Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Balgownie Estate Bendigo Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Bendigo, Vic)
Screwcap, $30

This is the last wine in the Balgownie range that I have tasted and by far the best. In my opinion this dry and restrained style won't appeal to cuddly Shiraz loving palates and the menthol & Eucalypt will be further more divisive. However
with some bottle age this could prove to be one very impressive red.

Medium red in colour. Its quite a light colour compared to many Australian Cabernets, which hints perhaps at the refined nature (and lighter extract) of this Cabernet. Mint, Eucalypt, dark berry, chargrilled meats & menthol are the main attributes of the quite closed nose - even after enthusiastic swirling it remains very tightly bound - the more obvious aromatics though are distinctly cool climate Victorian, marked by regional Bendigo mint.

Suitably, the character of the palate clearly matches the nose. It is a restrained, tannin driven red with just a hint of red berry, roast lamb & a flick of leaf on the back palate. Medium weight, its the perfection of balance that marks this as a very well made wine. It needs at least five years or extended decanting. 18.3++/20

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Balgownie Estate Bendigo Shiraz 2005

Balgownie Estate Shiraz 2005 (Bendigo, Vic)
Screwcap, $30

An old label truly back on song thanks to a much needed cash injection. Good stuff.

This Shiraz is dark red with quite purple edges (Pleas God no Viognier!). The nose seems to carry a little Viognier fragrance, but maybe my malevolence towards the humble V grape has me on the lookout. On second sniff, I think there might be a little in there. Anyway, this wine smells like baked apples, redcurrants, black jubes, musk & vanilla. Its a heady, yet open, volatile, red fruited nose that is attractive enough (I'm Viognier spooked so can't enjoy it).

The palate, again, is where this wine shines. It is very very polished. Elegant, refined & quite light (in context of many other Central Victorian reds) the red fruits are medium bodied, the palate is so perfectly judged that there is no heat & the lightness of extract makes this very drinkable indeed. Fine tannins. Polished. 18+

Monday, 27 October 2008

Black Billy Shiraz 2006

Black Billy Shiraz 2006 (Mclaren Vale, SA) Screwcap, $20

Dark red colour. Tarry, slightly volatile, heated nose. I'm sticking my neck out and guessing there is some Viognier in there too - it has that tinned fruit edge to the nose which I don't like (Correct, double checked on the website - 1% Viognier). Why would you bother with Viognier in an area like McLaren Vale that has no problem producing richly fruited reds already?

But back to the wine. The palate on this is a winner - its a typically McLaren Vale Shiraz in its shape and flow - a pure, chocolate-oak-meets-rich-fruit-and-falls-in-love partnership that Australia, as a wine making nation, does so well. Yes, this is a wine that will win friends and influence everyday with its rich drinkability. I can't see why they bothered with the Viognier element (Does anyone know? Marketing ploy?) but I understand the rest of the wine. The acid on the middle/back sticks out a bit, but the winemaking is assured. Good drinking fair. 17

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Karra Yerta Riesling 2008

Karra Yerta Riesling 2008 (Eden Valley, SA)
Screwcap, not yet released but 2007 vintage is $25

The picture below tells the story here - those lovely, gnarled, 75 yr old Riesling vines are located in one of the highest vineyards in the Flaxmans Valley, sitting high above the Barossa floor in an epicentre for Riesling in Australia: The Eden Valley. Hand tended, dry grown, hand picked (even hand labelled), its these pieces of vinous history that are what makes this very fine Riesling so very fine.

Green green in colour and youthfully bright. Lime, slate, lime cordial and just ripe peaches on the very expressive and open nose - the aromatics fairly leap out of the glass and seduce the room. Unsurprisingly, the soft and long palate follows the nose with a flow of limes, lime juice and general limey-ness. Deceptively soft acidity seals the deal.

I have come to two conclusions with this wine; Firstly, only 80 dozen where produced, and if the price stays the same, it may not last long(order it here); Secondly, I actually think this may never be more attractive - its so beautiful now that whilst the backbone will carry it through for many years yet, I think it deserves to be drunk young & delicious. 18.8

Friday, 24 October 2008

Old Coach Road Pinot Noir 2007

Old Coach Road Pinot Noir 2007 (Nelson, NZ) Screwcap, $20

Cheap, tasty Pinot. The search for the holy grail continues. This is a good start - Its a little tart, but it has some proud Pinosity.

Clean, but slightly dull red in colour (Maybe a globe is out above me) On the nose it is stalky, cherry, rhubarb, red licorice and a bit of salami. Its a good & quite Pinoty nose in the fruit forward style - Good form. the palate closely follows this too - red Pinot fruit, some stalky bitterness, quite prominent acidity through the middle. Its only quite a light & slightly forward Pinot, but the form is there. Considering the price, its an unpretentious winner. 16.5/20

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Highlights of the NSW Wine Awards

The New South Wales Wine Awards - Its the equivalent of the NSW state championships of wine. The emphasis is mainly on boutique wines, but it serves to highlight a few highlights from all across the state. The wines are all showcased in a comprehensive tasting that includes a heap of wineries that want to didn't win awards - Good form. Being NSW, the emphasis is on a few old favourites (eg Hunter Semillon & Shiraz, Riverina stickies etc) but there was sufficient diversity to keep everything interesting.

Sadly it was a miserable October day in Sydney (apparently our coldest October day in 30 yrs - the heater went on for the first time in ages) and the turnout from the trade was crap. Good for me (plenty of winemakers with time to chat) but bad for time poor producers. The format was to show the 'Top 40' wines of the show, as well as an assortment of other wines from all over the state. I really concentrated on Riesling, Shiraz & Semillon, but with so little time and so much great piss, there where many highlights I missed. I didnt even try the NSW Wine of the Year!

Brokenwood Oakey Creek Hunter Valley Semillon 2004
A single vineyard Hunter Semillon that closley mirrors Brokenwood's icon ILR Semillon - they both share this straw bale aroma & green apple palate. Sadly, like a few other 04 Hunter whites, this seems forward, soft and quite simple. Could just be a stage - it needs time whatever the circumstance. 16.5

Riverina Bortytis roundup
Tasted at the end of the tasting and my teeth strongly disliked the sweet barrage - I was actually trying to taste only on the left side of my mouth (Highly entertaining; I actually had my head tilted to one side). I don't think I did them justice.

De Bortoli Noble One Semillon 2006
Lillypilly Noble Blend 2002
Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon 2006
Piromit Botrytis Semillon 2006
Westend 3 Bridges Golden Mist Botrytis Semillon 2005

All of the wines where dripping with global accolades, though I have to say that the super power and richness of this style is not my preference. More acidity please.

Of the wines, the De Bortoli appeared the leanest, with an oak driven vanillan richness and firm structure: Leave it in the cellar. The Lillypilly was drinking at its peak, with more developed honey marmalade characters that where very appealing, but perhaps OTT. The Cookathama was lighter but also very well balanced, with less of the overt richness that marks many of these wines - Definitely the pick for value vs quality. The Piromit had a burnt, caramel (oak?)character that I found distracting. Finally the 3 bridges was almost impossibly rich - too rich for me. I'll take a Cookathama for now and a Noble One for later.

De Iuliis Show Reserve Hunter Valley Shiraz 2007
Very traditional Hunter - Sawdust, leather & spice on the nose, dry tannins, full on oak, very savoury. Will be very long lived but a little unwieldy at present. 16.5++

De Iuliis Limited Release Hunter Valley Shiraz 2007
Very new world Hunter! Bright red fruit aromatics & a lovely interplay between fruit and oak on the palate. Velvety mouthfeel & lovely integrated fine Hunter tannins. High quality from start to finish and reminded me of the superb Meerea Park reds.18.7

Grove Estate Cellar Block Reserve Hilltops Shiraz Viognier 2006
Crafted by the talented Tim Kirk at Clonakilla (apparently Grove Estate are one of the sources for Tim's Hilltops Shiraz) this was a lovely, floral, medium bodied Shiraz Viognier that was just a little too Apricotty & Viognier dominant. Undoubtedly delicious though I can't see the value at $36 a bottle - just a bit too one dimensional for that. 16.5

Grove Estate Cellar Block Reserve Hilltops Shiraz Viognier 2007
Apparently 07 was a hot one in the Hilltops and this wine shared some of the hardness that dominates the 07 Clonakilla Hilltops at present. Underneath however, I think there is a very fine wine, it just needs a good 5 yrs to come together. Interestingly this showed almost no Viognier influence. 16.0++

Helm Classic Riesling 2008
Classic in name, classic in nature. Showcasing the great 2008 Canberra District white vintage, this is a lovely young Riesling. With an unusual hay & grass nose, the palate is long, limey & grapefruity with fresh, almost tropical fruit and great length. Pristine and delicious. 18

Helm Premium Riesling 2008
A single vineyard Riesling, compared to a blend of five vineyards for the Classic. Interestingly, both Rieslings have scored awards and accolades recently, with the two wines regularly swapping the leaders jersey between them. I like them both, but IMHO this is the winner - its so perfectly formed, with a rush of grapefruit, lime and intense guava fruit that finishes with the phenolic grip of the finest dry Rieslings. Sensational stuff. 19

Helm Half Dry Riesling 2008
Ken Helm apparently makes this to satisfy his daughters wishes. A halbtrocken style, though with 14g r/s and 7g acidity it tastes far from sweet. A lovely summer drink that's low in alcohol and extremely refreshing. Not half as serious or defined as the 'dry' Rieslings, but very drinkable. 17

Krinklewood Hunter Valley Semillon 2008
Delicious, aromatic young Semillon -with a herbaceous, Savvy like nose & a palate that is crisp and perfectly delineated. 18

Krinklewood Hunter Valley Rose 2008
Perhaps the only biodynamic Mourvedre Rose in the world. Dry, savoury and (just) red fruited, its more like a pink coloured white wine than a Rose. Very drinkable nonetheless. 16.8

Krinklewood Hunter Valley Shiraz 2006
Showing the typicity of the mid weight 2006 Hunter vintage, this has quite high acidity - making it slightly prickly but also savoury, dry and food friendly. With a few yrs under its belt, this may prove to be an enjoyable, traditional Hunter 'Burgundy'. 17

Lark Hill
One of only a handful of certified Biodynamic producers in Australia. The Carpenters, when you get them on a good day, are also very interesting people whose views lie happily far from the mainstream.

Lark Hill Biodynamic Canberra District Riesling 2008
A much more feminine and elegant Riesling compared to the open and limey styles showed by many others, this tended towards the tight, citrus and green apple end of the Riesling spectrum. Floral and a little subdued, this will need more time to come out of its shell. 17.6+

Lark Hill Biodynamic Canberra District Chardonnay 2006
Similarly elegant and pure, this is a lemony and quite delicate style of Chardonnay that is made with full wild yeast and extended lees contact. It is an interesting, slightly wild (if you can call such an elegant wine 'wild') Chardonnay that really needs food to shine. 17.0

Lark Hill Biodynamic Pinot Noir 2006
Again a gentle style, I was less enamoured with this than I have been on previous occasions, today it seemed a little dry, tomato leafy and metallic for my liking. Still clean and pure, but not really my style of Pinot. 15.8

Lerida Estate Lake George Shiraz Viognier 2006
Its quite an interesting Shiraz Viognier with a meaty, peppery and savoury Rhonish (such a crap, overused term that - Rhonish could mean just about anything. I vow to stop using it from now on) style. But I do feel that this was a little baked - just a little overripe. Still a nice drink though. The $56 asking price is very steep, even if it is covered in shiny medals and trophies. 17

Tulloch Hunter River White 2008
With the family back controlling this classic Hunter Estate, the wine range has gone all welcomely revivalist. This white is the sister of the Pokolbin Dry Red & is a blend of Chardonnay, Semillon & Verdelho. I really like the concept - I'd prefer more Semillon, but this field blend is rather tasty. Textural Chardonnay, super dry Semillon, punchy Verdelho - Its an attractive and very Hunter combo. Good stuff. 16.8

Tyrrells Stevens Semillon 2004
Soft, forward and grassy. The texture is all in the right place, but it lacks the acid backbone of the better vintages. An attractively textural early drinker. 17.1

Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 2002
Welcome back. A classic Tyrrells Sem. Firm acid, well developed mouthfeel, stil pristine and fresh. Right on song. 18.6

Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2006
Very vat 47. Clean, crisp, primary golden fruit and good acid. No Malo just reinforces the purity.It needs some time to show its best, but its a good example of the dry, lean and pristine Hunter Chardonnay style. It always amazes me how these high acid, super fresh styles can come out of such a stinking humid place (The hunter in summer time that is). 17.3+

Tyrrells Stevens Shiraz 2005
If you dig Hunter Shiraz then this should be right up your alley. Dirt, new leather, dark chocolate, plum jam, roast meat, the whole deal. Medium bodied with noticeable acidity. Wants to be in your cellar right now. 18

Warraroong Estate Claremont Sparkling 2002
This was actually made by talented Hunter maestro Andrew Thomas (who is always an excellent man to chat with - no bullshit there). He reckons that the main reason this won was that it had spent so long on lees (3 or 4 yrs apparently) that it had developed into something very interesting. Spot on. This has a nose that talks Semillon (green apples - but this is a Chardonnay based bubbly?) meeting yeasty bread. Its like fresh apple pie & custard laced with yeasty overtones. The voice in my head tells me it might have won the Best Sparkling trophy on the strength of its peculiarity - It would definitely stick out. Not for me (especially not at the $55 asking price). 15.0

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

11 Quick Wine Recommendations from all over the world

These are all the highlights from a tasting put on by Sydney's Ananndale Cellars - A small shop jam packed with a great range of wines (aren't all the good ones small and overly full?). All the prices quoted where the store specials. (I have no commercial interests here, though I do appreciate a good independent bottleshop - they deserve our patronage).

Champagne Drappier Carte D'Or Brut NV
Its almost a Blanc De Noir (90% Pinot Noir) which just injects this with an extra modicum of density and overt breadiness, backed by a layered, dry palate. Excellent value NV bubbly from a lesser known house. $60.

Champagne Agrapart Blanc De Blanc NV
Biodynamic Champagne - Something the world could do with more of. This grower Champagne was delightfully aromatic with white flowers and cream over a powerful and beautiful palate. Lovely and again great value. Would kill the average Vintage Champagne from a larger house. $70

Ravensworth Canberra District Riesling 2008
Again highlighting the brilliant 08 Canberra white vintage this was crisp, sherbety and perfumed with a lovely textural palate that had a little of the x factor. Serious bargain and superb drinking right now. $19

Ravensworth Canberra District Viognier 2007
Whilst not quite in the same league as the brilliant Riesling, this carried its Viognier varietal richness in appropriately restrained fashion - luscious fruits well handled. Not far behind the Clonakilla in this respect. $24

Jean Marc Brocard St Claire Chablis 2006
This had the understated creaminess more typical of a premier cru with trademark Kimmeridgian terroir influences. I love good Chablis and this is an excellent value example. $31.50

Pichot Sec Coteau de la Biche Vouvray 2007
With trademark 'green and red apple mixed with honeycomb' Chenin characters, this was deliciously dry and charismatic, lacking only a little intensity to propel it to greatness. Again, great value. $26

Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir 2006
Dry, savoury Pinot Noir with impressive structure that built power as the palate went along. It needs some time yes, but gosh its an impressive Pinot Noir. $59

Pisa Range Black Poplar Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
Much more upfront and open compared to the Valli, but also built in a much more open knit, sweeter fruited style. Immediate appeal here, but carries more alcohol heat too. Still a lovely, classic Central Otago Pinot with overt Pinosity. Very drinkable. $54.50

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2007
A very different wine to the Central Otago's, this was more obviously powerful with rich cherry fruits and powdery tannins. Give it 12 months in the bottle and this will be a star. $47

Collector Reserve Canberra District Shiraz 2007
This won't be released for a few months yet (the 06 is the current vintage) but keep an eye out for it when it does - a peppery, perfumed, savoury Shiraz of medium weight and beguiling flavours. A very different wine to most stereotypical Australian Shiraz. $43.50

Croft Quinta Da Roeda Vintage Port 2005
Vintage Port - Its a forgotten part of our wine diet, but the best examples are such interesting wines. This has a heart of spicy dark fruit and the longest palate ever. A long term proposition. (Approx $50 375ml)

Monday, 20 October 2008

Mesh Riesling 2004

Mesh Riesling 2004 (Eden Valley, SA)
Screwcap, $25 (on release)

Another day, another Riesling (the love affair continues). The Mesh Riesling is the product of a partnership between Jeoffrey Grosset and the Hill Smith family (of Yalumba fame). I have always thought of this one firstly as an early drinker (it is lip smackingly drinkable as a young wine), so this 4 yr old is one of the first from an ageing experiment.

Green tending light straw yellow in colour, this wine has a very typical Eden Valley wet slate & lime juice Riesling aromatics with a slightly honeyed edge thanks to the bottle age. The palate carries the citrus character through, but the fruit has receded a little, leaving only a flow of acidic lemonade - the acidity tending spiky and the finish feeling more unripe than anything else. I can't work out whether this is stuck in a middle aged hole or should have been drunk earlier - Certainly not a patch on the delicious 04 Grosset Watervale consumed recently. 16.0+

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Langwerth von Simmern Hattenheimer Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2007

Firstly, its great to see a German Riesling in a screwcap - thankfully the movement away from cork is gathering steam amongst aromatic white producers the world over - hopefully more of the Alsatians will follow suit & eventually it will become de rigeur for a aromatic white wine to have s screwcap. All those lovely aromatics really deserve a better seal than Portugese bark.
This Riesling comes from the brilliant 2007 German vintage - a year that has had considerable positive coverage all ready & based on this wine I can't wait to taste more examples.

Light, bright yellow in colour this has some quite a bit of dissolved CO2 floating about in it, emphasising this wines youth. On the nose it shows bath salts, citrus, and grapefruit in a restrained, cool, coiled & pristine way. The palate is delicate with a hit of mid palate lemon, barley sugars and more grapefruit that finishes with sherbety, soft acidity. Its actually quite a simple palate that is attractively drinkable but doesn't command any further thought. I have no doubt that in the future it will grow in weight and complexity, for the purity is all there, but at the moment its just a nice, no thought required Riesling that leans more to meticulous, drink-me-now, uncomplicated, pure juiciness than any grand ambitions of greatness. It made me think of Pewsey Vale Riesling with its simple, understated drinkability. 17.3+

Friday, 17 October 2008

Balgownie Estate 'The Goldfields' Bendigo Shiraz Viognier 2006

Balgownie 'Goldfields' Shiraz Viognier (Bendigo, Vic)
Screwcap, $24.95

The last of the Balgownie's to pass my way, this is quite a lovely red and worth its $25 price point.

Its a dense, purpley, red ink red. The nose has a little volatility over some regional mint, spicy licorice, mint chocolate and red earth, there is even some funky meatiness deep in the nose too.

Its a lovely, perfumed nose with the Viognier appearing to soften the Bendigo spearmint character. Definitely more feminine than the Cabernet Merlot.

The palate is quite rounded in profile, with a mouthful of carefully oaked, medium weight Victorian Shiraz with that brilliant cocoa chocolate fruit-and-oak character that I associate with the Shiraz from Best's in the Grampians. Its brilliantly smooth and seriously seductive. The only distraction is that there is a 'day old Beef & Mustard sandwich' character somewhere deep in the palate that i first noticed on the nose that tastes worryingly like oxidising Viognier.

Still, this is one very attractive wine, with old vines and smart winemaking at play. Cracking value to boot. 17.5

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Bremerton Verdelho 2008

Bremerton Verdelho 2008 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
Screwcap, $20

According to Bremerton, Verdelho is the white wine star of Langhorne Creek, and based on this bottle I can't agree more - this is a delicious fresh white of real structure and such lovely fruit richness. So I pose the question? Is Verdelho to Langhorne Creek like Riesling is to the Clare Valley, or Semillon is to the Hunter?...

Watery green in colour, this opens with an aromatic peachy nose that fairly leaps out of the glass - the sort of wine that you can smell the open bottle from the other side of the desk, enticing with its olfactory delights. Its a bright, peachy, ripe pear, mango & lemon-lime cordial saturated nose that is full and nose filling. It smells like spring blossoms & freshly prepared tropical fruit salad.

(Speaking of Verdelho, Rhys Eather [winemaker at Meerea Park] told me recently that he thought that 2008 was the best vintage he had ever seen for Hunter Valley Verdelho, that Verdelho had performed the best of any grape in the wet and cold 2008 Hunter vintage).

The palate follows the nose perfectly - fruit salad with mango, really ripe pear (at the point when the pear goes very soft and dents easily), melons and grapefruit. At first it seems impossibly rich and bound to fall away into flab, but by mid palate it tightens up again with crisp acidity jutting in on the back palate. Finally, there is some really welcome phenolic grip on the tail that gives the wine some tangibility.

I can't remember the last time I tasted such an enjoyable Verdelho. 18.5

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Scotchmans Hill Chardonnay 2006

Scotchmans Hill Chardonnay 2006 (Geelong, Vic)
Screwcap, $25

They are a bit forgotten out there on the Bellarine Peninsula, but its a lovely part of the world and well worth a visit if you ever choose the cheap seats and fly in to Melbourne's Avalon airport. The Pinot and the Chardonnay have usually been the flagbearers here, but the odd Shiraz has showed up well too. Kudos also to the very comprehensive back labels which list all sorts of lovely details.

Bright straw yellow in colour, this has a nose that reeks of winemaking edifice - Tight, aromatic vanilla oak, slightly cheesy lees and a little brassy bottle age. Its not a bad nose, but its a little old school and worked. The palate though is much more impressive, with a carefully measured mix of vanilla bean oak, leesy funk and maturing white peach fruit, the package kept tight by soft acidity.

So all in all this is quite a well made, if a little advanced, modern Chardonnay at a very fair price. 17.2

NEWS: Alchol shrinks your brain, but protects your heart

In two seperate articles I noticed today it seems that all wine is good for your heart (not just red), but bad for your head. Anyone who has ever drunk two bottles of red on an empty stomach could of told them that too much wine causes headaches ;)

Every drink shrinks the brain...
But even white wine may save your heart

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Jackson Estate Pinot Noir 2006

Jackson Estate 'Vintage Widow' Pinot Noir 2006 (Marlborough, NZ)
Screwcap, $32

Very heavy bottle. To the point where its difficult to judge whether its full or empty. Actually, this wine is shod in very some rather attractive packaging, including a very nicely integrated capsule and screwcap (screwcap manufacturers have come a long way in the last few years). The promo pick from the website is suitably artful, but that heavy bottle is an ecological black mark.

Maroon red with very light edges in a slightly murky, serious style. On the nose this has immediate Pinoty appeal, with undergrowth, sap, lantana (is this just an Australian term?) roast beef and cranberry. Its an attractive, if slightly volatile nose with hidden delights. On the palate its tight, meaty and slightly astringent with firm red fruits and definitive savouriness, though its all a bit hard to pin down, even after a few hours in the glass its still a little hard and giving away very little. Oak tannins to finish are mildly intrusive.

All in all, it could well develop into something quite nice, though its very tightly packed at the moment and a little unwieldy. Not bad. 16.5+

Monday, 13 October 2008

Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2007

Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2007 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Screwcap, $20

Bright lemon yellow in colour, the nose reeks of the finest medium toast oak barrels. Its a fragrant, albeit wood derived nose of typical wooded Chardonnay allure. This sort of oak keeps the punters happy. Underneath the oak there is a suggestion of white peach, fig and jaffas, edged with a little volatility for good measure. The palate tastes like oak - sweet vanillan Quercus Petraea (assuming its French) followed by round tinned peach fruit, oak tannins and an alcohol hit on the back palate. It feels hot to finish and the whole palate seems unbalanced and blowsy.

All in all its a simple, one dimensional and particularly dissapointing Chardonnay. I hate caning wines, but this seemed out of step compared to the rest of the smartly made Balgownie wines. 14

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Taylors St Andrews Clare Valley Riesling 2005

Taylors St Andrews Riesling 2005(Clare Valley, SA)
Scewcap, $32

Another weekend, another superb South Australian Riesling with a few years on it. This one is a current release too! Forgive me if I bang on about Riesling a bit, but for my mind we make the best dry Rieslings in the world. Period. What's more, from a wine industry point of view Riesling ticks alot of boxes; Its is cheap to produce; can be transformed from grapes to wine in months and can be released young or old; It is low in alcohol (Keeping the neo-prohibitionists happy
) and likes crap stony soils. Sounds like a good business case to me - pity the typical wine drinker doesn't share my love of this grape.

This Taylors is still green in colour, even though its 3rd birthday in bottle has come and gone. The nose is still quite primary, with kaffir lime, lemon, green apple & a little toasty development in a fresh, lifted and perfect mould. The palate is similarly brilliant, with a flow of very dry lime fruits in a lean start that gets richer as the toastiness kicks in. From here it just gets more expansive, more limey, staying seriously dry before finishing with a rush of pineapple juice.

This is another brilliant Riesling that simultaneously shows the freshness of youth, whilst also displaying the lovely richness that some bottle age has given it. Will live for another decade, but a perfect drink now. 19

Meerea Park Hell Hole Semillon 2008

Meerea Park Hell Hole Semillon 2008 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Screwcap, $25

The non existent Summer of 2007/2008 produced this wine - an utterly forgettable one for Hunter red wine makers, but a vintage that will produce some extraordinarly long lived white wines. The only problem with the 08 whites (apparently) is that some where made from grapes that never got ripe, leading to some green vege characters. A vintage for the patient then perhaps, as the younger wines may be hard drinks.

This is green green in colour, tending almost colourless. The aromatics are beguiling for a Hunter Semillon - green peas, citrus and even some passionfruit. It's almost Sauvignon like in its aromatic intensity, which is very unusual indeed for young Hunter Sem. The palate is searingly dry, with green apple and lemon fruit, but with a late hit of fruit sweetness. The whole wine is green and unevolved, with acidity that sits up there in the realm of German Riesling.

This is a dry, lemony but beautiful Hunter Semillon. It may polarise with its searing intensity, but for the believers (ie me) this is the perfect 'vintage snapshot' wine. Will cellar for bloody ages if your patient too. 18

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2007

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2007 (Hilltops, NSW)
Screwcap, $30

Back labels - a much maligned and forgotten part of a wines packaging. The front label, the capsule etc all seems to get the attention, yet the back label is often left to the marketing department to fuck up with ridiculous brand slogans or marketing shite, without detailing the important information that us drinkers want to know. Like when to open it.

Last night I typically ignored the back label and I now realise my stupidity. On the back label of this red, the winemaker/proprietor/all round nice guy Tim Kirk gives some sage advice
'Great now if you love a powerful red, but leave some in the cellar for five to ten years to taste its full potential. Best decanted before serving.'
Advice which I largely ignored, opening and immediately slurping down like a wide eyed smack addict...

But onto the wine itself - A bright purple/red in colour, though its quite light in its colour density, last night the aromatics on this where in the spiced fruit and redcurrant spectrum. Today this has opened up to reveal much more red licorice aromatics with some herbs, apricot (though no Viognier?) & a little dill. Last night it was more floral, today it is much more red fruited. On the palate, this started out very tightly bound last night - utterly medium bodied, the mid palate was all bound up in structure, the acidity started making its impact early, the fine tannins drawing it all back in. Today, the proverbial butterfly has escaped and the flush of pretty red fruits and firm tannins has been let loose, making for a dry, only medium bodied red of perfume and restraint. Interestingly I found the alcohol much more marked last night, the heat on the tail distracting. Today though it all seems integrated and correct.

So the moral of the story here is all about patience and attention to detail. If you want to drink this finely crafted, fragrant red fruited, medium bodied dry red now, decant for at least a few hours and you will be presented with a very interesting wine of fine pedigree. 17.9

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Australian Wine Review Scoring Policy

Scoring wines is such a contentious notion, with everyone having an opinion on it one way or another. Some people hate points, deciding that a single number hardly sums up a wine. But I still choose to score wines, as it serves as a personal reference point, something quantifiable about a certain wine, at a certain time, that helps give me something to hold on to.

So my advice is to read the notes first, treating the score as an addendum. I use the Australian Wine Show Scoring System, mainly as this is the format that I have been trained to use. Unlike Judges however , I have the luxury of tasting with the label in front of me, often over a several day period - giving the benefit of context and giving some young wines the time they deserve.

This scale appeared in its original form in 'The World of Fine Wine' Magazine (Issue 18, 2007), which was then modified by Steve Webber (De Bortoli) and hence by me (I'm actually the most generous of the lot).

Australian Wine Review Scoring System:

I also translate very roughly into the 100 point system:

19.1-20 = 96-100
18.1-19.0 = 93-95
17.1-18.0 = 90-92
16.1-17.0 = 87-89
15.1-16.0 = 84-86
14.1-15.0 = 80-83
13.1-14.0 = 73-79

Below 10=Failure

Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2007

Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2007 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Screwcap (and a good looking capsule/screwcap combo too), $25

Bright cherry red, tending almost purple in colour - its bright, light and looks very fresh. On the nose it has roast meat, glace cherries, redcurrant Pinot fruit - not a hint of oak in sight. Its a light and Pinoty nose that is quite attractive in a simple, fragrant, early drinking style. The palate is full of cherry fruits but it ultimately tails off into a very simple light finish, the acid kick at the tail finishes a little rough and intrusive. Shame after that very pretty nose. Still not a bad drink that shows its Pinosity well. 16

Bremerton Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Bremerton Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
Screwcap, $20

Sauvignon Blanc from Langhorne Creek. It doesnt really feel right. But if anyone can make a drinkable aromatic white wine from Langhorne (The Verdelho's are very drinkable) then surely it must be this energetic winery, characterised by its brightly fruited wines.

Just the barest hint of yellow colours this wine and its nice and bright. The nose is all tropical - passionfruit, pawpaw & melon with some musky gewurtz like florals, all leaping out of the glass in fruit driven enthusiasm. The palate is soft and , unsurprisingly, suitably tropical, with generous fruit flavours packed pristinely in a rounded, low acid mould. Its generous, tropical and very drinkable, if in a very open knit and juicy fruit driven style, yet without ever seeming fat or overly ripe. Good stuff.

Drink this poolside (make sure its well chiled) in an exotic, sun drenched exotic location and it will go down a treat. Failing that, a good Thai Stir Fry would be this wines perfect match. 16.9

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Balgownie 'The Goldfields' Bendigo Cabernet Merlot 2006

Balgownie 'The Goldfields' Cabernet Merlot 2006 (Bendigo, Vic)
Screwcap, $25

Balgownie seems to mix old with new quite spectacularly - the reds are all old fashioned, yet utterly contemporary, with classic old vine fruit intensity and untempered regionality making for some truly cellar worthy wines. The Yarra wines are still a way off the Bendigo reds, but after a recent injection of resources, the framework is there.

Medium red in colour, tending a lighter maroon at the edges. The nose is Mint Slice, eucalypt and pine cones, over some tight red fruit. The nose is quite withdrawn, but power rests below: The palate is suitably structured, with dominant tannins & quite firm flavours in that classically fine, wine-for-grownups style. Its minty, tannic, firm and don't go looking for no luscious red berry sweetness here - that's kids stuff - The fruit instead is savoury, full and impressively powerful. Finishing with some heat on the finish and a hint of greenness, this is a distinctly regional, no bullshit style of red that will cellar damn well thank you very much and represents top value for money. Just don't come looking for softness. 17.5+

De Bortoli Windy Peak Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008

De Bortoli Windy Peak Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Victoria)
Screwcap, $16

From this budget end of the spectrum, right through to the Reserve range, De Bortoli has to be the most consistent performer in the country - every wine, without fail, is top class and especially at the lower end, outperforms its often modest price point.

Green, almost transparent in colour, the nose is grassy tending to citrus & some musky florals. Lovely, fresh, light, Savvy dominated nose - Perfect for this price point. The palate is light and faintly tropical, with this very attractive, soft, yet taut & pristinely fresh, grapey fruit character that is delicate and fragrant. Dry and very well built for a budget wine, this is excellent value. 17.1

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Blue Pyrenees Shiraz Viognier 2004

Blue Pyrenees Reserve Shiraz Viognier 2004 (Pyrenees, Vic)
Cork, $32

'Suddenly, unbelievably, it’s really hard to get a taste of Shiraz that has not been adulterated to some extent by Viognier.
Notice the use of 'adulterated', used here by the South Australian wordsmith Phillip White, for that is what Viognier has been doing - fucking with our Shiraz. Call me a purist, call me a Luddite, but I just don't like most Shiraz Viogniers. I can't see why you would screw around with proven old vine Shiraz fruit of known quality with some young vine, we-still-haven't-quite-got-our-head-around-it-or-even-understand-where-to-grow-it Viognier.

This Blue Pyrenees Shiraz Viognier is dense, dense red in colour, tending to maroon. On the nose it echoes the standard Shiraz, with the same minty regional (and vineyard) characters, but put in a more tarry and richer blueberry nose, with some musky violet Viognier sticking its head out near the fringes. On the palate it is full bodied but quite rounded in profile, with some intensely ripe Shiraz fruit in the prune and chunky red berry mould.

The Viognier here acts like the winemakers 'black snake' - tempering the rather brutal fruit with its musky softness, rendering this wine much more drinkable. But what it also does is ultimately hose down the style - its like a donut diet to an athlete: Everything gets softer and less well defined. Still, its a tasty red wine that will win over plenty of hearts and minds and I can understand why it has got such a good show record - the Shiraz power at its core is truly impressive. 17.5

Shaw Vineyard Riesling 2008

Shaw Vineyard Riesling 2008 (Canberra)
Screwcap, $22

'So how good are the 2008 rieslings? As a judge at the local show I rated Canberra’s as the best I’d ever tasted from the region. These were exciting wines and perhaps good enough, at last, to hold their own against the benchmarks from the Clare and Eden Valleys.'
Wise words from Chris Shanahan, who knows a thing or two about Canberra wines. As an unabashed Riesling fan, I look forward to the release of the new vintage crop every year like a giddy schoolboy, waiting to turn 18 so he can finally go the pub. The 08's from Clare & Eden (those picked at the right time) have so far been impressive & I can't wait to get stuck into a few from the rising star that is the Canberra region.

The Shaw Vineyard Riesling wine is very pale green in colour, on the verge of colourlessness even. The nose is lifted and citrussy, with delicate lime, Gardenia, musk & more florals. A very attractive young Riesling nose, if a tad simple. The palate is soft, sherbetty and citrussy with sweet lime and marshmallow fruit, finishing light and minerally. The finish is soft, restrained and the whole package is lovely and delicate.

This is a very attractive, simplly floral, fresh Riesling style that could really woo many Punters over from Sauvignon Blanc if given the chance. It lacks a little intensity and the acid is on the soft side, but it deserves a gold medal for drinkability - Delicious. 17.1

(2007 vintage shown, the new label is much more attractive)

Grosset Watervale Riesling 2004

Grosset Watervale Riesling 2004 (Clare valley, SA)
Screwcap, $28 (at release)

2004 Clare valley whites only get an 8/10 on the James Halliday vintage chart and its probably pretty fair to say that this an 8/10 Grosset Watervale. The context though, is that an 8/10 Grosset Watervale Riesling is more likely a 9/10 wine for most other producers, & it is this quality which shines through - the clarity of flavours are world class.

Yellow straw in colour its very bright and vibrant in colour. The nose is characteristically limey, overlaid with toasty, honeycomb like development. No turpine on this nose which leans more towards golden toastiness, complementing the lime perfectly. The palate is quite soft on entry & very long, with layers of flavour that switch between lime/lemon fruit, then rich development, before finishing with brisk acidity. The fruit comes in on a concentrated wave of sweet lime juice, that finishes with a lingering aftertaste of citrussy grape skins.

Its a lovely, softer styled Riesling, with attractive layers of fruit & an impressive dry finish. Developing well, though I can foresee it largely just softening more from here. The only thing lacking is the sheer intensity that marks the finest vintages of Mr Grosset's Rieslings. 18.2

Friday, 3 October 2008

Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Glen Eldon Cabernet 2005

Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)
Screwcap, $22

Lake Chalice are sponsors of the Wingspan Trust - an organisation setup to preserve and care for the large birds of Prey that are considered endangered in their New Zealand homeland. The Karearea (New Zealand Falcon) adorns the Lake Chalice label and is one of the focuses of the trust program.
Its an admirable venture that more wineries can learn from - invest in your unique environments I say: The ground swell towards a more ecologically aware society has begun, and green credentials will count for much in the years to come.

A green yellow colour, this looks quite forward (and ripe) compared to some other 08 Marlborough Sauvs. The aromatics are in the tropical end of the spectrum, tending to Passionfruit, with less of the varietal grassiness that the best examples show. On the palate it is very soft & rounded, with integrated, docile acidity and even a kick of alcohol to finish. It is generous, tropical and easy drinking, but needs more definition & varietal flair to stack up to its relative competitors.

I have to say I prefer the 07 version myself, but its a nice enough drink all the same. 16.9

Glen Eldon Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Barossa, SA)
Screwcap, $25

In a rather complete backflip (or is that a forward roll) from the surprisingly green 2004, this is in the tarry, warm and very ripe end of the spectrum - Its very much like Cabernet jam.

A dark red, even faintly brick red colour, it looks dense from the outset. On the nose it is volatile, with liqueur cherry and stewed red fruit, edged by chocolatey oak. Once you get past the volatility its quite an appealing cherry ripe like nose, but the nose hairs may not recover.

On the palate it is plushly ripe, with a big flow of concentrated red fruit that ends in a fury of abusive heat and strained fruit. Its unquestionably overripe and I don't think I could manage more than a glass of this (A 3 sip wine on the Sup Positions scale) though I think that it has had some quality oak and winemaking chucked at it - the damage was done in the vineyard sadly.
No 15.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

A Gold Medal Comparison

Righto, today we have an old fashioned duo - two wines that share alot of similarities:

- Both 2006
- Both from South Australia
- Both gold medal winners at the 2007 National Wine Show
- Both similar in RRP ($20ish)
- Both freely available (and hence quite large production)

What both these wines also represent is the beating heart of good value Australian wines - carefully made, well balanced wines that are bright and fresh, yet with the stuffing for cellaring. What these wines both lack is complexity and individuality- and that is their main downfall. I am sure an English critic would love nothing more than to savage these wines on that basis alone. I think we should be trumpeting the value here instead.

Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay 2006 (South Australia, mainly Adelaide Hills according to the website)
Screwcap, $20 (though I found it online at just $13)

The Hyland part always seems to get misspelt. Too often its Highland, like a Highland fling, especially on pub wine lists where this would be commonly seen. According to the back label. 'In 1861 Thomas Hyland married Georgina Penfold, only daughter of Christopher Rawson Penfold. His stewardship guided Penfolds to become Australia's most famous wine.'...'Penfolds Australia's famous wine'. Do they mean that Penfolds make Australia's most famous wine (which Grange is almost definitely)? Or is Penfolds Australia's most famous winery? (Also possible).

Anyway, this has a nice bright straw yellow colour. The nose is all fresh cream, with a little citrus stirred in for good measure. Its an open, leesy nose that is quite attractive in a simple chardy way. The palate is dry and very smooth, with a good balance between leesy richness, background oak and lemony fruit, the acid giving a crisp kick to finish. All in all, this is a very well made (kudos to Oliver Crawford I believe) Chardonnay, lacking only the minerality and intensity of the finer examples for really high points. 17.5

Taylors Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Clare Valley, SA) Screwcap, $20 (though on special they go down to $14)

A medium red colour, the colour intensity is a little on the light side, which is quite surprising. The nose is raspberry, cherry, spice & a flick of herbs (including dill - which many seem to dislike in their wine) topped with some volatility.

The palate is dominated by spicy oak, but is well supported by dark rich fruit, tailing off with a little heat to finish. Its a full and very dry red palate that will benefit from a few yrs in the bottle (it still needs some time to sort its shit out), as the oak and the tannins are still on the point side. With a decent decant things may sort themselves out even more so.

Whats not questioned is the intensity, which is admirable for the price point. Not bad at all. 16.9+