Monday, 28 February 2011

The Story Wines Westgate Shiraz 2009

The Story Wines Westgate Shiraz 2009 (Grampians, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample

storywines.blogspot.com

The Story Wines Westgate Shiraz Mosaic
It's the only single vineyard Shiraz in the 2009 Story wines lineup and is made in typical Story style - careful oak treatment, natural long ferments, the lot. Quality winemaking for sure.

If anything it looks a little riper this year (even though the figures don't suggest that), with a slightly drying edge to the bright fruit. Regardless there is much to like with the sort of juicy, brambly, fruit driven medium bodied style here, with the main missing element just some much needed bottle age.

It all kicks off with a ripe, musky, glace berry nose of classic plum esssence Grampians fruit. It's a little fruitcake like in it's intensity, but that's largely a product of extreme youth. Palate too is ripe and young, glossy and juicy, the sweet vanilla pod oak giving an attractive creamy edge. If anything it looks a little light through the finish, without the tannins or freshness of it's brother, the Sableux, but probably with more fruit intensity and depth in comparison.

What this wine did remind me of is of the late 90s Bests Bin 0 Shiraz, carrying that same plum essence character of those old Grampians reds, a character trait that suggests that this should age very well indeed. All it needs is time. 17.8/92+

Robert Oatley Ovens Valley Shiraz 2008

Robert Oatley Ovens Valley Shiraz 2008 (Alpine Valleys, Vic)
14.5%, Screwcap Luxe, $35
Source: Sample
www.robertoatley.com.au

Robert Oatley Ovens Valley Shiraz
Must not spill it on the keyboard
This is drawn from the renowned Mayfield vineyard at Porepunkah, Victoria (just down the road from fellow wine scribe Campbell Mattinson actually) in an area known as the Ovens Valley, though it is categorised from a wine perspective as being in the 'Alpine Valleys' region. It's an area that was the source of the original - and highly celebrated - Wynns Oven Valley reds of 20 years ago, so it carries with it a long forgotten history of seriously good Shiraz.

I've had this open for 48 hrs now, having taken a glass every night, and I'm happy to report that it delivers on the promise. It kicks off with a musky, slightly stinky, peppery cool climate nose of proper form. Lots of brambly plum fruit in there too. Richly berried, medium weight palate is full and lively, if slightly minty, with a dry and cool minty edge, finishing just a little warm and dessicated but still nice and long.

It's ultimately a well made, juicy - yet still savoury - medium weight Shiraz of some style. Good stuff indeed. 18/93

The Story Wines Sableux Shiraz 2009

The Story Wines Sableux Shiraz 2009 (Grampians, Vic)
14%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample
storywines.blogspot.com
Story Wines Sableux Shiraz + Sony Vaio

Sableux is French for 'sandy', used here as it describes the soil types found in the Garden Gully and Rice's vineyards, the two fruit sources for this Shiraz. Interestingly I tried this alongside it's brother, the Westgate vineyard Shiraz, and it wasn't until the pair had been opened for 48hrs that I decided that this was my preferred wine. I think it's an individual preference though, as both are smart drinks.

The first think to notice is the very purple colour. It's a wine that just looks juicy. No surprises then with the nose, which is loaded with concentrated boysenberry fruit and edged with creamy oak. There's a smidgen of overripeness in there, though you'd have to go looking for it.

What's interesting (too me at least) is that after the juiciness of the nose, the palate is actually quite feminine, with a chalky, raspberries and cream flavour to it that remains quite light and pretty. The finish too is a surprise, with tighter, firmer fine tannins than the more full flavoured Westgate. It's this finesse coupled with the sneaky tannins - without excess - that drags me over the line.

It needs a few years for that overt juiciness to settle down a bit, but everything is there for the long term. Nice wine indeed. 18.2/93+

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The tasting note cleanout continues: Tri Nations Wine Challenge 2010

The tasting note cleanout continues: Tri Nations Wine Challenge 2010

No vacuuming for me....

The following wines were sampled at the 2010 Tri Nations Wine Challenge, another alternate styled wine show with a slightly different slant. In this case the competition pits an invited selection of Australian wines against a similar selection from NZ and South Africa in a tri nation wine face off.

What makes this show particularly good is that the 'invited' wines are selected by highly regarded wine scribes, scribes whom are both asked to come up with a 'hit list' of wines to invite, as well as helping to judge the winners themselves. Each writers hit list typically includes wines that would not normally be seen in your average wine show either, so the calibre of entries is typically very high indeed.

All of these factors thus end up producing a wine show with a difference, and a wine show tasting that shouldn't be missed. Sadly I only had about an hour, so it was very much a flying visit, but worth it regardless.

As per usual, these wines where all tasted with the label visible and in quick-shot, wine show time. Again the tasting was a solid 7 months ago so the wines may have changed a little since.

Oh and a quick note on medals - only gold, double gold and trophies were handed out.

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2008 (Nelson, NZ)
No medal
Lively nose, carries plenty of nutty, creamy oak over a rich and full flavoured palate. Firm acidity to finish. Nutty, warm length. Just a lovely mouthful or creamy, nutty full bodied Chardonnay flavours. Lovely wine this. 18.2/93

Martinborough Vineyards Jacksons Block Riesling 2009 (Martinborough, NZ)
No medal
Overt, terpene laden nose is just a bit too overt perhaps. Palate is rich and almost fat, the finish cutting off a little early too. Plump and full flavoured but perhaps not quite balanced. An awkward stage? 16.8/89

Martinborough Vineyards Chardonnay 2008 (Martinborough, NZ)
Gold medal
Fine nose, lovely oak and fruit interplay. Palate is a bit warm and raw, but again no shortage of power. Just needs some time methinks. Potential 17.8/92+

Mahi Twin Valleys Chardonnay 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)
Gold medal
Very fine nose. Palate is also quite fine though the oak looks a little intrusive and obvious. Served a little too warm? 17.5/91

Derwent Estate Chardonnay 2008 (Tasmania)
No medal
Very fine nose. Linear, coiled and elegant palate with fine zippy acidity. Lovely intensity, this is all about power and style. Superb. 18.5/94

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2009 (Walker Bay, Sth Africa)
Gold medal
Spicy, long and crystalline style, with only the rather raw oak on the finish to distract. Good stuff, just desperately in need of time. 17.5/91+ 

Cape Chamonix Reserve Chardonnay 2008 (Franschhoek, Sth Africa)
No medal
Lean and firm grapefruit nose, with a clean, lemony and slightly banana edged palate. Lots of firm acidity and a very long finish. Very cool and powerful. Persistant plus. Excellent Chardonnay. 18.2/93

Oakridge 864 Chardonnay 2009 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
No medal
Mealy, very fine nose, with fine grained spicy oak. Very tight and driven palate has lovely long butterscotch and grilled nut palate with exceptional length. Top shelf booze. 18.6/94 (One of my 2010 wines of the year).

Mission Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, NZ)
No medal
Leafy, gumleaf and blackcurrant cool fruit nose with quite a bit of chocolatey oak. Palate is crammed with oak, extract and power, finishing bitter and a fraction hard. It lacks a little delicacy, but no questioning the intensity. Sure to win friends. 17.5/91 

Blake Family Redd Gravels 2007 (Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, NZ)
Gold medal
Massive bottle. Slightly subdued nose, with lots of oak. Palate is smashed by sweet oak too. But there is fruit underneath, and if it escapes this should be very smart. Maybe needs a good decant? 17/90

Kaapzicht Steytler Vision Cabernet Blend 2006 (Stellenbosch, Sth Africa)
Gold medal & trophy
Bottle covered in bling. Sour, leathery, bretty nose, with a horsey and rubbery palate. Unpleasant. Rather puzzled by this one. A bad bottle? Retaste required... 14.5/81 

Mudbrick Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2009 (Waiheke Island, NZ)
No medal
Tight and very youthful nose, with only alcohol esters escaping. Sweet and luxuriously oaked palate smells luscious (and still fermenting). Should be good when it settles down.. 17/90++

Caillard Mataro 2008 (Barossa, SA)
No medal

Dusty, reductive and classically varietal nose. Earthen and withdrawn palate. Just a fraction unyielding and meaty for current enjoyment, though potential aplenty. 16.8/89+

Haskell Pillars Syrah 2008 (Stellenbosch, Sth Africa)
No medal
Cranberry, musk and lots of pepper in a very cool climate style. Viognier? Cool and peppery palate. Very young but also rather fine - real quality here. 17.9/93+ (another successful release for Haskell) 

SC Pannell Shiraz Grenache 2006 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Gold medal
Lighter, lifted nose over a soft, red fruit and chocolate palate, with light Grenache fruit highlights. Entirely drinkable. 17.6/92

Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Stellenbosch, Sth Africa)
No medal
Hello varietal Cabernet! Herbaceous tobacco leaf nose with so much well defined Stellenbosch Cabernet character. Firm, linear and powerful palate with lovely tannins. Dry but not lacking in flesh. Yes. 18.5/94

Starke-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Stellenbosch, Sth Africa)
No medal
Firmly varietal but juicy. Riper than the Waterford, yet still built with similar power. Lovely rich Cabernet with a proper backbone. Like this too. 18/93

Val de Vie Shiraz 2007 (Wellington, Paarl, Sth Africa)
No medal
Red fruit, roasted meats on a rather cool climate nose. Herbal and a little green too. Palate is just a bit raw though very Rhonish and interesting. Smoky, stinky but fun. Like this. 17.5/91

Fleur Du Cap Unfiltered Cabernet 2007 (Stellenbosch, Sth Africa)
Gold medal
Lightly dusty nose. Restrained, if vaguely horsey palate is just a little underwhelming. A dud bottle? Hmm. 16/87 (This is normally a star. Very surprised that it didn't show well in this lineup).

Boekenhoutskloof Chocolate Block 2008 (Franschhoek, Sth Africa)
No medal
Sweetly lifted style with pan juices, pepper and interest. Lovely juicy palate. Nicely textured palate is typically round, savoury and delicious. Nice wine. 18/93 (always a winner this)

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Cleaning out the tasting book: 2010 Boutique Wine Awards

Cleaning out the tasting book: 2010 Boutique Wine Awards

I'm attempting a bit of spring cleaning this weekend, and I figure that the best place to begin is the small mountain of tasting notes that are piling up on my desk. The vacuuming can wait for another day....

The following wines then were sampled at a 'Top 18 tasting', featuring medal winning wines from the 2010 Boutique Wine Awards, a wine show (of sorts) focused on boutique (crushing less than 250/t per annum) Australian and NZ wineries. What this means is a wine show full of quirky, unusual and variable wines from lesser known wineries. It's like a vinous discovery mission, with the reward of unearthing some genuinely worthwhile wines as a result (Speaking of results, the full 2010 Boutique Wine Awards results are here).

But a quick caveat with these notes: The event itself was held in mid 2010, so vintages have rolled over and the wines probably look completely different now (or not). Judging by the proliferation of plus signs on my notes, this probably isn't such a bad thing though.

Oh and all the wines were tasted with the bottle in front of me and at tasting speed, so scores are occasionally rough and notes are a little staccato styled. I've included a little current commentary at the end, as I'm largely just copying things out of my trusty Marbig.

Aramis Sparkling Syrah 2005 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
Bronze medal and Top in (Sparkling Red) Class
Puzzling perhaps why this carries the 'Syrah' tag when it is obviously Australian Shiraz styled. Regardless, it's loaded with chocolate sweet oak in a rather sweet oak generous style. There is some varietal pepper in there too which is pleasing, and the palate is nothing if not full bodied. The result is entirely pleasant, if massively oaky. 16.8/89 

Wandin Valley Reserve Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver medal
Soft and quite forward nose with plenty of green fruit, palate carries no shortage of fruit intensity, with a softly acidic, grassy palate. The acidity is classic, natural stuff though and I've got a suspicion that the fleshy palate will look better with age. (Probably right in the groove now). 16.5/88+ 

Pokolbin Estate Ken Bray Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze medal
Blue bottles are so hot right now. Or something. This though is all citrussy acidity, with a palate that carries a strong citrussy tang. Palate is quite tight and acid driven at the moment and looks to be in a transitional stage. A little hardgoing and overly simple as a result. Sure to improve. 16.2/87+ 

First Creek Winemakers Reserve Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Gold medal

Carries that slightly sweaty, green pea Semillon development character that is a polariser. Some passionfruit too. Palate is chalky and dry with prominent acidity. Very prominent. Rather serious style that is all about potential 17.3/90++ (Would like to see this now!) 

Shaw Vineyard Premium Riesling 2009 (Canberra)
Gold Medal
Full, floral, melon and lemon nose is rather classic warm year Canberra (in the best possible way). Fleshy and slightly sweet palate looks generous and appealing, if a smidgen simple. Nice drink though. 17/90 

Bream Creek Riesling 2008 (Tasmania)
Gold medal
Quite a sweet nose of fruit tingle generosity. Palate has a quite good balance between acidity and sugar. Nice balance here. Hint of late picked fruit? Nice wine. 17.3/90 

Pauletts Polish Hill River Riesling 2009 (Clare Valley, SA)
Gold medal
Hugely limey and powerful nose, over a firmly structured, rather classical palate. Lovely acidity. Serious wine, if in a slight hole right now. Nice grip indeed. 18/93 

Ross Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Orange, NSW)
Silver medal
Sharp nose, jagged palate. Vaguely metallic and a fraction hard. Firm if nicely defined. Raw and a little awkward. 15.8/86 

Coward & Black Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
Gold medal & Top in Class
Lovely cut grass nose. Big, firm and grassy palate. Shedloads of acidity. Acid overdose. In amongst all that acid it looks pretty good. 17/90 (would probably look even better now) 

Tallis Dookie Hills Viognier 2008 (Upper Goulburn Valley, Vic)
Silver medal
A broad, fatty wine with a surprisingly thin finish. Tastes cheap. 15/83 (Dookie can do much better than this). 

Kerner Estate Pinot Blanc 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)
Silver medal & Top in Class
Lovely honey mush perfume. Love that nose. Palate doesn't quite match it, with a general lack in intensity. Really like that nose however. 17/90 (Watch this space. Would like to try a more recent vintage).

Centennial Reserve Chardonnay 2008 (Southern Highlands, NSW)
Gold medal & Top in Class
Oak, very fine white fruit and acid. Gritty acidity at that, with bubblegum lees character. Nice acidity, this only needs a fraction more age for the richness to catch up with the winemaking. Nice long finish. Potential. 17.5/91+ (This probably looks fabulous now). 

Tassell Park Private Bin Chardonnay 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
Gold medal
Classic Margaret River nose of Melon and flint. Quite a bit of gummy oak but solid acid throughout. I like the form below that acid. 17.7/92 

Charles Sturt Winery Chardonnay 2008 (NSW)
Gold medal 
Cheap, broad straw nose. Chubby and clumsy palate. Simple quaffer with a puzzling medal. 14.8/82

Lenton Brae Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
Gold medal
Oak, funk, peach. Lots of Chardonnay goodness on that nose. Rich but firm and weighty palate. Flint meets melon balance of richness vs acidity. Clear and precise. Really nice. 18.3/94 (typically worthy stuff this). 

Ironwood Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2009 (Porongorups, Great Southern, WA)
Gold medal
Some raw and overt creamy oak on the nose shade what is obviously some very fine fruit. With time this should be top shelf indeed. 17.1/90+ (I wonder if Rob Diletti made this? Certainly has the hallmarks. Would love a retaste). 

Phillip Shaw No.11 Chardonnay 2008 (Orange, NSW)
Gold medal
Mealy and very serious nose showing absolute top shelf oak. Bags of wonderfully firm natural acidity. Unforced and rather fine. Very good indeed. 18.4/94 (Really liked this) 

Greedy Sheep Rosé 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
Silver medal & Top in Class
Musk and redcurrant on the nose in a pretty and estery style. Light and fun red musk palate. Not serious but entirely pleasant. 16.4/88 

Limbic Pinot Noir 2009 (Port Phillip, Vic)
Gold medal
Jammy red fruit nose in the slightly stewed modern warm ferment style. Sappy palate is something of a surprise after the luscious nose, but it seems to work quite nicely. Like the dry, stemmy tannins on the finish too. Good. 17.2/90 

Rockburn Pinot Noir 2008 (Central Otago, NZ)
Gold medal & Top in Class
Plush, overt and juicy Otago style. Really fleshy and upfront, though ultimately a little simple for mine. Should build a little more complexity with bottle age. 17.3/90+

Portsea Pinot Noir 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
Gold medal
Really simple red fruit style, with a stewed and slightly hot finish. Not enough delicacy really. 16.5/88 

Maude Pinot Noir 2007 (Central Otago, NZ)
Gold medal
Concentrated, spicy, red musk nose, over a palate that is slightly cooked and quite flat. Way too warm on the finish. 16/87 (I first tried this 2 years ago and loved it. Had it again on Thursday and was again disappointed. Going into it's shell perhaps?) 

Saracen Shiraz 2008 (Margaret River, WA 
Gold medal & Top in Class
Rather candied and quite simple nose that shows some mixed ripeness characters. Palate too is raw, leafy and short, showing little to get excited about. 15.8/86 (Admittedly I rarely enjoy Margaret River Shiraz so it's perhaps of little surprise I'm no fan of this). 

Paracombe Shiraz 2006 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Gold medal
Menthol and eucalypt all through the nose. Herbal and drawn palate tastes of classic uneven ripeness. Raw finish. Not quite. 16.3/87 

Mount Burrumboot Shiraz 2005 (Heathcote, Vic)
Gold medal
Rather classic red dirt nose over a rather nice chocolatey palate. Only downer is the hot and hard finish. Everything else is hardy and rich. 16.7/89 

Brindabella Hills Shiraz 2008 (Canberra)
Gold medal
Wild and rather pretty, gumleaf and jelly beans nose over a delicious, generous red fruit palate. I really rather like the delicacy of this wine, though it's not quite as perfect as the standard 07. 17.7/92 

Brindabella Hills Reserve Shiraz 2008 (Canberra)
Silver medal
Very pretty nose, but with an extra dimension of intensity behind it. I really like the silken red fruit on the palate here. So mid weight and lovely. 18.3/93 

Mantra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
Gold medal
Lovely goldilocks nose with both herbal varietal characters as well as some rather luscious purple fruits. A genuinely approachable and pure fruit style. Lovely easygoing flow through the whole package. If I had to pick up anything I'd say this is maybe a fraction warm? Minor quibble though really. Superb booze. 18.3/93 

Flints 'Gammon's Crossing' Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Coonawarra, SA)
Silver medal
Flabby and quite broad nose. Palate too is just a little cooked and dried out. It's certainly still drinkable mind you, but I just wanted more freshness. 16.5/88 

Heaslip Shiraz Cabernet 2008 (Clare Valley, SA)
Bronze medal
Love the nose on this. Choc eucalypt Clare goodness in a minty and regional form. Super intense choc mint palate. Real depth. Out of nowhere this one! Wow! 18/93 (I was clearly taken with this. Very keen for a retaste, especially as it is only $140 a dozen...) 

Tassell Park Cabernet Merlot 2005 (Margaret River, WA)
Gold medal & Top in Class
Nose smells like proper Margs, complete with a hint of herbs for good measure. Palate is a fraction warm, round & shapeless though. Looking for more definition I think. 16.7/89 

Hahndorf Hill Blaufrankisch 2008 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Gold medal & Top in Class
Redcurrant & peach nose looks particularly skinny. Fleshy, young vine palate lacks depth. Very light and simple palate. Not quite there really. 15/83 (I'm comparing this to Austrian Blaufrankisch, which probably isn't entirely fair. Still, I'm not convinced) 

Coolangatta Estate Tannat 2009 (Shoalhaven, NSW)
Gold medal
Massively dense, blocky fruit nose. Dry, earthen and tannic palate, with loads of oaky dry extract. Just a bit hard for big love I think. 16.8/89 

Regate Cabernet Franc 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
Gold medal
Herbal, grassy, redcurrant nose is pure Cabernet Franc varietal stuff, followed by a lightly tannic, slightly vegetal palate. It's angular perhaps but also fun, with the definition appreciable. Liked this. 17.4/91 

Paracombe Malbec 2008 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Gold medal
Green bean, more redcurrant and even some green tomatoes on the spicy, herbaceous nose. Borderline green tannins on the palate but the definition is admirable. Nothing if not interesting. 16.5/88 

Protero Merlot 2007 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Silver medal & Top in Class
Volatile nose shows mixed ripeness characters flicking between greenness and fleshy richness. Full and quite bold palate is more solid, but it just falls away a smidgen on the finish. 16.5/88 (Hard vintage showing through here)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

20yr old Marlborough Sauv: Jackson's Sauvignon Blanc 1991

Jackson's Sauvignon Blanc 1991 (Marlborough, NZ)
?%, Cork
Source: Capricious host
www.jacksonestate.co.nz

Old man Jackson himself. What a great beard
The capricious host in question was Stuart Knox, he of Fix St James, whom likes nothing more than pulling out the wackiest, most confronting (and most interesting) wines just to stump us (options games are useless at Fix as you'll usually get it wrong, much to Stu's entertainment :) ).

In the case of this oddity it was presented blind, as usual, after the final session of this years Summer of Riesling tasting (so it effectively followed about 40 young dry whites, just for contrast). What was most heartening though was that it was still recognisable as a Sauvignon Blanc, albeit in a slightly advanced form, and still carrying a nose that retained some trademark herbal Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc-ness even after 20 years in a (cork sealed) bottle.

Going by that nose, we actually had it pegged as a five year old, oak aged Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - such was the surprising freshness (though a subjective, caramel freshness).  The palate wasn't really that fresh in comparison, with more than a fleck of cardboard and some rather blocky acidity rising up through the finish. But still, it wasn't terrible, with enough flavour to hold everything together, so when coupled with that creme-caramel-meets-asparagus nose, the end result was nothing if not intriguing (and at least mildly drinkable).

In the end it was just a really quite interesting wine. A Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc affirming wine even (from one of the original Marlborough producers), that reminds that the region and variety can be good (it can be) with the savalanche of overtly sweet and thin wines that now line our bottleshop shelves not truly representative of what can be achieved.

I've had 2 year old bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that have tasted worse than this, let alone a 20 year old. Win. U/R (it's a curio, ratings seem irrelevant).

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Chateau Tanunda 'The Everest' Grenache 2008

Chateau Tanunda 'The Everest' Grenache 2008
15%, Cork, $160!
Source: Scammed a glass off a coworker
www.chateautanunda.com

Easily the most expensive straight Grenache around, this is sourced from 40yr old Greenock Grenache vines cropped at just 0.7 - 1.0 tonnes to the acre. It also has one of the biggest fuck off punts I've seen - it's so big that you might put a hand in there and lose your watch. In fact, the whole packaging is rather old school/old money serious, with some slightly daggy labels and a cork closure (which looks oddly out of place on a premium Grenache - or is that just me?) the only drawbacks of the traditional packaging.

The wine itself certainly smells like full flavoured Grenache, with a jammy, cooked raspberry jam and stewed plums nose that looks just a fraction overripe. It's a sweet nose though, stuffed with (volatile) powerful fruit. Interestingly the palate opens up hard and hot, but the longer it sat in the glass the more fleshy (and fresh) it looked. It carries a dense, red fruit and oak rich palate that I'm still calling it a little overripe and oak driven (though it's just an oak density really, not an oak sweetness) but is difficult to argue with in terms of power and weight.

Can't fathom the price, but I can see the point here. 17.4/91

Monday, 21 February 2011

Sydney Wine Show 2011 results + tasting the winners

Sydney Wine Show 2011 results + tasting the winners

Say what you want about wine shows (and everyone has an opinion, often negative ones at that) the results of them are nothing if not interesting.

In the case of this years Sydney Wine Show, it's not hard to argue that the results mirror the ongoing evolution in wine style preferences. Of particular note is the continued success of savoury, cool climate Shiraz and the (justified) love for modern Australian Chardonnay.

Perplexingly though, the winners don't always follow the script, with some wines picking up top gongs even though they seem quite at odds with the style that the judges appear to be aiming for. Witness the Wolf Blass wines that have won trophies this year and last, both of which seem like oddities compared to the rest (the winning Black Label this year is an oaky and old school beast, the Pinot from last year a simple and confected wine).

This year, like every year (I'm a wine show slut apparently), I managed to sample a few of the wines exhibited in this years show - including many of the trophy winners - over lunch and a followup tasting.

I managed to write notes on a solid 80 odd wines all up, but I'm still in the process of transcribing notes from wine stained notebook to computer (so they'll be following). In this post I'm just looking at the luncheon wines (all of which were drunk - not tasted - with food. Important distinction that).

Leo Buring Leonay Watervale Riesling 2005 (Watervale, SA)
Trophy

Lemony, light, soft and quite generous. It's just a fraction round and generous, though the acid is entirely sprightly. Pleasant but hardly earth shattering. 17.5/91

Penfolds Bin 09A Chardonnay 2009 (Adelaide Hills)
Trophy
Very fine nose. Perfect oak delivery. Clinical even. Very fine, mealy, lightly buttered nose. Modern, quite perfect and delicious. Palate has coiled power and wonderful citrussy acidity. Stunning modern Chardonnay. I drank this all lunch. My pick for wine of show. 18.7/95

Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillon 2005 (Barossa, SA)
3 trophies, 1 gold
Green, lightly toasty style with that toast/green fruit edge of an adolescent Semillon. Lightly toasty and quite neutral palate. Wonderful acidity. I think the 04 is a more complete wine, but no doubting the citrus/light toast/acidity combo here. Nice wine. 18/93 

Chapman Grove Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
Trophy, 1 gold
Intensely varietal, grassy passionfruit nose. Perfectly pungent and full nose. Dry and sharpish palate falls away at the finish a smidgen. Like the Sauvignon Blanc power here. 17.2/90

Tamar Ridge Kayena Pinot Noir 2009 (Tasmania)
Trophy, 1 gold
Lifted, strawberry fruit in a nice and fragrant form. Quite juicy, sweet and direct nose. Stalky edge too. Quite nice nose if a little mono dimensional. Sweet, caramel edged and mildly confected palate. Pleasant and should be a goodun' with time. 16.7/89+ 

Chapman Grove Dreaming Dog Shiraz 2009 (Western Australia)
2 trophies, 1 gold
Sweaty, light and meaty cool climate nose, in a sweet, one dimensional and simple style. Sweet and broad palate. no tannins. Cheap, tinny finish. Very commercial and rather ordinary. One of the few real failures. 15/83

Phillip Shaw 'The Idiot' Shiraz 2009 (Orange, NSW)
3 trophies, 1 gold
Meaty, spicy and quite dense nose, with a suggestion of Viognier in there too.Quite stemmy even. Good richness to the palate really, though the herbal finish on the palate is a little wobbly. Still, it's a drinkable wine. 17/90 

Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Shiraz 2006 (South Australia)
Trophy, 1 gold
Heavy, moccha oak nose, reinforced by some regional mint. Dense, old fashioned oak driven nose. Palate too is riddled with overt oak, though the fruit is somewhat up to the task. Oak tannins on the finish though distract again. Should be a smart wine with bottle age. 17.7/92 

Rosemount Regional Showcase Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Coonawarra, SA)
Trophy, 1 gold
Jubey, simple juicy fruit nose. Light and direct nose. Simple, hot and jubey palate. Nice rich fruit, but hardly worth more than that. 16/87 

The list of the Trophy winners


THE LIQUORLAND PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by Liquorland, to the Exhibitor of the best Commercial White Wine entered in Classes 1 to 6.

Winner 32 PENFOLDS WINES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355
PENFOLDS THOMAS HYLAND CHARDONNAY (2009)

THE HANAMINNO PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by Mr Michael Arnott and Family, to the Exhibitor of the best Sweet White Wine in Class 7.

Winner 22 THE YALUMBA WINE COMPANY ANGASTON SA 5353
YALUMBA FSW8B BOTRYTIS VIOGNIER (2009)

THE BERT BEAR MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by the First Thursday Luncheon Club, to the Exhibitor of the best Previous Vintage White Wine entered in Classes 41 to 45.

Winner 26 VASSE FELIX COWARAMUP WA 6284
VASSE FELIX SAUVIGNON BLANC SEMILLON (2010)

THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SYDNEY PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine exhibited in the Premium Classes, two years and older in Classes 42 to 45, 50 and 54.

Winner 19 PENFOLDS WINES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355
PENFOLDS RESERVE BIN A CHARDONNAY (2009)

THE DOUGLAS LAMB PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by the Family and Friends of the late Douglas Lamb, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Riesling, Dry Style entered in Class 23.

Winner 15 JIM BARRY WINES CLARE SA 5453
THE LODGE HILL RIESLING (2010)

THE RAS OF NSW ANNUAL PRIZE FOR BEST SEMILLON.
Annual Trophy, presented by the RAS of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Semillon entered in Class 25.

Winner 31 PETER LEHMANN WINES TANUNDA SA 5352
MARGARET SEMILLON (2005)

THE A P JOHN COOPERS PERENNIAL TROPHY 
Donated by A P John Coopers to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Chardonnay entered in Classes 22, 31 and 35.

Winner 42 WOLF BLASS WINES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355
WOLF BLASS WHITE LABEL CHARDONNAY (2009)

THE RAS OF NSW ANNUAL PRIZE FOR BEST SAUVIGNON BLANC. 
Annual Trophy, presented by the RAS of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Sauvignon Blanc entered in Class 24.

Winner 52 CHAPMAN GROVE WINES PERTH WA 6153
CHAPMAN GROVE SAUVIGNON BLANC (2010)

THE FIRST ESTATE WINE MERCHANTS PERENNIAL TROPHY.
Donated by First Estate Wine Merchants, to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine of the Show with a wholesale price excluding WET and GST not exceeding $10 per bottle.

Winner 27 GOUNDREY WINERY REYNELLA SA 5161
GOUNDREY HOMESTEAD SEMILLON SAUVIGNON BLANC (2010) 

THE ALBERT CHAN MEMORIAL PRIZE.
Donated by Friends of the late Albert Chan, to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine of the Show.

Winner 31 PETER LEHMANN WINES TANUNDA SA 5352
MARGARET SEMILLON (2005) 

THE DR HENRY JOHN LINDEMAN MEMORIAL PERPETUAL PRIZE. 
Donated by Lindeman (Holdings) Limited, to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine exhibited in the Aged Vintage Classes 66 to 69.

Winner 3 LEASINGHAM REYNELLA SA 5161
LEASINGHAM CLASSIC CLARE RIESLING (2005)

THE WINE COMMUNICATORS OF AUSTRALIA PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by The Wine Press Club of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Dry Red Wine in the Commercial Classes 9 to 14.

Winner 26 ROSEMOUNT ESTATES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355
ROSEMOUNT REGIONAL SHOWCASE CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2009) 

THE JOHN SWANN PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, to the Exhibitor of the best Dry Red Wine, two years and older, exhibited in the Premium Classes 46 to 49, 51 to 53 and 55 to 59.

Winner 3 YABBY LAKE VINEYARD MELBOURNE VIC 3001
YABBY LAKE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR (2009)

THE LESLIE KEMENY MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
 Donated by Kemeny's Food and Liquor, to the Exhibitor of the best two year old (2008) Red Wine exhibited in the Premium Classes 46 to 49 and 51 to 53.

Winner 3 YABBY LAKE VINEYARD MELBOURNE VIC 3001
YABBY LAKE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR (2009) 

THE RUDY KOMON MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by Mrs Ruth Komon, to the Exhibitor of the best Shiraz/Viognier from Classes 33 and 38.

Winner 12 COLLECTOR WINES PTY LTD COLLECTOR NSW 2581
MARKED TREE RED SHIRAZ (2009)

THE GEOFFREY CRUNDALL PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by Geoffrey Crundall Cellars, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Pinot Noir from Class 29.

Winner 21 TAMAR RIDGE ESTATES BEACONSFIELD TAS 7270
TAMAR RIDGE KAYENA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR (2009) 

THE DAN MURPHY'S PERENNIAL TROPHY. 
Donated by Dan Murphy's, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon from Classes 34, 39 and 40.

Winner 15 EVANS & TATE BUSSELTON WA 6280
EVANS & TATE REDBROOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2008)

THE LIQUOR MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA PERENNIAL TROPHY.
Donated by The Liquor Merchants Association of Australia, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Shiraz from Classes 32 and 36 to 37.

Winner 33 PHILIP SHAW WINES ORANGE NSW 2800
THE IDIOT BY PHILIP SHAW (2009) 

THE ARTHUR KELMAN PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by the daughters of the late Arthur Kelman, to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Merlot from Class 28.

Winner 30 EVANS & TATE BUSSELTON WA 6280
EVANS & TATE MARGARET RIVER MERLOT (2008)

THE DR GILBERT PHILLIPS MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by the Wine Society, to the Exhibitor of the best Red Wine of the Show. 

Winner 33 PHILIP SHAW WINES ORANGE NSW 2800
THE IDIOT BY PHILIP SHAW (2009) 

THE THEO AND HELEN KAREDIS PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by Theo's Liquor Markets, to the Exhibitor of the best Red Wine in Aged Vintage Classes 70 to 72.

Winner 17 WOLF BLASS WINES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355
WOLF BLASS BLACK LABEL (2006) 

THE AUSTRALIAN WINE AND BRANDY CORPORATION PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, to the Exhibitor of the best Red Wine of the Show with a wholesale price excluding WET and GST not exceeding $10 per bottle.

Winner 26 THIRD WHEEL WINES YATALA QLD 4207
THIRD WHEEL RESERVE CABERNET SHIRAZ MERLOT (2009) 

THE RESTAURANT AND CATERING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by the Restaurant and Catering Association of NSW, to the Exhibitor of the best Wine exhibited by a Small Producer in Named Vineyard Classes 73 to 79.

Winner 83 CHAPMAN GROVE WINES PERTH WA 6153
DREAMING DOG SHIRAZ (2009) 

THE LEN EVANS MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by the Wine Committee of the RAS of NSW and the family and friends of Len Evans, to the Exhibitor of the best Named Vineyard exhibited in Classes 73 to 79.

Winner 83 CHAPMAN GROVE WINES PERTH WA 6153
DREAMING DOG SHIRAZ (2009) 

THE THORP ANNUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by the late Mr G M Thorp, to the Exhibitor of the best Sparkling White Wine of the Show from Classes 15 and 60. 

Winner 10 STARVEDOG LANE REYNELLA SA 5161
STARVEDOG LANE CHARDONNAY PINOT NOIR PINOT MEUNIER BRUT (2004) 

THE J C M FORNACHON MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by the late Rudy Komon, to the Exhibitor of the best Sherry, Muscat and Dessert White, exhibited in Classes 17 to 21 and 62 to 65.

Winner 5 MORRIS WINES ROWLAND FLAT SA 5352
MORRIS OLD PREMIUM LIQUEUR MUSCAT (NV)

THE JOURNALISTS' CLUB TROPHY 
Donated by the Journalists' Club, to the Exhibitor of the best Port exhibited in the Commercial Class 21 and the Premium Classes 64 and 65.

Winner 1 SALTRAM WINE ESTATE NURIOOTPA SA 5355
SALTRAMS SHOW TAWNY (NV) 

THE JJ MCWILLIAM MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by McWilliam’s Wines Pty Ltd, to the Exhibitor of the best Brandy exhibited in Classes 80 and 81. 

Winner 1 HARDYS WINERY REYNELLA SA 5161
HARDY SHOW BRANDY (NV)

THE JONES, STEAINS AND WALLER PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by A W & A Pardey, to the Exhibitor gaining the highest number of points in the Varietal Wine Classes 22 to 40.

Winner 28 WOLF BLASS WINES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355 

THE LEO BURING MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Established by the RAS of NSW from a sum bequeathed to the RAS by the late Leo Buring, to the Exhibitor gaining the highest number of points in Premium White Wine Classes, Current Vintage Classes 41 to 45. 

Winner 17 LEO BURING PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355 

THE HARRY DAVIES MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by the late Mrs D C Davies in memory of her husband, to the Exhibitor gaining the highest number of points in the Aged Vintage Wine Classes 66 to 72. 

Winner 28 WOLF BLASS WINES PTY LTD NURIOOTPA SA 5355 

THE MCCARTHY PERPETUAL SHIELD. 
Donated by J McCarthy and Co Pty Ltd, to the Most Successful Exhibitor in the Wines and Brandy Section from Classes 1 to 21, 41 to 72, 80 and 81. 

Winner 3 MC WILLIAMS WINES HANWOOD NSW 2680 

THE JAMES BUSBY ANNUAL PRIZE 
Supported by Industry & Investment NSW, presented to the maker of the Best Wine or Brandy entered by an Exhibitor from New South Wales in any class. 

Winner 33 PHILIP SHAW WINES ORANGE NSW 2800
THE IDIOT BY PHILIP SHAW (2009) 

MACQUARIE GROUP PERPETUAL TROPHY. 
Donated by Macquarie Group, to the Exhibitor of the best Wine of the Show. 

Winner 31 PETER LEHMANN WINES TANUNDA SA 5352
MARGARET SEMILLON (2005) 

THE FINE WINE PARTNERS PERPETUAL TROPHY.
Donated by Fine Wine Partners, a joint venture between Tucker Seabrook & Lion Nathan Wine Group, to the Exhibitor of the Best Show Wine exhibited at major State Wine Shows in the 12 months preceding judging. 

Winner 0 LEO BURING (2010 ROYAL QUEENSLAND WINE SHOW)
LEO BURING LEONAY MATURATION RELEASE RIESLING (2005)

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The joy of Clape

The joy of Clape












It doesn't happen all that often - although I wish it did - but when it does, it serves as a reminder of exactly how mindblowing the finest wines can be. I'm talking of that moment when you first taste a really great wine. Not just a good wine, but a great wine. The sort of wine that you relive over and over again in your head (and mouth) ad infinitum and blab on about it's glory to anyone who'll listen.

Tonight, happily, I was lucky enough to try one of these wines. It was only a sample really, a sip or two, but it was enough to fall in love. Enough to have me still thinking about it hours later. Enough to have me trying to work out how to accurately describe it. Enough to have me questioning everything really.

That wine was the 2005 Clape Cornas, a Northern Rhone red of renowned, of high points, of serious reputation. And it was a wine that delivered. What makes it great is just how drinkable it is - as pointed out by the Australian importer, James Johnston of World Wine Estates. It's actually a quite uncomplicated wine in that vein, with no new oak, reasonably low alcohol and rather savoury flavours. What makes it great is just how perfect it is. Think roasted meat (but not roasted fruit), red fruit and serious, dense tannins. It's firm but not hard, soft but not light. It is, quite simply, the essence of what 'Syrah' is meant to be. And I loved it.

But the fun didn't stop there tonight. No. Tonight's selection also included the 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008, plus the interloper second label 2008 Clape Renaissance. It was a lineup of consistency, of power, of 'give me another glass please' glory.

The only problem really is that at circa $160 a bottle it's hardly cheap. Considering that I can buy 4 bottles for the price of a single bottle of Penfolds Grange however, it's ultimately not all that much money considering the quality on hand.

Time to give the credit card a beating I think....

The wines (apologies for the vagueness. These are recollections mainly):

Clape Cornas 2002
Cool year. A slightly rustic, herbal wine in this context, tannins are still forthright and powerful. Dusty, slightly stinky but lots of enjoyment here. Good rustic style. Still interesting. 17/90

Clape Cornas 2003
From the hardcore, roasting 2003 vintage, this looked big and slightly stewed, but no questioning the impact and firm tannins. Slightly desiccated on the finish. Ka-pow wine. Drying out but with lots of concentration. 17.5/91 

Clape Cornas 2005
(See above) 19/96

Clape Cornas 2006
It looks lighter, sweeter, softer, more feminine after the 2005, with lighter tannins and less power through the back end. A real red fruit style after the 05. Still with lots to hold onto here, this is nothing if not approachable. On its own I think I'd be frothing over this. 18/93+

Clape Cornas 2007
Ala 2005. It's got that same delicate balance of meaty ripe fruit, red fruit and cola. It's tighter and more restrained than the 05, but the hallmarks are there. Maybe not quite the length of the 05. Carries brilliant, long and delicious peppery mouthful of firm fruit. Ironstone edge to the back palate. Still no oak to be seen. Top shelf. 18.5/94+

Clape Cornas 'Renaissance' 2008
Set immediately lighter than the preceding wines.Still carries that granitic mineral edge, yet seems softer and the tannins are rather light in context. Silken tannins they are though. Needs more length for bigger marks. 17/90

Clape Cornas 2008
Take the Renaissance and add in more depth. More power. Still a cranberry edged wine without that minerally meaty core of limitless richness that the better vintages have. Almost GSM like in its freshness. A lesser wine in this lineup, but it's a beautiful Shiraz. Lovely wine. 17.8/92

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Sally's Hill Pinot Noir 2009

Sally's Hill Pinot Noir 2009 (Pyrenees, Vic)
13%, Diam, $22
Source: Sample
www.sallyspaddock.com.au

I'm approaching this with something of a sense of bemusement, largely as I can't imagine the Pyrenees as a place to grow serious Pinot Noir. I still can't shake that voice in the back of my head telling me that Tyrrells produces an, at times, rather bemusing Pinot Noir though, so I'm at least giving this a chance.

What I do find quite entertaining is that this smells like a Pyrenees dry red, not a Pinot Noir, with a nose of mint, dry extract and sappy red fruit. Surprisingly then - to me at least - that the palate starts with a hint of Pinot fruit, a lick of cherry juiciness that is much more Pinotish than expected. It's even quite pleasant through the middle, politely juicy even, like a medium weight Pinot should be.

But nothing prepares you for what comes next. Simply put, this finishes with the most brutal, mouth molesting tannins imaginable, the sort of tannins that creep up on you like a stalker, before coming on like an astringent drug rush, leaving behind a lingering, mouth puckering aftertaste that even milk can't get rid of. It's like eating fresh chillies by mistake and sitting over the sink dry retching. It's been 5 minutes since my last taste now and my teeth are still stuck together...This could well be a dud bottle, but dud bottles rarely have so much tannins.

In the end this is nothing if not an experience. I feel a little roughed up after it, but hey, at least it was interesting. 11/58

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Mitchell Harris Sauvignon Blanc Fume 2010

Mitchell Harris Sauvignon Blanc Fume 2010 (Pyrenees, Vic)
12.5%, Screwcap, $19.95
Source: Sample
www.mitchellharris.com.au

The winemaking half of Mitchell Harris (John Harris) spent a considerable amount of his recent career at the Yarra Valley sparkling megaplex Domaine Chandon, an influence I think is clearly evident here. It is, quite simply, as far away from the Australian Sauvignon Blanc idiom as you can get, and is all the more interesting for it.

This wine does - however - need some time. Even after a solid 24 hours it looked a little raw and lean, even though leanness is part of the style. You can tell that restraint from the very first whiff, with a dumb, overwhelmingly neutral nose of lemon juice, white flowers, a hint of wheat beer/porridge old oak and more lemon. Painfully neutral. The palate though, wow, it's a textural tour de force. Layers upon finely textured layer, pointed by tangy, citrussy acidity, and some rather impressive length.

If anything though this wines best years are ahead of it. There is still a rawness to that palate, a freshly bottled bite that clearly needs time to settle. It's itching for aging. But no hiding the interest here. Good value too. 17.8/92++

Scarborough White Label Semillon 2010

Scarborough White Label Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
10.5%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample
www.scarboroughwine.com.au


Judging young Hunter Semillon is rarely an easy venture. In fact, I'd liken it to looking at eggs and trying to work out which will hatch first. If you've got the patience though, those eggs make some seriously good birds. Or something like that.

This egg (wine) follows a similar pattern, carrying plenty of potential in it's framework, even if it looks a little awkward at present. That awkwardness starts with the tinny green straw and hay character of juvenile Semillon, followed by a palate that is actually quite full and rounded, fleshed out with some yellow apple warm year juiciness, before everything snaps into startling focus at the finish.

That acid though is what clinchs the deal. It's penetrating, serious, green apple fresh acidity in the most classical form. It's a subtle hint that this should be a winner 5 years time and that all that is required is bottle age. In the meantime it's a pleasant wine, just not as great as it will end up being. 17/90++

Lark Hill Grüner Veltliner 2010

Lark Hill Grüner Veltliner 2010 (Canberra District)
12.5%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample
www.larkhillwine.com.au

As an unabashed Grüner fan, it warms my heart to taste this. For it smells and tastes properly varietal, interesting and plain delicious in an open and ripe form. All that is wanting is a little more vine age, which should give even more intensity and conviction.

Rich, musky, old school Aramis style aromatics, edged with white pepper and honey. It's a thick and full nose, with lots of fresh juicy power. That nose is followed by a full flavoured, Chardonnay-meets-Riesling palate (in classic Grüner style) that couples orange rind and citrus fruit generosity with pithy acidity, finishing quite fleshy and round, though still fresh. There is even a suggestion of mint through the back end to boot.

It's a rather likeable wine this (I've knocked off a couple of glasses all too easily on a previous occasion), with the slight dullness on the finish the only thing stopping it from superstar points. Looked taut and well put together on the second day too. 17.6/91

Monday, 14 February 2011

Penfolds 2011 Bin Release

Penfolds 2011 Bin Release

Town Hall was a great setting. Love the ceilings
Whether you like the wines or not, it's hard to argue with the ongoing impact of the Penfolds Bin wines. For mine, I still can't think of a lineup of red wines that have more popular (and critical) appeal than the Bins, seemingly despite a succession of price rises, and the blundering practices of its Fosters parent.

As a result of this relative importance (perceived or not) I feel sort of compelled to try the wines each year, almost as if every self respecting wine person should know what the recent vintages are like.

This year the opportunity to try them came from Penfolds themselves, with the range launched to the trade at Sydney's Town Hall last week in typically Penfoldian grandeur: Think multiple small courses; a rockstar entry from winemaker Peter Gago and a guest appearance from legendary Penfolds maker Don Ditter. There was even take home copies of the new Penfolds Rewards of Patience, complete with nifty Penfolds pens. It all added up to one very serious launch indeed, the scale of which is simply not seen in the Australian wine industry any more.

Ultimately, I still couldn't help but question the need for such pomp and ceremony (not that I was complaining really - it was entertaining in the least). I mean, they don't do this sort of function every year (or at least not with such magnitude) so the question of motivations had to be asked.

The answer, I've decided, may lie in the fact that the Bin range is one of the focal points for Penfolds, which makes it a focal point for Treasury Wine Estates, a business which is presently attempting to reinvent itself ahead of the impending demerger from the Fosters mothership. All of which adds up to increased importance for this range and thus some serious spruiking to go with it.

But enough of the politics. What of the wines?

Well, the main vintage on show in this 2011 release is 2008, one of the more problematic (South Australian) harvests in recent history. It's a vintage that is plagued by overripeness, Jekyll and Hyde tannins and a general lack of freshness. Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, the wines in this Penfolds range seem to have made the best from the year (on certain wines at least).

Of particular note (talking of the better wines from the vintage) is the new, rather limited, sub regional Shiraz sourced from Marananga in the Barossa. It's a goodun' (and may well be a damn goodun' in better vintages) and shows a good direction for Penfolds (lets hope they don't try and trademark Marananga now though, as suggested by Regan Drew on twitter). The 389 is also entirely proper this year, built in a very 'typical' style. But my favourite wine of this release is the Bin 138, which just showcases the brilliant 2009 Grenache vintage to a tee. Big like from me.

On with the notes then (My ramblings have only been lightly edited, so forgive the haughty style. Notes in Italics are from the winery):

Gago = rockstar winemaker
Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling 2010 (Eden Valley, SA)
12.5%, TA 7.9g/l, pH 2.91
Straw yellow green in colour, the nose is quite classic with a lemon lime, green tang to it in a lifted, sherbety and quite correct form. Palate too is initially quite green, but fans out into something quite generous and full, the first (surprising) toastiness in there too. I'm quite puzzled by that forward richness actually, for the finish is bracingly, firmly acidic. In the end it's a good wine, given, but one that doesn't quite seem complete. Big question mark on how the fruit for this was handled - some machine harvested fruit in there? 17/90

Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2010 (Tumbarumba, NSW)

12%, TA 6.6g/l, pH 3.29. 7 months in seasoned French oak.
Very lean, grapefruit and very fine wood on the nose. Pure, expressive and very acid driven nose. Dry, acid driven and quite lean grapefruity palate. Lovely purity of expression and superb acidity, but this looked far too young and barrel sample-ish. Still, loads of class in this wine. Big yes from me. 17.8/92+

Penfolds Bin 23 Pinot Noir 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.4g/l, pH 3.65. 9 months in new (22%) and seasoned French oak barriques. Cold soaked, naturally fermented with just one racking. Filtered not fined. "This is unashamedly a Penfolds red wine. No attempt has been made to create a Burgundian look-a-like. Not for the fainthearted". Peter Gago
Seasoned oak hessian characters apparent on the nose. Stewed red fruit with a bit of hardness on the nose. Smells quite hard, if freshly bottled. Palate has much more freshness than the nose. Aggressive and raw finish. There is reasonable fruit in there, and it should improve, but it's just a hard dry red at present. 16.3/87+ 

Penfolds Bin 138 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2009 (Barossa Valley, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.2g/l, pH 3.47. 68% Grenache, 21% Shiraz, 11% Mourvedre. 12 months in seasoned American oak hogsheads. One of the few Penfolds wines that remain in component form during older, small oak maturation and is blended just prior to bottling.
Lifted nose. Redcurrant, red fruit, lightly confected, glacé Grenache fruit. So bright and red! Lovely ripe Grenache goodness on the nose. Palate is a juicy mouthful too, with everything lengthened out by some chocolate 'Penfolds style' tannins on the finish. Fabulous richness and ripeness. Yum. 18.1/93 

Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2009 (Coonawarra, SA)
14%, TA 6g/l, pH 3.59. 12 months in new (28%) and seasoned French oak hogsheads.
Red licorice. Peppery red fruit, cool mintiness in there too. Quite correct really. Palate looks a little warmish, but still quite medium weight. It's quite withdrawn actually, the finish looking particularly skinny and sullen. It's going to get better, but it looks quite awkward at present. 16.5/88 

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna 1996 (South Australia)
Thrown in as a comparison wine to the 2008. Cedar, bubble gum, blueberry. Oak oak oak. Pepper and spice. Sweet fruit palate is fully resolved and quite elegant. Would have been a very oaky young wine (I can't remember it as a younger wine though). Nice enough drink though. 17.2/91 

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna 2008 (Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.5g/l, pH 3.55. 12 months in seasoned American oak hogsheads. Quote from the stage 'aiming for no new oak flavours in this wine'. 'picked before the heat'.
Juicy rich, black and red fruit on the nose. Enormously sweet and fruity nose. Like a fruit mince pie. Sweet chocolate/blueberry oak quite obvious in there too (erm, it may not be 'new' but you can still smell the stuff). Rounded, choc berry fullness to the palate, with very light tannins indeed. Round and soft. Quite pleasant really. Not for the long term, but certainly plenty of simple appeal. Pressed off before dryness methinks. Extra point for upfront appeal. 17.3/91 

Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2008
Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Coonawarra, Robe, Wrattonbully and Padthaway, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.7g/l, pH 3.43. Matured for 13 months in new French (22%) and new American (13%) oak hogsheads, with the balance in seasoned American oak barrels.
Lightly stewed, dull nose. Initially oak sweet then just hot and dry, the fruit stewed and lacking vitality. Disjointed palate, with intrusive (American) oak. Desiccated edges. Some good bits, but not much fun really. 16/86

Penfolds Bin 150 Maranga Shiraz 2008 (Marananga, Barossa Valley, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.6g/l, pH 3.59. 12 months in new French (25%), new American (25%), seasoned French (25%) and seasoned American (25%) oak.
Sweet blue/back fruit nose. A little port like concentrated fruit richness, set against red dirt sub-regional characters. Sweet black cola fruit, edged with chocolate oak. Palate is big and quite forward, but still with reasonable length. Soft tannins. Really good to see the proper expression here. Good stuff. Might be a point miser here. 17.8/92

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2008 (Barossa Valley, Cooanwarra, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.6g/l, pH 3.48. Cabernet Sauvignon (52%) Shiraz (48%). 12 months in 34% new American oak hogsheads with the balance in seasoned American oak.
Tight tight nose. Volatile. Rich, chocolatey and very Penfolds nose. 389ish! It's just very South Australian. Dense and quite sweetly oaked. Palate shows typical oak-meets-fruit style of 389. Some liquered red fruit on the back end, and it's not completely convincing on the finish, but what's there is hearty and full enough that the fans will love it. Serious booze. 18/93

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sally's Hill Shiraz 2008

Sally's Hill Shiraz 2008 (Pyrenees, Vic)
15.5%, Diam, $22
Source: Sample
www.sallyspaddock.com.au

This comes from Neil Robb's 'Sally's Paddock' vineyard in the Pyrenees and is handpicked, basket pressed and hand punched. That's an awful lot of energy for a $22 wine, and it definitely carries a level of detail not often seen at this pricepoint. Big positive.

For all that artisan winemaking though, this is carrying the scars of the roasting vintage all over it's body. It kicks off with a nose that's concentrated and fruit heavy, yet also volatile and stewed, the unmistakable aroma of overripe fruit hard to ignore. Still, there's real fruit underneath it all, if just too ripe for enjoyment. The palate too has a basket pressed richness and structure unknown at the pricepoint. That again can't hide the stewed fruit and drying, hard tannins though, the sweet jammy mid palate fruit not enough to balance the hardness of the finish.

Ultimately it's something of a hard drink this, but I'd be very keen to see other vintages, for both the winemaking and underlying viticulture speak of real quality. 16/87

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Durvillea Pinot Noir 2009

Durvillea Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
14%, Screwcap, $20ish (possible less)
Source: Sample
www.astrolabewines.co.nz

This was the third wine I opened up tonight, brought out largely as I was feeling a little negative after the dual Chardonnay disappointment. Interestingly it was probably the simplest wine of the lot, but also the most approachable (a character that both of the aforementioned Chardonnays purported to be, but neither hit the mark) and Pinotish, which is what you want a $20 Pinot to be. Felt much more positive about this one.

The secret here is all about fruit. Bright red fruit, cast sweet and slightly stewed on the nose, all red cherries and raspberries in a lifted, warm ferment style. Palate too is generous, juicy and quite varietal with plush red fruit and light tannins. Acidity is a little spiky on the back, and it's a tad sweet, but the fruit is all go. Attractive, simple Pinot fun at the right price. 16.8/89

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Fire Gully Chardonnay 2008

Fire Gully Chardonnay 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $29
Source: Sample
www.firegully.com.au

I'm really just adding my voice to the throng here, as both Jeremy Pringle (here) and Chris Plummer (here) have well covered this wine. I'm just going to reiterate how much I like the Pierro Chardonnay, which makes the slightly ordinary form of this second label all that more dissapointing.

Straw yellow in colour, it looks immediately riper and darker than the Molly Morgan. Smells it too, with a lightly volatile, peach and grapefruit nose that smells of ripe Margaret River fruit, of ripe year Margaret River Chardonnay fruit. It's a light and perfectly correct nose, with a subtle undertone of oak. All ok there. The wobbles come through on the palate, which is quite bold and warm, the acid rough, the alcohol picking up through the tail. It feels awkward and chewy, with the fine grapefruit flavours derailed by the warmth and thickness towards the back.

It's a wine with lots of flavour, no finesse. Average value at $30 too. 15.8/86

Molly Morgan Chardonnay 2009

Molly Morgan Chardonnay 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
13.5%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample
www.mollymorgan.com

Largely unoaked, this is intentionally crafted in an 'approachable style' which translates into something light and easy going - in theory at least. In reality it's just a bit cheap tasting (and the odd one out in the Molly Morgan range).

It looks light too, with an almost colourless/green straw tint. I was a little surprised to see a whiff of hessian oak blended into the grapefruit and peach too, for it doesn't really help the freshness of what is pitched as a fresh unoaked style. Palate too is built light but short, with the fruit initially quite green, but carrying a pineapple and straw broadness that I'm no fan of. Finish fans out and falls away.

Not quite. 15/83

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Semillon: A blind lineup

Semillon: A blind lineup

The Hunter. Semillon Central
I love blind tastings. I love the absolute 'emperor derobing' nature of them and the potential glories that can thus be unearthed. In fact, I'd say that I'd always prefer to taste blind once and then go back and retaste again with the bottle in front of me, purely for the interesting results.

Sadly, outside of wine shows (and some decent events) good blind tastings are something of a rarity, largely as most of the time the person picking up the tab (or at least supplying the bottles) wants you to know exactly what you are tasting (and hopefully love it).

Luckily (for me) I do get to attend a blind goodun' every month though, sitting on a tasting panel for wine trade magazine National Liquor News. The format of these tastings is quite simple - an average of 30 wines, focused on a different variety each month, with the wines seperated into LUC (Landed Unit Cost - typically wholesale cost price including WET and excluding GST) brackets, with only the vintage noted.

What these tastings offer is one of the best benchmarking opportunities for new release wines that I can think of, featuring wines from a range of price points that ranged from $12 right through to $60 a bottle (in my lineup at least). Being Semillon and all (mostly Hunter Semillon at that), the wines were genuinely pretty smart indeed, with the main challenge faced simply that of extreme youth.

I'm listing all my notes from the tasting below but I've got to add an important caveat: Everything was tasted wine show style, which means at speed and double blind. My scoring too is wine show stylin', so it's considerably lower than I'd probably give if I sat down and drank a bottle, coupled with notes that are harsher, overly technical and much less generous than the norm. In other words, this is all very raw, but I think you'll get the drift regardless (my postscript notes are in italics)

Bracket 1

Mcguigan Bin Series Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Light green colour. Very neutral nose. Dry, neutral and correct palate has plenty of acidity but little give. Clean and dry but mono-dimensional 15/20 (always a reliable wine this. Potential)

Tulloch Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Almost colourless. Green apple and green fruit nose. Simply, tangy, slightly chewy (phenolic) palate. Simply, inoffensive but properly built. 14.5/20 (Very fair, if a tad chewy. Proper) 

Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Green colour. Green fruit nose, with a little more waxy fruit in there. Nicer palate, with some palate richness too. A hint of savvy? Nice work, the extra texture works a treat here. 16+/20 (I even picked the notorious hint of Sauvignon Blanc in there too! High five me! Looked reasonably smart in this context regardless)

Margan Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Yellow edge to the green. Creamy, yellow apple on the nose too. Hint of oak? Drawn and quite phenolic palate. Dry, with fair length. A pleasant, crisp style but ultimately boring. 15/20 (mistook the extra genorosity of this style - which is typically picked riper and comes off the rich red soils of Broke - for a little oak. It's a pleasant enough wine).

Cockfighter's Ghost Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Still green. Neutral nose but with some green pawpaw edges. Palate is in a development hole, this has fair length but is not amazing. Needs time to come out as it's not showing much. 15/20 (plenty to like, just needs time)

Bracket 2

Pepper Tree Limited Release Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Green colour. Green fruit nose, very green, hint of melon. Chalky green palate with very prominent acidity. Great length. It's just a bit tart at present but should develop well. 16+/20 (Here is a real sleeper. I think - if tasted on it's own - this would get high marks indeed. Cellarworthy)

Krinklewood Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Colourless. Soapy green fruit nose. Herbal slightly sour and a bit spiky palate. A little sour and green. Tart and acid driven. Very backward. 15/20 (just a little hardgoing at present).

Vasse Felix Semillon 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
Greenish. Toasty oak edge. Fully expressive nose with a real herbaceousness too. Oak edge adds interest to what is a dry and quite long palate. Lovely length, serious acidity and power. Oak works well here. 17.5/20 (I think this probably deserves even more points than that. Lovely wine. Always like it - eg here. Nice!) 

Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant 'Cellar Age' Elizabeth Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Straw green. Lemon toast nose with bottle age+. Palate is classic (Hunter) Semillon but... it's drying out. I like the bottle aged richness but that finish is just lacking some freshness. 16.5/20 (I know that you, MichaelC, have been hanging out for this one. I'm going to say that a retaste is required to confirm everything, but really surprised by that back end. Just looked a bit, well, aged).

Pepper Tree Alluvius Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Green colour. Very green nose that is absolutely smashed with sulphur. Reductive as hell. Hard work. (ouch. Needs a serious decant or a long spell in the cellar). 

Poole's Rock Semillon 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Lovely nose. Very correct Hunter Semillon fruit. Green, powerful, lightly toast palate. Long and serious. Proper Semillon this, built long and dry. Very good. 17.5/20 (Probably deserves even more. Like this alot). 

De Bortoli Murphy's Vineyard semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Dense green fruit nose looks serious too. 'Medium' palate is rather toasty and round but also shortish. Pleasant but short. 15.5/20 (Short. Just needs more conviction for the dollars).

Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Quite classic nose, if very withdrawn. Serious, proper palate. Looonnnng. A lovely dry and structured style with acid and power to burn. Wonderful. 18/20 (Worthy. Top class booze. Deserving).

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Flaxman Wines Eden Valley Shiraz 2008

Flaxman Wines Eden Valley Shiraz 2008 (Eden Valley, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample
www.flaxmanwines.com.au

It's a biggun' this vintage, as befitting the warmer year, built in a style that is fuller and less classically Eden in profile. Still, it avoids the dessication obvious in some Barossa Valley floor 08 Shiraz (Flaxmans Valley does it again).

Ripe. Chunky ripe. Concentrated sweet fruit ripe, with a real plum essence character to the nose, if edged with that hard, quasi vegetal edge of the vintage. The palate follows with a massive flow of juicy, grape-sugar-sweet, boysenberry fruit, the ripeness all around the mid palate mark and tailing away through the finish. It's soft, round and utterly un-tannic, fitting the fruit bomb profile of late 90s South Australian reds without the excesses.

End result? A well made wine for the vintage, if a fraction mono dimensional for big love. 16.8/89