A perky little number this Pinot Grigio, which is exactly what I think the variety should be about. Had me thinking of BBQ prawns actually, which can only be a good thing.
It's actually quite herbaceous on the nose, with pepper, green fruit and just a hint of melon - ultra fresh, cool ferment, spotlessly clean style, with fruit picked just as it started to get sweet. Smart work. Palate is dry and clean, neutral and lightly textural, the back end tightened up with some phenolic grip, everything finishing with entirely respectable length.
I'm not typically a Grigio fan - strictly speaking - but no questioning the appeal here. Good stuff. 17.2/91
Typically one of the best value, most consistent Coonawarra Cabernets, Zema's version is typically built dustier, more savoury and with more vibrancy than many others from the district. This 2008 is perhaps not the best example of the lineage, but it's nothing if not pleasant and friendly. I think I'm looking for more than just pleasant and friendly out of Zema Cabernets though...
What this wine does has is loads of sweet, ripe, affable red fruit, which is announced from the very first whiff. It's not a classical Coonawarra nose by any stretch, but it's certainly juicy. Palate too is loaded with musky, marshmallow edged, berry essence fruit, finishing with noticeable alcohol burn. The problem is that once you get past the sweet red stuff it doesn't taste like a Coonawarra Cabernet. Tannins are non existent, and regional and varietal characters are absent, leaving you with a drink that is just a little hollow.
Ultimately this is going to make plenty of people happy, and that's probably all that counts. But in terms of what I'm looking for in a Zema Cabernet, I couldn't help but be underwhelmed. 16.5/88
From the frost affected 2007 Coonawarra vintage. Hard vintage that.
Looks like a wine from a hard vintage too, which is announced with a forward nose of herbal, strained red fruit, still showing peppery Shiraz varietal characters, but set rather hard and warm. Palate too is firm and warm, with some quite juicy mid fruit to start, but turning soupy and firm pretty quickly, the alcohol destroying any sense of freshness through the finish.
Didn't enjoy this much at all. Stylistically it seems something of an oddity in the context of normal Zema releases too. Vintage affected for sure. 15/83
There is something wonderfully reassuring about sticking your nose in a Watervale Riesling like this. It's a comfortable smell perhaps - a familiar smell even - that is unerringly distinctive, regional and terroir driven (yes, I'm going there). It's a smell that I love.
That smell is of lime juice. Lime juice and Gardenia and expressive fruit. You can smell the sharp acidity too, expressed in a nose filling rush that is both distinctive and a little overpowering, all at once. Lime juice and acid is the what the palate is all about too, with just this beautiful line of intense, nay super intense, Clare Riesling fruit. Some clever phenolic chew through the finish just adds to the power and depth, making for a very long and sinewy palate indeed. It's perhaps a little tight and withdrawn right now, but everything looks very promising indeed for the future, not least the very good length.
Looking for the essence of serious Watervale Riesling? Look no further. Good stuff. 18/93
I quite like Magill Estate (the wine that is). It's always (or at least over the last 15 years) been something of a moderate wine for Penfolds, built in a fashion that is actually quite restrained - all things considered. I mean, it's oaky, that's a given, and it has plenty of Penfolds® brand tannin in there, but it does taste like a wine from a place, which you'd be hard pressed to say that about anything else in the Penfolds range (unless that place is 'South Australia').
I doubly thought I'd like this wine too, simply because it's a 2004 Penfolds 'Icon & Luxury Range' Shiraz, which means that it carries plenty of DNA from the positively sublime 2004 Penfolds Grange and 2004 St Henri, both of which I liked muchly.
Two big ticks then. And two big ticks turns into high fives with the wine itself. It's a cracker. A humdinger. The shizzle. Whatever you call it, it's real South Australian Shiraz, built proper like, but also built with care, set in a style that is really quite 'medium' (and all the better for it) though unmistakeably Penfoldian in it's styling.
That stylin' is obvious just by holding your glass up to the light. It looks Penfoldian. It looks like Shiraz with a capital S. Smells it too, with a nose that's seen the inside of an American oak barrel and come out with the coconut sweetness to prove it. But it doesn't smell oaky either. Just, well, Penfoldian. Regally, proudly Penfoldian. Draped in the Penfolds flag perhaps (excuse the Australia day hangover). What it does smell like is rich and plummy Shiraz, in the most classic Australian sense.
Beyond the nose, beyond the 'statement' nose and it's actually a bit wound up in that oak, the oak particulary noticeable after a quick foray back into the Vat 1. Still it looks quite balanced. Balanced in an Australian Shiraz sense, with a plushness of texture, a very dry palate, firmish tannins and a twang of acidity to finish, all of which adds up to an Aussie red wine drinkers wet dream.
Is is my wet dream? No, but certainly a benchmark wine which other Shiraz is measured by. A benchmark wine that is satisfyingly modest (all things considered) savoury and regional enough in many ways, whilst at the same time being unmistakeably brash and overt on occasion. A benchmark wine that I was sad to see empty. 18.5/94
I've always found the 04 Hunter Sems to be an odd bunch, much like the 08's actually, with wines thatvary from pure glory (like the 2004 Meerea Parks, highlights of a past Sydney wine show tasting) to plain odd. This sits somewhere in the middle, though it's also far too young for real drinking pleasure. Or at least I think so.
Green straw yellow in colour (like all of em' really), this has some goats cheesiness on the nose that suggests cool year in the Hunter. Cool year or rain. Though probably rain (I think harvest time rain from memory). Whatever, it's a cheesy aroma that I always pick up in cool/rainy years, and I can smell it here. It's not a turn off per se, it's just distinctive, and at least it's communicative (vintage variation can be fun after all).
Underneath the hint of cheese however, and extending through the palate, is actually a much more typical Semillon beast, full of lemon, green apple and obligatory toast, the toast giving generosity to what is a rather tart and quite lean mouthful of juice. It's a palate of jaunty angles and tart edges, with bottle age the real saving grace for the drinkability.
An edgy teenager of a wine, this just needs a few years in a dodgy London bar pulling pints for £3 an hour and getting smashed every night (to soften out) and it should be fine.
Movements from Wine Australia + some fine wines to match
This week marked our first big WCA committee meeting for 2011 (WCA - Wine Communicators of Australia, the national committee of which I'm a part of) and in amongst the usual discussions came an interesting presentation by a representative of Australia's peak wine body, Wine Australia.
What made it interesting was just to hear about the changing focus of Wine Australia's marketing activities, particularly on the domestic front. Previously, the perception has always been that Wine Australia's focus has been on export markets, with the dollars spent on international marketing, promotion and information, often with minimal regard for what happens within Australia itself. Flash forward to 2011 however and domestic marketing seems important again, with the appointment of a newly created Domestic Marketing Manager position, backed by a board whom see Australian wine sales as of increased relevance.
Once official duties were largely sorted, the wines thankfully came out, and the WCA cellar has some very handy wines in it indeed (most of which have been winners at previous Sydney Wine Shows).
Annie's Lane Coppertrail Riesling 2004 (Clare Valley, SA) 11%
Couldn't be any more Clare Valley-esque if it tried. More in the Watervale mould that is, all toasty richness and a plump middle, in an upfront and open style. There is quite a deal of toast through the finish too, which not everyone is going to like, but the length is top shelf. It's not going to get any better, but I rather liked this. 18/93
Tahbilk '1927 Vines' Marsanne 2003 (Goulburn Valley, Vic) 10.5%
If the Coppertrail is the affable and upfront blonde, then this is the slightly more austere - but ultimately sexier - brunette. Lemon, lemon juice, even a hint of crab (yep, crab). Wonderful line and length, briny acidity and real intensity. Heavy, lightly creamy finish. Put me in the mind of a Tyrrells Stevens Sem actually (good thing) but more lemony, and with similar ageless qualities. Lovely drink (I drained more than one glass very easily). 18.5/94
Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA) 13%
A fraction too ripe? Which sounds shallow considering this is just 13% alcohol, but it just looks a little heady. Creamy, toasty, leesy nose in a rich vanillan style, followed up by a palate that is loaded with flavour (and plenty of spicy oak). I'm seeing good things in this wines future, it just needs some time to settle down. 17.5/91+
Shaw + Smith Chardonnay 2008 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 13.5%
Rough vintage in the Hills. Shocker even. But if ever there was a wine that could defy the vintage it's this one. It starts off with a figgy nose, in that nicely layered, essence-of-modern-Chardy style. Ripe, though well contained. Quite restrained on the palate too, all things considered, with enough white peach fruit to carry it off. Palate is ultimately big boned and just a bit broad, but no questioning the class. Defies the vintage. 17.4/91
Home Hill Pinot Noir 2005 (Tasmania) 14%
Bedecked with bling. Bedazzled even. Suffice to say it's won a medal or three. I can see why too. It's just a big, no-guts-no-glory Pinot, which is a little surprising for Tassie. If anything I think it's a bit stewed, with a caramel, treacly, stressed fruit edge (though it still smells proper Pinot-ish) Ultimately a little over the top and show wine-esque to be really drinkable (but others quite enjoyed it). 16.5/88
Two more rosés : Molly Morgan '10 and Robert Stein '10
It's been another steamy day here in Sydney today, in the classic Sydney summer sort of fashion - rain, then sunshine (and maybe rain again?) with no shortage of humidity along the way. Given this sort of weather, a cheeky rosé seems just the ticket, and why stop at just one? It's a quite different pair of wines too, which works out quite nicely indeed.
Molly Morgan Rosé 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW) $20, Screwcap, 12.5% Source: Sample www.mollymorgan.com
I'm guessing that this is Shiraz based, but with little information on the label it's something of an educated guess...
It certainly looks like Shiraz rosé in the glass, with a deep, Cottee's red cordial colour that is rather bright and quite dense. On the nose it's all raspberry fruit, a whip of volatility, and some candied sweetness. It tastes much the same really, with sweet, peppery raspberry fruit, restrained sweetness and a warming finish.
It's all quite demure actually, built ripe, yet all together not as chunky as the colour might suggest, making for a pleasant wine that just needs a little more personality for top marks. Pleasant is a good word for it actually. 16.5/88
Early picked Cabernet is the choice for this particular pink, a combination (early picked and Cabernet) which doesn't typically make for the finest wines...
And it looks awkward here. All over the place even, with a pale sort of orange red colour in an almost archetypal 'pale and textural' fashion. It doesn't follow the archetype though, with a nose of red cherry, Azuki icecream (which is on my mind after having some recently) and some green vege unripe Cabernet fruit. Erk. The palate is super sweet, too sweet really, with the sweetness clearly competing (and winning) in an all-in brawl with the unripe, hard and herbal Cabernet.
The result? Definitely not for me. This is the only low point in the Robert Stein range that I've encountered. 14.5/82
Highlights from the launch of the Summer of Riesling
Tuesday (11/01/11) marked the launch of the 2011 Australian Summer of Riesling, a celebration of all things Riesling that has made it's way to Australia for the first time in 2011, having been first established by the Riesling fanatics at New York wine bar Terroir & Hearth a little while back and now coming here thanks to the work of wine distributor Jason Hoy and restaurateur Stu Knox of Fix St James.
The premise behind the concept is simple - an excuse to coax as many establishments as humanly possible to give their wine lists (and wine range) over to all things Riesling, which thus should get more people drinking wines produced from the worlds greatest white grape.
Given that I am a devout worshipper of this king of grapes (seriously, Riesling is amazing), there was no way I was going to miss out on an excuse to try shedloads of fine examples at the Summer of Riesling launch party held here in Sydney at Fix St James (whom have devoted all their by the glass white wine list to Riesling), joining a lively crowd of similar followers in a boozy celebration of Riesling goodness.
As you can imagine the night was a large one, with 32 wines poured for dinner alone (with half as many again also open at the tasting beforehand) so my notes are, erm, shady to say the best. But there was some absolute standouts that are worth a mention.
KT Melva Riesling 2010 (Clare, SA)
From the hand of winemaking talent Kerri Thompson this was an absolute standout in a bracket featuring the Petaluma, Monsters Attack and Vinteloper 2010 Clare Rieslings. The secret (well, not that secret actually) is just the limey, intense, perfectly poised Clare Valley purity, the acidity looked particularly natural, the flavours looking absolutely spot on. What sets this one apart though is that it is Clare Rizza on steroids, the wine fermented with wild yeasts, given some skin contact and extra residual sugar, the balance an entirely welcome surprise and the extra phenolic grip entirely appropriate. The only better Clare Riesling I have had out of 2010 is the Grosset Polish Hill...18.5/94
Did I mention that it was a large night?
Even my photos are blurry:
This is Jason Hoy talking Riesling
Bests Home Block Riesling 2010 (Great Western, Vic)
I've had this a few times now, although this is the first time I've seen it as a finished labelled product. In a lineup that included 2 Mt Langi Rieslings and the super tight new De Bortoli Reserve Riesling (which is just too tight to be enjoyable right now) and another Bests, this looked the most balanced of the lot. Interestingly it was probably the sweetest wine of the bracket too, carrying more residual than most (and carrying it very well indeed), with an excellent interplay between citrussy fruit and blinding limey acidity, rounded off with the fruit and sugar sweetness. It's still settling into it's skin, but this is a very impressive Riesling indeed. 17.8/92
Van Voxelm ‘Schiefer’ Riesling 2007 (Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany)
This was slipped into a lineup of similar styled Austrian/French/German Riesling and was one of my more favoured wines of the bracket. It carries some creamy leesy funk overtones, underpinned by slatey (schiefer translates as slate after all) acidity, the whole package looking particularly complex and interesting for something that sells for circa $30. Nice wine. 17.5/91
Dönnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2008 (Nahe, Germany)
I love Dönnhoff. Well, I love his wines at least, and this is nothing if not a perfect place to start (actually the perfect place to start is the 07 which I drank over Christmas). From first whiff this is obviously a leaner, firmer wine than the 07, the cooler season giving an extra edge of minerally, sparkling acidity that may well not be to everyone's tastes, but for me it just tastes like glory. It doesn't stick out though, further reinforcing how carefully balanced this is. Jancis describes this as 'racy' and I think she is spot on with this. Like it very much. 18.5/94
I blame Little Creatures. And James Squire. Oh and Matilda Bay for that matter. All of these 'super boutique' breweries have enjoyed unparalleled success over the last decade, their success driven by the desires of a population tired of the shitty muck that gets passed off as Australian lager, with all of these operations now spawning a generation of wannabes.
The problem is that these copycats (think this brewery - Gage Roads - and Bluetongue for prime examples) are still hollow imitators, the quality and intentions of the brews just failing to quite match the standards set by the trailblazers, even if they offer a significant step up on the swill that is mainstream 'premium' beers (Crown Lager anyone?).
Which brings us quite neatly to this beer. From all appearances it looks like it should be a goodun', with the packaging, colour and even lively alcohol level (5.4%) suggesting that this is more than a token attempt at a proper IPA. But from first whiff it all just falls short, the nose heavy with caramel malt, the palate following with a rich and dull glob of malt, the whole package just a little too broad and lacking in freshness for real satisfaction.
Historically - and it almost defies belief considering the context - I'd argue that some of Saltram's (whom produce Pepperjack) finest wines have been Cabernet based. Now I'm not talking about the No.1 or the Eighth Maker here, but rather good old Mamre Brook, which has long been the star in the range. The Mamre Brook Cabernets of the late 90's and early noughties (and even now) were smart wines, at smart prices, even if they can be a little heavy on the oak. Wines worth buying.
Fitting then that this is actually a better wine than the Shiraz. It's hardly a refined style, and not a patch on the Mamre Cabernets of yore, but considering the prices this can be had for, it's certainly packed with flavour.
It smells very much of the warm vintage does this Cabernet, with volatility and concentrated berry fruit on the nose. Considering the stated alcohol level and the ripeness evident on that nose, I'm guessing that this has had a fair bit of the black hose treatment along the line. The palate too is big and firm, with faintly stewed blackberry fruit aplenty, topped off with drying oak and fruit tannins through the back end.
Roughly hewn, full bodied, hearty red wine with loads of intensity, this is nothing if not commercially appealing (and it should get better with age). 16.7/88
About 18 months ago I attended what was at the time the biggest tasting of Savagnin ever, with a dozen different wines assembled and presented by several of their makers in what was a round table discussion about the variety and it's future. I went in with an open mind, even though I've never been convinced that Albariño is anything but Spain's version of Pinot Grigio, and came away plainly disappointed. Disappointed that no one seemed to know what good Albariño/Savignin should taste like and dismayed by how bland and lacking in texture these wines were.
Fast forward to 2011 and I'm again approaching this version of the style with an open mind, again hoping to see something that might take cues from good Albariño (such as the Valminor Albariño). But, again, the resultant wine lacks texture and flavour, even though it is meant to be a top example of the style. Chalk it up as another (grey) mark against the cause.
So what's the wine like then?
It has an unusual nose for a start, with peppered grapefruit, celery, vegetable oil and strongly lifted acidity dominating proceedings. The palate too seems to bear little resemblance to the Galician forms that it is supposed to be emulating, with a Riesling like profile that is dominated by sparkling citrus acidity and finished with some phenolic hardness. As a dry white wine it's still clean, well made and bright, but as a drink it's lean, hard and lacking in enough generosity to have you reaching for a second glass.
In the end it's not terrible, and thus doesn't deserve a shellacking points-wise, but it's also the sort of wine that has you questioning exactly why it doesn't sound like the back label describes it as. Call me a grump, a one-eyed, Riesling loving grump, but I just can't see the intention of a wine like this... 15.6/86
A poster boy for the rosé revolution if ever there was one. This vintage sees it in blinding form too.Yum yum.
Classic Provence Rosé. If anything this vintage seems even brighter and even more crisp than usual, the acid really driving the palate forward, matched to some lovely strawberry fruit (in a quite subtle, almost Pinot rosé fashion) to make for something rather simple and delicious.
Plain delicious booze, I could literally drink litres of this. Yes. 17.5/91
Another great wine from this next-gen (of sorts) producer. Mudgee vino at it's best.
What I like about this Cabernet, and it's definitely not for everyone, is just how quintessentially Mudgee it is. It's first and foremost Mudgee wine, with Cabernet a close second, all expressed in a fashion that is deep set and wonderfully savoury, with a distinct lack of flashy fruit sweetness that I think makes it even more palatable.
That character is obvious from first whiff too, the nose showing old school red Mudgee dirt, iron and dusty Cabernet characters cut with a little herbaceous leafiness and a hint of blackberry.
The palate follows with a really hearty, dry and long, chocolate and leather, tannins a go go style. It actually had me thinking of the more modern Wendouree Cabs actually, but with red dirt instead of Clare mint, the emphasis heavily favouring savoury length and tannins than fruit (though not quite as hardcore as Wendouree). A real meat and potatoes wine.
I'm feeling capricious tonight, hence the provocative title, but I really couldn't help myself with this little rosé comparo (too many pink references I think :)). Regardless, these three were nothing if not entertaining, particularly the rather serious and quite fine Mitchell Harris.
A blend of early picked Macedon Pinot Noir sparkling base (keep an eye out for some of John's new sparkling whilst we are on that subject, which should be a goodun') and some Pyrenees Sangiovese bleed, this was wild yeast fermented in old Hungarian oak and then kept on lees for a further 6 months. Serious rosé this, built with the clear desire to make a more structured and fine style of pink wine, which it does very nicely indeed.
In fact, if there was a poster child for the new style of 'pale, textural and interesting' rosé that is currently being spruiked around the nation then this would be it. It smells of vanilla and musk, bright strawberry fruit and raspberries, all served with with a slice of citrus on the side and all looking very serious and entirely appealing. The palate too is worthy, with a firm line of intense acid holding all the wobbly fruit bits in. If anything it's almost too dry, with brisk citrussy acidity the feature point of the whole palate. Still, some grainy old oak undertones help flesh everything out, and it finishes with a lovely strawberry/citrus tang that had me hooked.
Very smart wine this, made with intent and skill. Good stuff. Extra point too for the commitment to the (rosé) cause. 17.6/92
A more conventional Australian rosé this one, built with Grenache, Mourvedre and a little Shiraz. No doubting the crowd appeal though, for you just know it will win friends at a summer BBQ, even if it looked a little chubby and developed next to the Mitchell Harris.
The appeal here really is the Grenache, particularly given that it comes from a very strong Grenache year (2009). What this most unappreciated grape contributes in the Salsa is a red fruit vibrance, a jubey, raspberry lolly sweetness that is all so very affable. That exuberance is dulled a little in this wine due to the fattening caramel edge of bottle age, though the quality of the fruit is certainly assured.
In the end this is an entirely pleasant and well made style of rosé that would have looked even better 6 months ago. Good. 16.7/89
Le Chat Noir Rosé 2009 (France) 12.5%, Screwcap, $15.95 Source: Sample www.fourthwavewine.com.au Sourced from Southern France (The Gard, which sits in between Provence, the Rhone and the Languedoc) this is 100% Cinsault and certainly looks quite different to the other two pinkies in this lineup. Sugar is more noticeable for a starter, with a palate that is much more diffuse too.
In fact from first whiff it smells very different, with a smoky tea and red bean nose that is unquestionably savoury but also a little odd. Palate wise it's quite sweet and unsettled, the palate broad and rounded, but with a back end that is a little muddled. It's certainly not an unpleasant wine, with plenty of fruit to go around, but it just seems to lack the requisite composure in this lineup. Fair. 15.7/86
New Years Drinks: Moët 2002, Charles Melton Rose of Virgina 2010
One lonely rosé
I feels almost dirty choosing to drink Moët on NYE, as I really should be picking something slightly more charismatic really. A stack of Coles Vouchers led me to the local Vintage Cellars however, at which Grower Champagnes are rather thin on the ground. Still, this Moët was a happy surprise (and I like surprises) unlike the Melton....
Moët Vintage 2002 (Champagne, France) 12%
Proper Champagne this. Proper from the word go too, with a fine bead and entirely correct, bright straw colour to kick things off. The nose too is better than perfunctory, with a creamy overlay that suggests some judicious lees work, leading on to a dry, briny palate that is clean, correct and absolutely refreshing. It's a palate that ticks all the boxes actually, with vintage Champagne length and a purity of line that keeps you coming back for a second glass (even on NYE, when a second glass is never enough). Correct, efficient and absolutely classy Champagne that will look even better with a few years bottle age. Yes. 18.4/94
Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2010 (Barossa, SA) 13%
This is typically my favourite Australian rosé, or at least it was up until recently, built in a style that is hardly going to fit into the pale, dry and textural Rosé Revolution mould, but is normally a carefully made, joyful bowl of fresh Barossan red fruit.
I can't say I'm taken with this 2010 version however, having liked it, but not loved it back in June and now following it up with a second bottle that looked frankly disappointing. The problem with this bottle is that it looked so one dimensional that you just couldn't love it. That dimension is normally what is the strength of this wine - namely a freshness of delicious ripe red fruit. But this looked like the freshness boat had sailed, with the caramel hints of early bottle age dulling the crispness, not helped by a lack of natural acidity and only a wack of un-natural stuff on the finish. It looked sweet too, candied, fairy floss residual sugar sweet, which really surprises me as I always thought that 'Charlie' deliberately built this drier to avoid such characters (which just don't seem to work in this wine).
In the end I (sadly) couldn't finish a glass and had to resort to a cleansing White Rabbit too settle my nerves. A bad bottle? Perhaps, and maybe heat affected if anything, but that still didn't quite ring true on the palate. Hmmm. 16.3/87
2009/10 WCA Wine Journalism 'Young Gun; Wine Judge; National Liquor News tasting panellist; LattéLife Wine Columnist; The Retiree wine expert; Gourmet Traveller WINE and Breathe Hunter Valley magazine contributor who fell into the liquor industry chiefly to buy cheap beer.
Nearing 15 years later and I'm still here, now finishing off a Masters of Wine Technology and Viticulture, and still spending all my money on beer and wine...
This site (Australian Wine Review or ozwinereview for short) is dedicated to talking about my obsession - everything vinous...