Sunday, 29 May 2011

Marchand & Burch Porongorup Chardonnay 2010

Marchand & Burch Porongorup Chardonnay 2010
13.5%, Screwcap, $60
Source: Sample

What a lovely wine this is. In amongst a star studded lineup of Chardonnay this stood out for its finesse and style, all delivered without sacrificing intensity. Winner.

It all kicks off with a lightly creamy, whipped cream nose that is very delicate, tight and minerally. There's a little sherbet, meringue and lemon curd pie in there but without excess bulk or sweetness, just Chardonnay goodness. Refined, detailed and dry palate is again crisp, dry and sexy. Think Mersault meets Great Southern. Long, fine, measured, lemon lime palate with tips of lemon meringue is rather delicious indeed. Excellent natural acidity. Crystalline finish. Little out of place here! Absolute top shelf Chardonnay, with length a winner. Moderate and great. Like! 18.7/95

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Natural Wine: What is it?

Natural Wine: What is it?

This article originally appeared recently in LattéLife Magazine.

I'm reprinting a slightly reworked version of this here as, although I seem to drink plenty of natural wines (there's quite a natural wine subculture here in Sydney actually) and love the controversial/paradoxical nature of the concept, I never actually write about them on this blog. Too much drinking, not enough critical tasting is to blame for that, though but I'm going to try and redress that in the future. Figure this is the best way to start.

So skip ahead if you're already well down with the cloudy stuff, but otherwise read on. Keep in mind that this was written for a very broad audience so the tone is a little lighter in many ways.

Wine the Natural Way

"Natural wine is the term given to those wines that have been made in a way that is 'minimally interventionist', that is, with as little human manipulation as possible. This usually involves grapes grown under organic/biodynamic/sustainable principles, picked by hand and then moved around ideally via gravity. In the winery too, the natural way involves no added yeast (only naturally occurring wild yeasts), added acid, tannin or enzymes, with minimal (or ideally no) S02 or other preservatives, and finally bottled without any fining or filtration.

The end result is what is purported to be the most pure expression of fermented grape juice around, the most ‘natural’ and unadulterated wines that can possibly be produced.

The origins of this phenomenon - unsurprisingly - lies in the old world, with the natural wine premise dating back to some intrepid French revivalists in the 1970s (in the Loire and Beaujolais in particular) whom were first attracted to the idea of creating wine in the same manner as their ancestors.

For more modern producers, natural winemaking appeals as the ultimate protest against the industrial, heavy-handed wine production of yore. In an Australian context, the very notion of natural winemaking stands contrary to the sort of 'clean and clear' wine production that we are famous for, which is perhaps why it has been greeted with suspicion locally.

But some more recent Australian natural wine examples have proven to be both drinkable and high quality, particularly those produced by several of the loose team of winemakers known as the Natural Selection Theory ( This group is based in the Adelaide Hills, though producing eclectic wines from a host of different regions, with all of the participants having their own natural projects.

Some of the top wines from this band of natural brothers includes the Lucy Margaux Adelaide Hills Pinots and Tom Shobbrook's Barossan reds. Internationally the finest natural wines come from a smorgasbord of European regions, including Etna in Sicily; Beaujolais, the Loire and the Jura in France and in little pockets all over Western Europe, with the style now spreading all through Spain, North & South America and South Africa (as well as Australia and New Zealand).

Perhaps the only thing restricting this growth is the wines themselves, which are infamously variable - at times painfully so - and have a rather limited shelf life. They are so variable as the lack of preservatives and filtering ensures that they are more readily affected by heat, oxidation and microbial spoilage, with this inherent fragility also thus reducing their reputation for cellarability. 

Lucy Margaux Jim's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010
Even the photos of the labels are cloudy..
If you can put up with these vagaries, however, the appeal for us drinkers is that natural wines can be truly some of the most lively and interesting available, offering some much needed diversity and entertainment. They’re probably not superior to ‘conventional’ wines, but the more artisanal approach is nothing if not encouraging. Viva natural wine!"

And a choice Australian natural wine:

Lucy Margaux 'Jim's' vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA) $45
Drawn from a site in the lush Piccadilly Valley, this is the sort of wine that showcases all the good bits about 'natural' wine. It's a very juicy, vibrant and open style, full of red fruit and licorice, backed by a palate that feels unforced and honest. There is just a hint of that pointy, slightly metallic unfinished edge but it's balanced out by that untamed bright fruit. It's definitely not for the long term - there just isn't the tannins for that - but no questioning the open, vibrant satisfaction to be had here. 18/93

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sydney Wine Show 2011: The Notes

Sydney Wine Show Results catalogue. Many wines in here
Sydney Wine Show 2011: The Notes

Very slack. Very. I should have written these notes up ages ago, but they simply got added to the (ever growing) pile.

Let's cut to the chase: These notes all come from the public/exhibitors tasting for the 2011 Sydney Wine Show (read more here), a two day tasting/drinking winefest that has became something of an annual highlight on my calendar. Why so? 2500 wines from all over Australia, all collected in one spot and open for me to taste at will. It's like a smorgasbord of wine, punctuated by all sorts of unreleased and odd little vinos that you just wouldn't see anywhere else. Wine wanker (that's me) heaven.

Now the biggest challenge with these notes is the speed at which they were written. We're talking wine show speed, and often just one look at each wine. As a result, I'm not afraid to say that I can get it very wrong. If you're a producer and think that I've given a harsh/unfair note then send me a grumpy email and a new sample bottle. It's important to be accountable methinks.

Oh and you'll notice that I do tend to concentrate on the wines/styles I like. I make no apologies for this, as I do tend to treat this as something of a vintage snapshot, new releases tastefest.

Notes are as written on the day(s) with my little comments in brackets. Medals are as scored in the show, though I'm score higher than the judges in this sort of setting.

Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
Bronze Medal

Lovely varietal nose. Lovely varietal palate. Long, perfectly delineated palate. Just a spot on wine, as per usual. 18.1/93

Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
Bronze Medal

Herbs and cream. Long, crisp and creamy palate, finishing generous and full. Just so much to like about this. 18.1/93

Cape Mentelle Wilyabrup Red Blend 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
Bronze Medal

Very rich and youthful palate. Quite oak rich, but precise. A fraction raw and sweet but everything in it's right place. 17.8/92++

(Hey, it's the Cape Mentelle fan club! They are on a roll though, no question about it).

Thomas Wines Cellar Reserve Bramore Semillon 2006 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver Medal

Very green nose. Just a baby! Quite a sullen little thing at the moment but so much goodness behind it. Patience needed for big love. 17.8/92+

Thomas Wines Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver Medal

Green, lightly toasty, entirely appropriate nose. Soft, crisp, zippy palate. Excellent proper acidity. All arms and legs at the moment, sitting right in a development hole. Length and everything else is spot on. Time. 18/93+

Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne 2005 (Goulburn Valley, Vic)

Bronze Medal
Green, lightly herbaceous nose. Semillon like straw too. Soft and generous palate. Tight finish. Lovely length. Fabulous length. Honeyed edge to the acidity too. Win+ 18.5/94

(love this wine. Important move to screwcap too as it has always been a movable beast under cork).

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver Medal

Classical nose. Hints of pepper and spice! Amazing length, with loads of power. There's a creaminess to the palate that I like here. Fabulous. Slightly herbal sourness on the finish too. Damn good. 18.7/95

(Preaching to the converted here. Call me biased but this is top shelf booze).

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon 2006 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver Medal

Backward as hell. Green and compact. Green apples too. A fraction attenuated on the finish. It will get there. Eventually.. 17/90+++

(These 06 Hunter Sems are classic, ageless things. They just need so much time).

Tempus Two Copper Zenith Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze Medal

Broad and quite chunky with a real citrussy fatness to it. Full, rich and ready for business. A little too full perhaps. 16.5/88

Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne 2004 (Goulburn Valley, Vic)
Silver Medal

Colourless still! Flecked with barley sugar richness, though very much in an in-between stage right now. Alongside the 03 and 05 this definitely looks to be the better wine. Still enjoyable though.  17/90

Coolangatta Estate Semillon 2006 (Shoalhaven, NSW)
Top Gold Medal

Very neutral, slightly grassy nose. Soft creamy palate. Quite a generous style. Looks a wee bit broad in the company. 17.5/91

(Not the best vintage for this, but still a smart wine).

Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze Medal

Lean, totally withdrawn hay nose. Grassy palate. Awkward green apple stage. Very serious though. 16.5/88++

(Why am I drinking this now? Not released for years and almost unfair looking at at this stage).

Pewsey Vale The Countours Riesling 2006 (Eden Valley, SA)
Bronze Medal

Kero creeping in already. Some more generosity here but not quite matched to the acidity. Almost oxidative even. A less than magical bottle? 16/87

(Retaste required).

Castle Rock Estate Diletti Chardonnay 2009 (Gt Southern, WA)
Gold Medal

Top shelf oak treatment if a bit pineappley. Very youthful, fine palate. Just a bit too rich and pineappley at the moment but should settle down. 17.5/91+

(Just needs some time in bottle).

Seville Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2009 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Gold Medal

Nice nose. Older oak? Fine and tight. Lovely creamy palate, creamy finish too. A little bit winemaker driven but lots to like. 18/93

Yarra Burn Bastard Hill Chardonnay 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Bronze Medal

Worked, custardy nose. Leesy as hell. Creamy, peachy, heavily worked palate. Complex and interesting. Excellent. 18.5/95

(Lovely stuff. You've got enjoy the worked style though).

Heggies Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2009 (Eden Valley, SA)
Bronze Medal

Quite lean nose. Very lean but still quite wild. Has that Yalumba fruity yeasty character on the nose. Palate is absolutely locked down tight. Good now, but with much more to come. 17.5/91+

Paringa Estate 'The Paringa' Chardonnay 2009 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
No Medal

Ripe, powerful and very full nose. Rich and quite brassy palate. Hot and caramelised finish. Just a bit too heavy and bulky really. 16.3/87

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Riesling 2010 (Gt Southern, WA)
No Medal

Fragrant and almost tropical floral nose. Quite overt and ripe. Candied orange palate. Looks a bit sweet and disjointed. 15.9/87

(I've struggled with some of the '10 Gt Southern Rieslings. Not a fan of that extra ripeness).

Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Gold Medal

Green, baby sick reductive nose. Green and grassy palate just looks broad. Not quite. 16.5/88

(Really reductive bottle this one).

Tulloch Julia Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze Medal

Green/grassy hay nose. Soft yet green fruit palate, a little pawpaw even. Pleasant but looks just a smidgen broadish. 16.8/89

Tyrrells Belford Chardonnay 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
No Medal

Very raw oak nose. Nutty, lightly oaky palate. Excellent acidity though. Good length. Good now, better later. Have to like that slightly gummy oak though. 17.5/91+

Cape Mentelle Brooks Chardonnay 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
Bronze Medal

Delightfully clean and nutty style, rich, long and refreshing, Good pure style. 17.5/91

Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2008 (Eden Valley, Vic)
Bronze Medal

Chunky, apricotty style with lots of richness. Very overtly varietal. Rich and pineappley. Warm and broad through the back end. Nice enough even though it's the V weed.

Houghton Jack Mann 2008 (Gt Southern, WA)
Gold Medal

Big, berried nose. Lots of coiled power. Palate is a little oak sweet but is also genuinely rich and serious. Black fruit a go-go. 18/93+

(Patience required here).

Home Hill Pinot 2009 (Tasmania)
Bronze Medal

Very pretty red fruit nose. Pretty red cherry palate. Very simply and juicy but just needs more structure and power through the back. 16.8/89

Castle Rock Estate Pinot Noir 2009 (Gt Southern, WA)
Silver Medal

Lovely! Buy! Fruit purity! Riper, warmer ferment nose. Stalky edges. Lovely pure fruit palate. Lovely. A bit pulpy sweet and luscious on the palate, finishing warm. 18

(A triumph for Castle Rock. Boom).

Paringa Estate 'The Paringa' Pinot Noir 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
Silver Medal

Volatile, heady and hot nose. Big and bulky palate. Short finish. Extractive and hot. Not quite. 15.8/86

(Just looking a bit OTT).

Paringa Estate 'The Paringa' Pinot Noir 2009 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
Bronze Medal

Warm, like the 08, but much more varietal and less fruit juice. Red cherry fruit. Generous and full palate. Spiky (added) acidity. Lots of power. Good though. 17.4/91

(Really interesting to put these side by side. Much preferred the 09).

Yabby Lake Block 2 Pinot Noir 2009 (Mornington Pensinsula, Vic)
Bronze Medal

Chocolatey, blocky nose. Oaky, firm, disjointed palate. It's all over the place. 15.5/86

(Hard going. I noted I didn't like the 08 version of this wine either).

Bream Creek Pinot Noir 2008 (Tasmania)
No Medal

Light, direct and pretty nose, Light and pretty palate. Creamy, open and nice. 17.1/90

(Value pick here)

Clyde Park Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 (Geelong, Vic)

No Medal
Green, tomato bush nose. Short green palate. Hardish tannins. No fun here. 15/83

La Curio 'The Nubile' Grenache Shiraz 2009 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
Bronze Medal

Pretty, candied red fruit nose. Lovely red cherry richness though quite hot. Such a pretty style. Spicy citrus finish. Like. 17.5/91

Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Gold Medal

Obvious chocolate oak on the nose. Really sweet oaky palate. Oak oak oak. Nice enough oak. But too much of it! 16.5/88

Thomas Wines Motel Block Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Silver Medal

Lovely colour. Really purple. Earthern, regional, purple fruit nose. Lovely natural, rich and plus palate. Like staring into pure fruit. Nice. 18.2/93

(Very similar notes to here. Identical score too.)

Yabby Lake 'Roc' Shiraz 2009 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
Silver Medal

Minerally, cola nose. Mystique! Black licorice, boysenberry palate. Warm finish. Lots of red fruit. Interesting stuff. Good booze. 18/93

Ferraris Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Bronze Medal

Elegant mid weight Hunter style. Licoricey with grainy oak tannins. Very pleasant indeed. 17.4/91

Metala Black Label Shiraz 2007 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
Bronze Medal

Jubey, black jube fruit. Sweet, oaky and hollow palate. Bitter, stressed fruit palate. No. 14.8/83

(Vintage affected for sure).

Yalumba FDR1a red 2009 (Barossa, SA)
Bronze Medal
Juicy, classic oak rich nose. Very tight, jubey and firm but spot on palate. Wine to watch here. 17.8/92+

Oakridge 864 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Bronze Medal

Leafy, lightly stewed nose. Mixed ripeness. Leafy, slightly uneven palate. Shortish. Enjoyable enough, but just not quite there. 16.5/88

Clairault Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
No Medal

Gumleaf. Nice herbal edge to the nose. Like the nose. Dark fruit. Faintly green but nice palate. Proper regional style. But not for everyone. 17.5/91

(My style of MR Cab. Can understand why it got crap scores in a show lineup though).

Jacobs Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2005 (Barossa, SA)
Silver Medal

Hey it still smells like fruit! Cabernet herbs. Lots of oak throughout and very rich. Very much an old school SA style, with loads of added tannin. But still perfectly acceptable in it's mould. 17.5/91

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 2006 (Barossa, SA)
Bronze Medal

Ripe, plump and juicy chocolatey style. A fraction raw but loads of flavour. Surprisingly skinny through the finish. Still in transition methinks. 16.5/88+

Zema Saluti Cabernet Shiraz 2006 (Coonawarra, SA)
Bronze Medal

Sweet, raisined, chocolatey style. Oaky, juicy palate is just plain overripe. Hot finish too. 16.3/87

Hardys Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Multi Regional)
Bronze Medal

Dusty, strongly varietal style, with hints of green bean and seriously hardcore drying tannins. Cumbersome but shows potential. 16.8/89+

Yalumba The Signature 2006 (Barossa, SA)
No Medal

Lovely cocoa powder oak amalgam nose, quite sweet, rich and generous palate with hints of green bean too. Lots of power but a little four square at the moment. 17.5/91++

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
Silver Medal

Very dense and ripe this year. Lots of heat and power. Rich, vanilla oak nose. Very firm and jammy palate. A little jumbled and warmish this vintage, though the potential is there. 17.3/90+

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
No Medal

Dense black fruit and anise nose. Ripe, essence-of-Cabernet palate. Very young with lots of power. Classy finish, with hints of varietal herbs in there. Such a keeper. Good stuff indeed. 18.2/93+

Houghton CW Ferguson Cab Malbec 2008 (Western Australia)
Silver Medal

A big, fainlty greenish, bulky style with quite aggressive extract and lots of impact. Just a bit cumbersome for big points. 16.5/88

(Others seem to enjoy this more than me).

Yalumba 'The Reserve' 2006 (Barossa, SA)
Bronze Medal

Super sweet, black chocolatey oak and intense super charged fruit. Incredibly young and still unfurling in the bottle. A little skinny even? Vinfanticide stuff. 17.5/91

(This needs a decade really).

Clairault Claddagh Reserve 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
Bronze Medal

Classic gumleaf and cedar varietal/regional mix. Big, intense and firm palate. Green hints on the plate. Very attractive and classic, if way too young. 17.8/92+

Saturday, 21 May 2011

BEER: Cascade First Harvest 2011

Cascade First Harvest 2011 (Hobart Tasmania)
5.5%, $15 a 4 pack at my local Vintage Cellars

Cascade First Harvest 11. It's hoppy.
I'm opening this with a sense of trepidation. A nervousness that comes on the back of last years disappointment, which itself came after the glory of the '09 vintage. That bizarre mix of hopeful positivity and dreadful anticipation, backed by a voice that pleads 'let it be so'. It's like that.

But enough of that junk, what's the beer like then?

For starters it really needs to be drunk out of a glass. I've lined up one bottle and one bottle poured into a glass and the glass is definitely winning.

As for the beer, well it's hoppy. (of course it is Andrew you idiot). Seriously though, the story here is all about the freshest of handpicked Tassie hops, and that's what this smells and tastes like. Hops. Lots of hoppy goodness in here, lovely sweet sappy hops finished off with proper hoppy bitterness. Big shiny tick on that front.

But you know what, once you get over the hop wet dream this is just a little hollow. It's fresh, sure, but it also lacks heart. It has that over polished, squeaky clean, corporate flavour that comes from cost centres and PR companies and the like. It tastes clever, but cold. Of talented brewers who would love to be making something cloudy and weird and stinky but need to make sure it still comes in a twist top bottle. And underneath it all, if you stripped away this sort of interference, this would probably be just that beast (though it will never be such a creature, and I really should keep that in mind).

The net result? A sessionable beer that has plenty of lovely hoppy flavours and some good bits. An improvement on the '10 (in my humble, poorly informed opinion) and a drinkable beer (I happily drunk both bottles). But it just doesn't seduce like it really could/should.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Jamsheed Le Blanc Plonk 2010

Big win for the Plonk
Jamsheed Le Blanc Plonk 2010 (Victoria)
12.7%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

I'm sure that some will look at me funny for loving this as much as I do (Mr Walsh I'm thinking of you) but, quite frankly, this is the sort of wine that I want to drink. A blending triumph, a textural and aromatic bag of fun that combines mega serious acidity with real style. Me likey. But I won't hold it against you if you don't, though it's well worth a try for the dollars really.

Oh and for the record this is a blend of Grampians Riesling, King Valley Gewurtz and Yarra Valley Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. On the production side this saw old oak and some careful skin contact. Progressive winemaking ++ with a clear nod to the ways of Marcel Deiss and other Alsace tinkerers.

It all kicks off with a wildly spicy, musk aftershave and lavender floral nose that clearly draws on some lovely Gewurtz fruit. Did I mention that I really like good Gewurtz? Palate is sour, long, very dry and crunchy, the acidity firm, nee almost severe, before that gentle viscosity and textural softness of a little lees enriched, fruit juiciness takes over.

The real attraction then is the tension between fruit juiciness, deftly supportive winemaking influences and acidity. It smells richer than it tastes, and it tastes both bone dry and generous. It wants for a little intensity perhaps, but gee the style, drinkability and cerebral attraction factor is through the roof.

We need more wines like this, at these sort of prices. Yes. 18/93

Thursday, 19 May 2011

d'Arenberg Derelict Vineyard Grenache 2007

I can't say Derelict
without thinking
Derek Zoolander...
d'Arenberg Derelict Vineyard Grenache 2007 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample

I rather liked the 06 version of this, it ticked all the right Grenache buttons. What's standing in the way of a repeat performance here is the 07 vintage, which was tough in the Vale - a dry, drought year that produced tiny little berries with thick skins and bugger all flesh. The 07 Vale reds are thus concentrated buggers, but all too lean towards desiccation and general lack of love. Still, if any grape can cope with such a hard life, then Grenache is it.

This provides a pretty good account of itself too - it smells thick and dry, of dried fruit, molasses and bitumen, the fruit essence like in it's dehydrated form. Yet the palate is still grapey enough to be drinkable - it's hardish and drying, but there's a certain meaty enjoyment to be had - a real heartiness that matches quite well with the sweet red confected fruit to make for a proper, meat-and-3-veg sort of red. There's charm in here no doubt, if set in a slightly too firm package. 16.8/89

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Australian Wine Review Turns Three

Australian Wine Review Turns Three

I had a birthday last week. Or not me, strictly, but this blog did. For last week (approximately) this website/blog/wine site etc. turned three. Three years ago I decided that I needed somewhere better/more convenient to put my tasting notes than on random pieces of paper scattered around my house. Three years ago I chose blogger as a platform (which was the most convenient at the time. Now I have so much custom code that porting over to Wordpress seems like a pain in the ass, even though this blog would be much sexier as a result) and decided that blogging was something I might play around with.

Skip forward three years, and my big challenge now is keeping up with the growing mound of tasting notes that need to be transferred from shitty notepad/napkin/random pieces of paper/back of parking ticket (that's how I roll) onto blog. Contrast that to three years ago, when I would go out hunting down samples to taste, attending the opening of an envelope if it meant tasting a wine or two/finding wine and wine related things to write about. Now I can barely keep up with the flow of samples that come through the door (which is an exciting situation in itself, if a ridiculous first world problem if ever there was one) and there is endless things wine related to write about. I think I had more time to write about things back then though, so my tasting notes are probably crapper than they once were....

After all is said and done, and my (nonexistent) bloggers birthday cake is finished, I've got to say how much fun this whole blogging caper is. Fun, educational, informative, entertaining and just plain cathartic (in the best possible way). I really can't begin to explain how many amazing opportunities, interesting people and shedloads of great vino that has come my way via this blog. Blogging, by nature, is often self indulgent shit, but it really is the comments and feedback that brings you back night after night. The awkward questions, the snide anonymous remarks, the stunning insights, the plain funny responses. All of it is like fuel, fuel to keep you punching out tasting notes at 3am after knocking off a bottle of wine, fuel to have you resizing iPhone images and attempting to interpret illegible musings (my handwriting is truly woeful) about some unpronounceable German Riesling that smells like baby sick but tastes amazing. Fuel to make it all worthwhile.

So it is you I've got to thank. Without you this site is nothing. Simple as that.

Oh and Happy Birthday!

BEER: Little Creatures Single Batch East Kent Goldings Ale

BEER: Little Creatures Single Batch East Kent Goldings Ale

They do good things over at Little Creatures, crafting the sort of interesting, masterful brews that I want to drink. The cellar door is a heap of fun if you're in Freo too. More power to them.

As for this beer? It absolutely hits the spot. Says everything it says it would, the back label's description that  essentially calls it 'sessionable' (to use a Bennieism) without being soft. A mild, dry, lightly earthy style, if a little sweaty, built on medium bitterness and weighing in at just 4.5% alc.

Entirely drinkable beer without pandering to the boredom of the lager style. Yes.

A look at some new wave Victorian wines...

A look at some new wave Victorian wines...

Wantirna goodness
Lake House (Daylesford) Sommelier, Riesling lover and general good guy Thomas Hogan was in town recently - largely just for a drink methinks - and brought with him a whole brace of Victorian booze to share. That collection included the sort of new wave/new generation/just plain awesome Victorian wine that is well worth highlighting.

And interesting drinks they proved to be...

The following wines (from Thomas' bag of goodies) then were all tasted at the Spitbucket Wednesday tastingfest, held every second week on Coast Restaurant's fabulous Roof Top Bar. If you're in Sydney on every other Wednesday keep an eye on Coast's twitter feed to get on board.

Crawford River Riesling 2010 (Henty, Vic)
Arguably Victoria's finest Riesling (although often forgotten when people talk about Australia's finest rizzas). What is most interesting is that there are now three Rieslings in the Crawford River stable and this - which I suppose you'd call the standard Estate wine - is apparently the most classic form. Yet for all it's classical intentions this looks, well, just a little rounded and fatter than previous years.

That extra weight is probably not evident on the nose, which is pure, zesty and clean, but it sort of sneaks in after a while, a little spoonful of melon juice to bring you back to soften things a smidgen. It's the palate though where things look a little softer, more gentle, more friendly than older vintages, the finish punctuated with phenolic grip and still long enough, but lacking the conviction and line of the top wines perhaps. A pleasant wine, without hitting the high notes. Drinkable nonetheless. 17.3/90 

Gembrook Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Boom! Welcome back character. It's a divisive wine though, which suits me just fine. Smoky, grassy fresh-herbs-meets-bottle-age-generosity on the nose, doing a very fine, Aussie Pouilly-Fumé impression (queue cultural cringe). The palate is dry, incredibly dry even, with pepper/herbal edges to the serious, citrussy-acid-meets-herbal-fruit palate. Quite complex really, though maybe a fraction overt. Likey 17.7/92 

Sutton Grange Viognier 2008 (Bendigo, Vic)
Another day, another weak varietal Viognier. Actually, I've really got to stop my Viognier bashing as it's getting old. Anyways, this does nothing good for the style. Broadish, ginger and apricots style with juicy fruit softness and a flabby, orange/apricot cordial palate. Soft mouthfuls of fruit juice, capped off with minimal acidity. Not quite, though with commercial appeal (though hardly $45 worth). 16/87

Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2008 (Macedon, Vic)
Welcome back! Lovely juicy stawberry/raspberry fruit nose. It's unquestionably a riper year Curly Flat Pinot and lacks the delicacy of the top vintages, but still so very much to like. That nose is near perfect - just everything you want in an Australian Pinot really. The palate is a little stunted, but still carries nice stem tannins and assured style. That finish is the only let down, a wobbly end to what is a very nicey nicey wine. 17.8/92

Greenstone Sangiovese 2007 (Heathcote, Vic)
I first banged on about the Greenstone wines last August when Heathcote came to town (here) and this didn't let me down here. From a bloody hard, mega drought vintage, this is dominated by - quite sexy - oak at the moment, the red earth characters of Heathcote stirred in there to make one dense dense nose. The palate has nice tannins too, if just a little hot and heavy for high points. Again a nice wine and much to like (I'd drink this, with steak). 17.5/91

Syrahmi Syrah 2009 (Heathcote, Vic)
Another showing for Heathcote and another entirely drinkable wine. Perhaps the only distraction here is that smoky, characuterie nose which is just a little divisive. It's a swish package anyway, if a little too front palate-ish and light on the finish for big love. Maximum style points though and geez if you had a Tapas joint this would be a near perfect by the glass pick. Would fly with some sort of Chorizo action. 17.3/90

Wantirna Amelia Cabernet Merlot 2008 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Preaching to the converted with this one. I dig Amelia, she can park herself in my cellar any time (and she has previously). This speaks to me in the ways of Cabernet, the ways of Yarra Cabernet even, in a style that is all about being happily medium bodied and fine. No fancy adornments, just style. Reminds me of a nice Hugo Boss suit really, with lines all very correct indeed. What's more, all of this is announced from the black leaf/tobacco nose, built in a herbal yet ripe form that I dig. Yes. Classic Cab Merlot palate that is just a fraction warm but with proper fruit tannins, proper length and proper goodness. Old school, but in the right way. Yum. 18.4/94

Monday, 16 May 2011

Premium Shiraz Night 2010

Premium Shiraz Night June 2010

63 Wyns Hermitage. Amazing.
As ever I'm playing catchup at the moment, discovering random forgotten tasting notes in equally random places. These notes have been sitting in paper form for some 10 months now, mainly due to my own slackness. Still, the calibre of the vino deserves recording (even 10 months later) for there was some seriously fine wines amongst them.

Without further ado...

(All of these were consumed over dinner, non blind (unless otherwise marked). Notes are as written on the night, with my little commentary at the end in brackets).

Flight One - Variety is the Spice of Life

Guigal Chateau d'Ampuis 2000 (Côte-Rôtie, Northern Rhone, France)
95% Syrah, 5% Viognier. 38 months in barrel.
Classic lifted perfume - a floral nose of Azalia's and pea and ham meatiness. Really bright though, bright, perfumed and juicy. Lovely meaty palate is surprisingly medium bodied, if looking rather warm through the finish. Did I mention the tannins? Excellent fine grained tannins, very silky and long.

Lovely wine, if a teeny bit hot through the finish. Cherry aromatics meets dark dusty fruit. Lovely, unforced wine. 18.7/95

(Lived up to it's reputation. Group favorite of the bracket to boot.)

Dalwhinnie South West Rocks 2005 (Pyrenees, Vic)
100% Shiraz.
Lovely peppermint chocolate aromas. Purple fruit, really dense and purple, with graphite, fleshy black fruit and lovely black jube/blackberry ripeness, sweet oak in the background. Light and airy through the finish, but still properly dry. Still much to give. Classy wine this, with so much elegant interest. Yes. 18.5/94

(Really surprised by this. That minerally, minty chocolatey goodness is distinctive and great)

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2006 (Canberra District)
94% Shiraz, 6% Viognier. 3 day pre-ferment maceration. 20% whole bunches, extended warm open ferments. 12 months in 30% new French oak.
Very peachy - Viognier is really obvious at this stage, though the whole package looks very young. too young really. Palate starts dry and light, though gets thicker as it progresses. Warm finish. It's all very tight but pretty, though I also think it looks a little light and withdrawn through the tail. Ultimately just a tad too sweet perhaps? Should still be reasonably long lived. 17.8/92+

(Too young, too sweet. But no doubting the potential). 

Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz 2003 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
100% Shiraz. Famously dry vintage in the Hunter. 13.7% alc. pH 3.47
Earth. Lots of earth. Classically earthen nose that is very much in the secondary phase now. Very Hunter. Palate starts very rich and then gets meatier and drier as it travels along. Just a fraction short through the finish, capped off with drying tannins. So Hunter! 18/93

(So much to like for a Hunter wine fan here, even if it's a biggun').

Flight Two - Big, Bold, Beaut Aussies

Elderton Command Shiraz 2001 (Barossa Valley, SA)
100% Shiraz. Sourced from the Elderton Estate vineyard. 3 years in new American and French oak puncheons, transferred to older oak after the first year. 14% Alc.
Lots of chocolate, meat and Amex oak. Very Barossan, with lots of formic oak characters on the nose. 9yrs old but looking very youthful still. Sweet caramel entry, very soft palate is just faintly secondary, otherwise it looks just bottled. Very sweet, very oak, very rich, but appealing. Nice, if hardly earth shattering. 17.5/91

(Old school style here. Will live for many years yet. A sleeper methinks). 

Torbreck 'The Factor' Shiraz 2004 (Barossa Valley, SA)
100% Shiraz. Marananga, Koonunga Hill, Moppa, Gomersal. pH 3.7, 14.5% alc. 24 months in 30% new French oak.
Very closed, ultra dense, ultra concentrated nose. Crammed with oak and ultra ripe, almost petrochemical glycerol fruit. Really black fruit and so much oak. A real charry oak that rides all the way through the finish. That's a shame really for underneath all that oak is top line fruit, the odd whiff of bacon fat richness just hinting at it. Potential... 16.5/88+

(I think it will look better with a few years more in the bottle, but that oak will always be overt). 

Katnook Estate Prodigy Shiraz 2004 (Coonawarra, SA)
100% Shiraz. 27 months in roughly 50/50 French/American oak. 14.5% alc. pH 3.4. TA 6.4 g/l
Lots of sweet oak again. Flashy, sweet, super creamy vanilla oak over generous plummy fruit. That almost milky oak is very attractive but covers the fruit. Some good stuff underneath it. But geez it's oaky. 17/90

(Really interesting looking at this compared to the wine before. Both oak smashed, both have solid fruit at the core. This looked more varietal, but again would be smarter without the excesses of oak). 

Kilikanoon 'R' Reserve Shiraz 2006 (Barossa Valley, SA)
100% Shiraz. 30 months in small new French oak.
Very sweet and very much a case of 'see my oak'. Very polished though. That fruit underneath is high quality stuff. The whole wine is just a baby. A finely polished baby. It finishes a bit short and warm, but it's attractive. 17.5/91

(Sexy oak. But wine is more than oak. Again this would look better with less, though unquestionably attractive).

Flight Three - World Tour Wine Test

Served blind.

Craggy Range Le Sol 2007 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)

100% Syrah
Beautiful spread of ripe red fruit aromatics, even just a smidgen of eucalypyt, chocolate and gummy fruit. It's a little oaky but nice full weight to this style. Firmish finish. Needs years, but really rather appealing. 17.9/92

(A Le Sol that I really like is a rarity, but this looked very well balanced indeed).

Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2003 (Northern Rhone, France)

96% Syrah, 4% Viognier
Licorice and Asian spices on the nose. . Spicy and quite exotic even. Very nice. It's gummy and quite secondary, with all sorts of very ripe and plain exotic smells in there. Dry and mildly hammy, palate looks rather secondary. It's a good secondary, meaty Rhone with firm grainy tannins and good meaty grip, if a bit raw and dried. Lots to like here though.. 18/93

(I'd drink this for sure. Complex if a little dried out). 

E. J. Durand Cornas Empreintes 2005 (Cornas, Northern Rhone)
100% Syrah
Really secondary, hammy and sour. Deep, almost metallic palate with a real chewy end. Sour and hard.
Where's the love? It's not terrible, indeed you'd drink it, but more freshness wouldn't go astray. 16.5/88

(Why is Cornas so often a dissapointment? And why is it that Clape defies this?)

Chateau Reynella Cellar One 2005 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
100% Shiraz
Lots of chocolate, choc mint oak. Oak dominated, though it's not ugly oak. Did I mention sweet oak? There's plenty of fruit behind it but looks out of place in this context. Very sweet. But very Australian too. Chocolatey power. 17/90

(I think this has it's place. But geez it's a winemaker/oak salesman plaything when you think about it).

Flight Four - Charge of the 98 brigade

Coriole Lloyd Reserve 1998 (McLaren Vale, SA)
100% Shiraz
Lovely sweet vanilla and coffee nose. Mocha oak style. Very youthful. Sweet but coffee dry palate is still surprisingly tight. Oaky though. Long and warm and rich palate is rather delicious in the wash up. Falls away on the finish a smidgen. But still very attractive (in it's mould). 17.8/92

(Group favourite of the bracket) 

Brand's Laira Stentiford Reserve Old Vines 1998 (Coonawarra, SA)
100% Shiraz
Really evolved and even haunting secondary nose. Nutty beef stock. Nicely evolved. Black pepper and tea leaf. Unquestionably Coonawarra with some spicy brackishness on the back palate. Resolved, regional and tasty. 18.3/93

(Woah. Didn't expect to like this at all. Happy surprise!)

Wynns Michael 1998 (Coonawarra, SA)
100% Shiraz. 13.5% alc. TA 7.3g/L. pH 3.43
Eucalpyt! Lots of eucalypt along with large amounts of choccy toasty, dominant oak. Clumsy oak. Underneath it's just like a shell, sour and dry with poky acid. Awkward. 16/87+

(Way too oaky, But hey, it will live).

Meerea Park 'Alexander Munro' Cellar Release Shiraz 1998 (Hunter, NSW)
100% Shiraz
Lovely full Hunter Shiraz. Grainy tannins. Very dry. Chocolate and earth. Sour finish. Classic Hunter, full and proud. Love me! Time+. 18.2/93

(I'm biased - I brought this. A good bottle no doubt helps. The youthful/agelessness of the style is really amazing).

Flight Five - In Vino Antiquis Veritas

Henschke Mt Edelstone 1995 (Eden Valley, SA)
100% Shiraz
Corny stink to the nose and looking secondary. Plum and pea. Intriguing nose with plenty to it. Light to medium bodied palate still has lots of chocolate oak now turning into a smokiness. Meaty, long and briary, sinewy even. Plenty of that black licorice edged Eden valley fruit. Long, fully evolved and just plain lovely. Slow cooked meat. I like it. 18/93

(95 - the ordinary vintage for everyone bar Henschke. Lovely wine).

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 1999 (Barossa, SA)
100% Shiraz
Corked. The only corked bottle of the night.

Tardieu-Laurent Hermitage 1996 (Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France)
100% Syrah
Dirt and dog poo. Iron and meat. Stinky. Light to medium bodied. Stinky! Diversive stink. Carrion even. Underneath it's dusty and fair. But the nose is hard work.  14.5/81

Wynns Coonawarra Hermitage 1963 (Coonawarra, SA)

100% Shiraz
Chocolate, tobacco leaf, rum and raisin. Very evolved and meaty but still in good shape - tally ho! Olives, stalks and volatility. Quite sweet! Just a bit metallic through the back. Meaty. Sharp acid. Still going! Amazing. Priceless.

(I didn't rate this as it's too hard to give a score to a classic. Instead I'll say that it's great to marvel in how drinkable this wine still is. A little dried out and volatile but still impressively sweet. Still drinkable!)

Flight 6 Addendum

Teusner FG Shiraz 2006 (Barossa, SA)

100% Shiraz
Very thick, rich and decadent. Deep and fresh! Black as night. Coffee. Deepset. Very rich. Lots of serious Shiraz fruit here, integrated with serious oak. A little warm through the finish. Seriously top end style here, with so much power and glory. Wow! Very fine. I want! 18.6/95

(Like Barossa Shiraz? Get some of this. Amazing booze).

Flaxman Dessert Semillon 2010

Flaxman Dessert Semillon 2010 (Eden Valley, SA)
11%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

Righto, so for a bit of fun (and for an interesting contrast) here is the review of the '09 vintage of this fun little Eden Valley sticky:

'....Flaxman Semillon, a cordon cut Eden Valley sticky drawn from old hand picked vines. Light yellow/green in colour, it's youthful stuff, showing marmalade and quince on a dense and sweet, dried fruit palate. A simple, well made wine, it's just a tad too simple and blocky for real high points. 16.5/88+'

Now this year:

'Lovely tinned peaches/3 fruit nose. Lots of juicy fruit. Light, airy, generous medium bodied palate that is crisp and lively. Hardly long or intense but very liveable. 16.5/88'

Whilst the second tasting note definitely looks to be the laziest of the two, I'm quite intrigued by just how different the two wines sound. Yet if you stuck them together - at a similar equivalent age - they'd probably look identical methinks. The main difference in the notes, I'd wager, is as much about temperature than anything else. The '09 was drunk, slowly, at 2pm on a hot December day, the '10 quickly on a cool May evening.

Moral of the story? Temperatures matters. Particularly with sweeter styles.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Picks from the #LookSB Sauvignon Tweetup

Picks from the #LookSB Sauvignon Tweetup

A pack of Sauvs? A suite of Sauvs even?
In a clever bid to draw attention to their newest Sauvignon Blanc release, the Petraea, Adelaide Hills producer Nepenthe recently posted out a 3 pack of 'textured' styles of Savvies, sent expressly with the intention of having likely tasters from across Australia open the three together and then opine about them via social media (using the hashtag #LookSB in the process).

As one of said likely tasters I duly opened up the trio (with chicken fajitas - I live the high life) and had a reasonably close look at them. Sadly, a one sided fight with my phone actually prevented much twitter commenting (which is a shame really as I would have been interested in what the preferences were) but I did manage to jot down some old fashioned, longer-than-160-characters notes.

As always with these sort of tastings this was a really quite enjoyable look at three quite different wines. Whilst the Nepenthe was certainly the most challenging of the three, I also think that it might show the most potential, even if it was bloody hard going on the night.

Nepenthe Petraea Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5% $30
Woah. This looked very reductive on the nose, with the telltale whiff of sulphur hiding some of the aromatic goodness - methinks a little more oxidative handling would have really helped this wines cohesion no end. Beyond that reduction, the nose shows subdued lemon and a light whiff of smoky oak but I was definitely digging to find the fruit. Sadly I didn't get to try this again today as things may well have come together with a night (half empty) in the fridge.

As for the palate, well it looked angular - tight, super dry and bluntly acidic, the oak providing only a whisper of texture to what is ultimately a very crisp, firmly delineated palate. It's almost achingly dry actually, the acid slicing like lime edged razor blades. That purity and mega clean (and very modern - attentive technical winemaking here) intensity of fruit is certainly admirable, but whether it makes for a decent drink is rather debatable. In many ways I don't want to write this off as it tasted so immature, so freshly bottled that it would probably be rude to jump to conclusions, especially as beyond all those jagged edges obviously lies something which could be really quite good (the fruit certainly looks jaunty enough). But, it's still a genuinely hard wine to fall for right now. In 12 months time it may well look much better. 16.3/87+

Taltarni 3 Monks Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Victoria, Tasmania)
12.5% $25
Quite a contrast here, with oak certainly playing a prominent part. Yet it's not intrusive oak, rather it just acts like a creamy hug to soften out the edges. The nose here is creamy marshmallow and vanilla pod, mixed with a suggestion of herbs and a stir of lemon meringue. It's a simple appealing nose. Palate is also supportive and easy, the clean and quite neutral fruit helped by the the richer lees/oak edge. Acidity is still abrupt, but the flavors are entirely appropriate. The clincher here is the texture, which provides weight but balanced nicely with cleansing, tightening acidity. I really rather liked this, and I'd call it my pick of the trio. Should look even better with another 6 months in the bottle too. Good + 17.6/91+

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2009 (Sancerre)
13%, $40
Warm year Sancerre and certainly looking a bit fatter for it. That fatness comes through as a faint caramelized edge on the nose, softening the grassiness and presenting a much more developed, if still recognisably 'dirty socks' flinty Sancerre style . Lightly herbal, soft and generous palate is pleasant, simple and easy, with a rather warmish finish. A this drinkable wine sure, but looks very poor value in this context. 16.6/88

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2007

Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2007 (Macedon Ranges, Vic)
It's the 07. Not the 06.
PS 06 I love you
13.5%, Screwcap, $47
Source: Retail

I love Macedon Ranges Pinot.

In fact, I'd put Macedon number one on my 'best places for Pinot in mainland Australia', closely followed by the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley. What's more, Philip Moraghan's Curly Flat Pinots might be my pick of a very talented lot - the sort of wines that even a spoilt wine freeloader like myself will actually pay for (wine writers pay for wine too, at least sometimes), such is their poise, style and relative value.

As a result, I approach ye olde Curly Flat wines with a sense of anticipation. A sense of excitement in the 'oow I wonder what this ones like then' positivity that only comes from a wine/winery/vineyard etc. that you admire. Or at least I admire.

The challenge with this wine though is the wine before it. For the 06 Curly Flat Pinot is, to put it simply, a Pinot demigod. That Good. A reference point. A wine to serves to reminds why you work for wine and free dinners instead of money. A wine that you want to drink/babble about when asked what makes good Aussie Pinot. The shizzle.

Yet this 07. Well, it's not the 06. It isn't even slightly the 06. It's clearly from the same house, the same family, the same vineyard, but it looks like an oddity. Even the colour is odd actually, with an almost brownish hue that I found mildly perplexing. That off key sensation is mirrored on the nose, which is herbal, hard and severe, lifted by wild, plummy fruit generosity that fights desperately against the stemmy heaviness. It was a hard vintage down there (apparently) so perhaps the stems were not quite ripe enough this year? Or the fruit just not that sweet this year? Were the skins a little thicker perhaps? All I know is it's just not quite welcoming.

All is not lost however, as the palate is unquestionably classy. It's meaty, smoky and rich, with sappy, just rich red fruit that offers a brief lilt of fun before closing up tight on the astringent, stalky finish. All structure, no love. It's the sort of palate that you want to love, that you swirl and swirl and swirl hoping that it will show you the goodies, yet never does. Still, you just can't dismiss it, for it just looks so serious, so stern and so damn grown up that you expect some greatness to pop out at you.

Ultimately the question remains - will the good come out or will this always be a wine that belongs to the dark side? 17/90

(At this point I feel like I need to channel Dave Brookes and insert a picture of an adolescent Anakin Skywalker. That's his bag though :))

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Chapel Hill The Vicar Shiraz 2008

Hello Vicar!
Chapel Hill The Vicar Shiraz 2008 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $50

Source: Sample

They're doing good things down there at Chapel Hill, crafting modern - yet not flashy modern - wines of substance and regional swagger.

Lots of Mclaren Vale goodness with this Vicar Shiraz too (in the best possible fashion). Opulent, black forest cake fruit/oak nose, lots of mid palate richness, genuine fruit tannins and persistence a go-go signals this as a wine of super high quality indeed. A vintage triumph even. There's still a dip of that figgy, strained fruit desiccation on the nose, a reminder of just how annoyingly hard the year was, but it's not enough to be a distraction (though I think it won't be as long lived because of it).

In Vale terms this is absolute top end. If you consider yourself a Vale Shiraz man/woman then get on board a bottle of this - I don't think you'll be disappointed. 17.9/93

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Talking Ozwinereview with Rick Bakas

Talking Ozwinereview with Rick Bakas

Firstly, apologies for the lack of activity here on the blog over the past week. I've spent the last 7 odd days in beautiful Tasmania tasting, eating and more eating. I'll hopefully get some highlights from said adventure up in the next couple of days. In the meantime here is a video of me talking about the blog with social media guru Rick Bakas and fellow dodgy blogger Patrick Haddock (the Wining Pom).

It's only a light and fluffy video sure but it does give a little insight into this whole blogging caper.

Video here