Monday, 30 April 2012

Blind Corner Shiraz 2010

Blind Corner Shiraz 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
www.twobrothers.com.au


'..a field blend containing 2% Viognier.  It is foot-crushed, hand-plunged in open pots and basket pressed before being racked to seasoned French barriques for twelve months.  No fining or filtering'

Pretty special handling for a $25 Shiraz. Handmade to the max. All of Ben Gould's wines are like this actually, truly artisan gear. This looks a little too cool and simple for much love just yet, although many will enjoy the glossy style. Not quite my bag though.

Lifted red fruit and white pepper nose on this with just a hint of roasted fruit. Perhaps a fraction mono dimensional on the nose, the palate looks musky and super smooth, albeit a little simple and oak driven at present. A veritable barrel sample of a wine, though not quite with the dry concentration to really bowl me over. Still plenty likeable. 16.8/89+

Is it back? Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Moss Wood Cabernet 2009
So close yet so far...
Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $120
Source: Sample
www.mosswood.com.au


After giving old Moss Wood Cabernet something of a spray back in February, I wasn't sure what to expect with this release. Would it be more of the same? Would I again shake my head and ask 'what is happening at Moss Wood'? Or would I be bathing in the rich, warm glow of classic Moss Wood Cabernet decadence and emptying my glass?

To be honest - on first whiff at least - I thought it was (happily) more of the latter. This 2009 iteration is undoubtedly more polished than the last few vintage releases, with a better integration of oak and less artifice showing up at this stage. Of course it's still very young with a compacted, four-square sort of nose of very ripe purple fruit, topped off with a little volatility. It looks very much like a barrel sample actually, with varnishy oak and contained fruit serving as a nod to it's absolute youth, the nose somewhat reticent and serious and full of promise.

I just wish that all that promise was delivered better on the palate, for it's a wine that appears to be paying the price for it's ripeness pursuit, the long and wonderfully tannic palate marred by warm, 'I can't believe it's just 14.5%', sweet alcohol burning through the finish. The fruit too is just a little on the soupy side, with particular glacé fruit overripe flashes through the somewhat spiky finish.

Ultimately this wine presents as a conundrum. If it was a $40 red I think I'd actually be more forgiving of it's foibles, willing to see the lovely tannins and sense of sureness to the style and be more excited by the whole package (though the score wouldn't change). But, in the context of the fabulous wines that preceded it, particularly from 2005 and older (I've been lucky to drink a heap of Moss Wood from the first vintages in the 70s right through the late 80s, much of the 90s and all of the noughties. I've bought and owned a bit of it too, such is my love of the style, at least the style it used to be) it's a disappointment. A $120 disappointment at that, from a maker (and vintage) that shouldn't disappoint.

Of course, as many will point out, this is an achingly young wine, and will only really hit it's straps at the 10 year mark really. Yet I can't shake the belief that this is not as good as it should be, that the overripeness is structural and will only get worse in the bottle. Sort of like a promising high jumper with one leg slightly shorter than the other, destined to never quite make it over the top bar. Then again, it may well all integrate with another few years in the cellar and make a fool out of me. Considering the price however I'm just not personally prepared to take that punt. I'd probably like to have some in my cellar though just to see what happens...

Scoring this Cabernet then is a tricky prospect, and I'm still not sure I'm happy with the mark. I want to like it and I can see so much good in it, but I also can't hide my disappointment (again)... A score in flux perhaps? 17.5/91++

Afterthought: I do wonder if the viticulture may be to blame here (and by blame, I'm obviously noting that I'm nitpicking about a wine that I'm still calling silver medal quality). Whilst Moss Wood winemaking is well heralded, the viticulture seems somewhat forgotten, a nod to a time in Australian wine history when a makers mark was arguably more important than the terroir of the grapes that went into it. Naturally I'm just making random, possibly ill-informed judgements perhaps, but the overripeness in particular seems symptomatic of vineyard/canopy/yield issues, albeit tempered by the possibility that it is decisions in winemaking style that see the fruit hung out for longer than it should be.


Whatever the root cause though, the fact that Moss Wood's neighbours at Cullen can produce perfectly ripe Cabernet wines that sit at just 12.5% alcohol, whilst Woodlands across the road (literally) can produce similarly ripe 'icon' Cabernet based wines at 13.5%, it does beg the question of what is going on. Conversely, is it just my oversensitivity to perceived ripeness excesses perhaps? A blindspot in my approach? Could it be that my tastes have moved on whilst the wine itself hasn't?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Australian Wine Review turns 4 (and a competition)

Australian Wine Review turns 4 (and a competition)

Crack out the DRC. Uncork the Krug. Decant the Giacomo Conterno. Butter the fairy bread (actually, skip the fairy bread. I'm not a fan) and generally get excited because, by my calculations at least, Australian Wine Review/ozwinereview (ie this blog) officially turns 4 this week (or somewhere thereabouts this week. It was four years ago). Hooray!

Amidst the fanfare I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you that visit this blog. A thank you that exists regardless of whether you are a regular reader, an occasional lurker or just someone who landed here after a search for 'Ben Folds plays Shiraz' went completely awry. Thanks to all of you.

More particularly, I'd like to thank everyone who gives feedback, for you are the best sort of readers. Again it doesn't matter whether that feedback be in the form of cheeky anonymous comments, emails picking up my grammatical errors or just general nice words, as all of it helps to not only shape this blog but makes the lonely, self absorbed pursuit that is wine blogging pursuit that little bit more enjoyable/worthwhile. Hugs for all, and if you haven't commented before then use this post as a great opportunity to start. I love comments.

A big thank you also to all the wineries and suppliers and PR agencies (and the like) who send in samples of wines and products. Again, I couldn't do it without you and I appreciate your patience when I'm a little tardy in tasting your wines. Thanks again.

A prized Shiraz
Now sadly there is no massive casino party to celebrate this little anniversary, nor is there much in the way of showbags/sampler packs. What I do have however is plenty of wine (even beyond the aforementioned samples that clog my loungeroom). As a result I'm going to give away a bottle of wine, a quite simple wine (but a good one) that I like and think someone else would like too.

That wine is the 2009 Tyrrell's Brokenback Hunter Shiraz, a lovely unforced Hunter red, from a very good vintage, that typifies all that I like in the 'drinking' (not trophy winning) style of Hunter Shiraz. It's hardly an expensive wine, nor is it all that rare, but I have some purely because I enjoy drinking it.

The mechanism by which I'm giving away this wine is simple. All I need to know is what the highest scoring (my score out of 20. I always score out of 20 and sometimes out of 100 too) wine is on this website. First correct answer wins, one entry only, available to Australian residents 18+ only. Answer in the comments below. The judges decision (ie mine) is final.

Thanks everyone and bring on another 4 years! 

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bargain Chardonnay: De Bortoli Windy Peak Chardonnay 2011

Bargain Chardonnay: De Bortoli Windy Peak Chardonnay 2011

De Bortoli Windy Peak Chardonnay
Drinks well out of a plastic tumbler
De Bortoli Windy Peak Chardonnay 2011
12.5%, Screwcap, $14
Source: Sample
www.debortoli.com.au


Just for perspective, I opened this particular wine alongside the new 2011 Capital Wines Kyeema Vineyard Chardonnay Viognier and then asked my able wine assistant (all wine writers have wine assistants. I have a whole staff actually. Not...) to pour them blind.

Now normally what would happen is that one wine (the $32, grapefruity, Chardonnay blend) would be noticeably more sophisticated, structured and impressive, whilst the other wine (the generous, light $15 Chardonnay) would be straight forward and simple and quaffable. I'd note why I liked/disliked either of them and move on.

Yet a funny thing happened with this pairing. Something that occasionally happens and, when it does, makes tasting blind even more valuable. What happened was that I genuinely preferred the $15 Windy Peak, whilst I struggled to enjoy the Canberran wine. I struggled to love the razor sharp, overly dominant acidity, the hard edges and the subdued varietal character. I struggled with all of it actually, largely as I thought it showed the challenges of both it's overt youthfulness and the unripe acidity of the vintage, characters which ultimately made for little in the way of drinking joy.

In direct contrast this Chardonnay was a wine of simple pleasure, kicking off with an open nose of nectarine nectar, a pinch of vanilla and more fruit richness. It's immediately a straightforward wine but not unpleasantly so. It's open yet also not overt, contained even in it's mode. Palate too is light and nectarine driven palate with a lick of vanilla loak and a genuine juiciness. Nice simple richness and no unripeness (which is what marred the aforementioned Chardonnay Viognier) though clearly with more firm acid than usual.

Ultimately this is a wine of drinkability, of simplicity, of fruit. It's not a high scoring wine, nor is it likely to win trophies but for it's pricepoint, for it's style, for it's status in life this is great stuff. Great stuff that, in this case, showed just how important that notion of drinkability really is. Of course in 3 years time the Windy Peak will likely have fallen over whilst the Kyeema might be hitting it's straps. But that is ignoring the simple fact that wine is for drinking and, if given the choice, I'd be sticking to this Windy Peak every time.  16.3/88

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

What's The Story? Real handmade wines to impress anyone

Yes the bottle is half empty. We drank the
other half. Was great with my rib eye. Yum.
What's The Story? Real handmade wines to impress anyone

(A version of this article was in the March edition of Latté Life magazine. As usual, an important element to note is that this is written for a much different audience than this site. To put it another way the tone and delivery of the message is different but the message itself remains the same. Hope you enjoy).

They say that the best way to make a small fortune in the wine industry is to start with a large one...

That may be a cynical view of such a romantic craft, but the sad fact remains that unless you have a pile of unallocated cash floating around – or you have a family wine business to step into - owning a vineyard and winery remains just a pipe dream.

Yet for a new generation of winemakers, a new era of producers, the lack of a vineyard or winery is no longer the massive impediment it used to be. Or at least it wasn’t for Rory Lane....

For Rory (and his partner Anita), the decision was all about simple practicalities. They wanted to pursue their dreams of making wine - their own wine that is - for a living, yet obviously they didn’t own the vineyards or the winery to do so (and they still had full time jobs in Melbourne for that matter. Or at least they did at the time).

What they did instead was quite basic really - they brought the wine production to them. This meant renting a factory close to home in southern Melbourne, purchasing the required winemaking equipment and then - the most important part - sourcing the best grapes they could find. That quest ultimately brought them to Western Victoria, to the granite strewn hills of the Grampians actually, where they picked up some wonderful full bodied Shiraz grapes from several, 50 year old plus vineyards, that kick-started their wine brand.

Fittingly, that brand is called ‘Story Wines’, a name that reflects the fact that each grape and each wine has a story. For Rory and Anita that story starts with grapes from ‘somewhere’, sourced from real vineyards that are tended by real people (as opposed to machines) and which produce fruit of intense flavour and genuine character.

These grapes are then crafted into wines of character and substance using a classic minimal intervention model - think no acid adjustments, all wild yeast ferments, open ferments and a general ‘hands-off winemaking’ approach.

The secret to the success of these wines too is about different 'stories' - about keeping each vineyard plot separate and treating them differently. Of preserving individuality and attempting to approach winemaking intuitively a more intuitively. Of building wines largely on the basis of texture and balance and of ‘grapes that are so good that they don’t need to be worked hard to get structure - they have it naturally’ as Rory puts it.

A perfect example of the fruits of said approach is illustrated in the wonderfully generous, 2010 The Story ‘Rice’s Vineyard’ Grampians Shiraz ($45), a wine which has lowish alcohol (13.2%) yet still carries an uncommon plushness to it that makes it seriously hard to put down.

It’s a wine that is immediately quite open and friendly – built in a ‘throw another steak on the barbie’ style - yet finishing with fine and rather sophisticated tannins and a long finish. It is a well priced, single vineyard Shiraz crafted in a fashion that you just cannot deny the attraction of, without ever doubting how serious this is. A real wine, made by real people and all with a great story to match – wine doesn’t get much better than that...

(Postscript: Rory brought all his 2010 reds around to taste alongside the Rice's Vineyard but it was Rice's that most seduced me. It was the most luscious, the most Grampians-esque and the most seductive, all without actually being sweet or anything but fine and composed. That's quite a feat actually and a combination that ensured that the half empty bottle Rory left behind followed me out to dinner where it was very well received.

Also of note amongst the bracket of vinos that Mr Lane kindly opened was the peppery, wild and plain intriguing Henty Shiraz, a whole bunch influenced Shiraz that has - as Rory called it - ' a little x-factor'. It's a divisively spicy wine perhaps but unquestionably a beguiling sort of Shiraz. Well worth a look (particularly for anyone who likes more esoteric styles).

Monday, 16 April 2012

Battle of Bosworth Shiraz 2010

Battle of Bosworth Shiraz 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample
www.battleofbosworth.com.au


The star here is undoubtedly the organically grown (since 1995), 100% estate grown Shiraz grapes at the core. To add complexity this includes a little cordon-cut, vine-dried Shiraz fruit too. Plenty of joy here from what is shaping to be a superb vintage for Vale reds.

Dense blood red colour. Lovely choc moccha berry Vale richness on the nose but with the a certain restraint. Squished red berries with a hint of candied spice which I think comes from the cordon-cut fruit. Wonderfully generous palate is ripe and slippery but not sweet. Not hard to like a juicy, ripe, no-nonsense Vale Shiraz like this. 17.5/91

$15 well spent: Woodstock Shiraz Cabernet 2010

Woodstock Shiraz Cabernet 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.9%, Screwcap, $18
Source: Sample
www.woodstockwine.com.au


A quick internet search reveals that this particular red can be picked up from a (good) local retailer for the sum of just $14.95 per bottle or less than the price of a six pack of Crownies from said retailer. I know what I wold be choosing...

Big, open cast nose on this that looks just a fraction broad but still full of black and red berried chocolatey richness. Palate follows to with a hearty, yet smooth, sort of Vale red in that 'acres of flavour' mode. Still rather medium bodied, it finished with just enough punch to have you coming back for another glass. Very easy recommendation for an under $15 red this one. Well packaged too. 16.5/88

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Scarborough Blue Label Chardonnay 2010

Scarborough Blue Label Chardonnay 2010
Scarborough Blue Label Chardonnay 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
13%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample
www.scarboroughwine.com.au


Fermented in older oak and designed for those people who turn up to cellar door and say 'I don't like Chardonnay. It's too woody.' Has always been an easy wine too like for that matter, if not especially serious. 2010 wasn't the best vintage for Hunter whites but this looks pretty solid.

It's an open and peachy wine, with nectarine, a vague suggestion of vanilla paste oak and more just-ripe white peach. With a nice vitality and citrus line through the quite generous palate, it may be straightforward but is still a genuinely vital Hunter Chardonnay, made for consumption. 16.8/89

Friday, 13 April 2012

Capital Wines Kyeema Vineyard Reserve Shiraz 2010

Kyeema Shiraz
Capital Wines Kyeema Vineyard Reserve Shiraz 2010 (Canberra District)
13.2%, Screwcap, $55
Source: Sample
http://www.capitalwines.com.au


Vintage variation: It's a topic that is often viewed negatively within Australia, largely because we've seen a few dramatically challenging years in recent history (2 record heatwaves and a record wet year) that have yielded some truly wild swings in wine quality.

Yet, when vintage contrasts are not quite as severe, I think that a little bit of annual variety just serves to make wine more interesting and more wonderful

It is because of such contrasts that I really like this wine actually, particularly when placed in the context of the two, rather different wines before it. Admittedly not everyone is going to like this spicy, herbal and structured red as much as the 2008 or 2009 vintage iterations before it, but I must admit to rather enjoying this more because of those differences.

What sets this apart is just how 'cool' a cool climate Shiraz it is. Wood smoke, stems, black pepper and spice over Shiraz red fruit, all edged with sweet vanilla oak. The palate too is anything but ripe, with bony, spicy black fruit turning spicy, slightly bitter and drying towards the high acid finish, oak sweetness helping to soften the edges.

A much leaner wine this year but not unripe, I think it may be just a little hard for big love but I can't help but appreciate the sinewy, herbal and dark smoky intrigue on offer. Like to see this again in 5yrs time too. 17.7/92+

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Capital Wines 'The Whip' Riesling 2011

Capital Wines 'The Whip' Riesling 2011 (Canberra District)
11.3%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample
www.capitalwines.com.au


Tough vintage in Canberra. Real tough. Cold, wet and with serious disease pressures. Lots of grapes went unpicked as a result, but those that did were often picked with much higher acid levels than normal. To balance out this extra acidity many wines thus carry a little more residual sugar than usual. In some cases this worked, in others the balance wasn't quite there. Sadly I think this wine falls into that camp...

Tropical fruit sweetness on the nose - it really shows that lolly residual sugar on the nose actually. Dry, light and slightly candied palate has tart and hard malic acidity clashing with the Froot Loop residual sugar. There is some nice, loose knit lemon/grapefruit fruit in there to but it seems a little overwhelmed by the sugar and acidity. Not quite there. 16.3/87

The right A+ step forward?

The right A+ step forward?

Knee deep in A+ Australian wine
Firstly, a question (or two): How do you market Australian wines to Australians? As in, what do you think is the best way to push the message that Australian's should be drinking particularly Australian wines?

They're questions that Australia's wine industry 'statutory body' - Wine Australia - has had to ponder recently, driven by domestic consumption figures which reveal that Australians are increasingly turning to imported (particularly from NZ) wines over locally made examples. Wine Australia has particularly had to answer these questions as they're funded by Australian winemakers themselves, so the heat has come from what is effectively their own membership...

One of the (possible) answers to such questions is officially underway now, coming in the form of a month of Australian wine events known as the A+ Australian Wine Celebration. This nationwide Australian vino month includes over 100 wine themed functions being held all around the country (though not in Queensland I noticed. Sorry Queensland) during April, with the whole shebang kicked off in serious style (with 150+ wines, poured largely by the winemakers, from 25 wine regions) at a giant launch party/tasting at Sydney's Ivy ballroom last week.

As usual I took one for the team and attended the launch celebration, largely to taste the wines and eat cheese (both of which were rather good. A+ cheese indeed) but also to understand how the gig itself had come to be.

What I found was actually a rather well run evening (putting the A+ program itself aside for a second) that cleverly used symbiotic relationships to achieve success. A sold-out event that, whilst it was billed as a Wine Australia event, was also a Gourmet Traveller Wine event and a Merivale event. An event that cleverly leveraged relationships to make things run smoothly, bringing almost 700 wine drinkers together to taste many of Australia's finest wines with the makers themselves.

Breaking it down further, the impressive scope of this whole launch party actually started within the walls of the office of Gourmet Traveller Wine editor Judy Sarris via a meeting between Sarris and (recently appointed) Wine Australia Australian Regional Director Aaron Brasher. At this meeting, Brasher and Sarris realised that the event could be beneficial for both parties - Gourmet Traveller Wine could help with promotion and coverage (as well as providing goodie bags) and Wine Australia could provide a cost effective way for the magazine to engage with a highly targeted, wine loving audience. Win-win scenario.

It didn't stop there however, with the pair (I say pair, but obviously they were backed by their respective organisations) then using their connections with Merivale to get Franck Moreau on board (who is the Merivale Group Sommelier). Fortuitously, Franck was already looking to stage a large wine fair as part of the 'March into Merivale' program of events, so the idea of making this a marquee Australian-only wine event, backed by Wine Australia, seemed a rather fine opportunity indeed.

The benefit of having Franck also on board the project was two-fold - the working party thus had access to some of the finest venues and event staff that NSW (and perhaps Australia) has to offer, as well as having an opportunity to tap into the marketing support and database of well heeled drinkers that Merivale has to it's name. Throw in the support of Riedel glassware - whom gave each attendee a fine Riedel stem to take home - as well and you've got yourself the beginnings of a top event.

To cap off all of this group-hugging action, Franck also helped out with the invited wineries too, drawing up a shortlist of top class producers that he then leaned on to make sure they attended, pushing winery principals to turn up themselves (rather than just sending a rep or underling). The net result was impressive to say the least - in one line of Victorian producers alone you had Julian Castagna pouring his Castagna Syrah, alongside Keppell Smith splashing out generous samples of his (firm and intense) 2009 Pinot Noir, just up from Mac Forbes giving (slightly smaller pours) of his rather beautiful 2010 Woori Yallock Pinot Noir. It was winemaker spotting of the highest calibre, of a magnitude not often seen in one place (and great to see).

A few early A+ tasters. That's Jeffrey Grosset talking Riesling on the right, then (right to left) Aaron Brasher,
Dan Coward, Louise Radman and Katrina Holden

Suffice to say that for the attendees themselves this was well worth the $25 entry price. Hell the glass alone would have been worth that, not to mention the magazine, voucher to the Ivy bottle shop (another crafty Franck inclusion) and the mountains of fine cheese on offer. It was a winning formula indeed, evidenced by how quickly the night sold out and also for the generally frenetic level of activity within the ballroom post 6pm kickoff time. Grand wine celebration for sure (even if it was a little too jam packed for my tastes).

The level of success that an event like this can achieve though also begs the question - can this A+ Australian Wine Celebration be a success in long term? Is it via these boozy winefests that people might rediscover that there is more to white wine than just Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc? And is it really the answer to the aforementioned questions about the best way to market Australian wine to Australians?

What do you think?

A few highlights from the night


Curly Flat Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2009 - Perhaps the finest Curly Flat Pinot since the 2006 vintage (and cast in a similar juicy and round mould). Phillip Moraghan believes that the 2010 (and potentially the 2012) will be better again. I'd still get into this luscious and intense Pinot regardless. The Chardonnay is perhaps even more impressive and may well be the best in the line to date. Buy with confidence.

Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 2005 - I've banged on about this wine before and again it looked glorious here. A ripe year Vat 1 for sure but that just means more power and weight. Please pass the soft shelled crab. Wonderful stuff. Australia's Grand Cru Chablis.

Xabregas Artisan Syrah 2009 - I'm not always the biggest fan of Great Southern Shiraz but this was pretty clever. Medium bodied, savoury style cast in a medium bodied yet rich and generous style. Northern Rhone-ish aromatics but with that dark black olive and blackberry Great Southern fruit on the palate. Big fan.

Postscript: In retrospect I also need to ask another question about the nature of these events - is it appropriate that a government-tied wine industry body pushes events that have such a commercial leaning? Does it not promote at least a minor notion of bias? I'm just playing devils advocate here but it's probably a question worth posing too.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Holm Oak Pinot Noir 2010

Holm Oak Pinot Noir 2010 (Tamar Valley, Tas)
14%, Screwcap, $32
Source: Sample
www.holmoakvineyards.com.au


Few would realise it but Holm Oak has some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Tasmania, with their first Pinot Noir plantings dating back to 1983. Trivia perhaps but interesting to know.

From a warmish vintage in the Tamar and looking properly ripe here too, with a real Cottees plum/raspberry jam nose overlaid with sweet cocoa oak richness. Rather a generous nose that one. Generous palate too, if just a little raw, extractive and warm in the sappy style with lightish tannins. For Tassie Pinot this sure does pack a punch, even if it's not especially delicate. 17/90+


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Harewood Chardonnay 2010

Harewood Chardonnay 2010 (Denmark, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Tasting
www.harewoodestate.com.au


I do rather like the richer styles of Great Southern Chardonnay. That nutty richness and opulence of the best wines is really rather appealing (to me at least). This is sourced from beautiful (but occasionally chilly) Denmark down the very bottom of WA. Production wise it's pretty standard quality Chardonnay fare - whole bunch pressed, barrel fermented in new and 1yr old barrels and partial malo.

Perhaps unsurprising there is plenty of toasty, biscuity oak on the nose with some sour lactic hints too. Nice rich nose that in the open, sunshine touched acres of opulence style.  It's a little caramelised around the edges, but the palate is a quite balanced sort of best, though still somewhat dominated by Sao oak. Nice nectarine fruit though. Palate length is good, the finish rich and just a bit broad but still well contained. Big but not fat. Good stuff. 17.5/91+

Monday, 2 April 2012

Henschke new releases + more assorted goodies

Henschke new releases + more assorted goodies

94 Henschke Hill of Grace.
Check that sediment!
Sadly I missed the big Henschke 50th Hill of Grace vintage masterclass today - so I can't give you a big rundown and the inside goss about the latest Henschke releases. I did, however, manage to have a quick sniff of the wines, along with a brace of other goodies from the Fine Wine Partners portfolio. It was a rather enjoyable, albeit brief, tasting...

Henschke Hill of Grace 1994 (Eden Valley, SA)
When your time is short, you go straight to the head of the head class. Or at least I did..

What's interesting about this is how much sediment it dropped and just how brick red it was. Certainly rather advanced in the scheme of things, and only 'just legal' (as wine woman Danielle Kennedy succinctly put it). That didn't stop it looking particularly tasty though.

Ochre/brick red in colour, this has some of that HoG five-spice signature aromatics on it (which I love) set against some very dense dark chocolate, wet bricks and cocoa butter richness. I'm guessing this would have had quite a deal of toasty oak in it's youth, though it hasn't worked against this wine now. Rich, yet still not heavy mature palate carries that delicious dark chocolate richness along with coffee, leather and  richness and a lovely vibrancy of this dark choc fruit. Dense and concentrated, choc-fudge sort of palate but quite light and fresh to finish. Lovely Shiraz in that generous, yet savoury mould. Win. Drink: Now - 2016+. 18.5/94

Henschke Hill of Grace 2007 (Eden Valley, SA)
A drought year wine and given all French oak because of it (the Henschke's usually prefer a combination of French and American for HoG).

It certainly looks attractive, with a purple jubey character on the nose that many of the 07 Eden Valley Shiraz share. Less five-spice though and certainly more vanilla oak (particularly in the context of the sublime 2006). Black jubes coated in vanilla. Some nice violet highlights though. That dark jubey character extends through the palate, all looking very polished and modern. It's a slightly sweet/sour palate though, with a skinny, skittish sort of character to it that doesn't convince quite as much. Lovely vibrancy through the finish though which brings it all together. Still a fine Shiraz, though not quite as convincing as the 06 before it. Should improve in the bottle. Drink: 2013-2018+ 17.7/92+

Henschke Croft Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)

It's always been a richer style the Croft, which makes it all the more interesting to see it cut lighter and more acid driven this vintage. I dare say it may garner more love, though I'm not quite in love with it. Indeed it's a crisp and refreshing, old-oak-and-early-picked-fruit style although with an unusual, lemonade, baby-sick lees and lemon lifesavers sweetness on edges. A lean wine but also a sweet-yet-acidic one with that quite candied edge too. Embryonic, if slightly odd, modern Chardonnay. Polariser. Drink 2013-2015 17/90

Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Eden Valley, SA)

I think this, of all the 2007 releases, shows the drought derived dessication of the vintage the most, with a strained, dried currant and cassis sort of nose to it in particular that I'm no fan of, although it's not actually a cooked sort of wine (and the sweet oak certainly helps things). Intriguingly, the palate looks fresher than the nose too, with more briary dark chocolate and dark berry fruit to lift it up. It finishes with some dark bitter tannins and a slight hardness, though still with some length. A slightly lesser Cyril for mine, though still clearly a wine of some class. Drink: 2014-2020+ 17.2/90

Henschke Mt Edelstone Shiraz 2008 (Eden Valley, SA)
I don't expect many to agree with me perhaps, but I find this to be a more enjoyable wine than the 2007 Hill of Grace. What's more I've tried this wine twice now and enjoyed it both times (so it's consistent too). Again it's probably a slightly more forward Mt Ed, but I'd still recommend for Henschke lover.

It's quite classic on the nose actually given the vintage, with that all important spice (which I don't see in the 07 HoG. It's still all dark berries again, more pepper and plum juice, again with the choc-red fruit flesh. Really quite vibrant and long, this is perhaps a little bitter on the finish though that's probably the only detraction. Smart Mt Ed - if not super classic - that I rather like. Drink: Now - 2020+ 18/92

Henschke Johann's Garden GMS 2009 (Barossa Valley, SA)
Nice to see a little Grenache led love here. Warm, Grenachey and red fruity, this has a nice candied red fruit lift on the nose coupled with redcurrants rolled in earth. Showcases the joy of 09 Grenache actually, all brightness and light. My main quibble is the warm and broadish mid palate though I still enjoyed this plenty. Drink: Now - 2018 17.5/91
Henshke Mt Edelstone 2008
Enjoyed.

Henschke Julius Riesling 1996 (Eden Valley, SA)

In screwcap which was very odd for the period. A museum bottling perhaps? Anyway, this was just a little too heavy on the terpenes for mine, the petrol dominating the citrus fruit a little too much. I coudn't quite get past it, though the structure looked smart and the wine looked rather fresh. A stylistic no for me on this wine, though with a score that reflects that this is a personal preference. Drink: Now 16/87

Stonier Lyncroft Chardonnay 2009 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
From what I can gather this sits at the 'Reserve' level of quality in the Stonier portfolio and is drawn from a single vineyard. Circa $45 retail. Like the Reserve it's a heavily worked style in the ripe and rich, Paringa-esque mode of big and buxom Mornington Chardonnay (which I have an occasional soft spot for).

Lovely, raw cashew and Sao oak/lees nose nose on this set to a background of super generous, almost tropical peach and mango fruit. It's almost too ripe and large such is its proportions. That peaches 'n' cream character continues through to the palate too which is opulent and very fleshy indeed. There's a slight filip of sweetness on the finish but otherwise it ends quite cleanly, if with a seriously big bum. Very much in its mode, but lovely juice too. Drink: Now - 2016 17.7/92

Petaluma Riesling 1999 (Clare Valley, SA)
Placed next to the aforementioned Julius and could have almost been from a different (non Riesling) planet, such was the tropical fruit party. That's announced with pineapple, lime and shortbread biscuits set in a full and openly round frame. Very juicy indeed. Slightly tart palate isn't super long but still satisfies. Hardly a classical wine - almost like a fruit punch in a way - but kind of appealing too.  Drink: Now 17.5/91

Drouhin 1er Clos des Mouches 2009 (Beaune, France)
Do you know what the most interesting thing about this wine is? Just how much it shares - in style, flavour and form, with the 09 Dog Point Pinot I had last night. High praise for the Dog Point perhaps but also indicative of how the warm vintage has styled wines like this.

Delicious, essence of Pinot lovely dark redcurrant/cherry nose in a warm, generous style. Redcurrant juice on the palate too, though savoury not sweet. A rounded wine with a big entry and big juiciness before a twist of twiggy tannins to finish. Not sure how much whole bunch used here but suspect not a hug amount. Lovely generous Pinot hug, if just a little warm. Already open and approachable and calling for duck. Drink: Now- 2020 18.3/93

Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon 1988 (Pyrenees, Vic)
I banged on at length last year about these old Taltarni Cabernets and this may be an even better wine than the 87 I enjoyed so much. Simply put if you like old Australian Cabernets, nay, just Cabernet in general, you need to get onto this. Available from the winery if you ask very very nicely apparently (a little bit in retail too. Sells for circa $95 per bottle).
Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon 1988
Cabernet joy.

Stunning varietal Cabernet. Bordeaux inspired but with the mint and richness of the Pyrenees. Cigar box, tea leaves, black fruit and Cabernet classic aromas on the unmistakeable nose. Very dry, medium weight palate of structure first then leafy - yet not skinny - black Cabernet fruit.  A rather drying finish but oh so much pleasure of the Cabernet kind. Delicious. I may even be underrating it. Drink: Now - 2022+ 18.5/94

Innocent Bystander Mea Culpa Syrah 2010 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
A promising new addition to the Innocent Bystander range, though interestingly priced and positioned  at Giant Steps level (or more) at $59ish.

100% whole bunch, small batch and gravity filtered. What I'm intrigued about is that it's so polished and silken. Yes it carries the undergrowthy, heavily (black) peppered sort of ham and vegemite whole bunch influence but it's also surprisingly slippery and even just a fraction too juicy and bright, finishing super clean and 'I can't believe it's not filtered' bright. Actually, it's a very model of a modern Yarra Shiraz (I'm calling it Shiraz as I can't see this as Syrah).

Whilst I think less polish and more feralness would impress me more, it's still early days with this wine. An encouraging red to say the least. Drink: 2013-2018 17.5/91+