Saturday, 31 January 2009

Drappier Grand Sendree 02, FX Pichler Gruner, Turners Crossing Cabernet 05

Three quite different wines, all very drinkable examples of their kind. These three wines are all easily available (on line at least) and present such heartwarming diversity and interest.
The Turners Crossing in particular was so enjoyable and so keenly priced that I'm now on the hunt to buy more.

Champagne Drappier Grand Sendree 2002
The few 2002 Champagne's I have had so far have all been very dry, even overly dry (like the 02 Roederer for example), with real back palate grip. This is no exception: Its chalky, dry and almost raspy, with some light yeasty overtones giving it some drinkability. A subtle fruit infusion of peach on the mid palate is a subversive delight, but otherwise this a Champagne for the future -A serious, distinctively Champagne like Champagne (that chalk character could come from nowhere else) that will only get better with another 5 years under its belt. 17.5+++

FX Pichler Klostersatz Federspiel Gruner Veltliner 2006
I am becoming a Gruner tragic. This beguiling grape comes almost exclusively from Austria; is hard to track down; can be quite expensive (though most are really quite good value) and the range that reaches our shores is surely only a taste of what is produced. Still, I can feel a love affair coming on - that mix of textural palate, lifted aromatics and the all important Gruner spice is something very attractive indeed.

This apparently is an entry level example ($AUS40) though its unmistakably varietal, interesting and delicious. The nose is quite Pinot Gris like, with pear and a note of honeysuckle in a quite aromatic, yet hardly 'open' style. The real story is the rollercoaster palate, which starts off full and quite generous with a mouthful of musky, lightly honeyed pear juice, like a Gris, until the back end goes all spicy Gewurtz style, finishing with phenolic grip, yet much more like a Kabinett German Riesling in its freshness. In the end its a very interesting wine, though with enough missing in the intensity department to hint at what the greatest wines could be -which are reputably white burgundy like in their complexity and depth. I can't wait to try them out. 17.6

Turners Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
The more I drank of this, the more I liked it. It reminded me most of a Grampians red, with that perfect interplay between savoury, understated, super powered fruit and integrated oak. It is without question a powerful red, but without any of the nagging over ripeness and eucalpyt dominance shown by so many Bendigo reds. The ruling flavour here is dark chocolate. Indeed, all present felt compelled to sit back with some good 70% cocoa dark stuff and drink the night away.
At $25 its scorching value and I think that it will peak in 3-5 years and drink very well for a considerable period after that. Excellent. 18.5

Friday, 30 January 2009

Blain Gagnard 1er Cru Volnay Champans 2006

Blain Gagnard 1er Cru Volnay Champans 2006
Cork, $120

I am an unabashed fan of the Blain Gagnard whites. Powerful, delicious, beautifully defined full bodied white wines. This is my first experience however with their red vins.

A bright strawberry red cordial colour with light edges, the nose is initially quite pretty, with red strawberry & cherry fruits & smoky, stalky licorice overtones. The palate is a little raw and assertive, with acid that pokes out on the back palate, but its not unbalanced. It really needs about 5 years in the bottle to come together as there is little pleasure at present, but I think that nose holds alot of promise. 16.8++

What else are corks made of?

The cork industry is fighting back with bad grammar...

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Karra Yerta Riesling 2005

Karra Yerta Riesling 2005 (Flaxmans Valley, Eden, SA)
Screwcap, $20

As Marie from Karra Yerta suggests, a chilled bottle of Riesling is exactly the sort of drink to help maintain sanity during the heatwave gripping Southern Australia at present.

I actually like the heat myself (swimming is my favourite weekend pursuit) but after spending a 45.5C Boxing Day in Perth a year ago I well know how unenjoyable extreme heat is...

A very light yellow colour, this has a slightly subdued, lightly toast & honey nose that just covers the citrus fruit underneath it, with tendrils of celery and grapefruit juice poking through. It's a embryonically developed nose that still lifts out of the glass with its purity.

After this quite softly spoken start, the palate is quite a step up, like accidentally standing on the tv remote and turning the volume to 11 - it just builds limey intensity in a big whoosh of powerful grapefruit & lime flavour. The finish is tight and quite grippy, with a lingering, slightly woody dryness that suggests a very long future ahead. Man is it dry.

So then, this is a fantastically structured, powerfully dry and limey Eden valley Riesling that has just entered its main developmental stage & is slightly stuck in no mans land. The stats add up for serious ageing potential - PH 2.89 & 8.63 g/ltr Acidity - & for my taste, the best is yet to come (over the next 20 years). 18++

Monday, 26 January 2009

Celebrating Australia Day

To celebrate Australia Day i think that the most pertinent thing to drink would be something notably Aussie in style - so I went for a Barossan Shiraz.

The Teusner Lost Barrels Gomersal Shiraz 2005 was originally intended to go into the noted Teusner Albert Shiraz, but forgotten about in the process of moving sheds. (how Aussie is that) It is available only via the cellar door or the Teusner website.

A mid red colour, the nose is initially dominated by oak - coconut, sawdust & cedary oak, with the fruit just poking through with some rhubarb & beetroot. The savoury palate is long, dry and totally dominated by the oak. Back in the decanter it went.

6 hours later and the nose shows more Gomersal fruit with redcurrant and cherry liqueur appearing on the nose along with some black licorice and rhubarb. The palate has taken on more richness & immediacy with strawberry & cherry liqueur fruit, before the dusty, almost resinous oak takes hold. Its still not particularly appealing and oak dominates.

By day 2 its not showing much to get excited about, the fruit on the nose has oxidised slightly and the palate is richer, fatter, but still dominated by grainy, intrusive oak.

So sadly this is my first Teusner disappointment. Far too much oak for my liking, though time may well help integrate it back in. 15

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Kilikanoon Morts Block Riesling 2008, Turkey Flat Rose 2007

Kilikanoon Morts Block Riesling 2008(Clare Valley, SA)
Screwcap, $22

The Reserve version of this wine is a favourite of my wine. Real Clare Riesling with style and flavour. Somehow however, this standard wine doesn't quite get there for me this vintage.

Distinctively Watervale, yet its quite light considering the propensity to power of many of its kin from this vintage. Light yellow colour with a talc & lime juice nose, the palate is restrained and typically Watervale limey though this feels somewhat lacking in intensity. Its a very nice juice, but perhaps it just needs more time. Otherwise its only middling at present. 17.1

Turkey Flat Rose 2007 (Barossa Valley, SA)
Screwcap, $20
Considering that the 2008 vintage is the current release for this wine, being served up a 2007 vintage of what is a very early drinker filled me with trepidation. No need to worry however, the quality shone through. Still bright red, tending pink, the nose shows some development, with a toasty character that is very unusual for what is ostensibly a red wine - its almost like there is some Semillon that has been snuck into the blend. Thankfully however the bright red fruits that 'make' this wine are still residing below the initial aromatic developed characters, making for a very light, but juicy, Grenache dominated Rose that still drinks well enough, though the development has done it few favours. 16.4

Friday, 23 January 2009

The Great Southern Diaries: Wignalls

The road from the Porongorups to Albany is rather uneventful, but characteristically South Western Australian. Dry red dirt, ridiculous Blue Gum plantations interspersed with the odd patch of proper dry bush. But as you get closer to Albany, everything seems to get cooler and lusher. The soil gets lighter and the side of the road gets greener, like an injection of life slowly seeping into the arid landscape.

As you approach Albany proper, lies the quite famous Wignalls winery. With a reputation as one of this area's most serious Pinot producers, it really deserved a stop.

View Larger Map

Established in 1982, the story of Wignalls is based around Pinot, with the wines of the early 90's in particular receiving considerable acclaim. More recently however it seems to have faded from the spotlight, suffering from serious vintage inconsistencies - I can't remember the last time I tried a Wignalls Pinot I enjoyed, the last one being a late 90's version with some age on it that was interesting, if not particularly drinkable.

Sadly, I can't say anything worked for me this time either.

Wignalls Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Distinctive nose - overt underripe Asparagus nose in the green end of the spectrum. I hate Asparagus. The palate is cleverly delineated and defined though - I like the gooseberry & green bean/grapefruit fruit flavours and structure here, which are ripe and feel like some RS has served it well to back up the bright acidity. It's a smartly made wine, but its simply not to my style. (A recent gold medal winner at the Royal Perth Wine Show) 16.5

Wignalls Pinot Noir 2007
Opens up quite brightly with some big ripe fruits, but it quickly turns meaty, stalky, stinky & bretty, the palate is stewed and ripe and it finishes faintly metallic and tangy. Like many of the recent Wignalls Pinot this just ends up coming across as stewed, bretty and both ripe and underripe. The charm is hard to find. Almost there, but ultimately no deal. 15

Wignalls Shiraz 2005
Things were going downhill fast. Sulphurous stink to the nose, short palate may just be reduced but I can only hope this was a bad bottle. Unrated.

So we marked this down as an interesting experience that reconfirmed that Wignalls has some work to do...

BEER: Wicked Elf Pilsener

Little Brewing Company Wicked Elf Pilsener (Port Macquarie, NSW)

Another great small brewery beer from Dan Murphy's. I'm definitely a fan of this one.
Hoppy, but not Saaz hoppy nose - no chance of confusing this with a Pilsener Urquell then - blind you would almost pick this as a Pale Ale. The palate is very dry with nicely balanced hoppy bitterness and some surprise creaminess. Again, more Pale Ale than Pilsener (which I prefer anyway). Highly recommended, Silver medal quality stuff at the least.

Cape Mentelle Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
Screwcap, $25

There is something comforting about the Cape Mentelle label. It might be because of the consistency of the wines, the classic, largely unchanged (over the years) label or just sheer familiarity. Whatever it is, the wines are always consistently top shelf, if prone to some vintage vagaries, and this wine is the most consistent of the lot.

This comes from a warmer year in Margaret River, though you'd never know judging by this. Its bright green watery yellow in colour, opening with a nose of citrus, a little grassy herbaceousness and some riper, mellow characters that I think comes from some barrel work. The nose is actually quite subdued - its going to need some patience to show the real herbaceous delineation that I find a memorable characteristic in this wine (and I really like). That nose is incessantly pure and bounding with freshness. The palate follows with tight citrussy fruit & very dry, fierce acidity. It makes the palate very fresh, but its not for someone looking for subtlety. I can still taste it, burning on the way down.

So this is a very dry, intense, tight and powerful white that is dominated by grapefruity acidity, with hidden delights still to come. I'd suggest abandoning the normal rules with this wine and stick it away for a good 6 months. I can see this good wine being damn good with time. 17.5++

Thursday, 22 January 2009

NEWS: Drinking wine can turn you into a werewolf

I coudn't resist this headline - It comes courtesy of the UK's Daily Mail so its pretty much shiite journalism wise, but beyond the sensationalism this is a unique story.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Great Southern Diaries: Castle Rock

In this part 2 (and day two of our Great Southern Adventure) we ventured out to the Porongurup ranges - said to be one of the first mountain ranges that you hit after Antarctica and one of only a handful of mountain ranges in W.A.

Characterised by stunning natural beauty, with views of the Stirling ranges to the North and Albany to the South, the Porongurups are a beautiful place to visit, even without the call of the wineries. The photo below shows the sort of aspect that the vines enjoy - perched on the side of an ancient weathered Granite hill with an ideal Northward orientation (that's the Sterling ranges in the distance), fertile soils and a little bit of altitude.

Arguably the focal point of the Porongorups is the Granite outcrop known as Castle Rock (part of which is pictured below) which also lends its name to the venerable (particularly so for the area) winery perched very close to the bottom of the outcrop access trail (below right in the picture above).

The Castle Rock winery was first established in 1981 by Angelo & Wendy Diletti, with the first commercial release in 1986. The wines have been made on site by their highly regarded winemaking son Robert since 2000, before that they were produced at the (also top notch) Alkoomi Frankland River winery. We were served by Angelo himself who keeps close tabs on the vineyard even though he is 'retired' (I asked him whether the late harvest style had any Bortrytis and he responded 'No, I wouldn't let any of that stuff into the vineyard).

The backbone of the Castle Rock range is the delightfully minerally (reflecting the weathered granitic soils) Riesling, but as you can see by my notes below, the range is consistently high quality. in a refined and delicate. cool climate framework. After trying the Plantagenet's on the previous day and being somewhat underwhelmed, these wines seemed like a return to freshness and vitality.

Castle Rock Riesling 2008
Great way to start. Lifted grapefruit & lemon on the nose with some floral Gardenia perfumes. The palate is pretty, light & stony with soft, natural acidity & a real delicacy. Clean, pure and delicious. Drinkable immediately or hold & expect it to turn it like below. Stunning value @$18. 18.5 (we bought some).

Castle Rock Riesling 2004
Such a clear lineage here with the 2008, this with a more honeyed citrus and lemon toast developed overtone. The palate is again softly citrussy and pure. A snapshot of where the 08 will go and a lovely, lightly developed Riesling. 18.5

Castle Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Almost colourless. Snappy green bean aromatics in a slightly subdued, citrussy mould. The palate is light & fresh with more citrus and green bean. Really refreshing, clean and delicate. I liked this. 18.0

Castle Rock Chardonnay 2008
I'm not sure of the direction here. Apparently a Chablis style, though its more like a delicate Unwooded Chardonnay. Very light, subdued nose with grapefruit and peach. Imperceptible oak. Its very youthful, but its just too delicate to be convincing. I can't help but think this vineyard might be best suited to the aromatic varieties. 16+

Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2005
I remain unconvinced about this regions Pinot suitability. It just gets too warm. Saying that, this is a reasonable example. Quite a tawny colour. The nose is Pinoty with cherry & stewed rhubarb fruit, backed by a hint of spice. The palate is slightly subdued and light but still fresh and drinkable. 17

Castle Rock Shiraz 2005
Big and distinctly regional with the mouthfilling chocolate & eucalypt style that is characteristic of both the region and the vintage. The nose has a good dose of peppery meaty aromatics which flow onto the generous palate. Good, but not brilliant. 17.1

Castle Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Herby, capsicum nose with cassis & black fruit underneath. Its very dry and tannic through the palate with a drying back end. Needs time, but I quite like the structure here. 17+

Castle Rock Late Harvest Riesling 2008
Its an off dry version of the Estate Riesling & I think if you like the Estate Riesling you will probably like this. Perfumed floral with a citrussy pungency and a delicate soft palate. Very pure and pristine, if quite light. Tasty. 18

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

BEER: Mildura Brewery 'Storm' Cloudy Ale

Mildura Brewery 'Storm' Cloudy Ale (Mildura, Vic)
Approx $3.50 each at Dan's

Another small brewery pumping out tasty beers. Bring them on.

Apparently based on an American Pale Ale style, this rather tasty orange/light brown coloured beer has a quite hoppy aroma, reminiscent more of the Little Creatures style, but not quite as overt. The palate has a citrus character & a richness that I'd more commonly associate with wheat beers. Refreshing simple beer that went perfectly well well chilled with some honey soy marinated pork ribs & roasted sweet potatoes with garlic.

Chateau Doisy Daene 2005

Chateau Doisy Daene 2005 (Barsac, France)
Cork, $50 375ml

I don't drink much Dessert wine. That's not to say I don't enjoy it, but as everyone knows, the situation whence to drink stickies doesn't arrive very often. I find most Australian Botrytis Semillon styles somewhat over intense and just too heavy to be drinkable - not enough acidity, too much sugar. Dessert Riesling however is unsurprisingly much more to my tastes, as is this light, bright style of sticky.

Light yellow in colour (particularly light for a Sauternes) this smells fresh and bright with minimal Bortrytis on the nose. Pineapple, yellow apples and a hint of caramel that flow from nose to palate with some linearity. There is a hint of the slightly feral influence of Bortrytis on the palate, finishing with acid that is long, bright and lingering. Its a quite refreshing style that needs about 10 years but is already quite approachable and not too sweet. On day two it had barely moved an inch, with the creme caramel palate elements becoming slightly more prominent.

This is a rather delicious Sauternes then with everything ahead of it. Its not bad value either, all things being equal. 18++

Taylors Estate Pinot Gris 2008

Taylors Estate Pinot Gris 2008
Screwcap, $18 (less on special)

I've got alot of time for the Taylors operation. Clare Valley family winemakers that consistently produce very good value wines, particularly from Shiraz, Cabernet & Riesling. The 2005 St Andrews Riesling in particular was a recent highlight that barely moved after a week of being opened in the fridge - Respect. The Jaraman wines haven't always pushed my buttons, but as blends with Mclaren Vale & Coonawarra fruit in there they just don't count - Clare is where the Taylors heart is.

Anyway this is the first time Taylors has done a Pinot Gris and its a blend of Adelaide Hills & Clare Valley fruit - not a bad mix for intense aromatic whites when you think about it. The colour has the faintest tinge of blush to it, almost like there was a smidgen of red left in the glass. On the nose its quite big and musky with some yellow pear, spice & cloves with a fair whack of intensity for a first release.

The palate is similarly quite intense with a big broad band of musky green pear fruit, edged with lemon. Its quite ripe, but nicely restrained & the bit of residual sugar that finishes off the palate only makes it more attractive. Acid starts early and its just a little raw, but its again admirable for a Pinot Gris.

All in all its no delicate Pinot Gris butterfly, nor some Alsace mouthfiller, but gosh its varietal and very nicely built for the dollars. I could imagine drinking plenty of this with some soft shelled crab (though that would be if the place had run out of Riesling).

Taylors I dip my hat to you once again. 17

Monday, 19 January 2009

Flametree Cabernet Merlot 2007

Flametree Cabernet Merlot 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Screwcap, $27

You can't see it in this picture, but the bottle is weighed down with gold stickers - 3 trophies & 2 gold medals on the bottle alone. Perhaps most surprising is the missing sticker - that of the 2008 Jimmy Watson trophy. With that weight of gold hanging around its neck, its quite surprising that this stuff is still available - though I have noticed the price creeping over $30 on some sites, in a blatant attempt to cash in on its show successes.

Purple edged with a medium colour intensity it looks youthful and bright in the glass. The nose is a lovely, varietally correct, modern concoction of Blackcurrant, a little formic acid and cedar, all caressed by 'McDonalds Chocolate Thickshake' toasted vanilla French Oak. It smells polished, sweet & very very new world and I think its the nose that won this wine its bling.

On the palate however its a bit of a disappointment, the sweet sweet fruit is swamped by oak, the tail end a sour acid & oak tannin drenched beast. The sappy astringency of oak marring the finish, branding this wine as oak driven, with that oak lingering as a bad taste long after the wine has gone.

In the washup, I only wish that the decadence of the nose could match the palate. Time will do this wine even more favours, but in the meantime it will remain nothing more than a show wine.
I think that I have scored this right, though its pretty easy to fall into the Tall Poppy trap. The finish killed the gold medal chances that the nose setup however. 16.5+

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Grosset 'Springvale' Watervale Riesling 2008

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2008 (Watervale, SA)
Screwcap, $35

As is so often the case in its youth, I much prefer Mr Grosset's Watervale Riesling over the much more lauded Polish Hill example. What this bottle served to highlight however, was that this vintage of Grosset Riesling requires ageing. As a young wine this is, dare I say it, a little over the top. Which also got me thinking about the Polish Hill of a few weeks ago, which I found unconvincing - perhaps it just needs more patience?

A green yellow colour, the nose is very typical Watervale - lime juice in large concentrations. It fairly jumps out of the glass in its unmistakable intensity, which sets the tone for the whole wine: Intensity. The palate starts with more of this lime juice, citrussy fruit character that dominates the whole front end. By taste alone I think the grapes for this where picked at near optimum ripeness (and riper than many in the Valley too) for the absolute 'fullness' of limey Riesling fruit flavour. Aside from some of the seriously intense (and surprisingly alcoholic - 13.5% is not uncommon) German Kabinett styles, not much can touch the ripe intensity of a wine like this.

After the initial fruit onslaught comes the citrussy, bristling acidity. Its quite brutal, but a key part of the wine, rubber stamping this as 'ageing material'. The acidity became even more dominant and awkward as the wine warmed up, just to hammer the message home.

In all honesty, this is a mildly hard drink at present - its just a little fierce. However, the future will be very kind to this wine.18.3++

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Great Southern Diaries: Plantagenet

In this series I will be exploring the cellar doors and wines of the Great Southern from my recent trip to the very beautiful, absolute bottom left of the Australian mainland. For a change, we did this tour without arranging any appointments, which can be a good and a bad thing. Good in that you get a much more consumer centric opinion and can quietly critique the whole cellar door experience. Bad in that you can miss out on the best wines, though this occurred surprisingly little on this journey (lucky we didn't go to the Yarra though).

Being the Christmas/New year period many cellar doors were heaving with visitors, coupled with some very hot Summer weather - which can test staff and deliver quite different tasting results...

First stop on the magical Great Southern adventure was Plantagenet. Unmissable in many respects as the Albany highway passes right through the middle of Mt Barker and Plantagenet is right smack bang on the highway at the start of the town.

View Larger Map

In terms of a cellar door, its basically just a shed - a very industrial looking winery complex with a couple of vines trailed along one wall, as if to nod at the fact that it's a winemaking facility. (The picture below is of me standing in front of said row. Note the sunshine: 32C+ at that point and its almost 5PM).

Mount Barker itself really is a very quite rural town. A couple of pubs and a fantastic, brand spanking new wood fired Pizza place (highly, highly recommended). Other than that it is quite unremarkable - unless you have a better understanding of the local Geography (and particular the local 'Marri soils'), you would never even look twice at Mt Barker as a premium winegrowing region.

Plantagenet is unique in that it sources much of its fruit from contracted growers - which is fine for cheap & cheerful but quite surprising for serious premium wine - which could explain some of the quality variability over the years...

Onto the wines:

Plantagenet Riesling 2008
I was a big fan of the 2007 and whilst this is a good wine, it just didn't do it for me. Big, powerful and driven by typical (for the label) acidity, the fruit itself feels a little broad - almost like some overripe fruit went into the blend. Would like to retry this one. 17

Hazard Hill Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Simple, slightly sweet but pleasant style tropical style, with just enough acidity to carry it off. Really well made quaffer at an excellent price ($13 at cellar door, though I've seen this below $10 retail). 16.5

Omrah Shiraz 2006
A victim of the vintage no doubt. Leafy, just ripe and stretched it felt overextracted and stewed. No deal. 14.9

Plantagenet Shiraz 2005
Again this didn't do it for me. A previous bottle seemed much more impressive than this example, which on this showing seemed big, meaty & beefy, with peppery, full bodied stewed red fruit. A little flabby to my tastes.17-

Plantagenet Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
As is often the case with Plantagenet, its often the case that the Cabernet is the better red (though not every year - the 04 Cab is much lesser than the 04 Shiraz). This is distinctly leafy cool climate Cabernet showing all the trademark cool climate Cab characters - Cassis, a bit of Eucalypt, dark chocolate & some leafy herbal stuff. The palate is long, tight and holds plenty in reserve. Happy cellaring life ahead. 17.5+

After this somewhat disappointing (relative to expectations) experience, we left Plantagenet and ventured across the road to the very welcoming pool..

Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape 2005

Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 (Southern Rhone, France)
Cork, $130

The more Southern Rhone reds I try, the more I realise just how good Australian GSM's are. We have the same high quality resources - 100 yr old bush vines, low cropped and lovingly nurtured in all the right spaces and with committed winemakers to boot. However, its not hard to love big and lovingly obvious wines like this.

Mid red with comparatively light ruby edges. The nose is roasted and Grenache influenced, infused with aniseed, roast beef & just a hint of volatility. Its smells of black jubes, ripe Grenache and peppery, but without any obvious alcohol heat. It's quite pretty even. Quite pure for a CdP as well.

On the palate the aniseed/black licorice character is even more prominent with stewed fruit, malt & Cranberry. The palate is generous and mouthfilling, with quite a slap of pure alcohol on the finish, but nothing unusual for a committed Rhone fan (it might scare off newbies though. It sort of sits mid tier on the scale of palate weight, neither explosively chunky like some Barossan reds, nor overtly light & candied like some Grenache dominated blends. The clincher though is the chewy, gritted teeth, sticks to the upper gums tannins that are ever so bitter, but should resolve with about 5 years in bottle.

Overall its quite a lovely and mid weight CdP with a big, licoricey & quite pure palate, backed by real fruit tannins. Its a nice red, but the value is a little questionable when you place it next to some Aussie examples. You could argue they don't have the pedigree of this famous wine, don't have the track record for ageability, lack those lovely chewy old world tannins etc. However if you put this blind next to a Torbreck Steading, a Charles Melton Nine Popes, Steve Pannell's Shiraz Grenache or Drew Noon's Eclipse and the argument heats up.

Still, there is no doubting the quality and sheer, lovingly formed hedonistic joy here. Plus there is always that great bottle....18.6+

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Tyrrells Moon Mountain Chardonnay 2007

Tyrrells Moon Mountain Chardonnay 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Screwcap, $20

The Tyrrells style of Chardonnay is quite unlike many others, with only very short spells in oak (this only spent 6 months in barrel) and limited malo. The result is a drier, leaner, citrussy style than many others and it usually works quite well.

Very light straw yellow colour, the nose shows vanillan oak & lemon citrus fruit characters with a slight oak dominance. A little volatility for good measure. The palate starts off quite oak dominated before moving into lemon citrus fruit territory, finishing slightly raw on the finish. Lacks the purity of the Belford tasted several months ago and the oak seems to sit on top of the fruit, but its a good lean style that will develop very well indeed.

As a last thought i noticed the alcohol - 13.9%. I think this would have been more impressive if it was picked earlier, with more purity and more acidity. 16.0

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Pol Roger 1999

Pol Roger Champagne 1999 (Champagne, France)
Cork, $110

The 98 version of this defied the vintage trend & produced something special. It was quite a rich, forward style, but the quality was top notch. I loved that wine - it seemed to joyously pop up now and again at functions, in out of the way bottleshops and at random dinners. It followed me like a vinous good luck charm, each time reminding me how bloody good it was.

Happily, I think this is even better. Its much leaner, undeveloped & crystalline in a delicate and grapefruity style. On the nose it presents as quite Chardonnay driven with spicy & somewhat aldehydic characters & developed yeasty overtones. Its not until the palate that the firmness of Pinot Noir is felt, but in a quite restrained fashion - it still feels quite primary, even though its at the 10 yr mark. The acid is soft which suggests that this won't be the longest lived wine, but it still tastes admirably youthful.

Ultimately its quite a complete package. It's no blockbuster grand cuvee, but its still a genuinely fine, impeccably well made vintage Champagne. 18.6

Friday, 9 January 2009

Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay 2004, S.C. Pannell Shiraz 2004

Another day, another (very tenuous) theme.

S.C. Pannell Shiraz 2004
Sourced from old Mclaren Vale Shiraz vines, this is South Australian Shiraz in a quite modern mould, yet with more structure and less immediacy than some of its compatriots. I'm a big fan of all of Steve's wines, they are so intelligently made and interesting.

Dark red and quite dense in colour this shows a rich, chocolatey red fruit nose, with some undertones of vanillan oak & some spicy leathery highlights. The palate was initially quite tannic & dry, before opening up to show typically plush Mclaren Vale characters. Steve himself describes this wine as having a 'ferruginous' note thanks to the high iron content in the soil and I like that as a descriptor - dusty, loamy, chocolatey and distinctive. It still in somewhat of a transitional stage though and wasn't completely convincing - it needs a few more years for that. Good stuff however. 17.7+

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2004
I quite like this vintage of the old Art Series Chard - it has already come together quite nicely, unlike the fairly massive vintages on either side.

Bright golden yellow in colour, this is unmistakeably LEAS Chardy from the first whiff. Its a rich, fresh toast & custard (oak, fruit and yeast interaction) meets grapefruit (fruit character) meets vanilla oak character that I reckon all comes from the famous Leeuwin 'Block 20'.
I went to a multi year vertical with Bob Cartwright a couple of years back where he showed us some of the components of the LEAS Chardonnay. It became obvious that this block is the heart soul of the wine - its like a little Montrachet in Margaret River, with such distinctive characters that just make this wine the high flyer that it is.

Anyway, I digress. The palate itself is arguably heavy handed on the oak, but there is no arguing with the full bore, rich Chardonnay fruit. The palate profile is initially oaky, rich & full, before the palate becomes leaner, grapefruity and acid driven, with the whole package feeling perfectly ripe and polished. Its a lovely drink now, but with time it will become even more complete and that oak should further integrate. 18.5+

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Lenton Brae SSB, Grosset SSB, Pierro LTC - all 2008

Consumed over a 24 hour period, these three SSB's represent three quite different wines, yet theoretical competitors (the Lenton Brae at a significantly lower price point).

Lenton Brae Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
I'm not sure what is happening with Lenton Brae's distribution, for you see comparatively little in the Eastern states. Quite disappointing given the quality of the wines.

Lifted green bean, herbs & peas on the nose in the very herbaceous, green with a touch of citrus style that I quite like. The palate follows the nose closely - green, herbal & dry with the strong green Sauvignon again dominating proceedings, Semillon only adding lemon/lime palate weight.
Its very fresh, crisp and well defined, but some may find it too green. A good drink. 17

Grosset Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
I first tasted this in September and thought it needed time. That time is now. The story here is harmony and balance. Excellent stuff.

Green green in colour, the nose is lemon, herbaceous Savvy & just a splash of dill. Archetype Sem/Sauv then without the greenness of the Lenton Brae. On the palate it is a cohesion of flavours - Lime juice, grapefruit & lingering, work all day acidity. It Particularly good on a hot Perth night with some local Snapper. Excellent. 18.8

Pierro LTC Semillon Sauvignon Chardonnay 2008
Again, this is a retaste as the last bottle was a tasting as opposed to a 'drinking'. Too much 'tasting' and not enough 'drinking' is no fun at all.

Surprisingly I was less enamoured with this as last time. To me it seemed, neutral & quite dull, which is a fair change from my last tasting note (below). I'd be interested to hear other recent experiences.. Is it a dumb phase or was this a bad bottle? It definitely needs more time regardless...

'This has a tropical nose, but restrained and very fresh, the lemon fruit clearly interwoven with some grassy aromatics. Its a tight estery palate, but there is very very clever winemaking at hand, resulting in a very balanced and interesting Margaret River Dry White. 18.3+'

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Lanson 96, No.1 Cuvee, Arrivo Rose 2008

Following on, these wines were our Christmas tipples of choice. It was warm and dry in Perth and the choice was for a cold meat luncheon - resulting in bubbles and Rose taking centre stage. On the food side, particular mention has to go to the ingenious 'stuffing muffins' which are baked savoury muffins with Chorizo. Glorious stuff that worked especially well with the unusual Rose.

Champagne Lanson Gold Label 1996
Apparently Woolworths brings this in to the country now (it was previously Fosters) and recent bottles have been a disappointment for others. This bottle was a well cared for Fosters import.

Golden yellow in colour, this had a toast, toffee & honey nose that was aged Champagne at its best. Developing apricot fruit & integrated autolysis makes its presence felt on the long, satisfyingly grapefruity dry palate with typically poignant 96 vintage acidity. It starts round & very full in the mouth, but as it moves along it gets dry & crisper. Lovely stuff. 18.7

No.1 Marlborough Cuvee NV
This lost surprisingly little to the vintage Champagne above on the quality stakes, though it is obviously more one dimensional & youthfully fresh compared to the Lanson.

Very pale straw colour, the nose is green, Granny Smith appley with a little creamy Chardonnay influence. The palate is dry & slightly tart with more green apple & citrussy acidity. Its a little short when placed next to the Lanson, but its also fresh, well made and clearly delineated. Great value and a very good drink. 17.9

Arrivo Adelaide Hills Rosato di Nebbiolo 2008
This highly unusual Rose comes off Peter Godden's Arrivo property in the Adelaide Hills and is just the ticket for anyone looking for a savoury summer Rose to drink with food. Just don't drink it on its own.

Pink, blush red in colour with just a tinge of Nebbiolo orange, this opens with a flourish of strawberries, Turkish delight (the real stuff). The palate starts with sweet lolly red strawberry fruit but after that its all a little bit hard. Full powered acidity & drying, Neb tannins make for a rather dry & severe finish. On its own its actually quite a challenging drink, but with the aforementioned 'stuffing muffins' it was good stuff. I'd be very interested to see what happens with this in another 6 months time - the rating may well increase substantially. 17.5 but minus 1 if you drink it without food.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Currency Creek Rose, Jack Mann 01, Moss Wood Cab 05

These were all consumed on Christmas Eve - marking a departure from the multiple beers that mark some previous Christmas Eve's....

Currency Creek Rose 2008
The details are a bit hazy and i can't find much detail on the web, but it served its purpose on the night. Light, bright pink colour, the nose shows sweet candied red strawberries & raspberry lollypops.

The palate is sweet, with a fair dose of fair dose of residual sugar a key feature. Beyond the sugar however its brightly fruited, simply juicy and ends up quite drinkable. A big hit with all, even if its a very un-serious wine. $12 well spent. 16.0

Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet 2001
This vintage is all Great Southern fruit and for a change, almost all Cabernet Sauvignon (96%). It spent 2 yrs in oak & came from one of the hottest Frankland River summers on record. Important point that last one.

Mid red colour, the nose is slightly volatile, eucalyptusy & leafy with a nose that is very ripe in a dry-port-with-a-couple-of-years-on-it style. It smells mature, but still youthful. The palate is very dry and port like with a slightly overripe edge. Intensely tannis with some late, almost grape concentrate like sweetness, finishing long, alcoholic and somewhat hard.

It smells and tastes like a 20 year plus wine, with almost unbearable intensity. To my palate however its just overripe and rather dry port like, though the stucture and power is admirable. I really wanted to like this, but it ended up being quite hard work (at present at least). 16.5+

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
'Oh, it's twue, it's twue, it's twue, it's twue!'

This is the 2nd time I have been tasted this and i'm happy to yet again confirm that it lives up to the hype. But please don't drink it now - its just so primary, fruit sweet and youthful that its a waste to drink it at present. It will live for another 20 years, especially resplendent in a screwcap. Its classic warm year Moss Wood - decadently rich, curranty & plush and more-ish with excellent line and length. A keeper. 19

Monday, 5 January 2009

Grosset Polish Hill 2008 & Seppelt Mt Ida Shiraz 2006

These were both consumed with some good, but not great Mexican from Sydney's Vera Cruz - regularly christened as Sydney's Best Mexican, yet it seemed to have slipped somewhat lately. Change of ownership?

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2008
Whilst many 2008 Eden Rieslings seem to have hit the high notes in 2008, several of the Clare examples are just that little bit to ripe to be classic - like the 08 Petaluma for example, and for my mind, this Polish Hill.

Its quite yellow considering its relative age, with a nose that is utterly bound up in itself, revealing intense citrus fruit & floral fragrance but little else. The palate is similarly intense & powerful with a blocky, super charged palate of limey fruit & firm acidity. Its impressively big, ripe and tightly structured with a core of real power, but it also lacks a litte delicacy.

Time may well settle this out, but it will still be a very good wine and not the classic it is made out be. 18

Seppelt Mt Ida Heathcote Shiraz 2006
Deep dark red colour, with an almost tawny edge. The nose is darkly meaty & very ripe, stweed ripe even, with a distinctive Heathcotish Eucalypt & flashes of mint & menthol. The palate is similarly ripe and firm, with a hard & tannic edge that is heavily extracted and stewed. Hard work at present, this feels like it may never resolve. 16

BTW: Whilst I sound like a truly grumpy bastard, I had a great night and the Grosset was a near ideal match for the rich, spicy Mexican.

Back on Board

Happy New Year!

After a fortnight with almost non existent internet access, I'm back on deck. I spent a week of consumption over Christmas, followed by 5 days exploring WA's Great Southern - a beautiful and very isolated part of Australia with vineyards spread over a truly huge area, indeed the Great Southern is Australia's largest wine region.

So will be publishing all the notes on some fantastic wines consumed over Christmas and also a few winery insights on the side.

Hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas and New Year