Friday, 31 December 2010

2010: Done and dusted (plus wines of the year)

2010: Done and dusted (plus wines of the year)

Seeing as it's the last day of 2010, I'd like to take a brief moment to talk about the year.

On a personal note, 2010 has been a year of change. I changed jobs, homes, partners and favourite shoe brands (I'm a Newton man now. It was a happy transition) with much of the action happening over the last three months (It's been an interesting time...).

On the wine side, I've never drank more great booze, more often, in more parts of the world than I have this year. By my count, I have been to at least 53 different winery/cellar doors (and that's just counting the operational ones) in 19 wine regions around the world. I've made my first wine too, a Canberra Shiraz Pinot that taught me an awful lot about wine, even if it didn't turn out like I would have liked.

The only downer from all this action is simply that Australian Wine Review has suffered, with the lack of posting particularly noticeable during the brief period that I spent homeless and computerless (which I'm in no hurry to repeat any time soon). What's more, I've still got piles of notes on literally hundreds of wines that remain scattered around the place, in random notebooks and on even more random pieces of paper, napkins and wine order forms. I promise to try harder to catch up on these in 2011 :)

So now, as is customary for us wine scribes to do at this time, I'm going to list my wines of the year. Nothing complex about this process, I'm simply picking out the wines I scored the highest this year in red and white wine categories (skipping sparklings), all compiled in simple Halliday style (some of these wines I haven't written up yet, but I promise I will) by score.

Oh, and if I have to pick a single 'wine of the year', it would be the Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2005, a world class wine that will come to be regarded as one of the very finest Vat 1s ever. A wine that we should hold up to show exactly how amazing and unique Australian wine can be.

Look at all the Rieslings! The first wine is a ring in perhaps, but deserves highlighting. Riesling and Chardonnay, that's my bag and it shows with this list. Would like to have more of these in my cellar!

19.8/98 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 2003
19/96 Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2005
19/96 Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling 2004
19/96 St Hallett Eden Valley Riesling 2005
18.8/95 Oakridge 864 Chardonnay 2009
18.8/95 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne 2006
18.8/95 Dönnhoff Riesling Oberhäuser Brücke Spätlese

Interesting to note the volume of top Shiraz in there. Cool climate Shiraz and Pinot make up most of the top places, which quite surprised me.

18.9/95 Clonakilla Syrah 2008
18.7/95 Yabby Lake Block 5 Pinot Noir 2008
18.7.95 Domaine Dujac Vosne Romanee Les Beaux Monts 2007
18.7/95 Voyager Estate Cabernet Merlot 2005
18.7/95 First Drop 'The Cream' Shiraz 2006
18.7/95 Paringa Estate 'The Paringa' Shiraz 2008
18.6/94 Bodegas Alion 2003

With that out of the way, I'd like to also add a heartfelt thankyou to you for reading and commenting on this site during 2010. Wine blogging is a self indulgent sport, but the interaction and debate is what makes it fun.

Bring on 2011!

Clonakilla Riesling 2010

Clonakilla Riesling 2010 (Canberra District)
$15, Screwcap, 12.5%
Source: Cellar Door

It's been open for 24 hours now has this rizza and only now is it showing all it's wares. Still, I'm not convinced this is a good vintage for the Clonakilla Riesling. Much preferred the 2009.

On the nose there is some typical Canberra lavender florals, but mainly it just smells of citrussy acidity, with some bath salts for good measure. The palate too is mono-dimensional, with grapefruity acidity and little else, the palate looking clean and long until somewhere towards the back were it begins to taste muddy, raspy and less clear. As the wine warms up the fruit comes out and the acidity integrates, making for an entirely pleasant wine, but still the finish lacks focus, with a smidgen of residual sugar not really helping.

Not doing it for me this year. I was tempted to score it lower, but ended up here as I could still finish a glass. 16.5/88

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Christmas drinks #4: Flaxman, Petaluma, Mitchell Harris + Scarborough

Christmas drinks #4: Flaxman, Petaluma, Mitchell Harris + Scarborough

Technically this lot was consumed post Christmas, but given that I was still wearing a Santa hat, the Christmas drinks classification certainly feels appropriate. The half empty box of chocolates is also very much a post Christmas product.....

Flaxman 'The Stranger' Shiraz Cabernet 2009 (Barossa, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample

70% Barossa Valley (Roennfeldt Road) Shiraz, 30% Eden Valley Cabernet. Matured in French and American oak for 15 months. Open ferment, pigeage, minimal pumping and extended time on lees. No filtering or fining.

I love quoting the Flaxman wine 'recipes', as the wines always sound so promising (and they very rarely disappoint either). This 2009 version of The Stranger is looking a little too young at present, but the framework is 'all there'. A little patience should go a long way.

As a wine now though this is simply appealing, with a lovely, bright red fruit nose of pure warm year Barossan fruit, topped off with sweet choc vanilla oak, all set in an uplifted, ripe and immediately attractive way. The only downer is that the oak looks a little heavy and charry, sitting on top of the fruit somewhat. That's not really helped by a palate that is locked down tight, with black fruit pastilles the only character really peeking through on what is a medium bodied, unforced and finely tannic palate. It's not an unattractive tight, but you're ultimately left wanting more to marry up to that oak.

Viewed as a whole, this wine is nothing if not promising, carrying a balance and clarity that is entirely enjoyable. All it needs is a little more (time induced) integration. 17.5/91+

Petaluma Coonawarra Merlot 2006 (Coonawarra, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $78.95
Source: Sample

Proper Merlot this, in the classic sense of the word. Proper Coonawarra Merlot that is, for that edge of red dirt is quite a Coonawarra giveaway.

So what exactly is a proper Coonawarra Merlot? Well, in this instance it's all about dusty, 'I can't believe there isn't some Cabernet in there' blackcurrant aromas, over a palate that is both fat through the middle and firmly tannic through the finish. In fact, it is said dry grainy tannins that had me coming back for more. That's Coonawarra for you.

Nice, savoury dry red with plenty still to give to give. Good. 17.8/92+

Mitchell Harris Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Pyrenees, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap, $24.95
Source: Sample

Out of barrel I really liked this wine. Liked the elegance, liked the line, liked the tannins. But now, in bottle, I just don't quite feel the love. A dumb phase perhaps? Or simply that I just don't like the final blend? I'm backing the former.

Eucalypt, roasted meat and red fruit. It's a typical Pyrenees nose, with a hint of mint in there too. But it also smells skinny and semi sweet, missing the expressiveness of the 07 reviewed earlier in the year. Ditto the palate which is elegant and savoury with a fair line through the palate, but also a hardness and a lack of concentration.

Hmmm. 16.3/87

Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon 2010 (Hunter, NSW)
9.5%, Screwcap, $20 (375ml)
Source: Sample

A light and juicy style, this is all about freshness, resulting in a style that is friendly but not all that serious.

Light, if directly sweet nose, carrying no noticeable botrytis and swapping marmalade for lemon and quince in the process. Palate too is crisp, light and playful with good acidity. All it needs is more concentration. 16.5/88 

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

BEER: Ninkasi Brewing Company Believer Double Red Ale

BEER: Ninkasi Brewing Company Believer Double Red Ale

Ninkasi Brewing Company 'Believer' Double Red Ale (Eugene, Oregon, USA)
6.9%, circa $4.50 for 750ml

Sadly this beer doesn't come to Australia, which makes talking about it something of a tease. But if you're USA bound I'd certainly recommend searching for a long neck of one of these beauties. Win.

What I really like about this is simply the depth of flavour. I'm a massive fan of red ales, but it's as much a marketing term as a beer style these days. Which just makes the full, 'Oktoberfest' style brew even more satisfying.

In the glass (I'm drinking this out of a wine glass. Clearly I can't help myself) this is ochre red in colour (surprise surprise). It smells of caramel malt and fresh hops, leading on to a palate that is toasty and dry, heavy with hoppy bitterness and dried barley flavours. It's long, full and just a fraction heavy, though that length keeps you coming back for more (and the 750ml bottle and 6.9% seems to help that along too).

A proper rich red ale with lots of flavour, alcohol and stuffing, this is certainly not a summer beer, but my bottle is draining at speed regardless. Like it.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Drinks: Dönnhoff, Ata Rangi, Raogna, Morris

Christmas Drinks: Dönnhoff, Ata Rangi, Roagna, Morris

Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2007 (Nahe, Germany) 8.5%
It's still surprising (to me) how polarising off dry rizzas can be, particularly given the similar residual sweetness levels of many more popular wine styles (such as cheap sparkling whites). I was just a little worried that this might have been too sweet for my family though (who don't typically like them 'fruity') but with honey ham it just worked. Win.

The wine itself is still bursting with sulphur though, with lemon and grapefruit layers peeking out from underneath. In fact, even after 6 hours in the glass (an errant glass not finished earlier) and the sulphur still hasn't blown off, which is a quibble (I quibble even at Christmas). Luckily the juice underneath is absolutely first rate then, with a creamy, nervy line of grapefruit, mineral and lemon fruit, the grainy, citrus richness of residual sugar woven through the prominent acidity to make for a snaking, complex and finely balanced wine of finesse and style. Yummo.

Lovely off dry Riesling of proper form and structure this. Very good. 17.9/93

Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2009 (Martinborough, NZ) 13.5%
I'd rate this up in my top handful of NZ Chardonnays, sitting just below Neudorf and Kumeu River in my personal favourites. This 2009 is a seriously good release too. Another win.

It's always a 'big wine' is the Craighall, so it's probably not going to be for everyone (my ABC subscribing mum was no fan. 'I just don't like Chardonnay') yet I'm absolutely down with the style.

That weight is announced from the outset, the nose flush with peach and grapefruit, spicy vanillan oak and a real suggestion of ripe fruit.

The palate starts off quite lean, but gathers steam as it moves along, moving through citrus, thickened cream oak, and orange, the acidity a thick vein that holds this richness together. The overall effect is just a lovely, full flavoured mouthful of Chardonnay goodness in a 'this is how new world Chardonnay should taste like' form. Yes. 18.4/94

Contrada Rampante 2008 (Sicily, Italy) 15%
Horribly corked. 'Are you sure that it's wine' corked. Sigh. Fail.

Raogna Pajé 2003 (Barbaresco, Italy) 13.5%
Not corked (sigh of relief). In the zone actually. Old school, rustic, oxidative (but clean) Barbaresco that is just begging for red meat. Begging. Yum.

It smells it's age, does this red, which actually means nothing in Nebbiolo terms, but worth noting in passing perhaps. It's a nose of Nebbiolo goodness though, full of iron, and blood and dirt and metal filings and roasted meat. All secondary, all very un-fruit like, but with enough freshness to carry everything off. If anything it's just a fraction roasted, as befitting the very warm vintage, though again not heavy.

The main feature of the palate too is classical Neb tannins - dry, long, grainy, tea leaf tannins. It's those tannins that have you coming back, as they are delightfully firm, long and serious. I'm not totally taken by the rest of the palate, which is just a fraction overripe and carrying the nuttiness that cooked fruit carries (and is evident in plenty of 08 South Australian reds), but the wine viewed as a complete package is still tasty, especially when drunk with said red meats.

Good stuff, if just off great. 17.3/90

Morris Old Premium (Rare) Tokay NV (Rutherglen, Vic) 18%
Forget dessert wine (ok, so maybe I did) this is THE way to finish off an Australian Christmas lunch. In fact, we should all pledge to all drink this stuff at the finish of every boozy lunch. (That's it, I'm starting a website...)

The Morris fortified style is typically a richer, sweeter one compared to some neighbours, which makes for seriously opulent wines. Suffice to say that I like opulent (even if I think that Chambers has the edge in overall quality stakes and Campbells makes a better Tokay) which is why I like this wine. Alot.

Typically volatile on the nose (it's part of the style, not a distraction), it smells quite oaky, with a dark chocolate and coffee edge that is very alluring, if quite sweet. A swimsuit model wine if ever there was one. Happily, welcomingly, typically, the palate is all choc-coffee liquid fruitcake, rich and heady, if not quite as petite and 'varietal' as some other Rutherglen Tokays. It's a big, warming mouthful of deliciousness, with that long long long long palate that the magic of Rutherglen Tokay and Muscat shows to distinction.

The end result? It's just yum. A big, sweet and full Tokay, full of heart and sweetness, if not quite as nuanced as some others from the region. But I'm nitpicking, and nitpicking over something that is absolutely world class in the quality stakes. 18.7/95

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blue Pyrenees Estate Red 2006

Blue Pyrenees Estate Red 2006 (Pyrenees, Vic)
14.5%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample

It's typically a bitsa blend of a wine, is the Blue Pyrenees 'Red', with this vintage composed of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Merlot (35%) and Shiraz (14%). It works though, in a cellar worthy way, and it has worked for many years, with the style, in my opinion, representing plenty of what is good about the Pyrenees, not least of which is how attractive the Cabernet blends can be.

In fact, it irks me that there aren't more blends of this fashion. Bring on the mongrel wine I say, with bits and pieces chosen according to what looks good in the vineyard, quasi-Bordeaux style (but with Aussie grape sourcing flexibility).

Anyway, rant over. This wine is still painfully young (and the Blue Pyrenees Reserve Red typically needs a decade) and it's plenty minty, but there's ultimately enough here to make it work.

It smells, as mentioned, like a serious Pyrenees red, with lightly roasted, minty, plum and blackberry aromatics punctuated by some heady volatility. The interest though is on the palate, which is dry, minty, tannic and firm, the flavours quite aggressive, but also showing an uncommon depth and power.

In the wash it's a polarising wine perhaps, with nothing elegant or approachable to be seen, yet still chocked with well enough stuffing to live and live and get better and better. Hold for as long as you can. 17.3/90++

Blue Pyrenees Merlot 2008

Blue Pyrenees Merlot 2008 (Pyrenees, Vic)
$18, Screwcap, 14%
Source: Sample

2008 was a tough vintage in the Pyrenees. Hot, drought year tough, with the heatwave that caused such havoc throughout the Barossa/Mclaren Vale etc having an impact in Western Vic too.

No surprises then that this looks and tastes like a warm year wine. A warm year wine, where the grapes essentially roasted on the vines, the sugars escalating without the structure to back it up.

It's a tough gig growing grapes.

Anyway, this smells like hard grapegrowing. The fruit is all stewed, forward and caramelised, with cooked plums and figs, musky red fruit and pepper, all tinged with some brackish, underripe green notes.

It doesn't get much better on the palate either which is a dried tannic hulk, heavy with bitter tannins and no grape sweetness to speak of. The astringency lingers too, bitten by some alcohol warmth to boot

A sadly unfun drink. 13.5/78

Christmas drinks #2: Albert Mann, Antica Enotria & Troplong Mondot

Christmas drinks #2: Albert Mann, Antica Enotria and Troplong Mondot

Christmas is the best. Or at least I think it is. It's all about test Cricket, long days, sunshine, ham, presents, hard work and even harder play. For me, Christmas feels like the absolute pinnacle of the year, when everything is just that little bit better, with everything - including the quality of the booze - turned up a few notches.

These three, fittingly, all hit the festive high notes. Christmas worthy booze all round.

Albert Mann Schlossberg Riesling 2007 (Alsace, France) 13.5% ($65)

For mine, Albert Mann makes some of the most consistent wines in Alsace, producing classic styles with simple, wonderful balance. I'm a fan, and this is the sort of wine that I really love drinking.

From the first whiff, this is just so obviously a goodl Alsatian Riesling. Honey, slate, tangerine and just a whiff of cream. It smells quite rich but not fat, without the severity of many brethren from the German side of the river, if equally not quite as linear.

What is most interesting (or I though it was interesting) perhaps is that whilst it tastes off dry, I don't think it actually is. It carries that perfect tension of acid and sweetness through the back end that I'd usually associate with something with some more residual sugar. But there's also a firmness to the finish that is much more drive and nerve. Regardless, the overall effect is of richness, weight and acidity, everything sitting rather perfectly indeed.

Ultimately it's this freshness and balance that makes for a simply beautiful and ageworthy (especially under screwcap) drink. Delicious stuff. (Relatively) cheap too. 18.6/94

Antica Enotria Aglianico 2006 (Puglia, Italy) 13%($35)

And now for something completely different. Admittedly this isn't a superstar of the Aglianico world, what it does have is plenty of flavour. It kicks off with a nose that of fruit cake. Of Christmas fruit cake, cut with sweet cocoa powder oak and dusty overtones. It smells ripe, porty but not stewed, a product of a warm climate but not overripe grapes. Important distinction that.

The palate too is quite chunky, fleshy and weighty, with some somewhat heavy handed coffee oak and some caramelised, oxidative edges. It's a mouthful alright, with a ripe and warm style that is hearty and satisfying.

All that is lacking is a little polish. 17.3/91

Chateau Troplong Mondot 1989 (St Emilion, France) (circa $350) 

Snaffled from a very serious cellar, this has been stored in near perfect conditions since release. It looks it too, with a very solid colour for its age.

Speaking of age, it's the nose where the 21 years are evident, with cedar, pine resin, dusty red fruit and rose water, all set in a quite developed, spice and undergrowth style. It's a feminine nose ultimately, with an unforced ripeness and still recognisable fruit purity that is rather appealing.

With more time in the glass some odd, truffle and undergrowth secondary characters do waft out,
serving to intrigue and distract all at once.

It's fully resolved, elegant and silken on the palate too, with that mid weight, power-without-heaviness that old Bordeaux does so well. Tannins are drying out a fraction, but it's entirely welcome to see them still evident on the palate. If anything this has a bit of a donut going on, with something of a dip in the mid palate. Regardles,, the form is pure, ripe and rather lovely. Unforced lovely. Drinkable lovely.

It's ultimately just a good bottle perhaps, but based on this bottle you'd say that it's got plenty of years of elegant and feminine drinking in it yet. 17.9/93

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Bonneau du Martray 06, Primo Moda 01

Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne 2006 (Burgundy, France)
$270 (retail 750ml), Cork, 13.5%

Bonneau - when you get a good bottle, it really is one of the finest white wines in the world.

And this was a very good bottle indeed (in magnum, as modeled the lovely Reese).

Some of the 2006 white Burgundies can be a little forward and ripe, and this is certainly set reasonably chunky and full (for Bonneau that is). Backing that up though is chalky, firm, classic acidity, with noble, 'this is how Chardonnay should taste' length.

On the subject of length, this is one of those wines were you finish a mouthful and remark - often to no one in particular - 'wow, this is really good stuff'. Which is lucky as this is hardly a cheap bottle of wine...

It all kicks off with quite a whack of toasty, smoky vanillan oak actually, much like the 07 does, though the extra fruit roundness makes for a more convincing experience with this 06. Behind the oak it's actually reasonably neutral, chalky and dry, the fruit wavering between white peach and grapefruit, all backed and driven by that excellent acidity.

It's ultimately a lovely wine of real drive and concentration. A proper first class experience. 18.8/95

Primo Estate Moda Cabernet Merlot 2001 (Adelaide Plains, SA)
$50 (750ml), Cork, 14.5%?

Following the Bonneau was another magnum of love, this time a rather classical Aussie red nearing it's first decade of life (modeled again here by Reese who busted out a bigger smile after some cajoling).

Again this was a good bottle, but after the Bonneau it just looked hard, ripe and overly warm. It comes from a rather middling vintage though and this was still sourced from the old Virginia plantings that Primo began with (which probably didn't help).

From the outset it's very much a South Australian wine this, with a nose that shows stewed plums, fig and dark berry fruit moving in a cedary direction thanks to the bottle age.

The challenge with this one though was the palate which was too rough, gritty and blocky, the fruit big, rich and carrying that caramelised Amarone edge without the sweetness to match. The tannins too are firm and jagged, the whole package lacking polish and cohesion.

Whilst I didn't strictly enjoy this, I don't actually think it's a bad wine. Rather, it shows lots of rich fruit and intensity, with the main distraction simply that it's just a bit roughly hewn and heavy for (my) real drinking enjoyment (though I'm not a massive Amarone fan in that vein either).

Fair to good. 16.8/89

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Astrolabe Discovery Grovetown Riesling 2008

Astrolabe Discovery Grovetown Riesling 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)
$23.95, Screwcap, 12.5%
Source: Sample

Whilst I love Riesling, I'm not totally convinced by Marlborough Riesling. It can be drinkable enough, sure, but it never quite tastes unique enough to justify excitement. This is definitely a smarter example though, with no shortage of intensity.

That intensity is obvious from the first whiff, with a nose that is heavy with kerosene development and some quite dense orange rind fruit. It's volatile, quite heady and surprisingly chunky, all things considered, though maybe a little too much for real satisfaction.

The palate too is powerful, with more orange fruit, lemon meringue richness, firm acidity and some really serious length. All in all it packs quite a mouthful of flavour, though I couldn't help but want for some more refinement (and a smidgen less sugar).

Still plenty to like here. 16.5/88

Singlefile Estate Riesling 2010

Singlefile Estate Riesling 2010 (Porongorup, WA)
$23.95, Screwcap, 11%
Source: Sample

After last nights wobbly Shirognier, stepping back into a crisp Riesling such as this feels like a vinous reset button. I'm 99 points on the palate reset.

Anyway, this comes from Singlefile Estate, whom are chiefly based in Denmark (the Western Australian town, not the home of Aqua) though this particular wine comes from the beautiful Porongorups (home of Riesling super-hero Castle Rock).

It carries a flick of sweetness this does, which shows up as a whiff of passionfruit on the nose and some chubby orange fruit on the palate. The rather broad nature of the palate is ultimately unsatisfying, the residual sugar sitting grainy and bluntly on the finish. Still, after the ordinary red of last night this was at least mildly refreshing. I couldn't finish a glass though. 16/87

Fire Gully Shiraz Viognier 2008

Fire Gully Shiraz Viognier 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
$25, Screwcap, 14.5%
Source: Sample

Fire Gully is the second label of Pierro, the acclaimed Margaret River producer with one of the smartest Chardonnays in the land (and a very good white blend too). I can't quite understand the intent with this wine though, which looks plainly unbalanced and awkward.

The problem here is twofold. Firstly, the Viognier component is far too dominant. At 9.7% of the blend it's hardly surprising that the Viognier pokes out, but the glossy, confected edge that it gives to the nose and palate is just unsettling. It looks unnatural.

The second issue is the bitter, astringent tannins. Hard tannins that smack of mixed ripeness and tough ripening conditions. Tannins that remind us that Margaret River is Cabernet country (and Merlot too, though few give it the attention it requires).

Bringing these two together and this drinks like a train wreck. Sweetly plump and overtly juicy on the nose, then drying and bitter on the finish. If anything, the genorosity of the Viognier actually helps the drinkability, even though it's a cheap and slutty alternative to proper fruit ripeness.

Given how very fine the top Pierro's are (the 06 Chardonnay is glorious) I'm really not concerned about the quality potential. But a Margaret River Shiraz Viognier built like this is puzzling to say the least. 14/81

Friday, 10 December 2010

Grumpy wine reviews: Rise. Golding, Riorret, Moppity

Rise Vineyards Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Coonawarra, SA)
$22, Screwcap, 14%
Source: Sample

After some initial indecision (noted here) I have finally decided that the 2008 vintage was a pretty average one in Coonawarra. That's a terribly broad, sweeping generalisation I know, but I just don't really care (ie I've made my mind up). There are of course exceptions, but not enough to warrant a change in heart. This was confirmed tonight by not only this wine, but two further less than stunning wines in the 08 Katnook Cabernet (short, a little dull, lacking delineation 16/87) and the 08 Rymill Cabernet (thin, green edges, mixed ripeness and a lack of real tannins 15.3/86).

This wine though was actually the pick of the three - a little volatile on the nose, if cast firm and just a bit burnt, with scorched blackcurrant, warm year Coonawarra fruit characters. It's a nose that's a bit volatile and flat but still with some fruit weight. The palate then has subdued, lightly cooked cassis fruit and a big moccha oak mid palate before finishing with grippy tannins. There is a hardness though to said tannins, an almost metallic astringency and finishing with sappy acid. It tastes like some hard work has been done in the winery, but it's not going to cover the freshness-lacking fruit. 16.3/87

Golding Wines Block 2 Chardonnay 2008 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
$25, Screwcap, 12.7%
Source: Sampl-

I hate to be negative, but I've got to say that this is a disappointment.

Why? Well, because this really does smell lovely, with a rice pudding and peach wildness and sweet vanillan oak nose that is really very attractive. But it just doesn't deliver on the palate. Actually, the palate starts quite nicely, until the gritty resinous oak comes, delivering in a form that some may call spicy but I'm just calling intrusive. Through the finish it's oak tannins too, with an oxidative sweatiness that doesn't help with the freshness either, even given the natural acidity.

Just not quite there really. 16.3/87

Riorret Merricks Grove Pinot Noir 2009 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)

The latest instalment for this Steve Webber project and again it's a very smart, affable and pure wine. After the other wines above in fact this was something of a breath of fresh air, built in a style that is almost natural wine like in it's purity of fruit (and that's the intent apparently). The key here is just the rounded mid palate of juicy red Mornington Peninsula Pinot goodness, with the only real criticism being a bit too much sweetness and a slightly diffuse finish. Regardless, I really rather enjoyed drinking this and can fully understand (and appreciate) the style.

Good one. 17.8/92

Moppity Shiraz 2009 (Hilltops, NSW)

I have to admit that the (typically) super ripe style that Moppity is known for doesn't sit perfectly well with me, so I wasn't really expecting to like this. And I didn't. Actually, I thought it tasted like 'prune juice' (thanks GW) with a fruit profile that is confected and unnatural (with a splash of Viognier perhaps), and topped off with heat and sharp added acid. It's a style that will impress show judges (note the medals) but doesn't actually drink all that well.

No. 15/85

Monday, 6 December 2010

Capital Wines 'The Whip' Riesling 2010

Capital Wines 'The Whip' Riesling 2010 (Canberra district)
11.2%, Screwcap, $18
Drink: Now - 2013+
Source: Sample

Ohh Riesling. The moment I unscrewed this wee baby I felt more comfortable, like an old friend had turned up at the pub. Riesling does that you see, it just smells right. Vinous right, with a purity of absolute grapiness that you can't deny, a purity of expression that reminds you exactly why Riesling is the king of all grapes (or at least I think so).

This, suitably, has plenty of said grapiness. On the nose it sings with the lifted floral muskiness that Canberra Riesling always shows, a lightly candied aroma of sweet green grapes and a hint of brine. Very nice. The palate follows with a dominant sour acid combination, ala sour lime Warheads (90's memories), some chalky phenolics and more sherbety lime sweetness (just a hint of residual sugar in there?). Whilst it's not strictly a particularly intense wine, the balance is spot on, as is the drinkability, which was proved by the fact that I had woofed down two glasses of this before you could say 'lolly gobble bliss bomb' (love the 90s).

Nice wine, nice price, nice work. Riesling, you've done it again. 17.8/92

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Capital Wines The Abstainer Rosé

Capital Wines 'The Abstainer' Rosé (Canberra district)
12.5%, Screwcap, $18
Source: Sample

Apparently it's not cool for rosé to be bright red/pink anymore, with the (well intentioned) Rosé Revolution imploring people to drink the pale stuff over these more colourful examples. Personally, I don't think that colour is all that relevant (and certainly not linked to quality), but I can understand the backlash against the sort of confected styles that are the norm.

This Cabernet Franc (and Merlot) based rosé from Capital Wines fits into the brightly coloured end of the pink wine spectrum, though happily steers well clear of confected, residual sugar backed flavours. In fact, it starts with a nose that is actually a little sappy, with some varietal Cabernet Franc and a distinct lack of sweetness kicking it all off. The palate too is quite carefully balanced, with a push of rose water and musk stick flavoured fruit carried along by some phenolic dryness through the back end (which helps keep it dry, if just a tad too firm).

The net result then is a well made, dry and faintly herbal style of rosé that belies it's pinkness to look reasonably grown up (if still playful). It's a little too firm through the back end for mine, but no questioning the clever winemaking and appeal. Good. 16.7/89

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Wellington Diaries: Day 1 - Wellingtonian life

The Wellington Diaries: Day 1 - Wellingtonian life

Yes that is a table and chairs on the verandah there...

I recently had the pleasure of an entertaining (or I was entertained at least) long weekend in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and the fourth best city in the world.

Now, what brought me to Wellington was not actually the city itself (no, what brought me there was actually an Air New Zealand Airbus. Thankyou, Air New Zealand, and thankyou also for putting Goodfellas on the inflight entertainment schedule. One of my favourite gangster movies.). What I was really doing in Wellington though was passing through, en route to the Pinot and promise that is/was Toast Martinborough.

In hindsight (however), by just viewing Wellington as a place to 'pass through', I realise I was ultimately just copying what many other Australian visitors do - view Wellington as a stepping off point to other places in NZ.

This trip though was different. The aim here was to attempt to understand why Wellington is a prime holiday destination for kiwis (and other tourists), yet it is still under-appreciated - passed over even - by Australians.

In other words, what are we missing out on?

The answer to that is easy. Good coffee shops. And restaurants. And bars. And vintage clothing shops. And Ukeleles. get the drift.

What Wellington lacks, perhaps, is a big ticket drawcard. A real reason to go. An obvious USP - to use marketing parlance - that they can shout from the rooftops. But it doesn't. Instead, Wellington is just a great place to live. Which is obviously hard to pitch to visitors....

One thing that isn't hard to understand is damn good eateries. Which brings me to where I ate on day 1 of my Wellington trip - Logan Brown:

Logan Brown. Even cooler on the inside...

As you can see in the photo above, the actual building that houses Logan Brown is cool. Old cool. Old bank cool, to be precise, with the building itself a 1920's bank chamber that has been taken over by messrs Logan and Brown. The food (and the wine list) are considered to be one of NZ's finest (Cuisine's finest in 2009) as you can see here. To put into Australian terms, it's probably the equivalent of a two hatted restaurant quality (with pricing ambitions to match).

What is more welcome about this place though is that whilst the A La Carte menu is fully priced, they offer a 'bistro menu' for anyone who can squeeze in before 730pm and can cope with some fixed choices. That is definitely me, and the asking price of $49.95 for 3 courses makes this one particularly welcome option indeed, allowing a taste of the experience for less. Big win there.

Intuitive restaurateurs are a common theme in Wellington, with the bars and coffee shops also carrying a charm and a swagger that belies what is a city of just 200,000 people. In truth, I'm still trying to nail down exactly why that is, exactly why the place is so cool.

One reason, perhaps, is that the city format is generally quite compact, with the CBD a reasonably dense one given the size of the place, making getting around the good bits quite easy. Given too that Wellington is the capital, the confluence of nationalities from the embassies and government businesses located within the city limits also tends to add some multicultural diversity to both the visitors and the residents, further driving the more eclectic nature of the city.

But that doesn't quite explain it. There is more to it than just night life and the (constantly) windswept harbour. However, as a few Wellingtonians said over the weekend 'well, you just have to live here...'

Wellington also has a serious Ukulele fetish.... 

The wines

Wine wasn't quite the focal point on my first night, but the Logan Brown list is a goodun' and the sommelier is switched on, taking up the challenge of matching 'local' (Martinborough, Nelson and Marlborough) wines to the food.

Daniel Le Brun Blanc de Blanc 2002 (Marlborough, NZ)
It's interesting that there exists something of a Marlborough style in sparkling whites now, with many favouring the bigger, winemaking driven style of bubbles, in what is a somewhat divergent mould to the more lean and elegant 'Tasmanian' style increasingly favoured in Australia. That's a broad generalisation of course, but I think that it carries some merit. Personally, I actually prefer the 'bigger' style of bubbles (I'm a Bollinger/Krug man) so the aforementioned form resonates with me, though if the acid is not up to scratch then I'm no fan at all...

Anyway, this is very much built in the 'Marlborough' vein (though it is a Blanc de Blanc, so more generosity is not terribly surprising) with quite bold flavours and some yeasty richness to it. In this context, with food, it worked a treat, looking every bit as rich and powerful as you (or, more specifically, I) would want, with the structure entirely up to the task. Really nice wine.

Tuatara Pilsner (Wellington, NZ)
A local craft brew and looking as fresh and crisp as you would want. I'm not a massive Pilsner fan, but this is smart stuff. Enjoyed it.

Neudorf Chardonnay 2008 (Nelson, NZ)
I'd argue that Neudorf trails only Kumeu River on the Kiwi Chardonnay scales, though that is very much a personal preference. Neudorf didn't let me down here either, with that bold, nutty and quite mouthfilling style that works all too well. Yes. Double yes. Really quite enjoyed this.

Escarpment 'Hinemoa' Late Picked Riesling 2009 (Martinborough, NZ)
I had this twice over the weekend and each time I was just left wanting a little bit more. A little more flavour, a little more intensity. It's going to built with bottle age, but it just looks a little too linear to be really impressive.

Clearview 'Sea Red' Merlot 2009 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
Whilst this worked fairly well with a rich chocolate dessert, as a wine it's just all over the place, with some raw tannins smashing into heavy residual sweetness, to make for something plainly schizophrenic. No.