Goldtropfchen 'Kabinett' Grand Cru 2005

Its Kabinett by name, but there is still some sweetness. The key here though is just precision & texture. Long acidity with a real grunt to the palate. Development, but not in the kero & toast style of many other warmer region Rieslings, this is more in the floral, warmed up limes (bizarre, but we warm them when adding them to soda water to get more juice out them - this smells like that) style. Fantastic. 18.5
Rieschsgraf von Kesselstatt Peisporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese Grand Cru 2005
Very fine indeed. Its amazing how you don't notice the obvious sweetness when its so well matched to acidity. So long, so precise and so utterly delicious. Brilliant. 18.6

Clarendon Hills
The prices are ludicrous, the range of single vineyards bewildering, but underneath it all, if you like luscious, powerful wines, then these are quite simply impressive. The notes are limited here, so I'll just list what I tried and a few impressions

'Blewitt Springs' Grenache 2006

'Onkaparinga' Grenache 2006
'Liandra' Syrah 2006
'Brookman' Syrah 2006

'Sandown' Cabernet 2006
'Brookman' Merlot 2006

I thoroughly enjoyed the two Grenache, with the Onkaparinga just winning me over with its slightly (its only slightly, these are Clarendon Hills reds after all) more subtle, darker style. Of the two Syrah, the Brookman was an obvious standout, with serious weight, power and surprising peppery spice (and actually quite drinkable considering the frightening levels alcohol and extract). The Cabernet was similarly enjoyable, with some clear varietal Cabernet characters. The only real disappointment was the Merlot - thinner, very simple and confected. I'd be grafting over those Merlot vines without hesitation.

Domaine de Chevalier 2005 - Quite long, perfumed and savoury, lovely balance and very tight, but not quite the brilliance expected. Its way too young and the balance is there though, it likely just needs time to flesh out. 18+

Man O' War Waiheke Island 'Dreadnought' Syrah 2007 - Now here is something special. Off a property at the Eastern end of Waiheke, this comes from a very specialised vineyard with multiple little plots which are picked independently. The resultant wine is dark, perfumed and spicy, with a pulpy lusciousness to the palate that is really something else. The nose throws up all sorts of spicy(star anise, five spice), peppery, meaty aromas & the palate carries real intensity but also with a softness that is particularly enticing. Unusual, attractive and very drinkable, this is definitely a label to watch. 18.6

Meerea Park XYZ Shiraz 2007 - Apparently its called XYZ as the boys couldn't think of what to call it. This is apparently an experimental wine - here is a little more about its production
'Half of the fruit parcel was crushed and de-stemmed with the remaining half crushed and left with the stems and fermented in open vats. The wine was then matured in 100% new French oak hogsheads before bottling in late July 2008.'
Suffice to say its quite an unusual wine for the Hunter, but i think its a beauty. Bright purple in colour, it hits with an immediate aroma of pulpy red fruit on the nose - its a very bright and ripe nose and quite un-Hunter in its pristine red fruit. The palate though is what wins you over here - its medium bodied and quite juicy, but with substantial deep, lingering tannins. The vanilla oak is slightly obvious, but there is no question that this will be one very long term wine. Very impressive, particularly if you like the Meerea Park style (Like me).18.8

Elgee Park Family Reserve Viognier 2005 -With some of Australia's oldest Viognier vines, this really should be up there with Australia's best in terms of Viognier, yet it never seems to hit the heights. With wines like this though I think they need a little more than a casual taste. This is a surprisingly tight and lean style that builds up a momentum of Viognier fruit characters from about mid palate onwards. Its quite withdrawn in fact, but I think that it really just needs time - something you don't can't always say about Viognier. Hold on, for I think in a few years time it could be a real surprise. 18.1

White Burgundy

A et P de Villaine Cote Chalonnaise 'Les Clous' Bourgogne 2006-
An excellent 'starter' in the world of White Burgundy, showing the nice creaminess that I always associate with the Cote Chalonnaise. Excellent acidity and nice balance, this would retail for about the $50 mark I think. 17.7

Blain Gagnard

I am a massive fan of Blain Gagnard and these wines were truly quite brilliant.

Blain Gagnard Puligny Montrachet 2006 - Cream nose, extremely tight palate with just the most excellent, classic Chardonnay nose. Delicious 18.4
Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 'Boudriotte' 2006 -Almost crystalline in its fruit purity, this is one very special wine. A very tight, waxy style with a creamed butter character that was oh so delicious. Glorious acid backbone. A sensational white Burgundy and worth every cent of its $125 asking price. 19
Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 'Morgeot' 2006 - I think this suffered slightly after the brilliance of the Boudriotte above. The acidity here is more obvious, but so is the oak, which seems slightly more heavy handed and less integrated. I'm splitting hairs here though. 18.8

Bruno Colin Chassagne Montrachet 'La Maltrioe 2005 - Obviously a warm vintage wine, this had a woody peach nose with obvious ripeness, the palate follows with big, ripe full fruit. Tastes quite hot & harsh after the previous wine. 17

Bouchard Pere et Fils Mersault 'Les Gouttes d'Or' 2006 - A rather dense and beasty style this had a mealy, open nose with a palate that was grippy, intense and full. A broad, intensely flavoured wine, though a little obvious & forward. Love the intensity, but its almost new world in style. Crap value @ $160 18

Red Burgundy

Domaine de la Vougeraie Vougeots 'Clos du Prieure' 2003 -
Definitely a product of the season, this was very big & full, but ultimately hot & dull, the palate astringent and lacking in actual fruit generosity. No. 16

Bouchard Pere et Fils Monthelie 'Les Duresses' 2005 - Stalky, yet quite open and simple. It may sort itself out in time, but its all arms and legs at the moment. Distracting heat on the back. 16.8
Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune 'Marconnets' 2005 - Lifted, volatile nose, the palate is intense yet silky in its flow of fruit, with more heat on the finish. Better, needs time. 17.3

Henri Gouges Nuits St Georges 'Les Chaignots' 2005 - Perfumed, classical red cherry Pinot nose, if in a new world mould. The palate is sour, lean and tight, building power as it goes along. It needs yrs, but real potential for the patient. 18.1

Confuron Cotetidot Nuits St Georges (Premier Cru) 2002 - Stalky nose, sour savoury palate. Its a very leafy, dark and intense palate, though with a rather hard unattractive edge. 17

Mongeard Mugneret Clos 'De Vougeot' 2004 - Classic stuff, delightful perfume, a supple and luxurious palate, though it falls away a little at the end. Really very attractive and very Pinoty. Hugely expensive though. 18.7

Stanton & Killeen Grand Rutherglen Muscat NV - Quite dissapointing actually. Expectations are high for this level of Muscat, but this was a little on the stale side and just lacks the generosity and length of the cheaper Morris Old Premium Muscat (Amongst others). Enjoyable all the same. 17.8

Sevenhill Brother John Reserve Shiraz 2004 - Thoroughly deserving of its praise. The nose is perfumed & bright with a purity of fruit that I thought had similarities to the brilliant 04 St Henri. The palate is tight, but perfectly structured, with great tannins and well judged structure. Its a relative bargain @$58. 18.6+

Castagna Adam's Rib Red 2006 - I'm not sure what went into the blend this year, but there is an almost pinoty, savoury dark cherry character to the fruit (Shiraz component?) - It's very attractive and the whole wine is savoury,unique and quite delicious. 18
Castagna Sauvage 2003 - The only let down in this lineup. Dominated by hammy, smoky aromatics and with a slightly acrid edge to the palate, this was jarring. 15
Castagna Genesis 2005 - Lovely. Viognier is discreet and well integrated, the palate is savoury, medium bodied but with a very nice meaty complexity to it all. Very well built. 18.3
Castagna Un Segreto 2005 - This is one incredibly complex dry red - the palate moves from meaty savouriness to bright red fruit to long tannins. Its a very complete wine, with real style and impressive drinkability. Very very smart. 18.8

Hans Herzog
Another case of an esteemed European producer setting up shop in New Zealand and producing wines of real distinction and interest. These are more restrained than much of their neighbours produce and I dare say they will mature far better in the cellar. I can't recommend these wines highly enough.

Hans Herzog 'Sur Lie' Sauvignon Blanc 2007 - Rich and quite tropical, its unrecognisable as Sauv - more like Pinot Gris with its richness and palate weight. Its actually quite delicious with its textural oomph. Very good. 18
Hans Herzog Pinot Gris 2007 - Firmly rooted in Alsace, this beautiful pink coloured Pinot Gris is again all about texture with a big phenolic grip on the palate. Yum. 18.1
Hans Herzog Chardonnay 2007 - I had to take a double check on this that it wasn't the Viognier, for the aromatics are wildly peachy, stone fruity and rich, the textural palate (again that textural brilliance - Top class winemaking here) is layered and beautifully balanced. Yum 18.5
Hans Herzog Pinot Noir 2006 - Clearly varietal, this restrained and elegant Pinot has a lovely, plus and earthen style to the palate that is very drinkable. Burgundy grace meets Marlborough red fruits. 18.6
Hans Herzog 'Spirit of Marlborough' Merlot Cabernet 2001 - Dry, lean and perhaps even dried out, this teeters on the edge between Bordeaux inspired savoury glory and not enough richness. Maybe it will get there in time, but its a hard drink at present. 16.9
Hans Herzog Noble Pinot Gris 2006 - I only have one word scrawled on my pad for this. Delicious! Frighteningly expensive though.

In my opinion these are amongst the finest wines in Margaret River. The reds in particular shine thanks to their perfect aspect, slope & soil. Terroir at work.

Woodlands Chardonnay 2007 - A leaner Chardy that dips its hat to a more cleaner Chablis inspired style. Great length, well built, great value. 17.8
Woodlands Reserve 'Chloe' Chardonnay 2007 - A rich, barrel fermented style, the oak is a little obvious at present, but I think this wine will just need some extra time in the bottle to come together. Leave it alone in the meantime. 18
Woodlands Cabernet Merlot 2007 - This has got to be up there as my red wine bargain of the year. Arguably too young, but every hair is in place for a long and fruitful future in the cellar. It carries the clean dark chocolate and black fruit aromatics of Margaret River Cabernet, punctuated with some blueberry Merlot. The palate is dry and it builds up momentum to the well formed tannins on the back. Buy 2 dozen, wait 2 yrs and you will have a wine that cost $20 a bottle and drinks like a $45 showpiece. 18.3
Woodlands Reserve 'Margaret' Cabernet Merlot 2006 - An unequivocal product of the cool vintage, this is leafy, sappy and refreshing, with a high acidity, leafy palate that whilst savoury, has an edge of hardness to it. 17.1
Woodlands 'Colin' Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - Know anyone with kids born in 2005? Marry in 2005? Whatever the occasion, this wine could help celebrate the 25th anniversary. Its a powerhouse of oak, tannin and structure, with monumental power, tightly bound in a grainy, classic Cabernet framework. Blisteringly good, the only worry is that it may be just that little bit too hardcore. Send it straight to the cellar and then forget about it for a decade. 19

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Domaine Francois Raveneau 'Montee de Tonnerre' Chablis 1993-2005

Raveneau - Easily the most famous Chablis estate, with highly sought after (and hence highly priced) wines of the utmost sophistication that clearly reflect the terroir of Chablis.

The Premier Cru 'Montee de Tonnerre' is located southeast of the grand cru vineyards (and the town itself) & shares the same Kimmeridgian Limestone rock soils that make Chablis great.

This tasting was organised by Gary Steel of Domaine Wine Shippers (Raveneau importers) and I can't help but be jealous of the man who imports Rousseau & Raveneau.

What did surprise me was the vintage variation, which was very pronounced, even in the young 2005 & 2004 vintages. You could broadly break down the wines into the drier, waxier & cooler vintage styles vs the more opulent, quite new world Chardonnay like styles (I find them both attractive). I think that for most vintages, 7-10yrs of age seems to be prime drinking, though with the inherent acid backbone of this style age is certainly not a barrier. The colour didn't change all that much from the 93-05 either.

2005 Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre
Its a very big wine, and the oak is surprisingly obvious (considering that it is largely old oak) but if you are looking for power & richness, this is your wine. Honey & slate on the nose with bold vanillan oak, the palate starts rich & intense with golden fruit that then melds into firm acidity on the back. Definitely not a classic Chablis style, its a bit blocky for that, but real mouthfuls of power and flavour and still with resounding acidity. 18.7+/20

2004 Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre

Closed and so very backward after the 05, this lacks the intensity, but more than makes up for it with prominent acidity. The nosey gives a bit of vanilla bean & citrus, the palate is waxy, very lean with a very strong, citric acid dominated palate. The acidity is bracing (to say the least) & the whole package is retracting into itself and seems a little dumb at present. The acidity will see it through, but its not much of a drink right now. Leave it in the cellar - will improve with time. 18+/20

2002 Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre
This was my eventual favourite, closely followed by the 1999. Its a bright gold colour, the nose has restrained lemon & beeswax. Its a floral but still reticent nose, with hidden delights. The palate is very tight with lemony fruit & overt citrussy acidity. Very long with a clarity of fruit and precise prominent acidity. Such a complete wine. 19/20

2001 Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre
A lively, approachable and open knit wine, this is immediately enjoyable, if a rather ripe interpretation. There is a hint of honey & even marmalade on the nose, with more trademark lemon. The palate has a slight honey edge to the lemons & slate, the acidity is much less prominent. The whole package is tasty, generous & lovely - if a very ready and less serious style. This and the 99 were commented upon as the most drinkable at this very moment. 18.8/20

2000 Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre
After the past couple of real stunners, this seemed awkward and quite developed. The nose had mealy, slightly blowsy developed Chardonnay fruit & honey, the palate is racked with straw & its a little on the fat side. Acidity is still tingling, but its not a complete wine and I'm no fan of where its going. 17.4

1999 Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre
This was right up there as one of my favourites & I think this shares alot of similarities with the 02. The nose has some very light apricot and peach that is creeping in over the top of the lemon fruit, the palate is still tight & waxy with long acidity. Its actually quite creamy & very long, with excellent acid driven intensity. Will keep, though its a very nice drink now. 19/20

1996 Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre
Lesser. This had a golden straw colour, a still quite tight nose, but there is a distracting mothball aroma going on. The palate is all lemon with still huge acidity that is tingling and quite severe. I found the secondary mothball characters quite distracting here and the sheer weight of acidity couldn't cover this up. A very acidic yr (and apparently very similar to 2004 with its acid intensity) but I wasn't a big fan & the secondary characters weren't all that appealing. 17.2

1993 Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre
The most secondary of the lot and from a crap yr, this was the least appealing wine of the lineup. Still bright gold in colour. The nose is faintly yeasty, with an aroma that is faintly yeasty & honeyed, the palate still has great honey fruit with prominent acidity still at play, though I think it has hit the plateau and is on the way down the other side. 17

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Blue Pyrenees, Leo Buring, De Bortoli Gulf Station

Blue Pyrenees Midnight Cuvee 2001 (Pyrenees, Vic) Diam, $30
I like Diam corks - they manage to blend the romance & practicalities of cork with the consistency that modern technology affords us. I still prefer screwcaps, but respect the makers who have embraced Diam as their closure of choice.

My only aversion to Diam corks corks is that they are a right prick to get out of the bottle! In particular the sparkling version, which requires some wrist work to prise it from the sparkling neck. My arthritic fingers don't take too kindly too this however (perhaps I need a Champagne Sabre).

Anyway, this carries a trophy from Cairns wine show (an unusual place for a wine show, unless you like Mango wine) and I think its a rather good drink. Pale yellow in colour, it shows some toasty developed Chardonnay characters and yeast on the nose. The palate is dry and appley, with a resounding green apple acidity to it that is quite attractive. The only detractions from the wine are some fat & awkward developed Chardonnay characters that edge the palate. Good, dry, not earth shattering, but smart enough. 17.3/20

Leo Buring Eden Valley Riesling 1997 (Eden Valley, SA) Cork, $20
I'm not sure if this is a mature release or this was just some stock that was lying around in the Fosters warehouse. Anyway, it's a golden straw colour, still bright and clear. On the nose it is unmistakeably Eden Riesling, with just a hint of petrol to the toasty, lemony developed fruit characters. Its a fully developed nose, but there is hints of slatey melon that I always associate with Eden Riesling, even if it is a litle hard to see underneath the almost cumquat richly developed fruit. The palate is toasty, full, but underpinned by lively acidity. Its dry, but the mouthfilling developed fruit gives it richness. It lacks a little intensity and the focus of the palate is being taken over by developed fruit, but its not a bad drink now (at its peak me thinks). 17.5/20

De Bortoli Gulf Station Shiraz Viognier (Yarra Valley, Vic) Screwcap $20
I notice the price has gone up, and the seriousness seems to have taken another step up too. It opens with brambly, black pepper & slightly hammy aromatics that were quite bound up in the wine. It really needs a decant to open up and after about 2 hours in the glass it is still very tight and stemmy. The palate shows some obvious stemmy characters too, that suggest some whole bunches went into the ferment, however the palate itslf is very well put together & balanced, with red cherry fruits, some mid palate Viognier richness, finishing with grainy tannins and a lingering, but not unsavoury, bitterness on the back end to suggest it will appreciate a yr or two in the cellar.

Very drinkable, but in a definitively austere style, it is very very sophisticated and you can't help but admire the De Bortoli winemakers (and viticulturalists - they always miss out on the plaudits) for their attention to detail. Buy it on special, then store it somewhere cool for 18 months, and reap the rewards. 18.1/20

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Wine Focus Australia

A two day mega tasting, this top event is always a winner - the masterclasses are well worth the trouble if you get the time. It gets a bit crowded in there after 4pm in though as the drunken city suits fill the place out.

The wines:

I have had only limited experience with Savaterre, but it has a very illustrious reputation and rather serious prices. Mixed results here though

Savaterre Beechworth Chardonnay 2006 - Tight, boldy Chardonnay with a slightly unyielding palate that hints at serious potential. Impressive acidity, but at this stage this is a little awkward and desperately needs time. 17.5
Savaterre Beechworth Pinot Noir 2006 - Stalky, with a restrained nose. The palate is astringent, with harsh, bitter, stalky tannins. Yes its a mere baby, but the tannins on this were ugly and hard. Time will probably sort it out, but at the moment its a very unenjoyable drink. 15.5+

Hunter winery that produces some excellent Semillons

Mistletoe Home Vineyard Semillon 2008 - I love the nose on these Mistletoe Semillons, the extra lees contact gives it a little wild fragrance. The aromatics carry through onto the palate, which has excellent intense fruit, superb definition and lovely freshness. Yum. Love the acidity. 18.4+
Mistletoe Reserve Semillon 2007 - Its even more dense than the Home vineyard, with a hint of development on the nose. The palate is hugely intense with serious style and a solid core of acid driven fruit. Brilliant.18.5
Mistletoe Reserve Semillon 2005 - Its closing down now, the acidity is excellent, but its in the hole. Leave it. Hard to score this, as the potential is all there, but its not much of a drink at present.

Blackets Lenswood Vineyard
Now here is a story. I believe this is Tim Knappstein's old Lenswood vineyard (the ownership seems a murky issue) and the wines are made by Tim under contract. The vines are now 25 yrs old (real maturity for the Adelaide Hills) and the prices are more than reasonable.

Blackets Gewurtztraminer 2007 - Lovely aromatic Gewurtz, big varietal nose, with an intense palate that matches sweetness with acidity. Nice. 17.6
Blackets Pinot Gris 2008 - This is boosted by a little Chardonnay and I think its all the better for it This is very young and pale, but the nice palate weight is very nicely judged. Great balance, nice drinkability, will look even nicer in a couple of months time. 17.4
Blackets Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - If you like Adelaide Hills Sauv, get onto this. Its a very pure, varietally correct Australian take on Sauvignon Blanc. The aromatics are grassy, with just a little passionfruit & citrus, the acidity and the grunt on the palate is quite remarkable. Very fresh and intense. 18.6
Blackets Chardonnay 2007 - It starts leanly and builds as the palate does. The oak is very smart and well handled, again great acidity. Needs some time. 17.3+
Blackets Pinot Noir 2007 - I'm not much of a fan of Adelaide Hills Pinot, but this is friendly enough. Its a sappy, syrupy style thats soft and a little oak dominated. My least favourite wine in this range. 17

Arlewood Margaret River
I was a little disappointed here - I expected and wanted much more. This was the first of the 08 WA whites I tried and the more I taste, the more I believe that the 08 WA whites need more time in the bottle than most other 08 examples from around the nation.

Arlewood Sem/Sauv 08 - Aromatic Sauv nose, palate is closed shut. time needed. 17.5
Arlewood Mars/Rousanne 08 - Closed, light peach and red apple nose, it has a tight red apple palate & a palate texture that is almost rubbery. I have 'gum texture' written on my notepad. This has been released too early for sure, as I think it will be a smart wine with some more time. 17+
Arlewood Reserve Sauv/Sem 06 - From 06, the expectations here were high, the wine however is dominated by boring oak & barrel ferment characters. The palate is simple and oaky. Boring. 16

Leeuwin Estate
The range is mixed, but the high notes are very high.

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling 2007 - Major disappointment. Baby sick on the nose (its almost like a porridge smell), the palate is round and innocuous. No. 15.6
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Sauv 08 - Very youthful, needs some time in the bottle, the nose is faintly grassy, the palate similarly light and tight. Its hard work at present actually. 17
Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2007 - For once, I think this is a baby Art Series Chardonnay. The nose is classic Leeuwin Chardy, the palate has excellent chewy length, with nice smart oak, it just needs some time in the bottle. 18+
Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay 2005 - It is a beast of a Chardonnay, with a intense, full nose and a palate that you can almost eat its that thick. Intensity plus and very long. Some heat on the finish is the only thing that prevents this getting top points. 18.9
Leeuwin Art Series Cabernet 2003 - I likey! No greenness, its lovely. Leather, old wood and spice on the nose, it kinda smells like old books, but not in a stale way - more like an aged Bordeaux way. the palate is spicy, curranty, gentle and savoury. Quite refreshing. 17.8

Brookland Valley
I have recently raved about this range, here I tasted the Chardonnay to complete the lineup. Well deserving of its big wrap from Halliday.

Brookland Valley Chardonnay 2005 - Aromatic, leesy nose w/ some struck match, leading to an elegant and complex palate. Very tasty. 18.3

Stella Bella
I very much enjoy this range of wines, but that is mainly because of the lovely varietal purity. If you don't like herbs in your wine, avoid these. The 06 reds are all leafy but surprisingly refreshing.

Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - Hugely pungent nose - its like Savvy on steroids, massively herbaceous with a powerful, dry palate. A little OTT, but still brilliant in its mould. 17.9
Stella Bella Sem/Sauv 08 - Surprisingly lacks the varietal intensity of the Savvy, its a little boring. 17
Stella Bella Chardonnay 06 - Creamy nose, the wine is oak derived and quite lean. Ok. 16.8
Suckfizzle Sem/Sauv 05 - Complex Sauv and oak aromatics, the long, rich palate has excellent length and flavour, but I really think this is a drink now proposition - it ends a little too rounded. Impressive enough drink right now. 18.3
Stella Bella Tempranillo 2006 - Not a bad interpretation of this variety, this has leather, spice and leafy character on the nose with a slightly rich palate. Dry, early drinker. 17.2
Stella Bella Shiraz 2006 - Lots of spice and white pepper, the palate has some green tannins, but its spicy and tasty enough. 17
Stella Bella Sangio Cab - Leafy nose again, the palate is very dry and savoury, but with refreshing acidity and purity. 16.8
Stella Bella Cab Merlot 06 - herbaceous, cedary nose, the palate is crammed with grippy tannins. Its a very cool climate style, but with nice depth. 17.1
Suckfizzle Red 2005 - Leathery nose, but the tannins are the story here - Massive tannins dominate, shading the fruit. If the tannins resolve there might be a nice wine underneath. 17

No surprises here - the Riesling and Malbec are the highlights

Ferngrove Cossack Riesling 08 - Closed, limey nose, the palate is soft and citrussy with hints of peach, but with lovely delicacy. Very drinkable, if a little light. 18
Ferngrove Sauvignon Blanc 08 - Light, crisp, lemon drop style. Very soft & lacks intensity. 16.8
Ferngrove King Malbec 2006 - Suffering a little in 06, this is leafy, with licorice spice and a nice, meaty, small berry laden palate. Interesting wine 17.3

Madfish/Howard Park

Madfish Riesling 2007 - Very gentle, soft style with some toasty development. The palate is surprisingly round and forward. 16.9
Howard Park Riesling 2007 - Clearly follows the Madfish Riesling, but the nose is more backward. the palate is the key here, with an intense, grunty and slightly phenolic palate. 18
Howard Park Chardonnay 2006 - Toasty, leesy, oaky nose, the palate is long and vanilla drenched, with real intensity. Seems a little overoaked. 17.4
Madfish 'Gold Turtle' Shiraz 2005 - Oaky, chocolatey nose. Oaky rounded palate with just a hint of leafy spice. Soft, leathery and a little one dimensional. 17.1
Howard Park Leston Cabernet 2006 - Apparently no Scotsdale in 06, so this carries the flag. Leafy, typical 06 nose, similarly it is framed in a forward, early drinking style. Refreshing, but ultimately light. 17
Howard Park Cab Merlot 2004 - Brilliant. The nose is so deep and alluring, with limitless brambly fruit, the palate is long, sour and deep. Long, chewy palate and real length. Top class. Will only get better. 18.8+

Anyone notice the reds don't seem to get as much press as they used to?

Plantagenet Riesling 07 - Most backward of the 07 WA Rieslings, this has citrus on the nose, but its tight and the palate is intense and phenolic, with grippy power. A stayer. 18.3
Plantagenet Shiraz 2005 - The nose is meaty, the palate follows suit, its meaty, powerful and savoury. Its a little oak dominated at the moment, but its still luscious and very tasty. 18
Plantagenet Cabernet 04 - From a lesser vintage and it shows in this company. Nice leafy varietal nose, the palate is quite lean with firm tannins. Pleasant, well defined and good varietal intensity. Needs time. 17.6

Mt Langhi
None of their top wines on tasting. Poor form in this company

Langhi Cliff Edge Shiraz 06 - Light, cherry & choc milkshake nose, the palate is quite moreish and drinkable, but the back end feels light and stripped. 16.9

Five Oaks
Rather disappointing

Five Oaks Cab Merlot 05 - Meaty, slightly pooey nose. The palate is chewy, savoury yet rather ungenerous and unbalanced. 15.9
Five Oaks SGS Cabernet 05 - A light Yarra Cab nose, the palate is thin, withdrawn and lean. 15

Green Vineyards/Carlei
I like Sergio Carlei's wines - character aplenty, even if it doesn't always work

Green Vineyards Chardonnay 2005 - Funky, yeasty nose thats big and brassy. The palate is also developing and getting a little chubby around the waist. 16.2
Carlei Chardonnay 05 - Another wild yeast funk nose, this is deeper & richer, long & complex, but again the palate has some slightly unattractive development. 17.2
Carlei Pinot Noir 2005 - Lovely funky, fragrant nose, the palate has lovely length & style in a skinsy frameset, Its very nice and will make for a very good duck wine. 18.3

Poverty Hill Riesling 2008 - God I love young Clare and Eden Riesling. So pure and simply delicious. this has lovely lemon and melon on the nose, with a clean, crisp palate, if a little on the light side. Nice. 18.1
Poverty Hill Riesling 2004 - It is unquestionably in the hole right now, with a clean, toasty nose, the palate is soft and light. Pleasant enough. 17.1

Winter Creek
David Cross's wines are really very enjoyable and great value. Lovely bright, vibrant fruit.

Winter Creek 'Second Eleven' Grenache Shiraz 2007 - A lovely, bright young wine, with this beautiful purity of ruby fruit. Delicious & amazing value. 18
Winter Creek 'Old Barossa Blend' Grenache Shiraz 2005 - With more grunt than the Second Eleven but with the same refreshing fruit. The Grenache here seems to give the fragrance, with the Shiraz giving the palate weight. Delicious. 18.5
Winter Creek Shiraz 2004 - This was actually my least favourite wine of the range, with a meaty pong that seemed to detract from the nice Shiraz fruit. 17
Winter Creek Reserve Shiraz 2006 - A pre-release sample, this has huge oak and huge fruit. Very chocolatey at the moment, it will settle down to something rather tasty. 18+

The Yard Frankland River Shiraz 2006 - I have previously raved about Larry Cherubino's wines, but this was worth a revisit. Licoricey fragrance, the palate is lovely, brambly and dense, with long, perfectly formed black fruit. Stylish and frankly delicious. 18.5

B3 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2005 From the Basedow family, this was peppery, simple and finished with heat. Strangely unbalanced, with obvious alcohol and disjointed fruit. 16.9
B3 Cabernet Shiraz 2005 - Major disappointment. Dark fruit and surprisingly bitter, similarly unbalanced. 16.5

EDITORS NOTE: Blackets range retasted 29/09/08

Blackets Sauvignon Blanc 2008: The colour is more on the straw side of the fence, hinting at this more complex style. The nose is slightly sweaty but not reductive, with grassiness the focus (no tropical fruit, just a little passionfruit & lemon). The palate is layered and intense, with powerful grassy fruit the key, washing through the palate in waves of fruit flavour. Phenolic grip to finish. Powerful, impressive Aussie Sauvignon Blanc. 18.7

Blackets Gewurtztraminer 2008: Musky floral nose tending to lemon juice. The palate is spicy palate that has a real musky grip to it. Firm finish. There was some holes in the palate of this one though, it really needs some more time in the bottle to flesh out. No questioning the intensity though. 17.3+

Blackets Pinot Gris 2008: Green green colour, the nose is closed with just some pear fruit escaping. The palate has light to medium bodied green apple flavours, tending to that Pinot Gris pear like softness on the palate. Good texture if a little light, this is also in need of some time in the bottle. 17.1+

Blackets Pinot Noir 2007: Nowhere near as sappy as the previous sample, this seemed more oak softened, with a vanilla edge to the eucalypt and cherry nose. The palate also seemed a little oak shadowed but backed by searing acidity. The palate fnishes dry, stalky (integrated deep stalkiness though and faintly hot. Its a bit of a struggle at the moment, but this will be one very long lived wine. 16.9+

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

2 x 06 x SA

Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz 2006
(Langhorne Creek, SA) Screwcap, $23
Previous vintages of this were very highly lauded and deservedly so I think - Langhorne Creek is one of those 'mid palate' regions that is all about richness and generosity of fruit. Personally I prefer Langhorne Cab over Shiraz, but that is more just my predilection towards Cabernet.

On the nose this has rich chocolate oak and sweet choc berry fruit, with a dash of aniseed. The palate is voluptuous with layer after layer of sweet rich fruit washing through the palate. Admittedly there is alot of oak, but there is just as much flavour to match. It's a big, generous, full flavoured red, but also super smooth and well made.
Very tidy drinking and will only get better with 12 months in the cellar.

Ceravolo Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
(Adelaide Plains, SA) Cork, $20
I've always liked the generous, honest wines that Ceravolo make - there is just heaps of honest flavour on board for the dollars, though I'm not a fan of this.

On the nose its restrained red & blackcurrant, The oak is less dark chocolate and more vanilla on the nose & definitely less obvious than the richly oaked Selkirk. The palate similarly suffers, with its lighter redcurrant & cedar palate appearing thin and weak with the back palate edged with green oak tannins. Unusally mid weight for this region, this is not of this labels best moments.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Coonawarra Tasting Roadshow

Every year the cream of Coonawarra (with a few exceptions) goes on the road to spruik their wares at a series of tastings all around the nation. I attended the Sydney version, as usual, which is a consistently enjoyable even, even if it is overshadowed by the feeling that Coonawarra is rather uncool these days, with Margaret River streaking ahead as our premium Cabernet region.

Speaking of generalisations, I'd like to start with quick ones about Coonawarra vintages. In my opinion, I think that the 2004 vintage is one of the best that Coonawarra has enjoyed for some time, with wines that are bold, stylish, full flavoured, yet still retaining that trademark herbaceous, cedary Cabernet nose, with a well defined, savoury, yet honestly ripe palate. In comparison, the 05 vintage wines (and I am talking about reds here, Cabernet mostly) are more open knit, opulent and approachable, with a riper, yet softer palate profile. Many 05 's are thus suitably delicious and certainly less restrained than their 04 counterparts. But I still rather prefer the 04's style and indeed my highest pointed wines of the tasting where all 04's - (and 04's are the ones I would be buying for myself).

Finally, the 06 vintage wines are now current release for many makers and to my mind this is by far the weakest of the three vintages. It is bloody rude to make this sweeping judgement so early in the piece, but many wineries 06 vintages really struggled to make an impression - there is a sourness to the fruit & an imbalance between acidity oak & fruit that showed many wines to be one dimensional and full of holes. Time will tell, but mark me down as 'not as keen' for the 06 Coonawarra vintage.

As always, there will be exceptions and I will happily stand corrected if possible

Anyway, on to the wines (These are all just rough notes in a very rough, red wine stained notebook)

It's artisan Coonawarra production and I like it. These wines have a bit more complexity than some peers.

Highbank Coonawarra 2003 - Meaty, leafy, well defined, richer style with good grunt, Very nice. 18
Highbank Coonawarra 2004 - Lovely varietal characters, cedar, dark berries, more obvious Merlot richness in this one, excellent definition. I was thinking more Margaret River than Coonawarra with this more complex style. Very good. 18.5+

No notes here, but I was less than bowled over by the 05 reds, no Ravenswood open

A huge range of wines and I know that some of the cheaper stuff presents as bloody fine value for money. Can't say the same for the top wines though

Katnook Merlot 2005 - Meaty nose, palate follows suit with sour fruit and a flash of menthol. Palate has nice enough fruit, but shot with holes. A less than inspiring Merlot. 16
Katnook Cabernet 2005- Herbal, Sour and unbalanced, it has the varietal punch, but the whole package lacks fruit. Considering the vintage & the quality of previous labels, its quite a dissapointment.16

I'm happy to say that Leconfield has definitely turned the corner - its wines of 7 or 8 yrs ago defined Coonawarra greenness. The latest Merlot, Cab and even the Riesling where all varietally correct, defined and very tasty. Good to see.

Lindemans Coonawarra
Only tried the 05 Limestone Ridge - its a cracker. Again, another label on the way back up.

Balnaves of Coonawarra
I am normally a lover of this range (like many) but the 06's are just not up to the standard of the previous vintages (though the Tally is still very fine) . Interesting that Halliday gave these such a big wrap.

Balnaves Shiraz 2006- Jubey fruit, obvious big oak, redcurrant and raspberry marshmallows here. The palate however seems stretched and lean. It will improve, but not a patch on several previous vintages.16.8
Balnaves Cabernet 2006 - Minty nose, chewy, firm palate with grainy oak tannins dominating. The astringent finish here is quite a let down, though this may well integrate back into the wine. Or maybe not. 17.3
Balnaves The Tally 2006 - An absolute beast of a wine. The nose is hugely concentrated with obvious oak and intense black fruit. Its not a wine that has ever done anything by halves and the palate is suitably massive & blocky. A huge wine with real power and tannins, this will go for the long haul and its absolutely delicious - in the massive opulent style. It really needs yrs though. 18++

Bowen Estate

Doug Bowen's reds don't seem to receive the same sort of reception as they once did and there remains serious question marks about the longevity. I have very much liked the previous couple of Cabernets though.

Bowen Estate Shiraz 2006 - Sweet fruit, lovely rich textural Shiraz in the mouth, but the heat on the finish derails the whole package. 14.5% making itself felt here. 16.5
Bowen Estate Cabernet 2006 - Lighter, leafy redcurrant nose, sweet oak and that same textural palate. Again there is some heat on the back palate that I'm not a fan of. 17.0


The label has had a bit of a makeover, the wines are still sound. No 04 Patrons Reserve though (which is meant to be bloody glorious)

Brands Blockers Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - Festooned with medals, this looks like the goods and the wine follows suit very well. I think I am a bit of a points miser, but it really just needs some time. Good, ripe, contemporary Coonawarra Cabernet with great balance. Great value. 18.0+

A label for the future I think, initial results are good

DiGiorgio Coonawarra Cabernet 2004 - A lighter, leafy style with a sour edge to the fruit, but definitely well balanced and enjoyable enough. Needs some more intensity for higher notes. 16.7
DiGiorgio Emporio Cab Blend 2004 - A ripe and well balanced style, its again framed in a lighter shade of Coonawarra red, its very drinkable, but again it needs more intensity. Nice drink all the same though. 17

Rymill Coonawarra
I always appreciate the Rymill style - a more restrained and leafy take on the Coonawarra mould, they used to hold back their wines for longer than they do now. Memo Rymill - The wines really need the extra time in bottle to show their best.

Rymill Shiraz 2004 - Its a peppery, licoricey sinewy style, but its not unripe, the palate has some jubey fruit and sweet vanillan oak. The fruit is nice, if again sour. Not a bad Shiraz, but it needs a sleep for a few yrs in the cellar. 16.8+
Rymill Cabernet 2002 - Ahhhh the definition: Unquestionably Cabernet with its herbaceous nose and lovely accentuated palate. A medium bodied palate, with a green edge that is a long way from unripe. Its almost a Cabernet caricature and its delicious. 18
Rymill Cabernet 2005 - Suffering after the open aromatics & precision of the previous wine. The nose is closed, with chocolate oak dominating, the palate ends astringently with sappy oak tannins that detract from the palate. All arms and legs at present, it doesn't seem to be anywhere near as Coonawarra Cabernetish or perfumed as the previous wine. 16.8+

On song, back in the game and ticking all the boxes. Sue Hodder is also friendly and articulate. Lets hope Fosters doesn't f**k it up.

Wynns Michael Shiraz 2005 - The oak treatment is very Micheal - ie there is alot of it. Again this is in a very 'big' style, though this does have the guts to carry it through. Redcurrant, cranberry and strawberry and cream lollies. The palate is brutish with a massive wave of sour red fruit and big tannins. Its good, but damn its needs some time. 17
Wynns Messenger Cabernet 2005 - Kudos to Wynns for running with the single vineyard releases. This comes from a vineyard at the south of the strip and is very impressive. The nose is herbaceous, drenched in Cassis and dark chocolate - Its clearly varietal and leafy and all the better for it. The palate again is drenched in oak, with a rich mid palate and firm tannins. A great drink and good value to boot. 18
Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet 2005 - Again its a monster of a wine with a rather impenetrable nose of choc fruit. The palate is a window into what the wine will be, but its bound up too tightly in oak and tannins at this stage. I much prefer the more leafy (and even more closed) 04 vintage of this wine, though they are both very very good. I'd rather take 2 bottles of Messenger though instead of this, after gladly stocking up on the 04. 18+

There where 3 vintages of Menzies on tasting, but I only tasted one. I'll take signature over this thanks.

Yalumba Menzies Cabernet 2005 - A choc savoury nose, the oak is at the forefront, but integrated into the wine. The palate is leafy & well drawn out but there are some mid palate dips and troughs. The varietal characters take a good stand here, but those holes are a worry. Good wine all the same. 17.6

With some slightly older releases these where more impressive than some contemporaries. They seemed riper on the day than previously though.

Zema Cabernet 2005 - Dense nose, rich rich ripe palate. its a big block of ripe fruit & oak in a mono dimensional framework. In the future it may well be a stunner. 17.5+
Zema Family Reserve Shiraz 2004 - A bit of a disappointment actually. The nose is all red berry, purple 'grape flavoured' Hubba Bubba and something weedy. The palate is thin, simple and dominated by the oak. It may fill out, but at the moment its all thin & front palate focused. 16.8
Zema Family Reserve Cabernet 2004 - Its a massive, opulent wine and it really needs time. Definitely a bigger style than previous releases, it has the the struture for serious ageing. Leave it in the cellar. 17.9

I am happy to admit that I am a big fan of the Majella wines. Prof Lynn is a grand entertainer and his wines are suitably crowd pleasers. yes there is lots of oak, yes they are rich and sweet, but they also have concentration and style.

Majella Musician Cab Shiraz 2007 - Such a young beast, but its an absolutely lovely drink right now. Made in a 'joven' style with minimal oak and lots of fruit, the vibrant, lifted, youthful fragrant fruit is moreish and delicious. Don't come looking for structure and intensity here, just drink and enjoy. 17.1
Majella Cabernet 2006 - It has a trademark lovely opulent nose, but the palate is resoundingly tight and seems leaner than previous vintages. I'll take the 04 or 05 over this, but it's still a generous, rich style of Coona Cab. 17.5

Parker Coonawarra Estate
I really wish I had more of this stuff in the cellar - Consistently good and currently well served by the Rathbone family.

Parker Coonawarra Merlot 2002 - This is quite a standout Merlot - its leafy & lighter but backed by good mid palate richness. There is a green olive edge to the whole wine that is clearly varietal and just avoids greenness, though it may polarise tastes. Good. 17.0
Parker Terra Rossa Cabernet 2004 - Deliciously tight, with just hints of real Coonawarra Cab glory. Whilst it may not have the absolute intensity of its brother, it has superb style and the framework is set for a long future. Great value when placed next to its brother. 18
Parker First Growth 2004 - Top class. This was wine of the tasting and will be a 20yr wine without question. The nose is just perfect Coonawarra Cabernet. The palate just has this perfection of structure and texture that I always associate with Moss Wood Cab and to me is a sign of greatness. Its on the blocky side, yet its utterly moreish. Keeper. 19/20

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

From an excellent vintage in Margaret River, this probably should have come up better than it did.

This has been stored from release in my previous natural cellar - dark, free from vibration, good humidity, but with a temperature range close to 6C it probably is less than ideal for storing anything longer than 5 yrs.

Anyway, the nose was leafy, cedary, with some token dark berries and varnishy oak. Unmistakeably mature, this had some old leather in the mix too. The palate was basically separated in two with this rich, oak infused middle palate that did all the talking. The mid palate was almost too sweet in nature, propped up by oak sweetness and with just enough briary, meaty fruit to carry it through. The end of the palate is acidic and strangely leafy again, with the tannins and back palate acidity drying out the finish.

I can't say I was particularly enamoured with this wine, the fruit seemed a little drained, the oak sweetness just a little too obvious and the drying finish mildly unblanced.
Taking my critics hat off though, it was still an enjoyable medium bodied drink in a claret style - it matched very well with Lamb Roast

If subjected to some more conducive cellaring I think this would have presented much better than it did.... If only. 16.5/20

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Two days of Tasting

Two days of tasting - A Constellation Premium trade tasting followed by a tasting by the 'Family of Twelve' - 12 top kiwi wine families who promote their wines together


Kumeu River Chardonnay - The best Chardonnay in NZ, even the humble $20 village Chardy is a winner. The village Pinot is also smart and the Pinot Gris drinkable. I am jealous of Auckland Kiwis
Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2006 Fantastic acidity, great length. Excellent
Neudorf Everything Tim Finn makes is superb
Fromm Spatlese Riesling 2006 Superb balance. Apparently the assistant winemaker from Dr Loosen did a vintage in Marlborough and taught these guys how to make sweet Riesling. He did a good job
Fromm Brancott Pinot 2005 Beautiful perfume, good intensity
Lawsons Dry Hills Amazing value whites, even the Pinot is good value. Love their work & their prices.
Pegasus Bay The prices are getting up there, but real consistency across the board - Chard
, Riesling, Pinot, everything, all top gear. I'd prefer a little less charry oak in the Pinot though
Felton Road Pinot's 2007 Archetypal NZ pinot, the base wine is the winner to drink now - brilliant stuff. The Calvert and Block 3 need time.
Houghton Wisdom Range Its a reinvention of the old Houghton Regional range. What's in the bottle is top class, particularly the sparkling & Chard
Ed Carr Met the sparkling genius for the first time - quiet, intelligent and in his element talking about bubbles. His Hardys Sir James Tumbarumba Pinot Chard 2000 is a fantastic drink.
Arras 02 Excellent intensity, long & lovely.
Brookland Valley whites Deserving of Halliday's praise. The 07 Sauvignon Blanc is the best Aussie Sauv I have had in a while, The 06 Sem is delightfully aromatic and with intensity to burn. Apparently a bit of aromatic Russian oak is used here and if this is the result, more people should be using it.
Bay of Fires Another range that deserves its plaudits. The Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot are all very good value, tasty drinks.
06 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay A very very stylish Chardonnay, but fatter and clumsier than equivalent priced Kiwis. Crap pricing
Houghton Gladstones Cabernet 2003 Its a beast of a wine and festooned with medals and it has real guts. The pick of a trio that included Thomas Hardy Cab 04 & Jack Mann 02 (though the Jack Mann really needs time)
Tintara Blewitt Springs Single Vineyard Shiraz 2006 Another lovely beast of a Shiraz, its sexy, super smooth & Mclaren Vale to the core. Yum
Leasingham Schobers Vineyard Clare Shiraz 2006 A very stylish Clare Shiraz in an
Aberfeldy like mould.


Top end Kiwi wine prices Theoretically market forces have driven prices up as the rest of
the world cottons on to the quality, but exponential price increases at the same time as exponential planting growth equals a disaster waiting to happen, particularly with the volumes in 08 - its like Australia five yrs ago.
Constellation's prices I guess that they have to pay for it all somehow. $80 for Tintara single vineyard? Ugh
Kim Crawford What happened to this range? Since Kim left the building everything has gone downhill
The Houghton 'Wisdom' labels No wisdom there. Awful, ugly & tacky - an inverse relationship to the wine quality.
Craggy Range I seem to be the only one who thinks so, but I think they are mainly style over substance. I like the whites (The Riesling & Kidnappers Chard are both good), but no matter how many times I try the reds, they always disappoint. Oaky, simple young vine stuff. Rude pricing to boot.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Cullen Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2006

The second label to the Diana Madeline in the Cullen range, this is actually made pretty similarly to the flagship, though with less new oak. Sourced entirely from the Cullen Vineyards to boot, it is often ripping value.

This comes from the coolest vintage in Margaret River since 1982 and you can definitely see a bit of that here. It is very light, low in alcohol (12.5%) and the fruit is only just ripe (though not green).
Its more like a classic Claret style, but without the palate impact. On the nose its subtle, with cedary hints amid some repressed cassis fruit. The palate is well balanced, light and very tight, with a whack of oak in the back palate. No juicy fruits here, but there is enough cocoa bean edged currant to make it quite drinkable.

A true product from the season, it will definitely appreciate a yr or so in the cellar, but its a not unattractive proposition right now, particularly with roast lamb. 16.8/20

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Weekend hits

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay 2001 (Margaret River, WA)
Cork, $7oish on release
An icon wine from a top MR vintage this is in need of some serious time in the cellar. The colour is glowing yellow, bright golden straw, in a fluoro, post-Berocca-wee like shade. The nose is vanilla, melon and buttered toast, leading on to a palate that is intensely dry, powerful but so bound up in oak that it actually isn't that good a drink at the moment. In a mid life shutdown, it gets richer in the glass & appreciates a warmer serving temp, but the best is yet to come. Drink from 2010. 17.5+

Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay 2005 (Hunter, NSW)
Screwcap, $23
This suffered after the sheer class and intensity of the Art Series, but this again is a very good wine from a very good vintage that needs time to come together. The nose is broader and obviously warmer climate, with some soapy oak on the nose as well as some distinctive hay bale like Hunter regional characters. The palate has a decent depth of oats and honey fruit with plenty of acidity (which I think the Hunter can do surprisingly well). Given time this will get broader and the palate will fill out and the marks will go up, but last time on its own I marked it higher. Drink also from 2010 17/20+

Bay Of Fires Tigress Sparkling NV (Tasmania)
Cork, $21
Thin, lean and unbalanced, the palate had very intrusive acidity, with no generosity to speak of and really looks raw and too young. Unusual to see a sparkling from the Hardys Bubbly powerhouse not come up trumps. 14.5/20

Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz 1998 (Clare Valley, SA)
Cork, $18 on release
From the absolute heyday of this label, this has got numerous trophies and golds to hang its hat on. A lovely aged Clare Shiraz, although I think it would have been an oaky beast in its youth. The colour is still seriously dark - thick, tarry, deep red and the wine follows suit. On the nose it has sweet, blackberry & kirsch liqueur which folows through onto the palate which has a lovely pure flow of the same fruit and edged with cedary vanilla oak. This wine is all about the impossibly sweet fruited mid palate, with some mainly oak tannins to finish it off. Drinking at its best. 18.6/20

Friday, 1 August 2008

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Two very different interpretations of Chardonnay

These two were consumed at a Parisian themed degustation at Mrs Top (Cremorne, Sydney) - a lovely little French restaurant that serves real French food with no BYO charge.

Domaine Leflaive Macon Verze 2006 (Macon, Burgundy, France)
$45, Cork
Yes its just a village level Burgundy, but ignore that and whats in the glass presents as an excellent introduction to this wine style - A lightly fragrant, roasted almond nose, with a quite restrained, even minerally palate. It has the distinctive broad richness like many from the Maconnais, but still has that back palate acid kick. Will only improve with some short term cellaring. A good value introduction to White Burgundy. 18.4/20+

Giaconda Nantua Les Deux 2006 (Beechworth, Vic) $45, Screwcap
This may as well have been from a different planet after the last wine. This is 93% Chardonnay with 7% Rousanne and the Chardonnay component is made in much the same fashion as its older brother, just with less new oak. Undoubtedly new world, this was clearer, brighter and lacking in tatrate crystals after the Leflaive, but also in its style a very impressive drink. On first whiff it seemed overpowered by yeasty richness and obvious oak - quite a shock after the much more restrained Burgundy, but this wine also has alot to say - on the nose there is obvious wild ferment characters, with big golden brioche and cream. The Rousanne contributes with some lovely floral zestiness - its like a hidden spice of a dash of rosewater. On the palate it is very rich and has a lovely intense mouthfeel. 18.4/20

I ended up giving the pair equal scores, as whilst they where both very different, they both presented as excellent drinking whites - The Leflaive had elegance, restraint and understated power, the Giaconda had obvious richness coupled with clever winemaking influences. Of the two however the Burgundy will improve more in the cellar