Voyager Estate Masterclass
As The Great Man himself noted in an article over the weekend (here), there are few wineries out there that do an annual benchmark tasting as well as Voyager. Sure plenty of other producers benchmark, and plenty of them do it consistently, but few present as fine a bracket of wines, year after year, as Voyager does.
This years version of the Voyager masterclass didn't let me down either, featuring a whole range of top class wines at an event that was expertly run and managed. A particular highlight was the tasting notes book that accompanied the tasting, featuring background on all the wines, plus vintage reports and wine region information. Those sort of details may sound insignificant, but it all contributes to a more interesting tasting. Kudos all round.
Now as for the context (and in case you didn't read Halliday's review) of the notes of this tasting, this is how the event was ran: Three brackets of wine, all served single blind, with each one featuring a particular Voyager varietal in a lineup of similar styled wines. The three brackets in question then were Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon blends and Shiraz, with the Voyager wines utilised including the Estate Chardonnay, Cabernet Merlot and Shiraz.
What was most interesting, and happily reinforcing, was that the Voyager Cabernet Merlot and Chardonnay (in particular) performed spectacularly well. The vintages no doubt helped things, with two strong ones for Margaret River on show, but that is perhaps discounting the quality of the Voyager wines at hand (even if I'm not a Shiraz fan), which were damn fine (and several bottles of the Cabernet Merlot followed me home to prove it).
The following notes then are unedited, with the information in italics sourced from the tasting booklet
Strong class this one. I'd happily drink a bottle of most of these. That Voyager looks like stunning value in this context...
Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 2007 (Burgundy, France)
12 months in 30% new oak, 6 months on fine lees in tank. 13.5% alc. RRP $270
Bright straw green/yellow colour. Very toasty, mealy nose showing some warmth. Expensive wood and very serious length here. Heat through the finish. Fine, if oak driven. Lots of acid here but also loads of oak. Long termer (This really just needs some time to come together). 17.4/91+
Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay 2007 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
17 months in 54% new oak. pH 3.36, TA 6.18, 14.5% alc. RRP $75
Bright green straw colour. Toasted almonds and butter nose with more obvious oak sweetness. Long and lusciously creamy palate with real generosity. Finishes warm. Maybe a fraction too creamy? Quite flashy but not overt. Nice wine this. 17.8/92
Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Earliest harvest ever and this was picked when still quite green. 40% new, 40% 1 yr old and 20% 2 yr old oak. pH 3.12, TA 6.8, 13.2% alc. RRP $45
Bright straw green in colour. Quite a deep and nutty nose that is not as lifted as the previous wine. Slight stink in there too with a meaty, wild edge. Like it. Palate is entirely acid driven in a rather natural and clean form. Lanolin and acid. Love the drive here. Really very fine. 18.5/94
Kistler Vine Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 (Russian River Valley, USA)
'Non interventionist winemaking. Whole bunch fermentation with barrels racked only once. 11 months in 50% new oak. 14.1% alc. RRP $140
Much more developed yellow colour. Stinky, wild ferment nose with just a hint of honey. Palate has peach, melon and serious layers of complex and super ripe fruit. No shortage of intensity. Some surprisingly tangy acidity to round everything out. Such a mouthful of a wine! Loved this. 18.6/94 (this scored the most votes in the Chardonnay bracket and I think that it did because it's a sexy, slutty wine. I dig sexy, slutty wines clearly :)).
Giaconda Estate & Nantua Vineyards Chardonnay 2007 (Beechworth, Victoria)
89% Chardonnay, 11% Rousanne. The only white produced from the problematic 07 vintage and thus a vineyard blend. Barrel fermented, natural yeast and malolactic fermentations. 33% new oak. TA 6.0, pH 3.6, 13.9% alc. RRP $110
Warmer, more open and volatile nose than the other wines. Peach and almost apricot richness (that might be the Rousanne). Peachy but blunt palate. Palate is creamy and dry but it falls away through the finish. Not convincing enough in this company. Short. 16.3/87
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Full barrel ferment, 11 months in 100% new oak. pH 3.35, 14.5% alc. RRP $95
Really volatile and heady. Big melon and grapefruit nose. Screaming alcohol. Has to be Leeuwin. Lots of oak, lots of alcohol. Completely OTT but there is some life in there. That alcohol though.... 16.9/89 (the third time I've tried this now and each time that alcohol sticks out rudely, despite the quality of the fruit).
Shiraz + Shiraz dominant blends
A slightly variable category this one, but interesting. Strictly speaking this is not my favourite style of wine (Northern Rhone inspired) but still there were some highlights.
Dalwhinnie Shiraz 2008 (Pyrenees, Vic)
17 months in 80% French, 20% American oak. 33% new. TA 6.5g/l, pH 3.4, 13.5% alc. RRP $55
Deep rich red colour. One of the deepest in this lineup. Sweet red cherry and vanilla musk nose with red licorice. White pepper edge. Quite a big palate of ripe red cherry fruit, with a glossy mid palate. Viognier?. Lots of length and cut ripe and full but it's just a bit hot. Shows some mixed ripeness. It's good but not amazing. 17.2/90
Rene Rostaing La Cuvee Classique Cote Rotie 2007 (Northern Rhone, France)
24 months in a combination of 50% barriques and 50% 600L demi-muids. Barrels range from 2-8 yrs old. pH 3.5, 13% alc. RRP $125
Much lighter colour. So obviously Rhoney nose with pepper and a hint of bum. Meaty and floral and beautifully perfumed. Sexy even. Long and quite juicy palate with proper chalky tannins. Still unfolding but much to like here. 18.5/94
Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2008 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Harvested mid heat wave. 14 months in 33% new French oak. TA 6.45, pH 3.52, 14% alc. RRP $38
Mid red with purple edges. Jammy nose with rich red fruit. Lots of jam. Still quite floral. Palate has red lolly fruit in a quite broad frame. Sweet and quite generous, almost velveteen palate is actually quite attractive, though not for the long term. 17.7/92 (I wonder if I would score this differently on a re-taste? I was expecting to not like this anywhere near as much).
Voyager Shiraz 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
95% Shiraz, 5% Malbec. 12 months in 40% new French and Merican oak. TA 6.5, pH 3.7, 14% alc. RRP $35
Really heavily extracted and rather oaky. Lots and lots of red fruit, a hint of formic and more oak. Oak tannins with a bitter twist. Just not my favoured style of Shiraz, though it is savoury and dense. Where is the generosity? 16.8/89
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2008 (Canberra)
94% Shiraz, 6% Viognier. 3 day pre-ferment maceration, 20% whole bunches and an average of 3 weeks on skins. 30% new French oak for 12 months. TA 6.1, pH 3.63, 14% alc. RRP $75
Very purple. Clonakilla (on the ball!). Apricot and marmalade Viognier character. Sweet fruit just teeters towards confection with loads of warm, luscious, peppery whole bunch flavour. It all ends up quite delicious and fleshy. Very attractive wine for immediate drinking. 18.3/93
Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2008 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
18 months in 47% new French barriques. TA 5.6g/l, pH 3.76, 14.5% alc. RRP $90
Volatile quite simple and direct nose. Hot and direct, extractive nose. Hard and oaky palate with a wall of extract and oak. Hard going really, finishing bitter. Not much fun. 16/87+ (Another disappointing Craggy red. This one was served blind too. The enigma continues...)
Now here are some highlights. Lots of classy wines in this lineup. I'll take a mixed dozen of the Chardonnay bracket and this bracket please.
Cullen Diana Madeline 2005 (Margaret River, WA)
74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 4% Cab Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 19 months in 70% new Franch barriques. TA 5.6, pH 3.64, 14% alc. RRP $95
Bright mid red colour. Spice and black fruit nose is elegant, leafy and entirely appropriate. Light. Cranberry and red fruit in rather unforced and pure form. Lots of Cab Franc? (got that wrong). Sweetly spicy. Long termer. Yarra? (wrong there too). Very nicely balanced and rather delicious. 18.4/94+ (Have tried this a few times now and every time has been a winner).
Mount Mary Quintet 2005 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 18% Cab Franc, 5% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot. 22 months in 25% large format (1500L or larger) oak and 30% in new barriques. TA 6.0, pH 3.4, 13%. RRP $150
Quite full red colour. Classically varietal nose if in the tobacco and meat end of the spectrum. Full and bright, leafy nose. Palate too is leafy and pure if falling away to a sort of dour, forgotten finish. Bitter herbs 'Almost'. 17.8/92+ (all this needs is bottle age. Important plus sign. Amazed I didn't pick it though!).
Voyager Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2005 (Margaret River, WA)
79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. 24 months in half new, half 1yr old barrels. TA 6.9, pH 3.52, 14% alc. RRP $60.
Much bigger, redder and oaky nose. Very classic though. Voyager/Cullen? (half right!). Beautifully balanced palate of classic form. Leafy elegance, rich black fruits, lots of tannins. The whole package. Lots of length. Seriously good. 18.7/95 (My sort of wine and thus why it gets a high score. Was the most popular in this bracket too).
Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Napa Valley, USA)
36 months in oak, 75% new. TA 5.6, pH 3.79, 13.9% alc. RRP $65
Obvious age on the nose. Tea leaf development characters. Sweaty stinky bretty nose. Palate is a bit sour and metallic. Bordeaux? (It's the brett you see :)). Drying, unfun tannins. Bretty and not much fun. 15.5/86
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2005 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 18% Cab Franc. 20 months in oak. TA 5.8, pH 3.49, 13.5% alc. RRP $82
Corked. (Or at least I thought it was corked. Apparently it has looked odd in most of these Voyager masterclasses around the country. Very weird, as I'm normally a very big fan. I gave it another sniff and decided there might be wine in there somewhere. I'm still putting it down as a bad bottle). U/R
Ornellaia 2005 (Bolgheri, Italy)
56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 12% Cab Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. 18 months in 70% new, 30% 1yr old French oak. TA 5.5, pH 3.55, 14.5% alc. RRP $270
Slightly forward and evolved but quite a beautiful dusty nose. Dark fruit, firm tannins and lovely gritty black olive flavours. Lovely stuff if just a smidgen forward. Italian (yes!). 18.2/93 (The 06 is even more impressive, but I'd happily drink this).
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2005 (Bordeaux, France)
64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 14-16 months in 50% new and 50% one year old barriques. TA 5.1g/l, 13% alc. RRP $325
Slightly stinky, meaty and briary nose. Opulent and sexy smelling. Formic, hung game palate with a sour end. Oaky and sour, maybe a little underdone but looong. Needs years. 17.5/91+ (I'm entirely happy with this one. It's not much of a drink now. for everything is in the future).
Balnaves 'The Tally' Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Coonawarra, SA)
20 months in 100% new barrels, with 60% of the wine barrel fermented. TA 7.93, pH 3.42, 14.5% alc.
Big chocolatey nose. Lots and lots of formic oak. Hugely minty, dry and sweet fruited palate. Big and cuddly. Too much oak? Certainly way too much added acid. Just a bit brutal, though if you want impact go no further. 17/91
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