Friday, 31 August 2012

Westend Durif - even better than you think

Westend Durif - even better than you think

Westend 3 Bridges Durif 2010
14.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

It often surprises me how many well-known wine industry folk are teetotallers. It seems such a juxtaposition to be working around such a sensorial product whilst having no intimate connection yourself. It's like painting with no paint or setting up a bread shop even though you're gluten intolerant.

That's the story with Westend Estate though, the winery still run by by non-drinker Bill Calabria, a gentleman who epitomises the sort of hardworking, I'll-make-it-work-if-it-kills-me migrant settler ethos that made Griffith one of the epicentres of Australian wine production (an epicentre? With the headquarters of Casella, De Bortoli, McWilliams and the like all calling Griffith home, it is one oft overlooked powerhouse).

What is most interesting about this Durif is that it's effectively been declared by Bill and his children (who are gradually inheriting the business) as Westend Estate's 'Hero Variety' - a grape/style that Bill & co think works particularly well in sunny, flat Griffith. After recently checking out 10 vintages of the Westend Durif I rather agree too.

Actually, given its relative stature (as a little heralded grape, from a region known for volume not quality) and pricepoint ($25), this is one surprisingly structured and age-worthy wine, the vertical showing that with aplomb. The 2003 Durif, in particular, has a structure and form that is anything but by-the-numbers Riverina wine.

This 2010 vintage Durif stood out in that vertical for its quality too, easily the best wine of recent years and especially so given the quite reductive and odd early screwcap years of the mid noughties.The joy, again, is all about a richness without excessive sweetness, that savoury intensity, if cast in warm climate generosity.

Like most Durifs, this wine is dark in colour and dark in nature. The nose initially is all heavy toast oak over dark berry fruit leading to a dry, savoury, chocolate and coal driven palate with thick, firm grained tannins. Those tannins are a centrepiece of this wine actually, giving depth and an extra layer of class that propels it from just another simply wine. The oak is a bit dominant perhaps, but underneath this is quite vital and very well made wine (little surprise considering then that Westend's winemaker Brian Currie is a finalist in this years GT Wine Winemakers of the Year).

Lots to like really. 17.8/92

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A gift from Peter Gago - Penfolds Bin 389 1983

A gift from Peter Gago - Penfolds Bin 389 1983

1953 Grange. In blue. Peter likes it.
Penfolds Bin 389 1983 (South Australia)
$?, Cork
Source: Gift

From the same year as the infamous Ash Wednesday bushfires, this was theoretically never going to be a great wine. What a welcome surprise to see it looking so genuinely good.

Actually, the context behind this particular bottle is as good as the wine itself. It was a gift you see, given by Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago to a colleague and myself recently at the Sydney leg of the Penfolds recorking clinic. We weren't actually attending the event to 'clinic' any wines ourselves, more just wine writer nerds keen to gawk over a few old Penfolds wines (and such).

Happily, we weren't let down by the qualty of the wines that passed through the recorking clinic either. Most particularly, there was a half bottle of the famous 1953 Penfolds Grange - complete with that famous 'duck egg' blue capsule - which was 'clinicked' whilst were there. That capsule had Gago excited actually, just because those wines are so rare now (and I think he really likes the colour light blue).

1961 Penfolds Sauternes.
What do you top this up with?
Also passing through were some cracking old wines, including an early 70s St Henri, a 1961 Penfolds Sauternes and some early 707s, all in a range of conditions and formats. As ever the joy of these events is that not only do you get to see what people bring, but samples of the wines tend to flow too (including a bar with all of the new releases on tap). Given the quality of this experience - and the fact that it is free for anyone who has a specifically old bottle of Penfolds wine - its not surprising that the recorking clinic itself tends to turn people into Penfolds zealots - walking, talking brand ambassadors, brandishing freshly recorked bottles of Penfolds reds and a sense of brand connection. Smart marketing that (if much more expensive than just some plain old magazine ads like every other winery).

As for this bottle of 389, I must confess that I have no idea where it came from (check your cellar). Gee it was an interesting experience to to try it before and after addition though, having been opened in front of us an example of the process, tested by Peter and then topped up with 2009 vintage Bin 389, the wine then gassed and recorked for us to drink at a later date (just one later day in this case).

Perhaps the main question that I wanted to raise was whether that addition diluted the 'time capsule' nature of the juice in the bottle? Having tasted the results, I think it did indeed made the wine look fresher and more vibrant at the edge, a factor which some may see as sacrilege. Yet I can say that the recorked wine certainly tasted better than the unadjusted older wine which is a convincing conclusion if ever there was one. A small price to pay for what was a better drink?

Dog-eared. Woof.
But back to how it tasted - it had quite a heavy nose actually, signalling that it would have been a rich and rather concentrated red in its youth. Amidst that meaty red fruit there was plenty of development too, hints of brown mushrooms, red dirt and black pepper, the fruit largely a remnant but still sweet enough to carry the wine forward.

That weight carried through onto the palate which looked bulky and quite sweet, still punctuated by obtuse tannins and with soft acidity. What drives this wine really is the richness of the mid palate, along with the joy of the 'mushrooms in red wine sauce' style development that shows no sign of decay.

Whilst I don't think this 389 is going to get better I like the rich, earthen old Penfolds red palate and the fact that it still carries the length of fruit to impress. Mid weight but weighty, this even started to show more dark fruits as it opened up. Never a superstar wine, but a perfectly respectable drink.

Drink: Now - 2017 (according to how mature you like to drink them)
Score: 17.7/92

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Forest Hill Block 5 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Forest Hill Cabernet
Forest Hill Block 5 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Great Southern, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $65
Source: Sample

The oldest cool climate vineyard in Western Australia (dating back to 1965), Forest Hill's Mt Barker plot is one seriously fine piece of dirt. What always surprises me is how little attention this vineyard gets considering just how good the wines are. This particular Cabernet is from a vintage that produced uneven results (both under and overripeness) in Mt Barker, even though good wines were made from it. This however has a succulence that had me drinking it unconsciously (not until I was unconscious. Wine writers drink responsibly you see. Most of the time).

It's darkly coloured but not necessarily darkly flavoured this, with a lovely minty and willowy - if slightly reticent - nose that is rather composed and spice driven. The palate is both rich and translucent, savoury and almost regal in its lightness, that minty nose not translating into minty palate (which is a win. Some richness through the middle but otherwise quite mid weight. Finely tannic palate looks more like St old school St Emilion than Great Southern.

Ultimately that lovely minty, raised acid freshness had me coming back this - it never feels forced or green, but again has a vibrancy through the finish too hook you in. All it needs is a bit more tannic drive and this would be a superstar. I liked it regardless.

Drink: Now - 2020+
Score: 18/93

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Knappstein Enterprise Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Knappstein Enterprise Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Clare, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $39.95
Source: Sample

It's something of a struggle to rate a wine like this (for me at least). On one hand, this wants not for power, weight or extraction. It's a big wine, no question about it. Yet its also suffers because of it.

 Looking at the production side its unsurprising why it ended up so beastly - old, dry grown vines (in a scorching heatwave vintage), the fruit picked very late and then fermented into simple open vats. Those vats were then hand plunged 4 times a day (which is a lot of pluning), the wine then spending a (similarly long) 20 months in barrel. That's a lot of winemaking and a lot of potential for big, firm, drying flavours.

It tastes it too. This Cabernet tastes dried, drying and dark, the fruit slightly desiccated and fruit cakey with the scorched, slightly shrivelled flavours of very ripe grapes. The problem is that all of that bulk genuinely lacks freshness, the edges hard, the acid added and abrupt, the finish short. What is admirable is just how much bold, liquered blackberry flavours there is through the middle. I still struggled with the distinct lack of vibrancy though.

To be honest many people will love this style regardless of what think, that mid palate weight will win over many. I still would love for a little 'less' though.

Drink: 2012 - 2016
Score: 15.8/87

Duty free shops - where wine goes to die

Duty free shops - where wine goes to die

I took the above photo at a Sydney Airport duty free store just this weekend gone.

I was wandering around looking at Champagne prices you see (Dom is cheap at the airport), and sauntered over to check out this bottle of 2008 Penfolds Bin 620 Cab Shiraz. I actually just wanted to have a poke around really, particularly as Penfolds know how to package their top rarities. Kicking the tyres I was.

What I saw though was all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.

Forget the fact that the price is hardly 'duty free'. Forget too how odd it is that such a wine is freely available, even though it was made in tiny quantities. Forget even that it's sitting open in the middle of the store, that lovely box more marked and dog-eared by the day. None of it really matters, compared to one thing - that bright light beating down on the bottle...

Looking even closer again and it was obvious that the light wasn't just bright, it was also radiating heat, to the point that the bottle was warm to touch. I was starting at a $1000 'icon' wine, being slowly cooked underneath the bright spotlight of an uncaring, glorified perfumery. It was like watching a rare panda starve to death in a cage...

Of course a bit of heat may not worry your average shopper, particularly given that the wine will probably not be out there long. But it should. Such wine deserves better. Such wine prices should come with a higher expectation of provenance too. Or at least I think so.

Sadly, it wasn't an isolated incident either...

For more evidence of what such shitty conditions can ultimately do to a cork sealed bottle of wine, let's flash to what I saw at the Auckland duty free yesterday afternoon:

Pictured above are 5 bottles of the Stonyridge Pilgrim Grenache Blend (2010 from memory. Selling for $NZ95/bottle). You can't see it all that well (I can spot my ugly mug in the reflection however), but each bottle had a different level of wine in it. A different level not because the maker intended it that way, but because these wines were also scorching away underneath another spotlight (check out that shadow on the left. Bright!), the wine in those bottles slowly seeping its way out and the juice literally cooking itself.

The problem? They're 5 wines that will all taste completely different, and all unlikely to taste anywhere near as good as they should. 5 wines, $475 worth of quality, Rhone-styled Waiheke Island red that, yet again, have been ruined by the scourge of the spotlight...

What a sad waste of great wine, and a disaster with only one conclusion - approach the duty-free wine store with caution...

Monday, 27 August 2012

Katnook Founders Block Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Katnook Founders Block Sauvignon Blanc 2011
12.5%, Screwcap, $18
Source: Sample

Coonawarra Sauvignon Blanc. Always a marginal style, though typically refreshing and defined. Can't say I had much enthusiasm for this though.

Already quite yellow in the glass. Initially herbal but with some sweaty, high thiol passionfruit underneath. At the very least it's varietal and snappy, though developing fast. Tough year wine for sure, that hebal broadness hinting at less than perfectly ripe, healthy fruit. The palate too looks skinny and subdued, both lacking flavour and flabby (all at once). good news is that it finishes cleanly, citrussy with a late hit of bitter acid to close.

A pretty mean wine overall, if solidly varietal and clean. Fair.

Drink: Now
Score: 15.5/85

Friday, 24 August 2012

Authentic Mataro: Tim Smith Mataro 2010

Authentic Mataro: Tim Smith Mataro 2010
Mataro land
14.5%, Cork, $36
Source: Sample

The best thing about this wine? How genuinely representative it is. If you're looking for a classic example of Barossan Mataro, look no further.

Of course straight Barossa Mataro doesn't always make for a perfect wine, and indeed it (arguably) makes a more approachable drink when blended with more 'open' varietals. Yet its charms are still quite obvious.

Perhaps the most challenging thing about Mataro - as a variety - is just how reductive it can be. By that, I mean that Mataro based wines are apparently more resistant to oxygen and reactive to the effects of anti oxidants (like S02) making for reds that are closed, backwards and less obviously 'fruity'.

On the flipside, such tendencies also make Mataro (or Mourvedre/Monastrell) rather easy to work with in the winery, as wines can be made rough and oxidatively with a minimal need for additional preservatives. (Just as an example I tasted a McLaren Vale Mourvedre/Mataro/whatever you want to call it at Samuels Gorge last year that had never seen sulphur and spent 2 years in barrel. That's quite normal apparently).

Naturally, such tendencies are still linked with structure and extract, so $10 Mataros aren't going to necessarily exhibit superhuman ageability, yet the potential for long lived wines is apparent for anyone patient enough...

Given such a context there is little surprise that this Mataro presents as quite meaty, a little rubbery and reductive, the deep flavours looking lightly tinny and confected on first viewing. It's not until you peer below this wall of unresponsiveness that more sinewy, licoricey and savoury dark fruit appears.

The palate is dry-but-rich, and strongly reticent, driven by a rich mid palate and blocky, serious tannins. There's a sweetness of oak and some sweeter dried fruit edges but otherwise this offers little but promises much, the tannins more of an endpoint than a cohesive part of the equation.

A very serious, wonderfully true Mataro that whilst it is a little bound and black, unquestionably sings with varietal character and latent power.

Drink: 2014-2025+
Score: 17.5/91+

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Billaud Simon Chablis 2010

Bright eyed and bushy tailed Chablis
Billaud Simon Chablis 2010 (Chablis, France)
12.5%, Cork, $25
Source: Retail

I've got no shortage of time for good, simple AC Chablis. That purity, that acidity, that freshness - all of it adds up to super high drinkability. The 2010 vintage wines are typically classically proportioned too.

This is imported by a group of Hunter winemakers and businesspeople under the name 'Domaine Burgundy'. The range is excellent, the prices top notch. Well worth checking out.

Produced off 15-25 year old vines and fermented/matured in just stainless steel.

It's quite reductive and dense on the nose actually, with a leesy richness over citrus coupled with that Kimmeridgian softness. Initially generous, that nose still carries the sharply defined edge of a tank matured Chablis. Very dry, tart and long palate is super clean but fiercely acidic, all lemon and chalk and more lemon.

A crystalline Chablis with classic character and purity, I'd like more weight but for a basic AC Chablis it is a winner. 16.8/89

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Top tier Kiwi Sauv: Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

Top tier Kiwi Sauv Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Marlborough, NZ)
13.5%, Screwcap, $26.50
Source: Sample

Whilst it is absolutely uncool to say so (drink Kiwi Sauv), I'm happy to say that I rather enjoyed drinking a bottle of this wine recently (at Golden Century, with crab. Correct setting methinks). It was a whole bottle too. Important distinction that.

It's probably not surprising I finished te bottle as I think this Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc is one of the more interesting 'classic' Marlborough Sauvs out there. By 'classic' I'm talking about the aromatic, unwooded style that made the regions name (and is now so maligned).

What makes this Dog Point so good however is also what sets it apart. The fruit is grown organically (though not certified as such) on the fully mature Dog Point vineyard; a vineyard where much of the grapes are sold to other producers, with the cream of the crop retained for the estate label. Those grapes are picked riper too, largely to avoid the overt herbaceousness of many other similar Marlborough Sauvs. Finally, whilst the wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks, there is some judicious lees action to build layers of complexity.

The net result is a very correct, dry style Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a very good one. Initially it looks a little green and herbal, but each sniff reveals more layers and different characters. Methinks that this has both early and later picked fruit in there, just for complexity. A+ for detail. Again unlike generic Marlborough Sauv the palate looks weighty and quite full with a melon/citrus flesh to match the tart green fruit and plumped out with a dash of lees richness, capped off with soft and supple acidity.

Very clever example of the style and exactly what you'd want in a Kiwi Sauv. It could do with a fraction more intensity perhaps, but that remains the only quibble. 

Drink: Now - 2014
Score: 18/93

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Taltarni Shiraz 2009

Taltarni Shiraz. Old school tablecloth apt.
Taltarni Shiraz 2009 (Pyrenees, Vic)
14%, Cork, $39.99
Source: Sample

A blend of 86% Shiraz, 9% Mourvedre and 5% Viognier, this was made in the age-old Taltarni style - small parcels, long skin contact and 18 months in barrel. Note the cork - this is an old school wine, sealed with an old school closure. Not that there is anything wrong with that...

Deep but luscious from the outset, this is a dark looking beast. The Viognier gives a certain plushness too, softening what is a minty and firmly extractive nose. Still, the liqueured plum fruit here never looks hard, just robust.  Robust is a great word for it actually, the palate rugged, a bit hot and very firm, the fruit already drying out just a fraction behind all that structure.

Guaranteed to live, this is stout, savoury and hearty, a well made, 'flashback' style that will live for an age, built on tannins and extract. It's actually quite charming underneath all that weight too. A keeper.

Drink: 2014-2024+
Score: 17.5/91+

Pierro Chardonnay 2010

Pierro Chardonnay 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
Source: Tasting

Picked before the late season rain apparently. Still a wine of serious proportions.

Initially dry and grapefruity, that oak is swallowed up particularly well by the fruit. It's a massive mouthful of a wine though, brutal even, mealy but also driven by a weighty mid palate and dry, grapefruity acidity. A ballsy Pierro, yet also slightly attenuated, what this wine lacks in delicacy it makes up for in weight. Perhaps too brutish? That acid looks a bit hard too. Regardless, there is no questioning the impact. 17.9/92

Grant Burge 5th Generation Range

Grant Burge 5th Generation range

A brand new range for Grant Burge, whom have seem to have a whole cavalcade of ranges these days. This new 5th Generation label is something of a homage to the Burge family, whom have now been in the region for 5 generations. Quite an innings when you think about it. All of these wines are priced at $18.95 RRP, though I'd wager you could pick them up for considerably less on special.

Grant Burge 5th Generation Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Barossa, SA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $18.95

I've got little enthusiasm for Barossan Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends, purely because of how ill-suited this varietal combo is for the region. This wine fits that bill, appearing to be driven by commercial decisions than pure wine quality.

Direct and more than a little broad, this has a sherbety, lemon citrus nose that smells of ripe fruit and little varietal character. Ripe and fleshy palate is all honeydew fruit and a little residual sweetness. Simple and a fraction dull, this looks like it could have come from anywhere, not the Barossa. 14.5/82

Grant Burge 5th Generation Pinot Gris 2012 (Barossa, SA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $18.95

What an unusual circumstance when I'm calling a Pinot Gris as one of the highlights of a South Australian wine range. Schubert would be spinning in his grave. Anyways, this works purely because it shows varietal texture and weight, both of which I like seeing in Pinot Gris. Alsace it ain't, but at least the intent is there.

Again a quite broad and generous style, this time more about lightly sweaty pear juice nose in a quite ripe vein. It tastes quite broad too, again bolstered with sweetness though with more persistence and fullness, though finish is a bit harsh. Pretty solid and much sharper than the dull SSB, though still a somewhat simple wine. 16.3/87

Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2010 (Barossa, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $18.95

The easy standout of this new range, this shows plenty of the joy of Barossan Shiraz.

It smells of sweet coconut/choc American oak, with raised sweet red cherry fruit over the top. That sweet oak gives depth to the mid weight and smooth palate, the finish a fraction raw but on the money again finishing raw and with lumpy acidity. A by-the-numbers Barossa Shiraz perhaps but delivering exactly what it should. 16.7/89

Grant Burge 5th Generation Cabernet Merlot (Barossa, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $18.95

I'm always surprised to see leafiness in Barossan reds, if purely because it is perceived as such a dry and warm climate. Dig a little deeper and the Barossa isn't as warm as you think, even falling into 'cool' according to some climatic scales. Regardless, there is no reason for more than token varietal leafiness in Barossan reds (if you're canopy/vigour management is up to scratch).

In this instance that leafiness gives definition to what is a blackberry soaked sort of wine, the rich and round palate defined by its leafy edges. I'd like to see more suppleness and less dull RS through the finish, though again commercially attractive. A nice enough wine though a little disjointed for big love (I tried all of these wines with and without food. This looked much better with steak, though also appearing more sweet through the finish). 16.2/87

Monday, 20 August 2012

BEER: Knappstein Enterprise Brewery Reserve Lager

BEER: Knappstein Enterprise Brewery Reserve Lager
5.6%, $18 4 pack
Source: Sample

In an unusual twist of fate, I like this more than the Enterprise Cabernet Cabernet that it was delivered with...

Brewed by the Knappstein brewery - which apparently dates back to 1876 - this is a modern, hop driven lager that is really quite well built.

Carrying a big, almost tropical nose (Kiwi Sauvin hops apparently) this carries a serious hoppy punch, though without the resinous hoppy bitterness you'd expect to follow. It finishes with alcohol weight and with though no spiky heat, carrying its alcohol nicely.

Apparently something of a crossover between the wine and the beer teams at Knappstein, this tastes serious and genuine, if not quite detailed enough to be artisan - definitely mainstream, 'big brew' stuff, though with much to like about the form and style.

Rating: I'd drink it and buy it.

Lark Hill 'Dark Horse Vineyard' Viognier 2012

Lark Hill 'Dark Horse Vineyard' Viognier 2012 (Canberra district)
12%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

QR code ahoy!
From the Carpenter family's Dark Horse Vineyard, located in Murrumbateman. Thankfully the Viognier wasnt wiped out by the hail which hit the rest of the Dark Horse vineyard in February 2012. Note the tricky QR code on the screwcap lid - clever.

This was wild fermented in old oak barrels, yet looks anything but fat. Big ticks there for me.

'Apricots and ginger' the label says. More ginger than apricot for mine, but what's a stone fruit between friends? It's quite Riesling in its approach actually, a Viognier but with the delicacy and florals of Canberra Riesling. Lovely. The palate too is gentle and gingery, a phenolic lift through the middle and soft natural acidity. That subtle old barrel work gives some late creaminess to the palate too which is very welcome

A low alcohol, cleverly made local Viogner that emphasises subtley and fragrance over weight, this is hardly overly complex or deep, yet has a certain liveliness that I really liked. Speaking of like, I also enjoyed this tagline on the bottle too: 'Perfect with light food on a hot day, and to help educate your friends about life after Sauvignon Blanc.'

Drink: Now - 2015
Score: 17.5/91

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Mount Mary 2012 releases (and more)

Mount Mary - If it ain't broke...
Mount Mary 2012 releases (and more)

One of the original 'dress circle' Yarra Valley wineries, Mount Mary is inarguably a famous estate, its reputation driven by its most famous wine - and one of Australia's best Bordeaux blends -  the Mount Mary Quintet.

What's most interesting however is just how much Mount Mary has changed of late, the winery having subtly evolved over the six years since the passing of iconic founder Dr John Middleton.

Perhaps the most noticeable of these change (or it is to me) is that the wines are more visible in the trade - they're now opened at more events, both trade and public, more often (and I'm thankful for it).

Speaking of shows, another important change lies in how the wines are sold - the Mount Mary website has been juiced up, the famous (made so by the words of the late Dr and carried on aptly by his son) newsletter now available online. Heck the winery even has a blog!

Finally, and most importantly, the people have changed too. The business is now run by Dr David Middleton (son of the late Dr John), with these 2010 vintage wines also the first releases where Sam Middleton (son of David) has had full winemaking control. Sam is a particularly affable gent too, his pours infinitely larger and his approach much more open than those of his grandfather.

The only question perhaps is whether these recent changes have had any effect on the (renowned) wine style. It certainly doesn't look like much change judging by these releases, though I was intrigued to see some more overt oak characters coming through, an element I haven't noticed in young Mount Marys quite as much previously. Probably nothing to worry about really, for these are wines for drinking later, not sooner. I am interested to hear if any others picked the oak prominence though.

Regardless, the wines remain as classy, well made and unashamedly euro-leaning as ever, with these 2010 wines generally showing a purity that marks them amongst the very best Mount Marys. As usual, they will all grow more impressive in the cellar too.

I had the good fortune of tasting these new release wines at a trade tasting recently, with Sam himself delving out both wine and insights. There was even a few back vintage wines opened for comparison, the 06 Quintet in particular looking fabulous. Again it was a trade tasting, so the usual caveats about scoring apply.

Mount Mary Triolet 2010 $90
A blend of 58% Sauvignon blanc, 32% Semillon and10% Muscadelle, this was made in largely old oak barrels with grape solid and lees stirring, maturing then for 10 months in barrel.

It actually looks quite neutral on the nose does this Triolet, doing its best Graves impression immediately, though this also carries a honeycomb over citrus, richness meets acidity that is less Bordeaux. It's just a fraction full on the nose actually, still showing its puppy fat and rounder edges. Excellent lees work evident on the nose too along with a flor-like edge of oxidative handling. That broadness carries through onto the palate, though giving weight and complexity, again with that lightly oxidative edge. It's a typically textural, mouthfilling white that is less about varietal characters and more about about weight and swagger, backed by cool clime acidity. Perhaps not a classic Triolet (its a bit 'big' for that) though certainly a white of some style and potential.

Drink: 2014-2018+
Score: 17.7/92+

Mount Mary Chardonnay 2010 $90
No malolactic fermentation. Barrel fermented and full solids + lees stirring used. 20% new oak, the rest in older barrels and large casks (1500L) for 10 months.

It's always interesting to see a cool climate Chardonnay with no malo. Sometimes they look leaner, other times stunted, sometimes wonderfully pure. This straddles all three, though nicely overlaid with richness and wildness thanks to that oxidative handling, backed by 'cellar me now' acidity. The only quibble really is the price, which is erm, serious...

Initially nutty and yeast heavy, with a whack of oak too. Dig deeper though and that winemaking influence doesn't penetrate the sour, yet quite rich palate. I like that yeast driven/slightly oxidative weight, yet it also looks heavy through the middle and tart through the tail. Yes it's going to live for an age, but is it really refined enough? For the moment, not quite. Much potential and great length, though not quite the shape yet.

Drink: 2014-2017+
Score: 17.6/91+
Buy online: Cracka Wines, Dan Murphy's, Mount Mary website

Mount Mary Pinot Noir 2010 $145
The Mount Mary vineyard is a melange of different clones (some 30+) with newer vineyard plantings also based on a clonal selection. This wine had a shortish (7 day) ferment with no cold soaks or post ferment maceration. 22 months in oak, 25% large format, 15% new barriques.

Again shows the obvious oak. The fruit here is rather primal and generous, the wine pretty and flowing with dark cherry vitality. Excellent acidity drives this, with the tannins very light. Should be a great cellaring Pinot for that measure with its best days ahead. Nice wine, silly pricetag.

Drink: Now - 2020+
Score: 17.7/92+
Buy online: Cracka Wines, Mount Mary website

Mount Mary Quintet 2010 $145
A blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 14% Cabernet franc, 5% Petit verdot, 4% Malbec 4%. Produced in a rather similar fashion to the Pinot Noir, although with slightly longer (10 day) ferments and a greater proportion of new oak barriques (30%). 

The enthusiasm amongst all the Mount Mary team for this wine was palpable. Not hard to see why either - its a classic Quintet. Lovers of the style ready your credit cards (I'd buy it. If I could afford it).

Again that caramel toast oak. Maybe it is just me who is seeing that oak? Pushing that aside and its so youthful and expressive. There is a certain Pinot-esque translucency to this that is immediately attractive (or it was to me at least), There is a certain meaty brawn to the palate too which is rather welcome for a wine that gets criticised for its 'lightness'. Refreshing acidity, excellent length, great length, textbook Quintet. My score is lowish perhaps but reflects that this has a way to go.

Drink - 2014-2028+
Score: 18.5/94+
Buy online: Dan Murphy's, Mount Mary website

Mount Mary Quintet 2005
From a warm year in the Yarra, though still carrying some leafy prettiness. Interestingly this looked a bit raw and less delineated in that context, more ripeness, more ballsy fruit, less elegance. Riper, firmer, less classic but more power. Still very attractive but I think I like the more defined years. Stylistic choice though.

Drink: 2013-2023+
Score: 18/93
Buy online: Dan Murphy's, Mount Mary website

Mount Mary Quintet 2006
Light weight and looks quite Cabernet Francish with its redcurrant fruit. I think that might be the Merlot talking and I really like it. Singing purity. A linear, tight wine but with more pretty, almost playful fruit. The finish though is more herbal, more serious and longer than much in this lineup. Lovely freshness and lucidity. Lovely wine. What's more, you could drink this now or in a decade. Big yes from me.

Drink: Now - 2025+
Score: 18.7/95+
Buy online: Mount Mary website

Mount Mary Refléxion Cabernet Blend 2009 and Réflexion Pinot Noir 2009
Both from the Yarra bushfire affected 2009 vintage and both being sold off as declassified second label wines. I found them both to be slightly challenging, smoky and lean wines in context and struggled somewhat to love either of them. Saying that, the Reflexion Pinot is bright and expressive, pretty and juicy, comparing sharply to the ashen and greenish Cabernet. I'd really struggle to recommend either for $45 to be brutally honest.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 2008

Peter Lehman Stonewell
Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 2008 (Barossa, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $100
Source: A glass from a colleague's bottle

Like the new Stonewell label? It's aimed at integrating this wine into the Peter Lehmann range a little better. Whilst it achieves that well, I do wonder if it has given up some label recognition in the progress (it has for me). What do you think?

Fittingly, this wine appears to be missing some charm too - the challenges of the record 2008 March heat wave writ large.

You can smell that warmth on the nose which is dense and choc fudge-y and heavy. Whilst the oak treatment here is first rate, giving sweetness to the nose and texture to the palate it can't cover up the 'flatness' and desiccation of the little black Shiraz berries at this wines core. There is a fraction more freshness on the palate, though it's hobbled by bucket loads of added acid drying things out before a short and warm finish. On the plus side this carries no shortage of concentration (hot vintages are good at that) and a hearty mid palate.

Ultimately the issue here is purely about a lack of vitality. That sexy oak can't cover for stressed fruit that will never look fresh, no matter how much tartaric acid is thrown at it. 15.8/87

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Dom Oenothèque - the best from 'the library'

Dom Oenothèque – the best from ‘the library’

Superb packaing on this special Dom.
Have your platinum Amex at the ready sir
(I wrote this article a little over a year ago now for Lattè Life Magazine. A different tone perhaps but the core sentiment is accurate. I don't share the same enthusiasm for the 2003 Dom sadly).

If you were forced to choose a desert island wine, what would it be? What tipple would be your choice to be stuck with forever more?

For me there is really only one thing that is up to the task... Champagne. More specifically, I’m talking about the finest French Champagne, and if we’re talking the absolute best then you’d be hard pressed to go past Dom Pérignon Oenothèque.

Now many of of you have probably heard of Dom Pérignon, the prestige Champagne of exalted house Moët & Chandon.  But Dom Pérignon Oenothèque takes this prestige to the next level.

Quite simply, Oenothèque means ‘wine library’ and refers to the specialised reserve cellaring program and ‘living memory’ of Dom Pérignon that underpins the entire operation (according to Oenologist Vincent Caperon, who was out here recently to show the wine).

What the program entails is essentially a cellar full of many vintages of maturing Dom Pérignon Champagne, all patiently awaiting the decision of Chef de Cave (chief winemaker) Richard Geoffroy of when to release them.

You see what happens is that the ‘standard’ Dom Pérignon is aged for approximately seven years on yeast lees before being disgorged and released. This ‘standard’ release makes up the bulk of the quietly large (rumoured to be 2 million bottles) production.

Yet every year a small amount of this same wine is kept back on lees for further ageing and then not released until either it’s ‘second maturity peak’ (15-20 years after harvest) or its third peak (30 years plus).

The net result is two tiers of Dom Pérignon. The ‘standard’ release is a consistently good prestige Champagne built in a quite elegant style. Yet the Oenothèque wines, carrying such extended ageing on yeast lees, are infinitely more interesting and complex, turning the sometimes feminine Dom Pérignon into a robust Champagne for the ages.

A perfect example of this lies in the current releases. The quite classically proportioned 2002 Dom Pérignon ($260) is a rather fragrant and citrussy wine that still looks somewhat shy and reserved. Compare that to the 1996 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque ($550) which is one of the most full bodied Champagnes I’ve ever had, (from a vintage that Vincent called ‘an anomaly’) that was so powerful and richly flavoured that at lunch it quite ably matched up to a veal rack.

It is this wine, this style of wine then that would have me calling for the Oenothèque on the desert island. It’s the sort of Champagne that you simply cannot grow tired of, each mouthful unveiling an extra nuance, an extra layer of flavour and that everlasting length.

The only challenge really is the pricetag. Arguably for a wine of this quality and reputation it’s cheap, but I can only hope that whoever is stocking the fridge on my desert island has very deep pockets...

What is the collective noun for much expensive French Champagne? A flood?

The wines:

Dom Pérignon 2002
Vincent Geoffroy believes this is coming together much like the 1980, a vintage which is also quite classic. I think it really needs more time in the bottle to show its best but certainly well formed. A very good Dom vintage no doubt, if not quite great as yet (and let's not talk about the bottle variation and cork taint ok?).

It's actually quite fragrant and elegant on the nose, lifted with a lemon tang that suggests stainless steel tanks and not barrels. Krug it is not (nor should it be). The palate too is tight and linear, driven by great length but hardly a powerful or dense Champagne by any means. It is long, it is fresh and it is pure. A wine for the future no doubt. 18.3/93+

Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1996
I'm going to quote directly from Geoffroy again here, simply because this is interesting stuff (or at least I thought so):

'The most important character is the notion of the vintage... There is a lot of risk in trying to maintain the consistency. Much more exciting as us winemakers love to reinvent every year... 1996 was a vintage of wind, with wind concentrating whilst also causing lots of stress.'

The 1996 was originally released in 2004, but this particular Oenothèque was kept on lees until 2009.

It's still quite bright in the glass actually, the nose lightly creamy with a sort of Golden Gaytime richness in there, the wine obviously more leesy and richer but with age driving it as much as lees. Underneath it is very full, dry and firm with a big wall of acidity smashing into the leesy richness. It's a hardcore Champagne actually with a forceful personality that propels it from light and elegance ala the 02 into big boy territory. Top Champagne! 18.8/95

Dom Pérignon Rosé 1998
The biggest problem when crafting rosé Champagne is that the tannins of the Pinot Noir don't get ripe. The quest then, according to Geoffroy, is to balance out the 'authority' and 'austerity' of the palate and particularly the 'winey' character of the Pinot Noir.

I'm not convinced that such a balance is perfectly achieved with this wine, but then again it so rarely is in 'pink' Champagne...

Salmon orange in colour this is actually richer and more leesy than the standard 'blanc'. That palate though is dry, lean and hard, the 'fruiter' notes that Geoffroy looks for not carried through enough to cancel that high acid and metallic tannin. Too winey for big love perhaps, even though its certainly a well made, high quality sparkling. Plenty of interest on the nose too. I want more generosity though really. 17.5/91

Monday, 13 August 2012

Woodstock Pilots View Shiraz 2010

Woodstock done good
Woodstock Pilots View Shiraz 2010
14.9%, Screwcap, $38
Source: Sample

Constructed as something of an homage to Doug Collett A.M. who flew Spitfire's over Europe in WWII. Sexy bottle, astute packaging, I liked much about this wine.

Lovely ripe mulberry nose. There is some treacly super ripeness in there but it looks reasonably composed. Thrust of rich, oak sweetened berry juice to start, tending a little boozy and overtly inky before freshening up with another injection of concentrated berry juice. The finish is a fraction warm but long and luscious and tends almost muscat like in it's licorice-meets-fruitcake finish. Tightrope of raisining but ultimately oh so inky and plain delicious.

Properly rich, mid palate fruit driven Vale red that is open for drinking now.

Drink: 2012-2020
Score: 18.3/93

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Fickle Mistress Pinot Noir 2011

Fickle Mistress Pinot Noir
Fickle Mistress Pinot Noir 2011 (Central Otago, NZ)
14%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

A new offering from Treasury Wine Estates, this smacks somewhat of a 'marketing first, wine second' sort of a wine but certainly slickly executed. I can somewhat agree with this sentiment from the back of the bottle too 'Pinot Noir is fickle but she is charming, she is temperamental but bewitching. She is the Fickle Mistress.'

The wine looks the part. It's a light, glossy bright red ruby colour. Smells correct too with a simple, pulpy fresh redcurrant/raspberry juiciness. Palate is light, pretty and easy, looking generous if a tad underpowered and tending lollied through the finish.

Ultimately if you could pick this affable Pinot up for sub $15 I'd suggest its quite fair drinking. 16.5/88

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz 2010

Kiss Shiraz.
Imagine it with a screwcap though
Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
13.5%, Screwcap, $60
Source: Sample

I wasn't quite convinced about this 2010 Kiss Shiraz when it was first opened. It looked lighter, flatter and less well-formed than is the usual Kiss style. Being a thorough sort of wine taster I still put it back into the fridge to see what would happen. 12 hours later and the same wine looked richer, fuller and much more kissable (of sorts) and I was half convinced. Finally, at a Sydney Swans (AFL) game a month or so back, I had this served to me unknowingly by Andrew Thomas himself. It was poured from a thermos into a plastic beer glass (that may have contained a little leftover VB. That's all us wine writers can afford you see. Cheap beer.) yet I still sat there thinking 'what is this? A lovely rich Hunter Shiraz this one'. I actually thought it would be the 2011 Kiss, such was the brightness and life. Turns out I was wrong (in a good way).

It's a plush wine this vintage, a purple wine, with purple blackberry and mulberry fruits and sweet chocolate oak. There is just a hint of confection in there too, a slight caramelised edge that comes from what was a stop-start, hot then wet vintage. Regardless it's an exuberant smelling wine, with a barrel sample freshness that is undoubtedly attractive.

That rich blackberry brightness carries through the palate too, the oak bright and comely. The acidity though keeps all that width in check, the wine thus tasting rich but not sweet in that combination that Thommo's wines carry off so well. I think it's a fraction leaner through the finish than the best vintages, the tannins a little greener too. Still, at its core this is a top shelf Hunter Shiraz that will only get better with bottle age. 18.3/93

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Grant Burge Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Grant Burge Shadrach. Doing bunny shape silhouettes
Grant Bure Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Cork, $100
Source: Sample

Sourced mostly from Corryton Park, Grant Burge's new project vineyard that sits in a lovely elevated spot down near Mt Crawford in the Eden Valley.

When I first opened this it looked hard, abrupt and awkward but 24 hours later and it's much more settled. An old school wine this one (and an expensive one at that) though sure to satisfy many who love hearty reds.

Mint/eucalypt nose with deepset chocolate oak. A classic sort of Barossa Cab nose with just an edge of stewed characters. Dry and slightly drawn palate looks dusty but genuine in its concentration.

A solid, roughly hewn and bustling sort of a red, the appeal here centres around the weight and depth. An archetypal Australian 'dry red' that should live for ages.

Drink: 2014-2022+
Score: 17.4/90+

Monday, 6 August 2012

Capel Vale Wines - verticals ahoy!

Capel Vale Cabernets

Capel Vale Wines - verticals ahoy!

Looking back through my notes on this site I find that there is a rather curious omission - there are no decent Capel Vale reviews. Considering how often I try the wines, this is a glaring omission. Boo me.

Thankfully, I was recently gifted the opportunity to try a swathe of Capel Vale wines in a bid to rectify such a situation. After working through said swathe I can again say with confidence that Capel Vale make solid to superb Cab Sauv, Rieslings and Chardonnays, with some of the more recent Shiraz also looking very handy indeed.

The following wines then were tasted non-blind over several brackets as part of a big Capel Vale session. Former boy band member - and Winefront's resident Claret lover - Gary Walsh was also in attendance and we kept agreeing on the wines we liked. It was unsettling...

My notes are largely as written on the day (I've added the odd comma in this version though. Tasting on the run = minimal punctuation).

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Riesling 2007-2011 

Drawn from the Whispering Hill vineyard in Mount Barker, a renowned plot for great Riesling fruit. The 2011 Riesling looked particularly strong, the odd vintages again performing well.

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Riesling 2007 - 12% alc.
Toast and golden fruit. Biscuity edge to that ripeness with some tangerine citrus. Slightly chubby palate gets much tighter through the finish. Blossoms and slightly sour lime and mandarin juice. Good flow, if abrupt acidity. 18.3/93

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Riesling 2008 - 12.5%
Much more lanolin over grapefruit with this one, it looks rather more linear but perhaps lacking the penetration and depth through the back palate. 17.7/92

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Riesling 2009 - 12%
Pineapple juice and much more primary fruit here. I like the length to match the riper form, that fruit sweetness giving more texture and capped off by great length. Superior vintage this one. 18.3/93+

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Riesling 2010 - 12%
Almost candied nose, the grapefruit driven palate looking decidedly leaner and drier compared to the other wines in the lineup. Slightly abrupt acidity doesn't quite carry the flow through the palate. Less linear, though pleasant regardless. 17.6/91+

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Riesling 2011 - 12%
Beautiful lifted talc florals. Really jumps out of the glass. Tropical fruit richness of the palate matches very nicely with those florals. Lovely sweet/sour lime pineapple palate. Top shelf acid balance. Lovely wine. 18.5/94

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Rieslings

Capel Vale Regional Series Chardonnay 2007-11

The fruit source for this Chardonnay has changed a bit over the years, moving from Margaret River, to Pemberton and then back again. Must say I rather preferred the leaner, nuttier, Pemberton sourced wines.

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Chardonnay 2007 - 13.5%
Quite evolved now with a sort of Sao biscuits rolled in honey nose. Open and biscuity palate too, maybe just a little sweet and fat through the finish which ends warmish. Bulky but not without charm. 17.5/91

Capel Vale Regional Series Pemberton Chardonnay 2009 - 14%
Much leaner, more mealy style that looks tighter and very crisp. Love the linear palate profile here with almost milky fine oak. Extra finesse. Lean and sprightly with very attractive vanilla bean oak. Super stylish, lovely wine. 18.5/94

Capel Vale Regional Series Pemberton Chardonnay 2010 - 13.5%

Clear lineage from 09 though perhaps a little more candied. Certainly bright and overt but cant quite escape the candied fruit. Still, nutty fine Chardonnay fruit at the core. May well improve with time. 17.9/92+

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Chardonnay 2011 - 13.5%
Back to fleshy, richer Margs style. Lots of creamy nutty and caramelised sort of burnt butter flavours and more peach. Lots of upfront joy here, for immediate drinking methinks as it might get chubbier. 17.8/92

Capel Vale Regional Series Mount Barker Shiraz 2007-10

Sourced from the Capel Vale vineyards in Mount Barker, the viticulture apparently wasn't quite up to scratch for the earlier vintages and it certainly shows. Again I must confess that Mount Barker Shiraz isn't exactly my most favoured region/variety combo.

Capel Vale Regional Series Mount Barker Shiraz 2007 - 15%
Raisined and slightly soupy, the fruit deep and tarry but showing its treacle like desiccation, under clumys formic oak. Awkward and just bit hot and heavy, it looks over cropped and hung out too long. Thick and soupy. Not terrible but not for me. 15.3/85

Capel Vale Regional Series Mount Barker Shiraz 2008 - 14%

Lots dense licoricey fruit here, though again looking overripe. Hot finish again, raspy tannins. Starts well and lots of jammy richness but just needs to be fresher. 15.7/86

Capel Vale Regional Series Mount Barker Shiraz 2009 - 14%
Much brighter musky overtones to match that trademark black licorice strap fruit. Violets and some blueberry notes give prettiness. Considerably more vibrant and composed than the wines before it. Slightly sweet oak a minor distraction but otherwise quality, well made wine. 17.7/92

Capel Vale Regional Series Mount Barker Shiraz 2010 - 14%

An entirely different wine this one. Has a bit of old school Aramis aftershave fragrance to match the black jube fruit, but cast much lighter. A candied vein through the palate is distracting for the backbone is much more composed. A bit barrel sample-esque. May get there. 16.8/89+

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Shiraz 2007-2009

A barrel selection from the Regional Series wines, with this line also given more time in barrel.

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Shiraz 2007 - 15.5%
A little hot and jubey on the nose. Short and hot palate with some sticky tannins. Blocky tannins and decent fruit weight but can't hide the desiccation. Better tannins than the Regional Series equivalent though. 16/87

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Shiraz 2008 - 14%
Bolder and juicier than the standard Shiraz. Black fruit richness and some nice purple fruit. Slightly hammy wildness on the nose, which carries nicey through the palate. All of it can't quite compete with the warm finish though. Almost great. 17/90

Capel Vale Whispering Hill Mount Barker Shiraz 2009 - 14%
Rather attractive, musky black fruit and fennel on the nose. This looks the most charismatic and has the most swagger of any Shiraz in the line. Fresher too, dry but with life. Quality cool climate Shiraz, needing just a bit more complexity to propel to superstardom. 18/93+

Much Capel Vale. Many screwcaps too.

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2007-2010

It's quite curious why this Cabernet Merlot is so far behind the straight Cabernet. Dud Merlot fruit?

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2007 - 15%
Mixed ripeness on the nose. Nose suggests impact but skinny palate doesn't back it up with the flavour concentration, finishing with very light tannins. It doesn't show the alcohol on the finish which is a positive. 15.8/86

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2008 - 13.5%
Just a fraction overripe, the nose here carries a little lollied fruit, the slightly warm, dusty palate has richness but generally lacks the definition to propel it forward. Nice tannins and even finish work wonders though. Not bad. 16.8/89

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2010 - 14%
Soft and juicy nose looks very soft and jubey. Lighter, smoother and much sweeter, it lacks the grunt and structure of the previous wines but should be commercially attractive. 16.5/88

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2005-2010

Nice to see a whole 5 years worth of wines here. All looked good actually, though the 2010 - like the '10 Cab Merlot - looks decidedly sweeter and less well structured. Let's hope that stylistic change is just an anomaly.

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - 14.5%
Very dark red. Blackberry nose. Looks ripe and chunky in a sweeter but entirely composed style. Big and bright and juicy yet with sufficient tannins. Very likeable, nutty development with proper structure. Nice medium-bodied, bottle-aged style. I liked it. 17.7/92

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - 15%

A bit ripe and volatile whilst also showing greenness (viti problems there). Mixed berries, dusty varietal aromatics and excellent varietal tannins all bode well, all it needs is just a little more power. Holds its alcohol well too. Solid. 17.5/91

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 - 13.5%
Much softer and prettier. Light, bitter tannins drive the palate but again I want more fruit power to drive it all forward. Almost great, just needing more of everything. 17.6/91+

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 - 14%
Classic cedar nose. Proper Margaret River Cabernet nose. The best tannins of the line with a certain freshness and linearity. Lovely power and weight. Just a fraction warm perhaps. Very nice! 18.5/94

Capel Vale Regional Series Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - 14%
Very youthful, squished berry fruit. Barrel sample-esque. Looks juicy and just a tad simple through the finish. I'm just waiting for it to fill out a bit more. Much looser structure in this lineup. 17.5/91+

Capel Vale Scholar Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2007-2009

Drawn from a vineyard located on Metricup road in the heart of the Margaret River dress circle. Again a barrel selection from the Regional Series. Usually a tiny production (100 dozen).

Capel Vale Scholar Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - 15%
No hiding the under/over ripeness. Eucalyptus and smoked capsicum. Bitter edge to the tannins too. Underripe in contrast. Richness is struggling to keep up but still there is great length here. Surprised to see it looked lesser than the base wine. Will have to revisit this...16.5/88+

Capel Vale Scholar Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 - 14.5%
Big and berried with a softness and luxury too it. Plump but minty with a lovely mid-palate weight. Silken and delicious. Nice wine, if gentler. 18.2/93

Capel Vale Scholar Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 - 14.5%
Lovely nose. Spearmint and juicy blackberries. Super fresh, kirsch and blackberry liqueur with a veneer of pepper and plushness. Perfectly ripe and super long. Exceptionally good. Just a hint of herbs through the finish. Excellent wine! 18.7/95

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Clairault Estate Cellar Release Cabernet Merlot 2007

Stylish packaging for this Clairault too
Clairault Estate Cellar Release Cabernet Merlot 2007
14.5%, Screwcap, $60

Source: Sample

Clairault Estate was sold recently to John Streicker, local grapegrower/vigneron and a noted US property developer. What that means for the wines is still up in the air, though if they continue to be as well constructed as this there is little fear.

A blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, this is sourced from six different sites on the Clairault property, with the majority coming from the 1976 planted A Block. Half of the fruit was handpicked, half machined. After fermentation the Merlot component spent 5 days on skins, the Cabernet a solid 15 days. The wine then spent 24 months in 50% new French oak (the remainder older).

What I love about wine this is how varietal and structured it is, with a classical dusty/leafy nose over a dense and firm palate - it's a Cabernet lovers delight. The only distraction is that stewed edge, a suggestion of perhaps a little overripe fruit in the mix. The long and regal palate though is very tidy, with tannins reflecting the serious winemaking and that long post-ferment maceration. Longggg. If only it didn't have that roasted edge? Great stuff regardless. Should be long lived too.

Drink: Now - 2022+
Score: 18.1/93

Holyman Pinot Noir 2010

Holyman Pinot. Something of a photo fail
Holyman Pinot Noir 2010 (Tamar Valley, Tas)
14%, Screwcap, $45

Source: Sample

Joy Holyman is a thoughtful man. Thoughtful because not only does he send tasty wines, he also fills the final space up in his wine cartons with a can of Boags. Makes me yearn for Tassie when I see one of those red cans pop up in the box, plus wine tasting is thirsty business (a thirst that can only be quenched by beer) no matter what the weather.

Much like the beer, this is masculine wine too - looking firmer, tighter and darker this year, signalling its cellar-worthy intentions from the get-go. There is still that bright cherry/glace plum fruit but the nose in particular looks more contained and buttoned down this vintage, brooding even. The palate too is classically meaty with firm, grinding tannins, some nice animale cranberry stuffed game sort of thing on the finish (now there is an esoteric turn. Cranberry stuffed game! Ugh).

A big, plum soaked Pinot - though not overrripe or OTT - with a firm structure, this is good masculine Tassie Pinot. I'd buy it (but leave it in the cellar a few more years).

Drink: 2014-2020
Score: 18.4/94+

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Scotchmans Hill Cornelius Sauvignon 2008

Nice font on these Cornelius wines.
Scotchmans Hill Cornelius Sauvignon 2008 (Bellarine Peninsula, Vic)
14%, Screwcap, $40
Source: Sample

Note the use of 'Sauvignon' here and not 'Sauvignon Blanc'. Much like what De Bortoli are doing in the Yarra, Scotchmans Hill are deliberately producing a more White Bordeaux-esque style with oak and lees work that is rather different to the more mainstream Australian/Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc style.

In the case of this Cornelius Sauvignon that means a wine that spent 6 months in new/up to 4yr old oak (with regular lees stirring along the way). It also means fruit picked riper, with minimal herbaceousness and bigger, more overt flavours.

Whether all that winemaking 'works' is up for contention however there is not doubting that it has layers, the nose an intriguing one of  pineapple fruit richness meeting vanilla bean oak. There's quite a big of oak in there actually but it is very sexy oak. There is some gravel and 'socks' Sancerre-esque varietal Sauv character in there too which is good to see. Big and chunky palate has some tinned pineapple character ala the nose, but it doesn't dominate to much, everything finishing with an abrupt, acid-driven full stop.

An unusual wine perhaps but has some appeal, the heartiness of the flavours impressive if just a little OTT. It's not really my sort of drink but I can appreciate the form and intensity.

Drink: Now - 2013
Score: 17/90

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2010

Simple packaging for the Florita. Like it?
Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2010 (Clare Valley, SA)
12.4%, Screwcap, $39.95
Source: Sample

Riesling, for all of its glories, can be a prickly beast when its built in an ageworthy fashion, often going through odd little peaks and troughs once it has passed its initial 'check out my flashy fruit and acid' phase. This Florita is in such a trough, making it a rather hard beast to get to know right now. It's like that pale looking guy/girl in the corner who may well be attractive but is kinda hard to get your head around.

What surprises is the candied lime edges to this - its like the Barry boys have accidentally blended this with a little of the Lavender Hill sweeter gear. I think its a development stage actually but an odd one. Underneath that Bickford's lime cordial concentrate lies a classically proportioned palate that is super dry and pithy, with long limey lines that suggest this to be a class act regardless. A little bottle age is desperately needed here but I think it will come good in time. Hold.

Drink: 2015-2025
Score: 17.5/91++

St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2009

Old Block. Needs to be older
St Hallett Old Block 2009 (Barossa, SA)
14.4%, Screwcap, $85
Source: Sample

It's always a 'slow-burner' is the Old Block, built in a style that screams 'don't drink me now you fool'. In fact, I think that the more recent Old Blocks have looked even more moderate, more structured and more cellar-worthy than ever. More power to them I say and Mr Old Block you can gladly come and sleep in my cellar anyday.

Speaking of old, the driver of this wine is fruit from vines designated as 'old' under the terms of the Barossa Old Vine Charter. In other words, we're talking about grapes grown on vines that are a minimum of 35 years old with some right up to 100+ yrs old.

Interestingly, the proportion of Eden Valley fruit in Old Block has increased over the years too, with 40% of this wine drawn from them there hills. No wonder the wines look more moderate these days... 

Anyways, this certainly carries that old vine mystique and density, if edged with slightly candied red fruit. It's a tension actually, a sense that the fruit hasn't quite grown into its body yet. The oak sits on top a fraction too and, whilst high quality, looks to be quite heavily toasted. What has you coming back though is that length, the firm, sucking-on-a-cacao-bean dry end and pervading length that indicates that this wine has very strong bones indeed.

Buy some (on special of course) and stick it in your cellar.

Drink: 2014-2029
Score: 17.8/92+

Friday, 3 August 2012

Brancott Living Land Pinot Noir 2011

Brancott Living Land Pinot Noir 2011 (Marlborough, NZ)
13.5%, Screwcap, $19.95
Brancott Living Land Pinot
Source: Sample

From certified organic grapes, which is great to see on a Marlborough Pinot at this pricepoint. Surprisingly few Marlborough vineyards are certified organic actually, with disease pressure often cited as one of the reasons why organic viticulture is not more widespread. Changing rapidly though.

It smells great. All red cherries l, bark, some cough syrup volatiles and more light red fruit. The palate though shows very little, the flavours looking surprisingly absent after the juicy nose. Roasted edge and surprising warmth also do little favour, suggesting either slight overcropping or some out of condition fruit.

Whilst the palate should flesh out with time in bottle, it may never live up to the promise of the nose...15.3/84

Wirra Wirra The Lost Watch Riesling 2012

My watch is not lost...
Wirra Wirra The Lost Watch Riesling 2012 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

Whilst Wirra itself is on something of a roll at the moment, it is the whites that have been the most improved, the 12th Man Chardonnay and this Riesling particularly so.

Handpicked Lenswood grapes are the star here though, drawn from what is shaping to be a great vintage in South Australia for many producers. Oh and the Lost Watch name? From Greg Trott - founder of Wirra Wirra - who was famously late to everything.

A genuinely pure and lively Riesling this one, looking fresh but also exactingly ripe. It has a rather floral and pretty nose of some purity, the characters still a little reticent though still showing grapefruit and white flower florals. Palate too is taut and grapefruity with very sprightly acidity and a general feeling of cleanliness. Perhaps a little simple now, yet with such linear style and liveliness that you just want to neck the whole bottle. Comparatively cheap too. I'd buy it.

Drink: Now - 2015+
Score: 17.7/92+

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Some imported goodies from the Negociants portfolio

Much imported goodies

Some imported goodies from the Negociants portfolio

Whilst there is a whole multitude of importers bringing wine into Australia, I don't think any can really compete with the scale of Negociants, the import arm of family owned Yalumba parent company S.Smith & Son.

What sets Negociants apart is that perfect combination of range, fair-ish pricing and smart salespeople, the business carrying a reputation for having all the best brands and the connections to sell them. Suitably, when you see a Negociants imported wine tasting on the schedule you don't miss out, simply because all sorts of goodies can tend to turn up.

This particular tasting lived up to that promise too with a vast array of imported goodies open for taste, limited only by how many people seemed to be getting in between me and the open bottles...

The Wines

Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Kabinett Riesling 2010 (Saar, Germany)

What an essay in purity this is. Considering the relative price of this (circa $70ish) this is something of a bargain. Wonderful wine. Wonderfully detailed and fresh. I wanted to take this home with me.

Extremely pure beeswax and lemon honey nose. Blossom and wax. Pure +. Super clear and vibrant palate is difficult to spit out. Perhaps a little contained on the finish but my what a lovely wine.

Drink: Now-2030
Score: 18.5/94

Pascal Jolivet Pouilly-Fumé 2009 (Pouilly-Fumé, Loire, France)
Showing the warmth of the vintage a fraction this year.

Nice gravelly edge to the nose with good smoky varietal characters. A little lean this year even. Solid palate but seems to be missing something. Enjoyable but not grand or persistent enough.

Drink: Now
Score: 16.8/89

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2010 (Martinborough, New Zealand)
Oh so polished and pretty wine this, particularly when placed in the same lineup as the Burgundies. Super refined and wonderfully silken palate is so very addictive. I'd drink this sooner rather than later.

Pretty and perfumed red fruit nose. Very pretty and delicate in context. Super polished and fine palate looks a little lighter this year but the form is excellent. Briary finish too. Much enjoyment here for drinking soonish.

Drink: Now-2020
Score: 18.4/94

Geantet-Panisot Bourgogne 09 (Burgundy, France)
Shows plenty of Burgundian stylin' but I'm looking for more than that in a $55 Pinot Noir. The Ata Rangi is so close and offers much more structure and enjoyment methinks...

Modern and pretty and lush. Open. Looks like high yielding fruit. Form is not amazing but has pleasure. Certainly what you'd hope for in a basic Bourgogne.

Drink: Now-2015
Score: 16.5/88

Domaine de L'Arlot Nuits-St. Georges 'Clos de Forets Saint-Georges' 1er Cru 2009 (Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, France)
Such a masculine wine this one. Masculine, powerful and dense, with a real sense that this will be a long lived beast indeed. So it should be for a $140 wine perhaps, but you're getting what you pay for here.

Big warm and ripe nose this one with a proper sappy varietal action. Lovely firm bitter tannins the highlight of what is a quite ripe palate. So firm and almost angry in that intensity. Serious, ripe yet still with that old school structure. I'd buy some, but stick it away for years.

Drink: 2014-2025+
Score: 17.7/92+

Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pape 2009 (
Châteauneuf du Pape, Southern Rhone, France)
I love CnDP, or at least I love it when it is as minerally and, well, not bretty, as this. Ripe, but not overripe, there is much red fruit love with this one.

Currants but with a whiff of violets and spice on the nose. Real licorice old vine wildness. Superb tannins but so dry and Mourvedre meaty. Lovely sinewy and very firm blocky tannins. Excellent firm style. Classic Rhone action with all the meaty trimmings. I think I'd drink this earlier than some other vintages as it is so generous already, though it is going to live. Big yes.

Drink: Now-2024+
Score: 18.5/94

Guigal St.-Joseph Vignes de l'Hospice 2007 (St-Joseph, Northern Rhone, France)
I've loved this before (here) and it again didn't disappoint. If you like the Northern Rhone style this has to be held up as something of an archetype. Yes it is a $160 odd dollar wine but so very much here to like. Yum. Yes please.

Has that lovely softened slow cooked beef meats the polish of red fruit. Hint of apricot fruit over bacon fat and deep dark black fruit palate. Super smooth oak. Excellent intensity and grainy finish that is top shelf. Extremely fine and powerful. Top end wine indeed.

Drink: Now-2025+
Score: 18.7/95

Poderi Aldo Conterno Il Favot 2007 (Langhe, Piedmont, Italy)

I've had much better vintages of this. Lacks a little freshness.

A little scorched earth 2007 desiccation on the nose. Lots of oak. Too much oak for the fruit really, making it a little one dimensional. Missing tannins through the finish. Disappointing and a little dull.

Drink: Now - 2018
Score: 16.3/87

Gaja Barbaresco 2007 (Barbaresco, Italy)
I've had several vintages of this wine and am yet to be really impressed. Oaky, dull and mono-dimensional. Priced typically Gaja stratospheric. You can pick up two and a half bottles of good single-vineyard Barbaresco for this ($300 odd) price...

Almost candied edge to the red fruit nose. Lots of oak too. Super smooth palate has a very solid oak veneer, a hint of desiccation and again a lack of real definition and length. Good but not great enough. Price is maddening. It will improve no doubt but difficult to warm to it at this level.

Drink: 2014-2022+
Score: 17.3/90+

Château Certan de May 2008 (Pomerol, Bordeaux, France)
Looking less than fresh in this instant and anything but fragrant and luscious like it can be.

Rather ripe and slightly cooked nose. Looks jammy. Great mid palate texture but can't help notice that warm edge. Hardish. Will it pop out?

Drink: 2015-2022+
Score: 16.8/89+

Château du Tertre 2006 (Margaux, Bordeaux, France)
Ah Margaux. Along with Pomerol, my favourite Bordeaux appellation. This isn't quite a superstar wine, but it does carry plenty of character already. Already quite forward, if still toughly tannic.

Evolved and meaty nose, with a little merde and spice. Almost metallic edge to the tannins that are tea leaf bitter.  Very thick through the middle, but has the power to suggest it will get meatier and more complex over the long term.

Drink: 2014-2026
Score: 17.5/91+