Saturday, 31 October 2009

Blowing my own trumpet

Because someone has too...

Wine Communicators of Australia announces the recipients of the 2009/10 Young Guns and Gurus Program

Five outstanding young wine communicators have been selected in the Wine Communicators of Australia (WCA) Young Guns and Gurus Program.

The program pairs young wine professionals with respected wine industry leaders in the fields of journalism, public relations and sales/marketing and give them the chance to refine their skills and explore further opportunities by tapping into the experiences and insights from the best in their field.

WCA Young Guns and Gurus Program Director, Trish Barry noted: “We were thrilled with the overwhelming response to this year’s program, with a number of high calibre applications received from across the country. It was inspiring to read the goals and ambitions of the next generation, many who have entered the industry with an obvious passion for wine. The industry can be assured there’s a depth of talent and a number of people who will make a strong contribution to improving wine communication in coming years. ”

This year’s recipients come from a cross section of backgrounds, some wanting to change career direction and hone a specific skill set, others wanting to learn from those more experienced in their field. All of them demonstrate clear leadership skills, are articulate and embrace a vision for their future career ambitions.

The successful 2009/10 WCA Young Guns and Gurus recipients are:

Journalism – Amy Looker (Editor, National Liquor News ) and Andrew Graham
Public Relations – Jeanine Bribosia (Account Manager, Liquid Ideas)
Sales/ Marketing – Jonathan Mogg (General Manager - Sales and Marketing, Best’s Wines Pty Ltd) and Toby Yap (Regional Sales Manager - Domestic & International, Langmeil Winery).

Ms Barry noted; “Each of the successful recipients will gain invaluable insights from their Guru and will be exposed to a range of opportunities during the six month program. The WCA is committed to providing this opportunity to network with like-minded future leaders, share a wealth of knowledge and help provide the recipients with greater career clarity, direction and satisfaction.”

The program was launched on Wednesday 27 October at an exclusive dinner in the spectacular Astral Private Dining Room, generously sponsored by Star City. The Young Guns and Gurus met each other and mingled with wine industry legends.

The 2009/10 Gurus are all WCA Members and have generously donated their time in support of this project. They are:
Journalism – Judy Sarris (My guru), Peter Bourne
Public Relations – Angie Bradbury
Sales and Marketing – Phil Sexton, Robert Edwards

In its third year, the Program is wholly funded by Wine Communicators of Australia to meet its mission to support wine excellence, professionalism and innovation through the sharing of information and the exchange of ideas.


Friday, 23 October 2009

The Kings Vault

I'm not in the habit of regurgitating press releases, as most of them are incredibly boring, and by publicising anything I'm just handing out free PR (which makes me feel a little dirty).

But, the concept here is very clever and the wineries involved I rather like (trip to the King Valley sounds good too) so I'm happy to talk this up. Will hopefully get along on one of the nights...

Read on:

Where is King's Vault?

This November Tourism Victoria will showcase the finest King Valley wines at an innovative pop-up bar to be opened in Sydney. King's Vault will provide a temporary window into the stellar wine region, inviting guests to taste the King Valley's innovation.

Over seven nights wine-lovers can experience a series of intimate tastings and private events, held at a secret inner city location. General attendance will be possible through online access to the door list and location via the website from Tuesday 17 November.

All guests will have the opportunity to sample hot new Italian varietals while eating food inspired by the King Valley's best chefs and produce.

Inside the vault, new world Italian varietals will be presented at winemaker-led events planned to kick off proceedings on Tuesday 17,Wednesday 18 and 24 of November.

Themed events will seek to re-create theintimate experience of King Valley's cellar doors, while spotlighting across section of locally grown Prosecco, Sangiovese, Arneis, Nebbiolo,Pinot Grigio and other distinctive Italian styles.

King Valley winemakers including Fred and Joel Pizzini (Pizzini Wines),Arnie Pizzini (Chrismont), Sam Miranda (Sam Miranda King Valley) and Otto and Michael Dal Zotto (Dal Zotto Estate) will share their passion for the region and bring to life stories from their vineyards.

King's Vault will be officially launched with a Prosecco Party from 6.30pmon Tuesday 17 November.

Campbell Mattinson, SUNDAY magazine wine columnist and publisher of theWine Front, is the voice of King's Vault twitter and website.

Kings Vault can be found at, or on twitter @kingsvault.


Win a trip to the King Valley

The King Valley Food & Wine Escape which includes:
Two return flights to Albury from any major capital city in Australia (except Perth)
Three night’s twin share accommodation at the Lindenwarrah Boutique Country Hotel
Lunch for two people at the Sam Miranda, King Valley
Dinner for two people at Rinaldo’s Casa Cucina, Wangaratta and
Six bottles of Italian wine from the King Valley

Second prize includes the following:
Exclusive access to a BMW car for one weekend in Sydney
Six bottles of Italian wine from the King Valley


Thursday, 22 October 2009

20 new release wines from NZ

Presenteed by the industry body, NZ Winegrowers, this tasting was mid September & was specifically designed to showcase new release wines from our Kiwi neighbours. The only challenge was that, perhaps befitting a new release tasting, many wines were literally just bottled (or at least tasted like it), so plus signs are particularly important.

Still, lots to like here and consistent results, particularly the whites. Particular mention to the 07 Seresin wines which were extraordinarily good.

Pegasus Bay Riesling 2008
Rich, spicy, gewurtzy, expensive aftershave nose. Rich, yet still dry palate shows full ripe fruits with a well judged edge of candied fruit. Heedy & musky palate of weight and serious richness. Nice length, with some botrytis influence on the back palate. Delicious full Riesling. Yum. 18.3

The Ned Pinot Gris 2008
Spicy & quite ripe nose, palate is rich and full but falls away considerably through the back. Great, authentic rich Pinot Gris flavours, it just needs more intensity for decent marks. 16.8

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Sweaty nose, just bottled palate feels tight but shocked to death. Retaste required. 16.5 (for now)

Lawsons Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Consistently one of Marlborough's finest Savvies and still outrageously good value. Big, full, classically expressive nose, backed by vibrant, zingy palate of freshness and proper acidity. Excellent stuff. Well done. 18.4

Astrolabe Discovery Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Big & quite herbal nose, palate is just a bit, big and bulky with a peppery finish. Could be a bit bottle shocked, but didn't quite blow me away like the 08 did. 17.0

Seresin Reserve Chardonnay 2007
Complex, full & nutty nose. Worked & rich, its a very attractive, big & creamy style with a layered, fresh cream drenched palate. Lightly spicy, long and pure, it's a simply delicious new world Chardonnay. Loved it. One of the best NZ Chardonnays I have had this year. 18.6

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2008
Softly spicy nose with just a smidgin of herbs & some nutty oak. Tight, textural palate again has great length, even if it's very closed. Good now & will get even better with 6-12 months in the bottle. 17.6+

Seresin Leah Pinot Noir 2008
Spicy but very ripe nose. Strawberry jam fruit is pretty & juicy but hot finish derails things a little. Good drink regardless. 17.2

Wither Hills Pinot Noir 2008
Dumb nose showing alot of oak. Oaky & ungenerous palate lacks real generosity & vinosity. Oak tannin to finish. Could well get better in the bottle, but no love at the moment. 15.5++

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2008
Again a very pretty nose, this is super tight, but still showing beautifully pure strawberry fruit & nice tannins. Alcohol heat the only distraction. 17.5+

Seresin Rachel Pinot Noir 2007
Perfect. Classic Marlborough Pinot from the first sniff. Lovely pure fruit, with leaves & mulch mixed in for good measure. Excellent pinosity. Beautiful red fruited wine with sappy soft tannins. Great. 18.8

Mountford Estate Pinot Noir 2007
Rich & chocolatey nose with just a hint of bacon. Palate feels a bit drawn & bacony, though still drinkable. Not quite. 16.2

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2007
Very solid & tight, brawny style with lots of extract & power. Big wine, big tannins, built for the long haul. Cellar!. 17.8++

Quartz Reef Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir 2007
Very tight nose, dry, restrained and giving away little. Palate though is multi layered with richness and interest, not to mention proper length. Structured and very fine. 18.1+

Stonecroft Serine Syrah 2007
Very pretty, almost pinotish fragrance to the nose, with none of the ham sometimes shown in this wine. Restrained, peppery palate with redcurrant fruit, noticeable acidity & real tannins. I like the structure and with time this will score even higher. Nice cool clime Syrah. 17.7+

Stonecroft Zinfandel 2007
Wow! Bitumen & tar with ripe, liquered black/red fruit & vanillan oak on the nose, the appeal here is in the rich rush of brambled red fruit. Really quite modest and drinkable for a Zin & very drinkable. 18

Crossroad Elm Reserve Syrah 2007
Hammy, skinsy nose with elegant but ultimately lacking simple red fruit palate. Surprisingly one dimensional and ordinary. Might improve. 15.5+

Bridge Pa Reserve Syrah 2007
I've never enjoyed this wine so I'm perhaps not the best commentator about this vintage. Pepper & plenty of red meat on the nose, with a palate that is welcomely rich but it just gets more gamey by the minute. Others may love this. 16.8

Church Road Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2007
Far too young? Eucalypt and mint on the dry nose, palate seems to lack length at present, with oak dominating the lot. Retaste required. 16.5++?

Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2007
Much better. Just a baby at present with dense, slightly soapy nose, with very long yet closed palae, olive edged savouriness and very serious tannins. Long termer. 17.8+++

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Pinotnow Tasting - 28 'pinots' + a few extras

Another one from the depths of the tasting note book, this tasting was of the Pinot focused range of Victorian wholesaler Pinot Now, with a range that spans everything from Champagne to Macedon Rose, including a full brace of imported Pinots.

Of particular note was (again) how largely dissapointing the Oregon Pinots were. I simply do not enjoy the oaky and extractive, super ripe style that so many of them typify. Will not give up the search, but Australia, NZ & Burgundy will continue to be the recipient of my Pinot dollars in the meantime.

Drappier Brut Nature NV
100% Pinot which announces itsel with a bready Pinot nose leading to a light, very crisp palate that is pleasant it lacking in intensity. 16.8

Drappier Rose NV
Sweet, strawberry & cream nose on a very dry base. Sweet entry gives way to a palate that is pretty, but lacks the follow through. Good enough. 16.9

Lallier Grand Cru Brut
Step up here. Cheesy, yeasty nose with a bit of dirt and funk. Pure creamy, yeasty palate is fresh and good. Nice stuff. 17.3

Lallier Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV
Stemmy, earthy funk to the nose with a lovely rich mouthfeel. Excellent length on the lemon drenched, whipped cream edged palate. Lovely 17.9

Gisselbrecht Riesling 2007
Quite odd to see an Alsatian Riesling here and this was less than convincing. Pure, lightly musky & limey nose. Really quite light but also flat palate has a slightly coarse back end. Not enough intensity really, but should improve. 16+

Gisselbrecht Pinot Blanc 2007
I quite like good Pinot Blanc, but this shows the other, flavourless side of the grape. Just a little more richness after the Riesling with that same open purity that I rather like. Palate is still utterly lacking in intensity. 16+

Gisselbrecht Pinot Gris 2007
More sweetness, but also some fruit loop rubbery lolly sweetness. Very simple palate. Nope. 15.4

Gisselbrecht Franken Grand Cru Gewurtztraminer 2004
Nice to see the return of some aromatics after a few dull, backward wines. Gewurtz spice starts slowly but gets all fat and oily by the back palate. Awkward rear end ruins everything. 16.1

Rimu Grove Bronte Pinot Gris 2008
Upfront sweet honeyed apple fruit on a simple palate. Simple crowd pleaser, but drinkable+. 16.3

Rimu Grove Pinot Gris 2008
Honeyed pear nose - open and easy again, this time with a nutty edge. Creamy, rich mouthfeel of peaches and a splash of vanilla. Fresh, friendly and quite tasty indeed. 17

Rimu Grove Chardonnay 2007
Nutty & immediately oaky nose, but backed by some creamy well handled fruit. Big, layered palate is obviously worked but very tasty, if just a little cheesy. 17.4

Rimu Grove Bronte Pinot Noir 2007
Sappy, peppery nose that is just a little weak but authentic. Gamey, minty palate is just a little obvious and dried out. Needs more fruit really for an upfront Pinot. 15.9

Rimu Grove Pinot Noir 2006
Musky, skins and marred with a little of that 06 vintage hollowness. Dry & stemmy palate is genuine but finishes hot & unconvincing. 16.3

Duroche Gevrey Chambertin 2006
Giving little away on the nose. Caramel old oak & stems. Dry, chewy licoricey palate that is old shool in structure but too chewy. Needs alot more fruit. 14.8

Duroche 'Les Champeaux' Gevrey Chambertin 2006
Withdrawn dried out and fruitless, with just a little more strawberry concentration after the village wine above. Perhaps it will improve with bottle age? 15.5+

A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir 2007
Funky to what is a very simple, confected nose. Meaty, utterly overripe palate falls away dramatically at the finish. Simple, average quaffer at ridiculous $40 price. 15.0-

Chehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
Broad & very ripe nose. Oaky, heavily extracted palate. Where is the generosity? 15.4

Scott Paul Martha Pirrie Pinot Noir 2007
Generous, extractive red cherry nose. Palate however is thin, oaky and hard edged palate. Washed out finish. No. 14.5

Scott Paul La Paulee Pinot Noir 2006
Lots of oak and soupy ripe fruit on the nose. Rich palate is cream, rich but lacking in definition. Falls away on the finish. Better, but still dissapointing. 15.8

Evesham Wood Willamette Pinot Noir 2007
God I hope this is a bad bottle. Sulphurous, acrid shiite. U/R

Evesham Wood Le Puit Sec Pinot Noir 2006
Brandy like volatility on the nose. Candied palate that had me reminiscing about pink Nerds (though I don't think the pink ones smelled differently). Unsurprisingly forward, dull palate. No. 15

Valli Bannockburn Riesling 2007
The more Central Otago Riesling I try, the more I like. This is a stony, deep, intense, dry and chewy wine in the style of a good Trocken, with real pull through the palate. Very good. 17.8

Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir 2007
Welcome back to Pinot land. Pippy black fruit with choc bullets and prettiness. Red, sappy palate with a bit of burliness to the fruit but a lovely fresh, uplifting finish. Lovely Pinot that will only gett better. 18.5+

Valli Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2007
More opulent and powerful wine than the Gibbston with a fleshy palate and a stemmy edge. Lovely pretty wine of such beauty and silkiness. Upfront wine without the structure of the Gibbston perhaps, but its one sexy wine nonetheless. Lovely. 18.5

Carrick Pinot Noir 2007
Very serious Central Otago Pinot. Deep & powerful nose, with obvious fruit but also an edge of rawness that really commands some cellar time. A bit blocky but will improve. 17.5+

Carrick Excelsior Pinot Noir 2005
Excellent name! Rather ripe nose that is much more open and deep and fulfilling after the standard wine. Palate though is again all arms and legs, with firm acid and tannin. Great power though. Cellar this. 17.8++

Labryinth Valley Farm Pinot Noir 2005
Menthol and cranberry nose showing both under and overripeness, palate follows with an initially sweet palate that ends up astringent and stripped. Not quite. 14.8

Labryinth Viggers Pinot Noir 2005
Volatile caramel & licorice nose with a meaty edge. Washed out, bland palate. No. 15

Mount Gisborne Chardonnay 2005
Old school. Oaky, nutty powerful stuff. Pineappley notes are a distraction, but quality wine lies underneath. 17

Mount Gisborne Pinot Noir 2005
Volatile nose with typical Macedon mintiness. Lean but really refreshing palate with some nice ruby, minty fruit at its core. 17.4

Labryinth Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 2006
Finally a good American Pinot. 36yr old plantings. Serious, meaty nose, really ripe and full. Long & meaty & full with spiced fruits and plenty of pepper. Real length & texture. Good stuff. 17.9

Pisa Range Black Poplar Block Pinot Noir 2007
Sweetly sexy, coal & black fruit nose. Ripe and sweet, but with a cheesy, bacony edge. Finely textured, yummy if just a little feral. Very good. 17.8

Muddy Water Pinot Noir 2008
Musky, just bottled nose. It's light and sweet & pretty with plenty of straightforward fun fruit. 16.8

Muddy Water Slowhand Pinot Noir 2007
Black cherry, chunky fruit with dark plum and full ripe fruit. Sweet finish. Quite attractive and open wine of style and substance. Very nice. 17.9

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Nick O'Leary Canberra Shiraz 2008

Nick O'Leary Shiraz 2008 (Canberra District)
$28, Screwcap, 13.5%

Winner of 4 gold medals now and with a 96/100 in the Oct/Nov Gourmet Traveller Wine. Quite an achievement for a new name on the block. I drank this over dinner and can confirm the drinkability quotient is very high, as is the value on offer.

Ruby red in colour with just a smidgin of purple, this smells authentically Canberran, in the Clonakilla/Collector/Kyeema vein - Musk, scorched red fruit, cranberry and peppery spice & Cherry Ripe, with fruit to the fore and no oak in sight. It's definitely in the red fruit end of the spectrum, but avoids the heavy overripeness of similar wines. Palate is silken in texture, with a peppery, slightly stalky expression of mid weight Canberra Shiraz, all wrapped in fine tannins and a whack of bacon fat on the finish. Nice lilt to the tannins too that has me thinking this has had some whole bunch action.

It's a Shiraz built in a rather juicy and glossy, modern grapey style, but its so unforced and impeccably balanced, with proper subtle structure, that you just can't argue with it. The second half of the bottle made its way home with us, and a glass poured of it this evening is going down just as well as it did last night, boding well for the future too.

Big buy from me. 18.2

Friday, 16 October 2009

Sevenhill 'Inigo' Shiraz 2005

Sevenhill 'Inigo' Shiraz 2005 (Clare Valley, SA)
$20, Screwcap, 15%!

The 2005 vintage, on the whole, produced some very good wines in the Clare Valley, and will probably go down as one of the better vintages of the last few years. The warm season, however, was not without its perils, and unfortunately this vinous train wreck is a testament to it.

Given that this is 15% alcohol, it's little wonder that the colour of this is black. Maroon black. Impenetrable, home made blackberry jam in colour, with blood red edges. The nose is naturally super ripe, with fig jam, blackberry, mint and the odd whiff of stressed fruit - all warning signs for someone who doesn't like super ripe reds. Sadly, it only goes downhill from here, with a palate that I found to be near undrinkable - bitter, hard, alcoholic, acrid and finishing with tannins that may as well have been scraped off the back of the microwave.

For a bit of context, the 2004 Sevenhill Brother John May Shiraz is one of the best Clare reds I have tasted in some time, so I have no qualms about the winemaking skill and quality vineyard resources. This is just a case of the vagaries of vintage wines. 12.5

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Story Rice's Vineyard Shiraz 2008

The Story Rice's Vineyard Shiraz 2008 (Grampians, Vic)
$40, Screwcap, 14.5%

What is most pleasing about this wine is that it is so different from its sibling, the Westgate Vineyard. Rice's Vineyard is a warmer site near Stawell, and the more open fruit expression of this wine matches it nicely. Terroir in action.

This again pours deep and very red in the glass, looking rich, youthful and utterly shirazerrific. Interestingly, what wafts out of the glass is more Seppelt St Peters-ish than the Westgate, with much more ripe plum & fleshy red fruit, in a style that is more easily accessible than the Westgate but without that blueberry &licorice character.
The toasty oak flavours/aromas, which I found a little overt in the Westgate, seems to match the opulence of this wine more succinctly, making for a simply rich and cosseting palate of more open appeal. No need then for this to spend a night in the fridge coming together, though it's definitely more overtly tannic than its brother. I found it just a bit too ripe when coming back to it later in the evening too.

Now please excuse me for a second, but to describe everything properly, I can't help but get metaphorical, perhaps vainly, in an attempt to describe this wine and it's Westgate sibling.

I'm picturing then these two wines as two clearly different brothers. Both born from the same stock, and raised very similarly, but both obviously different. The Westgate is older, wiser, more medium bodied, but with a more complex soul that takes more than a casual glance to really understand. In contrast, Rice's Vineyard is the younger brother, but actually has a bigger physical presence. More power, more strength, but perhaps not the same sort of nuances in his personality. Rice's is a good bloke and probably more popular with the ladies, but will probably get boring in a few years time, whilst the Westgate will be just getting started...

Putting aside any ridiculous metaphors then, in the end this wine, like the Westgate is simply a very good Grampians Shiraz. A wine that is full of personality, flavour and interest at an entirely reasonable price. 18.3

Taylors Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Taylors Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Clare Valley & Coonawarra, SA)
Screwcap, $32, 14.5%

I've never been much of a fan of these Jaraman reds, so it may seem counterproductive then to keep reviewing them, purely as I'm rather unlikely to enjoy it. But every year I hold out in the hope that this wine will be the one to break the drought, particularly given how good the St Andrews Cabernet can be.

Pours full maroon red & looks very youthful. Forward, very Clare Cabernet nose with mint and a liberal dose of eucalypt & sappy edges. The fruit itself smells just a bit too ripe with a hint of caramel. Rich, minty palate promises much, with some serious impact on the front end, but falls away to nothingness on the tail. Oak tannins to finish.

It's all pretty good considering the vintage, but the mixed messages of the stunted palate made this less than impressive overall. The more times I came back to this in the glass, the more harsh, oaky and awkward it looked. 16.0-

De Bortoli Windy Peak Classic Dry White 2009

De Bortoli Windy Peak Classic Dry White 2009 (Victoria)
$15, Victoria, 12%

Its a bitsa blend this one, with Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Grigio blended with Semillon and some Vermentino too, with the fruit coming predominantly from the Yarra & King Valleys.

Translucent colour, water clear with just a tinge of green. The nose is dominated by the pear & straw aromatics of Pinot Grigio above all else, so I'm betting the Grigio makes up a fair proportion of the blend. Indeed, the palate follows with a most Italianate expression of Grigio, with that mix of oyster shells and straw that marks Northern Italian Grigio.

Through the tail end however, everything falls away to become a bit broad and blowsy & edged with raw acidity, leaving a slightly average taste in the mouth.

Overall I'm impressed with the direction here, but it just fails to follow all the way through. Simple quaffing stuff at a quite fair price. 16.3

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

30 wines from the Good Food & Wine Show

From what I can gather, organising a wine trade show in Australia is something akin to finding sober bogans at Mount Panorama on Bathurst 1000 weekend (even when they're limited to 'just' a slab a day).

So the success of the newest national festival of consumption, the Good Food & Wine Show, is rather pleasing, even if the feedback from the wine exhibitors was somewhat mixed. Crowds were huge in the Sydney event and, for those in the high traffic areas (such as the McLaren Vale stand), it sounded like a very worthwhile exercise. Interestingly, some producers actually reported making a profit from the show, particularly those who had wine to sell on their stands. A recipe for success?

I wandered around and sampled a whole range of wines, but was to busy chatting to actually pen much more than impressions. I've included them below, however there remains a question mark about the absolute accuracy of these notes.

Bellarmine Estate
Really enjoy the clarity of the Bellarmine whites in particular. Very fresh and high on the deliciousness.

Bellarmine Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Nettley, cool and 'very Oz cool climate Sav' nose. Think green pean with a hint of passionfruit. The palate matches this with real length and just a dab of phenolic dryness. Really good. 17.7

Bellarmine Dry Riesling 2008
Tightly coiled, super fresh and so pristine, with a running stream like crystalline character to the palate that is addictive. Dry, pure and delicious. 18.0

Bellarmine Auslese Riesling 2008
It's Auslese, but it's a very different wine to your typical German Auslese, with a much lighter and citrussy expression that is again particularly pure, but just not quite as convincing as the drier Rieslings. Should improve with some bottle age however. 17.6+

Bellarmine Chardonnay 2008
Light, crisp Chablis inspired wine, but lacks the terroir punch. This is aromatic white territory me thinks, though nice to see a restrained Chardonnay. 16.8+

Bellarmine Pinot Noir 2007
A bit awkward. Stewed meat & slow cooked nose, with a sticky, slightly awkward palate of quite high acidity. I'm not much of a fan of this wine. 15.8

Bellarmine Shiraz 2007
Pepper, pan juices and plenty of acidity, it's just a bit lean but I like the fragrant cool climate style. 17

Bream Creek Riesling 2008
Toasty and surprising forward nose, palate is just off dry but just a bit short and in a bit of a hole at the moment. Time is all it needs. 16.5+

Bream Creek Schonburger 2008
Australia's only Schonburger! This oddity was simple and fun, with a lychee drenched traminer style nose, but with a richer slightly honeyed palate. Simple but quite appealing. 17

Bream Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Green vegetable, overtly aromatic nose thats expressive but perhaps too much so. Very dry & long palate, with long weedy length. Not a fan of the style, but this is an excellent quality wine. 18

Bream Creek Pinot Rose 2008
Suprised that I didn't like this actually. Light, pretty nose, slightly dull, caramel edged palate. Not quite. 15.5

Xabregas Show Reserve Chardonnay 2006
Big, oaky & malo drenched style that is just a little too much in its oaky shell at the moment, though the acid backbone is top shelf. Important plus signs with this one. 17++

Xabregas Show Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Leafy, medium bodied style that again needs some time to come together. Stewed edges just a little disconcerting. 17++

Kurtz Family Wines
Genuine Barossan reds from old vines at very realistic prices. Steve Kurtz is affable and humble too. Well worth a look (as is the details of each wine on the website. VA levels!!! Applaudable transparency )

Kurtz Boundary Row GSM 2005
Quite a caramelly nose which had me a little wary (it's all old oak though, so I'll just call this a less expressive nose), but the palate is wonderfully pure, with a hit of rich chocolatey Shiraz and Grenache fruit, if just a little too sweet. Very tasty regardless. 17.2+

Kurtz Boundary Row Shiraz 2005
Chocolatey, slightly dull oak nose, the glory here again lies in the palate, which is long & sweet fruited with just sumptuous Barossan Shira flavours. Oak still a large part of this wines presence. Oh and the price? $20. Stunning value. 17.3

Kurtz Lunar Block Shiraz 2003
Malted cola & Cadbury drinking chocolate nose, with a rich & youthful palate & just a little prickle of acidity on the back end. Developing nicely and drinking very well. High on the deliciousness again. 17.8

Kurtz Lunar Block Shiraz 2004
Another lovely & richly oaked Cocoa nose, the palate a step up over the 03 with a spicy, liquered and surprisingly savoury, sweet & sour palate. Such a classic Barossan Shiraz, in the modern style. Fair value at $40 too. 17.9+

Lake George Chardonnay 2008
Mealy, nutty, pure nose, the palate creamy, with a smidgen of bubblegum flavours and a very dry and cleverly built palate. Vgood cool climate Australian Chardonnay. 17.5

Lake George Pinot Gris 2008
Excellent red pear nose is varietal and lovely, but sadly it doesn't translate onto the palate, which is just missing the intensity. 16.5

Lake George Pinot Noir 2006
Developing, bacony nose. High acid, authentically soil & stalks palate. Dry, nice style, but yet to convince me of the merits of Canberra Pinot. 17

Fire Gully Chardonnay 2007
The second label of Pierro, and unquestionably built in the same mould, though without that beguiling toasty richness. High on the refreshment and intensity still. 17

Pierro Chardonnay 2007
Dense & compact, with that chewy, mealy power that 'makes' Pierro Chardonnay. This version though needs more time to come together, as its just a little bulky at present. Still love the wine though. 18

Burge Family Olive Hill Semillon 2008
Dry, hay nd straw green fruit nose, with a dense, old vine Barossan Semillon expression that is so refreshing and unique. Lovely wine. 18

Burge Family Garnacha 2005
Volatile red berry nose, palate is dominated by alcohol heat & ends up rather hollow. No. 15

Burge Family Olive Hill Red 2006
Another, big, hot & alcohol heavy red, this is fresher, but just ends up a bit short. A product of the warm season. 16

Burge Family Draycott Shiraz 2006
It's typically a rich and red fruit drenched wine of power and impact and this is no exception. Really ripe and full, but always with an air of savouriness. Quite drinkable really, hot finish the only turnoff. 17.4

Burge Family G3 2007
Suffering from the vintage vagaries. Quite a floral and pretty nose, backed by a mid weight, confected and with that resinous 07 vintage edge to the fruit. Struggled with this. 16.0

Willows Shiraz 2005
Sweet, plush and rather luxurious in the typically sexy Willows style. Soft, perfectly ripe and the very model of 'drink me' Barossan Shiraz. 17.8

Willows Cabernet 2006
Such a contrast to the Shiraz! Herbal, minty, sappy nose that seems atypical for the Barossa. Sticky, short palate also seems incomplete. Hmmm. 16.0

Willows Bonesetter 2005
Minty, formic, Grange like nose. Palate is really rich, chocolatey and oak drenched, but with firm tannins to match. Oak and acid just a little obvious, but hard to hide the class really. Very Good. 18.2

Gibsons Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2006
Hugely tannic & chocolatey red that shows mixed ripeness but still feels both dried out and confected. Will still gain some fans with its sheer impact. 16.8

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Story Westgate Vineyard Shiraz 2008

The Story Westgate Vineyard Shiraz 2008 (Grampians, Vic)
Screwcap, $40, 13.5%

For those uninitiated with the story about The Story, Mr Halliday wraps it up nicely here, including a review of the 2006 vintage of this very wine. Suffice to say that this 2008 is certainly built in much the same fashion, and it's a fashion that I like indeed.

A concerted step up in concentration and structure over the entry level regional wine, what I like most about this wine is its mid weight power. As befitting the modest alcohol, the palate lacks the outright power and beasty richness of say, Mt Langhi, but replaces it with a silken, understated and yet utterly Grampianish, rich mid palate of licoricey black/blueberry fruit and almost sly grape tannins.

The glory here is in that mid palate, which on day one [I drank this over two nights, in the renowned fashion] tasted almost grape concentrate like in its grapey richness and sweetness, before settling down to a much more drier, yet still fruit drenched expression on day two.

Perhaps the only caveat with this wine lays in the oak. Day one I had this pointed lower as the toastiness was just a little dominant for my oak sensitive palate. Day two though and it was all sexy time Grampians fruit in a glass. Which tells us that it needs a serious (hours) decant or some time in the dungeon (About 3-5yrs by my guesstimate) before drinking.

Great stuff regardless. 18.4

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Tallarook Marsanne 2005

Tallarook Marsanne 2005 (Goulburn Valley, Vic)
$30, Screwcap, 14.5%
Wild yeast ferment in small french oak. Unusually long growing season made for a strong structure.

I'm not winning on the alternate white varietals front of late, with two dissapointments this week alone. This wine is perhaps more dissapointing than the Elgee Viognier from earlier in the week, as I'm sure I have enjoyed a vintage of this wine at one point or another.

With a full golden straw colour, it certainly looks rich and full (quite a contrast to the subtle, honeysuckle style of Tahbilk). Smells it too, the nose full of maturing, honeyed peach and lemon toast with an old Grigio like dirty haybail character. Obvious oak on the textural, flabby palate. Inelegant, shapeless back palate. and intrusive alcohol.

Ultimately, this could be an oaky Sem or a Pinot Gris, for it's a rather nameless, nothing wine of limited appeal. 15.3

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

12 Boutique wines

These tasting notes all come from the Boutique Wine Awards tasting, held at Sydney's Marriot Hotel back on the 3rd July (yes, I am very behind).

What was most heartening to see was that whilst these wines did not necessarily win awards, there was charisma and character aplenty, making for more than one little known highlight, serving of a reminder yet again that in the wine industry, small is beautiful.

Oh and for reference, all of these wines were tasted in the renowned show style - at speed and one after the other. As a result, there will always be a little vagary in the scoring (even though wine first impressions are always the best).

Terravin Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Tropical passionfruit nose, with a similarly tropical fruit drenched, sweaty palate. Good, if just missing a little conviction. 16.8

Terravin Te Ahu Sauvignon Blanc 2008
11 months in oak, wild ferment.
This was only freshly released at the time, so it did appear a little raw and edgy, with creamy oak too dominant at that stage. Important plus signs. 16.7++

Terravin Pinot Noir 2008
Quite deep for a Marlborough Pinot though obviously far too young. Rather rich and chunky, yet still tightly packed. Really good. 17.2+

Peter Rumball Coonawarra Sparkling Cuvee 1997
I'm not really a massive fan of the rich Rumball style, so I may not be the best judge, but this was pretty good. Nose of cooking chocolate over peppery maturing red fruit & the odd whiff of red meat. Palate is rich and long but edged with some minty fruit, with excellent tannins on the finish. I like the proportions here, but also felt the fruit was a little too advanced for real satisfaction. 17

Anderson Cellar Block Durif 2005
Interesting Durif this, with typically massive intense fruit, but without the back palate burn. Nose shows really dense, super sweet black fruit nose, with a forward, malty and liqueured palate. It's a typically big wine, but never feels hot or unbalanced. Good stuff. 16.8

Schiller Shiraz 2006
Sweetly perfumed with marshmallow oak on the nose and jubey fruit, the palate is mid weight and sweet with a fair dollop of chocolatey oak on the palate. It's actually a very pretty and generous wine, if hardly an earthmover. Barossa bottled. 16.9

Jones Winery & Vineyard Shiraz 2006
Gem. Porty nose hides a truly lovely wine that belies its Rutherglen origins with a rather savoury, complex and almost old world palate. Little wonder after speaking with the winemaker Mandy Jones, who spent 12 years as a winemaker in Bordeaux before returning to take over the winemaking full time in 2002. Couple that with century old vines and you have a masterpiece. Great mix of typically rich Rutherglen Shiraz fruit and some proper structure. Bargain. 18.0

Jones Winery & Vineyard LJ Shiraz 2006
Shiraz from oldest blocks mixed with under 5% Grenache
Really dense, with the sort of sweet cocoa and loamy nose that I'd associate with Heathcote rather than Rutherglen and the intensity to match. It's obviously very youthful, yet also with the sort of complexity that is rarely found in a wine of this power and weight. Sweet & sour, textural palate and delightfully long tannins signal that this will get even better too. Great. 18.5

Symphonia Quintus 2006
Blend of Saperavi, Tempranillo, Tannat, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon
Crammed with oak, which sadly obscures the interesting fruit flavours underneath. It could have well come out by now, for their lay some potential interest in the intriguing blend. Retaste required. 16.5+

The Bruiser Durif 2008
Looks excellent, with some smart makers behind it and a good story. Sadly I found this simple and slightly cheap tasting with the sort of thinness I'd associate with young/overcropped vines and not single vineyard Rutherglen Durif. Question marks over the bottle? 14.8

Tapestry The Vincent Shiraz 2005
Almost a McLaren Vale caricature, but bound to find many friends. Very sweet, oaky and volatile nose, the fruit is tied up in oak but just glistens with richness and positively sings out 'McLaren Vale'. 17

Tapestry 'XV Barrels' Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Big & very oaky, but with nice textural choc berry flavours and sticky tannins. Heroically proportioned but not without appeal, I actually quite liked this. 17.3

Monday, 5 October 2009

Elgee Park Viognier 2005

Elgee Park Viognier 2005 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
$35, Screwcap, 13.5%

Viognier. I want to like it. I want to like it because when done well, Viognier can be a gloriously textured, rich and sexy white wine of impact and flavour. And it is done well; Clonakilla do it well, ditto Yalumba and a growing number of Kiwis. It (naturally?) does well in it's Rhone Valley heartland. It's even done well in the Hunter Valley. But, if Viognier was a race horse, I'd never, ever, put money on it, as I would always end up watching the thing lose. Unless of course the race was full of Pinot Grigio's and budget Merlots. Then it would win Bradbury style as all the other horses fell over.
The point I'm trying to make is that Viognier, for all its promise and stories of greatness, is a grape that so often produces dissapointing wine. As is the case here.

By my count, Elgee Park have the third oldest Viognier vines in the nation (30yrs old) placing them in the one of the very best positions for producing something fine, even if they grow the stuff in a region hardly known for its Viognier. The wine itself starts pretty well too, with a textbook, light straw colour that looks bright and well vibrant enough.

The wobbles however start on the nose, which I have written in my notebook as 'in a difficult phase [question mark, frowny face]', for it smells muddled and varietally atypical, showing none of that lovely apricot skin Viognier stuff, showing only the influence of some attractive, spicy french oak and little else. I picked up a hint of sashimi (salmon I think :)) and seasalt in there too, though otherwise there is nothing to even give it away as a Viognier. It could be a well ripe Pinot Gris that someone has decided to make a reserve version of by destroying with french oak.

It's no better on the palate either, though I did very much like the graceful, reserved, acid driven style, with the sort of acidity that everyone would like to see in notoriously flabby Viognier. Oak tannins though are utterly unwelcome in a dry white wine, and this wine had a bit of that happening too. The real problem however was a lack of drive through the middle, with the flavours lacking the intensity to be able to compete with said oak and structure, the whole thing falling apart with time in the glass. A retaste later in the night revealed only a finely oaked, nicely acidic carcass and a hole where the fruit should be.

Barring some sort of serious dumb stage, I'm notching this up then as a wine that promised so much but failed to deliver. 16