Saturday, 31 December 2011

A quick note of thanks

Because fireworks seem the most appropriate choice for
a new years message. Good photo too by Verpletterend
A quick note of thanks

With just hours remaining of 2011 I think it's probably a good time to have a little reflect on the year.

Thankfully I'm not going to bore you too much with said reflections, but I would like to send out a hearty thank you for stopping by - whether you have just randomly landed on this page via a google search, or you're a regular reader, or you just check in occasionally to see what I'm banging on about. Regardless of who you are I'd like to offer hugs and cheers all round.

The main reason for this thanks though is that blogging, as many of us know, is one of the most indulgent sports around (and wine blogging particularly so). As a result it can often feel like I'm just writing vaguely wine related drivel (which may also be true), to no one in particular (also possible) and largely for my own amusement (ditto), a situation which is not actually all that satisfying in the long run.

Yet it is the feedback, the comments, the emails, the 'hey you're that guy who slammed our wines' confrontation at tastings that you, dear reader (not Dear Leader) provide that makes me want to keep posting, keep writing and keep going (even if sporadically at times). It's that social dynamic which is the driver, the knowledge that people actually read/occasionally even enjoy what you write that makes this blogging caper both fun and worthwhile. Again, hugs all round.

Now, as for 2012, I'm looking forward to (hopefully) being more grumpy and impartial next year with the intention of trying provide the most honest perspective on wine that I can muster. Or something like that...

Happy new year and I look forward to hearing from you/seeing you/guessing that you're reading this blog in 2012.


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Soul Growers Slow Grown Shiraz 2009

Soul Growers Slow Grown Shiraz 2009
Slow to grow, probably less slow to drink
Soul Growers Slow Grown Shiraz 2009 (Barossa, SA)
15.5%, Cork, $50
Source: Sample

The flagship Soul Growers red (in a hefty bottle too) and built like it too. What's most remarkable is just how well this carries it's ripeness and weight - it's a warm wine, but not a heavy one, a twinkle toed heavyweight boxer in a rather satisfying style.

It smells like a heavyweight too, with a sweet and juicy nose of blackberry/raspberry sauce, drinking chocolate, cola (the good stuff, not Pepsi) and black licorice. There's a wonderful old school Barossan depth to that nose, that sort of limitless, oak buffed richness and extract that drives the dopamine levels of most red wine drinkers through the roof. I'd like to see a fraction less volatility, yet that's also part of the style I suppose, a stylistic quibble from the gallery perhaps...

The power continues through the palate too, the dry, chewy, cocoa and berry middle driving the palate along with chalky, cocoa edged tannins (it really needs time in the decanter to come together - 6 hours plus). It's built large, oaky (quality, deepset oak) and alcoholic but not intrusively so, with that open fermented, basket pressed, low acid softness to seduce further. Interestingly I found the alcohol level noticeable but not intrusive, an indication of grapes that were ripe but not overly so...

Ultimately there's no ignoring that this is a beast of a wine. Yet it's also one with a certain seductiveness to it that can't be ignored. A wine that's not for everyone and not for every night, but fills a certain hole. A wine of heart and depth and more heart and more Barossan depth, cast anything but elegant, yet rightfully so. An uncompromised wine (and happily so). 18.3/93

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Xmas drinks 2011: Bubbles

Xmas drinks 2011: Bubbles

Clover Hill 2007
I really didn't expect for today to become a bubblefest.

I mean obviously there were bubbles around, but fizz was never meant to be the feature of our Xmas day. Heck I had bottles of Chablis, Shiraz  and more on the table ready to go, yet very little of it was touched. I personally think that  numerous icy cold beers (and some limoncello) may have gotten in the way, but who am I to dictate drinking terms on Christmas day?

Anyway, 'twas (I'm feeling festive, so 'twas is creeping in everywhere) good bubbly times regardless and I had a cracking day. Christmas is my favourite time of year and with a large extended family (who I like) based locally it's always a food and drink-fest of classic proportions. Love Christmas

The wines (prices are approximate RRPs):

Clover Hill 2007 (Tasmania) 13% $47

A riper year for Northern Tassie and this is a riper Clover Hill, built richer, fuller and more evolved than the previous few vintages. What's most pleasing to see is how layered, complex and weighty this fizz is, even if I think it's just a little too broad and sweet/sour for higher points. Actually, when served icy cold this looked classy indeed, and it wasn't until the Veuve was opened (below) that the wobbly bits became apparent.

Immediately it's a full, seriously intentioned and Pinot dominant smelling wine this one, with a bottle age thickness and lees derived weight in there that makes this look every bit a vintage Champagne (if an overly young one). That's backed by a grunty, powerful and thick palate too, let down only by a sweet and sour acid fruit imbalance and slightly broad finish. I can't fault the power and flavour, but it just needs more detail and a better acid line to satisfay further. Still, quality vino in the scheme of things. 16.8/89+

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin NV (Champagne, France) 12% $70
In many ways it's a waste of time reviewing big house NV Champagne in Australia, mainly due to the ridiculous amount of bottle variation we experience here (which is of little surprise when you find out how much 'big house' Champagne is shipped to Australia in unrefrigerated containers and then sits in hot warehouses oxidising away. A situation that is completely ridiculous when you think about the prices of French fizz).

Anyway, said NV lotto delivered a good bottle today, one that looked typically restrained and lean without falling into the apple juice neutrality that sometimes tars Veuve NV (or some batches at least. Sigh). It's nowhere near as inviting on the nose as the Clover Hill though, a slender and mono-dimensional creature compared to the buxom Tasmanian bubbly.

Where the Veuve pulls ahead though is the palate, which is lighter and more composed, the acidity pulling harder than the Clover Hill though with a natural softness, the finish slipping through with a soft limestone tang. It's a sweeter wine than the Clover Hill, but that doesn't stick out, and indeed the final effort is simply pure (and better for it). Quality NV. 17.6/91

Capital Wines 'The Black Rod' Sparkling Shiraz 2008 (Canberra) 14% $37

What would Christmas lunch be without a sparkling red? This splurgundy (love that word) is a brand spanking new release from Capital Wines in Canberra, the fruit sourced from Kyeema Vineyard Shiraz and Merlot, blended with a little Murrumbateman Cabernet for balance.

It's a rich and sweet smelling sparkling red this, the nose carrying an inviting, dosage heavy, curranty sweetness with some spicy, maturing, leathery bottle age notes. Caramel, redcurrant and a spoonful of spice. Lovely. Palate is long and warm and rich, finishing curranty and liqueured on the finish. It's perhaps a little spirituous but that's a minor quibble on what is a pretty satisfying, generous and tasty, spicy, mid-weight and still concentrated. Lovely push-pull of sweetness and spicy fruit. A well judged mouthful of sparkling red. Yes. 17.8/92

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

TAKE TWO: Lerida Estate Cullerin Pinot Noir 2009

Lake George Cullerin 2009
Take Two..
TAKE TWO: Lerida Estate Cullerin Pinot Noir 2009 (Canberra District)
13.9%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample

I don't know about you but I rather like expecting little and being delivered much. It's that simple joy of getting more than you bargained for, like when you get a badly wrapped Christmas present in the office Secret Santa and it turns out to be an excellent novelty pen that doubles as a waiters friend (or the like).

In the wine world such happy surprises seem to happen most often with old bottles, particularly the sort of old bottles that have no business looking as good as they do. Like the original Penfolds Koonunga Hill (the 76) which - when tasted in 2004 - still looked remarkably fresh (and admirably tasty) given it's relative station in life.

On a lesser scale I think you get a similar satisfaction when you retaste a wine and discover a much more attractive side of it, almost like meeting someone for the second time and realising that they're even cuter than you first realised...

In this instance that second look was at a Canberra Pinot that, it's fair to say, I wasn't all that impressed with on the first showing (have a read of the first note here). Yet this time around it just looked genuinely more composed, more balanced and more drinkable.

Again, like many Canberra Pinots, my biggest gripe again with this wine revolves around a lack of delicacy - they're simply too raw, firm and dry red leaning to be genuinely satisfying. They're Shiraz drinkers Pinots for want a better description. However this retaste saw a little of that firmness drop away in the glass to reveal a deep and ferrous Pinot that's all about spicy bacon bit and spicy plum fruit backed by tannins aplenty. There's a richness to the mid palate too that is quite attractive too, though that richness vein takes a solid six hours in the decanter to come out (which probably partly explains why it looked better this time around).

Ultimately this is still something of a bulky Pinot and probably lacks that delicacy that I really love in Pinot Noir, however I think that there is still plenty of joy to be had in the style (and much more than my first taste suggested) that's worth highlighting (at least more than I did last time). 16.8/89

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Terre à Terre Wrattonbully Botrytis Pinot Gris 2011

Terre à Terre Pinot Gris
Terre à Terre Botrytis Pinot Gris 2011 (Wrattonbully, SA)
10.4%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

Sourced from the Hoopers vineyard - which is adjoining the Terre à Terre vineyard in Wrattonbully - the two rows of Pinot Gris that produced this fruit were historically grown with dry Pinot Gris production in mind. Xavier (Bizot, Terre à Terre winemaker) however saw the potential to make an Alsatian style botrytis Pinot Gris from said fruit (particularly given that it was quite botrytis prone) and thus started taking the grapes last year.

Fortunately for Xavier (for this wine at least) the wet and cold 2011 vintage was perfect for botrytis infection, with some 20% of these Pinot Gris grapes heavilyy botrytised, 30% partially botrytised and 50% not infected, a ratio that made for some almost ideal fruit for the intended style (it was still hand harvested/sorted though).

Once harvested the grapes were crushed and fermented until the must hit 10.4% potential alcohol, leaving 111g/l RS. It then spent four months in old oak before bottling just a few months ago.

What makes all this information interesting is that the final wine produced has a balance of fruit/sugar/acidity that is genuinely admirable. It, successfully I think, treads that fine line between massive richness and cool acid refreshment in a vein that is more of a lighter Mount Horrocks than much of the marmalade heavy, botrytis rich stickies that Australia is most renowned for (not discounting that style of course, but this I think has a freshness that I genuinely prefer).

Interestingly enough though this smells rather botrytis indeed, carrying that powerful note of noble rot that is quite unmistakeable. Yet it's also a fragrant and pretty smelling wine, carrying talc and frangipani and lavender and orange blossoms, flying in the face of the botrytis funk. The glory though is the palate which couples chalky acidity to orange rind, apple pie and white peach fruit, with everything then capped off with chalky acidity and balanced sweetness.

The secret (or not so secret really) here I think is all about lightness. It's hardly an overtly intense wine, instead leaning towards modesty and restraint. Yet it's also that modesty and restraint that makes you reach for a second and a third glass, a characteristic I can't help but admire. The only thing this needs now is a little more bottle age to allow for the wine to gain weight and settle into it's skin.

Much to like here. 17.8/92+

Nepenthe Pinot Noir 2010

Nepenthe Pinot Noir
Lots to like for $20
Nepenthe Pinot Noir 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

Great vintage in the Adelaide Hills 2010, producing solid and very even wines. Here is a proper case in point, a wine packed with pinosity, if cast a little too dry-red and extractive for big love, and selling for just $20 a bottle.

It's a slightly sullen beast at present, with attractive grilled cashew oak, bacon bits warmer climate Pinot characters and a hint of menthol, all bound up in itself right now. More swirls brings more love though, with cinnamon, cranberry and some proper red fruit Pinosity. The palate is a slightly straightforward beast, all slightly roasted sappy plum fruit propelled forward by a little tannic grunt.

Lot's of flavour, if not quite the delicacy, this is really rather likeable for the price, though Burgundy it ain't. 16.9/89+

Monday, 19 December 2011

Lazy Ballerina Shiraz 2009

Lazy Ballerina Shiraz
Lazy Ballerina Shiraz 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA)
15%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

Lazy Ballerina is the winemaking project of James Hook, a McLaren Vale viticultural gun-for-hire who spends his working hours solving other people's vineyard issues (you can check out some of his work on the DJ Grower's blog) and as one of the driving forces behind the GroundswellSA anti urban sprawl movement.

With this wine then James is going for old school McLaren Vale in a classic style - think open fermenters, basket pressing, hand picking, the lot. Traditional winemaking it is, yet with a modern attention, a worthy combination indeed. A combination which I think shows rather favourably in the final product too - polish meets craft.

In fact the only quibble I've got with this Shiraz is the ripeness, with this Shiraz carrying that slightly scorched edge of the '09 McLaren Vale vintage on nose and palate, the freshness slightly muted by warmth and dessication. Still, in it's mould it's a pretty smart wine, a thick and enveloping wine even, carrying the very essence of McLaren Vale Shiraz.

That Vale essence character kicks off with a deeply concentrated nose, full of very rich, stewed plum, road tar and molasses on the nose and through the palate. It's almost treacle like in its richness and red wine intensity, conjuring up images of a vineyard full of tiny berries that are chock full of power, if needing just a little more delicacy for big love. The palate too crosses between dried plum fruit and alcohol warmth with a viscosity and weight to it that many will love, finishing expansive if just a little hot.

Sweet and sour in it's acid/sugar balance, this is not my preferred form of Shiraz but I can appreciate the labours behind it. A stylistic preference no doubt for their is quality here. 16.5/88

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Vinedrops Collection Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2010

Vinedrops Pinot Noir
Vinedrops Collection Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
13.2%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

The latest release from Nelson da Silva and Johan Axlund's Vinedrops label and perhaps the best yet. It's a juicy, fruit driven Pinot built simply and openly. Commercial appeal +.

Genuine cherry lift to the nose, with that slightly ferrous Adelaide Hills edge. An open and welcoming nose. Sweet palate is a bit juicy and soft and caramelly but the shape of it is still pleasant. Should settle in the bottle. Nice redcurrant line through the finish too.

A very pleasant and even wine of freshness and simplicity. Easy. 17/90

(Footnote: Nelson is a friend so I'm willing to take any accusation of bias. Still think this is the best wine of his releases so far).

BEER: Holgate Hopinator Double IPA

Holgate Hopinator
Lots of love
BEER: Holgate Hopinator Double IPA
7% alc

Long live the new generation of Australian artisinal beer producers. Brewers that have drunk the world's finest brews, know how to make said beers and still want to push on through into interesting styles. Such a breath of fresh air in an Australian beer industry that has laboured so long with a culture that celebrates tasteless swill and a 'brand first, flavour second' ethos.

Anyway this is a classic example of such interesting new beers. Effectively a double IPA, the flavour here is attributed to an 'outrageous continuous hopping schedule', producing a beer that is something of a classic 'double in style. It smells of rich caramel malt and herbaceous hop flowers, carrying through to a dry, richness-meets-bitterness, caramelised and full palate of weight, finishing long and with a resinous hop edge.

Big, hoppy, rich and involving. It's a full, alcoholic love hug of a beer with conviction and power. Probably a bit too full to drink more than one or two, but at least they'll be a good one or two...

Friday, 16 December 2011

Tower Estate Bowyer Ridge Chardonnay 2010

Tower Estate Bowyer Ridge Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
13%, Screwcap, $38
Source: Sample

Tower Estate Bowyer Ridge Chardonnay

It's going to be very interesting seeing what direction the Tower Estate wines take in the future, with all of the winemaking to be done under contract by First Creek/Monarch (instead of in-house). I can't imagine it changing the style too much (particularly given how smart other wines from the First Creek stable are) but again time will tell.

Anyway, this is a pretty solid wine. A little too engineered perhaps but still with plenty to like. It all kicks off with a serious, 'check out my oak' nose cast full and big. The richly textured palate has milky leesy notes, downplayed sulphide and an evenness to it that's immediately appealing. I really like that milky richness actually, supported by good, even acidity. Slightly intrusive oak is all that really mars proceedings, a flash of wood tannins on the finish.

It's actually a quite traditionally built Chardonnay but with a modern spin to it. I think it's smart - if a bit overt - though my Riesling loving Mum thought it the 'sort of Chardonnay that turned me off Chardonnay'... 17.5/91+

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Longview Blue Cow Chardonnay 2010

Longview Chardonnay
Longview Blue Cow Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $18
Source: Sample

The winery description for this wine is as a 'classic Chablis style Chardonnay' which I quite like. It's not Chablis, true, but the model is a good one. Like basis Chablis too the score is lowish, the drinkability high.

Pine/lime splice. That's the main character on the nose and it's quite appealing. It works here because it's not too overt. Light. Very little oak (20% of the blend saw wood) and looks juicier because of it. Simple but not dull with a quite pure expression of light Chardonnay fruit. Drinkable ++. 16.5/88

Monday, 12 December 2011

Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvee Corcelette

A blurry picture of the 07
All I've got. Poignant that it's blurry though...
Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvee Corcelette 2009 (Beaujolais, France) 13%ish $70ish

It dawned on me recently when scanning through the reviews on this site that many of the wines that I love to drink aren't even reviewed on here (which is saddening). The reason for this - I think - is simply because I'm usually too busy drinking said wines to delve into the mechanics of why I'm drinking them. It's almost drinking, not tasting (of sorts). Actually, that's not really an accurate description either, for it's the fabulous mechanics of said wines that drives me to love them in the first place (if that makes any sense) and those mechanics are even more finely appreciated when we step back and go into 'tasting' mode (not 'drinking'. Shit, let's not delve too far into the semantics of 'tasting' vs 'drinking' actually).

In the case of this Beaujolais the reasons why I love drinking it are very simple. It's just simply good. From a wine point of view it's an utterly pure (and conveniently 'natural' wine) wine carrying an appeal that nearly anyone can appreciate (or at least everyone I've given some to has appreciated). It's just grape juice, largely unadulterated fermented grape juice at that, produced from grapes grown in a rather special sandy spot within the Morgon appellation. Grape juice that was gently crafted into wine by the talented Jean Foillard and then bottled in a sexy wax topped bottle for my drinking pleasure. Easy as that really.

Delving deeper, what makes this so good is all about that elusive and extremely underrated wine character of delicacy. It is, in many ways, a pretty wine, a fragrant wine, a wine that - even in this much more robust 2009 vintage framework - still light in body and weight.

It's that lightness, that featherweight - but not weak - beauty that hooks you in. Indeed it's even a lighter wine than its other 09 Foillard siblings, a character that makes it even more attractive to me.
Yet - and I want to stress this - it's still a deep, quite tannic and firm wine, a paradox that makes it even more beguiling to me. Light and dark. Joyful drinkability but with a serious side. Intrigue.

The first thing you smell actually is the dark side. The funk of 'natural' (let's just skip over the natural discussion here for this is a wine that transcends) Gamay with blood and earth and black cherries on the nose in a deep and dark fashion. It's a varietal, ripe, red and black fruit nose that is still unfurling in the glass. Wonderfully, the palate echoes that tug-of-war tension too, with an initial prettiness, then the fabulous, dusty cherry Morgon thang which then gives way to a dark and very ferrous line through the back end, with everything signing off with quietly rippling tannins. It's a biggun' in the Corcelette context yet would still be considered light when compared to most Pinots. Again, the message is delicacy, not overt intensity. Subliminal not overt. Quiet glory and depth cloaked in an easygoing suit.

Excellent wine. 18.6/94

A little article on the women of the Hunter Valley

A little article on the women of the Hunter Valley

The summer edition of Hunter Valley Breathe magazine is out today and it includes my feature article focusing on some of the top female winemakers of the Hunter Valley.

Normally I wouldn't be republishing links to print articles here but I'm really stoked with how the article turned out. Have a squizz (pg 11)

Hunter Valley Breathe - Summer 2011

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Nepenthe Ithaca Chardonnay 2010

Nepenthe Ithaca Chardonnay
Named after a Greek island. Maybe
Nepenthe Ithaca Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $30
Source: Sample

Here is a perfect example of a good modern Australian Chardonnay. Low in alcohol, carefully oaked and driven by acidity and refreshment as well as texture. Drinkability over show medal worthiness. High fives.

The recipe here is actually pretty simple. Fruit is picked early (late February for this wine), sees no malo and only 9 months in oak. What makes it work is that contrast between the richness of oak. fruit and lees action coupled with the more lifted, malic acid etched palate.

It actually smells quite classic too, with sao oak and grapefruit on the nose, leading to a palate that is initially quite oak driven but also lined with the sort of acidity that is has more in common with (also lightly oaked and not malolactically fermented) Chablis than many modern Chardonnays. That oak still carries through the finish a fraction but no questioning the drive and length and 'only going to get better' palate shape. Nice wine and a very easy recommendation for the price. 18.1/93

Scotchmans Hill Cornelius Chardonnay 2008

Cornelius Chardonnay
Excellent back labels
Scotchmans Hill Cornelius Chardonnay 2008 (Bellarine Peninsula, Vic)
14%, Screwcap, $55
Source: Sample

These Scotchmans Hill labels have excellent technical information on them. I like it. For a wine geek it makes intriguing reading. I wonder if anyone else cares though?

Anyway, there is only 130 cases of this made and it sits right at the top of the Scotchmans tree. It's had the Rolls Royce treatment in the winery too with 15 months in sexy oak along with a wild ferment and lots of lees stirring. You can smell and taste that sexy winemaking too with lovely double cream oak on the nose and some wild ferment textural funk on the palate. The only problem really is the alcohol, with the palate having something of a flatness and a hardness that you can notice from first taste. It's a shame actually for the rest of the wine smells good, looks good and is generally good. I just can't quite get past the alcohol. Would love to see followup vintages of this wine though as I think they'd be impressive. 16.3/87

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Atlas Watervale Riesling 2011

Atlas Watervale Riesling
Note the proper brown bottle
Atlas Watervale Riesling 2011 (Clare Valley, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

Riesling belongs in brown glass. Or dark green at the least. Sure, brown bottles will always be seen by marketers as deeply uncool, but to me they just say 'this is the correct glass for my easily light affected white wine'. What would those marketers know anyway...

Now, this is sourced from a single vineyard in Watervale and is hand tended, hand picked and hand loved. You can taste it in this wine too. If nothing else Atlas winemaker Adam Barton has access to great fruit.

This is smart wine too. It's still indelibly marked with the sullen edge of 2011 yet it still smells ripe and varietal and real, with nose showing plenty of Watervale lime peaking out from underneath that shroud of acidity. Actually, speaking of acidity, this has some of the best natural acidity that I've seen in an '11 Clare Riesling, as it tastes is soft, real and utterly natural and ripe whilst still being present and strong and accountable. It's long too, long and limey and genuine. Good fruit indeed.

Perhaps the best 2011 Clare Riesling I've had (so far), I genuinely enjoyed drinking this. 18/93

Aramis Vineyard Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Aramis Black Label Cabernet
Aramis Vineyard Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

I can't tell you much about the Aramis Vineyard except that it is a 64 acre plot in McLaren Vale planted mainly to Cabernet and Shiraz with the winemaking methods listed as 'traditional'.

It's a pretty traditionally styled McLaren Vale red too, a rough and tumble red that is hearty, raw and totally unpolished. McLaren Vale of yore if you like. Think macerated cherry chocolate oak/fruit, rich fleshy plums and a splash of mint and menthol varietal character. Big, raw, volatile, warm but so very McLaren Vale. Palate too is lumpy and extractive in a hearty, big and blokey, mint and berries, sweet and sour dry style. Raw, American? oak. Lots of flavour.

Ultimately if you're looking for maximum flavour then no question that this delivers. Should get even better in another 18 months time too. Just don't go looking for delicacy... 16.5/88

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A club of Cabernets?

Cabernet + Neb
A club of Cabernets?

It's cold here in Sydney at the moment, far too cold really considering that it's the almost the 2nd week of a Sydney summer. Still, when one door closes, another one opens, right? So I've instead just channeled a little winter vibes tonight instead, with a whole swathe of roasted things on the menu and some suitably (deliberately) warming wines to match.

Unsurprisingly perhaps (given a lamb leaning for the meat course) the choice of warming wines tonight has ended up as a lineup of Cabernet based reds (bar a Nebbiolo interloper), a situation which led me to ponder what exactly the collective noun for a group of Cabernets would be. Now I know that I could probably just be pulling out the usuals - a flight, a bracket, a group etc etc. But I want a little more alliteration than that, so I'm going to run with a club of Cabernets. Hopefully it will start some sort of trend....

Regardless, there was one standout amongst these wines, one Cabernet that won me over purely by it's varietal glory, and it's Coonawarra winning again.

Brothers in Arms Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Langhorne Creek, SA) 15.5% $50

Is it just me or has Langhorne Creek completely fallen off the cool radar? I've only heard gloomy stories about the 2011 vintage in Langhorne too, which doesn't help things. Here's hoping that the region gets its mojo back soon.

Not sure if this is the wine to do it though. '07 was a hot and dry drought year and this is a hot, dry and dessicated wine. There's regional mint chocolate on the nose, but it's struggling behind the cedar and cardboard and mothballs of dead fruit. There's more generosity on the palate however which is showing the concentration and tannins of what must have been little buckshot sized berries. if you can get past the nose for that matter (which I really struggled with) and stick to just the dry tannins alone you might well enjoy this wine. Still, that's a whole lot of pain for a tannic hit. 15/85

Raidis Estate Billy Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Coonawarra, SA) 13.5% $23
Ah Coonawarra. Sticking my nose in this is like coming home again (of sorts) such is the familiarity. There's blackcurrant, dusty red dirt and some chocolate oak. It's a little raw and volatile, no doubt an effect of the warm vintage, though the fruit underneath is solid and fresh. The dry palate is firm and serious, again raw and a little angular through the finish perhaps but it packs plenty of structure, heart and flavour in too. This needs time in the bottle but the genetics are all rather solid. Good wine, good price. 17.4/90+

Shina's Estate 'The Verdict' Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Murray Darling, Vic) 15.5% $18
Love the label on this wine. Spooky and cool. Sourced from a single vineyard near Mildura in Victoria.

Super concentrated nose. Fruit cake, dried figs, cinnamon and cedar. Again, like the Brothers in Arms, it looks overripe and slightly raisined on the nose, but the sweeter, condensed milk oak and increased generosity on the palate makes for a more palatable wine. Unlike the Brothers in Arms though the tannins here are light and feel less natural.

Ultimately a fair quaffer, I would really like to have seen this picked earlier as there is definitely potential here. 15/85

Longview Nebbiolo 2007 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 14.5% $69

Another sexily packaged wine, with the high shouldered, Piedmont inspired bottle and excellent glass-pressed label looking a treat. This smells fittingly serious too, with a figgy, concentrated, dusty ferrous nose that's just a smidgen ripe and dried-fruit-leaning but nicely varietal. The palate is quite sweet and generous, perhaps too much in a way, a smidgen round and simple to really compete with similar priced Langhe offerings (like this Ceretto) but I still like the nutty, proper tannic, pass-the-parmesan finish. Length is rather satisfactory too.

Overall lots to like and quite a result given the (generally ordinary) vintage. Would love to see how the more followup vintages look.... 16.8/89

Monday, 5 December 2011

Holyman Pinot Noir 2009

Holyman Pinot Noir
Serious Tassie Pinot
Holyman Pinot Noir 2009 (Tamar Valley, Tas)
13%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample

Rather than having me bang on about how much wine love I have for the Stoney Rise vineyard/winemaking style/wines in general, you're probably best to start by reading my review of the second label Pinot (for context). If you've already done that, all I can add is that I'd actually be seriously disappointed if this didn't impress. I'd feel cheated and a little confused, using phrases like 'how can Joe Holyman stuff up his top wine'.. 'but I liked the second wine so much'. That sort of thing. Thankfully, neither of those statements are needed with this 09 Pinot, for it's a top shelf wine.

What first strikes you is just how ripe it is. How do they get Tassie Pinot so ripe? It's almost Adelaide Hills ripe such is the muscularity of the palate and the power of the nose. Heck there is even some meaty stewed fruit in there too (though no lack of freshness). The core is all mulberry action though, intense, deep, dark and anything but sweet. Has an excellent brawny persistance to it that is almost Corton like in it's power and tannic drive. I like that connotation actually, as besides a little chocolate oak sweetness, the rest of the style here is (I'm apologising in advance for falling back on the cliché) rather French indeed.

All that is ultimately required here is time. That chewy, dry and mega-serious finish is just a little on the raw side at present for really big love, though the appeal is undeniable. Actually fuck it, those tannins are excellent - hook in now and enjoy the power. 18.5/94+

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Mumm Cuvée R.Lalou 1999

Mumm Cuvee Lalou
Mumm Cuvée R.Lalou 1999 (Champagne, France)
Cork, $360
Source: Had a glass from someone else's bottle

Some sexy packaging on this - very classy. The fruit sourcing is high class too, with grapes from eight grand cru villages in the blend. Serious pricing though, especially when wines like Krug MV, Dom, Grand Anee etc are at least $100 a bottle cheaper..

What's most appealing is the obviously complexity, largely bottle age derived, with a really toasty, almost caramel/butterscotch oxidative richness to it. It's an autolysis heavy nose that is so rich, honeyed and that it's hard to miss as anything but bottle aged Champagne. Considering the vintage it's actually quite forward though, with just a hint of decay in there too. Palate is expansive and full, a big layered mouthful of richness. If anything it's a little broad for big satisfaction, that late fatness matching up with some bottle age ester and the slight bite of rising acid through the finish.

An thoroughly intense and bombastic Champagne, all this needs is a little more freshness to push the quality into the stratosphere (and justify that price). 18.2/93