Sunday, 30 November 2008

Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (Mclaren Vale/Coonawarra)
Cork, $20ish at release

This comes from my less than perfect old cellar (underneath my parents house), so I always open these with a sense of trepidation, hoping that tonight I will win. Most of the wines are 10yrs+ now and few where expensive wines to begin with, so it can be a veritable lucky dip to find a good bottle.

But tonight's bottle we will notch up as at least half a winner. I seem to remember the Chapel Hill reds as being quite beefy in their youth and propped up with a liberal dose of timber, which I think fortified this for its cellaring future. Reddish brown in colour, the nose is much more advanced than the palate, sticking out as faintly metallic, with cedar, roasted meat/bonox & earth. The palate however surprisingly shows its terroir - there is some generous, chocolatey red fruit and roast beef mid palate roundness that I reckon is the Mclaren Vale influence and some cedary, dried out cassis, red earth and cocoa black fruit from Coonawarra. Its mid weight and falls away at the finish, ending slightly metallic, but the whole package is still quite drinkable (though it is probably on the decline). Not a bad old Australian red. 16.2

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Langwerth von Simmern Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Trocken 2007

Langwerth von Simmern Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Trocken 2007 (Rheingau, Germany)
Cork, $30

Curiously, this was sealed with a cork rather than the screwcap that its brother had and I think, considering the wine style, that this cork sealed example suffered in comparison. The debate I think is largely over on this issue - aromatic whites simply perform better under Screwcap (or glass stopper for that matter).

This has a quite powerful, honeysuckle and passionfruit nose with just a hint of sugar. The palate follows suit, with more honeyed, peachy fruit & some acid back palate burn. Indicative of the season its a big, ripe style and more than a little simple at this stage with a hole on the eback palate, but it should become more complex with age. Its a lovely drink now & a near perfect wine with Thai food, though there is a flatness to this that I think comes from being cork sealed (its brother seeemed much brighter). 16.9+

Friday, 28 November 2008

18 very mixed current release Burgundies & Chablis

These all come from a recent trade tasting organised by the French Australian Chamber of Commerce, focusing upon negociants and wineries that have a limited Australian presence.

As a result, quality was extremely variable, further reinforcing in my mind the fact that good Burgundy & cheap Burgundy are mutually exclusive. Further, you may have a great terroir, but that is no guarantee of great wine - far too many unappealing 1er cru wines here. Admittedly we are talking about Pinot, the bitch of all great varieties, but reinforces how good value Aus & NZ wines are.

The Wines:

Louis Moreau
Perhaps one of the best known names in Chablis, all these wines where tight, citrussy and very pure, all quite austere at the moment, but such clean, minerally wines that the future looks rosy. Louis and his wife where both affable people to boot (in a very French way).

Louis Moreau Chablis AC 2007
Very pale colour. Very lean nose with some cream & lemon citrus. The palate is like a waterfall of very gentle fruit, with proper, lemony acidity. Its very primary, like freshly snapped off grapes. Will be very long lived, but still very gentle. 17.0+

Louis Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Les Fourneaux 2007
A step up in intensity over the straight AC Chablis, this was very restrained & backward on the palate with only a flicker of creamy limestone character. Brilliant minerality, but very tight. 17.3++

Louis Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vailllons 2006
The more forward 06 vintage has helped make this more approachable, but its still comparatively backward. The palate however has excellent length to it, with that same, lemon juice acidity to it. Delicious stuff, but again a wine for the future. Probably my favourite LM Chablis of this lineup nonetheless. 17.7++

Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2005
This had an edge of toasty vanilla oak to it that I find a turnoff in Chablis. This showed the oak as a obvious blob of vanilla on the nose and palate, obscuring the very lean, minerally fruit. Leave it alone and let that oak integrate. 16.8++

Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2005
Better integration of oak here, the bigger more rounded style swallowing up the winemaking influences. Milky terroir driven palate is again withdrawn but its more rounded opulence makes it more approchable now. Leave it in the cellar regardless. 17.1+

Roux Pere et Fils
Consistently disappointing, hard wines from very good crus. Time should help, but how much?

Roux Pere et Fils Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Macherelles 2006
Simple toast & cream, Lean palate. Mon dimensional but still recognisable as Burgundy. 16.2

Roux Pere et Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2006
More toast & Citrus, this feels quite withdrawn & hard with only some of the attractive length of the cru. Needs time. 16.5

Roux Pere et Fils Santenay 1er Cru 'Grand Clos Rousseau' 2005
Meaty, fresh plum, animale nose that is only mildly appealing, before hitting some grainy intrusive oak. Simple from there on in. Average. 15

Roux Pere et Fils Vougeot 1er Cru 'Les Petits Vougeots' 2005
Light citrussy nose. Simple, hard & dry palate. Needs time, needs everything. 16

Taupenot Merme
Lovely aromatic Pinots - quite forward & fleshy, but with enough character & enough 'missing' to keep it interesting. Would happily recommend.

Taupenot Merme Gevrey Chambertin 2006
Lovely village wine. Strawberry & floral nose, slightly tart but correct palate that is fleshy & very tasty. Lacks a little weight on the back, but otherwise its fantastic. 17.4

Taupenot Merme Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru La Combe D'Orveau 2006
A more serious focused nose but still that same floral red cherry element. The palate has a chocolatey edge to it and seems a little blocky after the lightly fragrant Gevrey, but the elements are in place. A keeper. 17.3+

Taupenot Merme Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru La Riotte 2006
Light, leafy spicy animal nose, lovely long tannins but the dry & slightly hard palate lacks the elegance of the rest of the range. 16.8

Taupenot Merme Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Les Pruliers 2006
Beautiful classic fragrance. The palate is simultaneously rich & sour with a minerality and hidden heart of pristine fruit. All sorts of delights will come of this wine with age. Delicious. 18.3+

Taupenot Merme Mazoyeres Chambertin Grand Cru 2006
Big, full, classic nose. Tight acid driven palate that builds as it goes. A lovely, spicy minerality to the palate. Beautiful, classic stuff. 18.5+

Armelle et Bernard Rion Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Les Murgers 2005
Closing down. Spicy animal nose with a musky, slightly drawn palate. Needs years for its only mildly attractive at present. 16+

Armelle et Bernard Rion Chamblle Musigny Les Echezeaux 2006
Bright purple colour, surprising bright, sweet forward & soft fruit driven wine with acidity that tastes like Australian style added acid. Fruity. Very new world. 16.8

Maison Tramier et Fils Pommard 2006
Lifted, light nose edged with chocolatey oak. Tastes like entry level Burgundy, with a quite thin palate of simple fruit. Good enough. 15.9

Maison Tramier et Fils Pommard 1er Cru 2006
An attractive, sweet fruit nose and great acidity carry the package, the rest of the wine feels a little unfocused. Interested to see the price on this as it could be a value sleeper. 17

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Hillcrest Premium Chardonnay 2006

Hillcrest Premium Chardonnay 2006 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Cork, $50

Hillcrest probably doesnt need any preamble - they don't need any help selling the glorious wines. Tiny yields, all natural winemaking, the mentorship of Phillip Jones (of Bass Phillip) and old Yarra vines in the Woori Yallock subregion, make the wines that David & Tanya Bryant craft special.

The nose has a flor like, worked yeast edge to it that is edging towards aldehydic. Nuts, cream with a background hint of oak. Its a mildly oxidative, very cleverly made nose that is winemaking of the highest order. The palate is even more impressive, its yeast driven, nutty and complex with a lingering, nougat and burnt butter palate. The finish is quite extraordinary - the lingering flavours are long, creamy and warmly comforting. It lasts for minutes. There is some back palate alcohol heat, but that is probably the only detraction. Its Yarra winemaking of the highest order, and in 2-3 years it will fill out some more. 18.5+

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Tri Nations Wine Challenge 2008 - 70 wines tasted

These are the tasting notes from the 2008 Tri Nations Wine Challenge as discussed here.

I managed to get around to 70 wines, though probably not the 70 I initially wanted to taste. A poorly stocked tasting was to blame, though the wines I ended up getting to where all of such a high standard of quality and interest that I left satisfied.

The main caveat here is that I was a man on a mission and really churned through the wines. 70 wines in 2 1/2 hours is speed tasting at its best - and worst. Some of the more subtle styles get missed, nuances overlooked, unusual or brash styled wines get attention etc etc. Thus I would take the scores below with a grain of salt.

The quality though was truly brilliant. So many gold medal quality wines (There where 60 gold medals awarded!) made this tasting incredibly enjoyable.

My highlights:

- Kiwi Syrah: For immediate attraction the Hawkes Bay Syrah's in particular where simply stunning. No surprise why NZ took the Shiraz trophy (again).

- Blends over straight varietals - If ever there was a case for the power of blends then it resided here. Lean Cabernet & boring Merlot in particular served to emphasise the value of a good blend. The NZ Bordeuax Blends & South African 'bitsa' blends showed this to great effect.

- 'Other Red Varietals' - South African Cab Franc, Aussie Grenache, Kiwi Malbec. Lots of interest here. Good to see.

The notes:

Paradox Marlborough Pinot Chardonnay Sparkling NV
Brilliant. Dry Champagne like, creamy yeasty. Classic palate, a little obvious sweetness but such a complete wine. Class Winemaking. Very good Champagne style. Excellent stuff. 18.5

Quartz Reef Chauvet Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling 2003
Developed yeast & mature fruit nose, if a little overworked. Creamy nose, doesn't transfer onto lean, hollow acidic palate. 16.7

Vic Williams Selection Marlborough Chard, Pinot, Meunier Sparkling 2002
Toasted, burnt, nutty butter & yeast nose. Heavy, caramelised palate. Overworked and heavy. 15.0

Yarrabank Late Disgorged Sparkling 1999
Developed yeast & mature fruit nose. Very complex, layered palate. Lovely lightness to the palate, though surprising hole in the back end. Very good. 17.8

Mt Difficulty Target Gully Riesling 2007
Big, perfumed nose of intensity, lovely succulent sweet palate, if a little broad. Good stuff. 17.5

Neethlingshof Gewurtztraminer 2008
Lovely Gewurtz perfume, flabby, rounded palate. Great spiciness, but flabby. 16

Frogmore Creek Iced Gewurtztraminer 2007
How this ended up with the aromatic whites is beyond me (for the record, was entered into the dessert wine class). But an interesting early aside. Volatile. Big, very sweet, very long palate. Did I mention big? Its enormous. Time will give this legs i think. 17+

Astrolabe Discovery Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Perhaps the most classically pungent Kiwi Sauv I have had in ages. Herbaceous, tomato leaf meets gooseberry, spicy nose. Palate is dry, long & very well defined. Classic stuff. 18.8

St Clair Pioneer Block 6 'Oh! Block' Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Laid back and rounder after the Astrolabe. Subdued, sweaty nose, quite rich, round palate. Subdued all round. Classy, but lacking slightly in this company. 16.8

St Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Spicy, yet reduced and compact, the proof here is all in the palate - long, layered and again spicy it is very well built on the palate. Needs some time in the bottle. 17.5+

Cape Point Sauvignon Blanc 2006
An impressive Loire inspired white, this retains its herbaceous Sauv aromatics with a punchy, defined palate with very clever yeast influences. Layered, complex, crisp and interesting. 18.5

Steenberg Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Muted, nose cream, crushed ants with a spicy if mono dimensional palate. Bland. 15.5

Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006
A monolithic white that I found more than a little overbearing at present. Tight, oak & cream nose with a slightly sulphurous pong. Creamy long, layered, powerful palate with noticeable heat on the finish. Slightly awkward on its own. Power +. Wine for the future. 16.8++

Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2007
Honey, musk and oak on the nose. More honey & lemon on the palate. Heavy handed oak masks the fruit but there is a polish to the whole package. Time again required. 16+

John Forrest Collection The White 2007
Light, fragrant nose with some honey, whipped butter and some melon on the palate. Unusual blended white that seems to have grapes from every corner of NZ in it. Interesting & attractive. 17.3

De Bortoli Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007
No questions about the quality here - Steve Webber has nailed it. A restrained, reductive, cabbage & asparagus nose that's more Sancerre than Yarra. The palate is very clever, layered & complex with nuances of creamy flavour throughout the palate. Very good. 18.5

Rijks Private Cellar Chenin Blanc 2006
A much more interesting SA Chenin. Yeasty, flor like nose. Its almost a Champagne nose in fact. Creamy, complex, honeysuckle palate that is both light, crisp and mouthfilling. Great stuff. 18

Dombeya Haskell Chardonnay 2006
Creamy nose with a clever oak fruit balance. Restrained palate builds power as it goes. Slightly oak driven palate, but good quality modern Chardonnay. 17+

Paringa Special Barrels Pinot Noir 2006
Special by name, special by nature. Big, full, rich, chocolate oak meets briary fruit + stems nose. The palate is ultra polished and unquestionably new world, but such a smooth and impressive mouthful of Pinot. Very very good. 18.5

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2007
Stemmy, 'dirty Pinot' nose. Meaty, bretty character derails palate slightly. Some appeal, but that bretty character is distracting. 15.5

Meerlust Pinot Noir 2004
God the Meerlust wines where impressive. Serious nose - Wild heady, undergrowth, barnyard, fruit, spice. Brilliant nose - stemmy, maturing Pinot fruit. The palate has an excellent meatiness to it with layers of flavour. Complex and delicious mouthful of Pinot. Bottle age really helped this I think. 18.7

Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2006
Sweetly raisined fruit. Drained, simple round palate. Harsh end. No. 14

Tucks Ridge Buckle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006
Slightly hard nose with a firm, stalky palate. Somewhat over and underripe. I think this will blossom in the bottle however. 16.9+

Clonakilla Syrah 2006
To be honest I was a little disappointed by this - though it probably really needs some time to come together. Very bright red colour. Perfumed, exotic nose that is more Pinot than Shiraz. Meaty, spicy restrained palate is rather simple at present. Very pretty. Hold 17+

Esk Valley Reserve Syrah 2006
And here started a tremendous line of Syrah. Can understand why NZ took out first second & third in this category - consistently excellent quality. Pepper, dark chocolate and coffee beans on the nose, with a savoury palate of meaty fruit. Immediate appeal - its quite soft and more of a medium term wine I think. Lovely stuff. 18

Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2006
A much more dense wine that had hidden depths that weren't immediately obvious on the nose. Restrained red fruit with a deep, dark savoury palate that leapt up in tannins after the silky Esk Valley. Beautiful dark chocolate character again shown here. Very very good. 18.5

Quoin Rock Simmonsberg Syrah 2005
Hammy sweaty, quite Rhonish nose, with that floral, yet meaty nose of sweet berries & earth. Medium bodied cranberry fruited palate that is savoury and sweet, all at once. Again very good. 18.0

Church Road Reserve Syrah 2006
Much more obvious and , dare I say it, Australian, than the other Kiwi Syrah. Light, roast beef nose, seems fleshy, upfront & simple but still attractive and very drinkable. I think this may just be a little too polished. Nice tannin to finish. 17.3

Paxton Elizabeth Jean 100yr old Shiraz 2005
Welcome back Shiraz! This is classic South Oz Shiraz and a great counterpoint to medium weight Syrah. Deep, dense, supercharged nose. Sweet oak and fruit amalgam, mixed seamlessly together here. Perfectly balanced big Shiraz. Excellent. 18.3+

Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Syrah 2005
A very black peppery nose. Lovely Syrah varietal nose. Slippery, hammy, meaty palate seems slightly mono dimensional, but that nose is tasty. Good. 17

Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2006
This has an almost Central Victorian Shiraz decadence to it. Dense sweet berry nose that seems driven on the nose by oak. The palate though is beautifully layered & textured - crammed to the gils with sweet fruit. Very new world again, but also undeniably attractive. 18.5

Vidal Reserve Syrah 2005
I though this was the lesser of the Kiwi Syrah, with a muted raspberry nose and a slightly rubbery edge to the palate. It builds strength on the back end, but i was left unimpressed. 15.5

Pierneef La Motte Shiraz Viognier 2006
Big heavy bottle, its a big modern red that is so very Australian. It could be from the Yarra or Canberra. Still, its a very charming Shiraz Viognier that avoids any apricotty overt Viognier characters. Pretty fragrant nose. Showy. Dense & meaty palate. Modern. Clever. Young gun. 18

Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Meaty, forward, red fruit nose, with bretty meatiness. There is something very acrid on the palate here. Bad bottle? U/R

Rustenberg Brampton Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Herbaceous, very Cabernetish nose. Graphite, cedar, dark chocolate nose. Long linear palate. Quite high acid, finishes with some bretty hammy-ness on the back. Hold the ham, take the wine. 17

Guardian Peak Lapa Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Huge. Sweet dark chocolate & loads of oak. Its large, but still the palate feels quite lean and well balanced. Moss Wood Cabernet meets Balnaves Tally. Very very modern. 17.3

Stark Conde Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Is this a Parkerised South African Cabernet? Very dark colour. Stinky, sulphury with an intensely dense nose of ripe fruit. The palate is concentrated, very new world-ish & plush. Crowd pleaser. 17.5

John Forrest Collection Cabernet 2005
Super tight nose, obvious oak. Sappy palate that needs time (or some Merlot) to flesh it out. Nice & linear and very refreshing though. Will be long lived. 17.0+

The next five wines I had trouble marking down - classic red wines, all full of character & all showing obvious terroir influences. I can't recommend them enough:

Buitenverwachting Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
An almost perfect mid weight Cabernet. Correct cassis nose, with just an edge of leafy red currant herbs. The palate is medium bodied, the story here is definition. Quite high acidity. A Cabernet lovers delight. 18.5

Stonyridge Larose 2006
My first experience with this Kiwi icon and definitely a good one. Refreshing leafy nose. Austere leafy palate. Long deep dark rippling black fruit runs through the palate, but its all kept behind a wall of excellent tannins. Minerals & coal. Wine for the future. Wine for the patient. Excellent. 18.5+

Benfield & Delamere 2006
Stuff the exxy Bordeaux, buy this instead. Lovely lifted fragrant Cabernet nose. The palate is cool & just ripe with an almost Pinotish femininity to it. Perfectly balanced, savoury red with some woody herbal characters to it that I don't think everyone will appreciate, but to me they just signal this wines cellaring intentions. Absolutely brilliant. 19

SC Pannell Shiraz Grenache 2005
Steve Pannell is on a roll. His Neb picked up best wine at the Alternative Varietals Show last week and here his Savvy trumped the Kiwis & the Springboks to bring home 'their trophy'. He even made an amusing speech. Talented family the Pannells! Anyway, this is such a good example of a somewhat overlooked style. Gamey Grenache on the nose, intertwined with gamey sweet fruit that just follows through onto the palate perfectly. Honest, varietally correct and so very drinkable. Well done. 18.5

Kaesler WOMS Shiraz Cabernet 2006
This came second in its category, but it had to be up their as one of my favourites for the day. Showcasing the classic Australian blend, the WOMS title refers to this wines character - a Weapon Of Mass Seduction. Archetypal Barossan red. Seductive oak and fruit melange leads into a palate that is almost perfect. Plushly oaked, plushly fruited with an almost seamless, hedonistic, seductive flow of red fruit. Delicious. 19

Unison Selection 2006

I am going to give this wine the benefit of the doubt - I've tasted the 'standard' 06 and its a goodun. However on this showing it was surprising soft, simple and one dimensional - sweet oak derived and upfront. Leave it in the cellar. 16.8+

John Duval Plexus 2006
I like the nose - the Shiraz component smells like Grange - lovely rich fruit & a dash of formic. The palate however is all primary, chocolate oak and upfront fruit. Its very polished, but I also felt that is was again too simple. 17.5+

Mills Reef Elspeth One 2005
Cassisy sweet fruit, chunky oak, big flavours. It a big, rich red with very sweet fruit, tending savoury on the back end. Nicely put together, but didn't move me. 17

Morgenster Cab Blend 2004
Red capsicum, very leafy nose but not green. The palate is similarly red fruited with a lightness and structure that is impressive, rounded out by proper fruit tannins. One for the cellar. 18.0+

Puriri Hills Reserve 2005
Meaty, 'animale' nose. In fact its distractingly meaty & bretty. Still, underneath this its very polished with a great balance between tannins & fruit. Pushes the boundaries. 17

Church Rd Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2005
Immediately attractive, but backed up by class and style. Lifted, sweet, upfront fruit and oak, with still recognisable Hawkes bay terroir characters. Some might call this a show wine, but its a very well made, deliciously appealing modern red. 17.5

Rustenberg John X Merriman Red Blend 2005
Another wine that you could stick in a blind lineup and convince people its a modern Bordeaux. Even the bottle and label are a French throwback. Perfect balance of ripe cassis fruits, a flash of cedary oak and long long tannins. New world doing old world damn well. 18.5

Mont Destin Passione Cab Shiraz Merlot 2005
Red & Black currant. Slightly dried out nose that leads onto a surprisingly full palate. Doesn't quite connect nose & palate. Interesting wine and again quite drinkable though. 16.5

Anwilka Cab Shiraz Merlot 2006
An unusual blend, this seems a little muddled - Meaty pepper of Shiraz meets leafy Cabernet and everything seems to have been separated in transit. Dry, savoury, disjointed & confused. 15.5

Newton Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2005
Alluring choc berry nose, its all quite forward and juicy, the palate is quite fleshy and rounded with a dried fig & purple fruited palate. Enjoyable. 17.5

Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2005
Is Villa Maria New Zealand's Penfolds? There is such a house style in the wines (just like Pennies) and the winery reputation (and show record) is similarly glorious - except that one is still privately owned and going strong (Villa Maria), whilst the other is making great wines, but the brand is taking a battering at the hands of big business (Penfolds).
Anyway, I digress. This is a show pony of a wine that really satisfies - it has the power to back up the fragrant choc berry nose with a dense palate and fine tannins. It crams alot of flavour & extract in there, but you can't argue with the winemaking finesse - it finishes tight and dry. Well done, again, Villa Maria. 18.5

Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2005
It was interesting to taste this straight after the Villa Maria, as they definitely share some DNA. Cassisy berry nose that perfectly correct, but its the plush palate that is the story here - a long, chocolatey flow of pure 70%+ cocoa chocolate and good drying tannins. This will get even better with time and seemed to have just a smidgen more depth than the Villa. Another good Kiwi Bordeaux Blend. 18.6

Rust-en-vrede Estate 2004
An aloof, herbaceous, dusty and quite secondary wine with a nose of soft cheese, raspberry & mushroom. The palate is high toned & leafy with some sour fruit that hits mid palate. Its complex, rustic & ends with some very dry tannins. But its also quite stylish and I think it will live for a while. Interesting+. 17.3

Crossroads Talisman 2007
Seven secret varieties - just like the Colonel. Opens with a stink. Very approachable for such a young wine. Blackberry & oak on the nose, its densely constructed with layer after layer of luscious fruit. Simple & quite juicy at the moment, but will get better. Sexy. 18.0

Meerlust Rubicon 2004
Another interesting Meerlust wine. Twigs, dark plum and intense sour fruit. Arguably its underripe, but the slightly stewed fruit and long palate is still very drinkable. Should flesh out over time too. Good. 16.

Yarraloch Stephanie's Dream Merlot 2005
It takes a while to get going, but gradually a fragrant, minty & eucalypt edged nose surfaces. The palate follows this with red fruit & a hint of cabbage. Its good cool climate Merlot for sure but it would be a mucher better wine with some Cabernet. 16

Meerlust Merlot 2005
Meerlust you've done it again. Lovely dark plum fragrance with a palate density that shows fully ripe Merlot at its best. Its quite rich, but with a herbal edge to it. Again, very impressive and one fine Merlot. 18

Woodlands Merlot 2006
This smells and tastes like anything but Margaret River Merlot (maybe Yarra). Pepper, Rosemary and Roast Beef, but backed up by some Merlot juiciness. Savoury, lean palate. Give it 5 years and it might really surprise. 17

Raats Cabernet Franc 2007
Perfumed cherry - thats what this lovely fresh wine smells of. Its a distinctive and quite appealing nose & the fragrant red fruit is varietal expressive+. Lovely curranty palate. Meaty finish. Its quite a lovely wine. 18

Ashbourne Pinotage 2005
Mint, lamb & Rosemary. Distinctive, unusual and crying out for food. The palate has lovely layers of fruit. It feels hand made and lovingly produced. Excellent tannins to boot. Really surprisingly good! 18.5

Woodlands Cabernet Franc 2006
Definitely a product of the vintage, this has a stemmy, woody and slightly hard nose, but its also really refreshing. The palate has high acid and is quite confronting in its dryness, but its also again very fresh. Interesting stuff. 16.9

D'Arenberg Derelict Vineyard Grenache 2006
Round of applause for Chester Osborn and the rest of the team - this is the best ad for the delights of Grenache I have had in ages. Candied, light, bright fragrant fruit - its quite fun and fresh on the nose, but the palate is more serious, with lovely red fruit and great balance. Mid weight, tarry and generous. Delicious. 18.5

Tamar Ridge Kayena Botrytis Riesling 2006
I may be the only person that doesnt like this wine - it won a trophy here. Sweet, muscaty nose but there is a slightly unattractive musty mould character on the nose that smells like excessive mould to me. The palate feels light but simple. 15

Trinity Hill Noble Viognier 2007
A big obvious juicy mouthful of fruit, with gobfuls of apricot, caramel and some tropical fruit. Surprisingly well balanced back end. Yum. 18.5

Waterton Dessert Riesling 2007
Sweet, lifted, honey & apricot nose. Ripe full, fat palate that is unctuous, but there is also a bizarre off flavour on the back palate. What is going on with these stickies? 16

Terravin Noble Sauvignon 2006
Herbs on the nose, rubber on the palate. Its like chewing on a rubber band. Maybe there is something wrong with me..... 15

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Petaluma Croser 2006

Petaluma Croser 2006 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
$32, Cork

The RRP for this seems to have come down in recent vintages - whether that's a sign of market conditions or a devaluing of the label I'm not really sure, though based on this tasting I wouldn't want to be paying even $32 for it.

A very pale, light straw colour, this has a very light, subtle nose of green apple with some a splash of oats. Its a very muted nose that is quite simple and very unevolved. Suitably the palate is green, thin and light, with a very short, apple & citrus driven simple style that fades all to quickly. It all feel very underdone and way too young - It needs another 12 months on lees as a minimum and some bottle age after that. In time it may well come around (and the LD version is often nifty stuff). Otherwise, little appeal here. 15

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Tri Nations Wine Challenge 2008

The Tri Nations Wine Challenge is an annual wine show event that pits the best of Australian wine vs their equivalent compatriots in South Africa & New Zealand. Given that the wines entered are picked by James Halliday (Aus), Bob Campbell (NZ) & Michael Fridjhon the standard is very high indeed, so I eagerly anticpated tasting the wines.

The tasting/presentation was held last night in Sydney. It was both an excellent tasting - so many highlights, but simultaneously infuriating. Only 1 bottle was provided for each wine which, given that there would have been 100-150+ people present, was just stupid. For the $40 (sold out) admission price that is woefully bad form. Hold the presentation in a hall next time, save x thousand dollars (it was held in the illustrious surrounds of one of the Four Seasons Hotel ballrooms with staff everywhere) and provide even just 2 bottles of the most popular wines. In some classes (Chardonnay, Pinot, Aromatics) there where up to 3/4 of the wines that where hoovered up in the first 45 minutes. I still managed to get through 70 wines (notes to come when I get around to transcribing the scribble) and to tell you the truth, all the really interesting, less mainstream stuff was barely touched.

Anyway, the results are up here:

As expected, the Aussies & Kiwis shared the spoils, with the Aussies picking up the big gongs (Best Red, Best White, Wine of Show) & the Kiwis dominated the Shiraz category once again. Funnily enough, Australian wines also picked up Best Sauv & Best Pinot to boot....

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Chardonnay 2007

Meerea Park 'Alexander Munro' Chardonnay 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Screwcap, $30

I think this will be quite a divisive wine - Hunterista's (those who take a likening to the flavours of the Hunter Valley + its wines) like myself will probably dig it, but for those who are looking for the mealy, fine flavours of cool climate Chardonnay or indeed the minerality of Burgundy & Chablis should turn off now. It's a great Hunter Chardonnay, but if you put this in a lineup of Chardonnay from around the world, its broad, toasty lemony characters & dry palate would probably be panned by all and sundry.

From a warm year in the Hunter, this underwent no malolactic fermentation and spent just 6 months in oak. Hooray! The colour is bright golden yellow, like a pale version of post Berocca wee. This follows onto a nose of lemon, toastiness, whipped butter + bright Chardonnay fruit. The hint of straw in there always screams Hunter Valley to me and I think many will be turned off by this.

The palate follows this almost perfectly, with the lemony, toasty fruit filling out the front palate before the back end tightens up considerable. I love that about Hunter Chardonnay - they are warm climate wines, but always have such surprising acidity. The palate finishes dry with some alcohol warmth.

Having tasted this label with a few years under its belt I can highly recommend the power of bottle age to make it even more complex. This is no exception. Hunterista's should buy a bottle as a matter of course. 17.5 (though it would probably get caned and receive a 14 in a wine show).

BEER: James Squire Sundowner Lager

James Squire Sundowner Lager (Sydney, NSW)
$18 a 6 pack

This appeared on the shelf next to my normal beer of choice, the ever enjoyable James Squire Amber . So naturally I took one for the team (I was thirsty, it barely touched the sides). The packaging looks great - the quasi handwritten label is very much in the vein of the Saint Clair Pioneer Block wines which I love.
Apparently there will only be 2500 cases of this produces, so get in quick if you want to try it.

A hoppy, golden Summer Ale, this had pronounced hop driven aromatics and a dry, hop driven palate. To tell you the truth, the hops where the most remarkable feature, after that it sort of fell away to a simple bitter finish. It's quite drinkable, but also short and unremarkable. Back to good ole Amber I went.

Jacobs Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Jacobs Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Coonawarra, SA) Cork, $40

The question has to be - does the addition of 'Jacobs Creek' do anything for this label? I'd argue that it does nothing for Jacobs Creek (by tacking on a label in the portfolio) or the St Hugo label, especially given Jacobs Creek's reputation for cheap wine (a perception they will struggle to ever shake). I'd also argue that few consumers would recognise or associate this with Jacobs Creek anyway: It is still an Orlando product in most minds.
The Pernod Ricard marketing department certainly have some work to do.

Correct mid red in colour, the nose is classic leafy Cabernet - herbaceous blackberry, cassis, a dash of mint & some more red berry. On the palate it is more of the same - leafy minty Cabernet, with an initial dryness that lingers through the whole palate, finishing with high acid and some slightly unripe tannins. Its an austere, cellaring style of Cabernet that straddles the edge between unripeness and classic leafy Cabernet style. Needs another 5 years in bottle regardless. I think my score here is a little generous for immediate drinking - its just that tad austere. But, the future should be kind to this one. 17+

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Xanadu Dragon Shiraz & Cabernet Merlot 2005

Xanadu Dragon Shiraz & Cabernet Merlot - both 2005 - (Frankland River & Great Southern, WA) Screwcap, $16 approx
'Xanadu, Xanadu ooo. In Xanadu'
Damn you Oliva Newton John. I bet the poor souls at Xanadu tire of the references to the song, but you can't deny how catchy it is, even after all these years.

But back to the wines: I have to confess that its been a while since my last encounter with a Xanadu, though I can clearly remember some top quality, dry and herbaceous Cabernets over the years and these are a very attractive pair of wines.

The Shiraz is purple/red in colour with a fresh nose of spice, red berries and edged with a little volatility. Mildly herbaceous, its an attractive, fresh nose. The palate is leafy, a little stewed berry & quite chewy, but with enough attractive meaty fruit to carry it through. Its not a bad wine for $16 and it tastes like a blend of MR & Great Southern to boot. Good result. 15.8

The Cabernet Merlot is a little more red than the Shiraz and I like it much more - though I'd take a Cabernet over a Shiraz from the West every day of the week. On the nose this is leafy & minty, but backed by some nice roasted fruit. The palate backs this up with some nice pure, slightly over and underripe fruit of cassis and leafy red berry distinction. Its quite a nice wine - varietal, defined and curranty. Bloody good wine for the dollars. 16.8

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

An unnatural closure experience

Tonight I opened up a D'Arenberg Cadenzia GSM 2004 which was sealed with a 'Zork' plastic closure. For those not familiar with a Zork, it is a plastic cork that still has the romantic 'pop' of cork and is resealable. A contingent of Mclaren Vale winemakers banded together a few years ago to make a range of Grenache based wines with the 'Cadenzia' badge, all sealed with the Zork - following in the footsteps perhaps of the Clare Valley winemakers in 2000, whom all followed each other and released a contingent of Rieslings in screwcap.

Somehow I don't think the Zork initiative was as succesful, as the poor Zork seems to have been relegated to Cordial bottles. But tonight this exercise was more about investigating the potential of Zork's impacts on a wines ageability - Gosh I hope this is not a representative example, or the Zork may be destined to remain on the cordial bottle. The Zork itself opens up with the normal pop, but its coated in sludge and the pop is less than convincing. Dark red in colour, the nose opens up quite mushroomy, metallic and dare I say it, unsavourably bretty. The palate is better, but the front palate is dirty and again quite metallic, the finish is much more classic D'Arenberg polished tannins.

So in the end, I'd hazard a guess that we have either three outcomes - either the bottle was cooked, the Zork didn't quite seal right, or the wine underneath it is totally shot. Without a reference point, I'm drawing no conclusions....

Tyrrells Stevens Shiraz 2006

Tyrrells Stevens Shiraz 2006 (Hunter Valley, NSW) Screwcap, $28

The 2006 red vintage, it has to be said, is one underrated prospect in the Hunter Valley. Sandwiched between the dry (and hence good) 05 & 07 vintages, 06 for my mind is a vintage for the drinker. The wines are lighter, fragrant, medium bodied and rather delicious drinks, particularly for anyone looking for more than just sweet fruit in their wines.

The colour is a light to mid red, with purpley edges that make it look very youthful in the glass. From here the nose is slightly volatile & infused with fragrant cranberry, red berries & licorice with a slightly metallic, typical Hunter edge. If you stuck this in with a lineup of random Australian Pinots I don't think this would look out of place. Its a lovely nose and as the air gets into it smells more floral and pretty by the minute.

Onto the palate which is earthen, medium bodied & quite Hunter elegant, but it still feels like a work in progress - its a bit full and raw, finishing with some intrusive oak tannins on the tail. At this point in time its also quite a step behind the richer, incredibly impressive 2005 version, but if the nose is anything to go by (and the previous vintages) however, this should be a very smart wine in just a few years. 17+

Market Drivel

This appeared on the Herald Sun website - I can't being to say how appalled I was at the short sided ideas and recommendations contained below.

AUSTRALIA'S wine industry appears set for a major shakeup amid growing pressure from leading winemakers to slash production and cut the total number of wineries.

The push for industry reform involves calls for a 60 per cent cut to producer numbers and to trim actual wine production by 20 per cent within a decade.

The reforms, outlined to last week's Wine Industry Outlook Conference in Sydney, included a push to halve the number of wines sold in Australia.

Under the plan, smaller vineyards and wineries would be replaced with bigger operations.

Winemakers are concerned the average Australian harvest is now about 1.9 million tonnes while demand is running at less than 1.5 million tonnes.

John Grant, president of Constellation Wines Australia, said this meant that this year's surplus of 476 million litres of wine at June 30 -- the equivalent of about 680,000 tonnes of grapes -- would get "longer and longer".

That would put downward pressure on grape prices with margins squashed as increased non-grape production costs could not be reflected in the market place.

"The industry needs to reduce its production by around 20 per cent or put another way, for every five rows in the vineyards one row needs to be removed," Mr Grant said.

Australia has about 170,000 ha of vines.

The cuts had to be mainly in the warm, inland regions because the "game plan" in the two main export markets -- the UK and the US -- was high volume sales at low cost, a segment filled by wines from those regions and the segment falling "fastest and furthest".

Chief executive of Tahbilk Wines Alister Purbrick, said 1.75 million tonne crops could be sustainable in 10 to 15 years but it depended on the development of markets including China and Russia.

He said a recent Deloitte study had indicated that most wine producers turning over less than $10 million annually -- about 90 per cent of all producers -- were losing money.

In 10 to 15 years, to be sustainable, the industry should have between 1000 and 1500 producers.

Vineyards should be more than 80 ha compared with the current average of 20 ha, with resources and management pooled and wine producers turning over less than $5 million should be forced to joint venture winemaking facilities. more

Lets start at the top.

'The push for industry reform involves calls for a 60 per cent cut to producer numbers and to trim actual wine production by 20 per cent within a decade.'

The production cuts are fair advice. But the reduction in production numbers is ignorant. We have all heard the statistic that 5% of the wineries produce 95% of the wine. By eliminating 60% of the producers, you would knock out whole regions and discourage any sort of real diversity. No sign of Wine Australia's Regional Heroes planning here.

"He said a recent Deloitte study had indicated that most wine producers turning over less than $10 million annually -- about 90 per cent of all producers -- were losing money."

I've read a breakdown of that Deloitte's study and the actual participation and sample size was so suspect that drawing a conclusion for Australia wide production is beyond stupid. 90% of Australian wineries losing money?? Bullshit.

"Vineyards should be more than 80 ha compared with the current average of 20 ha, with resources and management pooled and wine producers turning over less than $5 million should be forced to joint venture winemaking facilities."

Why, so we can machine harvest everything, stick them in massive vats and pump out litre after litre of characterless, flavourless shit.
No. The wine industry doesn't need more large, faceless companies, machine harvesting large vineyards tracts, producing spotless, boring 'industrial' wines? No. The future of the Australian wine industry lies in terroir - more 'Regional Heroes'. More hand made, hand sorted, whole bunch fermented, wines of the earth. More passion. Less winemaking by the numbers.

Its interesting that this sort of short term focused plan has backing by the large winemakers isnt it? A very cosy vested interest in firstly driving down grape costs for themselves, whilst attempting to cast dispersions on the heart and soul, passion & dedication family run producers.

Australia needs reinvention, not less producers doing more of the same. Less quantity, more quality. Terroir not BOGOF.

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Future of Australian Winemaking may live in the Yarra Valley

Today I attended a tasting put on by 'South Pack' - a group of small, artisan Victorian producers, with a skew towards the Yarra Valley. South Pack includes Luke Lambert, the Lance family, Timo Mayer, Gary Mills of Jamsheed, Mac Forbes, Adam Foster of Syrahmi, William Downie, & David Chapman & Barney Flanders of Allies - it reads like a who's who of the up and coming Yarra wine circuit.

It was refreshing to see so many young faces in the room - I'm still a few years off 30 and the average age in the room would be not far off mine - quite a rarity in the often stuffy and, dare I say it, 'old', wine industry. What was even more invigorating was to feel the passion in the room -these wine producers live, breathe and love wine, just like me. I would have loved to sit around and talk shop over a beer, but alas normal service had to resume.

So on to the wines. Sadly I only got around half the room, but I saw enough to get excited. I don't think there was a a wine in the place that wasn't handpicked, hand sorted and bottled unfined and unfiltered. There was wax capsules, diam corks, no new oak and a dominance of single vineyard bottlings.

To kick it off where the wines of Timo Mayer - all heavily worked and interesting, though i thought smoke taint was more than a little dominant in his 07 wines, giving them a somewhat hammy edge, particularly the Close planted Pinot & the Big Betty Shiraz. Still, the wines where all funky, characterful things, right down to the dry, orange coloured, Pinot based 08 Rose which was very French and very interesting.

Next off where the excellent Macforbes wines, all of which I enjoyed, though the Rieslings where just a little simple for me. The Pinots however are brilliant wines, spanning the Yarra sub regions of Gruyere, Coldstream & Woori Yallock. The 07 Woori Yallock is a sleeper - frost affected yields has turned this into a tight star of the future. I also liked the 06 Yarra Cabernet for its meaty, mildly herbaceous yet perfectly balanced palate. Average alcohol of the range? About 12%. And perfectly ripe at that.

Next off was the Jamsheed range, starting off with two bracing whites - a firm, fiercely dry and grippy Gewurztraminer of real style and appeal and a fragrant, minerally and tight Viognier. Even the Bistro level 'Jose the Rose' is all funky and complex - having gone through full malo and some barrel ageing. The highlight though was the Yarra Syrah - Savoury, complex, light to medium bodied, pepper and spice, lovely stuff. Glorious packaging to boot. Don't miss the 'La Syrah' - perhaps the most out there $20 wine on the market...

Final stop was to see the other Luke Lambert red - the 07 Syrah. Now, I wasn't overly taken with the simple 07 Neb, but the brand is exciting. The 07 Syrah again reminded me of that - a medium bodied Yarra red of polish and lightness that was more Pinot than Shiraz, but beautifully drinkable. 12.8% alcohol.

I left, wishing that more pompous English critics could experience the blatant terroirism shown by the hands on winemakers of this room.

Bridgewater Mill Chardonnay 2005

Bridgewater Mill Chardonnay 2005 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Cork $20

The sooner we stop making wines like this, the better. It's everything that is bad about Chardonnay and the sort of style that turns people off. What's worse, is that I think that the fruit underneath is top quality stuff.

Perhaps it is just me - I'm feeling a little jaded after too many lacklustre Chardies of late, but as soon as my nose hovered above the glass, I was immediately turned off.

A yellow straw colour, the wine smells like oak - cheesy, grainy oak, mixing obscenely with some yeasty lees overtones & bottle aged Chardonnay fruit to form something sweet and derived. The palate is more attractive, with a rich, round mouthfeel with some nice fruit acidity towards the back end. But all the good work comes undone at the finish - with an intrusive, ugly wood chip flavour that is oak tannin at its worst. Yuk. Worse still, this has had an extra 12 months in bottle for everything to integrate, & the oak still sits on top like a growth. Disappointment plus. 13.8

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Jansz Vintage Pinot Chardonnay 2003

Jansz Vintage Pinot Chardonnay 2003
Cork, $40

I think if you served this up blind with some mainstream, lower end French Champagne (Lanson, Piper etc) it would shit all over them. There are so many freely available Australian and Kiwi sparklers out there now that are more than capable competitors for the French benchmarks - and as we continue to gain a better grasp on fruit sources, production methods and style parameters, our bubblies will only get better. Hoorah.

This is quite golden yellow in colour, with some obvious development on the nose - but that only enhances the appeal of this complex style. Custard, freshly buttered bread & lemon on the nose, with yeasty autolysis characters intertwined with toasty bottle age. Champagne like nose, yet set in a quite forward frame (like a few of the 03 Tasmanian wines - the lovely 03 Clover Hill shows this too).

The palate is delightfully layered, moving from front palate bready richness, through a bright citrussy middle, before finishing all cuddly and yeasty on the dry back palate. It arguably lacks the minerality of top Champagne, but it has twice the complexity of most of the aforementioned NV's, without the excess dosage, at a very real price. Excellent. 18.5

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Brettanomyces - friend or foe?

Brett - It is the buzz word of the wine industry. Every winemaker fears it, every show judge hunts it and everyone else talks about it. But one winemaker is embracing it.

Steve Webber is the man. De Bortoli Chief Winemaker, New Royal Melbourne Wine Show Chairman & 2007 Winemaker of the Year. A man on a mission. This year, Steve has taken over the chair of one of our most famous wine shows & he is already stirring the pot. In the famous 'Jimmy Watson' class this year, there will be no medals, just the trophy. Steve did that. Unfinished wines won't receive medals you see. Apparently the Watson family (owners of the trophy) want the trophy to be for 1 yr old wines, finished or not. Steve (and others) want it to be for 1 and up to 2 year old finished wines. Watch this space.

Back to Brett. This year, for the first time, Steve has released a wine that has had an intentional addition of Brett. A deliberate addition of a spoilage yeast. A deliberate fault. In Australia, home of squeaky clean wines. Did I mention that Steve Webber is a man on a mission?

So what about the wine:

De Bortoli Melba Lucia 2006 - A Bordeaux style Cabernet blend, with a little Sangiovese mixed in for good measure. Cedary, meaty nose with some volatility. Distinctively cool climate Cabernet aromas, with the cedary character of Sangiovese in there too. The palate is very dry, with length that is fleshed out through the middle. Red cherry & cassis fruit. Excellent tannins but the palate feels a little disjointed at present, the flavours jarring a little. Time may resolve this. No obvious faults. 17.2+

I can't say whether I agree with Brett seeding, nor if it made any difference to this wine. But again, its an interesting concept, much like the man himself. (He swears like a trooper by the way too).

At the time of trying this unusual wine, we tried a few more wines that where indicative of both the failings and the glories of the show system. (The tasting notes below in italics are basically as I wrote them at the time)

Phi Chardonnay 2006 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Produced from a cooperative of the De Bortoli and the Shelmerdine families, this label has already garnered plenty of attention at home and abroad. Steve Webber thinks this is simply to 'out there' for the show system and he is probably right.

Pale green colour. Nutty, yeasty, worked nose with some unusual fresh hay elements. Tight textured palate has rich nougat fruit & very pronounced acidity. Excellent palate complexity, rich mid palate. Very good. Too worked? 17

Tyrrells Belford Chardonnay 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
This will polarise. The oak is quite a dominant feature of the mid palate on this very young white. Personally, I loved it.

Very light, straw green colour. Subdued nose with just some obvious vanilla bean oak. The palate is rich on the front with a hit of oak to start, but after this the tight crisp palate garners attention. Grapefruit resonates on the finish. Lovely lean palate profile. Very good. 17.5+

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
A broader step down after the brilliant 06 but this is definitely a show stopping wine. Expect plenty more medals & attention for this.

Green colour. Very tight, closed, grapefruit & oak nose. Very rich, but cleansing acidity to the powerful palate. Big, almost chewy wine with a little heat on the finish. Needs time. 17.5

Vissoux Les Garants Fleurie 2006 (Beaujolais, France)
Steve liked its terroir stamp, I thought it was faulty rubbish.

Mid red. nose of cherry, smoke, raspberry, meat. Bretty nose. Intrusive acid. Thin raspberry palate. No! 12

Collector Reserve Shiraz 2006 (Canberra district, ACT)
This has already picked up quite a few gongs around the place and its not hard to see why - its certainly quite pretty & very cleanly drinkable. I wanted more, but in retrospect I think this just needs some time in the bottle.

Bright deep red colour. Perfumed, sweet, aromatic nose with star anise and violets. Very nice. Light to medium cherry fruit, elegant and very drinkable. Heat on the finish. Highly drinkable but very simple. 16.5

Yering Station Reserve Shiraz Viognier 2006 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Apparently this picked up a bronze only very recently and a Bronze is all it got from me.

Mid red colour. Volatile, choc oak nose. Big, hot, quite simple nose leads to a red fruited palate that is big on power but no delicacy. Raspy & extractive. No obvious Viognier. Needs time+ but still too hot. 15.5

Herve Souhaut Syrah Vin De Pays de L'Ardeche 2006 (France)
Its a winemakers fault field day! Almost more faults than wine, but also very interesting. Produced from an estate that falls just outside the Rhone region. Would be a great pizza wine.

Murky colour. Perfumed, bretty, meaty nose. Big, meaty, bretty palate. Savoury, hammy, noticeable acidity. Faults aplenty, but also characterful and quite drinkable. 15

Friday, 14 November 2008

Luke Lambert Nebbiolo 2007

Luke Lambert Nebbiolo 2007 (Heathcote, Vic)
Cork (with sexy wax capsule), $35

Without opening this, its obvious that Luke Lambert has a lot of love for his wine (or at least is a good marketer). The packaging is exemplary - the waxed capsule, the heavy (numbered) bottle, the attractive labelling etc. Plus, its bottled unfined and unfiltered from hand picked vines. The only thing missing is the biodynamics and he would qualify as a supreme Garagiste.

The other, and perhaps key ingredient missing, is more mention of the vineyard. I'm hazarding a guess here, but this tastes like it comes from young vines - the definition is non existent, the flavours lack the conviction that old vines give. What I don't doubt however, is that Luke Lambert is one very skillful winemaker (his Syrah reinforces this). Definitely a name to watch.

Mid red, with a mix of tawny and purple edges - its more Nebbiolo blend than straight Neb in colour. On the nose it has classic nebbiolo roast meat & tea leaf (but more like Australian Tokay tea leaf) that is intertwines with plush red fruit. Its obviously a very young wine and it smells all pulpy and fleshy. No sign of obvious new oak though (again, smart winemaking) which seems to be the downfall of many an Australian take on the 'alternative varietal'. Actually, blind you would not be too wrong to pick this as a ripe, meaty good quality Merlot - it has that herbal plum thing that cooler climate Merlots can show sometimes.
There is more style on the palate, which is again full, plump and red fruited, but with good, classic acidity. The tannins are, considering the variety, quite disappointing. Integrated and smooth yes, but tannins are one of the highlights of Neb and this very young wine shows little tannic direction.

So I'm impressed with the winemaking, impressed again with the label, but the fruit that went into this I don't think matches up to the passion of Luke Lambert. This is still very young though and I'd be interested to see where it goes in time. 16

Wittmann Estate Riesling Trocken 2007

Wittmann Estate Riesling Trocken 2007 (Rheinhessen, Germany)
Screwcap, $30

Of all the German dry Rieslings consumed recently, this came across as the 'driest' - the most traditional dry Riesling and certainly the least expressive of the recent examples I have had the pleasure of trying (more German Rieslings here). This is indeed a wine for the future, with all the elements just needing time to come together. This coms off one of Germany's first organic vineyards.

Quite green gold in the glass, the nose is honey suckle, lime and slate - its a minerally nose, like crushed up rocks. The palate though is the star -it opens with some upfront sweetness, which seems sugar sweet as opposed to fruit sweet, but it is lovely, candied and well integrated. The palate then draws out long, lean and citrussy, finishing with acidity that is almost painful in its intensity - searingly, hard core limey acidic, but in a natural acid framework. Its very dry and almost a little unwielding, but the structure here is to die for. Will reward the patient. 17++

Wild Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Wild Rock 'Infamous Goose' Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Marlborough, NZ)
Screwcap, $19

From what I understand, this comes from the Craggy Range empire. It would be an interesting exercise to try this with the single vineyard Craggy Savvies of the same vintage - interesting if there was a house style at work here.

The colour is very pale green - very little colour development. The nose is soft, passionfruity & faintly gooseberried (not sure if thats a word) in quite a subdued, but very fresh style. The aromatics are much more reticent than your typical 'here comes the noise' Marlborough Savvy style, which I quite like. Its not tropical, its not grassy, its just passively passionfruity.
On the palate the acid does the talking, backing up the medium weight fruit, which again is leaner and softer than many of its ilk.

I think this is a very drinkable Sauvignon - it is much more restrained, balanced and almost backward in style and it all works very well. Soft, but drinkable. Very good. 17.2

Evans & Tate Margaret River Merlot 2007

Evans & Tate Merlot 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Screwcap, $20

This picked up a trophy (Best Merlot) at the 2008 Royal Queensland Wine Show & another at the Perth Wine Show. It's certainly good to see that Evans & Tate can continue to put out good wines, even through the downfall of the business over the last 2 years.

Mid red in colour with purple edges. The nose is attractive, plush and richly oaked - Its a very youthful nose of plums and sweet & very ripe, fruit cake fruit. Good start. The palate is ripe, slightly strained with a big mouthful of hot ripe fruit, finishing with noticeable alcohol. Plenty of bang for the buck, even some Merlot varietal characters, but don't come looking for grace and balance.

Good result at the price, if simple and somewhat over-ripe. 16.5

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Starvedog Lane Chardonnay 2005

Starvedog Lane Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Screwcap, $23

What a relief this wine was. After a run of disappointing Chardies (not least the Jacobs Creek Reeves Point earlier in the week, an 06 Gramps Chardy yesterday was even worse) it was so nice to be presented with a halfway attractive wine.

Golden straw, with tints of green, this presents with a spicy, yeast driven nose with hints of honeyed development & good quality oak playing a supporting role. No Puligny, but attractive nonetheless. The palate is quite round, mouthfilling & generous, with intense white peach fruit characters, sweet, integrated vanillan oak on the front, cleansing acidity on the back. There is some broadness and oak tannins on the tail, but it all feels balanced and drinkable. Good stuff.17

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Deutz Marlborough Cuvee NV

Duetz Marlborough Cuvee NV (Marlborough, NZ)
Cork, $25

Is it Deutz - sounds like dirtz or is it Deutz - sounds like doy-itz? Or is it Dew-tz?
However it is pronounced, its always a well made & affordable drink, made especially attractive when the price gets hammered by a supermarket backed liquor shop at Christmas time. The Blanc De Blanc is even better.

This has a slightly bronze edge to the colour suggesting a fair leaning towards Pinot. The nose is spot on - lifted yeastiness & water cracker aromas with green fruit underneath, again with the faint strawberry-meets-dough aromatics of Pinot. Its quite a traditional Champagne like nose.

The palate fails to truly live up to the promise of the nose, ending up all simple, green appley & mildly developed - It just tastes a little weak. However, drunk cold at Christmas time, this would still fit the bill perfectly. 16.8

Monday, 10 November 2008

Jacobs Creek 'Reeves Point' Chardonnay 2004

Jacobs Creek Reeves Point Chardonnay 2004 (Multi Region Blend)
Screwcap, $30 (approx)

The relevance of Reeves Point? Its apparently where (Orlando founder) Johann Gramp first landed in Australia. This has won a gold medal at the Sydney International Wine Show this year.

A golden, but slightly less bright colour. The nose is classic, old school Chardonnay with some age on it - butterscotch, caramel oak, mealy fragrant yeastiness and some burnt timber. Not for the ABC types! The palate though is surprisingly subdued, with its caramel vanilla oak a dominant feature, overlaying peach fruit & finishing with some resinous oak tannins. It might be served better chilled, but the back end feels harsh and oak driven.

I can't see the gold medal quality on this (It has two for the record) for it represents a rather unattractive (and dated) Chardy style, with its best days long gone. 14

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Weekend Drinking 9th November

The theme here is simple - three wines, all freely available, all sitting between the $16 and $18 mark (or cheaper on special). I know where my money would be going in this lot:

Ingoldby Mclaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Mclaren Vale, SA) $16
Dark red colour. Raisined red berry & chocolate oak nose. Palate is tart, with unbalanced acidity & sweet fleshy red fruits. Disappointingly simple and disjointed. 13.8

D'Arenberg High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
Dark red colour. Meaty, dark fruit nose, woven with chocolatey oak. The palate is the star here however - its chewy, generous red fruit that has a typical Mclaren Vale, mid palate fruit depth to it. Arguably its quite a simple wine, but at the price, and accompanied by a BBQ steak it works well. Great drinkability. 16.5

Margan Semillon 2007 (Hunter Valley, SA) $18
A bright, full yellow colour. The nose is lemony, toast, lime tart. Its quite a broad lemony nose, which suits the wine profile - broad, lemony, fat and quite unappealing. Its Hunter Semillon, from a warm year, made in a forward style, looking very ripe and chubby. Leave it for a few years - little attraction now. 14.5+

Friday, 7 November 2008

Gramps Botrytis Semillon 2006

Gramps Botrytis Semillon (Riverina, NSW)
Screwcap, $20

Gramps is another quiet achiever from the Orlando stable - the reds are almost uniformly fine value for money and can pull off some great awards from time to time. This is the only wine in the range produced from non South Australian fruit. Very curious that a wine label named after one of the Barossan wine industry pioneers has a Riverina sticky in the stable - its like the Australian Cricket Team fielding a Kiwi ring in (Russell Crowe anyone).

An orange yellow colour, with a slightly dull colour (though that is more a result of Botrytised fruit than anything else I suppose). On the nose it is classically honeyed, with marmalade, cumquat and lemon curd, matched with some residual volatility. The palate is round, lemon limey and very full, with creamy, candied orange fruit. Nicely integrated oak is in the background.

Overall this is quite a well made Botrytis Semillon, but the palate is just too round, intense and full for this to be a truly enjoyable wine. Needs food desperately, then it may well resolve itself, though a few yrs in the bottle will also help 16.0

Handpicked Piedmont Moscato D' Asti

Handpicked Moscato D'Ast (Piedmont, Italy) Screwcap, $10 (off the Handpicked website)

This is a genuine Italian Moscato, yet produced by the Australian Handpicked operation of Peter Douglas & Dominique Portet. It's like a hands across the water style winemaking enterprise and it makes quite a point of difference to have the proper DOCG label on the bottle neck.

Light greeny yellow in colour with some typical frizzante. Its got green apple, fruit tingle & barley sugar on the nose, the palate following through with similar sweet green apple fruit characters and simple juiciness. It finishes with another hit of slightly cloying sweetness, but its all kept reasonably well balanced.
Its quite a simple, classical Moscato without any pretensions, at a good price. 15.0

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Ballast Stone RMS Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Ballast Stone RMS Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
Cork, $42

Apparently this picked up a silver (Best in class) at the IWSC. Produced off 60yr old+ vines in Mclaren Vale. Spent a rather lengthy 32 months in oak: Arguably, if it has the fruit weight to support, that's more than appropriate, but the jury is still out.

An impenetrable, dark red, almost black red colour. The nose is coffee beans, bourbon and coconut oak. There is dark fruit in there somewhere, but it really needs a good decant to open up the nose. On the palate it is large, blocky and chewy - almost monolithic in its deep, dark, rich fruit and oak flavours, finishing with integrated, yet oak dominated tannins and a slice of vanilla. It is big, but not harsh, with almost limitless flavours of coffeed oak & dark berry fruits. Except for a note of mint on the nose, this is largely unrecognisable as Cabernet - it is a Mclaren Vale dry red.

Stylistically this looks towards a late 90's Bin 707 with its huge extract, domineering oak and tannins. Its actually quite hedonistic in its richness, but the challenge will continue to be the excessive oak - it dominates every facet of this wine. In the short to medium term it will soften, become more integrated, more chocolatey and should be rather attractive indeed - but that oak will always be dominant. 16.5+ (subtract 2 points if you don't like oak)

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Tesch Karthauser Riesling 2007

Tesch Karthauser Riesling 2007 (Nahe, Germany)
Screwcap, $30


If ever there was a German poster boy for terroir, it would be this wine. A single vineyard, single site dry Riesling, bottled unfiltered & unfined. Its pure German Riesling, from a top vintage, shipped to Australia in a temperature controlled 'reefer'. It ticks just about every box - and I love it.

A very light yellow in colour (Its quite yellow compared to the greener young Australian Rieslings), with visible CO2 bubbles. The nose shows lime, slate, more lime & earth. Its a pure, expressive nose of power and beauty. The palate has lemon, lemonade, aspirin & intense lime juice, with acidity that is bracingly citrussy and quite Clare like in its searing dryness. As it warms up, this shows more musk and more pine lime, fruit-meets-acidity goodness.

If you enjoy truly dry Riesling styles, this is a must try example. 18.7+

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Dr Loosen Bernkastler Lay Riesling 2007

Dr Loosen Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Kabinett 2007 (Mosel, Germany)
Screwcap, $30

Thai Beef Salad. Its a delicious dish that, when done well, matches crunchy fresh salad with warming spicy beef. One of our local Thai restaurants (there are at least 10 within a 5km radius. Quite ridiculous really) does an excellent rendition that is superbly minty, spicy and refreshing all at once. The challenge is finding something to drink with it. Singha is the go-to choice, but I think an off dry Riesling also works superbly well. Hence the desire for a wine like this.

Green , just straw yellow in colour (and sealed in a screwcap) this looks bright & youthful. The nose is immediately identifiable as off dry German Riesling, with the honey suckle, pink grapefruit and citrus character that so many show - its a distinctive and attractive (to Riesling lovers) nose. The palate is unevolved, broad and at first seems dominated by simple candied citrus & barley sugar sweetness. There is acidity to back this up, but it also seems a little cloying and the balance is skewed towards simple crystalline honey residual sugar. Drinkable and refreshing when served very cold with the Thai Beef Salad, but would have been hard work without food.

After about an hour this opened up and the palate filled out, giving some creamy limey-ness, the balance much more natural and less candied. The message here then is that this either needs a few years in the bottle to come together or a decent decant. 16+

Saturday, 1 November 2008

WINE EXPERIMENT: Gaja Sito Moresco 2006 - Tasted over a week

Gaja Sito Moresco 2006 (Langhe, Italy)
Cork, $36 (375ml)

Like all wine geeks, I like the odd wine experiment. Unusual blends, bizarre wine and food matches or sticking wines in the cellar to see if something interesting will happen - these are all the activities of the wine obsessed. This experience didn't start off as a wine experiment, but after Day 2 it seemed only natural. On day 1 this wine was so closed down that I just naturally stuck it back in the decanter, waiting for something to happen. A day turned into 7, with some interesting, if challenging (for me) results.

My experience with Nebbiolo and blends is somewhat limited - I have been lucky to have scored an invite to a handful of Nebbiolo mega tastings over the years and confess a love for this capricious variety. But my exposure then has been limited to a couple of icons, all with age on them (Vietti, Roberto Voerzio, La Spinetta) and the best that Australia has to offer (Arrivo, Protero, Pizzini, Bowe Lees, Luke Lambert etc). However there remains a whole swathe of Barolos & Barbarescos that are uncharted waters. Hence the reason for trying this.

The wine itself is a blend of 35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, built in a modern style, crafted by the master Angelo Gaja, with the aim perhaps to make a wine that is far more approachable wine in its youth than the typical straight Neb (at an approachable price to boot). Which this wine definitely isn't.

The colour this was a mid red, darkened thanks to the Merlot and Cab Sauv components. The colour didn't move over the week.
On Day 1: The nose has obvious pencil shavings, leather & old oak, with hidden depths of ripe, meaty, slightly stewed fruit laying below the surface - Its largely closed for business.

On the palate it starts very gently with a sensation of lightness that always reminds me of Bordeaux. It then builds and builds and builds in structure finishing in dry, lip coating classic tannins. Its dry, cedary and all structure, no fruit to speak of, but potential plus. Back in the decanter it goes.

Day 2 and the nose is showing some volatility to match the sawdust & leather, the palate is softer, but with still just structure to speak of. No fruit. Softer tannins. Starting to question whether this might be a bad bottle. Quite undrinkable today.

Day 3 and its more open on the nose - there is even the tiniest hint of fruit! Preserved cherries, leather, sawdust. The palate is softer and the tannins integrated. Still no fruit, but with a t bone, this would probably drink ok. Still very dry and very hard work.

Day 4: The nose is more volatile today, more cedar even a hint of formic. Old wood nose, but more integrated than previous days - its getting looser and more oxidised. The palate again is quite drinkable, no fruit, but quite a nice nuttiness that feels oak derived, but is surprisingly not intrusive. I don't mind it today and with red meat it could work. It does feel a little oak driven however - as if oak tannins & flavours are whats holding it together.

Day 5: There is some oxidation showing on the nose now, The nose is becoming sweaty, gamey and I'd even say that there is some oxidised fruit. The palate is similarly tiring, its now meaty, and definitely held together by oak, the acidity is rearing up on the palate. It no longer a pleasant drink. The end nears.....

Day 6: Oxidised... fruit! Its distinctly oxidised red fruit on the nose today, on a weak, oxidised palate. Done. Largely undrinkable but not fetid.

Day 7: Gone.

Conclusions: I really struggled with this wine. I struggled to find any meat on them there bones and further struggled to resolve this with my own wine experiences. It lacked the beautiful tannins of the Piedmont's finest Nebbiolos or the interest of the Australian examples. It similarly lacked the flesh and beauty of the finest Tuscan blends. In the end I just found it a most challenging wine to drink and enjoy at any stage of the week I spent with this wine.