Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Heathcote wine - the misconceptions

Heathcote wine - the misconceptions

Heathcote wine region

A pack of Heathcote winemakers are in (Sydney) town this week and last night I had the good fortune to taste some of their wares (with the gents from http://redtobrownwinereview.blogspot.com/, whom were also there and I didn't speak too, even though I must have walked past numerous times).

What was interesting about the tasting (and the dinner afterwards) though was not so much the wines, but the people and the politics behind them.

More specifically, I think I've always defined Heathcote as an icon region, with superstar winemakers (like Jasper Hill) and super ripe, super expensive (mainly Shiraz) wines to match. But the area is actually built upon quite conventional grower/winemaker lines, with mums and dads growing grapes and making wines with a minimum of hype.

It's a perspective that I found quite refreshing, serving to remind that you don't need big egos to make great wines. However, for all that positivity, the high prices (from little known wineries) for many reds came as a surprise, an indication that there is some superstar pretensions at the very least....

Anyway, one particular highlight was that of the Greenstone Vineyard wines. A joint venture between Europeans Alberto Antonini and David Gleave MW with Mark Walpole on the ground in Australia. The Greenstone operation is focused on Sangiovese (did you know that Heathcote and Chianti have a very similar climate?), Shiraz, Tempranillo and Monastrell (Mourvedre), producing wines that taste immediately different to most any other Heathcote reds.

Digging deeper and it's actually of little surprise that the wines are as good as they are: the Sangiovese vines  are all the (superior) Brunello clone; the Shiraz clones also carefully chosen; the vineyard too is planted east-west (to combat sunburn) and at a density of 4,500 vines/hectare (one of the highest in Heathcote).

But it doesn't stop there, for the wines themselves are made by none other than Mornington demigod Sandro Mosele. Fitting then that they all pack some serious intensity at very modest alcohols (the Shiraz sits at just 13.5% alc/vol).

In my opinion, despite the fact hat the operation is very young (first planted in 03) and the prices aren't low, the quality of the Greenstone wines is right up there with the very best in the region. A big recommendation from me.

On a final positive note, it was reassuring to observe that there seemed to be generally few hot (alcohol heat) wines in this lineup, further emphasising just how wrong my 'big Shiraz + big alcohol = Heathcote' generalisation really is. Great to see.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

3 faces of the Pyrenees

3 faces of the Pyrenees

It's never actually clicked for me, but the Grampians and the Pyrenees wine regions are neighbours. That may seem an odd thing to say for someone who is meant to be down with this whole Australian wine caper, but given how divergent the two regions wine 'images' are I'd always assumed them to be further away from each other (geographically).

Calling the two 'neighbours' however is not all that accurate, purely due to how large/spread out both regions are (which means I covered plenty of kms whilst down there), with a suitably large variation in terroir to match.

What both regions share though is a focus on Shiraz, with the variety heralded as a speciality by nearly everyone (in both regions). I'd personally argue that the finest wines of the Pyrenees are largely Cabernet based, and the fixation on Shiraz is as much due to consumer popularity as varietal suitability, but I'm an outsider (so what do I know).

The focus of this post though is the producers, and I'm following here a similar '3 faces' format (debuted here) that deliberately attempts to compare, contrast and examine 3 different Pyrenees producers, each offering a different - and equally valid - interpretation of good Pyrenees wine.


If you were to chart Pyrenees subregions, then Moonambel would the logical place to start. Think Dalwhinnie, Taltarni and Summerfield (with Warrenmang also in the mix) and you're talking about the tiny hamlet of Moonambel, with all three estates essentially neighbours. Interestingly they make quite different wine styles too, albeit within the same Cabernet and Shiraz frameworks.

Dalwhinnie, arguably, is the most renowned of the trio, or at least the one enjoying the most acclaim (with the most expensive wines). Yet from the road Dalwhinnie looks little different from it's neighbour, the equally well situated Taltarni. It's in the flesh (of the wines) that the real differences lie (for the moment at least).

The beauty of Dalwhinnie

Talking of the site, the hilly amphitheatre that is the Dalwhinnie vineyard really is amazing - in a rugged, isolated, Australian bush kind of way. My photo (above) does little justice to it though (so I'd recommend visiting yourself).

Note too the very healthy cover crop between the rows. All the recent rain has done wonders for the winter growth, boding very very well for the vintage ahead. Excitement was palpable amongst the vignerons, for it's the best rain that most have seen in years.

On the subject of rain, local producers have noticed a significant drop off in cellar door numbers of late, and many believe that one of the prime causes is the rain, or more specifically, a lack of it. The general consensus was that the image of the area was that of a struggling, dry, dying one, with farmers driven off the land by the drought, and visitors deterred by it.

Now not knowing the area I can't comment specifically, but it's certainly a challenging issue to confront. Hopefully all this rain may well put the problem to bed though...

But back to Dalwhinnie. 

In the photo below you can see (click on the photo to make it bigger) that on the far hill the vines have been grubbed out. Those were Chardonnay vines and have been removed with the intention to be replanted, though with a different row orientation (east - west) and with different rootstocks/clones.

Why replant you ask? The future. Row orientation change is apparently an attempt to stop sunburn damage (quite a challenge in the warm, dry Pyrenees summer). Clone/rootstock change is simply a smart step taken to (hopefully) make for better wines and healthier vines in the years to come.

It's an expensive change though...
Dalwhinnie - Note the vine clearing on the far hill (middle)

It's lucky then that the wines really are that good. There is a certain balance and understatement here that I very much like, and I couldn't help but notice the lowish alcohols (less than 14%, which is lowish in full bodied Australian terms) that appear to come without any sacrifices in intensity. Can't help but applaud that.

The wine highlights

Dalwhinnie Shiraz 2008 ($55)
13.5% alcohol and all the better for it. Highly perfumed, spicy, peppery and elegant Shiraz though with a solid core of mid palate fruit. It's quite a velvety wine actually, full and ripe, with long soft tannins. Just a perfect cool climate Shiraz really.

Dalwhinnie Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($55)
Line and length makes this the pick of the two wines. Blackcurrant and Pyrenees mint on the nose with a medium weight, elegant and with dry tannins. I think what I like most about this wine though is how varietal it is. Cigar box, cedar, it's like a grab bag of Cabernet goodness. I've bought some..

Mitchell Harris/Mount Avoca

John Harris

I've bunched Mitchell Harris and Mount Avoca together purely due to the man in the photo above. That man is John Harris, winemaker at Mount Avoca, 2010 WFA 'Future Leader' and the 'Harris' in Mitchell Harris. The 'Mitchell' in this duo is Dr. Craig Mitchell, John's brother in law and an anaesthetist in nearby-ish Ballarat. I like them both, and not just because they bought lunch (at the fabulous Avoca Hotel). No, I like them for that genuinely open, love-of-the-juice, let's all have a drink attitude that the good guys share.

Speaking of juice, it's interesting to note that what brought the pair together (besides their wives) was actually a desire to make bubbles. John spent some 8 years as a sparkling winemaker at (Domaine) Chandon you see, so fizz in his blood. The Mitchell Harris fizz is a little way away yet, but if the precision of John's white wines are anything to go by, it's something to look forward too.

In fact all of John's wines carry the touch of a sparkling winemaker, the reds built lighter, more elegant and even with some herbaceous varietal purity - which makes for a welcome change of pace if done properly. The only challenge is that, in John's own words, it's all very much a work in progress (so not everything works), as John's still trying to make his mark with the Mount Avoca wines, whilst simultaneously playing with the Mitchell Harris styles.

The net result is a brace of wine that wines get better as they get younger, if that makes any sense. The older wines are good, the new ones are very good.

Or in other words, watch this space....

(for a full review of the current Mitchell Harris range click here)

The wine highlights

Mount Avoca Reserve Shiraz 2007 ($59)
In something of a contrast this is quite a ripe, full and chocolatey style with prominent sweet oak and quite a deal of rich fruit. The attraction lies in the balance between generosity and elegance, which sits very well here. The result is an attractive, affable wine that is smartly built, if fully priced. Sure to win friends.

Mitchell Harris Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (unfinished sample)
Lots of enthusiasm for the 2009 vintage in both the Grampians and the Pyrenees and it certainly seems justified here. This is a powerful, herbaceous dry red that at this stage is all about structure, but carried by some beautiful blackcurrant fruit. Impressive length bodes very well for the future too. Lots to like here.


View from the DogRock winery
Whilst the DogRock winery technically sits within the boundaries of the Pyrenees wine region, it (by DogRock's own admission) tends to share more with the Grampians in terms of it's wine style.

Given the somewhat split personality then it's perhaps fitting that the DogRock range is one of the more eclectic and interesting in the area, produced by a suitably interesting winemaker.

Allen Hart is that winemaker, a man who has spent much of his wine career within different sections of the Fosters empire, finishing his most recent tenure in a research based position at Seppelt in Great Western. Hart is, by nature, a scientist, carrying with him the questioning air of someone wiling to experiment. An attitude which(perhaps) explains why his wines are so challenging (and occasionally brilliant).

To see evidence of this experimentation you only need to walk around his winery. In a far corner lies one of the new wine flextanks (which is a clever and flexible piece of winemaking kit), in another, boxes of some particularly novel micro oak staves. The whole place smacks of a restless mind, of truly intelligent winemaking.

It's unconventional thinking in the vineyard too, as Hart believes that climate change is going to make this 'cool' climate not so cool in years to come and has responded accordingly, planting vines more suited to somewhere warmer in a proactive attempt to 'head it off at the pass'. So in went Grenache, Tempranillo and Marsanne, all of which are oddities in this part of the world.

The resultant wines are slightly odd too, not the least of which is the wineries flagship, an angular and musky Grenache, Shiraz Tempranillo blend that is a world away from the rich and fleshy Rhone style GSM's that are the norm. I wasn't personally convinced, but it did pick up the Trophy for Best Grenache Blend at the 2010 Winewise Small Vigneron Awards, beating a slew of Barossan wines in the process (so it's clearly a polarising wine).

Elsewhere in the range though lies more harmony, such as the 2007 Shiraz and 2010 Riesling which are both complex and intellectual, quasi-conventional wines that I rather liked.

Regardless of what I like though, there lies much interest here (and more to come).

The wine highlights

DogRock Riesling 2010
I've got a bottle of this to review so this consider this to be a snapshot. Built dry with just a smidgen residual sugar, this underwent partial wild ferment and had extended time on lees, making for a wine that was clean, dry and pure, but also rather layered and soft. It's crystalline at this stage of proceedings, yet still with much to come in the bottle. A success.

Friday, 27 August 2010

BEER: Moo Brew Dark Ale

BEER: Moo Brew Dark Ale
$4.50, 5.0%
Moo Brew is the beer label of Tasmania's Moorilla Estate, one of the apple isle's oldest wineries whom make this range of brews on the side. Like the wines (which rarely seem to make it out of Tasmania these days) this is one finely crafted product.

Dark (who'd of thought?) brown in colour, this pours with a lovely looking brown head. The nose is dark and grainy with some dense, dry, cocoa powder aromatics. Palate wise it's dry, long and smoky in very much of a roasted and malted grain style. It's almost confrontingly dry actually, like sucking on some 85%+ cocoa dark chocolate, which makes it something of a sipping, rather than sessioning beer. Still this rather serious, impressively concentrated, mildly confronting brew is nothing if not high quality.

Good stuff indeed.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Calo Rioja

Calo Rioja 2008 (Rioja, Spain)
$19, Screwcap, 13.5%
Source: Sample

Calo Rioja 20
I'd like to start off with a prediction.

If the Australian dollar stays strong against the Euro, the drip of cheap Spanish, French and Italian reds that we are seeing now will turn into a flood. That's hardly a revelation, but given wines like this are but the tip of the iceberg, I'd expect our wine shop shelves to become even more accented in time.

You could argue that said flood is great news for diversity, competition and sheer drinking interest, but I'd remind that Australia rewrote the book on cheap reds many years ago (and hence ignore homegrown reds at your detriment).
Anyway, back to this wine. It's a joven style, lightly oaked Tempranillo packaged extremely well and resplendent in a (much appreciated) screwcap. Imported by Fourth Wave Wine Partners (link above).

Red with purple edges, the nose here shows herbs, red dirt, stewed red fruit, olives and a flick of mint. The palate is where the action is though, with grainy, sappy tannins one of the best features, holding together the warmish, red earth and red fruit palate very nicely. Much to like with those tannins.

In essence it's a pretty simple, grippy, medium bodied dry red that's still authentically Spanish enough to back up the fun of the packaging, whilst remaining quite modern and fruit driven. It's not going to win medals (which is reflected in my score) but I think that the drinking appeal vs price ratio is pretty good, particularly if you don't mind some grippy tannins. 16.3/87

(Postscript: For another perspective check out Shaggy's tasting note, from his excellent website focused on all things Spanish wine here)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Jamsheed 2008 Syrahfest

Jamsheed 2008 Syrahfest

Jamsheed 2008 Syrahfest

It was even better than I expected.

The Jamsheed Syrahfest that is, a night last week spent getting stuck into Gary Mills' fine 08 Syrahs in a back to back, cool climate Victorian red love-in. A love-in that showed just how very good these three wines were (and amazing value given the quality). In fact, the only challenge here was working out a favourite (which I did after carefully drinking several glasses of each).

Jamsheed Gruyere Syrah 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
$40. Diam. 13.5%. 100% whole bunch and wild yeast ferment. Unfined and unfiltered. Sourced from a vineyard on the slopes of the Coldstream hill in Gruyere with typical Yarra grey loam.
My second favourite, though it was a close run thing. The nose starts off with quite prominent plum fruit but then it gets much more serious, stern and stemmy, though the stems never seem to stick out, suggesting that they are nicely ripe (stems that is). Palate similarly starts quite luscious, with bright red fruit backed by a long, elegant, peppery palate. Mid palate sweetness is quite seductive, but things get tight towards the tail as the acid kicks in. A lovely mid weight wine with perfume, flavour and a perfect match between softness and stern stem tannins. 18.5/94

Jamsheed Silvan Syrah 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
$40. Diam. 13.8%. 100% whole bunch and wild yeast ferment. Unfined and unfiltered. Sourced from the red 'Monbulk' soils of the southern Yarra.
Winner. Loved it. The secret here is all about line and length, both of which you can't help but admire. A more musky, peppery nose with more of the classic whole bunch sweatiness and vanilla bean oak when compared the other three wines. The palate too is leaner but finer, with a lovely lightness at no cost to intensity. Long. Did I mention long?  Near perfect balance. Well done. 18.6/94

Jamsheed Garden Gully Syrah 2008 (Great Western, Vic)
$40. Diam. 13.5%. 50% whole bunch and wild yeast ferment. Unfined and unfiltered. Sourced from the 40 year old Garden Gully vineyard (which was recently taken over by Grampians estate) just down the road from the Seppelt cellar door
The crowd favourite. Unquestionably Grampians sourced and a wine that carried more 'fruit' than the two Yarra Syrahs. That's obvious from the first whiff which shows chocolate, plums, red dirt and only a spoonful of stems (as opposed to a bowl). Much more meaty and charcuterie pumped too. Palate is rounder, bigger and firmer, with plushness and quite a degree of extract. For mine it's seems just a smidgen stewed in this company, but I'm nitpicking. Still a wonderfully long, balanced and ideally textured (soft, in a very good way) red of exceptional form and style. 18.2/93

Friday, 20 August 2010

Astrolabe Voyage Pinot Noir 2008

Astrolabe Voyage Pinot Noir 2008
$36, Screwcap, 13.5%
Source: Sample

The desk loves it too

The book in the photo above came with these Astrolabe wines and I'm happy to say that it moved me more than a little (I'm not always grumpy you see). Said book details (pictorially) the grape harvest at the Astrolabe Vineyard, showcasing what is both a stunning part of the world and also the intricacies of what will always be a fascinating process.

Love the book and the intent.

This wine too starts off beautifullly, with a real meaty, musky, riper styled Marlborough nose showing black pepper, cherry and just a hint of dried fig. With more time in the glass it gets muskier, more fleshy and more attractive. Nice.

Fittingly the palate is also fleshy, generous and ripe, the fruit quite luscious and rounded, if bound up on through mid palate by tight acidity. Finish is light with fine tannins that fall away just a fraction, the length and the form not quite matching the promise of the nose.

A lovely smelling, round and approachable wine, this just needs a fraction more persistence and it would be an absolute winner. 16.8/89

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

BEER: Cascade First Harvest 2010

BEER: Cascade First Harvest 2010
$26 6 pack, 5.5% alc

I loved the 2009 version of this. It was just a joyous celebration of glorious Tasmanian hops, crammed into a bottle. In fact, I scouted all over Sydney snaffling up stray six packs of it, such was my love affair.

But this year, this vintage, things have changed. The 2010 iteration, of which I'm sipping (or not) right now, seems to lack the aromatic goodness of last year, lacking that addictive freshness and vitality that made it so good last year. In the name of scientific research - or perhaps just blunt persistence - I've actually worked through a six pack of the 2010 Cascade First Harvest (and cross checked with a friends 6 pack) over the last 8 weeks in the hope that I'll come around, or it will come around, or something will happen. But it didn't. In fact the beers have only got worse.

So now, 5 bottles down and I'm sad to say that this beer, this conceptually brilliant beer, is a struggle for me to finish. And I'm devastated.

What's it like then you ask? Sweaty. The nose has the trademark VB hops character that seems to infest far too many Fosters beers (or at least I think so) of late and the hop characters seem a bit stale too. Where is the big hit of herbal, sappy fresh hops I say? MIA that's what. The palate too seems broad, caramelised and sweetish, almost as if it's getting old, even though the 10' First Harvest was only launched in May (so its had roughly 3 months max in the bottle).

So the question is - what happened? Where has the promise gone? Was it a rough year for Tasmanian hops?
Regardless, I'm going to be skipping this and sticking to Little Creature Pale Ale for my hop fix this Winter.

And trying again next year....

Monday, 16 August 2010

Gembrook Hill Pinot Noir 2008

Gembrook Hill Pinot Noir
Gembrook Hill Pinot Noir 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
$50, Diam, 13%

Source: Retail

Really interesting to try this after Gembrook Hill winemaker Andrew Marks' 'The Wanderer' 08 Yarra Pinot sampled recently. Both share the same unforced, sappy and elegant style that I personally find very very attractive. I think I like this more, though it's a close race. Both will honestly improve in the cellar too - not just soften but improve (a small but important difference). Price is - in the context of Australian Pinot - more than fair too. Great form all round.

Light ruby red in colour - really light and juicy looking. Nose is fragrant and pure, with raspberry and cherry fruit in a lovely Pinoty form. Spice and glacé cherries too. Beautiful. Palate is juicy, underplayed, dry and textural with dry unsweetened fruit finishing with chewy tannins. It's a somewhat ungenerous palate, but in a form that makes you want more.

A lovely elegant Pinot, there is much to like here. Big buy from me. 18.2/93+

(Score is conservative (ish) just to allow for bottle age induced inflation).

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Random Wine Roundup 15th August 2010

Knappstein Cabernet Merlot 2008 (Clare Valley, SA) $23
It's a solid effort from a tough year, though personally I found it a bit hard going.

The wine itself smells pretty good, with cocoa/coffee oak, mint and eucalypt mixed with stewed red fruit in a nicely regional form. On the palate everything starts mid weight, rich and correct too. The challenge is the rather green, raw, astringent tannins and dehydrated fruit through the finish, which I personally couldn't get past (and never can).

In terms of bang for your (discount) dollars this is unquestionably a lot of wine for reasonably little. It's just a bit roughly hewn and disjointed for me. 16/86

Raymond Lafon 2001 (Sauternes, France) $80 375ml
Speaking of hard going and backward, here is a Sauternes that even at 9 years of age was difficult to really drink. The problem here is just too much structure, with lots of acid and quite subdued sweetness. It still has the chalky melon thing going on, but it's so wound up in acid and fruit tannin that not much else comes out. Needs many many more years yet. Score is lowish, purely as this has so much more to give. 17/90++

Domaine Pichot Vouvray Sec 'Coteau de la Biche' 2008 (Loire, France) $30
Nice to see this in a screwcap. I'm not a massive fan of Vouvray, but lots to like with this Pichot. Honey, pear and citrus on the nose in that typical Vouvray style. Palate is tight, dry and textural, if still so wound up in acid that you are left wanting more. Quite a simple wine in essence but certainly drinkable. 17.2/90

Man O' War 'Dreadnought' Syrah 2008 (Waiheke Island, NZ) $45
I was a massive fan of the 2007 but I can't say I feel the same about this 08. It's still an impressively aromatic, varietally pure Syrah in a definitively Northern Rhone style. My only exception is the green, hardish vegetal streak through the middle of this which, at this stage, makes it just a fraction awkward, without the beautiful peppery lusciousness of the 07. Keen to revisit this though with further bottle age to see if it integrates more. 16.5/88

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay 2007

Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
$21, Screwcap, 13.5%
Source: Sample

Scarborough Chardonnay
Most Sydneysiders don't really need an introduction to this wine. For those unfortunate to live outside the harbour city, the Scarby Yellow Label (as it's known) is something of an institution, with a passionate fan club that drink it by the caseload.

Personally, I can clearly remember buying a late 90's vintage of this very wine on my first ever Hunter Valley wine trip (many moons ago) and a bottle of the White Label Chardonnay currently resides on my wine rack. So me and Scarby Yellow have quite a bit of history (so forgive me if I bang on a bit).

Oh and on the topic, if you are ever in the Hunter do pop into Scarborough for one of the better cellar door experiences in the Valley.

Onto the wine: Straw yellow in the glass, this leads off with a nose of Peach marmalade, a whiff of toasty/marshmallow wood, orange and passionfruit on the nose (I'm feeling specific today). It's a reasonably opulent nose, but wound up in typical Scarborough 'give-it-a-year-or-two' style. Palate is attractive and warm, with peachy vanillan characters sitting large through the middle before a warm and dry finish. The secret here is all about the generous mid palate, which is, year-in-year-out, this wines most attractive feature. Plenty to come with further bottle age too (these drink best at about 5 years of age in my experience).

Bighearted, warm and rich (though not fat) Chardonnay in a very Hunter (warm year) mould, the attraction here is not about delicacy, it's all about the munificent flavours. Good stuff. 17.1/90+

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Tim Smith Mataro Grenache Shiraz 2009

Tim Smith Mataro Grenache Shiraz 2009
$28, Screwcap Luxe (and a good looking new one at that), 14.5%
Source: Retail

Forget Shiraz, the future of the Barossa is all about Mataro. Or at least Mataro/Grenache/Shiraz blends like this, with the proportions altered according to what looks good each year. This wine shows just how attractive the blend can be, further emphasising also how impressive 09 looks to be in the Barossa.

Lovely nose. Lush, plush, meaty, stinky, stalky, peppery and fresh, with every whiff giving off something different, suggesting complexity aplenty. The whole bunch influence here is very positive (or at least I think so) giving an extra depth of fragrance and depth. Palate follows this with plump berry fruit that tastes like plum and cooked berry concentrate, such is its richness and intensity, in a solid flow of ripeness. It's just a fraction stewed towards the mid palate and there is quite a suggestion of ironstone on the palate - something reductive and dark in there which I'm picking as old Mataro doing it's thing. Finish is long, slightly gritty and lasts for plenty.

In short, there is much to like about this Barossan red blend. It's still coming together as a wine, but the purity of expression is right up there. Like it alot. 17.7/92+

Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico 2007

Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico 2007
$37, Cork, 13.5%
Source: Retail

I can't but think about Hunter Shiraz when getting stuck into Chianti, with both sharing a similar leathery, medium bodied, utterly savoury profile which I rather like (and makes for good food wine to boot). This particular example comes courtesy of Anthony at Boccaccio/Mondo Imports

Red maroon in the glass, the nose here is quite classical Chianti - leafy, faintly oxidative and earthen with semi sweet redcurrant fruit and a sniff of coffee oak.. Palate too is both sweet and savoury, with leathery, sinewy red fruits and some most pleasing tannins. In fact, I think it's the finish I like most about this style - dry, unforced and replete with proper fruit tannin, without ever feeling dessicated or less than generous.

A lovely, savoury, more-ish red, I found myself unconsciously drinking this (and a rough headcount proved it to be more than popular with a gaggle of youngish telemarketers too). Good stuff. 17.5/91

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Goodies from North East Italy

Goodies from North East Italy

Roughly biennially, prominent Australian wine distributor Negociants run what is known as the 'Working with Wine' Fellowship - a trade education program that allows 100 wine industry professionals to taste some very fine booze (and learn more about them) at a series of wine seminars.

For this years program there were two seminars run, one focusing on the wines of North East Italy and the second focused (largely) on viticulture (organics/biodynamics, clones, planting density, terroir etc). As one of the lucky 100, I dutifully attended both of them, tasted a decent wine or two and learnt some things along the way.

In this post then I'm going to cover the Italian goodies tasted at the first seminar and then follow up with another post focusing on the interesting tipples from the viti seminar.

The hosts for the first seminar then included 'Mr Italian Wine' Nicolas Belfrage MW (who looked a tad frail actually), David LeMire MW and Federica Pecorari (from exciting Friulian producer Lis Neris). Alessandro Vallecchi (from Allegrini) and Christof Tiefenbrunner (Tiefenbrunner) were also invited, but sadly grounded by that pesky Icelandic volcano.

The wines below were all tasted in a sit down, talk about it, masterclass style. Prices are approximate RRP. Wines had generally not been decanted. All were tasted with label in sight (though I've taken the names off the tasting sheet) and in a sit down, talk about it, masterclass style.

Flight 1: Friulian whites
Bags of interest here. Complex, textural, adventurous wines. Fun.

Lis Neris Sauvignon 2008 (Friuli, Italy) $42.95
Stainless ferment. 8 months on lees. 14.5% alc.
Herbal aromatics, sitting in the grassy end of the Sauv spectrum. Peppery even. Palate is dry and minerally, if chunky and quite full. Acid still surprisingly prominent with leesy overtones. Textural and full of zing, this is interesting Sauvignon Blanc! 17.9/92

Lis Neris Pinot Gris 2008 (Friuli, Italy) $42.95
Federica calls this the 'traditional line'. 10 year old vines. Stainless ferment at 20-22C. Maturation on lees for 8 months with twice weekly battonage. 14% alc.
Quite a rich nose with honeyed pear characters. Tight and very dry palate with peach, apricot and honey. Lovely richness to match the acid. Pretty + textural wine. 17.5/91

Lis Neris 'Gris' Pinot Gris 2007 (Friuli, Italy) $58.95
Gris = crickets. 100 Pinot Grigio. 25yo vines. Barrel ferment in 500 litre puncheons. 11 months in oak. 14.5% alc.
Quite obvious oak and honeyed, apricot and cream nose. Palate is quite oily with a flor like funk to it. Creaminess and palate weight to burn. Oxidative notes and a milky finish. Wacky aldehyde character too. Lots of fun but just a fraction OTT. Would like to have a retaste of this. 17.5/91

Lis Neris Fiore di Campo 2008 (Friuli, Italy) $46.95
85% Tocai Friulano, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Riesling. Stainless ferment. 8 months on lees.
Quite neutral and lightly floral, with a honey overtone. More action on the sour and backward palate, but still digging for flavour. Clean finish. Nice enough but a bit tight and lean for love at the moment. 16.5/88+

Lis Neris Confini 2007 (Friuli, Italy) $85.95
40% Gewürztraminer, 40% Pinot Grigio, 20% Riesling. Rich style with extended hang time, except for the Riesling which was picked at normal ripeness. Riesling in stainless, the rest spent 11 months in puncheons. 15% alc!
Wow. Honeyed, spicy, gewurtz dominant nose. Textural, viscous and spicy palate of such impressive weight. Love the texture here - big and still perfumed. Warm finish a slight distraction. Still, this is such and impressive, layered white. May even be underrating this. 18.5/94

Flight 2: Alto Adige
Very neutral wines these Tiefenbrunners. I was just looking for a little more intensity frankly. Can't discount the purity though. All the 09's tasted like they were just bottled and need time to be enjoyable.

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2009 (Alto Adige, Italy) $24.95
Stainless ferment. 4 months on lees. 13% alc. 2.8g/l RS. 5.7g/l TA.
Light green colour. Slight goats cheese-ish lees influence with lightly honeyed melon fruit. Neutral, fresh and drawn palate has prominent acid but little else. Tinny through the finish. A bit underwhelming, if refreshing. Should improve with an extra 6 months bottle age. 16/87+

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2009 (Alto Adige, Italy) $24.95
Stainless ferment. 4 months on lees. 13% alc. 6g/l TA.
Extremely neutral nose, barest hints of green fruit with some banana ferment esters still evident. Dry, chalky and overwhelmingly neutral palate, with hints of passionfruit and banana. More attractive than the Grigio, with very prominent acid balanced out with a little more texture. Very fresh, tight and pure. 17/90+

Tiefenbrunner Chardonnay 2009 (Alto Adige, Italy) $24.95
Stainless ferment. 4 months on lees. 13% alc.
A hint of Gardenia on the nose, but almost nothing else, save for some banana esters. Palate is almost painfully neutral and only lifted by some lees creaminess. Seems a bit fatter through the finish than the previous two wines and otherwise rather lacking in shape. Should improve, but little love here at present. 15.5/85+

Tiefenbrunner 'Feldmarschall' Muller Thurgau 2008 (Alto Adige, Italy) $53.95
Stainless ferment. 6 months on lees. 13% alc.
Welcome back wine. Gardenia, socks and a Gris like honey buzz on the nose, with a Gewurtz like spice edge. Viscous, juicy, spicy musky palate with heaps of acidity. Long finish too. Builds through the tail. Quirky and good! 17.8/92+

Tiefenbrunner 'Feldmarschall' Muller Thurgau 1996 (Alto Adige, Italy) $Museum
Stainless ferment. 6 months on lees. 12.5% alc.
Straw yellow in colour and very light for its age. More socks on the nose, this smells 'grey' if that makes sense. Orange rind. More than a hint of decay in there too. Big, mothball laden palate still retains acid but the socks character is a bit overwhelming. Reminded me of an old Vouvray. Interesting, if a bit weird. 16/87

Flight 3: Veneto whites
Spoilt here. The cream of Soave and so very very impressive.

Masi Levarie Soave Classico 2008 (Soave, Italy) $19.95
Some skin contact. 12% alc.
Chubby, sweet and candied nose of barley sugar, grass and little else. Palate is sweet at first but cleans up as it travels. No disguising the hardness on the finish though. Underripe grapes covered up with excessive residual sugar. No. 14/80

Cantine Pra Soave Classico Superiore 2009 (Soave, Italy) $30.95
100% Garganega. 300,000 bottles per annum! 13% alc
The original and still the best. Oyster shells, honey and rice. Underplayed palate has green, zingy fruit. Nicely layered and acid driven, with stone and green apple. Clean, long and all about simple fruit + salty texture. 17/90

Cantine Pra Soave Classico Superiore 'Monte Grande' 2008 (Soave, Italy) $51.95
From a 35yr old single vineyard. Includes 20% Trebbiano. Picked later. Barrel fermented and oak aged in large oak. 13.5% alc.
Obvious oak fatness and vanilla. Oak sitting on top of all the fruit. Lovely fresh honey and oats palate is just decimated by vanilla oak. Finish has firmish acidity and then oak tannins. This reminded me of an overoaked white Bordeaux and far removed from the simple joy of the Classico above. Would be a much more impressive wine without all that oak. May well improve with bottle age. 16.5/88+

Cantine Pra Soave Classico Superiore 'Staforte' (Soave, Italy) $57.95
Bunch selection. 100% Garganega. All in stainless steel with mechanical battonage and extended lees contact. 13.5% alc.
Much better. This is where it's at. Seafood, mango and crab meat (weird I know). Richer nose with creamy lees character. Dry, long and green palate has green mango fruit, lime and cream. Layered, long and distinguished palate, but so backward right now. Love the intent and the structure here, it just needs some time. 18/93+

Cantine Pra Recioto di Soave Classico 'Delle Fontane' 2005 (Soave, Italy) $66.95 375ml
100% Garganega. Late picked and bunch selected. Dried horizontally for 3-4 months. Extremely long ferment (years). 13.5% alc. 150g/l RS.
Caramelised, toffeed nose, Sauternes like but without the botrytis. Toffeed biscuits. Surprisingly fresh with biscotti, creme caramel and burnt sugar. Thick and rich, but still with lots of freshness. Lovely clean finish. too. Yum! 18.6/94

Flight 4: Mixed Red
Mixed in quality too. Never been a massive fan of plain Valpolicella, which probably shows in the scores below. Pra wines again showing strongly (great producer that).

Tiefenbrunner Lagrein 'Castel Turmhof' 2008 (Alto Adige, Italy) $37.95
13.5% alc.
Bright purple in colour. Pretty nose of black jubes and sweet vanillan oak squatting over the top. Palate is young and raw, sweet and oaky, finishing noticeable bitter. Very modern, youthful and rather bland, this had limited varietal character and could be easily confused for an average Aussie Merlot. Not a bad wine, but I was expecting more. 16/86

Agricola Allegrini Valpolicella DOC 2008 (Valpolicella, Italy) $30.95
13% alc. Screwcap!
Light ruby colour. Sweet cherry, raspberry nose. Mid weight, think and green palate (overcropped?). Light tannins and a wedge of acid. Simple, light and cheap tasting. 14.5/82

Cantine Pra Valpolicella DOC 'Ca Morinda' 2008 (Valpolicella, Italy) $31.95
2001 plantings. Brief appasimento. 15 days maceration. Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella blend. 13% alc.
Similar ruby colour to the Allegrini but much spicier, black pepper and dill (?) nose. Meaty and peppery palate shows red cherry fruit and no shortage of spice (or acidity). Interesting wine, if just a bit raw. Rubbery finish. Pizza wine (in a good way). 17/90

Cantine Pra Valpolicella Superiore 'Ca Morinda' 2006 (Valpolicella, Italy) $58.95
6 weeks appassimento. MLF in oak botti. Matured 1 year in oak botti and tonneaux. 14% alc.
Lovely cherry aromatics with much more sweetness than the wine above. Creamed red berries with unintegrated oak. Palate is again raw, dry yet also with the coffee and raisin overtones thanks to the oak/dried fruit combination. Nice drying tannins if just a smidgen short through the finish. Nice wine. Liked this. Would like it even more with further bottle age. 17.5/91+

Agricola Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre IGT 2006 (Verona, Italy) $53.95
Ageing in barrique. 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese. 13.5% alc
Roasted red meat and sweet oak on the (volatile) nose. Sweet red fruit, oak and dry tannins on the palate. Nice tannins actually. Roasted cherries too. Good, if just a smidgen international (and dried out) for high marks. Will definitely improve. 16.8/89+

Flight 5: Amarone
The only thing conspiring against these wines was bottle age. They all need decades. And cheese.

Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2006 (Valpolicella, Italy) $99.95
10g/l RS. 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Molinara. A little Botrytis. (Excellent fact sheet on this wine here). 14.75% alc
Quite elemental and withdrawn on the nose. Very very young. Roasted fig nose, dry but long and firmly tannic palate. Slightly caramelised palate but doesn't carry the weight through the finish (too tight for that). Coffeed end. Mid weight and almost fruit driven for an Amarone. I'd gladly stick some of these in the cellar (but wouldn't drink it now). 17.5/91++

Cantine Pra Amarone DOC 2006 (Valpolicella, Italy) $149.95
3 months appassimento. 7.4g/l TA. 7g/l RS. 16.5% alc. 3 years in oak.
Quite voluptuous, rich fruitcake nose. Very luscious and inviting. Big palate has coffee, cake and very firm tannins, with real black fruit richness. Hearty alcoholic finish. Burnt but vibrant. Serious wine and easily the longest of all the Amarone. Excellent stuff, right up there. 18.5/94

Agricola Allegrini Amarone 2005 (Valpolicella, Italy) $174.95
No Molinara. 5% Oseleta. 15.4% alc.
Quite fragrant, if burnt and volatile/stinky and hammy. Cooked figs. Dry style that at present is a bit dull and chocolatey, pulling up just a bit short. Extractive. Powerful and certainly in the mode, but just not quite top shelf (yet). 16.8/89++

Agricola Allegrini Amarone 2000 (Valpolicella, Italy) $Museum
No Botrytis. Indigenous yeasts. 16.5% alc.
Very sweet nose. Redcurrants. Quite genuine and almost subtle after the 2005. Lovely tannins. Much more integration here. Black fruit palate. Nice and complete already. Enjoyed this. 17.9/92

Agricola Allegrini Recioto Classico DOC 'Giovanni Allegrini' 2005 (Valpolicella, Italy) $116.95 500ml
14g/l RS. 14% alc.
Unique. Quite and oxidative nose, though a fresh palate. Enormously sweet and more like a fortified, with a suggestion of flor or maybe a very traditional dry port. Spicy. Burnt seeds (?). Amazing palate - really sweet - but it works here the heat and the richness. Much like a good port. Sweetly caramel and vanillan edges. Unusual, but in a wonderful way. 18.3/93

Monday, 9 August 2010

Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay 2007

Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
$40, Screwcap, 14%
Source: Retail


Is this the most cellarable Chardonnay in Australia? Hard to argue with that premise given the style off this release, which is still austere and awkward, even at 3 years of age.

Mid yellow in colour. Freshly sawn logs/sawdust oak and some of that warm year Hunter straw/hay going on. It's a bit fat on the nose but not on the palate, with raw acidity giving plenty to chew on but nought generosity. Lanolin and peach through the hard and quite oaky finish. Looking very backward, acid driven and angular at present, (from experience) I wouldn't touch another one of these for at least 3-4 years. Long termer. Best drunk just below room temperature. 16/87+++

Saturday, 7 August 2010

3 faces of the Grampians

3 faces of the Grampians

With an unbroken wine history dating back to 1862, the Grampians has no shortage of vinous kudos. Yet, as a wine region it's in something of a state of flux, with a winemakers association that is being torn apart by internal politics, amidst a generally fragmented community of vignerons.

In this post then I'm going to look - from slightly different angles - at three different Grampians wine producers that I visited last weekend, all with much vested in the region and all producing valid Grampians styles. Hopefully what comes out is a small snapshot of some of the 'faces' of this quietly magnificent wine region.

Mt Langi Ghiran

Mount Langi Ghiran cellar door. Stunning
The picture (left) is just one scene from what has to be one of the more dramatic sites in Australian wine.

Mount Langi Ghiran (the estate) is built into the side of it's namesake: a dramatic granite outcrop sitting near the north eastern boundary of the Grampians region. With a viticultural history that dates back to the 1870s (though with a gap of 75 odd years from the late 1890s to the early 1960s) Mount Langi Ghiran can rightly claim a stake as one of the more important/famous wine producers of the region.

Fittingly, the Mount Langi cellar door itself (as depicted in the photo above/left) is a striking place: Modern, well integrated and set to a stunning backdrop. Striking too, as Mount Langi is an isolated part of the world, in both wine and geographical terms, with the constant winds and spooky looking mountain all making for what is quite a stark - and almost unfriendly - setting.

The whole estate, from a wine point of view, looks special, suggesting that there should be special wine produced here. In all honesty, however, I came away disappointed.

The biggest disappointment lies at the cellar door. For what is a somewhat remote place (45 minutes from anywhere) the range of wines on for tasting is sparse, with only a small selection of the mid priced wines available to sample at the cellar door. I well understand the challenges of quiet cellar doors (and many other Grampians/Pyrenees producers do even more so) but to turn up at such a stunning location, in rural Victoria, and only get to taste a mere sniff of what the site can do feels like a slap in the face. If Langi are worried about wastage, or bus tours or whatever, charge a $5 (or even $10 to taste the top wine) tasting fee to cover costs. I certainly would have paid it.

Anyway, rant over. For those wines that were on tasting (Cliff Edge range mostly) the initial impressions - drawn from the whites - are of purity, expression and flavour, comfortably ticking all the right boxes. But this consistency doesn't translate into the reds which - to my tastes - are almost ubiquitously overripe.

Obviously the question of ripeness and balance is a subjective one, and I'm hypercritical of anything showing excessive ripeness, but seriously, 15% alcohol on a cool climate Cabernet (as found in the 2005 Langi Cabernet)? Why? All it does it burn off regional/varietal characters, leaving just another boozy new world red.

As if to prove the point, A 2003 Langi Shiraz also consumed over the weekend was suitably dried out, forward and lacking in enough fruit to keep up with the structure, further emphasising the problems of such excesses.

Regardless, it's a beautiful site, the vines look healthy and the top Langi Shiraz is selling like hotcakes (to considerable critical acclaim). In truth I really want to like these wines, for the mid to late 90's Langi's were such impressive things. All it would take is for the same vitality shown in the (early picked) whites to be carried through to the reds. Obviously the winery has a style (one of impact and richness) though and they are sticking by it. It's just not my favoured style.

(Would be interested to hear other opinions on this. Also interested to try the new 07 and 08 vintage Langi Shiraz - perhaps the balance has been restored?).

The wine highlights:

Mount Langi Ghiran 'Cliff Edge' Pinot Gris $25
I really quite enjoyed this. Textural, long and succulent Pinot Gris with pear and honey on a crisp and quite long backbone. Nice wine. Plenty of appeal here.


Simon Clayfield himself
It riles Simon a bit, but the tagline in Halliday's Wine Companion is that of 'former Best's winemaker', even though he left there back in 1997. But it is relevant for context.

For behind the trademark moustache - and ability to talk underwater - lies a highly experienced winemaker, one who has almost 25 Grampians vintages (many of which were served at Best's) under his belt and a whole network of local grower contacts to call on.

That last bit is important, for Simon's own Clayfield vineyard is just 13 years old, and has had only a handful of commercial harvests in that time, due mainly to problems with drought and bushfire. Instead, it has been several old vineyards -  notably the Robinson vineyard on Mt Ararat - that have provided the backbone for the Clayfield wines.

Now Simon, like many of the regions producers, concentrates on Shiraz. In fact, besides a token Pyrenees Sauvignon Blanc, all he makes is Grampians Shiraz. As a result, and given some of the success/critical acclaim his wines has enjoyed over the years, you could call him a Grampians Shiraz expert.

Little wonder then that his wines show the regional style with aplomb. Even in 2008 - which produced plenty of seriously big, alcoholic wines - the regional spiciness is present (though I'm not a massive fan of the two 08 Shiraz, which are just too ripe for me) and the wines taste balanced.

Still, don't come here looking for elegance, for whilst the alcohol doesn't generally stand out (08's excepted), the wines are built unashamedly lavish (but in a good way).

The wine highlights:

Clayfield Shiraz 1999

A back vintage curio, this was one of Simon's first wines and it was looking in very good shape. Big, still quite firm and dense, with layer upon layer of spicy fruit. Pepper, both black and white, and no shortage of it either. Lovely.

Clayfield Shiraz 2006 ($45)
Take the above wine and subtract 7 years. It's probably not as spicy as the 1999 - and not likely to end up that way either - but entirely enjoyable in a more luscious style. It's all about purple plum fruit and no shortage of viscous warmth, but still with solid fruit tannins and a firm line through the finish. Good stuff. Tasty.


140 year old Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir vines
Arguably the leading producer in the Grampians (particularly thanks to the wane of Seppelt's star post Fosters takeover), you can't talk about this part of the world without focusing on the (resurgent) Best's.

I won't bore you with this wineries history (it's all here) but suffice to say that Trevor Mast (who owned Langi up until recently) made wine here in the 70's/mid 80's and Simon Clayfield made wine here in the late 80's/mid 90's, making Best's particularly pertinent to this story.

What I really want to focus on though is the more recent history. For Best's, like many successful family wine companies, has basically reinvented itself in recent years, simplifying themselves even.
You can see the results of this process at the winery itself - witness, for example, the large scale, multi thousand litre tanks that sit out next to the winery shed. If you were to take a peak inside these tanks you'd notice that they no longer hold wine and are now full of water. The large airbag presses don't get much work these days either, with small batches and basket presses utilised for much of the top wines.

Similarly, at cellar door, the cheaper 'Victorian' range is being gradually phased out as the 'Great Western' range takes more prominence, the winery in effect dragging their whole persona back to where it started at sleepy Great Western.

It's a smart move - or at least I think so - from a marketing perspective, particularly given that 'Great Western' is one of only two specific subregions in Victoria (along with the Nagambie Lakes in the Goulburn Valley), making the area itself even more unique/special.

Wine wise, the 'Great Western' range has had some new releases of late too, including a lauded Sparkling Shiraz - that they can't produce enough of - and a young vine Pinot Meunier. Upcoming additions include a single block 2010 Riesling (which I can confirm is particularly interesting) and a Cabernet blend from some of the oldest Cabernet vines on the Concongella vineyard.

It's all very positive indeed.

The only challenges for Best's now is what to do with the - now 80 year old - St Andrews vineyard at Lake Boga (near Swan Hill). What do you do with a major vineyard asset, that now produces grapes that cost more to pick than they do to produce? What a quandary....

The wine highlights

Best's Bin 0 Great Western Shiraz 1997
Delicious stuff. I believe that it was Campbell Mattinson that talked of 'plum essence' as the quintessential Grampians Shiraz character and this is laden with it.

From an exceptional vintage, this shows a spiced plum nose backed by a rich, plum essence palate that is simultaneously sweet and spicy (in contrast to some Grampians Shiraz which can be simply sweet). Still full of primary fruit and topped off with fine tannins, this will make attractive old bones.

Yum (I drank most of a bottle of this).

Best's Thomsen Family Shiraz 2006
Mid weight, pepper driven Shiraz that is very tightly bound and structure driven, but oh so classic. Will turn out to be a more elegant wine than the 1997 above, in a positive way. Top wine. Long long long termer and drinking at its best 3 days after opening (according to
Julian Coldrey who finished the bottle).

Best's Pinot Meunier 1976

Plucked out of the Best's cellar last Saturday and drank that night, this was quite decayed on the nose but with a lovely sweet fruited palate. Palate particularly showed prominent acidity, with a trademark Best's Pinot Meunier treacly bite. Surprisingly, this actually improved with time in the glass, which only enhanced the appeal. Interesting curio and in very good shape.

Friday, 6 August 2010

BEER: Stone and Wood Stone Lager

BEER: Stone and Wood Stone Lager (Byron Bay, NSW)
$10 500ml, 5.3%
Stone & Wood Stone Beer

As a tribute to the brewers of the Middle Ages we brewed (the Stone Lager) by adding wood fired stones to the kettle to rouse the boil and intensify the malt characters of the brew.

Long before the wizardry of steam was invented, brewers used stone and wood to brew their daily beer. They built a fire to heat large stones until they were hot enough to be added to their wooden vats to create a boiling brew. Apart from the obvious heating effects, the brewing stones also caramelised the brew to create subtle but rich toffee like flavours.
We have a perfectly good boiler, but it is those intense malt flavours from caramelising the wort that we have gone to great lengths to create. To add further complexity we then added the sticky cooled stones to the fermenter to let the yeast have a real treat feeding on the “wort candy” during fermentation.

Sounds familiar doesn't it? A production process that uses archaic, laborious, hands on methods in an attempt to create a more interesting, complex final product.

Much like wine really.

And just like fine handmade wine, this is one beguiling beer. When I initially pulled it out of the fridge it showed very little - too cold - but now, after an hour at room temperature, it is finally showing some skin.

Amber in colour, the nose shows milk chocolate, treacle and a suggestion of sweaty/bretty characters (which would be yeast derived I'm guessing). The palate is super dry, almost severely dry, long and powerful, though not in an obvious way. Rather, it's almost underplayed, with smoked, malted grain characters all through the finish, but with just a suggestion of caramel flavour through the rest of the palate. The palate then finishes with faint hoppy and astringency and moderate bitterness, sitting long but also somewhat awkward.

In all honesty, I really struggled to finish a 500ml bottle of this, and ended up drinking one of these (which I think is one of the best boutique beers in Australia) whilst it warmed up (and I warmed to it).

Finally then, as a drink this is all too bizarre, dry and hardcore to be truly satisfying. But in terms of Australian brewing this is a beer to be celebrated - the more interesting beers the better I say.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Blackjack Shiraz, Yeringberg Viognier + Granbazan Albarino

Blackjack Shiraz, Yeringberg Viognier + Granbazan Albarino
Odds and ends drank last week.

Blackjack Shiraz 2005
Super ripe, yet i didn't find this to be over the top (or in my opinion at least). Mint, prunes, lots of ripe fruit and caramel, chocolatey oak. Rich, warm and heady, stewed but not hot, just hearty. Unapologetically warm, oaky Bendigo red in the typical mould. 17.5/91

Yeringberg Viognier 2008
First release of a straight Yeringberg Viognier and, to my taste, this is overripe. Neutral, peachy nose doesn't give away much, as the story here is all about texture and mouthfeel. The problem is that the palate is bombed with alcohol, sitting glycerol rich and oily, with not enough varietal punch to carry it off. Textural but lacking. 16/86

Granbazan Albarino 2008
I'm still waiting for my Albarino revelation. Heady, spicy and musky perfumed nose. Textural and rounded palate has gritty fruit tannins and a warm finish but ultimately finishes flabby and broad. Oxidised pretty quickly in the glass too. Pleasant but ultimately unremarkable. 16.2/87

Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Pyrenees, Vic)
$26, Cork, 14%

Source: Sample

I wanted to like this. I really did. Especially after driving past the (stunningly located) Taltarni vineyards on Sunday and tasting numerous Pyrenees Cabernets (which I very much enjoy) over the weekend. The problem is this wine carries the stewed fruit and green tannins of what Jeremy Oliver (correctly) calls 'both under and over ripe fruit' and it's a character that I rather dislike.

Full red in the glass, this Taltarni Cabernet has a brutally ripe nose of prunes, cedar and blackcurrant, topped off with Pyrenees mint/eucalypt. It's an unquestionably ripe and regional nose, though just a fraction cooked. On the palate it's built large and firm, with somewhat subdued leafy fruit and green, hard, lingering tannins. A wine that's all structure with little fruit, I (sadly) didn't enjoy this much. Cellaring wise it will go long term, but I doubt whether it will ever be balanced. 15.5/85

(Wondering out loud, I'm guessing that the last couple of hot summers and significant drought(s) have played a part in the imbalances here?)