Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Isabel Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Isabel Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Marlborough, NZ)
12.5%, Screwcap, $32
Source: Tasting

Once (and in certain eyes, still) one of Marlborough's hottest producers, Isabel seems to have dropped off a little over the past few years (in my opinion) and this doesn't move me either.

A rather subdued, acid driven, citrus/grapefruit pith nose on this which is probably a fraction shy and acid driven, with just a wedge of varietal passionfruit in that lemon. Palate too is soft and a bit broad, the palate looking a little round and rather forward finishing just a fraction short.

I can see the more subtle and refined style aimed for here, but this tastes just a little off the pace for these dollars. 16.5/88

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Domaine A Lady A Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Lady A 2008
The lady in green
Domaine A Lady A Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Tasmania)
14%, Cork, $60
Source: Sample

I'm often surprised that we don't see more fumé styles in Australia, particularly given the dominance of Kiwi Sauv and the resultant need to produce something with a more unique personality. 

Of course the worm is turning somewhat lately, driven by the more worked Sauv styles from De Bortoli, Gembrook Hill, Mitchell Harris etc. Couple that with the oaked WA Bordeaux blanc styles from Cape Mentelle, Suckfizzle, Lenton Brae etc. and you could probably call it at least an undercurrent. But not much else really...

Which only makes this wine even more intriguing - first produced in 1996 by Peter Althaus as a present for his wife Ruth Althaus (who has always enjoyed Bordeaux Blanc styles), it comes off a vineyard that is an anomaly in southern Tasmania (given that it ripens Cabernet quite regularly and focuses on Bordeaux varieties) and is meticulously farmed - with each of the varieties thoughtfully matched to aspect, soil types and microclimates.

That level of precision extends to this wine too, the grapes for which were handpicked off a one hectare plot on the Stoney Vineyard property. the juice spends one year in French oak and then spends a further 2 years in bottle before release (those vintages deemed worthy of being called Lady A that is - with most years declassified to the 2nd 'Stoney Vineyard' label).

Speaking of bottle age, this 'riper year' (the winery's words) release really needs a few more years in bottle (to my tastes) for it to come together, which is of no surprise given that the 'ripe year' 05 is probably drinking best now (did I mention that the Domaine A wines live bottle age? Oh yeah...) but also disappointing for anyone who wants to drink this wine immediately.

You can see that youthful petulance from the first whiff too, the pineapple and cream of new oak and primary fruit still
dominating nose and palate (with a dash of peppered herbs varietal character in there too). That puppy fat extends to the mid palate too, which is big and rich and powerful but also primary and full and , still missing that extra complexity that maturity will bring. The finish though is long and firmly acidic (if just a little warm) which is a resounding nod to great things to come.

Hold on! This intriguing and classy white is worth the wait. Like now, love later (maybe 3 years from now methinks). 17.7/92++

Monday, 27 February 2012

Voyager Chardonnay 2006

Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2006
In the zone...
Voyager Chardonnay 2006 (Margaret River, WA)
13.2%, Screwcap, $30ish on release
Source: Brought to dinner by a Wining Pom

I first tried this wine (almost to the day) 3 years ago and at the time said this: 'Buy some, bury it away in a cold dark cellar and return to civilisation in a few years time.' Thank God that Patrick Haddock took my advice (I'm sure it was my note that got him to buy it of course...).

For this looks fabulous, the very model of what a high quality, bottle aged, cool climate Chardonnay should be. If anything it looks rather un-Margaret River like thanks to the cool year, the melon richness of classic Margs Chardonnay tempered into a mealy, grapefruity and moderate style of hidden power and silken richness. Still looking very young, I couldn't help but marvel at the line, coiled power and intensity of this white.

Obviously it's still very much a new world wine, with oak and fruit richness that isn't 'classically Burgundian' (read lean and minerally). Yet in its mode this is a rather high quality, long and highly enjoyable Chardonnay of appeal and length. Big fan. 18.5/94

Friday, 24 February 2012

Xabregas Artisan Riesling 2010

Xabregas Artisan Riesling
Xabregas Artisan Riesling 2010 (Mount Barker, WA)
11.9%, Screwcap, $31
Source: Sample

Now here is some excitement: Whilst Paul Hogan and Martin Cooper at Xabregas are unashamedly pushing the Xabregas Riesling style in an off-dry direction (and doing it with some success), this utterly dry wine remains - to my tastes - the most interesting wine in the range.

What sets it apart is as much about how it was made as to how the wine tastes. For this wine is produced in a fashion that is, to put it simply, rather different to most Australian Riesling. More specifically it's actually crafted somewhat like a Chardonnay, the juice pressed firmly, naturally fermented in barrels and matured on gross lees for 5 months in barrel. It's then transferred to tank where it spends a further 8 months on fine lees (and stirred along the way).

The net result from all this Chardonnay style 'work' is that the wine has richness, it has weight, it shows oak influence and has a lees driven, textural roundness. Yet at no time is it anything but Riesling - a Fumé Blanc-esque, artifice heavy wine this ain't . Much of that has to be credited with the fruit at the core of course, fruit that is firmly acidic, dry and grapefruity. Proper Riesling fruit. Fruit that if it wasn't in this setting would probably look rather hard and angular. Indeed even here it's a subdued beast, nothing overt and hardly a generous wine (which is not going to please all).

Yet it still just looks right, the additional viscosity and mouthfilling richness helping to iron out the firm edges, much like what residual sweetness does in other Rieslings (and what the Xabregas intention is with the rest of the range. Or at least the perceived intention).

Ultimately this wine is a Riesling for thought - why make off-dry and awkward when you can make dry and complex? I know what I'd take - this wine, this long, citrussy, textured, acidic, creamy, multi-faceted Riesling of intrigue and more. It's hardly a seductive wine, but it's an intelligant one. Yes. 18.3/93+

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Derwent Estate Pinot Gris 2011

Derwent Estate Pinot Gris
I'll have another glass for sure
Derwent Estate Pinot Gris 2011 (Tasmania)
13.4%, Screwcap, $25

Source: Sample

Why isn't more Gris like this? As in, why does we not see more Australian Pinot Gris with texture, with a little sweetness, with interest? Who said that Australians only drink Grigio (or do they and I'm getting it wrong?). Anyway I took this to Zushi, a high quality Japanese BYO in inner city Sydney (all line caught fish too) which is an absolute favourite haunt of mine. This went down a treat with the food too, that wonderful push pull of richness and acidity working a treat, the bottle emptying at pace. Good sign that.

This still looked reasonably contained though until it warmed up, that musky richness sitting below the surface until it warmed up. After that it showed some rather nice, properly sweaty Aramis and peach juice Gris character that went from nose to palate. Said palate is on the more 'mid' weight step of the Gris palate scales, starting tight and then expanding through the middle before finishing with a fillip of sweetness. It's all very correct really, again somewhat constrained but the constraint just reading as a good balance between richness and lean acid line. Classic Alsace but on a diet. Nice wine and well worth the consideration. 17.8/92

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

2012 Sydney Wine Show: A few of the winners

Crumpled. Or at least I was the next day...
2012 Sydney Wine Show: A few of the winners

As is my want, I spent last Friday and Saturday immersed in all things Sydney Wine Show related, an event that has become something of an annual must-do on my calendar (My 2011 and 2010 calendar for starters).

This year I did unfortunately did a little too much drinking and not enough critical tasting (industrial hazard) on Friday (which also several curtailed my Saturday tasting too) but I did manage to at least road-test a few of the winning wines. I've wrapped a few impressions of the trophy wines (as well as listing all the trophy winners) below with more to come when I write up the (rather few in number) notes from Saturday too.

Leasingham Bin 7 Riesling 2011 (Clare Valley, SA)
Lots of Clare lemon lime here so at the very least it was varietal. The line though was muddled and the acidity blunt. A heavy handed and awkward wine to my tastes, though I can understand why it won the trophy (it's still distinctive stuff). Bronze medal wine. 16/87

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2006 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

I'm more than willing to admit that my personal bias - and love of this wine/style - is going to guide my tastes on this wine, but even in the context of Vat 1 this is a cracking wine. From a moderate and quite classic Hunter year this still shows green pea, bean and citrus of young Semillon, the first tempering of bottle age toast just creeping in. The tension between firm acidity and richness is spot on though, if in a moderate style (ala 2004 for those familiar with this wine). I like moderation. I like this wine. I love it even. Yes. 18.5/94+
Vasse Heytesbury Chardonnay 2010

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
3 Trophies

Apparently between this wine and the Yabby Lake Chardonnay (which also won a trophy at the Sydney show) there are some 13 trophies in the bag recently. I didn't get a chance to try the Yabby but if it's on a par with this wine then it's entirely worth the excitement. Simply put this is beautiful modern Chardonnay, carrying a milky, struck match sulphide heavy nose with carefully integrated vanilla bean oak over grapefruit, moving on to a long, moderate (again) palate of acid drive and penetration, lingering long with dry, creamed grapefruit flavour. Again the fine line between palate texture and acid drive, still carrying that weight of Margs but without excess. Lovely. 18.6/95

Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz 2010 (Grampians, Vic)

3 Trophies
My struggle to understand the glory of Langi continues. I think I'm the only one however as the whole range continues to pick up medals and trophies at will. Actually one of my gripes with Langi Shiraz - excessive ripeness - appears to be contained here as this ways in at just 13.5% alcohol. I still don't appreciate this enough though as it looks stewed, skinny and sweet and sour. The nose carries some floral prettiness but it just doesn't feel genuine or natural. There is clearly some attractive Grampians fruit in there but it also looks skittish and unconvincing. Am I alone here? 16.5/88

Leasingham Classic Clare Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Clare, SA)
1 Trophy

Old school! This couldn't get anymore old fashioned if it tried. The oak is raw and sticks out from every edge. The palate too is rough, bulky and ridiculously firm. Viewed as a whole this is an aberation of a wine, the veritable antithesis of a slick modern wine. On one hand that could be a good thing (and this will last) yet for drinking now or any time soon I can't see the appeal of this. Not much of a fan. 16/87+

Leconfield Merlot 2010 (Coonawarra, SA)
1 Trophy
What a surprise this wine was. A varietal, mid weight and perfectly weighted Merlot that stood out not for it's bulk but instead for it's form. Lovely herbal cedar aromatics, cassis, blueberry and spice, the palate ripe but intensely varietal, silken but dry and long. Great wine! The very model of a model modern Merlot. 18.3/93

Best's Bin 0 Shiraz 2010 (Great Western, Vic)
2 Trophies
Whilst the Bin 1 of the same vintage was good this really ramps up the intensity and regional character. What I most like about this is that hint of animale - an edge of earthen, musky, old vine richness that brings you back every time, an extra slice of Great Western to push it home. The palate too is drier, meatier, more briary and less flashy than the (still good) Bin 1. Cracking Bin 1 this in the mode of the 04 (if anything). Great stuff. 18.5/94

This is how decisions are made at the WCA Sydney Wine
Show Lunch. Pictured here is the Qwoff Boys, crowned as the
2012 WCA Digital Communicators of the Year

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


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


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


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


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


THE DAVID CLARKE MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Jane, Timothy and Angus Clarke and Maxine Cooley, awarded to the Exhibitor of the best Varietal Wine, Semillon entered in Class 25.


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


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


THE DAN MURPHY'S VALUE PERENNIAL TROPHY. Donated by First Estate Wine Merchants, awarded to the Exhibitor of the best White Wine of the Show with a wholesale price excluding WET and GST not exceeding $10 per bottle.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


THE RESTAURANT AND CATERING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Restaurant and Catering Association of NSW, awarded to the Exhibitor of the best Wine exhibited by a Small Producer in Named Vineyard Classes 73 to 77.


THE LEN EVANS MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the Wine Committee of the RAS of NSW and the family and friends of Len Evans, awarded to the Exhibitor of the best Wine in Named Vineyard Classes 73 to 77.


THE THORP ANNUAL TROPHY. Donated by the late Mr G M Thorp, awarded to the Exhibitor of the best Sparkling White Wine of the Show.


THE J C M FORNACHON MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by the late Rudy Komon, awarded to the Exhibitor of the best Fortified Wine entered in Classes 17 to 21 and 62 to 65.


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


THE JJ MCWILLIAM MEMORIAL PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by McWilliam’s Wines Pty Ltd, awarded to the Exhibitor of the best Brandy entered in Classes 78 and 79.


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


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


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


THE MCCARTHY PERPETUAL SHIELD. Donated by J McCarthy and Co Pty Ltd, awarded to the Most Successful Exhibitor in the Wines and Brandy Section from Classes 1 to 21, 41 to 72, 78 and 79.


THE JAMES BUSBY ANNUAL PRIZE. Supported by the Department of Primary Industries, awarded to the Exhibitor of the Best Wine or Brandy entered by an Exhibitor from New South Wales in any Class.


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


THE FINE WINE PARTNERS PERPETUAL TROPHY. Donated by Tucker Seabrook (Aust) P/L, awarded to the Exhibitor of the Best Show Wine exhibited at major State Wine Shows within the 12 months preceding judging.


Tower Estate Chardonnay 2010

Tower Hunter Chardonnay
Tower Estate Chardonnay 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
13%, Screwcap, $30
Source: Sample

Mostly sourced from the Eagles Nest Vineyard and the Coombe vineyard, both of which are on sandy soils and are now 35+ years old. It's going to be interesting to see what becomes of the Tower Estate wine business now....

A reasonably generous and open sort of Hunter Chardonnay this one, though still with more in the tank. it looks quite both open and reserved (like many modern Hunter Chards do) with pineapple fruit richness and mealy, expensive, cream French oak. That nose suggests warm climate fruit picked early (and deftly) enough to retain freshness. Good start. The palate is a little looser than the nose, all pine-lime Splice oak and fruit with creamy edges and a generous middle, finishing reasonably tight and well spoken.

Ultimately a pleasant wine if hardly earth shattering, I'd personally be waiting for a little bottle age to see if shattering may occur before consuming. 17.3/90+

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Singlefile Porongurup Riesling 2011

Singlefile Riesling
Clever packaging I think
Singlefile Porongurup Riesling 2011 (Great Southern, WA)
12.3%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

I'm in something of a Great Southern frameset at the moment, having worked through a pretty handy little lineup of young and old Rieslings from the region just last week (the notes for which I'll post soon).

One of the notables that come out of said tasting (which saw the wines separated out by theoretical sub-regions, including Mt Barker, the Porongurups, Frankland River etc) was that, in 2011 particularly, the of wines from the Porongurups stood out for their intrigue. That is they looked particularly special, particularly minerally and particularly unique even in amongst a lineup of celebrated wines. Now I'm well aware that that is a rather sweeping generalisation - and there are no shortage of exceptions - but I couldn't help but feel the love. The Porongurups love...

Given this context then I was quite excited to crack open this individually packaged Porongurup Riesling. A Riesling that I thought could live up to the standard established a week ago. But it didn't, well, not quite, and it all came down to a question of acidity.

The problem here - to my tastes - is simply a case of the acidity coming on too hard. Of a wine that carries all the lifted grapefruit florals and direct fruit power that the region does so well, edged with creamy lees character for good measure. Of a palate though that is dry, hard and pithy, the acidity a rapier snap of grapefruit firmness that leaves you feeling just a little beaten and sorry after the wine is gone.

It's a wine then that is ultimately just too dry, too aggressive and too blunt to be truly convincing. It has all that latent power and grunt to suggest greatness to come, yet also a suggestion that it might not be quite balanced enough to really make for a convincing long term drink.

Ultimately it's then a tricky wine to rate. It could, for example, come good and I could just be nitpicking, but I'm just not sure enough of the absolute greatness (and I'm not feeling it yet). Still, I've got enough waver to realise that this is well worth a look. 16.8/89+

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Dutschke St Jakobi Shiraz 2009

Dutschke St Jakobi
Barossan goodness
Dutschke St Jakobi Shiraz 2009 (Barossa Valley, SA)
14.8%, Screwcap, $35,
Source: Sample

Produced from a single vineyard that sits alongside the St Jakobi church (in Lyndoch) and was planted back in 1975. It's made old school style too, fermented in static fermenters and spending 20 months in American and French hogsheads. Very Barossan then. Good Barossan too. Cuddly Barossan. Generous, unpretentious, genuine high quality Barossan. A big Barossan hug.

It smells sexy too with a veneer of vanillin oak that looks plain classy, all chocolatey sweetness. Lovely blackberry fruit behind it too, leading to a patate of dark red berries, coffee and cedar. What is most attractive about this wine though is that it softness without sweetness - a gentleness whilst still retaining tannins to finish, a push/pull gentle/firm character that is classic Barossan (and wonderfully addictive). A successful addition to the Dutschke line. Tasty stuff indeed. 18/93

Friday, 17 February 2012

Trimbach Cuvee Frederick Emile 2000

Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2000 (Alsace, France)

Served from magnum at the tail end of one of the recent Riesling dinners at Fix St James.

Personally I've never had a stunning bottle of this wine from any vintage. Still waiting based on this bottle. The question with this particular vintage remains to be whether it is just in a hole or is genuinely going backwards (see Jancis' note for example.)

Sour and very dry. Plenty of dry extract and latent power but with a rather foursquare and drying palate of dried citrus and grapefruit. Noticeable alcohol and power but just a fraction lacking in generosity with a hardness to the back end. Where is it going to go from here? 16.5/88

Thursday, 16 February 2012

BEER: Stoke Amber

BEER: Stoke Amber

Brewed in sunny Nelson by the McCashin family. 'Tank conditioned' over three weeks too. The question remains about tank vs bottle conditioning but this looks pretty smart. 

Creamy. A rich and creamy amber this one, that malted grain looking roasted but not quite over into the charcoal/heavily toasted end of the spectrum. It falls into the more creamy end of the amber spectrum, the malted grain looking prominent but not quite falling into the more smoky, charcoal end of the spectrum.  It's almost milky in that caramel smooth malted ride actually, like a chocolate milk shake only beery.

Super smooth and generous I'd like to see a fraction more intensity here, but that creaminess is satisfying and good. Good to very good.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

'The World's Greatest Wines that aren't...'

'The World's Greatest Wines that aren't...'

When I first started this blog, almost four years ago now, I did so with purpose - I wanted somewhere accessible (online) where I could store all my tasting notes to easily reference them. It seemed like the perfect idea at the time actually, the ideal way to stop me filling notebooks with my illegible scribblings and then forgetting the finer details about why I particularly liked one wine or another in the process. By having a centralised platform I thus had easy access as well as a place spout my opinions of course, even if no-one cared (blogs are good like that).

Fast forward four years and the nature of this site has changed from the original scope somewhat, broadening and evolving along the way. Yet I'm reminded that I still need to keep on top of the main purpose - to write down, largely for my own reference, which wines I liked and why. Just for me. Stuff you guys...

Anyway today I'm channeling my inner Halliday and documenting one of 'those dinners'. The sort of dinners where you silently swear under your breath and remark 'how do I get an invite to something like that'. The sort of dinners that anyone who has read Halliday's columns in Gourmet Traveller WINE knows the score...

The theme of this dinner though was simple - 'The World’s Greatest Wines that aren’t Grand Crus, First Growths, Grand Marques or RP 100 pointers' - a concept which ultimately encouraged a wonderful proliferation of 5th growths, unknown estates and odd vintages. The results, however, were anything but odd...

In this piece I'm just going to run through a few highlights then, a few wines from this astonishing lineup that are worth highlighting, discussing or at least mentioning (and reminding myself). Once again a big thanks to David Fesq and family for organising this dinner. Good times indeed).

Trimbach Clos Ste Hune Riesling 1993 (Alsace, France)

1993 Trimbach Clos Ste Hune
From double magnum
Everything tastes better from a big bottle. Maybe. This tasted surprisingly good though, a tight, rich, yet contained wine showing orange rind, more than a hint of botrytis and a solid hit of acidity through the finish. If anything it was a bit too blocky, the acidity too firm and the fruit not rich enough to carry it all together, or in another way it is a wine of power but not quite congruency. Still that shape and that length suggest that - given another five years in the bottle - this should be singing. Still enjoyed a glass or two of this.

Chateau Gruaud Larose 1964 (St Julien, Bordeaux, France)
2 big bottles.

Another 3 litre bottle and another wine that looks better than expected. A 'good' year in Bordeaxu apparently and this bottle was in reasonable condition (though the label did fall off at the end of the night).

What made this particular wine enjoyable by just how much it still carried it's terroir stamp - recognisably Left Bank, delightfully medium bodied and carries that stern cedar character of Bordeaux. It's falling away a smidgen and probably past it's best yet still that lightness and sappy refreshment of old Bordeaux remains. Really enjoyed this.

Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle 2000 (Northern Rhone, France)

From a 3 litre bottle too. Fair to say that this wine was a disappointment. Actually, given the general disappointment of the La Chapelle wines of that era it was probably an expected disappointment.

The problem with this is simple - it's just lacking in definition. There's that wonderful high toned black peppercorn meatiness of Hermitage yet it's just full of holes, the nose really quite forward and chunky, the palate lacking persistance and length. Soft and pretty simple really.

Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blancs Fleur de Passion 2004 (Champagne, France)

Diebolt-Vallais Fleur de Passion 2004
Stunning Champagne

From magnum. Wow. Double wow. Sexy Champagne this one, built in a mould of opulence, richness and Krug like stylings (but lighter and prettier. More white flowers here). Think 65 year old vines, small oak maturation, the works. The full Champagne monty. I can't express enough how much I enjoyed this wine and it was perhaps the single I could drink the most of from this lineup. That push-pull between richness/power and acidity! That length and vitality! Buy some..

Mosse Les Bonnes Blanches 2009 (Anjou, Loire)

Mosse + Ovarius. Suitable

From magnum. The Ovarius decanter came out for this one, although we were all waiting to see if it could take the wine into the fourth dimension. Still waiting, but it certainly improved this white...

From the outset this carried some intrigue too, the Mosse name being synonymous with some intriguing natural Loire Chenin of serious depth and power. That intrigue was evident from the first whiff too, an oxidative nose of citrus Chenin fruit and dry honeysuckle extract.

The palate too was powerful and minerally and firm, if still super tight and closed. With air I was hoping this would become more expansive and rounded, but the oxidation just got more evident without the flesh of the palate to catch up, the alcohol also becoming even more evident with time in the glass (like many 09 Loire whites). Still smart but the more I looked the less I liked.

J.F. Coche-Dury Mersault 'Les Rougeots' Blanc 1987 (Mersault, Côte de Beaune, France)

1987 Coche Mersault Les Rougeots
Tasted much better than it looked
I really didn't expect much. Very little at all actually, especially given the bronzed colour, the only fair levels and the glad-wrapped label. Yet digging underneath all that age you find a classy wine, an obviously old and slightly madeirised wine yet one that still carries that finely whipped butter minerality of proper Mersault. It's that caramel bottle age meets cream fruit which is ultimately really very addictive, although tempered by decay on the finish. Enjoyable and drinkable (in small doses) surprise.

Chateau De Pommard 1964 (Pommard, Côte de Beaune, France)

1964 Chateau Pommard
Note the alcohol on the label (11-14%!)

Another 64! This looked like Rosé in fact, with a serious orange/bronze colour to it. It tasted like lovely earthen and ferrous old Pinot though, still holding on to the vestiges of some serious firm fruit (it would have been quite a structural beast in it's youth), complete with a hint of strawberries. Again it's a well aged wine, again it's not for everyone with no shortage of earthen dirt and a fully resolved palate, but there was a certain beauty about this. Another highlight.

Clape Cornas 2000 (Cornas, Northern Rhone, France)

Clape Cornas and meat = yes

A mixed vintage for the Northern Rhone and a lesser wine in the Clape context. Fitting that this was served at about meat o'clock during the night as Clape Cornas  always looks better with red meat. It still carries much of that richness and oak sweetness of a younger wine too, the first pooey edges of Cornas bottle age yet to really take hold. Again, like the same vintage La Chapelle, the flow wasn't ideal here, the tannins hard and the fruit looking just a tad awkward and less than pure. I enjoyed a glass but couldn't really drink much more of this - a lesser Clape (speaking of, here is a look at a few recent vintages of this wine).

Best's Bin O Great Western Shiraz 1990 (Great Western, Vic)

Bests Bin 0 1990
22 years young!

Sourced directly from the Best's cellars and in absolutely tip-top shape because of it, there was no hiding the glory of this mature Australian red. It's very much in the Grampians mould too, an unashamedly richer, sweeter, oakier wine than many of the more Euro/less polished wines of this drinkfest, but also enjoyable because of it. There is a sweetened plum essence Grampians character at this wines core too that is so wonderfully attractive. Nicely resolved, but still really quite youthful, win this wine with  at least another 5-10 years pleasure left (based on this great bottle). Very nice.

Maison Leroy Mersault 1er Cru 'Les Perrieres' Blanc 2006
(Mersault, Côte de Beaune, France)

Leroy Les Perrieres

What a point of contention this wine was. A late-night argument starter if ever there was one. The bone of contention about this wine was whether it was unbalanced or just going through a bad phase.
What was particularly discussed was the ripe and slightly overbearing pineapple fruit which appeared to get weightier, heavier and more broad by the second, the oak a second intrusive layer over the top of the fat. Personally I just found this bulky and awkward, lacking the real structure to give long term love. But I can also see that it might come good in a few years, that oak might integrate more and the line may well improve. Definitely a disappointment given the wines around it though. if purely for the moment.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Superb Pinot: Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 2007

Neudorf Moutere Pinot
Cracking stuff
Superb Pinot: Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 2007

Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 2007 (Nelson, NZ)
14.1%, Screwcap, $140 on the Arras wine list
Source: Wine list

My birthday was last week (happy birthday to me) and as per the norm I actually stretched the celebrations out over an entire week (and a bit). I'm hurting now as a result, but what a week it was...

As part of said week I - as you can imagine - opened a bottle or two. Just one or two of course (at a time) as there is no point in being excessive. This particular wine though was one of my favourite wines of the week (along with a MV Krug that had a few years under it's belt in particular) and was picked off the list of Sydney's Restaurant Arras (who have a great cheese trolley by the way). It was actually a very easy choice (even despite the depth of that list), particularly as I'm a big fan of the Neudorf Pinot (and Chardonnay) style and the price looked very right.

Suffice to say that it didn't disappoint either, showing everything you'd want in a Neudorf Pinot - that classic power without excess and (notably) a sense of place. It's a sense of terroi that kicks off from the first whiff too, with a whole roast dinner of aromas on the nose including roast pink lamb, gravy peas, black pepper and a hint of cherry and sarsaparilla. It's a powerful nose too, ripe and full and Kiwi (not Burgundian) with genuinely lifted aromatics. Nice work.

That style carries thrugh on to the palate too, which is powerfully dry and packed full of meaty lamb, redcurrant and cola flavours, a stridently full bodied wine but a linear one too, finishing off with proper Pinot tannins to boot (just to seal the deal) in a firm but balanced back end.

In fact aside from a a little warmth on the finish (and some associated ripe fruit sweetness through the middle) it's hard not to absolutely love this powerful new world Pinot, a wine that sits at 1er cru Burgundy level (quality-wise) yet sells for half the price (I've seen it retail here in Sydney at circa $65). Massive fan. Want some. 18.6/95

Monday, 13 February 2012

Cooks Lot Chardonnay 2010

Cooks Lot Chardonnay 2010 (Mudgee, NSW)
11.5%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

Mudgee Chardonnay is rather an unappreciated beast in the scheme of things, much like Mudgee itself actually (though the region is not without it's challenges - read this report for some perspective). This wine is made with minimal oak and little malolactic fermentation by the looks of it.

The style and emphasis here is all on fruit, kicking off with a slightly blunt, ripe melon and mango nose. Full, ripe Chardonnay ripeness on the nose with only a mere hint of oak. Peachy, juicy fruit. Palate is lean and clean, yellow peaches but ripe ones, the fruit clearly picked just on ripeness. Very buzzy acidity. No malo. Clean, simple, light to medium bodied and prickly lemongrass pineapple palate. Very young and trim but pleasant Chardonnay in an easy mould. 16/87

Friday, 10 February 2012

Lark Hill Riesling 2011

Lark Hill Riesling 2011 (Canberra District)
11.5%, Screwcap, $30
Source: Sample

If ever there was an Australian advertisement for the benefits of biodynamics (and attentive viticulture) it lies in this Riesling, a wine which - lazarus like - looks very fine, even in the face of a vintage that the Carpenter family (who founded and run Lark Hill) themselves describe as 'challenging'.

Much of the credit for this over-performance must lie with the viticulture, the Lark Hill vineyard having now been run biodynamically since 2003 (fully certified in 2008) and meticulously maintained by the Carpenters. Indeed Chris Carpenter believes that the 2011 vintage was the 'year of the tractor' as he spent so much time on it applying the requisite sprays and biodynamic preparations.

All that attention seems to have worked in this wines favour, for you'd be hard picked to really call this a challenging wine - it tastes of a cool year but carries none of the hard acidity that many 11 SA Rieslings show.

What I find most intriguing - and I think it's heavily influenced by how much Austrian wines I've been drinking - is that it could easily slip into a lineup of Wachau Rieslings and hold it's own. I'm not sure if that is what Chris and family are aiming for but I really rather like it.

On that note it smells intriguing too - cool and peppery and grapefruit/lemony but with a hint of richness and aftershave perfume lying beneath too. I hate to use the term, but no shaking that salty minerality in there too.

The palate similarly shows lemon/grapefruit, citrus and pithiness, it toys with ripe weightiness through the mid palate before becoming leaner and very tight through the long, very firn, naturally acidic finish. Again that long minerality drives through the finish and has you wanting more. In fact, it looks just a fraction lean for that matter, the nerviness suggesting that this wines best is still some months (and years to come) away. No fear in holding on to this, if even just for 6 months more.

Ultimately this is a wine of seriously high quality and interest, a Riesling of detail and finesse. Gold medal wine from a barely bronze medal (for many wineries) vintage. 18.5/94

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Pewsey Vale Special Spätlese Rhine Riesling 1979

1979 Pewsey Vale Special Spatlese Riesling
Pewsey Vale Special Spätlese Rhine Riesling 1979 (Eden Valley, SA)
10% alc, Screwcap, $?
Source: The Yalumba cellars

What a pleasure it is to open a vinous treasure like this one. It was cracked late on Saturday night as part of the Summer of Riesling celebrations and came directly from the Yalumba cellars (with big thanks to Louisa Rose).

It is two factors that make this wine so remarkable though: Firstly the condition of the wine for it's age (which was exceptional, helped by outstanding cellar conditions no doubt, but still noteable) and secondly for the choice of closure, for this was sealed with a screwcap, even though it was produced some 20 years before the mainstream usage of such seals on Australian wines, in a period that we can only describe as somewhat visionary (in the closure scheme of things).

Unlike some of those early screwcaps (which have an odd combination of cork and metal screwcap) too, this '79 Pewsey had a straight lined metal cap in a fashion not unlike the screwcaps of 2012 (just check out the second picture below).  

Unsurprisingly perhaps, this wine is like a much older version the Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling of today (this '79 is considered to be the inspiration for the Prima by the way) and this wine is is thought to have a similar sugar level of about 20g/l residual sugar, having been picked deliberately early to create an off dry wine of some concentration and sweetness.

The '79 screwcap. Modelled here by
2011 GFG Sommelier of the Year Stu Knox
Whilst it is now a 33 year old wine, in the glass this '79 was still vital and alive too, a Riesling of quince and lime fruit characters on the nose with some marmalade like sweetness over the top. There's no questioning that this is an old wine true, with a nose that is very much in the secondary, developed end of the spectrum, showing bready lime toast and a hint of mothball decay.

There is, however, no mistaking the honeyed off dry fruit in there though, a fruit character carried forward on to the palate with a sugar pumped, orange marmalade richness that curiously tasted rich but not super sweet. That fatness is just a little stunted perhaps, the wine finishing just a little short in the scheme of things. Again however it's varietal and authentically region, even carrying a whiff of rocky, slatey Eden characters in there for good measure.

Strictly speaking I couldn't really drink too much of this Pewsey, purely because of the slightly arid decay and acidity through the finish. I could however appreciate it for what it was - a ridiculously solid Australian Riesling that is still impressing even after 33 years. Let's only hope that the modern Prima's go the same way...

More Riesling glory

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Falling out of love with.. Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Moss Wood Cabernet 2008
Has the love gone?
Falling out of love with.. Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Moss Wood Cabernet 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $120
Source: Had a glass from someone else's bottle

Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I've become another one of those fashion chasing, natural wine drinking sycophantic fanboys, happy to drink my BD Champagnes and obscure Sicilian reds whilst giving the old favourites (like Moss Wood Cabernet) the middle finger. Not biodynamic/imported/cloudy? No good...

But I'm not though. Or at least I don't think I am. My cellar is still full of Margaret River Cabernet, topped up only recently with a few bottles of 07 Cape Mentelle Cabernet and 07 Vasse Felix Heytesbury. So I think I'm in the frame.

Yet I didn't love this 2008 Moss Wood Cabernet. Nor was I particularly convinced by the 07 for that measure. Or the 06. In fact, all of these last three vintages of Moss Wood have been - to my tastes at least - slightly disappointing.

Who cares right? It's probably just me who has changed, It's simply not 'my wine' anymore surely???

But it's not as simple as that, especially given my Moss Wood context, a wine that three years ago I thought was the shit. Once upon a time - 3 years ago even - it was the wine I would drool over. Get excited about. But not anymore. Now, I just no longer love the wines like I should (given the vintages, vineyard, my history with the winery, the lot). In other words, the love affair is over.

Why exactly I no longer feel the love is quite apparent too - the wine style has, in my opinion, failed to adapt, change, evolve and improve. Moss Wood Cabernet has stood still stylistically whilst the world has changed. It's still going to appeal to those who have always loved it - the dyed-in-the-wool followers - yet for those outside the Moss Wood fan club the wine is just not going to win you over like it once did.

This wine? Or more correctly, the Moss Wood Cabernet style that I no longer appreciate it? Well it's a big and ripe and heavy wine, kicking off with a nose that shows oak and rich gum leaf edged blackberry fruit washing through, everything edged with volatility and latent alcohol warmth. It's a nose of bulk actually, of winemaking, of power too but no grace.

Unsurprisingly the palate too is rich and concentrated, the fruit sweetened with oak, that sweet vanilla oak then filling every cranny that the four square fruit cannot, before finishing with a bang of alcohol warmth.

It is, in my opinion, an overwrought wine, a wine of maker not terroir, a wine that impresses with so much of it's potential and power yet shows no life to be seen. In a bigger lineup this may well still impress, and all that oak and fruit are certainly high quality, yet in the scheme of things it's a hardish, warmish wine that you just can't love.

My score is still reasonable because I know the DNA in there is bloody great and it may well prove me wrong. But gee the artifice around it doesn't quite match up... 17.4/90++

Anyone else feel the same?