Monday, 29 November 2010

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2009

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2009 (Fleurieu Peninsula, SA)
13%, Cork, $50
Source: Sample
www.tapanappawines.com.au


I've had this open for a day and a half now and only now is it looking at it's best. In fact, yesterday afternoon when I first opened the bottle I was left thinking 'what did I see in this last time'. What a difference a day makes...

For today it looks bright, vibrant and serious, glowing ruby red in the glass and smelling backward. That's much of the problem with this wine - beyond the redcurrant it's actually quite sullen and herbal, restrained and just a bit warm. It tastes very much like a work in progress actually, with a palate that is bound up in acidity and soapy stem tannins. It's this structure though that is ultimately one of the best things about the wine, a hint of glory that reminds just how serious a Pinot this is.

In the wash it's unquestionably a smart wine, if not the most obvious beast at the moment. 17.7/92+

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Flaxman Wines The Drone Red Blend 2009

Flaxman Wines The Drone Red Blend 2009
14.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
http://www.flaxmanwines.com.au/


60% Grenache from Williamstown, 40% Mataro from Bethany. Matured for 12 months in older American and French oak. Open ferment, minimal pumping, no filtering or fining.

Wonderful winemaking that. Red wine production the way it should be. Happily, it tastes as natural, unforced and carefully put together as the intro makes it out to be.

What it also tastes of is the success of Grenache and Mataro in the Barossan 2009 vintage, carrying the juicy, almost carbonic like red fruit vibrancy that 09 seems to impart. It's a welcome trait for mine, particularly in a style such as this, and as a result I really quite enjoyed drinking this.

In the glass it looks surprisingly bright for something unfined and unfiltered, with a bright ruby red glow going on. Tick. The nose is all about bright fruit too, with the redcurrant essence character of well ripened Grenache mingling with the sausage meat wildness of Mataro delivered without any oak embellishments. There's a liberal does of pepper in there too with a spiciness that has plenty of Southern Rhone about it.

What follows on the palate is actually quite light, with red fruit and licorice flavours concentrated around the mid palate. This is where the juiciness, the joy of ripe fruit, sits, with the finish after that largely driven by alcohol warmth rather than tannins. This is both a boon and a bust, for I think I want a little more structure to be really won over. Regardless, the fruit forward style here makes this one impressive, drink-it-like-Sangria styled wine of naturalness and purity. Extra points for how much I like drinking it. 17.6/91

(oh and I borrowed the image from Jeremy Pringle as I'm clearly too lazy to source my own. Check out his review of the wine here )

Sally's Hill, Petaluma and Climbing

Sally's Hill, Petaluma and Climbing


Sally's Hill Cabernet Franc 2008 (Pyrenees, Vic) - 14%
The (effective) second label of Neil Robb's Sally's Paddock operation, with the wines still produced at the Redbank winery, even though the Redbank brand itself belongs to the Hill Smith's of Yalumba. Sally's Hill wines are crafted off fruit from the estate plantings (which date back to 1973) and produced in a similar 'hands on' fashion (hand picking, hand plunging, basket pressing, etc) that is used to make the icon 'Sally's Paddock'.

This Cab Franc too tastes as serious, slightly old fashioned and proper in it's form and structure as the top wine does, which I very much like to see. Interestingly, it tastes more regional than varietal too, as it carries less of the fragrance I normally associate with Cabernet Franc and more of the Pyrenees mint and power. Seems to work though.

Those regional characters proudly start on the nose, which smells of redcurrant, leafy Cabernet family varietal character, a lick of spearmint and some dark macerated fruit. It's still a bit closed on the nose perhaps, with the talking really taking place on the palate. That palate is a firm, dark and tannic one, with powerful tea leaf tannins and quite prominent acidity. Viewed as a whole, this looks cool, hearty and dense - an old school, structure-first wine that might scare off anyone looking for fruit and oak generosity, but please the structure men (me).

As you can gather, I quite like this Sally's Hill red. I like the tannins, I like the weight, I like the lack of heat and proper powerful form. It should only get better too. 17.7/92

Petaluma Shiraz 2007 (Adelaide Hills, SA) - 14%
This is labelled as 'Shiraz' these days' with the Viognier no longer rating a mention. It's an interesting move that - I wonder why?

Anyway, this is drawn off the B & V vineyard located near Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills, and comes from a vintage that was hot and challenging (to say the least). In fact, the HDD (Heat Degree Day) climate summation for the vineyard in 2007 was 1651 degrees, a figure that is significantly higher than the normal 1413 and more Barossa than Adelaide Hills. That's of significance to the final product, as it means that what would normally be a cool climate wine style effectively becomes a warm one.

In all honesty this is actually quite well made, with no shortage of plush fruit, well integrated oak and integrated acidity, the winemaking certainly modern and clever. The problem is that it lacks the delineation, tannins and freshness that the $52.95 pricetag demands.

It all starts quite sweetly actually, with super polished red berry fruit on the nose in the modern 'amalgam' style. The oak treatment is polished too, all carefully handled and inconspicuous. It still smells warm though, warm and open, spicy and a fraction soupy. Palate is warm too, with lightly caramelised, soft fruit in a meaty, ripe fashion. As the palate advances, things get less enjoyable, the acidity jagged and unnatural, the tannins non existent.

Ultimately this tastes very much like a case where the season has dictated terms to the winemaker.... 16.3/88

Cumulus Climbing Merlot 2009 (Orange, NSW) 13.5%
The Cumulus operation is quite a big one, in Orange terms at least, with 508 hectares at Molong (which is not too far from Orange itself). What's interesting about the vineyards are that a portion of them sit in the 'Orange' GI and the rest in the 'Central Ranges' GI, with the boundary driven largely by the altitude preclusions of the Orange GI. Regardless, it's a clever business, with the wines dressed in some notably striking packaging (which I quite like) and carrying a reputation for good value.

This wine is certainly friendly enough too, fitting the plush and easy Merlot stereotype on first glance. But it doesn't really offer more than just syrupy sweet fruit with a second look.

That fruit is evident from the first sniff, with a raspberry, cherry ripe and red licorice nose that is open and plush, if also surprising volatile. I like the tinge of herbs on the nose, a nod to the cool climate origins of the vineyard, even if it doesn't quite show on the palate. What does show on the palate is creamy, plushly oaked and rounded, if tending quite bitter and brackish towards the finish, everything ending up a little astringent and less playful than desired.

In the wash it's probably fair value at the $14 this goes for, but not all that impressive for the $22.95 full RRP. 15.8/86

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Wobbles from Henschke

Wobbles from Henschke


I know I can be a grumpy bastard, and these three surely aren't the finest wines that Henschke produces, but the following releases are more than a little disappointing for what is considered to be one of our finest makers...

Henschke Julius Riesling 2010 (Eden Valley, SA) 12% alc
With an open, slatey and typically sherbety Eden nose, it's very correct and regional, if built rather full and ripe this year. The palate follows with a sense of fullness, juicy fruit and upfront flavours that are certainly pleasant, but hardly scream serious wine. A good drink still, though not for the long haul. 17/90

Henschke Louis Semillon 2009 (Eden Valley, SA) 12% alc
This could perhaps be more of a personal taste thing, or it could just be an awkward stage, but I didn't love this. Hay, straw and open developing fruit on the nose in a form that looks rather advanced for it's relative youth, the palate has grippy phenolics but falls away through the finish all too quickly. Not quite. 16.4/88

Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2008 (Barossa, SA) 14.5% alc
Such a hard vintage and really showing here. Warm, forward and coconut oak laced nose with oak the most attractive feature. Palate shows lots of spicy fruit, plenty of oak sheen and some lightly drying tannins, though it still feels short and a little lifeless. $20 worth of wine, not $45. 16.2/87

Monday, 15 November 2010

Molly Morgan Semillon 2010

Molly Morgan Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
11%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
www.mollymorgan.com

Molly Morgan Semillon
As much as I want to champion Hunter Semillon at every opportunity (such is my love of the stuff), it remains a wine that rarely impresses in it's youth. But, if you can sneak a glimpse of the glory that lies within, then the style actually makes sense. It's almost like Hunter Sem - as a young wine at least - simply requires a second look.

Which brings me to this wine. I opened it up yesterday, on a steamy, I-need-a-drink Sydney evening, expecting something bright, crisp and quite generous. But it wasn't. Rather, it was hard - hard acidity, hard fruit, with no generosity to speak of. It irked me did this unexpected character, and I barely managed a glass before trundling off in search of something cleansing. Something (ultimately) beery actually.

I left the bottle in the fridge though, and now, on another steamy night, I tried again. Perhaps my mind is a little more positive today, and perhaps I'm even thirstier than yesterday, but today this tastes good. It tastes like a wine of substance, of acidity and life. It's probably not the most complex, or intense, or delineated Hunter Semillon, but it's still long and green and sprightly.

Again it reminded me that Hunter Semillon is the ultimate chameleon. It's a demanding wine style, that even in it's supposedly more approachable form (such as this purports to be) it can still be a handful - a handful of a wine type that demands more than a cursory glance. And I, personally, absolutely love that about it. 17/90

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Robert Stein Reserve Riesling 2010

Robert Stein Reserve Riesling 2010 (Mudgee, NSW)
12.5%. Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample
www.robertstein.com.au

Robert Stein
Reserve Riesling
2010
Now Riesling is hardly the first wine that comes to mind when you think of 'Mudgee', yet there is some smart examples coming from the region. The key ingredient perhaps to the unexpected success of the region is actually altitude, with plenty of Mudgee's vines sitting at some surprising heights. Witness, for example, the Louee vineyard, which is located within the Mudgee boundaries and sits at an astonishing 1100m above sea level, making it (apparently) the highest altitude vineyard in Australia.

This wine is also listed as being from a high altitude vineyard, which perhaps explains why it is so good (given that Riesling typically needs the cooler conditions that altitude brings).

It's a fuller style Riesling this, built riper and fuller than many of its ilk, yet in this context it works quite nicely. On the nose it shows grapefruit, orange and some fruit tingle residual sweetness, set quite full and ripe, though not fat. The palate too is unashamedly weighty, which became really apparent as my glass warmed up (it's steamy in Sydney tonight), but not without substance. That weight is all about generous orange and tangerine fruit, plus some rather well handled residual sugar (6g/l and looking quite apt) and mid weight acidity. The few criticisms that I can see is that this is a hardly a delicate wine (which may polarise) and that the price is very high indeed.

Otherwise there is much to like her. It's a rather generous Riesling that sits quite a way out of the normal, Clare/Eden-centric frameset, but does so with style. I'm happy to say that I actually quite enjoyed drinking this. 17.6/92

Friday, 12 November 2010

Random Wine Roundup

Odds and ends from some recent tastings. Clearing the decks....  

Lazy Ballerina Shiraz 2008 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Chaellenging wine this and very clearly vintage affected, as it's forward and hard like quite a few 08 McLaren Vale reds. Caramel oak, floor varnish, mothballs and cardboard. All secondary. Ungenerous and roasted red fruit palate. Hard going. 14.8/82

Coriole Redstone Shiraz 2008 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
Similar story here. Volatile red fruit nose smells baked and warm. Palate is similarly sweet and dry with hot fruit flavours and gritty tannins. Sweet and sour. Simple and warm. 15/83

Golding Wines Francis John Pinot Noir 2006 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Aside from Stephen George's Ashton Hills, I can't say I'm a massive fan of Adelaide Hills Pinot. They're typically too ripe, too dry red-ish and ultimately lacking in delicacy. This is, sadly, no exception, with a warm redcurrant, rare roast beef and eucalypt nose, edged with sap and menthol. A little bit of cooked veges in there too. Palate is drying, smoky and secondary with sweet oak as the only generous part. Horsey edges. Needs more generosity to be properly enjoyable. 15.8/86

Singlefile Run Free La vie en Rosé 2010 (Great Southern, WA)
I actually quite like rosé. Good dry rosé that is. This, sadly, isn't that. It's an excellent colour though, with a brightly glowing ruby red hue that looks looks superb in the glass. Though it might also be a glass of vodka cranberry. The wine itself is soft and sweet with intrusive acidity and little depth beyond residual sugar. Vodka cranberry would be a more satisfying drink methinks. 14/80 

Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009

Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009
$80, Diam, ?% alc
Source: Sample
www.bindiwines.com.au

Another wine lauded heavily in the newly released 2011 SMH/Age Good Wine Guide, this is typically a very smart wine. This is no exception, though I'm not absolutely in love.

It's very brightly coloured in the glass though, with a pink/purple brightness that had me thinking of rhubarb. Nose is all stewed plum alongside more fresh plum, with sweet red pure Pinot juice escaping. It's a very proper, if still bound, nose, with plenty of pure fresh cranberry fruit. The palate is also still very bound, but for mine it's a tad roasted and warm, finishing with dry but light tannins. I like the redcurrant generosity on the palate but it just doesn't quite taste world class as yet. A little stewed. Love that mid palate sweetness though. Very good stuff, if just a little off the Bindi best. 17.8/92

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Oakridge 864 Chardonnay 2009

Oakridge Chardonnay 2009 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $72
Source: Sample
www.oakridgewines.com.au

This picked up 'Best Chardonnay' in the SMH/Age Good Wine Guide released this week. I think I've already tried it (at the Tri Nations Wine Challenge) but it was certainly a pleasure to revisit it. Simply put, this is a superb Chardonnay that I'd happily call one of Australia's best. Loved it.

Bright green/straw in the glass. Super fine, mealy oak nuanced nose that shows some of the best oak handling around. It's just beautiful, mealy, almond meal oak that is clearly a part of the wine, but in a tightly wound,  if seamless fashion. Beyond the oak it's all fine and lean white peach and citrus fruit in a full though not overt form. Perfect really. Lovely nose this.

The palate doesn't disappoint either, with white peach, marzipan and lemon flavours that are really surprisingly intense given the modest alcohol. Just before it threatens to become large and full, the acidity snaps everything back into shape again in a delightful form. Supremely stylish and plain delicious stuff. Top class. I'll buy some. 18.8/95

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Voyager Estate Masterclass

Voyager Estate Masterclass

As The Great Man himself noted in an article over the weekend (here), there are few wineries out there that do an annual benchmark tasting as well as Voyager. Sure plenty of other producers benchmark, and plenty of them do it consistently, but few present as fine a bracket of wines, year after year, as Voyager does.

This years version of the Voyager masterclass didn't let me down either, featuring a whole range of top class wines at an event that was expertly run and managed. A particular highlight was the tasting notes book that accompanied the tasting, featuring background on all the wines, plus vintage reports and wine region information. Those sort of details may sound insignificant, but it all contributes to a more interesting tasting. Kudos all round.

Now as for the context (and in case you didn't read Halliday's review) of the notes of this tasting, this is how the event was ran: Three brackets of wine, all served single blind, with each one featuring a particular Voyager varietal in a lineup of similar styled wines. The three brackets in question then were Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon blends and Shiraz, with the Voyager wines utilised including the Estate Chardonnay, Cabernet Merlot and Shiraz.

What was most interesting, and happily reinforcing, was that the Voyager Cabernet Merlot and Chardonnay (in particular) performed spectacularly well. The vintages no doubt helped things, with two strong ones for Margaret River on show, but that is perhaps discounting the quality of the Voyager wines at hand (even if I'm not a Shiraz fan), which were damn fine (and several bottles of the Cabernet Merlot followed me home to prove it).

The following notes then are unedited, with the information in italics sourced from the tasting booklet

Chardonnay
Strong class this one. I'd happily drink a bottle of most of these. That Voyager looks like stunning value in this context...

Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 2007 (Burgundy, France)
12 months in 30% new oak, 6 months on fine lees in tank. 13.5% alc. RRP $270

Bright straw green/yellow colour. Very toasty, mealy nose showing some warmth. Expensive wood and very serious length here. Heat through the finish. Fine, if oak driven. Lots of acid here but also loads of oak. Long termer (This really just needs some time to come together). 17.4/91+

Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay 2007 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
17 months in 54% new oak. pH 3.36, TA 6.18, 14.5% alc. RRP $75

Bright green straw colour. Toasted almonds and butter nose with more obvious oak sweetness. Long and lusciously creamy palate with real generosity. Finishes warm. Maybe a fraction too creamy? Quite flashy but not overt. Nice wine this. 17.8/92

Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Earliest harvest ever and this was picked when still quite green. 40% new, 40% 1 yr old and 20% 2 yr old oak. pH 3.12, TA 6.8, 13.2% alc. RRP $45

Bright straw green in colour. Quite a deep and nutty nose that is not as lifted as the previous wine. Slight stink in there too with a meaty, wild edge. Like it. Palate is entirely acid driven in a rather natural and clean form. Lanolin and acid. Love the drive here. Really very fine. 18.5/94

Kistler Vine Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 (Russian River Valley, USA)
'Non interventionist winemaking. Whole bunch fermentation with barrels racked only once. 11 months in 50% new oak. 14.1% alc. RRP $140

Much more developed yellow colour. Stinky, wild ferment nose with just a hint of honey. Palate has peach, melon and serious layers of complex and super ripe fruit. No shortage of intensity. Some surprisingly tangy acidity to round everything out. Such a mouthful of a wine! Loved this. 18.6/94 (this scored the most votes in the Chardonnay bracket and I think that it did because it's a sexy, slutty wine. I dig sexy, slutty wines clearly :)).

Giaconda Estate & Nantua Vineyards Chardonnay 2007 (Beechworth, Victoria)
89% Chardonnay, 11% Rousanne. The only white produced from the problematic 07 vintage and thus a vineyard blend. Barrel fermented, natural yeast and malolactic fermentations. 33% new oak. TA 6.0, pH 3.6, 13.9% alc. RRP $110

Warmer, more open and volatile nose than the other wines. Peach and almost apricot richness (that might be the Rousanne). Peachy but blunt palate. Palate is creamy and dry but it falls away through the finish. Not convincing enough in this company. Short. 16.3/87

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Full barrel ferment, 11 months in 100% new oak. pH 3.35, 14.5% alc. RRP $95

Really volatile and heady. Big melon and grapefruit nose. Screaming alcohol. Has to be Leeuwin. Lots of oak, lots of alcohol. Completely OTT but there is some life in there. That alcohol though.... 16.9/89 (the third time I've tried this now and each time that alcohol sticks out rudely, despite the quality of the fruit).

Shiraz + Shiraz dominant blends
A slightly variable category this one, but interesting. Strictly speaking this is not my favourite style of wine (Northern Rhone inspired) but still there were some highlights.

Dalwhinnie Shiraz 2008 (Pyrenees, Vic)
17 months in 80% French, 20% American oak. 33% new. TA 6.5g/l, pH 3.4, 13.5% alc. RRP $55

Deep rich red colour. One of the deepest in this lineup. Sweet red cherry and vanilla musk nose with red licorice. White pepper edge. Quite a big palate of ripe red cherry fruit, with a glossy mid palate. Viognier?. Lots of length and cut ripe and full but it's just a bit hot. Shows some mixed ripeness. It's good but not amazing. 17.2/90

Rene Rostaing La Cuvee Classique Cote Rotie 2007 (Northern Rhone, France)
24 months in a combination of 50% barriques and 50% 600L demi-muids. Barrels range from 2-8 yrs old. pH 3.5, 13% alc. RRP $125

Much lighter colour. So obviously Rhoney nose with pepper and a hint of bum. Meaty and floral and beautifully perfumed. Sexy even. Long and quite juicy palate with proper chalky tannins. Still unfolding but much to like here. 18.5/94

Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2008 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Harvested mid heat wave. 14 months in 33% new French oak. TA 6.45, pH 3.52, 14% alc. RRP $38

Mid red with purple edges. Jammy nose with rich red fruit. Lots of jam. Still quite floral. Palate has red lolly fruit in a quite broad frame. Sweet and quite generous, almost velveteen palate is actually quite attractive, though not for the long term. 17.7/92 (I wonder if I would score this differently on a re-taste? I was expecting to not like this anywhere near as much).

Voyager Shiraz 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
95% Shiraz, 5% Malbec. 12 months in 40% new French and Merican oak. TA 6.5, pH 3.7, 14% alc. RRP $35

Really heavily extracted and rather oaky. Lots and lots of red fruit, a hint of formic and more oak. Oak tannins with a bitter twist. Just not my favoured style of Shiraz, though it is savoury and dense. Where is the generosity? 16.8/89

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2008 (Canberra)
94% Shiraz, 6% Viognier. 3 day pre-ferment maceration, 20% whole bunches and an average of 3 weeks on skins. 30% new French oak for 12 months. TA 6.1, pH 3.63, 14% alc. RRP $75

Very purple. Clonakilla (on the ball!). Apricot and marmalade Viognier character. Sweet fruit just teeters towards confection with loads of warm, luscious, peppery whole bunch flavour. It all ends up quite delicious and fleshy. Very attractive wine for immediate drinking. 18.3/93

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2008 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
18 months in 47% new French barriques. TA 5.6g/l, pH 3.76, 14.5% alc. RRP $90

Volatile quite simple and direct nose. Hot and direct, extractive nose. Hard and oaky palate with a wall of extract and oak. Hard going really, finishing bitter. Not much fun. 16/87+ (Another disappointing Craggy red. This one was served blind too. The enigma continues...)

Cabernet blends
Now here are some highlights. Lots of classy wines in this lineup. I'll take a mixed dozen of the Chardonnay bracket and this bracket please.

Cullen Diana Madeline 2005 (Margaret River, WA)
74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 4% Cab Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 19 months in 70% new Franch barriques. TA 5.6, pH 3.64, 14% alc. RRP $95

Bright mid red colour. Spice and black fruit nose is elegant, leafy and entirely appropriate. Light.  Cranberry and red fruit in rather unforced and pure form. Lots of Cab Franc? (got that wrong). Sweetly spicy. Long termer. Yarra? (wrong there too). Very nicely balanced and rather delicious. 18.4/94+ (Have tried this a few times now and every time has been a winner).

Mount Mary Quintet 2005 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 18% Cab Franc, 5% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot. 22 months in 25% large format (1500L or larger) oak and 30% in new barriques. TA 6.0, pH 3.4, 13%. RRP $150

Quite full red colour. Classically varietal nose if in the tobacco and meat end of the spectrum. Full and bright, leafy nose. Palate too is leafy and pure if falling away to a sort of dour, forgotten finish. Bitter herbs 'Almost'. 17.8/92+ (all this needs is bottle age. Important plus sign. Amazed I didn't pick it though!).

Voyager Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2005 (Margaret River, WA)
79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. 24 months in half new, half 1yr old barrels. TA 6.9, pH 3.52, 14% alc. RRP $60.

Much bigger, redder and oaky nose. Very classic though. Voyager/Cullen? (half right!). Beautifully balanced palate of classic form. Leafy elegance, rich black fruits, lots of tannins. The whole package. Lots of length. Seriously good. 18.7/95 (My sort of wine and thus why it gets a high score. Was the most popular in this bracket too).

Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Napa Valley, USA)
36 months in oak, 75% new. TA 5.6, pH 3.79, 13.9% alc. RRP $65

Obvious age on the nose. Tea leaf development characters. Sweaty stinky bretty nose. Palate is a bit sour and metallic. Bordeaux? (It's the brett you see :)). Drying, unfun tannins. Bretty and not much fun. 15.5/86

Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2005 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 18% Cab Franc. 20 months in oak. TA 5.8, pH 3.49, 13.5% alc. RRP $82

Corked. (Or at least I thought it was corked. Apparently it has looked odd in most of these Voyager masterclasses around the country. Very weird, as I'm normally a very big fan. I gave it another sniff and decided there might be wine in there somewhere. I'm still putting it down as a bad bottle). U/R

Ornellaia 2005 (Bolgheri, Italy)
56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 12% Cab Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. 18 months in 70% new, 30% 1yr old French oak. TA 5.5, pH 3.55, 14.5% alc. RRP $270

Slightly forward and evolved but quite a beautiful dusty nose. Dark fruit, firm tannins and lovely gritty black olive flavours. Lovely stuff if just a smidgen forward. Italian (yes!). 18.2/93 (The 06 is even more impressive, but I'd happily drink this).

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2005 (Bordeaux, France)
64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 14-16 months in 50% new and 50% one year old barriques. TA 5.1g/l, 13% alc. RRP $325

Slightly stinky, meaty and briary nose. Opulent and sexy smelling. Formic, hung game palate with a sour end. Oaky and sour, maybe a little underdone but looong. Needs years. 17.5/91+ (I'm entirely happy with this one. It's not much of a drink now. for everything is in the future).

Balnaves 'The Tally' Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Coonawarra, SA)
20 months in 100% new barrels, with 60% of the wine barrel fermented. TA 7.93, pH 3.42, 14.5% alc.

Big chocolatey nose. Lots and lots of formic oak. Hugely minty, dry and sweet fruited palate. Big and cuddly. Too much oak? Certainly way too much added acid. Just a bit brutal, though if you want impact go no further. 17/91

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2010

Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
11.5%alc, Screwcap, $20 (or much less on special)
Source: Sample
www.mcwilliams.com.au

I'm not sure what the strategy is here exactly, but 'Lizzy' now comes out as a young wine, with this Semillon already out in the marketplace. I'm guessing it helps the cashflow (releasing it early) but, in terms of drinking pleasure, it's a backward move, for this doesn't taste anything like the classic trophy winners that the label is renowned for (though that might just be the vintage).

In the glass this Semillon is green and light, looking every bit the current vintage white wine that it is. It smells of green fruit, a splash of citrus and then some honeyed generosity. Warm year wine. The qualm, for mine, is the palate, which just doesn't quite have the drive or the acid structure that you would expect for a young Lizzy. It's broadish and slightly rounded stuff, a wine built in the low alcohol Hunter Semillon mould, but without quite enough length or heart to be convincing.

All in all it's still a fair wine, still refreshing and still drinkable, but it just seems a bit lacking. Could the normal 4 years of bottle age have sorted it out into something good? Maybe. Is it a top Lizzy? No. 16.7/89