Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A small flock of decent Kiwi's

A small flock of decent Kiwi's

Firstly, please forgive the flock pun. It's poor, I know, but my Codral Cold & Flu tablet addled mind can't muster up a more clever title right now (though it is growing on me).

These were all tasted at a recent mini Kiwi wine-fest. Of note is just how good that St Clair Reserve Sauv Blanc is. If you're going to buy Marlborough Sauv you'd be hard pressed to find a better example, though you've got be a fan of the nettles + passionfruit, 'I love Marlborough Sauv' style (which I'm not actually, but there's no denying the quality of this).

St Clair Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Marlborough, NZ)
Lots of latent power here. Intense, almost overtly grassy nose in true varietal/regional form. Dry, super powered, tangy palate. Seriously intense, long and quite weighty palate of length and form. Absolute top shelf Sauv. 18.5/94

St Clair Pioneer Block 9 'Doctors' Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
Now this I like. Marlborough Pinot to a tee. Bright, juicy, open and lovely spicy/cherry nose in an almost cuddly style, though the late acid hit brings everything back to reality. Lovely fleshy, cherry Pinot style with proper form behind it. Nice nice. 18.3/93

Vavasour Awatere Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
Not quite on the St Clair level, this looked a little subdued and sullen, even if it was edged with candied and rather ripe stewed fruit. Palate is again juicy, if just a little caramalised. In the wash though it's actually a rather nice, lighter style drink that was just overshadowed by the St Clair. Good. 17.3/90

Alpha Domus Aviator 2007 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
The only odd wine out in this lineup. Looked very raw, far too young and edged with hard oak tannins. It may well integrate but looked very brutal and unsubtle in this context. 15.8/87+

Bridge Pa Louis Syrah 2007 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
I've had this wine numerous times now and have simply decided that the reason why I don't like it is a stylistic disagreement. To be even more honest I just don't like the way it smells. There's just this herbal, peppery meaty sweatiness to the nose that I can't quite get past. Digging underneath the nose though and this is clearly a wine of some power and structure (finishing seriously firm to boot) with a smattering of gold medals to prove just how good it might look in certain contexts. In the end I'm just sticking to a 'goodish' rating as i think there might be merit in there. Though, hold on, it does have a slightly bitter finish.... 16.4/88

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Izway 'Harold' Shiraz 2008

Izway 'Harold' Shiraz 2008 (Barossa, SA)
?%, $65
Source: Sample


To be brutally honest I'm not all that much of a fan of 2008 vintage Barossan reds. That's a typically annoying, rudely sweeping generalisation I know (and bound to attract the ire of plenty of Barossans). Yet the often super ripe, slightly dessicated and plump style found in many an 08 from the region is just not to my tastes. Simple as that.

As with every such sweeping comment however, there has to be exceptions - wines that people use to argue against such statements, responding with a 'you're wrong, see, look at how good this wine is' sort of fashion. Contradictory wines, if you will. Phoenix wines even (in some cases).

And this Izway is the perfect example.

Made with no new oak, and minimal sulphur, it comes as quite a shock to see how fresh it still is. It looks positively vibrant in the glass in fact, with a deep purple colour that looks more like one of Andrew 'Thommo' Thomas's single vineyard Shiraz barrel samples than a hot year Barossan Shiraz.

It smells bloody good too. Seriously inviting even, with choc moccha, currants, very ripe berries and some tarry licorice. Intensity squared on that nose. It smells of supercharged tiny berries really, the sort that Chris Ringland grows on his Flaxmans Valley vineyard. Seriously fine Shiraz grapes no question.

It tastes of tiny berries too, jammy but not over the top, the first hints of raisining giving this a slightly tarry slickness that works. It's a curranty palate too, super intense and dry, with a real plum essence thang to it that is interesting to say the least. Those tannins are intense too, grainy and long and well backed by chocolatey wood. Tannins that again suggests small berries and a notable skin to juice ratio. Winning tannins.

This is, in short, an unquestionably impressive wine. It's hardly going to change my mind on the vintage, and it just teeters on the brink of OTT ripeness, but gee it's a proper goodun'. 18.3/93

Monday, 18 April 2011

Golding 'The Local' Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Golding Sauvignon Blanc
Bound to be popular
Golding 'The Local' Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample
www.goldingwines.com.au


I'm a little late to the party with this one, as the 2011 vintage is no doubt not all that far away now. This is still available and still looking fresh, so everything remains relevant.

As a wine it's very much a 'by the numbers' Sauvignon Blanc, with a grassy, green pea and citrus varietal correctness. It's a direct, open and fresh nose with all fruit and no adornments. It's actually reasonable intense too. Palate-wise it's got chalky acidity, plenty of passionfruit-meets-mango fruit richness, then some phenolic grip on the tart and slightly angular finish.

All up, this is a well made and entirely serviceable Australian Sauvignon Blanc with plenty of appeal. Sure, it doesn't have all that much to offer besides straight expression of the grape, but in the context of the style it's good stuff. It's not my preferred choice of drink, given, but I can still appreciate the intentions. 16.5/88

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Astrolabe Voyage Chardonnay 2007

Astrolabe Voyage Chardonnay
Bringin' sexy back
Astrolabe Voyage Chardonnay 2007 (Marlborough, NZ)
13.5%, Screwcap, $22
Source: Sample
www.astrolabe.co.nz


Like your Chardonnays to have a little weight? Dig the old school worked Chardy style? Step up! Wild ferments, plenty of oak and some bottle age have given this wine 'back' (as Sir Mixalot would say).

It smells of goodness. Of butterscotch and nougat and full yeasty richness, overlaid with full, spicy custard oak. In some ways it's a little too full and overt, but no mistaking the sexy time opulence. The palate follows suit, dominated by golden vanillan oak, woven in through the peachy fruit and yeast driven fullness. That oak lingers a bit too long through the finish, but there's well enough acidity to clean things up.

In many ways this is a wine driven by the winemaker and not the fruit, but, like a morning croissant, all that rich sweetness is still appealing, even if you probably couldn't drink all that much of it. Good wine at the core regardless. 17.3/90

Robert Stein Half Dry Riesling 2010

Robert Stein Half Dry Riesling
Robert Stein Half Dry Riesling 2010 (Mudgee, NSW)
12%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample
www.robertstein.com.au


Has a gold and trophy from the 2010 Winewise Small Winemakers Show, an award which is something of an achievement for an off-dry Mudgee Riesling. I'm not feeling the same way, but it's a good result for the winery and the region (which deserves more attention). Still - and I hate to bang a well used drum - I think this would be much more enjoyable if it was fermented to dryness (particularly given how good the dry Reserve Riesling is).

It smells green this, of a cool ferment and careful handling. There's a melon edge to it too, a broad, citrussy developing chub that looks just a bit ill-defined, a character which shows all too often when off dry styles start developing. It's the same on the palate too, the sugar muddling what looks to be a rather well proportioned, fuller (warmer clime) style of Riesling. Not convinced. 15.8/87

Saturday, 16 April 2011

A new $100 Chardonnay: The Lane RG Vineyard Chardonnay 2009

The Lane RG Chardonnay
Serious vino
The Lane RG Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $100
Source: Sample
www.thelane.com.au


It feels a little tawdry to be focusing attention on prices, but it's hard not to ignore the figures with this wine. $100, for a Chardonnay? And a Chardonnay from a largely unheralded producer at that? Audacious. Gutsy. Statement stuff even. But realistic? Probably not. Not whilst Chardonnay is still at a low ebb in the social consciousness, and especially not when the likes of Leeuwin AS, Pierro, Oakridge 864, Penfolds Reserve Bin et al. all sit underneath that magical three figure mark. In fact, I can only think of two Australian Chardonnays that sell for three figures - Giaconda and Yattarna, both of which have a decade+ worth of megastar vintages to show for the pricetag.

But...

You know what? The juice in the bottle is That Good. The length, the nose, the palate, the lot - all scream top end quality. Scream 'shit hot booze' at a volume that is hard to ignore. As a result, I'd say that if dollars aren't really a concern to you, then seek out a bottle of this just for your own enjoyment. Or just for interest really. The figures don't quite add up, but the drinking quality does, and in the wrap up that's all that counts really, doesn't it?

Anyway, the wine itself - it smells expensive. Of expensive French oak and high quality fruit. It was served blind to me and I thought it was Penfolds Yattarna actually, such was the style and weight on the nose... It's a lovely nose, full of golden, whipped butter and spicy vanillan wood with a bit of milky way/nougat richness in there. It's a big and quite oaky nose, but for lovers of Chardonnay it's absolute pure sex. It's a lovely, opulent nose whichever way you look at it, even if the nose is a fraction oak heavy.

On the palate: Well, it matches the quality of the nose. It's long, super long even, linear and dry, with not a hair out of place. Citrus, nougat characters over proper acidity. The whole kaboodle. The finish is immaculate - I kept waiting for a wobble, but it just looked long and dry and fresh. I hate to chuck in the ubiquitous cultural cringe, but there is more than a little Chassagne Montrachet (Burgundy) action in this wine.

In the wash, I'm happy to call this a top flight Australian Chardonnay. Besides the quibble of the oak dominance, this looks so very fine indeed. Is it worth the dollars? I'm not totally convinced, but gee it makes a very strong claim... 18.6/94

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

More old goodies: 98 Petit Cheval, 90 Montrose, 83 Unico + more....

More old goodies: 98 Petit Cheval, 90 Montrose, 83 Unico + more....

As mentioned here, I've been helping to 'drink out a cellar' recently, a task that is - given the wines involved - something of a task (wink).

These wines were all drank over a few hours and given at least an hour in the decanter. 

Château Cheval Blanc Le Petit Cheval 1998 (Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France)
Lovely looking cork. Quite big and meaty on the nose, this looked fully evolved and also a fraction cooked. Nice tannins but still not quite the drive you'd expect for this price. Couldn't quite muster up the love for this. 17.3/90

Château La Mission Haut Brion 1997 (Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France)
After the Cheval this looked immediately more Cabernet dominant, with herbaceous, cedary Cabernet black fruit topped off with green hints. Rather classic old school Bordeaux in that form. After the nose the palate is something of a surprise, looking richer and more oak driven than expected, though ultimately pulling up short. 3/4 of a fine wine then, but still reasonably satisfying. 17/90

Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva 1983 (Ribera del Duero, Spain)
Fully stained cork probably indicative of a less than 100% bottle. Really oxidative nose, with roast beef rolls and heavily ingrained oak. Sweetly oaky but ultimately resinous palate. Leathery finish boosted up by oak sweetness. More about oak artifice than actual fruit, this just looked old. 15/82

Château Gruard Larose 1996 (Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France)
Lovely expression of Cabernet this. Firm and dry, proper Bordeaux in the quite firm and almost generous style. There's a slightly stewed fruit character on the finish, but so much meaty classic power that you can't help but like it. Reasonably cheap in the scheme of things too. 17.7/92

Château Montrose 1990 (Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France)
 Boom! Step up to the mark for this. Wonderful wine. Lovely nose of leaf litter, red fruit, black fruits and long dry tannins. Utterly mid weight, elegant and ethereal style in the very classic mould. So lively! Length++. Really lives up to the promise. Yes! 18.7/95

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Château Tanunda 'The Chateau' Old Bush Vine Grenache Rose 2010

Châtea Tanunda 'The Château' Old Bush Vine Grenache Rosé 2010 (Barossa, SA)
11.5%, Screwcap, $28
Source: Sample
www.chateautanunda.com

Whilst the time for pink wines seems long gone in the awkward chills of a Northern Victorian autumn, I'm quite happy to see such a serious, textural rosé tonight, especially coming out of the Barossa (which is better known for the slightly fuller and simpler, fruit driven style).

This is produced off old, dry grown, bush vine Grenache, and was given only a little skin contact before being wild fermented in older oak. Serous stylin' there.

It looks as grown up as it sounds too, fitting nicely into the Rosé Revolution's 'pale, dry and textural mould'. If anything the colour is almost anemically pale in Barossan terms, with a pinkness that is straight outta Provence. On the nose it looks a little skinny too, with a sort of washed out strawberry and cream profile that smells correct if just a fraction underdone. Palate wise it's quite gentle and textural, the creaminess and craft overshadowing the fruit just a little, with the acidity a buzzy addendum.

It all makes for an interesting and quite drinkable wine, needing only a fraction more power and penetration to be really convincing. Much to like regardless. 17.1/90

Seppelt Moyston Cabernet Merlot 2004

Seppelt Moyston Cabernet Merlot
Not sourced from Moyston anymore

Seppelt Moyston Cabernet Merlot 2004 (Bendigo, Grampians)
14%, Screwcap, $30
Source: Fellow uni student's cellar
www.seppelt.com.au


On a rather chilly night here in Dookie this seemed entirely appropriate. A meat and 3 veg wine if ever there was one.

What I did find slightly surprising about this was the twiggy, slightly herbal/tomato bush hints. I wasn't really expecting such definition on the nose really, so let's mark that down as a surprise, though the odd whiff of caramel also suggests some mixed ripeness too. The palate though is real dry red territory, with hearty, meaty, savoury characters over a firm and blundering, warmish finish. It's anything but a subtle wine, but what's there seems absolutely solid.

Plenty to like here then, if not quite enough to love. 16.7/89

Monday, 11 April 2011

Ocean Eight Aylward Pinot 2010

Ocean Eight Aylward Pinot 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $70 for 2008 (current) vintage
Source: Kindly brought along to Uni on campus session
www.oceaneight.com.au


Aylward Pinot 2010. The shizzle
I suspect that Mr Coldrey over at Full Pour will be reviewing this wine tonight too, for we both agreed how good this looked. Exciting even. Apparently it's a solid two years off commercial release, but gee, queue up for it when it does. It's That Good.

From first whiff, from the first little waft to escape the glass this smells good. Very good. Very authentic, serious, and unmistakeably Pinoty. It even looks serious, with a murky, cloudy red appearance that looks almost mystical. On the nose it's all black pepper, sappy deepish red fruit, with a real animale unfiltered stink. A proper Pinot stink that one. On the palate too there is a gamey edge too the firm, muscular palate that is raunchy and wild, a real 'take it or leave it' firmness that is oh so classical Pinot. It's just a little stunted on the finish, which is not surprising given it was only bottled recently, but I've got no doubt it should all fill out by the time it is released.

Superb wine, built in the sort of style that screams loudly about how serious Mornington Pinot can be. 18/7/95

Rieslingfreak No.3 Clare Valley Riesling 2010

A very blurry picture of
the Rieslingfreak No.3
Rieslingfreak No.3 Riesling 2010 (Clare Valley, SA)
12% Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample
www.rieslingfreak.com


Righto so here is a story that sounds right up my alley. John Hughes, Australian winemaker (who was involved in the 'R' wines label too I believe) is a 'Riesling freak' - that is, he apparently likes Riesling. Or such. The good news is that John is following this passion by attempting to create his own Riesling 'portfolio of glory', producing wines from all of the famous Riesling regions of the world - Mosel, Wachau and, of course, the Clare Valley. Which brings us nicely back to this wine.

Sourced from the White Hut area, which apparently lies just outside of the Clare township (though it is unfamiliar to me), this looks like a very pure, rather classic Clare Riesling, built in the firm and dry, glass cutting, acid driven style. If anything it's almost too firm, the acidity just teetering on the brink of being too mouth bleaching and green. Yet there is still enough juicy, limey fruit in there to ultimately carry it all off, making for a rather refreshing and long, piercing mouthful of Riesling goodness.

An interesting - and particularly serious - Clare Valley Rizza this, and hopefully the first of what could be a damn fine range of wines. 17.7/92

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Climbing Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Climbing Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Orange, NSW)
13.5%, Screwcap, $22
Source: Sample

 www.cumuluswines.com.au

From a packaging perspective these Climbing wines are pretty clever, with the Where's Wally-esque wrap around graphic labels a real highlight (for me at least). I even found myself looking closer at the label to see if a yellow Wally carrying a briefcase might be in the background.The juice in the bottle, however, has never been as fun as the labels lead you to believe. This 09 Cabernet though looks to be the best one yet.

What makes this so attractive is it's careful ripeness - it's a full, plus-size wine for Orange, yet still retains a whiff of cool climate cedar and mintiness, with genuine structure. On the palate it's rather firm, the oak a fraction creamy dominant and the acid ever so slightly intrusive, but viewed as a whole this is a wine of length and cool climate stylin' at a very reasonable price. I've got no doubt it will be looking even better in 3 years time to boot. Good form. 17.6/91+

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Pichon Longueville Baron 97, Calon Ségur 95, Vega Sicilia Único Reserva Especial NV

Vega Sicilia actionnn
Pichon Longueville Baron 97, Calon Ségur 95, Vega Sicilia Único Reserva Especial NV

A good friend of mine is currently house sitting (of sorts) a particularly well appointed house with a similarly well appointed cellar. As part of this house sitting arrangement he is allowed a somewhat free rein of said wine collection, and has been kind enough to share some of the goodies within on regular occasions.

The following three wines then were pulled out recently from the perfectly controlled confines of this wine treasure trove and all provided interest at the very least, with only the spectre of bottle variation to blight the experience. Note I said interesting, not amazing, for I would have been slightly disappointed had I actually paid for the first two...

Pichon Longueville Baron 1997 (Pauillac, Bordeax, France)
This looked much older than it's age really, and typically more than a little bretty, with a meaty, animale nose, swathed in meaty richness and plenty of beef stock and leather. Underneath that was a solid, firmish core of cedary, meaty developed Cabernet character. It was certainly drinkable but just not quite pure or long enough given the ($150 odd) price tag. Apparently this was a lesser bottle in this dozen. 16.8/89

Calon Ségur 1995 (St Estephe, Bordeaux, France)
In many ways this was a rather typical maturing Bordeaux - driven by structure, the highlights coming courtesy of the tea leaf tannins. Beyond the tannins however it looks a little stewed, a little cooked even, with a dryness that just wasn't quite vibrant enough. Fair, but not exciting. 16.5/88

Vega Sicilia Único Reserva Especial NV - 2005 release (Ribera del Duero, Spain)
Now here is an oddity. Produced from a blend of the 1985, 91 and 96 vintages and one of just 15876 bottles (1300 cases) bottled in 2005. As per usual with Vega the story is more about structure than fruit, though in the right sort of fashion. The nose is surprisingly sweet, volatile and loaded with caramel, oak playing a very big part in it all. It smells dusty, cedary, and regal on the nose, with a nose of old couches and libraries. But the tannins. Oh the long tannins. Long, regal and firm. It's those tannins that bring you back every time. An experience of a wine for sure, though also a pretty unusual beast. I wasn't quite in love, but the tannins....18/93

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Hunter Masterclass - The best in Hunter Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz

Hunter Masterclass - The best in Hunter Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz

3 Hunter experts and 1 Wining Pom
Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz - they're 3 varieties that, inarguably, tend to look most at home in the Hunter Valley. Fitting then that a bunch of Hunter winemaking luminaries/experts/rapscallions chose to showcase those particular three in a masterclass held last weekend at the Brokenwood winery

The purpose of the event was to introduce visiting American wine social media guru Rick Bakas to the glories of Hunter wine and I was lucky enough to score an invite to said masterclass, which I dutifully attended, just to keep an eye on proceedings and such....

Bracket 1: Semillon
Kicking off the event was a typically enjoyable bracket of the Hunter's 'gift to the world' Semillon, with Andrew 'Thommo' Thomas the man on hosting duties for this bracket. As usual 'Thommo' waxed lyrical on the joys of Hunter Sem (they say that Thommo can talk underwater) but without embellishment- he's a straight shooter is Thommo, which makes him more believable. Add that to almost 25 years in the Hunter as a winemaker and you've got a man who knows the place inside out, and makes some of the regions finest wines to boot. All of which adds up to plenty of engaging conversations about style, typicity and winemaking techniques, fuelled by a particularly experienced cadre of winemakers also in the room to add their own opinions.

Sadly I wasn't able to keep up with all that was said during this bracket, particularly given I was busy trying to tweet, taste and chat all at once. I did manage a few odd points though, detailed below.

Oh and the other winemakers in the room included Iain 'Riggsy' Riggs (Brokenwood), Jim 'Chatto' Chatto (Pepper Tree) and Andrew 'Spinners' Spinaze (Tyrrells). I'm going to keep using their nicknames in this post for simplicity.

Some Semillon snippets:
- Thommo believes that 'more winemakers are looking at texture'. That building more texture into some of the Semillons, via such methods as yeast lees work and judicious picking, is something that more winemakers are doing of late, particularly with styles intended for early drinking. The question was raised about whether this 'tinkering' will make the wines more popular (and easier to sell) or just dilute the classic style. It's a question that is yet to be answered, though time will tell...
- The Hunter produces just 5,000 tonnes per year of Semillon (out of 15,000ish total for the Hunter) 80-90% of the Semillon is hand picked which is quite unique in the context of the Australian wine industry (where machine harvesting is still the norm).
- Thommo, like a few winemakers, crushes his fruit but does not destem. This makes it easier for the must to move the must through the press. This is done apparently as 'Semillon has slippery skins' and is know to clog the press.
- 'Spinners' related one of Bruce Tyrrell's comments to the crowd, namely that screwcaps are 'the saviour of Hunter Semillon'. On that topic, Thommo has had to reject large volumes of his older Sems (those held back for mature release) due to cork related problems associated with random oxidation and variable development. He also finds that cork gives a flat spot to his Semillons at 2-3 years of age that is not apparent on the screwcapped version.
- Riggsy retold a story of the first time wine critic Robert Parker was served a Hunter Valley Semillon. Parker simply wrote in his tasting note that 'he had no idea what he was tasting and had tasted nothing like it before.' He gave it no rating as a result, though everyone in the room wished he had given it a 97 'so we could all buy a Ferrari' (Riggsy).
- Riggsy believes that the secret to the a good Hunter vintage is cloud cover, that although the Hunter is a warm region, the extra humidity and cloud cover tends to soften the harshness of the sun.
- Spinners believes that 'wax and soap' are the aroma/flavour indicators of a very good Hunter Semillon vintage. 2005 is one recent vintage that many agreed shows this.

The wines

As for the wines themselves, they were all tasted non blind and quite hurriedly. Notes are also a little on the short side. Hopefully you get the idea...
RRP is in the brackets next to the wine name.

Audrey Wilkinson 'The Ridge' Semillon 10 ($35 due for release January '12)

Green, lifted, juicy, quite citrussy style. Grassy and very austere, even lightly herbal edge at first, but with some plush melon flavours after that. Finishes quite soft. Pleasant. Looks very young if still already approachable. 17/90+ 

Pepper Tree 'Alluvius' Semillon 2010 ($35)
Again quite green, again with that melon edge (which appears to be a vintage character). Lots of richness on the palate, which is quite generous and full. Maybe even a hint of sweetness? Again generous and pleasant. 17.4/91

Poole's Rock Semillon 2009 ($40)
A little lemongrass on the nose here. Quite expressive and grassy. Chalky and very serious. Long. Serious style. Like this. 18/93 

First Creek 'Winemakers Reserve Semillon 2009 ($30)
Very neutral and green. Very pure but looks rather backward indeed. A clean and rather linear style though. 17.5/91++

McLeish Estate Semillon 2007 ($30)
Quite a bit more toast here. Open and lemony style, generous style. Not quite the cut through but pleasant. 16.8/89 

Thomas Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon 2006 ($45 to be released August '11)
Stepping up with some serious chalky juice. Lots of rich, creamy, toasty layers, has length and a chalky, lemony tang. Very serious indeed. Yes. 18.8/95

Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005 ($65)
Waxy and quite floral. Just a hint of warm vintage melon. Gentle middle. Just a big broad and shortish but no questioning the style. 18/93

Brokenwood ILR Semillon 2005 ($45)
There is an extra touch of richness on the nose here. A hint of honey, more richness. Some Burgundian chalk through the middle and a sour finish. Lots of flavour and complexity. Lovely, right in the zone. Length, buzzy length. Great stuff! 18.7/95

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon 2004 ($35 sold out)
Definitely a slight grassy, lemongrass edge. Just a bit more sullen (vintage). But the palate is wow stuff, generous and green, but layered, really long, Hunter length. Still looks a little sullen but serious. Backward and a little green. Interest+ Long termer. 18.3/93

Tempus Two Zenith Semillon 2003 ($55 sold out)
Really open and toasty, generous and rich. Smoky even, with a real smoked chicken edge. I think it's drying out a smidgen, with the finish a little stunted. Pleasant though. 17.1/90

Tyrrells Vat 1 1999 ($100 museum stock)
A hint of terpenes? Really quite golden nose. Whipped butter, lovely expressive palate, lightly soft but finishing with long and very powerful acidity. Almost gritty acidity. But not quite the bounce? Can't fault and certainly a smart wine, but not quite love. I've had bottles of this I've loved more. 17.8/92

Bracket 2: Chardonnay
Our host for this bracket was Andrew 'Spinners' Spinaze, another well versed Hunter veteran (and again a renowned craftsmen of fine Hunter wines.

The masterclass. That's Jim Chatto to the right, with
(L to R) Rick Bakas, Andrew Thomas, Andrew Spinaze
and Patrick Haddock
Spinners believes that, in the rush to acknowledge how unique the Semillon is, that that the limelight has been taken off Hunter Chardonnay, undeservedly in fact.

One thing of particular interest that Spinners explained was how the first Tyrrells Chardonnays - one of the first in Australia in fact - were initially produced. The process in fact is probably closer to Semillon than Chardonnay, with the fruit picked early and quite green, with a short maturation in large (4,500 litre) oak barrels where they spent just 3 months before release.

Spinners also believes that to make good Hunter Chardonnay you need to retain acidity and freshness. This is accomplished by preventing the wines going through malolactic fermentation and then giving them only restricted time in oak (usually less than 12 months). Given how strong the most recent Tyrrells Chardonnays are it's hard to disagree with this style. But it's not the be all and end all of Hunter Chardonnay, as the tasting proved.

The wines
As before, all served with the bottle in front of us and at a brisk - but not fast - pace. 

De Iuliis Show Reserve Chardonnay 2009 ($20)
Clean, toasty style, Lightly toasted spicy wood. Spicy, and creamy, quite broad and generous. Lots of flavour here. Big and buxom but not fat. Much to like here. 17.7/92

Draytons Family Reserve Chardonnay 2009 ($30)
Much more of a peachy generous style. A complex, wild yeast touched palate, with quite alot more pineapple complexity. A big mouthful but a good one. Really quite like this worked style. 18/93 ($30)

Tower Estate Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2009 ($35)
More green apple fruit here. It's definitely pine-lime splice style. Maybe a little sweet/sour but the pineapple flavours here are intriguing. Like, but also distinctive. 17.6/91 

Pooles Rock Chardonnay 2009 ($40 released June '11)
Rather tight, neutral and serious. Mealy, restrained and rather complex palate. Classical and very smart. Lovely mealy length. Right on the money. Oak tannins on the finish perhaps? Otherwise very fine indeed. 18.3/94 

Audrey Wilkinson Chardonnay 2009 ($20)
Spicy, but neutral nose. Rather greenish palate, in a restrained, just peachy style. It's a lighter wine perhaps but with a really tight profile. Good and attractive style. 17.4/91

Mistletoe Reserve Chardonnay 09 ($40)
Complex, spicy and quite worked nose. Overt, spicy but super clean, razor sharp palate, sour edge in there too. Spot on. Very modern and slick but smart and peachy booze. 18.5/94

Scarborough White Label Chardonnay 07 ($30)
Lovely rich vanillan nose. Lovely overt oak. Generous stuff. Mealy and complex, generous and full. Sexy and delicious, peachy but creamy edge. All sexy creamy characters. A leg opener of a Chardonnay. 18.2/93

Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2005 ($55)
Still quite neutral on the nose. A refined, mealy, Semillon like nose. Really backwards and mealy, smoky even. Amazing length for the age. Still lots of acidity. Amazed to see this is years off still. 18.4/94

Allandale Chardonnay 03 ($20 sold out)
Full yellow. Butter. Looks a bit evolved and aged, with some decay and smoky age. Smoky chicken even. Curio but not a huge amount of pleasure. 16.3/87

Bracket 3: Shiraz
The Shiraz lineup

This bracket was hosted by Pepper Tree winemaker Jim Chatto. The idea with this bracket was to explore two good vintages - 2007 and 2009 - and how that transaled into the wines of five different producers. We thus had ten glasses in front of us, with 2 vintages of each wine. These were served single blind but I ended up far too slow and retasted again with the labels in front of me.

As for vintages these are quite different years. 2007 was hot, dry and warm producing quite firm, full flavoured wines from very low yields (up to 30% down according to Chatto).

Of the two brackets I'd have to say I preferred the more elegant and classic 09's over the much drier and less 'typical' 07's. It's a personal preference however...

The wines:

Tyrrell's Vat 9 2009 ($90 released July 2011)
Viognier like purple fragrance to this. Violets. Really quite floral even. Juicy, lots of deep, licoricey in a quite light style. Really twister, white pepper meets boysenberry style. Very pretty. Quite light tannins. Loved this more last time, I think this looks a little washed out in this context? 17/90 (looked very skinny and odd here. Shutting down?).

Tyrrell's Vat 9 2007 ($90)
Much deeper, musky spicy nose. Rich chocolate nose, Deeper and much serious than the 09 version. Musky, lovely purple boysenberry fruit. Much firmer, richer palate, again quite pretty, hubba bubba grapy flavours. Much more robust and full than the wine above. Again looking a little thin in this context though 17.7/92

(really surprised by how little I was convinced by these two wines. Very surprised. A Tyrrell's root day?) 

De Iuliius Limited Release Shiraz 2009 ($60)
Big and full, opulent purple fruit. Boysenberry chocolate lollies. Juicy and rich, fine tannins, boysenberry. Real tang to this. Attractive and quite pretty style. 17.8/92+ 

De Iuliius Limited Release Shiraz 2007 ($60 available May 2012)
Big and full, chunky and big. Lots of more South Australian styling. Really purple cherry ripe flavours. Firm and big, lots of flavours. Extractive. All the love here. 18.3/94

Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz 2009 ($40 due for release late 2011)
Deep. Endlessly deep. There is a real wildness here. Really wild. Maybe a little oak tannins but chunky and rich. Choc candy fruit. Lots of oak but sexy time stuff. Really sexy. 18/93+

Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz 2007 ($40)
Stinky, sweaty and odd, Looks a bit stinky and bretty even. Not much of a fan. Core behind it is good though. Dud bottle? U/R

Pepper Tree Coquun Shiraz 09 ($45)
Quite pretty, very pretty even. Pretty purple nose, but not washed out. Wildly pretty again. Pretty purple style. Lovely juicy style. 18/93+

Pepper Tree Coquun Shiraz 07 ($45)
A little horsey and full, perhaps, sweet vanillan edged and edged with gaminess. Note quite as fresh as it would be nice to have. 16.8/89 

Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 09 ($150 when released in May 2011)
Lovely nose. Really very dense. Maybe even a little stewed. Just a little dried out and firmer. Backward and a little dried out. Even. But very firm back end. Wobbly stage? Very firm. Benefit of the doubt. 17/90+ 

Brokenwood Graveyard 07 ($140) 
Still bretty and reductive. Still a little thin-ish. Still underwhelming. But hey, it's Graveyard, it has often had a bit of animale about it and it will probably sort itself out in time.... 16.5/88

Thomas Kiss Shiraz 2009 ($60)
Lovely Boysenberry nose. Pure and vibrant. Bloody excellent. Very rich decadent purple fruit palate. Nice sticky tannins. High class. Really very classy indeed. It's all about the purity. Excellent. 18.6/95 

Thomas Kiss Shiraz 2007 ($60 sold out)
Just a little desiccated after the 09. Meaty and full, it's tarry and very firm. Not quite as pretty and drying after the 09. Like it still, but it's extractive 17.9/92

(Once again a big thankyou to the HVWIA for making this trip happen and also to the producers themselves for breaking up their weekend to deal with us hooligans.