Friday, 28 September 2012

St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2010

Blackwell. Good
St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2010
14.5%, Screwcap (one of those smart new WAK screwcaps), $40
Source: Sample

The evolution of St Hallett Shiraz continues. Blackwell has always been the 'classically' styled wine amongst the St Hallett premiums, driven by fruit richness and ominpresent toasty American oak. This year, however, the oak seems better integrated, less obvious and more refined. A once-off or a serious style change? Whatever, it certainly looks more ageworthy because of it.

It certainly smells classic though, with a choc-plum rich nose with that sweetness and opulence of classic Barossa Shiraz. Palate is open, inviting and very Barossan - warm, plush and soaked in fruit richness. There's nothing breathtaking about this wine - it's just above medium weight, it's hardly super deep or complex but gee it provides some succinct classic plush Barossa choc plum flavour in a quite timeless structure. It's only going to get better too, in fact it positively needs more bottle age. Like.
Drink: 2013-22+
Score: 17.8/20 92/100+
Would I buy it? I'd be tempted

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling 2011

Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling 2011 (Clare/Eden Valley, SA)
Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

I do wonder how we will come to look at these 2011 vintage Eden/Clare whites. In ten years time, will we look back and lament that we didn't appreciate them as youngsters? Or will we simply treat them with a sense of cautiousness like we do now? I'm picking the latter, particularly given how forward some of these wines look already...

Speaking of, this looks sharply vintage affected. Rather toasty, honeyed and advanced, the palate is briskly acidic and hard, bony even. That nose suggest generosity and an older, richer wine than what the palate delivers. Hard work (sadly).

Drink: Now - 2016+?
Score: 15.5/20 85/100
Would I buy it? No

Cumulus Rolling Chardonnay 2011

Cumulus Rolling Chardonnay 2011 (Central Ranges, NSW)
12.5%, Screwcap, $17.95
Source: Sample

A little trivia - the Orange wine region is one of the only ones in the world where the regional boundaries are drawn up via both geography AND altitude, with 600m the designated altitude cutoff. Below the 600m mark the region is classed as Central Ranges (much less sexy). The Cumulus vineyard straddles this invisible boundary too, the higher parts in Orange, the lower Central Ranges. This wine is sourced from the latter.

A bright, light and fresh style that sees little oak, the balance here really quite good. It carries that crystalline, high acid nose of the the cool vintage of lemon anBright and green yellow colour. Crystalline pure nose of yellow apple meets grapefruit. Dry and slightly green palate has clearly seen very little oak but looks wonderfully fresh and clean. Perhaps a little simple but definitely fresh and lively. Good fresh Chardonnay at a very valid price.

Drink: 2012-2014
Score: 16.5/20 88/100
Would I buy it? Not personally but it is a very good example of the style

Classic Vale: Wirra Wirra Catapult Shiraz 2010

Wirra Wirra Catapult Shiraz 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $24
Source: Sample

It is not hard to love these 2010 McLaren Vale reds. Rich, even, balanced, intense - so much to enjoy. Wirra is on a roll of late too, so no surprises that this looks good.

It's a toasty sort of Shiraz this year, the oak quite prominent on the nose, but supported by big rich fruit. Plush, smooth, classically proportioned palate of warm berries and cocoa oak with a certain black fruit seam that is very attractive. All plum fruit and wonderfully rounded this is easy Vale red, wanting only a little more definition to be a superstar. Much to like for the dollars regardless.

Drink: 2012-2018+
Score: 17.8/20 92/100
Would I buy it? If I was on a $20 budget and was looking for something meat friendly then yes.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Galafrey Dry Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Galafrey Dry Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Mt Barker, Great Southern, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $28
Source: Sample

Galafrey Dry Grown Cabernet
 If ever there was an example of what dry grown old vines and 'traditional' winemaking can do it is here. There is - as ever with the Galafrey wines - a rustic sense of genuineness to this wine that should be appreciated (or I think so).

This looked best on day three. A solid indication of potential for sure. Looked a little whiffy on day one but gee much to like by the second day. There is a twitch of horse hair on the nose which I don't think is bretty, but is meaty (and indeed part of the style as I picked it up in previous Cabernet releases). It's a nose of tomato leaf, tennel, blackberry and even rhubarb. The feature point though is the palate which is cut with some impressively powerful drying tannins indeed. That tannin structure is excellent, supporting the dusty, mid weight and meaty palate nicely.

Top length, plenty of density and power, this is a charismatic wine indeed. It's still anything but sophisticated but that is indeed part of the style.

Drink: 2012 - 2020
Score: 17.5/20 91/100+
Would I buy it? By the glass at a restaurant, with something meaty? Entirely possible.

Longview Devils Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Longview Devils Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $27
Source: Sample

Looks a bit vintage affected this year.

It's a slightly volatile, syrupy and a little warm Cabernet this vintage, the oak nicely handled and the tannins pronounced, yet no questioning the desiccated, harder drying edges. There is some caramelised shrivelled fruit sweetness through the middle helping a little but this looks ultimately too scorched for big love. 15.8/86

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Kellermeister Black Sash Special Release Shiraz 2006

Kellermeister Black Sash Shiraz 2006 (Barossa Valley)
15%, Screwcap, $55
Source: Sample

It's a super special release this one, sourced from single, low yielding old 80yr old vineyard in Ebenezer. Matured in 100% new French oak for 24mths. A Barossan super cuvee if ever there was one.

It looks full tilt too, built in a style that is more mid 90s Barossa than 2012. That oak in particular is about as sexy time sweet as they come - like a bath full of Lindt Extra Creamy milk chocolate. You could probably put this on your face and it would make your face look younger. Or the like.

Suffice to say that this is one lusciously oaked and rather decadent red. It's a bit porty on the nose, and porty on the palate, the style very open knit and super sweet. In some ways it is a caricature of a wine, all plush fruit and super sweet oak. Yet there is still plenty of charm here too, the intensity of said fruit really quite impressive. Sure it's warm and arguably OTT, yet I can see the attraction.

Drink: Now - 2018+
Score: 17/20 90/100
Would I buy it? No. I can understand why people would love it though.

Top wine with bubbles: Daosa Blanc de Blancs 2009

Daosa Blanc de Blancs 09 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.2%, Composite cork, $51
Source: Sample

Strictly speaking, this sparkling is Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser's (of Terre à Terre) baby, the fruit drawn from a vineyard that Christian Bizot (head of Champagne Bollinger) himself helped plant.

Considering, however, that said fruit has traditionally made its way into the Petaluma Croser sparkling, and indeed elements of the packaging take cues from Petaluma's bubbly (which is subtle, but telling), there is no question that this carries the thumbprint of Brian Croser himself.

That 'Piccadilly Valley' font and style is very Croser...
More correctly, this is everything that Croser (the sparkling) ain't, a wine that you could imagine Brian Croser making if he still had the reins at Petaluma. That may sound like a cheeky snipe, yet I'm afraid that the latest Petaluma Croser releases haven't impressed me all that much. In some ways that is like comparing oranges with apples - particularly as the Croser sparkling is a lean, multi vineyard Pinot Chardonnay whilst this is a lightly worked, single vineyard, blanc de blanc - but the comparison is a valid one (the price is not dissimilar either).

What sets this wine apart from the Petaluma Croser is the detail. Produced from the Daosa vineyard (planted in 1996) off just two clones planted in the higher part of the vineyard, the grapes are hand picked and very softly (less than 450L per tonne) whole bunch pressed into older oak where it completes alcohol and malolactic fermentation. The wine then spends 8 months in these older barrels before sparkling fermentation, then resting for another 30 months on lees.

Given such a 'full' treatment, there is little surprise perhaps in just how vinous this is. I gave a glass to my Mum actually (who is a great barometer and gives a quite different perspective) who said 'it's too winey' for me. It's not too winey for me, no doubting however how different it is to most 'traditional' sparkling wine (and indeed big house NV Champagne) - it is more like a white wine with bubbles or a citrussy grower Champagne than a more classical sparkling.

That vinosity is impressive though, the wine showing an intriguing, slightly wild double cream yeast character on the nose with some white peach fruit in there too. Palate wise it is a fraction lean and youthful, all citrus fruit and firm acidity, everything fleshed out thanks to that oak maturation. Initially it seems a little simple and too young, yet it still has great length and textural weight underneath the quality of the fruit and length ensuring that I finished more than one glass.

I'm ultimately marking this highish as I think it is great stuff, carrying more personality and drinking appeal than many equivalent Australian sparklings. Personally, all I'd like to see is an extra year or too of bottle (and yeast) age to make it into a real star. Yes!

Drink: 2013 - 2017
Score: 18/20 93/100+
Would I buy it? In a restaurant yes definitely.

Friday, 21 September 2012

A wine to last a lifetime: Taltarni Reserve Shiraz Cabernet 2005

Taltarni Reserve Shiraz Cabernet 2005 (Pyrenees, Vic)
14%, Cork, $65
Source: Sample

05 Taltarni Reserve Shiraz Cab
Will live forever
Even at seven years of age this full bodied red still looks youthful. That's an achievement in any context, a clear indicator that this firm, minty, obstinately backwards sort of red will live for as long and mature as well as the 77. It's even drinkable right now, a clear indicator of just how bloody good this wonderfully old school red is. I dig it.

Inky dark red, very deep and dense looking - all correct really. The nose is actually quite open for one of these Taltarnia reds, carrying something of an oak sweetness yet set in a backdrop of underlying Pyrenees mint and macerated black fruits. It's a richly fruited, yet not sweet fruited sort of nose, a wine of vinosity, not berries, and all the better for it. Perhaps just a little too much oak at the moment? Still, it would be good to have some of this in the cellar (note to self - buy some).

There is an intense, choc plum and Christmas cake sort of palate too with a very deep profile of firm, slightly minty fruit that follows the Pyreneean recipe perfectly. Those dry, drying, firm tannins hit you hard too, a pure 'don't mess with me' sort of palate definer that suggest this will live - and mature - with absolutely aplomb. Even now it looks balanced, ripeish (no escaping that it is well ripe) yet still with vibrancy.

Wonderful Taltarni red in the classic style. Buy some and put it in the cellar for 20 years. You won't be disappointed.

Drink: Now - 2040
Score: 18.5/20 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes. It's expensive sure but considering that it is so bloody good (and will only get better) the price seems justified. Context helps no doubt, but this remains a wine with much to give.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Woodstock Octogenerian Grenache 2011

Woodstock Octogenerian Grenache 2011 (McLaren Vale)
14.5%, Screwcap, $32
Source: Sample

Contains 15% Tempranillo apparently. Temp seems to be creeping in everywhere at present and the Vale seems like a logical home.

I love the packaging on this red too, the wine driven along by both a lovely imagery and this yarn:

'For decades we and our neighbours tended to our frugal Grenache vines on sandy soils at Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale. Commonly referred to as 80 year old vines, or “Perpetual Octogenarians”, their pedigree of quality became more evident over the decades. When the opportunity arose to become the next custodians of more of these meagre cropping, gnarly vines, the Collett family embraced them in 1988. We nurture these rarely respected Octogenarians and enjoy their lasting characters. Long live OCTO!'

Lolly red fruit, cranberry juice and quite a bit of fennel like spice. No richness here perhaps, the vintage just not translating into flesh, the wine much more transparent because of it though. The more it sits in the glass the more sullen it looks actually, though it is still quite lively certainly of high quality. Rather good, light Grenache from a hard vintage.

Drink: 2012 - 2018
Score: 17.1/20 90/100
Would I buy it? Probably not. I'd drink a glass if handed to me but I still would prefer a little more flesh.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sublime dry German wines: Rebholz

Sublime dry German wines: Rebholz

Is it a Riesling or a Chardonnay?
As a writer (or a pale imitation of one at least), I reserve the most respect for those who can say more with less words - A word conservationist if you may, one who can express themselves directly and notably succinctly whilst maintaining a certain air of flair in the process. Naturally, such a skill is very rare, and particularly so amongst wine communicators - a breed whom (like me) are usually enthusiastic wine people first, economical wordsmiths second.

Given this, when  I meet someone who can make an impact with few words - whether written or verbally - I take notice. Hansjörg Rebholz, 3rd generation vigneron from Pfalz estate Ökonomierat Rebholz, is such a person, his words often carrying a certain gravitas that I can only admire.

As a result, when Hansjörg said to me 'this wine (his 'R' Chardonnay reviewed below) is the best Chardonnay in Germany' I didn't laugh at his brazenness. I couldn't. It wasn't a brag, it was a fact, stated with such German efficiency and a lack of ego that you could only conclude it was correct.

Judging by the quality of said wine, he wasn't wrong either.

Now, before looking at these wines, some context. Ökonomierat Rebholz is based in the varied soils of Pfalz, it's reputation increasingly built (like much of the Pfalz) on both sublime dry white wines (Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurtz) as well as some very smart examples of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). The estate is farmed organically, chaptalisation is shunned and the production is kept deliberately small and focused - it is an utterly uncompromised proposition, focused on (dry) expressions of grape and terroir. From what I have read - and the wines that I tasted - they seem to be doing this with some style too.

Apparently much of the estate's output is consumed within Germany, greater Europe and the US, yet a small amount has recently made its way here via Eurocentric Wines. Not all of the following wines are currently available - and volumes are tiny - yet if you see some pick it up immediately. I would. I should...

The wines:

Ökonomierat Rebholz Muskateler Trocken 2010 11% $46
The 'basic' Rebholz dry Muscat, the freshness and extract plain perfect. I kept coming back to this wine, such is the balance between freshness and weight. Superstar.

It shows a lovely concentrated essence of Muscat nose which balances the bath salt aromatic intensity of the variety with weight. Excellent richness through the palate, but high acid. Rich but dry. Weight and spice. Excellent work. Superb length. 18/20 93/100

Ökonomierat Rebholz Weisser Burgunder Trocken 2010 11.5% $39
A Pinot Blanc but not as we often see it - a much more textural beast indeed. This balances out the richness with neutrality, if in a quite simple form here.

Quite honeyed nose. Neutral but ripe. Looks much riper than the alc suggests. A hint of rot? Neutral and drying palate. Linear but with quite a deal of richness. Looks neutral but just a little clumsy perhaps through the finish. Needs time to come together. 17.1/20 90/100+

Ökonomierat Rebholz Grauer Burgunder S Trocken 2010 12.5% $64
A massive Pinot Gris this, no question about it.

Almost smoky in its aromatic intensity. Weighty, orange rind edge. Extractive and dry, long. The finish blows you away in it's firmness. Massive wine, if perhaps a little hard. Much to come! 17.5/20 91/100+

Ökonomierat Rebholz Chardonnay R Spätlese 2009 $100
Matured in small oak and given a full day or so of skin contact. Wow wine.

Evocative and opulent. Big nectarine fruit, evocative and supercharged with an Aramis like aftershave note and quite firm butter oak. Massive! Hugely large and weighty palate that is a little think Mornington-esque yet more floral. Complexity to burn but that length of white peach fruit is exceptional. Woah. Off the chain length but polarising wine. Big warm finish too. Just a little more delicacy needed, but would that detract from the wine? Impressive regardless. 18.5/20 94/100

Ökonomierat Rebholz Ganz Gorn im Sonnernschien Riesling GG 2008 12% $128
The first of the Großes Gewächs wines in this lineup and a very classic example it is too, albeit in a riper context perhaps. Quite a formidable wine again.

Very tight, honey extract cloaked in green tightness. Focused, dry and lemon/grapefruit green fruit. There's a real white rock leanness to this, a wine hanging on the precipice of exceptional quality but quite challenging in its acidity and firmness. Will need some patience. 18.3/20 93/100+

Ökonomierat Rebholz Von Buntsandstein RieslingSpätlese 2007 $68
This comes off the sandstone. Picked at 90 oechsle. 7.5% alcohol, 80.5g/l residual sugar, 7.3g/l acid.

Quite a traditional Spatlese in its blossom fragrance. White pepper, and light mandarin edges. Smells sweet but tastes considerably drier for the sweetness. What length and balance! Classic off dry wine, if driven by power and grace. Yes. 18/20 93/100

Ökonomierat Rebholz Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2009 12% $38
Clearly picked very ripe, yet never falling over the line into flab. I'm a sucker for these rich Gewurtz.

Wow nose. Highly aromatic terpene spice. Bath salts. Big middle palate. Hole towards the back before a subliminal, late spicy finish. Outstanding length. Dry and weighty. Wow. 18.5/20 94/100

Ökonomierat Rebholz Albersweiler Latt Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2009 12% $44
From a highly celebrated single vineyard, this looks more complex and even more wildly weighty than the standard wine. Again picked late and again amazing.

A much more creamy, rocky and layered nose here, with suggestions of creamed lychee. So much going on here! Yet the palate is quite creamy and even subtle in the scheme of things. The palate is smoky, spicy and so incredibly concentrated. What a wine! So divisive and many will not enjoy this but wow! What power and depth! 18.7/20 95/100+

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bargain Italian white: Mandoleto Catarratto 2011

Mandoleto Catarratto 2011 (Sicily, Italy)
12.5%, Screwcap, $15
Source: Sample

Another day, another tasty import. This cheapie is quintessentially a simple wine, made from a grape that is to Sicily what Muller Thurgau was to NZ - grows like a weed and makes simple white wines. In this instant it has risen above its status to make something crisp, textural and lightly fragrant. It is still a simple wine, no doubt, but much to like.

It's smells light, musky, lemon edged and even cassis tipped. There is a 'non mainstream' sort of floral/spice in there that I really like. Simple, dry and lightly phenolic palate is clean, vinous and made in a quite modern fashion, all grapefruit and lemon fruit with pithy acidity. It's perhaps a little broad through the finish but also refreshing enough too. Straightforward, fresh, likeable juice indeed.

Drink: 2012 - 2014
Score: 16.5/20 88/100
Would I buy it? Yes.A beacon of value on a restaurant list

Old Block in the zone: St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2002

Obligatory hand picture. Label still looks good too
St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2002 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Cork

Source: Kindly dinner companion

There is no doubting the joy of a wine like this. Drawn from a record cool season, the style is slightly lighter, more velvety and less overt than other vintages either side of it, tending more towards elegance than power. To be honest, I don't think this is really going to be more profound or more complex than it is now - it's on the plateau (to my tastes at least) and as such is really not going to get any better. Drinking very nicely it is regardless.

What it does have is that lovely, black jube and plum deep old vine fruit and cuddly, coffee oak. It's such a familiar smell - a smell of good modern Barossan reds - and a welcoming one at that. Meaty overtones to the rich sweet plum fruit, the palate soft and silken, again all blackberry juice and a thick, silken, concentrated mid palate, finishing in soft tannins. It's a somewhat predictable sort of wine perhaps but with much pleasure to be had.

Drink: 2012 - 2020
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Wish I had some in my cellar. I'd still drink it sooner rather than later.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Minervois again: Abbotts & Delaunay Minervois 2010

Abbotts & Delaunay Cumulo Nimbus Minervois Syrah Carignan 2010
14%, Cork, $40
Source: Sample

This is what Minervois is all about - rich, meaty, rustic and hearty flavours. Bring on sausages and ribs immediately.

Roast lamb, biltong, sweet oak and earth with a quiet whiff of dog poo. It's not faulty per se, just a little stinky and rustic. Old school south of France nose that one. The palate is where the appeal lies, with a black fruit and tapenade old vine density that is genuinely appealing, all capped off with deep, robust and gritty tannins.

Arguably a little broadly cut and roasted, I like the fruit weight and genuine old vine limitlessness of this red. Much to grab hold of.

Drink: Now - 2017+
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? A glass on a wine list for sure.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Chant Du Midi Syrah 2008

Chant Du Midi Syrah 2008 (Minervoise, France)
13.5%, Screwcap, $21
Source: Sample

From Minervois and proudly wearing the rusticity of the region with pride.

Neutral, dirt and old oak nose. Slightly meaty, pongy and simple. Looks authentic but also rather dull, confected and simple.

Nice wine for a tenner but no more.

Drink: Now
Score: 15/84
Would I buy it? No.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A flashback wine? De Bortoli Old Boys 21yo Tawny

De Bortoli Old Boys Show Reserve Tawny 21yo (Riverina, NSW)
19%, Screwcap, $40 for 500ml
Source: Sample

Sadly, tawny ports like this one are so desperately uncool in the modern scheme of things, their image tainted by cheap, inferior quality wines and a perception of being something of a dying drink. In reality, wines like this this tawny show just how much winemaking history that we're ignoring.

The joy of this Old Boys tawny is all about richness. Richness, length and unquestioned intensity. A very luscious, very sweet style, the oak particularly vanilla/caramel rich and welcoming. In fact, it's almost, Muscsat like such is that sweetness of golden syrup-esque unctuousness (I'm not sure of what grapes were used to make this), the finish rounded, long and unquestionably generous. Clean and fresh too (less VA in this, which is welcome).

For anyone raised on Portugese Port this may seem perhaps too sweet, yet I genuinely love the coffeed. plump and mouthfilling style that this wine does with aplomb, that finish going on and on and on, reminding you of those lovely sweet flavours long after the glass is empty. Lovely.

Drink: Now
Score: 18/20 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes. By the glass particularly so.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Beyond the Graveyard – Brokenwood’s top new red

Beyond the Graveyard – Brokenwood’s top new red 

(This article first appeared in a recent edition of LattéLife magazine. The article is thus written in a more 'lifestyle' fashion, the tasting notes that follow are not).

Grapegrowing is a thankless business. Despite the simple joy of spending your days in the peace and quiet of the vineyard, there is no escaping the fact that, once all the romance is gone, it is still farming after all (and I think we all know how hard farming can be).

I drank a whole bottle of Quail for this review
Suffering for my art I was

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Hunter Valley, a part of the wine world that produces some of Australia’s greatest wines, whilst dishing out some of the most problematic weather in the process.

In 2010 the Hunter dished out a dose of this ‘challenging’ weather too, with Brokenwood’s famous Graveyard vineyard particularly damaged by a combination of 46C heat, hail and torrential rain that ultimately destroyed vines, reduced yields and forced the vineyard’s grapes to be picked earlier than normal.

Unsurprisingly, the resultant wine produced from this torrid season didn’t quite look like a Graveyard Shiraz either. It didn’t quite have the power or the weight of a typical Graveyard, although it did have that classic structure. It was, for all practical purposes, an ‘almost’ wine...

The dilemma for Brokenwood winemaker Iain Riggs was simply what to do with this parcel – still high quality, still well structured and firm, it was too good for a basic Hunter Shiraz, yet not quite a ‘Graveyard’.

For the answer, Riggs looked towards the great blenders of yesteryear, to famous winemakers Maurice O’Shea and Colin Preece, both of whom, some 60 years ago, overcame vintage vagaries in their respective regions (Hunter Valley and Great Western respectively) via the time honoured art of blending. O’Shea, in particular, was known for his ability to take juice from different varieties, vineyards and regions, coupling them together into a blended wine that was much more than just the sum of its parts.

Riggs thus went looking for a component to complete this Shiraz – and found it in McLaren Vale. 2010 in ‘the Vale’ was a cracker you see, and Riggs has at his disposal some wonderful Shiraz from the famous Wade Block. Given how successful previous vintages of the HBA (a similar blend of McLaren Vale and Hunter Shiraz performed it seemed only natural to couple them together again.

Hence the 2010 Brokenwood Quail Shiraz ($95) was born, a super blend of Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale Shiraz that, like those famous wines from the 50s, again shows just how much joy can be had from a good quality blend.

Wines such as the Quail also beg the question – are single variety; single site wines really the main answer Obviously they purport to show more terroir and more individuality, but are they really actually better drinks? Surely super blends – like Grange – show that by blending we can craft more even more impressive wines? Or is that just homogenising our wines?

The verdict is out on that topic, in the meantime, however, there is no doubting the joy of this Brokenwood Quail Shiraz. It's lovely stuff.

Brokenwood highlights:

Brokenwood Stanleigh Park Semillon 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW) $50
I had this with a dish of spicy mussels and it looked tip-top. Hunter Sem with a few years under its belt is seriously food friendly stuff.

As the name suggests this was drawn from the silt flats of the Stanleigh Park vineyard, located just off Wilderness Road between Rothbury and Lovedale in the lower Hunter Valley. Handpicked, crushed and pressed immediately and then fermented with neutral yeasts. 2007 was a warm, ripe vintage probably better known for reds than whites, though top Sems wines were still produced. Alcohol 10.5%, TA 6.6 g/l, pH 2.95, RS 2.4g/L.

A rather open and generous sort of wine this one, all lemon grass and lime in a very open knit and quite citrussy fashion. There is an edge of toast creeping in but still very primary, complete with a slight green pea edge. Palate is soft yet also quite well proportioned, already quite ready to drink, the acidity looking gentle, the edges rounded off. It's not going to tire any time soon - indeed it will get more complex - yet no doubting the immediate appeal.

Drink: Now - 2020
Score: 17.8/20, 92/100
Would I buy some? On a restaurant wine list, at a fair price, I'd be jumping on this.

Brokenwood Quail Shiraz 2010 (Hunter, NSW & McLaren Vale, SA) RRP $95
Quail is not strictly a new wine in the scheme of things, being actually just an early released HBA. A blend of Wade Block 2 and Graveyard vineyard fruit, with the Graveyard fruit seeing just French oak, the Wade French coopered American (so many winemakers choose this form of American oak. Seems to work). Alc. 13.8%, TA 6.4g/L, pH 3.39.

A very compact, fresh and 'I've just been just bottled' style Shiraz, the joy here is all about the more chocolatey, more richly oaked overt plum Vale fruit and the lighter, more translucent, more earthen Hunter component. That Vale component is initially more dominant and I was worried it might stay that way but more earthen Hunter notes fill out the finish. Texturally it's very compact and polished, the whole package silken and very stylish with proper fine tannins. There is a real core of deep polished fruit here, rich yet savoury. Top tier Shiraz, and with many years ahead of it.

Drink: Now - 2030
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? It's expensive, no question about it. I'd happily have some in my cellar and contemplated buying some recently. I just know it will be a tasty old wine...

Brokenwood Mistress Block Shiraz 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW) $75
I've always enjoyed the Mistress Block, particularly as it often as looks less 'wrought' than the Graveyard and generally more 'classically Hunter'. The price has jumped up noticeably in recent years though.

The Mistress Block is located not far from the Graveyard Block, again in 'chocolate loam'. It escaped the hail in 2010 and was picked very early in good condition. 50/50 French vs American oak maturation, that rich soil said to work better with the slightly more overt American oak. Alc 13.5%, TA 6.3g/L, pH 3.37.

Light and peppery nose of rhubarb and even cranberry with a little leather. Very classic Hunter if every there was one, the wine utterly medium bodied. Purple, pulpy and even palate has lovely purple berry fruit and savoury lines, if not quite the definition of the best vintage. That lightness is quite attractive in context, bound to endear to anyone who loves Hunter Shiraz.

Drink: 2013-2025
Score: 17.8/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Hmm. Love the style, not sure if I'd pay the dollars. If it was closer to $50 I think that would be an 'I'd buy it'

Monday, 10 September 2012

Grenache joy: Zeppelin Grenache 2010

Zeppelin Grenache 2010

Grenache Joy: Zeppelin Grenache 2010

Zeppelin Grenache 2010 (Barossa Valley, SA)
15%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

Easily my favourite wine of this Zeppelin lineup and again great drinking for the $15 it can be found for in retail land.

Sourced from an 60-80yr old vineyard between Greenock and Ebenezer, this - like the rest of the Zeppelin - is made in a 'hands off' fashion of open ferments and twice daily hand plunging

Caramel chews, red fruit and a little hessian old oak on the very savoury nose. Really quite composed for a ripe Barossan Grenache. Palate runs with bright red fruit, candied through the middle but not sweet, maybe a little desiccated (and the alcohol pokes into the finish) but the concentration and intensity of it all is really impressive. Rather tasty ripe red with a proper savoury authenticity to it. Yes.

Drink: Now - 2015+
Score: 17.5/20 91/100
Would I buy it? Probably not. But I'd drink a glass if handed to me.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Zeppelin Single Vineyard Barossa Shiraz 2010

Zeppelin Single Vineyard Barossa Shiraz 2010 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $20

Source: Sample

From a single vineyard in the Angaston foothills, this was made by Kym Teusner and Corey Ryan in an admirable fashion for a wine that sells for $15 a bottle around the traps. Think open ferments, twice daily pumpovers and basket pressing with maturation in old oak and finished off with minimal fining/filtration. Great stuff.

A plump, mid weight, properly generous Barossan red it is too. It smells of choc bullets nose, tastes of meaty rich, fully extracted fruit and tea leaf tannin. A certain softness is the appeal here, a berried sandy juiciness (off a sandy vineyard?).

Very solid drinking for the price.

Drink: Now - 2017
Score: 17/20 90/100
Would I buy it? Not me personally but I'd happily recommend it.

Zeppelin Eden Valley Riesling 2011

Zeppelin Eden Valley Riesling 2011 (Eden Valley, SA)
12%, Screwcap, $20
Source: Sample

Produced by ex Mcwilliams winemaker Corey Ryan in conjunction with Kym Teusner. Sourced from a single High Eden vineyard, this was hand picked and gently whole bunch pressed. Lots of promise there.

It doesn't quite deliver on that promise really, the challenging vintage stamped all over it. Already quite golden in colour, it looks rather forward and advanced, showing more than a little terpene petrochemical characters already, with sherbet and bath salt regional characters in there too. The palate is quite rich and full, soft and a little juicy, the acidity soft and light. All correct there. My gripe is more about the nutty oxidative edge and the hint of rot through the finish derailing that freshness.


Drink: 2012-2014
Score:  15.8/20 86/100
Would I buy it? No

Friday, 7 September 2012

Petaluma Coonawarra 1988

Petaluma Coonawarra 88
Petaluma Coonawarra 1988 (Coonawarra, SA)
12.5%, Cork
Source: Auction

Ahh old Coonawarra reds, how I love thee. This bottle I bought at auction about 9 months ago for about $60, a price which, in the context of the new Petaluma releases, is quite a bargain.

One thing to note is just how good the cork and levels were on this, the bottle in near perfect condition (which I was excited about). Interestingly, it only got better over a few hours too, looking less oaky and more weighty with air time.

Classic old Cabernet cigar box aromatics on this Petaluma if tempered with some sweet vanilla bean oak. Gee it would have been a richly oaked youngster. There's Coonawarra red dust and cassis fruit still hanging in there, the mid palate particularly sweet and soft. The finish tightens up with some leafy dry tannins if still showing that oak sweetness. Initially I thought it was a little light on and simple but every sip it looked more defined and drier.

A lovely old red with at least 5 years left in it, I really enjoyed this fully resolved but sprightly wine. In the Petaluma context its one of the better vintages of the 80s (that I've tried) and still looking good.

Drink: Now - 2017
Score: 17.9/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I did and wish I had more.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Kirrihill Tullymore Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Kirrihill Tullymore Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Clare, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $22

Source: Sample

Am I alone in saying that I think Clare Cabernet often outclasses the Shiraz? It's site dependant of course, but when we're talking about the cheaper end of the spectrum, Clare Cabernet (and blends) seem to perform better (to my tastes at least). This, fittingly, well outclasses its Shiraz counterpart too.

Big, mint choc regional characters in this Tullymore Cab with lovely rich dusty blackberry fruit. It's hardly light and leafy Cabernet, yet its still recognisably varietal. Long grainy tannins drive the palate, the roughly hewn style so hearty and deep that you can't help but like it.

A quite classic old school (think 1990s Bin 56) Clare red, I can definitely see the appeal of this, particulalry given what price it can be picked up for in retail land.

Drink: Now - 2017
Score: 17.3/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? If I was looking for a sub $20 Cabernet then absolutely yes.

Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Pinot Noir 2010

Nice simple packaging too.
Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
14%, Screwcap, $46
Source: Sample

I rattled on quite a bit about how good the 2010 Mornington Pinots were in this post and happily I wasn't disappointed here. A much more backward and denser wine than the glorious 2010 10X Pinot, the Estate wine looks genuinely meaty, dark and long-term firmish. Indeed, it probably needs bottle age to show its best, which is quite unusual in the Mornington context. Serious wine indeed.

Translucent, even slightly coppery in the glass, this smells so utterly Pinoty it hurts. It's quite a secondary nose actually, leafy and bacon stewn with sappy, ripe strawberry and currant fruit. It smells of herbs and stems even though it was fully destemmed, again contributing to what is something of a moveable feast of a nose.

There is a lovely translucency to the palate too, the wine carrying both quite a deal of acidity, bacon bit and firm, anything-but-sweet, extracted fruit. I love the power and weight here but gee it is a wine for the Pinophiles.

Great potential, superb length and a moody personality to match, I really want to get to know this Pinot better.

Drink: 2013-2020
Score: 18.5/94+
Would I buy it?: Definitely. I don't need any wine right now though. Plus its not cheap. I'd buy it off the list in a restaurant though without hesitation.

Kirrihill Tullymore Shiraz 2010

Kirrihill Tullymore Shiraz 2010 (Clare, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $22
Source: Sample

Ideally situated in the 'Eastern Hills' Clare sub-district (only a theoretical sub-district at this stage), Kirrihill has always made solid, good value wines. The only challenge is that they've never quite been able to rise above that state, the wines drinkable if somewhat unexciting.

Much of it comes down to process methinks, the bulk of the wines made from grapes grown on vineyards with higher yields, said grapes picked by machines, the juice then fermented in big, rough roto-fermenters and finally bottled in large quantities. The resultant wines are packed full of flavour and very well priced, yet ultimately just missing some love.

Still, that doesn't mean bad drinks, particularly amongst the top tier wines such as this one. Lots of juicy red plum fruit here, with sweet chocolate icecream oak and that open, Mint-Slice-over-stewed-plum regional combo. The palate is rich, mid-weight and thick, the fruit easy, plump and slightly dried, the rough tannins rounding everything out with a quick thump before a shortish finish.

Driven by its mid palate, this is quite easy drinking and serviceable stuff. I just wish it tasted more like it had been made by people.

Drink: Now - 2017
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it?: No.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Waipara - the other Kiwi hotspot

Waipara - the other Kiwi hotspot

I've been digging through some old notes this week and chanced upon a file I thought I'd lost. A file of tasting notes actually, compiled during a very brief look at some great wines during a very brief trip to NZ South Island hotspot Waipara last year.

The stunning Pyramid Valley vineyard. Classic Waipara landscape
Whilst these notes are hardly comprehensive, and were compiled rather hastily (from a blind tasting), what they do mention is a few of the goodies that were uncovered during my trip. A memory jolt, if you may, of the fragrant and textural off-dry/worked/interesting Rieslings and aromatics, of the long and wild Chardonnays and the minerally, yet powerful, Pinot Noirs.

To be completely honest I spent more time consuming and thinking about these wines than actually taking notes, spending a few days kicking the - limestone rich - dirt and looking at close planted young Pinot vineyards on mid slopes. I even had a curious lamb liver based dessert (matched to the glorious 09 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir) just to smack my senses in the face. All of which pointed to the fact that this is one seriously exciting wine region. There is variability, there are oddities, but gee it is exciting.

Suffice to say I can't wait to get back to this part of the wine world...

(These notes were all written blind. Extra bits in italics I've added for context. Scores are lowish - they will be much higher if you drink them the proper way with food and friends).

Dancing Water Oneuku Riesling 2009 (NZ$32)
Sourced from a certified organic vineyard planted on clay soils. A dry style, this was whole bunch pressed, fermented wild and spent 6 months in old oak. Current release methinks.

Lifted orange blossom. Not quite the cut through on the palate which looks a bit broad and rotund, but some vibrancy and lift. Would it be better if released younger I wonder? Lovely clean and vibrant finish. Just a fraction more intensity and composure would make this a star. 17.3/90

Mountford Pure Riesling 2010 (NZ $29.95)
Off-dry, 9.5% alcohol and 56g/L residual. Super ripe yet looks more late picked than botrytised.

Pure, deep, sherbety and overt. The middle is rich, the finish long and juicy. That sweetness and acidity lingers through the finish. Long and juicy finish. A fraction fat and sweet? Still luscious wine indeed. Nice. 18/93

Mountford Hommage A' L'Alsace 2010 (NZ$45)
A blend of Gewurtz, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat, all picked late and fermented dry.

Textural dynamo. Long, luscious and generous, Finish is not quite up to the task though, looking jumbled and broadish. May well improve in the bottle. Hot and bumbling. 16.3/87

Alan McCorkindale Gewurtztraminer 2009 (NZ $28)

Concentrated musk and beeswax nose. Off dry palate starts with some lovely texture but the phenolics dry up the finish. Very spicy though. Divisive wine! Lots of warm, fruit musk fruit and excellent length but is it drinkable? Perhaps too overt. Wild wine! 17.5/91

Black Estate Chardonnay 2010 (NZ$35)
The tenth release of the Black Estate Chardonnay, this is very representative of the Black Estate style. I actually snuck in a look at the Black Estate vineyard and they are planting more Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on their ideally situated vineyard as we speak. What is so intriguing about this wine is that, despite its weight, it actually holds up rather well over the years (I had a squizz at some older wines whilst I was there). Always rich, always bony always creamy and full. I like 'em.

Barrels. Lots of barrels. Nougat and toasty richness with big round flavours. Lots of punch. Musky and quite an expansive finish. Intriguing and full and wild. 17.5/91

Mountford Chardonnay 2008 (NZ$49.95)
Barrel fermented. One third new oak. Interesting that this is the current release.

Really sexy oak. Mealy, concentrated. Intriguing oak character at the least. Slightly blunt flavours don't quite flow after it. Big and heavy on the winemaking. Some style to that winemaking though. 17.7/92

Omihi Road SVR Rayner Pinot Noir 2007 (NZ$50)
Drawn from the Rayner vineyard this saw 20 days of skin contact and 14 months in 1-6yr old oak. 8-10yr old vines.

Big and raw. An extractive and powerful Pinot, warm finish. Raw and hard really but has power. Needs more vibrancy though. Bound to improve with more bottle age. 16.5/88+

Mountford Estate Pinot Noir 2008 (NZ$60)
They make quite a big deal about barrels in the notes about this wine, including noting that 2 Laurent 'magic' barrels (championed by Torbreck to justify the price of the Laird) were used in the production. Stylish wine regardless.

Another big style. Meaty roasted beef nose. Extractive and full. Lively, textural and long, chalky finish. Really firm and extractive but with such length. Woah. A biggun but style in its veins. 18.4/94

The Black Estate range. Coming to Australia too apparently
Alan McCorkindale 'Chalky' vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 (NZ$50)

Super sexy nose, really limestone rich and lifted. Palate looks good too, that spiced fruit cake plummy regional thing working well. The only problem is the slight hole in the back. Almost there. 16.8

Crater Rim Lot 7 Pinot Noir 2009 (NZ$49.90)
Sourced from a close planted vineyard in the Omihi Hills. Spent 11 months in oak.

Choc cherry oak sweetened nose. Sweet choc cherry palate. Short finish. Slightly overripe and oaky but has some appeal. Pretty simple wine ultimately. 16.5

Black Estate Pinot Noir 2009 (NZ$45)
I think the 10's are better than the 09s for Black Estate though I much preferred a second look at this wine. That limestone buzz goes all through the wines.

Very ripe, slightly simple, glace fruit style, is very sweet and chocolatey. Nice limestone buzz through the finish carries if just a little underpowered. 16.5/88

Fancrest Estate Di's Pinot Noir 2010 (NZ $38)
I retried this at dinner later in the night and liked it again. Sourced from an organic vineyard with one of the more difficult to navigate wine websites I've seen. The wine was really good though.

Black fruit sitting in readiness. Deep and black palate, firm tannins. Excellent length and structure here. Hero proportions, just needs some time. Good. 18.3/93+

Black Estate Omihi Series Pinot Noir 2010 (NZ $40)
Soured from the Omihi vineyard and built slightly more fleshy than the estate wine.

Rather sweet, black and blue fruits. Obvious oak and quite abrupt. Very serious and adolescent style with chalky acidity to finish. A baby and quite raw. Needs time. Raw finish. 17/90

Bellbird Spring River Terrace Pinot 2010 (NZ$37)
Grown at 3 sites around Waipara this is nicely approachable in context.

Nice glacé plum fruit character on the nose. Licorice too. Glace fruit palate looks fine, peppery and juicy too. Light and flowing. Like this juiciness. Good. 17.5/91

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Evans & Tate Redbrook Shiraz 2009

Nice packaging too
Evans & Tate Redbrook Shiraz 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
14.3%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample

A brief admission - I rarely love Margaret River Shiraz. Margs is, and always will be (until climate change further kicks in), a Cabernet region. There are good examples of Margaret River Shiraz, yet Cabernet remains the better performer in my eyes.

This Redbrook falls firmly in the 'good examples' camp though, looking all sexy and purple and bright. It smells solid too, a ripe and mulchy sort of Shiraz with that red-fruit-meets-savoury-tapenade thing that Margs Shiraz is known for, topped off with glossy 'give it the good oak' barrel characters and thick grainy tannins.

Aside from that slightly warm edge, this comfortably nails the leafy-yet-ripe silky-yet-dry Margs Shiraz style with aplomb. Texturally it's spot on, wanting only a little more definition to launch up to the top shelf.

Drink: Now- 2019+
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it?: If I liked Margaret River Shiraz more, yes. But I don't...

Monday, 3 September 2012

A quick Hunter whip-around

A quick Hunter whip-around

Whilst it was anything but formal, I managed to squeeze in a quick Hunter Valley cellar door whip-around over the weekend, mainly because I was in the area, but also because I'm yet to work out how to go on holidays and avoid wine...

The following, very brief, impressions on a few wines I'm writing down largely so I don't forget. Notes are forbidden on holidays you see...

Lake's Folly

When in Rome, go to the vineyard that doesn't send samples...

I do like Lakes Folly, I like the focus of this tiny boutique operation (just a fee thousand cases) and I like the old school 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' consummate savoury charm of the wines, even if I can no longer afford to buy them (Lakes Folly Chardonnay now $65? Woah). This year sees a brace of new releases under the Lakes Folly label too, including a brand new 'Fogarty's Folly' trial wine that I was sworn to secrecy about (although it appears in the new releases on the Lakes Folly website. Not really much of a secret then).

The 2011 Lake's Folly Chardonnay must rate as one of the best yet, carrying the line and persistance of a classic Folly Chardonnay. That balance between weight and acidity is what makes this the best full bodied Chardonnay in the Hunter bar none. It really is 'that good' in 2011. There is, however, another Lakes Folly...

This year, you see, there is a new Folly Chardonnay in the 2011 Lake's Folly 'Hill Block' Chardonnay. Drawn from - unsurprisingly - the famous Hill Block, this carries an extra layer of intensity and power over the standard wine, complete with more new oak, more barrel ferment and malolactic fermentation. It's thus richer, more powerful and more winemaker influenced, yet given that the LF Chardonnay is typically not all that 'made', it carries a particularly freshness to match that complexity. Top class wine, that will live for an age (and now bottled in a screwcap too). Superstar Hunter Chardonnay (if priced accordingly).

Paired with the Chardonnay is the current release of the Cabernets, now 2010 and looking classic. Actually, it's 95% a classic wine, the lovely pencil shavings varietal intensity and mid palate looking delectable. The only gripe with this wine is the hint of confection and lack of flow through the finish, reflecting the stop-start 2010 vintage. Still classy stuff regardless.


A caveat here - I was staying as a guest in the Scarborough cottage so I may well be biased.

Regardless, the new 2010 Scarborough White Label Chardonnay was certainly looking sprightly. It carries a formula that works nicely for good Hunter Chardonnay - clever French oak handling, a little lees work and no malo, making for a wine that has richness yet plenty of acidity. The rest of the Scarborough range is generally affable and consistent, if occasionally a little staid, but this White Label Chardonnay looked genuinely classy and interesting.


I didn't have long to taste through the Tyrrell's range this time around, however I did manage a quick look at the new 2011 super premium red trio of the 2011 Tyrrell's 4 Acres Shiraz, 2011 Tyrrell's Johhno's Shiraz and 2011 Vat 9 Shiraz, all of them looking bright, exceedingly fresh and genuinely classic.

As usual (or for me at least) the question remains about which of the three I prefer. This year the 4 Acres looks particularly light and perhaps a fraction confected and warmish. It is easily my least favourite out of 2011 (someone has to lose). Stepping up a notch and the 2011 Johhno's has that classic sandy red fruit profile and soft tannins that make it an immediately appealing wine. I actually think it has the edge over the 4 Acres this year, with more freshness and vibrancy. Does it have the depth and potential for complexity though?

Easily my pick of the three though has to the 2011 Vat 9. It carries that blend of power and juicy red/purple fruit vibrancy coupled with genuine mid palate power that you really want in a young Hunter red, the package completed with an extra tannic edge over the other two. I'm not quite convinced it will be a better wine than the 2009 but certainly in that similar vein of richness and weight. I'd buy some. Top Tyrrell's red.