Sunday, February 28, 2010

ozwinereview (and Full Pour) go back to school

It's taken a few years of procrastination, and plenty of star-staring life questioning, but tomorrow I will be officially going back to school.

In my case, school will be at Dookie, NW Victoria, where I'll be working towards the very officious sounding Masters in Wine Technology & Viticulture, a course aimed at giving me the skills to swap the keyboard for secateurs (or pH meters) if I so wish too.

9am Monday is the start of this wine education adventure, the starting point for two weeks of practical residential school at the Dookie (where?) campus, before I then go home and follow it up with many thousands of words in long winded assignments (the not so fun part).

Thankfully, I have a comrade on this journey, as i'll be joined by the similarly foolhardy Julian Coldrey, of www.fullpour.com fame, who is also keen to work out exactly what's involved in the whole wine production caper.

So, over the next few weeks (and years) I will be reporting from a slightly different angle, as that of a student of wine.

Looking forward to it already.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shaw Vineyard Shiraz 2008 & Sem Sauv 2009

Shaw Vineyard Estate Shiraz 2008 (Canberra District)
$22, Screwcap, 14.5%
Source: Sample
www.shawvineyards.com.au

It's wines such as this that show exactly why Canberra Shiraz is gaining mainstream acceptance, winning palates with a simple proposition - immediacy.

For this wine, like so many other Canberra Shiraz based reds, smells and tastes good from the very first twist. It requires no decanting, has plenty of fruit sweetness, yet still stays crisp and savoury enough to enable drinking satisfaction. It's a wine then with a point of difference, an extra air of attraction to the everyman, pulling in anyone who dislikes the 'heaviness' of most typical Australian reds, whilst still maintaining a veneer of cool climate elegance.

It's actually like what good cru Beaujolais - and ultimately Pinot - does so well, combining lightness with flavour, without requiring too much excess sugar.

In the vein then, this Shiraz is hardly more than medium bodied, relying on aromatics, finesse and freshness over brute power, and providing upfront, quite easily accessible flavours in the process. Arguably, it's a simple style of wine, and arguably it's less likely to get significantly better with bottle age, but you can't deny the juicy, immediate appeal.

This Shiraz itself? It has a nose of black pepper, stewed figs and mulberries, smelling ripe, juicy and quite fragrant, if very youthful. There is a hint of stewed fruit in there too, but the freshness is undeniable. On the palate it is quite sweet, meaty, very ripe and just a bit jammy, the fruit tending to blackberry jam and heat, the wine finishing with just a bit of pointy acid. It is, in short, quite a simple wine, but made to an obviously clever recipe.

Ultimately, I am struggle to view this without my marketing hat on, for all I can see here is saleability. Broad, effortless saleability, backed by the odd unique selling point ('it's just so drinkable, and it's from Canberra! Who would have thought that Canberra makes wine') and supported with a reputation that feeds off the success of Clonakilla (et al).

And this wine? It's probably just a pertinent example of this breed, an example worth studying, if just to get your head around the concept, and to decide for yourself if this is the future of Australian Shiraz... 16.5
/88

Shaw Vineyard Estate Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Canberra district)

$22, Screwcap, 13%


From a region hardly known for its Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc or a blend of the two, it's not really surprising this doesn't quite work.

Quite yellow in the glass, the nose is surprisingly flat & forward, showing straw & hay Semillon varietal characters that are developing very quickly. On the palate it is simple and round, finishing slightly short and lacking in acidity, the fruit flavours quite honeyed and ill-defined.

In the end you just have to question the intention here - is it to make a crisp and clean CDW? If so, it's too ripe and lacking in acidity. Is the idea instead to make a richer and textural wine? If so, then why not give it some barrel work, or at least something to rescue the mouthfeel boredom.

Maybe it's just me, but sadly I just don't get it. 15/85

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz 2006

Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz 2006 (Clare Valley, SA)
$50, Cork, 13%
Source: Sample

http://www.leasingham-wines.com.au/

What a shame that this somewhat iconic winery shut its doors last year. The brand may still exist, but the (apparently modern and well appointed) winery is closed, and much of the best vineyards have been sold (to Tim Adams, for a song. Gone to a good home at least).

Very sad.

Anyway, this wine at least comes from a slightly more positive time in the Leasingham story, and is happily built in a very true-to-type Leasingham style: Full; rich; oaky and thick, with the sort of palate that you chew, not drink. It's almost a wine of a bygone era, reminiscent of the Leasingham reds of the late 90's, where the motto was 'too much oak and fruit is never enough'. An era of excess perhaps, but the results, particularly with some bottle age, were very good indeed.

The nose alone smells like it is from another age - it's deep, dense & spirity, with obvious choc mocha heavy toast oak intertwined with rum & raisin fruit sweetness. It smells youthful, immensely big and effortlessly rich, with serious old vine fruit depth that keeps going and going.

No surprises with the palate either, overflowing with chocolate cake oak and cooked plum fruit, edged with meatiness. It finishes with lots of chewy tannins, of the oak and fruit variety, with a shed load of sediment in the bottle. In fact, chewy is a great way to describe it, for this really is a wine with balls - roughly hewn and arguably inelegant, but with so much to grab hold of that you just know people will love it.

Perhaps the only distraction is a slightly horsey whiff, a meaty, animal element that could prove to be a bit of a distraction with more bottle age. It's probably not a deal breaker, but it is notable and noticeable (to me at least).

Putting that aside though and just plain drinking this red and you can taste how much there is to like, so much to get hold of, so much flavour and so much of that old Leasingham style that you can't help but appreciate it. It smells and tastes like it always has - unapologetically monolithic - and unashamedly so.

I mean technically, it's a relic, with plenty of foibles (character?) that could potentially get worse with age (and it only gets an average score as a result), but for lovers of the wine, for lovers of the old Classic Clare, this is gold medal stuff. And that's all that counts. 17/90

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
$19, Screwcap, 13%
Source: Sample
http://www.mountriley.co.nz/

Always a consistent performer, and again a very good value Sauvignon Blanc. Easy recommendation.

Grass green colour with a pungent, intensely varietal savvy nose with plenty of herbaceousness and some tropical overtones. Nice nose -very pure and varietal. The palate isn't as cutting as the nose, more soft and quite tropical with good fruit sweetness and clear grape flavours, lacking only the punchy acidity of the best wines. Good drinking regardless. 17.5/91


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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sydney Wine Show 2010 - the tasting (day 1)

As per usual, (this year and last year - which now qualifies as 'usual') I have spent the last two days tasting (and drinking) the wines that were submitted to the 2010 Macquarie Group Sydney Royal Wine Show (mouthful). As usual, it's a massive undertaking, with over 2200 different wines entered from several hundred wineries, but I took one for the team and attempted to taste as many relevant & interesting wines as I could.

These are the wines from day one.

Yarra Burn Blanc de Blancs 2005 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Trophy & gold medal
How this beat the brace of Arras vintages in this bracket is beyond me. Sure it's obviously very well made (probably by Ed Carr as well) but the acid is jarring, the sweetness cloying and the length missing. Not nasty, just a little average. 15.5/85

Tower Estate Clare Riesling 2009 (Clare Valley, SA)
Gold medal
Beautiful Clare lime juice nose. Really classic aromatics. Lovely form, though it is perhaps just lacking a little intensity. Nice stuff regardless. 17.7/92

Crabtree 'Hilltop' Riesling 2009 (Clare Valley, SA)
Trophy & gold medal
Just a hint of green pea on the nose - it's very green indeed, but flush with the typical Watervale richness on the nose. Long, vibrant and ageworthy Riesling, though I would wait a year or two before drinking. 17.8/92+

Mcwilliams Eden Valley Riesling 2009 (Eden Valley, SA)
Trophy & gold medal

Very pure and so obviously an Eden Valley Riesling, but really lacking the piercing definition, length or character to warrant its award. It's ultimately just a nice wine, not really a trophy wine. 16.6/89


Peter Lehmann 'Wigan' Riesling 2006 (Eden Valley, SA)
Trophy & gold medal

Classic Eden Slate with just the first hint of toast. Very well formed, pure and clean with lifted aromatics and clean varietal flavours. In a bit of a transitional phase right now, but no doubting the glory here. 18.3/93

Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
Trophy & gold medal
Intensely pungent Sauvignon with the most varietal nose you will ever smell. Bone dry palate - no sugar here! Not for the faint hearted, but so precise1 I'm marking it off the gold as I just found the acid a bit too aggressive for actual drinking. 17.5/91

Pepper Tree Alluvius Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Gold medal

Rather ripe and full for a Hunter Sem, its powerful and juicy upfront stuff. Lots of green apple fruit and citrussy acidity. Plenty of appeal here! Price? 17.6/91

Two Rivers Stone Throw Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Gold medal

Clean, grassy Semillon with rounded fruit flavours and a quite broad palate. Nice and generous though just a bit short for higher points. 16.5/88

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon 2008 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
No medal

As if to remind the Eather boys how important it is that this is released with appropriate bottle age, this scored poorly here. I can understand why too - at present it's completely in its shell, a tight, short and grassy Semillon that shows the green pea herbaceousness of the vintage, whilst barely hinting at the glories of the future. Bloody hard wine to rate too. I'm scoring it as I see it now, yet this reminds how useless points are with a beast such as Hunter Semillon. 15.8/86+++

Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Trophy & gold medal
The very wine that I picked out in our 'judging experience' as a potential trophy winner (I correctly called it a Tyrrells Sem too) and what do you know, a trophy it gets. Thoroughly deserving of its bling (the label is seriously groaning with trophies and gold medals) this is a classic, world class wine of unparallelled character, style and definition. Destined to be an all time great. It starts with a green straw colour, and a green apple over very light toast development, with just a hint of lemon curd. Palate is searingly, breathtakingly acidic in a typical, natural acid style that is absolutely refreshing but spankingly dry regardless. We drank this over lunch and even after being open for 3 or 4 hours it still seemed to be scorchingly dry. My conclusion? Don't miss out on this epic wine. 19/96

Tyrrells HVD Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver medal
Lovely clean and charismatic green apple and toast nose. It's a much broader and softer Semillon wine than the 05 Vat 1, which perhaps makes for a more drinkable wine, especially when backed with typical Sem acidity. Feels like a step behind it regardless. Still a glorious wine. 17.5/91

Wignalls Chardonnay 2009 (Great Southern, WA)
Gold medal

Very oaky. Bright, full & nutty with sophistication below all that oak. Just a bit too oaky to drink now though. 17/90++

Castle Rock Diletti Chardonnay 2008 (Great Southern, WA)
2 trophies & gold medal

Superb. Lovely rich Chardonnay with classy, somewhat oaky nose backed by cleverly worked palate. Complex, leesy palate shows particularly well, finishing with plenty of acid. Brilliant modern Chardonnay. 18.5/94

Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2008 (multi regional Blend)
3 trophies, including wine of show, 1 gold medal

The biggest debate was really centred around whether this iconic Chardonnay was better than the Penfolds below (for the record I would drink this now, the Penfolds for the cellar). Ultimately this very cool, dry and rich Chardonnay displayed a lovely mix of bright melon fruit, well judged oak and cool climate acidity. It's actually quite a soft wine, though with that acid punch reminding of its origins. A very tasty wine that is definitely worthy of its silverware, even if I wasn't totally blown away. 18.0/92

Penfolds Bin 07A Chardonnay 2007 (multi regional blend)
Trophy & bronze medal
Another wine that affirms Penfolds reputation as producers of absolute top shelf Chardonnay. This is a bigger, firmer, denser wine than the Eileen Hardy above, with some rather brisk acidity dominating the palate. In the more mineral and lemony Chardonnay style, this has real depth, even if I think its best work is still some way off. Score is lower than the Eileen above, but I expect them to swap with a few more years bottle age. 17.8/92

Yabby Lake Block 5 Pinot Noir 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
Gold medal
Wow. Now this is a Pinot! Fleshy, ripe, red cherry, Vosne like voluptuous red fruit on the nose, with a sexy plush and delicious palate that starts juicy and then gets drier and more tannic as the palate builds, finishing stemmy, stern and plain delicious. Archetypal Mornington Pinot. 18.7/95

Home Hill Pinot Noir 2008 (Tasmania)
No medal

Lots of bling on this bottle and its no surprise why. Rich, showy and very ripe Pinot with quite dominant oak and a really upfront style. Backed by nice Pinot Noir weight it's a genuinely good quality wine, if just a bit sweet and obvious (at the moment). 17/90

Yabby Lake Block 2 Pinot Noir 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
No medal

Such a different beast to the block 6. This a much simpler, almost muted wine that shows quite simple red fruits and a smidgen of bitterness. Finishes short too. Terroir at work! 16.0/86

Wolf Blass Gold Label Pinot Noir 2008 (South Australia)
Trophy & gold medal
THE controversy of the show. A simple, clearly varietal and certainly well polished Pinot Noir that may look 'spot on' in show conditions, but in the glass (over lunch) quickly showed to be a very one dimensional and characterless commercial wine that deserves no more than a bronze medal. Many judges were plain embarrassed by this, but everyone agreed that it was a difficult class to judge, and that the wine was at least clean and varietal. Clean and varietal however doesn't make for satisfying wines. 15.8/86

Grove Estate Somita Nebbiolo (Hilltops, NSW)
Gold medal

It's probably far too young to right this off completely, but for my mind this is a confected, sweet and rather plain Nebbiolo that only shares its tannin structure with that of the Italian classics. That's hardly a fair comparison, but i was totally put off by the sweetness and couldn't get past it. 15.3/84

Collector Reserve Shiraz 2008 (Canberra district)
3 trophies & gold medal

Great to see that a well priced Canberra wine got so many gongs this year, and that so many people were rather enthused by the wine whilst actually drinking it over lunch. Personally I think this is a lovely wine, though a bit simple for super excitement. With a nose of roast lamb, spicy red plum fruit and redcurrants backed by a smooth, medium weight and rather youthful palate, finishing dry and quite long. Nice now and even better later. 17.7/91+

Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2007
No Medal (and low score)
In a solid indictment of the rather technical leanings of a modern wine show, this iconic (and serioulsy good) wine received a particularly low score. I'm guessing this was mainly due to some typically sweaty (brett?) Hunter characters on the nose, which would have stuck out as questionable in a lineup of young modern Shiraz. The palate is tight, rich and oaky, with everything to come as it matures. Medium weight, lovely Hunter Shiraz for the long term. Score will go up in time. 17.6/91+

Harcourt Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Bendigo, Vic)
Silver medal

Go no further if you don't like a little eucalypt in your Cabernet. This is riddled with it. Behind the gumleaf though is a wonderfully ripe, decadent and smooth Cabernet with ample flavour and that seamless power that Bendigo does so well. Excellent wine, though the eucalypt is a distraction. 17/90

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Trophy & gold medal

Right up my alley. Announcing its Margaret River origins from the first whiff, this has mildly herbaceous/cedary varietal characters on the nose, a medium weight, yet typically rich palate, and proper fruit tannins. In a sea of dry reds with massive impact and sweetness, this dry and plain delicious wine sticks out largely with its moderation. Buy some. 18.5/94

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sydney Royal Wine Show Results 2010

The 2010 Macquarie Group Sydney Royal Wine Show has announced its winners tonight, with - as usual - plenty of controversial winners.

I've reproduced the trophy winners below, but for a full list of all the results, they are online here .

Why the personal interest you may ask?

Firstly, I had the great experience of quasi judging two classes of the show last week (have a read here) so am itching to see what it was that I really liked and whether my suspicions were confirmed (and it was. Wine 28 I successfully picked as an 05 Tyrrells Semillon and also gave it a gold medal. It went on to pick up a trophy. Feeling awesome. Pity I struggled so badly with the 'other reds'.)

Second, I'm going to the exhibitors tasting tomorrow morning (8am start. Suppose I should be in bed by now:)) and I'm keen to get an early heads up on what might be there to taste.

As a passing comment, I have to say (and I may be accused of some bias) but I think the judges have come up with a set of results that I actually (largely) agree with. Lots of great wines in this lineup.

The trophy winners:

WINE: SPECIAL PRIZES

THE LIQUORLAND PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Liquorland, to the Exhibitor of the best Commercial White Wine entered in Classes 1 to 6.
Winner 27 PENFOLDS WINES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355 PENFOLDS THOMAS HYLAND CHARDONNAY v. 2008

THE HANAMINNO PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Mr Michael Arnott and Family, to the Exhibitor of the best Sweet White Wine in Class 7.
Winner 11 BROWN BROTHERS MILAWA VINEYARD PTY LTD MILAWA VIC 3678 BROWN BROTHERS PATRICIA NOBLE RIESLING v. 2008

THE BERT BEAR MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the First Thursday Luncheon Club, to the Exhibitor of the best Previous Vintage White Wine entered in Classes 41 to 45.
Winner 4 MC WILLIAM'S WINES GROUP LTD HANWOOD NSW 2680 EDEN VALLEY RIESLING v. 2009

THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SYDNEY PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine exhibited in the Premium Classes, two years and older (Classes 42 to 45, 50 and 54).
Winner 14 HARDYS REYNELLA SA 5161 HARDYS EILEEN HARDY CHARDONNAY v. 2008

THE DOUGLAS LAMB PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Family and Friends of the late Douglas Lamb, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Riesling, Dry Style entered in Class 23.
Winner 66 PETER LEHMANN WINES LTD TANUNDA SA 5352 WIGAN EDEN VALLEY RIESLING v. 2006

THE RAS OF NSW ANNUAL PRIZE FOR BEST SEMILLON. Annual Trophy, presented by the RAS of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Semillon entered in Class 25.
Winner 28 TYRRELL'S VINEYARDS PTY LTD POKOLBIN NSW 2320 TYRRELLS VAT 1 SEMILLON v. 2005

THE RAS OF NSW ANNUAL PRIZE FOR BEST CHARDONNAY. Annual Trophy, presented by the RAS of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Chardonnay entered in Classes 22, 31 and 35.
Winner 10 STELLA BELLA WINES MARGARET RIVER WA 6285 STELLA BELLA CHARDONNAY v. 2007

THE RAS OF NSW ANNUAL PRIZE FOR BEST SAUVIGNON BLANC. Annual Trophy, presented by the RAS of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Sauvignon Blanc entered in Class 24.
Winner 29 STELLA BELLA WINES MARGARET RIVER WA 6285 STELLA BELLA SAUVIGNON BLANC v. 2009

THE FIRST ESTATE WINE MERCHANTS PERENNIAL TROPHY. Donated by First Estate Wine Merchants, to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine of the Show with a wholesale price excluding WET and GST not exceeding $10 per bottle.
Winner 22 CRABTREE WATERVALE WINES WATERVALE SA 5452 CRABTREE HILLTOP RIESLING v. 2009

THE ALBERT CHAN MEMORIAL PRIZE. Donated by Friends of the late Albert Chan, to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine of the Show.
Winner 14 HARDYS REYNELLA SA 5161 HARDYS EILEEN HARDY CHARDONNAY v. 2008

THE DR HENRY JOHN LINDEMAN MEMORIAL PERPETUAL PRIZE. Donated by Lindeman (Holdings) Limited, to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine exhibited in the Premium and Aged Vintage Classes (Classes 66 to 69).
Winner 13 TEMPUS TWO WINES LYNDOCH SA 5351 TEMPUS TWO COPPER ZENITH SEMILLON v. 2004

THE WINE COMMUNICATORS OF AUSTRALIA PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by The Wine Press Club of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Dry Red Wine in the Commercial Classes (Classes 9 to 14).
Winner 22 BLUE PYRENEES ESTATE AVOCA VIC 3467 BLUE PYRENEES CABERNET SAUVIGNON v. 2008

THE JOHN SWANN PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, to the Exhibitor of the best Dry Red Wine, two years and older, exhibited in the Premium Classes 46 to 49, 51 to 53 and 55 to 59.
Winner 1 PINHOOKER PTY LTD COLLECTOR NSW 2581 COLLECTOR RESERVE SHIRAZ v. 2008

THE LESLIE KEMENY MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Kemeny's Food and Liquor, to the Exhibitor of the best two year old (2008) Red Wine exhibited in the Premium Classes 46 to 49 and 51 to 53.
Winner 1 PINHOOKER PTY LTD COLLECTOR NSW 2581 COLLECTOR RESERVE SHIRAZ v. 2008

THE RUDY KOMON MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Mrs Ruth Komon, to the Exhibitor of the best Shiraz/Viognier from Classes 33 and 38.
Winner 1 THE YALUMBA WINE COMPANY ANGASTON SA 5353 YALUMBA HAND PICKED SHIRAZ VIOGNIER v. 2008

THE GEOFFREY CRUNDALL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Geoffrey Crundall Cellars, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Pinot Noir from Class 29.
Winner 25 WOLF BLASS WINES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355 WOLF BLASS GOLD LABEL PINOT NOIR v. 2008

THE DAN MURPHY'S PERENNIAL TROPHY. Donated by Dan Murphy's, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon from Classes 34, 39 and 40.
Winner 20 VASSE FELIX COWARAMUP WA 6284 VASSE FELIX CABERNET SAUVIGNON v. 2007

THE LIQUOR MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA PERENNIAL TROPHY. Donated by The Liquor Merchants Association of Australia, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Shiraz from Classes 32 and 36 to 37.
Winner 49 BEST'S WINES PTY LTD GREAT WESTERN VIC 3374 BEST'S GREAT WESTERN SHIRAZ BIN 0 v. 2008

THE DR GILBERT PHILLIPS MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Wine Society, to the Exhibitor of the best Red Wine of the Show.
Winner 1 PINHOOKER PTY LTD COLLECTOR NSW 2581 COLLECTOR RESERVE SHIRAZ v. 2008

THE THEO AND HELEN KAREDIS PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Theo's Liquor Markets, to the Exhibitor of the best Red Wine in Aged Vintage Classes (70 to 72).
Winner 24 HARDYS REYNELLA SA 5161 HARDYS THOMAS HARDY CABERNET SAUVIGNON v. 2004

THE AUSTRALIAN WINE AND BRANDY CORPORATION PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, to the Exhibitor of the Best Red Wine of the Show with a wholesale price excluding WET and GST not exceeding $10 per bottle.
Winner 8 XANADU WINES PTY LTD MARGARET RIVER WA 6285 NEXT OF KIN XANADU CABERNET SAUVIGNON v. 2007

THE RESTAURANT AND CATERING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Restaurant and Catering Association of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Wine exhibited by a Small Producer in Named Vineyard Classes 73 to 81.
Winner 2 CASTLE ROCK ESTATE ALBANY WA 6331CASTLE ROCK DILETTI CHARDONNAY v. 2008

THE LEN EVANS MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Wine Committee of the RAS of NSW and the family and friends of Len Evans, to the Exhibitor of the best Named Vineyard exhibited in Classes 73 to 81.
Winner 2 CASTLE ROCK ESTATE ALBANY WA 6331 CASTLE ROCK DILETTI CHARDONNAY v. 2008

THE THORP ANNUAL TROPHY. Donated by the late Mr G M Thorp, to the Exhibitor of the best Sparkling White Wine of the Show from Classes 15 and 60.
Winner 9 YARRA BURN REYNELLA SA 5161 YARRA BURN BLANC DE BLANCS v. 2005

THE J C M FORNACHON MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the late Rudy Komon, to the Exhibitor of the best Sherry, Fino Style, exhibited in the Commercial Class 17 and the Premium Class 62.
Winner 1 BIDGEEBONG WINES AUSTRALIA PTY LTD WAGGA WAGGA NSW 2650 BIDGEEBONG FINO CHIP DRY v. NV

THE JOURNALISTS' CLUB TROPHY Donated by the Journalists' Club, to the Exhibitor of the best Port exhibited in the Commercial Class 21 and the Premium Classes 64 and 65.
Winner 7 MCWILLIAM'S WINES GROUP LTD HANWOOD NSW 2680 SHOW TAWNY PORT v. NV

THE JJ MCWILLIAM MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by McWilliam’s Wines Pty Ltd, to the Exhibitor of the best Brandy exhibited in Classes 82 and 83.
Winner 5 MC WILLIAM'S WINES GROUP LTD HANWOOD NSW 2680 CHAIRMANS RESERVE BRANDY v. NV

THE JONES, STEAINS AND WALLER PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by A W & A Pardey, to the Exhibitor gaining the highest number of points in the Varietal Wine Classes (Classes 22 to 40).
Winner 27 THE YALUMBA WINE COMPANY ANGASTON SA 5353

THE LEO BURING MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Established by the RAS of NSW from a sum bequeathed to the RAS by the late Leo Buring, to the Exhibitor gaining the highest number of points in Premium White Wine Classes, Current Vintage Classes 41 to 45.
Winner 3 MC WILLIAM'S WINES GROUP LTD HANWOOD NSW 2680

THE HARRY DAVIES MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the late Mrs D C Davies in memory of her husband, to the Exhibitor gaining the highest number of points in the Aged Vintage Wine Classes 66 to 72.
Winner 14 HARDYS REYNELLA SA 5161

THE MCCARTHY SHIELD. Donated by J McCarthy and Co Pty Ltd, to the Most Successful Exhibitor in the Wines and Brandy Section from Classes 1 to 21, 41 to 72, 82 and 83.
Winner 7 MC WILLIAM'S WINES GROUP LTD HANWOOD NSW 2680

THE JAMES BUSBY ANNUAL PRIZE Supported by Industry & Investment NSW, presented to the maker of the Best Wine or Brandy entered by an Exhibitor from New South Wales in any class.
Winner 1 PINHOOKER PTY LTD COLLECTOR NSW 2581 COLLECTOR RESERVE SHIRAZ v. 2008

MACQUARIE GROUP PERPETUAL TROPHY. The Macquarie Group Perpetual Trophy, donated by Macquarie Group, to the Exhibitor of the best Wine of the Show.
Winner 14 HARDYS REYNELLA SA 5161 HARDYS EILEEN HARDY CHARDONNAY v. 2008

THE FINE WINE PARTNERS PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Fine Wine Partners, a joint venture between Tucker Seabrook & Lion Nathan Wine Group, to the Exhibitor of the Best Show Wine exhibited at major State Wine Shows in the 12 months preceding judging.
Winner 0 PENFOLDS WINES PTY LTD (2008 WREST POINT ROYAL HOBART INTERNATIONAL WINE SHOW) PENFOLDS BIN 07A CHARDONNAY v. 2007

Reynell Shiraz & Cabernet

Another day, another pair of Mclaren Vale reds. But what a different pair this were (compared to the Tatachilla wines of yesterday) which felt more real, more handmade and less formulaic than the made-to-a-pricepoint Tatachilla reds, even though they are produced by a similarly big corporate baked winery. Perhaps it all comes down to the open top fermenters and the basket press, but it probably just comes down to money (what doesn't).

Perhaps the only downer with this wine is the ongoing saga of Constellation (Reynell's parent) and their rather offhand destruction of the vinous heart of this celebrated brand. For more information check out Phillip White's account here

(Chateau Reynella) Reynell Shiraz 2007 (McLaren Vale, SA)
$50, high quality cork, 14%
Source: Sample
http://www.cwines.com.au/

Dark red colour. Dense. Warm, soft, cosseting, raisined redcurrant and musk nose, showing very sweet fruit and just a smidgen of strained fruit vintage character. Luscious nose. Dry palate starts with soft red fruit before running away very quickly to hot spirity alcohol. It's quality fruit no doubt, but just way too much heat on the palate, which ultimately ruins everything. Perhaps it is just me, but I can't help but call notable alcohol heat a fault. If you don't agree then you may well enjoy this after all. 16.0/86

(Chateau Reynella) Reynell Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (McLaren Vale, SA)
$50, cork, 14%
Source: Sample

http://www.cwines.com.au/

Positively black in colour with crimson edges. Looks excellent. Beautiful, pencil shavings, eucalypt and mulberry nose. Slightly volatile. Lovely & clearly varietal stuff (great for Mclaren Vale Cabernet). On the palate its benchmark Mclaren Vale Cabernet, with a coolness that belies its region. It's still warm, and full, and ripe, but the varietal flavour (even a flick of herb & mint) here is outstanding. So much impact & gritty tannins. Long term wine of real class. I would (likely) happily give this gold after another year in the bottle. 18.3/93+

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tatachilla Shiraz 2007 & Cabernet 2006

A pair of wines that are nothing if not consistent, with a reputation for value regardless of the vintage. Full tote retail is now $26 however, and there are plenty of charismatic wines out there for that price...

Tatachilla Mclaren Vale Shiraz 2007 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
$26, Screwcap, 14.5%
Source: Sample

http://www.tatachillawines.com.au/

It's very rich, with an almost treacle like nose showing just a hint of the strained fruit character of the 07vintage, with both scorched blackberry jam and green fruit. Palate is sweet and tarry, with big ripe stewed fig flavours that are quite appealing, but still the green edged tannins of the vintage leave a sour taste. Drinkable enough. 15.8/86

Tatachilla Mclaren Vale Cabernet 2006 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
$26, Screwcap, 14.5%
Source: Sample
http://www.tatachillawines.com.au/

Pencil shavings and cedar in a quite brooding, yet comfortably varietal nose. A 'correct' nose even. Volatile & just a teensy bit cooked. Dry, grippy and quite oaky palate is firmish and well structured with plenty of potential, if edged with more overripe fruit. It's a decent full bodied Cabernet with plenty of potential for the future, if lacking some polish. 16.6/88+

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wine roundup

Gibbston Valley Gold River Pinot Noir 2008 (Central Otago, NZ)
Judging by this example, Gibbston Valley had a tough time in 08. A cherry red/purple coloured Pinot with plenty of colour and rather light edges, the challenges of the vintage are apparent from the first whiff - it smells stewed & tough, with a caramel oak edged nose that is hard to like, even if it comes up fresher with a good swirl. The palate follows with overripe jammy fruit underpinned by a nasty green streak and hard acidity, the whole package lacking generosity. Sadly hard work. 14.9/84

Blue Poles Viognier 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
I'm sorry to say that after trying this for the third time, I'm still personally unconvinced. Part of my issue here is that it is so un-varietal, showing none of the characters that I really like about Viognier.

It's a muted nose aromatically, with orange jasmine fruits that are light and underplayed. The palate is similarly lean & short with a nice glycerol backbone that lasts all to fleetingly. After that it's just a glimmer of acidity and everything is finished. To my palate this is just underdone and not the sort of Viognier I like. 15/85

Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2009 (Barossa, SA)
Love the colour - its a ruby, bright, almost painted on red colour that looks juicy, bright and quite the part. Nose does too, with red fruits in the raspberry, cherry and strawberry spectrum - it's all very luscious and rather appealing, if mildly confected. After all that promise, the palate is jolly and friendly, juicy and rounded, but just a little tart towards the finish, showing some overripe fruit characters in the mix. Still, you can't begrudge the style, which is bang on for drinkability. 16.7/89

Pra Soave 2008 (Veneto, Italy)
Soave - it's a style that Australia really struggles to compete with, from any variety. Dry & lightly aromatic, the appeal here is the oily, generous texture and an almost salty twang. This is a pretty simple, entry level example, but it's so classically proportioned that you can't stop drinking it. I had it with Seafood Risotto and the bottle drained at speed. 16.8/89

Hofstatter Riesling 2007 (Alto Adige, Italy)
This followed the Soave and whilst it is arguably a superior wine, the Soave was the more plainly appealing of the two (though the positions would have switched had the bottles been left open for a day methinks).

A lightly honeyed & floral white, the flavours start with a honeysuckle richness, but the acidity cuts in firm and early, drying everything out just a tad too briskly. Gagging for another year in the cellar, this is reminds me of a cool, coiled Tassie style Riesling with the elegance to match. Nice for a change of pace, but probably too young for real enjoyment. 17.3/91+

Marcarini Moscato di Asti 2008 (Piedmont, Italy)
Seriously good. As seriously good as an un-serious wine style can be. It's not expensive, it has no pretensions of great complexity, it's just ripe, sweet muscat grapes, crushed, fermented and bottled, leaving behind plenty of natural grape sugar and a flicker of frizzante. The end result is like the ultimate bellini, sweet and juicy and fruit sweet, but crisp and refreshing, with almost limitless drinkability and underplayed acidity. It's a wine that just revels in the simple glory of fermented grape juice. Only a matter of time before Australia can produce Moscatos of this calibre too. Delicious, in a very non technical way. 17.5/92

Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
I wasn't convinced by the 2008 version of this, which just reflected the variability of the vintage (for whites at least) more than anything else. But this is right back on form. What I most like is that it tastes nothing like a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, reinforcing its identity in the best possible fashion.

Grassy, passionfruit and lemon smelling, this is backed by a palate driven by acidity of the citrussy kind. A welcome bit of textural fat gives even more enjoyment and that acid makes this one refreshing white wine. Really, very good Sauvignon Blanc. 18/93

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Doing it wine show style

Today I had the rare opportunity to experience a few hours in the shoes of a wine show judge, including lunch and a tutored tasting featuring two classes from this years Sydney Royal Wine Show, all hosted by wine show old salt Nick Bulleid MW.

Whilst it's not the first time I've done one of these quasi wine show exercises, this was the first time when an actual wine show was in progress (in the next room).

The day itself really started off on a high note in the kitchen. Who would know that show judges - at the Sydney Royal Wine Show at least - eat very well, gourmet very well, almost as if the organisers (the NSW agricultural society) are making up for the fact that none of the judges (or stewards for that matter) are paid for their 4 days of service. Today's menu (which was considered typical) included duck pancakes with hoi sin, grilled calamari salad & a whole platter full of mini cakes, featuring some most excellent tiny chocolate eclairs.

To complement this cold spread was the essential ingredient for any wine event of note - lots of cheese. Cheese is the lubricant that oils the wine industry, with the calbire of an event often commensurate with the calibre of the cheeses on offer. The cheeses today easily passed muster.

Suprisingly, wine flows at lunch time too, with a range of gold medal winning wines from previous Sydney shows adorning each table. It may or may not surprise to know that most bottles get drained too, even those on the tables of the 'working' judges. I quite liked seeing that actually, almost as if the judges were drinking previous gold medal winners in an attempt to keep their eye in.

As for the wine show environment, it is much busier - and whiter - than I expected. Literally everybody wears white coats, everybody, and given the sheer volume of people floating around (30 judges, 50+ stewards and staff) it has a hospital like feel to it, almost as if someone should be pushing around trauma victims strapped to IV's. The other unexpected element is how sterile it is, which is obviously to minimise distractions, but also perhaps brings out a more critical side in everybody. You can't help but pick up wine faults in a room where the only other distraction is some other (silent) white clad judge and rows of unnamed wine samples.

For anyone unitiated to the way that the whole judging process works, the procedure goes something like this: A panel (there are 5 judging panels) of three judges and three associate judges assesses each entry and gives it a score out of 20. Only the actual judges scores count, with the final score for each wine then a score out of 60, with medals then distributed according to the theoretical average score - eg 54 points is an average of 18 points so the wine gets a silver. (More information about the judging format here)

What is the most fun part of this supposedly score driven process is that, unlike most foreign wine shows, the judging is as much about discussion as it is about points. Each judge scores the wine in silence, but at the end of each bracket the panel chairman asks the other two judges and the associates to call out their scores. What ensues then is gentle arguments, discussion, heated debate and plenty of friendly banter to decide what the wine will actually score, with judges often asked to justify high marks or to raise low ones if their is disagreement.

The theory is that with three independant judges hopefully some sort of final score can be agreed upon, with the judges thus encouraged to debate the merits of each wine to the fullest, with the associate judges essentially there to add reinforcement to the judgement. In that fashion, if a wine scores very highly with the associate judges but lowly with the judges, everyone might be encouraged to have a retaste, or if any questions remain, the Chairman of Judges is called upon to make the final decision.

Whilst it sounds like a recipe for flying glassware and shattered egos, this style of judgement by panel ends up promoting a real sense of comraderie amongst the judges, as inevitably consensus is reached and with anyone deemed to be intimidating or irrational simply not invited back next year, the mood is generally pretty respectful.

Our (bigger) panel functioned in a very similar manner, though the wines had already been scored by the judges earlier on in the day. We were given two classes to be 'judged', with our scores similarly read out after the end of each class, and compared to those of the actual judges. Interesting to note that ours weren't that far off the judges either (most of the time).

First up for our panel then was Class 25 'Semillon, dry style' and we looked at half the bracket, consisting of multiple 08 vintage Semillons, as well as older wines going back to 2004. Unsurprisingly, much of the 08's looked awkward, with primary fruit on the wane and acid the only resounding character. Also unsurprisingly, many of the 08's were obviously from the Hunter and showed all of the challenges of that rain soaked vintage - herbal characters and unripe fruit was a recurring and distracing theme.

As the bracket wore on, and the average bottle age crept up to 4 or 5 years, the wines suddenly kicked up a notch, with the group scores moving from low bronze or no medal average to silvers & golds. Personally and as a group, we found one wine - which may well be a top gold winner in the class and I suspect will end up as a serial trophy winner in the show - stood out as a wine of pure brilliance and quality. It was an 05 vintage, and it had Tyrrells written all over it (figuratively at least) with the only question for me remaining which single vineyard Tyrrells Sem it was (cough...Stevens..cough).

I actually found the Semillon class pretty easy to judge, but that probably reflects the fact that I know Hunter Semillon pretty well (and I historically judge whites better than reds).
The second class, sadly, had me feeling utterly inconsistent and off the pace, with the diversity proving to be quite a challenge.

Class 30 was its name, 'Red varietal wines (not eligible for classes 28-29,32-34 and 36-40)' to be precise. This was a bracket full of Grenache, Mourvedre, Durif and Petit Verdot, with the odd Barbera and Cab/Durif blend in there for good measure. The wines were so varied, with quality so uneven that I don't think any firm gold medal winners arose. In fact, much of the comment was more directed towards wine faults & excessive oak or alcohol and whether they detracted from the wines themselves. Suffice to say, results were all over the place and my scores were sometimes well off those from the rest of the class.

Ultimately, the real benefit is not in scoring it's sitting in a room with your peers attempting to work out what makes a great wine and what marks a dud. From that perspective, exercises like this are so very worthwhile and infinitely interesting.

I'll be coming back for the eclairs alone.