Knappstein Cabernet Merlot 2008 (Clare Valley, SA) $23
It's a solid effort from a tough year, though personally I found it a bit hard going.
The wine itself smells pretty good, with cocoa/coffee oak, mint and eucalypt mixed with stewed red fruit in a nicely regional form. On the palate everything starts mid weight, rich and correct too. The challenge is the rather green, raw, astringent tannins and dehydrated fruit through the finish, which I personally couldn't get past (and never can).
In terms of bang for your (discount) dollars this is unquestionably a lot of wine for reasonably little. It's just a bit roughly hewn and disjointed for me. 16/86
Raymond Lafon 2001 (Sauternes, France) $80 375ml
Speaking of hard going and backward, here is a Sauternes that even at 9 years of age was difficult to really drink. The problem here is just too much structure, with lots of acid and quite subdued sweetness. It still has the chalky melon thing going on, but it's so wound up in acid and fruit tannin that not much else comes out. Needs many many more years yet. Score is lowish, purely as this has so much more to give. 17/90++
Domaine Pichot Vouvray Sec 'Coteau de la Biche' 2008 (Loire, France) $30
Nice to see this in a screwcap. I'm not a massive fan of Vouvray, but lots to like with this Pichot. Honey, pear and citrus on the nose in that typical Vouvray style. Palate is tight, dry and textural, if still so wound up in acid that you are left wanting more. Quite a simple wine in essence but certainly drinkable. 17.2/90
Man O' War 'Dreadnought' Syrah 2008 (Waiheke Island, NZ) $45
I was a massive fan of the 2007 but I can't say I feel the same about this 08. It's still an impressively aromatic, varietally pure Syrah in a definitively Northern Rhone style. My only exception is the green, hardish vegetal streak through the middle of this which, at this stage, makes it just a fraction awkward, without the beautiful peppery lusciousness of the 07. Keen to revisit this though with further bottle age to see if it integrates more. 16.5/88