Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Beyond boats and islands - Bob Oatley's new babies

Beyond boats and islands - Bob Oatley's new babies

New label, new packaging. Quite an improvement in
the brand image for mine.
(A version of this first appeared in the April edition of LattéLife magazine. The article itself is thus written for a slightly more broader audience. The tasting notes and 'The extra bit' however are a little more 'classical' if you may).

It’s hard not to respect Bob Oatley. Whether as a businessman (he is Australia’s 25th richest man with a net worth of $860 million), a sailor (his boat, Wild Oats, has won the City to Hobart 5 times) or as a winemaker (his fortune was effectively made by the sale of wineries to Southcorp, which itself was acquired by Fosters. Bob benefited both times). It appears that whatever this man – and now his extended family – touches turns to gold.

But there is an elephant in the room. A single word that, when uttered, provokes a note of regret in Bob’s voice. Confusingly perhaps, this taboo word is also the same thing that made Bob his millions.

It’s Rosemount. Well, Rosemount Estate to put it correctly, which was the winery that Bob (and family) built up over 30 years, growing it from humble origins in 1969 to eventually make it Australia’s largest family winery. What provokes the regret however is what has become of Bob’s brand since it was sold in 2001 - not only is it no longer the household name it once was, but the original Rosemount winery, located in the Upper Hunter Valley, has itself been sold off to coal miners (a group that the Oatley’s are hardly the biggest fans of). Indeed Sandy Oatley (Bob’s son) calls the loss of Rosemount a ‘loss to the family’ uttering the statement with a look that suggests a death in that family...

Given this context, it’s not hard to see why Bob is smiling about his new project. Well, it’s not quite a new project really, more a new direction for one of his recent projects. I’m talking about Bob’s eponymous wine brand Robert Oatley wines, and, more specifically, the new Robert Oatley Signature Series, a range of premium wines that have been just added to the portfolio.

What makes this new range particularly interesting is the change in focus. Spearheaded by the (new) Western Australian based 'Director of Winemaking' Larry Cherubino, this new range leans significantly towards the west, with 2/3rds of the wines sourced from WA vineyards. The rest of wines also move from the companies Mudgee base to include regional favourites such as Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir and McLaren Vale Shiraz.

Such a West Australian bias would probably not raise an eyelid for most wineries, yet for the rather staunchly NSW-centric Oatley family it’s a significant change. A brand altering change. Still, when you see the enthusiasm of sharply dressed, wild-haired and super dedicated winemaker Larry and taste the new wines, it’s hard not to see why they’re going down this path - they’ve found their point man and are backing his judgements (with certain success).

Speaking of success, of the new wines the more congruent ones amongst them are indeed of Western Australian origin, notably the sprightly Great Southern Riesling and savoury Margaret River Cabernet, with only the slightly blocky and alcoholic Pinot Noir a lesser light in the range.

Given the price of these new wines ($23.95 approx.) it’s not hard to see the appeal. They’re all, as Bob likes to call them, ‘darned good drink(s)’.

Good drinks, fashioned for drinking, and well priced? Nice one Bob.

The extra bit

Larry Cherubino, he of the great hair, flanked here
by Huon Hooke (left) and Ralph Kyte-Powell (right)
It's hard to ignore the Rosemount scars on Bob and his staff here. Much of the key people in this newish (this is the 6th vintage as Oatley Wines) operation are either ex-Rosemount or at the very least know the history rather well. The pain is writ large in every conversation. Even the wine styles have parallels (or the brightness and egalitarian nature of them has parallels)...

Regardless, the choice of Larry - and indeed WA - as the future direction for the label is hard to argue with. He brings not only wine production nous but also the important grower and winemaking contacts too. Plus he is an engaging guy and has excellent hair.

On the topic of grapes, much of the fruit for these new wines - and particularly the yet-to-be-released super-premiums - is actually sourced from the ashes of another (somewhat) fallen empire, that of Accolade wines (nee Constellation, nee BRL Hardys, nee Hardys). One particular story Larry tells is how he got word that some long term grape contracts, for fruit from some prime Great Southern and Margaret River vineyards, were not being renewed by Accolade anymore. Larry thus pounced and the juice from said grapes now contributes to the new Oatley Wines direction. Smart man. The right sort of guy to have on your team...

Beyond just Larry, the Oatley's also now have Derek Fitsgerald (ex Thorn Clarke) and Rob Merrick (ex Constellation/Houghton) at the Oatley's Mudgee winery too, alongside consultants Phil Christiansen in South Australia and Mark O'Callaghan in the Yarra Valley (both ex Constellation). A Crack team all round. 

The wines
All were tasted over lunch with the Oatley family at Sydney's Aria restaurant recently.

Robert Oatley Signature Series Riesling 2011 (Great Southern, WA)
12.5%, Screwcap, RRP $23.95

A blend of several sub-regions, principally Frankland River, along with Porongorup and Mt Barker fruit. Fermented with a neutral yeast and bottled with minimal additions. pH 3.16. TA 6.48g/L. RS 4.29g/L

Limey and quite juicy, lots of fleshy lime and openness. Approachable and easy with a nice mid palate richness. Very pleasant, soft and round style, the residual sugar making this very easy and enjoyable. 17.3/90

Robert Oatley Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Margaret River, WA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $23.95

Primarily southern Margaret River fruit. Fermented with a range of different yeasts. The intention here is to avoid excess tropical fruitiness. pH 3.47. TA 6.49g/L. RS 3.94g/L.

Riper style. Peach and mango ripeness matches grassy varietal character. Snappy palate if a bit short. Simple sort of grassy style. Pleasant. Solid. Attractive and rounded with good flesh. Does the job. 16.8/89

The range.

Robert Oatley Signature Series Chardonnay 2011 (Margaret River, WA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $23.95

Sourced from a range of sites across Margaret River. Matured for a short time in French oak barriques, 20% new. Malolactic fermentation deliberately avoided. Larry calls the production style here 'winemaking 101'. pH 3.33. TA 6.55g/L. RS 4.31g/L

Citrus and Baileys on the nose.Looks embryonic on the nose and palate with just just a little cream pie richness. Tastes like a tank sample. Awkward at present, oak on fruit, the palate spiky, lean and even a little confusingly warm.16/87+

(Unreleased and as yet unnamed) Robert Oatley Margaret River Chardonnay 2011
$50 RRP (approx)

A sample 'teaser' that was brought along specifically for the tasting and is theoretically from one of the top tiers of the Oatley Wines pyramid. A 100 case barrel selection out of a prime Karriedale vineyard.

Lovely whipped butter oak. Rich and rippling with power and weight. Shows promise, particularly as the oak integrates further. Double the wine that the Signature is. 17.7/92+

Robert Oatley Signature Series Pinot Noir 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13.5% (though tastes warmer), Screwcap, $23.95

According to Larry this wine 'will move to Yarra from now on for this range.' When asked whether he was happy with it he replied that 'Yes. But I want to be really happy with it'. pH 3.62. TA 5.99g/L. RS 0.37g/L

Brambly and quite light, cherry fruit with a hint of bark. Lots of alcohol and not a lot of finesse. A big wine without the delicacy. One of the few low points in this range. 15.7/86

Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $23.95

Sourced largely from the Blewitt Springs and Willunga area in southern McLaren Vale. 10 months oak maturation. pH 3.56. TA 6.23g/L. RS 0.66g/L

Rich chocolate plum essence. Quite rich and has that Vale concentration to it. Fleshy purple black licorice fruit. Sweet and soft but still savoury and dry. I like the concentration and the style. 17.4/90+

Robert Oatley Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
14%, Screwcap, $23.95

Mainly Wilyabrup fruit. 10-12 months in a variety of new and old French oak. Interesting to note that high RS reading which was clearly needed to offset the somewhat severe tannins. pH 3.62. TA 5.69g/L. RS 4.34 g/L.

Rich luscious and soft. Already quite open and vanilla oak cosseted. Rich. Micro ox? New oak? (that would probably be the extra sweetness) Still has some herbs and bitter tannins. Seriously bitter for the style actually. Briary and black fruited. What serious tannins. Quite a surprise. Tannic blackness. Intriguing. Very dry and savoury. Perhaps the most interesting wine in the range. 17.5/91+

(Unreleased and as yet unnamed) Robert Oatley Cabernet Sauvignon Wilyabrup 2010 (Margaret River, WA)

Another pre-release sample, this will be a $60+ wine and looks rather serious indeed. 6 weeks on skins.

The joy here is the textural element from the oak. Very dry and oak drawn, perhaps but there is lovely black fruit serious through the middle. Looks quite classy actually if a little bulky as yet. 17.8/92++

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Galafrey 'The Jovial' Cabernet blend 2004

Jovial vino
Galafrey 'The Jovial' Cabernet blend 2004
13.5%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample

I've talked before about how much I enjoy the wonderfully genuine, unpolished style of these Galafrey reds and this is another great example. An example that not only tastes hand-made but also came hand-labelled too (check out the vintage blue pen update below. Love it). It may seem trivial (and indeed some writers may be unimpressed) but such a touch helped remind yet again that wine is made by people.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc picked off the un-irrigated 30+ year old Galafrey vineyard from vines that averaged a miniscule yield of 2 tonnes per hectare (less than 1 tonne per acre). You can see that absolute concentration in the wine too, from the deep, still youthful, ruby red colour, through the cedary, spicy, minty, blackberry and bark nose to the firm, furry, slightly green tannins and sprightly acidity of the palate. From start to finish it tastes uncompromised, unpolished and wonderfully hearty in a proper fashion, a mid weight, firm and even slightly old school red of some depth and power but with acidity to match.

Rusticity, but with vibrant fruit at the core? Yes please. 18/93

Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz 2010

Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz 2010 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $23
Source: Sample

A great vintage in South Australia and looking particularly good in Langhorne Creek (which really suffered in the preceding heatwave 2008 and 2009 vintages). This wine is perhaps the best known in the 'standard' Bremerton Estate range and certainly looks affable here in the big and luscious Langhorne mode.

Lovely chocolatey richness here. It's like a chocolate berry pie, such is the attractive combination of rich fruit and sweet toasty oak. Mint slices over raspberry pie. It's perhaps a little baked and stewy on the nose with some shriveled fruit characters but serious intensity to match. That oak is particularly seductive if sweet. The palate too is all about juiciness, of sweetened, essence like fruit and Bounty bar richness, all topped off with some alcohol warmth through the finish.

So much basic juicy appeal with this wine - a berried, tannic chocolate richness. It's perhaps a simple and overt wine but that egalitarian sweetness is undoubtedly attractive. 17.1/90

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Video: 4 years as a wine blogger

Video: 4 years as a wine blogger

Maybe I'm a masochist. Maybe I just don't like sleeping. Or maybe I just really really like wine....

To get a glimpse into why I decided to become a wine blogger (and what keeps me writing) I've put together (actually, I just did the talking/content part. The crew at Aussie Wine TV actually did the important filming stuff) a little video talking about blogging, wine and why my original posts were just a little bit shit...

Derwent Estate Riesling 2011

Derwent Estate Riesling
Derwent Estate Riesling 2011 (Derwent Valley, Tas)
12%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

What is particularly intriguing about Rieslings such as this one is the perception of sweetness. According to the winery figures this has just 3g/l of residual sugar (RS), a figure that is almost imperceptible in the scheme of things (with thresholds generally thought to be about 2g/l for most people). Yet it tastes sweet. Not intrusive sweet mind you, for the sugar is almost perfectly integrated, but just low level sweet. Sweet enough to round off the tartness of the palate and make for something more complete than if it was fermented to dryness. Smart choice. (Jancis wrote a good article about sweetness perception here).

What is equally impressive about this Rizza is the florals, with an almost Gewurtz like talc and lavender perfume that has a real intensity and persistence to it. An unequivocal and concentrated nose even, which suggests low yields and careful irrigation (if irrigated at all). The palate is softer and a little gentler than the nose, still with that purity matched to some more traditional green apple and even grapefruit flavours. Speaking of grapefruit, that aforementioned dash of RS is a perfect foil for the slightly tart grapefruit acidity through the tail, just increasing the attraction of the wine in the process.

Nice wine that I very much enjoyed drinking. Could I want more? Maybe just a little palate definition. A quibble though really. Drink: Now - 2016+ 18/93

Monday, 14 May 2012

Rise Mcculloch Vineyard Shiraz 2009

Rise McCulloch Shiraz
Rise McCulloch Vineyard Shiraz 2009 (Clare Valley, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $45
Source: Sample

Suitable for vegans but best drunk with a hug slab of meat. There, review over.

There is much more to this wine than that. Much. Sourced from the dry-grown McCulloch family vineyard in the Clare Valley, this was handpicked and had a full week-long soak before ferment began. Said ferment was 'open' and preceded 2 years in French oak. In other words, that is serious handling designed to get big flavours, maximum extraction and serious tannins, with everything then softened and enriched by the slow oxidation of oak ageing. The only question mark is whether the fruit was up to all that winemaking...

Well it certainly looks the part, a really inky deep, rich red colour. On the nose it's all deepset stewed plum and bitumen licoricey fruit sunk into the wine thanks to the long oak ageing, everything showing that savoury-yet-rich, flourless chocolate cake oak character too. Attractive, if slightly heavy and forward nose is super serious indeed. Is it fresh enough though? More than a dash of stewed fruit in there. Dark and very dense palate is rather drying and extractive, with no shortage of concentration but oh so drying, with long dried tannins and a hint of dessicated fruit.

The question remains - is this a little too much extraction and not enough fruit? Perhaps, but no questioning the seriousness of the style. 17.6/92+

Plantagenet Omrah Cabernet Merlot 2010

Still not sure what those silvery things are but they
look scenic enough.
Plantagenet Omrah Cabernet Merlot 2010 (Great Southern, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $19
Source: Sample

A relaunch of the old Omrah Cabernet Merlot, this is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and a hatful of Cabernet Franc and Shiraz, this was sourced mainly from the estate vineyards in Mt Barker/Great Southern with a smidgen from the Blackwood Valley to round it off.

On the topic, what do you think of the new labels? I like the flashy blue label and green actually, as it conjures up summery images of drinking wine on the deck of a holiday home in a pair of shorts with sand still stuck on your legs from an earlier swim. That sort of thing. Or maybe it's just me (Given the pricepoint that's probably a pretty fair, and indeed desirable, imagery too).

The juice in the bottle fits the bill pretty well too. It carries quite a deal of soapy oak sweetening the faintly menthol edged leafy, curranty nose. Not unripe, but certainly varietal, it looks pretty solid on the nose if just a little oak heavy. Palate too carrries a deal of choc-mint oak but with fruit behind it. That palate looks a little drawn and skinny towards the back end but there is substance in there too. What it lacks is definition to match up with that oak sweetness, crying out for more of that curranty fruit to make itself form.

A competently made wine that fits the bill pretty well, if not quite sharp enough for big points. Drink: Now - 2015 16.7/89

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Jamsheed Great Western Riesling 2009

Jamsheed Riesling. Tasty.
Jamsheed Great Western Riesling 2009
12%, Screwcap, $27
Source: Cellar

It's Mothers Day which means that I spent the day (or lunch at least) with my Mum eating salt and pepper mud crabs, crispy skin chicken and other such delights at Sydney's Golden Century. When consuming these Cantonese delicacies there is nothing better (in my mind) to drink than Riesling. Or Chablis. Or any crisp, yet textural, white wine.... Actually Riesling is still the best. Anyway, this was a particularly wise choice.

Handpicked from the (now almost 45 year old) Westgate vineyard, this was whole bunch pressed and fermented in old large wood. No acidification and left on lees for 8 months too. Love the handling. Wish more Australian Riesling was made like this. Memo Clare Valley...

It's a bright looking beast actually, all things considered,with a light straw colour. Light toast, green apple and lemon on the nose, this still looks very youthful. Would have been a slightly raw wine as a youngster methinks, which certainly suits the barrel worked style perfectly. High (natural) acid juice + texture = works. It certainly looks more gentle and integrated now, the grapefruit fruit just starting to honey and soften, the bottle age toast generosity filling out the mid palate nicely, though not without losing that green apple lime juice underneath.

A lovely unforced Riesling with many years in it yet, I rather enjoyed this. Drink: Now - 2015+ 17.7/92

Singlefile Fume Blanc 2011

Singlefile Fume Blanc 2011 (Margaret River, WA)
12.7%, Screwcap, $30
Source: Sample

Big heavy bottle and quite ornate packaging on this. Massive punt too. The wine though just looks oddly... lacking. 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon with 30% aged in one year old oak.

Tinned pineapple, a little creamy lift of oak. Looks fresh but pineappley, the palate is short and quite sweet, the oak sitting on top of the fruit quite a deal. It's like oak sweetened pineapple juice, with a little citrussy juiciness underneath. Surprised at the lack of definition actually especially considering that fruit would have been picked early. 15.8/86

Tulloch E.M. Chardonnay 2011

Tulloch E.M. Chardonnay 2011 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
12.8%, Screwcap, $28
Source: Sample

Sourced from Denman and produced in a rather classic style this one. Sees a limited stint in oak though still looks quite peachy. No denying the round, Hunter form here. Will delight the Hunter classicists (though not for lovers of the leaner minerally style).

Bright, peachy, mango and cream style with a match of creamy banana/mealy flavours and a softness to it. Rounds out with soft acidity too. Nice classic Hunter Chardonnay with plenty of flesh. 17.3/90

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Great Pinot for sub $35: Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Pinot Noir 2010

10X Pinot Noir
Running out fast apparently
Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Pinot Noir 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
14%, Screwcap, $32
Source: Had a glass out of Julian Coldrey's bottle

This is probably more of an adjunct to my little Mornington Peninsula post really, and a welcome one at that. A clear example of the very best of (accessible) Mornington Pinot at a more than accessible price.

What I like most about this wine is the freshness. Actually, scrap that, it's a massive cliche. Instead, I'd like to praise it's understatement, it's delicacy, that transparency of flavours that Pinot Noir can do so well. In fact, all that you'd really ask for is a dash more flavour and structural concentration to propel it into superstar territory.

I'm questioning that statement further though, as whilst this 10X Pinot's relative approachability marks it as an (enjoyable) drink-now proposition, that's probably what it's meant to be. It's an entry level wine (of sorts) and meant for early-ish consumption, not cellar dwelling. Is $32 too much though for a lightish wine in many eyes?

Regardless, it's certainly a correct looking wine, a lovely boysenberry red tinted Pinot that is rather youthful and pretty. It smells pretty too, though in a proper Pinot Noir mode, with brambly, cherry skin fruit, musky edges and a hint of undergrowth. There is a veneer of vanilla oak in there too, though not enough to detract - an easily inviting nose.

The joy here though is on the palate, which is propelled forward by it's acidity and limpid red fruit vibrancy, a wine of lightish flavours that make you want to drink more to really savour. Interestingly the last Australian wine I had that reminded me of this limpid vibrancy came from the talented hand of Andrew Marks (he of Gembrook and Wanderer Wines). Light tannins to finish (and not a lot of them. More acidity than tannins) with a late kick to finish off.

What this wine lacks in penetration it makes up for in style. Lots of enjoyment here. Drink: Now - 2015. 18.2/93

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Australian Wine Review Turns 4 - the video

Australian Wine Review Turns 4 - the video

On the back of my recent blog birthday post, I've also prepared a little video thank-you card (made by the kind crew at Aussie Wine TV).

Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Blind Corner Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Blind Corner Sauvignon Blanc
Cult Sauv in the making?
Blind Corner Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Margaret River, WA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

'Single (organic) vineyard Sauv.. Hand picked fruit with (25%) air dried for 10 days and wild fermented on skins....The remaining 75% of grapes is basket pressed by hand through the night and wild-fermented in old french oak.  The wines were combined and lees stirred for three months prior to bottling.'

Ben Gould does it again. Again he has taken the usual formula and politely thrown it away. In this case it has landed in a somewhat Sancerre-ish direction, albeit Sancerre on steroids. Simply put, this is one of the most unique straight Sauvignon Blancs that Australia has ever seen. It kinda works too.

I say kinda works as this is nothing if not an unusual wine. In many ways it reminds me most of a boundary pushing, natural Loire Chenin, albeit with Sauv and from Margaret River. Given this contrast it's probably of little surprise that this can perplex. Indeed one person could only describe this as 'interesting' (though said person likes Chambourcin...). Suffice to say that 'interesting' is putting it mildly.

It's interesting from the appearance alone actually, as in the glass tit looks slightly cloudy and rather yellow for a 1 year old Sauv. That'd be the skin contact, air drying and oak ageing doing it's colour deepening thing. If anything that appearance just sets this wine apart, though it may also scare some one dimensional Sauv drinkers (like said Chambourcin fan).

On the nose it smells of wildness too - wild ferments, wild handling and the concentration (and faint volatility) that comes from (madly for some) air dried fruit. It's still quite a neutral nose though, the fruit looking like it was picked quite early given the style. Palate too is instantly dry and a little oaky with some wild cheesy lees character and some firm phenolic characters through the finish (plus a wallop of acidity). There is fruit in there but it is hidden a little behind lees, oak and tanins to really stick out.

A wild wine that looks more wild and more tannic (yes, tannins, from the skin contact) the longer you look at it, I actually think this wine is too young (which may seem odd for some), with the nose and palate still not carrying enough weight to match up with all that winemaking. 18 months in bottle is what this wine needs to be showing it's best.

An intriguing, beguiling wine with a real hand of winemaker stamp on it. Can't wait to see what happens with this in the future. 17.5/91+

Monday, 7 May 2012

On the road: Mornington Peninsula

On the road: Mornington Peninsula

Classic Mornington Peninsula weather.
Beautiful vista regardless (Taken at Eldridge)
I'm back in travel mode at the moment, spending this week in (not so) sunny northern Victoria for a spell of university on-campus study (where I'm going go be spending much of the week doing fining trials. Excitement) with Brisbane wine writer Julian Coldrey of Full Pour (who is also completing his Masters of Wine Technology and Viticulture like me).

Before arriving here in Dookie (where the University of Melbourne's rural campus, winery and vineyard are located) though I actually spent the weekend on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula (accompanied by Mr Coldrey. He's not the biggest fan of my driving and I don't appreciate a lot of the music on his iPod. We're even..), a part of the world that I rather like (not just for the the wines either) yet haven't visited in a few years. It's a region that appears to have changed quite markedly since my last visit (which was about 4 years ago) too.

Perhaps one of the most obvious of these changes is simply the quality of the winery cellar doors, many of which seem much slicker this time around. Indeed it appears everybody now has a (typically high-end leaning) restaurant, many cellar doors are now charging tasting fees and the cellar door structures themselves are more likely to be (again high-end leaning) architecturally designed outposts of modernity. I'm not begrudging such a change, more interested to note the change (and in most cases it's for the better).

Besides just the polish of this modern approach to selling wine, it is the offerings that have changed to, with a movement towards ever more detailed super cuvées being released in ever decreasing amounts. The main driver of this is a move by producers to now delineate wines not just by their vineyard or block alone but going one step further to make them clonal specific in an (interesting) for diversity and terroir driven wines. For mine this seems a logical move, although it does raise the question about whether it might damage 'estate' wines and also push up prices. Time will tell.

As for the wines themselves, it is rather obvious that there has been some challenging vintages of late - for varying reasons - as well as some very good ones. 2012, for example, is set to be a very good, even season across most varieties, albeit with some big losses in yields (up to 50% in some vineyards). Couple the losses of this vintage with those of the similarly low yielding 2011 crop (which was described as 'a horror' by someone over the weekend) and you've got seriously little stocks of wine to play with. Speaking of 2011 you can see some of the challenges of this horror year in the wines too, which almost uniformly show elevated levels of acidity and a lack of fruit sweetness. It was a hard year (though not necessarily a write-off. There will be joyous wines still).

Conversely, 2010 is the vintage that dreams are made of. Unbridled enthusiasm emanates from many mouths about the quality of the season and you can see absolutely see it in the wines, particularly the Pinot Noirs. Mark 2010 Mornington Pinots down as 'must buys' for your favourite makers. Heck, get down to the Peninsula yourself to check them out. They live up to the hype...

In contrast, many of the 2009 vintage Pinots are looking less pretty and more masculine, tasting harder, less fresh and even confected with a general lack of elegance and delicacy. Of course that's not a uniform response and many makers 09s are quite smart, yet it's not hard to see the challenges writ large in many wines. It's probably of little surprise that the 09 Pinots look so variable actually given that - and  I was told this more than once - Pinot Noir was one of the hardest hit grapes in the record 2009 heatwave. Then again some of the whites look rather smart, if in a more luscious mould, and again there is serious joy to be had. Approach on a case by case basis for sure.

Finally then, the wine highlights:

Main Ridge 1/2 Acre Pinot Noir 2010:
Had a long chat with Nat White about screwcaps, wine trends, the Peninsula and styles over the weekend. It was great. Suffice to say that if you are ever on the Peninsula and keen to gain an insight from one of the pioneers, then make sure you stop in at Main Ridge. This wine too is a masterful one - immediately rich and freely full of flavour it carefully balances firmness with acidity with enough fruit. What makes this so good though is just how assured it is. It tastes of consistency, of a site in balance, of a style and a maker very comfortable with where they sit. It is the sort of Pinot that you could comfortably slot in with a group of 1er cru Chambolle Musignys and know it wouldn't sit out of place. A truly fantastic wine. Wish I could afford to buy heaps. 18.7/95

Eldridge North Patch Chardonnay 2010: This is, in the scheme of things, almost an entry level wine for David Lloyd, priced $10 cheaper than his Estate Chardonnay yet hardly inferior in quality. What I most like about this wine is it's limpid freshness, a purity of expression that sees it look all the more vibrant and deftly made than many others on the Peninsula (and quite representative of the clear purity that David's wines show). Classy Chardonnay indeed. 18/93

Ten Minutes by Tractor Wallis Chardonnay 2009: We were similarly lucky to catch-up yesterday with Chris Hamilton, General Manager of Ten Minutes by Tractor, a committed Peninsula fan who effectively runs the Ten Minutes by Tractor business for owner Martin Spedding. Besides the lunch itself (which was seriously exceptional. Two hat quality, one hat prices) it was this wine that most caught my eye for I think it shows a style of Peninsula Chardonnay that I rather like. Sourced from a vineyard closer to the ocean than the other 'estate' vineyards, Wallace is technically the earliest ripening of these vineyards yet this wine tends to look the most mineral (or it did in 2009 at least) of the Chardonnays, helped out apparently by the fresh afternoon sea breezes. What I like most about this wine is that straddles the richer style of Mornington Chardonnay yet with a minerality to it that is undeniable. It's hardly Chablis in style but it is more than a little Corton Charlemagne in it's balance of intensity and acidity, both of which are in good proportions this year. A seriously fine modern Chardonnay it's hard not to appreciate this. 18.4/94

Quealy Amphora Fruilano 2011: As the name suggests this was made in traditional clay amphora by ex T'Gallant maestro Kathleen Quealy. Like many of the northern Italian Fruilano (which are made in amphora by famous proponents like Gravner) this has a beautifully floral, lively sort of profile, an essay in vibrancy of fruit and the expression that this variety can show when treated carefully. On the palate it shows some of the raised acidity of the vintage yet the wine has enough fruit sweetness to carry it off. Simply put all of Kathleen's wines taste 'alive' and you can just taste the minimal handling, the lack of intervention and genuine transparency as a result. This is undoubtedly one intriguing wine for $25. 17.7/92

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Tower Estate Windmill Vineyard Riesling 2011

Tower Windmill Riesling
Sprightly juice.
Tower Estate Windmill Vineyard Riesling 2011 (Clare Valley, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $28

Source: Sample

The Clare Valley unquestionably came off better in 2011 than the Eden Valley did, with the best Rieslings serviceable at the very least. This particular wine comes off a vineyard planted in 2000 with classic red loam over Mintaro slate. Serious dirt, serious wine.

Said seriousness is evident on the nose actually, which shows more lime cordial Watervale richness than many of its ilk do in 2011. It's a concentrated nose albeit one that is getting toastier and softer by the day (like many '11 Clare and Eden Rizzas are. High malic acid but high pH too has led to wines that are developing quickly). That proper concentration of flavour spreads through the on the palate too, the cordial more lemon than lime leading to a slightly spiky finish. Hint of tinned pineapple in there something of a distraction but no questioning the proper length and form.

Still very primary and slightly abrupt this is quality juice here that just needs that few years to settle. Good. 17.5/91+