Friday, 19 December 2008

Flaxman Wines

Winery tasting notes are often, sadly, more perfunctory than anything else. Scant on actual detail, high on marketing guff, with the excitement usually reserved for only the very finest wines.

Which is why, for these Flaxman wines, I am going to reproduce them in full. They read like a 'best practise' model for making cult wines or, at the least, porn for winemakers.
No marketing spiel here. None needed. The hand crafted, unwaveringly high quality wines reek of so much passion, that all that's required is a glass to sell these wines. Another small winery leading the way in quality and value...

Flaxman Riesling 2008 (Eden Valley, SA)

'Dry grown fruit from 45 and 85 year old vines, yielding 1.5 tonne to the acre, handpicked and whole bunch pressed - 190 dozen made $25'

An interesting Riesling that continued to show different elements of its personality as it opened up. On night one I actually picked this as a dud bottle - it was just that intense and tight.

Green colour and initially quite closed, showing lavender and citrus eventually opening up to a lemon, slate & citrus nose. The palate started off very tight and closed with butch acidity, but by the next day it had opened up to show delicate lemony fruit, slate & some unusual aniseed characters. The acidity is extremely prominent, pithy & lemony, with some phenolic grip thanks to the whole bunch ferment, making for a very, savoury, lemony palate.

Its a dry, delicate Riesling that will live for a very long time, with a palate that is quite a challenge to pin down, yet extremely high quality and undoubtedly drinkable. Good stuff. 17.5+

Flaxman Shiraz 2006 (Eden Valley, SA)

'Dry grown fruit from 55+ yr old vines, yielding 500kg to the acre. Matured in 50% new French oak for 24 months. Open top fermentation, pigeage, minimal pumping and extended time on lees. No filtering or fining. 60 dozen made. $45'
Would be a very interesting exercise to put this next to Mt Edelstone - certainly plenty of similarities....

Purple maroon colour. Big, slightly raisined, tight red fruit nose, with air opening up to show licorice & some coffee oak. Very tight, intense nose. The palate is layered & very impressive showing dark red, licoriced and slightly minty distinctly Eden Valley fruit with a brilliant depth to it. Grapey (which many reds that are unfined and unfiltered show) balanced, excellent. Real impact. Very impressive full bodied Shiraz built for the long haul. 18.7+

Flaxman Wines 'Shhh' Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Eden Valley, SA)

'Fruit sourced from a vineyard between the Eden Valley township and Mount Adam. Matured in French oak for 24 months. Open top fermentation, pigeage, minimal pumping and extended time on lees. No filtering or fining. 60 dozen made $45.00'

Initially I much preferred the Shiraz, but this very linear Cabernet eventually won me over.

Deep maroon colour. Simmering dense fruit nose of blackberry juice, sitting like a sleeping giant. Minty dense & very ripe blackberry & boysenberry palate that is intense and largely hidden. Grapey again, this has a lingering red berry aftertaste. Stylish, classic South Australian Cabernet that needs years. 18.7++

Flaxman Cordon Cut Semillon 2008

'Dry grown from 45+ yr old vines, yielding 1 tonne to the acre. Made in a cordon cut style, with approx. 70% of the fruit allowed to dry on the vine after the cordons are cut with the remaining 30% being fresh fruit from below the cut. The fruit is whole bunch pressed and the ferment stopped early. 78 G/L RS. $20 375ml'

Light yellow colour. Nutty, floral lemony nose that is quite fresh yet also with edge of peach juice that is the cordon cut fruit. Nutty, lemony & apricot palate with some lime cordial, very clean, light and grapey. Lovely fresh drink. 17.5

Thursday, 18 December 2008

3 Cheap savvies and a 3 day, er Viognier

Apologies for the butchered song title, but it just crept in when I said '3 cheap Savvies' out loud. These wines are all under $20 and quite different in their style - hardly benchmarks, but an interesting operation all the same.

Yalumba Mawsons Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (South Australia)
$13, Screwcap

Water green colour, citrus, cut grass & a little tropical fruit. The palate is very light, water light & very fresh, in a citrussy, just tropical & grapefruity, the acidity soft and well integrated. For an under $15 Savvy, this ticks alot of boxes - fresh, citrussy, well made and when served ice cold, quite enjoyable. Great value simple wine. 16.5

Wild Rock Infamous Goose Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)
$17, Screwcap

The 07 vintage of this was really quite good - textural, light and well balanced. The 08 is built in a similar mould.
Water green colour, with a light yellow tint. The nose here is tinned asparagus and a touch of guava in a somewhat confronting mould, the palate similarly quite overtly grassy, if slightly weedy with some soapy textural elements in there too. Its not a bad wine, but it just feels strained and thin. I definitely prefer the 07. 16.6

3 Tales Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)
$18, Screwcap

Snappy packaging from this De Bortoli joint operation. The nose shows intense grassy, herbal fruit, the palate is defined and quite long with citrus, grass and a herbal zing to the back palate. Grown up, well made Sauvignon Blanc at a very fair price. Good stuff 17.5

This felt like a big step up after the Wild Rock. Quite enjoyable.

Blue Pyrenees Viognier 2006 (Pyrenees, Vic)
$18, Screwcap

A bright, light straw yellow colour. Sulphur, then some butter coated Apricot & barley sugars on the quite obvious nose. The palate is lean, oak dominated, apricotty and tails off pretty quickly finishing with slightly harsh oak tannins. Disappointing. 15.8

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Terra Felix La Vie en Rose 2008

Terra Felix La Vie En Rose 2008 (Central Victoria)
$15, Screwcap

I like Rose. I'm a big fan of 'Graham' Melton's Rose of Virginia and can drink it by the large vessel (jug, amphora, bucket) during the warm months. Its not only refreshing, but it goes with absolutely everything. Seriously, everything.

One of the reasons why I (and everyone else) likes Mr Melton's bone dry Rose, is that its not sugar water. Which is what's wrong with this. It tries very hard to be savoury and dry, but can't hide its obvious sweetness.

A light pink/blush/salmon pink in colour, it looks like pink lipstick dipped into a glass of Riesling. It opens up slightly sulphurous with some jammy, citrussy volatile fruit - it smells quite fresh and white wine like on the nose. The palate is simple & juicy with light candied red flavours, but really not a helluva lot of fruit.

All in all its not a bad wine and quite reasonable for the dollars. Still when your up against wines like this at the same price, its difficult to get excited. 14.9

Balgownie Estate Bendigo Chardonnay 2006

Balgownie Estate Chardonnay 2006 (Bendigo, Vic)
$25, Screwcap

I rather caned its Yarra Valley brother a little while back for its reliance on vanilla oak for flavour. On opening, this shows the same onslaught of sweet French oak and its hard not to feel disappointed. The oak is better integrated in this Bendigo example, but its still far too dominant for my tastes.

A light straw yellow colour, the nose shows vanilla and cedar oak, with some creamier malo influences, the palate is citrussy, hot slightly sweet and rather unbalanced, with a confusion of oak and (rather blowsy) fruit hitting the palate, finishing hot and oak derived. Arguably it will get better in time, but I still find this to be an unenjoyable Chardonnay. 14.5

Monday, 15 December 2008

Jean Marc Brocard Montmains Chablis 2006

Jean Marc Brocard 'Montmains' Chablis 2006 (Chablis, France)
$45, Screwcap

Firstly, how good is it that Chablis is in Screwcap. Secondly, does anyone still drink/like Chablis these days? With the news recently that Sauvignon Blanc has overtaken Chardonnay as Australia's white of choice, I am curious to see whether Chablis is similarly considered uncool.. (I still dig it).

This Chablis, resplendent in its rather naff old school label, opens up volatile and withdrawn. There is some citrus in there somewhere but its all hidden at the moment, behidn a wall of acid wafting out of the glass. The palate is similarly all wound up in acidity with a dumb and surprisingly alcohol dominant palate (in the absence of fruit, alcohol wins the day, even when its only 13%). There is a splash of late palate Kimmeridgian cream, but its similarly buried, in what is quite a metallic palate. At the moment this is quit a laborious drink - extremely surprising compared to most 06 Chablis, which seem particularly forward and generous. Lets see how it goes on day 2...

Day 2 and it opens very fresh out of the fridge, initially giving off seaside aromatics - its the smell of the ocean, with saltwater on the breeze and seashells beneath your feet.....
But back to the wine. As it warms up (it really needs a bit of warmth to come alive) the weak citrus, limestone and fresh cream nose really lifts out of the glass, gaining density with warmth, becoming a lovely Chablis nose, eventually becoming boisterous and quite tropical.

On the palate this is now soft, with a lemony, tinned peaches character to match up with the slightly tinny, sternly acidic finish. Stony, yet not without richness, this feels a little lost on the palate today, and although it smells great, the wine doesn't quite satisfy, particularly the intrusive finish.

In desperate need of some time in a very cool cellar, for the nose and that acidity promises much for the future. I'd be waiting and drinking from 2010 on. 17

Nigl Gruner Veltliner Kremser Freiheit 2007

Nigl Gruner Veltliner Kremser Freiheit 2007 (Kremstal, Austria)
$30, Screwcap

If you haven't got on the Gruner train, now is a good time to start, with the worldwide popularity ensuring that ever more of it is winding its way from its traditional European homeland to the shores of our Southern continent than ever before. I rather like good Gruner.

This is a delicious simple example built quite light and crisp. A greenish colour the aromatics show melon a splash of honey and some citrus. Lightly floral its an inviting floral and fresh nose that follows into a bright clear and dry palate that is quite Riesling like in its acid driven purity. A back palate spicy honey varietal kick reminds you of its Grunerishness, but this is a lighter and perfumed style (rather than the quite worked intense Gruners out there) that is simple and very enjoyable. With some age it will gain weight and complexity, but at present its a delicious, food friendly white.

A great, simple introduction to Gruner. Highly Recommended 17.1+

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Dinner at Tetsuya's

Tetsuya's is arguably one of Sydney's, if not Australia's, finest dining experiences. Based around the vision of Tetsuya Wakuda, the style is contemporary Japenese fusion (that's my attempt at classification) with an international flavour.

This was my first visit to this famous Sydney restaurant and hopefully not my last, for although the pricetag is high ($195 per person, fixed cost degustation) the experience redefines your fine food, service & wine list benchmarks.

I chose to take the optional matched wine 'progression' ($90) mainly as I was intrigued to see how the wine and food would be matched up. I'm happy to report the pairings where great, even if I wasn't always moved by the wines themselves. Function over form in some ways then.

I am no restaurant expert, so I'll let Caryn's brilliant (reduced for the web, which doesn't them no justice) photos do the talking.

Firstly the wines:

Heidler Thal Gruner Veltliner 2006
A quite simple, yet classic Gruner that served to highlight how interesting this variety is. A light golden straw in colour, it had a decidedly cool climate honeysuckle & spice nose that was quite direct and light. The palate is where this wine came alive with a spicy, textural viscosity of warm, slightly herbaceous, honey fruit. There is back palate weight and some heat on the finish, in the vein of a Viognier without the heaviness. Throughout the night I came back to this and it proved to be a very versatile food wine, if still somewhat simple. Very enjoyable stuff. 17.3

Clover Hill Blanc De Blancs 2003
Accompanied the Smoked Ocean Trout & Avruga Caviar, with the richness in this working well with the quite rich & creamy dish. Quite a bronze colour considering its relative youth, this had quite a developed, Brie & butter nose with some maturing Chardonnay toast. The palate is similarly cheesy & richly developed with a big robust mouthfeel that lacked a little subtlety. Maturing quickly & a little fat but still enjoyable. 17.2

Sake (It was probably good stuff)
Served with the Custard. Did absolutely nothing for me and felt almost like a novelty. How are you meant to sip Sake anyway? It has always been for drunkenly skulling at local Japanese restaurants before getting up for some Karaoke/taking pants off and swinging around head.

Paradigm Hill Riesling 2007
A Mornington Riesling? Hmm. This wine was served at around the time of the Scampi and served as an excellent foil for the quite delicate Seafood. Kudos to the Sommelier. As for the wine itself, it was quite pretty and floral on the nose, but also quite dumb & green appley, with some light toast creeping in on the nose. The palate was muddled, stuck between primary fruit & secondary development, saved only by some limey fruit sweetness and crisp acidity. A good food wine, but otherwise bland & a little boring. Time may improve the rating, but not by much. 16

Henschke Gewurtztraminer 2008
Served with the Confit of Trout and again a great match. The crisp acidity and subdued flavours working well with the delicate complexity and freshness. Again however, this wine was quite average. The nose showed some lychee Gewurtz varietal characters, but they where only fleeting before being replaced with Eden Valley slate. The palate was lean, slightly peachy & one dimensional, showing no varietal character & feeling like a pale Eden Riesling imitator. Nicely balanced back end, but really quite an average Gewurtz. 15.8

Pierro Chardonnay For Tetsuya's 2007
Made by Pierro for Tetsuya's. I can't tell you how close it is to the normal Pierro Chard in composition, but judging on the wine alone it was classic Pierro Chard. Hallmark Toasty, worked, malo & integrated vanilla oak character on the nose with power and regional grapefruit flavour. The palate is similarly quite bulky with slightly overt oak and perfect nutty richness, all in need of a few more years to come together. Yum. 18.0

Felton Road Pinot Noir for Tetsuya's 2006
Another smart 'house wine'. Every inch a Felton Pinot, with that trademark bright red colour and beautiful stalky red fruit nose. I was slightly disappointed with the palate on this though, as it seemed quite closed and oaky, especially through the middle. This really needs more time to integrate. 17+

Parker Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Served with the Wagyu where it just cut right through the hedonistic fatty rich meat. Food match points again. On its own however this is hard work. Leafy, herbaceous & slightly unripe nose tomato leaf nose, with a dry, cocoa & slightly bitter Cassis fruit driven palate. Its all a bit hard and oak driven, but with a future that should see it blossom if your patient to leave it alone for another 5+ years. 16.6++ (18 with the Wagyu however)

Heggies Botrytis Riesling 2007
This didn't need food, it was lovely on its own. Big, tropical pineapple nose with a long caramel meets pineapple juice palate with carefully judged limey acidity. Natural acidity, length & balance. Lovely stuff & my WOTN 18.5


Pea Soup with Mint Cream & Chocolate Salt

Oysters with Miso & Ginger

Smoked Ocean Trout & Avruga Caviar, Hens yolk & Goats Cheese

Leek & Spanner Crab Custard

Grilled Scampi wrapped in Pancetta
Scampi in Sea Water & Lemon Scented Olive Oil
Marinated Scampi with White Miso & Passionfruit

Confit of Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Roe, Konbu, Apple, Daikon & Wasabi

Terrine of Spanner Crab with an Avocado Soup

(Baby!) Fillet of Barramundi with Baby Fennel

Breast of Duck with Braised Witlof with Sansho & Walnut Jus

Wagyu Beef with Lime & Wasabi

Comte with Lentils

Beetroot & Blood Orange Sorbet

Summer Pudding

Lemon Scented Floating Island with Creme Anglaise

Chocolate Ganache with Sweet Red Beans

Petit Four

Friday, 12 December 2008

Gipsie Jack Shiraz 2006

Gipsie Jack Shiraz 2006 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
$18, Cork

A joint venture of John Glaetzer & Ben Potts, this is not a bad wine and I reckon if you could pick it up for $15 you would be on to a good thing.

Its a treacly, purpley red colour, with a nose of raisins, dark chocolate, and a whiff of Bundaberg rum to match the background volatility. On the palate its blocky and characteristically Langhorne, with that dark chocolate textural element that is always prevalent in the John's Blend wines. My major quibble is with the hot and spiky back end. The bitter acidity sears, the alcohol burns, ruining the lovely flow pretty quickly. Still, there is alot to like here, especially if you don't mind a bit of spirit in your drinks. 16.1

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Flaxman Wines 'The Stranger' Shiraz Cabernet 2007

Flaxman Wines 'The Stranger' Shiraz Cabernet 2007
$35, Screwcap

58% Shiraz/42% Cabernet. Shiraz from Gomersal matured in American oak for 15 months. Cabernet from Mocullta matured in French oak for 15 months. Open fermentation, pigeage, minimal pumping and extended time on lees. No fining or filtering - 170 dozen made.'

Sounds like cult wine doesnt it? After reading those notes, I expected a hugely extracted mega beast of a wine.

Happily this wine is a sexy female of a wine, crafted in a lovingly elegant style of real appeal. Simply put, its a pleasure to drink/taste/review wines like this - Passion in a bottle.

The colour is a rich red, tending purple. On the nose it has some coffee oak, blackberry and licoricey Barossan Shiraz. all still quite primary & freshly bottled. The best is yet to come. On the palate it is decidedly medium bodied and even gentle in its fruit delivery, cuddling up to you with some very pretty and quite soft fruit. Soft, sweet, berries mark the start, a richness of coffee and blackberry fruit spreads out from there on in. Tannins are integrated, the palate shows carefully balanced, barely perceptible oak and there is no alcohol heat.

It's quite a light style (Could this be a result of the challenging vintage too?) that is more suited to drinking over cellaring, favouring finesse over intensity - there is a quite seductive softness here that is Barossan to the core.

A very drinkable, attractive and quite delicious wine of unquestionable appeal. 18.0

Photography by Caryn

Terra Felix Shiraz Viognier 2007

Terra Felix Shiraz Viognier 2007 (Central Victoria)
$14.90, screwcap

I actually saw this on special for $14 today, and for that price its not a bad wine at all. Previous vintages seemed much better quality however.

A purpley red, very modern Shirognier colour, the nose is soft and laden with red berries, apricot, smoke and musk. It smells quite sweet & very Viognierish, which doesnt quite carry through to the palate, which is jammy & fruit driven, but not obviously sweet. The palate is medium bodied, fruity and edged in 2007 vintage smoke.

Overall its not a bad drop for $14 - light & fruity, with just enough integrity to hold it together. 15.0

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Clonakilla Riesling 2008

Clonakilla Riesling 2008 (Canberra District, ACT)
$25, Screwcap

Stuff the preamble with this wine. Just buy it, or at the minimum, buy another 08 Riesling. Many people won't get wines like this - searingly dry Riesling that is so Australian it hurts. It will never be a subtle wine - it may even be poo-pooed by the decidedly fuddy-dudderish English wine critics of Decanter. But gosh its Aussie. Its wines like this, like so many great Australian Rieslings, that we need to send out to the world and say. 'This is Australian wine'. It's not European and thank fuck for that. Its thongs and meat pies, kangaroos and, well, smart as hell Australian wine production at work. And to tell you the truth, its only the tip of the iceberg. In 2008 I think that there where plenty more even better Rieslings from Canberra, from the Eden Valley, from the Clare, from Great Southern, from all over. World class wines, itching for even more recognition...

Anyway, back to this wine. A green, just yellow colour, the nose bounces out at you from the first turn of the screw. Its musky, bath salty, floral, minerally, citrussy and slatey. Actually it smells more Eden Valley than Canberra, but that might be more to do with the vintage than anything else. The palate is, in a word searing. The first couple of sips hit the mouth like fire water. The acid is just so intense that it seems quite obnoxious at first. The great Clare Rieslings are like that. They just get right up in your face and say 'get stuffed, I'm serious wine'. Yet after a little while in the glass, after the first glass is gone and its time for a top up, this backs right off to be all pretty, citrussy and beautifully drinkable. And that's the great thing about Riesling - acid tongue, beautiful personality.

As a wine this probably needs more time in the bottle, though it wouldn't be hard to finish a glass or 5 now. Its certainly a great Riesling and could be viewed as a potential classic (like the 02 Grosset Polish Hill for example) but it is, in truth, just another bloody good wine, from another bloody good small winery. We've never had it so good. 18.8

Terra Felix Mourvedre 2006

Terra Felix Mourvedre 2006 (Central Victoria)
$14.90 (ex winery), Screwcap

Mourvedre, aka Mataro aka Monastrell is a grape that deserves more attention in Australia. We have plenty of old vine stuff around the place, it seems to like our warm climate and it mixes well with 'our' old vine Shiraz & Grenache. Its an affable grape in that sense, but one that can stand up on its own. Here is a great value example.

A dark cherry red colour it has an edge of very slight tawny to it. Interesting that. On the nose it has volatile cherries, blackberries, plum jam, tar and spices. The palate its a touch raw with a big hit of spicy fruit sweetness at first, before filling out to a dry, spicy and hot back end. Its an interesting wine with extra layers of brambly dry fruit, all held up in a quite withdrawn fashion - its best years are definitely ahead of it. I'd argue that the alcohol is too high and it feels very extracted, but it does provide plenty of interest. Bloody good value. 15.0

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Mitolo Rose and various Champagnes

Mitolo Jester Sangiovese Rose 2008
I like Ben Glaetzer's Mitolo wines - high quality, ultra modern South Australian reds of character and cult style. The packaging is similarly top notch, the labels quirky and the whole operation is smart stuff. However this wine did not move me at all. Its the perfect pretty colour - really bright pink/red. The nose shows rose water, strawberry lollies and red berries. All fine so far. Its the palate where things get muddled. An entry of red fruit and lollies stops early - leaving a very dry palate that feels hollow and empty, the acid backbone soft and undistinguished. Its like this is trying to hard to be savoury and trendy without remembering that it comes from Mclaren Vale - the mid palate of the nation. Where is the lovely ripe fruit? Simple and unsatisfying. 15

Delamotte Brut NV
I believe this is almost a Blanc De Blancs style, yet at the very approachable price of $65. It smells rich, creamy and generous with layers of yeasty autolysis that imbue this with an air of sophistication. Well handled dosage here too - not too sweet, but plenty generous. Great stuff. 17.4

Bollinger NV
It is a misnomer to call this dependable? Consistently good sparkling, with more obvious winemaking influence than most other houses - more yeast, a hint of oak and a predominance of Pinot make this a more robust and powerful style than many competitors, the acidity here is powerful and reminds that this standard Bollinger Special Cuvee will live for a while too. Class. 17.7

Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2002
I am happy to call myself a Roederer fan - I've probably drunk more Brut Premier than any other Champagne thanks to a dodgy barman friend who used to serve this to us when no one was looking. Sadly however this vintage incarnation was a dissapointment - skinny, lean and muddled, it may well just be too young, but on this tasting I would be sticking to the much more complete Brut Premier NV. 16.8+

Billecart Salmon Blanc De Blancs
The word is that some more recent Billecart's have been rather disappointing, but this seemed quite smart. It's a lean, drawn out style that seemed more like Sparkling Chablis than Champagne, with a slightly flinty metallic edge to the reasonably lean palate. Good, but expensive @ $120. 17.6+

Duval Leroy Paris Brut NV
This premium Cuvee comes in one very sexy, printed black bottle. If I was out to impress i would be flashing this around for sure. Whats more, it tastes more like a vintage wine than your typical NV with toasty richness, obvious reserve wine age and convincing complexity to the palate. Really good. 18

Friday, 5 December 2008

Farewelling a friend in style

These where all drunk to commiserate over the loss/celebrate the life of one of Sydney's endangered, independent fine wine merchants. (North Shore Liquor in Cammeray, now a BWS).
It reminds me to renew the call to support the little guy - small wineries, small independent stores, small restaurants, the lot. Small business breeds innovation, feeds passions and offers much needed diversity. They deserve your patronage.

Anyway, onto the wines:

Penfolds Bin 04a Chardonnay 2004
I believe this was crafted by the talented Oliver Crawford (now at Devils Lair in WA) and its all class. Clever oak and malo in a subdued white peach style - its worked, mealy but definitely not an overt style of Chardonnay - savoury Adelaide Hills style here. Integrated and seamless palate. Will evolve well in the cellar. Very good+. 18

Coldstream Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2006
A multi award and trophy winner, though I thoughT it struggled in this company. The oak is just toO overt, sitting on top of the fruit like a shadow, blocking the purity below it. There is some genuine top class fruit in there, it may need some time to come out. At the moment I am not excited. 16.0+

Domaine A Lady A Sauvignon Blanc 2005
When they get it right, the Domaine A's are truly brilliant wines - here is a perfect example. A fume style of oaked Savvy, apparently inspired by White Bordeaux (though its much more of a Loire style in the flesh). The nose has a touch of formic over some very fine vanilla oak, this is intertwined with herbal aromatic Savvy in a pristine, super fresh frameset - its all quite subtle, herbal & hugely fresh. The palate is a textural masterpiece, with oak infused into the lemony fruit in a perfect fashion, finishing with lemony acidity. Quite brilliant and such a beautiful, feminine wine. I had it written down as 'pristine oaked raindrops' 18.6

Guigal Condrieu 2005
I just couldnt muster up any excitement for this. The nose is evocative and classically Viognerish. You know the sort, apricots, peaches, really ripe fruits and spice. The palate IS interesting, layered and richly fruited, whilst also retaining some complexity. No - the problem was the heat on the back end. It burnt. The alcohol and sheer ripeness here just leaves you feeling slightly battered after finishing a glass. I really struggled to finish more than a couple of mouthfuls as I felt I was being orally assaulted. Yet I can't deny the appeal. My score here then is fence sitting as i was quite torn. 16.8

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2005
Now this is more like it. It smells like melon and honey in the classic fashion of Margaret River Chardonnay, the fine grained French oak and quite powerful rich fruit fitting together like hand & glove. The palate is ripe and bountiful, with quite a deal of oak in with the rich fruit, yet without letting any component get out of hand. Indeed balance is a strong point. It tastes distinctly regional, well made and great. Heat on the tail is the only real drawback. Good stuff. 18.5

Kaesler Old Vine Shiraz 1999
Others found this quite bretty and short, personally I loved it. Earthen & meaty, slighty bretty nose, but the dead perfect intensity was where this shined. Perfectly ripe and powerful with this classic everlong fruit richness. Fantastic Barossa Shiraz. 18.7

Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2004
This suffered due to the wines around it - 12.5% alcohol, leathery, spicy and savoury. I felt it was quite disjointed on the palate too with jarring acidity. Stuck between primary fruit and secondary development, this really needs many years to sort itself out. Even then, this is not a great Graveyard. 16+

Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz 2001
This was my contribution (from Magnum) and it was pleasing that it came up so well. I think it was voted red WOTN mainly on its suitable drinkability, though I preferred the Kaesler. It opened up minty, oaky and a little hard, with some background low level brett, but sinewy in that Clare Valley way. As it opened up the tannins and oak integrated together and everything just felt right, the palate still tight and very dry, with power and force. No Barossan softness here instead its typically Clare, with the sort of powerful, convincing flavours that bring you back time after time. A very blokey red. Good stuff. 17.7

Bests Bin 0 Shiraz 2004
Immediately alluring, oaky and very bright this felt primary, tight and fresh with a long future ahead of it. I only had a passing taste and felt it needed many years yet.

Port Phillip Rimage Syrah 2004
Shiraz that smells like Pinot. Meaty, hammy, peppery and fragrant with spicy, slightly green fruit. The palate is somewhat stewed and trying its best to be Pinot with a real softness and feminity that is alluring but also slightly disappointing all at once. Not bad, but not great either. 16.9

Stefano Lubiana Prestige Cuvee 1995
Steve Lubiana take your hat off. This is the finest Australian Sparkling that I have ever tasted. Never before in Australia have I seen such a complete wine. Fitting the winery intentions this tastes like Tasmanian Sparkling at its finest and not Champagne. Important definition that.

This underwent no malo and spent an astounding 10 years on lees. The colour could be a 1 yr old Sparkling - its green/straw yellow (on a 13 yr old Aussie bubbly) with an ultra fine, ultra persistant bead. The nose is subtle, subdued, with yeasty autolysis sublimely infused into the lemony nose. Lemons are everywhere in this wine, with just the most perfectly defined palate of citrus fruit and lemony, full acidity. The finish is long and perfectly delineated, though there is a lack of subtly on the finish that marks this as Tasmanian, not French. Its a very impressive wine and absolutely Tasmanian, but I think if you served this with a group of top French cuvee's it would rank dead last - it doesn't come from Chalk soils, it comes from gravel. It comes from a distinctly maritime climate as opposed to a Continental one. Terroir at its finest. The only let down? The price. $160 for this is frightening. 19.0

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

2008 Margaret River Wine Show 2008 Results

Whist there is considerable criticism leveraged at wine shows (particularly large, capital city shows) on a smaller, regional scale they are both important and relevant.

For the perfect example of this, we can look no further than the 2008 Margaret River Wine Show results, which where released today (and the full results can be found here). At this regional level, vintage variation, standout producers, and varietal trends are all evident, giving some excellent snapshots into what's hot and what's not in a given wine region.

So, after trawling through the results (Yes, I am obsessed, which normal person spends time wading through wine show results) I can't help but agree with much of the results:

- 2008 is a cracker of a vintage in Margaret River, particularly for aromatic whites. It is simply to early to be judging Margaret River Semillon & Chardonnay from 08 though, they both need much more time.

- 2007 was also a great vintage, particularly for Cabernet Sauvignon/blends & Chardonnay. Shiraz struggled somewhat in 2007.

- 2006 (the very cool vintage) was a hard year for reds, Shiraz faring better than Cabernet/Blends which struggled in the cool vintage. Glorious vintage for Chardonnay and full bodied whites.

- Shiraz needs some time in bottle before it will show well here. Cabernet is still the leading red variety in Margaret River and benefits from judicious blending.

- Straight Merlot continues to fail to live up to expectations.

- Sauv Blanc & blends, Chardonnay & Cabernet/blends continue to reign as the best varieties out of Margaret River

- Sparkling wines & sweet whites in Margaret River? No good.

- Top Margaret River Chardonnays, Semillon Sauvignon Blancs, Shiraz & Cabernet/blends will generally benefit substantially from even 2-3 years in bottle.


Oh and the trophy winners where:

Trophy Classes Sponsor Winner
Best Wine of Show 1 - 23 Portavin Houghton Gladstones Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Most Successful Exhibitor 1 - 27 Macquarie Evans & Tate
Best Cabernet Sauvignon 7, 17 O-I Houghton Gladstones Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Best Chardonnay 1, 12 Loscam Clairault Wines Chardonnay 2007
Best Museum Wine 24 - 27 Seasol International Brookland Valley Chardonnay 2005
Best Cabernet Sauvignon
Predominant Blend
8, 18 Cospak (O-I) Flametree Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2007
Best Sauvignon Blanc 2, 13 Wine Shack Capel Vale Exclusive Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Best Semillon 3, 14 Labelworld
Best blends of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc 4, 15 Vinline Edwards Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Best Shiraz 10, 20 Visy Board Windance Shiraz 2007
Optimus Alias (Best Other) 5, 6, 9, 11, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23 United Equipment Evans & Tate Margaret River Merlot 2007

Interesting to see that Flametree Cabernet Merlot pick up yet another trophy too: must get me one of those to try.