Monday, 31 May 2010

Natural Winemaking and the Egg

If you can spare a minute or so, check out this link:

It's a challenge in itself to cut through the spiel, but the concept itself sounds interesting - Hunter Semillon done in an extreme natural style, fermented in 44 litre eggs that are sunk underground (in 3 different soil types) until 'birth' and then sold in 3 packs of 900ml ceramic 'birthing chambers' (one for each soil type) complete with a 12' Ambient LP.

The question is, does Hunter Semillon require this novelty to sell it? And on the question, would you fork out the $250 for one of these three packs?

Personally, I like how much effort has gone into this project, but I'm always sceptical when I see this much hype....

Friday, 28 May 2010

Pizzini Verduzzo 2009

Pizzini Verduzzo 2009 (King Valley, Vic)
$25, Screwcap, 13.3%
Source: Cellar Door

It's apparently somewhat of a minority player in the world of Italian grape varieties, but Fred Pizzini believes that the balance of structure and texture that Verduzzo can offer mark it as a quite attractive drink. Based on this wine he could well be right.

This Verduzzo is arguably a simple wine, but that's probably not accurate, as it's more pure than simple (a fine line I know). If it needs a reference point, think Pinot Grigio, proper North East Italian Pinot Grigio, but a dry and tannic version, done with some lees work to give texture.

It's a very pale coloured white, water green and bright. It smells pure and light, with pear, white flowers and custard apple. The palate is dry, chalky and zippy, with just a flick of honey and cream richness, finishing dry, sour and warmish with more green apples.

Clear, refreshing, slightly angular, but pleasingly textural, I think this would be so very great with fresh seafood. Like it. 17/90

Thursday, 27 May 2010

BEER: James Squire Malt Runner

James Squire Malt Runner (Sydney)
$18 6pk
Source: Retail

James Squire Amber is my standard goto beer, thankfully available widely and often on special at large chain liquor stores. The Porter is also a goodun too, making for a nice easy option in liquor stores often bereft of fine brews.

The limited release James Squire beers though seem to be quite variable beasts, sometimes good, sometimes just plain odd. This sits somewhere in between those two marks - drinkable but, well, just a tiny bit short of really tasty.

James Squire's newest limited beer is the James Squire Malt Runner, a dark, richly malted style that includes Chocolate and Crystal Whear Malt as well as cocoa powder and 10% cherry juice was used in the wort. Suitably, it smells of cherry and drinking chocolate. Like Cherry Ripes actually. Did I mention I don't like Cherry Ripe? (cherries are good, chocolate is good, but Cherry Ripe is an abomination).

Tastes like Cherry Ripe too. Dry, chocolatey and just a bit chalky. Pulls up a bit short. Slight sour edge on the back. Feels like 9/10ths of a good beer, then it just gives up awkwardly.

Back to the Amber I go... 

Smallfry Red Blend 2009

Smallfry Red Blend 2009 (Barossa Valley, SA)
$28, Screwcap, 15%
Source: Sample

You notice it as soon as you shake his hand. Wayne Ahrens, Smallfry proprietor, has the rough hands of a worker. Not the red stained hands of a winemaker, but the rough hands of a man who spends his day in the vineyard. When I meet a producer with hands like these I just know that the wines will be good.

And I'm not disappointed.

Wayne's wines speak of the amount of effort that goes into his vineyards, vineyards which are now on the brink of organic (and eventually biodynamic) certification and provide some seriously good fruit.

This wine, for example, comes from Wayne's Vine Vale vineyard, located at the foothills of the Barossa Ranges, at the Eastern side of the Barossa Valley. The Vine Vale vineyard is planted to Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro, Carignan and Cinsault (and some Semillon) and contains plantings that date back to the 1880's (at least).

It's that vineyard's deep soil of pure sand over clay that Wayne believes give this wine it's particular combination of spice and power. A combination that works perfectly here.

In fact, it's a wine that shows the product of three positive elements - a promising vintage, attentive viticulture and an old vineyard full of well suited varieties.

Sitting in the glass, this Smallfry blend of Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro, Carignan and Cinsault looks a bit cloudy - unfiltered I'm guessing - with an almost rustic bronzing at the edges. Surprising then that the nose is so bright and fresh, dominated by spicy, lightly confected, beautifully ripe Grenache fruit backed by spicy dark meatiness. Sweet and pure, yet rustic and savoury, it's a nose that ticks heaps of boxes.

The palate too is a riot of jubes, game, fruit pastilles, licorice and red fruit. It starts with sweet gamey Grenache, which fans out into a glycerol like sweetness, that is never sweet, but instead nervy and juicy, licoricey and dry, full but fresh. From here it gets chewy, with a lingering sweet jube-meets game aftertaste. Long and very bright with quite soft tannins.

In a nutshell? It's a plain delicious, savoury, ripe and meaty Barossa Valley red. I was amazed at how drinkable it was already. Buy it and drink it. Yum 18.6/94

Monday, 24 May 2010

Shaw Premium Cabernet Merlot & Cabernet 2008

Two wines that aptly demonstrate how hard it can be to get Cabernet right in the Canberra district. Regardless of the heat of a Canberra summer, Cabernet is still a marginal variety for the region, with the challenges of ripeness not helped by the juxtaposition of cool weather and heat waves witnessed in 2008.

Special note: Lukewarm reviews to follow. I'm publishing them anyway as the style here so clearly illustrates the aforementioned challenges of vintage and grape. I don't mean to vilify Shaw in anyway, but I do believe that their best wines come from Shiraz and (particularly) Riesling.

Shaw Premium Cabernet Merlot 2008 (Canberra)
$25, Screwcap, 14.5%
Source: Sample

Bright mauve colour. Minty. Spearminty to be precise, with a healthy dose of Eucalpyt. It's a fresh and clear nose, but there has to be a tolerance to mint. With further air time the odd whiff of stewed blackberry fruit also pokes through, further suggesting mixed fruit ripeness.

Palate starts minty, before fleshing out with meaty mid palate chunkiness, more stewed blackberry/plum and minty fruit, sitcky acid and dry tannin. It's not an unattractive wine, but the mixed ripeness is distracting.16/87

Shaw Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Canberra)
$25. Screwcap, 14.3%
Source: Sample

Lovely purple and mauve colour. Again the nose of spearmint & Eucalpyt, with some tight grained (quality) chocolate oak and some slightly reductive fruit. Again the stewed fruit sits underneath disturbing the minty flow of fruit, before freshening up with more mint through the back. Slight resonant bitterness on the finish.

It's actual a refreshing wine in a way, with no shortage of acid and a sense of lightness. The absence of Merlot too works in this wines favour, making the lines cleaner and straighter. Still, the angularity meets stewed fruit makes for a finally disjointed experience. 16.2/87

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Quarry Hill Shiraz 2008

Quarry Hill Shiraz 2008
$18, Screwcap, 13.5%

Source: Gift

Firstly, a caveat: Quarry Hill is the source of the grapes for my own wine, so I can strongly connect with the aromas and flavours in this wine. Further, I have a particular fondness for Canberra district Shiraz. Whilst that shouldn't strictly cloud my judgement, both are sources of bias, so keep this in mind when reading this review...
Regardless, I rather like this wine. More specifically, I like drinking this wine. I like the moderation of flavours. I like the slow roasted beef, charcoal and healthy dose of pepper that wafts out of the glass, smelling at once absolutely ripe yet also quite floral, herbal even. That pretty peppered meatiness is oh so cool climate Shiraz, and oh so attractive.


Interestingly, it's not until you hit the palate that the first real flavours of 'fruit' appear, coming through as a rather dark and almost grainy, sinewy black fruit character, animal and chewy, yet sitting on a palate that is rather medium bodied and, following the nose, somewhat herbal.

The complete package is very much built in an un-showy, fragrant and meaty style that is - and I very much apologise for the cliche - rather Northern Rhonish. It's Crozes Hermitage like, if we are going for exacts, and presents as a very drinkable and enjoyable Shiraz.

Now if only my wine tasted like this.... 17.4/91

Saturday, 22 May 2010

2007 Margaret River reds: A rushed look at the icons

2007 Margaret River reds: A rushed look at the icons

Had the opportunity to look at a collection of 2007 Margaret River reds (plus a few interlopers) today, including most of the absolute top wines from the region. It was a very rushed affair, so I'm not going to include scores, but an interesting benchmarking exercise nonetheless.

My favourites? 07 Vass Felix Heytesbury and the value pick of the Cape Mentelle Trinders

The wines (prices in brackets were prices on the day):

Vass Felix Heytesbury Cabernet 2007 ($70)
Big, thick and lavishly oaked, but also so very regional, so very Vasse Felix and very very attractive. A delicious and seamless Cabernet. I'm going to buy some...

Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2007 ($35)
Well priced. Much more fleshy and open than it's sibling, but still recognisably a Cullen Cabernet (structured and fine boned). Medium bodied and tasty, lacking only a little stuffing to be truly convincing.

Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2007 ($85)
Looking a bit sullen in this context, I think this is retreating into itself. Leave it in the cellar. Was a top wine 12 months ago, so I'm not worried.

Two interlopers
Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($22)
At first I couldn't believe this was a straight Cabernet given it's quite meaty fruit expression. Regardless, it's a dry and utterly cool climate style that is nothing if not distinctive. I quite liked it.

Frankland Estate Olmo's Reward Merlot Cab Franc 2007 ($35)
Ah, a right bank blend! Much to like here, with a quite fleshy, long and dry palate driven by plush Merlot and the red fruit of Cabernet Franc. It's again a cool climate wine, lighter and just a tad herbal around the edges, but again much to like.

Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Merlot 2007 ($79)
I only had the briefest of looks at this, but it did seem to be much bigger and riper this vintage, which is not surprising given that it is skewed towards Margaret River fruit this year. A revisit is in order.

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($84)
It's been whispered that this might be a smidgen OTT this year and I would tend to agree. Overoaked. So oaky that it tends to paper over all the good bits, like regional characters. I'm not going to write it off (there is excellent fruit underneath) but no question that it looked oak heavy and clunky in this lineup.

Cape Mentelle Trinders Cabernet Merlot 2007 ($24)
Delicious. Typically varietal and even a smidgen leafy, this is all blackcurrant and cassis in a dry and quite sophisticated style. Much drier and more serious than the base 07 Cullen Cab Merlot. Excellent value. Highly recommended.

Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2007 ($30)
I can't call myself a fan of Margaret River Shiraz, but I can certainly see the appeal here. There is a cocoa butter meets dark spicy fruit character that is certainly appealing, especially when matched to a suitably long palate. It's just not my favoured style of wine per se.

Samuels Gorge Shiraz 2007

Samuels Gorge Shiraz 2007 (McLaren Vale, SA)
$35, Cork, 14.5%
Source: Cellar Door

Samuels Gorge Shiraz (this is actually the
Grenache image, so swap a colour or two)

This wine followed me home from the Samuels Gorge cellar door, along with a simple souvenir that I will never forget. It is a winery brochure, with a very crude hand drawn map and a mobile phone number on the back. The map details directions to a hidden McLaren Vale beach, the mobile number belongs to Samuels Gorge winemaker Justin McNamee.

Justin handed this brochure to us, unscripted, after a brief conversation about the highlights of McLaren Vale. The conversation itself touched on everything from the history of beach nudity, Tasmanian airports and the secrets of good ferments, all conducted whilst Justin finished off a Coopers (at 11am) after spending the night processing some of the first fruit of 2010.

What I like about this souvenir is that it reflects and epitomises the uncommon personality of Mr McNamee himself, a personality that is indelibly inked upon the artisan wines he produces.

Suitably, the 2007 Samuels Gorge Shiraz that sits in front of me now is nothing if not characterful. Deep, dark, maroon red, almost black red in colour, looking broody and, well, very McLaren Vale. It smells of earth, of cocoa powder, molasses, beef stock and those char grilled chillis that come in your stir fry. It's edged with blood too, or more like blood and bone, with just a bit of schtink. The taste? The taste is of meat, of chocolate and dried fruit, all mid palate chew & chunky texture, before finishing dry. It's that dryness that marks this as a product of the 2007 vintage and it's not for everyone, as even I found it a bit hard towards the end of the glass.

Regardless, this is a wine of uncommon texture, interest and complexity; a wine that may indeed be challenged by it's vintage foibles, but shit it's a beguiling wine. Scoring? Hard. I'm going conservative, influenced by the parching late palate. Still, much to like. Much. 17.4/91

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Decanter World Wine Awards 2010 - The Australian Results

Decanter World Wine Awards - The Australian Results

Another day, another wine show.

Peculiar that the results for this get released the day after those of the International Wine Challenge (though it's all tied in with the London Wine Fair). Decanter regional trophies already announced though, so they have it over the IWC on that at least.

Anyway, the results are below. Plenty of crossover results with the IWC and generally another strong lineup, particularly the trophy winners. Full results here

regional trophy
Australian Sauvignon Blanc over £10
Bay of Fires Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Tasmania, Australia
(White - Still)

regional trophy
Australian Chardonnay over £10
Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2007
Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia
(White - Still)

UK price: £35.95 Lib Swg Vii WDi
US price: $62.00 USOBC

regional trophy
Australia Fortified Over £10
Grant Burge 20 Year Old Tawny NV
Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Fortified)

UK price: £33.99

regional trophy
Australian White Single Varietal under £10
McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2003
Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia
(White - Still)

regional trophy
Australian Red Rhone Varietal over £10
Nugan Estate Parish Vineyard Shiraz 2008
Mclaren Vale, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

UK price: £13.99 MyL
US price: $10.00

regional trophy
Australian Riesling over £10
Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling 2004
Eden Valley, South Australia, Australia
(White - Still)

UK price: £30.00

regional trophy
Australian White Single Varietal over £10
Tyrrell's Single Vineyard Hvd Semillon 2004
Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia
(White - Still)

UK price: £15.49
US price: $35.00
Angove Family Winemakers Vineyard Select Shiraz 2008
Mclaren Vale, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

UK price: £12.99 D&D
US price: $20.00 USTRN

Barwang 842 Chardonnay 2008
Tumbaraumba, New South Wales, Australia
(White - Still)

Brown Brothers Patricia Chardonnay Brut 2005
Victoria, Australia
(White - Sparkling)

UK price: £21.99

Campbells Campbells Muscat NV
Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia
(Red - Fortified)

UK price: £11.25 Adn BnC Pip Odd

Capel Vale Wines The Scholar Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

Glaetzer Wines Wallace Shiraz Grenache 2008
Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

UK price: £14.95 F&F Smp

Hardys Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2008
Yarra Valley + Tasmania, Australia
(White - Still)

UK price: £19.99 Oca

Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Western Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

Leconfield Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

McGuigan No 5C80 The Shortlist Chardonnay 2009
Adelaide Hills, South Australia, Australia
(White - Still)

McGuigan Shortlist Riesling 2004
Eden Valley, South Australia, Australia
(White - Still)

Murray Street Vineyards 2006 MSV Sophia 2006
Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

US price: $75.00 USNER

Murray Street Vineyards 2007 MSV Gomersal Shiraz 2007
Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

US price: $55.00 USNER

Murray Street Vineyards MSV Benno 2006
Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

US price: $75.00 USNER

O'Leary Walker Wines Claire Reserve Shiraz 2006
Clare Valley, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

UK price: £30.00

Pieri Azzardo 2008
Mclaren Vale, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

UK price: £20.00 DWW

Reschke Empyrean Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

UK price: £45.95 TFC TWL

Schild Estate Ben Schild Reserve Shiraz 2007
Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

Streicker Ironstone Block Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

US price: $38.50 USMRi

Tahbilk Viognier 2009
Goulburn Valley, Victoria, Australia
(White - Still)

UK price: £9.99 Ehr

Tempus Two Copper Zenith Semillon 2007
Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia
(White - Still)

The Standish The Relic 2007
Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

UK price: £75.00
US price: $110.00

Umamu Estate Chardonnay 2007
Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia
(White - Still)

UK price: £21.00

Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2007
Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia
(White - Still)

Wakefield/Taylors Jaraman Riesling 2009
(White - Still)

Wakefield/Taylors Jaraman Shiraz 2008
Clare Valley / Mclaren Vale, South Australia, Australia
(Red - Still)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

2010 International Wine Challenge - The Australian Winners

2010 International Wine Challenge - The Australian Winners

In a big year for Australian wine at the 2010 International Wine Challenge, with Aussie wines picking up 65 gold medals (of a total Australian award haul of over 600) which is a 33% increase on the 2009 result.

Looking at the results, there are plenty of thoroughly deserving wines in this list and surprisingly few dogs (at least not those that I know). Good to see some consistency. Just to emphasise, I've put a comment on some of the tasting notes that already exist for several of the gold medal winners on this site (have a look at some of the recent comments on the right to view).

The gold medal winners:

Pikes "traditionale" Riesling, 2009
Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2008
Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Harry's Monster, 2008
Kilikanoon Barrel Femented Semillon, 2009
2008 Penley Estate Gryphon Merlot, 2008
Eden Springs High Eden Riesling, 2008
Eden Springs High Eden Riesling, 2009
Shaw Vineyard Estate Shiraz Cabernet, 2008
Black Dog Creek Shiraz, 2008
Buller Fine Old Tokay, NV
2005 Trevor Jones Reserve Riesling, 2005
Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz, 2007
Red Bucket Shiraz Cabernet, 2008
Mcguigan Bin 9000 Semillon, 2003
Mcguigan Shortlist Riesling, 2004
Mcguigan Handmade Shiraz, 2008
Woodside Valley Estate, Le Bas Chardonnay, 2008
Vineyard Select Clare Valley Riesling, 2009
Step Rd Chardonnay, 2007
Hay Shed Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008
The Gate Mclaren Vale Shiraz, 2006
Margaret Semillon, 2004
Wigan Riesling, 2004
Paxton Aaa Shiraz Grenache, 2008
Clairault Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, 2009
Petaluma Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot, 2007
Asda Extra Special Riesling, 2009
Taste The Difference Barossa Shiraz, 2008
Waitrose Reserve Shiraz, 2008
Lenswood Hills Pinot Noir, 2009
Agusta Shiraz Museum Release, 2001
Wakefield Riesling, 2009
Avon Brae Eden Shiraz, 2007
Schild Estate Ben Schild Reserve Shiraz, 2007
Krondorf Symmetry Bv Shiraz, 2007
Mail Coach Shiraz, 2008
Doozie, 2009
Bella Vigna, 2008
Chapter Three Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008
Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier, 2008
Yalumba Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier, 2008
Yalumba The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier, 2008
Parson's Flat Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007
Fermoy Estate Reserve Semillon, 2008
Pewsey Vale The Contours Eden Valley Riesling, 2004
The Quercus Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2008
Tyrrell's Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz, 2008
Tyrrell's Winemakers Selection Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon, 1999 
Tyrrell's Winemakers Selection Vat 8 Hunter Valley Shiraz, 2007
Directors' Cut, 2008
Mount Pleasant Elizabeth, 2005
Chip Dry, NV
6 Old Boys Tawny Port, NV
Cape Mentelle Chardonnay, 2008
Sticks No.29 Cabernet Shiraz, 2007
Moon Bridge Riesling, 2009
Whirlpool Reach Riesling, 2008
Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard Botrytis Riesling, 2007
Campbells Rutherglen Muscat, NV
Pauletts Aged Release Riesling, 2005
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz, 2008
Jansz Tasmania Premium Non Vintage Rose, NV
Kelly Country Shiraz, 2009
Watervale Riesling, 2009
Norfolk Rise Shiraz, 2007

Particularly notable is how many Rieslings won gold medals....

Trophies aren't announced yet, but who wants to bet that a Peter Lehmann white picks one up?

For full results check out the IWC homepage