Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The 2010 Tour of Wine

3 weeks, 22 cellar doors, 40+ varieties and hundreds of great wines.

That's what I have been up to lately, and before the warm vinous glow wears off, I'm going to briefly document some of my observations from my 3 week long, 3 state 'Tour of Wine'.


The surprises:

Your author (on left) tasting the ferments with Dave Brookes at the
Teusner winery. They make good beer too.. 
Barossan Mataro - Kym Teusner's 2006 Astral Mataro shows exactly how much promise that this variety shows in the Barossa. I say promise, as whilst there is a bit of Mataro (Mourvedre) planted in the Barossa, only a mere fraction is bottled as a stand alone varietal wine. What's more, it doesn't feature heavily in the latest plantings either, so in the short term it will continue to be basically a blending component.

That's a shame, for Mataro is ideally suited, viticulturally, to the extremes of the Barossan summer and - when done right - has more colour, tannin and structure than nearly any other variety in the Barossa. Needs very little sulphur either.

Look out for Kym's 09 Mataros in particular, which tasted absolutely superb straight out of the barrel.

Beer: It takes a case of beer to make a case of wine, or so the saying goes, and it warms the heart of this enthusiastic beer hound to see so many new brews popping it, and popping up in the middle of wine regions. From the tasty new Seppeltsfield 'Barossa Bock', to the sessionable McLaren Vale 'Vale Ale' and onto the delicious Porter from Beechworth's Bridge Road, it's exciting to see some regional beer diversity out there. I even tasted an excellent Shiraz Stout, which seems like a marriage of two very good things indeed.

The King Valley: Is there a more diverse wine region in Australia? From the warmth of the valley floor and Milawa to the dramatic high slopes of Whitlands. What's more, the whole region is essentially family controlled, with the only 'big boys' in town being that of De Bortoli and Nugan. Nowhere else in Australia is there such a big range of varieties being grown either.

The Vintages (caution: vague and inaccurate generalisations below)
2007: Hard. For all the great wine this vintage gave us from the Hunter & Margaret River, everywhere else it seems to have been, simply put, a shocker. The 2007 vintage reds that are now populating cellar doors throughout South Australia show this particularly so, with wines that are often characterised by unripe tannins and overripe fruit, echoing the comment that the grapes got far too 'sugar ripe' without getting physiologically ripe.

Thus lots of hard and ungenerous 07 McLaren Vale and Barossan reds out there, coupled with overripe and full flavoured whites. Cabernet in particular was hit hard. The best wines are those that went with restraint and picked a little early.

In comparison, 2007 in Victoria saw problems of different shades. For Beechworth, the Strathbogie Ranges and the King Valley it was a killer spring frost that absolutely decimated the yields (to the point where some makers, such as Keppell Smith at Savaterre, declassified everything to a second label).

To follow it up, Summer bushfires then cast the dreaded pall of smoke taint all over the land, hitting the Yarra Valley and King Valley (again) particularly hard. Arnie Pizzini at Chrismont (for example) sold not a single wine from 2007, selling it all off as bulk juice. Similar story at Brown Brothers, who lost almost 2000 tonnes of grapes after saving it from the early frosts with some judicious helicoptering, only to see it end up with serious smoke taint.

So, for much of Northern Victoria, 2007 was largely a non event vintage wise, with most makers just bringing forward their 2008 wines to compensate (so little actual wine to comment on).

The same frosts that hit NE Vic also slashed Canberra's yields too, again leading to a distinct lack of 2007 vintage wine at most cellar doors (though apparently some of the 07's are quite good).

Much more promise here, though it's patchy. The March heatwave that tore through South Eastern Australia played havoc with certain vineyards, whilst for others it just got everything ripe at the same time. Regardless, it will be a 'warm' vintage for many makers.

The sentiment towards 08 in the Barossa and McLaren Vale was that it was a quaffing vintage, where the grapes got nice and ripe, yet lack the stuffing and structure for ageability, compounded by the fact that many wines had to be raced through fermentation to simply free up tank space. One producer in the Barossa called it "a punters vintage, but one we are more than happy to see the back of". The whites however will be gooduns.

For the early picked SA wines, and for many smaller producers with enough winery space, it will be a 'good' vintage (though not for poor Cabernet, which suffered yet again). At Ashton Hills in the Adelaide Hills (for example), Stephen George was more than happy with 2008, with the only people who really felt the heat were the pickers, some of who were literally dropping in the 40 degree temps. Stephen picked early-ish and then put all the grapes straight into the cool room for several days to chill it all down and is now rather happy with results.

In NE Victoria and Canberra, however, the story is even more positive, with the heat extremes not as extreme as those experienced in SA. Again, the issues were focused upon managing excess heat under drought conditions, with those who picked early very excited indeed. Ken Helm in particular is very happy with his 2008's, the whites of which he believes are some of the best this century. Big crops in Canberra also helped put smiles on many vignerons dials, though riper wines are again the norm.

2009: Hard to get a gauge on the 09's, as whilst the aromatic whites are out, most everything else was still in barrel. Still, the sentiment in the Barossa and McLaren Vale (at least) is rather positive, with the heatwave in 09 hitting earlier than that of 2008, and thus just bringing the ripening forward (as opposed to cooking grapes on the vine).

For Beechworth, the jury is still out on what will happen with the 2009 wines, with bushfires literally encroaching on the vineyards increasing the risk of smoke taint infinitely. Time will tell what becomes of these wines....

In Canberra, there is serious enthusiasm for 2009, with the reds in particular being proclaimed as seriously high class. Tim Kirk believes his 09's to be his best ever (released in a few months, keep an eye out for them) and general opinions where very favourable for this vintage.

2010: It was still too early for sweeping judgements on 2010, with much of Victoria still to be picked when I left, ditto Canberra. In the Barossa however, there was definite vintage enthusiasm, with the only black mark coming from a serious dent in yields. The November heatwaves carry much of the blame for this, which struck at a highly unusual time (for heatwaves that is) and caused serious losses in Grenache and Chardonnay (Up to 70% according to some growers).

In the Hills the vintage report was less rosy, with both powdery and downy mildew an ongoing problem throughout the growing season (spurred on by plenty of rain towards the end of last year). Those who spray may be fine, but it wasn't a vintage to be BD....

Crossing into McLaren Vale and the vintage was again looking promising, ditto the Limestone Coast, both of whom were picking earlier than usual (but picking good quality fruit).

Over the border and it was a case of the split seasons. Apparently 2010 in the Yarra will be a stunner IF you picked before the early March rain. Unfortunately for most of NE Vic 2010 will be a tough one, with mildew, botrytis and berry splitting spurred on by several significant rain events (one of which dumped 120mm in 24 hours) right at the absolute wrong time. Fred Pizzini, for example, had an entire Pinot vineyard that will go unpicked this year, as the fruit had such entrenched rot that it wasn't worth the trouble. Again, it wasn't a good year to be BD.

Sadly, the story doesn't get much better in Canberra, which faced similar disease pressures as those in Northern Victoria, with botrytis a serious issue, again promoted by mid vintage rain. Not fun at all. Lots of challenges for the wineries in our nations capital in 2010. Expect low yields (at least) for starters.

The (Wine) Highlights:
Seriously old vines. Karra Yerta vineyard, Flaxmans Valley
Karra Yerta Riesling 2005 ($25)
I've previously written this wine up (and loved it), but a retry had me even doubly convinced, the extra toast of bottle age rounding the edges just a little, without blunting the sprightly acid driven palate. Brilliant stuff. Getting better by the day too.

Yalumba Virgilus Viognier 2008 ($45)
Without doubt the best Australian Viognier I've tried. This had all the length and generosity that the variety can promise, without the heat and disorderly fatness that mars so many examples. Texture, weight, the lot. Great white wine.

Saveterre Chardonnay 2008 ($75)
Speaking of texture and weight, here is an archetypal modern Chardonnay that is as outspoken in personality as it's maker. Fig, meal and vanilla bean characters on a ripe, powerful and lengthy palate that still remains trim and finishes dry. Right up there with our absolute best Chardonnays.

Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 ($55)I'm normally not much of a fan of Adelaide Hills Pinot (all too often sappy, extractive, meaty things) but this was very convincing. It's from a very average vintage too, which just reinforces the inherent quality here. What I like most is it's perfumed, elegant pinosity, but without sacrificing weight - it's a wine that successfully balances and elegance, and it's all the better for it.

Pizzini Coronamento Nebbiolo 2004 ($135)
I'd like to see this cheaper than it is, but that didn't stop me from almost buying one. Actually, I could have walked out with several dozen from Pizzini, but restricted myself to the bare minimum. This wine though, to put it mildly, the best Italian varietal wine in Australia. The key to it's success if complexity and length, both of which this has in droves, coupled with a tannin profile that is simply magnificent. Love the nutty, savoury mid palate too. Much to like.
Tahbilk Cellar Door

Tahbilk 1860 Vines Shiraz 2004 ($115)
Interestingly, my two favourite reds at Tahbilk were this and the 'standard' 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, which can be picked up for $16 if you look hard enough. For $16, I cant recommend it highly enough.

But back to this wine, which again I would have happily bought (though I settled for a nicely resolved 96 Cab/Shiraz). What I like best about the this 1860 Vines Shiraz is that you can taste the vine age. I know that sounds ridiculous, wankerish and the like, but the extra complexity in this wine when tasted next to the (younger vine) wines in the lineup just stands out. Reminds me alot of the Bests Thomson Family Shiraz in that vein, which just has an extra layer of flavour than its siblings.

Iconic Australian Shiraz drinking beautifully.

Chambers Rutherglen Muscat ($20)
I could recommend a whole swathe of Rutherglen fortifieds (there are many highlights), not least of which is the recently perfect score betrothed Campbells Merchant Prince Rare Muscat, which is a truly stunning wine that everyone should try at least once.

Yet what really moved me was this wine, which can still be bought in big 20 litre drums, and again represents blinding value for money. A national treasure for less than $20 a bottle? Yes!

It doesn't have the complexity, richness, blinding length or incomparable intensity of the top Grand & Rare wines, but it does have an extra edge of freshness, honesty and muscaty goodness that sets this on a quality (and value) pedestal.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Australian Wine Review Canberra Shiraz Pinot 2010

Looks garagiste doesn't it?

The demijohn in the photo to the right contains 20 litres of wine, my wine, my first ever wine actually, and as I speak, said wine is completing it's malolactic fermenation in my suburban garage, just metres from where I sit right now.

Which, ipso facto, makes my garage a winery, and me a winemaker.

And I love it.

The wine itself may not end up amounting to much, and at this stage it smells volatile to the point of fault and tastes frighteningly tannic, but just the process itself, the process of turning grapes into wine, is one of the most exciting things that any wine lover can ever undertake.

What has made this all the more involved is that each and every step of the process was done by hand. Hand picked, hand destemmed, hand crushed even hand pressed. Not just any hands either but my hands (ok, I did get another pair of hands to help pick and destem).

And I loved it.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Random Wine Roundup

A few recent uncategorised wines:

Domaine Wachau Gruner Veltliner Terrassen Federspiel 2008 (Wachau, Austria)
Dry, clean and nicely phenolic Gruner in the dry and crisp Federspiel style mode. Not quite as fresh and vibrant as the 07 but still nicely varietal, simple Gruner. 16.5/88

Nigl Gruner Veltliner Gartling 2008 (Kremstal, Austria)
Very pure, and utterly delectable dry style Gruner. Spicy, white pepper nose that is perfectly varietal and distinctive. Palate follows with more spice and a phenolic whip through the tail. Just a lovely, pure aromatic wine that a Riesling lover like me can easily appreciate. 17.8/92

Paringa Estate Peninsula Pinot Noir 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
The discussion with this wine centred on whether it was too big and ripe for it's own good. It's certainly volatile for a start, but with a quite attractive, red berry jam and pepper nose behind. Palate is juicy, if somewhat stewed and finishes with a bit of heat. Certainly alot of flavour for the dollars and it's recognisably regional, but perhaps just too much ripeness for real enjoyment. 16.9/89

10x by Tractor Pinot Noir 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
A rather different wine to the Paringa above, this was positively light on in comparison. It's a very pretty and lifted Pinot with cherry spice and sweet oak, if somewhat lacking on the palate. Still nice though. 16.8/89

Tyrrells Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2008 (Heathcote, Vic)
Smelling extremely youthful and sweet fruited, this is bright, glossy and rich with pretty florals, sweet vanilla oak and black jube fruit. Palate is similarly sweetish, but rescued by some lovely chocolatey tannins. Plenty to come with this wine. Value stuff. 17.1/90

Tyrrells Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2007 (Heathcote, Vic)
Surprisingly ordinary after the 2008, this has a light raspberry/choc oak nose. Palate is dry and ungenerous with a gaping hole in the back palate, before finishing dry and rustic. Needs time to come together, though I don't if it will ever be complete. 15.5/86

Torbreck Woodcutters Shiraz 2008 (Barossa, SA)
A sensationally grapey Shiraz, this is bright and berried, fresh and luscious with a sweet ride of blackberried, unoaked fruit with minimal tannins or artifice. Very pleasant, if basically a quite expensive quaffer. 16.3/88

Passing Clouds Graeme's Blend Shiraz Cabernet 2005 (Bendigo, Vic)
A curious wine that cobbles together super ripe berry fruit & chocolate oak with some rather stern tannins and a strange hole in the back end. Sure to develop well, but somewhat disjointed at present. 16.8/89

Stanton & Killeen Durif 2004 (Rutherglen, Vic)
Coconut, red berry and coffee on the nose with a cossetingly rich and oaky palate of quite soft sweet fruit and grainy tannins. Comfort wine. 17.2/90

Ashbrook Cabernet Merlot 2005 (Margaret River, WA)
Tobacco leaf, spearmint and a little more leaf on the nose, leading to a fine, long and dry palate that isn't quite as leafy as the nose, but sure gets close. Elegant and very savoury - and importantly, not green - though perhaps too severe for real enjoyment. May well get better with bottle age. 16.5/88

Bass Phillip 21 Pinot Noir 2006
A good bottle of this (hooray), and drinking superbly. Very appealing! Lovely nose - utterly pinotish with tomato leaf, raspberry and sap, with a bit of trademark unfiltered cloudiness in the glass. On the palate it's much of the same with tomato (the fruit now, not the leaves) and raspberry fruit over a stout and stemmy spine. An effortless Pinot, this needed only a fraction more intensity to propel it into superstar territory. Regardless, this is a stunning Pinot. 18.5/94

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Terre a Terre Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Terre a Terre Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Wrattonbully, SA)
$24, Screwcap, 12.7%
Source: Sample

This is so new that the website isn't even operational yet. It's a product of Xavier Bizot, the thoughtful French winemaker who drives, along with wife Lucy, the superstar-in-the-making wine brand Tapanappa (have a read of more on the Tapanappa range here) and after the slightly sour and neutral Reschke, the welcome textural whirl works a treat here.

Personality wise, this wine shows its Franco-Australian origins, having been produced in a French style, by a French winemaker, from French Sauvignon clones, whilst obviously being produced from Aussie Wrattonbully grapes.

This starts in the glass, which is greenish and brightly Australian. It smells somewhat new worldish too, with lift and apparent freshness, blending passionfruit varietal characters (though not overt) with some whipped cream oak and lees overtones. It's a lovely nose actually, that I would place more in the context of the subtler oaked Kiwi Savvies than most anything produced here.

On the palate, perhaps contrastingly, is where this shows it's frenchness: Dry and lemony, long and sour, acidity playing a big part through the finish, making for a nicely defined and textural mouthfeel of style and flavour, even if it's a bit raw right now.

It's a wine that I wasn't surprised to like, but just how drinkable this is deserves mention. Winning stuff. 18/93

Reschke Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Reschke Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Coonawarra, SA)
$22, Vinolok, 12.5%
Source: Sample

This was opened first, but was last to open up (if you get my drift). Drank alot better cold too, with the wine looking more awkward as it warmed up.

Bright green in colour, this is very clean and fresh; smells it too, with a very fine and slightly reticent nose of pineapple, lemon and some crepe bandage oak (not bretty bandages though). Apparently it only saw only a little of this oak, however the rest of the wine is so neutral that the oak is dominating quite a bit at this stage of proceedings. Palate is clear and fresh, sour and neutral, with lemony acidity keeping it all very tight, though some resinous oak tannins through the finish are less than welcome.

All said, it's not a bad effort, made with the right intentions and almost guaranteed to get much better with bottle age, however the more I came back to this, the less I liked it, particularly next to the wonderfully textural Terre. 16.5/88+

Braided River Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Braided River Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
$18.95, Screwcap, 13%
Source: Sample

I've opened up three Savvies tonight, two fumé styles and this wine; which I understand is unoaked, cheaper and from Marlborough, but works as a perfect 'control' Savvy.

Put simply, this is an unpretentious wine that is pleasant enough for it's $18.95 pricepoint, and very fair indeed for the $14.95 a Google search tells me it can be purchased for.

Built in the tropical vein, the Braided River Sauvignon Blanc has a nose of guava and citrus tang, topped with a little Wizz Fizz sweetness. Palate is broad, soft and round, showing citrus and candied banana fruit and enough mid palate richness to make this perfectly quaffable.

It's perhaps a bit chubby and ill defined for higher points, but again, it performs more than adequately given it's modest price. 16/87

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Kirrihill Tullymore Vineyard Shiraz & Cabernet 2008

Kirrihill Tullymore Vineyard Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
(Clare Valley, SA)

$20, Screwcap all round, 14.5%

Source: Samples

I'm reviewing these two together as it is much more fun to compare and contrast (for me at least). Nice to see single vineyard wines at this price point too - shows an attention to value that is well worth mentioning. The picture here is of the Shiraz, but if you where to rub out 'Shiraz' and replace it with 'Cabernet Sauvignon' then you will have the Cabernet anyway. No need for different bottle eccentricities at Kirrihill.

In the glass both wines are resoundingly dark, though the Cabernet has a slightly lighter rim than the Shiraz, as befitting it's personality. On the nose it's all sexy-time, choc mocha milkshake oak (with a dash of formic) from the Shiraz, all of which fairly jumps out of the glass to give you a warm and welcoming, oaky Clare Valley cuddle. Contrastingly, the Cabernet carries a whiff of pencils, old wood and mint, almost as if it is from a different, oak free planet than the Shiraz.

Unsurprisingly, they taste much like they smell. The Shiraz is an easy winner, in a laid back, sweet fruited, stocky, medium bodied to full bodied style with plenty of grunt for the dollars.
It reminds me quite a bit of a mid 90's Penfolds Bin 28 actually, with that typically raw, oak polished, unashamedly blokey style that you just know steak loving Aussies will adore. Finish is rather long too, which suggests that it will only get better. Bang on for the dollars, it's an easy 'tell your friends' recommendation. 17.2/90+

Sadly, the Cabernet is truly the ugly sister of this duo, perhaps showing some of the ill effects of the 2008 SA vintage, for it follows up the rather sullen nose with a dried, fruitless and astringent palate of little generosity or love. It's a hard wine after the effusive Shiraz and I can't say I enjoyed it at all. Take the Shiraz for sure. 15.5/85

Monday, 22 March 2010

The grape heartache

Postcard, Aldinga Beach, Mclaren Vale, Harvest 2010
It's actually a pretty serene looking picture (click on the image to get a better look), with the dark, glossy Shiraz grapes glowing in the early morning sun, on what was to be a beautiful 38C Mclaren Vale day. But what this rather innocuous scene really shows is heartache, for those healthy looking grapes (and they didn't taste too bad either - not huge amounts of flavour, but perfectly serviceable) are sitting on the side of the road, totally unwanted, destined only to raisin in the withering South Australian sun.

It's a situation that has apparently been echoed all over Australia this vintage, with stories of vineyards unpicked, grape contracts cancelled and pointless prices paid for even quite good quality grapes.

But nowhere else has there been such an outward sign of just how bad the issue really is.

Suffice to say that it's images like this, images that most punters will never see, that have even the good growers, the conscientious makers with old vines and strong mailing lists, worried. Worried that they could be the next ones to be plonking their grapes - or their wines - on the side of the road, vainly hoping that someone, anyone, will buy them.

Yet just like the endemic problems in the Australian wine industry, those fast desiccating, plump (it was a good season after all) roadside grapes aren't going anywhere in a hurry.

It's a crap time to be an Australian vigneron.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Drift Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Drift Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
$17, Screwcap, 12.5%
Source:Someone else's bottle, I just had a snifter

It may sound surprising (to somebody) but I don't think that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is that evil. Or at least the good stuff isn't evil. In it's authentic form it's a highly aromatic, vibrant white wine that is super intense, varietal and refreshingly crisp. On a warm evening, good Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is far from evil, it's drinkable.

But the problem with Marlborough Savvy, and most ANZ Sauv Blancs for that matter, lies not with the authentic form, but with the boring/poor iterations of it. I'm talking of the hundreds of own-label, sweet & ordinary Savvies out there that are created not to be good drinks, but rather to be serviceable, if soulless products.

The sad fact perhaps is that I myself have peddled such drinks, so I can't say I am entirely clean in this whole savalanche debacle either.

Anyway, the inspiration for this babble is the Drift Sauvignon Blanc in my glass. In truth it doesn't really deserve to be a negative conversation starter, because it's not terrible, yet it is average enough to have you questioning who made it. That process then leads you to the back label winery address - which is listed as Tanunda, South Australia - which only serves to reinforce exactly why it is so ordinary.

Quite yellow in colour given it's youth, the wine itself has a quite attractive nose of lifted, varietally correct, passionfruit and nettles, herbaceousness meets ripeness fruit. Lots to like on the nose actually.

In fact, the wheels don't even look wobbly until later in the piece, with a palate that starts off ripe and full and perfectly ok, with a crisp, sweet edged passionfruit juice entry and sufficient acidity. But after that things get cheap, with a finish that is sugary, blunt, spiky and cheap, with a cask wine like like, 10 tonne to the acre, strung out finish and aftertaste that literally leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

In the end, it's probably 7 or 8 tenths of a good wine, but that doesn't really help when the remainder is plain ordinary. 15.0/83

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Fonty's Pool Cabernet Merlot 2008

Fonty's Pool Cabernet Merlot 2008 (Pemberton, WA)
$21, Screwcap, 13.5%


Lovely part of the world is Fonty's Pool. If you are ever passing through Manjimup ('Manji' to locals) on a hot summers afternoon and find the town empty (or at least emptier than usual), best bet is everyone is swimming at Fonty's. The vineyard is right next door to the pool too, so you can stop by for a taste after a swim.

Like the nose on this alot. So varietal, and restrained and precise. Tobacco leafiness, some juicy red meat (but not bretty meatiness mind you) and a twinkle of volatility. Smells bigger and more luxurious than the 2007 version, but retains that red fruit and rosemary nose that I like so much. Palate follows this with more leafy, mid weight fruit and some grainy, chocolate shavings like, mildly bitter tannins.

A rather dry and structured red given its price point, this could do with a year or three in the cellar, but still much to enjoy - and chew - right now. Could imagine drinking this with something steaklike. Good. 17/90+

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Sydney Wine Show 2010 - the tasting (day 2)

Typically, I'm a little tardy in getting these notes up, though I can bring in a note if anyone asks (just don't tell Mum).

The snippets below document my second day of tasting through some of the 2010 Sydney Wine Show submissions, a continuation of my first day (here).

I need to preface these tasting impressions with a disclaimer too: All wines were tasted at wine show speed, with suitably wine show like variability for the scores. Hopefully I have at least given a rough overview of a few choice tipples from the day.

Onto the wines:

Helm Premium Riesling 2009 (Canberra district)
Silver Medal
Green, sherbety with just a touch of nettles and lemon grass. It's actually quite a green nose, ans surprisingly so given the generous palate, which is typically full and perhaps a bit broad. Still, no questioning the quality here. For my palate, this is best drunk now. 17.5/91

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze Medal

Tough going drinking this now, and doing the wine no justice. But you get that. Anyway, this has a quite grassy, straw and green apple nose that is very typical and perfectly correct. The palate is tight, lean and super dry with little generosity to speak but shedloads of length. Vinfanticide. I don't have enough plus signs really. 16.5/88+++

Meerea Park Terracotta Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)Bronze Medal
No surprises, with the extra citrussy plumpness doing wonders for this Semillons drinkability, notable after the AM above. Long, melon fruit and quite a rich mid palate makes this a very likable wine indeed. Still great length too. 18/93

Tyrrells Belford Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze Medal

I've got another couple of these in the cellar and after this, I'm very much looking forward to it. Sherbety, zippy and passionfruit drenched nose with a lovely lemony palate & firm, 'shit yeah' acidity. Wonderful Semillon. 18.1

Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver Medal
For my palate, this needs a decade to be drinkable. I probably shouldn't be trying it until its a ten yr old then. Still can't past the hale bale characters either. Leave. 16/87++

Crawford River Riesling 2004 (Henty, Vic)
Gold Medal
Delicious. Quite toasted, honeysuckle nose showing some aged characters. Palate is surprisingly rich and full, with lots of gentle lemony fruit and orange rind edges. Soft, natural and effortless. Tasty. 18/93

Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling 2005 (Eden Valley, SA)
Bronze Medal

Really classic, almost Clare like toasty lime juice nose, but with a very serious, steely palate. A++ acidity. Long and flavoursome and seriously fine. One of the best Contours. 18.7+/95

Leasingham Classic Clare Riesling 2005 (Clare, SA)
Silver Medal
Lemon lime and sour fruit juice. Awkward after the epic Pewsey before it. Sour. A good wine, but overshadowed here. 16.5/88

Brokenwood ILR Semillon 2004 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Gold Medal

Sorry Riggsy, but I struggle just a little to love your Semillons. Honeyed, lanolin nose with quite some bottle aged development. Palate is advanced and just a bit chubby. I opened up a second bottle to confirm and it was similar - just a bit 'clumsy'. 15.5/86

Yarra Burn Bastard Hill Chardonnay 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Gold Medal

Speaking of Mr Riggs, chief judge at this Sydney Wine Show, he singled out the two 2008 vintage Chardonnay classes as the highlights of the show. Couldn't agree more. Hooray for Chardonnay!

Intense, full worked, malo & butter nose, with prominent, but seriously fine oak that is a major part of this wines character. More power to it, for the balanced acidity on the palate and real length makes this a wine with so much going for it. Yes! 18.5/94

Paringa Estate 'The Paringa' Chardonnay 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
No Medal
Big, intensely oaky nose, with a monstrous amount of expensive, nutty oak and sour fruit. A big, alcohol wine, but with plenty of length. Still can't help but feel that this is too OTT and will likely fall over soon. Torn with the score then. 16.5/89

Yabby Lake Block 6 Chardonnay 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
No Medal
He's on fire is that Tom Carson. This is one very restrained and fresh Chardonnay, with older oak? on the nose and backed by a crisp and minerally palate. Just a fillip of vanilla, otherwise its all dry and understated. I like it. 18/93

Heggies Reserve Chardonnay 2008 (Eden Valley, SA)
Bronze Medal

Funky! Wild, sweet and sour, bubblegum and buttered melon wine with so much going on that it throws up a different smell every time. Too much going on perhaps? 17.2/91

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 2005 (Barossa, SA)
Bronze MedalI loved the 2004. Absolutely loved it. Bought numerous bottles (and I am a tight ass, mixed dozen man, so multi bottle purchases only happen with seriously good booze) and would buy more. But this.... This isn't as good. Intensely choc berried, its very ripe and varietal sure, but also surprisingly forward and short. Just not long enough & stamped with simplicity. Nope. Hold? 16.5/88+

Voyager Estate Tom Price Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Margaret River, WA)
Bronze Medal
I had this next to the Jack Mann of the same vintage and was quite amazed at their similarities. But not quite in a good way. Call me a traditionalist (or a wanker, whatever) but from Margaret River I want at least a suggestion of varietal character and not just lots of ripe fruit. This could have really been from anywhere, and for $120 I want alot more than that. Finishes hot and thick too. 16/87

Paringa Estate 'The Paringa' Shiraz 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
Gold Medal

Great. Excellent cool climate modern Shiraz. Lovely black spice and pepper on the nose, with a meaty but very fragrant nose. A beautiful nose actually. Heaps of meat and redcurrant on the palate. couched in serious extract. Heaps of flavour and great length. Worth purchasing. 18.7/95

Yalumba Tricentenary Grenache 2008 (Barossa, SA)
Silver Medal
Meaty red cherry & roast pink lamb nose. Delicious Grenache fruit nose. Plump and full if a little rubbery (good old reductive Grenache) on the palate with credible length. Good stuff. 17/90

Phillip Shaw No.8 Pinot Noir 2007 (Orange, NSW)
No Medal

Really bright & forward red fruited Pinot with quite sweet, pretty if slightly sticky Pinot fruit. Good. 16.9/89

Lerida Estate Lake George Pinot Noir 2008 (Canberra district)
No Medal
Slightly stewed, tomato leaf smelling Pinot, showing a mix of both under and overripe fruit that jar on the palate. No. 15.4/85

Yalumba Single Site Lyndoch Shiraz 2006
Bronze Medal
Deep and quite fragrant in the slightly cooler Lyndoch style. Choc bounty bar and dark purple, gummy fruit. Great sub regional expression. Lovely wine. 18/93

Yalumba Single Site Eden Valley Shiraz 2006
Bronze Medal
Another great & thoroughly authentic Yalumba red. Dark chocolate and formic fruit nose with that briary, bitter choc blackness of Eden Shiraz fruit. Olive, a hint of menthol and black fruit on the palate. Nice form. Really good. 18.1/93

Michael Hall Eden Valley Syrah 2007
No Medal
Sourced from the wonderful Flaxmans Valley, this is a lovely, artisan Shiraz that has made the very best out of what was a shocking vintage. It's obviously handcrafted and smells like it from the get-go, with a wild, quite sweet fruited characters topped with a slight stink and some very pretty cranberry aromatics and a hint of caramel. The briary, medium weight, what-Shiraz-Viognier-is-meant-to-taste-like-even-though-this-is-a-straight-Shiraz flavours on offer here are wonderfully elegant and balanced, if slightly shortened by the hard vintage. Looking forward to seeing further releases of this wine. 17.8/92

Brokenwood Mistress Block Shiraz 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver Medal

Much preferred the 06 (now), but this will smash it in time. Very polished and chocolatey, with upfront, super clean fruit. Squeaky clean and ripe, if perhaps too much polish and not enough spittle. It will get better and stinkier in time, and I'd happily stick some away in anticipation. 17.5/91++

Bests Thomson Family Shiraz 2008 (Grampians, Vic)
Bronze Medal

A waste tasting this now, and it showed very little of its goodies. Still, this is intensely flavoured and frighteningly young, and already super smooth and seamless. Very dense and surprisingly sweet too. Long termer. 17.6/91++

Gralyn Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Silver Medal

Classic Gralyn. High tolerance of super toasty oak required, but if you can get past that there lies seriously good fruit under them bows. Even shows some varietal herbaceousness in there too. Chocolate and love. But, and its a big but, that oak stamps all over the finish, drying everything out with its chocolateness, and leaving a slightly bad taste in the mouth. Caricature? Maybe. Talking Point? Yes. Bound to win fans? Yes. 17.3/90

Eden Springs High Eden Riesling (Eden Valley, SA)
No Medal

Green pea fruit, forward, fat and dull palate finishes very short. Disappointing. 14.8/83+

Tyrrells HVD Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze Medal

Very clean, if soapy and quite muddled nose. Very sour, intense and quite chewy palate. Hard acid. Typically hard going. Requires patience and an eye for where this will go. 16/87++
Yalumba 'The Reserve' 2004 (Barossa, SA)
Bronze Medal

Looking back at my notes now, I tasted this at the 2009 Sydney Wine Show, and scored it similarly. Simply put, this is a typically brilliant Yalumba dry red in the hearty, oaky, effortlessly powerful style that is easy to love. Choc formic beast of a nose, with a very dry, extractive and tannic palate. Its gruff, firm, old fashioned but so unquestionably high quality that any love of Barossan reds should love it. I do. 18.6/95

Yalumba 'The Reserve' 2005 (Barossa, SA)
Silver Medal
Lighter and less opulent than the 05, it's a much simpler, chocolatey and far less tannic wine. It's a quite plain wine in comparison, though viewed in isolation, this is still a fine, fine wine. 17.5/92

d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2004 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
No Medal
Meaty and formic nose, this wine was obviously marked down due to some obvious brett. Palate falls away too, with telltale metallic brettiness through the tail. I don't mind low dose brett, but this wasn't particularly enjoyable at all. 15.0/84

Tyrrells HVD Semillon 1999 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver Medal

Still straw green/yellow in colour and looking vibrant. Neutral nose, and neutral start to the palate, that becomes broader & richer as it progresses. Gentle and more-ish style, lemony and soft, if lacking the real definition of the finest wines. Highly drinkable though. 17.3/91

Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 1999 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze Medal

Perhaps the 99's are in an awkward stage, as I'm sure this was a top flight wine last time I tried it. Toastier, more open and larger than the HVD, perhaps with a bit of a grassy edge too. Dry, long and powerful palate with some unusual, green pea meets butter development on the palate. Rather awkward shape actually. Leave it. 16.8/89++

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
Silver Medal

Another of the much hyped 08 vintage Chardonnays, this is a lovely wine. Clean, with obvious nutty oak on the nose that pans out to reveal grilled nuts and a whiff of melon. It's a really fine modern Chardonnay nose, with everything in order. Palate is sour, long and dry with complexity and sophistication. Tight now, but with plenty of scope for development. Could happily drink this immediately. Buy some. 18.2/93++

Picardy Chardonnay 2008 (Pemberton, WA)
No Medal

Quite, warm and neutral, citrus nose, with a dry, understated and mealy palate that is so backward it hurts. Nice texture and good acid, but plainly underdone. 16.3/87+

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
No Medal

The companion piece for the Vasse above, and I went back and tried them together for perspective, confirming that both are fine, fine wines. Spiced vanilla oak nose, with more overt oak sweetness but again much to like. Dry long and persistent palate is just a bit bigger than the Vasse, but hard to separate on the quality scale. I think the Vasse might live longer though. Regardless, this is another Chardonnay winner. 18.2/93

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Syrah 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
No Medal

Another quality, interesting cool climate Shyraz (note the spelling. Should be adopted Australia wide methinks). Pan juices and pepper on the Pinotish nose. Spicy, whole bunch influenced red with peppery aromatics and a dry, elegant and layered palate. Acidity pokes out a bit, but so much to like here. Rhone comes to the Yarra Valley! 18/93

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Karra Yerta Sparkling Shiraz NV

Karra Yerta Sparkling Shiraz NV - 2009 disgorgement (Eden Valley, SA)
$35, Crown Seal, 14.5%
Source: Sample

'It's a real pity this class has detiorated to this level'

They were the judges comments at this years Sydney Wine Show for the premium 'Sparkling Red Wine, bottle fermented' class (that this wine would theoretically sit in). I'm not sure whether that is an indication of the waning quality of Australian sparkling reds, a reluctance for wineries to show sparkling reds, or just a dud bracket of wines, but it does make for interesting reading for anyone with a love of the style (which I am).

Anyway, like all the other Karra Yerta wines, this is a smashing drink, and I say that with glee, as Marie & James Linke are great people too, which just puts smiles on everyones dials.
Actually, it can be very hard to review wines for genuinely good people, as good people don't always produce good wines, and often the best wines are produced by maniacal control freaks and egotistical wankers.

But back to the wine. Lovely purple colour, with a massive frothy purple mousse that you just want to stain the table cloth with (just for effect). Interestingly, the nose is actually pretty subdued, with some sweet berried dosage the only thing escaping from the deeply black coloured juice. Palate is medium bodied and starts quite lightly with the same berries from the nose, the palate sweet initially, but fans out rather dry and long, with some proper fruit tannins rounding out the tail.

What I like most about this wine is its mediumness. It's unquestionably Barossan and juicy, but also quite constrained, dry and mellow, almost as if the base material has an extra year or two on it, even if the colour and freshness suggest otherwise.

Nice wine. 18/93