It's another deathmatch, and this time we are going super premium Shiraz style, with some new vintages of some rather renowned wines up against each other in a four way bout for glory.
The following four - quite divergent - Shiraz were tasted over the course of a night, though in truth all of them need more time in the bottle to show what they really have to offer.
Wine 1: Warramate White Label Yarra Valley Shiraz 2008
40yr old+ plantings in the Gruyere area of the Yarra Valley. Dry grown, ideally situated next door to Coldstream Hills at the base of the hill.
I quite like the charismatic Warramate wines, and particularly the Shiraz, though it can suffer from some vintage variation. Definitely lighter this year but I think it will end up being one very long lived wine.
Light ruby coloured. Pinot coloured. Nose of cranberry, glacé cherry and smoky overtones. Subdued and feline nose, though crystal clear flavours. Light bodied, all cherries and spice with elegant, almost pretty fruit. Licoricey mid palate. Crisp acid through the finish, if just a tad watery. Nice dry tannins.
Too elegant? Perhaps, but I think this will only blossom with bottle age. 17.2/90+
Wine 2 - Brokenwood Graveyard Hunter Valley Shiraz 2007
Very Hunter and divisively so. I'm not convinced this is the best vintage of Graveyard, but there is a certain youthful gawkiness that covers what could be an impressive wine in the longer run. Really important plus signs.
Leather. New Leather. Wet dirt. Chook poo. Hunter. Reductive. Infant palate. Awkward acid. Beginnings of Hunter stink all through the palate. Surprising lack of cut through the finish. At the moment it doesn't taste anything like a $140 wine, but it will get better. Based on this bottle, at this point in time, the score is conservative. 16.7/89+
(Interesting to note I liked this fractionally more back in February. Divisive wine!)
Wine 3 - Yalumba Single Site Eden Valley Shiraz 2006
No questions about the quality here. Solid old vine Eden Shiraz drinking delightfully. Yum.
Red fruit and just a hint of the barnyard on the nose. Straw. Clean palate starts with red fruit and then gets richer, blacker and firmer as it goes along, fanning out into truffles and roasted meat. Complexity plus! Lots of flavour and interest here, finishing chewy and firm. Distinctive, enjoyable wine. 18.5/94
(Also tasted this back in February. A longer sitting had me liking this even more).
Wine 4 - Peter Lehmann Eight Songs Shiraz 2005
Suffered by following the last wine. The only thing that I don't like here is the alcohol heat through the finish. Good wine regardless.
Dense, rich, oaky and very full Barossan red. Chocolate and cocoa powder. Roasted red fruits. Maybe a tad overripe, with just a smidgen of meaty, figgy overripeness. Can't fault the chewy generosity of the palate though, which is typical Eight Songs and unquestionably attractive. Alcohol heat through the finish not so.
Good, if not quite the best vintage for this wine. 17.5/91
Jamsheed Great Western Syrah 2007 (Great Western, Vic) $35, Diam, 14.5%
Tough vintage in the Grampians and I think it shows a bit here. Still a good drink though, which is a credit to the deft touch of Gary Mills. Hard wine to score.
Discreet nose, quite plump and forward actually. Fleshy even. Then come the stems, with a flicker of tomato bush and cloves. The stemminess works well in this instance, matching up with the particularly plush sweet fruit to mark for a reasonably complete nose. Palate is dark and dry, fleshy and vanilla oak creamy with an almost leafiness thanks to the stems. But it's also a quite angular palate, savoury yet sweet and sour, with a notably warm finish, making for a somewhat disjointed flow.
Interesting wine no doubt (drinkable too) and sure to ge better with more bottle age, but I much prefer the 08 version (the Garden Gully that is, which I haven't written up yet, even though the 09's are about to be released. My bad). 17/90
This is Kevin Judd's new wine, Cloudy Bay 2.0, a new Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc built large and proud. Large in intensity, large in structure, large in flavour. Personally, I couldn't finish a glass, as it's really not a wine style that I like to drink, but geez it's good Marlborough Savvy, built for the serious fans.
Firmly varietal nose. Asparagus, herbs and more herbs. Capsicum too. Bottle age has given the asparagus a tinny note (a character I detest) but no shaking that classic stony Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc-ness out of it. Palate too is framed with no shortage of intensity. Top shelf grapes here. Dry, firm and ripe palate is a big mouthful of acid and fruit, with some smoky oak at the rim. Lots of flavour.
If I was a Savvy man this would be exciting stuff. I'm not, but no questioning the very high quality of the fruit/winemaking here, and that alone deserves proper (objective) high marks. 17.9/9
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2006 (Margaret River, WA)
$80, Screwcap, 14.5% Source: Retail www.leeuwinestate.com.au
Australia's finest Chardonnay? It's certainly hard to argue with the results. Top vintage this one too.
Classic Leeuwin nose - big, warm and uncompromisingly full. Spicy french oak, grilled nuts, plenty of french oak, lots of flavour. With air time it all integrates together, but it takes some time. Palate too is a massive slab of flavour, with whipped butter, vanilla bean, peach skins and nutty oak.
It's a beast of a wine, no question, with layers of flavour, finishing dry, clean and very long, with the only distraction being a wallop of alcohol heat to finish. But it's also a seriously fine beast of a wine, with so much intensity, conviction and layers of flavour that it's hard to put down, in every sense of the word. What's more, this is one Chardonnay that will only get better with bottle age, particularly under screwcap. I'd argue that another 3 years bottle age is almost essential for it to start showing us all it's goodies, or a decent decant in the meantime.
Another winning Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay. 18.5/94
Following on from our similar discussion of Australian Pinot Noir, it's probably just as interesting to compile a list of New Zealand's most ageworthy Pinots, particularly given that Pinot Noir is now NZ's red grape of choice (or at least that is the international perception).
This list then attempts to identify the 10 kiwi Pinots most likely to improve and develop best in the cellar for 8 years plus. Unlike the Australian lineup there is no old school vs new school here, largely due to the relatively short history of Pinot Noir in NZ. As a result, I think this list will also change dramatically in the next ten years or so, whilst the Australian version will probably change much less.
Again, all these wines are picked on reputation and are very much my own choices - if I haven't tried them, they aren't on here.
(If you don't know what I'm on about, best start here for context).
Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir
One of the pioneers and a natural choice for this list. Pure, classic, powerful expression of Central Otago Pinot. The Calvert (and Block 3) Pinots could safely have their own listing here too, but I think the Block 5 has the firmest, most ageworthy structure.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
Another natural choice and perhaps NZ's best known Pinot on the global stage. It's a big wine, no doubt, but that only helps it's cellar credibilities. It's also one of the only wines on this list that hasn't been diluted by the single vineyard/icon wine push. There is a second label (the Crimson, a friendly early drinker) but this still remains the top wine. Latest vintages proudly top class.
Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir
The Prima Donna may well live longer, but this is the wine that the winery has made its reputation on. I've had 10yr old+ examples that are still drinking well, and I'd say it is typically one of my favourite Kiwi Pinots. Excellent recent releases. The Donaldson's are nice people too.
Dry River Pinot Noir
Iconic wine that is as famously hard to get hold of as it is famous. Not cheap either. Still, it's a wine of serious brawn that never lacks precision.
Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir
One of the Martinborough originals, this has had a few wobbly recent releases, but when it's on song it is right up there with NZ's best. I actually prefer this over the Ata Rangi most of the time, largely due to it's extra 'pinosity', but it can't match the Ata Rangi's consistency. Will live and live too (check out this vertical).
Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir
I've left this as just the 'Moutere' as that's the wine that made the reputation. Along with the Pegasus Bay, this is my favourite NZ Pinot and is similarly ageworthy. In fact, it can be somewhat of a hard wine in it's youth, so cellaring is almost obligatory.
Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir
This is Larry 'McPinot' McKenna's baby, produced off the oldest close planted vines in his Te Muna terrace vineyard. It's simply a fantastically balanced Pinot, which is why it can claim to be so cellar-worthy (though admittedly I think other wines on this list will live for longer). Even the standard wine is a winner
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir
Here simply by weight of results. Many people might scoff at Cloudy Bay's ageing credentials, but this deceptively soft Pinot really does have the stuffing to age. Recent releases haven't quite matched the wines produced at Kevin Judd's peak, but the potential is still there.
Rippon 'Mature Vine' Pinot Noir
I'm referring here to the two 'mature vine' Rippon Pinots, though the reputation has been built on a single estate wine. Rippon are one of the oldest Central Otago producers and have simply been doing it better for longer. Seriously well structured wines that are often forgotten when people are writing lists of 'NZ's best'.
Carrick Pinot Noir
Firmly structured Pinot that absolutely needs bottle age to be enjoyable, to the point where some recent vintages have been simply too tannic and structured to be really drinkable. In good vintages it will live for a decade plus.
I've left plenty of challengers off this list (Mt Difficulty, Olssens, Pyramid Valley to name just a few), so who would be in your top 10?
A remarkably consistent wine, I can't remember ever having one of these that I didn't enjoy, and this was particularly drinkable. Good vintage for this wine no question about it.
Crisp, lightly herbaceous and finely delineated nose of clear, nettle and grass Sauvignon aromatics, followed by citrussy Semillon underneath. Palate is dry and particularly fresh with a kiss of smoky oak only adding some more complexity, finishing quite long and crisp. Lovely wine. 18.3/93
The most impressive thing about this Sangiovese? Tannins. Mouthcoating, fine grained tannins are one of the key characteristics of Sangiovese, yet so few Australian renditions feature them. Plenty here though, and they turn what is a bright, simple and plump red into something much more delicious and savoury. Good wine. Good quaffing wine, made more interesting thanks to some proper tannins. Awesome pizza wine. 17/90
Port Phillip Estate Pinot Noir 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic) $33 (RRP), Diam, 14%
Source: Wine List www.portphillip.net
Really surprised by this. Surprised from the first whiff. Surprised to smell overripe grapes, which is so very unexpected from this winery. Warm on the palate too, with alcohol warmth trampling all over the finish. It's still a proper Mornington Pinot underneath, with sappy strawberry fruit and some citrussy acids, but it's just a bit blunt and shapeless, the oak mingling with the overripe fruit to yield something vaguely caramelised. I shared a bottle of this and by the end I just didn't enjoy it anymore. Not terrible, not faulty, just a bit too ripe for real enjoyment. 15.8/85
Just a quick update for all the iPhone users amongst us.
You can now pick up the Australian Wine Review feed via a particularly handy 'quick reference wine industry App for the iPhone' known as wineindustryNEWS. The app includes more than just a RSS feed from here, with real estate (chateau anyone?), job vacancies and some typically droll winery classifieds (I guess it can be hard to sex up an ad selling vineyard posts).
Useful stuff and free to download from the itunes store.
That's a question that I have been pondering over the past week as I sat around in various doctors waiting rooms, mindlessly flicking through dog eared 4 year old Readers Digests and (strangely current) issues of Australian Yachting.
What kicked off this (typically random) obsessive wine thought was Dan Coward's thought provoking comment (here) noting just how variable the results from older Australian (and New Zealand) pinots can be.
So, I've decided to write a list. Yes, another list. This time a Pinot list, highlighting Australia's most ageworthy Pinot Noirs. This one, however, has a different slant from last weeks value collection, with the main criteria for entry based as much upon reputation and consistency than actual current vintages.
The real challenge though with writing a Pinot list like this one is that it is still so Victoria-centric, stacked with estates an hour from Melbourne that served as weekenders for wealthy, Pinot loving Melbourne businessman back in the 70's and 80's (and even now almost into the teens)
But I'm also keen to highlight the new generation of cellar worthy Australian Pinot Noirs, which is why this list is split into two - on one (larger) hand, the established 'dress circle' of renowned producers, on the other, the newer (somewhat) generation of smart, one-eye-on-the-cellar Pinot makers.
Here we go:
Australia's 10 most ageworthy Pinot Noirs
Mount Mary Pinot Noir
As Yarra as they come. Melbourne doctor with firm ideas makes the wines he wants to drink, with the tradition now carried on by his descendants. This bottle alone gets this wine an entry onto the list.
Yarra Yering Pinot Noir
Even older school. Yarra Yering is probably better know for its red blends than its straight pinots, but they age with similar gracefulness.
Bannockburn Serre Pinot Noir
Gary Farr's baby, this listing could even include the base Bannockburn Pinot such is it's ageability. Gary moved on to his newer project (below) some time ago, but the Serre was still his wine. Micheal Glover is a particularly talented winemaker though, so expect the new Serre's to be just as good.
By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir
Perhaps this should fit into the new school As Burgundian a Pinot as you are likely to find in Australia. Serious, fine, dense and structured, this will live and live (though has some occasional bottle variation). The new Tout Pres promises to be even more cellar worthy (eventually).
Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir
Arguably South Australia's most impressive Pinot Noir, with a reputation for maturing well in the cellar. A serious structure and no shortage of intensity help this to be such an ageworthy prospect.
Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir
I'm leaving this as the Estate Pinot for consistency, but obviously the Reserve and Premium label present a step up in quality again. Whichever of these three wines you get, at the very least it will be a characterful Pinot (though variability is an issue). Personally, I think that Bass Phillip makes the finest Pinots in Australia. Which reminds me, I really should buy some more of the bargain '21'...
Domaine A Pinot Noir
Producer of Australia's longest lived Pinots, the Domaine A style is sturdy, dry and idiosyncratic. A high tolerance of sappy, minty 'marginal' Pinot characters is required to really love them, but this is one wine that, given the requisite bottle age, can produce some seriously high notes.
Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir
Once famously confused with a grand cru burgundy, and each year shown to be a serious contender at the annual SIPNOT tastings, the distinctive, powerful Stonier style was made thanks to some strong wines in the late 90's early noughties. In recent years a change in ownership has done the estate little favours, with many of the talented staff now long gone. Still, there is a legacy there, and when on song these are seriously fine Mornington Pinots.
Kooyong Ferrous Pinot Noir
Some might argue whether this - or the 'Haven' - is the longest lived single vineyard Kooyong Pinot, but what's not up for debate is how taut, firmly structured and plain delicious this wine is. Sandro Mosele can rightly claim to be producing some of the finest Pinots on the Mornington Peninsula and this is the wine that I think represents his finest work.
Bindi Block Five Pinot Noir
Some might argue that the Original Vineyard Pinot Noir should get top billing, but I think argue this is the most tannic and darkest of Michael Dhillon's Pinots (and hence the most ageworthy). It's a wine that is both serious and seductive, just like Pinot should be. Given that this vineyard is now nearing twenty years old, this wine might not be as 'new school' as I'm asserting, but it's still very much a new school wine style.
I know I've left a few out, but who would be in your top 10 ageworthy Australian Pinots?
Seriously though, I actually quite enjoyed researching and writing that article, if purely to broaden my knowledge about the new varieties being played with in the Hunter Valley (and who is playing with them). Interesting group of winemakers to interview too.
Grosset Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Clare Valley & Adelaide Hills, SA) $28, Screwcap, 12.5% Source: Cellar Door http://www.grosset.com.au/
By my reckoning, this is the sixth consecutive vintage of Mr Grosset's white blend that I've tasted and the first time ever that I've been disappointed. That's quite a record, and certainly enough for me to buy it again in the future.
But I'm still shitty about this wine. Shitty that I left it too long, shitty that I paid $28 for a wine that I didn't enjoy.
For this 09 white is already on the decline. Straw yellow in colour, the nose is forward and fat with the telltale pea & tinned asparagus of developing Sauvignon Blanc, blended with firmer citrus fruit. It's a nose that you would find on 18 month old Marlborough Sauv, not 9 month old SSB and is unattractive to say the least.
Palate wise it's short, citrussy and surprisingly warm, awkward and a bit flabby through the middle, though finishing firmish. It's a husk of a palate, all angles and no fruit.
In short, it's a letdown. It didn't taste oxidised or otherwise tainted, it just seemed awkward and off it's game. What's more, this is actually my second bottle of this, the first one back in October was crisp and taut, though notably lean.
Could it be a dud bottle? Yes. Would it have been a good wine last Christmas? Entirely possible. Does that make me feel better? No. 14.5/83
I've managed to (painfully) crush my left hand this week in a cycling accident, so apologies in advance if the tasting notes are a little thin on the ground for the next little while, particularly as a stint in hospital (to wire knuckle bones back together) looms, and because I'm crap at one handed typing.
Thankfully my drinking hand was unaffected, allowing me to enjoy this lovely, pure, vibrant Grenache from Wayne Ahrens.
It might seem a peculiar comparison, but all I could think about whilst tasting this Smallfry Grenache was Pinot. Or Gamay.
It starts with the colour - which is a light, bright ruby that belies the obvious grape ripeness.
On the nose too there is a riot of fresh red fruits: Cranberry; Redcurrant and jubes (red and black). It's a lovely pure nose that is ripe, pure and unadorned by oak.
Interesting then that the palate - just like good Pinot - is much fuller than the rather juicy nose suggests.
It carries that same plush red fruit flesh signalled on the nose, but built long and savoury, finishing with dry tannins to boot. There is a hint of baked fruit through the tail, but it's replaced by fruit soon after, with it all finishing warm (but not hot) and clean.
All in all it's a delicious wine that is light, pure and varietally true. 18/93
I'm in catchup mode at the moment, utilising the long weekend to attempt to transfer tasting notes from notebook (and random pieces of paper scattered around the unit) to website.
So apologies in advance for the rather random nature of this weekends posts.
The following wines were all served blind over a very long lunch last month, with the experience once again reminding how mercurial the Pinot Noir grape is, variable and divisive to the end.
These notes are in unedited raw form, so they can seem a little haughty.
Pyramid Valley Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
Subdued, mildly volatile, bark and black pepper, hint of stems. Classic fleshy Pinot nose. Firmly oaky and alcoholic palate is quite extractive, firm and dry, with a nice cut of sweet fruit through the finish. Sweet fruit lingers too. Very serious, needing years. Top wine. Victorian? (wrong there!) 18.4/94+
Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005
Much more fleshy after wine 1, this shows caramel oak and red fruit in a quite sweet fashion. Fleshy. Floral. Lovely fleshy and soft palate, though slightly hollow through the finish. Lots of pleasure here. 18/93
Fromm Marlborough Pinot Noir 2002
Old leather, spice and cinnamon. Obvious age. Dry and quite astringent palate. Drying out, touch of mint on the back. Not much love and little fun to be had here. 14.6/82
Peregrine Pinot Noir 2004
Looks slightly older. Volatile, stewed and meaty. Stewed red fruits. Mildly horsey. Still plenty of flesh but just a bit awkward and metallic through the back end. Heat through the finish. 15.8/86
Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 2006
Lots of wood on the nose. Volatile and backwards. Vegetative edge. Tangerine citrussy character on the palate. Just a fraction awkward. Nice flow through the finish though. Desperately in need of time. 16.5/88+
Maurice Ecard et Fils Savigny Les Beaune Les Jarrons 1er Cru 1999
Mature, roasted game and a sniff of volatility on the nose, with a slice of bark and old wood. Palate is nice and complex with leather and roasted beef. Fully resolved and comfortable if very dry through the finish. A lovely drink and interesting stuff. 17.5/92
Jean Fery & Fils Savigny Les Beaune 2006
Strawberry fruit and oak with lots of sweetness on the nose which is offset by the truffley savoury overtones. Palate is quite sweet but also extractive with lots of oak, finishing with oak tannins. Awkward acid to finish. Potential sure, but not quite there yet. 16.5/88+
Domaine de Courcel Pommard Les Croix Noires 1er Cru 2005
Golden syrup sweetness with some caramelised notes, though still quite floral. Palate is extractive and liqueured with harsh acid and soapy oak, but still there remains some decent fruit in there somewhere. Lots of heat through the finish. Just not quite there. Time might sort things out. 15.7/86
Anne Gros Vosne Romanee Les Barreaux 2001
Cinnamon and pepper, mushroom and spices. Secondary and wild nose. Palate is very dry and faintly leathery with lots of tannins and acid. Impressive length. Complete wine. 17.2/90
Tarrington Pinot Noir 2004
Bacon bits. Redcurrant. Big and heady nose. Rich, full and heavy palate is thick and intense. Long. Very good. 17.5/92
Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2003
Horsey bretty stink. Bandages. Palate though is sweet and classic with just a fillip of bretty sausages on the finish. Bretty character hits hard on finish. Small amounts of brett are fine, but this is just too much. 15.0/84
Lucy Margaux Pinot Noir 2009
Rich, plush, liqueured cherry nose. Volatile and sappy. Semi sweet oaky palate is all oak at present. Lots of pretty fruit in there though. Just needs time. 17/90++
Picardy Pinot Noir 2001
Lots of bacony development. Palate is a bit horsey and acid is rising up, palate losing its fruit. Interesting enough though on the decline. 16.3/87
Paringa Estate 'Estate' Pinot Noir 2007
Plush. Youthful, sappy and extractive. Big nose. Oak a tad intrusive. Very tight and sour palate that is long but desperately in need of some bottle age. 17.5/92+
Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir 2004
Lovely resolved nose. Faintly volatile and stewed, but so utterly Pinoty. Beautifully weighted sour palate, complex and full. Deliciously gamey. Lovely wine. 18.5/94
Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir 2008
Soapy oak sitting on top of the fruit. Soapy, dry palate is withdrawn and still smashed by oak, with sweet fruit just poking through. Very very backwards. Vinfanticide. 17/90++
William Hatcher Willamette Pinot Noir 2005
Sweaty, lovely sweet pure Pinot fruit with some chocolatey oak and no shortage of plush impact on the palate. Meaty chunk through the back. Very well balanced, nice chewy tannins. Excellent stuff. 18.5
Hillcrest Premium Pinot Noir 2005 (I've had better bottles of this)
Cherry fruit opulence, smoky and spicy, citrussy even. Sausage meat and sap on the chewy palate. Just a bit metallic through the finish. Dry and savoury, though not overly generous. 17.3/91
Beaux Freres Beaux Freres Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006
Lifted and lightly volatile nose. Very full and very chunky palate that finishes very hot. Big and extractive palate. Lacks delicacy, but plenty of impact. Oregon? (picked it!). 16.3/87
Evesham Wood Le Puits Sec Pinot Noir 2006
Raspberry and spice, again with a hint of citrus. Interesting palate is full and ripe with cherry fruit. Tail end is very extractive, hard and unappealing. Disjointed. 16/87+
Main Ridge 'Half Acre' Pinot Noir 2006
Caramel and berries, spicy and just a bit sappy. Palate is very dry and unwieldy with a stemmy finish. A bit greenish and mean at this stage but very very serious. Should blossom with bottle age. 16.5/88+
These notes come from a tasting that was almost 6 months ago now (so some of the wines might have well changed a bit since) but I think the highlights would remain the same.
Stefano Lubiana Brut NV
Green apple and cream overlay. Fresh and youthful but with some proper depth behind it. Quite long and fresh palate with proper acidity. Impressive and excellent value. 17.6/92
Stefano Lubiana Riesling 2008
Muted, green nose, dry restrained and minerally, pristine palate. Primordial. Serious juice here. 17.3/91+
Stefano Lubiana Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Green and grassy nose. Sour and grassy palate has nice weight and lots of intensity but just a smidgen too grassy for me. No doubting the quality. 17.3/91
Stefano Lubiana Primavera Chardonnay 2008
Doing a fair 'modern style' Chablis impersonation. Slate and cream leads to clear and finely oaked palate that is clean and refreshing. Excellent Chardonnay and seriously good value. 18/93
Stefano Lubiana Estate Chardonnay 2005
Creamy bottle development with some icing sugar and marzipan that goes through the whole palate. Long and very well formed. Rich and delicious. 18.3/93
Stoney Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Soft and feline if vegetative nose. Dry and very well formed palate that is long if lacking in some punch. Lots of interest though. 17.2/91
Domaine A 'Lady A' 2006
Needs some time. Nose just shows a little tinned asparagus and pineapple, with a dry palate that's just a little raw at present, the oak poking through. Good wine underneath everything. 17.5/92+
Josef Chromy Pinot Chardonnay 2005
Nice Brioche and Sao like bottle age flavours on the nose and start of the palate, but back end a little callow and finishes with blunt acidity. 16.7/88
Frogmore Creek Dry Riesling 2008
Quite advanced nose with the first beginnings of petrol. Palate is stuck in a developmental hole and showing very little. Not convinced but will improve with bottle age. 16.5/88+
Frogmore Creek FGR Riesling 2009
Mute, honey tinged nose. Palate starts well but residual sweetness poorly integrated. Not a massive fan. 16/87
Bay of Fires Sparkling Rose NV
Creamy strawberry nose, dry and slightly tart palate. Awkward acidity. 16.5/88
Bay of Fires Riesling 2008
Developing nose, toasty green apple palate starts soft but finishes with serious grip. Needs some more bottle age but like the structure and potential. 17/90
Bay of Fires Chardonnay 2008
Not as big a fan of this as I have been on other occasions, specifically due to some blunt oak. Palate is still quite long and well formed. 17.3/91
Tamar Ridge Sparkling 1996 10 years+ on lees
Heavily bottle aged and autolysis dominated palate nose, heading towards caramelised. Palate shows excellent weight but is just a bit tired. 17/90
Stefano Lubiana Primavera Pinot Noir 2008
Lovely strawberry fragrance. Really full and opulent. Acid pokes out a bit on the palate but still a nice Pinot that should look really good with some further bottle age. 17.5/91
Stefano Lubiana Pinot Noir 2007
Strawberry and red fruit with a bit of undergrowth on the nose. Very Pinolicious nose. Palate is, like the Primavera, a touch angular with awkward acid, but no questioning the class. 17.8/92
Stoney Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
Typically idiosyncratic. High tolerance of Eucalypt and spearmint required. Raspy minty palate is not without charm but still marginal. 16/87
Domaine A Pinot Noir 2005
Mushroomy nose backed by spearmint. Slow cooked beef in there for good measure. Firm and acidic structure is commendable but, like all Domaine A wines, it really needs some more bottle age to be a good drink. 17/90+
Stoney Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Pencils, sap, spearmint on the nose and plenty of mint on the palate. Savoury and not ungenerous palate though shortish finish. Drinkable though not for everyone. 17.2/90
Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Classic. Pencil shavings, cedar and black meaty fruit. Tight, finely balanced proper left bank style thats wonderfully unsweet and interesting. Needs another 5 years in the bottle, but so much to like here. 18.3/93+
Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2008
Sappy, slippery and quite firm Pinot with a big structure and plenty of impact. Needs some bottle age to come together but serious wine here. Good value too. 17.6/92+
Frogmore Creek Iced Riesling 2007
Volatile and just a bit raspy, this seems to lack some finesse, though I suspect it should improve with further bottle age. 16.8/89+
The following notes come from a short (but intense) wine tasting trip taken during this years Canberra district harvest festival.
On this particular mission the aim was to try new vintages and new releases from some likely Canberra producers.
What was most surprising was how many wineries were still showing the same vintages as a year ago, reminding perhaps just how challenging it is for small producers in developing wine regions (given that the Canberra district is very much a wine region in it's infancy, even though wine has been produced in the district for 160 years).
Regardless, I'm happy to report that quality was reassuringly high and several new discoveries made the 700kms (in one day) worth of driving worthwhile.
Sunny skies at Lark Hill
Set on the ridge above Lake George, Lark Hill has a somewhat cooler climate than much of the rest of the district, with wines that are typically drier and more defined than many of its Canberra brethren. Lark Hill has also been certified biodynamic since 2008 and was one of the first wineries in the country to be receive full certification.
One of the other attractions for Lark Hill is the brand new Gruner Veltliner, one of only two in Australia, which was unfortunately sold out on this occasion, though it is reputedly an impressive wine.
The estate also has some other news, with the recent installation of a 10kw solar power plant that now supplies all of the electricity for the property, with the remainder fed back into the grid.
Given the generous government grants currently available and the favourable (government subsidised) prices for selling back the residual power, the winery will be proudly power bill free (and making a power profit) within 4 years, whilst also producing all their power via renewable energy.
Apparently it is quite a considerable investment to setup this sort of power arrangement, but with results like that it makes a powerful case - for both sustainability and financial reasons - that any winery should consider.
Lark Hill Riesling 2009 ($30)
Beautifully perfumed with a lemongrass and almost tropical nose over a vibrant and full palate. Excellent mid palate zip and natural acids. Full and flavoursome dry Riesling in a delicious style. Lovely. 18.5/94
Lark Hill Fledgling Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($25)
Crisp, green grassy nose over a dry and quite lean palate. Nose promises much, palate is too dry and falls away a bit. Crunchy and fresh but a smidgen hard and dry for me. 16.8/89
Lark Hill Chardonnay 2006 ($35)
Looking a little flabby (in this context at least) with mildly astringent oak and straw like development. Palate is quite blunt and a bit stern, with a cheesy finish. Not quite a fan. 16/87
Lark Hill Pinot Noir 2005 ($30)
Still yet to be convinced by a Canberra Pinot and this isn't the wine to change my mind. Chewy and just a bit horsey, this has big bones for a Pinot but falls away at the finish. 16.3/88
Lark Hill Shiraz 2003 ($35)
Dried out and tannic with limited flesh on a very dark palate. Not a bad wine though, for it is actually carefully delineated and dry. To my palate this would have been a better wine a few years back. 16.5/88
Lark Hill Exaltation 2003 ($45)
A blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot, this is savoury and layered, dried and interesting in a quite refreshing, old world, quasi Italianate style. Dry and leafy, with olive tapenade characters and subtle layers of herbal fruit. Maturing nicely. Really enjoyed this. 17.8/92
Lark Hill Auslese Riesling 2008 ($35)
10.5g/l TA, 120g/l of sugar
Those are some amazing numbers for an Australian wine and this is suitably a top shelf stuff. Squat and powerful, beautifully balanced wine that is very firm and densely structured, topped with beautiful honeysuckle fruit. Absolutely stunning wine. Real success. 18.6/95
The old Kamberra winery. Eden Road cellar door on the left
Whilst Hardys (now Constellation) pulled out of the Canberra district in 2007, they left behind a wonderful legacy of grapegrowers, winemakers and facilities.
Eden Road are one of these beneficiaries, producing their wines in the old Kamberra winery (a facility shared between several producers) and setting up their cellar door in the old Kamberra outlet next door.
As producers, Eden Road have already had a major win, with the 2008 Long Road Shiraz winning the 2009 Jimmy Watson Trophy. Yet the operation itself is very much in it's infancy, which shows (I think) in the rather simple wines.
Whilst I wasn't obviously floored by the wines, there is no question that Eden Road is a winery to watch.
Eden Road 'Long Road' Canberra Riesling 2009 ($18) Dry, very dry, sherbety and citrussy, if just a bit lean. Palate is clearly varietal but lacking the stuffing for real high marks. 15.8/86
Eden Road Tumbarumba Pinot Noir 2008 ($25) Interesting wine this, if purely for the implications for Tumbarumba. A searing dry wine with big Pinot flavours and a very firm backbone, this had quite a bit of sappy flavour and some meaty chunkiness. Quite a (good) surprise! 17.3/91
Eden Road 'Long Road' Hilltops Shiraz 2008 ($18) Winner, 2009 Jimmy Watson Trophy
3-4% Viognier in this, which definitely helps give it an aromatic lift and some juiciness. It's quite a plush and perfumed wine, with mid palate meatiness and a light finish. Smooth, ripe and quite easy going, it's a good clean commercial wine but not of real trophy quality. 16.5/88
Eden Road 'Long Road' Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($18) I much preferred this to the Shiraz, thanks mainly to it's firmer, full chunky fruit and proper palate intensity. Hearty red wine at a very respectable price. 17/90
The old Brindabella Hills Cellar Door. New one directly opposite
I was very impressed by the wines on my last visit, though in this instance everything felt very tight and light. Would like to retry several of these with more bottle age.
Brindabella Hills Riesling 2009 ($25)
Brisk, lean & citrussy Riesling with prominent acids dominating everything. Very tight, fine and crisp, if far too dry for immediate consumption. Just needs some time. 17.3/91+
Brindabella Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18) Carries a rather similar nose to that of the Riesling, surprisingly enough, with a nose of lemon and citrus peel on a very long palate. Nicely delineated but just a smidgen light for high points. 16.8/89
Brindabella Hills 'Brio' Sangiovese 2008 ($20)
Brunello clone Sangiovese. Sourced from a neighbours vineyard at Hall Beautiful clean aromatics of cherry fruit. Palate is sweetly oaky, cheerful and forward, but seems a little simple and oak driven. Should improve with bottle age, but just a little one dimensional at present. 16.5/88+
New Surveyor's Hill cellar door. A common theme in Canberra (new sheds)
With a bright new shed and a few new wines this place just oozes potential. One to watch in the coming years, particularly for the production of Mediterranean varieties.
Surveyor's Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2008 ($20) New wine for Surveyor's Hill and it's welcomingly bright and fresh. Sweetly oaked and full fruited, this is ripe, polished and smooth, though rather un-Canberra in style. In fact, it is almost like a Barossan red given the plush flow of ripe fruit and tannins.
Regardless, this was very likeable and should be even more so with further bottle age. 16.8/89+
Surveyor's Hill Sweet Touriga (2008 blend) A new vintage blend for this fortified and much more balanced sweetness this time around. Love the dry tangy Touriga varietal character and balanced acidity through the finish. Rather tasty actually. 17/90
A very brief stop, principally to try the first wine below. I wasn't disappointed. Sell all your furniture. Sell your kids too. Just don't miss out on the Syrah below.
Clonakilla Syrah 2008 ($75)
So meaty. Brightly meaty. Like classic Rhone meaty. Fragrant yet masculine style that's big and rich but not hearty, more sinewy than that. Taut palate with no hard edges, just lots of tannin and spice. Pulls well through the finish too. Even better than the 08 Shiraz Viognier (in my view). 18.9/95
Clonakilla Vintage Fortified Shiraz 2007 ($28)
Sourced from a component of the 2007 O'Riada, it doesn't actually taste much like Canberra Shiraz at all, but it is a wonderfully elegant and sweetish 'dry' VP style. Really more-ish, though not for the long haul. Awesome options wine. 17.4/91
Tallagandra Hill. Another newish shed
It's quite a trek from Murrumbateman to Tallagandra Hill, so I'd suggest combining the trip with a visit to Grazing whilst your there (they have a clever wine list, without even touching on the high quality Capital wines on the menu :)).
As for the wines, the two Cabernet based reds were very high quality indeed (I bought some of the last wine)
Tallagandra Hill Shiraz Viognier 2007 ($21) Simple and candied style with sweet purple fruit and plenty of sweetness. Light and commercial. 15.9/86
Tallagandra Hill Cabernet Franc 2006 ($19.50) Rubbery and already quite developed, falling away on the back palate. Simple. 15.8/86
Tallagandra Hill '9 Barrels' Shiraz/Cabernet Franc 2008 ($?) Big step up here. Reasonably firm but perfumed, this seems richer and heavier than the components would suggest. Perfume and guts. Good stuff. 17.3/91
Tallagandra Hill Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc 2008 ($35?) If done right, Canberra can make great Bordeaux blends. Helm can do it very well, as can (obviously) this winery. A lovely mid weight Cabernet in the black licorice style. Big & chocolatey whilst still retaining its acidity. Very drinkable and very good. 18.3/93
Ahh Langhorne Creek, the comfort food of the Australian wine industry. There is something wonderfully reassuring about the generous choc-mint characters that Langhorne Creek reds dish up, at typically more than generous prices. Bremerton do such wines notably well, and this wine doesn't let anyone down, even given the challenges of the vintage.
From first whiff it's apparent that this is a rich and full flavoured red, with a nose straight out of the South Australian Shiraz textbook - it's all red fruit, a snifter of volatility and a load of berry freshness. It's also a nose that carries the mark of many 2008 South Australian reds, with plush, open sweet fruits edged with the first hint of overripeness, though the freshness here suggests that the Wilson family dodged a bullet and picked at just the right time.
Following the nose is a big mouthful of purple fruit, with soft plump berries and supporting vanilla oak, set quite sweetly in a round and smooth frameset. It's very much a front and mid palate wine this year, finishing lighter and softer than some previous vintages (such as the 06 reviewed here), though for it's intended purpose and pricepoint the lack of a firm tannic backbone will do no harm.
Affable red wine from a challenging vintage. 17.3/91
Long bottle, long cork and very regal looking label. All adds up to what looks like a good package, though it's not strictly my sort of wine (a bit charry and heavy for me).
A deep, rich red colour with light edges, this looks dark, Pyrenees dark. Nose is all Darryl Lea licorice aromatics, with a fair dose of chocolate oak. Attractive stuff. Rich, but not obviously sweet, with black-meets-red-fruits and charry, solIdly integrated oak. Thick, tarry black fruit and malted oak palate, with spicy fruit just touching into overripeness, but saved by a fresh, grainy, tannic finish.
It's a big mouthful of Pyrenees red, with the 4% Viognier very carefully integrated and no shortage of tannins. Has a real depth of black old vine fruit richness that marks it as a wine of quality. I'd like to see this a fraction lighter, but it will definitely make plenty of people happy. 17.3/91
This is one of the top end labels for Bellarine Peninsula stalwart Scotchmans Hill, who seem to have a much quieter profile of late.
Deep ruby in colour and looking rich, the nose shows a fair lick of expensive coconut oak, suggesting that this saw the inside of some expensive french barrels. It's a nose that carries quite a bit of the strawberry red fruit aromatics that typify good Mornington Pinot, if just a teensy bit stewed. Pretty and Pinoty nonetheless.
The palate to is very pretty, with cherry and spice to complement the strawberries. Lacks some punch through the finish and the oak tannins are a smidgen intrusive, though it's still an attractively varietal Pinot, a fact which is punctuated by some lovely gamey Pinot characters on the finish.
At it's core this wine is all Pinot, just reiterating how good the fruit would have been to begin with. Personally I'd like to see it with a fraction less obvious oak, though that may well integrate with further bottle age. Questionable value @$53 perhaps, but good drinking all the same. 17/90
Long heralded as Australia's finest Pinot Gris, the Scorpo wines are always interesting. What I found perplexing with this one however is the closure - a Pinot Gris with a cork? I'd argue that the choice of tree bark has done this little favour, as this particular bottle really seemed to lack the requisite freshness and finished alot warmer than the 13.5% alcohol stated on the label. Still, it is typically a good Pinot Gris so I'll reserve my judgement until I try a second bottle.
Would never be questioned if the bottle had been sealed with a screwcap however...
The Clare Valley had a very mixed time of it in 2009 - if the Rieslings are anything to judge by - with wines as classic as the 09 Grossets, right through to these Wilson Rizzas, which have been notably forward and light. This follows the same trend shown by the 09 Polish Hill Riesling tasted earlier in the year (scroll down to find it) with a fair whack of toasty secondary characters, before shutting up shop halfway through the back end. Needs more bottle age to show it's best, but still prematurely aged. 16.5/88
Released earlier this year and absolutely showing it's infancy, this was a typical riot of candied red fruits in the classic RoV fashion, yet just a little tight and dry at the moment. Still, everything is in it's right place, making for a lovely drink now and an even more lovely drink in 2-3 months time. 17/90+
Kym Teusner called 2008 'a punters vintage' with the belief that the wines - in general - are all beautifully smooth and forward, but just a bit lacking in structure.
This wine illustrates that perfectly - it looks positively purple in the glass, with a nose that is all sweet purple fruit and chocolatey oak, almost like a berry milkshake. Behind this it's all berries with very sweet oak and very sweet fruit. Tails off to a light finish and some drying oak tannins.
Lot's of simple juicy drinking pleasure here and no shortage of impact, but ultimately too sweet for really high marks. 16.8/88
Somewhat of an antithesis to the super-fresh Filsell, this is already turning quite secondary and meat.
Turning orange at the rim, the nose shows meaty red fruit. Volatile red fruit and red dirt. It's a heavy, ferrous nose that smells already a fraction dried out and grizzled. Palate too is quite leathery and secondary with licorice edges. Palate finishes a tad dried out, with chocolatey oak sitting heavily through the tail.
It's just a smidgen overoaked really, with the fruit now developing quickly and leaving behind an oaky shell. Drinkable wine but not all that enjoyable. 16/87
I've just come back from several days in Griffith, the heart of NSW's largest wine region (the Riverina), where I spent plenty of time wading through a mix of very ordinary (cheap) wines, interspersed with a few - relatively expensive - highlights.
In amongst all this, it was a brief stop at the De Bortoli cellar door that reminded exactly what the Riverina does best - that is, to make very good wines for minimal dollars. What's more, the whole experience just further highlighted how satisfying it is to find wines that are inexpensive AND high quality.
So, in response, I've decided to setup a revolving (updated every month or so) list of the wines that I personally think are the best under $20 (which I'm calling inexpensive, feel free to disagree and comment below) that I have tried this year (restricted only to current vintages that I've sampled, so no wines included based on reputation).
The aim here is to simply highlight any wine that sells for <$20 that I would enjoy having in my glass on a regular occasion, purely because 'value wines' such as these deserve the extra attention. Some of the wines below have been published elsewhere on the site, if so the name will link back to the original tasting note. The wines: Elderton Eden Valley Riesling 2009 (Eden Valley, SA) $19
Showed great form in a three way Eden Valley death match a few months back, this is pure Eden Valley Riesling in the green and slatey style. Lovely unforced acidity too.
Pewsey Vale Riesling 2009 (Eden Valley, SA) $18
Old Pewsey turns up on many a value wine list, as few can match it for consistency of style and quality. This vintage of Pewsey Vale Riesling is a teensy bit softer and more forward than those from the last few years, but it's unquestionably Eden Valley and seriously fresh.
Kurtz 'Boundary Row' GSM 2006 (Barossa Valley, SA) $18
I have banged on at length about this wine and I'm utterly unapologetic about that. Rich yet savoury with carefully balanced oak, a trademark GSM charcuterie meatiness and a chewy finish. Hearty, solid Barossan fare.
Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Goulburn Valley, Vic) $19
In truth I should probably include the Shiraz too, but I marginally prefer this Cabernet so it wins a spot. What I like most about this Tahbilk red is the tannins. More specifically, it has some. Far too many Australian Cabernets are deficient in tannin, which becomes glaringly obvious when placed in a global Cabernet context. Shortens their lifespans too. This, however, is just built for the cellar - in fact, the only criticism might be that it is so un-showy that not everyone will immediately love it. Not me.
Wine By Brad Cabernet Merlot 2008 (Margaret River, WA) $15
The typical $15 Cabernet Merlot neither comes from Margaret River nor is it as refreshing as this. The Wine By Brad Cabernet Merlot is hardly a blockbuster, but it is a light, savoury, happily varietal wine with loads of appeal. Not for the cellar, but known to empty at speed with Spag Boll.
De Bortoli Deen Botrytis Semillon 2007 (Riverina, NSW) $14
When tried next to it's famous elder brother (Noble One) this is so seriously close in terms of style and structure that it defies belief. It's a baby Noble One, no question about it, lacking only the marmaladey intensity (and a fraction less sugar). What I most like is the lemon toffee character on the (refreshing) finish - which is a pure (desirable) Sauternes character if ever there was one. Delicious.
Alpha Box & Dice 'Changing Lanes' Tempranillo Cabernet 2005 (Margaret River, WA & McLaren Vale, SA) 15.5%, Screwcap, $35 Source: Cellar Door
If you were to compile a list of all the interesting winemakers in McLaren Vale, then Justin Lane would rate within the very top few (up there with the other Justin - Mcnamee that is, Samuel's Gorge winemaker - along with another one of Mr Lane's friends, Drew Noon).
Justin is the fast talking, yet perplexingly laidback, creative genius behind the Alpha Box & Dice label, crafting some of the most beguiling, thought provoking and wildly stylish wines in the Vale.
And this Tempranillo Cabernet, this suitably unusual and challenging red wine, illustrates the point with absolute conviction.
It starts with the packaging - the Changing Lanes Tempranillo Cabernet is the third wine in the Alpha Box & Dice lineup, so it gets the 'C' nomenclature, as each wine in the range gets a progressing letter in the alphabet (Fog is the most recent wine - a Nebbiolo Tannat blend that celebrates tannin).
As you can see in the picture on this page, the Changing Lanes bottle is contained in a paper wrapper that cleverly nods to the discombobulated alphabet found on eye charts. Behind the eye catching wrapping lies a label that is as novel as the rest of the package, with an image that changes between Justin Lane and his brother, Mark Lane (the Changing Lanes, get it?).
Justin's brother, you see, comes into the equation with the Tempranillo. Mark is also a winemaker, currently making wine at Flying Fish Cove in Margaret River, whom managed to source some good quality Tempranillo in 2005. He essentially produced the Tempranillo component of the blend and then shipped the best barrels over to his brother in Mclaren Vale, who then combined it with his own McLaren Vale Cabernet to produce a multi-Lane (boom boom tish) red blend.
The wine itself then spent a total of 3 years in oak, which is again wonderous, for it doesn't actually taste oaky. Instead, it smells ferrous, dark and bloody, like blood and bone, cedar and slow cooked meat, all secondary, deep, hearty and very dry. More suprising, the palate is quite bright and even sweet-ish, with the oak giving chocolatey richness and generosity that serves to counter the almost metallic dryness.
From a style point of view then it's a wine then that doesn't so much as push the boundaries as to give them a fully fledged shove (performed with a wide grin of course) and as a result it is a hard wine to really love.
But I like it. I like the sentiment, I like the passion, I like the fact that behind the creative guff lies some interesting textures and no shortage of flavour, tannin or stuffing. And that alone deserves celebrating. 17.6/92
2009/10 WCA Wine Journalism 'Young Gun; Wine Judge; Gourmet Traveller WINE and Breathe Hunter Valley magazine contributor; LattéLife & The Retiree columnist; National Liquor News tasting panellist and Chablis lover who fell into the liquor industry chiefly to buy cheap beer.
Nearing 15 years later and I'm still here, now finishing off a Masters of Wine Technology and Viticulture, and still spending all my money on beer and wine...
This site (Australian Wine Review or ozwinereview for short) is dedicated to talking about my obsession - everything vinous...