Monday, 30 November 2009

Fine Wine Partners Trade Show 2009 (Mega Tasting)

Fine Wine Partners are probably the biggest 'boutique' wholesalers in the nation, with a portfolio that encompasses all of Lion Nathan's wine brands (including Stoniers, St Hallett etc) combined with all the labels that used to reside in the much respected Tucker Seabrook portfolio (Bollinger, Henschke, Bannockburn etc) to create the ultimate wine stable.

This enormous collection is then annually shown to the trade at a rather peculiar event that is unsurprisingly popular. It's peculiar (to me at least) as irreverent drunkenness is the order of the day, a situation that sits completely at odds with the quality of the wines on offer, giving it almost a school-formal-after-party-meets-restaurant-convention vibe that is simply amazing to see. Embarrassingly cringe worthy though, especially when you see the looks on the stone cold sober wine producers faces as they try and stop some normally mild mannered 'sommelier' from stealing unopened tasting bottles.

I don't mean to sound snobbish, but it's just a truly weird and amazingly unprofessional phenomena of bewildering proportions.

Anyway, and perhaps thankfully, the range of wines on display represent some of Australia's finest, with many of the names behind the wines doing the pouring, each one of them eager to chat to somebody who wasn't swaying/might be interested in the wines.

The wine community is nothing if not generous, with both it's knowledge and time.

So the notes below are some quick impressions of the wines on offer at this years event, notes that perhaps lack the absolute comprehensiveness of a proper (renowned) tasting note, but hopefully capture something of each wines character.

Champagne Bollinger Rose NV
Unsweet (Great to see in a proper Rose Champagne I think) strawberry nose. Very serious Pinot dominant style. Dry & strawberry cream palate. Great length and flavour. Yum. 18/93

Champagne Ayala Blanc de Blancs 1999
Yeasty, lavosh biscuit characters on the nose and plenty of creamy development. Some toffeed autolysis and nice creamy Chard flavours on the palate, yet everything falls away a bit towards the finish. Good, lacking only a bit more polish for truly high marks. 17.2/91

Champagne Ayala Perle 2002
Really neutral, chalky nose. Dry, raspy, uncompromising acidity. Teeth cleaner. Simply too young for drinking now. Leave for five years. 17/90++

Hesketh 'Beautiful Stranger' Kremstal Gruner Veltliner 2007
Very pure, tight, light pear nose. Light, quite high acid Gruner style with tight phenolic grip on the finish. This really needs some time to come together as it's just a little underwhelming at present. 16.9/90+

Henschke Johann's Garden GMS 2007
Grenache is certainly lining up to be the star of the 07 South Australian vintage. Sweet & brambly black fruit nose. Grenache dominant and really ripe red and black berried, smoky almost. Palate is sift, luxurious & quite oaky, though not over oaked, just well crafted. Fresh & dark and almost mysterious. Top expression of artfully blended Grenache that will get even better as the oak integrates more. 17.8/93+

Henschke 'Tappa Pass' Eden Valley Shiraz 2006
Deep, luxurious old vine nose. Very ripe, but perfectly so. Palate is in the black fruit, licorice spectrum that starts powerfully and fans out to a quite broad finish. Very good now, even better with bottle age. 17.9/93+

Henschke Abbots Prayer Adelaide Hills Merlot/Cabernet 2007
Immediately lesser compared to the wines above, with a slight leafiness over redcurrant fruit. Excellent fruit handling, but just a bit awkward at present. Work in progress. 16.8/89+

Henschke Mt Edelstone Eden Valley Shiraz 2006
Deep, truffled black fruit perfume with just a touch of meatiness. Distinctive nose. Effortless chocolate ingrained fruit. Really long, truffle edged black fruit palate. Just a hint of raisining, but so much class apparent here. Top class. 18.5/94

Drouhin Chablis 2007
Base Chablis. Broad nose. Palate has creaminess but all too much flab and a lack of direction on the finish. Simply drinkable though. 16.4/89

Bannockburn Geelong Chardonnay 2006
Not the best vintage for this label, but still plenty of interest. Very tight, wild yeasted nose with that typical Bannockburn tropical inflection. Palate starts big and utterly full house in style, almost excessive in it's fresh butter richness, before tightening up again. Alcohol bite on the finish is a little distracting. 17.8/92

Bannockburn 'Bruce' Cabernet Merlot Shiraz 2006
Fragrant & meaty, with a pan juice, fruit backward, savoury characters forward, Italianate like expression of Cabernet Merlot. Amarone type sweetness to the palate too (any dried grapes in here?) Slightly caramelised, fennel & spice characters with oaky richness. Interesting wine that would be a blinder in a top vintage methinks. 17.5/91

Bannockburn Shiraz 2005
Disclaimer - I rarely enjoy Geelong Shiraz. Too much ham & chicken poo for my liking. This wine doesn't help things either: Peppery, sweetly oaky and choc full of ham. Green character on the back palate detracts further. No. 15/81

Farr Rising Geelong Chardonnay 2008
Creamy, fresh timber oak dominates the note, translating as a caramel icecream like character on the palate, interspersed with apricot sweetness. Awkward, though it could get better. 16/86

By Farr Geelong Chardonnay 2007
Recognisably from the same stable as the wine above, but much more serious. Palate is very tight, mealy and long with oats & creamy fruit. Again very oaky but with a great future. 17.7/91+

By Farr Farrside Geelong Pinot Noir 2007
Classic. Intoxicating nose of pure Pinot goodness. Cherry & stewed fruit with something strawberryish. Essence of Pinot. Dry, stemmy, but so silky smooth. Beautiful Pinot. 18.7/95

By Farr Tout Pres Geelong Pinot Noir 2007
Described as having 'more savouriness than fruit' and that fits this bill perfectly. Harder, stalks and stems 'wood' nose. Palate is just a bit ungenerous and firmly structured for immediate drinking. Lots of potential if the fruit catches up. 17.4/91++

By Farr Shiraz 2007
See notes on Bannockburn Shiraz. Grilled meat, BBQ Pork and just too much of it for my liking. 15/82

Château de Sancerre 2007
All thats wrong with Sancerre. Stinky, forward and cheesy nose with a very simple palate. Awkward acidity too. Little wonder the Kiwis have usurped the French as the gatekeepers of Sauvignon Blanc. 14.5/80

Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2005
Pepper & merde. Gritty, 'lets chew on some black soil, as no sign of fruit in sight' Rhone Syrah character. Acquired taste perhaps, but there is something appealing about this utterly terroir driven style. 16.5/88

Argyle Reserve Oregon Pinot Noir 2006
Really dense, oaky, candied red fruit nose. Impressive concentration but, like many other Oregon Pinots, no finesse in sight. Sticky tannins not entirely convincing. Should get better with some bottle age. 16.8/89+

Col D'Orcia Brunello 2004
Deeply black fruited & full but with a delicious, chalky mid palate. Berried and rich but also deliciously dry and savoury in a beautiful mid weight mould. Yum. What Brunello is all about.18/93

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti 2006
Tangy, in the high acid Barbera style, with a mid weight, sappy palate. Peppery, savoury. Quite a complete Barbera package really. Good stuff. 17.3/91

Michele Chiarlo Barolo 2004
The base Barolo for this producer, its all about sap and earth, in a style that's dried but quite meaty for a Barolo with tannins that are a bit softer than the normal. Authentic. Good. 17.5/91

Coriole Fiano 2009
Bright & fresh, pear juice nose with something almost chalky in there too. Palate is surprisingly grippy, but otherwise fresh, uncomplicated and simply good. Score is lowish, drinkability is high. 16.5/88

Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2008
I'm going to put something out there now: I think that these Giant Steps wines are some of the most consistently good, well priced wines in the whole Yarra. Consistency, style, flavour, value. Great stuff. Buy with confidence.

This wine is suitably one of my favourite wines of this range and its in fine form here. Spicy, green apple pie on the nose, with a smidgen of custard oak. It's actually quite lean on entry but its pure, apple juice like expression of Chardonnay is wonderfully long and articulate. Plenty of room for improvement too. Top shelf. 18.4/94

Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2008
Suffering only because it follows the Tarraford, this lacks a little of the x factor of the above wine, but certainly makes up for it in intensity. Again a lean nose, this time just falling into a bit of the citrus end of the spectrum. More richness on the palate with a tad more fat too. More too love here, but still well controlled - like a plus sized version of the svelte Tarraford. Again, very good modern Chardonnay. 17.9/92

Giant Steps Arthurs Creek Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2008
Another single vineyard Chardonnay, this time from Arthurs Creek. It's spicier and very pure, the flavours building slowly through the palate. Very attractive, but again shaded by the previous two wines. 17.8/92

Giant Steps Gladysdale Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2008
Really very pretty, vibrant and sweet smelling. Spicy, red fruited wine that is so very obvious and attractive that it's hard to put it down. Superb. 18.3/93

Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2008
Brilliant. A bigger, spicier, more dense wine than Gladys, this is again a beautifully formed, effortless Pinot, in that strawberried, full flavoured, but silken edged style that the Yarra does very well. Dry finish seals the deal. Winning. 18.6/95

Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2008
Bigger again, this is bolder, more full and chunky than the Tarraford, but not quite as pretty as Gladys. Very full and impressive flavours, if not as delineated compared to the wine above. 18.2/93

St Hallett Old Block Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006
I really wasn't expecting this. I wasn't expecting to be seduced by this wine, but I just couldn't help myself. This has the most classic, choc-bullets-over-limitless-flesh-and-flavour character that makes Barossan Shiraz great. Just the nose alone was enough to get me excited - so rich and so invitingly plush - but then the palate delivered too, serving up some raspberry edged, grainy tannins that signal this wine as very fine indeed. Superb. 18.8/95

St Hallett Eden Valley Shiraz 2006
In the mode, this is a winner too, albeit cast in a slightly different mould. Enter spicy purple-black Eden Valley fruit for this number, with the same more-ish St Hallett plushness, but edged with the sophistication of its cooler Eden provenance. Just a delicious wine really. 18.3/93

Katnook Odyssey Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Typically oaky, yet with the fruit to match, this intensely flavoured Coonawarra Cabernet shows dominant toast, but with just a hint of leaf to stamp its origins. All heart and flavour, this should live for ages (and get better as it mellows). 18/92+

Pikes EWP Shiraz 2005
Cooked. Pretty, but volatile, with the raisined, gamey, premature age of overripe fruit ruining what would have been a very good wine. Not for me I'm afraid. 15.4/84

Petaluma Coonawarra 2007
Cast very lightly, this is a rather forward and middling rendition of the Petaluma Coonawarra style, with a red licoricey, light & sweet nose, leading to a rounded palate that seems to lack real stuffing. Will get better with age, but will always be a forward and light wine. 16.3/88

Friday, 27 November 2009

BEER: My Wife's Bitter

My Wife's Bitter (Burleigh Heads, QLD)
$8 for 750ml, 4.8%

Filtered through local lava rock (there are volcanoes on the Gold Coast?), My Wife's Bitter is our coastal interpretation of a classic English bitter, with roasted maltiness, a soft caramel character and a dense aromatic foam.

Produced from Enlish hops (Fuggles & East Kent Goldings) this is a blend of English specialty malts (Crystal & chocolate), a centuries old English, beautiful Gold Coast water (hopefully not tap water) and the passionate commitment of our entire team.

I like the packaging, I like the dedication involved with the production and I like the format. Tick, tick, tick. The beer is good too, a quite simple bitter style, but with a toasty, malted character that sits on top and adds interest.

Entirely sessionable and well worth the asking price. Big thumbs up.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Wicks Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Wicks Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
$18, Screwcap, 13%

My tasting note doesn't sound particularly complementary, but it's more a reflection of my ambivalence towards most cheap Australian Sauvignon Blanc. $18 can buy a bottle of Pewsey Vale Rizza or a Tahbilk Marsanne or a Meerea Park Epoch Sem or...

Just a tinge of yellow to the green colour, with bubbles of CO2. Lemon, Splice, talc and guava on fleshy nose. Palate is citrussy, soft and dry with biting citrussy acidity on the tail, but also with some harshness to the finish too. One dimensional. Not a bad Savvy and refreshing enough, just not my sort of wine. 16.8

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Vague wine recollections on some gooduns (Tasting Notes)

I've spent much of the last week on holidays in sunny (not this time) Perth. As a result, drinking has been frequent, tasting has been occasional, leading to a deficit of tasting notes and plenty of blurred impressions.

However, there were a few wines that did stick in my mind (please excuse the somewhat vague, self indulgent nature of these tasting notes):

Bernard Defaix 'Cote de Lechet' Chablis 1er Cru 2007
I amazed at how often a lean modern Chardonnay is described as 'Chablis like' when there is really nothing else that smells and tastes like Chablis. The secret is all in the much heralded Kimmeridgian limestone soils, which really do stamp a serious terroir imprint on the wines produced there (the good ones at least).

This has that Kimmeridgian cream, on the nose at least, with a suitably lean and stony palate that will only build with time in the glass. I like the combination combination of both richness and prominent acidity that makes this work, even though it probably doesn't have the palate density of the finest vineyards. Good stuff. 17.8

Grosset Clare Valley/Adelaide Hills Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009
This is a real favourite in our house, as a few bottles always sneak in with my Grosset Rizza purchases (and rarely last very long when they do). The only challenge with drinking this before Christmas in the year of its vintage though is that the citrussy acidity can be almost fiery in it's intensity.

I actually drank this bottle over 2 nights, and on the first night said acidity clashed somewhat with the simple creamy seafood, but come day two it was more expansive, with melon characters sneaking in with the lemon lime flavours. When matched with spicy thai olives it worked a treat, the acidity the perfect foil for a bit of chilli heat.

I'm going to try and write a more descriptive tasting note for a subsequent bottle, but based on this one I'd have no qualms about recommending a purchase. 18

Wolf Blass Grey Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
I really wasn't expecting to like this, as the OTT Wolf Blass red style is not my favourite. But it surprised me by a)not being too overripe, b)still being in good shape. The most obvious character on this wine was the overt moccha oak (really overt - like coffee powder) but the fruit underneath appeared well ripe and the structure assured. Nice to see some Langhorne mint in there for good measure. Nice. 17.6

Friday, 20 November 2009

Wild Duck Creek Springflat Shiraz 2006

Wild Duck Creek Springflat Shiraz 2006
$65, Screwcap, 16.5%

I really wanted to like this. I've had the pleasure of a few older (than this at least) Wild Duck Creek reds and actually rather enjoyed them. When I read the ABV on this Springflat though I was worried - I've never had a table wine over about 15% that was remotely balanced. Still, if anyone could do it, surely it would be 'Duck'...

The wine itself smelt superb - Exotic even - with Turkish delight, rhubarb and cherry liqueur chocolates. The palate starts pretty well too, with a very ripe, roasted tomato & red fruit hitting with a first flurry of rich full flavour. But the longer it sits in the glass, the more obviously overripe it becomes, the alcohol acting like a scimitar, cutting off the finish and leaving only blurry heat behind.

On one hand then, this is a major dissapointment - it has that sameness that overripe reds get, where the terroir gets burnt off. But in th other hand. I think this is still an ok wine. It's been shortened no doubt, yet it still drinks like a Heathcote red.

It's damning with faint praise perhaps, but you can just feel how good this wine would be in more supportive vintages, and unlike, say, the unattractively hot Turkey Flat from last week, I comfortably finished two glasses of this. Hard wine to rate then. 16.7

Thursday, 19 November 2009

2009 Australian National Wine Show Results

The results of the 2009 National (Australian) Wine Show were announced in Canberra tonight,
and now the winners have been announced lifted I can publish the particularly interesting trophy results (below).

Of particular note is not the winners themselves, but where they are sourced from, with a predominance of trophy wines sourced not from the traditional heartland of South Australia, but instead from the Hunter Valley (whites) & Margaret River (reds), with the only exception being the all conquering Penfolds Special Bin Chardonnay(s)

You would hardly call it a coup, but what the results do reflect is a run of good vintages in the west (in particular) coupled with a few heat affected vintages in SA.

Regardless of the regional mix, it's again reassuring to read through the results and see that some very worthy wines again won the trophies...

The Australian Leadership Innovation Centre Trophy
Best Dry White. Dy Table Wine - Commercial Classes
Wone by: Serafino Wines 2008 Reserve Chardonnay

The A & G Industries Trophy
Best Dry White Table Wine - Current Vintage (2009)
Won By: Pooles Rock Wines 2009 Semillon

The Wine Society Trophy
Best Dry White Table Wine – Riesling, Premium Classes
Won By: Knappstein 2009 Hand Picked Riesling

The ACTEW Trophy
Best Dry White Table Wine – Sauvignon blanc, Premium Classes
Won By: Vavasour 2008 Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc (NZ)xxx

Best Dry White Table Wine – Semillon, Premium Classes
Won By: Tyrrell's 2005 Belford Semillon

The Oakton Trophy
Best Dry White Table Wine – Chardonnay, Premium Classes
Won By: Penfolds Wines 2008 Reserve Bin 08A Chardonnay

The Royal National Capital Agricultural Society Trophy
Best Sweet White Wine
Won By: De Bortoli 2006 Deen De Bortoli Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon

The Kit Stevens Memorial Trophy (presented by Samuel Smith & Son)
Best Bottle Fermented Sparkling White Wine
Won By: Brown Brothers Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier

The Yellow Edge Pty Ltd Trophy
Best Dry Red Table Wine - Commercial Classes
Won By: 2008 Catching Thieves Cabernet Merlot

The Royal National Capital Agricultural Society Trophy
Best Dry Red Table Wine - 2008 Vintage
Won By: Sandalford Wines 2008 Margaret River Range Shiraz

The Riedel Trophy
Best Dry Red Table Wine - Pinot noir, Premium Classes
Won By: Nautilus Estate 2008 Marlborough Pinot Noir (NZ)

The Fujitsu Australia Pty Ltd Trophy
Best Dry Red Table Wine – Shiraz, Premium Classes
Won By: Sandalford Wines 2008 Margaret River Range Shiraz

The Canberra Times Trophy
Best Dry Red Table Wine - Cabernet Sauvignon, Premium Classes
Won By: Xanadu Wines 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Royal National Capital Agricultural Society Trophy
Best Dry Red Table Wine – Other Varieties and Blends, Premium Classes
Won By: Evans and Tate 2007 Margaret River Cabernet Merlot

The Negociants Australia Trophy
Best Table Wine - Museum Classes
Won By: Mount Langi Ghiran 2004 Langi Shiraz

The Exhibition Park Corporation Trophy
Best Fortified Wine
Won By: Morris Wines Liqueur Muscat

The Corti Brothers Trophy
The Semillon Trophy - 2007 and older vintages
Won By: Tyrrell’s 2004 Belford Semillon

The Royal National Capital Agricultural Society Trophy
The Chardonnay Trophy - 2007 and older vintages
Won By: Penfolds 2006 Reserve Bin 06A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay

The Royal National Capital Agricultural Society Trophy
The Cabernet Sauvignon Trophy - 2007 and older vintages
Won By: Ringbolt 2007 Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon

The Australian Wine Archives Trophy
The Shiraz Trophy - 2007 and older vintages
Won By: Mount Langi Ghiran 2006 Langi Shiraz

The J McCarthy & Co Pty Ltd Trophy
Best Dry White Table Wine
Won By: Penfolds 2008 Reserve Bin 08A Chardonnay

The Vintage Cellars Trophy
Best White Table Wine
Won By: Penfolds 2008 Reserve Bin 08A Chardonnay

The Vintage Cellars Trophy
Best Dry Red Table Wine
Won By: Sandalford 2008 Margaret River Range Shiraz

The Len Evans Memorial Trophy
Supported by Vintage Cellars
Best Table Wine of the Show
Won By: Penfolds 2008 Reserve Bin 08A Chardonnay

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Annie's Lane Coppertrail Shiraz wins Shiraz Challenge

Annie's Lane - once one of the finest value producers in South Australia, but suffering under years of corporate mismanagement, were announced yesterday as the winners of the 2009 Visy Shiraz Challenge with their 2005 Coppertrail Shiraz.

Link here

Congratulations I say, as the Coppertrail label has provided some seriously good wines over the years, and the winemaking team is said to be quite talented. It's just a pity that the Annie's Lane brand has been destroyed by heavy discounting, leading to the laughable situation where you can purchase the (once vgood) Cabernet Merlot for $10 a bottle in major chain stores, whilst Fosters expect independant (read anyone other than Coles and Woolworths) merchants to pay more than that as their cost price.

The result of this situation is that it effectively makes the brand unprofitable for anyone other than the chain stores, who then in turn want to sell it for $10 all year round, thus forcing the fruit quality to drop away in sync with the drop in actual retail price....

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Flaxman wines Shiraz VP 2008

Flaxman Wines Shiraz VP 2008 (Eden Valley, SA)
$20, Screwcap, 17.5%

Vintage Port, when done well, is such delicious stuff, it's just a pity that it no longer has a defined spot in our drinking diet.

But things may well be on the turn, and with rather un-porty wines such as this vintage fortified Shiraz (note the EU friendly nomenclature), we may see a revival yet.

Certain much to like with this style. Positively purple in colour, this is a very youthful looking VP. Smells youthful too. Fresh, young & rock solid. Musky, with red fruit, blueberry & ripe plums. Quite pretty even. Lush, open, friendly, but with proper rich sweet, structured fruit. Warm vintages in South Australia really are perfect for wines like this.

Great start.

Palate follows with red fruited flavours carefully matched with alcohol sweetness. Showing rare balance for a fortified, with lightness & freshness, the alcohol only kicking in after everything has passed. Tannins are gritty with just a trace of raisined fruit on the back.

Very nice indeed.

In my mind I see this sort of wine as a drinking port. It has the structure to age, but perhaps not the ball breaking tannins and impact to really demand or warrant a long spell in the cellar. Instead, this is more closely aligned to a table wine than nearly any fortified in the country, allowing for it to be actually drunk with food.

Well done. 17.5

Friday, 13 November 2009

Turkey Flat Grenache 2005

Turkey Flat Grenache 2005 (Barossa, SA)
$20, Screwcap, 15%

Normally I'm quite a fan of the Turkey Flat range, so I'm treating this as an anomaly. However if ever there was a perfect example of the perils of a warm Barossan vintage, it lies in this wine.

A dark reddish in colour, bricking even, this has the shock of overripe fruit all over it. Think metallic, hard, stewed plums and dark red fruit on the nose, followed by stewed figs, molasses and supermarket chocolate liqueurs on the palate (the really cheap ones). Hard, hot finish too.

The resultant wine is, to my palate, quite hard work, lacking freshness or balance, showing quite succinctly the challenges of growing grapes under the hot Barossan sun. 14

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Agreeing with Jefford....again

It's becoming a horrible trend all this agreement, but I can't fault much of the arguments in this speech (though I can't say I agree with him in regards to the quality of our unique Semillon and Rieslings, nor does he make any mention of Rutherglen fortifieds).

I particularly like his dissection of wine writing and wine writers, and his criticism of the unspoken mantra of most wine writers that 'if it's no good, don't write about it', which I personally don't agree with either.

Read it all here

Air New Zealand Wine Awards: Results

Here are the gold medal winner from the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. I'm listing them here in full as they paint an interesting picture of who wins what at NZ wine shows:


Deutz Marlborough Cuvee Blanc de Blancs 2006 (Pure Gold)
Hawkesbridge Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle 2006

Curio d'Auvergne Vineyard Wairau Valley Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008
Forrest The Valleys Wairau Gewurztraminer 2008
Hunter's Gewurztraminer 2009 (Pure Gold)
Johanneshof Cellars Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2009
Morton Estate White Label Gewurztraminer 2009
Spy Valley Gewurztraminer 2009 (Pure Gold)
Waimea Nelson Gewurztraminer 2008

Pinot Gris
Brightwater Vineyards Nelson Pinot Gris 2009 (Pure Gold)
Couper's Shed Pinot Gris 2009
Dashwood Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009

Amisfield Lowburn Terrace Riesling 2007
Bladen Riesling 2009
Bouldevines Riesling 2009
Esk Valley Marlborough Riesling 2009
Forrest The Doctors' Riesling 2009
Glenmark Weka Plains Proprietors Reserve Riesling 2003
Olssens Annieburn Riesling 2009 (Pure Gold)
R.S.V.P. Crosse Vineyard Marlborough Riesling 2008 (Pure Gold)
Vic Williams Selection Classic Marlborough Riesling 2008
Waipara Springs Premo Riesling 2005

Sauvignon Blanc
Catalina Sounds Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Lake Chalice Raptor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 19 Bird Block Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 2 Swamp Block Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 43 Degrees Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Sea Level Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Vavasour Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Waimea Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Wairau River Home Block Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Coopers Creek Gisborne Chardonnay Unoaked 2008
Crossroads Winery Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2008
John Forrest Collection Chardonnay 2004
Kemblefield The Reserve Chardonnay 2007 (Pure Gold)
Mudbrick Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2008
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 11 Cell Block Chardonnay 2008
Salvare Chardonnay 2007
Secret Stone Chardonnay 2009
Te Awa Chardonnay 2007
Villa Maria Reserve Barrique Chardonnay 2007
Villa Maria Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2008
Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2008
Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007
Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2008
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2007
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Chardonnay 2006
Waimea Nelson Chardonnay 2008

Church Road Reserve Viognier 2007
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Viognier 2008
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Omahu Viognier 2008

Dessert Wine
Church Road Reserve Noble Semillon 2004
Farmgate Noble Harvest Riesling 2007
Forrest Botrytised Riesling 2008
Glazebrook New Zealand Noble Harvest Riesling 2009
Margrain Botrytis Chenin Blanc 2009
Margrain Botrytis Riesling 2009
Margrain Botrytis Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Clearview Estate Black Reef Blush 2009
Tarras Vineyards Pinot Rose 2009

Pinot Noir
Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008
Archangel Pinot Noir 2008
Babich Winemakers' Reserve Pinot Noir 2008
Davishon Pinot Noir 2007
Fairmont Estate Pinot Noir 2008
Georgetown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
Greystone Waipara Pinot Noir 2008
Julicher 99 Rows Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2008
Julicher Pinot Noir 2008
Pond Paddock Te Muna Pinot Noir 2008
Thornbury Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 (Pure Gold)
Valli Bannockburn Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2006
Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2007
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Noir 2007 (Pure Gold)
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Southern Clays Pinot Noir 2008
Waipara Hills Southern Cross Selection Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008
Wither Hills Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008
Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2007

Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2007

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and/or Cabernet Sauvignon Blends
Matariki Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Merlot 2007
Newton Forrest Cornerstone 2007
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels The Gimblett 2007
Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2007 (Pure Gold)

Church Road Reserve Syrah 2008
Coopers Creek SV Hawkes Bay Syrah Chalk Ridge 2008
Corbans Cottage Block Hawke's Bay Syrah 2007
Gunn Estate Silistria Syrah 2007
Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2007
Miro Syrah 2008
Mudbrick Vineyard Reserve Syrah 2008
Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2008
Vidal Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007
Vidal Reserve Syrah 2006

Other Red Varieties
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2008
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2007

Unsurprising to see who wins what, but just the sheer scale of dominance is amazing - witness the command of St Clair in the Savvy class, Villa Maria in the Pinot & Chardonnay classes or Margrain in the stickies.

Whilst that really doesn't raise questions quality wise - all three wineries really are on top of their respective games - it does perhaps give an insight into the sort of wine style that the judges are looking for. This could be a good aspect, as the wines in question are almost universally clean, intense and varietally typical wines, but it could also foster a breed of show friendly wines, that are made to satisfy judging requirements, as opposed to being damn good drinks...

I'm probably just playing devils advocate though, for amongst those gold medal winners is a multitude that I would happily drink, which ultimately means that they are worthy winners (if I say so myself :)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The oversupply statement - firm words, no real action?

A statement to the wine industry by the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, Wine Grape Growers’ Australia, the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation and the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation

Released today: Have a read here

I've had only a cursory read, so can't make any decisive comments as yet, but it did seem to be a response that was firmly worded and absolutely open about the problems the Australian wine industry is facing. The focus on uneconomical grapes and their gradings was most interesting, giving an insight perhaps into how bad the situation is.

This paragraph in particular is the most accurate description of the problems I have seen:

Globally we have been forced to trade in the low-value / low-margin market to sell excess wine, yet our costs are too high for us to be viable in that market in the long term – we cannot match the cost structures of some competitors (including a subsidised Europe) at very low price points.

Just as damaging is the image being created that Australia is only a low-cost producer, making it difficult for our premium wines to gain recognition and market traction.

Domestically, excess supplies have allowed supermarkets to move from customers to competitors by launching their own low-price products, without the need to invest in capital infrastructure or the long-term health of the industry.

The challenge I would level at the authors of this report - the four main industry bodies - is that whilst the wording is strong and accurate, the countermeasures are far more meek, and reek of the political difficulties in getting all four bodies to agree with each other. Blood will need to be let before any results will be seen.

Still, I like this unified response indicating that our industry, so long hooked on the drunken lure of volume and market presence, has now taken the first step on the addiction recovery trail by jointly admitting that we have a problem.

Now the real work starts: recovering and totally restructuring the industry for the future.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Head Wines 'The Brunette' Syrah 2008

Head Wines 'The Brunette' Syrah 2008 (Barossa Valley, SA)
$35, Screwcap, 13.5%

'The Brunette' comes from a high elevation vineyard in Moppa, which consists of heavy soils of deep red clay and ironstone that give structure, longevity and reward from cellaring.

Admirably, this wine matches that description well. What I particularly like is the restraint on offer, though this equals a desperate need for some decanter time if you're looking for a drink tonight.

Red, but not glass staining, this smells delightfully of its terroir, with said red clay and ironstone soil giving a nose of rust, red dirt and licorice, dusted with coffee oak.

The palate follows in atypically Barossan fashion, with nary a sweet fruit character in site, nor any sweetness of oak either. Instead, it's an almost perversely dry, firmly structured, red dirt dominated mouthful of meaty, licoricey extract that had me thinking of something Southern Rhonish, though obviously in a more Shiraz dominant frameset, with tannins signing things off with serious intent.

It's this dry, serious, savoury and utterly terroir reflectiveness though that makes this Head Brunette. The only thing missing is immediacy, which is such a classic hallmark of Barossan reds. Instead this is a slightly haughty drink, gruff even, without the fruit slut, sex appeal of so many Barossan brethren. It's drink me later, 'Syrah' Shiraz then, with all of it's best work ahead of it, hence my slightly conservative score.

Good stuff regardless. 17.5++

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Tasting the Superstars - Mini verticals of Mouton, Rousseau etc

For all the criticisms levelled at the wine industry, it's nothing if not generous.

This tasting was put on by Domaine Wine Shippers, one of the more renowned importers of French wine into Australia, with the likes of DRC, Raveneau, Billecart & Bouchard in their portfolio, not to mention the likes of local stars Clarendon Hills, Meerea Park & Yarra Yering.

Every year they hold a two day tastefest which brings together many of these producers in the auspices of their annual trade day. Every year its one of the few trade tastings that are not to be missed, if purely for the range of interesting imports opened. Every year I naturally oblige.

As usual with these style of events, the tasting is done in a flurry, whilst attempting to talk to winemakers and take notes, all at once. So apologies for the occasionally vague tasting note. I'll happily retaste the top wines (if given the opportunity), just to nail it.

A few of the notable highlights (and also one lowlight - see Clarendon Hills)

Australian Whites

Fraser Gallop Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Clean, grassy and classy Sem Sauv if rather simple. Fresh & drinkable, if lacking in some density. Good. 17.2

Yarra Yering Chardonnay 2007
Quite obvious wood but also quite typically creamy and oxidative with the typical flor like characters that can make or break this wine. Nice length and quite distinctive stuff, 17.7

Australian (and one Kiwi) Reds

Clarendon Hills
The prices are exorbitant, the range of single vineyard wines confusing and ever changing. The wines however are often absolutely remarkable things of impact & world class quality. Pity that Roman Bratasiuk himself is the man behind it, for both times (including this tasting) I have met him, he has almost gone out of his way to be rude and brusque.
Thankfully his son is much more accomodating...

Clarendon Hills 'Kangarilla' Grenache 2007
Lollies, boysenberry and raspberry ripple. Quite exotic smelling and rather attractive, if hugely ripe. Big tannins and extract, but also showcases the old vine fruit particularly well. Excellent stuff. 18.3

Maude Pinot Noir 2008
Loved the 2007, this seems just a bit more simple. Sappy & notably ripe nose with a glacé fruit character to it that is almost tipping over into jamminess. Very pretty soft palate is silken & slinky, if lacking the thrust for high marks. Good. 17.4

Stanton & Killeen Shiraz Durif 2007
Big & cuddly, with obvious oak all over it ,but also with a very appealing chocolatey texture. Great value too. 17.0

Stanton & Killeen 'The Prince' 2008
Produced from Portuguese varieties. Exotic, tangy perfume with redcurrant and cranberries. Sour palate with unforced, proper tannins and a smack of alcohol to finish. Unusual and interesting, if slightly awkward wine. High marks for individuality regardless. 17.5

Stanton & Killeen Durif 2006
Oaky, chocolatey & textural Durif with superpowered raspberry fruit. Unquestionably powerful and sure to develop well, but with a rather bizarre porty aftertaste. Interesting wine that I really think deserves a retaste. 16.5 +/-

Stanton & Killeen Vintage Port 2000
Unusual to say so, but this is the most Portuguese Australian port I have ever had. Powerfully raisined and black berry flavours, with lots of sinew, but no burn. Rather, this just feels like a rather hefty table wine. I really quite enjoyed this. 18


Billecart Salmon 'Nicholas Francois Billecart' 1998
I've not tasted this before, so I had to do a double take after tasting it. Absolutely top shelf Champagne (and not surprising once I caught a glimpse of the RRP - $220+). Lifted full & creamy nose shows obvious bottle age with honeyed overtones. A very creamy, rich and quite full style, but also with a properly dry palate, making for a very rewarding drink. Really long & complex. Excellent. 18.5

Really enjoyed these, particularly the 07's. Right up my alley (hence the high scores)

Josmeyer 'Hengst' Gewurtztraminer Grand Cru 2007
Both fresh & opulent with excellent definition. Nose shows crisp typically lychee & spicy fruit driven nose and just a hint of barrel, leading to a very dry, but rewardingly long palate with proper acid to finish. Lovely textural Gewurtz with time to go. 18.0+

Josmeyer 'Brand' Gewurtztraminer Grand Cru 2007
Less opulent & gewurtzy than the Hengst, with a long, dry & quite tropical palate, finishing with 'wow' grip and power. World class gewurtz. 18.5

Josmeyer 'Brand' Riesling Grand Cru 2007
Lovely pretty nose. Fresh & perfumed. But the palate is hardcore! Spicy, grippy and macho even. Such a spicy Rizza! Love it. 18.5+

Josmeyer 'Hengst' Riesling Grand Cru 2007
Drier and more stony, lemony wine with just a twinge of rubber. Again great acidity, but this seemed awkward compared to the rest of the range. 17

Josmeyer 'Brand' Pinot Gris Grand Cru 2007
I know which Josmeyer vineyard is my favourite! Brand me! Lightly peachy with understated power & intense apricotty fruit, this was such a juicy and impressive Pinot Gris of real concentration. Perhaps the best Pinot Gris I have had this year. 17.9

Josmeyer 'Hengst' Vendange Tardive Riesling 1995
Impressive curio. Bright yellow, Berocca wee coloured even. Nose is just a little bit funky with developed marmalade fruit. Palate mixed the sweetness of the late picked fruit with dry acidity, making for a palate that is actually rather refreshing. Interesting and tasty. 18

White Burgundy

Domaine Laroche Les Clos Chablis 2005
Kimmeredgian cream & a bit of flab on the nose. Fat, classically proportioned but ultimately blunt palate. Straw bottle age character showing here that I never enjoy in Chablis. Waste of good grapes really, though it's still a fair drink. Just could be much better given the vineyard and vintage. 16.5

Ballot Millot Mersault 'Charmes' 1er Cru 2005
Wooded nose, really heavily oaked but still perfectly formed, the palate showing beautiful Mersault fruit, just with poorly formed wood over the top. Could well integrate in time, hence the quite positive score. 17+

Ballot Millot Mersault 'Charmes' 1er Cru 2004
Nice to try this after the 2005, this is creamier with more fruit and more layers to the palate, boding well for the future of the 05. Nose is again very attractive, with the fig & whipped cream character of really good white Burgundy, palate though is lean & falls away dramatically. Extra points for the nose though. 16.8

Bouchard Mersault 'les Gouttes d'Or' 1er Cru 2004
Another 04 and another lovely nose let down by a slightly disappointing palate. A continuing theme in 04 white Burgs (though with some exceptions). Beautiful nose. Freshly whipped cream with a nutty, long and earthy palate. Truffled cream. Still falls away at the finish. 17.6-

Bouchard Mersault 'les Gouttes d'Or' 1er Cru 2006
Tighter & showing more wood on both the nose and the palate. In fact I have written in my notes book 'spitting wood chips, but should be good with age'. Score reflects this. 17.4++

Bouchard Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2004
Formic & wood on the nose, leading to a very sour, backward palate. Excellent acidity, simply excellent, long & gritty, with a dose of oak on the tail. Long termer! 18+++

Red Burgundy

Bouchard Beaune Greves 'Vigne de l'Enfant Jesus' 1er Cru 2006
Ah the baby Jesus, always my favourite Bouchard red. Beautiful, full & aromatic nose, with deep fleshy red fruit and justs a touch of animale. Serious extract on the palate with astringent, proper seed (grape) tannin. Just a big angular at present but much to like for the future. 17.8+

Bouchard Beaune Greves 'Vigne de l'Enfant Jesus' 1er Cru 2001
Just a bit of tawny, treacle like decay on the nose. Bacony palate still retains the core of modern red fruit, with some meatiness growing in there too. Good drinker now, but is drying out. 17.2

Bouchard Le Corton Grand Cru 2006
Very full & chunky nose, with a very big, firm & un-burgundian palate. Awkward, though time may well resolve it. 16.0++

Bouchard Le Corton Grand Cru 2001
Never liked this wine and neither of these helped. This was simply hard & beefy, with an inelegant palate that is drying out. Dry red. 15.5

Confuron Cotetidot Vosne Romanee 'Les Suchots' 1er Cru 2006
A wine for the structuralist (me, me!). Tolerance of leafiness and stems required. Beautiful black tea & dark red fruits. Formidable tannins. Seriously firm, but still so fresh! Impressive. 18.1

Confuron Cotetidot Vosne Romanee 'Les Suchots' 1er Cru 2004
Pea & Ham soup. Unusual, but unmistakably freaky. Hammy and lacking the freshness of the 06, but still with some attraction. 16.8

Mongeard Mugneret Nuits St Georges 'Les Boudots' 1er Cru 2006
Black fruit on a really hard and brackish palate. Black fruit and heaps of tannins. Very serious indeed. I quite liked this. Future. 17.7+

Rousseau Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2006
I was amazed at how much of a step up this was. Put simply, this is one of the finest wines I have had this year. I am just going to reprint my tasting note as it is written in my tasting book. Whilst it lacks detail, the emotion says it all.
'Stunning strawberry fruit fragrance. Beautiful textured masterpiece of a palate. So beautiful, feminine & rich & sexy. My God. 19.3'

Rousseau Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2005
The 06 was all about seduction, this 05 is all about structure. Sappier, gamier, harder, darker and much more backward than the 06, with red licorice replacing the strawberry fruit. So much more oak and truly lethal tannins. Very serious. Long termer. Stick this in the cellar and drink the 06 now. 18.2++

Rousseau Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2003
Bigger, more volatile & riper. Licoricey nose, but more gruff and soupy too. Redcurrant fruit carries through onto the palate, but so does fire and alcohol heat. Structured tannins to finish. Lesser of the three, but still a good wine. 17.8+


Pauillac de Chateau Latour 2004
Very rich & full black fruited style with a forward, Cab dominant nose. Fleshy, lightly minty chocolatey palate. Fleshy and quite fat, I'd drink (significantly cheaper) Margaret River Cabs over this, though its unquestionably from good bloodlines. 17.0

Mouton Rothschild 2005
Vinfanticide. Deep & quite dark red in colour with cedar and sweet chocolate on the nose, combined with just a smidgen of Bordeaux gamey-ness. Very full, smooth dark black fruit that is polished to perfection. Excellent tannin. It's all rather restrained actually, indicating the absolute youth of this wine. Score will only go up as its showing very little of what it may become. 18.5+

Mouton Rothschild 2004
Quite sweet, open, black & full fruited. Spicy tea leaves and dark fruit that is just a bit underwhelming through the middle, but finishes with such excellent tannic structure that I still felt quite positive about this wine. 17.8++

Mouton Rothschild 2003
Quite advanced already, but still utterly plush and full and showy. Nice perfumed, but the palate is dull and somewhat caramelised. Tannins are similarly missing in action. Only ok really. 16.8

Singlefile Estate Merlot 2008

Singlefile Estate Merlot 2008 (Denmark, WA)
$22, Screwcap, 13.0%

There is much to be said about this very isolated corner of Australia - not only is it a rather attractive part of the world, but it produces some quite nice wines too.

Mildly herbaceous, in a fresh and lively, varietal Merlot way, this is a gentle red with leafy red fruits, a hint of mulch and an overlay of pencilly oak. The oak is just a tad heavy on the palate, giving in an inch of caramel woodiness that detracts slightly, but this should integrate with some time in bottle.

Otherwise this is a mid weight, dry and savoury red built in a subtle and reasonably refined style. The only challenge I can see is the only medium bodied, moderate style sits quite a way apart from many of its peers, which might prove to be challenging for people to really fall in love with it.

Drinkable wine regardless. 16

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Woop Woop The Black Chook 'Free Range' GSV 2008

Woop Woop The Black Chook 'Free Range' Grenache Shiraz Viognier 2008 (South Australia)
$18, Screwcap, 15.0%

Made to sell. Made to make tons of everyday drinkers very happy with their purchase. Made to appeal to just about anyone who likes red wine to be rich soft & juicy. Arguably it's a critter wine, but its a very smart one, with standout packaging & a reasonably clever back label. Arguably its also quite 'Australian' in style and flavour, packed with juicy black & purple fruits on a squeaky clean palate that overfloweth with abundant ripe grape flavours.

But behind all this marketing driven edifice, this really isn't a bad wine. It's genuinely not to my tastes, with its pruney ripeness, obvious V-weed peachiness on the nose and warm tail, but I can't begrudge the clever winemaking, which has presented a wine with broad appeal at an entirely suitable price.

The secret, I believe, to this blends simple attractiveness, lies in the dominant 95% of the blend - Grenache & Shiraz. In this instance, the Grenache provides candied perfume and fruit, the Shiraz the structure and meaty mid palate. The Viognier then serves to top this off with an extra edge of fruit juice, that just makes the whole package prettier, softer and juicier.

Combined together by a well experienced winemaker (Ben Riggs) and deftly handled in the winery, and we have this final result: An unarguably simple, ripe and alcoholic red blend that charms by its cleverness. It's definitely not my idea of a high quality wine (as reflected in the score), but I still can appreciate how well this has been thought out, and similarly how tailored this is to both its target (not me) market and its pricepoint.

Good. 15.5